Audiobook - Dark Shadows: The Eternal Actress

Dark Shadows The Eternal Actress

The Eternal Actress sees glamour girl, Susan Omand, transported back to 50's L.A. as Dark Shadows continues...

It’s LA in 1950 and Gideon Wilder, a magazine journalist and, after a cryptic phone call, is excited to finally be getting to meet an idol of the silent screen, the actress Helvetica Stanhope. She sends a car for him, complete with a companion raccoon, and he is taken to a large old mansion where he meets Helvetica’s assistant Amanda who tells him that the old lady is afraid and not sleeping but she will meet with him soon. As he waits, he is struck by the monochrome nature of the decor. Then Ms Stanhope makes an entrance and explains that “her kind of voice” was not welcome in the McCarthyist 1950’s Hollywood. They move to the boudoir to talk further, where Helvetica explains about her menagerie of black and white animals as a skunk settles into Wilder's lap. As he digs for his notebook the colourful magazine he writes for falls out and causes Ms Stanhope to recoil in horror at the colour and dismisses Wilder because of “the vulgarity”. Before he leaves, he tells her that he too lives in a world of black and white, of the typewritten word, and how they are not so different. As he reaches the gate Bryson steps in his path to stop him and Amanda rushes up to apologise for Ms Stanhope’s behaviour, requesting that he return to the house and give the actress another chance.

When he returns, she does not give him an interview, instead she tells him of a curse that is affecting actors around her, the dreams in which she sees people who are going to die horribly only to find they really do. Wilder sounds doubtful, so Helvetica relates another dream and states that she believes she is next to succumb to the curse.

However, reality is even stranger than the curse as the story shifts from Gideon to Amanda and we find out more about the real relationship between Helvetica Stanhope, Gideon Wilder and Amanda...

I really enjoyed this episode and especially liked the concept of the black and white silent movie star living in a black and white, silent house. The writing, being told mainly from the point of view of a central character, gives this audio an atmospheric pulp fiction quality, like the detective novels of the time. All the characters were well rounded, the story was both exciting and scary, and the eccentricity of Ms Stanhope is beautifully summed up in the line “I hope the raccoon did not bother you. Bryson doesn’t like to drive alone and the zebra doesn’t fit in the car”. Ha ha, wonderful! As with all Dark Shadows, I expected a twist but this time it exceeded all expectations – you will just have to listen to find out. The acting from both Donna Mckechnie and Andrew Collins is exceptional, both dealing with their multi-faceted characters in a way that makes them highly believable as well as very unsettling.

The Eternal Actress is definitely up there in my top 10 of Dark Shadows episodes.

Image - Big Finish.