Episode 230: The Transylvania Twist

“I’m in a graveyard. How did I get in a graveyard?”

It’s been four weeks since we opened the mystery box and let the vampire out, not that anyone’s actually saying the word “vampire” yet. The show is actually strangely coy about it — nobody says the V-word out loud for nine months. They finally break it out in episode 410, and by then it’s not the craziest thing on the show anymore.

But who needs labels when you have howling dogs? Over the last month, we’ve seen hypnosis, nightmares, fangs and unexplained blood loss — and this is the episode where it all comes together. This is the first big Friday cliffhanger, and exciting things are finally happening.

230 dark shadows maggie graveyard

Of course, when I say “happening”, what I mean is that people are talking about things happening. For example: Joe left Maggie alone at the end of the last episode, and when Sam came back to the house, the doors were open and Maggie was gone.

Now Maggie’s wandering around in the cemetery, in her nightgown, and in a daze. A quick reminder: it’s 1967 and this is afternoon television.

230 dark shadows maggie conference

So everybody piles into Sam’s house for a summit meeting. It’s always helpful in these situations to have a couple people who can walk in and say things like, “Gone? What do you mean, gone?” Then you explain that you mean gone, and before you know it, you’ve got a whole scene going.

Sam tells the Scooby gang that he’s alerted the police — the sheriff and his deputies are out looking for Maggie. But, as everyone knows, the police department in Collinsport is 100% useless, so by now the deputies have probably arrested each other, and the sheriff’s all tangled up in a clothesline somewhere.

230 dark shadows vicki magazine

The guys decide to go out and help with the search; Vicki stays at the house in case Maggie comes back.

I understand why they’d want to leave someone behind, but now we’re just watching Vicki read a magazine, which has limited entertainment value.

230 dark shadows knock willie vicki

Luckily, Willie stops by, with a message for Sam — Barnabas will be busy until midnight, so he won’t be available for the portrait sitting tonight. Vicki says that Sam wouldn’t be able to work tonight anyway; he’s out looking for his daughter.

Willie is visibly shaken by the news that Maggie’s disappeared. There have been several moments over the last couple of weeks when we’ve seen Willie being concerned about Barnabas’ victims. It’s a really interesting choice for his character.

Over the next several months, the Barnabas storyline gets increasingly popular, until he becomes the main character of the show. It’s hard to have an inhuman monster as the protagonist, so his character softens over time and he becomes the “reluctant vampire”. That’s a little ways off, but the groundwork is being laid right here — with Willie Loomis, the reluctant henchman.

230 dark shadows willie anonymous

We’ve seen that Willie is under Barnabas’ power, but the actual dynamic between them is pretty complicated. Willie obeys when Barnabas gives him direct instructions, but he feels guilty about what he’s being forced to do, and he’s desperate to find a way to protect people.

So he takes a risk here, and makes an anonymous phone call to Sam’s house. He tells Vicki that Maggie’s in the cemetery, and she’s in danger.

Vicki tries to call the sheriff, but there’s no answer; apparently every single person associated with the police department is out searching for Maggie, or falling down wells, or buying magic beans, or whatever the hell it is that Collinsport police officers do in a crisis. Don’t they have a Vicki who can sit around and read magazines?

230 dark shadows fangs barnabas

Meanwhile, the fog machine’s going like mad in the cemetery. There’s smoke everywhere; it looks like a tire factory’s on fire.

Barnabas emerges from the mist, and approaches the hypnotized Maggie. He’s got all kinds of new makeup on today, sort of a Nosferatu look, with sunken cheeks and dark circles under his eyes. Plus he’s got his fangs in. He didn’t look like this when he was hanging out with Roger at Collinwood. These are his play clothes.

But Willie’s playing on both teams tonight; he runs up to Barnabas and warns him that Maggie’s friends are coming. Maggie collapses, and Barnabas and Willie run off.

230 dark shadows cemetery vicki burke maggie

Vicki and Burke come to the cemetery, and they find Maggie lying on the ground. You see? I told you things would happen, and here they are, happening.

230 dark shadows secret willie barnabas

Burke and Vicki try to rouse Maggie, while Barnabas and Willie hide out in the secret room in the mausoleum.

So it’s official: this is now a soap opera that has “the secret room in the mausoleum” as a regular location where things happen. Other soaps have hospitals and courtrooms; Dark Shadows has a crypt with a back porch.

230 dark shadows barnabas cane

Once the coast is clear, Barnabas tells Willie, “You have some explaining to do.” Willie stammers and plays dumb, but Barnabas knows that he must have tipped off Maggie’s friends.

Barnabas shouts, “I must teach you your lesson, Willie. You must never betray me again!” Then he raises his cane and gives Willie a savage beating, on camera. Afternoon television!!

230 dark shadows puncture maggie

Now it’s time for the big Friday climax — Vicki and Burke bring Maggie back home, and lay her down on the couch. She’s gasping for air, they loosen her scarf — and boom! Bite marks.

So there you go. They may not be using the V-word yet, but they’ve crossed a line and it’s too late to back out. Dark Shadows is a vampire show. Let’s see what happens next.

Monday: Bedside Manners.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In the opening voiceover, Vicki says that “a young girl has mysteriously, and unexplainably, disappeared.” She means inexplicably.

When Vicki’s sitting on the couch with the magazine, you can see the shadow of a crewmember walking around.

After Willie’s visit, Vicki looks at a headshot of Maggie on the desk next to the front door. Last episode, we saw the same picture on the dresser in Maggie’s room. How many of those does she have?

230 dark shadows maggie headshot

When Willie calls Vicki, he puts a cloth over the mouthpiece to muffle his voice, but from Vicki’s end, he sounds perfectly clear and recognizable. Willie hangs up, and you can still hear Vicki talking; she says practically a whole sentence after the receiver is hung up.

Vicki stumbles over her lines when she tells Burke about the phone call: “He said — whoever he is, he said that he’s in the — she’s in the graveyard on Eagle’s Hill.” (It’s actually “Eagle Hill”; Willie said it correctly when he called.)

When Barnabas approaches Maggie in the cemetery, there’s a dramatic sting music cue at the end of the act. But it comes in too early, so they play the same sting a second time, and then take the commercial break.

230 dark shadows forest cemetery

The ground in the cemetery is obviously pieces of fabric. When Vicki finds Maggie’s shoe, you can see the rug bunching up around her step.

Also: How does Vicki manage to see that shoe, on a foggy night? Burke’s got the flashlight, and he’s gone off in a different direction. She must have super shoe-location powers.

Burke feeds Sam a line while they’re standing around Maggie lying on the couch. Sam says, “Darling? What’s the matter?” Burke mutters, “What’s wrong?” and Sam repeats, “What’s wrong?”

Monday: Bedside Manners.

230 dark shadows fog maggie barnabas

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

15 thoughts on “Episode 230: The Transylvania Twist

  1. Wow! I cheated and went to the Dark Shadows Wiki: Tomorrow we get a doctor who actually *examines* patients in detail, questions erratic behavior and dreams, and *gasp* realizes that blood transfusions exist! I’d say Collinsport healthcare has improved exponentially in the space of one episode, but then you still have badly beaten conmen-turned-unhappy handymen and people with blood loss, and clearly a need for a rehab clinic (which will only grow of course).

    David Ford, who plays Sam, was also in the movie 1776 (with Daniel “Evil! Evil!” Keyes), as John Hancock which he also played on stage. From that performance and some reviews, he really seems to have been a good actor… but again there’s the shift from doing the same dialogue and performance on stage to a new script every day. And like the character of Sam, he had a heavy drinking problem. (and when Burke is the sober one, giving him his lines, that doesn’t bode well).

    1. It’s actually the same Doctor — he regenerates. We’ll have three Doctor Woodards all together, four Sheriff Pattersons and a couple of Burkes. The second Woodard is the best one, but he’s not all that good.

  2. Loved the scene where Barnabas emerges from the fog toward Maggie. Even though J Frid has to brush a limb off his shoulder, it’s still genuinely spooky.

    The whole Maggie-wanders-in-a-graveyard bit ups the creepy quotient of the show considerably from anything they’ve done yet. The black and white makes it all the more atmospheric. This is one show I liked better in B/W than color.

  3. So, this episode is not on YouTube amidst all about 500 episodes that are, and now I know for absolutely sure that my VCR is dead. 1225 episode that somebody worked really hard to record for me are nothing to throw away, so we went to Ebay and bought a new used VCR. Seriously. I think it was Thursday. It should be here on Wednesday. I’m hoping it works and the tape isn’t too far out of tracking -p remember tracking?

  4. This was some intense stuff back in 1967. Dark Shadows wasn’t just a stack of DVDs on the shelf. It was a work in progress and we really didn’t know where it was going. It looked pretty scary though. Interestingly, it took me a long time to accept that Barnabas was supposed to be a vampire. I could see using ghosts and maybe a non-generic occult being like the phoenix. I didn’t believe though, that Dark Shadows was going to become a stomping ground for classic movie monsters. Those were the days, though.

  5. One thing I’m always struck by is how Curtis always cast for “interesting” as opposed to merely pretty/sexy. Joe and Maggie are the most conventionally attractive actors on the show, but Joel Crotchets also had some wicked acne scarring on his neck, while Kathryn Leigh Scott had a snaggly lower tooth and, as the screenshot of Maggie’s slipper shows, she had HUGE feet for her height.

  6. This is definitely the episode where the show really decides to put on some adult pants and go for a stroll. Barnabas and Willie hiding in the crypt from Burke is classic. Atmospherically, there is so much dry ice rolling that it’s very possible everyone could have wound up in the WRONG CEMETERY. And the cane-beating, well, let’s just say that it rolls in a whole new S&M aspect into their relationship that seems somehow weirdly offbeat sexy.

    Can you imagine someone in May, 1967, actually doing a recap for a friend who got home late from school or work and missed viewing the episode?

    “Yeah, Maggie was in the cemetery. Everybody went looking for her. Willie and Barnabas had to hide in the crypt to get away from the others. And Barnabas caned Willie for tipping off Victoria.”

    Say what?//

    ABC’s big ad campaign in the ’80’s for their soaps was “Love in the Afternoon.”

    Not so much in DS Land.

  7. John Karlen (sp?) seemed to be trying to keep some vestige of a southern accent that the previous actor had been using. But by now he’s veered off Tobacco Road and gone full New Jersey Turnpike.

  8. Replying almost a decade late, but, anyone think that back-in-the day it may have been set up to look to the audience as if Willie had been turned into a vampire? I mean, since he left Collinwood he’s never been seen during the day, and had to be invited into the old house by Barnabas?

  9. Got to say that this is one of the best and even daring episodes of the series. Barnabas beating the living **** out of Willie was VERY unusual violence for a broadcast TV show. Even more so for an afternoon soap. Also Barnabas was really sinister and evil-looking in these early black-and-white episodes. Later, they mellowed his character quite a bit.

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