“Forgive me. Nothing that ever happened here was funny.”
Vicki comes to the Old House looking for David; it’s after dark and he’s probably run straight to the haunted house. Someone comes down the stairs, and she’s relieved when she sees that it’s Barnabas — she thought it might be someone dangerous.
After an awkward silence, Barnabas gestures upstairs, and says, “I was revisiting my ancestral past.” Naturally, Vicki doesn’t say anything. How do you respond when someone tells you that he’s revisiting his ancestral past?
Now, I’ve mentioned before that Jonathan Frid was notorious for forgetting his lines — and this was on Dark Shadows, where he had a lot of competition in that area. Frid was used to memorizing long speeches — this is a guy who’s played Macbeth and Richard III. But now he’s learning three half-hour scripts a week, and the writers, with a burst of optimism, have written Barnabas as a haunted soul, with endless monologues about history and eternal life.
It doesn’t go that well. This is the episode where you start to see why.
Vicki is impressed by how much Barnabas knows about the Old House, even though he’s never been here before. This house must have been beautiful once, but now it’s all falling apart.
He smiles cryptically, and says, “It’ll be a long time before this house falls apart. It was made to last forever.” Vicki says that nothing lasts forever, but Barnabas reminds her of the pyramids of Egypt. They start splitting hairs about the difference between “forever” and “indefinitely.”
They’re talking about more than just architecture. But not much more.
Once Barnabas gets rolling, you can’t stop him. Here we go.
“The design and construction of this house represented a marriage of the elegance of Europe, and the vigor and enterprise of a new world. The foundations were made from rocks left behind by glaciers, thousands of years ago. The beams and supports were cut from ancient local forests.”
He starts walking around the room, pointing at things.
“The plaster walls were made from crushed clam shells and horsehair. Bricks were imported from Holland.”
Okay, got it. Are we done? No.
“That dusty chandelier, brought over from France, gleamed with hypnotic brilliance. That faded wallpaper was especially designed by a Belgian artist.”
All right, enough. Dude. She’s not going to buy the house. Let it go.
He actually keeps going, nattering on about cornices and parquet floors. I thought Vicki said that nothing lasts forever, but you could’ve fooled me.
Barnabas opens the door, and we can see the mist from the dry ice machine, blowing fiercely past the house. What the hell is supposed to be going on out there?
Vicki wraps up the historical lecture by saying that there’s one difference between this house and the pyramids — the pyramids were designed to be a tomb.
“You’re right,” Barnabas says, looking wistful. “This house was not designed to be a tomb.”
So it’s kind of a relief when we cut back to Collinwood. Elizabeth’s brother Roger is back from a business trip to Boston, and it’s always good times when Roger’s around, especially when he’s in a chatty mood.
Roger grabs some sherry, and Carolyn catches him up on what he’s missed, especially the Jason/Liz situation.
“All right, kitten,” Roger drawls. “I’ll get out my score pad, and you can catch me up on the number of guests we have ensconced here.”
You see? That’s how Roger talks. We like Roger.
They settle on the couch.
Carolyn: Well, Jason is still here…
Carolyn: But Willie Loomis has gone.
Roger: Oh, bra-vo! You can’t keep the jet set down, can you? Did he accept an invitation from the Prince and Princess of Monaco, or could he simply not stand another one of Mrs. Johnson’s famous boiled dinners?
So there you go. Surprisingly, Roger gets married twice in the series. The second time, we know for sure that he’s being hypnotized by a witch into thinking that he’s in love with her. It’s not clear if that was the case with his first marriage, but look at how he’s sitting on the couch before you place any bets.
Vicki brings Barnabas back to Collinwood, where he meets Roger and Carolyn, and completely runs out of steam with his dialogue.
Barnabas: I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.
Carolyn: Have you?
Barnabas: Yes, it’s reassuring to know that the… that there’s still part of the — rah — the family, still alive. In England, they’ve, uh, no longer exist.
Roger: Oh. Well, I’m sorry to hear that.
Yeah, I’ll bet you are. You have three more scenes with this dude and it’s not going to get much better from here.
Roger’s thrown off a little, so he trips over his own line: “Yes, we’re very much in existence here. We’re very much alive here.”
Barnabas replies, “It’s that aliveness… that interests me.”
So. Huh. What?
At this point, the script starts to run out of steam too. Vicki and Carolyn stand around in the foyer, with Vicki giving a detailed description of the scene that she had with Barnabas at the beginning of the episode. Then Roger and Barnabas have another long scene in the library, where they talk about fish, sherry and Barnabas’ ring.
But there’s one important thing about the library scene — we get our first look at the Ralston-Purina lamp.
One of the odd sports for Dark Shadows fans is looking for props that get recycled through several sets, even appearing in different rooms in the same house. This lamp is easy to spot, because it’s got a checkerboard pattern that looks like the Ralston-Purina logo. There’s also a multi-colored afghan, and a decorative box that shows up all over the house, which is called the Petofi box for reasons that won’t be clear until late 1969.
Barnabas finally leaves, and everyone stands around talking about the portrait. Then a slow fade from the portrait to Barnabas, who’s standing stock still in the woods for no reason. The camera pulls back. A dog howls. This is an incredibly strange way to end a soap opera episode.
“Okay,” Dark Shadows is saying. “We have a vampire. Now what do we do with him?”
Monday: Where’s Willie?
More Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the Old House, just as Barnabas brings up the pyramids, something offscreen (probably a boom mic) knocks into one of the dusty chandeliers. You can see it wobbling back and forth over Barnabas’ shoulder.
In the library, Barnabas gives Roger the wrong cue:
Roger: Shall we drink to your visit?
Barnabas: I’d rather drink to eternal health.
Roger: Eternal health? … Eternal life?
Barnabas: … to the Collins family.
Roger: Well, that’s rather a long time, but I’ll drink to it.
When Roger admires the big black ring, Barnabas says, “Joshua Collins… took great pride in his jewelry.” He means Barnabas Collins. It’s a pretty good trick, to forget your own character’s name in the middle of a scene. Let’s see if he can top that.
Behind the Scenes:
Louis Edmonds, who plays Roger, was a well-known New York stage actor whose biggest hit was the 1960 off-Broadway production Ernest in Love, a musical based on Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest. Edmonds had many TV credits, beginning with a Studio One in Hollywood episode in 1950, but Dark Shadows was his first continuing role on a TV show.
Champion prop-spotter and friend of the blog Prisoner of the Night reports: “While you were in the Collinwood study marveling at the Ralston-Purina lamp, I was over by the window in the corner admiring the barometer hanging there. It’s a leftover from Roger’s office at the cannery, which could be seen hanging in the corner beside the door at stage left. Since Roger no longer goes to his office at this point, or at least is no longer seen there, he must have taken it home and thought it would look more decorative in the study. Of course, why they would need a barometer at Collinwood is beyond me — it’s only going to rain and storm anyway. In fact, there’s no need for anyone in Collinsport to have a barometer. The howling dogs will be enough to indicate when the real storm is about to hit.”
Monday: Where’s Willie?
— Danny Horn