harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

Movie Reviewed: Black Dragons (part 2 of 2)


Scene 42: When Rob and John arrive, they don’t get a response to their knock. The door is left unlocked so they go in, only to find the room quiet and dark.

With their cohort now missing, Rob dials up Dr. Saunders only to get the “he’s sick and not taking calls” again by Butler. In the meantime, Bela has returned to the door of Wallace’s room and is listening through it.

John opens up Phil’s closet, only to find his body stuffed inside. He yells in alarm, but Rob clamps a hand over his mouth. They find another Japanese dagger lying in his palm.

Bela gives them an evil laugh through the door and then quickly stalks away as Rob works up the nerve to confront whoever is in the hallway. John goes to call the police, but Rob Ryder won’t have it, afraid of what their digging into the men’s business may turn up on them. John offers better the police then ending up dead next, but again Rob won’t have it. He reminds Van Dyke that they’re at war with this country and he should buck up. They slip out next.

Commentary: I have to say that John Van Dyke was a silly character to include in an operation of this magnitude. I’m not sure what the writer or director were thinking when they made him this instantly ready to crumble; How the hell was he chosen by the Black Dragon Society … didn’t they do any kind of psychological testing during the training phase? It doesn’t help that Irving tips into overacting on top of it.

I’d call it a minor, but annoying misstep to have a character this obviously weak included as a character among what is meant to be a cabal of super spies and espionage experts. I wish that Ryder had included some sort of berating for John having “forgotten that you’re not an actual American Businessman” or some such rather than just having John look foolish.

Scene 43: A new newspaper headline lets us know that Wallace was discovered and that his murderer is now being referred to as “The Dagger Killer”. Also the council is set to vote on a park plan.

Scene 44: Sometime later, in the late night, Alice is sleeping uncomfortably on top of her covers, still in the clothes that she arrived in.

A creepy shadow stalks across her room, through shadow-puppet fingers across her. She’s startled awake with a scream. But there isn’t anyone there, though she tells Butler that there is and sends him in to check.

Scene 45: While Butler is left to think she just had a nightmare as he isn’t going to find anything, Alice rushes downstairs instead… and directly into the arms of Bela who wonders at her state of distress.

He suggests a nightmare but that only makes her indignant. Butler arrives to tell her there was nothing, but offers to check outside for any creepers. She has him do so, while Bela insists that this is proof that nobody was stalking around in her room.

Alice goes on to banter a bit with Bela and ends up calling him a strange man who she can’t quite get a handle on. He tells her that curiosity killed the cat.

Commentary: You can just tell that this entire thing with the creeping shadow was ONLY to reference Dracula … again… but it makes even less sense than including the hypno-whammy. At least in the story, Bela would have a reason to be able to place the undercover agents into a trance as part of their back story of training to replace legitimate American titans of industry. It makes ZERO sense for him to be bothering in Alice’s room at all. And in fact, unless there is another secret staircase leading from her bedroom that he just happened to ask Bill about while the doctor was in a daze, there isn’t any way he’d have been able to escape her discovery and return to the dining room for her to meet when she came downstairs.

The logic of this entire scene was crap, and it wasn’t even necessary!

[This is explained… sort of… by this shadow not being Bela, so it isn’t a cheat that the doctor is in the dining room right when Alice gets there. But the real explanation and the identity of this mysterious shadow still serves no logical purpose and it still doesn’t explain how the man up and vanished  in the time it took her to jump up and flip on the light, so it still turns out to be crap.]

And since I had to break for another commentary anyway -- this movie is suffering pacing issues because of the way that it started. Now that we’re actually getting into Bela stalking and killing the Black Dragons, we’ve already spent a lot of time with people who were uninteresting ciphers for a large portion of it. I’m ready to move on and the film is only half over. That’s pretty sad for a one hour movie.

Scene 46: Outside of Saunders‘, John and Rob arrive to once again try to speak to Bill. They argue about having to leave the taxi down the block first, and then John’s still wanting to call the police. Van Dyke points out that they can prove they’re Americans, after all. But Ryder refuses, claiming that they can’t afford the publicity.

Scene 47: In the entryway, Ryder makes it clear to Butler that he won’t take no for an answer in meeting with Bill. Butler says that he’ll go up and speak to Dr. Saunders.

Ryder has had enough of Bill avoiding them however. He follows Butler upstairs and sends the man back down, while he confronts Bill’s bedroom door.

Scene 48: In his room, we see Saunders hunched over with Bela standing over him, a hand clutching his shoulder. Bill insists that Rob can speak to him, but he’s not seeing anyone. Bill brings up Kearney and Wallace. He also tells Saunders about Van Dyke’s being a weak link. Saunders tells Ryder that there is only one answer for a weak link. He tells Rob to take the outside door to the house cellar and leaves him to decide what he’ll have to do with their errant member.

Bela then rushes off to meet his prey.

In the meantime, Alice had returned to her room at some point before our agents’ arrival and she overhears just enough to be highly suspicious of all of this talk about murdered colleagues.

Scene 49: As Rob returns downstairs to the unsuspecting John, Alice ponders what she heard.

Scene 50: John is told that Bill is going to meet them in his cellar and to John’s questioning his being ill, Rob claims it was part of a subterfuge of Bill’s. He escorts John outside and around the house.

The two make it down to the cellar without incident. John acts skittish, but Rob clearly calls the shots. John mentions that the cellar feels like a trap. Which it is… for him.

Rob calls him weak and pulls his gun. There is a struggle, which Bela watches with amusement. John ends up shot.

Scene 51: In her room, Alice once again rushes out to the strange sounds she hears coming from downstairs.

Scene 52: In the cellar, John lasts just long enough to pull his own gun. He plugs Rob in return. Ryder tries to stumble to the cellar stairs, but runs right into the smirking Bela.

Melcher thanks Ryder for being so accommodating and pats him on the shoulder, which is enough to put Rob into a collapse, dead on the cellar floor. Bela grins down at the body.

Scene 53: Meanwhile, Alice has now rushed to the first floor in her robe. She doesn’t see anything, so slips outside and around the house to the side yard. She decides to slip into the cellar to see if she can find the source of the noise… a noise that Butler apparently didn’t hear.

She spots the bodies and rushes with fright for the front door.

Commentary: Y’see, there is nothing that Alice has done that couldn’t be handled by the Butler with a bit of tweaking. She’s not done anything since her arrival, except act suspicious of her uncle’s refusal to come out of his room and reacting to noises and shadows. She’s really there so that the FBI Hero has somebody to wrap his arms around but since he’s been MIA throughout so much of the picture, she’s been left with a lot of dead space around her. Alice just isn’t needed and her constant rushing to and fro is getting annoying.

[No, I was wrong about Alice. But we don’t find that out until the very end. Alas though, her ineffectiveness at doing something is even more problematic when we know the truth about why she’s there.]

Scene 54: She manages to reach the front door just as Agent Martin arrives. After throwing herself into his waiting arms, she reports the body she saw in the cellar.

Scene 55: Back in the cellar, they find no signs of any bodies. Alice doesn’t want to stay and insists that they go back into the house.

In the foyer, she insists that she stumbled over a dead man. Dick points out another curiosity -- Wallace, the latest victim was a guest of her uncle’s, making two of his dinner guests that have gotten themselves killed.

Butler appears suddenly and Agent Martin asks where he’s been. He claims that he was in the dining room and assures our FBI guy that he wasn’t in the cellar recently. Agent Martin next questions him about Wallace’s recent death, which takes Butler by surprise. Dick insists now that he must speak to Bill and won’t be refused.

“Monsieur Colomb” comes from the study. He tells Dick that he may be able to influence Saunders to open up his bedroom door for them. Alice reports that she just saw a body in the cellar but when Bela asks if it’s still there, she’s forced to report that it isn’t. Bela again suggests that it’s her nerves, but backs down when Agent Martin speaks up on her behalf.

Scene 56: Once Butler returns to the back kitchen presumably and Dick and Alice go upstairs, Bela rushes to another back set of stairs. He’s able to enter Bill’s room again and presumably is instructing him in what to say, still refusing to let any enter and insisting to Alice that all of this talk of his friends’ deaths is making his condition even worse.

Scene 57: With them thwarted again, Agent Martin asks if Alice has seen her uncle since she arrived. He wonders who is caring for Dr. Saunders if he’s so sickly and Alice suggests that Butler must be doing so… or Colomb. Dick Martin tells Alice he doesn’t like either man and tells her he’s taking her out of there as it’s too dangerous. Alice scoffs that she’ll be alright and isn’t frightened, despite the disappearing body in the cellar and strange shadow-casting men in her room.

Martin has no choice but to wish her goodnight and give her his card if she needs help.

As Dick is leaving after Alice returns to her room, Colomb also gives him a goodnight call out from his own guest room, startling him.

Scene 58: With Martin out of the way for the moment and Alice settled, Melcher now rushes out the back way. His destination is the garage, where he ‘borrows’ Bill’s car.

Alice hears the engine starting up and she spies on the car leaving from her bedroom window. She’s left puzzled.

Scene 59: Elsewhere and later in the city, the bodies of John and Rob are found on the Japanese Embassy steps, exactly where our first victim was left and at about the same time of night, to boot.

Scene 60: This leads to another newspaper headline. In addition to the “Jap Dagger Killer” leaving two more bodies, the city is also asking for bids to operate the motor bus system.

Scene 61: Sometime later, Alice is on the phone with Agent Martin reporting the disappearance of Butler. Dick wants to head on over to the Saunders, but Chief wants to talk about the case.

While the death of Kearney never received an adequate explanation, the latest two deaths of John and Rob were clearly murder. The puzzle is why the Japanese daggers were left in their hands for the police to find. The Chief can’t explain that, but clearly the daggers are tying Kearney, Wallace, Ryder and Van Dyke together.

Martin is asked after the fifth dinner guest at Saunders, where all of this… whatever it is… started. With the identity of the banker Hanlin known, it’s suggested they use him as bait by arranging for him to visit Saunders at his home.

Dick is sent off to New York to convince Amos that his life is in danger.

Scene 62: Um. The newspaper headline is repeated. If you’re really interested in running the Washington, D.C. bussing system of 1942, you’ve still got a shot if you act quickly.

Commentary: Oh, c’mon! I’ve got 61 scene swaps now and we’re still only at 43 minutes. Couldn’t some of these scenes been left on the cutting room floor in exchange for some expansion on the conspiracy explanations and the stalk and kill of the Black Dragons?

And maybe we could’ve had more of a spy thriller with the FBI becoming clued in sooner and having to both determine the identities of the Black Dragon conspirators and finding whoever is murdering them, while Bela has some closer shaves of his own as he continues to hunt down his victims.

There would certainly be room for less of Alice’s upstairs/downstairs routine.

Scene 63: In his office, ‘Squinty’ Hanlin has already reached the same conclusions about the risks to his life as the FBI. He’s in his office when the secretary reports a special delivery letter having just arrived. As he asks her to bring it to him, he fondles a gun and looks thoughtful about the fates of his co-conspirators.

The envelope contains a sheet of folded paper and another anonymous business card for plastic surgery. But this card has handwriting on it, telling Hanlin that “the others” are expecting him before midnight.

Commentary: The soundtrack over this scene is random as all hell. Apparently somebody thought that an action theme should be played over Hanlin opening his envelope and seeing the code letter in it. It is completely out of place and sounds ridiculous.

Scene 64: Elsewhere, Dick has dropped in on Alice. He first jokes with her about marrying him so that he can beat her up [Ah, romance in the 1940’s ladies… don’t you miss it dearly?], since it’s the only way to get her to leave her uncle’s house.

He next turns serious though and informs her that she was right about a body being in the cellar just as she said. He goes on to tell her there were actually two bodies though and he believes them to be the same ones that were later found on the steps of the Embassy.

As he fills her in, Bela is in the dining room having an eavesdropping session.

He breaks in on Agent Martin’s explanations to claim to have found a note from the butler in the dining room. The note explains that Butler had to rush off to tend to a sick friend, something that Martin isn’t ready to buy when Alice can’t verify the handwriting. Bela asks if Dick is suspicious of him finding the note, but all Martin will confirm is that five people have ended up murdered after visiting the Saunders’ home. Agent Martin drops Hanlin’s name and Bela expresses his hopes that the man misses his friends’ fates.

Dick tries to get Alice to leave again, but she says as long as Colomb is there, she feels perfectly safe. Nobody mentions that after four bodies, her uncle’s refusal to meet with the authorities is no longer tenable, even if he has Killer Martian-Zombie Rabies. Instead, Martin storms off.

Once he’s gone, Bela mentions to Alice that he also must leave… kinda putting a wrench in her staying and feeling safe which isn’t mentioned despite Alice having only just claimed that as her reason for not getting out of the murder house. He offers that perhaps they’ll meet again.

Commentary: Which doesn’t make much sense, unless we’re about to find out that Alice’s “uncle” is finally dead. If Bela isn’t coming back, you’d think that Dr. Saunders would be near the top of the hit list, even before he became only one of two left.

It’s also completely ridiculous for Saunders not to be a suspect and for nobody to insist at this point that he have a face to face with the FBI about his murdered friends. And what of Alice’s “uncle”? I’m really curious how they’re going to reveal that her family member isn’t actually and what happened to the real businessmen.

Scene 65: As Bela is getting into his taxi [presumably for a flight to New York], we see that the FBI has agents tracking his movements. This leads to a car chase, where the FBI sedan cuts off Colomb’s cab.

But once again, Colomb has vanished from the backseat of the cab without anyone seeing how he did it.

A plane in flight tells us where he probably ended up though. [But not necessarily -- it turns out unexplained who is aboard, it could be Martin on his way to NY and if Bela left, he comes back shortly so….]

Scene 66: At the bank’s headquarters, Hanlin is telling a group of gathered business leaders that his institution won’t be a party to supporting any company’s short term financial pinch caused by those potential striking workers.

The secretary interrupts and though he tries to feign being too busy to meet some unannounced visitor, she’s insistent he should see this one. With a small joke at his own expense, he tells the other men that they can continue their discussion after lunch.

The mysterious visitor is Dick Martin there to convince him that he’s in trouble. Hanlin offers the crumpled note that he’d received that morning but otherwise seems remarkably unfazed by his friends’ being murdered wholesale.

Dick broaches the idea of Hanlin playing bait to catch a killer at Saunders’ home, which Hanlin is intrigued with. He tells Martin that he’d very much like to meet this killer.

Scene 67: With this no fuss agreement to putting his life on the line to catch a killer, Martin and Hanlin return to Washington, D.C.

Scene 68: Several agents have been posted to the Saunders’ residence and Hanlin gets in position to draw the killer out into the open.

He’s set up in the sitting room.

Scene 69: Meanwhile, Alice goes upstairs with the Chief in order to secure the upstairs and confirm they’re alone. They find her uncle’s door unlocked this time, though he’s not there.

Scene 70: While that is all occurring, Dick has returned to the murder cellar. He hears several moans coming from a dark corner. It turns out to be the not-left, but at least not-murdered Butler.

Scene 71: Back upstairs, Alice and FBI Chief continue to sweep the rooms. When they return downstairs, Alice wants to say something but he cuts her off. He accuses her of already messing everything up, though he doesn’t explicate.

Martin returns to the main house, helping the recovering Butler. Chief asks bluntly if Butler tied himself up and is a player in the recent spate of murders. It’s at this time that both Butler and Martin are told that Saunders is missing now and that he and Colomb are both their prime suspects.

He questions whether either one of them had ever been able to confirm Saunders identity after he’d been locked in his room and holds especial irritation toward Alice for not having insisted on seeing her uncle once.

Dick again tries to stand up for Alice, but the Chief shuts this down as well by revealing that Alice isn’t Alice at all! She’s actually an undercover FBI agent sent to gather intelligence on what has been going on in the Saunders’ home!

[Well… Dang. That really twists up my previous comments about her into a knot, now doesn’t it? I’ll have to address everything in Other Thoughts in this new light. I don’t want to necessarily change my commentary with hindsight, even though some of those observations may now be invalid.]

Chief asks next after Hanlin, wanting to know the relationship between he and Saunders. Hanlin claims they had a business relationship, but that was all. Chief shares that Saunders had been reported missing in a ship accident a decade ago, which makes it very odd that he’d be there having business dinners with important bigwigs of the American economy.

The Chief explains to Martin that the real Ms. Saunders has been living abroad for quite some time. When she spotted her uncle’s picture in the press, she became concerned that he’d never let anyone know that he was alive after all of this time. The FBI began poking around and the decision was made to place the false Alice into the home so she could find out if Saunders was who he claimed to be.

As the Chief is laying this out, we see Creepy-McCreeper shadow and hand on the staircase. In addition, someone is also creeping into the home office window.

Hanlin is outraged that all of this wasn’t about protecting him at all and goes to leave, but the Chief puts the kibosh on that. He tells Hanlin that they’re busy right now confirming his identity and he’s not going anywhere until they know who he really is.

The Chief tells Hanlin to get a drink and get comfortable.

Scene 72: “Alice” offers to go for the drinks, but when she enters the hallway she spots somebody in a hood and robe. She screeches, drawing everyone’s attention.

This gives Bela the chance to snatch Hanlin by wrapping an arm around his throat to keep him from screaming as he’s dragged away [Without much of a fight; did secret agent training not include hand-to-hand?].

Amos is dragged into the dining room, where Bela crushes his throat, killing him.

We then get a focus on Bela’s Hypo-Eyes of No Reason.

Commentary: Oh, brother. They’re really looking for excuses to reference Bela’s more famous role and they don’t care where they have to crowbar it in.

And what the hell, Alice? You see one figure in a hood and robe and fall apart into screams? Nice agenting there, on top of not doing a damned thing with your time in the house.

Scene 73: The hooded man claims to be Doctor Saunders and the agents drag him into the living room. “Saunders” shouts at them to watch out for Colomb.

Scene 74: In the dining room, it turns out that Hanlin isn’t quite dead after all. And he’s armed, because Bela both didn’t make sure he was dead and didn’t bother to search him for a weapon, despite Hanlin being a Black Dragon Society agent and knowing that his other agents had already been murdered.

Hanlin shoots Bela, bringing everyone else rushing into the dining room. They find Bela injured but on his feet. Hanlin however expires before help can arrive. Bela is dragged out to be identified by faux-Saunders. He still has a covering over his face.

Commentary: I have no idea what the hell Saunders is doing. I think that he is going to reveal his true face… maybe? That is the only reason I can think of for why they’re so carefully keeping his face covered, but it’s so stupid. We already know that he’s a fake, Chief basically already laid that out… or he’s the real Saunders but was under mental conditioning this whole time. Whatever the reason… he just plain looks ridiculous trying awkwardly to keep his face covered up.

Scene 75: Saunders takes us into a flashback of his time in Japan. He was an agent under an elderly man high up in Japanese Intelligence when Doctor Melcher arrived from German High Command to assist them. There the top agents of the Black Dragon Society were placed into the care of Melcher for radical plastic surgery. Melcher had graying hair then, and wore facial hair.

Bela asked after photos of the Americans they were to impersonate and warned he’d need several angles. But the Japanese were more thorough than that. They nabbed each of the ones to be replicated and took death masks of them to assist the doctor.

Scene 76: We’re then shown the photos of the men to be replaced, but a pan up also reveals the plaster masks taken of them after they’d been murdered.

Several fades reveal the surgeries that were done to change a Japanese into a White Anglo-Saxon.

And our conspiracy was well underway to infiltrate America and bring her down from within.

Scene 77: There was just one teeny thing left… Bela’s well deserved reward for his outstanding skills. Which turned out to be a prison cell underground. Despite Bela’s insistence that the Fuehrer would hear of this outrage and wipe them off the face of the Earth, he was nevertheless imprisoned. And by happenstance, with another prisoner who looked remarkably like him. They also share that his cellmate wouldn’t be around for long.

Bela instantly noticed the similar facial features and because the Japanese don’t search their prisoners, he was able to produce a barber’s kit from the inside jacket pocket of his coat [No, really. This is what they want us to take seriously].

He went about trying to look as much as possible to his doomed cellmate [which seems ill-conceived on the face of it].

Scene 78: Back from Saunders’ flashback, he insists that Bela is Doctor Melcher back to kill them all one by one. The only reason that he didn’t kill off Saunders yet, is because instead he injected him with a serum to both make him controllable and to disfigure him as his vengeance.

[Okay, fine. That explains the stupid face-hiding then. What it doesn’t explain is the overacting going on in this scene. Was George directed to act like a flaming drama queen??]

Everyone leaps back in revulsion, except for Dr. Melcher who laughs and taunts before he collapses himself from that gunshot wound nobody seemed too concerned with.

Scene 79: We leave with “Japs Spy Ring Smashed” over the capital dome and the flag fluttering in a good ol’ American breeze.

The Good: I liked how that injection that we saw Bela give Saunders is explained during the denouement. It explained nicely why Saunders was left alive so long and was a rather nasty fate to boot.

I also really liked discovering early on that all of the men we think we're watching are actually nameless and faceless imposters who we can't know anything about. It was easy to forget that these conspirators were actually foreign Japanese agents.

I liked Joan Barclay's work for the most part [there were a few isolated issues], though the character is another story.

I loved the way that the disposition of Wallace was handled in Dr. Saunders' office. And even though I don't like Wallace's use in the story afterward, I did love the implication that he's strangled to death while under a trance that kept him from being able to do anything about it. That was some seriously twisted death-dealing by Melcher.

I also liked the way that Bela got Rob to murder his fellow agent through the use of hypno-whammied Bill. And from the same scene, Bela's patting his dying shoulder and thanking him for making it all so easy was wonderful line delivery from Lugosi.

The idea of using death masks of murdered men to help Melcher with his plastic surgery is gruesome and was another nice little twist.

The Bad: The soundtrack on this one was very bland and generic, but worse and why it's pushed itself into the bad is because of how and where it was ill-used. It seemed to be almost random and have nothing to do with supporting the scene.

There is a real problem in how the film starts as we don't get a clear indication of who is important enough to remember outside of Hanlin and when we do meet our principals, the names are dribbled out slowly making them hard to keep track of.

I don't like Wallace's use in the plot. His "death" scene was interesting and engaging, but then he's revived by the evil plastic surgeon only to then be killed permanently a few scenes later, having served no logical purpose. He was basically brought back to life by Melcher just to conveniently be at his hotel to draw Ryder and Van Dyke up to his room but there is no way that Melcher could have foreseen that Rob and John would be calling on him before he was due to return to Detroit. Reviving him just doesn't make story sense on the evil doctor's part.

The amount of time that Dr. Bill Saunders is allowed to remain in his room refusing to meet with the authorities despite all of his former dinner guests being murdered off is ridiculous. It's only done so that nobody knows that Bill is under some sort of mind control, but it's pointless because a) it isn't enough to justify this conceit and b) by the end we know that the FBI has figured out that Bill isn't actually who he claims to be, but FBI Agent Martin wasn't informed of this so it is completely inane that he wouldn't be hammering down the door until the recalcitrant possible witness showed himself.

Bela is locked in a Japanese cell... without being searched. And the cell has somebody that is due to be released soon that just happens to look like him [although the way the guards made their statement, it sounded more like Melcher's doppleganger was due to be executed rather than be released on the street]. And with his pocket barber kit, he managed to fool the guards by... uh... was there Elmer's glue in the shave kit to paste Melcher's facial hair onto his double for the trick to work? Did the double not bother protesting or resisting or asking the guards to check Melcher for scissors to prove his duplicity? What the fuck.

Other Thoughts: The movie really lost me early on when Bela first arrives at Saunders and I was confused as to what exactly was going on as far as the businessmen/conspiracy went. But when I finally caught on to the businessmen were in fact enemy agents and that Bela was the surgeon to have changed their faces, I started getting interested.

Melcher's Bela-Eye Powers were really put to some weird and not-convincing uses in this. I liked the post-hypnotic suggestibility and his being able to render them helpless with a hypno-whammy but we never get an explanation of why or even when he'd have been able to affect this suggestion on them for later. It just sits there existing because it's a Dracula reference. But worse is how it's just thrown out there that Bela can use his hypno-eyes to vanish from cabs without anyone seeing/remembering him and in circumstances - especially when he's actually being closely followed - where he couldn't have disappeared like he apparently does.

I have some problems with "Alice" that make her a difficult character to discuss. She really starts off badly by being there purely, or so we think, so the young FBI agent can have a girl in distress to pine after. She's also stuck in scenes where she seems to be running back and forth but not accomplishing anything. In reality, she's another substitute, this time on the FBI's payroll so her presence does have a story purpose which is excellent! But... but... she doesn't actually accomplish anything so her scenes are still largely padding. And worse, after her real role is revealed, she almost immediately plays the startled girl role by screeching her fool head off... hardly the stuff of spy agents. So her character started off just annoying me as being superfluous to the butler character who could have easily had the same suspicions about strangeness in the house but then the flip at the end makes all of her jumping to investigate every noise make total sense. Except that she doesn't actually find anything so she still ends up being a badly handled character in the end. I liked the character twist, but I really wished they'd done something with it.

Clayton Moore is a bit of mixed bag, here. I can see that he wants to be charming, but he doesn't really mesh well with the character he's playing and all of his interactions with Alice feel off-kilter and unconvincing if he's trying to be flirty with her and just plain weird if he isn't.

Irving Mitchell's Van Dyke is also problematic for me. First, the actor bumbles through a very particular line and it's glaring. But, he also tends to overact when he's being unnerved by the deaths going on within his cabal. The character is just ... not secret agent material and it makes one wonder just what everyone was thinking by having the character act so outright panic-striken when he's supposed to have trained for this long term undercover mission. The character is another one that doesn't really work for the role in this story and alas, Mitchell isn't doing a well enough acting job to cover for the script's flaws.

The Score: It turned out to be more interesting when we got the full story at the end than it was watching it in "real time". There are some major lapses with characters and the logic in some of the explanation is shaky at best. The biggest problem though is the slow and confusing start but once Bela starts killing off people, it picks up. Though I do wish the FBI was more involved, especially when it came to "Alice".

I want to score it higher because I enjoyed when it was all coming together, but it's just too much of a slog getting to the point where the explanations come tumbling out of everyone's mouths.

2.50 out of 5 stars

Next Up: BTVS, Season 10, Issue 13

Tags: review black dragons

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