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

Steam Themed Halloween pt2

Who can live with just one Halloween post? In honor of the best (if not best, at least most colorful) holiday here are more ideas for brining steam into your Halloween plans and a review of the Gail Carriger short story The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t, the Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the Jar (part of the Parasol Protectorate series).

Don’t forget to share your own Halloween costumes and concepts at submissions@steampunklibrary.net and via Twitter @SteamLib.

Music playlists are a staple of every party no matter where it’s hosted. While the classics like “Ghostbusters” and “Werewolves of London” will always hold a place in our hearts it never hurts to add some new pieces into the mix. I put together a small list highlighting some of my favorites from steampunk bands and pop-musicians:

Other suggestions include Abney Park, The Clockwork Dolls, Professor Elemental, and Jonathan Coulton.

Is your library in an area that hosts a large cosplay community?

Image: the librarian as a steampunk gender-bent Sherlock Holmes
Your Librarian as Sherlock Holmes circa 2012

Invite local groups to come and show off their costumes on Halloween and maybe do a Q&A on costume creation. If you’re lucky enough to live near a convention (you can check the Airship Ambassador Convention Listing ). You also might be able to find local artisans/crafts people who would be interesting in coming with some of their steampunk works (tiny hats, gloves, jewelry) to display and sell last-minute costume pieces.

Who doesn’t love coloring?

Image of my personal copy of Brian Kessinger's Coloring With Your Octopus
The best birthday present from The Boyfriend (aka The Project’s IT guy)

Artist Brian Kesinger (author of Walking Your Octopus) has a matching coloring book out now! You can find Coloring With Your Octopus at Amazon and Barnes&Noble. Pages can be distributed throughout October in the Children’s (and Teen, and Adult) sections to bring some steampunk whimsy to your tables. There’s also the Steampunk Coloring and Activity Book, the Creative Haven Steampunk Designs Coloring Book, and the option to make your own coloring pages off of Google or with the help of a crafty coworker. These are great for having out the whole month and at the kid’s table at events.

Last but not least a review of a Gail Carriger Parasol Protectorate story, my recommendation for a quick read for book groups or to curl up with while you binge on candy.

Title: The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t, the Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the Jar: An Alessandro Tarabotti Story
Author: Gail Carriger
Series: Parasol Protectorate side story

Age/Audience: Teen/Adult

Genre/Style: Adventure, Short Story

Read If You Like: The Parasol Protectorate series, mysteries,

Summary:

Ever wonder where Alexia got her sass? Search no further: in this short story originally published in the “Book of the Dead” anthology edited by Jared Smith we get our first full glimpse of Alexia’s father, the adventuring Alessandro Tarabotti.

When the Templars need a job done then expect it to be done quickly, discretely, and completely. When Mr. Tarabotti arrives in Egypt he knows these expectations and with the assistance of his trusted valet (and to the only level Mr. Tarabotti seems about to attempt, his friend) Mr. Floote he hopes to carry out his mission regarding a man and a mummy. However when an embalmed cat, an old ‘yoo-hoo’-ing acquaintance from England, and a blushing young Leticia Phinkerlington appear, things get unexpectedly complicated.

Bottom Line:

Great for a little read while waiting for trick-or-treaters.

Find It:

The Curious Case on Amazon

The Curious Case on Goodreads

Steam Themed Halloween

Halloween is my favorite time of year: crunchy leaves, pumpkin everything, costumes, make-up, parties, and of course the annual revival of “Hocus Pocus”. This post is all about bringing steampunk into your library (or home, or community center) for Halloween. Some ideas are wholly steam-themed while others are ways to add some Victorian flair to any Halloween program.
Have your own favorite program for Halloween, or pictures from a successful event? Have it hosted on the site by sending it to submissions@steampunklibrary.net. You can also share pictures of events, costumes, and more with us on Twitter @SteamLib.

Program Type: Film Series/Book Group
Audience: 13+
Time Frame: Varies
Space Needed: Film viewing room, book group meeting room
Budget Considerations:
• Film showing rights, if applicable
• Custodial for rooms
• Popcorn/snacks for movie nights
Description:
When you think of monsters who comes to mind? Frankenstein? Dracula? The Victorian monsters became the staple of the silver screen for a reason: their stories are equal parts terror and intrigue. Since there are so many film options now the monsters make themselves an easy pick for a mini-film festival. The festival can be stand-alone, or tied in to other programs, like a book group. The original story behind the films are very short (Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Invisible Man, The Portrait of Dorian Grey) which are well suited for teen readers. For adults Frankenstein, Dracula, or a Jack the Ripper novel lend themselves to longer book group discussions. The film showings are a great way to stir up interest and advertise the book groups to an audience with a noted interest.

Program: Steam-Themed Family Masquerade
Audience: Family
Time Frame: 2 hours
Space Needed: Open floor space for dancing, tables for snacks, and tables for crafts
Budget Considerations:
• Custodial services
• Food (finger munchies and candy)
• Craft supplies (felt, glue, craft sticks, glitter, small paper hats, white and black fabric masks, etc)
Description:
For a family-friendly Halloween event host a masquerade! Invite community members to come in costume and read scary stories, share treats, dance a little, and give their kids a reason to put on their costume again. Starting just before the event and running throughout allow guests to make their own party mask. This is easily made steam-y by providing gears, gold glitter, small Lego octopus creatures, and lace to adorn the DIY masks. Costume contest categories can also be made steam by having a category for Victorian Monsters or book characters.
P.S. The library blog Ms Kelly at the Library has great Halloween party games for kids

Looking for a grown-ups only party? Easily make the masquerade into a Victorian Murder Mystery night! Have your guests dress in their best steampunk attire (help them feel inspired to start a custom costume project) There are dozens of sites with downloadable party templates and ideas and some include hosting tips. These party templates can then be altered to have The Parasol Protectorate’s dashing Lord Akeldama as man of the hour, or Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker Machine as a murder weapon.
Don’t forget to include all your steampunk favorites into your Halloween book displays and bulletin boards! What better to bring fear into a reader’s heart than a mad scientist, a sea monster, or a vampire with an impeccably perfect cravat? Inspire Victorian costume by highlighting fashion histories, DIY sewing/craft books, and the colorful covers of YA steampunk in your collection. Steampunk art books also liven up a display and show the genre in it’s best season.