Friday, January 9, 2015

DARK SHADOWS: BLOODLUST, Episode the First


Jerry Lacy, man. Goddamn.

How in the pluperfect hell did Hollywood let this guy get away? Even as a young actor he was capable of projecting wisdom beyond his years. It's actually a wonder to listen to him pull the same trick in reverse by adding a sense of foolishness to the latest Trask incarnation, Isaiah. With a single line delivery he was able to claim the first episode of DARK SHADOWS: BLOODLUST for himself.

I spent the last two weeks hemming and hawing over how to cover the individual episodes of BLOODLUST, the first of which went on sale at Big Finish last night. It's tough to cover the DARK SHADOWS line without delving into spoiler territory, but there's really no good solution to the problem. If you've muddled through some of my previous write-ups, you'll see most of my energies are often spent talking around plot points rather than exploring them. Criticism of any kind is frequently a one-sided conversation, because the writer is frequently discussing something the reader has not yet had time to experience for themselves. With that in mind ...

SPOILER ALERT.

A 13-part serial from Big Finish, BLOODLUST is set sometime during the 1980s', after the events of KINGDOM OF THE DEAD. Big Finish notoriously plays fast and loose with the DARK SHADOWS timelime, so I wasn't expecting the decade to be any more a part of the story than the 1960s were to the original series. In other words, BLOODLUST isn't going to be a pageant of Rubik's Cubes and PUNKY BREWSTER references.

I was more concerned that my fleeting memory of KINGDOM OF THE DEAD would be a problem. It's been so long since I've heard that tale that I've forgotten all but its most urgent plot points. If the first episode of BLOODLUST is any sign, my memory won't be a problem.

The story opens with a familiar scene: Melody and Michael Devereux have arrived on Collinwood in search of a scenic (and inexpensive) honeymoon. We get a re-introduction to the town through their experiences, from the weirdo patrons at the Blue Whale , to "Mad" Maggie Evans at the local inn. It's easy to forget that Maggie spent more than her fair share of time in mental institutions (thank you, Barnabas Collins) but the writers at Big Finish remember. Rather than reset the clock and give us the virtuous, naïve Maggie, we get a much tougher interpretation of the character. While she's sometimes a point of ridicule in town, we see in the episode's final moments that she's fighting for the soul of Collinsport.

The Devereuxs, though, can be a bit groan inducing. Both are a little more precious than I would have liked but, as with Maggie Evans, there's a method to the madness. During the cutesy chitchat between the newly weds, we learn that Melody has the same sort of Little Orphan Annie resume that lines up perfectly with that of Collinwood's most popular governess, Victoria Winters.

And then, just when you think that Big Finish is sizing her up to replace Alexandra Moltke, Melody Devereux is dead. In fact, "Melody Devereux is dead" are the final words spoken in the episode. It was such a stunning turn of events that I was both shocked and amused. The writers had been playing a game with the listener, and I'd completely fallen for it. (Maybe, anyway. Characters on DARK SHADOWS have a habit of popping back up, regardless of the state of their vital signs.)

It didn't take long for the Devereuxs to figure out something was amiss in Collinsport. The management at the Blue Whale (played by Marie Wallace and Jamison Selby) quickly put them on their guard. Then in wanders Lacy as the latest Trask, who is all bluster and Satan! while he also affectionately advises the Devereuxs to avoid the Salmon at dinner. I have no idea what's up with this character, but we learn that his manic warnings aren't baseless: Some creepy shit is going down in Collinwood, and everyone knows it. Still, they quickly dismiss Trask, but it might just be pragmatism. Because having a Trask on your team is almost always a handicap.

The acting styles in this episode were a little offputting at the start. As the Devereuxs, Daisy Tormé and Jeff Harding lay it on a bit thick. Their performances are broad, and seem guided by a desire for vocal clarity above anything else. Plastic performances aren't exactly an alien presence on DARK SHADOWS, but I was worried the show's fresh faces were going to be insufferable. When Melody bit the dust in the show's final moments, it seemed obvious that the pair were intentionally being written and played as Pollyannas. We're not supposed to have much respect for them because, in a very real way, they're outsiders to our community.

Alec Newman as "David Collins."
While the episode is always moving forward and delivering information to the listener, we only get a glimpse of what's to come. Wallace, Lacy and Kathryn Leigh Scott are the only original cast members to appear here, and they're all wonderful. I'm looking forward to hearing more from Roger Carvalho's "Benjamin Franklin," as well. He had a relaxed presence that's welcome.

More interesting to me than the identity of Melody's killer (Sheriff Rhinda Tate should probably just arrest Barnabas Collins and be done with it) is the nature of David Collins' business in family's new mining venture. We learn that David is the last of the Collinses at the big house, and that he's closed up the cannery and has refocused his interests in mining. I suspect he's gone all Mola Ram and is looking for something very specific. Time will tell.

Also, I hope we hear more about Collinsport's wonderful historical society. That place sounds swell.

The series is scheduled to be released two episodes per week, so look for the next installment to arrive soon. You can find the series HERE.

Here's a Peter Gabriel video to get you into the '80s mood.

2 comments:

Cousin Barnabas said...

Bloodlust. Well, it didn't totally suck as I expected it to. I thought the last two Big Finish Dark Shadows productions were so bad I suspected there might have been a competition to see who could turn out the WORST possible Dark Shadows audio. I like Cousin Barnabas's review but disagree that the two new comers were played too broadly, I thought they were just fine as they were. But I found the death shocking as well, even though the title makes it pretty obvious that death is going to play a big part of this production. Personally I'm hoping that they conveniently "forget" the Count Petofi reference at the end of Kingdom of the Dead and go for something more original. The mining idea is unexpected and possibly as silly as I expected this series to be, the Collins were always a fishing business family. Finally, Kathryn Leigh Scott gave a great performance as she always does and along with Lara Parker is one of my two favorite Dark Shadows actresses. Also, glad that the town wasn't as abandoned as previous productions made it sound, the Blue Whale packed with customers again as was first seen in the second episode in the 60s, and I was surprised and happy that they brought back Susan, even if she is dead, and Kate Ripperton. Isn't she the insane woman who is Eve reincarnated? Looking forward to the next part.

Cousin Barnabas said...

Kate Ripperton was a cohost of the British TV show Beyond the Grave, in the audio drama of the same name. Her partner was killed in BTG. In the audio Beneath the Veil, character Emma Finney was possessed by the ghost of Danielle Roget.

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