Friday, May 24, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 23


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 245

When Woodard needs a condemning sample, will Barnabas put the squeeze on a reluctant Willie? Dave Woodard: Robert Gerringer. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Barnabas guilts Willie into giving a sample of his blood to Dave Woodard, having stolen and swapped a clean sample some time earlier. He eventually reveals this to Willie, and warns him that he will not always be so protective. Woodard speaks with Burke and Vicki about the unholy goings on in Maggie’s blood.

Joe Caldwell had to be stopped. Dave Woodard had to be killed off. Daytime TV could have survived neither. With all due respect to St. Sam and St. Gordon, this is the best written episode of the series, and any more of it and the show would have collapsed under its own eloquence. Sam Hall and Gordon Russell had a series to write. Caldwell crafted a masterpiece, and that’s an accomplishment so situationally dependent, it would be rare to see one again.

On the basis of plot, alone, it is a tight and intense story of antiheroics and suspense, where you respect Barnabas’ realpolitik skullduggery while simultaneously admiring the incredible curiosity of Woodard. I don’t know what he saw in that microscope except for pure anti-life and the beginning and the end of the world.

Beyond that, the episode works because of its relentless and dark poetry. Most outstanding is the mind game that Barnabas plays and plays and plays with Willie. Ultimately, after an understandable background in the betrayal department, Barnabas is going to test and punish and punish and test Willie until he’s satisfied with the results, and then he’s going to do it some more. Back in the good old days, you’d just send Riggs out back to horsewhip Ben Stokes like banging a jar lid on the counter to loosen it. But, you know, you can’t do that now because “progress.” And because the cops are after you, so you don’t need extra attention. Why? Because you got your house back. And because you may get your fiance back. And because, along with it, some people are going to make their exits a little prematurely. Um, sorry. Yes, it’s a shame. It’s not like he doesn’t jump at the chance for a cure. Between here and there, it would be nice if Willie just, you know, put the seat down every once and awhile and stopped with the betrayal business. He is letting off some much needed steam here, and if he lets Willie dangle in uncertainty, it’s probably a fraction of the paranoia Barnabas suffers as he lies trapped in a wooden shell from the lethal rays of the sun while humans do Diabolos-knows-what in full view of the kids. I’m amazed that Roger is the alkie.

The real star of the episode is Robert Gerringer as Dave Woodard. It’s a human performance, both urban and urbane. The type of grownup we don’t see anymore. This was a generation of writers and actors who cut their teeth on Eugene O’Neill and have no compunction about mixing their poetry with their realism. It’s almost as if he and Barnabas get into a Flowery Introspection Duel, like a Profundity Slam as they talk about blood and the entity responsible for all of it. They share a bizarre duality of loathing and admiration. Woodard marvels at the unnatural progress of the biochemical rite. Barnabas all but confesses to the crimes. Woodard speaks with bizarre admiration that, “It’s the peculiar magnificence of the human spirit that’s required to provide the potential for such corruption.”

Barnabas adds that he must be, “at one and the same time, more than a man and less than a man.”

Woodard asks if he feels sorry for him, and Barnabas answers that he actually loathes him “very, very deeply.”

At the Blue Whale, Vicki’s take on life is at its most apocalyptically realistic. Woodard visits and rounds out the episode with a strangely aroused disgust at the unholy union going on in Maggie’s veins, and how her blood hastily accepts the corruption offered.

The metaphors run rampant, but at the core of it, there is the distinct feeling that Woodard is describing naughty sexy time, and he can’t bring himself to say it’s bad.

Mind games. Sexual metaphors. Probably homosexual metaphors. There is a bounty to unpack, all with a sense of inevitable doom for the entire town and maybe all of existence. Barnabas at this time is like a lingering rot, eating away at the pretenses of decency, and he is doing so openly compared to what the series has offered thus far. He is somewhere between a Ken Russell movie and a Prince album in his relative frankess, and although he would endear himself with a demand for mothering later on, at this point, Jonathan Frid is playing Barnabas Collins as pure sex in a world where only a Hefner would be such a thing. That openness is one world ending and another world beginning. Woodard admires it a little too much, but can’t take part.

Barnabas can. And right now, he knows it. 

This episode hit the airwaves June 2, 1967.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...