Penny Dreadful Season One
Walk On The Wilde Side
Release Date: OUT NOW!
2014 | 435 minutes | £ 32.99 ( Blu- ray)/£ 29.99 ( DVD) Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment Creator: John Logan Cast: Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton, Harry Treadaway, Rory Kinnear, Reeve Carney, Billie Piper
This isn’t quite
what you might expect from a series set in 1891, which makes use of such literary figures as Dorian Gray, Victor Frankenstein and Dracula’s Mina Harker. For one thing, some of the latter are surprisingly underemployed. Dorian turns out to be a marginal figure. Mina’s little more than a MacGuffin, a missing person there to inspire a quest.
It’s also gleefully unrestrained. The production values are on a par with the Beeb’s best period dramas, but steer clear of watching with grandma – unless she’s an unshockable old girl who won’t choke on a cherry bakewell when confronted with mutilated body parts, back- alley knee- tremblers and industrial cussing. It’s appropriate that a Grand Guignol theatre is a major location; this series is dark as coagulated blood.
Nan might approve of some of the language, mind – rife though it is with sweaty couplings, the series is equally sensuous in that regard. The scripts have a poetic turn of phrase, and are liberally sprinkled with highfalutin’ vocab. To borrow the words of Frankenstein’s creature, it’s “rich with felicity of expression”.
Of the literary figures it’s the monster who’s best served. Like Shelley’s creation, he’s articulate and sensitive, sympathetic and terrifying; it’s a magnificent performance by Rory Kinnear. But the dominant character is freshlyminted: Vanessa Ives, a psychic prone to possession. Eva Green spends much of her time contorted in Linda Blair- esque histrionics, and is utterly compelling. Also impressive is Timothy Dalton, who brings gravelly gravitas to Mina’s father. Watching how these and other characters spark off one another is always interesting.
All that’s missing is a story worthy of all this first- rate effort. The search for Mina ends in anti- climax, while vague hints of an over- arching plot concerning ancient gods have yet to come into focus. But this exquisitely ghastly series remains so watchable that it almost doesn’t matter if it ever does.
Extras: Featurettes on costume design and the use of animals ( seven minutes); nine production blogs ( 21 minutes) which delve into Victorian history. Ian Berriman The cast filming the séance scene were slightly freaked out when a butterfly landed on the table – even though it was winter.
“Completely anatomically accurate. And arousing!”