I’ve started doing a ‘Nightmare Movies’ column for the online magazine Electric Sheep. Here, I look at a Japanese anime which turns out to be heavily influenced by Anno Dracula. Weird.
The Empire of Corpses.
I just read your above review of the anime “Empire of Corpses”. I think that, although you’re correct that “Anno Dracula” was a major influence, the plot itself sounds to me like a full-blown, direct steal of John Whitbourn’s “Frankenstein’s Legions”, which was, I think, also influenced by AD, and which uses the Frankenstein variation of the AD concept in a way that sounds almost precisely like the film; Charles Babbage is even a major character in Whitbourn’s book. There, widespread use of a Frankenstein-created reanimating “serum” has also resulted in masses of reanimated servants, soldiers, etc. The film seems to resemble your books in that it uses or references many other characters from fiction, whereas Whitbourn’s novel is mostly restricted to historical figures (Lady Ada Byron, Lord Nelson, Napoleon. etc.; although the fictional Percy Blakeney does turn up). I’ve often thought of posting and asking if you’d seen Whitbourn’s novel. This seemed like a good opportunity to do so.
I haven’t read Whitbourn’s novel. Looking it up, I see it was published in 2011. Project Itoh’s Empire of Corpses – on which the film is based – came out in 2012, but it was a posthumous publication – the main author died in 2009.
I’d hesitate to say that I flatly believe that one lifted from the other, but when I originally read “Frankenstein’s Legions” I thought the basic premise was a Frankenstein variation on your own “Anno Dracula.” But Whitbourn already had several alternate history novels to his credit–he isn’t really a horror writer, but a sort of historical fantasist–so the idea wasn’t a great stretch for him. But the similarities between FL and “Empire of Corpses” sound very close indeed, and the presence of Babbage in both–even though the train of logic (Shelley to Lord Byron to Ada Byron to Babbage)–is obvious, it still seems rather…curious.
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