I have seen several adaptations of R. L. Stevenson’s novella, including an amazing British series called Jekyll that follows one of the not-so-good doctor’s progeny in modern times. One of the amazing parts of the story of this book is how it immediately caught the imaginations of the public and was adapted for the stage within a year of its publication. But I realize recently that I had never actually read the slender tome myself.
Unfortunately, the big reveal that Henry Jekyll (properly pronounced JEE-kill, I recently learned) and Edward Hyde are one and the same is the one part of the tale that is always consistent across all adaptations, so it is impossible for the story to titillate and surprise in the same way it would have been for readers in the 1880s. The idea of a split-personality has long been linked to this piece of literature, and the names of the title characters are part of our vernacular.
BUT, this doesn’t mean the book isn’t worth reading. I really enjoyed Stevenson’s prose, and it is always interesting to return to the source. I surprised to find that in the original that nature of Jekyll’s original “sins” that lead him to want to extricate his two halves from each other are never mentioned, and the details of Hyde’s antics are equally left to the imagination. In order to stretch the story into a full-fledged play or movie the adapters have had to fill in some of these details, which can really alter the tone and nature of Hyde. For instance, in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Hyde reveals to Mina that Jekyll occasionally had ‘impure thoughts’ about boys, and his overwrought Christian guilt made him consider himself a great and terrible sinner when really he was a pretty boring and upright citizen.
In the foreword to the collected works of Stevenson in which I read the mere 60-page novella, Claire Harman recounts a story of Stevenson seeing a theatrical adaptation in 1887. He is all but horrified to see Hyde depicted as “an unbridled womanizer” because, as Stevenson wrote to John Paul Bocock, “The hypocrite [Jekyll] let out the beast in Hyde… who is the essence of cruelty & malice… these are the diabolical in man– not his poor wish to love a woman.”
I found the ambiguity in the story itself very intriguing, and it seems ripe for someone to explore not only the exploits of Hyde during his short life, but Jekyll’s past and his other experiments that are only hinted at in the original. I was also surprised to see that the Hyde of the original story is nothing like the huge monster versions in Van Helsing and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but a tiny, young and underdeveloped man who does not have amazing strength, but unbridled passions.
If you are a Sci-Fi fan then you must have heard of Doctor Who. But just in case you haven’t, the Doctor is an altruistic alien who can go anywhere in time and space, but seems to have an affinity for jolly old England all the same 🙂
Did you know that there are lots of episodes that could serve for Steampunk inspiration?
The Doctor and Rose Tyler team up with Charles Dickens to solve a ghost story in 1869.
In 1879 The Doctor lands in Scotland and Queen Victoria is in danger from a werewolf attack.
This episode would probably most accurately be called “clockpunk” because it features space-clockwork and 18th Century France.
The Doctor meets, well, The Doctor, or at least someone who claims to be, at Christmastime in 1851. The cybermen are at it again and together the Doctors must save Christmas.
Vincent and the Doctor (Episode 210, 11th Doctor)
The Doctor takes Amy Pond to visit a Vincent Van Gogh exhibit, and they spy something in a painting that doesn’t belong there. So they head to 1890 to find out the origin of the terrible face in the window.
The Doctor must take a page out of Dickens’ book and soften the soul of a miser to save Amy and Rory.
When the Doctor stumbles upon a becalmed pirate ship, he discovers a sinister force at work picking off the crew members one by one.
Ok, this one isn’t exactly Steampunk but it is my favorite episode and the old-meets-new vibe plus the junkyard in which it takes place appeals to my Steampunk side. Plus, it was written by my all-time favorite author, Neil Gaiman.
This space-western fusion episode features a cyborg and the Doctor as sheriff of a small town.
It’s just snow, right? Wrong! In 1892 the snow comes to life and sinister snowmen are on the loose.
The Pasternoster Gang are called upon to investigate a string of mysterious deaths in 1893. When they examine an optogram (ie, the supposed image left on the retina at the moment of death) reveals the Doctor so they bring him into the mix.
In A Good Man Goes to War (Episode 218), the Doctor calls upon compatriots from across time and space to aid him in rescuing Amy Pond from Demon’s Run. Among they are Vastra, a Silurian (reptilian predecessors to the human race asleep in the center of the Earth), her maid/lover/badass Jenny Flint and a Sontaran (whom I call “the Mr. Potato heads of space”) named Commander Strax. In Victorian times they join forces and fight crime, sometimes alongside the Doctor.
In addition to A Good Man Goes to War, they also make appearances in The Snowmen, The Crimson Horror, and The Name of the Doctor (Episode 239).
I haven’t seen any of the original Doctor Who series, so I didn’t include them in this sourcebook. If you are a fan and you want to recommend an episode, please leave me a comment below!
Thanks to Josh Stanton and Andrew Knighton both for recommending this movie! This is my third French movie in the Steampunk ouevre, and before I started my quest to watch and review any movie that anyone has called Steampunk I wouldn’t have guessed there was going to be a lot to find in French. I absolutely loved all three, Lost Portals: The Chronicles of Vidoqc (dark, gritty, adult), City of Lost Children (clever, strange and entertaining) and now The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec.
Adele is a comic book hero who was created in the 1970s by Jacque Tardi. She started out as a foil for a different female lead character, but Tardi decided he liked writing Adele better and made her the star instead. The most recent graphic novel was released in 2007, and a film directed by Luc Besson followed in 2010. I know Besson best for his part in penning my personal gateway into Sci-Fi, The Fifth Element, but he has created characters like Nikita (La Femme Nikita) and has been a part of the Transporter series of films. Originally, Besson said there would be at least three Adele films, but so far no sequels have been announced.
The books were recently re-released in hardcover form and are available in English as well as the original French. The film draws heavily from volume 1, Pterror over Paris, (for the pterodactyl, get it?) which you can get on Amazon.com.
And now on to the movie. We first meet Adele on an expedition to Egypt. Her male compatriots try to ditch her but she soon proves she is the most capable one there and leads them deep into the mummy’s tomb. But Adele is not on a search for riches, she has her heart set on a certain mummy who she hopes can be revived and called upon to save the life of Adele’s catatonic sister. I know, it doesn’t sound like the most practical of plans, but Adele knows a man who has been honing his psychic abilities for just such an occasion.
While Professor Espérandieu is flexing his psychic muscles back in Paris he inadvertently connects to the dormant life inside a dinosaur egg and suddenly a baby pterodactyl is set loose into the skies above the City of Lights. The professor is accused of the “crimes” that result and he is put on death row when no one believes his ramblings about the dinosaur. Louise Bourgoin makes an absolutely charming Adele and her many attempts to free him are hilarious. Thwarted at every turn, she appeals to the President of France, but his hopes all rest on a bumbling big game hunter to bring the beastie down. The professor is still psychically linked to the pterodactyl so if it dies so does the professor, as well as all of Adele’s hopes for her saving her sister.
I totally loved this movie and I highly recommend it if you need something to put a smile on your face. Bourgoin sometimes talks a mile a minute so I am sure it would have been even funnier if I could have watched it dubbed in English instead of reading the subtitles, but I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, action and story. Ancient stuff was all the rage at the turn of the 20th century, especially ancient Egyptian stuff, so even the anachronisms felt like they were just an extension of the period, and I liked the whimsical brush used to paint even the direst of events in the plot.
Do you know of any other foreign-language movies that could be considered Steampunk? I’d love to see them!
You can’t help but get swept up in this beautiful and tragic love story. Without words, Director Andrey Shuskov weaves the tale a woman who is torn between her love for her husband and her loathing for the clockwork world they inhabit.
This hauntingly beautiful sojourn to an island in the sky is not for the fainthearted. It tells the tale of Jasper Morello, who embarks on an airship expedition and finds himself an unwilling cog in a mad scientist’s plot. It was directed by Anthony Lucas.
I wanted to make my Steampunk movie and TV reviews more accessible, as well as make a place to recommend titles that I haven’t had a chance yet to review. So check out the new static page with my recommendations for movies, TV and short films by clicking on Steampunk Movies and TV in the menu.
I have also put enough art on the web now that I created a gallery of my creations. You can see the gallery in slideshow or tiled mosaic form by clicking on the Original Artwork link in the menu.
So, usually when I do a movie review I start by writing a synopsis, but this film was so kooky I actually had trouble following the plot while I was watching. And I was even watching it dubbed in English rather than the original French! It reminded me in some ways of Dark Portals: The Chronicles of Vidoqc, but Vidoqc was made later so the sets and special effects were even better.
But, and this is a strong but, that does not mean that it is not worth seeing. There are some absolutely fabulous scenes and moments, like watching a pair Siamese twins cooking who are so in sync one tastes the food and the other seasons it. There are definitely times I said “huh?” but just as many times that I laughed or said “wow!” instead. A combination huh?/wow! was when I realized the main character, a Lenny-like circus strongman on the hunt for his little brother, was played by Ron Perlman who also played Hellboy. Small world! I have no idea what he was doing in a French movie in the 90’s, and when I looked up his career on IMDB I found out he was also in the 1996 production of The Island of Doctor Moreau that I have been trying to get on Netflix to no avail.
So here is a short synopsis, and then I encourage you to see for yourself. One, which is the only name the strongman ever goes by, has his 4-year-old adopted brother stolen in the night by strange men who are blind without their clockwork eyes. One meets a band of street urchins and befriends a little girl named Miette. Keep in mind while you are watching that the strongman is dumb but innocent and kindly. So the times that he touches Miette that might make you raise your eyebrow (he rubs her foot at one point for example) he is really like a big sad puppy dog giving her a slobber and know that nothing weird ever happens.
The child-stealers (a la the Gobblers in the Golden Compass) are taking the children to be part of an experiment. There was a scientist who was manipulating genes and growing humans in his laboratory, but he has gone and left his creations behind. The de facto leader of the creations is Krank, who suffers from a defect because the experiment that made him left him incomplete: he cannot dream. And his inability to dream has accelerated his aging process, so he is using his “father’s” machines to steal dreams from others. But alas, the children are so afraid that they give him only nightmares. Until he meets One’s little brother, that is…
Other characters include a set of at least 8 identical twins/clones, the aforementioned Siamese twins who want Miette dead, an assassin who uses fleas to deploy a deadly poison and a talking brain in a fish tank.
Have you ever been watching a pirate movie and said to yourself, “Gee, what this really needs is some aliens!” Then this is the movie for you.
But seriously, it is a really cool re-imagining of the tale of young Jim’s adventure, which originally ran as a serial in a boys magazine in the 1880’s. There have been tons renditions of this story; plays, movies, comics, you name it. But this is the first one I have seen that really does anything to ‘punk’ it. Well, besides the Muppets of course, but even that was a pretty straight (if more kid-friendly) version of events.
Here is what is the same: Jim, the son a tavern-keeper, has big dreams for his future, but feels doomed to sweep up after sailors his whole life. A treasure map falls into his lap, and with the help of financial backer he sets off on a journey to find buried treasure. Jim (voiced by the adorable and talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt) befriends the cook, who turns out to be the leader of the mutinous band of pirates who make up the hastily conceived venture.
Here’s what’s different: They are freaking space pirates! They travel in ships that resemble the beautiful wooden pirate ships of old , but the sails glitter with electricity and ports perch precariously on a crescent moon.
There are aliens galore, including the catlike Captain Amelia (Emma Thompson) who is a woman in this version of the story. I love places like the Star Trek universe where no one seems to balk at how anyone else appears or acts pretty much ever, they are totally open-minded.
The whole movie is an interesting intersection of the old and new. John Silver (Brian Murray) is in fact both an alien AND a cyborg and it is his metal leg that gives him John’s iconic limp. The “map” that Jim encounters gets a nice spacey make over as a metal sphere that only he figures out how to open.
Once they reach the Treasure Planet, Jim meets a robot who has literally lost his mind (Martin Short). There is a vital part of his memory bank that is missing, but that doesn’t keep him from helping out however he can and adding fun along the way.
I thought this was a really fun movie and definitely worth watching on a big television. Too bad I missed this one in the theaters! The animation is absolutely gorgeous and is a combination of hand drawn 2D laid over 3D computer graphics.
Kids and adults will really enjoy this movie. There are clever jokes that kids won’t get but parents will appreciate. Moreso than in the book, this film really puts Silver into the role of surrogate father for Jim and explores that relationship more.
Who are your favorite spaceship and airship pirates?