Monday, July 29, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: July 29


Taped on this date in 1978: Episode 556

When Nicholas Blair announces his plan to unleash an army of satanic supermen, will Barnabas be blackmailed into the oddest job of all? Angelique: Lara Parker. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Nicholas announces his plan to rule the world. To execute it, he must have Julia Hoffman create a race just like Adam. But she is controlled by Barnabas, and so he must be controlled by his concern for Victoria, which gets manipulated by the theft of her engagement ring.

It’s that time of year again, when we commemorate the accidental destruction of the Collinwood set, which occurred when a cleaning went awry. Due to that, it's a special time for the show, where the action moves either to the Old House or the house by the sea, and just as the viewers are on summer vacation, it feels a bit like the show is, also. Humbert Allen Astredo and Lara Parker sport lovely tans and even Jonathan Frid is playing Barnabas’ nervousness with an easygoing air. It’s almost Dark Shadows: Live at the Sands. However, it has a sense of discipline and focus that keeps the episode true to the show. The episode also features Lara Parker’s first appearance as a vampire, and she makes a delightful one. She was always more than capable of playing a seductress. Now, she has to. Girl’s gotta eat. And the fact that she must resort to seduction rather than use it as an occasionally amusing option is an irony that eclipses the obvious one.

The cultural influences running around in 556 are as abundant as the number of moving pieces in Nicholas’ plan. But, coming out just a year after You Only Live Twice, the Bond influence, shown through Nicholas, is true CinemaScope. It’s a plan only a madman could brew up -- and not because it involves a proposed satanic army of reanimated corpse descendents. That’s already in the Collinsport city budget. That’s covered. No, it begins to fray at the edges when it relies on a scientist who doesn’t know what she’s really doing. Who’s controlled by an ex-vampire who wants nothing to do with any of it. See, he’ll control the doctor, who’ll control the production of the atom age army of supermen. But the ex-vampire will be controlled by Vicki, who’ll be controlled by the first reanimated patchwork corpse man. Angelique will control them all… kind of. But she’s a resentful vampire who steered clear of the Vicki: 1795 storyline, so how reliable is that?

556 presents the show’s most Rube Goldberg scheme, crying out for the oompapa brand of Danny Elfman music. Prior to this, I’d questioned Nicholas’ morals, but never his sanity. Now? I fully expect him to be selling pants for fish before the week is out. The lynchpin of the whole thing is having Angelique stop trying to bite the hunky new sheriff’s deputy long enough to put on a costume and terrify Vicki as a flesh and blood ghost of herself. At that point, she strongarms Vicki into giving up her engagement ring from Jeff Clark or Peter Bradford. (Candy mint, breath mint, pick one, pick both. Gotta catch’em all.) You see, Nicholas needs to give Adam the ring. And when he does, I’d say it’s darned romantic looking. So then Adam takes the ring to Barnabas to convince him that Nicholas means business. Or something like that. I had a nosebleed and passed out somewhere in the middle of describing that.

The world had been clamoring for a James Bond/Brady Bunch/Munsters crossover. Be careful what you wish for. In this case, they pull off the strangeness beautifully. Every single moment is controlled with astonishing discipline. At any point, any of this could’ve descended into camp. Instead, it skims millimeters above the surface, never so much as getting a droplet. It’s easy to say that Dark Shadows is renowned for pulling off this kind of stunt, but in this episode, they top even themselves.

What’s most important is that Nicholas Blair will return.

This episode hit the airwaves Aug. 12, 1968.

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