Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne – Rockets of the Dead – review (TV Episode)

Director: Pierre de Lespinois

First aired: 2000

Contains spoilers

This was a short lived series that followed the adventures of novelist Jules Verne (Chris Demetral) as he travelled with Phileas Fogg (Michael Praed, who was in poor vampire movie Son of Darkness: To Die For 2), Fogg’s second cousin Rebecca (Francesca Hunt) and Fogg’s valet Passepartout (Michel Courtemanche).

Of course it had a steampunk thing going on – Verne being the spiritual Godfather of steampunk – and had to have, of course, a vampire episode – this being it.

It started with a man, Lord Pontetract (David Schaap), being attacked by a cloaked and fanged assailant. He kills Pontetract and steals a briefcase – ignoring the bullets fired by a guard. He clicks his heels together – touching two electrodes – and a rocket backpack fires up and flies him into the night.

Francesca Hunt as Rebecca
The British secret service has ensured that Verne’s play of the Maid of Orleans will be put on in the Rimini Theatre and star Rebecca in the titular role. The reason? The Rimini Theatre is one of many (one in each major capitol city in Europe) by patron of the arts Duke Angelo Rimini (Patrick Duffy, yes, the Man From Atlantis himself). As well as being a patron of the arts, they know that he is from Carpathia – though the name they gave him sounded Italian to me – and he is an arms dealer. He often gets besotted by leading ladies and they hope to use Rebecca to get an idea of what he is up to.

Patrick Duffy as Rimini
He does indeed become besotted with Rebecca and, as he brings her lilies after the performance, she and we notice he casts no reflection. He takes her to supper but gives Phileas (who is none to happy with the secret service) the slip and buggers off to Estonia (as the nearest port to Carpathia) with her. It is clear that he knows she is an agent but also that he wants her to trade allegiances and rule the world at his side.

the Aurora
Phileas and Jules have to travel to Carpathia, but that is no problem when you have the Aurora – essentially Fogg’s balloon steampunked up. Now, I know that Verne wrote 80 days but I don’t remember it being a powered craft in that… never mind… On the journey Passepartout tells them about vampires – a concept dismissed by Fogg – and all the lore his family passed down to him. They avoid sunlight, drink blood, cannot be seen in mirrors, must be staked through the heart and hate garlic – not all of this is true.

a vampire
They get to an inn and discover the first truth. All the patrons and he landlord (R D Reid) are vamtpires and none cast a reflection – as seen in the cleaver given to cut a block of cheese. The heroes manage to beat a hasty retreat with Passepartout going to the Aurora and Fogg and Verne heading to the castle. Vampires, however, have invaded the Aurora and perhaps Rebecca is a little bit too friendly with the Duke. Has she been turned?

in a coffin
I don’t want to go much further but I will reveal the actual plot devised by Rimini. He wants to take over the world and convert it to vampirism. To this end he has an army of vampires and homing devices planted in all his theatres. He had Pontetract killed for an explosive formula (which is unstable). The rockets will allow them to get across Europe in a night, guided by the homing devices and armed with rockets containing the formula.

Michael Praed as Fogg
As for the vampire lore. Presumably a stake will kill one – we do not see – but they are not actually afraid of garlic, it transpires, nor do they fear the cross. They have fangs and glowing green eyes and can become invisible – something they do when resting through the day. Whether this protects them from sunlight or they are just not killed by it is not explained. One bite turns.

This was passable entertainment but nothing special. I don’t think the steampunk ethos was captured particularly well. As a vampire episode it was again okay – to be honest they needn’t have been vampires, give a man a cloaking device and he would have been much the same (though alive). The plot to take over the world seemed a little too convoluted – I always think that a spreading of vampirism through key persons is more likely. That said Duffy was rather fun in a melodramatic, gothic vampire sort of way. 4 out of 10.

The episode's imdb page is here.


The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne (2000 TVseries) on Amazon


RoseOfTransylvania said...

Sounds... not too inspired, but not bad, either.

Cary Comic said...

Re: the Italian-sounding surname? The duke could have been vampirized while Italy was still as much a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as Romania. As for going there via Estonia? In the 19th century, Estonia was a Baltic Seaport colony of the Russian Empire...the same as northern Poland. So, Rimini probably took that convoluted route in the hope he could shake off aerial pursuit, by the Aurora, by arousing fears of a diplomatic incident within the British Foreign Office.*

*Example: "Good Lord, Phileas! That's sovereign airspace. If the Czar's people hear of you traversing it, without authorization, there could be serious repercussions. I'm afraid we cannot approve of your flight plan."

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Cary, thanks for the comment. Whilst I take the point that he could have been vampirised elsewhere (and even use a pseudonym) the fact was they stated he was from the Carpathians - so it just didn't sit entirely right as I watched it.

To be fair I didn't question the route - from memory I just repeated what the dialogue had told us.

Could I ask whether you enjoyed the episode? Did you feel it captured steampunk well or otherwise?

Thanks for stopping by :)