Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: October 4


Taped on this day in 1968: Episode 600

Barnabas learns that the unknown tastes of garlic and ennui when he allows a dead Frenchman to enter his body. Eve: Marie Wallace. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Eve grows restless, and her attempt to seduce Nicholas fails when he instructs her to stay with Adam or be destroyed. Meanwhile, Stokes deduces that the ghost haunting the area is Phillippe Cordier, a man who chronicled the French Revolution. Cordier confirms this by possessing Barnabas at a seance. He was the former lover of Marie Roget and intends to punish those who took him. Elsewhere, spectral hands choke Adam, and Barnabas suffers as well. 

The Gold Key comics are bizarre, European supernatural stories that have something vaguely to do with DARK SHADOWS. Episode 600 is the Gold Key comics version come to life. I keep looking for the mummy, the electricity dragon, and the Revolutionary soldier. And that fact that it’s episode 600 is a big deal. The writers are too busy, with too much story to tell, to get mired in sentiment. Still, episode 600 is no small accomplishment, and if it just so happens to have some extra trills and glissandos, well, it’s no surprise.

This is one of my fondest periods of the show, and 600 epitomizes why. Because the driving arcs and interconnected characters and storylines are what give DARK SHADOWS its dramatic heft, there’s something endearingly goofy about the latter part of the Adam/Nicholas/Eve/Angelique. It has no real relevance to the larger story, making it a  self-contained non-sequitur. Most of the other storylines connect with the past or future of Collinwood and reveal important elements of the family and key characters. But once Barnabas sits down at a seance to contact the destructive and departed French lover of the ghost of the woman whose life-force was used to spark the reconstructed body of a lady intended to be the mother of a new master race for the dark lord, the series is off the chain. This is a show where Barnabas solves new paranormal whodunnits every week. It’s no longer DARK SHADOWS, it’s Saturday morning’s THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BARNABAS & FRIENDS. I’m amazed that they don’t cut away to unrelated sequences where Barnabas, Julia, Stokes, and Willie have a rock band and sing songs about bike safety. 

They throw story continuity the occasional bone by referring to the fact that Nicholas must keep Barnabas alive to protect Adam, but that’s it. And the nutty part about that element is that it pretty thoroughly removes Barnabas from danger and nerfs a major element of the tension. Somehow, it’s a nerfing that happens in the best way. In monster-of-the-week shows, we want heroes to be inconvenienced more than threatened. And there are few things more inconvenient than being inhabited by a Frenchman’s ghost during a seance. 

Marie Wallace continues to let the DS universe know that she’s here to stay… at least for the next fifteen or sixteen months. Marie and Eve are both very different presences on DS. The idea of a physically imposing beauty is the most Dan Curtis idea that Uncle Dan had never deployed, and her grandly intense acting choices match his zesty sense of storytelling. Eve has every reason to be DS’ most openly sexy character. An alien from another dimension of life, she was literally created to mate. With Eve, DARK SHADOWS rationalized how to be openly erotic without apologies. Her most amusingly manipulative moment in 600 comes when she begins kvetching about women being the helpless puppets of men. Yeah, sure. But she believes it will work, and it’s a nice try. Eve may be one of DS’ most revolutionary character. The rest all follow vague molds; Eve is wholly original. There’s an agenda, and yet it’s a private one. Of course, she’s the Bride of Frankenstein, and she benefits from the fact that the Bride does nothing after coming to life but hissing, screaming and being blown up. And even a Gold Key comic would give the Bride a tad more to do… and probably black stockings to do it in.

This episode was broadcast Oct. 11, 1966.

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