Monday, May 28, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 28


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 516

Led by the sobbing of Josette, Willie and Julia unearth the spot where Barnabas was entombed and free him. Meanwhile, Angelique curses Liz with the memories of Naomi and torments her at the mausoleum. Julia outs Cassandra as Angelique to the ghost of Trask, who hunts her down at the mausoleum and sets her ablaze.

Just when you think that Collinsport (as it says on the sign when you enter the town) is the seat of lies and mendacity for all of coastal Maine, along comes an episode like this. Suddenly, your faith in humanity is renewed. At long last, your reasons to trust the ghost of an insane, fundamentalist bigot are given strength once more. Oh, maybe he committed a little blackmail to expediently bring about the execution of an innocent woman for a crime that doesn't exist. Well, technically doesn't exist. But what does that matter? As Dr. Julia Hoffman proves, he was sincere in his belief. And once she drops a dime on Cassandra, he has no interest in harassing ersatz enchantresses or his own murderer. The man is, above all, a professional.

This is probably the most winning moment for the ghost of Reverend Trask. Yes, he holds his professionalism so dear that the ironic murder of his own assassin holds little interest compared to meeting out Justice against the Devil. I think I can get behind that. And, all kidding aside, this sets up a “Trask Baseline” against which we can judge other, similar characters and, most vitally, future Trasks.  With the introduction of Nicholas Blair, the tapestry of occult personalities on the show grows far richer. It's one thing to have a horrible human being, demonic or otherwise, as your nemesis. We accept that this is going to happen. What's important is whether or not they are a demonic nemesis of character and integrity. In an episode like this, we see that Trask is.  By implication and demonstration, we also see that Nicholas most certainly is not.  And we also get to see, later on, how insincere and shallow Gregory Trask and Lamar Trask are by comparison.

It also helps us to root for Trask, once an unthinkable act, because of how bizarrely sadistic Angelique is in this episode. Picking on Joan Bennett is a little excessive.  Notice how Angelique doesn't take her on in a penmanship duel or in a contest to identify the most obscure piece of flatware at a table setting. No, instead, it's the old shtick of haunting her with a more interesting character... from a storyline we have started to miss... because this one is getting a little stale... despite its spectacular set pieces.  I always wondered about this move.  The show has shifted so significantly away from the mystery of the reclusive Liz Stoddard that I'm not sure they really have anything for Joan Bennett to do other than Lend Respectability on the closing credits. This at least gives her a more interesting function than sitting around waiting to hear exposition.  It's also the right combination of the atmospheric and the aimless. This fits with the spirit of the show, can come and go as the writers need it, and allows Joan to take a vacation almost anytime she wants because, in the words of Mr. Wells, her secret lover, “We’ll always have Windcliff.”

Finally, John Karlen seems to be celebrating his birthday by playing up Willie’s cowardice to the hilt. He seems to be going for Lou Costello while Grayson Hall is the spitting image of a shrewish wife from a WC Fields domestic comedy. And if I were tied up behind a brick wall by an enchanted fundamentalist from hell, they're exactly the team I would want coming to my rescue.

This episode hit the airwaves June 18, 1968.

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