Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: February 15


Broadcast on this day in 1991: Episode 8

Barnabas and Josette enjoy a lusty reunion while Angelique casts a spell to unite the prospective bride with Barnabas’ brother, Jeremiah. Her plan is so successful that the two escape to Boston and elope, but Barnabas pursues them. After the two men are reduced to physical combat, Jeremiah reveals that he and Josette have married. Having been bested in battle by Barnabas, Jeremiah demands the satisfaction of a duel. Victoria’s family history tells her that this is how Jeremiah died, and tries to thwart the duel alongside Sarah, but to no avail. Barnabas vows that no harm will come to his brother, and when it comes time to load the pistol, he pockets the ball. However, Angelique casts a passionate spell that fires a separate blast, killing Jeremiah when Barnabas pulls the trigger. The family is shattered, and Abigail blames Victoria for the sorcery behind Jeremiah’s death. Meanwhile, in the present, a confused Phyllis Wick arrives from 1790 in Vicki’s place, dying of diphtheria. Modern Barnabas is terrified; he recalls her dying from it. Could the same fate befall Victoria? And if Mistress Wick dies, will that strand Vicki in the past?

Like the episode before it, Ep.8 betrays a series running at full steam, seasons ahead of most successful shows. The 1790 flashback is an underrated triumph for DARK SHADOWS, economizing in many ways, luxuriating in others, and taking (some of) the best of that storyline and distilling its essence from a marvelous wine into a powerful grappa. As with an HBO series season, the promise of seven episodes begins to pay off around the eighth. The cast is now more than confident; they are enthusiastic. Ben Cross may seem a bit lost as the Barnabas of 1991, but the Barnabas of 1790? Completely in his element. The casting of Adrian Paul is spot-on, as well. He has a miniscule portion of two episodes to make an impression as a vital catalyst for Barnabas, and the man succeeds. (I’ve heard a rumor that he was to play Quentin had the show continued. But I’ve also heard that Dan Curtis offered the part once more to David Selby.) Soap operas are often about the repression of emotion. You know, quiet desperation and all that. In this, emotion -- Hollywood-sized -- takes the top bill. Sentiment is somehow more heartening. The anger is justifiably explosive. Regret is at operatic levels, hold-the-soap-thank-you.

And the passion? It feels ahead of its time for 1991. The love scenes between Barnabas and Josette have honest, raw, lusty abandon. And the magicks forged by Angelique? Is it just me, or does it look like the unseen Magic Wand she uses while casting her spells was made by Hitachi? Lysette Anthony is shameless in the best way, behaving for all the world as if she’d wandered off the set of a Ken Russell movie and couldn’t tell the difference. That doesn’t interfere with the pathos of the story. If anything, it puts it into a context that makes this version Angelique all the more perversely hateful. She revels in the pain of others not only because the result brings her pleasure, it seems that the process itself does, as well. Intense, romantic, and ripe with supernatural intrigue, this episode reminds me just how much I enjoyed the 1991 show as it evolved.  

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