“He heard the pearl-shaped voice of a ghost saying Boo.”
The storyline this week is that young David’s trapped in the secret room in the mausoleum, and he can’t figure out how to open the hidden door from the inside. It’s a fairly suspense-free scenario, because he’s friends with a ghost who knows that he’s in there.
So it doesn’t take a genius to predict that Sarah will show up to rescue him, at some point between now and the day he starves to death. For the sake of convenience, let’s call that point “Friday.”
And yet, here we are, smack in the middle of Wednesday, with no end in sight. On the plus side, we get to spend some time with Joe this week, so that’s something.
I haven’t paid much attention to Joe so far, and I’m not sure why, because he’s lovely, and all of a sudden I have a crush on him. Look at him, he’s gorgeous. Tall, handsome, broad shoulders, deep voice, secretly gay. He even knows all of his lines. He’s basically perfect.
So I’m not sure why this is only occurring to me today. It might be the jacket. Last week, we saw him in a shapeless aquamarine turtleneck that didn’t really do much for him. The next day, he had a greenish jacket on, and a new haircut that was too short and made him look like a dork.
Today, he’s rocking a new jacket with horizontal stripes, and he’s got it zipped up halfway, which accentuates the shoulders. He’s got a brown sweater under it, and the haircut’s grown out nicely.
Plus, he’s got kind of a take-charge attitude today — he basically spends the whole episode leading Roger around as they search for David. As usual, Roger is all wry, queeny sarcasm, which makes Joe look masculine and commanding. Or maybe it’s just the jacket. I don’t know.
And David’s dying, by the way. Or maybe he’s just tired. It’s hard to say. Today’s script calls for him to alternate between two modes — he’s either pounding on the walls and screaming for help, or he’s unconscious. His internal clock appears to run entirely on dramatic irony.
Oh, and there’s more Chromakey today, and it looks good this time! This is the third episode where they’ve used a bluescreen effect to pretend that they’re filming outdoors, and they’re getting better at it.
The first time, two weeks ago, was just a nightmare, with shadows creating weird blue lines all over the place. Their second try a few days later was an improvement, but there was still too much going on.
Today, they try Chromakey on two different shots — first, with Roger and Joe standing on a hill looking over the countryside, and then another shot as they get to the Eagle Hill cemetery. The hill shot, which you can see here, is pretty nice; the cemetery scene gets a little dicey.
It looks like the key is to put the actors in front of the bluescreen, without throwing in a lot of extraneous foliage. The problem with the other shots is that they keep trying to throw plastic shrubbery in there too, both in front of the actors and behind them. They can’t light all those different levels correctly, so they get blue lines around the edges.
I’d be happy to go on telling you more of my theories about the history and practices of early Chromakey technology, but by now I’m sure you’re slumped against the wall like David in his “down” phase, so let’s move on.
And now we come to the best part of the episode. The caretaker’s back!
This is the crazy old caretaker of the Eagle Hill cemetery, whose job appears to be to walk around and tap on gravestones, to make sure that they’re still there. Then every once in a while he notices that someone’s disturbed the dead, and he gets kind of upset about it.
The last time we saw the caretaker, it was the second day of the blog, and I was kind of stressed and uptight about him. Five months and a hundred episodes later, it feels like seeing an old friend again. Basically, he’s not Burke, and that’s good enough for me.
The caretaker is extra loopy today; I think he’s aware that the show has a regular ghost character, and if he wants to compete, then he needs to up his game.
He sees that the mausoleum gate is open, so he pokes his head in, and calls, “Is anybody in there?”
David hears him, and starts pounding on the wall, shouting, “Help! Help!”
The caretaker’s reaction is perfect. He stares around the apparently empty crypt, and cries, “No… no! There’s no help for you! No help is possible! You must rest. Rest!”
So he locks the gate, and backs away, ignoring David’s muffled cries. It’s fantastic. That’s why we have a caretaker, for top-shelf crazy like that.
The episode goes on, but really nothing gets accomplished; it’s another Sproatnapping “close call” episode.
Roger and Joe chat with the caretaker about the dead for a while, and then they take a look in the mausoleum. By the time they get there, David’s sound asleep again, and then he wakes up five seconds after they leave.
So there’s no plot development today, just some fun things to look at and listen to. Every once in a while, that’s enough.
Tomorrow: A Logical Explanation.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
This episode has one of the all-time great dialogue bloopers, which Roger handles beautifully:
Joe: Shall we go?
Roger: Oh… wait a minute.
Joe: What’s the matter?
Roger: Several of my incestors — incestors? — my ancestors are buried here.
There’s also an odd bit of fuzzy geography when Joe and Roger are standing on a hill and looking around. Joe says that they’re on “the highest point of land for miles around.” Then he points, and asks, “What’s that down there?” Roger says, “Oh, that’s the Eagle Hill cemetery.” This raises a question: If it’s called Eagle Hill cemetery, why isn’t it up on the hill?
Finally, that’s Roger’s line quoted at the top. I’m pretty sure that the line as written was “He heard the pear-shaped voice of a ghost saying Boo,” not “pearl-shaped”. But that’s what happens when you read your lines off the teleprompter.
Tomorrow: A Logical Explanation.
— Danny Horn