Thursday, December 17, 2009

Supernatural – Dorabella – review (TV Episode)

logoDirector: Simon Langton

first aired: 1977

Contains spoilers

Not to be confused with the more recent series about the demon hunting Winchester boys, Supernatural was a BBC series in 1977. An anthology series the idea was that membership of the secret society, The Club of the Damned, was granted through the telling of horror stories and those stories had to be true.

Philip tells his taleThis was the final episode in the series and, for many, one of the better presentations. In this episode the story teller was one Philip Hambleton (David Robb), who told the tale of the journey he took with his friend Walter Von Lamont (Jeremy Clyde). Walter was trying to regain a youth lost through tragedy – his parent died in a fire and then his guardians died also – and this seemed to involve searching out the strange and bizarre.

They travelled through Europe in a time pre-railroad expansion and took coaches mainly. As we first see them they were in a public coach that eventually stopped at a coach inn. Walter was clearly making eye contact with a girl sharing the coach. His interest quickly waned, however, when a woman arrived who called herself Dorabella (Ania Marson).

Ania Marson as DorabellaAfter she was settled into the inn, her travelling companion Amadeus (Jonathon Hyde) sought to entertain with a macabre little poem delivered with whispered melodrama and then Dorabella herself entertained the inn by singing, juggling and performing magic tricks. At the sight of these, she makes a bird disappear whilst in plain view and then seems to vanish herself, Walter is immediately besotted. Amadeus goes for the young man with a knife but stabs himself and then runs out of the inn. Dorabella says she must go after him but they should not follow.

a face at the windowThat night she does not return to the inn and Walter is besides himself. He sees a face at the window, crone like and, whilst the episode offers no real explanation, I believe it intimated this was Dorabella’s true face. In the morning Walter finds Amadeus’ body. The innkeeper suggests he was attacked by a wild beast, though he seems drained of blood. Dorabella left a note suggesting that she had moved on in a public coach and they should take her coach and meet her at a designated inn.

Jeremy Clyde as WalterThey get to the inn and hire three rooms, placing Dorabells’s belonging, including an ornate chest, within. Walter is in a jealous state, accusing Philip of wanting the woman for himself, and then looks to open the chest. Dorabella appears and stops him. She tells him she will be his, with her father’s approval, but he must do two things. Firstly appreciate that she has been ill and thus will sleep during the day and they must take her coach onwards each day and secondly he must not open the chest.

They travel on, always stopping at dismal inns as chosen by Dorabella. Philip becomes more and more concerned about his friend whose health and sanity seem to be both struggling. Eventually he forces a stop at an inn of his choice – to Dorabella’s rage when she appears that night. Philip has noticed oddities; she never explains how she travels during the day or where she then appears from. That night she stares with hatred at a serving wench that Philip intends to be intimate with and he notices she has no reflection in a mirror. The next day the serving wench is dead. Eventually they reach her father’s castle. Her father speaks of them as though they are a separate race.

opening the chestWalter marries Dorabella, but Philip avoids the food at the banquet as he suspects it to be drugged and, in the morning, finds Dorabella’s chest with another. He opens hers and a noisome gas escapes and we see maggots in soil. He opens the second (though we do not see the contents) and runs in fear at what he sees within. Of course the truth is revealed and it is that Dorabella and her father are vampires. It is not Walter she wants, however, he is food it would seem. It is Philip whom she would make like them...

vampire's eyesI loved the look of the vampires, the way their eyes became white. Whilst they could become incorporeal, we discover, it was this look that offered them a special something. The episode could have, perhaps, done with more blatant vampiric activity at times – though as it was Philip relaying the tale I guess it makes sense that we did not see the attacks (though we did see Dorabella approach the wench, an action Philip was not party to). The episode did, however, summon a nice atmosphere.

Good period piece vampirism, with a Poe like atmosphere and a nice look that perhaps needed a little more horror on display. 6 out of 10.

The episode's imdb page is here.


ScarletAngel said...

I have read about this seris, but unfortunately not seen. Sounds indeed nice period vampire story!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

ScarletAngel, welcome... the series (generally) is a little hit and miss in places but this episode was one of the better ones.

Michael Flowers said...

This episode was broadcast the other night. So is still available in the UK on iplayer:

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Thanks Michael - since reviewing it the series has also been released on UK DVD