Monday, June 24, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 24


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 530

Can Barnabas stop his ex-wife from returning from Hell before a reanimated monster kills a middle-manager who reeks of tuna? Sam Evans: David Ford. (Repeat; 30 min.)

As Adam and Joe tussle in the woods, Vicki tells Barnabas that Cassandra is back and determined she learn the dream. Cassandra raises the ghost of Sam Evans to tell her, and after Barnabas squabbles with the witch, he returns home to find what may be a dead Joe Haskell tumbling out of his closet. Adam looks on in delight.

At a certain point, where is Barnabas supposed to go? At first, it seems like the Old House is the logical choice. Unless he goes out. Either place, he has women vaguely, if confusedly, throwing themselves at him as if he were the Tom Jones of the occult. That’s the good news. Kind of. Especially because neither of them are Julia. Vicki shows up just as you’ve donned your smoking jacket, and she drops a dime on Cassandra. Bad news that the ex is back from Hell, but at least you’re getting the intel early. But the dream curse is back, too. Oh, and Angelique’s ghost is simultaneously around as well being as Cassandra, which is really confusing, and now she’s delivering cheap perfume from the props department. I’m not sure what the bigger threat is -- the dream curse or having Vicki wandering around and smelling like a dead flight attendant from a Jennings Lang movie.

It’s a mixed bag at home. So, you go into the woods only to find Cassandra, probably reeking of the same perfume, pretending not to be Angelique, which is ludicrous, and the only thing to do is to declare that you’d better avoid each other -- as if you were Jan and/or Marcia in a tiff over who’ll be running for student government. That is, if Jan and Marcia had weird crushes on each other, which they didn’t, so don’t go there because Alice is listening over the sound of meatloaf sizzling in the oven and is sure to drag Julia into it, which is all anyone needs right now. And, outside, over the smell of the perfume, you could swear you could detect Joe Haskell’s Hai Karate. Mixed with the KFC drenched aroma of Adam. And there’s the stench of their combat. But between the two men or the two fragrances? Maybe both. 

Coming home from this olfactory nightmare, Joe falls out of the closet in the Old House drawing room -- and stop snickering -- while Adam leers and laughs manically from the window like some perverse Alan Funt. Which means, like Alan Funt.

As if that’s not enough, you get the feeling that Sam Evans’ ghost is mixed up in this. Is he delivering from a multi-level-marketing scheme, too? Since that’s the essence of the dream curse, probably. Which may be why Angelique was delivering perfume along with it.

It’s kind of as if the Dark Shadows writers were playing an improv game, sort of topping each other while never quite completing anyone’s idea, but just adding on more and more. Even a straight-faced description of the nonstop nuttiness sounds like a ten year-old’s breathless description of the action to a beleaguered dad, just coming home from a long day at happy hour. In other words, TV magic. When I think of Dark Shadows, I think of episodes like this one, because it both has everything and is at the crossroads of what the show will be. It’s not great Dark Shadows, but it’s far from bad, and has a madcap sampling of everything in this era. Crazy Joe, unable to deal with the madness of what the story has become without picking up a gun. Adam. Cassandra, raising the dead. The dream curse. Barnabas, probably wondering if being a vampire were all that bad compared to what humans deal with in this day and age.

It’s David Ford’s last episode, and that’s yet another reminder of where the show has come since the early days of red meat drama. You know, what he signed up for. Think Dan Curtis is going to apologize for the evolution in tone? No. He doubles down on Ford by making it the wackiest episode possible -- without having Sam jump out of a cake with a coconut bra on. Which was probably next.

Even the details of Sam’s Life as a Ghost are bizarre. Why does a ghost need to be wearing a trench coat? Is it raining in the afterlife? Did Maggie bury him in a raincoat because she couldn’t send it off on consignment? Did it not fit Joe? And why is Sam still blind and wearing sunglasses? Doesn’t that get reset if you’re a ghost? You’re lucky they didn’t edit in Hayden Christiansen to play a young version of you. In reality, whatever that is, Ford was allegedly too put out with it all to learn lines, and so the glasses allowed him to read off of the teleprompter without anyone noticing. David, baby, no one noticed because everyone was reading off the teleprompter, capice? 

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In the next episode, Barnabas just decides to let Willie take the fall. Why? Probably and ultimately because Barnabas would still be writhing in his coffin, enrobed in agonized peace if he hadn’t been so rudely interrupted the the year before. He’d go back there, I’m certain, but have you ever tried to chain your own coffin from the inside? Of course not. No one has. It’s a ridiculous question.

But is it any more ridiculous than episode 530? We all know the answer. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Farewell, David. You think things are strange NOW?

This episode hit the airwaves July 8, 1968.

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