“According to my calculations, only one more person must have the dream.”
I knew this was going to be hard. When I started this strange and terrifying journey through Dark Shadows, I knew that the Dream Curse storyline was waiting for me, and it was going to test my endurance more than anything else on the show. But here I am, six weeks into the story, and I just looked at my episode guide, and I’m only halfway through. We’re currently at the beginning of June 1968, and the Dream Curse ends in mid-July.
I know I keep saying “Here’s the problem with the Dream Curse,” but here’s the problem with the Dream Curse: characters just saunter in and out of the storyline, and it doesn’t seem to matter. The allegedly terrifying chain letter / dream sequence moves from one character to another, and once they’ve passed the baton on to the next person, they drop out of the storyline.
Remember when it was a big deal that Mrs. Johnson needed to go to Boston, so she wouldn’t pass the dream on to Jeff? Or was that David? Or Julia. I’m pretty sure it was either Julia or River Song. No, wait, that’s Doctor Who. I’ve got this written down somewhere.
“You broke into my room to tell me about a dream?”
Here’s the kind of thing that Dark Shadows had to deal with: They moved the taping schedule around to accommodate Jonathan Frid’s insane ten-city publicity tour a couple weeks ago, and as it shook out, there were three episodes this week that taped the day before they aired.
It’s actually hard to get your mind around how close to the edge that is. If anything went wrong with the taping, then there’s nothing to show tomorrow; it’s dead air. And this is Dark Shadows; of course something’s going to go wrong. Things go wrong, like, all the time.
So if this was a show produced by sane people, they’d probably want to throw together a couple episodes where everybody sits around in the living room and talks over the events of the day. That’s what every other daily soap opera ever made does all the time anyway. But, no — it’s Dark Shadows, which means we need three cops and a Frankenstein monster and a seance and a dream sequence and a skeleton and a brick wall falling apart and a root cellar.
“You might as well prepare yourself for an ordeal.”
It’s a tough job, I get that. Police officers on Dark Shadows combine the inadequacy of soap opera cops with the inadequacy of monster movie cops. Police officer characters can do very well, if they stay in their own genres, but when they stray too far from home, they start competing with characters that are automatically way more interesting.
The outbreak of lawlessness that Sheriff George Patterson is currently investigating centers around Adam, the patchwork Frankenstein monster. If they catch him, they’re planning to charge him with being brought to life without a license, which I don’t think is even a misdemeanor.
So you’ve got to feel bad for the Sheriff, unless you forget all about him the moment he’s off the screen, like everybody else does.
“It is tragic that your Greta is so deformed, for she really could play the role of Josette to perfection.”
It’s a Ron Sproat script today, which means that Carolyn’s still stuck in the root cellar, and so are we. So I’m going to invoke my executive privilege to ignore a filler episode, and talk about something else instead.
It’s time to start looking at the Dark Shadows merchandise, because this is the period where it becomes a real factor in the audience’s experience of the show. While this episode was being taped, Jonathan Frid was on a completely insane ten-city publicity tour, where he was besieged by literally thousands of screaming teenagers who were desperate to get closer to Barnabas, and the show. Recognizing that these kids have allowances, ABC started to tap into that market, with some success.
The first piece of Barnabas-related merchandise was released in May 1968, just in time for the publicity tour. It’s a 155-page book called The Curse of Collinwood, and it’s the fifth in the series of Dark Shadows-inspired romance novels published by Paperback Library. The Curse of Collinwood has a picture of Barnabas on the cover, and it sells spectacularly well.
Unfortunately, Barnabas isn’t actually in The Curse of Collinwood, which is about Vicki and therefore not worth discussing, so we’re going to talk about the next book instead.
“I promise, no harm will come to you.”
Sproat: Threat, or menace? That is the question on the table.
Ron Sproat is part of the Dark Shadows writing team, and unfortunately, he’s not the good part. He’s the guy who thinks it’s okay to not do anything interesting on Wednesday, so you can save up the plot movement for Friday — and if not this Friday, then maybe next Friday.
Sproat’s other noticeable failing is his obsession with locking women and children up in a room and then just leaving them there. Just in the last year, he’s confined Maggie and Vicki for several months each, plus Josette for a few days and David for a week.
At the moment, we’ve got Adam, our new Frankenstein monster, who’s closed his first official rampage by kidnapping Carolyn and bringing her to an abandoned root cellar somewhere in the woods.
Yesterday, Sam Hall wrote the episode that brought Carolyn to the root cellar, and then who leaves her there for two days? Mr. Ron “I Never Met a Lock I Didn’t Like” Sproat.
“I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. Why do you want to kill me? Are you insane?”
Okay, here’s the meet-cute scenario: Adam, our enormous new Frankenstein monster, was running away from home after getting a savage beating from Barnabas, who we might as well call his dad.
Alone, afraid, and with only a slight vocabulary advantage over Chewbacca, Adam stumbled into Collinwood, where he demanded the only two things he knows how to ask for — music and food.
Then Barnabas rushed in with a gun, so Adam picked up the closest thing he could grab, which happened to be Carolyn Stoddard, and carried her away. Oh, like you’ve never had a weird first date.
“Barnabas, Barnabas, please don’t go. Barnabas!”
Well, what’s the point of even having a Frankenstein monster, if he’s not going to go on a rampage every once in a while? You can’t keep him locked up in the basement forever. He’s a metaphor for the limits of human power, the unintended consequences of mankind’s sins made flesh and set loose upon the world. Now get out of the way, and let him do his goddamn job.
“If you’re gonna believe that thing who can’t even talk before you believe me, I don’t have to stay here.”
Willie Loomis: World traveler, grave robber, handyman, mental patient — and always a survivor. He’s been bitten, beaten, shot in the back and thrown under the bus. And now he faces his greatest challenge: Babysitter of the Damned.
“There will not be time to make you understand!”
Angelique is outside in the garden at night, wearing a cloak with the hood pulled up over her head.
“I have not been able to hear you,” she cries, apparently to her own portrait. “I must find you, and get to you!”
It’s not super clear why Angelique thinks that she should be able to hear an oil painting that’s several miles away. I mean, I don’t think that she’d be able to hear an oil painting anyway, even if it was two feet in front of her, but the distance can’t be helping. But there’s a lot I don’t know about fine art.
“Oh, try and speak to me,” she begs. “Try! TRY!”
This doesn’t seem to be a super effective communication strategy, but Angelique has suddenly aged to about seventy years old, so we should cut her some slack. Maybe she needs her grandchildren to come over and show her how to use her smartphone.
“Either she controls the portrait, or the portrait controls her.”
Hey, have I mentioned the Dream Curse yet? There’s this Dream Curse. It’s a spell that Angelique cast about a month ago, and for some reason, it’s still part of my life.
Here’s a quick rundown: Angelique is currently living in Collinwood, posing as Roger’s young wife, Cassandra. Barnabas has recently been released from her vampire curse, and she’s not having it, so she’s decided to bring the curse back to him through the most convoluted possible route. She’s initiated a long series of dreams, which pass from one character to another, and eventually the chain is going to reach Barnabas, and then he’ll die, or turn back into a vampire, or whatever.
This is a slow, grinding disappointment. Back in the 1795 storyline, where she came from, Angelique was the driving force of the entire show, moving people around like puppets, and sending the entire Collins family into a spiral of self-destruction. Now, frankly, she’s just coasting. It’s possible that 1968 is her retirement home.