Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 1


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 749

Quentin frets over the oncoming curse, desperate to defuse it. He even agrees to take $10,000 from Edward in exchange for signing a contract that will ensure his exit. After hallucinations of a baby doll and a dream sequence where he confronts his wife's corpse, Quentin goes to Magda, who happily takes the $10,000 and then slips him the magical, accursed potion in a celebratory drink after she convinces him that he is free. Once he downs the potion, she cackles that his curse is only just beginning.

It’s been said that the opposite of love is not hate; it’s apathy. There are times when I’d prefer apathy. Quentin would agree that it beats becoming a werewolf. But these are the things that happen when a hoity-toity WASP marries an earthy gypsy girl that he later has to kill in self-defense. So, another curse is laid upon a Collins. In the Old House. By that column near the front door. There? See it? That’s about the same place that Barnabas was cursed. If you’re not convinced that 1897 is DARK SHADOWS own, more confident remake, we must part ways. A WASP aristocrat becomes infatuated with a woman from a mysterious and tempestuous culture. His interests wane before their relationship is officially over, and the pain drives her to extremes. In a vicious power struggle, he strangles her. In retaliation, he is cursed to a lonely existence as a monster. And, as I said, right there in drawing room of the Old House. Look familiar? All that’s missing is the the timidity that the staff had when introducing Barnabas Collins, piecemeal. With Barnabas, every choice was an artistic chance. With Quentin, the only chance was not going too far. Since this episode is the catalyst for the rest of Quentin's strange, sad life and journey, it is the most closely focused point of comparison that we can make between the two lead characters.

Their similarities are what make them suitable for DARK SHADOWS. However, their differences are what make them truly interesting, and the differences are certainly on parade in 749. In this episode, Quentin reveals himself to be the opposite of what he first portrayed when arriving on the show as a living person. He's cowardly, neurotic, suggestible, obsequious, and effusive with his emotions. It's almost as if the writers wanted to go out of their way to show the man behind the curtain. Ironically, if he had stayed away from the gypsies and their hooch, he very likely would have survived — or delayed — the curse. But he can't stay away. Quentin is a social animal, and the Solutions will always be social and interactive. During episode 749, he toadies to everyone, even Edward. He is desperate for their fellowship, approval, and money. Even when he thinks the curse is over, Quentin happily has a drink with the people who, just 30 seconds before, he knew intended his doom. Desperation like this is what makes the selection of wolf as his animal match so especially painful. No other animal is more associated with a pack, and no other character on the show will find more ways to be desperately apart from one.

For the hell of it, other differences between the two leads? Barnabas cheats on his fiancĂ©, but ends up choosing her over his lover. Quentin chooses his lover over his wife. Barnabas’ curse isolates his ability to love. Quentin’s curse removes his ability to form any kind of community. Both are curses that specifically target the deepest needs of the characters. Barnabas has social approval, but what he does not have is any kind of intimacy. Quentin has so much intimacy that I expect to see him in a gold tunic with the green woman on his arm. Love is easy for him. Friends and family? Another story.

The episode itself is a bit of a slog, although they have vastly improved the art of the dream sequence since last year during the time of the curse. Filters, more strategically placed cameras, and a more interesting depth of field all come together to elevate the sequence. The real fireworks are kept for the final scene where Quentin pays up, drinks up, realizes he has the curse, and fails to apply for a refund before passing out. Other actors can fly into histrionics and look ludicrous. David Selby somehow maintains his dignity. I think it's the lack of self-indulgence that makes it. There are a lot of performers who would be enjoying these moments a bit too much. It would be all about them. In Selby’s case, he's neither enjoying it nor disliking it. He's too busy doing his job. Beautifully, I might add.

This episode hit the airwaves May 8, 1969.

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