Monday, April 9, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 9


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 471

Barnabas leaves Lang’s shortly before Jeff Clark delivers an arm to the mad doctor. At Collinwood, there is concern over Roger staying the night out, and then Lang’s head mirror is discovered in his room. Vicki gets a start when Harry Johnson, the maid’s ex-con son, arrives and looks like Noah Gifford. Mrs. Johnson warns him not to steal anything, and he immediately follows this up by snooping through the drawing room desk, presumably to steal something. Barnabas gets the urge to bite Vicki. Fleeing to Lang, the doctor assures him that he can be permanently cured by taking the face of Vicki’s lover, Jeff Clark.

The soft reboot enters its third week. The show has transitioned from the pre-1795 era to preparing for Angelique and Adam -- voices both sinister and sympathetic. DARK SHADOWS is about vulnerabilities under the facade of Collinwood’s might, and the writers were obligated to maintain a certain equilibrium of dangers. With Barnabas more-or-less cured, Angelique needs to be on hand as a threat. But a weasel is necessary to the mix, also. With John Karlen not yet available, the unfortunately named Harry Johnson stands in, and the show wastes no time in identifying him as bad news. They never do quite enough with the character, but he is a statement that this universe has certain standards of creepdom consistency. Craig Slocum continues to be the quintessence of clammy hands in his whiny, Eddie Haskellesque characterizations, and it really makes you wonder what his father was like, because he didn’t get it from mom!

Barnabas’ transformation is more than physical. Less than a year after his introduction, he’s been cured, origin-ized, and now more closely resembles John Adams in 1776 than Dracula. He has gone from strangulation, kidnapping, and brainwashing to feeling profoundly uneasy with the the tip of Lang’s iceberg of madness. Imagine if he’d seen the arm in the box. His costume is transformed as well, and more than any other factor than dialogue, costume immediately defines character. He’s gone from the black, neo-Edwardian, double breasted fortress to a loose, layered, lighter tweed and vest. All he’s missing is a pipe and the PBS logo to his lower left. 

He now knows one thing; Lang is as mad as a March hare. Is a cure worth it if he’s somehow going to have to switch faces? I know that being a vampire is strange, but this is really going too far. Coming back to the theme of social compliance, Lang coaxes Barnabas in by having him make one small compromise -- and cover one small untruth -- at a time. It’s a strangely sad time for Barnabas because just when he has no more reason to lie to the world about himself, he has to lie on behalf of someone he doesn’t even like very much. It’s going to take the suicide missions of 1897, Parallel Time, and 1840 for him to even begin to atone, even when he’s a victim of circumstance.

Coming back to Mrs. Johnson, does she always scour Roger’s room for weird props to bring to Liz in the name of tattletaledom? In this case, it’s Lang’s head mirror. At first, it just looks like Roger’s got a simple medical fetish, but then it’s compounded by Lang’s name emblazoned within the band. Since Roger stayed out the night before, it looks to me like Roger’s dating Dr. Lang. It’s a tribute to the innocence of the era that this occurs to no one.

On this day in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was buried in Atlanta.

This episode hit the airwaves April 15, 1968.

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