Haunted by the dead (movies and TV)

William Marshall’s Mumuwalde died at the end of Blacula but in 1973’s SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM he rises again, courtesy of an angry voodoo practitioner who hopes to use the vampire’s power to seize control of the local cult from gifted priestess Pam Grier. Needless to say, resurrecting a vampire does not work out well for the dude.This is more of a straight horror film than its predecessor; where Blacula centered on the love between Marshall’s Mumuwalde and Vonetta McGee, this one is mostly the vampire killing and turning Los Angelinos, who in turn kill more; it’s about two-thirds done before we get to the plot hook of Mumuwalde wanting Grier to exorcise his vampire side. I’ve gone back and forth over which one is better (I’ve watched these more than once) and this time out the first film gets the nod, if only for Scream wasting Grier (she has little to do but cry and shriek). “Vampires can’t be photographed — every ten-year-old knows that!”

REBECCA (1940) was the first movie in the Alfred Hitchcock/David O. Selznick collaboration and it proved a spectacular success for both men. Joan Fontaine plays the never-named heroine of Daphne DuMaurier’s bestselling novel (Selznick insisted on keeping the no-name element, believing it would make her easier to identify with) who meets and charms brooding, intense Maxim DeWinter (Laurence Olivier). When they marry and return home to his magnificent country estate, Mrs. deWinter discovers she’s living in the shadow of Maxim’s dead first wife, Rebecca — magnificent, beautiful, charming, the perfect hostess and upper-class wife; Maxim’s housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) never lets Fontaine forget what a pale shadow of Rebecca she is. Little does Fontaine guess the true story of her husband’s first marriage …

As film historian Leonard Leff says, the film drew on the strengths of both men. Hitchcock had a great sense of visual style and pacing; Selznick had an eye for story and for what audiences wanted, as well as what the Production Code would allow. Along with playing down Mrs. Danvers’ repressed lesbian desire for Rebecca, the film couldn’t use DuMaurier’s version of her death — that knowing she was terminally ill, Rebecca provoked Maxim into murdering her — which violated Code clauses on suicide and getting away with murder. The solution is forced (in the final confrontation Rebecca trips and dies!) but the film’s strong enough I don’t care.

The cast are excellent, including C. Aubrey Smith as a local constable, Nigel Bruce as a friend of Maxim’s and George Sanders as a cad. Fontaine, a newbie, does some remarkable work; when Maxim tells her how he really felt about Rebecca you can see the mix of emotions chasing over her face. “I love you my darling, I’ve always loved you — but I always knew Rebecca would win in the end.”

DC’S LEGENDS OF TOMORROW started out the 2020 season with the Legends battling “echoes,” dead souls of evidoers sent up from Hell to wreak fresh havoc; behind it lies Astra, a young woman with a bitter vendetta against John Constantine (which he admits is justified). Midway through, however, things shift into higher gear as we learn Astra’s patron in Hell is Lachesis of the Fates, with a plan to recover the shattered loom with which they wove destiny and use it to revoke humanity’s free will.

As usual, there were some inspired moments this season, such as nerdy Gary adopting a dog that turns out to be the hellhound that drove Son of Sam to kill. The goofy tone works against it though, and the dystopian fate-ruled world reminded me too much of the series ender of The Librarians. I’m still watching but it doesn’t click with me the way it does with several TV critics. “I only exist because my father traveled back in time to his high-school reunion and had sex with my mom in a broom closet.”

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