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Friday, 4 September 2015

Of Ravens and Wolves - Tribute to Joan Aiken

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (film)
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today I was reminded by a very nice doodle on Google that is the 91st birthday of the great children's novelist, Joan Aiken. Aiken was one of the staple children's authors who's work coloured a lot of my childhood upbringing in the Cotswolds. I heard her stories of Mortimer the raven on BBC's Jackanory and then again in my sixth primary school, where it seemed the majority of our reading material was illustrated by Quentin Blake! Later on, I became aware of her other work. Her Wolves Chronicles, particularly the first installment, "The Wolves of Willoughby Chase", were particularly inspirational in later ideas I would have as an adult.

When I moved back to the Cotswolds with my baby daughter, my thoughts often returned to Aiken's work, even if my eyes didn't. I found myself thinking on the worlds she created as I pushed a pram up a steep hill as winter drew near. That tinge of Gothic that touched upon most of Aiken's work put her years ahead of the trend that has shaped a lot of children's fiction, in film and literature, over the last two decades. Ahead of Phillip Pullman's steam punk and other children's alternative history authors, Aiken presented futures that touched strongly on reality. She held her hand with discipline when it came to applying fantasy elements and wove them believeable into the text. This is what makes the Wolves Chronicles so appealing.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Bride of Frankenstein - "to gods and monsters!"

With Boris Karloff in Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
With Boris Karloff in Bride of Frankenstein (1935) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In honour of the 80th anniversay of "The Bride of Frankenstein" I have unearthed this short review I submitted a fair few years back.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury I present to you a fine example that not only puts forward the argument that sequels can be great, but also that there were good sequels before Godfather Part II. The Bride of Frankenstein actually surpasses the original film and is perhaps one of the greatest horror movies made.

I say all this in spite of its glaring flaws as a sequel. It commits all the cardinal sins that a sequel should never do. It changes the tone of the original by introducing comedy, it retcons the ending of the original (if you have read or seen "Misery" this is an absolute no-no with die-hard fans) and unforgivably it brings in a new actress to play a leading role. If that weren't bad enough the titular character barely makes a cameo appearance. So what makes it so good?