Archive for victorian

A Christmas Carol (1951)

Posted in Victoriana with tags , , , , on December 24, 2011 by mike k

It is only fitting and appropriate that, in honor of Christmas, I talk about one of my favorite Christmas films; the 1951 film version of A Christmas Carol.  With nods towards other actors who have portrayed the miser Ebeneezer Scrooge, namely, Sir Seymour Hicks, Albert Finney, George C Scott, Patrick Stewart and Jim Carrey, I believe that Alistair Sims portrayal is perhaps the finest of them all.

Set in the mid-19th Century and written byVictorian-era novelist and social activist, Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol tells the tale of a miser named Scrooge who, on Christmas Eve, is visited by the ghost of his dead partner, Jacob Marley. Marley warns Scrooge that his miserly ways and mistreatment of  the poor and needy will lead him, ultimately, to an eternity of damnation, never knowing the glories of heaven or earth, and to be condemned to wander the world dragging an enormous chain built with the cruelty of his life. Scrooge refutes his ghostly visitor as a “bit of spoiled potato” and a figment of his imagination but he is soon convinced otherwise. My favorite line during the meeting of Marley and Scrooge is when Scrooge tells Marley that he was a good businessman whereby Marley, in a fit of rage, replies, “Business! Mankind was our business!”. Marley departs Scrooge but not before warning him that he will be visited by three ghosts: the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future where will they teach him the true meaning of Christmas.

Each encounter Scrooge has with the ghosts weakens his cruel heart until, finally faced with the truths of his life, he learns to fully embrace Christmas, and his fellow human beings, into his heart.  Scrooge, before his haunting by spirits, was increasingly cruel to his clerk, Bob Cratchett, and it is joyfully tearful to learn, as the story moves on, how Scrooge accepted his sister’s nephew as his own family and took care of the Cratchetts by improving Bob’s salary and seeing that  his lame boy, Tiny Tim, would receive the medical care he needed to live.

The story was very popular during the 19th Century and, especially in the trying times of today, its message should become even more important.

… even to the cold hearted members of the Tea Party.

If you can find a copy on Amazon.com, I highly recommend the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol.

A Merry Christmas to you all and as Tiny Tim declared, “May God Bless Us, Everyone!”

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The Woman in Black

Posted in horror films, Mystery with tags , , on December 15, 2011 by mike k

As an old school horror fan I’m happy to see the haunted house come back as a sub-genre in scary films. Even better, I’m very happy to see a haunted house story being produced by legendary horror film studio, Hammer Films.

Their latest production is called The Woman in Black starring Daniel Radcliffe as  young Victorian lawyer, Arthur Kipps, sent to a remote village to settle the affairs and sell off the notorious Eel Marsh house. Kipps begins to learn hidden secrets of the village as well as the truth that children are dying under mysterious circumstances.  While in the house, Kipps is tormented by ghostly visions and demonic appearances while his family finds themselves threatened by a shadowy woman in black.

The movie also stars veteran character actor, Ciaran Hinds.

The film is to be released in February 2012.

I Sell the Dead and The Countess

Posted in horror films with tags , , on November 27, 2011 by mike k

I rented two horror film gems from Blockbuster last night and I thought I’d talk about them a little.

The first is a horror-comedy called I Sell the Dead which stars Dominic Monaghan and Larry Fessbender and also featuring Ron Perlman and Angus Scrimm.

I Sell the Dead tells thet tale of two, down on their luck, grave robbers (Monaghan and Fessbender) who make a career robbing the graves of the dead, and the not-so-dead, and selling them to a nefarious doctor (Scrimm) who uses the corpses for his own personal needs. Of course, our two “heroes” are imprisoned and sentenced to death for their crimes but, before they go, they must “confess” their story to the local parish priest (played by Ron Perlman). The story is filled with tales of run-ins with another corpse snatching gang (the Murphy’s), vampires, aliens and zombies that just won’t stay dead. Its a very funny film (as well as a winner of several awards from the 2008 SlamDance Film Festival and Toronto After Dark) and its a shame it never got a wider release than it has. The producer and one of the stars of the film, Larry Fessbender, is a talented film writer who successfully blends bouts of comedy with shots of horror. A definite must see …

The second film I rented was The Countess which was written and directed by French-American actress, Julie Delpy. The Countess tells the legend of the Hungarian countess, Elizabeth Bathory, who was sentenced to death and walled up in her own castle as punishment for murdering hundreds of young peasant girls so that she could bathe in their blood and maintain her youthful appearance.  Unlike the Hammer horror film treatment, Delpy treats Countess Bathory as a sympathetic woman whose loveless life is filled with abuse, violence and sexual depravity at the hands of her husband. Upon his death, Bathory falls in love with a younger man but when his father intercedes and sends false letters supposedly from the young man to Bathory, breaking up their relationship, the Countess goes over the edge and believes that her young lover spurred her because she was “old” (in the film, Countess Bathory is 38 yrs old; far from being an old woman by our standards). She prays to God to keep her youth and an accident in which blood is spilt upon her skin provides our Countess with the idea of murdering young girls for their blood.  Their are fine performances in the film not only from Ms. Delpy (who plays the Countess) but also from Oscar winner William Hurt and Daniel Bruhl (Inglorious Basterds). The film is a cautionary tale of one’s obsession with youth. Although the film dances around the myth of Bathory and vampirism, it is a classy film. If you are looking for a period horror film with more story and suspense than gore then this is your film. In an interesting historical note, the real Countess Elizabeth Bathory was a distant relative of another notorious blood fiend, Prince Vlad Tepes (Count Dracula) of Transylvania.