Friday, October 2, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: Oct. 2


Professor Stokes stops at nothing to prove that Eve is French. But will she say oui? Eve: Marie Wallace. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Stokes warns Adam that Eve is up to no good, but to no avail. Just when he thinks he has the situation clarified, the body of Leona goes missing, as do Adam and Eve. But Stokes hints that he knows where they are.

Leave it to Universal to sell posters over movies. There are some great and Great films in their canon, but… are there? I’m speaking about the Monsters, here. There are marvelous elements in those movies, yes, but did you really think they combined them successfully when you first watched them? For me, only three truly grabbed me on my first viewings: The Black Cat; Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein; and The Bride of Frankenstein. But the Frankenfilms aren’t perfect. Let’s face it, other than breaking a green sweat making threats and being professionally misunderstood, the Creature has little to do. His wife, even less. As far as being the title character of the Greatest Horror Movie Ever Made, she flies pretty casual, showing up to the plot just in time for a nightcap. She doesn’t appear until the final minute or two of the movie, has no dialogue, bitterly dislikes our hero, and then gets blowed up real good. 

It’s a shaggy dog story, perhaps intentionally. As a gay man of the 1930’s, James Whale led a life necessarily fraught with as much frustration as fulfillment. I mean, look at his movies and don’t take too long coughing up a verdict. It’s no surprise that the creature waits for almost all of the film, only to find himself loathed by the girl he’s been waiting for, despite her being all that glitters. Or crackles, in this case. That kind of frustrated anticipation and crestfallen hope was probably intrinsic to Whale’s life. He sums it up with Bride and moves on.

It puts the Dark Shadows writers in a marvelous position. So far -- of the major ‘horror’ works -- they’ve tackled Dracula and Frankenstein, improving vastly on both. But here, there is nothing to improve… just explore. They pick up on Whale’s thesis of frustrated desire and push it to a place much, much darker than I think is obvious. Eve doesn’t just dislike Adam. As the vessel for the wickedest woman in history, she finds him to be a big green bouncy house for psychological sadism.  But I think that’s the safest move the show makes. Let’s remove the Marie Roget element. Here’s yer gender statement, pal. When a man is born, he’s a gibbering id, delighted by shiny things and buttons. He’s easily taken in by mustachioed sorcerers and Thayer David. Mistrustful of genteel Canadians. 

When a woman is born? You got, um, you got Eve. Hey, don’t take it out on me. Tell it to Sam Hall. Yes, these are all stereotypes, but for whom? It’s misogyny for a female audience, seeing not themselves but the kind of women they can’t stand. I wonder if this is the portrayal they would have created for a largely male audience? But it wasn’t, and the show, to be seen accurately, must be viewed through that lens.  Yet, for modern eyes, Eve’s confidence and sense of purpose are as admirable as they are questionable. It makes her the show’s least predictable character. The shame of it is that it takes a possession to create that kind of volition, but without it, she’d simply be a ginger haired Angelique.

And maybe the ultimate problem is that she’s an Angelique without a purpose. They try. They really try. The real shame of Eve is that, by shoehorning in the Marie Roget element, they rob the character of discovering her sense of purpose. But Roget is so ancient and so French she lacks a context in 1968 Collinsport, despite her obsession with characters played by Roger Davis. Barnabas, Stokes, and Julia, the venerable old bachelors on the show, try to break it to Adam without devolving into a drumming circle, but he’s determined to be led on an emotional snipe hunt anyway. Of course he’ll stand up for the honor of the character least worthy of it. It’s another reflection of cosmic truth that makes Dark Shadows the best documentary on TV. Equally truthful is Eve’s comically counterfeit lament that, as a woman, it’s her lot to suffer. You know, as she holds everyone in fear and suspense. The moment is played as broadly as it’s written, but there’s an ugly, satiric truth to it. Eve is the one character on the show so feminine, she’s practically a drag queen brought to life by the hand of Waylon Flowers. There’s no denying she’s a woman, but hardly helpless. 

Ultimately, she grabs the Adam story, notorious for going nowhere, and takes it everywhere at once. It’s an exhausting prospect, and a sneak preview of where the show would go -- for better and worse -- for the next two and a half years. Marie Wallace is the ideal person to inaugurate the trip. The visual depiction is so straightforward that it shouldn’t work. Black dress and hose. Same thing Thayer David wore to the set. But it’s her presence that is so unforgettable. Wallace relishes the joy of acting, and a successful Dark Shadows villain needn’t be saddled with a causal plan. Just the kind of joy for living that only actors and supervillains can appreciate. 

Diabolos bless them, one and all. 

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...