Doesn’t the air smell of faded leaves and over excitement?! I for one can barely wait to start digging up bodies and spoon feeding them cake and chocolate. That’s what you do, right?
The evenings are drawing in and what better way to relax than with a few informative, yet suitably weird, documentaries?
The Addams Family
These first three really count as one. I’m not sure what TV channel broadcast them first or if they were DVD extras, but it’s a 2007 look at the TV series and original cartoons of the Addams Family.
The Aswang Phenomenon
If you’ve seen bizarre cult classic Mystics of Bali you may have heard of the witch who separates her head from her body and floats through the air…her lungs and spine dangling beneath. Well, apparently they have a similar creature in the Philippines, the Aswang, who oddly seems to take many other forms according to whoever tells the story.
Ripley Believe it or Not!
Ripley’s Museum of Oddities will always hold a special place in my heart as Bill and I visited for our second date (my choice of course).
This documentary charts Ripley’s beginnings from cartoonist to global weirdo phenomenon, celebrating those who always felt a bit different on the way.
Frankenstein and the Vampyre, a Dark and Stormy Night
Two legendary horror monsters were created during the same holiday in Geneva, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and the modern, aristocratic vampire by John Polidori. Also with them were poets Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont.
Their trip isn’t just famous for their creative output, however, there were also drugs, sexual confusion and scandal. Exciting!
If you’d like to see more documentaries on romantic gothic literature, including the Brontes and Edgar Allen Poe, toddle off to this link here.
An atmospheric wander through urban legends that turned out to have some basis in fact, whether before or after the telling. Remember, Halloween wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t all think nice old ladies were trying to kill us with sweets (candy).
Sacred Weeds: Henbane the Witch’s Brew
This was one of the oddest documentaries I remember from the 90s. It seemed to me that during that period everything went very sun and moon and incense, and to be honest I still secretly love it. There were four episodes in the series; Blue Lily, Henbane, Salvia Divinorum and Fly Agaric, but Henbane deals with Gothic folklore and witch trials.
The premise is what makes it so strange, two people turn up to a castle in the middle of nowhere so scientists in suits can watch them trip out of their tiny minds. The scientists argue before the trial and after, not a single one agreeing or changing their mind in the least. To be honest, though, fair enough if you’ve done the research and others clearly haven’t.
Watch out for the man who seems to have wandered in from some fetish dream, declaring with little to no evidence that witches definitely rubbed ointment on their vaginas and held naked sabbats.
Hello my little bottles of multi-coloured decorative sand. I’m watching more weird films for my next blog post but in the meantime here are a few documentaries from the web featuring our gothic horror writing ancestors, dodgy re-enactments and ominously misty trees included.
Edgar Allen Poe: Love Death And Women is an informative and entertaining account of Poe’s life and the women around him by crime writer Denise Mina. Plus whoever did the music is a serious goth; Bauhaus, The Cure, The Hunger soundtrack and more.
Frankenstein and the Vampyre: A Dark And Stormy Night illuminates the exciting summer in which Frankenstein (Mary Shelley) and the Vampyre (John Polidori) were created. Mary Shelley was only 19, which is fascinating, but less known is the author of the other story, a man mercilessly ridiculed by Byron.
Here’s a little more on Mary Shelley’s fabulously unusual life in Birth of a Monster.
Nightmare! Birth of Horror was a documentary from 1996 I remember being very excited by as a young ‘un. This episode looks at Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles.
This one looks at Dracula…
…And this one at Jekyll and Hyde.
The Art of Gothic series explores gothic literature and art in Britain from the Georgian to Victorian era and beyond.
And finally In Search of the Brontes is a two part series on the sisters in six parts each. That’s a lot of parts. However it’s worth it, many of the Bronte’s writing is firmly rooted in the gothic tradition, particularly the psychopathic Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights.
Drugs and madness, everyone’s favourite things! It’s in the lyrics of the extra bit in that number Julie Andrews sang to the Von Trapp children that ended up on the cutting room floor. It’s true. Bee keeping was probably in there too.
Anyway…we all love Burroughs, but what of those before him?
1. Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas De Quincey. Essentially Junky for the Georgian period, this long and rather waffling essay (still entertaining though, don’t get me wrong) details the author’s fall into the grip of opium addiction. Made more interesting by the fact that his buddies and fellow hop heads were Byron and Coleridge, I recommend this to anyone with a high concentration level, which I admit wasn’t always me (ooh, squirrels).
3. Hunger by Knut Hamsun. The main character in Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun’s turn of the century novel is really hungry. Seriously, that’s the basis of the book, and it’s amazing.
Hamsun wanted to show the fragility of human perception by detailing the ups and downs in a struggling writer’s life. Everything seems hopeful when he’s had a bit of bread, but without it he does and says some very peculiar things, including harassing a young lady as she wanders down the street and almost eating a pencil. It’s much better than I’ve explained here so I suggest getting a copy forthwith.
The stories of treating his confused peasant patients are worth it alone (a woman in labour is brought in and the midwives check her vagina only to find lumps of sugar inserted. The baby was overdue and they’d apparently tried to ‘lure it out’). However some of the nightmarish scenarios in Morphine (a fictionalised account, as are all the stories) stay with you. I had no idea morphine withdrawal would really cause terrifying hallucinations, I thought that scene in Trainspotting was just to jazz it up a bit.
He’s a funny and thought provoking writer and I’m now going to search out his other, apparently weirder, works and you probably should too.
Well that’s all I have time for, but be sure to tune in for more exciting updates. In the meantime, here’s a cat saying “Oh Long Johnson.”