Monday, June 3, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 3


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1033

Yaeger’s decision to trust Sabrina with Longworth’s fortune may prove to be a fatal mistake. But for whom? Sabrina Stuart: Lisa Richards. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Hoffman sees Barnabas using the secret room in the Old House and questions Liz about his shady origins. Liz dreams of finding Maggie’s body in Longworth’s lab. Meanwhile, Yaeger instructs Sabrina to transfer Cyrus’ money to New York, which she fails to do, dropping the check near the imprisoned Maggie. Yaeger, realizing he’s been betrayed, kills Sabrina as Liz walks in.

In an episode filled with moments of major drama, the likes of which only Christopher Pennock’s John Yaeger can deliver, there is a strange but mythos-rich moment that Jonathan Frid has which tops it. I’m not sure if Stan Lee snuck into the writers’ room, but it was a Merry Marvel Moment to be certain.

The cultural triumph of Barnabas Collins should be equally shared by Frid, the writers, and the design department. The latter is an unsung workhorse in that triumvirate. The elements are kind of remarkable. But on their own, just kind of. The Inverness cloak. The ring. The hair.

And the cane.

A weapon rarely used, but existing as a constant reminder of his power and capacity for action. Nay, Kung-Fu Action. An intersection of courtly and combative, civilized and savage. For one of the only times here, he acknowledges it, hefting the weapon aloft as Maggie’s protector and proclaiming that nothing, not even the wolf, is more powerful. I don’t care if it’s true or not… or if it’s acknowledged in action or not… THIS is a Barnabas Collins who says it and believes it. And for a moment, I do, too. It’s a moment for longtime viewers that forges a unique satisfaction. I know that if I ever made a Dark Shadows movie, that cane would be used more than Moses’ staff. Behold His mighty hand! Perhaps a steampunk relic from Joshua’s days in the Revolutionary War. Would it even be a sword cane? Need you ask? And would we have a 1795 flashback montage of Jeremiah training him with it against any variety of period blades, cudgels, and even a katana -- impossibly blocked? Yeah. (The way in which it split Captain America’s shield when the Red Skull hurled it at Maggie in Annual #7. -- Whistlin’ Wallace) Because it happened in real life. I just know it. I can’t identify the volcano on Martinique from which Barnabas found the Kyber Crystal that powers it, but I’m sure he narrowly beat a young Nicholas Blair to the prize.

Love this show.

And then Sabrina Stuart dies.

The whole episode has an uneasy foreboding to it. Hoffman spies on Barnabas entering the secret room in the Old House drawing room in a series of shots that expands the set to give the entire episode a strangely epic feel. Liz has a dream sequence culminating with Maggie’s grotesquely dead body. Grotesque because, thrust back like that, it reminds us of the ugliness of what we can assume was Yaeger’s attack. This ties into the Cane Moment with forceful, subliminal vitality. Barnabas will always live in the dark shadow of his own evil towards Willie and Maggie, and the cane will always be a reminder of how he did so. But he was a courtly savage compared to Yaeger. There was desire in his capture, but it was not a desire for flesh or even love. It was a desire to twist back the clock and undo everything done to him by Angelique. To him, Jeremiah, Josette, Sarah, and his mother. Probably the shattered Joshua, as well. In Yaeger’s treatment of Sabrina and rope-brandishing treatment of Maggie there is an undeniable lust mixed with his violence, and thus, sexual assault. It’s a message that exists between the flickers, but the masculine arrogance and leer cannot be denied. It is a long-necessary response and contextualization of Barnabas’ kidnapping attempt, and it is the perfect mirror for a moment in which Barnabas honors the potential of the cane to protect, just as Yaeger uses his to snare the fine-boned Sabrina in Lisa Richards’ final episode.

Her death is a horrible one, and the entire installment resonates with equal parts mission and menace.

Mr. Collins, you’re needed. Now, more than ever. To redress wrongs in not one, but two universes.

This episode hit the airwaves June 10, 1970.

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