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The Castle of Otranto

Czech animator Jan Švankmajer's adaptation of Horace Walpole's Gothic novel.

Animation & Artists Moving Image 1977 18 mins Not rated

Director: Jan Svankmajer


When a television reporter interviews an archaeologist about the latter's lifelong obsession to prove that Walpole's The Castle of Otranto is set in Bohemia rather than Italy, the black and white film explodes into colourful animated collages resembling period illustrations and interrupted with extracted texts from the novel.

Published anonymously in 1764, The Castle of Otranto remains one of the greatest achievements of the English polymath, Horace Walpole (1717-1797). It is regarded as the first gothic novel, initiating a literary genre which would become extremely popular in the later 18th century and early 19th century. Walpole is arguably the forerunner to such authors as Charles Maturin, Ann Radcliffe, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe and Daphne du Maurier. Walpole's lasting architectural creation is Strawberry Hill, the home he built in Twickenham, south west of London, in which he revived the Gothic style decades before his Victorian successors.

See also Jan Švankmajer's other short films, The Ossuary, The Fall of the House of Usher and The Pendulum, The Pit and Hope.