Reviewed May 11, 2012
Dave Jay’s review:
Another movie in my long line of 'films I should have seen by now but didn't because there always seemed to be something better to watch', I recently got around to viewing Ken Russell's much-maligned literary chiller via MGM's UK DVD release.
Now, I must confess that the first half-hour of this film is almost comically bad in places, particularly with regard to the clunky dialogue that the poor leads are forced to spout (Byron & Shelley were literary geniuses; needless to to say, GOTHIC's screenwriter is not) and, to top it off, Russell encouraged such blatantly OTT performances from his cast that it too often comes across a little 'local am-dram' (of course, Julian Sands ALWAYS comes across a little 'local am-dram', but still...).
GOTHIC does become far more watchable as it settles down and Ken Russell's visuals are given room to shine. Nevertheless, I couldn't shake the feeling that Russell was caught between wanting to 'do his thing' in unshackled fashion whilst also being expected by his backers to provide some kind of commercial product. Of course, such a compromise didn't stop the likes of ALTERED STATES still hitting all the right notes, but GOTHIC remains a film about the extremities of madness that never seems quite mad or extreme enough.
So GOTHIC might not be top-shelf Ken Russell. But, perversely, I ended up quite liking it, even despite its awful, clunky, modern-day coda. After all, Russell is sadly now dead and gone, yet throughout much of GOTHIC you can almost feel the ghost of our Ken stood behind the camera, sardonically chuckling to himself as he sets upon yet another over-the-top, censor-baiting set-piece.