Movies/Television

Revisiting the film ‘Dragonwyck’.

In a previous post, I mentioned watching the film Dragonwyck for the first time when I was younger. This was shortly after I had read the book. It was only a few weeks ago, that I happened to come across the film once again.

Dragonwyck is based on the historical novel of the same name, set against the backdrop of the anti-rent war in New York during the 1840s. It tells the story of a young country girl, Miranda Wells, and her marriage to her cousin, the rich patroon, Nicholas Van Ryn.

Watching the film a second time around, now as an adult, I discovered that this was apparently Vincent Price’s first major movie role. When I was younger, I didn’t fancy him in the role of Nicholas Van Ryn, but now, I couldn’t imagine anyone else in it. The character of Nicholas has a commanding presence, one which Vincent carries extremely well.

The character of Miranda Wells is a young, naive, country girl, and I liked Gene Tierney in the role. Perhaps having to condense a book into a film, the change to Miranda’s personality was not entirely gradual. Hints of an inner strength do appear early on, which comes to great effect during one particular scene in the film. This event dramatically changes her, both in the film and in the book.

There were scenes within the book that never appeared or had changed dramatically. This was a shame because this would have given the viewer an even better understanding of Nicholas’ character. Some of these scenes and issues may well have been too sensitive during the time the film was made (1946). As a result, some of the events that took place felt a bit rushed to me, denying a build-up of character, like Dr. Jeff Turner, for example, and his relationship with Miranda, as well as his views against the establishment.

I was disappointed with the ending, for it was very different from that of the book, which again, revealed more to Nicholas’ character. I remember feeling this disappointment when seeing the film for the first time as a child after reading the book.

On the whole, I still enjoyed the film, after all, with Vincent Price in the main role, really, how could I not? 😉 The film manages to reveal Nicholas’ arrogance, his cruelty, and his descent into madness. It’s a good introduction to the novel for those who have never read it before.

What I’ve been watching this past month:-

Tiger King (Netflix)

Words fail me on this one. This was a show I had to watch a little bit at a time, for it was like watching an episode of Jerry Springer. Joe Exotic, Tiger King, is being investigated by the FBI. By the time this show comes to the inevitable conclusion, we learn that some people are beyond redemption, and the only real victims here are the animals.

Big Little Lies, Season 1 (Foxtel)

Based on the novel by Liane Moriarty, this tells the story of five women and their involvement in a murder investigation. I came a bit late to this one, and never having read the book either, I was impressed with it. I was appalled by the teacher’s actions at the start concerning an incident between two students, making me question her skills, and I had to look twice at Laura Dern, as I haven’t seen her since Jurassic Park. I found this show addictive, well-acted, and having just the right amount of humour thrown in around the subject matter. I’ll be sure to watch the second season.

Safe (Netflix)

This is another show based on a novel by Harlan Coben. It tells the story of a widower, Tom, and his frantic search for his daughter, Jenny, who goes missing after a party. It took me a few episodes to get used to Michael C. Hall, of Dexter fame, speaking with an English accent, and despite the plot devolving into some strange territory, it was another binge-worthy show. This murder-mystery has plenty of twists, with the ending being the biggest one of all.

What have you been watching this month? Do you prefer to read the book before or after the film? Do you think reading the book before the film ruins the experience for you?

Books, Gothic Fiction

What Book Made You a Reader?

During my childhood, I would spend most of my time playing out of doors and watching television of an evening, so I never really spent much time reading. It was not until I discovered one book, in particular, that happened to change all of that.

That book was Dragonwyck by Anya Seton. This book would lead me to read within the Gothic genre, as well as horror from Stephen King and mysteries, such as Sherlock Holmes. Combined with my film and television viewing, where my interest was with horror and suspense movies and police dramas, it was inevitable my choice of reading material would be in the same vein.

When I discovered Dragonwyck, I was not looking for that book, let alone a book to read. Before that time, I cannot recall even reading an adult book. I came across this book merely by chance.

Frequently we would holiday down the south coast and it was when I was about ten years old that my parents eventually bought a caravan while we were down there. The previous owners had cleaned the caravan out, however, when perusing the cupboards, I stumbled upon a book lying in one of them. I don’t know if they left it behind intentionally or by accident, but the book title and description caught my interest. I began reading and I was hooked.

I enjoyed the romantic aspects as well as its dark themes, such as family curses, hauntings, and murder. Dragonwyck introduced me to the Gothic genre, and it was also through this book that I became familiar with Edgar Allen Poe.

I knew that Nicholas Van Ryn was a dark and menacing character, but as a child I was unaware of some of these darker topics until I grew up. When I saw him again through adult eyes, I was even more horrified, which only heightened the terror of the novel.

Some years after reading this book for the first time, I happened to come across the film version on television. The film stars Gene Tierney of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir fame, and one of my old favourites, Vincent Price. I only saw it the once, but I do remember the ending of the film version was somewhat different from that of the book, which disappointed me. At the time I was also disappointed with Vincent Price being in the lead male role, but all these years later when I think of it, it seemed appropriate. Now whenever I read the book, I can’t help but hear his voice in the role of Nicholas. Chillling! 😉

There are a number of things I owe to this book, for not only did Dragonwyck make me a reader and introduced me to the Gothic genre, but it cemented my decision at the age of ten, that I wanted to be a writer. And for that I’m eternally grateful.

What book made you a reader? What is your favourite genre to read? Have you ever read Dragonwyck? If you’ve seen the film version starring Vincent Price, what did you think?

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

Writing

Genre Writing – Gothic Fiction.

Recently I have been questioning what my chosen genres as a writer really are.  Then I experienced my ‘light bulb’ moment and wondered why I had not thought of it before.  I was about ten years old when I discovered Anya Seton’s Dragonwyck.  That book really reeled me in and I’ve read it many times since and it inspired me to read more within the genre of gothic fiction.

Gothic fiction combines both horror (psychological and/or physical) and romance.  There is a heavy emphasis on atmosphere in order to help build suspense.  Gothic fiction usually deals with past eras, using medieval settings or in more modern times Victorian England and pre Civil War Southern United States.

Gothic elements usually include some of the following:

  • Medieval setting, usually in a castle or 19th century mansion
  • An atmosphere of mystery and suspense
  • Supernatural or other inexplicable events, which can include ghosts, werewolves and monsters
  • Women in distress
  • An ancient prophecy, omens , visions, dark secrets
  • A tyrannical male, villains and Byronic heroes
  • Mad characters
  • Romance

Stories that are considered gothic fiction include The Mysteries of Udolpho, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Rebecca and of-course Edgar Allan Poe.  Some of the works by Charles Dickens and Stephen King are considered to be that of gothic fiction.  And who could forget Jane Austen’s take on it all in Northanger Abbey?

What I love about gothic fiction is that it combines horror, suspense, mystery/crime, the supernatural, history and romance – all genres I enjoy reading; it all fits under one big umbrella.  So that’s who I am – a writer of gothic fiction.

Do you enjoy gothic fiction?  Do you have a favourite?  If you’re a writer, have you experienced a ‘light bulb’ moment in your chosen genre/s?

Free image by Simon Howden courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net