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8 - Gothic Parodies on Film and Personal Transformation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2020

Richard J. Hand
Affiliation:
University of East Anglia
McRoy Jay
Affiliation:
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
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Summary

The link between parody and the Gothic is a familiar one. In 1968 D. N. Gallon emphasised how Catherine Morland's exaggerated fantasies in Northanger Abbey (written in 1803 but not published until after Austen's death in 1817) contrast with the author's ‘moral purpose’ of appealing to readers ‘for whom Gothic fiction of the Romantic era is dead. To give the burlesque side of the novel its relevance the critic almost has to resurrect a mode’ (804). That process of resurrection, however well-intentioned, is ripe for parody. Janet Beer and Avril Horner offer a less stark vision of the Gothic parody through Edith Wharton's short stories which, ‘while engaging with a target text or genre, exhibit … a keen sense of the comic, an acute awareness of intertextuality and an engagement with the idea of metafiction’ (2003: 270). The art critic and television personality Andrew Graham-Dixon claims that Gothic remains perennially popular in all media whether in straight or parodic form. We reflect ontologically on what separates the human from the non-human, while giving full rein to the imagination. Through exposure to the genre we might experience a therapeutic process of transformation by viewing our lives in a new and more positive light.

Writing with specific reference to parody Westerns but including the Gothic within his theoretical analysis, Matthew R. Turner argues that, while invoking familiar codes and conventions, we reflect critically on the artificiality of the films’ construction – for example, the trope of the haunted house in the dead of night whose corridors echo to the roar of thunder and the flash of lightning (2003: 54). This chapter develops Turner's claim through a discussion of four well-known Gothic parodies – Mel Brooks's Young Frankenstein (1974) and Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995); Stan Dragoti's Love at First Bite (1979) and Gene Wilder's Haunted Honeymoon (1986). All of them consciously reference the classical Hollywood era of studio production, when Universal, RKO and a host of smaller outfits churned out a production-line of adaptations, remakes and original work using specific repertory companies of actors and a raft of familiar stylistic conventions. The parodies appear interested in consistently making fun of an outdated genre through the exaggerated use of dialogue and gesture, thereby distancing viewers from the action taking place on screen.

Type
Chapter
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Gothic Film
An Edinburgh Companion
, pp. 112 - 122
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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