Monday, March 5, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 5


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 706

Barnabas learns that Edith knows his identity as a vampire -- the true family secret could get out at any moment as she mutters the word, “mausoleum” to all within close earshot. He orders the mausoleum cleared before meeting Edward, Judith, and Quentin’s brother: Carl. The new Collins holds Barnabas at gunpoint with a trick pistol that ejects a flag that says, “FIB.” He insists that they’ll be great friends. Soon, Edith dies while Edward swears to find out the secret, anyway. 

Larry David fans take note; DARK SHADOWS is a prequel to SEINFELD. SEINFELD gone wrong. That’s all I can think when I watch 709. I had a friend who contended that you couldn’t understand SEINFELD if you weren’t from New York. Guess where she lived?

Of course, she was wrong. To understand SEINFELD means to be one of two types of people, and geography is irrelevant. There are those who enforce the arbitrary rules of society, and there are those who -- just to maintain sanity -- have to bend, bob, and weave around those rules just to get through the day. The rest of society sees us as villains and weasels. In truth, we’re just getting by as the loyal resistance. Barnabas is one of us. In fact, most of the more interesting characters on DARK SHADOWS are. We can’t all be Edward Collins, as easy as his life of constant and furious umbrage would be.

Here we have Barnabas on a mission to save a life. As noble as it gets. And yet? From day one in 1897, he leads (as the title of my autobiography will read) “a life under siege.” Rarely has he had a worse day than this one, and it gives him the chance to display his greatest power ever, which the restraint he shows by not choking the living shisha out of Carl, Edward, and Magda. Yes, Angelique, Nicholas, and Adam tried his mettle and soul to the ectoplasmic marrow. These are major, existential crises. Compared to this unbroken chain of stubbed situational toes in 706? Childsplay. I mean… you show up. The matriarch goes nuts because, of course, she knows your secret. Like, the third person you meet in all of Maine, and she knows your secret. Fortunately, she’s oatmeal north of the eyebrows. Except for blurting out “mausoleum” for all the world to hear. Great. You go deal with Magda. Simple request -- move a coffin a half mile or so. Little to ask in exchange for free rent. Of course, she’s jerk, but you don’t have the time to bite her. You finally sit down and there’s a gun to your head, wielded by some greasy dweeb in brown velvet who looks like Willie. But it’s all a gag. At this point, is any of it worth it? Yes, Barnabas would have survived the gunshot, but who’s going to get his undead brains out of the carpet? I mean, before Edward minces downstairs. And what if Carl misses and puts a hole in Barnabas’ only suit? Guys, I’m sorry, but we don’t have time for this. I mean, really. Angelique didn’t get Barnabas to lose it, but this chain of inconveniences and imbeciles is enough to drive anyone over the edge. It’s like he’s landed in an I, CLAUDIUS episode in the Caligula arc. 

The interaction with Carl may be my favorite Frid moment in his hundreds of episodes. In real life, he’s an actor under unfathomable stress, cornered by psychotic, nymphomaniacal fans of all genders at every turn. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Opening the mail is an adventure. Gravestone cookies? Passionately unwanted nudes? But he’s a Canadian aristocrat with an upper lip so stiff you could cut linoleum on it. He can hold it together. Frid was clearly channeling his fragmenting politeness in how he indulged Carl. From beat to beat, his face is an encyclopedia of WTF moments. The culmination is when Carl needs to go, and Frid -- I mean, Barnabas -- tells him, “Don’t let me stop you,” with a deadpan delivery that makes Steven Wright look like Jerry Lewis.

But he suffers in Seinfeldian silence, with no Julia nor Willie nor Stokes to whom he can kvetch. Only on a day like this could the death of the Collins matriarch signal a happy ending for Barnabas. 

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...