Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 12, 2016


Alice Krige, Eric Stoltz, Laura Dern, Philip Anglim
HAUNTED SUMMER (1986). Director: Ivan Passer.

In Geneva in 1815 Mary Godwin (Alice Krige), her lover Percy Shelley (Eric Stoltz of Fly II), and Mary's sister-in-law Claire (Laura Dern of Dr. T and the Women) encounter Lord Byron (Philip Anglim) and his doctor/companion/lover Joseph Polidori (Alex Winter). One would think that a better movie could have been made of the interaction between these characters, who, sadly, come off like pretentious twits half of the time. Byron is portrayed mostly as a languid, unpleasant, neurotic, misogynous bitch who pretty much mistreats everyone while professing to love them. Percy has three-way-sex with both Mary and Claire, who nevertheless winds up pregnant by the bisexual Lord Byron. And they talk and talk. The only English actor in the cast is Winter, so the rest sometimes come off like college dramatics students impersonating the British, although, to be fair, the accents with their over-enunciations aren't badly done and the acting isn't half bad, with Anglim making the best impression. For a film made in the 80's it's oddly coy, with an unintentionally hilarious scene when Byron and Polidori are shown kissing through curtains -- their relationship is never really explored, and while biographers have made clear that Byron did have sex with men, it's not certain if Polidori was one of them. Most of the characters were doomed to early deaths except for Mary Shelley who, of course, wrote Frankenstein. Polidori is credited with writing the first modern vampire tale, The Vampyr. The movie has a nice score by Christopher Young and lovely photography by Giuseppe Rotunno, but it becomes tedious before it's half over.

Verdict: Read Frankenstein instead. **.


angelman66 said...

I remember this as being as weird and unsatisfying as you note. In the hands of a Ken Russell this really might have been much better. I do love the quirkiness of Alice Krige--her best role I think was in 1980's Ghost Story with Fred Astaire and company...

William said...

I think Ghost Story was either the first, or the most high-profile, role Krige had.

I think Ken Russell did do this story with his film "Gothic," which I'm looking for.