Fending Off Zombies, Jane Austen Style ~ A ‘Pride and Prejudice’ for a Modern World

cover-P&P&ZOk, so I should start this post by saying that I LOVE the movies and am easily entertained – if I take confession further, I also loved Roy Rogers, thought I WAS Dale Evans, and dressed exclusively as Annie Oakley for about four years – so please keep that in mind when I tell you I LOVED this movie…

But then I also liked the 2005 Pride & Prejudice, one among few at the JASNA AGM in Milwaukee . While most everyone was disgusted with the pigs in the kitchen, the Bennets having a sex life, and a Darcy with chest hair exposed at early dawn, I just sat there for two+ hours with a smile on my face – they got it! I thought – the sense of the story, albeit compacted, but in the end Austen’s tale, her characters, her wit was all there (I do think you have to like Keira Knightley to like the movie…and I do concede the American ending was atrocious). No one can duplicate the 1995 Ehle-Firth – it is brilliant and 20 years on, still nearly a perfect adaptation – but I think Joe Wright got it right enough in 2005, much like Clueless gave us a perfectly rendered Emma set 200 years later. How well Austen translates to different worlds, different tellings.

So Pride & Prejudice & Zombies? – does Austen translate into a world of the undead? Blood and guts amidst Regency gowns and an etiquette-proscribed society? I didn’t think so – as much as my early years of “Million Dollar Movie” trained me well (can re-watch Roman Holiday, An Affair to Remember over and over and still cry every time), such things as Mummies and Zombies and Vampires and Blobs, and any and all Creatures of the Deep were never my cup of tea. I much prefer spies and westerns and civilized space invaders to anything emerging from a decaying earth. But I did buy P&P&Z – every self-respecting Jane Austen collector should have it on their shelf, a must-have really, but alas! there it sits unread –  I couldn’t get past the first mention of  “a zombie in possession of brains,” whether universally acknowledged or not. Indeed the frontispiece alone told it all:

Frontispiece

“A few of the guests, who had the misfortune of being too near the windows, were seized and feasted on at once”

And that’s about all I needed to know – with 85% of the language from Jane, I felt creepily imaginative enough to fill in the other 15%… – so perhaps I am not a fair critic – I don’t know how much it follows the Grahame-Smith invention – but I went only to see a visual presentation of a P&P set in your everyday zombie-infested England – sort of a black plague on steroids… and what we really have here is the base story of P&P, a good solid dose of Austenian wit, a few drastic changes to the plot to make it fit into this rather gross world, and really just good plain fun.

But I must set the scene first: This was a spur of the moment decision to see this movie (a late matinee) – a quick email to my Jane Austen cohorts brought various no’s – other plans, hate zombies, etc., all good excuses, and there was no inducing my husband on this one – so I went alone, afraid the movie won’t be around here very long – and when I say alone, I mean ALONE – there was not another single soul in the theater! – a private screening (do they run a film if NO ONE shows up?) – I had no idea what to expect – I have purposely read no reviews, avoided all press on the movie, so I was there quite innocent of the oncoming mayhem – so I hunkered down and only briefly considered the gruesome truth that it was just me and the zombies, and me without a single weapon…

So here goes my checklist of a review, brief to avoid spoilers of any kind… and with my emphatic advice to just go see it…

Bella Heathcote (left) and Lily James star in Screen Gems' PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.

Bella Heathcote (Jane) and Lily James (Lizzie)

  1. Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James): other than periodically confusing her with Natasha in the just-finished-the night-before War & Peace (some of the clothing strikingly similar – same time period so I guess it should), James makes a compelling Lizzie – those “fine eyes” are very present, she’s a terrific and fearless warrior, and I am sure that Andrew Davies must have had a hand here, or at least sat in a sub-director chair bellowing “more heaving bosoms please”… But this Lizzie is also Darcy’s equal in every way… and loved watching them find their way to each other… expertly slinging all manner of machetes along the way.
  2. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet  (Charles Dance and Sally Phillips): well cast, all the right lines there to clearly identify them as Austen’s parents, she ridiculous and he negligent (though Charles Dance, thankfully resurrected from Games of Thrones, and still hiding in his Library, did have the good sense to have his girls (and all FIVE are present and accounted for) trained as warriors). There is no embroidery or ribbons for these young ladies (though all are stunningly dressed!)- they spend their idle hours cleaning weapons – one feels safe in such a home as this.

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The Bennet Sisters, warriors all (youtube)

  1. Lady Catherine (Lena Headey, in Game of Thrones mode) – ha! – delightful – a black patch becomes her…

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Lena Headey as Lady Catherine (winteriscomingblog)

  1. Wickham (Jack Huston) – Huston was perhaps born for this role – Wickham’s evil side taken to new heights – I shall say only this so as not to give anything away – “pig brains.”

Wickcham-Huston-finalreel

Jack Huston as Wickham (finalreel.co.uk)

  1. Who knew that Charlotte Lucas snores?? – one can almost have sympathy for Mr. Collins… well maybe just a little…

     6. Ok, Darcy’s turn…

Darcy-Riley-screenrant

Sam Riley as Darcy (screenrant)

Darcy, or “Fitz” as Wickham affectionately calls him (Sam Riley): I expect black leather great coats to become the latest fashion statement– too reminiscent of Nazi-Germany perhaps, but at least the costume here of the good guys. Riley shall be added to the Darcy roster, another name to check off in the endless “your favorite Darcy” polls – this Darcy, no idle aristocrat tending his own land, but fully armed with a small jar of dead-skin-detecting flies, is a Colonel in the Zombie-Annihilating Army, who like his black-clad not-so-distant cousin Batman, has the good sense to show up at exactly the right time, every time. (And obsessed Firth fans, have no fear – there is the barest glimpse of that essential piece of male wardrobe – the white shirt). Smitten with Elizabeth from the first look (after his initial requisite “she is tolerable” speech), his heartfelt but so hopelessly cringe-inducing proposal results in more than just Austen’s war of words – oh, most of the words are there, purists don’t worry, but if we line up all the available proposal scenes (such fun to do this – there are eleven I think, if you include Wishbone…) – this one shall surpass them all for pure energy and brilliant choreography… (and Davies was definitely here for this, coaching the proper removal of buttons…).

Here’s the rest of him:

Darcy-Riley-movieweb

 

  1. All other characters terrific – Jane and Bingley, alas! Caroline given short-shift, Mr. Collins (Matt Smith) as good as any of his predecessors, a stone-like Anne De Bourgh…

JM4_9719.NEF

Matt Smith as Mr. Collins (craveonline)

  1. Fun things to look for: lots of Austen quotes from her various writings – it will keep the Austen-knowledgeables on their toes and give the Austen newbies a new found appreciation of her brilliance. They might even go on to read the real book, sans zombies. My favorite line: “…if adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad” – and thus a zombie warrior is called to her destiny. [quiz: which novel?]
  2. The Zombies? – and Austen? If one is tempted to shake their heads in disgust and moan “Austen must be rolling over in her grave” – perhaps not an apt phrase for this particular story line – please go see it before you profess to know how Jane might feel. All told, this latest adaptation has a deep respect for the original text. It is not a “camp” over-the-top retelling but rather it seems to take the realities of this invasion of England very seriously – just another human-induced war of Good vs. Evil, no different perhaps than depicting Napoleon and the French army conquering the shores of England, a valid fear in Austen’s day. There are laughs to be sure – who cannot when a demure-looking Elizabeth suddenly hoists up her Regency finery to expose her sword-clad leg, grabs her weapons, and deftly slices off the head of a trespassing undead; or Darcy, in his frustration over Lizzie’s refusal, engaging in sword-play with most of Lady Catherine’s lovingly sculptured boxwood topiaries. Mr. Collins at the dance? – he’s perfect; the black-patched Lady Catherine (fashion or function? asks Mrs. Bennet) as the Queen of Zombie Warriors? – Game of Thrones trained her well…  So much of it all laugh-out loud (does one laugh-out loud if alone in a movie theater?)
screenrelish.com

screenrelish.com

But no, not “camp” at all – this all just seems to be almost real, a straight-on approach to a real threat to life as we know it, no one’s tongue in their cheek (well, maybe a little). One must just let go and get into the spirit of the thing, beginning with the introduction, a clever illustrated story-book depiction of the past 100 years of the zombie epidemic. And wonderful to know that all of Austen’s characters seamlessly fit into this world  – I think she’d be far from a turn-over in her grave, appalled at yet another mash-up of her “light, bright and sparkling” tale – I think she’d be sitting up and shouting Brava! Bravo! to her Elizabeth and Darcy and everyone else involved. It is after all, not much removed from her very own Juvenilia.

And the zombies themselves? Rest assured, they are really not that bad (have you seen The Picture of Dorian Gray recently?) – a few gruesome faces with blood and snot and rot, but all thankfully quickly dispatched – heads removed, bodies kicked and stomped with boots (lovely boots) – and most of it done in a flash or just shy of camera-range – brilliantly done really – and I confess to only once or twice turning around in the empty theater to be sure I was indeed alone…

PP&P&Z-poster

One piece of advice – stay for the credits…

[Stay tuned for another post with links to reviews, etc.]

c2106 Jane Austen in Vermont

Hot off the Presses!! ~ Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine, No. 68

JARW68-cover

New issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World!

The March/April 2014 issue [No. 68] of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine is now published and will be mailed to subscribers this week.  In it you can read about:

  • William Beckford, the remarkable author and architect who led a somewhat sordid life
  • Joanna Trollope on her rewriting of Sense & Sensibility for HarperCollins’s Austen Project
  • Mary Russell Mitford, the writer who sought to emulate Jane Austen
  • How Jane Austen supported her fellow writers by subscribing to their books
  • The story of Julie Klassen, marketing assistant turned best-selling Regency romance novelist

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Plus: News, Letters, Book Reviews and information from Jane Austen Societies in the US and the UK.

And: Test your knowledge with our exclusive Jane Austen quiz, and read about the shocking behaviour of our latest Regency Rogue

You should subscribe! Make sure that you are among the first to read all the news from Jane Austen’s Regency Worldhttp://janeaustenmagazine.co.uk/subscribe/

[Images and text from JARW Magazine, with thanks]

c2014 Jane Austen in Vermont

Playing Jane Austen ~ The Jane Game Launches on Kickstarter!

Today is the day! – the Kickstarter campaign of The Jane Game has been launched!

I first posted on this here in January 2013 –  now it is time for you to sign on and help with getting this Jane Austen trivia game completed for distribution – a donation of $40. [or more!] will get you a copy of the game as well as the satisfaction of helping a Jane Austen entrepreneur. The Kickstarter website is here, where you will find the details of the game, the Rules of the game, and the various donation categories – you have until December 14, 2013 to sign on… I just did, and hope you will too!

Promoted_Posts_BoxEnter Jane Austen’s world of elegance, wit and romance along with your friends when you play The Jane Game

The Jane Game is a trivia board game devoted to Jane Austen’s six novels. It is designed to bring Austen admirers together to share in her stories, characters, wit and language. While playing, each participant enters Jane’s world as one of her heroines. As such, you seek after a fortunate life by becoming an accomplished woman, gaining life experience and choosing to marry or not. Through chance, expertise and choice you could become the envied Mrs. Darcy, the pitied Mrs. Collins or the new roommate of Miss Bates. 

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And here are a few words from creator Elizabeth Bankhead on what to expect: 

Experience Section: The Jane Game gives you the experience of:

  • Entering Jane Austen’s world
  • Sharing in the merriment with your friends
  • Becoming more acquainted with Austen’s novels and encouraging us to want to read her more

Unique Section: The Jane Game 

  • Is a shared experience
  • Is the only board game that has trivia from all 6 of Jane’s beloved novels

Details:

  • $37 and shipping is free; after the Kickstarter campaign it will be $40 +shipping
  • Kickstarter ends on December 14, 2013

Kickstarter 101:

  • Kickstarter is a method through which we can give small amounts of money that together will equal a large sum…which, in this case, will be the cost of manufacturing the game
  • If you give the cost of the game, then you will get a game, which basically means you are pre-ordering
  • If we do not reach our goal, your credit card doesn’t get charged. This protects you and me. It gives a guarantee that you will receive a nice product and guarantees that I won’t be stuck with promises I cannot keep because I do not have enough money

Why pledge now? 

  • You Become a Founder: As such, you become part of The Jane Game. Welcome! Your name is placed on our website and you get to take part in some of the decisions for the game’s future.
  • Get the Game…and First: You get The Jane Game, which is “loveliness itself,” is it not?  If we are able to do a larger print run and can sell them, you get the game before any other distribution begins.
  • We Need You: We have covered the cost of the game’s development, but we cannot manufacture and ship the game to you without your support.
  • Free Shipping: We are covering the cost of shipping to many areas of the world, which will not be the case if it goes retail.

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Click here to see The Jane Game video

janegamebanner

Further information:

[Text and images courtesy of The Jane Game and Elizabeth Bankhead]

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

Playing Jane Austen ~ The Jane Game

Hello all Jane Austen Readers!  I append a note from Elizabeth Bankhead about her soon-to-be-released The Jane Game :

The Jane Game

The Jane Game

 

Hello, I am a fellow JASNA member and for three years have been developing The Jane Game, a Jane Austen board game with trivia from all six of her novels. You can finally see it in all its splendor at www.thejanegame.com. Right now the game is not for sale, though, you can enjoy daily trivia fun at www.facebook.com/thejanegame. And you can follow on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/thejanegame

Below is a visual teaser of the game-

For Email Teaser

I plan on bringing The Jane Game to market through Kickstarter.com . This is a web forum where funding of the game’s production can be provided by pre-orders. If you like the game and would like to own it someday, please do one (or all) of the following:

1. On the website — go to “The Game” at bottom left, then scroll down to the “Notify Me” button and fill in your email address

2. Send me your email address ( janesgame [at] gmail [dot]  com ) preferably with your name and, if you feel inclined, one thing very clever, two things moderately clever, or three things very dull indeed. I promise to laugh heartily at them all :)

3. Or, like the Facebook page www.facebook.com/thejanegame

With your email (option 1 and 2) I will notify you when the game’s kickstarter campaign starts for pre-orders. The facebook page will stay updated with the game’s progress as well as provide trivia fun every day.

If you know anyone who would be interested in a Jane Austen trivia game, please let them know (forward this blog post or invite them to the Facebook trivia page). The more people who know about this game, the faster it will come!

Thank you,

Elizabeth Bankhead

janesgame [at] gmail [dot] com

jane game facebook header

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Some examples: [from The Jane Game facebook daily trivia]

Mansfield Park: The day after the ball at Mansfield, two men leave. Who were they (choose two)? Mr. Crawford, Edmund, William, Tom, Mr. Yates

Pride and Prejudice:  What is Georgiana Darcy’s most praised accomplishment?

Emma:  Who was the first person to tell Emma that Mr. Elton could very well be in love with her?–“Mr. Elton in love with me! What an idea!”

Sense and Sensibility: How old is Colonel Brandon when we first meet him?

Persuasion:  On meeting the Harvilles and Captain Benwick, Anne admires their informal hospitality, ingenuity and charm. Why does she struggle to remain in high spirits?

Northanger Abbey:  Who does the heroine, Catherine Morland, marry?

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Thank you Elizabeth! – and best of luck with this – sounds like a great deal of fun, and who can resist anything to do with Jane Austen!

 c2013, Jane Austen in Vermont

Day 3 ~ All I Want for Christmas ~ Anything Jane Austen!

Day 3: Wednesday, 21 December 2011

For Your Wardrobe

Well, I bought this for myself a bit ago, thinking no one would ever find this to even know I wanted it – so here is the link to a very cool t-shirt company, Out of Print Clothing.com  – they make clothing and various accessories featuring the world’s greatest literature, and Pride & Prejudice, as one would expect, has a good number of items:

 

P&P greeting card

You can find all the P&P items here:

http://outofprintclothing.com/shop/gift-ideas/book-families/pride-and-prejudice/

 And check out the other authors, such as Poe:

 or Bronte:

There are a myriad of Jane Austen items in all imaginable formats everywhere it seems – just visit the shops at Esty for a veritable feast ~ here is one example from prettygirlpostcards:

 

You can also find the Pride and Prejudice t-shirt in one of my favorite book catalogues – Bas Bleu [as we are all such bluestockings!] – there are other Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice must-have items to add to your collection, including these earrings:

 Happy shopping! ~ what is your favorite Jane Austen accessory??

Copyright @2011 Jane Austen in Vermont