By PATRICK McCRAY
June 16, 1966
Taped on this date: Episode 4
Well, it’s four episodes in, and Vicki is finally in bed. Downstairs, Liz chews out Roger for spooking Victoria. Roger counters with the news the Burke is back and might have spoken to Vicki. Liz tells her to leave it alone, but Roger feels that his life may be in danger. No, he’ll be no prisoner. Carolyn enters for the end of it. Carolyn wants to know who’s trying to kill Roger. Is it Burke? Vicki mentioned him. Roger summons Vicki. Liz doesn’t want her involved, but has her come down anyway. When Carolyn goes to get Vicki, she tells the new governess that Roger’s ex-wife still lives and that David is a handful. Roger is a nice guy, but he’s getting in over his head. In conversation with Roger and Liz, Vicki says that Burke said nothing about the Collinses. Roger then asks for a moment alone with Vicki. Roger pours another brandy. Roger then says that pain comes before pleasure. (What?) He then insinuates that Burke said more than she’s admitting. She adds that he knew them, and he wasn’t fond of them. It was nothing specific. He even warned her away, but again was vague. Roger is in a paranoid furor, demanding to know she took the train. Why did he? To be near her? A coincidence that they both arrived by train? Vicki tries to leave, pained. And it’s only midnight. Vicki tries to sleep, but is awakened by the sound of weeping. She follows it to the drawing room. Nothing. David, though, appears on the staircase to inform her that he hates her. Welcome to Collinwood!
Welcome David Henesy in his first DARK SHADOWS appearance… a role he won by taking the train on his own to audition. So little happens in this episode that I’m reminded of how and why soap operas were constructed… to keep housewives entertained while they attended to more distracting tasks. Too much data and the plot would be incomprehensible. But we see Roger cracking, and maybe this is where Carolyn realizes he has feet of clay. And the supernatural starts to creep in with the eventually-forgotten weeping of the widows. Or at least one widow. Maybe the other two were at the Blue Whale. The catty side of me, which is to say me, wondered if the weeping were from a future viewer who knew that it would be a long time until the next spring when Barnabas would appear. I kid. I kid. Just to prove they were in no hurry, the weeping would not be provided by the writers again for another thirty-three episodes. The sobbing was provided by Florence Stanley, who had a vast career in entertainment, including voices for video games and animation. She might best be known as Abe “Ezra Braithwaite” Vigoda’s wife on BARNEY MILLER and the spinoff, FISH.
June 16, 1967
Taped on this date: Episode 265
At Windcliff, Julia Hoffman attempts to break through Maggie’s catatonia. It’s working slowly, but Maggie breaks down when asked her name. Meanwhile, Sam is shocked that Julia is isolating Maggie from everyone. Julia is an unusual doctor and the case is just as unusual. Sam feels like he’s lost her all over again. Woodard reluctantly agrees to ask Julia if Sam and Joe can visit. At Windcliff, Julia is none too pleased with Woodard. She allows the men to see her out of morbid curiosity and to teach them why she must be isolated. Maggie responds to Sam’s questioning by slipping into hysteria. Woodard and Hoffman discuss their different approaches. Hoffman is mysterious and tight-lipped. As for Maggie’s blood, Julia has deep insight, but again keeps it private. Sam and Joe enter. Julia explains that they may not see the Maggie they remember for a long time. Alone with Maggie, all Julia hears is her repeating the lyric, “Lock her up.”
Julia is introduced in this episode with perfection. Knowing who she really is and how she ends up, there’s no better set-up, and it sure feels as if the writers had the entire series mapped out. Which they didn’t. But it feels that way. She’s a cold and ruthless explorer of the unknown, taking cases on because they tease her curiosity. The humanity jazz? That’s Woodard’s gig. I think they needed a badass to stake Barnabas, and few asses are as bad. But that’s all a cover. We see Julia discover that she’s got more heart than anyone in the show, without betraying her grit. It’s a marvelous transformation, and like so many on the show, it depicts the accumulation of true wisdom. Kathryn Leigh Scott also steals every scene she’s in. Because we know how feisty she can be as Maggie, her tortured near-catatonia is heartbreaking and frightening. How does Barnabas earn a conscience? By accidentally creating collateral damage like that.
(Episode 255 airs on this date.)
June 16, 1968
Taped on this date: Episode 522
The search for the portrait will reveal whether or not Cassandra is dead. Barnabas indicates that his search for it was fruitless. Roger reveals it after having found it in a closet that afternoon -- the colors have faded terribly. Nicholas Blair -- Cassandra’s brother -- arrives and introduces himself. They reluctantly inform him that Cassandra is gone. Nicholas is suspicious… someone didn’t like her. Julia? Barnabas? She has fled from hostility in the past. Nicholas assures them that anything that has happened to her can be undone. Roger shows him to his room, and Nicholas assures everyone they will see him again. Alone with Julia, Barnabas confides that it’s a brother demon. They agree that they need the picture back from Roger and call Stokes to finish the job. In Nicholas’ room, Roger places the painting on a stand and reassures Nicholas that no one means harm to her. The portrait fascinates Nicholas, who bemoans the fading of the painting and offers to restore it. In the Old House, Barnabas tells an Adam-paranoid, gun-toting Willie that he’s off to see Stokes. In the meantime, he is not to harm Adam. As Willie lights candles, Joe spies on him and then knocks. Willie hides the gun and lets Joe in. Joe immediately asks about Willie’s relationship with Adam. Joe twists Willie’s arm behind his back for information. Willie blurts out that he hates Barnabas, not him. Wriggling loose, Willie gets the gun and chases Joe off, while hearing Joe tell him to inform Barnabas that he’ll be back. Over the portrait, Nicholas asks for a sign and seems to discern from the painting that he should look for clues where Barnabas lives. At the Old House, Willie rues his state while bricking Trask’s skeleton. Willie hears the door open and investigates. Through the bars, he sees Nicholas who summons him out. He asks to see Barnabas. Nicholas mind controls Willie. Willie then spouts the truth. Barnabas and Cassandra fight. She’s a witch. They told the ghost downstairs that she was at Collinwood. A skeleton in the basement. Nicholas commands him to go to sleep and inspects the basement where he conjures the ghost of Trask from the skeleton.
Nicholas Blair. No one else can mix charm as thick as the aroma of both Blackbeard’s Delight and London Gentleman all mixed up together and still threaten a room with impending wrath all at the same time. Angelique’s. Brother. Is. Home. Evil now comes from both sides -- the utter control of Nicholas Blair’s laser-like focus and the unraveling sanity of Joe Haskell, on his way to being the first real collateral damage of a major character unable to take the paranormal madness brewing under his hometown’s folksy surface. And it ends with the lead up to one of DARK SHADOWS’ greatest showdowns.
June 16, 1969
Taped on this date: Episode 781
1897. As dawn comes, Barnabas dematerializes, telling Trask that he will deal with him as he dealt with his ancestor. Trask, now knowing the vampire’s identity, vows to destroy Barnabas. At Collinwood, Edward calls the sheriff to investigate Carl’s murder. Trask comes to Collinwood and tells Edward the truth about Barnabas. Trask saw him vanish at the dawn. That’s proof enough for Edward. They must investigate the Old House. Edward will eradicate Barnabas… and keep it secret from the family. At the Old House, Magda greets Edward and Trask. They very forcefully demand to know where he keeps his coffin. Magda feigns ignorance. Trask becomes violent with her. Magda makes a gypsy threat against Trask. (It’s vague on the show, too.) In the drawing room, Edward and Trask have ordered silver bullets. Looking at plans, they see that the Old House has four secret rooms. They will start with the one behind the bookcase. When Barnabas rises, he and Magda plot to move his coffin. Before they can, Edward and Trask burst in and threaten to shoot Magda if she doesn’t let them open the bookcase. They find the coffin within and raise the lid; it’s empty. They spring into action. Magda is gone, but they have no need. They will destroy his coffin and wait for Barnabas to return. Trask eventually leaves Edward alone to confront his relative. In the secret room, Barnabas phases in to find his coffin chained and painted with a white cross. He flies to Charity Trask asking for help; he must be hidden in the school and protected. He is only safe with her. She resists, but after gazing into his hypno-eyes, she loses her will. He commands her to find another coffin and bring dirt from his grave. Finally, he gives her a secret path there that will circumvent Edward. Unfortunately, Charity knocks over a candlestick in the basement there, alerting him. She is paralyzed as Edward comes downstairs. He sees a shadow around a corner and demands that someone come out. He is shocked to see her.
The indescribably fabulous Alexis Latshaw -- the person I normally just refer to as “The Woman” -- once told me that some fans don’t favor 1897. I guess it’s because it doesn’t have a whole lot to do with Josette, save actually reuniting Barnabas with her. Anyway, anyone who dislikes 1897 needs to be shown this episode, and if they still feel this way, they need their plastic fangs confiscated. This is DARK SHADOWS at its very best; a pulp adventure from stem to stern. Out goes the doom and gloom. In come the Days of High Adventure! Barnabas outs himself to Trask. Both swear vengeance. Magda hurls curses. Guns brandished with newly-minted silver bullets. Blueprints reveal four secret rooms. Coffins chained and vandalized. Beautiful babes sent on secret missions to get soil for a vampire’s coffin. This is no soap opera. Replace Bob Cobert’s theme with this one by Jerry Goldsmith. At least for a day. It’s a reminder that this was afternoon entertainment for kids as well as housewives, and the summer of 1969 delivered heroes and thrills in equal measure to America on the program.
(Episode 776 airs on this date.)
June 16, 1970
Taped on this date: Episode 1042
1970PT. “Alexis” goes home to report that Quentin was a madman who forced her to call in the inspector, after which he KARATE CHOPPED him and escaped. Maggie now believes Quentin is capable of Bruno’s murder. He could have also murdered Angelique. Could? No, did. “Alexis” hopes it’s not true. Maggie is horrified at the realization. “Alexis” suggests that if this is true, then Quentin might come for Maggie. Maggie is eager for the opportunity to ask him why. Carolyn returns to Loomis House where Julia reports his escape and the police’s search for him at their home. But if he’s loose, Angelique might have him in her crosshairs. But that doesn’t solve who killed Angelique. Upstairs in her drawer, Maggie finds the statuette used to kill Bruno from afar. Carolyn enters, confirming that the ascot around its neck is Bruno’s. Does this mean that Maggie unconsciously killed Bruno? Carolyn asks if Alexis could have placed it there. Does Carolyn know something she’s not saying? Carolyn demurs, but advises caution. Back at Loomis House, Carolyn reports to Julia about the voodoo doll. Julia says that Maggie is safer from Alexis if she doesn’t know the truth. If they know of Angelique’s true murderer, they can persuade Quentin to surrender. At Collinwood, Maggie finds that the doll is gone from the bedroom. She calls “Alexis” in and asks if she came in. She finds Quentin’s things missing, too. That must mean that Quentin’s in the house. Maggie asks if she’s trying to frighten her. An offended Alexis denies it. Maggie is determined to see Quentin. Going downstairs, she finds the drawing room windows open. The front doors fly open. From Angelique’s room, she hears someone playing the Ode on the piano. There is no one playing. Julia appears and asks her to go to Loomis House so that she won’t be alone. “Alexis” appears and assures Julia that she won’t be alone at all. While pondering this all at Loomis House, Carolyn has a vision of a dead Angelique and a green broach nearby. Carolyn screams and tells Julia that she knows who murdered Angelique.
An episode like this -- a slow one that really is one scene stretched out over twenty minutes -- reminds me how far the series has come since it behaved like a soap opera. There are occasional moments of atmosphere, but it feels as if Frid and Selby declared personal days at the same time and the writers just told Barrett, Hall, Scott, and Parker to make something up. Still, they do so charmingly, and it’s always fun to watch Angelique slowly roast others over the slow coals of paranoia.
(Episode 1037 airs on this date.)