All I Want For Halloween is Victorian Monster Movies

This Halloween I was really excited about reviewing the new Mummy— the first film to launch a new Universal Pictures  own Cinematic Universe named the  “Dark Universe” which is a reboot of their industry changing black and white monster films. However, we will not be reviewing that film because it was simply awful (and here I would like to direct you to the review by Screen Junkies on YouTube). Instead I would love to take a moment to celebrate the original films and their frequent connections to the wonderful world of steam.

Note: Many of these films contain elements that are not exactly steampunk visually, but the science, creativity, and technological creations in them are entirely within the spirit of the genre.

Frankenstein 

Creator: Mary Shelley (novel) Peggy Webling (adaptation) James Whale (director) Boris Karloff (starring)

Media Type: feature film (1931)

Audience: Though originally a spine chilling horror film, a modern audience would rate it at ages 10+

Summary: The one that started it all! Eccentric academic Henry Frankenstein retreats to an incredibly rainy castle with his laboratory assistant Fritz to conduct experiments in reanimating dead tissue, resulting in birthing a monster. The film solidified the image of the mad scientist surrounded by lighting strikes, switch boxes, and scalpels. The film takes creative license with many of the original novels theme though, focusing less on the relationship between the Monster and his Creator and more on the impact the monster had on the surrounding town– switching the conversation from the evils of man to the domino effect of evil.

Bottom Line: A must see for fans of horror films, steampunk, and groundbreaking special effects.

Find It: Amazon and YouTube

Murders in the Rue Morgue

Creator: Edgar Allan Poe (novel), Robert Florey (director), Bela Lugosi (starring)

Media Type: feature film (1932)

Audience: Produced during the pre-Code era in Hollywood, this film is generally fine for modern 13+ audiences but the Librarian recommends pre-viewing.

Summary: A mad scientist engaging in ape/human genetic experimentation begins abducting women from the streets of 1840s Paris. Based on Edgar Allen Poe’s novel of the same name, the story is credited with being the first piece of modern detective fiction. Filled with human experimentation, murder, and dramatic chase scenes this film became part of the foundation of the genre.

Bottom Line: Generally reviewd as “A for Effort”. While not everything about the film withstood the test of time, the obvious creativity in every scene makes it well worth the 62 minutes of your time.

Find It: Amazon Video and Youtube

The Invisible Man

Creator: H.G. Wells (novel),  R.C. Sherriff, Philip Wylie and Preston Sturges (adapted by), James Whale (director)

Media: feature film (1933)

Audience: 14+.

Summary: Dr. Jack Griffin, a chemist, has been experimenting with a new drug which unintentionally turned him indivisible. This new-found feature leads Dr. Griffin away from research and on a new path: murder and world domination. The film was a well respected success, so a sequel The Invisible Man Returns was released in 1940. The new invisible man was played by Vincent Price which alone makes it worth a watch.

Bottom Line: This is one of the few films to earn a 100% on RottenTomatoes, which says a lot. Many modern reviews also still call the film frightening, which isn’t the case for most “classic” films (look at Dracula for example, which at the time was horrifying but is now often given a G/PG rating).

Find It: Amazon and YouTube

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Creator: Robert Louis Stevenson (novella)

Summary: Dr. Henry Jekyll is a well respected physician in a fashionable piece of Victorian London. His experiments with chemistry and pharmacology, while originally pure in intention, soon turn dark. Drunk on the freedom from Victorian social expectations (and the law) his new drug offers him, Jekyll creates a whole new persona for himself, a Mr. Edward Hyde. But as the allure of Hyde’s debauchery grows Jekyll has to ask himself: who is he really? An excellent continuation of the Victorian theme of the inner battles between monster and man.

A myriad of film and TV adaptations have been created. Here are links to as many of them as I could find.

1912 short/silent film, directed by Lucius Henderson.

1913 Short/silent film, directed by Herbert Brenon.

1920 silent film, directed by John Robertson. Note: there are two other 1920 versions of Jekyll/Hyde as well. One was filmed in Germany The Head of Janus (German: Der Janus-Kopf)  directed by F. W. Murnau, and another Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde directed by J. Haydon. However the Haydon film did very poorly and the director was known to have hated it.

1931 feature film directed by Rouben Mamoulian.

1941 feature film directed by Victor Fleming

Did I miss your favorite? Tell us about it on Twitter: @SteamLib

 

 

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Prefab Costumes: The Good, The Bad, the Benefit of an Expanded Audience

Like most of you (I assume) I love Halloween. The fun, the energy, the chance to dust off my corset post-convention and show off my favorite shoes. A few years ago you couldn’t find anything Steampunk in the costume shops (I know, because I work in them every season) besides the occasional bowler hat or mechanical decor. In the last few years though pre-fabricated Steampunk costumes have been growing in availability and now Spirit Halloween has a whole feature wall devoted to themed costumes, make-up, hats, pants, glue-on-mustaches, and more. But for an aesthetic  deeply grounded in DIY principals, how do we reconcile with prefab generics?

My opinion? Embrace it!

The reality is costuming is time consuming and can be very expensive. Normally these are spoken about as positives: applauding those who take the time to create incredible pieces and thinking of ways to pinch pennies. However, for many of us we simply don’t have the time, the cash, or (let’s be honest) the skill to create what we want. While I too would rather find a small business to get my costumes from sometimes that’s not a great option — particularly if I was new to the genre and wasn’t sure where to go.

These feature spaces in Spirit may be the gateway for news fans! Not everyone knows about us and these mainstream shops may be where they build interest. Alternatively, this may be the first time a long-term enthusiast gets a full costume for their first convention or finally gets the replacement shirt for their costume they’ve worn for years. I don’t see anything damaging to opening the doors to our community a little wider and showing off to the more mainstream sci-fi and Halloween fans. Besides, I don’t think we have to worry about damaging our brand when things like Steampunk’d exist (though that seems to have crashed and burned, but is still available on Netflix) and we all made it out okay. So maybe we need to welcome prefab costumes as helping people find us, instead of being judgy that they didn’t put “enough effort” into their outfits.

 

Now as a reward for reading my ironically judgy post about not judging where people buy their costumes, enjoy this wild-west Lindsey Stirling music video

The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack

Title: The strange affair of Spring Heeled Jack (Burton & Swinburne #1)

Author: Mark Hodder

Age/Audience: 15+

Genre/Style: Alternative history, time travel

Read If You Like the idea of a Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes cross-over.

The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack Audiobook
Book Cover

Summary:

Sir Francis Burton, famous explorer, is all set to participate in a heated public debate with his former partner. The debate is intended to not only settle the question of where the Nile River originates, but also repair Burton’s tattered reputation. Instead, Burton is thrust into the search for a man he thought was only a myth: Spring Heeled Jack. Acting as an agent of the king in an alt-history London filled with motorized carriages, genetically modified parakeets who act as messengers,  and on the brink of all out culture war between the Technologists (eugenicists) and the Libertines Burton runs into a plethora of Victorian characters including (but not limited to) Charles Darwin, Oscar Wilde, Florence Nightingale, and notorious boogeyman Spring Heeled Jack himself.

 

Bottom Line:

Personally, I rated this book a 2.5/5. The Audible narrator was spectacular and I loved the overall theme of the book. However, I am not a fan of time-travel. Placed right in the middle of the book is a semi-separate time-travel almost-short story explaining how SHJ came to be in Victorian London from the year 2202 which I felt really pulled too far from the Steampunk I came to the book for. I also felt the book could have used a better general editor. Meeting a few intentional historical personalities is fun, but meeting everyone and the kitchen sink becomes cumbersome.

 

Find It:

Goodreads Review

Powell’s City of Books 

I highly recommend checking out the audiobook on Audible

Conventions: Start Planning Early

Want to share your passion, enthusiasm, and costume work with others? What better way than by presenting at your local (or not to local) convention?

While most conventions take place in the Spring and Summer, most are starting to put their calendars together now. Booking special guests, musicians, artisans, and speakers takes time- so the sooner the better in most cases. Bellow I’ve compiled a list of active cons deep in the planning stages for their 2017 event. Did I miss your favorite? Send a link to admin@steampunklibrary.net and I’ll add it!

The First-Ever Edwardian Ball New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana March 25, 2017 http://www.edwardianball.com/

While not technically a convention, The Edwardian Ball is an elegant and whimsical celebration of art, music, theatre, fashion, technology, circus, and the beloved creations of the late, great author and illustrator Edward Gorey.

Steampunk World’s Fair

Piscataway, NJ May 5-7 http://steampunkworldsfair.com/

February 15th, 2017 is their deadline for panel applications  http://steampunkworldsfair.com/applications/programming-application/

Geneva Steam

Delavan, WI March 10-12  http://www.genevasteam.com/

February 17th is their deadline for their final few panel spots. They are specifically looking for maker themed events.

Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention

Tuscon, AZ March 3-5   https://www.wildwestcon.com/

This is one of the few animal friendly conventions. They don’t have a posted deadline for volunteer/panel applications, BUT they have listed their musical guests: The Cog is Dead!

The Polar Emporium of Supernatural Oddities

Anchorage, AK April 15-16 http://www.alaskasteamposium.com/

Visit with Gail Carriger in the frigid north! Past years panels included 19th Century Sexuality & Sensuality, Introductory Leatherwork, and Creating Worlds Through Words. They have no posted deadline for applications.

I’m also including links to conventions that don’t have 2017 dates listed yet.

TeslaCon, Wisconsin, http://www.teslacon.com/

Steamposim, Seattle, http://seattle-steamposium.com/

When a Librarian Gets Married

Hello Internet!

As many of you have noticed and messaged, this site has been inactive for a few months. Major life changes (aka getting a new job, moving across the country, and getting married) just haven’t left me the time to provide the thoughtful reviews and commentary I wanted, so instead of posting half-heartedly, I simply haven’t been posting at all. However, now that I have more stability in life, I am very excited to be returning to this project!

To start us off here is a photo-post highlighting some amazing ideas for a Steampunk wedding.

Wouldn’t we all love to have a wedding like this?

http://ruffledblog.com/victorian-steampunk-wedding/
http://ruffledblog.com/victorian-steampunk-wedding/

When dressing wedding party members, it’s important to remember not everyone wants to dress-up, particularly if you are having wedding party members who are family, not friends you take with the convention. A great middle ground is to pick key elements that still scream steam, but are more comfortable that a full corset. For the gents: a double breasted jacket or vest like those you can find at ASOS online. For the ladies, boots or jewelry might be the best way to peope-please while maintaining your Victorian flair.

For brides there are several dress options:

You can go for full anachronistic styling with bustles, hats, and mixed colors.

Etsy Seller: OohLaLaBoudoir
Etsy Seller: OohLaLaBoudoir
http://www.steampunkcouture.com/
http://www.steampunkcouture.com/

Or you can go for a modern dress with steam-esque elements

Just because Victoria made white the new normal doesn't mean you have to stick with it
Just because Victoria made white the new normal doesn’t mean you have to follow

For a traditional Victorian gown, DIY might be your best option. I recommend starting your pattern search with Truly Victorian or Butterick.

For grooms there are the double breasted suits and vests like I linked above, but also don’t overlook the impact of accessories like:

Hats:

http://www.villagehatshop.com/product/top-hats/451139-169622/head-n-home-gent-topper.html
http://www.villagehatshop.com/product/top-hats/451139-169622/head-n-home-gent-topper.html
http://www.villagehatshop.com/product/top-hats/451139-3295/jaxon-hats-victorian-top-hat.html
http://www.villagehatshop.com/product/top-hats/451139-3295/jaxon-hats-victorian-top-hat.html

Cravats:

Etsy Seller: storiadiversa
Etsy Seller: storiadiversa

Hip Holsters

Etsy Seller: HydeAndSheik
Etsy Seller: HydeAndSheik

 

Have you had your own Victorian or Steam inspired wedding? We want to see your pictures! Share them @SteamLib on Twitter or send them to admin@steampunklibrary.net!

 

 

 

Vice Quadrant

As of September First, Steam Powered Giraffe has a fourth studio-album! Huzzah!

Blatantly stolen from their website
Blatantly stolen from their website

The Song Selection:

The Vice Quadrant, an impressive two-disc, 28-track ‘Space Opera’ is both totally synced with the style of previous albums, but is also completely new. We have a toe-tapping hero ballad (Commander Cosmo), a YouTube sing-a-long favorite (Fire, Fire), and a geeky-sweet love songs (Soliton). Silly songs like Sky Sharks and The Space Giant round out the album to cover just about any style of SPG you might have liked from a previous collection.

The Style:

For those who have not seen a live show, this concept-heavy set will give you a good idea (though for almost the same price as most of their concert tickets). Unlike previous collections there are also solid appearances from Qwerty (a anthropomorphized computer interface) and Gg (the robotic giraffe), who any readers who have been to a live SPG show know are regulars on stage but usually absent from albums and music videos. Tracks also include more character discussions and narratives closer to a live-show experience rather than the traditional all music pieces from The 2c Show and Album One.

Things of Note:

  • Many songs take full advantage of the music-tech skills of the members and include more complex techy sounds than their previous records. But worry not, there are still lots of ‘traditional’ sounding songs carrying on the SPG folk-style we know and love.
  • Rabbit’s voice is noticeably lighter in style and higher in octave. Though their wasn’t a noticeable feminine change in MKIII it is new and fun in VQ. For those who are interested in Rabbit’s gender-transition journey, she keeps an active video blog.
  • Hatchworth gets way more song-time than he did in MKIII, which, since I am personally not a huge fan, isn’t great. But, I also really prefer deeper baritone voices and less-abstract song structure, so there isn’t much to be done there.
  • This album has a LOT going on. There are a lot of styles, a lot of voices, and a ton of lyrics to take-in. It will take several listen-troughs to fully appreciate everything that went into create this behemoth of a record. Hot off the presses, I liked it. A month later, I love it (except for one or two songs, but hey, out of 28 that’s still amazing).

Buying It:

As always, SPG heavily rewards fans who buy a physical copy versus a digital-only copy. The full two-disc collection comes with a whopping 31-page lyric booklet filled with full-color original artwork. But for those of us who would simply scratch CDs at this point, both parts are also available via iTunes and Bandcamp.

Samples:

Steam Powered Giraffe put out several music videos for VQ. Below are my favorites, but you can see them all on the official SPG YouTube channel.

A favorite member? What? I don’t have one…

Also, this song is on the album, but the video is from a live show two years ago.

Have you heard VQ? What do you think?

Share in the comments or on Twitter @SteamLib

Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart

“Jack et la Mécanique du Coeur” (original title)

Creator: Mathias Malzieu (original novella/composer of all music through his band Dionysos/voice of Jack in the original French tracks)

Media Type: Feature Film, 94 minutes

Audience: Tween to Adult (regardless of what Netflix says).

Note: there isn’t any gore/violence/overt sex that typically warrants a tweens and up suggestion.  And yes, it is a musical, but not a Disney musical with fully orchestrated sing-alongs. Instead this CG film is very surreal and moves very quickly with operatic styled music, which would likely lead it to bore most small children.

Summary:

On the coldest day in history, on the edge of Edinburgh a young woman is desperate to make it to the midwife in time to give birth to her son. The time in the cold, though, has taken it’s toll and the boy is born with a heart made of ice. The midwife (a doctor/inventor named Madeleine who is rumored to be a witch) quickly replaces this ineffective heart with a cuckoo-clock and tells the baby that there are three rules he must follow to keep his cuckoo-heart running:

  1. Never touch the hands of your heart
  2. Keep your temper under control
  3. Never, ever, fall in love.

Jack lives for ten uneventful years safely cooped up in the home he shares with Madeleine and several of her eccentric friends. For his tenth birthday he begs his adoptive mother to let him visit town, which he has never been allowed to do before. She agrees but implores him to abide by his three rules.

He doesn’t.

Instead he falls in love with a beautiful Spanish girl he hears singing at a fountain and decides he must chase the girl of his dreams all the way across Europe. But as time goes by, he begins to worry. Will she remember him? Will she love him the way he loves her? And if she does, can his fragile heart take it?

The Good:

  • This is an incredible film from a visual standpoint. The graphics are fabulously detailed and keep your attention throughout the film.
  • The steampunk elements are frequent (locomotives with bellows segments and horseless carriages to name a few) and intelligently used.
  • The music is emotionally resonant and unique; a breath of fresh air into the musical genre.

The Bad:

  • Tragically, this film suffers from terrible translation issues. The dialog is rushed and doesn’t allow you any time to reflect on what’s said before three more lines are spoken. The US Netflix version is only available in English, but if you can I suggest watching it in the original French with subtitles.
  • It’s weird.
    • Normally this isn’t a negative, but the surreal nature of the film made it sometimes hard to follow. For instance, Jack the Ripper makes an appearance during a traveling song, and it’s not explained or ever brought up again.

Bonus:

Remember this video I posted a few weeks ago?

It’s the single from the Dionysos album called La Mécanique du Cœur was composed and recorded to accompany the novella which the film is adapted from. The above music video was created by the director of the film and in a similar (though not identical) style.

Learn more about The Novella

Learn more about The Album

Learn more about The Film

Also instead of a trailer, below is a clip from the film. This is where Jack meets Miss Acacia. It gives a great taste for the films music and style. 

et en Français:

Let me know what you think of the movie in the comments or via Twitter @SteamLib.

KURIOS – CABINET OF CURIOSITIES

Welcome to Kurios: Cirque meets Steam!

Official Kurios Promotional Image

The IT Guy and myself we’re lucky enough to get to see Kurios in Chicago last week. For those of you unfamiliar with Cirque du Soleil, the performance group brings together various acrobatic and traditional circus performance acts: contortionists, gymnastic acts, trapeze artists, and more. The acts all tie together following a general story line (for shows like Quidam) or simply all match a costume/inspirational theme (like Ovo). Shows run for about 2 hours (plus an intermission) and have a variety of acts within them. For each show there is always a distinctive selection of acts that match the theme or attitude of the show.

Shows takes place under a ‘traditional’ big top, only better. Cirque tent: large multi-post tent made of bold yellow and blue stripes with a decorative arc entrance

Inside the tent is a full size stage with intensive rigging and (thankfully) blasting A/C. Before you get to the stage, though, you can do a fair amount of shopping for the standard theater swag like tshirts, hoodies, hats, and umbrellas (my personal selection) as well as Circ merch like art books, CDs, and the like. New to me was the photobooth where waiting ticket holders could choose from an array of props for a green-screen photo op. Luckily the ITGuy is a good sport and humored me:

The Librarian and the IT guy in Victorian hats holding fake cameras inside a green-screen hot air balloon picture

Kurios, where “Reality if Relative”, has a very upbeat and excitable attitude. The costumes range from traditional Victorian garb for the balancing gymnasts to colorful poke-a-dotted fish suits for the contortionists. True to the Steampunk aesthetic the main non-gymnastic character, The Man Scientist, was accompanied by large automatons, several phonographs, and cracks of free flowing electricity. The music, played by a live band of a cello, a banjo, a violin, and a single drum and accompanied by a live vocalist, had the feeling of Moulin Rouge: peppy, dance inspiring, and distinctly French.

Acts included:

  • An aerial bicycle
  • Russian Cradle (strong-man throws a very small woman around allowing her to complete trapeze style aerial flips)
  • Contortionists
  • Chair Balance (chairs are stacked higher and higher requiring the performer to balance carefully on at a constantly increasing height)
  • Acro Net (trampoline act with parkour inspired motion)
  • Cirque staple Aerial Straps
  • Rola Bola balancing act on an aviator’s flying machine

See a full list and description (plus costume previews) on the show’s website.

Personally I was most impressed with the Acro Net. It was incredible to see over a dozen performers all working together with perfect timing to jump, spring, and fly across the stage. It was fun to watch, and the performers seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves too. Unlike many Cirque acts which leave you staring in awe at the grace and strength of the performers this was purely entertaining.

So would I suggest Kurios as a Steampunk outing? You bet your brass buttons I do.

While it’s easy to dismiss the show as simply taping into a popular theme, that doesn’t give the choreographers or costumers the credit they deserve. They took core feelings of Steampunk — the appreciation for the self made artist, the imagination, and the re imagining of the turn-of-the-century circus — and turned it into a non-verbal performance piece. That’s no easy feat, and they did it impeccably.

Kurios will be in Chicago through September, then it will continue to travel. Check where it’ll be next on the Cirque ticket website.  Cirque shows travel a lot, and at different times over the years. If you don’t see your city listed, check back regularly OR you can join the Cirque Club and get emails whenever any show is coming to you.

Even if a circus show isn’t your cup of tea, the custom music from the show can serve as amazing artistic inspiration, or to shake up your next Steampunk event playlist. The music is distinctly jazzy and Francophonic making it not only fun to listen to, but wholly engaging and attention grabbing.

Aaaaand we’re back!

Hello Readers!

After an engagement celebration, a 1600 mile move, a new job, and finally finding/unpacking the box with my computer in it I am so glad to say WE’RE BACK! And just in time to start talking about Halloween prep; after all we have less than three months now!
Things you can expect in the next couple of weeks:

Thank you to all those who have kept checking in during the break! Don’t forget to send in comments and ideas to @SteamLib on Twitter and to admin@steampunklibrary.net

Cheers!

PS, here is a little video joy to share with you all

And this, if you haven’t seen it yet