Penny Dread­ful Sea­son One

Walk On The Wilde Side

SFX - - Dvd & blu- ray -

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!”

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