Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 27


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 639

What deadly secrets will be revealed on a simple phone when David and Amy explore the hidden recesses of Collinwood?

Amy begins her first day as a permanent guest at Collinwood, and in the process ends of exploring a sealed off wing with David. There, they begin speaking on the telephone to a mystery is presence calling himself Quentin.

For better or worse, Amy is in da house, and the change implies everything we suspected about young Roger and Elizabeth and the Collins Way (before Victoria, anyway). It gives us a great vision of what it was like to grow up at Collinwood, too. May I unpack?

Down the rabbit hole! Who’s with me?

Really? That’s all? Well, um, fine. Wait here. Have a sandwich.

It’s vital to remember that in 1968, the year of 1897 was only 71 years prior to filming. Not that long before, cosmically speaking. For us, that’s like being haunted from 1947, a year my father remembers well. This episode was shot an astounding 50 years prior to now. (That’s right, this is the 50th anniversary of the first utterance of Quentin’s name.) It’s weird to look at what 50 years can mean. Since I have your attention and just to think out loud…  50 years prior to its taping, the year was 1918. From the other direction, that’s only 21 years after 1897, making it one year after Elizabeth Collins was born. (In real life, it’s also the birth year of Dennis Patrick, making him 8 years younger than Joan Bennett, who was born in 1910, just 13 years after 1897.) For the hell of it, Jamison Collins was only 33 years old when he became a father in 1918. Dark Shadows actors who were around the age of 33 when the series was shot were Jerry Lacy, John Karlen, and Diana Millay. At the age of 33, Jamison Collins is only 6 years older than was Quentin when we met him in 1897. For a reference point, Quentin, had he been “alive,” would have been only 48 in 1918, which is just one year older than Wallace and me. David Selby was born in 1941. He wouldn’t be at Quentin’s 1918 age of 48 until 1989. Here’s what actor David Selby looked like in 1989, when he appeared in the Falcon Crest episode, “Doctor Dollars.”

Because Dark Shadows and its cast have been with us for 52 years, and because the show itself (like American Bandstand) deals with time travel, arrested aging, and a mappable dynasty, I find these finer points of chronology to be inordinately fascinating. It’s especially arresting here because the essence of the program is knit up in dealing with the past, even if that past is in recent memory. When we meet Liz, she’s torturing herself for decisions she made 18 years prior. Unlike the 171 years Barnabas was in stasis, 18 years is a span of time that’s easy to manage… more so with every passing year. I can remember 18 years prior with disturbing ease. This makes 1897 just long enough in the past to be exotic and just close enough to actually be relevant to the characters. With the elaborate clothing, unusual props, and ornate hairdos, it’s easy to forget that we’re basically dealing with Roger and Liz’s dad when he was David’s age. If you’re an adult who can remember his grandfather, you’re Roger remembering Edward.

This all begins to give Dark Shadows an immediately dynastic continuity, and with that, a sense that we are seeing slices of one, epic story rather than zipping around from the distant 1790’s to the present. Working backwards, we now have a thread from David to Roger, Roger and Liz to Jamison, Jamison to Edward, Edward to Gabriel’s son, that son to Gabriel, and from Gabriel to Daniel. At this point, it gets weird, because we don’t really know the relationship that Daniel’s father had to Joshua’s father.

This is what makes sense, and it’s kinda cool. In episode 1169, when Barnabas is cured for the last and most important time, it’s mentioned that his great uncle, Amadeus, was the prosecutor in the Judah Zachary trial. Amadeus was the brother of Collinsport founder, Isaac Collins. That works out to Isaac being Joshua’s… grandfather? Isaac got to the colonies in 1690, and he was at least twenty. Joshua wouldn’t be born until 1730, 40 years later. Unless Isaac was a very old father, that makes him Joshua’s grandfather. So, it’s from his brother, Amadeus, that we get the line that takes over Collinsport when Barnabas “dies” without an heir. It also explains why Judah Zachary largely bugs this other line and leaves Joshua and Barnabas alone; they had nothing to do with the trial. Daniel, Gabriel, Son of Gabriel, Edward, Jamison, Roger/Liz, and David are the direct descendants of that beatnik lawyer who made a hash of things for Judah at his trial. Nice going, Angelique. By ending Isaac’s line, you inadvertently led to Collinwood being in the direct line of fire rather than some row of townhouses in upstate New York.

What this means is that there’s a lot of old stuff on the show.

Exploring the closed wings is a mighty payoff for the character of Collinwood, itself, finally confessing the extent of its neglect and emotional damage. Amy seems amazed that no one has explored the house, and I am both thankful and amazed that someone is bringing it up. It just underlines a truth that we often ignore on the show, and that is… well, they’re living in a haunted house. What do you expect? And it seems to get more haunted all the time, like a perpetual motion machine of the occult. The situation with the Widows is bad enough. Now, with Quentin finally working up the ecotoplasm to reach out, Diabolos only knows what’s going to happen.

It makes me appreciate what a strange household surrounded Roger and Liz as children. Look at their dad. What is life like if you grow up with what went on in the 1897 storyline? When you’ve been possessed by Count Petofi… when not meddling with the will hidden in your great grandmother’s room-temperature coffin, days ripe? And when you have seen entirely wings of your house shut down, isolated, boarded up, and cut off, along with a good share of the domestics in the process?

The story of Collinwood isolating itself is a story that reached its conclusion with Liz’s reaction to the murder of Paul Stoddard. But again, look at her father. He knew what it meant to see a house compartmentalized after a marriage was dissolved with extreme prejudice. Jamison was around for the ugly beginning of the end of the house that was inaugurated by its matriarch’s suicide. And he was even around when the house was briefly a home, lively, with Jenny and Laura and Quentin and Carl filling it with laughter and mischief and revels not yet ended. But they would end, and we witnessed that. Over and over. How can one house be perpetually falling over the cliffs on which it’s built, but never quite go over?  That’s the most supernatural occurrence of all. The toll for Collinwood is not on the structure. Nor the actual lives of the inhabitants. As English social critic, George Alan O'Dowd, might put it were he to address those visitors, “You come and go. You come and go.” No, Collinwood’s decay is one of its strange, wooden heart. More than anything else, Collinwood is haunted by the perpetual death of joy, and the funeral has been going on for nearly 200 years. At the heart of it? A sinner with a sideburn shaped halo.

In a house haunted by Quentin, once joy incarnate, it will be Quentin’s own descendant, Amy, who will be responsible for his rescue from death and time. She is simply looking to play. In his own way, so was Quentin. It was the quest to end boredom that was the source of his curse. It is a marvelous statement about the power of the human imagination and mischief that the quest to end boredom would also be his release.

This episode was broadcast Dec. 5, 1968.

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