Penny Dreadful: The End (Review)


It was always safe to assume that Penny Dreadful was going to end on one hell of a downer and the series did not disappoint. When the end finally came, after Showtime slapped the last two episodes together for the grand finale, it was a crescendo of depression all around. The characters, the viewers and the storyline all bypassed melancholia completely.

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives looked one step from dead this season; signposting that things were not going to end well for her and they did not.

The last two episodes, “Perpetual Night” and and “The Blessed Dark” both took place back in London.  Chandler, Sir Malcolm and Kataenay all arrive at the docks to find them swarming with rats.  Heading to the mansion they find Vanessa gone and the building full of vampires.

There is a desperate fight and things look pretty bad for the trio until Catriona Hartdegen (Perdita Weeks) wielding a pistol and a knife. After the battle, she cauterizes the bite on Sir Malcolm’s neck and introduces herself to Ethan. 

Cat tells the men of the killing fog and the darkness. She also explains that finding Vanessa is high on her list of priorities as well.

Chandler goes to find Victor Frankenstein,  to treat Sir Malcolm, and at the lab, the doctor (Harry Treadawayinteracts with Lily (Billie Piper) and it does not go well. John Clare (Rory Kinnear) enjoys his family while his son is dying. The youngster coughs up great gouts of blood and soon dies.

Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) tells all the prostitutes to leave as Lily is gone. Justine (Jessica Barden) shoves a knife in Dorian’s chest with no effect. The women all leave in a panic except for the tiny prostitute. She refuses to return to the old life of “being on her knees” and Gray breaks her neck. 

Ethan goes to Victor’s flat and a  little boy  vampire tells offers to lead him to the doctor. Malcolm and Catriona do  a little verbal sparring.  Dr. Seward arrives and joins the “Save Vanessa Ives Party.”

Lily reveals the death of her baby and this sad tale prompts Frankenstein to  release the object of his desire.Ethan is lead into a trap. Dracula speaks with Chandler (repeated the “creatures of the night” line) and the lead vampire threatens Ethan with death.

Victor releases Lily

Dr. Seward takes Malcolm and Cat to question Renfield (Samuel Barnett) and later Seward “regresses” her former secretary to learn where Vanessa is being held. 

Vampires surround Ethan and he battles the ever increasing horde. Morphing into a werewolf Chandler begins killing the things.  Kaetenay arrives and changing into a werewolf also helps his “son”   wreak havoc on the fanged creatures.

In “The Blessed Dark: the Penny Dreadful gang are reunited after Chandler and Kaetenay defeat the vampires. The boy vampire reports to Dracula on the two men’s victory over the vampires he opts to wait on their arrival.

Ethan learns from Kaetenay that the old Apache made him a werewolf and after a short and bitter argument, Chandler accepts his fate and swears to save Vanessa. Seward walks with Renfield in his mind and Lily returns to Dorian to find Justine dead and the prostitutes gone.

Lily learns from Gray that immortality means loneliness  and a lack of passion. She leaves. Victor and Jekyll have words and the Bedlam doctor tells Victor that his father has died and he is now Lord Hyde.

Frankenstein joins forces with Malcolm, Seward and Cat to save Vanessa.

After John Clare’s son dies, he is horrified to learn that his wife wants to have the boy resurrected by Dr. Frankenstein.

Sir Malcolm, Seward, Chandler, Frankenstein, Hartdegen and Kaetenay converge on the slaughter house. Ethan and Kaetenay enter via another entrance and the rest find a room full of rats and eviscerated corpses hanging from the ceiling. The group find Dracula and are surrounded by vampires.

Asking Dracula about his daughter Mina, Sir Malcolm learns she was only a pawn. He tells the rest of the group that they should leave and they refuse. Telling his colleagues that he would proudly die alongside of them, Sir Malcolm starts the  battle.

Sir Malcolm, Victor, Dr. Seward and Catriona all prepare to fight Dracula

In the sewers, Ethan and Kaetenay fight their way to the main group. The two parties join and they clear the room of vampires.  Dracula begins battling the rescuers. Chandler breaks away and finds Vanessa.  The two talk and she explains that it is too late.

Ethan fulfills the prophecy and saves Vanessa by killing her. Dracula, sensing  Vanessa’s death, flees. The fog departs and the sky clears, the “end of days” has finished. John Clare buries his son in the sea and then goes to visit Vanessa’s grave.

Penny Dreadful delivered a splendid, if ultimately depressing, end to its three season run. A far ranging tale that included so many icons  in the world of classic horror. The British specialize in this type of costumed horror. (Anyone who doubts this should look at old Hammer films as proof of their expertise.)

The final fights were brilliantly choreographed and quickly paced. Short and impressive, these were the highlight of the last show in the season. Ultimately  however it was heart breaking that Vanessa Ives had to die. (Although Eva Green must have been relieved to get out of that corpse-like makeup.)

Vanessa Ives looking pale as death

Showtime have wrapped up Penny Dreadful with a funereal tone that feels spot on for the story and its characters.  If you have not seen the finale, stop reading this and head over right now to see the end of this fantastic three season run.


The Salvation (2014): Danish Western Holds the Cheese

Mads Mikkelsen in The Salvation

Directed and co-written by Kristian Levring (the other writer was Anders Thomas Jensen) The Salvation  is a Danish western that holds the cheese with its reimagining of those Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns from the 1960s. However, where Leone’s  western tales were epic opera, Levring’s offering is more of a two note aria. Composer Kasper Winding has added a score that is vaguely influenced by Dominic Frontier and Ennio Morricone;  electric guitar and strings (violins, cello, et al) and it works beautifully.

The story itself also feels more European. As Leone used to re-write the “reality” of the old west to suit his needs, so too do Levring and Jensen. Mads Mikkelsen’s character, Jon Jensen,  is a man who left Denmark seven years previously with his brother Peter to set up a new life in America. The two immigrants were soldiers and Mikkelsen’s wife and child, Marie and Kresten,  have come over to join him.

The day the boy and woman arrive, they board a stage to head to their homestead and two men force another couple off the stage.  On the journey one man expresses interest in Marie and lifts her skirt, Jon tells him to stop. Guns are drawn and Jensen gets the advantage but when Kresten picks up the other man’s gun,  Jon’s son is grabbed and Jensen is then forced off the stage. He runs to catch up. Much later, he finds his son and wife dead. The two men on the stage have murdered the driver and his assistant and grabbing a rifle, Jensen kills the criminals.

Back in the town near his homestead, the local big wig, Colonel Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is enraged to learn that his raping, criminal brother has been murdered and demands his pound of flesh. If the sheriff (Douglas Henshall) does not provide the killer, or a scapegoat,  Delarue will kill two to four townspeople.

After killing an old woman, a legless man and one other hapless denizen, Delarue increases the town’s protection money. Shortly after the murders of the local innocent citizens, Jensen rides into town and the couple who were kicked off the stage, turn him into the sheriff. Jon and his brother are then arrested and the widower is given to Delarue.

There are problems with the film’s storyline.  At that point in time in the American West, the average town would be filled with veterans of numerous battles with the Native Americans who disliked all these immigrants coming into their land. There would also have been a number of Civil War vets as well. It is hard to imagine any group of people in that era who would allow someone to run so rough shod over them.

Despite the town’s people acting more like European villagers; bowing down to the local gentry, the film works on many levels.  Using the Leone template for westerns, Delarue is the local magnate who appears to be working hand-in-glove with an oil company. He is forcing the local landowners out, the mayor and undertaker Nathan Keene (Jonathan Pryce), works for Delarue  and swindles the people out of their property paying them a pittance for their land.

Shot in South Africa (predominately around Johannesburg)  the film looks brilliant, despite the decision to shoot in a digital format.  Mads Mikkelsen is excellent as the revenge seeking farmer who works his way through Delarue’s men. Jeffrey Dean Morgan chews up the scenery as Henry Delarue, much like a Shakespearean actor charging his way through a tragedy.

It is often pointed out that any film’s protagonist is only as good as it’s villain. Morgan gives us a evil and cold blooded despot who kills with impunity and cares nothing for the people in “his” town. Mikkelsen as the taciturn and stoic hero looks all the more impressive against such a foe.

Eva Green plays the mute, former captive of the indigenous tribe who cut out her tongue, widow (she was married to Delarue’s brother). Green, as Princess, proves that she can emote more with her eyes than most performers can orally. Pryce as the mayor/undertaker is suitably despicable and Henshall as the spineless “religious” lawman is priceless.

Perhaps the oddest addition to the cast is retired footballer (soccer player) Eric Cantona (“Ooh Ah, Cantona!”). The former “bad boy” from Man U is obviously  following the footsteps of another retired footie bad boy, Vinnie Jones, but seemingly with less ability.  Jones, who was one of professional football’s hard men, can actually act, Cantona just looks surly and speaks in monosyllables, hardly acting.

Levring uses a lot of the tricks of the trade from Leone. Big close ups, although not as extreme as the one’s Leone relied upon. The guns all sound like canons; howitzer’s would be quieter, and all that is missing is that distinctive “whine” of almost every Spaghetti Western gun shot ever heard on screen.

Some things in the film are never explained. Why, for example, does Delarue live in a town that has apparently been burnt to the ground, except for the charred remains of some buildings. Another question never answered is why Princess chooses to side with Jensen, apart from her “mutual” hate of Delarue. Or even why Eric Cantona is in this movie. He has, perhaps, one “standout” line of dialogue, (an in-joke surely, where he asks Mikkelsen’s character who he fought as a soldier, “Germans,” replies Jensen.” “You have my respect,” says the Corsican in return – before punching the farmer in the stomach. Cantona played against West Germany in his 1987 football debut.)

The Salvation is entertainment on a less epic level. One roots for Jensen to take out the overbearing thug Delarue. The film looks and feels like a variation of the old Sergio Leone faux westerns, right down to the buildings and the sets themselves. All that was missing were the gimmicks which ran through most Italian Westerns, the serape, the cigar and so on.

This is a 4.5 out of 5 stars for sheer entertainment. It does lose a half star for the plot, which does not make a great deal of sense in a western town in the 1870s. It would have been the loss of a full star if not for the kerosene and cigar scene. Solid performances all around and very satisfying despite the rather odd end scene and the storyline issue.

‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ Rodriguez Rocks it (Video)

‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ Rodriguez Rocks it (Video)

The long awaited Sin City sequel A Dame to Kill For is a pretty satisfying follow up to the original and Robert Rodriguez rocks it without a doubt. Frank Miller’s dark graphic novel never looked so good. In terms of appearance that much is very true. The 3D aspect makes it feel as though the film is being viewed from within.

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