Gothic (film)

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1986 Virgin Films poster
Directed by Ken Russell
Produced by Al Clark
Robert Devereux
Screenplay by Stephen Volk
Story by Lord Byron
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Music by Thomas Dolby
Edited by Michael Bradsell
Release dates
  • November 30, 1986 (1986-11-30) (London Film Festival)
  • February 27, 1987 (1987-02-27) (UK)
  • April 10, 1987 (1987-04-10) (US)
Running time
88 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $4.5 million[1]
Box office $916,172

Gothic is a 1986 British horror film directed by Ken Russell, starring Gabriel Byrne as Lord Byron, Julian Sands as Percy Bysshe Shelley, Natasha Richardson as Mary Shelley, Myriam Cyr as Claire Clairmont (Mary Shelley's stepsister) and Timothy Spall as Dr. John William Polidori. It features a soundtrack by Thomas Dolby, and marks Richardson's film debut.

The film is a fictionalized retelling of the Shelleys' visit to Lord Byron in Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva, shot in Gaddesden Place.[2] It concerns their competition to write a horror story, which 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.


Through her stepsister Claire Clairmont (Miriam Cyr), Mary Godwin (Natasha Richardson) and her future husband Percy Shelley (Julian Sands) came to know Lord Byron (Gabriel Byrne). During the summer of 1816, Lord Byron invited them to stay for a while at Villa Diodati in Switzerland. There they met Byron's physician friend, Dr. John Polidori (Timothy Spall). On June 16th, while a storm raged outside, the five of them amused themselves by telling ghost stories and revealing private skeletons. From Mary's previous experience of miscarriage came the desire to raise her child from the dead, which led to the creation of the Frankenstein monster. From Polidori's homosexuality, suicidal thoughts, and fascination with vampires came the story "The Vampyre".



The film earned mixed reviews from critics. According to Dan Ireland, who later worked with Russell, the film was a big success on video.[3]

Awards and honors

Gothic was nominated for three 1987 International Fantasy Film Awards and won two: Gabriel Byrne won as Best Actor, both for his role as Lord Byron in this film and for his role in Defense of the Realm, and the film won for Best Special Effects. Director Ken Russell was nominated for Best Film but did not win.[4]



  1. Linehan, Fergus, ed. (17 May 1986). "Backdrop: A Weekly Column on the Arts and Entertainment". The Irish Times. Dublin, Ireland. p. 16. 
  2. Coke, Travis Hedge (14 September 2011). "Ken Russell's GOTHIC, movie review". The Gypsy Art Show. Retrieved 2015-03-13. 
  3. Dan Ireland on The Lair of the White Worm at Trailers From Hell
  4. Awards for Gothic at the Internet Movie Database

External links