The Dungeon of Harrow
starring: Russ Harvey, Helen Hogan, William McNulty
dir: Pat Boyette
Blurb: The mad Count De Sade lives in his famil[y]'s castle located on a remote island. Count De Sade keeps his wife locked up in a dungeon below the castle and his insanity strikes fear into the staff. After a terrible storm, a ship's captain and the son of the ship's owner find themselves washed ashore on this lonely isle, not knowing the danger they face from the evil Count De Sade.
My blurb: A word of warning: this movie is again from the Mill Creek's NIGHT SCREAMS 50 movie pack. As such, screen cap quality will be questionable at best.
Scene 01: Our first scene is of a [model] castle that is currently in the midst of a raging thunderstorm [or a lamp is being turned on and off over it].
Scene 02: Within the castle estate, we find a man looking upon a crest hanging on the wall by candlelight. He VO's for us [and you need to make yourself comfortable with overly dramatic voiceovers from this dude right now, or you're not going to make it through to the end] that the crest we see is from a proud family, but it is to die this day along with the family line (and himself). He's got salt-n-pepper hair that is mostly grey.
Our gentleman (finally) makes his way to a desk, where he begins to write out his tale of woe-is-me. He promises it is of unspeakable horror. (Alas, this will not stop his narration from speaking to us the rest of the movie.)
Our narrator is Aaron Fallon and this is clearly shaping up to be an entire movie told in flashback. The storm outdoors continues to rage.
His tale begins with his sailing aboard his father's clipper, when it was waylaid by a ferocious storm and doomed.
Scene 03: We fade into the past where we see the uh - oh boy - "grand ship" being tossed about by savage seas.
Commentary: And, we have a rather unfortunate model ship that isn't filmed in such a way as to hide that it is clearly a fake. I could have lived with it, but Pat Boyette chose to continue showing us long looks of it, and he really should not have. Especially when it runs aground, but we'll get to that.
Scene 04: Aboard the stricken vessel, the Captain struggles down rolling corridors to Aaron's room. Mr. Fallon takes a ridiculous amount of time to deign to answer the desperate knocking at his suite door.
The Captain is ordering everyone to assemble in the galley of the vessel to help give them more control (I'm assuming the idea is to shift as much weight as is possible to the center of the vessel to provide some stability). At first Fallon fails to understand the urgency, but gets a clue when water starts to enter the cabin and The Captain realizes it is too late to worry about stabilizing anything. The ship is beginning to break up.
He instead orders everyone to get to the deck.
Scene 04: Meanwhile, from out of doors we watch the *cough*mighty*cough* ship run aground against the rocks. Under more credits, the ship begins to slide inexorably into the sea.
Commentary: I get what they were doing here as far as the ship sinking. It would be a pretty good effect, as the ship really does slowly slip off the rocks, as it fills with water, and then slips under to its doom. It would be pretty neat... but... it can't work because of the patently obvious cheapness of the model ship (plastic, I'm betting) and the failure to film it at a slow enough rate to give it the illusion of heft and mass. The idea was cool for something happening under the production credits, but the mechanics of filming it just isn't up to the grand plan.
I also want to mention here the music. The theme is actually okay, here. It's a little too loudly done (often a drawback to obviously low budget movies), but it does have a harrowing quality to it. I'm going to give a kudo to Patrick Aron, the music supervisor.
Scene 05: The following morning after the big storm, we pan across the waves coming in on the beach. One of our survivors is lying in the water as further on, another stumbles up out of the surf. Our only two survivors are Mr. Fallon, of course, and The Captain.
Commentary: And that kudos that I just issued to Patrick Aron? I'm totally snatching it away. This musical piece is entirely too effing loud, and it's got a weird "frollicking on the beach" feel to it that is totally inappropriate for the circumstances (unless Fallon and our Captain are about to fall into one another's arms -- -- they don't).
Scene 06: The Captain spots something coming in on the waves and he and Fallon rush to pull it from the water. This turns out to be the Fallon Crest that we saw in the future hanging on the wall of the castle.
Commentary: The dialog here is weirdly stilted and awkward. Lee tries and -almost- is able to pull it off. Almost, but no. Russ just sounds lost in trying to sound aristocratic.
Scene 07: That night, around a tiny campfire, The Captain has managed to catch a fish with no supplies. Fallon complains he isn't crazy about fish. Captain keeps himself from bitch-slapping him.
The Captain plans to search the island the following day for any signs of inhabitants on the isle. He suggests that Fallon makes the best of what they have in the meantime.
Commentary: I have no effing idea what was going on with this scene. The Captain is giving off vibes like his idea of making the best of things overnight is to buttsex up the sleeping Fallon, especially with the way Lee Morgan weirdly strokes his beard after awkwardly delivering that line. And, Russ seems to be thinking the same thing, considering the amount of shifty-eyes he's sending over to Lee in this scene.
It is really off-kilter, and I can't imagine as to what purpose it is serving... presuming that there is a purpose and it isn't just bad directing/acting.
The dialog isn't accomplishing much, either, to help us out.
Scene 08: Sometime hours later, the fire has gone out. Fallon and The Captain are still awake and exchanging looks at one another. Aaron finally calls the Captain out on thinking that he's a bit of an ass, but The Captain responds that he just thinks that Fallon is used to certain standards that can't apply as long as they're shipwrecked and have to focus on things like survival, rather than getting things as they want them (I'm assuming that this is referring to Aaron's insisting on meat in place of fish in the previous scene and probably something to do with the Family Crest that we didn't see since The Captain clearly had wanted to do something with it in the scene where they pulled it from the water, but since we see it hanging on the wall in the future, it is clear that Aaron wouldn't allow it to be scavenged whether it was to be burned for warmth or used as a blanket or whatever).
The Captain goes on to tell Aaron that he's his father's son, and so has a reserve of strength he doesn't realize he has [uh, okay non sequitur, thanks].
Aaron's voiceover than tells us that he knew The Captain was tolerating him then out of a sense of respect for dear old dad, and not just because Aaron was the son of the employer. [And, again, this is all so awkward! There hasn't been any vibe of The Captain only tolerating Aaron -- though who could blame him, since Aaron is a bit of a ponce.] Aaron VO also refers to the strength in the Captain's face and his wisdom... blah, blah.
Commentary: I don't know which to focus on... the extreme awkwardness of this dialog, especially the florid voiceover, or the weirdly inappropriate music and the way the two actors keep looking at one another over the cooling firepit. It is all so "strangers shipwrecked, forced to survive on their own, fall in love through hardship, accept their lot and then get unexpected rescue" that it comes across like there is some serious UST going on between Aaron and the ship's captain. The direction of this scene is just bizarre, even when you discount the odd dialog and that plaintive and admiring voiceover of Fallon's. It really feels like we're in the midst of a romance story, but clearly this is all in unintended subtext territory.
Scene 09: The scene is interrupted by a horrible scream coming from out of the night, along with the savage barking of dogs. Fallon wants to rush off to investigate, but The Captain holds him back. He warns him that they're without any weapons and can do nothing.
Commentary: Wow, some more weird line delivery from Lee!
Scene 10: In a very sudden cut, we're now looking at an older gentleman. It is apparently the next morning because the Older Gentleman makes reference to the dogs getting out "last night". He is speaking to his servant, Mantis, who confirms that the animals did run loose. This angers Older Gentleman, until he is assured that the dogs returned safely.
Mantis also shares news with him that the dogs killed a woman out on the island. Older Gentleman doesn't believe him at first, as there aren't any other people but those in the castle on his island. (So, apparently there was a female survivor from the shipwreck that we didn't get to meet.)
(OW, CLUMSY CUT)
Older Gentleman becomes panicked at the thought of others on his isle, worrying that they may be a band of pirates. He sends Mantis out to find any others that may have been with the woman and to bring them to the castle. He is giving off vibes suggesting that he may not be all there mentally/emotionally.
Once Mantis is sent on his way, the Older Gentleman... who is apparently our Count De Sade, pours himself a drink. He throws the goblet to the floor and insists to himself that there must be a way to keep everyone away from his isle. A disembodied voice interrupts his thoughts to tell him it isn't likely.
The Count reacts by demanding to know where the voice is coming from, but it only taunts him. After a bit of this, the disembodied voice becomes embodied, though it isn't clear if the apparition is real or simply a product of the Count's madness.
We then get an extensive scene of the Apparition of Evil taunting the Count about all of the latter's evil thoughts and deeds. It's implied that the Count arranged for the death of a family member -- perhaps his father -- by cobra bite in the past. The Apparition of Evil laughs madly at the Count De Sade by materializing a rubber cobra, bat and giant spider as methods to terrorize the old man. All the while, he laughs insanely (and overacts).
The Apparition then suggests that perhaps the Count isn't as mad as he seems and perhaps his wine has been drugged instead. This puts the thought in the mind of the Count that there is a conspiracy against him from the others in the castle. Finally the Apparition fades away, after covering the Count in webs to remind him that he and the Apparition are as close to each other as his mind.
Commentary: Annoyingly overacted scene that only serves to muddle whether the Count is insane, or if there is something supernatural at work here -- the answer is: The Count is mad. There isn't anything supernatural in this castle. Next.
Scene 11: While The Count is having his raving breakdown, Fallon and The Captain are hiking over the isle. They wander. Wander. The Captain points out tracks. Wander/Tracking.
They shortly after find a woman's wrap lying on the ground. And shortly after that, they find blood. Narrator helpfully (if utterly pointlessly) lets us know that there is no doubt -- they've found the site of the attack of the night before (thanks). We're assured that a small stain of blood points out the ferocity of the attack (okay, why not). He also notes for us dog tracks (in case all of that dog-racket the night before wasn't enough for us to infer what was attacking the night before).
They finally come across a dead woman lying among the rocks, savaged.
Scene 12: The Captain and Aaron have a conversation, none of which we'll hear. Instead the Narrator (so, I suppose Aaron is letting us know after all) informs us that The Captain recognized her from the ship. The sight of the dead woman sends Narrator's Intonation of Overdramatization into overdrive as he lets us know that he could sense EVIL in every bushes' shadow on the isle.
The Captain and Mr. Fallon begin their search for the probable owners of the dogs who had killed their fellow passenger [utterly unarmed, I'll just add -- sure hope that she wasn't savaged by a pack of wild dogs running around].
Scene 13: Aaron, through Narrators-Voice, lets us know that every step they took made him feel like he was advancing on some horrible dread... blah... blah... drama-queen narration. Wander. Wander. Wander.
Scene 14: It next comes to pass that Aaron trips over a trip in the forest, and he and The Captain end up with a net dropped on them. The Captain is able to tear through the net encasing him, but Mantis stands nearby with a bolo. The Captain tries to make a run for it. The attempt fails.
In the meantime, Aaron also frees himself and sneaks up behind the servant. He looks like he may attack, but instead starts to sneak away from him. He's slow about it, which gives Mantis all the time in the world to slowly turn and spot him standing only feet away. Next, because Aaron really is a 1950's kinda gal, he trips over his own feet and goes splaying onto the ground.
Mantis (pathetically easily) renders Aaron stunned shortly afterward.
Commentary: No, Patrick Aron - you did not make this rather tragically embarrassingly inept scene any more exciting with your bombastic musical choice.
Scene 15: Aaron (presumably) has a series of images in his disoriented state of his being carried back to the castle, the Count's "savage" dogs, Mantis, the castle itself from a distance, and a woman's face.
He comes to, lying on a threadbare and cobwebbed cot. Lying nearby, is the bloody faced The Captain. A woman's voice interrupts his tending to The Captain to tell him that he's quite alright (overly mannered line delivery), despite the look of him. This woman will be Cassandra. She's there to extend the Count's invitation to dinner, though the manner of the invite suggests that refusing the noble's "hospitality" would be unwise.
Aaron insists first on getting the groggy The Captain into his cot, rather than leave him lying on the cold, stone floor where he was dumped.
Commentary: Okay, so a few words about Helen Hogan as Cassandra. Her opening scene here is pretty badly acted, with lots of that awkwardly overmannered diction and her eye-acting is going insane... I'm about ready to see her eyes actually leap off her face to emphasize her dialog at any moment. But, later I actually enjoy much of her performance. It's uneven, but once she forms her alliance with Aaron, Helen does much better with the character. I'm gonna name her as my favorite actress of the movie; though for favorite character, I gotta go with the mostly competent The Captain.
Scene 16: As Cassandra and Aaron travel down the dankest corridors known to man (and fully cobwebbed, naturally), we check in with The Count. He's praying over a tomb of some sort, which will be explained anon.
He finally gets up and slowly shuffles out of a door behind him, which leads to the dining room where he sits down moodily and wraps his fingernails against the wooden chair.
That is where Cassie and Aaron find him apparently brooding.
Commentary: This scene takes a smidge too long and the music is a bit too loud on the soundtrack again, but I like the atmosphere of the scene and I appreciated director Pat's slow pan from the loud wrapping of Count De Sade's fingers drumming the chair to Cassandra and Aaron's staring at him from across the room. It nicely captures that Aaron is already very well wary of his "host", and shows us that he should be just by the way Cassandra is wearing the same intense look at the castle's master as the new guy. It was a nice touch.
Scene 17: After sitting, Aaron stiffedly thanks The Count for his generosity but this causes The Count to unexpectedly slam his fists onto the table and get up in a rage. Aaron also stands up quickly, ready for a conflict. Cassandra informs Fallon that The Count doesn't tolerate conversation during meals.
Aaron's response is that The Count can go to hell, which seems both really rude and unbelievably stupid considering his position at the moment.
The Count apologizes to Aaron for his standoffishness, explaining that social graces have suffered in the castle due to their prolonged solitude. Aaron formerly introduces himself before narratively informing us that The Count then settled into a depressive silence for the rest of the meal. As Aaron continues to eat with Cassandra, his VO lets us know that he could recognize a mad glint in The Count's eye.
Aaron also informs us that he could sense a great despair about Cassandra as he watched her serving himself and The Count. He lets us know that his observations were soon to be borne out.
Cassandra tries to excuse herself from the table, citing her feeling ill, but The Count refuses this permission. He impresses upon Aaron for his tale but Mr. Fallon cites exhaustion from the ordeal and asks that stories wait for the next day after he's had a full night's rest. The Count seems to accept this, but his entire manner continues to be odd, only adding to Aaron's dread.
We also find out that The Count has a dead wife, which may explain his madness and isolation on the Isle. Cassandra and Aaron excuse themselves from The Count's table to return to Aaron's dusty room. The Count is left brooding menacingly.
Scene 18: Upstairs, Aaron takes the torch from Cassandra and insists to her that she need not escort him to his rooms. She tries to insist, but he finally convinces her that she's dismissed. The corridor to his room is about the draftiest corridor in Draftonia. This leads to more overblown-narration, before Aaron spots blood on the corridor floor in the light of his torch.
Scene 19: When Aaron gets back to his room, he finds that The Captain is no longer there. He rushes back down the draftiest corridor in creation.
Scene 20: Meanwhile, Count Mad De Sade is pacing. He heads back through the door leading to the crypt thingie, just as Aaron Fallon makes it back into the dining room, but doesn't respond to Aaron's calls to him to stop.
Fallon follows, but when he enters the door, all he finds is the large crypt thingie... there is no sign of The Count. Aaron is just about to give the crypt thingie a once over, when Cassandra walks in interrupting him. He tells her that the only place The Count could have gone is through the crypt thingie, and he believes it to not be a crypt at all.
Cassandra denies this, imperiously, and also tells him that The Count would not at all appreciate his being in the Chapel. Aaron informs Cassandra about The Captain's mysterious disappearance.
Commentary: Okay, so the acting has been pretty hit-or-miss throughout the last 36minutes, but mostly it hasn't been too bad. This scene though, it sounds like Russ is on his way to dozing off in the middle of this confrontation with Cassandra. Good Lord Man, Wake Up! Get thee to the craft's table (assuming there was one -- this was clearly limited budget) and get some coffee.
Aaron informs Cassie that he thinks The Captain has been killed and she snottily wonders if he thinks she did it. When he answers 'of course not', she insists that he remove his hand from her arm (and there is some awful pausing between the lines of this scene -- editor Don Russell really should have stepped in here and trimmed the pausing a bit to make it less awkward).
Cassandra reminds Aaron that he had requested The Captain be given more suitable quarters (rather than forcing the injured man to sleep on the cold, stone floor ... geez, y'think) and she now claims that this was done and the blood Aaron found was due to opening wounds while he was being so moved. She then distracts from his worry by suggesting a gaze out at the ocean from the balcony.
Commentary: Again, this scene almost works, but there is just something off with the dialog and the acting. First, wouldn't you think that Aaron's first concern would be to actually see The Captain? Since I don't believe Cassandra for a moment, it would've been nice if Aaron had showed a bit of skepticism toward her. Second, nothing that they've just discussed explains away The Count's failure to be in a room with no other obvious exit. Third, with Aaron alone with Cassandra, I'd be asking her about The Count's state of mind... he is worryingly transparent in his -erm- eccentricity. Her sudden "let's go to the balcony"-come hither glances are just coming from out of nowhere and should be making Aaron much more suspicious.
Scene 21: Out on the balcony, Cassandra looks out over the fog and sounds forlorn. Aaron tells her that the whole isle is frightening and he can't wait for the next ship to come and take his ass outta there [Oh my god, and he's using his Narrator Inflection to do so... and sounds half-asleep].
It falls to Cassandra to inform Aaron that a boat will not be coming for him anytime soon. She explains that they've been exiled from the world and implies that she's been stuck there for a very long time... long enough to stop hoping for escape. She then takes her leave, promising to inform Mr. Fallon of their true predicament the next day, when things won't seem so oppressive in the sunlight.
Commentary: Maybe this is to explain Helen's really odd gait when she walks around. I can't decide if she's supposed to be "lady-like and regal" as she slowly clomps around, or whether her shoes are just so loud on the floor, that they were trying to minimize the noise somewhat by having her step as lightly as possible. Either way, it just comes across as her moving about like an automoton.
Scene 22: We get more Overdramatic Narration from Aaron now, as he wonders if Cassandra isn't a part of The Count's evil and was trying deliberately to ratchet up his tension with her half-explained insinuations about the Isle.
Scene 23: Later, Aaron is lying atop his cot in his seriously unpleasant looking 'guest room', mentioning in Narration that his bedclothes had been changed [so you'd hope, considering The Captain's blood was on the sheets].
Narrate-Narrate. The point is Aaron is weary and foggy-minded, and probably catching his death of chill. He hears sounds of a whip and a woman's incoherent moans of pain. His room's window looks out, or across, into another room where he sees a young girl being tortured. He rushes to attempt an assist. But, he finds that while he lay there, the door had been locked and he's now trapped within.
When he returns to his window, the other room is dark and the woman missing. But he can hear the sounds of mechanical gears from echoing down the corridors....
Scene 24: These sounds are emanating from the Dungeon Of Harrow, where The Captain had naturally been moved. He is, alas, on a rack. Mantis is in attendance, giving The Captain water from a sponge as the poor man grimaces and groans in pain (poor The Captain -- I knew he was doomed, of course, but he really is my favorite character in this film).
The Count and the girl we just saw being whipped join them, she being pushed around. We haven't met her yet, but she will be Ann and is largely mute. She acts as the general servant girl/abused servant who's easier to brutalize than Mantis would be.
The Count goes on a tear because Mantis was giving "The Pirate" water, and slaps him around a bit. He accuses Mantis of betrayal, before quickly settling down and agreeing that they can't let The Captain die [although, I can only imagine it's because The Count needs distraction from boredom].
He next turns on whipped-Ann and accuses her of definitely betraying him in some as yet unexplained way. The Count, in his madness, sees Pirates and Betrayers in every face, it seems.
Ann's apparent betrayal is poisoning The Count's wine. You remember way back in Scene 10? The Count was having a psychotic break and talking to a manifestation of the evil within his mind? Well, Ann is now paying for supposedly drugging The Count's wine.
The Count claims that he could taste Hemlock in the wine bottle that Ann presented him with that evening and forces her to partake as she mutely tries to insist there was no such poisoning. She is on the floor out of frame, so we can't see if she's just cowering or actually suffering but the Count himself claims to Mantis and The Tortured Captain that Ann is dying of the poison she tried to pass onto him.
After a few moments, The Count finds Ann not dying and gets pissed off because y'know he can't just be wrong and insane. He tries to choke her out, but Mantis intervenes. The Count continues to insist that Ann did try to poison him, just as he was right about The Captain being a pirate. With his mentioning of "the pirate", The Count distracts himself from Ann, so that Mantis can tend to her. He grabs a torch from the wall instead and burns The Captain's face with it.
Commentary: I want to give another slight kudo here for the interesting relationship between Mantis and The Count. Presumably, due to the time period, Mantis is more slave than trusted servant but he also seems to get away with a lot more than you'd expect for a man in his position. He's not shy about laying his hands on The Count when the latter starts flying off the rails, and he isn't punished for it. But, at the same time, he also takes his own share of abuse by The Count, when the latter only thinks that Mantis is betraying him. It's an interesting set of contradictions and I don't know if it was deliberate, or just lazy scripting but there is an interesting dynamic between these two characters. It makes it all the more frustrating as a viewer when Mantis does so little to stop the torture going on at the castle and the lengths he goes to to continue following The Count's will.
I think I could have actually liked Mantis, if he'd only shown more backbone in stopping The Count, rather than following his orders. But, you can see that though he is doing what he feels he must out of a sense of duty, he's also a sympathetic man. It just makes his doing such evil deeds on The Count's orders, rather than stopping him all the more tragic. I started wanting Mantis to get through this picture alive and rescued by Aaron despite the things that he's involved in.
Scene 25: The following morning, Aaron and Cassandra are sitting in the dining room. Fallon has just informed Cassie what he'd witnessed and she had apparently poo-poo'd it as a nightmare because he's assuring her that he did witness the girl being flogged and it was real.
Commentary: And, he does so in some of that really awkward acting again. It's... a hideous display. I'm presuming he's trying to put on that aristocratic gentleman manner again, and Russ Harvey simply cannot carry it off. Whenever he tries to get imperious or mannered, it just comes off as unconvincing and distracting. Also -- I was really distracted by Russ' fingers on his pants' leg. Those are really long fingers!
With Aaron insisting, Cassandra begins to open up about the secrets of the Castle De Sade. She provides the history of The Count's wife who took ill. Though she'd been diagnosed with the dreaded leprosy by her physicians, The Count adored her too much to not make her his wife. With his wife being unable to remain in the general population because of her growing disease, The Count chose to exile himself and his staff with her to the current location of our film.
Aaron guesses that The Countess died early and The Count was forced to remain in exile due to his kindness toward her. Cassandra shoots down that romantic tale: It turns out that The Countess remains alive, but quite mad. And worse for The Count, is that in her madness she has become fixated on the night of her marriage, and so insists on dressing only in her wedding gown. The disease in the meantime has become quite advanced, and so The Count has kept his wife locked away in the dungeon and tries to think of her as dead rather than as the poor soul she has become.
Cassandra herself was brought into The Countess' service as payment for a debt of her family's. She was a nurse to The Countess before her disease advanced to the point where she simply cannot assist her any further. Now, she's simply a shell wandering around without much point in a castle from which there can be no escape as long as The Count lives and Mantis does his bidding.
Next, Cassandra tells Aaron about Ann -- she'd been a captive of a pirate vessel that had attempted a raid against the castle at some point, so The Count isn't totally making stuff up. She'd been abused and mutilated [presumably, her tongue since we don't see any other physical indications of this] by her captors before she was liberated during The Count and Mantis' repelling of the attack on the isle.
Aaron then turns Cassandra's attention to The Captain, and she admits that she doesn't know his fate but that it is likely that he either was killed or is going to be killed as a pirate. The Count believes that all sailors are automatically pirates.
Ann comes in then to serve tea, not too much the worse for wear after her whipping and time being throttled in the dungeon. Presumably this is explained away by Cassandra mentioning to Aaron that Ann has only known brutality for much of her life. She's probably able to cope with pain and degradation that would break other people by this point.
As Ann pours tea, we get more Fallon-Narration telling us that Ann could have been a beautiful girl if it wasn't for the bruises and scars from her years of mistreatment at the hands of The Count -- and presumably those pirates.
Commentary: Alas, Ann is very pretty and there is absolutely zero indication of any bruises, or scars that Aaron is blabbing on about. I guess we should say a few words about Michele Buquor. She obviously doesn't get any dialog since she's largely mute, but I will say that her acting is adequate when she's presenting herself as afraid for her life when The Count is ranting at her. But, when she's in the scenes just hanging out or doing mundane things, she doesn't help the case of making us believe that she's been horribly abused for years. Other than not talking, there is nothing in her acting that would make us think that she's just been through a beating session. It just makes Aaron's narration all the more ridiculous, since we have nothing in the lack of make-up or in her performance to suggest that "she'd be pretty if only she wasn't so marked up by her whippings". She's withdrawn, certainly, but that's about it.
Aaron narrates that is was obvious to him that Ann bordered on screaming hysterics because of what she'd been through [Uh-uh. See above comment]. Aaron reaches for his tea cup, when his "sudden movement" startles Ann enough to throw the tea into his lap [Uh -- badly choreographed, that]. This causes Ann to back away, expecting another beating -- which seems even more likely when she bumps into The Count, who immediately accuses her of embarrassing his guest.
Fallon intervenes and saves Ann from another whipping and she makes her exit with the dropped tea cup [in a totally lackadaisical manner].
Scene 26: With The Count joining them at the table, he warns Mr. Fallon against allowing the servants to become to independent of mind. He's also a bit peeved at being made to wait for his tea, as Ann has slipped off. Cassandra placates him by handing him her tea cup, which then switches his attention to that story about himself that Aaron begged off on the night before.
Aaron uses this opportunity to demand to know the fate of The Captain. The Count claims he passed away the night previously. The Count tries to turn the conversation to England, which apparently Aaron had been travelling from when the ship wrecked. But Aaron isn't to be put off and inquires after how The Captain died. The Count doesn't want to talk about it and gets demanding that their conversation be pleasant. Cassandra intervenes and pleads with Aaron to drop the subject, which he agrees to before assuring The Count that he will know his Captain's fate.
The Count assures Aaron that he "did everything I could to save the unfortunate creature".
Commentary: The acting is all over the place in this scene as well. Helen does well, and William McNulty is suitably over-mannered considering he's struggling to hide how insane he's become, but Russ' acting is really bad in this scene. There are those weird pauses between lines again, too, which isn't helping anything.
Scene 27: In the dungeon, we can see The Captain is still on the rack and apparently didn't die despite the torch to the face he received. [I continue to hold out hope he's going to make it, even though he seems marked for death in the climax.]
He begs for water to the watching Mantis, who consents. Next, he begs to have the ropes loosened from his wrists, but Mantis claims he cannot do so. The Captain confronts him on his brutality... on being an animal for torturing another man to death. This seems to bother Mantis enough to actual explicate in dialog that he's a man, but one who is indentured to his master.
Commentary: Ohhhh... *inbreath hiss*... maybe giving Maurice Harris extensive dialog wasn't the wisest choice. At least not dialog in which he is attempting to infer that he is feeling guilt-ridden but bound by a pledge of service to his master, whatever evil it may be leading to. He's much better as a silent, enigmatic and ambiguous presence. Much, much better.
After some more hideously stilted dialog, Mantis deigns to loosen the wrist ropes after all to The Captain's gratitude.
Scene 28: After the uncomfortable tea with The Count, Aaron returns to his room to plot an escape. Aaron's narration tells us that he suddenly felt like he was being watched [which is good, because his acting did not indicate that... I'm not sure what it indicated... possible stroke?], and spots a pair of dainty feet badly hidden behind a curtain.
He finds Ann has been waiting for him, and she immediately glomps onto him (we get to miss the attempt at a passionate embrace, thanks to a film-damage cut -- Very Thank You).
[After some painfully awkward acting] Aaron finds that Ann's coming to his room turned out to be a good thing. He's able to get from her that she's been to the dungeon and that his friend, The Captain, is not dead as per The Count's tale. Ann refuses to risk taking Aaron down into the dungeon, but she does offer to assist The Captain (in her pantomime mute way and with some creative interpretation from Fallon) herself.
Scene 29: Ann is a young woman of her word. She knocks Mantis out with a board and unties The Captain from the rack. Unfortunately, this is bad timing. The Captain is far too weak to get up on his own and he passes out. As Ann is wondering what else she can do to assist his escape, The Count has come down for more Pirate-ranting and has caught her. Oh, dear.
The Count pronounces The Captain as dead and flings him off onto the floor. His space on the rack is now to go to Ann for her betrayal. As he is tying Ann down, Mantis comes to and The Count orders him to ensure that The Captain is dead. He checks his vitals and agrees. But, wait! What is this sly smile he gives to The Count's back... could The Captain not be dead-dead?
Next The Count orders Mantis to release a plug to a faucet above Ann's face. At first he shakes his head no, but The Count commands it again so he does so, also verbally confirming that "the pirate" is dead. Ann is left to have the water torture all night.
Scene 30: Up in his room, Aaron paces as he awaits word from Ann or comes up with a brilliant plan of escape from this Isle of the Insane. There is a knock at the door, but it isn't Ann. It's Cassandra who wishes a word with him.
Cassie has come to point out that The Count has supplies which he couldn't possibly have obtained on his own -- tea, tobacco, that sorta thing. Aaron reminds her that she told him there are no ships that visit the isle, but Cassandra tells him that she's never seen them. She is certain that one must exist though, or they'd have run out of these luxuries long ago. She further tells him that these supplies are running low, meaning that any time now there must be a supply vessel coming to leave a parcel on the beach. Aaron suggests there must be a way to signal such a vessel for assistance, but she's is adamant that such a signal would never succeed as long as The Count lives. Aaron wonders what she is suggesting, and she denies suggesting anything... except, her meaning is quite clear. Aaron states he isn't capable of murder and Cassandra says she never thought she'd be capable of it either, but she wants to rejoin the real world off of this Isle of the Damned. Aaron seems to start thinking that murder isn't murder in these desperate circumstances....
Aaron has found himself attracted to Cassandra in a way that he wasn't to Ann and moves in for a smooch. This interrupted by The Skulking Count and Mantis. He's super pissy because apparently Cassie hasn't been putting out to him over the years, and yet she would take "a boy" as her lover... except she didn't get to, thanks to ranter's interruption. But nevermind that detail, he's pissed anyway at Aaron's besmirching his hospitality.
Mantis has been ordered to take both of them to the chapel.
Commentary: OH, man. I, in general, really hate to point out weaknesses in someone's acting. But -- Russ Harvey is particularly weak throughout his scene opposite Helen, which is making her mannered performance all the more distracting because neither one of them is sounding natural but she could get away with it due to the time period the scene is playing in if Russ' performance wasn't bringing so much painful attention to just how unnatural all of this dialog is sounding. William McNulty is also swerving around between 'mannered, but acceptable' and 'painfully self-conscious' but it's easier to buy the performance from his as well, just due to the psychosis his character is suffering. As to Maurice Harris -- the less dialog he has, the better. It would have been easier on us, if he'd been rendered mute as well.
Scene 31: In the dungeon, we see Ann suffering her water torment. But more importantly The Captain is not dead! (Yay!)
He painfully gets himself up off of the floor (fridge horror: was The Count going to let him rot there as an infliction upon the bound Ann? EWWW).
He at first tries to help Ann, but she's been chained to the rack at the torso and he doesn't have the key. He promises her that he'll be back. It's too bad that Ann can't vocalize, or she may have been able to tell him to at least plug up the dripping faucet. Alas for her... The Captain goes stumbling for the steps of the dungeon.
Scene 32: Upstairs, Aaron and Cassandra are marched into the dining room toward the chapel behind.
Commentary: Bad Blocking! Bad! The Count is leading the procession, Aaron is behind him, Mantis is next and watching Aaron, and then Cassandra is left walking behind Mantis!! Cassandra, you useless sow! Pick up a candelabra and hit him in the head! She doesn't.
The Count accuses Cassandra of never really appreciating his suffering at having The Countess locked away below the castle, rotting away from her disease. He promises that she'll come to understand though. He intends to lock Mr. Fallon away in the dark crypt and she'll join The Count in mourning for their lost loves. His blah-blah is interrupted when he spot My Hero-The Captain standing in the doorway with bloodlust in his eyes. Get Him, My Captain, My Captain!
The Captain grabs an axe from the wall (which I'll point out that Cassandra could have easily done at the back of the procession), but Mantis grabs up a shield and club to do battle.
Commentary: And, again, Mantis. His character is frustrating in his ambiguity. I like it, but it is making him difficult to understand as far as his motivations. He's obviously willing to defy The Count (lying to him, giving token resistence to his more extreme orders, helping the others behind The Count's back in small ways) but he's also not willing to straight up rebel against him (he accepts being slapped around, he does things he knows is wrong to others as ordered, and here- instead of turning on The Count with The Captain after clearly not killing him on purpose in the dungeon, he fights against The Captain and tries to kill him now to protect The Count).
I find the motivations of Mantis in this script to be more interesting than Pat Boyette and Henry Garcia apparently, but I'd have loved to explore his character just a bit more than we will.
Scene 33: The Captain and Mantis engage in melee combat. (Infuriatingly, Aaron Fallon and Cassandra just stand there like dopes. Okay, Cassie has the excuse that she's a woman in a period piece but Fallon has no excuse to not fight back right now, while there is a chance to avoid the fate that The Count is going to visit upon him, especially with his "friend" fighting for his life and obviously grievously injured putting him at a distinct disadvantage.)
Alas for My Hero, he's only able to swing his axe three times and twice when it bounces off of Mantis' shield he drops the weapon. He is obviously simply too weak to engage in combat after his time in the torture chamber. The second time he isn't able to retrieve the axe. Mantis (in an admittedly cool move) throws his sword spear-like and impales My Hero under the watchful & cowardly gaze of Aaron Fallon and needlessly dies for real this time. Bummer.
Commentary: Thank you for standing there, fucking Aaron Fallon. I now am stuck with rooting for Ann, who is stuck on the rack and is a servant girl in a period piece so is very unlikely to play the final heroine. Now, I have to depend on your stupid ass to get us out off this mess....
Scene 34: Mantis then slumps to the bench, and reveals that his arm was injured in his battle with The Captain. The Count takes little notice.
He orders Mantis to force Aaron to the sarcophagus in the chapel beyond the door. Aaron makes a run for it (and I note that he doesn't even tell Cassandra to follow, he just leaves her standing there -- I find that pretty amusing). Mantis though, wasn't injured in the legs and is able to outmaneuver him around the dining table. He snatches up his bullwhip to Aaron's helpless panic. Our Hero doesn't even bother to try to fight back.
Scene 35: Having been pushed back, he bumps into the sarcophagus in the chapel and as figured, the top of it does easily move. The Count has already done this and Aaron falls into the sarcophagus and down a flight of stairs into another dungeon below. Mantis and The Count follow and chain the now briefly stunned Aaron to the wall. Cassandra does nothing above, where she is completely unguarded in a room with weaponry. Useless.
Scene 36: The Count rants at Fallon that he'll only ever know this small room until death. He'll share the chamber with The Countess who is behind a door, where she is suffering a delusion that it is her bridal chamber. The Count bids Mr. Fallon a fond farewell.
Commentary: I'll go ahead and give another kudo to Patrick Aron for the simple music here. The deceptively simple "dun... dun... dun" work quite well to highten the despair of Aaron's imprisonment in such a dank space, which is nicely set dressed as well by Don Russell.