Gothic – Collector’s Series (Blu-ray Review)

Last January, the Vestron Video Collector’s Series added the film Lair Of The White Worm to their growing library. It was their first venture in the catalog of the fabled director, Ken Russell. Now, one year later, they are taking on his 1986 film Gothic. Its a significant little tale as it attempts to recount a morbid, erotic and trippy night in which author Mary Shelley was inspired and came to find her eternally legendary story of Frankenstein from. The film starred Natasha Richardson, Julian Sands and Gabriel Byrne. This Collector’s Series entry will contain all new interviews and other bonus features. It will be coming out alongside the release of Class of 1999 at the very end of the month on January 30th. Click the Amazon link below to have yourself a copy of this twist tale of horror when it arrives.


On a warm summer night in 1816 at the Swiss lakeside chateau of Lord Byron, the poet and his guests — Percy Bysshe Shelley; his fiancée, Mary Wollstonecraft; her half-sister, Claire; and his private doctor John Polidori — spend the evening sharing ghost stories while under the influence of experimental compounds provided by the doctor. As the night goes on, reality and the horrific tales begin to commingle.

Gothic is a film is yet another one of those video rental store staples that I can tell you all about the box art for it (Used as the key art for this release), but never bothered to rent and check it out. Mainly its because of that naked creepy little guy. But, it was more in a way that the image just didn’t sell me that the movie didn’t look good. I also at the time had no idea who Ken Russell was, so that wasn’t going to sell me on the thing either. But now, here I am once again rectifying that.

Ken Russell’s period set erotic horror mindtrip is one that’s not for everyone. And if I was a kid watching this, I may have found myself confused or feel like this was too adult for me and maybe getting a discomfort from that. Here, I find there is some really wicked fun and great ideas even if the movie doesn’t completely work or really come together for me. And in a kind of funny way, this tale that inspired one of history’s greatest horrors makes that story look like The Cat In The Hat compared to what “really” happens here.

Despite anything with the storypoints or whatnot, this film both looks and sound unique and lovely. There is some really good “gothic” cinematography going on with beautiful lighting, capturing the films wicked and twisted imagery with a haunted gaze. Surprisingly, Thomas Dolby of “She Blinded Me With Science” fame, did the score. And he helps craft an odd, otherworldy feel on the film by not handcuffing himself to what music of the period would sound like and incorporates some electronic sense to it and some more “of the time” (Time being the 80s) into the score.

Now that my childhood video store curiosity has been scratched, I think this was a solid film, but one I truly need to revisit after seeing the initial shocks, twists and turns and have soaked in the initial brush with the film. It feels like a film that some repeat viewing may unlock a better appreciation for the film. As is though, it features some big performances to go with some great visuals and trippy, sexual energy that holds itself in really little company when it comes to hitting the genre like this.


Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Gothic comes with a very solid picture in its Blu-ray debut. By nature of its photography, its got a little more softness to it, but still manages to look pretty crisp. Details are pretty strong as it carries its very own natural grain.

Depth:  Features some solid depth of field with actors feeling loose and free in their environment. No real troubles with movement occur.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and very rich, they can consume detail in some very dark scenes, which by the virtue of the lighting in some seems can seem intentional. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: This is very period centric and relishes in some of the reds, golds, greens and such on garments, drapes and rugs. Natural colors, like whites come through well saturated as well.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent throughout the entirety of the film. Facial details are pretty clear in close ups and most medium shots.

Noise/Artifacts: There is a little layer of grain as well as some specs/dirt in very minimal capacity.


Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: This stereo track is plenty loud and detailed. Thomas Dolby’s score sounds rather bursting and lively in this mix. The effects and such are well detailed and placed within it. Its a fun track that adds a layer of intensity to some of the craziness on display in the film.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are loud, crisp and clear. Diction is held pretty well.


Audio Commentary

  • With Lisi Russell, In Conversation with Film Historian Matthew Melia
  • Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview With Composer Thomas Dolby

The Soul Of Shelley (HD, 17:53) – Interview with actor Julian Sands. The actor is a fan of Mary Shelley and defends the work of Ken Russell as more that of an artist than a filmmaker. He dives deeper into the thematic nature or the film and gives his anecdotes on the production.

Fear Itself (HD, 17:26) – Interview with Screenwriter Stephen Volk. His script wasn’t originally done for Ken Russell and the director took many liberties with it, but he has since come to peace with the changes made and is happy with its legacy and place in horror history. There’s a little post-credit scene with this one.

One Rainy Night (HD, 23:09) – With Director of Photographfy Mike Southon. The guy who shot all the Air Bud movies (I’m not kidding) discusses his excitement working with Ken Russell whom he admired greatly and he goes over he and Ken’s vision and bringing things to life with a “good script” with a “specific feel”. He wanted to bring a heightened, hallucinogenic quality to the film that they shot on location.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:17)

Still Gallery (HD, 4:08)

TV Spot (SD, :34)


Gothic is a twisted, deviant, gory and trippy piece of horror relishing in a certain style of the genre while giving a fun fictional history on one of its legends. This Blu-ray gives us a nice display in both audio and video of the movie that really makes the period look quite lovely. The extras supplied are very nice and as informative as can be considering a few of the key players with the production have passed away. If you’re a Ken Russel fan or collect anything cult horror, its a well done package put together to have.

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