Friday, December 27, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: December 27


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 397

It’s wedding bells for Barnabas and Angelique, but will Barnabas’ dead uncle catch the garter? Reverend Bland: Paul Giles. (Repeat; min.)

Barnabas is predictably mordant in accepting the fact that his bride is missing on the wedding day. He explains this to the reverend while rationalizing away the various haunted events from Jeremiah that interfere with the pre-nuptial wait. Meanwhile, Angelique is nearly buried alive by the ghost of Jeremiah, before the presence of Ben Stokes grants a reprieve. At the wedding, more cursed events take place, and despite the wine turning to blood, they marry. The wedding night is disrupted by Josette’s music box and the sight of a mocking Jeremiah.

Predictably, the social event of the year is also one of the most hilarious as the Dark Shadows writers have their wedding cake and smear it over the faces of proper expectations at the same time. They’ve always excelled at mixing horror with the ridiculous and the sublime, depicting situations that are monstrous for the characters, frightening for most audiences, and blackly satirical for the cast and savvier viewers. Best of all, the characters in 397 are vastly aware of this — especially Barnabas and Ben. And with Paul Giles’ doddering Reverend Bland, it’s infinitely clear that Sam Hall does, as well. Grayson Hall is clearly a woman of deep wit, and a script like this could only have come from the guy she chose to keep up with her. Considering that, it’s not so much admirable that the show allowed itself these sardonic side quests, it’s more amazing that it reserved them for, you know, weddings.

In the midst of it all is Angelique getting a taste of her own gris gris with the twisted genie of Jeremiah refusing to go back into the bottle. (With this monkey’s paw, I thee wed….) Of course, it leads her to pledge to do only good, which is what one often does after nearly being buried alive. And, of course, all it takes is Barnabas clutching Josette’s music box like Darren McGavin with the Leg Lamp to lead her away from the pledge and back into fiery jealousy.

This is all after Jonathan Frid’s bone dry Canadian wit gets a thorough workout alongside Reverend Bland, who struggles to find anything good to say, including wildly inaccurate statements about the admirable loyalty shown between the Collinses. Barnabas keeps his straightest face ever, explaining away breezes coming from closed windows, etc, like a Benny Hill character on a date with a flatulently deflating love doll hidden in the closet. Jeremiah does his best to ruin the wedding, and it’s proper vengeance for a ghost who’s been through what he has. If anyone shares the hero spot of the episode, it’s the villain, which is par for the Collinsport course.

This is a wedding I used to forget about when I would see the entire show over the course of years. However, it’s perhaps one of the three or four most pivotal moments of the mythos. Setting up a payoff that no one knew would come in the 1840 storyline, it’s a wedding of two people who love each other despite every reason not to, and Lara Parker and Jonathan Frid pull off the ambiguity with humanity that transcends common sense. In other words, a wedding. And it’s not so horrible that it nukes their relationship in the long run. If anything, it strengthens it. It’s one of those shared disasters which bonds people rather than atomize them. And it’s exactly the disaster that (and you knew this was coming) would be my focus if I were King of Big Finish. They’ve taken the stories in another direction, and I can’t complain. However, an episode of after dinner tales… imagine it. Because these are the stories the grandkids finally hear when they come back from college and can have that cognac after the meal, pulling it off like they’ve always done so. Maggie and Quentin get misty eyed talking about their nude wedding at Club Med, laughing at the fact that the only attendees were Roger Collins (who insisted) and Willie Loomis (who was inexplicably there at the time). Then, of course, the kids ask about Barnabas and Angelique’s wedding. And they laugh. Protest. Roll their eyes. And tell the story. And it ends sentimentally. Which it should. Because it was all worth it.

And there are moments of warmth in the episode that ring with inevitability. Naomi, never the snob, accessorizing Angelique’s wedding dress. Ben Stokes, the first and last man standing now the best man, as well. Because, as Barnabas says, he is. In every sense in 1795, he truly is.

I’m 48 and unmarried. Episode 397 is a checklist of the good and bad that will need to happen before I am. Well, maybe not all of it. But you get the idea.

This episode hit the airwaves Jan. 2, 1968.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...