Monday, August 21, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 21


Taped on this day in 1968: Episode 568

Barnabas explains to Jeff the stakes behind creating a female promethean. Jeff eventually agrees to help, given that life is at stake. Roger arrives, demanding Julia’s help; Liz has escaped Windcliff. Julia, stricken by the crimson rapture of Tom Jennings’ control, demurs. That night, Barnabas lays a trap to lure Jennings in with Julia, and then shoot him with silver bullets. Julia is compelled to defend Jennings, and in the resulting fray, vanishes with him.

Jonathan Frid begins the episode with surprising command and conviction when detailing why Eve must be created. The tiger in Barnabas’ tank was always an edged uncertainty, and to see him in a position of absolute certainty is a reassuring reminder of his Shakespearean chops. In his opening scene with Clark, he shows a confidence worthy of a Universal Monsters villain, with just a twist of Thesiger behind his smile. Quickly, though, the mid-line hesitations and occasional blank expressions add up, and that sense of confidence leaves with it. What we are left with is Barnabas as we know him, but the gamesman’s finesse has been replaced with autopiloted line readings. I say this cognizant of what an impossible job Frid faced. Roger Davis handles his lines with a nimble sense of fun, perhaps because he simply had fewer of them to learn. It works to a strange advantage. His character is the most difficult to persuade, and so the fire he displays shows a worthy challenge. We admire Barnabas all the more for winning it.

Grayson Hall is also placed in an unenviable position by the episode. She’s under the deep whammy of Tom Jennings, and so she meekly swoons in every scene. They tell writers to “write what you know.” To a certain extent, that goes for actors. Grayson, the second person to be given Dr. Erskine’s Super Soldier formula, was not a meek swooner by all reports. These are the heavy blinking, o-mouthed, head vacillating performances that critics of Hall use against her. I don’t call it bad acting… there’s only so much you can do with a cartoon. But seeing Julia like that is always evidence of a questionable match.

By comparison, Louis Edmonds was the picture of assurance as Roger panicked, out of control of his sister. Don Briscoe’s compact virility and comfort with the animal side of the vampire makes his turn as one perhaps the series’ most frightening.

On this day in 1968, the Chicago Democratic Convention opened. Gore and Bill were just getting warmed up. It’s also the birthday of actor Don Crabtree, who played the ill-fated Sheriff of Collinsport in 1995.

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