Tag Archives: Gothic

The Last Reel

tumblr_m5rguvqeNx1rq4squo1_500Well, I haven’t tried NaNoWriMo in the last few years. I wasn’t going to do it this year either. But about two weeks ago, an idea slowly began to form and it wouldn’t let me go. I kept coming back to it. Finally, I knew I had to write it. So even though I only have a scant 13 pages of notes and don’t even know the protagonist’s name, I’m going to do it.

Here’s my starting point….

What if there was a woman who made a living by procuring art by any means necessary. And what if she was hired by an old man who lived in an old crumbling house to find the last reel of a lost film from the 1930s.

And what if this film was based on a known eighteenth-century Gothic novel, and the film’s producers spent a lot of money to make the film, because they were certain the film would be the next Dracula and its star the next Bela Lugosi. And what if for some reason the film was never released.

And what if the woman found the last reel. And then, what if she found herself inside the last reel…

Here are some inspirational pictures.








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Happy Birthday Edgar!

Edar Allan Poe is one of my favorite writers. His use of first-person narration and lurid Gothic imagery gives him a unique voice. There’s nothing like reading “The Raven” on a cold, gray afternoon. Whenever I read Poe, the images in my mind’s eye possess almost no color. To use an analogy, I don’t see Poe’s stories as black and white films. Rather, I see them as color movies shot using a blue film stock. I’m not sure why – it’s just the picture that formed in my head when I first started reading Poe.

Detroit-born Roger Corman clearly visualized Poe’s work differently. Between 1959 and 1964, Corman made eight adaptations of Poe’s work (actually “The Haunted Palace” only takes its name from Poe – it’s actually based on H. P. Lovecraft’s The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward, but I’m willing it count it). These eight movies, sometimes called Corman’s Poe Cycle, were filmed in vivid color and often had few dark shadows.

While Corman’s bright palette is jarring for me, there’s something fun about his adaptations. Perhaps it’s Vincent Price chewing the scenery or perhaps it’s how he incorporated Poe’s “Hop-Frog” into “The Masque of the Red Death.”  Perhaps it’s that Corman hewed closely to Poe’s themes, if not his imagery.

Regardless, Poe’s birthday is a good excuse to watch one of Corman’s cult classics. And to whet your appetite here’s a trailer: From 1960, starring Vincent Price…”House of Usher”


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Happy Halloween!

Hello everyone. I’ve been working on a top-secret project that actually doesn’t have anything to do with creative writing. So I haven’t had much to write about. This morning, however, inspiration hit. I had my class do a five-minute free write and, to model the activity, I joined in. Below is what I came up with. I can’t take credit for the first sentence and the first sentence of the last paragraph. Those are from a “three-sentence story” I read years ago. I can’t remember the book it was from or who the author is; if anyone does, please let me know. Enjoy!

 * * *

I am the last person on earth. Years have passed since everything collapsed. At first, no one noticed that things were coming apart. But they were.
Now I sit in this crumbling house. I wish I could say that I share it with a squirrel or a bird, but even they are gone. It is overgrown with vines and trees and grass. I am now too old to do anything about it.

It must be around Halloween, but I can’t say for sure. However, I do know for certain winter is coming. The leaves changed from green to yellow, orange, and red. And then they turned brown and are now falling. I doubt I’ll make it through the coming cold and snow. So I sit composing some sort of last will and testament.

Wait, what was that? I think someone just knocked on the front door. Yes, yes someone – or something did. Ha! Maybe it’s some trick-or-treaters. I guess I’ll go and see.

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Future Classic Movies: Jane Eyre (2011)

Paula’s Cinema Club asked the excellent question, if Turner Classic Movies is still around in 30 years, what movies will they be showing, and who will be the host? Here’s my answer…

The year is 2042. The scene is the TCM set. The host is Drew Barrymore, actor, director, producer, and member of the one of the greatest acting families in American history…

Barrymore: Hello everyone, and welcome to another installment of The Essentials. Tonight we’ve got an amazing picture for you Jane Eyre – the 2011 version that is. And here to talked about it is this month’s guest host, bestselling author William Chandler. Welcome.

Chandler: Thank you for having me.

Barrymore: I’m sure some people are asking what’s a novelist doing guest-hosting TCM’s The Essentials?

Chandler: [Laughs] That’s a good question.

Barrymore: Your novels have been described as cinematic.

Chandler: Yes, that’s true. And I take that as a compliment. I love movies and the language of film almost as much as the I love the written word. When I was growing up, TCM was always on. I think that’s all my parents ever watched.

Barrymore: Not coincidentally, all your picks this month are film adaptations of classic novels.

Chandler: True.

Barrymore: It’s a cliche that the book is always better than the movie. So that begs the question, why is Jane Eyre an essential film?

Chandler: I admit it. I just love a good Gothic story.

Barrymore: And you are known for your Gothic novels.

Chandler: True, and the novel Jane Eyre has been influential on my writing. Charlotte Bronte took a genre that was pretty tired and worn out, some might say dead, and used its DNA to write  – what was at the time – a contemporary story. Which is what I try and do.

Barrymore: DNA? Bringing something back to life? Sounds like your pick for next week, Frankenstein.

Chandler: Indeed.

Barrymore. But you haven’t answered my other question. Why is Jane Eyre, and this particular version of Jane Eyre an Essential. Are you telling me it’s better than the book?

Chandler: [Laughs] Um, actually, this might be one of the rare examples where the film version is better than the book. And by that I mean a better, or more compellingly told story. Frankly, I think the 2011 version of Jane Eyre is a mini-film school.

Barrymore: That’s a bold statement.

Chandler: Let’s start with the sheer visual beauty of it. It’s one of those movies everyone should see on the big screen.

Barrymore: I totally agree, and I think it’s crazy that the cinematographer Adriano Goldman didn’t at least get an nomination for an Oscar.

Chandler: Absolutely. And it’s not just beautiful static shots. The film incorporates many different techniques: Subjective camera angles, wide shots, close ups. The camera use conveys alienation, imprisonment, a metaphorical sense of lurking danger, and perhaps most importantly, they all contribute to this dream-like quality – and that dream-like quality is present in many of the best Gothic novels.

Barrymore: Even the screenplay adds to the dream-like quality by chopping up the narrative of the novel. Most of the film literally takes place in Jane’s head.

Chandler: Yes, it’s a brilliant use of flashbacks. A brilliant tutorial if you will. And the whole dream motif is capped–

Barrymore: Wait! I know what you’re going to say, and there might be some watching tonight who’ve never seen the movie. We’ll let them discover that part for themselves. But you’re right it is amazing. Now let’s talk about the actors. I thought there was an amazing chemistry between Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska.

Chandler: Absolutely. And going along with the film-school theme, the two really put on quite a clinic. What I mean is– It makes me think of this time when I was teaching English. I had this bright student, a gifted writer, who loved horror stories and movies. The bloodier the better. After the umpteenth zombie and dismembered body, I challenged him to write a horror story without one drop of blood. I wanted to show him that less is often more. This film is a beautiful example of this. The passion these characters have for each other is palpable, and one scene in particular I find highly charged.

Barrymore: The scene after Jane saves Rochester from the fire.

Chandler: Exactly. You don’t see a lot of skin, but the way Fassbender and Wasikowska look at each other, the way they hold each other’s hands, how they move closer together ever so slightly, it creates this beautiful and potent intimacy.

Barrymore: Those two did so much with a glance or a raised eyebrow.

Chandler: I know. Fassbender’s one of my favorite actors. He can convey such passion in such a naturalistic way. Unlike say – ah I know this might cause an angry mob to form outside the studio – unlike say Lawrence Olivier’s acting which I find a little stiff, or affected.

Barrymore: You’re thinking of his Heathcliff in the 1939 version of Wuthering Heights?

Chandler: Um yes, but I guess I feel that way about his acting generally.

Barrymore: [Laughs] Well ok then. I think I hear the mob forming already. So let’s start the film. From 2011, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, with cinematography by Adriano Goldman, and staring Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska…Jane Eyre.


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