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Big Read: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Horror on the High Seas, read aloud by a gallery of stars, begins today, with the first segment read by Jeremy Irons. Subsequent installments will feature everyone from Marianne Faithfull to Iggy Pop and Tilda Swinton. The readings are presented in videos illustrated with oil paintings and enhanced with audio soundscapes filled with ambient textures and sound effects. You can watch the video above or click this link to the page on The Big Read’s website, which includes the written text accompanied by biographical and textual notes.

This is not the kind of thing we normally cover at Hollywood Gothique, but with live events few and far between in the days of Covid-19, we’ll take our horror entertainment anywhere we can get it, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” certainly qualifies for inclusion in the genre. If you are unfamiliar with the poem, it is one of those classics that one reads because it’s actually enjoyable, not because it’s something one is “supposed” to do. Besides the titular mariner, the cast of characters includes Death, Life-in-Death, and some zombie sailors, placing the famous work squarely in the horror-fantasy genre.

The text is an endless source of quotable lines. Besides the upbeat “all creatures great and small,” there is grimmer stuff such as:

“Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.”


“Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Night-mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,
Who thicks man’s blood with cold.”

With opium-inspired verses like that, is it any wonder that Iron Maiden recorded a heavy metal version?

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.