“The eyes in the painting… They were alive! I could feel them!”
At the top of the show today, Elizabeth finds young David standing in the foyer, staring at the 18th-century portrait of Barnabas. She asks David what’s wrong, and he suddenly runs upstairs and slams the door. Perplexed, Liz looks at the portrait.
And unfortunately, that’s as close as we’re going to get to the vampire today. Elizabeth is actually just coming back from four weeks of summer vacation, and we hardly noticed. But Barnabas is at the heart of every storyline now, and if he takes even one day off, the show starts to sag.
This is the first episode without Barnabas in two weeks. That portrait is going to get a workout today.
But we’ve been pretty spoiled over the last couple of weeks, since David was rescued from the mausoleum. There’s been a nice steady progression of story beats, leading up to a real crisis point — Willie stumbled into the trap meant to catch Maggie’s kidnapper, he’s been shot, and now everybody thinks he’s the villain they’ve been hunting.
There’s still lots of story left to tell, but it’s pretty much all vampire-dependent. So instead of doing that, we’re going to fill up the empty space with people standing around and talking about other people’s stories.
Vicki comes back from visiting the Evans cottage, so she’s got an update on how Maggie’s feeling (fine), and the latest report on Willie’s condition (still in a coma). Then Liz tells Vicki how David seems (frightened), how she feels about him (worried), and what they should let happen to him (nothing). And there you go, that’s a whole act over already.
The non-stop thrill ride continues with a visit from Dr. Woodard, who’s come over to talk to Julia. He’s got an update about Willie’s condition, which is: still in a coma.
Julia sits down across from him, and all of a sudden it’s Good Morning America.
Julia: Listen, Dave, medical history aside, what’s your opinion? Do you think he’ll live?
Woodard: I give him about one chance in a hundred.
Julia: But what will happen if he does pull through? Will he be able to talk?
Woodard: We hope he will.
Yes, we certainly do. I’d like to thank Dr. Dave Woodard from the Collinsport Hospital for coming by and talking to us about this developing situation. After the break, we’ll be back with weather and traffic from your local station.
Oh, sorry, they’re still talking. There’s a loose story thread that they need to take care of, namely: why Julia is still at Collinwood. She originally came here posing as a family historian, as a cover for investigating Maggie’s abduction. Now that the kidnapper’s been caught, Woodard expects that her investigation is over, and it’s time to go home.
This begins a long series of strange excuses for keeping Julia on Collins property. As it turns out, she’s not going home, now or ever — she stays on as a permanent house guest through the next four years of the show. After a while, they just stop mentioning it.
The problem, obviously, is that Julia is an awesome character, and she’s involved in all of the major storylines, and they’re not going to throw her away just because it no longer makes logical sense why she’s still standing in this room holding a book that doesn’t belong to her.
On other soap operas, this situation is usually solved by a sudden career change. On One Life to Live, for example, Natalie Buchanan started out as a college student, and when that storyline ran dry, she became a bartender, a hairstylist, a professional pool player, a receptionist, an executive in her family’s company and finally a police department forensics expert. At that point, the show was cancelled; if it had continued, she probably would have become an astronaut, a newspaper reporter, a fashion model and a right-fielder for the Atlanta Braves.
But this is Julia Hoffman, and she doesn’t need a career. She just talks, and fills the world with lies.
She tells Woodard that she’d been on Willie’s trail this whole time — she realized soon after she arrived that he had a dangerous personality disorder. Woodard is perplexed.
Woodard: Julia, if what you’re telling me now is the truth, then what was the reason for all of that talk you’ve been giving me lately about the supernatural?
Julia: Oh, I’m afraid I’ll have to apologize to you for that. It was a story I just made up to satisfy your curiosity about what I was doing.
Woodard: Well, I must say, you made a very good job of it. I’d really begun to think that it’s the truth.
Julia: That there really is a supernatural? Don’t be absurd!
The key phrase there, obviously, is: “if what you’re telling me now is the truth.” It isn’t. It never is with her.
He tries to pin her down on the details. Observe the technique.
Woodard: Well, how else do you account for this little girl, Sarah, appearing and disappearing for various people?
Julia: I don’t account for it at all. She has no bearing on the case.
Woodard: Oh, now, come on, Julia…
Julia: The case is solved. The kidnapper has been identified. What more do you want?
And just look at her expression: unbothered. Case closed.
Eventually, we get back to David, who’s trying to avoid talking to his aunt. Elizabeth knows that he’s been moody and remote since he was lost in the woods, and she wants to know what’s bothering him. If he’s worried about the man who kidnapped Maggie, then he doesn’t have to worry about that anymore; Willie’s been caught.
David leaps into action.
David: Willie didn’t kidnap Maggie. He didn’t attack anyone, either.
Liz: David, he was caught trying to break into Maggie’s room!
David: I don’t care! They shot the wrong man!
David decides that he’s got to consult Sarah about this right away. He runs downstairs, but on his way out, he stops and faces the portrait of Barnabas…
… and the portrait’s eyes are glowing, with a pulsing light.
David is terrified.
David: The eyes! The eyes! No! Leave me alone!
Vicki: David, please tell me what’s wrong!
David: The eyes in the painting! They were alive! I could feel them!
Oh, it’s wonderful. Maybe it’s okay if we don’t have the vampire every day. Who needs monsters when you have oil paintings?
Tomorrow: The Spirited Child.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Vicki says to David, “You used to love to go there, and we were the ones that told you it wasn’t safe. But that was before Barnabas fixed it over.” She means either “fixed it up” or “made it over”.
Woodard’s grasp of his lines in the first half of his scene with Julia is very loose. It’s especially bad when he says, “There’s always a chance of that, Julia, when there’s a spinal injury.” Then he just drifts off, clearly groping for what he’s supposed to say next. Julia skips ahead, and they continue the scene.
At the end of the episode, when David is afraid of the portrait, he says: “The eyes in the painting! They were blaring — blazing down at me right this minute!”
Behind the Scenes:
Joan Bennett is back as Elizabeth, after her usual month-long summer vacation. Her last appearance was taped on August 7, 1967. This episode was taped on September 6th.
The portrait’s eyes flashing with light is inspired by Bela Lugosi in the 1931 Dracula film. Director Tod Browning used a bar of light across Dracula’s face in several scenes to indicate the mesmerizing power of the vampire’s eyes.
Tomorrow: The Spirited Child.
— Danny Horn