In 1984, Patrick Malahide appeared in Mr. Stabs, an episode of the children’s program Dramarama.
Dramarama is described by Amazon.co.uk (where you can buy the DVD, in Region 2) as:
A staple part of children s programming throughout the eighties, Dramarama provided an early showcase for some of Britain’s most accomplished screenwriters, directors and performers. This unique anthology series presented a distinctive and eclectic mix of drama from whimsical comedy to surrealistic fantasy, from supernatural fable to hard-hitting contemporary realism.
This first volume presents ten memorable screenplays from Thames Television, including the hugely popular Dodger, Bonzo and the Rest developed into a series the following year and the fantasy yarn Mr. Stabs, starring David Jason as the famously malevolent magician first seen in Ace of Wands.
Featuring performances from such notables as Gary Oldman, Dexter Fletcher, Pam Ferris, Peter Capaldi, Patrick Malahide, and Susan Jameson, this volume includes key examples of one of the best television shows of the 1980s.
Well, that sounds impressive!
The program opens with the evil magician Mr. Stabs (David Jason) and his trusty familiar (sidekick) Luko (David Rappaport). Luko is a little demon-imp sort of fellow who always manages to get under Mr. Stabs skin. Rappaport’s comic timing, delivery, and mannerisms really add to the enjoyment. Anyway, they are doing that timeless routine where they pretend they can see the young viewers, “aren’t they ugly?” comments Luko.
But lets get to Malahide, aka, The Visitor. He arrives, majestically attired in a hooded red robe (and LOTS of make-up, so he looks kind of like a New Romantic rocker, think a very young Brian Eno), amidst a flash of lightening and fire. He’s there to let Melchisedek (John Woodnutt, who played Sergeant Snubbin in The Pickwick Papers, but I’d have never recognized him) know that he’s too old to stay in The Brotherhood, which is some sort of coven. Seems Melchisedek’s hand power is weakening 🙁 But, he doesn’t want to go and tries to scare The Visitor with fire; that doesn’t work. Then he points out that it is his right to face his potential replacement in magical combat and that is agreed upon.
As The Visitor, Malahide has a nonchalant monotone, as though he’d be more evil if he could be bothered. His utter contempt for Melchisedek’s fading powers is obvious, so he doesn’t seem too troubled by him. He seems to have great confidence in his own status. I like a bit where he raises his hand and casually says, “bow before the Scarlet Glove,” because it feels like he’s just saying it to put the old man in his place rather than expecting actual obedience.
Gloves play a big part in this. White gloves mean you are junior; black gloves are better, scarlet gloves are the best. Melchisedek has a black glove and Stabs wants it.
So, The Visitor goes to Stabs (scaring Luko in the process) and offers him the upcoming black glove slot. But, first Stabs has to face off against the sorceress Polandi (Lorna Heilbron) before the scarlet gloved Cardinals. Stabs and Polandi have a cute exchange before their glove battle: “Who stole the key from the third temple?” (Stabs did.) “Who broke the circle of the seven witches?” (Polandi did.) The council doesn’t care who did what; they just want to see a fight. Stabs wins!
So, now he has to go face Melchisedek but he doesn’t know where he resides. The Cardinals just give some cryptic clues about Ravenstone and Seven Moons. Poor Stabs.
But, the ever helpful Visitor shows up and offers some words of encouragement for Stabs. He even gives something close to a smile. I’m not sure why The Visitor is so helpful, but he is. He gives a pretty decisive clue for Stabs to follow, the Shadow of Time. They don’t really explain what it is, but it seems to be an actual shadow for Stabs to follow.
I won’t bother going any further, since The Visitor doesn’t return anymore and who am I to spoil the ending? Just know it is a entertaining episode with fun performances from Malahide, Jason, and Rappaport. The effects are a tad dated, but that doesn’t matter; I like it as it is 🙂 I’m sure that it was properly enjoyed by youngsters in the 1980s too; it would have served its purpose to entertain a young crowd.