It’s that time again! For all three of your who come here to find out what I’m doing, tonight I’m posting Number 9 in my Top Ten Movie Villains List. So, without further adieu, here you go, you vast gluttons for punishment you.
9. Lucien La Croix – Forever Knight
Keeping with the theme of vampires, my Number 9 is Lucien La Croix from Forever Knight. If you’ve never seen Forever Knight, you have seriously missed out on something awesome. Laden with early 90’s cheese, it has the bad fashion/sleaze and camp of the 80’s with a 90’s hipness (and also bad fashion) and it should have been far more popular than it was.
The show itself was a bit uneven in tone. That’s not all that surprising, considering that it was shuffled from time slot to time slot and from one network to another like an unwanted child in the middle of a horrendous divorce. Despite its bumpy tenure, the overall tone of the series is dark, campy horror. It mostly strikes the right balance between the more outrageous elements of the show and its humor.
And that, in part, is due to its awesome villain, Lucien La Croix.
Forever Knight began its life as a made-for-TV movie starring Rick Springfield (yes, the Jessie’s Girl guy. I don’t know. The early 90’s were weird). While it was an earnest effort, it was a big pile of meh for me. The villain wasn’t interesting. He was over the top in all the wrong ways, and it just didn’t seem to pull together in any tangible way.
When it was adapted for CBS’s Crimetime after Primetime, the made-for-TV movie was retconned into the first two episodes. Mr. Springfield was replaced with Geriant Wyn Davies, who was much better suited to the tongue-in-cheek tone. He played the role half-straight, half camp, which made it work in the darker moments as well as the lighter ones. The villain was replaced by Nigel Bennett, a very underrated actor who was clearly having a hell of a time playing ancient mentor/constant devil-on-the-shoulder to Davie’s younger, more idealistic vampire.
The most amazing thing is that, apart from flashback scenes, La Croix doesn’t appear in any of the episodes after the first two for the entire first season. He’s seemingly killed off at the climax of the second episode. Yet his impact is still felt throughout the rest of the season. His presence hangs over the intrepid Detective Nick Knight like a storm cloud over a funeral. I’m not sure if the writers intended to bring La Croix back at the beginning of the second season all along, or they realized they’d stumbled over an amazing villain and couldn’t bear to let him go to waste. I suspect it was the later, as they brought him back and pretty much gave him free reign to be as villainous and evil as he liked.
La Croix was a great foil to Nick, who despite his age had never quite lost his taste for humanity (no pun intended). He was desperate to become mortal again. La Croix, much older and far more self-involved, reveled in what he was. He never lost hope that Nick might fully embrace his vampire self. The show was, at its heart, a story of a father and son set hopelessly at odds with one another over the son’s choices and desires for himself. Nick tried to balance his more bloodthirsty side by becoming a cop, to help others in need and atone for his many sins. La Croix never pretended to be anything other than what he was, embracing all sides of his darker nature. It ran deeper than the usual “maker versus fledgling” vampire tales. They both understood where the other was coming from, but neither was willing to give an inch in regards to their ideologies. There was hatred and anger and loathing, but there was also love, understanding, and compassion, even from La Croix, who could be ruthless and violent without a second thought if something stood in his way.
Like I said, the show was camp and violent and gory in the way most cop shows were during that time. It rolled in sleaze to come out covered in it, but it was also fun and zany and knew when to poke fun at itself. The moments between Nick and La Croix were among the show’s best. Both actors played well off one another, and both were equally strong. They portrayed a relationship that had lasted over a thousand years. It’s easy to see how these two characters would keep bashing away at each other rather than throw their hands up and walk away after a century or two. La Croix wasn’t so much Nick’s darker side as they were both different sides of the same coin. The only difference was Nick’s dedication of making up for his past misdeeds. La Croix never saw them as misdeeds at all. They were vampires, doing what vampires did.
If you love vampires and melodrama, you could do a lot worse than Forever Knight. It’s one of my all-time favorite shows, and it doesn’t hold back on the evils that people, and vampires, can do to each other.