Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 23


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 570

The Old House becomes a full house! When Barnabas tries to hide a suicidal Liz from Roger and a hypno-crazed Julia from Tom, can he find the time to stake the town’s newest vampire? Barnabas: Jonathan Frid. (Repeat. 30 min.)

When an insane Liz arrives at the Old House, Barnabas deduces the location of both Julia and Tom Jennings. After rescuing the doctor, Barnabas returns and engages Tom in deadly combat.

What to do with Julia?

It had to be a constant question in the writers’ room, both helped and made impossible by the fact that one of your best writers was married to her… and got the job through her. She’s not a love interest, but she is. She’s not an heroic protagonist, but she is. She even starts out trying to kill the most popular character. Julia is a mess of contradictions and not someone traditionally destined to be kept around. But she is. And as a result, she is one of the most unique characters in the history of television. Julia defies any label you might wish to put on her, and yet so many labels also apply.

Willie plays Jiminy Cricket so hard in this episode, I’m surprised he doesn’t turn green and sprout antenna. Rather than the usual haranguing, he takes the opportunity to give Barnabas a hard time about his feelings for Julia. Barnabas is loathe to admit it, but of course he cares about her. It’s actually a very human moment. As he says, she has become a part of his life. A strange part. Barnabas is too polite and under too much pressure to go further. If he were to be honest, Barnabas would probably add that he would more readily admit feelings of warmth for her if she were not also a colossal pain in the ass. She lectures him. She’s scolds him. She debates with him incessantly. And given the time from which Barnabas has come, he is perhaps the most liberal, advanced, forward thinking man on the planet for putting up with it. Because that is not how they rolled in the 1790s. It’s only because he had Naomi for a mother that I think he does. 

Freud said that behind every fear is a wish and behind every wish is a fear. As much as Julia wanted to cure Barnabas she was simultaneously fascinated with the concept of vampirism. It was the twilight between the world of the living and the world of the dead, and control over that meant control over life itself. Although it was one in a chain of thousands of wrongheaded moves, I think the 2012 movie was responding to something that rumbles under the text of the TV series. Only in one moment, though, when they had Julia turn herself into a vampire. And as much as she seems to hate it from Tom, Julia is also getting a lot of what she seems to want. Above it all, she is finally desired by a handsome, feral neck-biting man. And she hates it, but she keeps showing up. She keeps getting in the way of Barnabas’ gun. She keeps tying sheets together and sneaking out of the Old House after curfew.

Which is not easy in this episode. In real life, the Collinwood set had been accidentally destroyed when it was supposed to simply be cleaned. (You can imagine what it was like to be working with Dan Curtis around the time of that news.) Unfortunately, they also had to deal with Joan Bennett’s return, so the Old House was used constantly — here, it turns into a hotel for neurotic, morbid women, making Barnabas like the unwitting hero of the Pedro Almodóvar movie. No wonder he keeps going out to try and kill Tom Jennings. It’s a relatively peaceful task compared to what he’s dealing with at home. Liz wants to die. Roger wants Barnabas to get Juliet to pull strings at Windcliff. Julia wants to run so far away from Tom Jennings that she circumnavigate the globe and runs into him again “by accident.“ Victoria is still missing. Adam is at large. God only knows what’s going on with Angelique. He’s got Marie Wallace’s body decomposing in the basement. Nicholas is having fondue with Maggie. In the middle of all this, Willie stands there and has the nerve to call Barnabas insensitive!  I’m amazed that Barnabas doesn’t take the hammer and stake to him, first. Just as a warm-up.

No, a little bit of time spent staking the walking representation of everything you hate about yourself is just what the doctor ordered. And it’s just with Barnabas gets.

Dealing with Julia Hoffman is a complex matter. You’ve got to work out that stress somewhere.

This episode was broadcast Aug. 30, 1968.

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