Blu-ray: Gothic (1986)
I’ve never taken drugs in my life (except for those prescribed by a Doctor of course) but inevitably come away from watching a Ken Russell movie feeling as though I was experiencing the after effects of snacking on some hallucinogens while watching it…quite apt really when it comes to the narrative of this tale. This was the same again after rewatching Gothic, a movie I’d not previously watched until its release back on VHS.
This new BFI blu-ray of course looks and sounds much better, complete with some interesting special features.
Set in an estate on the shores of Lake Geneva, Lord Byron is visited by Percy and Mary Shelley and together with Byron’s lover Claire Clairmont, and aided by many hallucinogenic substances, they spend an evening telling weird and ‘scary’ stories to each other…though nothing is really scary in this movie and it leans heavily into the ‘weird’…and ‘annoying’ too if truth be told.
Nipples that turn into eyes, a strange imp with glowing eyes, sex, a seance, and much more, never were enough to shake the irritated feeling throughout that the annoying characters imbued upon me, all of it becoming more heightened as the (flimsy) narrative progressed and the characters became ever more tiresome.
The saving grace for me were the special features, especially the commentary by film historian Matthew Melia and Lisi Russell.
A definite “marmite” movie which will polarise viewers, but if you’re in the mood for some weird goings on, then this is something you might well want to check out.
- Presented in High Definition
- Feature commentary by film historian Matthew Melia and Lisi Russell (2018)
- The Fall of the Louse of Usher (2002, 83 mins): Ken Russell returns to gothic themes in this legendarily lurid late video work starring both the director and his wife, Lisi Russell
- A Haunted Evening (2023, 35 mins): Stephen Volk, the writer of Gothic, revisits his earliest feature script
- The Sound of Shelley with Julian Sands (2017, 18 mins): the actor reflects upon the making of Gothic
- Amelia and the Angel (1958, 27 mins): in this charming early Russell short, a young girl, cast as an angel in the school play, is distraught when her brother damages her treasured wings. Pocket money in hand, Amelia traverses London on the hunt for a new pair in time for the play
- The Guardian Lecture: Ken Russell in conversation with Derek Malcolm (1987, 88 mins, audio only): the director reflects upon his career, at the time of Gothic
- Original trailer
- **FIRST PRESSING ONLY** Illustrated booklet featuring new essays by Ellen Cheshire, Jon Dear, and Matthew Melia and full film credits
- First pressing limited to 3,000 copies
Review by Dave from a disc kindly supplied by the BFI.