Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: FEBRUARY 6


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 689

After Barnabas catches David trying to get into the secret room where Chris has transformed, Maggie notes that David’s personality is changing for the worse. Chris discovers that Ned Stuart is looking for him, and explains that Ned’s sister was once Chris’ girlfriend until the sight of his transformation drove her to catatonia. He suspects that Ned may have tried to poison him. Later, David resists Quentin’s nefarious wishes and is rendered into pain and maybe death by the ghost.

The only secret about the “secret room” in the Collins Mausoleum is why they don’t just put up a neon sign and revolving door. If every character on the show who knew about the forbidden chamber went in there at once, it would look like the stateroom scene in A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. Which is just the way that Roger Collins likes it.

For a section of the series that doesn’t have a lot going on, 689 is packed with great stuff and is a fine example of the show firing on all cylinders as it nears its apex with 1897. Could they be cutting to the chase-to-Victoriana faster? Sure. But why spoil the ride? It may not have the blood and thunder of Maggie’s kidnapping or the urbane menace of Nicholas Blair, but this section of the series feels like the core of the show… Barnabas doing his part to protect the family and extended family from the mysteries of the unknown. The two highlights of the episode are character-oriented. First, it takes the time to have Maggie come to terms with the fact that, for better or maybe worse, she’s no Victoria Winters. Kathryn Leigh Scott handles the deliberation with contemplative depth, and it’s nice to see the program not just sweep the swap under the rug. I assumed that she was working as a diner waitress because there was simply a lack of work in Collinsport for a liberal arts-trained woman. No wonder she first thought Vicki was a j-e-r-k… she took her gig in ‘66. I also prefer Maggie because she conveys intelligence. Moltke was all about innocence. Maggie is about guts and guile.

The other bright spot is the opportunity given to Don Briscoe for a great monologue about Sabrina, and that crazy time she had a nervous breakdown during his transformation. This is not an example of the show just poking around and stretching things out. This genuinely enhances the character and our respect for the actor. Briscoe maintains his sense of woe while finding every bit of variety within that, and does so with truth, conviction, and subtlety.

Speaking of which, no one does hand-fu like David Selby. His gestures and poses put Mandrake to shame. As he wields them to torture David, I have no doubt that this is authentically what tormenting ghost hands look like.

On this day in 1969, Broadway superstar composer, Jerry Herman, opened his first real flop… DEAR WORLD. However, artistically, it was a rousing success. Various songs presage styles that will define the medium, ranging from Sondheim to, unfortunately, Lloyd Webber. However, it is with “Kiss Her Now” that Herman delivers as only he can. The show lasted less than 150 performances.

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