Danel Griffin on The Implications of Vlad the Impaler and the Alchemist Dippel’s Fictional Metamorphosis

If you’ve read the About page of Bill Ectric’s Place, you know I’m interested in academic pursuits, and if you’ve read more than a couple of my blog entries, you know my interests include the mysterious, the esoteric, and the Gothic. Imagine my delight at finding this article by Danel Griffin on his Film as Art website.

He begins:

“This thesis proposal initially found its roots in an afterthought, a few years after I read a set of books by one Radu Florescu titled In Search of Dracula and its follow-up In Search of Frankenstein, two fascinating travel books speculating on the actual historical personalities who probably inspired Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley to write their Gothic masterpieces.

Allow me a brief set-up, and then we’ll get to the afterthought that planted the seed: Stoker is widely known (although few people probably know that it was Florescu who first suggested the connection—Clerici, 3) to have based his bloodthirsty Count on the sixteenth-century Wallachian prince Vlad Tepes “the Impaler,” dubbed “Dracula” (meaning “Dragon,” or “Devil”) by his enemies . . . Less widely known but equally fascinating is Florescu’s research on the historical Dr. Frankenstein, one Johann Konrad Dippel, an eighteenth-century alchemist born in Castle Frankenstein whose diabolical experiments included grave-robbing, and grinding up bones and human flesh for life-lengthening potions (Florescu, In Search of Frankenstein, 65-94) (which were never successful). Both of these men were quite notorious in their own times . . .”

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Another Trip to the World of Westfahl

Over at World of Westfahl, Professor Gary has a relatively new entry in his Biographical Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Film. This one is on film director Erle C. Kenton, whose credits include A Haunted House (short) (1922), Island of Lost Souls (1932), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945), and The Cat Creeps (1946).

Westfahl says, “It is strange that director Erle C. Kenton has so long evaded my scrutiny, since at least four of his films are obligatory viewing for any dedicated science fiction or horror fan. But there are interesting reasons for the oversight that merit some exploration, all of them related to the word obligatory.”

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Suspiria (1977, directed by Dario Argento) is one of the most visually pleasing horror films I have ever seen. Almost every frame is an artistic composition.

In kinoeyeLinda Schulte-Sasse analyses the movie, discussing the use of gothic spaces, references to fascism, and the film’s eligibility for being “Disney’s hidden reverse.”

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A Sublime Cinema Dreamscape: DVD Savant on Invaders From Mars

From DVD Talk, a reviewer known as DVD Savant (apparently a modest and unassuming guy named Glenn Erickson , as he rarely seems to write under his own name), has written a very enjoyable two-part review on Invaders From Mars (1953). Part One describes how the film is often derided as a low-budget kid’s movie. In Part Two (my favorite), Mr. Erikson explains why he calls the film “a Sci Fi classic that should be showing in the Louvre.”

Erickson says,

“…of all 50s sci fi I think it is the most visually sophisticated, perhaps the most cinematic and a work worthy of the term ‘great art.’ If you hate writers who jam sub-Freudian meanings into movies, have no fear. My argument is based on the movie we all can see, and doesn’t try to conform the film to some graduate-student agenda. On the other hand, this article probably is more for confirmed Sci Fi aficionados than the general DVD Savant reader. I thank both for their patience.”

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Elsewhere on DVD Talk, the Savant reviews the DVD released by Image Entertainment of the 50th Anniversary Special Edition of Invaders From Mars (2002).


Film Discussion, Bergman on Bergman

Photo of Ingmar Bergman taken during the production of Wild Strawberries (Smultronstället) (1957). Svensk Filmindustri (SF) press photo. Source: Svenska filministitutet.

Photo of Ingmar Bergman taken during the production of Wild Strawberries (Smultronstället) (1957). Svensk Filmindustri (SF) press photo. Source: Svenska filministitutet. Collage by Bill Ectric.

Excerpt from the book: Bergman on Bergman: Interviews With Ingmar Bergman by Stig Bjorkman, Torsten Manns, and Jonas Sima Translated from the Swedish by Paul Britten Austin, The Touchstone Edition, published by Simon & Schuster,1986.  Original Swedish language edition © 1970 by P.A. Norstedt & Soners Forlag. This translation © 1973 by Martin Secker & Warburg Limited

TORSTEN MANNS: You have another play-within-the-play in The Hour of the Wolf. Are you a bit fixated on this sort of interlude?

INGMAR BERGMAN: After one has been working awhile on a full-length film, it’s a relief to interpolate something different. There sits your audience, looking in one direction. And suddenly you stick your head out and say – take a look over there for a while! And everyone turns his head. It gives them exercise. It’s as simple as that.

There was a good deal of discussion about the bit in Persona where the film snaps. A lot of wiseacres thought the interruption silly. They said it distracted the audience from what was going on, etc. Personally, I’m of exactly the opposite opinion. If you distract the audience temporarily from the course of events and then push them into it again, you don’t reduce their sensibility and awareness, you heighten it. In A Passion I’ve four clean acts – the film is built up in four blocks, and each block is rounded off with an aria. The actors appear and comment on their roles, place themselves slightly outside it…

… JONAS SIMA: The French nouvelle vague experimented with these ‘distancing’ effects. Belmondo, in A Bout de Souffle, turns direct to the audience now and again and comments on what’s going on. At the time this was regarded as something new and shocking.

BERGMAN: But it’s as old as the hills, don’t you realize that? In the theatre! The author turns directly to his audience. It’s simple and delightful.