Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tales from the Darkside – My Ghostwriter, The Vampire – review – TV episode


Directed by: Frank DePalma

First aired: 1987

Contains spoilers

Tales from the Darkside was an eighties horror anthology series. This episode, from season 3, was, of course, a vampire episode and actually contains, or at least mentions, a new piece of lore.

Peter Prentice (Jeff Conaway) is a novelist and is reading the death scene of a vampire to his ‘technical advisor’ Jayne (Jillie Mack). She is less than impressed and suggests that, given there have been three stakings so far, that he use another form of vampire killing. As things progress we discover that Peter is not only dislikeable but also a hack and has been using Jayne’s ideas to the point of plagiarism for the last five novels. He strings her along with promises of sending her manuscripts to his agent and is only in it for the money.

Draco at the windowCalling it a night he doesn’t notice the shadow of a bat through the window. A vampire, whom we soon discover is called Count Draco (Roy Dotrice), appears on his balcony and blows the window open to hear Peter read out about his vampire grovelling. Rubbish, declares Draco, vampires do not grovel. Peter thinks he is a demented fan but Draco vanishes and reappears in the room.

Jeff Conaway as Peter PrenticePeter fears for his life, but the vampire is looking for something other than blood. He is aware that Peter has a secret room and wishes to use it as a daylight shelter. In return he will tell the story of his nine hundred year long life. Peter quickly agrees and sacks Jayne.

attacking the cleanerThe next night Peter awaits the details of Draco’s life. Draco, however, wants to feed. The cleaning lady comes by and we have some interesting lore and character exposition. Through the episode we hear, from himself admittedly, just how honourable the vampire is – he only kills to feed. Peter is willing to sacrifice his cleaner’s life for a story. The interesting lore moment comes in the use of eye mojo. Draco uses his hypnosis to prevent the woman from screaming and then to speed up her heartbeat.

Roy Dotrice as Count DracoThe little we actually hear of the vampire’s life also provides interesting lore. He is telling Peter how he was a night who challenged a vampire to combat when he picks up a stake. He admits that he has been staked before but returned from the dead. He tells Peter the secret and whilst blood on a vampire’s ashes is standard lore the idea that a woman’s tears will also reconstitute a vampire is all new.

stabbed by a silver forkThe book is a success and Draco decides he wants some of the billing and a share of the royalties. Peter decides it is time to dissolve their partnership. He lines the coffin with silver cutlery – silver being an effective vampire killing tool in this. His plan nearly fails but he is eventually able to stab the vampire with a silver fork.

the effect of sunlightThe silver in the chest is highly effective, causing Draco to fall to the floor, in the sunlight, and the sun kills him. His face starts breaking into fractures and then he vanishes leaving a man shaped pile of ashes.

Jayne is going to sue Peter and so calls round. Hiding the evidence he sweeps the ash up and places it in Draco’s coffin but the secret door doesn’t work. Jayne manages to cut her finger on a sharp silver knife and then finds the coffin. The cut drips blood onto the ash and you just know Draco is not going to be happy…

end of the cleanerConway is excellent as the despicable Peter but, acting wise, Mack lets us down. Somehow I don’t think it was the actresses’ fault. There is a stripe of black humour in this episode a mile wide but for some reason Jayne is written and played so ditzy that she doen’t really work as a character. That said the role is not that important in the grand scheme, being more a catalyst.

Other than that, this is a satisfying short episode, worth 5 out of 10 and offering some interesting new lore.

The imdb page is here.

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