Episode 251: Close to Killing You

“He was going to turn me into something inhuman!”

Friday’s cliffhanger was kind of a game changer — Maggie broke free from the hypnotic trance she’d been in, and tried to drive a stake into the vampire’s heart. But it was too late; he woke up.

Now Maggie’s standing there with a stake in her hand, and what are you going to say at that point? I think you might have dropped this, I was just giving it back? It’s not easy to pull that off.

251 dark shadows barnabas stake

Barnabas has no time for that kind of foolishness.

He advances on his betrothed, with a flourish of sarcastic Fridspeak. What were you doing with this tool? Be careful, it’s very sharp. I wouldn’t want you to hurt anyone.”

He moves closer. “But perhaps you were trying to hurt one. Perhaps you were trying to hurt me.

That is so great. “Trying to hurt one.” I don’t know what it is about the Fridspeak that makes Barnabas more scary, but somehow it works. It must be magic.

251 dark shadows willie maggie barnabas
Then there’s a really nice moment — Willie steps in front of Maggie, and says, “I can’t let you kill her! If you kill her, you’ll have to kill me too!”

And how amazing is that? Willie has basically become the Jiminy Cricket of the show, standing in for Barnabas’ conscience.

The scene builds to a standoff — and then gets interrupted by a knock at the door upstairs.

251 dark shadows vicki barnabas

Unfortunately, it turns out to be dreamy governess Victoria Winters, who is basically doused in plot repellent these days. And you’ll never guess why she stopped by.

Vicki:  Mrs. Stoddard sent me down with a message. The sheriff was up at the house a little while ago. He’s put a curfew on the town.

Barnabas:  A curfew?

Vicki:  Yes. No one’s allowed to go out alone at night, especially women.

But, Vicki — you’re a woman, and you’re out alone at night. If Barnabas is awake, then that means it’s night right now.

Barnabas:  Because of the women who were attacked?

Vicki:  Yes, and because of Maggie Evans. I think the curfew’s a good idea. I know that I don’t like to go out alone at night.

But you are out alone at night! You’re a girl who went out alone at night, so that you could tell a dude who is inside at night that he shouldn’t be outside!

I mean, is it me? This girl drives me crazy.

Barnabas:  Poor Miss Evans. I didn’t know her very well, but she was a lovely girl.

Vicki:  Everyone uses the past tense when they talk about her. I hope she isn’t dead.

Barnabas:  So do I, but we must be realistic. If she were still alive, surely the police would have found her by this time.

Vicki:  Unless she’s being held by the madman who’s done all these terrible things.

Fine, Barnabas says, but only in his mind. Damn. Why did you even come over if you’re going to argue with everything I say?

251 dark shadows vicki box

And then something truly terrible happens.

Vicki notices Josette’s music box on the table, and Barnabas plays it for her. She’s enchanted, saying, “It reminds me of the past. Of a long, long time ago.”

It reminds you of the past? Seriously?

And I’m sorry to break it to you this way, but this is how they’re going to set up the next story. Maggie’s run as substitute-Josette is going to end pretty soon, and Vicki will be the new object of Barnabas’ attention.

That’s kind of a mini-spoiler, but this foreshadowing is so obvious that it might as well be fiveshadowing.

251 dark shadows barnabas willie

Back downstairs, Barnabas issues some more threats, and Willie pleads for Maggie’s life. “Look at her! Look how beautiful she is!” He’s doing a hard sell.

So Barnabas decides what he’s going to do with Maggie. He grabs her, and drags her, struggling, over to another part of the basement…

251 dark shadows prison cell

… where there’s a prison cell.

Seriously. It’s got a locked metal door with bars, and inside there’s a bed and a couple little tables.

It’s obviously old; it’s smothered in cobwebs. Apparently this house was constructed with a fully-functional prison cell in the basement. Who built this?

251 dark shadows maggie cell

But, as I said, this is the episode where the writers are figuring out what they’re going to do with Maggie.

Head writer Ron Sproat wrote this episode; you may remember that we talked a couple weeks ago about Sproatnapping. A kidnapping story is his go-to plot device.

So this is a very Sproat decision: When in doubt, lock up the pretty girl, and leave her there for as long as you can.

251 dark shadows vicki barnabas

Once that’s out of the way, Barnabas finds an excuse to walk over to Collinwood and talk to Vicki some more.

He’s brought another family heirloom with him, and she coos over it, explaining that she never had a family; she was raised in an orphanage.

Barnabas says, “Well, no wonder you take such an interest in family heritage and the past.”

So, unfortunately, this is the episode when these two start using the phrase “the past”, as if it’s a single, specific thing. Here’s a sample:

Vicki:  I’m being too much of a romantic.

Barnabas:  Not at all. Not many young girls feel very happy about the past. And the past is very beautiful. Very beautiful.

Vicki:  Yes, I’m sure it was.

What the hell are you two talking about? Jesus.

251 dark shadows cell maggie

Okay, back to the prison cell, where Maggie is lying on her cot. She’s sobbing into the wedding veil, and she still has the diamond necklace on, which is fantastic.

Barnabas returns to her for some more lunatic vampire dialogue.

He says he’s going to keep her locked up here, until she begs to become his bride. Angry and stubborn, she snarls that she’ll never be Josette Collins.

Barnabas says, “Careful. I’m close to killing you tonight. Only your beauty saves you.”

She begs him not to leave her here; emotionally, Maggie is all over the map today. She says she’ll go crazy if she stays in this cell.

“Maybe you’ll see that madness is preferable to sanity,” he says. “Or death preferable to life.”

I love the Fridspeak. I honestly can not get enough of it. Fortunately for me, the producers feel the same way. And things get so much crazier.

Tomorrow: How to Ruin Your Life.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

The first time Willie hears a knock at the door, they don’t do the knocking sound effect. They remember it for the second time.

Vicki finds the music box on a table in the foyer. In Friday’s episode, Maggie left it in Josette’s room upstairs.

Another great Barnabas line flub:

Willie: You’ll have to kill me first.

Barnabas:  I might do just that. But unfortunately, I do not need you anymore.

251 dark shadows interrupting willie

Behind the Scenes:

This episode is missing the first 45 seconds after the theme, because there’s an announcer doing a recap of last week’s episodes. Several episodes were pre-empted last week in some parts of the country, so ABC could cover the United Nations hearings on the Vietnam War.

So we’ve got an announcer saying: “For those who have missed the last few episodes of Dark Shadows…” and that cuts out the first 45 seconds of the actual show.

We see the episode with the announcement on DVD and streaming, rather than the original uncut episode. This is one of the episodes where they lost the master tape, so the surviving episode is taken from a kinescope copy, filmed off a TV set as the show was airing.

They used to send these kinescope copies to local affiliates in areas where they aired Dark Shadows at a different time of the day. The kinescopes would be mailed out, and then run on the affiliate station a few days later.

There are so many things about this explanation that demonstrate the DIY state of daytime television in the late 60s. This used to be how television worked, just tin cans and string.

Tomorrow: How to Ruin Your Life.

251 dark shadows diamonds

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

14 thoughts on “Episode 251: Close to Killing You

  1. It’s an unpleasant thing to mention, but since this is “the Old House” I can think of one reason for that cell in the house, and that’s Ben Stokes, who was more or less a slave. Maybe when he “got out of line,” that cell was for him.

  2. So now we know Collinsport was founded by a serial killer. Only a serial killer would have a prison cell in the basement. From the very beginning this has been one seriously messed up family.

  3. Even as a kid, I always felt like that “prison-cell” door felt a little out of place. I still do. Seems like a heavy wood door with a couple of iron bars would be more fitting for a house from the 1700s. A bad staging decision by a show that usually made pretty decent ones.

  4. The episode that I have from the Syfy channel does not have the previously on Dark Shadows segment. I saw it on YouTube and it was new to me. I checked the tape and it was not there. I’m not sure whether anything was missing as far as scenes go, though

  5. I’ve use to be in constant suspense, as by constantly watching Dark Shadows, at every moment, I’ve always have this notion of thought that surely, as soon as possible, Maggie’s life would of been terminated by the hands of Barnabas Collins, the vampire. But, fortunely, she was save by the bell. Barnabas’ little sister, Sarah Collins, came to her rescue, by giving Maggie such ghostly, magical instructions in leading her out to escaping, just in time, from Barnabas Collins harms way of killing Maggie after awaken from his coffin. And after it was too late, Maggie finally managed to barely survived her prowler by her narrowly escaping from nearly been capture, and even been killed by her vampire assailant. Another good fortune during her process of escaping, her next other chance of been rescue was by her father, Sam Evans, who was the person who barely save her life after been led by Sarah, after she pinpointed into showing Sam in where to meet her escaping daughter, Maggie, at a certain place and certain time, as that’s how it in became possibly enough to barely, as manage to save her daughter’s life, as his last point of chance, as he managed to save her. That was the most fearful suspense of awesome momentum times I’ve ever experienced by watching Dark Shadows, and all it’s suspenseful, mysterious, horrific and action scenes ever to take place on a daytime drama series that I always remember.
    That’s why that I still wish that Dark Shadows would still be on the air up to this present time, and never been taking off. And if taking off the air, I surely would of at least, wish they would of bring it again, at least rather if it would of been present or, as repeatedly, been aired from the past.

  6. The discussion of the prison door in the basement made pay attention to it as I rewatched this episode. I think you’re right that the idea is that it’s a metal door (the bars and rivets around it), but you can see obvious woodgrain in it! Also, when Barnabas puts Maggie into the cell for the first time, there are no creaky or metallic sound effects to accompany the door, and when Barnabas closes it, it sounds obviously wooden. Even in the later scene when Barnabas comes back and they put in the sound effects, it’s the same effect they use for coffin openings and other creaky doors–and it sounds more wooden than metallic. I’m not saying that this proves that the door “is” wooden in the narrative of the show–this is more along the lines of continuity problems and bloopers.

    A couple of other thoughts–I know you blame Ron Sproat a lot for relying on kidnapping and imprisonment plots, and the preponderance of evidence suggests this is so. But that idea has always not entirely sat right with me in that the writing was certainly a team effort. I’ve read, too, that Dan Curtis tended to keep a pretty tight ship on plot development, but I don’t know how true that is or not. If it is, wouldn’t something as major as imprisoning Maggie have been at least partially his idea? And I’ve also read that the writers certainly did communicate with each other and plan out at least a couple of weeks’ worth of plots. So would it really have been an independent Sproat decision to lock Maggie up in this individual script?

    One other point about plot development–you say here, of course rightly, that this is the episode where the writers have to figure out what they were going to do with Maggie. But this must also be the point in time, I would think, when they figured they be keeping Barnabas around permanently, since Maggie didn’t kill him and she’s going to be put on ice for a long time to come. And also as you note, they basically start the Josette plot over again here with Barnabas setting his sights on Vicky. I wish they had been able to figure out a more effective path forward once it was decided that Barnabas was going to be a permanent resident. Doing a second run-through of the same plot is never a good idea, and all this leads to the dead end/being painted into a corner that ultimately ends up with the slate being wiped clean and the 1795 storyline (which is a good thing!). The only really good thing to come out of the storyline from here to 1795 is, of course, Julia Hoffman!

    Having said that, the Vicky as Josette storyline also reveals to me that it always made more sense for Vicky to be Josette in the first place. I love the character of Maggie and KLS certainly played this “possession” storyline well, but narratively, it doesn’t make much sense to me that a non-aristocratic local girl would be the next coming of Josette. Only her resemblance to the portrait is a point in her favor as being Josette. Sitting there all along is Vicky–a woman with a blank slate of a past, whose character intention all along was pretty clearly telegraphed to be as a secret/unkown member of the Collins family, who herself came to believe in Josette the ghost and actually could sense and see her–doesn’t she make more sense to have been Barnabas’s new Josette in the first place? Now that he’s come to her as a substitute for Maggie, the whole thing seems like sloppy seconds. (And of course, in subsequent retellings of the DS story, there are attempts to fix this or merge the Maggie/Vicky characters.)

    1. I think the actual answer to why he kidnaps Maggie instead of Vicki is that they had two storylines — blackmail and vampire — and they needed Vicki for the blackmail one.

      The vampire story was supposed to be the throwaway short-term storyline, so it takes place outside of Collinwood and involves secondary characters. They had no idea that the Barnabas/Josette pairing would become crucial backstory for the entire series.

  7. Vicky says as she’s leaving the Old House that she has to get back to Collinwood because “it’s getting dark’….and she says it to Barnabas. So….shouldn’t it be dark already?

  8. One thing that strikes me watching all these episodes is that is a very unique music box. Usually, you have to wind them and, if they play for an extended period of time, which they do here, the music gradually gets slower. This music box never does!

  9. Frid’s hands appear to be really shaking when he shows Vicki the handkerchief. Was he that nervous on set? Also, if I were Liz I’m not sure I’d be exactly thrilled to get an old handkerchief as a gift. “Oh yes, I can see where Josette blew her nose in 1795. The Collins snot always had a certain persistence.”

  10. Vicki mentions that the curfew is “in town”; Collinwood is several miles from town and is private property. Nevertheless it’s idiotic that she’s out after dark without any escort. C’mon, Burke, where the hell are YOU! Even Roger would be something… but I guess that would mean paying another actor.
    Well, at least Barnabas has gotten serious about kidnapping Maggie – – no more swanning around the house with the doors unlocked and the windows open.
    But now the Old House is REALLY going to turn into Grand Central Station, isn’t it? We’ll need lots of opportunities for her to almost get rescued.

  11. I had the good fortune to stumble upon this blog sometime in October, 2020, while searching online for the precise broadcast date of an episode I’d just seen on Pluto TV. Pluto TV began showing DS continuously, 24 hours daily, in September, 2020, starting with episode 210. I thought it’d run through the remaining 1,015 episodes in a few weeks, at that rate, then repeat from 210, or earlier, I hoped. Unfortunately, it has repeatedly gone up to number 532/533, just before the dream curse gets resolved, then returns to 210. As of today, Nov. 25, they’re showing the kidnapping of Maggie Evans, etc., yet again, getting to the first color episodes by tomorrow morning, I believe. Strange programming choice, but it’s a free streaming service, so no complaints, except they always seem to skip Josette’s life-defying leap off Widows Hill in 1795, along with another episode next to it. Another odd omission by Pluto. (Then again, it shows nearly all Tom Baker’s Doctor Who stories, but always skips Genesis of the Daleks, and a few others. Yet we DO get The Horns of Nimon!)

    Anyway, I love this blog, even as late as I am in finding it. Although I’m mainly reading the entries for Pluto’s offering of episodes 210-532/533, Danny’s great humor and analysis are an unexpected pleasure. I don’t know where you cane from, Danny Horn, but thanks for the laughs!

    I am curious, though, how come Danny never mentions Art Wallace? Seems like every episode credits him with the overall story development. I like Danny’s analysis of the writers, whose credits I’d never really noted with any regularity. I do recall seeing Art Wallace’s name on at least one episode of Star Trek, from ’68, I think, off the top of my head. Anyway, does he give Wallace any attention here?

    Speaking from off of my head-top again, I wonder if the preemption(s) Danny mentioned were actually because of the Arab-Israeli conflict of about that time and not about Vietnam, with June ’67 being several months before the Tet Offensive in ’68 soured a lot more Americans on the war than before. Although I didn’t watch Dark Shadows until March of ’68, I do recall my mother watching our new 19-inch portable b&w TV while ironing clothes, and seeing UN talking heads on screen instead of the usual daytime fare….

    I enjoy this blog, and all of your smart and enthusiastic contributions are as fun to read as Danny’s quite often.

    1. Art Wallace was long gone from the show by this time. He wrote the series “bible” called “Shadows on the Wall” as the show was being created, and he wrote most of the first 86 episodes (and most are excellently written). He still appears in the credits, I think, as more of an honorific (“story created and developed by”), but by the time Barnabas comes around, he’s not really actively involved.

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