Gothic Romance: REBECCA & CRIMSON PEAK Comparison

Saturday, October 17, 2015


I've yet to see writer/director Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth (2006), as much as I've heard it praised for it's imaginative design and brilliant direction. I feared it might be too strange or trippy.  Now having seen CRIMSON PEAK, I no longer worry about Pan's Labyrinth being over the top and plan to watch it posthaste. 
(Post update 1/10/16 - did see it, found it engrossing, strange and wondrous).
Please don't go into Crimson Peak looking for a Blumhouse Productions type horror movie, cause you won't find it, you'll be disappointed and you'll want to mock this film, which won't be fair.  Crimson Peak is being categorized as a Gothic Romance and that's what you'll find. Which suits me perfectly, as the film pays a bit of homage to my very favorite movie of all time -  Alfred Hitchcock's REBECCA (1940) based on a novel by Daphne Du Maurier, starring Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier. I've watched the movie at least a dozen times and the poster has adorned a wall somewhere where ever I live for over 20 years.

Why do I love the film so much? That's almost like asking why you can lose hours staring at the ocean, it almost inexplicable.  But I can say, I do so love the movies voice over opening:
Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter for the way was barred to me. Then, like all dreamers, I was possessed of a sudden with supernatural powers and passed like a spirit through the barrier before me. The drive wound away in front of me, twisting and turning as it had always done. But as I advanced, I was aware that a change had come upon it. Nature had come into her own again, and little by little had encroached upon the drive with long tenacious fingers, on and on while the poor thread that had once been our drive. And finally, there was Manderley - Manderley - secretive and silent. Time could not mar the perfect symmetry of those walls. Moonlight can play odd tricks upon the fancy, and suddenly it seemed to me that light came from the windows. And then a cloud came upon the moon and hovered an instant like a dark hand before a face. The illusion went with it. I looked upon a desolate shell, with no whisper of the past about its staring walls. We can never go back to Manderley again. That much is certain. But sometimes, in my dreams, I do go back to the strange days of my life which began for me in the south of France...
I also love mysterious millionaire Maxim de Winter's (Olivier) proposal to the protagonist (Fontaine) whose character is never named - "I'm asking you to marry me you little fool" - he barks at her from the hotel bathroom.  I love the stately, vast, mausoleum of Manderley and how out of place and gauche the new Mrs. de Winter feels there.  I think what I love most of all, is it seems as if the movie is told like a three act play; the tone changing with each act:

Act 1 - The two meet in the South of France, he trying to get away from Manderley and the ghosts that haunt him there. She having recently lost her father, has taken a job as a companion to a heavyset, horrid, gossipy old woman. These scenes of their courtship are mostly light and humorous, with some foreshadowing of course, but their unlikely romance is at the center.

Act 2 - Maxim marries her and takes her to Manderlay, this is when all the mystery begins and the new Mrs. de Winter must deal with Manderley's housekeeper, a term that takes on new proportions in Mrs Danvers, who was obsessively devoted to the former Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca herself.

Act 3 - Feels more like a courtroom drama and involves the coroners inquest into Rebecca's demise. Now the new Mrs. de Winter finally comes into her own and finds a resilience that she, nor anyone else, couldn't have guessed she possessed.

"Crimson Peak" is a bloodier, creepier tale 
with expertly imagined ghosts.
It's in no way a remake of Rebecca, but even before reading that del Toro was influenced by my favorite movie, I saw the similarities - Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) although far more confident than Fontain's character,  also grows up without a mother and is very close to her father.  The courtship of Edith and Baronet Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) is more "Pride & Prejudice" - without the comedic overtones in Rebecca, but when Thomas marries Edith and takes her to his family's long held estate, Allerdale Hall, then the similarities really begin. Although, the decaying and seeping oozing red clay of Allerdale makes Manderley look down right cheery and warm in comparison; at least it never snowed inside the great hall of Manderley.

The dogs -  the new Mrs. de Winter befriends Jasper, Rebecca's former cocker spaniel.  Edith finds a little dog at Allerdale, which also belonged to a former occupant of the house.  Rebecca's spirit permeates over everything, and Maxim's new wife is haunted by the fact that she'll never be able to live up to the former Mrs. de Winter.  Edith is haunted by her husband's former life as well, but these ghosts are more than just echoes of the past.

And least we forget, Lady Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain), devoted sister to Thomas and keeper of the keys at Allerdale, and just as ominous and intense as Mrs. Danvers. It should be noted del Toro says his vision for Crimson Peak was also influenced by Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, Anya Seton’s Dragonwyck and Jane Austen’s Wuthering Heights. There's also a nod in Crimson Peak to Wasikowska's having played the role of Jane Eyer (2011) and to she and Hiddleston's vampire flick Only Lovers Left Alive (2013).

T&T LAMB Score: 4 outta 5

While You're Here

Check out T&T's Post on Del Toro's MAMA

--------------------------------------------------------------------- has a nice (10 min) Audio interview with Guillermo del Toro discussing his involvement with every aspect of  #CrimsonPeak, his belief in ghosts and why he's afraid to tackle Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein".

POST UPDATE 7/5/17  
More thoughts on "Rebecca" after seeing it on the big screen at Bryn Mawr Film Institute:

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is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

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Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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