One [English government source] said: ‘The government won’t bring it in via Westminster because the danger is they would be legally bound to recognise other languages such as Urdu, Hindi, Arabic and so on as being of equal legal status to English. Which would cost millions and millions to implement in a time of depleted public finances. This time around Sinn Fein can’t go running to Number 10 to get what they want.’ (My emphasis.)
How do you safely explode two 76m (250ft) -high structures within sight of a motorway?
By Horace Walpole.
It’s a little hard to describe the plot of The Castle of Otranto succinctly because the story is told in such a way that no narrative thread is resolved before another interrupts it. Basically, Manfred, the Prince of Otranto, is trying to stave off the prophesied loss of his dominions, but no matter how hard he tries, Fate is ultimately against him. In the end, he accidentally kills his own daughter Matilda (his son Conrad having been crushed to death by a gigantic helmet on the second page), and it’s revealed that Theodore (who first appeared as a nameless peasant imprisoned under the helmet on Manfred’s orders) is the true heir to Otranto.
Manfred is desperate as the tyrant who is trying to evade his inevitable downfall. His wife, Hippolita, is painfully compliant. Their son, Conrad, is merely a mangled corpse, but being a sickly child, not the sort of heir that a ranting, fulminating despot might be proud of. Their daughter Matilda is your typical heroine of romance, although a tragic one since Manfred kills her. Isabella is more independent-minded than Matilda, being quite ready to flee from Manfred and then boss everyone around in the final chapter when someone needs to take charge after her friend’s death. Her father, Frederic, is easily gulled by Manfred when Matilda is dangled as bait before him. Theodore starts off as an anonymous peasant, although it takes the audience less than a moment to realise that he’s a player. Eventually, we learn that he’s the son of Father Jerome who was, formerly, the Count of Falconara and married to the daughter of Alfonso the Good. The cast is rounded out by Matilda’s garrulous and bubble-brained servant, Bianca.
If Walpole had been alive today, he’d be a writer for film or TV with a special talent for writing material where what’d take moments in reality gets annoyingly drawn out under the specious excuse that delay makes the moment more suspenseful rather than more dull. As the preface of the edition (Penguin Classics, edited by Michael Gamer) that I read noted, the story has a stage-y feel to it. You can imagine it as some farcical 18th century play with everyone constantly bursting in and leaving the audience wondering if anything was going to be resolved. (In fact, it was turned into a successful stage play called The Count of Narbonne.)
Ironically, Walpole, it could be said, is not only the progenitor of the Gothic genre, but has already produced it’s first parody. It’s the sort of genre which you can either write with a straight face (knowing that it’s very silly) or write with a smirk (again, knowing that it’s very silly). And The Castle of Otranto does have much silliness. Perhaps it’s just a little too much like the novel of the play.
I wonder whether The Castle of Otranto with its setting and supernatural apparatus was truly a new departure, or whether it was a revival of the sort material which you can find in Shakespeare’s plays packaged in a new format. The story was eventually to lead to the flowering of the Gothic genre at the end of the 18th century, but that may have been as much to do with the character of the age as it was to do with The Castle of Otranto itself.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.
The Mummy was a decent silly film; The Mummy Returns was a silly film; but having run out of Egyptian mummies, they decided to go for a Chinese mummy, reflecting how China’s importance is increasing in the world. [Surely shome mishtake. –ed.]
“The Mummy will become invincible or immortal or something if he bathes in the pools of Shangri-la.” (You just know he’ll bathe in the pool.)
“Yeah, but this dagger will kill him.” (It’s rather small, but a bit pointy.)
“So he’s not invincible.”
“No. But he’s pretty tough. 375hp, a bunch of spells, and probably a sword +5.”
“Is that 3.5 or 4.0 rules?”
“Just watch the film.”
There was precious little fun in this one. Maria Bello was a poor substitute for Rachel Weisz, but at least some of the duff dialogue of the second film wouldn’t have sounded so anachronistic coming out of the mouth of Alex who had turned into a twenty-eight year old American. (“Damn it, man, you know the rules,” said the studio exec banging his pen angrily on the table. “Americans are action heroes and Brits are effete, back-stabbing shirt-lifters.”)
One of the problems, I think, was that unlike the first two films where the hero and the villain engaged in a little verbal sparring now and then or their actions and relationships paralleled each other, there wasn’t anything like that this. In the first two films, the Mummy had some snivelling lackey as comic relief, but no Chinese warlord was probably ever known for his wacky comedy routines or sense of humour.
“So, anyone here from out of town? Where are you from? Hunan? Have him executed at once!”
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
I thought this one started well enough with the geriatric Indy strutting his stuff and getting involved in the usual sort of OTT hijinks. But then you get the obvious revelation that the unnecessary and unwelcome Mutt is (obviously) Indy’s son.
And as for the end, who was the complete f_cking idiot who came up with that one? Each film in the Indiana Jones series has always had some mystical element in it, always absolutely ridiculous but fitting nicely with the tenor. Although the audience already knew that the crystal skulls were of extra-terrestrial origin, it didn’t stop the spaceship at the end of the film from jarring. It was as if the finale from some other film had escaped and got itself spliced on to this one.
I think we’ve done with this franchise.