Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 9


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 755

For once, Beth has to explain to Quentin why his clothes are shredded; will Dirk’s surveillance mission on Barnabas be as revealing? Laura: Diana Millay. (Repeat; 30 min.)

In and around Quentin staggering in from the lycanthropic night before and learning that he transformed, Laura confirms her suspicions about Barnabas... by burning his home and having Dirk watch him phase out of the room.

“Gee, Lois, I never see Barnabas and Clark around at the same time.”

Which is pretty much the long and the long of it, since it takes Laura most of the episode to ask. The very brief money shot of the installment is when Beth tells Quentin what he’d been up to the night before -- the night of his first transformation. It goes about as you would expect -- he’s horrified beyond belief, but he must believe it anyway, because how else will David Selby explain the condition of his clothes to Ohrbach’s loss prevention department? Had Quentin been a scientist, like his avuncular namesake, he might have looked upon the situation somewhat differently, but Quentin is good at being a scoundrel, not scholar. It could be for the best. He prides himself on projecting very specific appearances at all times, not just for social propriety, but to escape the strictures of social propriety without anyone noticing. The real horror of a werewolf story lives with the man who can’t control what he becomes. For anyone who says the wrong thing without thinking, no matter the given circumstances, this is an understandable nightmare. For Quentin, that nightmare is just beginning. At one point in the episode, Laura cracks wise to Beth about being familiar with Quentin staggering in from a night on the town as the cock crows. In some ways, Magda’s curse will be even more enduring because the image of Quentin vaguely passed out in the drawing room, clothes in shredded disarray, is probably more familiar to early risers than Quentin pressed and dressed. Barnabas has a constant secret to hide. Quentin has a brief transformation. Thus, less to see, less to explain, less to elicit the concerns of others, and ultimately, a longer lifespan.

Laura might care to differ, and her campaign to out Barnabas makes her the Irwin Allen of such matters. Telling Dirk to casually reveal a mirror or crucifix is way too subtle. Why do that when you can magically set his house on fire, forcing him to dematerialize in front of a window? It’s too bad she’s not in love with him, because it’s precisely the kind of scheme into which Lois would drag Jimmy. And I’m thankful. The show has evolved into the Silver Age comic it was meant to be. If the expected dematerialization and secret wall panel don’t seal it, what will? And it’s clear why they must introduce Petofi. Barnabas is a superhero on a mission, but he’s still squaring off against (enhanced) soap opera villainesses.

Laura qualifies, and as those go, Diana Millay remains great fun. She has the uniquely brittle approach of a self-conscious social climber afraid someone will find out she’s not up to snuff. Angelique simply doesn’t care what others think -- in quite the same way. Perhaps that’s a function of Lara Parker actually coming from blue blood stock, but it’s an approach to a somewhat similar role that still differentiates them. On Millay’s part, that bleeds into Laura’s character. Angelique might one-up someone on the way to a more crucial goal, but for Laura, especially in an episode like this, the one-upmanship is the goal. She observes that her performance as a concerned mother is just that, a performance. It’s clear that she’s perhaps the most ruthless villain on the show, there to burn children alive, sustain her existence, and move on. Mother of the year, folks!

Come to think of it, maybe we don’t need Petofi so soon, after all.

What, what am I saying?

This episode hit the airwaves May 16, 1969.

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