Sanders played Dorian Gray for MGM, so he never could have guest-starred in one
of Universal’s multi-monster meet-ups. Showtime’s newest series hints at what strange
cinema that might have been. It also makes you wonder how anyone survived
Victorian London, with its vampires, re-animated corpses, and generally unsanitary
living conditions. The former will be the most pressing issue in the first two
episodes of writer-creator John Logan’s Penny
premieres this Sunday.
a mysterious woman offers American Wild West performer Ethan Chandler some “night
work,” he agrees, because she is played by Eva Green. Unfortunately, it turns
out turns out she really needs his sharpshooter skills. Vanessa Ives and Sir
Malcolm Murray require some back-up when they venture into a vampire’s lair, in
search of his long missing daughter. Frustratingly for them, the search will
continue, but at least Murray recruits an intense young anatomist to perform
all his vampire autopsy needs: Victor Frankenstein.
to say, what Chandler witnesses is a bit unsettling. It is the sort of thing
that requires a lot of binge drinking to process in episode two. Proceeding
accordingly, Chandler makes the acquaintance of Brona Croft, an Irish working
girl, who will soon count Dorian Gray as a client. Since this is premium cable,
Gray and his appetites will clearly be supplying most of the sex and nudity
quota each week.
a quarter of Dreadful’s initial eight
episode run, “Night Work”
(currently available online here) and “Séance” are definitely
hooky-grabby and absolutely loaded with macabre atmosphere. Helmed with style
by J.A. Bayona (director of The Orphanage),
they get a lot of mileage from their classic horror tropes. In a few cases, you
basically know what is coming, but jump anyway. However, the second episode is further
distinguished by the titular séance, which gives Green an opportunity for a massive
William Shatner level freak-out. It is not quite at the level of Isabelle
Adjani’s supernatural paroxysms in Possession,
but that will probably be never be equaled by anybody.
the most part, Green does her slinky, smarter-than-thou thing and it works like
a charm. Timothy Dalton, the criminally underappreciated Bond (after all, Pierce
Brosnan succeeded him and we know how that worked out), is appropriately steely
as Murray, with a spot of mature dash. While not exactly a naturally strong
screen presence, Henry Treadaway’s Frankenstein compensates with plenty of
twitchy scenery chewing. Frankly, Josh Harnett broods rather effectively as
Chandler, but the jury is still out regarding just what Reeve Carney’s Gray
brings to the party. Conversely, even though we hardly meet him in the first
two installments, Danny Sapani is clearly poised to become a potential fan
favorite as Murray’s imposing majordomo.
It feels like Dreadful will soon be a binge-watching favorite, making good on the
unfulfilled promise of the Van Helsing film.
With Skyfall’s Sam Mendes on board as
executive producer, it has the quality period trappings of BBC historicals, but
its heart is closer to late period Hammer films. So far, so good, Penny Dreadful is definitely recommended
for vintage horror fans, when it premieres tomorrow (5/11) on Showtime.
Labels: Dorian Gray, Eva Green, Frankenstein, J.A. Bayona, Showtime, Timothy Dalton