Episode 331: Bat’s Entertainment

“Cousin Barnabas hates me. He sent the bat because he wants me to die.”

So here’s a quick rundown of Barnabas Collins’ known vampire abilities. To start with, we know that he’s very strong, because he smashed through the window of Dr. Woodard’s office and trashed the place, and he can appear in upper story bedrooms without using the stairs. There’s the ever-present threatening dognoise, and he’s also got extra-strength dognoise, which he uses when he really wants to make an impression.  He can make people hear a pounding heartbeat, he can make his portrait’s eyes flash, and he may also have some scattered weather-related effects.

And then Friday’s episode added a couple more tricks to his resume. Barnabas needs to discredit young David, who’s telling everyone that his cousin has a coffin in his basement. So now there’s a huge bat flying into David’s room, and acting like it owns the place.

Now, to be precise about this, it’s not clear whether Barnabas turned himself into a bat, or if he has access to some freelance bats who are available to terrorize children on a contract basis.

331 dark shadows roger david window

But when you’re gaslighting a ten-year-old, it’s good to diversify, and use all the available talent. And the real kicker to the scheme is revealed when David tells his father about the bat attack, and Roger notes that the window is closed and bolted.

So the bat came in through the window, messed with David, flew out again, and then closed and locked the window from the outside. How would you even think of training a bat to do that? It’s genius. Advantage: ghoul.

331 dark shadows liz roger sobbing

Unfortunately, that pretty much signals the end of anything interesting that might happen in this episode. The bat attack was thrilling and intense, as you might expect, but it’s gone now, and there’s nothing left to do but have unfulfilling conversations with grown-ups.

331 dark shadows barnabas roger teleprompter

Roger walks over to the Old House to apologize to Barnabas for David’s recent break-in, and then halfway through the scene, it pretty much falls to pieces. It’s one of those good old-fashioned slow-motion disasters that make watching Dark Shadows such an invigorating experience.

Roger tells Barnabas that David is obsessed with the idea that there’s something spooky in the Old House basement. Barnabas starts to stammer, which is always the sign that he’s about to get script-adjacent.

Sure enough, within a couple sentences, he’s saying “uh” after every few words, and directing panicky looks at the teleprompter. Roger, like a true professional, just pretends that everything is fine, and makes no attempt to resuscitate.

331 dark shadows barnabas stammer

At this point, the director makes the unusual decision to go in for a tight close-up on the actor who’s in visible distress.

Roger:  Sarah appeared to him last night in the middle of the night, which, of course, provoked his coming here this afternoon.

Barnabas:  Well… oh. What did that mean?

Roger:  She supposedly warned him to stay away from this house. There’s danger here for him, she said.

Barnabas:  That was… Well.

331 dark shadows barnabas roger distress

He turns away, frantically searching the prompter for a reasonable on-ramp back into the conversation.

Barnabas:  What else did she say?

Roger:  That’s all she said, as far as I know.

Barnabas:  Of course. It…

At this point, you can hear people walking around in the studio, and the squeak of a door. It sounds like the crew have decided that this scene is a mess, and they might as well leave early and beat the rush hour traffic.

331 dark shadows roger barnabas method

Barnabas pivots again, and makes another random stab at a line: “It must have been a dream!”

“Of course it was a dream,” Roger sighs, skipping a page or two ahead in his mind. “He’s had a succession of nightmares. One of them was about you.”

Yeah, no kidding, Barnabas says. I think I’m living it, right now.

331 dark shadows barnabas candles 1

He starts lighting some candles, because it’s always nice to keep yourself occupied while you’re figuring out what to say.

Barnabas:  The legends of Collinwood… seem to have affected his mind. Perhaps he should be sent to a special school, where he would get special… care… and attention.

331 dark shadows barnabas candles 2

He turns toward Roger as he’s lighting the fourth candle, and it doesn’t catch.

Barnabas:  At least… until these… hallucinations are gone.

So he still can’t remember his lines, plus now he’s holding something that’s on fire. This isn’t going in a positive direction.

331 dark shadows roger liz woodard

Back at Collinwood, Dr. Woodard has a scene with David that goes on approximately forever, and then he goes downstairs to report back to the grown-ups.

Woodard:  Physically, he’s fine.

Roger:  And mentally?

Woodard:  I’m not sure. Roger, it’s just possible — barely possible — that David isn’t imagining these things that have been happening to him.

Roger:  How is it possible?

Woodard:  Well… I can’t explain what I mean. All I can say is that I find everything David tells me strange, but interesting. Extremely interesting!

So, that’s great; now they have to find a new doctor. Nothing’s going right today.

331 dark shadows sarah haunted

To wrap up, here comes Sarah Collins, the Chromakey Kid. She’s got a Haunted Mansion-style blue-green spotlight today, and it looks fantastic, actually.

She appears in David’s room, and tells him that he should stay away from the basement in the Old House. Now, the only reason he even cares about this is because of the dream he had last week, where she showed him the coffin in the Old House basement. She keeps showing up and telling him secrets, and then getting mad because he talks to people about ghosts and secrets. He’s getting some seriously mixed signals.

331 dark shadows sarah david soldier

And then she’s got a whole new ghost secret for him to not tell people about — a wooden toy soldier that she wants him to keep nearby. This is yet another ghost prop; she seems to have access to an unlimited number of spectral antiques.

Sarah disappears, and then we’re pretty much back where we started. Ta-da!

Tomorrow: Safe? Safe!

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Roger’s in the foyer when he hears David upstairs screaming for help. Instead of going up the stairs to his son’s room, he goes into the drawing room and asks Liz, “What is it?”

The camera wobbles noticeably as Barnabas invites Roger to sit down.

David has some pronoun trouble when he talks to Dr. Woodard: “She told me something that surprised me a lot — that Willie Loomis is innocent. She told me that she didn’t do anything that she was supposed to have done.”

There’s a dialogue flub when Sarah gives the toy soldier to David:

Sarah:  It used to belong to someone.

David:  Who?

Sarah:  Someone who played with it, a long time ago.

David:  Sarah, I promise I’ll keep this.

Sarah:  I want you to promise that you’ll keep it, and not give it away.

David:  Yeah, I will keep it. It’s really keen, Sarah.

Tomorrow: Safe? Safe!

331 dark shadows sarah david chromakey

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

25 thoughts on “Episode 331: Bat’s Entertainment

  1. Lol! These posts are brilliant! Kudos to you for somehow managing to pay tribute to such a great show while pointing out and enjoying of it’s fun, often ridiculous eccentricities!

    1. Thanks! I’m really glad you like it. How did you first discover and get into the show? I’m sort of amazed that there are still people on the earth who care about it enough to come read a blog about it.

      1. I caught a rerun of it one morning when it was still playing on the Syfy channel, back in about 2001. I had seen it advertised every morning (in a satellite guide) and was curious what it was. Even the name, “Dark Shadows”, had this wonderful appeal to me.

        I was lucky to catch it early on in the series (pre-Barnabas even). It had such a great look — the crisp black and white, filmed on video tape so it looked more live-action, as if you were right there. And one episode was all it took — I was hooked. Every episode has a nice little cliff-hanger ending, so I was powerless to stop.

        I watched it right through till the end when Syfy stopped airing it. It’s definitely one of my favourite shows of all time!

        I really enjoy what you’re doing on your blog here. You’re right, it is amazing that it’s still popular after all these years. But it was so quirky and fun… how can you not come and read about it?

    2. i agree! so much fun. i’m really enjoying these. i’ve been watching each episode, and then reading danny’s entries. soooooooooo fun!

  2. Oh, that’s cool — I’ve been wondering if folks became fans from the Syfy reruns. I got hooked on the show in the 80s and 90s, when it was shown on public TV stations. It’s funny that you got hooked during the pre-Barnabas episodes. Did you have any idea what was coming?

    1. Oh, no idea at all! In fact, the first episode I saw was (by Dark Shadows standards) extremely boring. There was a LOT of Liz, Vickie and Roger on the staircase talking about not much of anything at all. But it still had that spooky thing going for it. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when out pops Barnabas and the show went full on supernatural. It was such a smart move and I’m sure it saved the show.

  3. I must correct this fallacy once and for all ” The Original Bat From Dark Shadows” made by Bil Baird in 1967, first seen in episode 330; as stated here – is NOT made from rubber! Even though you will see older quotes all over the net, even by some cast and crew it is a mistake. It is made from 85% wood , leather, metal underneath the wings , with green eyes, and considered a marionette puppet with special black strings. I hope this finally puts this myth to rest. It was used most famously as the bat that turned Barnabas into a vampire and the trick ending of House Of Dark Shadows, and used extensively during the show’s run. I have had it in my possession since 1987. Thanks,B

    1. Oh, thank you for commenting! I’ve been hoping that people who actually know things will let me know when I get something wrong. I make a lot of jokes, but I don’t want to say things that aren’t true. It’s a shame, because “rubber bat” is such a fun phrase to say, but I’ll correct it.

      That’s very cool and impressive that you have the actual bat… Is it still in good shape?

      1. Yes , it is . I have kept it in the same condition as I purchased it from the Baird estate – it is in great shape.There are only a handful of original props that still exist from the show – this being one of the top . #1 ,Would be , The Original Barnabas painting that was stolen from the set during the parallel time sequence , his coffin from the show, or one of his costumes. One of Jonathan Frid’s present day suit’s does exist, but that is the only costume of his I know for sure. Many of The Hammer films original bats are rubber store bought, and then were tweaked by the special effects staff .This is one of the reasons I think for the rubber debate which is partly to blame.. Most if all the Hammer film bats are gone – the few that remain are falling apart due to the rubber factor. B

  4. Friday-to-Monday continuity issue…
    On Friday, David’s Space Crawler toy was on his desk, when the boy was viciously attacked by a Bil Baird marionette.

    Today, we find that despite his terror in what is intended as ‘just a moment later’, David has returned the Space Crawler to the top of his Space Station toy.

    Nice to see that some children took care of their things.

      1. Happy to help decode the mysteries of the Dave Cave! I will try not to get TOO obsessive-compulsive about it.

        I would have to look into the Major Matt Mason canon, I believe the culprits may have been space aliens. Or possibly a product recall, that whole Space Station looks like a toy-related tragedy just waiting to happen, and Major Matt and his astronaut pals were all wire armatures coated in soft plastic, which meant broken bits of sharp wire poking out of the dolls. And I bet if you pitched that Space Crawler at your little sister, she’d go DOWN if you hit her right. Typical 1960s toymaking, don’t know how we survived…

    1. And wasnt it rich for Barnabas to thoughtfully suggest David be sent to the insane asylum since he is the one who is driving him crazy.

  5. I love how you call her the Chromakey Kid, but so far they haven’t used chromakey to make her appear or disappear. What they use to make her disappear in this episode is a cross-fade. As you probably know that involves two cameras with the technical director partly fading between the two. You can tell this is a cross-fade for the following reasons. She appears to be standing in the darkest part of David’s room; the light on her doesn’t appear very bright (though it probably is very bright); the darks seem a little washed out and only become darker as she disappears.

  6. The business of Poor David constantly telling the Adults things that they subsequently don’t believe or question is definitely wearing thin. I really feel for the poor little guy.

    Roger’s delivery of “This evening, he imagined he was attacked by a bat,” is stupendously campy even for this show. Just a Couple of Aging Queens (to use the vernacular of the day) Sitting Around Talking. “Can you believe these kids today? They’re into bats and things.”

    And Barnabas’ voice jumps about an octave on Roger telling him that David had been prowling around the Old House again earlier that afternoon, “But HOW could he have gotten in here?” There’s always great dish going on between these two. You can tell they enjoy playing opposite each other. But there are a couple of very painful line reaches by Barnabas that actually made me uncomfortable watching. I wasn’t sold on the fact that he was actually going to get through it. Mercifully, the TelePrompTer is located and he slides into home base, however unevenly. Frid is definitley on auto pilot for most of this episode, no doubt.

    Danny, I absolutely love “script-adjacent.” That is a keeper.

    And, yes, both Barnabas and Julia really love to play with the candles. They have totally become part of the Old House schtick at this point. What’s interesting here is that as Frid is lighting the candles, and searching for his lines, he almost succeeds in setting himself on fire. That would have been priceless and might even have gained as much legendary status as The Fly. Proving once again the old maxim I’ve told actors time and time again: “Not learning your lines CAN be hazardous to your health.”

    Enter Doctor Woodard: like his name, sturdy, reliable, wooden-like in both delivery and physicality. But I wish he’d stop calling David “Davy.” It’s just too mod squad for me. Love though when David tells him, “I really liked Willie. I don’t believe he did any of those things.” Look at that: he’s even taken the audience’s side in our love of Willie and his redemption arc.

    Finally, where is Caroline? She must be taking her vacay. And I hope this isn’t the end of Willie? I know he’s in and out of the show throughout its run but I am hoping that we haven’t seen the last of him in this arc.

    1. “And, yes, both Barnabas and Julia really love to play with the candles. They have totally become part of the Old House schtick at this point.” And Willie does too! Or did…unfortunately, though you certainly know this by now since two and a half years have passed, Willie does not return in this arc and in fact doesn’t until after the 1795 story line. (He was off doing another soap during this time–“Love Is a Many Splendored Thing.”) And regarding “Davey,” it doesn’t make it any better, but Dr. Woodard is not alone in calling him that. The “townies” seem to do it–Burke, Joe Haskell, Dr. Woodard…

  7. Greetings. I want to say how much I enjoy your blog. I first watched one season of Dark Shadows around 1968 or ’69. I think I was unable to continue watching when they changed the time slot, which was very frustrating. I was one of those kids who rushed home from school to watch it. A few weeks ago I began watching DS on Amazon, and I’m not even close, it seems, to the episodes I saw back in the day, which had Willie Loomis (my favorite), and Quentin Collins (another favorite). I have no idea what’s going to happen next. When I discovered your blog, it added immensely to the fun. Now I watch two or three episodes before bed, and in the morning I read your posts with my coffee. So thanks for doing this! – Lynne

  8. I’ve been watching Dark Shadows on a streaming service and I just discovered your blog it’s great.

  9. (From a recent convert to Dark Shadows via Big Finish) I had this experience as a child! Well, sort of. A (tiny, cute) bat flew in through my bedroom window, and my parents wouldn’t believe me! Poor little beggar kept trying to get a grip on the ceiling. Seriously. Found hanging from furniture downstairs next day and released.

  10. The bat wasn’t that big, really. Certainly not flying fox size or anything. But I suppose a bat assault is a pebble-in-your-shoe sort of thing.

    Plot nitpick: it would have made more sense if Julia had been the one to suggest sending David away; she was, after all, the member of the cabal who cared about David’s welfare and wanted to protect him. Somewhat out of character for Barnabas to be that subtle; he had no sentimentality for David. His approach to a problem had always been “Kill it.” The writer dropped the ball in this regard.

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