"Penny Dreadful" is a Showtime produced saga still in progress, with its first season just concluded and a second on the cusp. As many are aware, it blends the legends of Dorian Gray, Dracula, Frankenstein, Jack the Ripper, seasoned by ancient Egyptian mysticism: all neatly packaged within a Gothic soap-opera format (yes, rather like "Dark Shadows", though in this instance, thoroughly confined to the nineteenth century and much like "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", but grimmer). It also has a Hammer atmospheric flair to it: perhaps the closest fans will ever come to the studio's allegedly proposed crossover, "Edge of Midnight".
Distinguishing the formula is a stellar cast, several of whom are imagi-movie veterans: Timothy Dalton (Malcolm Murray), David Warner (Abraham Van Helsing), Olivia Llewllyn (Mina Harker), Reeve Carney (Dorian Gray), Harry Treadaway (Victor Frankenstein), Rory Kinnear (the Frankenstein Monster), Eva Green (Venessa Ives), Josh Hartnett (Ethan Chandler), et al.
The interactions and scenarios are still young, yet developing (and as such, it strikes me wrong to dare delve into their burgeoning possibilities and outcomes. All the same, this one certainly seems worth watching. Most likely its cast will grow, as will its characters. Who knows? Maybe somewhere down the line, we'll see the likes of Jekyll/Hyde, the Invisible Man and/or a variation of the Mummy? Well, we can only patiently hope, wait and watch.
On the more segmented (but no less engaging side) side, "The Penny Dreadful Picture Show"is a 2013 anthology film hosted by a living-dead girl named (you guessed it) Penny Dreadful. She's portrayed by horror staple, Eliza Swenson, who also shares directorial and writing credit (along with Leigh Scott and Nick Everhart).
As with other such anthologies, this one sports a warped (though in this instance, somewhat quasi) wraparound, featuring a fiendish jack-in-the-box, with its primary stories connected by decade separations: the first being a '60s based Jess Franco-styled, seduction saga (incidentally, Swenson's directorial effort) and the second, a '70s "House of a Thousand Corpses" tribute (with Sig Haig and Jeffery Combs in supporting roles, no less). The '80s homage is isolated as a menu extra: an odd choice since this one (about kids and a monster on a camping trip) may be the best of the lot, insinuating a superior "Amazing Stories" installment.
The entries are presented as movies which Penny shows to blind dates in her big, old home theater. To boost the fun, she's accompanied by a zombie and werewolf, who for all intents and purposes, may have hopped straight out of "Mad Monster Party"!
"Penny Dreadful PS" has earned varied reviews, but it seems popular among folks who appreciate this format, which is what counts. Penny is also a memorable host (strange and sexy): Sally, the Frankenstein girl, from Tim Burton's "Nightmare Before Christmas" meshed with the HBO's Cryptkeeper. (Swenson's composed Penny anthem even invokes Danny Elfman's "Tales From the Crypt" theme.) You'll be glad to be in her company and if in the right mindset, the film's collective parts will surely act as breezy, if not memorable, eclectic diversion.