Jack Benny & Marilyn

DATELINE:  An Innocent Age

Back in 1953 for the first show of his second season, Jack Benny garnered the biggest name and biggest star of the year:  Marilyn Monroe. It was called the Jack Benny Program.

As all the set-ups in the Benny program were at the expense of Jack’s delicate ego, he took the barrage of raps and insults with his usual aplomb.

You might be ready for some outdated racial profiling when Rochester showed up: Eddie Anderson always played Jack’s valet who goes with him everywhere and calls him “Boss.” Here they go to Hawaii, and we find Jack lugging all the luggage with no Rochester.

Jack sits on the dock, ready to leave, while flower leis are given to all the departing guests for their generosity, kindness, and friendship. Alas, even a dog gets a lei, but not Jack. Finally a delicatessen owner shows up and gives him a lei of chicken livers. He is warned to be careful of the seagulls.

We learn too that Jack is carrying Rochester’s luggage because he was late for the ship.

When Benny falls asleep on deck, he dreams about the star he saw that night in a ship’s nightly movie: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes megastar, Marilyn Monroe.   And, in one of her designer gowns, she drops into the barcalounger recliner next to Jack in his dreams.

She professes her love for him despite their age difference. She points out she is 25 and he is 39, but in 25 years she will be 50, and he will still be 39. She is enchanted by his big blue eyes.

It was Monroe’s first TV appearance as a guest star (we don’t count her TV commercials, satirized in All About Eve).  She is lovely and charming, and so is Jack.

You simply don’t have that kind of weekly series surprise, even with cable nowadays. It was a gentle treat of a bygone era, and a lovely little escape from today.

 

 Fright Night Revisited

DATELINE:  Vampire Classic from ’80s

Sarandon & Jeffreys

Has it really been 35 years since Fright Night rejuvenated modern vampires?

It was Tom Holland who wrote and directed it, looking like a B-movie for TV show of the week, apart from the nudity now and then. By today’s cable movie standards, this is rough, however still holds up as entertainment with a modern twist.

Two points of amusement remain unflappable: Roddy MacDowell and Stephen Jeffreys. They survive in name for sheer wacky performances. MacDowell plays an aging movie star who used to play vampire hunters in his heyday, and Jeffreys plays a teenage Jack Nicholson on uppers. He later reneged Hollywood to do gay adult films for a while, though that is now denied with a half-baked story that it was his evil twin brother.

The vampire is demure and stately Chris Sarandon, looking like he wandered into the wrong California suburb. Yes, the vampire has taken a house in a Leave It to Beaverpart of town where you can peer into the next-door windows. It seems like he’s asking for teenage trouble.

Stephen Jeffreys steals the big scenes: he becomes clearly the gay victim of Sarandon’s vampire. His two delicious scenes are with Roddy as they battle.

For MacDowell with his hair fake-frosted, this was a last grand role, and he makes the most of it. Director Holland was lucky to have the veteran star in his movie.

There is no scrimping on special effects at the finish, and you have a sunny California vampire tale.

The film was originally set to star Vincent Price, not McDowall, and Anthony Michael Hall, not Jeffreys. And, we still haven’t figured out what Sarandon’s boyfriend is supposed to be.

In the whatever happened mode, William Ragsdale is the star juvenile lead. He’s cookie-cutter good enough. Yet, he is thrown up against two scene-stealing actors who rob him of the movie. The film is considered a classic nowadays.

Author, Author: Go Away!

DATELINE: Unwanted Gifts

 Latest Affront to Gifting.

A friend kindly scoffed at me for a bad habit.

He claimed how I had a tendency to give away gifts to people who did not necessarily want them. He was referring to my bad habit to bestow a copy of one of my books to people who have been nice to me.

I usually inscribe them with thanks for some generic kindness. It is, I am told, not appreciated because I have given people something that they cannot repay or reciprocate.

Well, okay. I realize that not everyone can write a book and return a copy to me in standoff fashion. However, I thought that providing a free, gratis copy of a personal creation would qualify as an act of generosity, not as a slap with my velvet glove.

However, my friend argues that it is not that at all: it is a brazen show of ego.

Well, you can knock me over with a dust-jacket. I would never have thought that giving a personal gift would be construed as an act of selfishness. In fact, I always thought the creative process was something to be shared.

Alas, if you share it with those who have no appreciation, no interest, or no good manners, the writer of a book may well deserve to have the gift accepted without thanks or acknowledgement.

I often note that I give away my book as a token of my gratitude and not as homework assignment. I will not quiz the recipient on the book’s message or contents. If I did, we know the result would be a failing grade. We’ve seen enough of that in the nation’s body politic.

As a resolution, I have now promised my old friend that I will be more circumspect in sharing my books. Never give a page away that is not requested, or at least has some kind of interest expressed by another. It means I will save money on copies and postage.

It is an age when reading is a chore, not a pleasure, and the disrespected writer is a prophet without honor in any country.

 

Dr. William Russo is too prolific for his own good, and he has written many movie history books and biographies.

 

 

Ozzie Nelson & Family

DATELINE: Minor Director

 Ozzie Directed His Troupe.

While on a TV bender, we saw that an old series from the early 1950s was showing on the classic sit-com channel: it was called Here Come the Nelsons, or The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.  We could not recall if we saw it originally (doubtful) or in some rerun return years later.

What a curio it was back then. It featured a rich Hollywood family (the Nelsons) as themselves, imitating a middle-class suburban TV version of themselves in some kind of antiseptic style.

They were pleasant and dealt only with blemish-less problems. They seemed so real that people thought the set was actually their home. What an innocent age that was!

Ozzie Nelson wrote, directed, produced and starred in these shows. He was no Orson Welles, but he gave America a kind of template of sit-com heaven. He wrote the shows with his brother Don, and Ozzie himself played some kind of retired gentleman. He had no job, but lived well and was always home to chat with his two sons. We presumed he was himself, a retired band-leader living off his royalties.

We were struck at how small he was: truly! He was short and small-boned, almost like a child. It was something we had never noticed over the years.

It was the forerunner of Leave It to Beaver,  but far more successful and lasted many more years. The episode we saw was about the two young brothers wanting separate rooms in their tiny little suburban home. Their parents seemed to eschew that in real life their palace likely had a dozen bedrooms.

Harriet, the mother, is ubiquitous in an apron, but she never does housework—and we kept wondering where her black maid was (Louise Beavers anyone?). Every show seemed to be the servants’ day off. Only the nosy neighbor, Don DeFore, showed up not playing himself.

The sons were charming and pleasant too, and Ricky would grow up to be rival of Elvis on a weekly TV show! For a season or two they did a radio version each week, live, separate from the filmed series. David tried his hand at playing movie villains in subsequent years, but ended up being an executive producer.

This was either delusion or illusion at its worst or best. They came across as so real that it defied all Hollywood backdrops.

Ozzie Nelson directed, created, and oversaw, this production for decades: he was the master of a disrespected art form, the family sit-com, but he turned out his miniature artwork faithfully and tirelessly. We should give him some credit.

 

 

 

John Wayne in Forsaken TV

DATELINE: Wild West Satire with Wayne

 Not Laurel & Hardy!

Back in the 1950s when John Wayne was the number one box office attraction, it was a treat if he made a guest appearance on TV. The series is called Forsaken Westernsand features a plethora of deplorable episodes with Michael Landon, Leonard Nimoy, and many others before they made it big.

One of those syndicated series that collects odd-ball appearances of noted TV stars when they were unknown in lost pilot episodes, has also brought us a true peculiar and weird little dollop:  John Wayne in a satiric, overextended TV skit called The Northwest Killer,in which Duke Wayne is falsely accused of murder and hunted down by a relentless RCMP Mountie.

Now this is supposed to be comedy, a throwaway extended bit for a variety show in 1959. The host of the show is none other than the irrepressible Jimmy Durante.

Yes, Durante, the Schnoze, plays a variation of Sgt.Preston of the Yukon, in his Mountie outifit, red jacket lost in black and white. Durante marches around and pivots to Wayne’s amusement as he plays unlucky Pierre, trapped in bad TV comedy

This is probably 15 minutes of most excruciating and unfunny bits, done like a multi-scene Western ever put on TV. There are several fistfights between Durante and Duke—and hilariously (we supposed) Durante bests the box-office champ. Wayne turns to the camera and promises the kids, “I win the next fight.”

Of course, being funny was secondary here: the treat was to see Jimmy Durante and John Wayne in a western satire. It has all the promise and none of the quality you’d hope. Pratfalls are outrageous, and Wayne likely enjoyed doing some comedy as a change of pace. Also on the bill is a guest appearance of Gary Cooper with Jack Benny, equally unfunny, in which Benny in high-heeled boots is the same height at Coop. He nearly falls over several times and is rescued, unscripted, by the laconic Gary Cooper.

It was a surprise to find such stuff after 50 years, and the ghosts of Wayne and Cooper likely wish they had lost these horrors permanently.

 

 

  Mae West: Dirty Blonde

DATELINE: Way Ahead of the Curve!

 Mae in Lion’s Mouth!

When PBS Masters finally recognizes Mae 100 years after her astounding Broadway run, you know she is still years ahead of the rest of society. How did this woman whose first plays were called “garbage,” or “lewd” or worse, manage to transcend Sexand The Dragto become a sotto vocecomic?

She was hardly a dirty blonde, but she was stunning to behold.

Her first play about a sex worker resulted in a week-long jail sentence that became the best publicity stunt New Yorkers ever saw. Her second play, she scoured the drag queen bars of the 1920s to find 60 gay men and women to do her ground-breaking shocker about homosexuality!

It took her thinking about why few women attended her plays (she wrote, directed, and starred). So, she came up with Diamond Lil, in hour-glass dresses, fancy lingerie, and big hats: add a few off-hand jokes, and she was Mae West forever.

You could say she saved Paramount Studios with her astute performances: she was in charge of everything and made $1 more than the highest paid executive. She insisted on black performers with billing in her movies, and she gave Duke Ellington his first Hollywood exposure!

Mae hated negativity—and she liked to be in control. Slowly she evolved into a real version of her creative version. She was forty and overweight when she made her first movie, and she was run out of Hollywood by censors. By the 1950s, she was considered a man in drag herself–and she was ripe for parody everywhere.

In the 1970s in her 80s, she made a comeback as a sex symbol, a shocking parody that was hilarious inSextette  and Myra Breckinridge. With her half-baked singing, shimmy, and snide overcurrent delivery, she was a striking original.

 

 

 

Pointless and Pointed at West Point

DATELINE:  Drinking Underhanded?

Only Trump could confuse West Point with Waterloo. Water, water, everywhere, but he could hardly raise the glass to drink.

Your racially insensitive president (according to black Republican Sen. Tim Scott, SC) insisted that the young officer graduates of West Point be called back from home for a two-week isolation period. They had to do it as it was an order. He wanted to have them listen to his speech sitting shoulder to shoulder, no distance or masks for them.

More than a dozen cadets in the class have tested positive for COVID-19. They didn’t take their hydroxy swigs.

Yes, in a month of disasters, Trump managed to create another in his re-election bid.

These feckless West Point graduates also would be denied having family and friends in attendance by presidential order. No wonder the applause meter was broken at the ceremony—and Trump was about as flat as you ever heard him.

If matters were going from bad to worse, you had a president who displayed now more strange symptoms of a malady of unknown origin.  It underscored his inability to stand still at the graves of the Unknown Soldiers at Arlington on Memorial Day.

At West Point Trump could not pronounce words like Douglas MacArthur. He could not lift a bottle of water to his lips with one hand: he needed two hands, which showed that the sound of one-hand clapping is strictly Zen in this administration.

He also had trouble negotiating the ramp down from the dais. Trump was angry when people suggested he was a doddering old man who needed assistance. It reminded many of his catcalls to Hilary when he said she was not healthy enough to be president. He claimed the ramp was wet (no rain had fallen) and there was no guard-rail to hold onto.

Those who have called the POTUS a madman, a psychiatric mess, and worse, now were able to note in excusing the Commander in Chief that he showed all the characteristics of a man with a neurological disorder.

Something akin to a brain tumor.

This tumor rumor set Trump into a Twitter tirade, which is exactly what you’d expect from a man with a brain lesions. Next, he’ll be on the roof of the White House shooting a rifle aimed at Democrats.

Is there no one to take Trump to have a brain scan? It may be a thankless job, made more difficult by finding where they put his brain.

One Last Trip to Greece

DATELINE: Literary Road Trips

 Steve Coogan with Rob Brydon.

With great sadness we are saying goodbye to the highly intelligent, witty, charming series of movies with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Their last is The Trip to Greece,all four civilized comedies were directed by Michael Winterbottom.

These have been four rarities of the modern age: witty as Noel Coward, beautifully locations, with amusing company. And they aren’t even gay. Two performers whose competition extends to out-imitating the other are sent on a fictional outing. Their job as journalists is to visit fine restaurants and write reviews.

The actors sort of play themselves in Brydon and Coogan (notable Oscar nominee for Stan and Ollie, as he was Stan). You often cannot tell where the fiction starts, as they play versions of themselves blending over into plot contrivance. Their litany of impersonations (Brando, Hoffman, Olivier, Caine, Pacino, Jagger) makes for a variety of dinner companions.

Four films feature hilarious riffs and impersonations over dinner and while driving around luscious countryside in Greece. Brydon sings the tune from Grease, and he crunches it to fit the country. Coogan is dutifully appalled.

They transform imitations of Laurel and Hardy over lunch into breath-taking jokes: Oliver Hardy morphs into Tom Hardy.

These little forays to gourmet restaurants have a price in this film (350 Euros).

The bittersweet last entry in the series showcases the performers to their greatest wish: Brydon becomes the epitome of the light comedian—and Coogan, as he likes, becomes the tragic actor of Shakespearean levels.

Their frictions and battles are nothing short of delightful wordplay. You don’t see that much anywhere in movies nowadays.

After visits to England, Italy, and Spain, this lap around the Aegean ends with a whimper. Brilliantly done, and hopefully there will be one more trip.

 

 

No Coronavirus Test, What me Worry?

DATELINE: Walking Along the Dead Line 

The President of the United States is the New Alfred E. Neumann.

Donald Trump is prepared to kill himself with coronavirus—and infect you too.

We know that self-destructive behavior is the mark of people who think they are immortal demigods. So, it does not surprise us when Donald Trump deliberately fills his Air Force One and his winter home in Florida with people who have shaken hands with a man who died of coronavirus.

Madness is a relative condition, and flu symptoms are not usually associated with losing your mind. However, opening the barn door to let the microbes enter may be a first for a world leader who thinks he is part Ghengis Khan and part-Superman.

Without a flu shot and without a coronavirus test, Trump is able to leap over CDC doctors in a single bound.

Whether he starts to cough and then re-enacts the role of Von Aschenbach in Death in Venice may be the third act of his election campaign.

Ted Cruz has yet to respond to calls to infect his president, but others have taken off their gas masks and gone into the lion’s den. Next, they will stick their heads into the lion’s mouth, bad breath and all, to defy the medical advice of science.

Self-quarantine is for those who have humanity at heart, not for those who enter King Tut’s tomb before going home to Downton Abbey or Mar-a-Lago, or whatever that black hole of Florida is called.

 

 

Tom in a Tunnel, Sees the Light

DATELINE: Where is he?

 Lost in Art?

Whenever we have a chance to opine about metaphor, count us in.

Tom Brady posted a tunnel of himself, in civilian clothes, in a black and silver tunnel in an unknown park runway.

His wife is a model, but Brady is not.

He is house-hunting and taking his son around to check out schools in Nashville, Tennessee, today. That is hardly where he will retire. That is hardly where his wife wants to be, and his son loves hockey. We know that Tom talked to coaches in New England about hockey, of which he was ignorant, but doing a crash course to keep up with his son.

There is not much hockey in Vegas.

Retirement communities in Nashville and Vegas are popular, but Brady wants to play a few more seasons.

Ah, metaphor! No metaphor is perfect. But they are powerful tools to understand the world.

No one has mentioned Kobe and Tom. Has the death of a superstar ball player had an impact on his thinking? Yes, but not to the point of leaving the game apparently. He simply will go to a team where he can spend more time with his family—not training callow youth in how to play.

It is not the tunnel of death, nor the tunnel of love, where you are surrounded by those you know—especially at the end where you are at heaven’s gate. No, there is no welcome committee here, no wagon of goodies for his delectation.

Tom is a man who owes no one and will consult no one. This is his life alone.

Master of Dark Shadows: Dan Stevens or Jonathan Frid?

DATELINE: Halos For All?

  Stars Jonathan Frid & Joan Bennett

 Perhaps it is more than amusing that the production company of Dan Stevens actually produced a documentary about Dan Stevens and his ground-breaking soap opera, the gothic Dark Shadows.

We expected that you’d have full participation of the original cast and crew—and the treat, or horror, is to see these young actors in their twilight years. Yet, it is fun too.

Many are gone of course: like Frid, Joan Bennett, and the marvelous Grayson Hall (barely mentioned).

Stevens himself was an ad-man who went to producing a golf show—and had a dream for a gothic serial. Never did he expect it to be a daytime hit for kids with sympathetic vampires, tormented governesses, and cross-time crossover storylines.

Who really made Dark Shadows a hit? Was it the producer with the classic hard edge or the gaunt actor who played the reluctant vampire? Well, you know who produced the show and produced the documentary. Frid did not join the cast until nearly a year had passed, but with him it zoomed to cult status.

There was recently a fiftieth anniversary shindig with survivors like David Selby, Lara Parker, John Karlen, Jerry Lacy, and so many other favorites. They all grew up as actors on that show as much as their audience grew up. The show had bad sets, primitive special effects, and sometimes awful plots badly acted. It was of no consequence to fans.

Frid and Stevens ultimately came to loggerheads, and Stevens was better able to move on to Winds of Warand other films. It is a trip down memory lane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captain Kidd Returns to Upstage A&C

DATELINE: Unexpected Slapstick

  Laughton & Costello!

Almost ten years after his low-budget pirate on the bounding sea as Captain Kidd and 20 years after Bligh’s Mutiny on the Bounty, Charles Laughton jumped at the chance to reprise Captain Kidd. He had also the opportunity to reprise Henry VIII in a movie with Bette Davis as his daughter, Queen Elizabeth. They famously greeted each other as “Father,” and “Daughter,” off screen too.

Now, the irascible Laughton would poke fun at himself and his performance as Captain Kidd confronting scene-stealer emeritus Lou Costello. Perhaps that was the true challenge for Laughton and his Oscar-level talent. He was about to show he could play vaudeville with the best of them.

Abbott & Costello Meet Captain Kidd was another in a long series of features in which the comic duo came across monsters of cinema, historical figures, and pratfalls of comedy.

Dignity knows nothing of being a performer with an audience eating out of their backhand of talent. Laughton was a comedian at heart and could steal a scene before Costello could roll an eye.

We were surprised at how many pratfalls Lou Costello gave. Any barrel he hid within was blown up. The big surprise was Laughton: he took the falls without a stuntman. Chairs were pulled out from under him and he plopped onto the floor, and he fell face first into sand in another. It was noteworthy.

If ever there was something unseemly, it was that this comic version of 1953 was in Technicolor, which was never the case for the earlier Laughton masterpieces. If there was a silver lining on the silver screen of the 1950s, it was that garish color fit the bill. There were plenty of explosions among the song and dance routines.

If ever there was a chance to make a side-trip to Oak Island and bury a treasure, this little pirate satire gave us a vision of outright lunacy. A map in the opening credits could be Oak Island.

You start off with a musical introduction to Laughton as the crew sings and dances on their ship, and Kidd sneers at the mention of women. Yup, Laughton had to love this.

We were mostly appalled.

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost of Bogart

DATELINE: Not Again? 

  Jerry Lacy as Bogey

We went back in our time machine to the time machine of 1972 who brought us back to 1942. It is Play It Again, Sam,which features Humphrey Bogart advising Woody Allen.

No, Sam never appears once yet again, even in the actual film clips from the movie Casablanca. Dooley Wilson seems to be discriminated against. He sings part of “As Time Goes By,” at film’s end.

This astral route brought us face to face with legendary tough-guy star, Humphrey Bogart. He returned in 1972 in the guise of Jerry Lacy, an impersonator who had a decade of roles as the iconic man in trench coat with Borsalino.

Alas, to see Bogart’s best scenes in Casablanca, you had to endure Woody Allen as Allen Felix, movie critic before the Internet and blogs, who adores Bogie and has an apartment decorated like a 1942 teenage boy. Those collectibles are worth big bucks today.

Though Allen wrote and starred in this vehicle, it was directed by Herbert Ross which gives it some grounding as a ghost story.

The appearances of Bogart dispensing advice to nudnik Allen is appalling, as he speaks sexist and violent attitudes that he never expressed in his movies or real life a generation earlier. If you see this film as homage to Bogart’s Rick and his romance with Ilsa, you have been sold a bill of goods by shyster Allen.

The film comes alive when Bogart and/or Lacy appear, and the film goes down the chute when Allen’s nutcase New Yorker takes center screen.

The Sam “again” part has more to do with Allen re-enacting the Rick role with Bergman in a climactic scene. This was before Allen became Bergman (Ingmar, not Ingrid).

Diane Keaton and Tony Roberts take on thankless roles in Allen’s world, which Keaton was able to transcend by slipping over to The Godfather at the same time she did this film. Roberts and Lacy were not as lucky.

Though the Bogey ghost appears with more frequency in the final 30 minutes, it is not enough to save the story from itself.

Whether Bogey conjures his personality as a dream, an hallucination, or the actual spirit of a movie icon, may be in the eyes of the beholder. We like to think Lacy channeled the real star, but taking it in again decades later, we see this is not a ghost, but a frightful excuse for Allen to behave badly and perform even worsely.

 

 

 

Resurrecting James Dean

DATELINE: Dug Out of the Film Mausoleum

Two hundred years ago Resurrection Men stole bodies out of graves and sold them to medical students.

Today Resurrection Men steal movie star images out of film archives to sell to fans. The body of work of James Dean is about to be dissected by film students.

A generation ago we wondered if old clips of TV and movies could be merged into a new script with old, dead actors as stars. It seemed fantastic to think James Dean could, at long last, costar with Marilyn Monroe.

Well, we have reached one plateau, or perhaps hole in the ground. It appears that James Dean, with permission of his greedy surviving relatives, will rise from the dead thespian hall of fame.

 

A script about some Vietnam-era characters will cannibalize a few of his past scenes, dubbed with a sound-alike actor, to create, without his knowledge or permission, a new movie: yes, his fourth leading role, sixty years after he won Oscar nominations for East of EdenandGiant, will likely result in no Oscar this time.

Some fans are incensed, and others are utterly perplexed at how such a task can be completed.

Can Dean be colorized, animated, and computer-generated into a character he never heard of, studied, or believed he could depict?

It won’t matter because the notion is out of his hands. It is a new-fangled out-of-body experience. It might have driven James Dean out of his mind or sent him speeding off in a Porsche to his doom.

Nearly all of his costars are gone, and a few who lived long enough to entertain the misuse of their images in a post-death world, have left wills and other documents that will forbid any such action. Dean, alas, died long before such a notion was possible.

Dean will costar with other actors he never screen-tested, and it is impossible for him to create chemistry. He will be like a wooden statue in a department store window. Oh, his costars may be able to respond to his behavior, but he will be denied any chance to upstage them.

The film will be called FindingJack, and it’s entering pre-production.  It’s more like Finding Jack Spratt, as he is an invisible and hidden carbohydrate in a world of spaghetti film stock.

Gothic Lunacy: Lord Byron’s Party

DATELINE: A Dark & Stormy Movie

 

Polidori, Shelley, and Byron, aka Spall, Sands, and Byrne

 

If you want to learn about the dark and stormy night in 1816 that resulted in the creation of Frankenstein and Dracula by Lord Byron’s pals, you might look elsewhere.

Ken Russell’s hothouse and nuthouse movie about Percy and Mary Shelley and Lord Byron is pure Gothicnonsense. As was the style of Russell back in 1987, you had a psychedelic version of biography and history. It is not satisfactory.

The cast is somewhat exemplary:  Gabriel Byrne as lame Byron, Julian Sands as pretty Shelley, Timothy Spall as off-putting Dr. Polidori, and Natasha Richardson as demure Mary! Wow, you almost expect the acting alone will carry the film.

However, the director hijacks every moment and even has cast members chewing on rats. We thought the film turned into that rat-festival moviel, Willard.And, inexplicable pythons wrap around suits of armor. Yep, it’s Ken Russell.

Instead of a dark and stormy night where these highly creative people choose to write great books, we have a literal ghost story. The demons are really around every corner. You almost feel sorry for the servants who basically take a powder during the latter part of the movie to avoid these koo-koo birds.

The summer without sun inspired the writing of Frankenstein and Dracula. Byron took credit for Polidori’s work, and Byron couldn’t write prose. The stepsister of Mary is around for crazy moments in which the sexual peccadilloes of the characters is tested.

We have more than your usual homoerotic connections between the men, including some fairly passionate kisses, but Julian Sands was never prettier. Gabriel Byrne seems to have bigger breasts than the women stars. Timothy Spall is actually slim.

The film becomes increasingly erratic and difficult to watch, as befits what did in the style of Ken Russell ultimately. We had hoped to see something truly fascinating, but not quite on the level of a train wreck.