Friday, July 10, 2009

Monsters – the Legacy – review (TV Episode)

title screenDirector: Jeffrey Wolf

First aired: 1988

Contains spoilers

Monsters was an anthology horror series that ran for three seasons from 1988 to 1990. One of the key elements came out of budgets so small that locations were kept to a bare minimum. The Legacy was a quirky little episode from season 1.

I say it was quirky because – despite nicking a bit from The Shining – this is one that hid its story in knowing hints and yet was fascinating due to the fact that it was clearly inspired by the great Lon Chaney.

Dale & DebbieDale (David Brisbin) is a struggling writer who has rented (I assume) a house that he discovered was the out of Hollywood base for the great character actor Fulton Pierce. He confirmed this when he discovered Pierce’s makeup case in the house. His girlfriend Debbie (Lara Harris) is less than impressed with the house and his book work. It is apparent that she is the successful one in the relationship and hints through the episode indicate that he resents this but she, in turn, is non-supportive of his dreams.

seeing apparitionsAfter Debbi has left the house – with a cutting comment about the fact that he hasn’t even finished his Phd paper – he gets around to looking in the case's mirror. He starts to see characters in the mirror. He sees Quasimodo, he sees the Phantom of the Opera and he sees the vampire. This was interesting as it was clearly the vampire from London After Midnight, which is where the Pierce actually being Chaney aspect came into this. All the apparitions are played by Kevin Jeffries.

Mary Ann Gibson as StellaDale goes to see Stella (Mary Ann Gibson) to discuss Pierce as she was in a relationship with him. She doesn’t know what his secret was; he would look in the mirror for hours and talk to himself, becoming the character. Dale asks why it was so late in his career that Pierce played the vampire, turning the role down early on. Stella suggests that the vampire was evil and Pierce knew that.

emerging violently into realityDebbie brings an ultimatum to Dale, her or Pierce – he has to make up his mind. The phrase triggers something and he realises that he has to ‘makeup his mind’ – that is what Pierce did. It allows him to finally tap into the characters as Pierce did (though we also see that the first typed sheet of his book is just the phrase ‘make up your mind’ over and over again – ala The Shining and the ‘All work, no play’ motif). He starts to change – taking on the facial features of Quasimodo without applying makeup, for instance. The Vampire seems to be the one behind this and we see, eventually, arms reaching from the mirror. Dale throws the case and the mirror cracks. Debbie walks in to see the vampire – though whether it was the vampire escaped or Dale transmogrified we do not know as the episode ends.

the vampireThe episode leaves much for the viewer to work out through hint and innuendo. Clealrly Pierce feared the vampire and yet, in the end, played the vampire. Dale could not control that primal force. The episode could have done with a little more expansion – but, given the length of it, probably couldn’t have found the space within the running time. With a very clever twist on the mirror motif this is an interesting episode, if flawed due to the curtailed detail, worth 4.5 out of 10.

The episode’s imdb page is here.

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