Lost in the Movies: Malcolm Sloan (TWIN PEAKS Character Series Bonus #18)

Malcolm Sloan (TWIN PEAKS Character Series Bonus #18)

The TWIN PEAKS Character Series surveys one hundred ten characters from the series Twin Peaks (1990-91 on ABC and 2017 on Showtime as The Return), the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), and The Missing Pieces (2014), a collection of deleted scenes from that film. The series will be rebooted in 2023 to reflect the third season (and patrons will have immediate access to each entry a month before it goes public), but this entry will remain intact. There will be spoilers.

Malcolm dumps a lot of exposition in bizarre, rambling dialogue while hiding his sinister plans.

Friday, March 17, 1989
Malcolm, chauffeur at the Marsh estate, enters the room of James Hurley, a recently arrived mechanic. Joshing about servants' solidarity, he tells James he's "heading up a local service rebellion. Wonder if you'll help me bundle up some loose sticks and burn that master." Before long, it's clear he's only half-joking. While drinking his boss' liquor Malcolm introduces himself as the brother of Evelyn Marsh (the woman of the house), confessing that this job she got him is a huge improvement on his previous "life of wanton dissipation." However, he also acknowledges that his sister is abused by her husband, which seems to shock James. That night, the newcomer overhears a violent fight across the courtyard; as James looks out the window, Malcolm returns to mutter about how someday he'll work up the courage to kill Jeffrey Marsh.

Saturday, March 18, 1989
Sipping champagne and celebrating the restoration of Jeffrey's car, James and Evelyn embrace and begin to make out. Unseen by them, Malcolm watches from down the driveway, turns away, and smiles. That evening he catches Evelyn exiting James' bedroom. He finds out the "lucky boy" is asleep before kissing his supposed "sister" himself.

Sunday, March 19, 1989
Malcolm explains who James was to a state trooper, with some help from Evelyn - who is sitting on the staircase dressed in widow's black. Her husband has been killed, and James is now the prime suspect. However, as the police exit the room, Malcolm warns Evelyn that he can't "tolerate a nervous co-conspirator" and kisses her again, before she breaks away, upset.

Monday, March 20, 1989
Malcolm discovers a drunk Evelyn at Wallie's Hideaway, a nearby bar, and he escorts her out before threatening the young woman she was addressing: James' girlfriend Donna Hayward. He warns her that if she ever returns to town, he'll kill her. Back at the mansion, Malcolm clobbers James over the head and explains to Evelyn how they will kill him and make it look like she was defending herself. Then Donna storms in, hovering over James and pleading for them to spare his life. A furious Malcolm asks Evelyn for the gun so he can finish the job; she refuses, steps away, and shoots Malcolm as he pursues her. He collapses and dies in her arms. Evelyn rehearses her version of the story aloud as the two of them lie entangled on the floor.

Characters Malcolm interacts with onscreen…

James Hurley

Evelyn Marsh (his killer)

Donna Hayward

(also killed Jeffrey Marsh)

Impressions of TWIN PEAKS through Malcolm
Malcolm is one of very few characters on the TV series who never actually sets foot in Twin Peaks. The town he lives in is never named, but probably isn't too close to Twin Peaks since James takes five days to arrive (that said, his route must be meandering; Donna gets there in a day). Other than Wallie's (a great location in a not-so-great subplot), the estate is all we see of the town - given that it looks like, and probably was, a mansion somewhere in Pasadena, it's hard to get any real physical sense of the larger location like we do with Deer Meadow in Fire Walk With Me. As for Twin Peaks the show, Malcolm's storyline indicates just how far into unapologetic soap opera territory the series travels in early season two (although film noir was the more conscious influence, the leisurely pace and rich, luxurious colors feel much closer to the plush, stretched-out televisual form). His soliloquies are so ridiculous that one could charitably interpret the whole storyline as an attempt at parody but by the final scenes, there's no lingering humor whatsoever. This isn't to say the plot takes itself very seriously; in director Diane Keaton's hands, the Malcolm material embraces stylized pastiche rather than plodding sincerity, somewhat in keeping with a Twin Peaks flavor despite its general deviation from that mood.

Malcolm’s journey
Malcolm has an arc, but it consists of revelation rather than growth. He's the same conniving bastard from beginning to end, it just takes us a few scenes to learn this. Unfortunately, at least half of Malcolm's scenes take place after his villainy is established, so most of his action consists of sneering, scowling, and manhandling Evelyn and Donna. He is one of the most unambiguously malevolent characters in Twin Peaks, an unpleasant presence without much redemptive charisma or dramatic interest. When he dies, Keaton calls back to the Leland/Madeline scene in episode 14, an embarrassing parallel between one of the show's worst scenes and one of its best. From a mildly amusing figure of camp to a tediously self-serious monster, Malcolm's journey is the crisis of Twin Peaks' mid-second season in a nutshell.

Actor: Nicholas Love
Billed as "Nick Love," the actor is yet another Wild at Heart veteran; he appears for a few seconds at the end of the 1990 Lynch film, rolling up to a car accident in his wheelchair, groaning in horror as a bloodied victim writhes on the pavement and shouting, "Oh no! Oh man! Hey man, same fucking thing happened to me last year!" before making a strange sound and twitching. Love had several other roles throughout the eighties and nineties, including on other Twin Peaks alum-staffed shows like Amazing Stories and Red Shoe Diaries. He debuted in The Boogey Man, starring his sister Suzanna Love and directed by his brother-in-law Ullli Lommel (whose films Suzanna frequently funded). The Loves were heirs to the famed Dupont fortune, so Nicholas was probably intimately familiar with the Marsh milieu he inhabited on Twin Peaks. One credit in his filmography remains perplexing; for some reason, Medium Rare, featuring both Burt Young and Timothy Leary, is listed on IMDb as both a 1987 film and a 2010 TV episode (though Love is only in the credits of the TV episode, they appear to be the same entity). Any explanations are welcome! (film pictured: Wild at Heart, 1990)


*Episode 19 (German title: "The Black Widow" - "best" episode)

Episode 20 (German title: "Checkmate")

Episode 22 (German title: "Slaves and Masters")

Presumably, Love's casting had something to do with Lynch since they worked together on Wild at Heart a year earlier. However, Lynch never directed Love; he worked under Caleb Deschanel, Todd Holland, and Diane Keaton. All of his scenes were written by Harley Peyton (who also pitched the Marsh idea to Lynch and Frost in the first place), sometimes solo and sometimes in screenplays credited to both him and Robert Engels.

Malcolm is onscreen for roughly eight minutes. He has eight scenes in three episodes, taking place over four days. He's featured the most in episode 22, when the plot to frame James unravels and Malcolm is killed. All but one of his scenes are set in or around the Marsh estate. He appears to share the most screentime with Evelyn. He is one of the top ten characters in episode 22, onscreen about as much as James in the conclusion of that arc.

"Best" Scene
Episode 19 - This is actually a pretty bad scene, with Malcolm's awkward, mumbled delivery and the screenplay's hamfisted expositional approach, but it's hilariously bad which is more than can be said for most of the other material. And it features an inane piece of dialogue that always makes me laugh out loud...

"Best" Line
“That's the thing about...things.”
(Wait, what?)

Additional Observations

• In what must be the best nickname concocted for any Twin Peaks character, Brad of the Twin Peaks Podcast dubbed this guy "Exposition Malcolm." It's hilariously true! This is one of those names you can't unhear once you've heard it. Brad explains (at 18:20 in the podcast): "It's so damn funny because he comes out of nowhere and just spouts off an insane amount of exposition. Like, a ton. And he's laying things out as obviously as possible. And then he says, I'm sorry if I'm being obscure. Which he's not in the least! And then he thanks James, and I don't know what he's thanking him for, for coming in and letting him talk for a really long time, and then just walking out, with nothing happening?"

Update 2018: This entry was written in 2017, before the third season, and did not need to be revised as Malcolm did not re-appear. Only the description/intro at the top and the ranking were updated. Since the criteria for inclusion was changed (originally three scenes with dialogue, now ten minutes of screentime), he retroactively became a "bonus entry" rather than part of the full rankings. In the original character series, Malcolm was ranked #59, between Cable and Hardy.

SHOWTIME: No, Love is not on the cast list for 2017. Malcolm is dead, and I'll save further thoughts on the Marsh legacy for an upcoming entry...

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