Review: Frankenstein and the Vampyre: A Dark and Stormy Night

ByronBBC Two, November 1

A dramatization of and documentary about the events at the Villa Diodati in 1816 that led to the creation of Frankenstein and The Vampyre.

The BBC’s Gothic season focuses firmly on the events of the early nineteenth century in this fascinating one hour mix of talking heads and dramatized reconstructions.

Stephen Volk may now be best known for Ghostwatch, but was responsible for scripting the Ken Russell-directed Gothic, which tackled the same point in history, and he is one of the key figures interviewed for this programme, making some apposite points about Byron and those around him. He’s not the only genre writer represented: there are brief comments from Margaret Atwood and Charlaine Harris, and rather more from Neil Gaiman and Sarah Pinborough, both of whom, like Volk, use contemporary parallels to help explain the importance and the ambience of the meeting. Historical, scientific and literary context is also provided by Richard Holmes, Miranda Seymour, Dr Angela Wright and Professor Steve Jones.

There are a lot of “atmospheric” shots of the house by the lake used as scene-setters into the dramatized portions, which draw from the writings of the various participants. These are used to good effect, and often well counterpointed with the comments from the experts (notably Gaiman talking about the effect of fear on a group). The programme doesn’t confine itself purely to the few days everyone was at Diodati – it explains how they got there, and what happened to them afterwards – and will hopefully whet the appetite for some to investigate further.

Verdict: An enjoyable concise look at this notable gathering. 8/10

Paul Simpson

 

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