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Dynasty: Season Four, Vol. 2
As much as I've lamented Paramount's decision to break the Dynasty season sets into two volumes apiece, it might not be such a bad idea. You see, I love writing about the show as much as I love watching it--so this release schedule gives me double the pleasure. And when a juicy episode like "Seizure" comes along--the 15th in the season, but the opening installment here--it feels like a full season anyway. I had enough notes from that episode alone to write a full review--it's overflowing with all of the qualities I've come to love in the show, from glitz and glamour to ham and cheese.
Where do I begin? How about with basket case Kirby (Kathleen Beller), who reaches new levels of shame this volume? (If you thought she was timid and helpless before, brace yourself.) The pregnant mess gets off to a rocky start in an episode named after her, violently shaking her hands and hyperventilating as she loses her cool in the hospital (she gets even more manic at the end of the episode, practically breaking the crazy dial). It's a funny fit that got even better with this line from her doctor, who tells Jeff (John James) and Adam (Gordon Thompson) what's wrong with her: "I'm afraid it's not the best news. Kirby has severe pre-eclampsia, which--if we're not careful--can quickly lead to eclampisa." (Brilliant!)
Even writing the line makes me smile--and hearing it sent me into a silly seizure of my own. But it got even better with Adam's response: "Doctor, we're not on staff here! What are you talking about?!" (Paging Dr. Sulu! "Dammit Adam, I'm a doctor, not a rapist!") But if I had to guess, I'd bet Kirby's shakes were panic induced, the fear of Rape #2 just around the corner. Yep, the possessive Adam ("It's my baby!") is just as sinister and violent as he ever was, crazed to have a Carrington heir and daddy Blake's approval: "I'm the only one you have left. Your father is gone, your marriage is broken up. I'm the only one who really loves you. We need each other, Kirby!" (Only Thompson could say those lines with odd sincerity.)
As for Rape No. 1? Blake (the late, great John Forsythe) seems to have forgiven it: "That's all been settled, Adam! You did a terrible thing to the girl, now you're trying to make up for it!" (And just wait and see how both Blake and Jeff forgive Adam when they find out it was him who poisoned the paint, not Alexis!). Yep, it's back to the beautifully sick and twisted business at Dynasty. Here are a few other highlights that make "Seizure" so delicious:
- Alexis (Joan Collins) makes a phone call to a place called the "Brown Palace". I giggle, wondering whether that's suggestive or culturally insensitive.
- Blake and Krystal (Linda Evans)--apparently tactless or just plain cruel--hover over a sleeping Kirby, staring at her in her hospital bed. She wakes up and is (for once) understandably freaked out.
- Claudia (Pamela Bellwood) becomes surprisingly disgusted with Fallon's lover Peter De Vilbis after the billionaire makes a weak, harmless comment that's apparently a salacious come-on: "Claudia...no contract relations." (Huh?!). I wasn't quite sure, because Helmet Burger's accent and acting are both atrocious. (Seriously, how did this guy get cast...and last a whopping nine episodes?!) The incident culminates with a smack--reinforced by a spirited "slap dub" that returns throughout the season.
- The Carrington's receive one of those hysterical old-time ransom notes made with letters pasted together from magazine clippings. The ransom note is for a horse.
- Tony (the late, gorgeous Paul Keenan)--the hottest stable boy ever--returns in one of three appearances, getting a few lines of dialogue each time: "The trainer and I shared a pizza last night and a little wine..." Sigh, what I wouldn't give to be that trainer... (or that wine...)
- Alexis and business partner Dex Dexter (Nader) celebrate a business transaction with some steamy bathroom sex. The scene is accompanied by sultry saxophone music so loud and overpowering, I turn down the volume for fear my neighbors might think I'm watching straight porn.
- Career climber Tracy Kendall (Deborah Adair)--out to usurp Krystal as Denver Carrington's director of public relations--sets the wheels in motion for a devious plot (followed in later episodes by some serious bed hopping...she works hard for the money, indeed!). "I know you Tracy," warns a former colleague. "You've got your eye on something bigger--maybe it's not the job you want, maybe it's the boss! That is how you got your job with me...so, on to bigger and better mattresses!" (And just wait till you see how Alexis and Dex pimp her out!)
- At the 6:47 mark, a probably unintentional shot makes it look like Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin) has horse ears.
- Adam cranks up the waterworks when he talks about a lost love, channeling Of Mice and Men (and the Bugs Bunny cartoon that mocked it): "Why is it whenever I love something or someone, all I manage to do is frighten them away from me? [cue tears, cue music] When I was a boy, all I had to love was this little ugly mongrel dog. I used to pick him up and love him so much, I'd nearly squeeze him to death. I wanted him to love me as much as I loved him...but I frightened him and he ran away. Why?!" (Maybe because you almost squeezed him to death?)
- Alexis--dressed up like Western Barbie in a dive saloon--is present for a line of dialogue I'd never in a million years dream she would hear ("Hey boys! Let's have some good clogging music!"), shouted by her admirer to the house band. Alexis clogs. My jaw drops to the floor.
- Minutes later, the head of Colbyco seals the deal by singing to her prospective businessman (an old coot who says things like "You're gonna take care of my lands?"). Advises Alexis to Dex: "Look, I could either sing for him or sleep with him...what's the choice?" Alexis channels Marlene Dietrich in Destry Rides Again with a rousing rendition of "The Boys in the Backroom". She straddles a chair. My jaw drops further.
- Linda Evans shows off one of her signature, bosom-highlighting nightgowns. But she can't compete with the machismo on display this season, further proving this show is for women and, um, "curious" men. The season is dominated by the hairy chests of John James, Gordon Thompson, Michael Nader, Geoffrey Scott, Keenan (sadly, only partially...take it off, Tony!) and special guest star John Saxon, whose gorgeous pecs make me forgive his silly fake mustache and that awful accent the writers forced upon him. And that brings me to a photo essay; we'll return to our regularly scheduled review in a moment, but in the meantime I present the chests of Dynasty, Season 4, Volume 2:
Phew! It's getting warm in here! Where were we? Oh yeah, all of those fantastic scenes--and all of them are from just the first episode here, reason enough to add this three-disc volume to your collection pronto. Not only is it entertaining on its own, it also wraps up the star-studded first volume of Season 4 and set the show up for its most successful season ever (hey Paramount, where's that Season 5 announcement?!). This is quintessential Dynasty--the show was at its best and rising in popularity, helping it snag the Golden Globe for Best Drama and a No. 3 finish in the Nielsen ratings for the season.
In addition to Kirby's tailspin (oh Kirby, you can't even win when you try to be tough!) after the loss of her baby, the bulk of the season revolves around a lucrative oil deal in the South China Seas that pits Blake and Alexis against each other--with the future of Denver Carrington in jeopardy. Claudia starts to lose her own already-fragile grip on reality (having her and Kirby in one season is almost too much to take) when she gets mysterious phone calls. Watch (and laugh) as it takes her and Krystal forever to arrive at the obvious conclusion (Nancy Drew, they ain't). Also watch in delight as Claudia freaks out over...napkin rings?! ("Look!" yells Krystal. "These are napkin rings...they're not violets!") Meanwhile, husband Steven (Jack Coleman) seems to have completely forgotten he's gay, despite a brief flicker prompted by Owen (handsome Philip Cocciolettoi), an old Princeton squash pal (insert joke here). Sadly, Steven doesn't take the bait. Even sadder, Grant Goodeve is nowhere to be found this installment (despite his character getting a shout-out).
Jeff and Fallon start to reconnect, but the clouds get murky for her after an accident in Episode 17 (entitled "The Accident", natch) sets the stage for a long and frustrating road ahead. It's the season's most ridiculous moment--watch in awe and horror as Jeff and a negligent La Mirage valet let a belligerent drunk man get into his car--and then proceed to hit Fallon after Jeff lets her wander into the street afterward (!). Then to further prove his complete lack of common sense, he invites Fallon to go skiing just days later after it's revealed she has a skull fracture (!!): "The way I feel, it's my fault wanting you to ski a few extra runs with me when I should have realized you were tired." (Ya think, Jeff?!)
And in addition to her jilted business partners and rivals, Joan Collins better watch out for disgraced politician Neal McVane (Paul Burke) and slimy private investigator Morgan Hess (Hank Brandt), who are up to no good. Geoffrey Scott also lingers in the background as Mark Jennings, the bodyguard/bitch boy to Alexis ("I had your necklace fixed, Alexis! And my testicles!"). She has a blast hurling insults his way, making for some of the season's most entertaining quotes: "Mark, the table is set for two...don't you have an appointment at the muscle factory or somewhere equally intelligent?" Poor Scott isn't much of an actor, but he's still underused and just biding his time until he can make himself useful (i.e., get murdered) in a highly telegraphed development toward the season's end.
Other episodes segments this volume include a birthday bash that made me think of The Omen and a maudlin near-accident by the pool shamelessly inserted by the writers and editors. We're supposed to think Fallon's recovery is a miracle; I just think her lazy, attention-seeking ass finally decided to stop faking it (the scene had me hearing Dr. Frankenstein yell "It's alive!" into my ear). The show also takes exotic trips to Hong King, Lima, Aspen and...Bismark! (Actually, the show gives us stock exteriors, then tries to impress us with lush interior set design fakeouts...if it's red walls an dcarpet, it must be China, right?!)
It may sound like I'm mocking the show, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Coming from me, snarkiness is a good (if I'm too nice to you, something must be wrong). Dynasty is like family--I'm allowed to make fun of it because I love it so much, and the show brilliantly succeeds at being exactly what it wants to. There's no pretense at art or intelligence--this is pure fantasy in all its lurid and opulent glory. The show is not only a diabolical pleasure filled with shady dealings in the boardroom and the bedroom, it's an unapologetic dose of '80s excess. Just watch and drool over the gowns, the jewelry, the mansions, the cars, the parties, the extravagant penthouses and hotel suites...and the food, oh dear lord the food! (The breakfast buffet at the Carrington mansion gets me every time, while Alexis sure loves giant vegetable trays!)
It's all brought to life by a cast that's in on the joke. Collins created an iconic villain with Alexis, a character that will stand the test of time. She's on fire once again, and it's her "I love you! I hate you!" relationship with Dex that gives the show its hot-blooded temper. The two ignite the screen and play off each other perfectly, and Nader is one of the show's underappreciated strengths. Thompson is also an undeniable force, by far the most despicable character of them all--which is really saying something for Dynasty. That he can still make Adam charming and alluring is incredible. And for every bad actor here (*cough*Beller and Scott*cough*), there's a talented Adair to pick up the slack (although Tracy proves to be not nearly as smart as we think, what with that giant phallic hair dryer and incriminating photo stuffed in her travel bag...WTF, Tracy?!).
And thankfully we get three appearances of Tony this round (but sadly his last: Keenan passed away from AIDS complications in 1986). He gets some handsome company, too: I'm delighted with the show's continued gag of giving Alexis a hot new young male secretary nearly every episode (she can't keep them straight...pardon the pun). You just know some smart gay man behind the scenes was happy to write these small roles into the scripts and cast these cuties, who are each given at least one line and a close-up to show off their smile (the series also gives some La Mirage bellhops similar treatment). So I'd like to salute all of the bit players who make the show even more fun...hey, sounds like it's time for another photo essay! Here's a tribute to the forgotten bellboys, secretaries and masseurs...
Two other nice surprises are in store as the volume nears its end: Diahann Carroll shows up in the last two episodes as Dominique Deveraux, a high society woman with a curious interest in Blake and Alexis (wait for her startling revelation in the finale!). She sings, she makes demands and she insults Alexis's caviar! And Heather Locklear returns as Sammy Jo--excuse me, Samantha--in the final four episodes. Not only is Krystal's niece up to old tricks and her bad eating habits (a trait that always makes me laugh, as I'm sure the fitness-conscious Locklear never ate like that in real life), she also prances around in some of the most colorful leotards this side of an Olivia Newton-John video (listen for the symphonic versions of "Thriller" and "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" blaring from her boombox!). She dishes out plenty of trash, but she also gets put in her place a few times--my favorite moment coming from Fallon at La Mirage (Martin has a natural quality that leads me to believe she would be a blast to know in real life).
We don't get any major Alexis/Krystal cat fights this installment, just some tense words in the ladies room--and a quick mud-slinging affair at the salon. But the claws come out elsewhere in a handful of verbal smack-downs and physical altercations, most notably a fierce smack and shove across the room to Sammy Jo (what a shiner!) and an Alexis/Dex scuffle that leaves him scarred (I'm still trying to figure out if Collins used a stunt double for basically standing...). The season finale is its usual chaotic self, although the main development is kind of a disappointment in retrospect--it leads to a long-lasting mystery that (in my opinion) ate up too much time and eventually ends with one of the worst twists ever (and is never really explained to my satisfaction).
But I love seeing Alexis in trouble, and Kirby gets the hysterical shakes one last time for good measure (I love how her climatic scene unfolds at the beginning of an episode, proving that even the writers didn't have confidence the character could carry a cliffhanger). Another surprise that I forgot is also revealed, resolving another mystery. Oh, and that mysterious miscarriage Alexis alludes to? Just wait for Season 5, which includes one of the show's most memorable additions. (Seriously Paramount...where's that announcement?! The gaps between releases are killing me!)
I leave you now with more of my favorite quotes from this volume. I think they all speak for themselves (how can you not love this show?!):
"No sale, Alexis! I was raped right here in this room by your son! Did you know that?! And now you're trying to do the same thing!" - Kirby
"Come sit down and have some of these straw-burries! They're out of season, but they were specially flown in from Patagonia!" - Alexis
"She's determined to learn. I'm her instructor--in the air, and in bed, so she tells me. What's the matter? She never told you about that?" - Peter
"Send up a magnum of your best champagne to my room...and a grilled ham and cheese." - Sammy Jo
"I don't like you skipping lunch, Alexis...but before we have the main course, how 'bout a hot hors d'oeuvre --a specialty from the House of Dex!" - Dexter
"I didn't know that what I'd fallen for was a slut! A slut with the morals of a dog in perpetual heat!" - Dex
"Look, I didn't sign on to this ship of vipers to become the company whore!" - Tracy
"Not that it's all that special...I mean, even worms can procreate." - Alexis
"I'm not the stupid tart they like to think I am! I have a brain and feelings!" - Sammy Jo
"I paid you 100 thousand dollars to keep your mouth shut! For a tennis bum, that'll buy a lot of balls...and believe me, you're going to need them!" - Alexis
Kirby's Tears: One Last Look
The 13 episodes are spread across three discs. As usual, the summaries included on the DVD sleeve share way too much information and spoil too many surprises. Don't read them!
15. Seizure (aired 1-18-84)
16. A Little Girl (aired 2-1-84)
17. The Accident (aired 2-22-84)
18. The Vigil (aired 2-29-84)
19. Steps (aired 3-7-84)
20. The Voice (Part 1) (aired 3-14-84)
21. The Voice (Part 2) (aired 3-21-84)
22. The Voice (Part 3) (aired 3-28-84)
23. The Birthday (aired 4-4-84)
24. The Check (aired 4-11-84)
24. The Engagement (aired 4-18-84)
26. New Lady in Town (aired 5-2-84)
27. The Nightmare (aired 5-9-84)
The full-frame presentations of Dynasty continue to be very strong, especially considering the lesser quality transfers I've seen from other '80s shows. There's plenty of grain and film dirt creeps in every so often, but overall this is fairly sharp, with excellent detail that shines through on skin tones, hair, the costumes and the jewelry. The colors are also solid, even if the show has an overall dimmer sheen to it.
The 2.0 is also impressive; while some lines are lower (and you can easily spot the inserted dubs), the clarity and separation is outstanding.
Once again, none.
Another unapologetic display of 1980s excess, the second half of Dynasty's fourth season completes one of its strongest outings. This has the show in its prime, with the shady dealings in the boardroom and the bedroom to prove it--and a handful of delicious performances from the likes of Joan Collins, Heather Locklear, Gordon Thompson and Michael Nader. Throw in a bevy of hairy chests, some porn-tastic saxophone music and those cute male secretaries, bellhops and stable boys (Tony Keenan, I love ya!), and this easily comes Highly Recommended.