Directed by cult favourite and "enfant terrible" Ken Russell, Gothic delves into the erotic and terrifying night in 1816 that ultimately gave birth to Mary Shelley's classic horror novel Frankenstein and Polidori's "The Vampire".
While a wild storm rages in the sky over poet Lord Byron's literary house party on the shores of Lake Geneva, the exiled English poet suggests everyone invent a ghost story. As the dead of night closes in, he and his guests go on to hold a séance to conjure up their deepest, most secret fears. But is it their intense lusts and vivid imaginations at work, or have they truly created a monster?
"Lock up the kids and blindfold your granny; Ken Russell is at it again" Peter Travers, People
"Ken Russell's wildest film yet" William Wolf, Gannett News Service
"One hell of a trip" Bruce Williamson, Playboy
"A journey through a highly sexual garden of horrors" Daily Telegraph
"Filmmaker Ken Russell dramatized that dark and stormy Geneva night, and the dark and stormy nature of Byron's personality, in his 1986 film Gothic, a film that revels in the dark, sinister and macabre aspects of Byron's sexuality. Natasha Richardson played a once-again too beautiful Mary Shelley alongside Gabriel Byrne's vampiric and sexually threatening Byron. Over the course of the strange night - a night haunted by the demons of opium, lust and unbridled imagination - Byron and his guests conjure up dark forces that threaten their very sanity. Their imagination, in the words of Julian Sands as Percy Shelley, gave life to 'a creature, a creation, a jigsaw of all our worst fears in flesh and blood.' The creature of the night, taking varied forms and shapes for each member of the party, is at its heart Byron himself, his seductive allure claiming not only Mary's stepsister Claire but Percy and Polidori as well." Dr Gregory L. Reece, Creatures of the Night
"Gothic alludes not only to pederasty but also abortion, adultery, blasphemy, incest, self-mutilation, vampirism, and at least one attempted murder. It also includes a man-to-man kiss - tongue and all - between the immortal poets Lord George Gordon Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley!" Joseph Lanza (Phallic Frenzy: Ken Russell and His Films)
"Five go mad on laudanum" Sunday Times
"The thinking man's Nightmare on Elm Street" Variety
"A Visual Feast" Sunday Telegraph
"Surely it is time Russell stopped producing this sick rubbish..." Letter to The People, March 1987
"A complex psychosexual drama about the act of creating art" James Payne, Garageland
"(A) seminal Russellian film which deal(s) with belief, sex and identity" Dangerous Minds
"Russell means Gothic to be the last horror show. Byron is Count Dracula, feeding on his guests' dreams and demons. Shelley is every weak hero, Polidori every mad doctor, (Claire) Clairmont every wench whose lust turns her into a succubus. And (Mary) Godwin, racked by visions of her stillborn child, becomes the cursed mothers of The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby" Richard Corliss, Time
"Lurid, kitschy, over the top... Russell isn't afraid to be trashy in the pursuit of unfettered cinematic symbolism. It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it" The Grindhouse Project
"Make no mistake, Gothic very much is a horror film. it has all the trappings its title suggests. it has a monster of the characters' own making (the genesis for Frankenstein's monster) - and it has a nightmarish feel few films have ever equalled" Ken Hanke, Mountain Xpress
"As ghoulishly funny and frenzied as a carnival ride through The Marquis de Sade's Tunnel of Love" Vincent Canby, New York Times
"You will cleave to this tortured bit of cinematic epilepsy because it is ALIVE... I came away from Gothic with my soul on fire... (...) because it is dangerously conceived, impudently mounted, uncaring of its footing, determined to crawl the wall or tumble into the abyss, all in the name of disgorging the absurd demon in thought." Harlan Ellison in Harlan Ellison's Watching
Read the review on British Horror Films.
"Gothic is a real cult gem due a critical reappraisal and ripe for rediscovery by fans of horror and Russell's work. (It) is inspired, of course absolutely mad, and sometimes even downright brilliant" Martyn Contario, Scream Magazine (2012)
Watch this excellent edit to new music "Like Hell: A Gothic Nightmare" by Corvo
Director: Ken Russell
Producer: Penny Corke
Director of Photography: Mike Southon
Executive Producers: Al Clark and Robert Devereux
Virgin Films (1986, UK)
Go to FrankensteinFilms.com to dowload the the text and/or synopsis of Mary Shelley's original novel "Frankenstein" and to read the essay on "Origin of a Monster: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein"
Click here to explore more about Frankenstein in culture and media on Frankensteinia: The Frankenstein Blog.
Read an interview with Ken Russell "The Last Fires of Film's Old Devil" (from The Guardian 29 April 2011) on the occasion of an upcoming screening of his uncensored version of his "masterpiece" The Devils.
Read The Life of Ken Russell, a Unique British Talent in the Daily Telegraph (28 November 2011).
Read Ken Russell, Director Fond of Provocation, Dies at 84 in the New York Times (28 November 2011).
Read Legendary Film Director Ken Russell has Died on Dangerous Minds (including film clips of The Music Lovers, The Devils, Tommy and Valentino) (November 2011).
Read Leslie Felperin of Variety on the death of Ken Russell: Brit cinema's enfant terrible distinguished by raw, passionate filmmaking. "There was still energy, flair and a very English eccentricity to be admired in those (of his films) that were critically reviled at the time, like Gothic" (Dec 2011)
A article by Stephen Volk on the Villa Diodati group and the genesis of Gothic appears in the BFI compendium Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film edited by James Bell (BFI publications, 2013) and released to coincide with their major "Gothic" season of screenings.
A wonderful piece of artwork called "Mary Shelley Phones Byron" by Oscar Grillo:
Read "Happy Birthday, Horror!" by Neil Snowdon - celebrating the events at Villa Diodati two hundred years after they happened, with a 30th Anniversary screening of Gothic in Newcastle on 17 June 2016.
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein and the Villa Diodati (British Library)
Frankenstein's Monster Celebrates his 200th Birthday (Oxford Today)
A Gothic Gathering at Lake Geneva (clips of BBC documentary "Frankenstein and The Vampyre: A Dark and Stormy Night" - featuring interviewee Stephen Volk)
Frankenstein: from literature to myth to bogey-man of science (Science Museum) by Sir Christopher Frayling
Spread in Rue Morgue magazine (October 2016):