GOTHIC (1986) Reviews and overview

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‘Conjure up your deepest, darkest fear… now call that fear to life!’

Gothic is a 1986 British horror feature film directed by Ken Russell, starring Gabriel Byrne as Lord Byron, Julian Sands as Percy Bysshe Shelley, Natasha Richardson as Mary Shelley, Miriam Cyr as Claire Clairmont – Mary Shelley’s half-sister – and Timothy Spall as Doctor John  Polidori. It features a soundtrack score by Thomas Dolby.

The film is a fictionalized tale based on the Shelleys’ visit with Lord Byron in Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva, and the famous challenge to write a horror story, that ultimately led to Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein and John Polidori writing The Vampyre. The same event has also been portrayed in the films Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Haunted Summer (1988), among others.

The film’s poster motif is based on Henry Fuseli’s painting The Nightmare, which is also referenced in the film.


“Beyond the carnalia (and if you’re still with us), Gothic happens to be strikingly shot, the special effects inspired, albeit gruesome. Although he slops his signature blood ‘n’ cleavage across the screen, Russell makes it slick, with dynamic cutting, vivid lighting and framing. Who knows, you might spot a little humor in this hyperbolic lunacy.” Washington Post

“So the film is admittedly an exaggerated, plotless experiment in dramatic and visual overkill, and we clearly recognize every minute of its running time as the manipulation of an overambitious director who seems to go a little madder with every film he gives us. Fortunately, we’re not alone in recognizing these handicaps. So does Ken Russell…” Film As Art


Buy Blu-ray:

  • Audio Commentary with Lisi Russell, in conversation with Film Historian Matthew Melia
  • Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview with Composer Thomas Dolby
  • Interviews with Actor Julian Sands, Screenwriter Stephen Volk, and Director of Photography Mike Southon
  • Theatrical trailer
  • TV Spot
  • Still Gallery — Lionsgate releases


Buy Phallic Frenzy: Ken Russell and His Films book from

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