Monday, June 10, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 10


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 779

When Quentin learns Barnabas’ secret, the results could be deadly… but for which Collins? Carl Collins: John Karlen. (Repeat. 30 min.)

Barnabas mourns for Rachel, and thus, another Josette, when Angelique warns him to turn away from his mission in 1897. Quentin, after hearing of the powers of Petofi’s hand, learns of Barnabas’ secret hibernation chamber from Carl, and then promptly locks the snitch within. Magda begs Angelique for help, but Angelique says that Barnabas must learn for himself. What lesson? I suppose that he can’t rely on her to consistently mess up his life. She does this by refusing help that could end it. Carl escapes before the vampire rises, vowing that tonight would be the last night of Barnabas Collins.

In a long, long list of Episodes with Everything, 779 barges in like Ethel Merman as the Widow Loman and demands that attention be paid. As a viewer, I am the most eager of Borgnines.

It begins with triumph, as Barnabas reassures Magda that the Dirk Danger is gone and then visits the cemetery to reflect. Because he’s that kind of hero. A Josette is once again dead, and Barnabas’ trip to Rachel Drummond’s grave to take cosmic responsibility for her death now has the regularity of Otis checking himself into the Mayberry jail. Angelique visits, and what follows is another beautifully tense and romantic two-hander between Jonathan Frid and Lara Parker. He insists he stay in 1897, and she reassures him that the worst is yet to come. She shows a strange devotion. He not only represses the urge to set her on fire again, maybe having gotten it out of his system on his last trip to 1795, but he is deaf to her warning. What’s tantalizing, especially having seen the series before, is contemplating what she has seen. What does she know? Is this the Final Angelique in a timeline where Barnabas never (so far) went to 1840? It raises more questions that it answers. The easiest resolution is that she’s just lying. But why would she do that? Maybe she knows that reincarnation is on its fastest cycle and that Kitty Hampshire is already on a steamer and headed for town. Because it’s an eventual ticket back to 1795, again, more inevitable heartbreak, and a breakfast with Oberon and Haza.

More than likely, she’s speaking of the coming of Count Petofi. With the shoutout to the older part of the series out of the way, thanks to Laura and Dirk’s deaths, the show is wasting no time moving along to the main event, which is the Count. Count Petofi and the Leviathans are unique threats on the series, making the Collinses more bystanders than related targets, and this feels like an initiative for the show’s future storytelling that never came through. Nevertheless, Magda’s mention of Petofi’s hand and King Johnny Romano instantly expands the world of Dark Shadows beyond Collinsport, and still it’s woefully inadequate to prepare us for what is to come. And that would ruin the surprise. But honestly, little can adequately brace (or spoil) audiences for the rollicking banquet Dan Curtis would grill up over the the next dozen-plus weeks of 1969, which had to be the greatest three months to be a kid in the history of ditching summer reading for something actually interesting. Take that, Herman Hesse, and the Demian you rode in on. Sam Hall and Gordon Russell -- you know, writers with a gift for interesting storytelling -- led the charge with the Count and the King (and probably Basie and Presley, too) to make the Dark Shadows universe feel global while keeping it all in the familiar climes of Collinsport. In a metaphysical sense, the exchange that Magda and Angelique have, where the witch belittles the soothsayer’s amateur abilities, likewise solidifies the show as one where soapy cattiness over who-flirted-with-whom has been replaced by one-upping over the occult.

Finally, Quentin chooses between brothers. And he chooses properly. Sometimes, you go with the vampire for the block and the win. True or false, Paul… there is a cutting irony to Carl nearly dying by what can be read as the ultimate practical joke, borrowing his own gun to lock him in the vampire’s bedroom that he was tattling about moments before?

It all depends on where Barnabas bites first, Peter.

That notwithstanding, it’s a defining moment for Quentin and, considering where Barnabas was two years before, the series as well. 

This episode hit the airwaves June 19, 1969.

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