The Ballad of Ern Malley

New Episode of The FrankenPod

I’ve never felt more Like we need a prepared statement. We have seen the trailer for Mary Shelley! Thank you so much to everyone who emailed and a special thank you to Nick of Nick and Vince’s podcast on Twitter, I love that I’ve been fan girl enough about Frankenstein that people saw the movie come out and though, shit I wonder if The Frankenpod has seen this. I’ll be honest I’ve been nervous about the theatre release of this one since I heard about it being screened at the Toronto Film Festival last year.

I’ll be honest I saw some things included that made me happy, but a few that really made me concerned that I may not like this film. I’ve also seen some interviews that lead me to believe that there was a very passionate Mary Shelley enthusiast in Haifaa Al-Mansour and I looked up the pronunciation but I bet I’ve botched it anyway and that is entirely on me.

Early reviews do not seem to be favourable, and they do seem to have gone for a sensationalised approach, but at least it seems to be intended as a feminist reading of the events so even if it’s a bit outlandish, there might be some value to it. That being said there seem to be no definitive dates for an Australian release so if anyone gets to see it in late May in the U.S. and June in the U.K. you must tell me what it is like!

This actually ties in quite nicely with the story I’m going to tell you tonight actually, sort of…

This time we are going back to our origins, both the podcasts and my own with My Life as A Fake by Peter Carey an entry into the Australian gothic literary canon.

I was obsessed with a Bushranger, other countries read horse stealing, bank robbing outlaw type called Ned Kelly at about the age of 10 or twelve. During this time I read every book on the Kelly gang I could get my hands on, except one. There was one book that I was warned about, a book never to read, a book that crossed the line… IT EMBELLISHED THE FACTS. It is impossible to convey exactly how repulsive that book was to me as a result, creative nonfiction and historical fiction are two of my great genre loves, but back then I viewed the whole matter as a betrayal.

That book was Peter Carey’s True Story of the Kelly Gang. I still haven’t read it, I kind of still fear that I might turn to dust or explode if I tried.

A little more recently I was introduced to the novel discussed today, My Life as a fake. Still incensed by the horror of his Kelly gang book I assumed it was an autobiography. I am not joking.

I was glad he was admitting to his transgressions.

Then I found out it took inspiration from both Frankenstein and one of my favourite literary scandals, yes I have a favourite literary scandal (Welcome to The Frankenpod) the publishing of the posthumous works of Ern Malley

To explain the book in any real way you need to know about Ern Malley

And to tell the tale of Ern Malley you need to know about Angry Penguins

Angry Penguins was an artsy experimental Avante Garde literary publication started by Max Harris in 1940 in Adelaide Australia. He was just 18. The magazine flourished and took submissions, art, prose and poetry.  The publication had been going for 4 years when Ethel Malley contacted him via letter, offering up her brother Ernest’s Poetry as a submission to Angry Penguins.

Max Harris was very excited by the works and even commissioned artwork by Sidney Nolan for the front of a special edition featuring Ernest’s poetry.

cover
The Cover of the Ern Malley Edition of Angry Penguins http://jacketmagazine.com/17/ern-poems.html

Sadly Ernest had passed away in 1943, so he would never see his work published. Would you like to hear a little of one of his poems?

Opening of Perspective Lovesong

It was a night when the planets
Were wreathed in dying garlands.
It seemed we had substituted
The abattoirs for the guillotine.
I shall not forget how you invented
Then, the conventions of faithfulness.

It seemed that we were submerged
Under a reef of coral to tantalize
The wise-grinning shark. The waters flashed
With Blue Angels and Moorish Idols.
And if I mistook your dark hair for weed
Was it not floating upon my tides?

The poetry was fresh, new and exciting and the poet was completely oblivious of his own talent, coming from working-class roots. A real diamond in the rough, and Max Harris was determined to give this underdog poet his moment to shine. Ernest, known as Ern to his friends was born in Liverpool in 1918 and migrated to Sydney Australia with his mother and sister just after his father’s passing in 1920. They lived in Perth until his mother’s death in 1933, after which the Young Ern Malley dropped out of school to become an auto mechanic, then moved to Melbourne at the age of 17. In Melbourne, he held a series of jobs before being diagnosed with Graves disease. He moved back to Sydney to be with his sister and died at the very young age of 25, refusing to get treatment for his illness. It seems that unbeknownst to those closest to him the young man had been writing a compilation of poetry called the Darkening Ecliptic.  His sister had found his poetry in his belongings and sent it to the magazine.

Except she hadn’t.

Ern Malley wasn’t dead,

No one dies of graves disease

In fact he never existed

He was a hoax by two quite conservative modernist poets named Stewart and McAuley who met during military service, they thought that Angry Penguins and Harris published ridiculous rubbish and put together the most ludicrous submission they could come up with.

0108-mcauley-and-stewart

And the editor bought it, hook, line and sinker. would you like to hear part of one of the poems?

This is the opening verse of Culture as Exhibit

“Swamps, marshes, borrow-pits and other
Areas of stagnant water serve
As breeding-grounds …” Now
Have I found you, my Anopheles!
(There is a meaning for the circumspect)
Come, we will dance sedate quadrilles,
A pallid polka or a yelping shimmy
Over these sunken sodden breeding-grounds!
We will be wraiths and wreaths of tissue-paper
To clog the Town Council in their plans.
Culture forsooth! Albert, get my gun.

The opening lines are from an Army Directorate on mosquitoes, called Anopheles.

The scandal destroyed the magazine

The press had a field day and then the fuss died down and the incident became a bizarre part of Australian literary history.

Except not quite… in Peter Carey’s version of events, with names and details changed subtly. The hoaxer, by creating this tragic poet out of whole cloth creates an actual person, like Victor Frankenstein creating his creature Christopher Chubb has conjured up Bob McCorkle with words alone, and the man has been rendered flesh and blood by the publisher Jack Slater through the simple act of printing the works, and like any act of tremendous hubris in a gothic setting, disaster ensues.

This is another one of those books that I would loathe ruining the story.

However we do have unnatural creation, a crazed creator, the resurrectionists are name-checked, there is murder, kidnapping and aloof hyper-sexualized poets galore. Sound familiar?

Also, this clearly falls in with our theme the gothic city as the bulk of the early action takes place in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia which is depicted from a self consciously post-imperialist British viewpoint. Kuala Lumpur is depicted as a gritty monsoonal labyrinth that smells mainly of fish and tries to reject the visiting Brits, making them ill. There is racism within these pages, and the brutality of the 1969 race riots, is not long past when the books take place, as our narrator Sarah reflects on as she sees a resident using a machete during harvesting.

Sydney and Melbourne also get the Gothic treatment, the gravesites, bleak working-class residences and bohemian multistory abodes. Not quite as vibrant as Kuala Lumpur, or maybe I just don’t find the description of Melbourne that gothic and outlandish, bare in mind I spent about a third of my goth phase passing the time broke and stupid in the alleyways of Melbourne. The book is rife with depictions of the cultural cringe, from Australian ex-pats wanting to deny their heritage to an artist called Noisette actually being Mary Moriss from Wangaratta. We also get a British character saying that an Australia has a tiny antipodean brain.

There are lots of grim gothic allusions, webs, blood, the man upon the stair, a quote from Milton’s Paradise Lost and the stitching together of the visage of Ern Malley.

There are still those who see something remarkable about the poems. In fact, the work of Ern Malley inspired postmodern poetry overseas, particularly in America where the context of the hoax was easier to disassociate from the work itself. The conservative poets McAuley and Stewart accidentally wrote a pivotal piece of experimental poetry and helped inspire poets and painters for years to come.

Sidney Nolan cited the Ern Malley hoax as the inspiration for his Ned Kelly paintings… see what I did there. 

4267222-4x3-940x705.jpg
Sidney Nolan’s Kelly series can be found here: https://nga.gov.au/Nolan/Index.cfm

Here is a talk about why we shouldn’t let the story of Ern Malley die.

Game On {Gamification and the Student Experience}

More Homework!

This one has a podcast!

Look I make poor dietary decisions on the regular, so it’s probably not particularly surprising that as soon as local restaurants in our smallish rural city started operating through Eat Now I took advantage of this new and exciting way to be incredibly lazy and eat bad food.

One day I realised that for every order, I placed I was earning points… points towards what I have no idea, but this is just a poorly executed version of gamification.

Gamification is the practice of applying traditionally video or computer game elements to everyday experiences. Accruing points towards a goal, levelling up or completing challenges out of the context of a game still ignites that competitive spirit that keeps us pushing to achieve the next goal.

One industry that has embraced gamification is the education industry. Even on the Deakin Cloud, we are encouraged to fill completion bars and achieve goals through quizzes. I’ve enlisted some help to find out more about the user experience of gamification in education at a primary school level…

 

Games like Mathletics are made available to kids all over the world with over 5 million students learning through games aimed to maximise learning and keep them focused. There are similar online tools such as ABC’s Reading Eggs for early literacy.

Important components in gamification for the purposes of education include setting realistic targets that cater to children at different academic levels, too hard and they will give up, too easy and they won’t be learning, or they may just get bored and wander off.

Gamification isn’t just about academic learning teachers can use tools like Class Dojo to introduce gamification into the realm of behaviour modification. Kids get their own “monster” avatar and every time they do something great, academically or behaviorally they get awarded a prize. Many of these teachers tools have an influence outside the school, with tools like class dojo sharing a students progress with parents and with learning tools like Mathletics children can access the games from home.

Teachers have been using charts and points systems for years to encourage and engage students but digital gamification presents children and teachers with a multitude of ways to interact with learning environments in the classroom and at home.

As students move beyond primary school they ways that they interact with technology becomes more complex and gamification can be decentralised according to specific areas of study. For example, the ABC’s online education hub provides educational games such as the history orientated QED Cosmo’s Casebook and the geography and conservation game Resort Rescue that cater to students studying different subjects.

The key factors that need to be established in order to achieve effective behavioural, educational and professional goals include:

  • Some method of tracking user progress such as levels or a progress bar.
  • A clearly identified loop of behaviour. For example, good behaviour gets rewarded prompting good behaviour which gets rewarded.
  • The rewards need to be limited so the user strives to achieve new goals, unlocking new rewards.
  • Attachment and ownership of a game element such as an avatar

It is easy to see how these elements are applied to Mathletics and the other educational tools

 

 

References
Learn all about ClassDojo ♥. (2018). ClassDojo. Retrieved 1 April 2018, <https://www.classdojo.com/en-gb&gt;

Mathletics. (2018). Community.mathletics.com. Retrieved 30 March 2018, <http://community.mathletics.com/signin/#/student&gt;

Oxford Analytica and World Government Summit 2016, Gamification and the Future of Education, Oxford Analytica, United Kingdom, pp 3-9. Retrieved 1st of April 2018, <https://www.worldgovernmentsummit.org/api/publications/document?id=2b0d6ac4-e97c-6578-b2f8-ff0000a7ddb6&gt;

QED Cosmo’s Casebook Resources for Primary and Secondary Students – ABC Education. (2018). Splash. Retrieved 1 April 2018, <http://education.abc.net.au/home#!/media/687872/qed-cosmos-casebook&gt;

Resort Rescue – Coastal Protection Resources for Primary and Secondary Students – ABC Education. (2018). Splash. Retrieved 17 April 2018, <http://education.abc.net.au/home#!/media/1391237/resort-rescue-coastal-protection&gt;

Music Sources:
The adventure by Komiku is licensed under a CC0 1.0 Universal License.
Good Fellow by Komiku is licensed under a CC0 1.0 Universal License.
Poupi’s Theme by Komiku is licensed under a CC0 1.0 Universal License.

 

My Podcast Problem ALC708 Assesment 1

By Morgan Pinder

If you’ve been following my blog for a while you will know that I’ll often post uni work that is relevant to the literature, podcasting and writing nonsense that you will often find here. This time my first assessment is a blog post. This blog post.

I was going to try not to do this assignment on podcasts, but it is basically all I do.

  • I don’t watch TV or movies, I listen to Podcasts.
  • I get on social media to talk about podcasts.
  • I read books, but only so I can talk about them on my podcast.

I have a podcast problem. It started about 4 years ago.

IMGP1533.JPG

Green Cassette Tapeby bixentro

 

Licensed under CC-BY 2.0

Original source via Flickr

I have always loved audio books, I grew up with storybook cassettes (I can still quote the entirety of the Lion King audiobook, just saying), then moved on to Amazon’s Audible app as an adult (all because I wanted that free copy of “The Chicken Gave it To Me” because I am an adult person who has definitely moved past my childhood reading list).

I think I knew about podcasts or they were at the very least on the periphery of my consciousness. I knew Ricky Gervais had one, and that BBC released their radio dramas as podcasts, but it wasn’t until Serial that I downloaded a podcast app. Serial definitely had a huge impact on the mainstream acceptance of the podcast as entertainment and has inspired a whole host of incredibly popular true crime podcasts, with true crime being one of the most, if not the most popular podcast genres (Bruzzi, 2016). Serial had me hooked, from there I went on to audio dramas like The Black Tapes and horror comedy podcasts like Last Podcast on The Left.

Then I discovered the often silly, very nerdy underbelly of the podcast world. I discovered the smaller podcasts that sprouted up in the wake of Serial and My Favorite Murder, and the indie podcasts that had been there the whole time but by virtue of not being true crime had only amassed a modest, albeit devoted following. It can be tough out there if you aren’t a crime related podcast as there is a huge swing in listenership towards true crime as a genre (Bruzzi, 2016).

I became a serial subscriber, I would, and still do subscribe to anything, listen to a few episodes and only delete it when the unlistened to episodes number in double, sometimes triple digits. I also began to engage with other fans of these podcasts and often the hosts themselves on Facebook and Twitter.

I work listening to podcasts, I walk listening to podcasts, if I could read listening to podcasts I would (and sometimes do if Librivox has a copy of the book up). There was a day about a month ago in which I thought I could listen to West Cork and parent at the same time, I was wrong.

“Oh, by the way, have I told you about my podcast…”

We started making The FrankenPod in December 2017, and released our first episode in on January 2018, and we have a bit of a following, but the most meaningful outcome of blasting another podcast into the 500,000 others out there (Lopez, 2018) that has surprised me the most is the online podcasting community.

According to Markham (2012) one of the most commonly cited reasons for podcasting community fostered through producing, promoting and creating, and that has certainly been our experience. Within a week of us releasing our first episode, I had an email from Nick who hosts Nick and Vince’s Podcast asking us if we wanted to come on their show and talk about Frankenstein.

I often interact with the podcast community in Facebook groups set up for podcast promotion, or to share podcasting resources such as Underdog Podcasts and Lady Pod Squad. Both of these groups also have Twitter hashtags that you can attach to podcasts as a signal to other “Under Dog” or “Lady” podcasters to retweet and promote, under the understanding that you will do the same for them.

Finding Your People

14916298297_2dee90bd97_o

39 Church and Convent of Santo Domingo Lima Peru 1738by bobistraveling

 

Licensed under CC-BY 2.0

Original source via Flickr

The Twitter interactions between podcasts can move in genre groups. As our podcast, The FrankenPod is about gothic books and cinema and our relationships with other podcasters have not really stayed within that genre, but it is easier to collaborate with people who are doing something similar to what you are doing. The special interest groups tend to interact more closely together but podcasters will often promote across genre. Twitter has been my main point of contact with other podcasters and those interactions have allowed us to guest on other podcasts and set up some wonderful interviews with other podcasters.

The most valuable part of these interactive relationships with other podcasters is the relationships that are forged (Markham, 2012). Aside from everything else I have met some amazing, generous and intelligent people who love what they do. Podcasting is like a long rambling conversation with people across the world, many of them alone under doonas with a microphone to block out the noise of the outside world.

It sounds a bit sad, but really it is a very beautiful way to nerd out with other people who enjoy the same very specific stupid set of things that you do.

Eat → Sleep → Podcast → Repeat

Podcasts not mentioned that should be:

If I’m going to go ahead and talk about podcast promotions I would be remiss if I didn’t shout out the independent podcasts I love who I haven’t name-checked so here are some of my #ff and episode release posts from the past few weeks.

Please check out these podcasts!

The film Nosferatu eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922) which is used in the Tweet GIFs is out of copyright according to section 94 of the “Copyright Act 1968” (Australia Government, 2017) which states that copyright extends 70 years after publication took place.

References

 

White, Black and Boobs – Sin City 1993 vs 2004

Brent let me tell you a tale of Sin City, where the women are gorgeous and vulnerable and the men are muscly, obese or Kevin.
And everyone has a sinister past (except most of the women who don’t get pasts at all) and everyone owns a gun, except the stereotypical Asian character who has swords and ninja stars.
I read the Hard Good Night, the big fat kill and I started a dame to kill for before I realized it had zero to do with the first film. The only two story arcs I really missed were Nancy and Bruce Willis’s storylines and Josh Hartnett’s storyline as the Colonel or Salesman.
I’m not sure why I read the books because I can tell you with the two narratives I read they took the text verbatim from the novel when they adapted it to film.

The film in question is the 2004 film Sin City directed by Robert Rodrigez which Brent watched repeatedly and with gusto.

Listen to the episode:

 //html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/6473531/height/360/width/640/theme/legacy/autonext/no/thumbnail/yes/autoplay/no/preload/no/no_addthis/no/direction/backward/

This falls within both urban gothic and the gothic graphic novel, two aspects of the gothic genre we had not tackled previously. In the urban gothic detective novel there tends to be a particularly two-dimensional view of women, tending to treat them as objects. Sin City definitely does nothing to buck this trend.
Every time a woman does something to forward the plot, or displays any kind of agency she gets slapped down. Often literally.
I am so over these this whole damn franchise.
But here are some sources we used

theguardian.com/culture/2011/nov/24/frank-miller-hollywood-fascism
http://brightlightsfilm.com/superwomen-bad-ass-babes-sin-city/#.WsL-dsmubqA

Frilled Neck Lucy – Dracula with Erin of SubverCity Transmit

This article accompanies Frilled Neck Lucy by The FrankenPod

For this episode, I talked to Erin who is the host of SubverCity Transmit and voice actor on No Sleep Podcast and Congeria Podcast. She also runs an awesome, spooky online store called Never Not Clever. So I’m incredibly grateful to Erin for making the time to talk to us.

The film we are chatting about is Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) also known as Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. Erin knows so much more about the movie than I could possibly hope to learn and among the many insights she has to give, she touches on the influence of Winona Ryder in the production, the Academy Award-winning costume design by Eiko Ishioka and the very deliberately rudimentary special effect that can be such an obstacle to new audiences discovering and engaging with the film.

Other subjects we touched upon include:

  • Lord Byron, because he always pops up
  • The Symbolist Movement
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
  • Ghost Hunting
  • Urban exploration
  • The 1991 movie Hook
  • and armadillos… because I just cannot get over this

Again apologies for my brevity!

Morgan

An Interview About Vampires

So this week’s episode of The FrankenPod, features an interview that I (Morgan) recorded with Alix Roberts who has written an amazing thesis on Vampiric women, which I had not read at the time of recording but that I have since read and it is goddamn amazing. Unfortunately, the audio is pretty shoddy. Totally my fault and I’m going to extend the invitation to Alix for her to come on the show again so you can hear how wonderful she is without the clicks and hisses of an angry National Broadband Network.

I have changed the way I do interviews now so hopefully, this will

NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN

Alix’s Podcasts: Chasing Tale and Bloody Ripper

Texts Discussed: 

She by H. Rider Haggard can be found on the book depository

Ligeia by Edgar Allan Poe can be found on Project Gutenberg in Volume 3 of the works of Poe

Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu can be found on Project Gutenberg

The Blood of The Vampire by Florence Marryat can be found on book depository

No big long blog posts for me at the moment because between my literature and communications courses uni is really kicking my butt right now. I will write more when I get the chance.

Thank you for listening or reading or how ever it is that you interact with us.

Image By No 1 Army Film & Photographic Unit, Chetwyn (Sgt) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

The Dracula Connection Part 2 – Florence Balcombe

Born: 6th of August, 1876

Died: 25th of May, 1937, aged 78

Possibly named after Florence Nightingale as her father Lieutenant-Colonel James Balcombe was involved in the Crimean War. Florence is talked about frequently as being just gorgeous but it is pretty clear that there is much more to Florence than the flowery and elaborate praise of her appearance. she was said to be tall at 5 foot 8, which is a perfectly reasonable height these days but apparently tall for the Victorian Era

There was widespread admiration of Florence’s intellect and wit and it came to pass that she would cross paths with another person who was renowned for his intellect and wit; Oscar Wilde. In fact, they two dated for two years, Oscar even gave her a gold cross which could be interpreted as a sort of promissory gesture. Once Wilde left for England, they began a long distance relationship that didn’t really work out.

Florence ended up crossing paths with another witty and intelligent young man with theatrical aspirations, Bram Stoker. Oscar Wilde was devastated when he learned of their engagement. Florence and Oscar eventually got to the point where they were able to maintain a friendship.

But life isn’t that simple and Bram still felt the danger of Oscar’s perceived threat to his marriage or reputation or morality or some combination of the three and that threat was exacerbated when Wilde was arrested for gross indecency. That this was the time at which Bram sat down to pen a story about a pervasive threat to the morality of good Christian people has been a subject of much discussion. Many see the depiction of Jonathan at the Castle Dracula as a subconscious expression of his own homosexuality. There is an excellent article  “A Wilde Desire Took Me: The Homoerotic History of Dracula” by Talia Schaffer that I alluded to in my blog post about Oscar and Bram, which paints the picture of a man who was at once, very happy in his life with Florence and had very intense, almost entirely repressed, feelings for the actor Henry Irving who he worked closely with during his time as the Director of the Lyceum Theatre. There is also a much more complex and distant impassioned relationship with Wilde which abruptly ended when Bram proposed to Florence.

One of the articles I read for this included a segment from Bram Stoker’s relatively recently unearthed “Journal”. They assert that it seems to be an idea for an unwritten work:

Seaport. Two sailors love girl — one marries her, other swears revenge. Husbands goes out to sea soon after marriage & on return after some days sees in grey light of morning his young wife crucified on the great cross which stands at end of pier.

Bram certainly never quite got over his distrust of Wilde. The same article that I grabbed that quote from which was from the New Inquiry by Kaya Genc draws distinct parallels between Bram’s version of his courtship with Florence and his friendship with Oscar and the narrative of Dracula. The forces of corruption represented by Dracula attempt to seize Jonathan and then Mina, but they are defeated by Mina’s common sense and good judgement and Jonathan’s eventual courage and the help of some dudes. It’s not a perfect analogy but considering the timing of his writing, it seems to be a little more than coincidental.

Bram and Florence seemed to have had a pretty equal marriage by Victorian standards and they enjoyed a happy and successful partnership. Bram struggled with illness but felt bad for Florence who ran the household and looked after him in his infirmity. Which is quite sweet because you really didn’t see a lot of that level of awareness in the men of the time. Florence was quite a gifted businesswoman, a trait that would serve her well through Bram’s illness, (which I’ve read was syphilis, which opens a whole new avenue for questioning, how did that happen?) and would continue to assist her after his passing.

After Bram died Florence’s main income stream was through Dracula and she was determined to wrestle control of the Dracula narrative back from the film studios in Germany and America, where Dracula was very popular but the Stoker family received no remuneration for use of Bram’s intellectual property.  She fought against the production of Nosferatu which borrowed ideas whole cloth from Dracula. Florence with the help of the Society of Authors sued the makers of the unauthorized film and won £5,000 and an order went out that every copy of Nosferatu would have to be destroyed. Obviously, that did not quite happen…

Sha also fought the Universal Studios production of Dracula starring Bela Lugosi (previously mentioned on this podcast). They didn’t ask for permission, so they had to deal with the full force of Florence Stoker.

 

Bibliography

  • “A Wilde Desire Took Me”: The Homoerotic History of Dracula by Talia Schaffer

http://www.jstor.org.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/stable/2873274

  • Coming Out of the Coffin by Kaya Genc

https://thenewinquiry.com/coming-out-of-the-coffin/

  • Profile of Florence Balcombe by Eleanor Fitzsimons writer ofWilde’s Women”

http://womensmuseumofireland.ie/articles/florence-balcombe

My Favourite Vampire with Sarah from Good Nightmare

This post accompanies The FrankenPod episode My Favourite Vampire

Dracula is one of those monsters who is so pervasive and terrifying, I’ve already explored how he has been contorted and manipulated to fit our social anxieties. Despite the very “of their time” nature of Dracula adaptations, the appeal of certain adaptations divisive, and not by the age of the reader or viewer and the contemporary adaptations of their time. The novel Dracula has a timeless appeal that may not be entirely the case with a movie. The 1931 movie has an enduring quality, but it has visibly aged and has lost its edge, the 1992 movie is still narratively compelling but the effects and augmentation of the original text place it firmly in the 90s. I asked a fellow Australian podcaster, Sarah, from Good Nightmare to tell me why the novel is such a favourite of hers.

In order to fully explore Dracula we would be remiss if we didn’t cover the 1931 movie

Fun fact the Spanish language Dracula was filmed on the same set, but at night, so they were able to perfect the shots that the American crew may have botched a little. Many many regard the Spanish version as the superior film. I have not watched the Spanish version but I instead watched the American Universal Studios Version of Dracula directed by Carl Laemmle jr. and starring Bela Lugosi as the titular Count.

 

The 1931 movie features a lot of close-ups of Dracula, with lights focused on his eyes. This way of depicting the hypnotic gaze is effective but more than a tiny bit ridiculous. Also, we never see a bite, we just see people leaning ominously in and the scene fades or the vampire moves slowly and ominously out of shot. The movie is as subtle as a brick, but let’s face it you don’t come to Universal Studios Monster canon for a nuanced story. They have very obviously styled Lucy as a “modern woman”, and carried out some serious 1930s slut-shaming, because she deserved to be bitten, unlike the pure and innocent Mina. Hey everyone, can we have an adaption of Dracula in which we don’t care about Lucy because she is less chaste or special than her friend Mina? Please. If there is one please let me know because I would love to see it.

I’ve said some nasty things about the film, but I do really appreciate some very special elements that the film brings to the Dracula narrative,

The movie gives us an origin story for Renfield (which means we get soooo much supernaturally crazed Dwight Frye which I am 100% here for)

Helen chandler’s performance is wonderful, over the top and just beautiful. Obviously, Bela Lugosi as Dracula and Eric Van Sloan as Van Helsing are the most iconic characters in the movie but Helen Chandler as Mina Harker almost mare me like the character of Mina more. The bushy moustaches of the Transylvanian villagers are something to behold, honestly, this movie’s moustache game may be the best I’ve seen. An honourable mention has to go to Jonathan’s Suits. They almost made him interesting.

Second Name Basis – The Vampyre by John Polidori

Accompanying episode of The FrankenPod : John Polidori and the Infinite Sadness

The Vampyre is one of those novels that has no chance of living up to its legacy. The fraternal twin of that famous ghost story competition that birthed Frankenstein, The Vampyre had a lot to live up to purely based on its genesis. John Polidori published the tragic tale of the Aubrey family and the monster that plagues them in 1819. The much-maligned novel is not as awful as many Byron scholars would have you believe, but it is a just proto-vampire narrative to Bram Stoker’s Dracula and its ilk. There is certainly much to be said for this short story which I can’t help but feel would have had lower expectations to strive for if it did not have the origin story it did, and might have been critiqued more charitably. Or simply forgotten.

 

What’s in a Name?

We don’t really come to care all that much about the characters, save possibly Aubrey. Lord Ruthven is suitably inaccessible and mysterious which is an excellent choice for a vampire that would be much more effective if Polidori had taken the time to juxtapose the removed otherness of the Lord with more fleshed out mortal characters. Unfortunately, we only get a cursory insight into many of the characters, and all except the damsel figure Ianthe are not given a first name. It’s a small omission but it sure makes a difference

 

220px-A_Fragment_1819_Lord_ByronThe Fragment

The true origin of Polidori’s The Vampyre does not take place in Polidori’s room at the Villa Diodati but rather, Lord Byron as part of the ghost story challenge penned the discarded fragment that Polidori would then build on to create the predatory Lord Ruthven. When The Vampyre was mistakenly attributed to Byron, Byron published the fragment as a way to explain the confusion and distance himself from a story that he was embarrassed to have associated with his literary “genius”.

 

Byronharlow
Byron by Harlow

The Byronic Vampyre

The most interesting reading of Polidori’s narrative is the often alluded to in the reading of the text as a vengeful satire of Polidori’s cruel employer, notorious celebrity poet and letch, Lord Byron. Polidori watched Byron’s sexual exploits throughout his time as his consulting physician on his grand tour. For a less confident young man with substantially less social capital, it must have been at best annoying and frustrating. Polidori decided to render his vision of Byron as a kind of predatory parasite that drains the life from people, who seem oblivious to his evil machinations. The legacy of Polidori’s short story is the aristocratic, Byronic, vampire which would become standard in vampire fiction for many years to come.

So can I link The Vampyre to Frankenstein?

This was a tricky one. I didn’t want to go the route of the monster because I feel we’ve trod that territory so frequently that the land has become barren and infertile, so we will rest that particular section of land until it is capable of yielding a harvest.

This metaphor is OUT OF CONTROL.

Can we talk about the trope of the bride being killed by a monster on her wedding night instead? In the case of Frankenstein, Elizabeth is killed by the Creature her husband brings to life. In The Vampyre Miss Aubrey, who is presumably Lady Ruthven at this point, is killed by her husband. There is an uncomfortable lack of identity for Miss Aubrey, as she never truly exists outside of her relationships with first her brother, then Lord Ruthven. She has no name of her own. Elizabeth certainly had an identity even if her agency is crushed by the consequences of Victor’s hubris. But these dissimilar brides experience a similar fate. There is probably a whole rabbit hole we could go down about the fear of female sexuality and male commitment… but that is for another time I think.

Good talk

Morgan

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