Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 27



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 222

Vicki is surprised to see a reformed Willie renovating the Old House when she comes to issue Barnabas a dinner invitation. When she leaves, Barnabas asks why Willie was so eager to see her go, mocking his considerateness. Barnabas later visits the Evans cottage, where Sam reports on another attack and Maggie swears she feels followed. Barnabas commissions a portrait from Sam, paying him a thousand dollars on the stipulation that they only work at night and at the Old House. After they begin, the sun starts to rise. Lost in a moment of distraction, Sam finds that Barnabas is missing.

If you want a truly emblematic episode of the first days of Barnabas, this is a marvelous choice.  It’s a disciplined, ascetic, tense slice of paranoia and menace. Is it a good representation of the overall series? No, but that doesn’t stop it from being cited as one. In many ways, I wish there were a DARK SHADOWS for which this was the poster child. But, and please don’t take this the wrong way, 222 is too good. On average, DARK SHADOWS is goofier. It has a Masterpiece-Theater-meets-Republic-Studios weirdness that cannot be denied. This belongs to a darker, subtler show. It’s both an eventful episode and one under an almost Hitchockianly tight control. The family is snowed. Barnabas is fully confident in a plan that he executes flawlessly. Willie fights to follow his conscience despite the torture he faces.  The best qualities of the well-meaning are turned against themselves. If Barnabas had remained as successful in all the episodes as he is in this one, he’d have become Mr. Maggie Evans in a month. The episode is shot with a bleak and noir atmosphere impossible in color by anyone save Gordon Willis. The writing is almost on a grim, BIG SLEEP level. It metes out only the information the audience absolutely needs, and then shorts that inventory by a sentence to keep them appropriately tantalized.

On this day in 1967, the US performed nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site. Someone probably became a superhero or something in the process.

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