Tuesday, November 24, 2009

McCloud – McCloud Meets Dracula – review (TV episode)


Directed by: Brice Kessler

First aired: 1977

Contains spoilers

Now, it is a truism – that I hope I have demonstrated on the blog over the years – that vampires get everywhere. For McCloud – a 70s crime show about Sam McCloud (Dennis Weaver), who was a Deputy US Marshall from Taos, New Mexico who ends up assigned to a detective bureau in New York – the vampire episode happened to be the very last episode of the series ever.

Dennis Weaver as McCloudNow, I must admit that I am not too familiar with McCloud but it seems it followed a familiar pattern of McCloud being sidelined from real cases by Chief Clifford (J D Cannon) but then ending up solving them, sometimes with the help of Sergeant Joe Broadhurst (Terry carter) and always with some country insights. He has a secret relationship with reporter Chris Coughlin (Diana Muldaur).

McCloud and JoeIn this episode he is trying to get on the squad investigating a sniper who is terrorising the city. However he and Joe end up at a crime scene that is a little more unusual. It appears that the body has puncture wounds in the neck and no blood. Later, medical examiner Harvey Pollick (Michael Sacks) discovers that there are human teeth indentations in the skin also. One victim is bad enough but then we get more and more.

a victim screamsDespite the fact that the episode goes to great pains to hide the identity of the killer, showing only a victim's scream, a flurry of cloak, a top hat or a wolf’s head cane, we know from the opening credits who it is as they show a special guest of John Carradine! However our first view of him is in archive footage. Chris is researching (coincidentally) for a book on vampires and is watching House of Dracula. The programme pauses for an ad break and, bizarrely, when it returns it is clearly now showing House of Frankenstein. Of course both starred Carradine as Dracula.

John Carradine... he must have done itIn the show, however, he plays an actor called Loren Belasco – famous for playing Dracula and, he claims, a direct descendent of the Baron Exiton Von Dracula of Transylvania. Later he seems to claim that he is said Baron, and a vampire. At first, however, he is deemed as an expert who might help with the enquiries. I should mention that he has a creepy butler named Morris, who is played by Reggie Nalder – who, of course, would go on to star in Zoltan, Hound of Dracula and Salem’s Lot.

The Chief and McCloudOne thing I did like about the episode was the fact that we are never actually sure whether Belasco is a vampire or not. He does not have eye mojo and subdues his victims with a rap on the head from his cane… but then again he does manage to drain his victims and, it seems, he does it through mouth to neck suction, without spilling a drop and, presumably, drinks it all. He sleeps in a coffin, through the day, and has no mirrors in his home and yet can be filmed. He escapes, potentially, by diving into the river. His cloak is found but he is not and yet we see a bat flying off – just a coincidence due to a colony below the bridge?

Michael Sacks as Harvey PollickIn this way the episode keeps us guessing but what was unfortunate was that I am not really invested in the show or the character. It seemed to me that McCloud did little in the way of investigation (indeed Chris did most of that) and, of course, his capturing of the sniper (a case he has no involvement in) was pure luck. It just seemed all a little cheesy and lightweight – but fans of the show probably disagree. I couldn’t see myself watching other episodes, personally, but liked this for Carradine and the fact that it left the concept of the villain being a vampire open to interpretation but easily explained away as necessary. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.



Zahir Blue said...

That is a trip down memory lane. Didn't realize that was the last episode, for some reason. Me, I still recall when McCloud turned to find the butler had vanished. His line "I've known dead cats that made more noise than that guy" still makes me giggle.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Cheers Zahir

Its probably been shown in all sorts of episode order over the years - but my brief research indicates that this was definitely the last episode

Christine said...

I have vague memory of watching this series as kid, but I don´t remember this episode - if I have seen it, I have totally forgotten it! Sounds lightweight but watchable.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Christine said "Sounds lightweight but watchable." - absolutely, a very accurate summary Christine