Episode 227: Sick Day

“That sea air is the most unhealthy thing in the world to breathe.”

Here’s another strange thing about 1960s daytime TV: Videotape was so expensive that when they reprise yesterday’s cliffhanger at the top of the episode, they don’t use a clip — the actors just go ahead and do the scene over again.

This is so different from modern television that it’s hard to even think about it. Imagine if every episode of a show started with “Previously, on Mad Men” — and then the actors performed all the clips live, including costume changes and running around to different sets.

Now that I think about it, that would be kind of amazing.

227 dark shadows reprise barnabas cane maggie

The good news is that if they really botch the cliffhanger like they did yesterday, then they get another crack at it today. And this time, mercifully, they get it right.

The cameras stay out of each other’s way, they do the artsy shot with the cane — and, yes, Barnabas shows his fangs. Fangs are now in play. Thank goodness for second chances.

227 dark shadows stop telling me sam maggie

In the morning, Maggie’s exhausted — and who can blame her? She had to do the whole night twice. She feels weak, and has a hard time getting up. When Sam urges her to stay in bed, she suddenly snaps at him, screaming, “Will you stop telling me what to do!

So, checking my copy of Dracula, I think that puts us somewhere around chapter VIII. Vampire moves into an abandoned house, check — young woman in her nightgown, check — she’s pale and anemic, check — weird mood swings. Yeah, that’s chapter VIII, all right. The only thing we’re missing is a scarf to cover the bite marks.

227 dark shadows scarf maggie joe

And hey, guess what, Maggie goes to work, and she’s wearing a scarf.

By the time Joe comes by the coffee shop, Maggie looks like a road accident — she can hardly stand up, and she’s dropping tableware. Clearly the only thing that got her through the day is that there aren’t any customers — they’ve got a couple Blue Whale episodes this week, and they can’t afford to pay more extras to sit in the coffee shop.

227 dark shadows i hear ya maggie sam

Maggie collapses, and Sam and Joe take her home and put her to bed. But then Barnabas does that “stand at the window with a candle” trick, and all of a sudden she’s in a good mood again.

Sam’s going over to the Old House for another portrait session with Barnabas, and she offers to drive him.

And man, if there’s anything to be scared of in this storyline, it’s the weird smile that Maggie has on her face right now.

227 dark shadows smile barnabas maggie

The Dark Shadows writers have been brushing up on Dracula, and they know that the vampire is not actually the scariest person in the room.

In Bram Stoker’s novel, Count Dracula is pretty much off stage from Chapter IX to half past XXI. The middle of the book is all about Lucy losing her life and her soul, sucked dry until she becomes a vampire herself.

The really scary part happens during the moments when she’s fallen under Dracula’s spell. That’s when she seems most composed, the most like her old self — and those are the moments when she actively seeks her own destruction. Van Helsing hangs up garlic and wolfsbane, and a weakened Lucy is grateful for his protection — until later that night, when she suddenly declares that it’s unnecessary, and throws it all away.

227 dark shadows maggie scarf

The Dracula story was compressed quite a bit for the Bela Lugosi movie, where Lucy basically dies offscreen after a single bite. In the 1930s, studios had to abide by the Motion Picture Production Code, and it wasn’t okay to show a young woman gradually turning into a ghoul who drinks the blood of young children.

But the Dark Shadows writers are mostly taking their inspiration from the book, because it’s 1967 and you can’t just watch an old movie any time you want to. If the television show that you’re working on suddenly turns into Dracula, then the best you can do is to stay up late and watch Shock Theater until it turns up.

So the Lugosi influence on Dark Shadows is mostly in the visuals — the elegant vampire, staring out the window with a strange light playing across his eyes — the kind of thing that you’d remember from watching the movie as a child. For the actual story beats, they’re reading the book.

227 dark shadows triple backacting maggie barnabas sam

So it turns out that killing a girl isn’t actually that scary; it’s just sad. But if there’s something inside Maggie that’s responding to Barnabas — something that changes her, so her friends don’t know if they can trust her… that’s the horror story.

Oh, and triple backacting is also scary. Impressive, but scary.

Tomorrow: Those Things in That Room.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

During the portrait painting scene, Barnabas and Sam get a bit stuck on the phrase “I’d like”:

Barnabas:  How are you progressing?

Sam:  Oh, coming along. Probably a little slower than I’d like. These are not easy conditions to work under.

Barnabas:  I’d like you — I understand that, of course.

Sam:  Yes. I’d, uh, actually like to take the painting home and work on it a bit in daylight.

Barnabas:  I’d prefer it if you didn’t. I’d like to have the portrait finished here.

Also, the portrait isn’t progressing at all — it looks exactly the same as it did in episode 224.

Tomorrow: Those Things in That Room.

227 dark shadows candle window barnabas

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

4 thoughts on “Episode 227: Sick Day

  1. Regarding your comment about triple back acting being scary, I believe you could say it’s quadruple back acting scary if you count Barnabas’s portrait!

  2. One thing that always bugged me is Sam’s painting process — not that most viewers would even notice. But being an artist, it’s a glaring goof to me. Most pros paint the ENTIRE painting in stages and gradually increase the detail fairly equally over all. There can be parts that are more finished than others, but not to the extent he has it: half the face looks completely finished and the other half is bare white canvas with some light line work. It just doesn’t make sense. It’s like decorating the top of a cake before you even put frosting on the sides or between the layers.

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