“Obssessions” [PG-13] – Chapter 19


Part 19

Nearly two hours later, a very conscious Olivia, along with Darryl, entered one of the precinct’s interrogation rooms. Inside sat Nick Marcano, staring morosely at the wall. 

“Nick.” Olivia stood in front of the Streghone, blocking his view. “So, are you ready to talk?”

Dark eyes filled with hostility, glared at Olivia. “Talk about what?”

“About the whole thing,” Darryl added. “Your version of what happened to DeWolfe Mann and Bruce McNeill. You’re facing charges of first degree murder, accessory to kidnapping and assault upon an officer of the law. You might as well fill in the blanks.”

Trembling with anger and desperation, Nick continued to glare at the two officers. “I have nothing to say to either of you,” a sly expression crept into his eyes, “unless you let me go.”

“And why should we do that?” Darryl demanded.

Olivia knew exactly what Nick meant. Before he could speak, she glanced at the video camera hanging above on the wall opposite the door. Using her telekinesis, she disconnected one of the cables from the camera.

Nick sat back into his chair, looking smug. Olivia had never seen that expression on his face, before. “Because if you don’t let me go, I’ll tell the whole world everything about you and the Halliwells.”

An angry Darryl shot back, “You’re blackmailing us?”

“That’s right. Blackmail. I’m sure that the San Francisco Police Department would love to know the truth behind all of those strange cases you’ve encountered.” Nick gave the pair a defiant stare.

Olivia crossed her arms across her chest and coolly stared at the Streghone. “Are you willing to expose your own family, as well?”

“Why not?” Nick retorted. “They’ve done nothing but treated me like the poor relation! Including Aunt Carla!”

So much for that argument, Olivia thought. It never really occurred to her, until now that Nick was a sad and lonely man. And desperate. No wonder he had latched onto Barbara’s friendship like a leech. Following his parents’ deaths, he must have spent most of his life treated as an outsider – by his acquaintances and his mother’s family. Including Aunt Carla. As much as Olivia sympathized with the Streghone, she could not ignore the fact that he had committed murder for the sole purpose of ensuring the death of another. Or that he was trying to blackmail her and Darryl into releasing him. And that she had to stop him. Fortunately, Olivia had a trick up her sleeve.

“Okay Nick,” she said, “if you insist upon going ahead with this threat of yours, we’ll have to resort to something else.”

Nick sneered. “Like what? Kill me?”

Olivia leaned forward, allowing her eyes to burn into his. “No, something else. Like having your memory altered. Before you can say one word to the captain, I’ll summon Cole here. Have him do a little song-and-dance with your memories.” Nick’s face paled underneath his light tan. “Unless you don’t mind having your mind violated.”

“I . . .” Nick glanced at the room’s video camera. A smile curved his lips, as he returned his gaze to Olivia. “You sure you want to do that? Whether my memories are erased or not, your captain is going to find out, anyway.”

“If you’re referring to that video camera above,” Olivia coolly replied, “I suggest that you take a close look.” Both Nick and Darryl stared at the camera. “You will see that the cables are no longer hooked to it.” It was now Olivia’s turn to smile. “Now, about your plans to reveal all?”

Nick’s shoulders sagged in defeat. He seared Olivia with a resentful glare. “Like I said before, I have nothing to say.”

* * * *

Olivia and Darryl left the interrogation room, minutes later. “Man, that was a close call,” Darryl said, shaking his head. “I’m only surprised that he didn’t demand to see Barbara.”

“I doubt that she would have given him the pleasure,” Olivia replied with a smirk.

Darryl shot Olivia a curious glance. “By the way, were you serious about getting Cole to mess with that man’s head, if he had decided to talk?”

A pause followed. Olivia stopped in mid-stride. Gave her partner a cool look. “What do you think?”

“I think . . . I don’t want to know the answer to that question.” Darryl glanced to his side. His eyes grew wide. Olivia followed his gaze. Paul Margolin happened to be one of the figures striding along the corridor to their left. And he seemed to be heading straight for them.

The ADA paused before the pair. “There you are,” he declared. “I wondered what happened to you, when Cole and Barbara had returned to the house with Bruce.”

“Didn’t Barbara tell you?” Olivia asked, smiling at him. “We had to book Nick here at the station. Bruce and Barbara should be here tomorrow, to make a statement.”

Paul nodded. “And Marcano?”

“He’s been charged with murder. First degree. Along with accessory to kidnapping and assault upon a police officer.”

Darryl added, “He also tried to blackmail us into dropping the charges. Threatened to expose all of you as . . .” He shot a nervous glance around him. “Well, you know.”

Anxiety filled Paul’s eyes. “Wha . . .? Oh my God! What did he . . .?”

Olivia patted the ADA’s arm. “Don’t worry. I managed to convince Nick that it would be detrimental to his . . . state of mind.”


Shaking his head, Darryl said, “It’s a long story. Meanwhile, I have a report to give the Captain. And a call to make.” He walked away.

The two witches remained in the middle of the corridor, facing each other. “So Cole, Barbara, and Bruce made it back okay,” Olivia commented.

Paul replied, “Yeah. Although I think both your brother and Beltha . . . uh, Turner looked a little worse for wear. Especially Bruce. I’m only surprised that Turner had been affected by that succubus, considering how powerful he’s supposed to be.”

The pair resumed their walk toward the squad room. “Cole may be powerful, but he’s not invincible. Unfortunately, he is vulnerable to psychic powers like the rest of us. Remember Barbas?”

“Oh.” Silence fell between the two before Paul continued, “Listen, about Turner, I don’t know if it was wise of him to deal with that Riggerio demon. I mean, I know what a sigil is, but I also know that it is supposed to be a source of power as well. A being’s ka. But how do we know that ring was what Bel, uh, Turner claimed . . .”

A sigh left Olivia’s mouth. She stopped and gave the other witch a hard stare. “Paul, Cole was telling the truth, okay? The ring was a sigil. In fact, I knew all about the ring. And about the deal. Trust me, the ring did belong to Riggerio’s coven. That’s all there is to it.”

“But doesn’t it bother you that Bel . . . Turner is dealing with . . .” Paul halted in mid-sentence, grabbed Olivia’s arm and led her inside an empty break room. “Doesn’t it bother you that he’s seeing other demons, again?”

Oh God! Olivia thought. She really had no patience to deal with this subject, again. Leo’s constant nagging had been bad enough. “Paul, this is not the first time Cole has sought information from other daemons and warlocks. Hell, I’ve done it on numerous occasions. And I’ve used criminals . . . mortals as sources of information. I believe you have, as well.” She paused, as her eyes bored into Paul’s. “Are you that bothered by my relationship with Cole?”

“Maybe I am. I’m not exactly used to hobnobbing with demons.”

Olivia stared at Paul. She could sense the dislike and suspicion he seemed to harbor toward Cole. And the confusion over her relationship with the half-demon. “Look, if you can’t accept my friendship with Cole,” she said deliberately, “then we might as well part ways. I’ve already made it clear to Leo that ‘no one’ has the right to choose my friends . . . except me.”

Paul stiffened slightly under Olivia’s hard tone. Then he nodded with seemingly understanding. And resignation. “Sorry. I understand. I, uh . . . hope you understand that this doesn’t mean that I’ll have to be friends with him.” Olivia responded with a silent shrug. Paul heaved a sigh. “Great. Listen, why don’t we change the subject? The real reason I came here was to ask if you were available for lunch, tomorrow.”

A teasing smile twitched Olivia’s lips. “Not dinner?”

“Sorry, but I’ll be on a plane to San Diego, by tomorrow evening.”

Olivia quickly sobered. “Oh. The DiMatteo case, huh?”

“Yeah. What else? Going my way?” Paul linked his arm with Olivia’s and the pair left the room to continue their way along the corridor.

* * * *

Barbara entered her fiancé’s bedroom to check on his condition. She found Bruce struggling to fasten his pajama top. “Here, let me.” She fastened the buttons for him.

“God, I feel so damn tired,” he commented. “I don’t think I have any energy left, after today.”

The blond woman helped Bruce onto the bed. “Considering that a succubus came close to sucking the life out of you, I’m not that surprised.” Barbara paused, before she pulled the blanket over him. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. “By the way, did you and that Portia woman . . . you didn’t achieve . . . penetration?”

“Huh?” Bruce stared at Barbara with dazed eyes. “Pene . . . are you talking about sex?”

Barbara shrugged. “If you want to put it that way. Yeah.”

“No! I mean . . .” Confusion dominated Bruce’s expression. “I don’t think so.” He heaved a frustrated sigh. “Hell, I don’t remember! I feel so confused. One minute I was looking at Portia’s face and the next minute, yours. I think she must have been a shape shifter.”

“Don’t worry, honey.” Barbara planted a light kiss on her fiancé’s forehead. “A long rest and some tea later on will do you some good. I’ve already called your mom and told her that you won’t be available for work, tonight.”

Bruce gave her a wan smile. “Thanks.” Another sigh left his mouth. “Damn shame about Portia being a succubus.”

Her suspicions rising again, Barbara frowned. “What do you mean?”

“The article for the BAY-MIRROR. After this, I doubt that Jason will continue the story about the Golden Horn. He’ll probably kill it.”

Barbara gave Bruce a second kiss. “Who cares about a silly old newspaper story? I’m just thankful that you’re not dead. Speaking of Jason . . . or should I say the Halliwells, the extra wedding invitations that you had ordered, have arrived. Harry and Livy will make sure that Paige’s sisters will get them.”

“That’s nice,” Bruce murmured. Then he closed his eyes and fell into a deep sleep.

Barbara allowed herself a small smile and left her fiancé’s bedroom. As she walked along the corridor, she recalled Bruce’s words about Portia resembling her. If the succubus had to morph into her own form to seduce Bruce, whom did Cole see when the succubus had seduced him inside the hotel room?

* * * *

Deborah Mann stared at Cole with hopeful eyes. “Is it true? That Wolfie’s killer has been caught?”

Cole, who had decided to pay the late columnist’s sister a visit, nodded. “Yeah. About several hours ago. How did you find out?”

“I had received a call from Lieutenant Morris. He told me that the killer was some accountant named Nick Something.”

“Nick Marcano,” Cole added. “It seems that Marcano found out that your brother would be interviewing Bruce McNeill and decided to kill him in order to replace Wolfie with this hired killer.”

Looking confused, Deborah shook her head. “I don’t . . . I don’t understand. Why would this Marcano person want Bruce McNeill dead?”

“He uh, . . . he was in love with Bruce’s fiancée. Obsessed with her, actually.”

Disbelief shone in Deborah’s eyes. “You mean to say that Wolfie was killed, because some guy was in love with another man’s fiancée?”

Cole’s only response was a shrug of his shoulders. After all, what else could he say?

* * * *

“I don’t believe it!” Phoebe declared. Nearly six hours had passed since the incidents of the afternoon. She and the other Halliwells had gathered in the living room to welcome their guests – Harry and Olivia McNeill. The red-haired witches had arrived to deliver wedding invitations for her, Piper and Leo.

Paige heaved a long-suffering sigh. “Phoebe, can you please give it a rest? You’ve been saying the same thing ever since we found out about Nick.”

Leo glanced up. “I don’t blame her,” he said. “I find it hard to believe it myself.”

Annoyed, Paige rolled her eyes. “Yeah, well believe it. Fortunately, with Nick behind bars and that Portia woman dead, we have nothing to worry about.”

Olivia had opened her mouth to respond, but Piper spoke up, first. “Are you sure?” She held Wyatt in her arms, rocking him up and down. “Didn’t that Riggerio demon mention a sister?”

Leo frowned at his wife. “What sister? And who is this Riggerio?”

Olivia replied, “He’s a daemon well known among Streghone witches. Cole had went to him for information on Portia. Apparently, she has an older sister.”

“Cole got information from a demon?” Leo asked, frowning. “And why would this Riggerio be willing to help?”

Piper handed Wyatt over to Leo. “Apparently, Cole gave him a ring. I forgot the name.”

“The Crotona Coven’s ring,” Harry added. “It’s his coven’s sigil. Aunt Carla – Nick’s aunt – once told us about it. It’s nothing to worry about.”

“Nothing?” Piper protested. “We don’t know what that ring can do. A lot of innocent people can get killed, because of that ring. I wonder if Cole ever stopped to consider that.”

A loud and exasperated sigh escaped Olivia’s mouth. All eyes turned to her. “Oh for God’s sake!” she cried. “Do any of you have the slightest inkling on what a sigil is? I mean, you’ve been witches for what? Four-and-a-half years? A sigil is a seal. A signet. Or a symbol. Like the one on the cover of your Book of Shadows.” She faced Leo. “Have you ever told them anything about sigils?”

Assuming a defensive expression, Leo shot back, “Of course I have!” Then he became less certain. “Well, somewhat. The girls do know about the symbol on their Book of Shadows.”

“Oh Goddess!” Olivia rolled her eyes. “Then they should understand what that ring means to Riggerio. It’s a sign of his coven’s power. It belongs to them. Their coven’s ka. Their heirloom. Trust me, they’ve probably manage to wreck enough havoc without that ring, during the last 36 years. What does keeping it away from them going to accomplish?”

None of the Halliwells or Leo could answer Olivia’s question. She sighed and turned to her brother. “By the way Harry, the invitations?”

“Oh, yeah.” Harry picked up a pile of envelopes and handed one each to Piper, Phoebe and Leo. “The invitations. When Bruce found out that your old ones were lost in the mail, he had ordered new ones.”

Piper gave the McNeills a prim smile. “Thanks. I’m looking forward to the wedding.” Both Leo and Phoebe said the same.

A deafening silence filled the kitchen. Then Phoebe spoke up. “About Portia’s sister – I don’t think we’ll have to worry about her seeking revenge. I mean, she’s a demon. Evil. Why would she seek revenge in the first place?”

“Um, maybe because Portia was her sister,” Harry commented. “And they probably loved each other.”

Phoebe insisted, “But they’re evil. Evil can’t love.”

Paige glanced at the McNeills and saw the disbelief on their faces. “Who told you that?” a frowning Olivia asked.

“Cole,” Phoebe replied simply. “And Leo.”

In true McNeill fashion, Olivia rolled her eyes in disgust. “I suppose Raynor had taught Cole that stupid notion. What an idiot he must have been! Actually Phoebe, daemons can love, despite what they or whitelighters might say. And I wouldn’t be surprised if this other succubus came after us for revenge.”

Paige added, “Oh yeah! Like Oren. You know . . . that demon who came after us when we had killed his son.” Her sisters stared at her, causing Paige to feel self-conscious. “You remember. When we first met Eva.”

“Well said,” Harry commented. Paige noticed the admiration in his eyes. To her surprise – and embarrassment – she felt a hot flush.

Phoebe commented, “At least Jason is going to be happy that Wolfie’s killer has been arrested.”

“And Portia?” Leo added. “I mean, there’s no body or any remains of her.” He said to Olivia, “How did you and Darryl explain her disappearance?”

Olivia shrugged her shoulders. “As a disappearance. She’s been declared missing. And a fugitive. We’ve told the captain that Nick may have killed her, but since we have no body, we can’t charge him with her murder.”

Phoebe frowned. “I don’t know if Jason is going to like that.”

The look on Olivia’s face told Paige that the redhead could not care less about Jason’s feelings.

* * * *

The following morning, Olivia and Darryl received a call from the SAN FRANCISCO BAY-MIRROR. Namely one Jason Dean. “Hello Jace,” a wary Olivia greeted, “what can I do for you?” Both she and Darryl were listening on Line 2.

“Olivia. I heard that you guys had caught DeWolfe Mann’s murderer, yesterday. Congratulations.”

“Thanks. I suppose that Phoebe had told you.”

Jason replied, “Actually, it was one of my reporters. Phoebe never said a word. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Tell you what?”

A sigh filled Olivia’s ear. “That Mann’s killer had been arrested,” Jason answered. “Exactly when were you planning to tell me? Two months from now?”

Disgusted, Olivia glanced at Darryl and rolled her eyes. Darryl answered, “I thought you knew, Mr. Dean. Our captain had released the news to the press, yesterday afternoon. I’m sure that when your . . . uh, reporter had found out.”

A silent moment passed before the publisher burst out, “Oh really? I thought that since Mann did work for me and that . . .” He hesitated, then another outburst followed. “Dammit Olivia! Even if we had a bad break-up, you could have at least given me a personal message! For old time’s sake! And how did Phoebe find out?”

“Why don’t you ask her?” Olivia shot back. “Now if you’re finished with this conversation, we can . . .”

Jason spoke up. “Wait a minute! What about Portia?”

Darryl calmly replied, “As you may have learned, Mr. Dean, she was hired by Marcano to kill Bruce McNeill. That’s why your reporter ended up dead. Unfortunately, Miss Della Scalla has been declared missing. We don’t know if she’s dead or had skipped out. Marcano isn’t talking.”

Jason retorted, “Then make him talk! You’re supposed to be the police!”

Olivia sighed. Loudly. “We can’t do that without violating his constitutional rights, Jason,” she retorted sarcastically. “Or haven’t you heard?”

After a brief period of stammering, Jason said, “I didn’t mean . . . Dammit! There’s a woman out there who is implicated in the death of one of my reporters! And the only person who might know where she is, isn’t talking. And you’re not going to do a thing? No wonder this city’s police department is in trouble!”

Remembering why she and Jason broke up in the first place, Olivia struggled to keep her temper in check. “Listen Jason,” she hissed, “we’re trying our best to find your missing columnist, but at the moment, there’s a good chance that she won’t be found. So why don’t you accept that fact and let us do our job? And then you can hang up and continue being a second-rate version of Charles Foster Kane!”

The telephone line went dead. Darryl shook his head with disbelief. “If we find ourselves unemployed because of that man, don’t be surprised.”

“Well, I’m sorry Darryl, but he can really get on my nerves!” Olivia retorted. “It was a miracle that our relationship had lasted a month!”

Darryl leaned back against his chair and sighed. “Well, you know what this means.”

“No. What?”

“At least we can look forward to an editorial in the BAY-MIRROR on the incompetence of the San Francisco Police.”

Olivia reached for her computer’s keyboard. “Considering the number of editorials that have been written since the recent police scandal – big deal.” She focused her attention on the computer screen before her.


Top Five Favorite Episodes of “HAWAII FIVE-O” Season One (1968-1969)

Below is a list of my top five favorite episodes from Season One of “HAWAII FIVE-O”. Created by Leonard Freeman, the series starred Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett: 



1. (1.11) “Yesterday Died and Tomorrow Won’t Be Born” – Danny Williams directs a methodical search for the unknown assailant who had critically wounded Steve McGarrett, while the latter was engaged in a morning jog.



2. (1.14) “King of the Hill” – A Marine Vietnam veteran (Yaphet Kotto) suffers a breakdown and, believing he is back in Vietnam, takes Danny hostage in a hospital ward.



3. (1.12) “Deathwatch” – Five-O fights to save the life of a gangster (Nehemiah Persoff), so that he can testify against his boss (James Shigeta).



4. (1.05) “Samurai” – McGarrett must protect a Japanese-born underworld kingpin (Ricardo Montalban) that he is trying to convict of racketeering activities.



5. (1.06) “…And They Painted Daisies on His Coffin” – The Five-O team works overtime when Danny is indicted for the murder of an apparently unarmed teenage boy.

“TAKERS” (2010) Review


“TAKERS” (2010) Review

Over a year ago, a crime thriller about a group of bank robbers operating in Los Angeles was released to the theaters with little fanfare and a great deal of scorn. Although “TAKERS” earned over twice its budget, it barely made a dent with filmgoers. Out of curiosity, I decided to see what the lack of fuss was all about. 

In a nutshell, “TAKERS” began with a successful bank robbery committed by a team of seasoned criminals – including Gordon Cozier, John Rahway, A.J., and brothers Jake and Jesse Attica. Following the success of their heist, the five lead a life of luxury while planning their next job. Unfortunately, a former member of their team named “Ghost” is released fromprison. He convinces the group to strike an armored car carrying $20 million. While the bank robbers carefully plot their strategy, a pair of L.A.P.D. police detectives named Jack Welles and Eddie Hatcher investigate their last job. Welles and Hatcher, aware of Ghost’s release, finally become aware of the five robbers, and set about apprehending them.

“TAKERS” is basically a run-of-the-mill crime drama filled with complex characters and fast-paced action sequences. The movie also unfolded a peak into the private lives of both the robbers and cops – culminating into a series of familial and romantic frustrations, betrayal, and loyalty. The screenplay written by Peter Allen, Gabriel Casseus, John Luessenhop and Avery Duff pretty much touched upon every topic one could find in a story about bank robbers – aside from the hostage situation featured in movies such as 1975’s “DOG DAY AFTERNOON” and 2006’s “INSIDE MAN”. If I must be honest, the story structure and characterizations in “TAKERS” strongly reminded me of Michael Mann’s 1995 opus, “HEAT”, but with less complexity. To a certain degree.

In a way, I could see why most reviewers and moviegoers failed to warm up to “TAKERS” – aside from the controversial presence of Chris Brown in the cast. It is not exactly an crime epic in compare to some of the other movies I have mentioned. Although Michael Barrett’s photography struck me as colorful and glossy, there was nothing unique about it. Some of the dialogue in the film seemed wooden and unmemorable. And I could tell that some of the inexperienced actors like Tip “T.I.” Harris had a little trouble handling it. One of the action sequences featured a shoot-out between the five bank robbers and Russian mobsters at Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel. Both Barrett and director John Luessenhop tried to be ambitious by shooting most of the sequence in slow motion, while maintaining the sound effects – dialogue included – at a regular pace. Paul Haslinger’s mournful score somewhat helped the sequence, but the screenwriters’ insipid dialogue nearly undermined it.

I realize that many might find this hard to believe, but “TAKERS” possessed virtues that managed to outweigh its flaws. One, it possessed a first-rate cast lead by the likes Idris Elba and Matt Dillon. Both actors were superb in their roles as British-born immigrant and current leader of the robbers Gordon Cozier and veteran L.A.P.D. detective Jack Welles. The movie also featured first-rate performances from Michael Ealy, Hayden Christensen, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Jay Hernandez, Zoë Saldaña and yes, even Chris Brown. Paul Walker, Glynn Turman and Tip Harris gave solid support as well. I realize that I had been a little critical of Harris’ handling of some of the dialogue, but I must admit that his portrayal of the manipulative and vindictive “Ghost” really impressed me.

Aside from the Roosevelt Hotel shoot-out, “TAKERS” was filled with some outstanding action sequences, thanks to Luessenhop’s direction, Barrett’s photography and the editing of both Armen Minasian and Colby Parker, Jr. Some of the best sequences featured Hayden Christensen’s (A.J.) encounter with a double-crossing explosive dealer and his crew; the entire heist of an armored truck in downtown Los Angeles; and a chase sequence that featured Chris Brown, Jay Hernandez and Matt Dillon.

However, the one virtue that really made “TAKERS” work for me was the screenplay written by Luessenhop and three other writers. I realize that I might attract a good deal of flap of pointing this out, but the screenplay for “TAKERS”possessed one virtue that the highly regarded “HEAT” lacked – the minor plot lines featuring the some of the characters’ personal lives had strong connections to the movie’s main narrative. This prevented the movie’s pacing from dragging at an unnecessarily long pace.

Although “TAKERS” actually made a profit at the box, it was only able to do so, due to the movie’s low budget. Because otherwise, one might as well call it failure. Well, failure or not, I ended up enjoying “TAKERS” . . . much to my great surprise. It may not be one of the best crime dramas ever made, but I cannot deny that I found it entertaining, suspenseful and exciting.

“CENTENNIAL” (1978-79) – Episode Three “The Wagon and the Elephant” Commentary


“CENTENNIAL” (1978-79) – Episode Three “The Wagon and the Elephant” Commentary

The third episode of “CENTENNIAL”“The Wagon and the Elephant”, picks up at least fifteen to sixteen years after the last episode ended. This episode also shifted its focus upon a new central character; a young Mennonite from Lancaster, Pennsylvania named Levi Zendt. 

The story begins in the early spring of 1845, in which young Levi Zendt irritates his more conservative family by forgetting to appear on time for Sunday supper with a local minister. This infraction proved to be nothing in compare what follows. Encouraged by the flirtations of a local Mennonite girl named Rebecca Stolfitz, Levi kisses her after they deliver market scrapings to a local orphanage. Unfortunately, Rebecca becomes aware that the orphanage’s head mistress is observing them and accuses Levi of attempted rape. The accusation not only leads Levi to be shunned by the Mennonite community, but also by his older brothers – include Mahlon, who had plans to marry Rebecca. The only people who know the truth are two late adolescent girls – Elly Zahm and Laura Lou Booker. After befriending Elly, Levi decides to leave Lancaster and head west to Oregon. He also makes a surprise visit at the orphanage and asks Elly to accompany him on the journey west, as his bride. During their journey west, Levi and Elly quickly fall in love. Upon their arrival in St. Louis, they meet three other men who will play major roles in their future – Oliver Seccombe, an Englishman with plans to write a book about the American West; Army Major Maxwell Mercy, the husband of Lisette Pasquinel, who has been assigned to find and establish an Army fort on the Plains; and the venal mountain man Sam Purchas, who acts as a guide to the wagon train that the Zendts accompany.

“The Wagon and the Elephant” is without a doubt, my favorite of all the twelve episodes featured in “CENTENNIAL”. I love it. I am not saying that it is perfect. But I love it. I do have a few quibbles about the episode. One, I was not that impressed by Helen Colvig’s costumes for the female characters. I am willing to give leeway to the costumes worn by Stephanie Zembalist, Barbara Carrera and Christina Raines; considering their characters’ social positions. But the costumes worn by actress Karen Carlson and numerous female extras portraying middle and upper-class females seemed a bit . . . cheap. It seemed as if Colvig failed to put much effort into their costumes, in compare to the female costumes featured in “Only the Rocks Live Forever” and “The Yellow Apron”. Another complaint I have is the presence of white families in the sequence that featured Major Mercy and McKeag’s efforts to negotiate with various tribes for help in establishing an Army fort. This particular incident occurred after the Zendts, Oliver Seccombe, Sam Purchas and the rest of the wagon train continued its journey west. Which meant that Mercy and McKeag’s meeting with the Pasquinel brothers and other tribal leaders must have occurred in mid-to-late August. Any westbound white emigrants still at Fort Laramie (Fort John) during that time of the year, had probably left western Missouri a good deal later than any emigrant with common sense would. The presence of those white families at Laramie in that particular sequence made not only lacked any logic, but was also historically incorrect.

But these are minor quibbles in what I otherwise consider to be a superb episode. I have admitted in past reviews of my love for tales featuring long distance traveling. This theme was featured in “The Wagon and the Elephant” in a manner that more than satisfied me. The episode covered the Zendts journey from Pennsylvania to (present day) Northern Colorado with plenty of drama and action that left me breathless. Although this chapter in James Michner’s saga was set in 1844 in the novel, producer-writer John Wilder had decided to set it one year later. Why? Who knows? And frankly, who cares? After all, this minor change did no harm to the story. But I never understood why he made the change in the first place. Another aspect about this episode is that after watching it, I realized that it served as the first half of a two-part tale that introduced Levi Zendt into the saga. The incidents in “The Wagon and the Elephant” severed Levi from everything that was familiar to him in Pennsylvania – family, home, and all of his assets. By the end of the episode, McKeag spoke of how Levi’s losses and upheavals brought him to a crossroad in his life.

After watching “The Wagon and the Elephant”, I was amazed at the number of memorable moments featured in it. Those moments included:

*A tardy Levi and the rest of the Zendt family entertain the Reverend Fenstermacher for Sunday supper

*Rebecca Stolfitz falsely accuses Levi of attempted rape

*The elderly Mrs. Zendt encourage Levi to leave Lancaster and head west

*Levi and Elly meet Oliver Seccombe for the first time

*Oliver introduce Sam Purchas to the Zendts and Major Mercy

*Purchas exchange the Zendts’ team of gray horses for oxen

*Levi’s conversation with Sergeant Lykes about “seeing the elephant”

*The wagon trains’ encounter with Jacques and Michel Pasquinel

*Maxwell Mercy introduce himself to McKeag, Clay Basket and Lucinda as Pasquinel’s son-in-law at Fort Laramie

*Mercy and McKeag’s meeting with the Pasquinel brothers, Broken Thumb, Lost Eagle and other tribal leaders

*Purchas’ attempted rape of Elly

*The Zendts’ decision to part from the wagon train and return east

*McKeag and Levi form a trading partnership

*Elly’s encounter with a rattlesnake

I could go into detail on the scenes mentioned above, but that would require an entire article on its own. The fact that this episode featured so many memorable scenes made it a favorite of mine. However, there are two or three scenes that I had failed to mention. Two of them featured private and intimate discussions between Levi and Elly, conveying their deepening love for one another. But my favorite scene featured Levi’s arrival at the local orphanage to ask Elly for her hand in marriage and to accompany him on his journey to Oregon. With John Addison’s score and the first-rate performances by Gregory Harrison, Stephanie Zimbalist and Leslie Winston; director Paul Krasny created a magical and emotionally satisfying scene that still makes my skin tingle . . . and tears fall.

But it was not only Krasny’s direction and Jerry Ziegman’s script that made this episode so memorable. “The Wagon and the Elephant” also featured some superb performances. They came from the likes of Richard Jaeckel, who was given a chance to shine in his “seeing the elephant” speech; John Bennett Perry, who effectively portrayed Levi’s overbearing older brother, Mahlon Zendt; Leslie Winston, who shone in two scenes as Elly’s vivacious best friend, Laura Lou Booker; Stephen McHattie, who gave a first hint of his brilliant portrayal of the mercurial Jacques Pasquinel; Chad Everrett, who provided a great deal of strength as Major Maxwell Mercy; and Irene Tedrow, who gave a very warm portrayal of the compassionate Mrs. Zendt. Before portraying Sam Purchas in this episode, Donald Pleasence had portrayed a mountain man in the 1965 comedy, “THE HALLELUJAH TRAIL”. In “CENTENNIAL”, he ended up portraying a very unpleasant frontiersman, namely the venal Sam Purchas. Although Pleasence’s Purchas was not what I would call a complex character, I must admit that he was memorable and the British actor portrayed him with a great deal of relish. Richard Chamberlain continued his role as Alexander McKeag in this episode. Although his role had been diminished, he still continued his superb portrayal of the character. And Timothy Dalton made his first appearance as Oliver Seccombe, the Englishman that ended up falling in love with the West . . . for better or worse. Even in “The Wagon and the Elephant”, Dalton would skillfully provide a great deal of charm and moral ambiguity in what I believe turned out to be one of his best roles ever.

However, “The Wagon and the Elephant” truly belonged to Gregory Harrison and Stephanie Zimbalist as Levi and Elly Zendt. Years ago, I had learned that these two had worked together at least four times. It seemed a pity that they did not work more often together, because these two were magic. They took a couple that seemed unrequited (at least from Elly’s point of view) at the beginning of their marriage and created one of the most loving and believable romances in the entire miniseries. They really were quite wonderful. I wish I could say more about their excellent performances . . . but I suspect that I have said enough.

In fact, I believe I have said enough about “The Wagon and the Elephant”. I mean . . . what else can I say? Producer John Wilder took a first rate script written by Jerry Ziegman, an excellent cast led by Gregory Harrison and Stephanie Zimbalist and one of my favorite themes – long distance travel – to create what has become my favorite episode in “CENTENNIAL”.

“Obssessions” [PG-13] – Chapter 18


Part 18

Inside one of the Omni Hotel’s suites, Nick watched Portia pop two aspirin tablets into her mouth. “I don’t believe this!” he declared heatedly. “It’s been nearly two hours since you snatched Bruce. When are you going to get on with it?” 

Portia shot him a contemptuous look. “Get on with what? Sex? How very vulgar that sounds! And how American. Can you not see that I have a headache, thanks to that telepath?”

Nick rolled his eyes. “Harry? Harry McNeill gave you a headache?”

“He damned well nearly killed me!” Portia protested. “He is a very powerful telepath and it is a miracle that I had managed to escape. And take Bruce with me!”

The Streghore responded with a contemptuous snort. “Yeah, and that’s all you’ve managed to do since I’ve summoned you! I mean, I’m the one who killed DeWolfe Mann, so you could get close to Bruce! Hell, I might as well kill him myself!”

“Fine,” the succubus shot back. “Kill him. But do not think I am simply going to leave without any compensation.”

Nick could not believe what he had just heard. “Compen . . . Compensation for what? You haven’t done a damn thing!”

Sherry-brown eyes blazed with frightening intensity. “May I remind you that Signor McNeill is right now in the bedroom, in an unconscious state? You would have never been able to get this close in order to kill him, without my help! Or without his family standing in your way!” She stood up and walked slowly toward Nick. “In other words, I want compensation of some kind.” Portia paused before him.

Aware of the sinister expression on the succubus’ face, Nick warily asked, “What exactly do you want?”

A gust of breath left Portia’s mouth. “The Soma plant you had earlier mentioned.”

“Are you crazy? It’s probably somewhere in the McNeill home. I couldn’t possibly get it without your help?”

Portia shot back, “Then we’ll get it with my help!”

Nick struggled to remain calm. “What if . . . what if they find out about the protection spell? They must know that it’s gone, since you were seen in . . .”

The succbus’ eyes became ferocious. “I don’t care! I want my compensation! The Soma plant! As soon as Bruce is dead!”

Fear suddenly gripped the Streghone. Not even the elixir smeared on his forehead failed to give him a sense of protection under Portia’s unrelenting stare. He finally caved in. “Yeah, yeah, I’ll get it for you. Somehow. I just don’t know how . . .”

“Find a way!” Then Portia closed her eyes. Took a deep breath. “Ah! I do believe that my headache is going away. It is time to awaken Signor McNeill with a little kiss.” She paused to stare at Nick. “Unless you still want to kill him, yourself?”

Intimidated, Nick shook his head. “No, uh, you . . . you go ahead and do what you have to do. I’ll . . .”

Portia snatched an empty bucket from a nearby table and tossed it to Nick. “You can fill this up with some ice. Please.”

“Yeah. Sure.” Nick watched the succubus strode toward the bedroom door. “Anything else, your highness?” he mumbled under his breath. Fortunately, Portia did not hear him.

* * * *

Olivia, Cole, Darryl, and Barbara materialized in an alley, next to the Omni Hotel. Barbara strode ahead, drawing stares from the other three.

“And where in the hell are you going?” Cole demanded.

As she continued out of the alley, Barbara shot back, “To find Bruce. And to save him from that bitch.”

Cole grabbed Barbara’s arm and stopped her. “Hey, look I understand that you’re concerned about him, but let us handle this. Olivia and I can deal with this Portia woman and Darryl will handle Marcano. And if Bruce looks like he might need first aid, you can . . . rush in like gangbusters. Okay?”

“Gangbusters? What is that? Your new outlook on life?” Olivia grumbled.


Rolling her eyes, Olivia continued, “Meaning, what’s with the grab-and-snatch act? Not only did you grab us before we could do or say anything, you grabbed me, instead of Harry! And he’s a lot better equipped to deal with Portia.” Cole responded with a blank stare. Olivia sighed. “Hello? We’re facing a succubus here! You know, ability to put others to sleep? Better a telepath to face her and not me. Namely, my little brother.”

Cole dismissed her argument. “She’s not exactly the first succubus I’ve ever faced. Don’t worry. She won’t be able to affect me.”

“Yeah,” Olivia sardonically shot back, “I’m sure you said the same thing about that siren you faced, last fall. And Barbas.”

“Those two were high-level . . .”

Barbara cried out, “Hey! We have a witch to save! Argue later!” She again started out of the alley.

Darryl heaved a sigh and followed. “Oh God, this is turning out to be a hell of a day.” Both Olivia and Cole stiffened momentarily, before following the other two.

* * * *

The four people eventually strode inside the Omni’s elegant lobby. While Cole and Barbara hung back, the two police officers approached the front desk. A desk clerk warily eyed the pair and greeted with forced cheerfulness, “Good afternoon, may I help you?”

Both Olivia and Darryl flashed their badges. The clerk became more attentive. “I’m Lieutenant Morris of the San Francisco Police Department. And this is Inspector McNeill,” he said, nodding at Olivia. “We’re searching for a suspect in a homicide. Actually, two suspects. And we have reason to believe that they may have checked into this hotel.”

“Oh, that’s impossible,” the clerk said, shaking her head.

One of Olivia’s brows formed an arch. “And why is that?”

Flustered, the clerk continued, “Well . . . because . . . I mean, well, this is an exclusive hotel. One of the city’s finest. I doubt that you would find a sus . . .” Her voice drifted into a whisper, underneath the partners’ stares. Then she sighed. “What are their names?”

Darryl said, “Nicholas Marcano.”

After making a few entries into the computer, the desk clerk responded, “I’m sorry, but no one by that name has checked into this hotel.” Relief shone in her eyes.

“What about an Italian woman named Portia Della . . .” Olivia began.

The desk clerk interrupted. “Oh. Her. Miss Portia Della Scalla. Tall, dark-haired woman with brown eyes and an Italian accent?” The two cops nodded. “Oh yes, everyone knows about her. She had checked in with some loser, last Saturday. She had no reservation, yet she managed to get a suite. Weird.”

Exercising great patience, Olivia asked, “And the suite number?”

Again, the clerk turned to her computer. “Here we go. Suite 1274. On the 12th floor.”

The two partners thanked the clerk and returned to where Cole and Barbara stood. “They’re inside Suite 1274, on the 12th floor,” Darryl announced. “Let’s go.” The quartet climbed a wide marble staircase that led to a balstrade above.

After making sure they were alone, Olivia said, “Okay, now that we’re here, Cole can take us to the suite. That way, we can surprise them.” She faced her future sister-in-law. “Except for you, Barbara. You stay in the lobby.” The blond woman opened her mouth to protest, but Olivia added, “It’s for your own safety.” Then without another word, Cole beamed her and Darryl out of the corridor.

* * * *

The trio materialized inside the living room of a luxurious suite. “Not bad,” Darryl murmured. He glanced around. “No one seems to be here. Are you sure that Phoebe is right?”

“Well, according to the clerk, they had checked into this suite.” Olivia added, “Unless they’re back at Nick’s apartment. Or else . . .” She broke off and began to circle about the room.

Cole finished her sentence, “Or else Portia took Bruce to some demonic dimension.” He paused and cocked his head to one side.

Olivia stared at him. “What is it?”

“You hear that?”

Darryl frowned. “Hear what?”

Instead of answering, Cole strode toward a closed door. Olivia figured that it led toward one of the suite’s bedrooms. “Where are you going?” she asked. “Cole?”

The half-daemon pressed his ear against the door. “Someone is inside.” He flung the door open, using his telekinesis. The trio stepped forward and gasped at the sight before them. Namely, Bruce dressed only in boxer shorts, stretched out on the bed, flat on his back. Astride him sat Portia, wearing only white panties and stockings held up by garter belts.

“Jesus!” Darryl cried out.

The succubus glanced up, wearing a surprised expression. “Wha . . .?” she began.

Olivia flung the succubus off her older brother and against one of the walls with her telekinesis. Looking somewhat dazed, Portia transformed into a demonic creature with a tail. “Darryl!” Olivia cried. “Get out of here! Now!”

For once, Darryl did not argue and immediately left the room. Olivia and Cole returned their attention to the daemon, who seemed to have recovered from Olivia’s attack. And regained her human form. Electricity crackled at her fingertips and within a blink of an eye, sent a bolt toward Olivia’s direction.

“Olivia!” Cole cried out her name. Then he quickly shoved Olivia aside. The electrical bolt struck him squarely in the chest, forcing him back against the wall.

* * * *

Barbara paced back and forth, across the hotel’s lobby. Another minute passed before she realized that she had enough. Unable to simply stand by and wait for the others to rescue Bruce, Barbara decided to help. With clear determination, she marched across the lobby one last time and toward the nearest elevator.

* * * *

The electrical bolt failed to inflict harm upon Cole’s chest. It had merely stunned him. He recovered quickly enough to send a fireball at the succubus. His aim proved to be perfect. Only, the target failed to remain in place. Portia disappeared in a cloud of smoke and the fireball struck a wall.

The succubus reappeared on the bed, next to Bruce. She reached out for his arm. But before she could disappear with her intended victim, Olivia once more flung her away from the male witch. Portia hit the wall, again. She disappeared. Again. And reappeared behind Olivia. Cole tried to alert the redhead to the succubus’ presence. But Portia waved a hand before Olivia’s eyes before he could sleep. He watched with horror, as the witch slumped to the floor. Unconscious.

Anger rose within Cole. He shot another fireball at Portia. And once again, she disappeared just in time. Cole glanced around the room in confusion. Where in the hell did she . . .?

“Looking for me?” a voice whispered in the half-daemon’s ear. Cole turned to face the voice’s owner and instead, a pair of supple lips pressed against his own.

Cole tried to fight off the succubus’ seductive assault. Tried and failed spectacularly. “Get . . . off me,” he murmured. “Get off . . .” He tried to push her away, but the touch of her lips against his, and the scent of cinnamon sapped his will. Cinnamon? Only one woman he knew smelled of cinnamon. Cole opened his eyes.

He saw the red hair, slightly tanned skin dotted with freckles, the high cheekbones and luminous green eyes. Olivia. Wha . . .? “Love me,” she whispered in Olivia’s California accent. “Kiss me. Now.” And Cole did. Willingly.

* * * *

Still muttering curses under his breath, Nick walked away from the ice machine, carrying the bucket in his hand. He should have called room service for a bucket of ice. Hell, he should have done a lot of things. Like get rid of Portia with a banishing spell. Or kill Bruce himself. Instead, he had allowed the egotistical succubus to intimidate him into becoming her personal servant.

Nick reached a juncture for two corridors and paused. He had sensed a presence before he saw the figure around the corner. Namely one Inspector Darryl Morris of the San Francisco Police Department. And if Morris was here . . . Nick felt a surge of panic. He had to get out of here. Fast. Leave San Francisco. Only, the good inspector stood between and freedom. He would never be able to reach the elevator without being spotted.

If only he possessed a power to use against Morris. If only . . . Nick then remembered the switchblade that he kept inside his trouser pocket. The same blade that he had used to kill DeWolfe Mann. All he had to do was wait for Morris to face the other way.

Nick peeked around the corner. Relief washed over him. Sure enough, Morris’ back now faced him. He reached inside his pocket for the knife. The blade clicked out. Nick stepped into the main corridor and surreptiously approached the police officer from behind.

* * * *

The elevator stopped on the 12th floor. The doors slid open and Barbara stepped into the corridor. Ahead, she spotted Darryl Morris pacing back and forth in front of a pair of double doors. Doors that probably led to Bruce.

Barbara continued briskly along the corridor. Just as she opened her mouth to call out Darryl’s name, a figure emerged from around the corner. Nick. Shock and surprise overwhelmed her. Along with anger. But when she spotted an object in Nick’s right hand, anger became fear. “Oh my God,” she murmured. “What? Oh my . . . Darryl! Darryl, look out!”

Her warning came out just in time. Darryl whirled around. His eyes widened at the sight of Nick. Then with lightning reflexes, he blocked Nick’s thrust, forcing the latter to drop the switchblade. He followed up with an uppercut to the other man’s jaw, knocking the latter to the floor. When Nick made a quick grab for the knife, Darryl whipped out his service pistol. “I wouldn’t, if I were you,” he growled. “Drop the knife. Now! Unless your wrist is faster than my trigger finger.”

Nick dropped the switchblade to the floor. His shoulders sagged with defeat. Darryl sharply ordered him to stand up. As he struggled to his feet, Barbara marched toward him. She saw his eyes light up with hope. “Barbara,” he begged. “Barbara, I’m sorry! I know this looks . . .”

His words cut short, as Barbara’s open palm slapped his face. Hard. “You son-of-a-bitch!” she growled. “You better hope and pray that Bruce is still alive!”

“Barbara, please!”

Another slap from her silenced Nick. “Shut up!” Barbara fixed him with a contemptuous glare. “Whatever in your sick mind made you believe I would ever love you, Nick?” She turned to Darryl. “What about Cole and Olivia? Have they vanquished Portia?”

Darryl whipped out a pair of handcuffs. “I heard some noise coming from inside the suite. Almost like a battle royal. But then it just stopped. Maybe they finally got her.” He snapped the handcuffs around Nick’s wrists.

“I’ll check on them.” Barbara started toward the suite.

“Be careful.” Then Barbara overheard Darryl read Nick his Miranda rights. “Nicholas Marcano, you have the right to remain silent . . .”

Upon reaching the suite’s double doors, Barbara carefully cracked open one. Seeing that main room was empty, she stepped inside. Silence greeted her ears. Well, except for the sounds of low moaning coming from another room. Barbara frowned. That did not seem right. What was going on? And what happened to Olivia, Cole and Bruce? She strode inside what turned out to be a bedroom.

The first sight that greeted her eyes was Bruce clad only in his boxers, struggling to climb out of bed. Relief flooded Barbara. She started toward her fiancé, when she spotted Olivia sprawled on the floor, unconscious. “Livy!”

“He . . . help her,” Bruce stammered. “Hel . . .”

One glance at Olivia’s rising chest told Barbara that her friend was still alive. But where was Cole? What happened to him?

A loud moan greeted her ears. Barbara whirled around and let out a gasp. Cole stood against the opposite wall, locked in a passionate embrace with a nearly naked Portia Della Scalla. Barbara noticed that the succubus had managed to remove his jacket and tie and unfasten the buttons to his shirt, leaving his chest exposed. “What in the hell?” she cried.

Neither Cole nor Portia seemed aware of her cry. The succubus had apparently found another victim to seduce. Powerful half-daemon or not, it seemed obvious that Cole was also susceptible to Portia’s charms. Barbara spotted an object – a white ivory statue of a horse. “Get off him!” Barbara barked. “Now!” Using a chant, she forced the ivory horse to smash against the side of the succubus’ head. The she wrenched Portia away from Cole’s embrace and flung the other stunned female against the nearest wall. Meanwhile, a dazed Cole slid to the floor.

“You bitch!” Portia snarled angrily at Barbara. “You have interfered for the last time!” Springing to her feet, she raised one hand threateningly, her fingertips crackling with electricity. Barbara’s anger immediately vanished leaving a strong residue of fear. Oh Goddess! If only she could remember a banishing spell.

A voice from the bed cried out, “No! Don’t!” Barbara glanced at the bed and saw a horrified Bruce stretch his hand out. A gust of wind filled the room. It eventually caught hold of Portia, lifting her from the floor. Barbara stared in fascination, as the wind tore the succubus’ body apart, until it exploded in a burst of light.

Darryl burst into the bedroom, hauling a morose Nick in tow. He stared at the destruction caused by Bruce’s aero kinesis, the unconscious Olivia and a rather stunned Cole. “Damn!” he declared out loud. “What the hell happened here?”


“THE CAT’S MEOW” (2001) Review



“THE CAT’S MEOW” (2001) Review

There have been many accounts of the infamous November 1924 cruise held aboard William Randolph Hearst’s yacht, in honor of Hollywood producer Thomas H. Ince’s birthday. But the biggest . . . and probably the most fictionalized account was featured in “THE CAT’S MEOW”, Peter Bogdanovich’s adaptation of screenwriter Steven Peros’ stage play. 

The movie takes place aboard Hearst’s yacht on a weekend cruise celebrating Ince’s 42nd birthday. Among those in attendance include Hearst’s longtime companion and film actress Marion Davies, fellow actor Charlie Chaplin, writer Elinor Glyn, columnist Louella Parsons, and actress Margaret Livingston. Many of the guests harbor agendas that revolve around Hearst and Davies. Chaplin, who has become infatuated with the actress, sees the weekend cruise as a chance to declare his feelings for her . . . and convince Davies to end her relationship with the publisher. Parsons sees the cruise as a chance to develop a stronger professional relationship with her boss, Hearst, and relocate from the East Coast to Hollywood. Faced with a bad financial situation and accompanied by his mistress Margaret Livingston, Ince hopes to convince Hearst to allow him to become a partner in the publisher’s Cosmopolitan Pictures. Hearst suspects that Davies and Chaplin are engaged in an affair and has great difficulty in battling his jealousy. Thanks to this jealousy, a violent death ends the cruise, which becomes a subject of Hollywood legend.

After watching “THE CAT’S MEOW”, I realized that after so many years of documentaries and somewhat mediocre films, Peter Bogdanovich had maintained his touch as a first-rate director. At least back in 2000-2001. “THE CAT’S MEOW” struck me as a first-rate character study of a good number of film and publishing luminaries in the world of 1920s Hollywood. What I found interesting is that aside from one or two characters, most of them are not what I would call particularly sympathetic. Well, superficially, hardly any of them are sympathetic – including the very likable Marion Davies, who was not only Hearst’s official mistress, but who was doing a piss-poor job of hiding her attraction for Charlie Chaplin. But despite the lack of superficial charm, the movie managed to reveal the demons and desires of each major character. And thanks to Steven Peros’ screenplay and Bogdanovich’s direction, characters like Hearst, Davies, Chaplin and Ince rose above their superficial venality and ambiguity to be revealed as interesting and complex characters. The most interesting aspect of “THE CAT’S MEOW” was that many of the characters’ agendas either succeeded or failed, due to the romantic drama that surrounded Hearst, Davies and Chaplin.

For costume drama fans such as myself, “THE CAT’S MEOW” offered a tantalizing look into the world of Old Hollywood in the 1920s. Bogdanovich made a wise choice in hiring Jean-Vincent Puzos to serve as the movie’s production designer. In fact, I was so impressed by his re-creation of November 1924 that I felt rather disappointed that his efforts never received an Academy Award nomination. Puzos’ work was aided by the art direction team led by ChristianEisele and Daniele Drobny’s set decorations. But the second biggest contributor to the movie’s 1920s look were the gorgeous costumes designed by Caroline de Vivaise. I was extremely impressed by how the costumes closely adhered to the fashions worn during that particular decade. But de Vivaise did something special by designing all of the costumes in black and white – as some kind of homage to the photography used during that period in Hollywood. And if anyone is wondering whether de Vivaise won any awards or nominations for her work . . . she did not. What a travesty.

Bogdanovich gathered an impressive cast for his movie. “THE CAT’S MEOW” featured first-rate performances from the likes of Claudie Blakley and Chiara Schoras as a pair of fun-loving actresses that embodied the spirit of the 1920s flappers; Claudia Harrison as Ince’s frustrated mistress, actress Margaret Livingston; Ronan Vibert as one of Hearst’s minions, the stoic Joseph Willicombe; and Victor Slezak as Ince’s sardonic and witty colleague, George Thomas. But the more interesting performances came from Jennifer Tilly, who gave a delicious performance as the toadying and opportunistic columnist, Louella Parsons; Joanna Lumley as the wise and occasionally self-important novelist Elinor Glyn; and especially Eddie Izzard, who was surprisingly subtle and witty as the wise-cracking, yet passionate Charlie Chaplin.

But in my opinion, the three best performances in “THE CAT’S MEOW” came from Edward Herrmann, Cary Elwes and Kirsten Dunst.  The latter was the only member of the cast to earn an award (Best Actress at the Mar del Plata Film Festival) for her performance as Hollywood starlet and W.R. Hearst’s mistress, Marion Davies. What made Dunst’s performance so remarkable was that she was the only one – as far as I know – who portrayed the actress as a complex and intelligent personality, instead of the one-note stereotype that director Orson Welles had introduced in his 1941 movie, “CITIZEN KANE”. I suppose one could credit screenwriter Steven Peros for writing a more realistic portrayal of Davies’ true nature. But it would have never worked without Dunst’s performance. Cary Elwes gave – in my opinion – the best performance of his career so far as the harried and ambitious movie producer, Thomas Ince. What made Elwes’ performance so impressive was the subtle manner in which he conveyed Ince’s desperation to save his career as a Hollywood producer through any means possible. But for me, the best performance came from Edward Herrmann as the wealthy and controlling William R. Hearst. Herrmann did a superb job in conveying some of the worst aspects of Hearst’s nature – sense of privilege, arrogance, his bullying and bad temper. Yet, Herrmann also managed to convey Hearst’s desperate love for Davies and vulnerabilities through the more unpleasant mask. It was a remarkable performance that failed to garner any real recognition. And this is more of a travesty to me than the lack of awards for production design or costumes.

I tried to recall anything about the movie that left a negative mark within me and could only come up with one or two matters. The movie seemed to be in danger of slowing down to a crawl, following the tragic shooting that followed Ince’s birthday party. I wonder if Bogdanovitch had tried too hard to reveal the details that led to the cover up of the incident. However, one particular scene really annoyed me to no end. It was the scene that featured Elinor Glyn’s theory about the “California Curse”:

“The California Curse strikes you like a disease the Minute you set foot into California..so pay close attention, my dear. You See this place you’ve arrived in, the place we call home…isn’t a place at all. But a living creature. Or more precisely an evil wizard like in the old stories. And we all live on him like fleas on the belly of a mutt. But unlike the helpless dog, this wizard is able to banish the true personalities of those he bewitches. Forcing them against their will to carry out his command, to forget the land of their birth, the purpose of their journey, and what ever principals they once held dear. The Curse is taking hold of you if you experience the following: You see yourself as the most important person in any room. You accept money as the strongest force in nature. And finally your morality vanashes without a trace.”

As far as I am concerned, Elinor Glyn was full of shit. She could have easily described any individual who forgets his or her principles, no matter where that person resided. And according to Ms. Glyn, the curse has three symptoms – seeing yourself as the focus of all conversations, using money as the most important measure of success, and the disappearance of all traces of morality. Why she seemed to believe that such a mindset only existed in Calfornia . . . or better yet, Hollywood, is beyond me. Anyone with too much ambition could acquire this curse in many other places in the world. Peros and Bogdanovich’s decision to include this crap in the movie damn near came close to ruining my enjoyment of the movie.

But in the end, I managed to overcome my annoyance of the so-called “California Curse”. Why? Because “THE CAT’S MEOW” remained a first-rate and entertaining movie about Old Hollywood that impresses me, even after ten years.“Hooray for Hollywood!”.

“LOST” (2004-2010): Favorite Character Centric Episodes – Part II

Below is Part II of a list of my favorite episodes featuring “LOST” characters: 


James “Sawyer” Ford

1. (5.08) “La Fleur” – Sawyer, Juliet and the other remaining island survivors are left in 1974, following the end of the time jumps. They join the Dharma Initiative after rescuing one of their members from the Others.

2. (1.16) “Outlaws” – Sawyer becomes obsessed with finding the boar that raided his tent and goes into the jungle to find it. A flashback reveal the murder/suicide of his parents and his hunt for the con man who cheated them in Australia.

Sayid Jarrah

1. (4.03) “The Economist” – Sayid makes a deal with Frank Lapidus to leave the island and head for the freighter, in exchange for freeing Charlotte Lewis from Locke’s group. Flash forwards reveal his experiences as Ben’s personal assassin.

2. (1.09) “Solitary” – Sayid meets Danielle Rosseau for the first time and is held captive by her. Flashbacks reveal his reunion with an old childhood friend, Nadia

3. (6.06) “Sundown” – After Sayid is recruited to the Man in Black’s (aka the Smoke Monster) cause, the latter issues an ultimatum to the Others: either join him or die. Sayid helps his brother deal with a loan shark in the Flash Sideways.

Jin-Soo Kwon

1. (1.17) “. . . In Translation” – Jin finally discovers that Sun knows English, while dealing with his latest clash with Michael. Flashbacks reveal the Kwons’ troubling marriage from his POV.

2. (5.05) “This Place Is Death” – This episode featured Jin’s experiences with a younger Danielle Rousseau, her team and the Smoke Monster in 1988. Charlotte Lewis dies from the time jumping and Locke finally leaves the island via the Donkey Wheel.

Sun Hwa-Kwon

1. (3.18) “D.O.C.” – After revealing that the Others’ pregnant women have died before giving birth, Juliet helps Sun confirm the date of conception of her unborn baby, verifying the identity of the father.

2. (2.16) “The Whole Truth” – Sun discovers that she is pregnant. And flashbacks reveal some of her close relationship with an old beau and Jin’s infertility. Meanwhile, Ana-Lucia, Sayid and Charlie set out verify Ben’s story about arriving on the island in a balloon.

3. (1.06) “House of the Rising Sun” – Sun’s unhappy marriage to Jin is revealed in this episode. Also, Jack makes plans to move the crash survivors to a large cave.

Benjamin Linus

1. (3.20) “The Man Behind the Curtain” – Ben leads Locke to a meeting with the Others’ leader, Jacob at the island’s mysterious cabin. And flashbacks reveal Ben’s birth and his early years on the island.

2. (4.09) “The Shape of Things to Come” – In this episode, a team of mercenaries from the freighter attacks Locke’s group at the Others’ barracks. Meanwhile, flash forwards reveal Ben’s early months off the island, which include recruiting Sayid as his assassin and a confrontation with Charles Widmore.

Part III will feature the last five characters



I have been a fan of Agatha Christie’s 1938 novel, “Hercule Poirot’s Christmas” aka “A Holiday for Murder” for years – ever since I was in my early adolescence. When I learned that the producers of the “AGATHA CHRISTIE’S POIROT”series aired its adaptation of it back in 1994, I looked forward to watching it. 

Written as a “locked room” mystery, “HERCULE POIROT’S CHRISTMAS” focused on Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot’s investigation of the murder of Simeon Lee, a tyrannical patriarch of a wealthy family. The mean-spirited Lee, who had made his fortune in South African diamonds, summons his offspring to his country manor house for a Christmas gathering. He also requests that Poirot attend the reunion, but fails to give a full explanation for the latter’s presence. Those gathered for Lee’s Christmas reunion are:

*Alfred Lee, his dutiful oldest son

*Lydia Lee, Alfred’s wife

*George Lee, Simeon’s penny-pinching middle son, who is also a Member of Parliament

*Magdalene Lee, George’s wife, a beauty with a mysterious past

*Harry Lee, Simeon’s ne’er do well son, who has been living abroad

*Pilar Estavados, Simeon’s Anglo-Spanish granddaughter

The sadistic Lee treats his family with cruelty and enjoys pitting them against each other. This is apparent in a scene in which he summons his family to his sitting room and fakes a telephone call to his solicitor, announcing his intentions to make changes to his will. Later that evening, a scream is heard by the manor’s inhabitants before Lee’s throat is cut in an apparent locked room. Although the old man was wheelchair bound, there is evidence of a great struggle between him and his murder. It is up to Poirot, assisted by Chief Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard and a local investigating officer named Superintendent Sugden to find Simeon Lee’s murderer before the latter can strike again.

I would never view “HERCULE POIROT’S CHRISTMAS” as one of the better Christie adaptations I have seen. But I still managed to enjoy it. One, the television movie is rich with a holiday atmosphere, despite the presence of murder. In fact, I can honestly say that Rob Harris’ production designs really impressed me. Along with Simon Kossoff’s photography, they gave the movie an atmosphere of Olde England that suited the story’s setting very well. I also enjoyed Andrea Galer’s costume designs for the film. Instead of the early or mid-1930s, her costume designs for the female characters seemed to hint that the movie was set during the late 1930s.

“HERCULE POIROT’S CHRISTMAS” also benefited from a solid cast. David Suchet gave a first rate performance as Hercule Poirot, with his usual mixture of subtle humor and intelligence. He was ably supported by a very wry performance from Philip Jackson as Chief Inspector Japp. The rest of the cast, aside from four, gave solid but unmemorable performances. For me, there were three standouts that really impressed me. Brian Gwaspari was a hoot as Simeon Lee’s outspoken prodigal son, Harry. And he had great chemistry with Sasha Behar, who was charming and frank as Simeon’s Anglo-Spanish granddaughter, Pilar Estravados. The producers cast veteran character actor Vernon Dobtcheff as the poisonous Simeon Lee. And he portrayed the hell out of that role, giving the character a richness and sharp wit that allowed him to practically own it. The only performance that failed to impress me came from Mark Tandy, who portrayed Superintendent Sudgen. I hate to say this, but Tandy’s take on a character as memorable and imposing as Sudgen seemed lightweight. He almost seemed overshadowed by Suchet and Jackson and I suspect that the role would have succeeded better with a more imposing actor.

As I had stated earlier, I have always been a fan of Christie’s 1938 film. This adaptation could have been first rate. But it had one main problem – namely Clive Exton’s screenplay. He made two major changes to the plot that nearly undermined the story. I did not mind that he had reduced the number of characters by eliminating the David Lee, Hilda Lee and Stephen Farr characters. I DID mind when he substituted the Colonel Johnson character for Chief Inspector Japp as the case’s senior investigator. As a member of Scotland Yard, Japp was out of his jurisdiction, which was limited to Greater London. This is a mistake that has appeared in a handful of other Exton adaptations. The screenwriter’s bigger mistake proved to be the addition of a prologue set in 1896 South Africa. The prologue included a scene featuring Simeon Lee’s murder of his partner and his seduction of a young Afrikaaner woman named Stella. Even worse, Stella reappeared as a mysterious guest at a local hotel in 1936 England. The addition of the South African sequence and the Stella character made it easier for viewers to eliminate a good number of characters as potential suspects . . . and dimmed the mystery of Simeon Lee’s murder.

I managed to enjoy “HERCULE POIROT’S CHRISTMAS” very much. It featured excellent characterizations and a rich, holiday atmosphere, thanks to Simon Kossoff’s production designs and Andrea Galer’s costume designs. Director Edward Bennett did a great job with a superb cast led by a superb David Suchet. But several changes to Christie’s plot made by screenwriter Clive Exton prevented this movie from being the first-rate adaptation it could have been.

“Obssessions” [PG-13] – Chapter 17


Part 17

Olivia, Darryl and Paul burst into the McNeill house. The former cried out, “Bruce? Bruce, are you here?” 

“We’re in the living room!” a voice that certainly did not belong to Bruce, cried out. Olivia stared at her two companions. The voice sounded like it belonged to Harry. What was he doing here?

Seconds later, the trio found the youngest McNeill in the living room, surrounded by Barbara and the Charmed Ones. “Harry, what are you doing here?” Olivia demanded. She glanced at Barbara and Paige. “What is this? A happening?”

Phoebe stood up from her chair. “We came by to help save Bruce. But we were too late.”

Olivia noticed the strained expression on Barbara’s face. “Bruce? He’s gone? Dead?”

“Not dead. Just kidnapped.” Harry added, “I don’t think that Portia killed him.”

Kneeling in front of her old friend, Olivia said, “Oh honey! Barbara, are you okay?”

“Okay? No, I don’t think so,” Barbara replied in a shaky voice. “My fiancé is missing. Possibly dead. And just two weeks before my wedding.”

Harry spoke up, “He’s not dead, Barbara. At least I don’t think so.” Everyone stared at him. “C’mon people! Portia Whatshername had plenty of opportunity to kill Bruce! Instead, she merely kidnaps him. I mean, why?”

Paul said, “Perhaps she wanted some information from him, first. Or perhaps she snatched him for this Marcano person to kill.”

“Marcano?” Barbara’s blue eyes widened. “Nick Marcano? What does he have to do with all of this?”

Olivia glanced at Darryl, who merely shrugged. “Remember that button Darryl and I found inside Mann’s apartment?” she asked. Barbara nodded. “Well, according to Forensics, it belongs to Nick.”

“Oh my God!” Paige cried out.

Piper asked, “Who’s Nick?”

While Paige explained to Piper, Olivia turned to Barbara. “Listen, we also found a book on Demonology inside Nick’s apartment. Apparently, he had summoned a daemon to kill Bruce.”

“But why?” Barbara demanded. “Why would he . . .?”

Paige spoke up. “I think I know why. God! I should have figured it out, yesterday. I think I almost did.”


“Okay,” the Charmed One continued, “I think that Nick has a crush on you, Barbara. Or should I say a bad case of unrequited love. Heck, I’ve noticed it for months.”

Shock poured out of Barbara’s eyes. “What?”

Darryl added, “It’s possible that he was trying to stop you from marrying Bruce.”

“By summoning a daemon? What the . . . why go through all of that riglamore just to get Bruce?” Barbara demanded.

Phoebe added, “That’s a good question. Why kill Wolfie?”

“To allow Portia to get close to Bruce,” Olivia replied. “He must have known about the interview. And this house usually has a protection spell. Of course,” she sighed, “I have no idea how Portia managed to get inside the house, this time.”

Harry added, “I think that Bruce had removed the spell. How, I don’t know.”

Looking remorseful, Paige shook her head. “I know how Nick found out about the interview. I told him. God! If I had only knew!”

“Only knew what?” a familiar voice asked. Olivia repressed a shiver, as she and the others stared at the doorway. It was Cole. She took a few deep breaths to calm her increasing heartbeat. He strode into the living room, wearing a curious expression. “Who are you guys talking about?”

Before anyone else could answer, Paige spoke up. “Nick Marcano.”


Paige added, “Remember Nick? The guy we talked about, last night?”

Phoebe frowned. “You two saw each other, last night?”

“Yeah, at Vorando’s. Nate and I went there to celebrate his birthday.” Paige turned back to Cole. “Speaking of Vorando’s, have you heard from your friend?”

“No, not yet,” the half-daemon replied. “I uh . . . I left a message behind for him to contact me.”

A suspicious-looking Piper asked, “What friend?”

Right on cue, a handsome, dark-haired man of medium height, materialized in the middle of the McNeills’ living room, surprising Olivia and the others. He glanced around, until his eyes rested upon Cole. “Belthazor! There you are.”

“Demon!” Piper cried out. She raised her hands to blast the newcomer. Fortunately, Cole slapped her hands down before she could inflict any damage. Piper glared at her former brother-in-law. “What the hell you do that for?”

Cole retorted, “Figure it out!” He turned to the newcomer. “Sorry about that, Riggerio. I’ve been trying to find you.” So this was Riggerio. Olivia’s eyes appreciatively swept over the handsome visitor. Aunt Carla had not done justice to her description of the daemon. Cole added, “I’m glad you’re here, Riggerio. I’ve been trying to find you.”

Riggerio judiciously stepped forward. “Yes, I know. My . . . assistant had informed me.” He spoke with a smooth Italian accent. “Do you have what I had requested?”

“Do you have what I want?”

Darryl cried out, “Wait a minute! Could someone please tell me who is this guy?”

“I can only assume that he’s a demon,” Paul coldly replied. “Exactly who, I have no idea.” His eyes resembled marbles.

Cole made the introductions. “Everyone, this is Riggerio. He’s an old . . . acquaintance of mine. And he’s agreed to help us with information on Portia.”

“Riggerio?” One of Piper’s brows lifted dubiously. “Is he in the Book of Shadows? I don’t recall seeing him.”

“I doubt it. Riggerio is not exactly known in Wicca circles.” Cole tartly added, “And will you please stop speaking of him, as if he’s not here?” Piper’s mouth curved downward.

With a polite smile on her face, Olivia stepped forward and offered her hand to the newcomer. “Buena sera, signor. My name is Olivia.”

“And I’m Riggerio.” The daemon planted a light kiss on her hand. “I am very happy to meet such a lovely young woman, such as yourself.”

A snort left Piper’s mouth. Cole glared at her. “And this is Piper Halliwell, my former sister-in-law,” he said in a curt tone. “Thankfully.” He ignored Piper’s sharp glance. Then Cole introduced the others to the newcomers. “So, is there a reason for this visit?”

Riggerio smoothly explained that he had the information that Cole requested. “Of course,” he added, “this would require the item you had mentioned.”

Cole removed what looked like a small black box from his jacket pocket. The Crotona Ring, Olivia surmised. He opened the box and displayed the contents to the Stregheria daemon. “Now, about that information . . .” Riggerio reached for the box. Cole snapped it shut. “Ah, ah, ah, the information first.”

“Yes, of course,” Riggerio said with a regretful sigh. He revealed that Portia Della Scalla was the name of a powerful succubus.

Olivia frowned. “A succubus? Is that what she is?”

“No wondered she snatched Bruce, instead of killing him,” Harry exclaimed.

A confused expression appeared on Paige’s face. “What the hell is a succubus?”

“A daemon that kills by sucking away one’s life force,” Cole explained. “Through sex. A succubus is usually a woman. Of course, she has to have sex with her victim several times, before she can kill him. Or her.”

“A female demon?”

Barbara added, “A succubus is a female daemon and her victims are usually men – especially if she wants to get pregn . . .” Her blue eyes widened in horror. “Oh my God! Do you think that’s what she wants with Bruce?”

Harry replied grimly, “Wouldn’t put it past her.”

“Harry!” Olivia glared at her brother. Who rolled his eyes and looked away.

Cole said, “The male counterpart to a succubus is an incubus. He either kills or impregnates his victims.”

“How did Portia acquire a human name?” Olivia asked. “I mean, Della Scalla?”

Riggerio nodded. “Yes. Della Scalla was the name of a reputable Venetian family. I believe they are still around. Portia’s grandmother, a succubus, became pregnant by a scion of the Della Scalla family. She then gave birth to a son. Anamadatti.”

“A what?” Phoebe demanded.

Amadatti.” Riggerio frowned. “Surely you know what a wizard is? Some wizards or amadatti are the offspring of an incubus or succubus and a mortal. Anyway,” he continued, “Portia’s father was a wizard named Alberto Della Scalla. He became acquainted with a succubus named Burlanda. They first conceived Portia’s older sister, Claudia. Three years later, Portia was born. However, Alberto never lived to see his second daughter. It seemed,” Riggerio gave a discreet cough, “he and Burlanda got out of hand, the night Portia was conceived.”

A smirk appeared on Cole’s face. “Hmmm, in other words, they had failed to practice safe sex. I bet Alberto’s last orgasm must have been quite a doozy.” Riggerio rolled his eyes.

“If we’re dealing with a succubus,” Paul said, “then she should pose no real problem. A succubus is not that difficult to vanquish.”

Contempt flared in Riggerio’s eyes. “This succubus is. Portia is not some ordinary daemon. Her father was a wizard. She is very powerful, fast and resourceful. Both she and her sister have defeated more powerful opponents.”

Olivia stepped forward. “So what are you saying? She won’t be easy to kill? What about her powers?”

“Aside from teleportation and thrall, she also possesses electro kinesis. And like most succubus and incubus, she can put anyone within several feet, to sleep in an instant. You should be careful when approaching her, signorina. I hear that she is residing at one of the city’s hotels.” Riggerio regarded Olivia with deep appreciation. “However, I believe you have the intelligence not to overestimate Portia.” Olivia responded with a brief smile.

Piper, who had been regarding Riggerio with deep suspicion, asked, “And what exactly do we have that makes you so willing to betray your own kind?”

“My own kind?” One of Riggerio’s dark brows formed an arch. “Signora, the only ones I consider to be of my own kind are members of my congrega. My coven.” He returned his attention to Cole. “By the way, Belthazor, I believe you have something that belongs to us.”

Cole reached inside his jacket pocket for the small box. He handed it to Riggerio. “Here you go. As promised.”

Grazie.” Riggerio bowed to the others. “Ladies, gentlemen, it has been a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Ciao.” He immediately disappeared.

“Hmmm,” Paige commented, “how very Old World.”

Paul seemed concerned about another matter. He turned to Cole, eyes dark with suspicion. “What exactly did you give him?” he demanded.

“A ring,” Cole replied. “A very special ring. It belonged to Riggerio’s coven.”

Piper added, “And what if Riggerio and his cronies decide to use it against innocents? Or other witches? You were taking a big risk, Cole, giving it to him.”

Blue eyes coldly focused upon the oldest Halliwell. “Riggerio and his coven have managed to cause enough chaos and mayhem without that ring. Besides, it’s been collecting dust in the Source’s Realm for the last 36 years.”

“Leo was right about you,” Paul retorted. “You just made a deal with some demon by giving him a weapon that can be used against innocents. And you have the nerve to be nonchalant about it.”

Cole shot back, “First of all, that ring is not a weapon! It’s the Crotona Coven’s sigil! Their personal seal. Which means that the damn thing belongs to them! And if you want to take it from them, be my guest! But your ass will end up in a whole world of trouble, because all you will be doing is stealing from them!”

“You son-of-a-bitch!” Paul growled.

Harry interrupted. “Hey! Enough of this shit! All right? If giving this Riggerio his sigil is going to help get my brother back, so be it!”

“Harry’s right,” Olivia added. “Now all we have to do is check the hotels. And I have a way.” She held up the half-slip that Darryl had found. “Phoebe, Darryl found this inside Nick’s apartment. We believe that it belonged to Portia.”

Phoebe reluctantly took the slip. She closed her eyes and then . . . “Nothing. I’m sorry, but I’m not getting anything.”

“Try harder,” Piper suggested. “Concentrate.”

Olivia shook her head. “No! Don’t try concentrate. Relax. And allow the image to come to you.”

As her body sagged into a relaxed form, Phoebe took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Seconds passed. Then a minute. After three minutes passed, Piper commented, “This isn’t working. Phoebe needs to . . .”

Olivia shot the eldest Halliwell a dark look. “Shhhh! Be quiet!” Piper immediately clamped her mouth shut and glared at the older witch.

Another three minutes passed before a gasp escaped her mouth and she went into a deep trance. Which lasted for at least two minutes. When the trance ended, Phoebe fell to her knees. “Oh! Oh God!”

“What is it?” Paige demanded. She leaned down to help her older sister rise up. “Phoebe? Are you okay?”

The middle Charmed One turned to Olivia with anguished eyes. “I saw them. Portia and Bruce. And it was almost like my last premonition. With them having sex.” From the corner of her eye, Olivia saw Barbara stiffened. Phoebe continued, “Only I didn’t see Portia kidnap Bruce. And while they were having sex, she seemed to be sucking the life out of him. Then he was dead.”

“Did you see where they were?” Paul asked.

Phoebe nodded. “Looked like a hotel room.”

Olivia asked, “Do you know which hotel?”

Again, Phoebe closed her eyes. “I think . . . I can’t . . .”

“Concen . . .” Piper broke off. “I mean . . .”

Olivia spoke up. “Just relax, Phoebe. Like before. And focus.”

Once more, Phoebe’s body became less tense. Her breathing became shallow, less ragged. She gasped and went into a trance for the second time. Then, “The Omni!” Her outburst took Olivia and the others by surprise. “The Omni Hotel. On Nob Hill. At least that’s what the sign in front of the building says.” Breathing heavily, she added, “They’re at the Omni Hotel.”

Paul stepped forward. “All right, this is what we’ll do. We’ll call Leo to orb . . .”

“We don’t have time,” Cole sharply interrupted. He grabbed both Darryl and Olivia. “I’ll take them to the hotel. Hopefully, we’ll be able to stop her. Let’s go.” Before he, Olivia and Darryl could beam out, Barbara grabbed hold of Olivia’s arm. And the four disappeared.


“EMMA” (1972) Review

“EMMA” (1972) Review

I am aware of at least four adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel, “Emma”. But I have noticed that the one adaptation that rarely attracts the attention of the novelist’s fans is the 1972 BBC miniseries, “EMMA”.

Directed by John Glenister and adapted by Denis Constanduros, “EMMA” told the story of the precocious younger daughter of a wealthy landowner that resides near the village of Highbury. Emma Woodhouse imagines herself to be naturally gifted matchmaker, following her self-declared success in arranging a love match between her governess and Mr. Weston, a village widower. Following their marriage, Emma takes it upon herself to find an eligible match for her new friend, a young woman named Harriet Smith. However, Emma’s efforts to match Harriet with Highbury’s vicar, Mr. Elton, end in disaster. Also the return of two former Highbury residents, Jane Fairfax and Mr. Weston’s son, Frank Churchill, and her continuing efforts to find a husband for Harriet leads Emma to question her talents as a matchmaker and her feelings for long time neighbor and friend, George Knightley.

Aired in six episodes, this “EMMA” was given the opportunity to be a lot more faithful to Austen’s novel. Many critics and fans would view this as an example of the miniseries’ ability to delve deeper into the story’s plots and characterizations. I do not know if I would agree. The 1815 novel seems such a strong piece of work that even a 90 to 120 minute film could do justice to the story by adhering to the main aspects of the plot. Mind you, I have complained about Andrew Davies’ adaptation of the novel in the 1996-97 television movie. But even I cannot consider that a failure.

I do have a few complaints about “EMMA”. The majority of my complaints have to do with the casting. But there were some aspects of the production that I found less than satisfying. Director John Glenister’s direction of major scenes such as the Westons’ Christmas party and the Crown Inn ball failed to impress. The sequence featuring the Westons’ Christmas party lacked the holiday atmosphere that I found in the other versions. And I failed to noticed any sense of a change in the weather that led the Woodhouses and the Knightleys to depart from Randalls (the Westons’ estate) earlier than they had intended. As for the Crown Inn ball, it struck me as somewhat rushed. Dialogue seemed to dominate the entire sequence . . . to the point where only one dance was featured to the tune of the miniseries’ theme song. Both Glenister and screenwriter Denis Constanduros made such a big effort in building up the ball in the previous episode or two. But when it came to the actual execution, it simply fell flat and rushed for me. Even worse, they failed to provide the audience with the Emma/Knightley dance, which could have provided the first real hint of romantic feelings between the pair. And what happened to Jane Fairfax and Mr. Elton at the Box Hill picnic? Where were they? Frank Churchill’s flirting with Emma during the picnic had led to Jane’s eventual breakdown and observations of the Eltons’ quick marriage. The Box Hill sequence played an important part in Jane and Frank’s relationship. But without Jane in the scene, the importance of their storyline was somewhat robbed.

And there were performances, or should I say . . . casting that seemed rather off to me. Fiona Walker made an interesting Mrs. Augusta Elton. In fact, she was downright memorable. However, her Mrs. Elton came off as rather heavy-handed . . . to the point that she seemed more like an over-the-top 1970s divorcee, instead of a vicar’s pushy and ambitious wife of Regency England. She seemed to lack both Juliet Stevenson and Christina Cole’s talent for sly and subtle humor. Belinda Tighe gave a solid performance as Emma’s older sister, Isabella Knightley. But she seemed at least a decade-and-a-half older than Doran Godwin’s Emma. Donald Eccles would have made a perfect Mr. Woodhouse, if he had not come off as slightly cold in a few scenes. I find it odd that many Austen fans had complained of Godwin’s occasionally chilly performance. But Eccles seemed even more chilly at times, which is how I never would describe Mr. Woodhouse. At least Godwin’s Emma became warmer and slightly funny in the miniseries’ second half. It seemed as if the arrival of Augusta Elton allowed Godwin to inject more warmth and humor into the role. I also had a problem with Ania Marson as the reserved Jane Fairfax. I understand that Jane went through a great deal of stress and fear, while awaiting for a chance to finally marry Frank. But Marson’s performance struck me as . . . odd. The intense look in her eyes and frozen expression made her resemble a budding serial killer.

I really enjoyed Robert East’s portrayal of the mercurial Frank Churchill. Although I felt that East did not seem effective in his portrayal of Frank’s penchant for cruel humor and at times, his handling of the character’s many traits seemed a bit off balanced, I still believe that his performance was overall, first-rate. Timothy Peters was excellent as Mr. Elton. In fact, he was spot on. Of all the characters featured in Austen’s novel, Mr. Elton seemed to be the only that has been perfectly cast in all four productions I have seen. I really enjoyed Debbie Bowen’s performance as the slightly naive Harriet Smith. In fact, I believe she was the perfect embodiment of Harriet. One of the funniest scenes in the entire miniseries featured Harriet’s efforts to make up her mind on which color ribbons she wanted to purchase. And Constance Chapman made an excellent Miss Bates. She perfectly conveyed all of the character’s likeability and verbosity that made her irritable to Emma. And the scene that featured Emma’s attempt to apologize for the insult during the Box Hill picnic was beautifully acted by Chapman.

But I was impressed by John Carson’s performance as George Knightley. Perhaps he seemed a bit old for the role, at age 45. But he perfectly conveyed all of Mr. Knightley’s warmth, dry humor and love for Emma. And surprisingly, he and Doran Godwin had a strong screen chemistry. I also have to give credit to Doran Godwin for a first-rate portrayal of Emma Woodhouse. Mind you, there were times in the first three episodes when she seemed a bit too chilly for the gregarious Emma. But Godwin did an excellent job in developing the character into a more mature young woman, who became mindful of her flaws. And as I had stated earlier, her Emma also became warmer and slightly funnier upon the introduction of Augusta Elton.

There were also aspects of the miniseries’ production that I enjoyed. Aside from the Weston Christmas party, I was very impressed by Tim Harvey’s production designs. The miniseries’ photography seemed crisp and colorful, even after 40 years. I found this impressive, considering that most BBC television miniseries between 1971 and 1986 seemed to fade over the years. I also liked Joan Ellacott’s costume designs – especially for Emma and Jane. However, I noticed that the high lace featured in some of Emma’s dresses seemed a bit theatrical and cheap . . . as if they came off outfits found in some minor costume warehouse.

Yes, I do have some quibbles regarding the production and casting for “EMMA”. After all, there is no such thing as perfect. But the good definitely outweighed the bad. And for a miniseries with six episodes, I can happily say that it failed to bore me. Personally, I think it is the best Jane Austen adaptation from the 1970s and 1980s I have ever seen.