Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fantasy Island – Vampire/The Lady and the Longhorn – Review (TV episode)

Fantasy IslandDirected by: Arnold Laven

First Aired: 1978

Contains spoilers

When I first heard that this season 2 episode of Fantasy Island was airing on G.O.LD. I exclaimed to my wife, “Da Plane! Da Plane!” She looked at me blankly with a bemused expression that indicated she felt I had left my sanity at the front door… again. So, for those of you who are as bemused as she…

Fantasy Island was a series that ran through 7 seasons in the late 70s and early 80s (it was revived briefly in the 90s with a different lead in the form of Malcolm McDowell) and featured the island owned/run by Mr Roarke (Ricardo Montalban) where guests would pay a sum to have their fantasies come true – though not always in ways expected. At the beginning, when the prop plane arrived with the guests, his assistant Tattoo (Hervé Villechaize) would ring a bell and exclaim “Da Plane! Da Plane!”

Hervé Villechaize as TattooThere were always two stories – hence the somewhat strange title for the episode – the story we are interested in is, of course, “Vampire”. Now didn’t I tell you that vampires get everywhere? Off the plane come Leo (Robert Reed) and Carmen Drake (Julia Sommars) he is, explains Roarke to Tattoo, a method actor and has come to Fantasy Island in order to immerse himself in his next role, in which he will be reprising Count Dracula. Tattoo looks wary when he checks that the fantasy is to become a vampire.

Magda the maid catches Drake's eyeRoarke drives the couple through the island, they pass through a village and Roarke explains that the villagers are not that friendly and that they should remain at the castle – which the villagers believe is evil. At the inn a curtain twitches. A young girl, Magda (Vicki Kriegler), comes out and Drake seems quite drawn to her.

Is it Drake, Tom Selleck or Burt Reynolds?Roarke drives on and in the inn Erica (Erica Yohn), the girl’s grandmother, states that he is back – pointing to a portrait that actually bears a slight passing resemblance to Drake but to me looks more than a little like Tom Selleck or maybe even Burt Reynolds. Roarke explains that the village was founded by Romanian immigrants (who have never abandoned their peasant ways) and mentions Transylvania – truly you can find anything on Fantasy Island! Drake states that his ancestors were from Transylvania and some say they included Dracula himself.

the castleThey arrive at the castle, which was the same castle as the one used in the awful Blood of Dracula’s Castle, but I digress. Roarke tells him to be careful, the castle is sinister and he has always felt a presence of evil there. He should not allow himself to become… Drake finishes the sentence off with the word possessed.

enjoying the fantasyCarmen doesn’t like the place but Drake seems to love it. He has found a cape and, in the basement, he actually found a coffin with dirt in it (he states Transylvanian but one questions how he could possibly tell). He actually puts in a pair of fake fangs and the only way to kill a vampire is mentioned – a stake through the heart. This, we discover later, is not this programme’s only way to kill a vampire but such a statement adds a level of danger later.

becoming the fantasyThat night however he seems to have greyed up – looks suspiciously like greasepaint to me – and wandered down to the village where he has looked to the inn (a scene of village gossip and superstition that very evening, with Erica claiming that the vampire had found them and that she predicted it). There is even a handy mist and Drake looks longingly towards the inn and Magda. When he gets back to the castle he tells Carmen that he doesn’t know who he is any more.

Magda, a vampire's victim?The next night Carmen tries to prevent him leaving but he heads back to the village for more Magda longing. The next thing you know, he is legging it and a scream pierces the night. The villagers rush to the inn to discover the scream was Erica’s and Magda is insensible, perhaps even dead, with punctures in her neck and blood at her throat. We have a village angry mob scene complete with pitchforks and torches.

ready to stakeThey reach the castle and battering ram the door down, before brushing past Carmen and heading for the basement. They open the coffin, Erica has a stake in hand, but it is empty. Suddenly Roarke appears and tells them that Drake is only an actor and Dracula just a story. When they won’t listen he asks what happens to a vampire in the sun and they confirm it will die. Roarke suggests they make Drake face the sun (a rooster sounds, handily) and, should he not crumble to dust, he is human. He gets Drake out of a cupboard and puts him before a window. Drake throws his cloak up, to shield from the rising sun, and then realises he isn’t crumbling.

Ricardo Montalban as Mr RoarkeWhat about Magda, the villagers ask. Tattoo brings her in. She had been drugged by Erica (who has now scarpered) and then wounded at the neck to make the villagers believe Drake was a vampire. Then, when they killed him, she would have power over them. The flaw in her plan, of course, was that she was the one thrusting the stake around, but never mind… Incidentally Roarke confirms that Drake has a Transylvanian ancestor but it wasn’t Dracula.

This is cheese, pure and simple, though it was better than the awful other story in this episode. It lacked atmosphere but, then again, it wasn’t really meant to be horror. That said the story was also very simple, not a lot of depth to it, and made little sense (why would he sink so deep into character, so quickly?) There were hints through the series that Roarke had supernatural powers so perhaps they helped it all along.

Scoring this is going to be difficult – after all Fantasy Island is a cult favourite but we are looking at this purely as a piece of vampire genre material and it was fluff – and not that entertaining fluff either. 2.5 out of 10 is bolstered by the cult appeal that, with the best will in the world, can't be ignored. The episode’s imdb page is here.


Bill Dan Courtney said...


Where do you continue to dig up this Vampire-media lore? Amazing.

I was surfing for images one day and found one that made a great banner (in my opinion_ for your site. If you check out my Necrotic Cinema site on the left hand side bar you will see it about half way down or so. The lettering sort of bleeds in with the image a bit but for now it is okay i think. It is probably from some film you know but I don't. I think it captures your site.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Bill - to answer your question, I keep looking and it keeps coming!

Checked the banner and it does look good. Looks like it might be the True Blood artwork - which is a stateside series, not been aired over here as yet.

sexy said...
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Guillaume said...

I remember the TV show but not this episode. According to folklore and Stoker’s novel vampires don't burn and die when they are exposed to sunlight, their powers are merely weaker.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Guillaume - absolutely right, Stoker's Dracula lost his supernatural powers (except at midday when he could transform) and before that Carmilla seemed Lethargic (and I read her pattern as midday to midnight - which Le Fanu will have taken from Calmet, whose work we know he consulted).