Monday, October 26, 2009

#2- "earth, air, fire, and water" episode 17 of "circle of fear"

well, obscure is what this blog is all about and it doesn't get much more obscure than this show, aired on NBC during the 72-73 season. it is a shame that this show has been lost to time because it had some very big names involved its creation. the executive producer was william castle, richard matheson is credited with developing it for television and the writing was done by folks like harlan ellison and d. c. fontana.

the show was an anthology, originally titled "ghost story" and was very much in the vein of "night gallery" or "thriller." the first 14 episodes featured a presenter played by sebastien cabot, who welcome the viewer to his manor estate and then provided a set up to the episode. starting with episode 15, the show's name was changed to "circle of fear" and the role of presenter was removed entirely.

"earth, air, fire, and water" revolves around a group of young artists that move into an abandoned store front, which they plan on turning into a combination studio/shop. the group finds a series of strange jars locked away in a box (one for each of them, of course) that almost immediately begin to have an odd effect. the behavior of the artists begins to change, they become withdrawn and dreamlike. their art also begins to change in radical ways, becoming more dark and macabre. weirder things ensue when some of the folks begin to disappear, their spirits having been captured by the jars. one of the artists is less effected than the others and is able to mount some sort of resistance, even though he is plagued by visions of his face transformed into that of a horrid metal sculpture. in a confrontation with the spirits, he smashes one of the jars and then sets fire to the building in an effort to destroy them. as the artist escapes the screams of the spirits trapped in the jars can be heard. escaping the rapidly spreading fire, he ends up sprawled out on the sidewalk. when a concerned passerby offers him help getting up, he begins to scream in horror when he sees the artist's face...

all things considered this is an excellent anthology show that really deserves better. a DVD release is probably far too much to hope for but it would be nice if chiller or maybe the scifi channel (excuse me, the syfy channel) would dust this show off and air it.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

#1- Dorabella, episode 8 of Supernatural (1977)

my first blog entry, so let's jump right in. i'm starting this off with an episode of the 1977 horror show "supernatural" shown on the BBC. the episode i'll be covering is "dorabella", a vampire tale that was the last of the 8 episodes of this show to be aired.

the basic premise of this show revolved around a "club of the damned", very much akin to other victorian clubs but with one major difference: membership in the club involved the telling of a story of horror to the established members, a story which had to be based in "fact" or in the experiences of the teller.

anyhoo, "dorabella" opens with the gathering of the club in preparation for the evenings story, to be told by the character of philip hambleton, played by david robb. although a seemingly young man in appearance, he begins his story by telling the club members that his story happened "when i was a young man, long, long ago..." which elicits laughter from the gathered audience because the man before them is no more than 40, at most. philip tells the story of a trip on the continent, as a companion to his richer friend walter (jeremy clyde) , who is into "unusal" experiences.

having stopped at an inn for the evening, the pair encounters dorabella (ania marson), a beautiful, mysterious woman. walter is smitten by her upon sight and immediately begins to try to make her acquaintence. after a very strange diversion with the local entertainer (a man who recites creepy ass poetry in an even creepier voice), walter convinces dorabella to favor the assembled company with a song, which she does to the delight of everyone present, except for philip, who for some strange reason cannot hear her voice clearly but instead hears only the sound of a violin bow being dragged across the strings. needless to say, philip's creep-me-out-o-meter starts to move toward the red.

after the song, dorabella performs a couple of "magic" tricks, including making a bird disappear from a cage. needless to say, everyone but philip thinks this is the greatest thing since sliced bread. the company then breaks up for the night, everyone heads off to bed and in the morning is when things start to go weird for walter and philip.

in the morning while preparing to leave, philip and walter find the aforementioned creepy ass balladeer dead, his throat torn and his body drained of blood. they are also presented with a note from dorabella, telling them that she had to leave early and asking them to convey her carriage and luggae to the next inn 20 km to the north. included in her luggage is a large trunk. hmmm, wonder what could be in that? anyway, dorabella's horses seem to know the way and we find ourselves drawn along to a string of decrepit inns, each stage taking them farther to the north and closer to dorabella's home.

the two are instructed, via letter, to put dorabella's luggage, including the large trunk into a separate room at each inn. they are further instructed to not inspect the contents of the trunk under any circumstances.

by this point, walter is utterly taken by dorabella and the two decide to marry, once the permission of dorabella's "father" is obtained. north and north they venture on, driven by walter's desire for dorabella and philip's desire not to abandon his friend.

philip continues to notice the strange goings on and at one point the 3 are eating dinner together in an inn close to dorabella's home when philip notices something very peculiar: dorabella casts no reflection in the mirror in the dining room they are eating in. walter will brook no delay and anything that philip brings up as being problematic is dismissed, with the jealously of an insecure lover, by walter. he thinks that philip is trying to get rid of him and claim dorabella for himself.

finally arriving at dorabella's home, they are met by dorabella's father (john justin) who informs them over dinner about the family history. he also informs them that his people are devoted to beauty, learning and longevity; that dorabella is the last of an ancient race who go out into the world to seek a mate from a different "race."

walter and philip are treated more like prisoners than guests, locked into their rooms by day by strange, blind servants. philip watches in horror one night as dorabella and walter are "married" by dorabella's father in strange ceremony involving spiked rings and blood. philip by now realizes that his friend is being inducted into a cult of the undead and that his own life hangs by a mere thread.

knowing that his food is drugged to make him sleep during the day, philip fasts to keep his mind sharp. philip gets a chance and escapes from his room. making his way to the lower part of the house he comes across a casket, which he opens. upon opening it, a noxious smoke emits from it and he finds nothing but maggots and dirt inside. dorabella and her father are waiting for him as philip comes back up. they commend him for his bravery, in fact, dorabella's father is totally taken by philips courage. philip is told to forget his friend, that he is the one they have been seeking, he is full of the blood that their race needs.

after this we see walter locked in his room, a mental and physical wreck, basically reduced to a raving lunatic. he is tormented by visions of spirits and dies. philip finds him the next morning and mourns quite deeply over the fact that he wasn't able to save his friend. that evening, dorabella tells philip that walter was not worthy to be one of her race. she tells him that the next day he will be like she is, a creature of darkness.

the scene then shifts back to the club, philip is finishing his tale. when the members begin to question him about his age and the claims he has made, he turns toward them from the fire and finally shows them what he really looks like. he has obviously become a vampire.

dorabella is an effective, gothic tinged horror story. it doesn't introduce any new ideas into vampire mythology nor does it depart much from the same. it pushes itself forward based on the tone of the story, the period sets, and an overall sense of foreboding darkness. everything about it is quiet, dark and unsettling. highly recommended.