Friday, October 13, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: OCTOBER 13


Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 872

Petofi reviews his trip to the future with his blonde assistant, Miss Teschmacher, er, I mean, Beth. She’s to bury jewels and a magical painting to await them in 1969. Meanwhile, Pansy Faye is convinced that all are up to no good as she tries to suss out the new Barnabas Collins. Barnabas, in the meantime, is foiled by Count Petofi as he tries to follow Beth to the spot where she’s burying the Count’s treasure. Having thoroughly flummoxed everyone, Petofi uses the I Ching to escape to 1969.

There are two things in infinite supply at Collinwood… love and possibility. True, it’s usually a frustrated or perverse love, and true, it’s often the possibility for the worst to eclipse the best.  But there are moments when it’s the finest of those two things, as well. For me, 872 may contain my favorite “cliffhanger” of the entire series. As much as we recognize Petofi as a villain, he’s one of relentless optimism. The eyeglasses are poetic touches for a character driven by aspirational vision. It’s a singular vision. For all of his talk of evil, that may be shorthand for something else. Perhaps a necessary disregard for others -- one that enables him to move ahead at best possible speed. Others may be crushed if they get in the way, but then again, he may help them, also. Dammit, Jim, I’m an eccentric visionary, not a social services desk. Despite a name that ends in a vowel, he is the very picture of Victorian imperialism, now extending, Crowleyesque, into the forbidden world of the occult. Why does he do it? Is anyone fitter to rule? Exactly. And this effect is one of collaboration. We must remember that David Selby plays the part for weeks, and that both actors contribute to the part. Thayer David brings a charming sense of natural and unapologetic superiority, expressed with wit.  Selby delivers an athletic ruthlessness to the character. Together, they create a man who could only come about through teamwork with fabulous writers. Angelique’s workings were grounded in revenge. Nicholas? Power. Petofi? Sheer exploration. So, when he arrives in 1969 in triumph, I can’t help but to cheer him on. “Who Dares Wins,” and all that, don’t you know? Is he a rotten guy other times? Well, I mean, yeah. But let’s give him this moment in the sun of 1969.

This installment is also notable as being the closest DARK SHADOWS would come to farce. (I had to check that it wasn’t directed by Blake Edwards.) Schemes involving buried treasure? Check. Done by precariously trusted servants? Check. Wacky misdirection… with champagne... so that people can sneak around behind each other’s backs? Is our hero caught tip-toeing not far behind? Check. A stolen painting, right out of ANIMAL CRACKERS? Check. Oh, and a treasure map indicating pilfered jewels… and you just know it’ll get screwed up. All in all, a delight.

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