Episode 361: The One Where Julia Loses Her Mind

“Blood… oozing through the wall! Where’s it coming from? What does it mean?”

This is the beginning of an important week for Dark Shadows, as we lead up to one of the all-time great storyline twists in soap opera history. In fact, the upcoming story is so bizarre that they aired a special promotional announcement to warn the audience that it was coming.

In the 25-second bumper, Vicki is filmed against a stark black background, looking off into the distance with her typical dazed expression. They play one of those rising-tension music cues, made of strings, kettle drums and reverb.

An announcer says, “This Friday, you and Victoria Winters begin a strange and terrifying journey into the past, back to the year 1795, to discover the origins of this man,” — Barnabas, posing against the darkness — “and the secret of the chained coffin.” The scene fades on a shot of his hand resting on the coffin.

They don’t actually say, “Oh, by the way, it’s Dark Shadows,” or the time slot or anything. They don’t have to. What else could this possibly be?

361 dark shadows barnabas coffin

So I would imagine, on this week in November 1967, that a lot of people who were vaguely aware of Dark Shadows decided to tune in for the first time, just to find out what this is all about. I think it would be interesting to look at today’s episode from the perspective of that first-time viewer, coming to Dark Shadows with fresh eyes.

But it turns out that’s completely impossible, so I have to call for backup.

360 dark shadows sarah julia i know

Because today is the Julia episode.

Yes, you know which one I mean. Dr. Julia Hoffman appears in 344 episodes, but if you say “the Julia episode” to a Dark Shadows fan, they know exactly what you mean.

Now, I’m a Dark Shadows fan, obviously, and I love Julia, and I love Grayson Hall, and therefore my relationship to this episode is extremely complex. This is the episode that I absolutely cannot view objectively. I need an unbiased observer to ride along with me.

360 dark shadows julia sarah mausoleum

I’ve asked my friend Trevor to come over, and watch this episode with me. He’s never seen the show before, but he went to the Tim Burton movie with me, and he was vaguely puzzled by it.

The movie and the show are very different, so I figure he’s got the same general background information about Dark Shadows that a viewer would have at this point. There’s a mansion, there’s a family, a vampire rises from the past, there’s a doctor who wants to cure him, chaos ensues. In November 1967, you’d pick that up just from hearing people talk about the show.

So that’s all Trevor knows about the show, and this storyline. The only thing I’ve told him is that this is an unusual episode, and I want to know what he thinks.

Let’s get started. It was a dark and stormy night…

361 dark shadows collinwood

Trevor:  Am I right in thinking that there’s always a thunderstorm on this show?

Danny:  You’re not wrong.

360 dark shadows julia sarah angry

Trevor:  So we’re in a crypt, and that’s a ghost. Is that Chloë Grace Moretz’s character?

Danny:  No, that was Carolyn; this is Sarah.

Sarah tells Julia, “I know what you did to Doctor Woodard!” This means precisely nothing to Trevor.

Trevor:  She’s a doctor — did she mess up, and cause Sarah’s death? Sarah’s angry about something. Julia’s a therapist, right?

Danny:  She’s several things. That’s one of the things that she is.

361 dark shadows julia help

Sarah disappears, and now it looks like Julia’s locked in the mausoleum; she calls for help, but nobody comes.

361 dark shadows julia cigarette

She tells herself, “Eventually somebody has to come along,” and she pulls out a cigarette. Trevor chuckles.

Trevor:  Okay, that’s one way of coping. That’s not a thing you see on TV now.

Danny:  Yeah, sometimes people just take smoke breaks in the middle of the show.

Trevor:  So is this whole episode in real time, like the parking garage episode on Seinfeld? She’s just going to be trapped for the whole episode?

Danny:  Possibly.

Trevor:  How many cigarettes does she have?

361 dark shadows julia haunted

Then they start playing haunted house effects records at Julia — first a sobbing woman, and then a screechy witch laugh. Julia tries to tell herself it’s the wind, not very successfully.

Trevor:  Has she been drinking, or taking pills? Is this a hallucination? I don’t know enough about this character to know if this is normal for her. Maybe she’s just having a bad day. This seems to be really stressing her out.

361 dark shadows julia blood

Screaming for Sarah, Julia touches the wall — and her hand is covered in blood.

Trevor:  Okay, so she definitely caused Sarah’s death. She’s got blood on her hands.

361 dark shadows julia blood wall

But then the next shot confounds that theory. Julia says, “Blood… oozing through the wall! Where’s it coming from? What does it mean?”

Trevor:  Now I’m confused. It says Sarah died in the 18th century. Is that Sarah’s blood? Did she die on the other side of that wall?

Danny:  What do you think about the style so far?

Trevor:  I don’t know. It’s a different era, a different way of making television. I’m not familiar with 60s TV; I don’t know how this compares. Was it all like this?

Danny:  I don’t think that anything was ever like this.

361 dark shadows carolyn julia bangor

By the end of the act, Julia finds her way out of the mausoleum, and she comes back to Collinwood, where Carolyn tells her that everyone else is out for the night.

Danny:  That’s Chloë Grace Moretz.

Trevor:  Is she a ghost?

Danny:  No, she’s alive.

361 dark shadows carolyn julia hand

Then Julia notices her hand.

Julia:  The blood…

Carolyn:  Blood?

Julia:  I had blood on my hand, but… there’s not a trace of it left.

Carolyn:  Oh. Maybe the rain washed it away.

Julia:  Maybe.

Carolyn:  Well… good night.

Trevor laughs.

Trevor:  She seems to be taking all this in stride.

Danny:  Yeah, just another night at Collinwood.

Trevor:  I don’t know the crazy bar that they’re used to. Maybe that’s just Julia being Julia — every night she comes in with a different body fluid on her hands.

361 dark shadows julia carolyn dog

Trevor:  Julia asking her if she has to go out — that’s like a conversation between a dog and its owner. “Don’t leave!” “Don’t worry, someone will be home later.” “There’s no such thing as later!”

361 dark shadows julia alone

Left home alone, Julia tells herself, “Try to find something else to concentrate on, a book, or…”

Trevor:  It seems like the rest of the cast was busy today? And she was free?

361 dark shadows julia solitaire

She tries to settle down to a game of solitaire, but she keeps reacting to every sound.

Trevor:  So, earlier I thought she was on pills… Now I think she needs some.

Danny:  Yeah, she’s not getting very far with the solitaire.

Trevor:  I do like the production design — the furniture all goes really well together. It’s all potentially creepy. I could see how supernatural things could happen here.

361 dark shadows julia cold

Julia keeps giving updates in thinks.

Julia (thinks):  Why is it suddenly so cold? Cold — penetrating — the same as it was in the mausoleum!

Trevor:  I really don’t understand what the problem is. Blood coming from the walls, that’s tough to deal with. This could be solved with a sweater.

361 dark shadows julia hands

Trevor:  I like the close-ups with her hands; it’s like she’s been told to keep those hands in view at all times. TVs were smaller back then. Maybe this was the only way to keep track of where everything is.

361 dark shadows julia doors

Trevor:  All these doors opening and closing — that’s got to be a symbol for something.

Danny:  Like what?

Trevor:  Opportunities? It does explain why she’s cold all the time. Maybe it’s a metaphor for weather stripping.

361 dark shadows julia more cards

Julia returns to the cards for the fifth time in this scene.

Trevor:  Oh, come on. She’s the world’s slowest solitaire player. She needs to commit to an activity.

Danny:  You just lost the will to live, didn’t you?

Trevor:  I think so.

Danny:  I just watched it happen. Time of death: twelve and a half minutes into the episode.

Trevor:  Does she win? I kind of want to see the end of this game now.

361 dark shadows julia is it you

Julia gets up and does some mobile thinks.

Julia (thinks):  Is Barnabas trying to drive me out of my mind, or –? It couldn’t be! It couldn’t be you, Dave! You haven’t returned from the dead to haunt me, have you? Have you?

Trevor:  There’s the hands again. So is Dave her husband? Or was he another patient? I’d say husband, because she appears to be living with a different family. Does she have a family of her own? I still don’t know who Sarah is. It’s not like they don’t have time to explain.

361 dark shadows julia bedroom

Chased out of the drawing room by a vision of Dave’s ghost, Julia heads up to her bedroom.

Trevor:  Hey, a new set. Are there any windows? You might want to check those.

361 dark shadows julia closed

Sure enough, she finds that the door is stuck, and she can’t get out.

Trevor:  She has a really troubled history with doors. She’s a woman at war with architecture.

361 dark shadows julia phone

Trevor:  Now the phone doesn’t work. Play some solitaire!

Danny: Yes, now you’re getting it. That’s the correct response to Dark Shadows; it’s an interactive experience.

Trevor:  Was everybody else on vacation today? Maybe someone in the cast was getting married, and everyone was invited but her. This is the weirdest telephone acting I’ve ever seen.

361 dark shadows julia table

Julia ends up on the floor, sobbing and clutching at the furniture.

Trevor:  Now the acting is starting to get in the way. I don’t know who this actress is, but she has not been remembered through time. Didn’t you say that you like her?

Danny:  Yeah. This isn’t usually what she does.

Trevor:  I like the music, and I like the sets. It looks like a good show could take place there.

Danny:  But not today.

Trevor:  Not really. I’m still trying to figure out the relationship with Dave, and Samantha. Maybe Barnabas killed Samantha, and Julia tried to save her, and she feels bad for not being a better doctor.

By this point, Sarah has become “Samantha” in Trevor’s mind. I don’t bother to correct him; it’s not like it makes a difference.

361 dark shadows door trippy

The episode ends with a puffing, scratching sound outside the door. Julia looks at the door, and the image starts to bend and stretch.

Trevor:  Okay, now I think she really is tripping; she’s been tripping the whole time.

361 dark shadows julia scream

We finish up with one last crazy Julia scream.

Trevor:  That was it? That was a whole episode?

Danny:  Yeah. What did you think?

Trevor:  That was very strange. I probably wouldn’t watch another episode.

Danny:  Where would you have given up?

Trevor:  Somewhere around the solitaire. I would have thought, okay, something’s troubling her, I get it, it’s fine. But then it just keeps troubling her. They didn’t explain anything.

Danny:  Any thoughts about Julia?

Trevor:  If that was a person in real life, I don’t know if I’d hang out with them. I’d probably smack them.

Danny:  Or at least get them to finish a game of solitaire.

Trevor:  Yeah. I wouldn’t make a point to be home tomorrow to find out what’s on the other side of that door. I mean, I am curious. What is on the other side of the door? Do we ever find out?

Danny:  We can watch the next episode, if you want.

Trevor:  No, I think I’m okay.

Tomorrow: The Day After.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

This isn’t really a blooper, more an inconsistency: When did Julia get a phone in her room?

Tomorrow: The Day After.

361 dark shadows julia room

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

 

29 thoughts on “Episode 361: The One Where Julia Loses Her Mind

  1. Interesting that one of the problems Trevor seemed to have was not enough exposition to explain exactly what is happening and who the characters are and how they relate (does seem strange that Sarah and Julia don’t have a “recap” conversation as is the norm). So maybe some of the constant recapping that goes on in other episodes is justified in order to attract new viewers on a daily basis.

    1. Yeah. That’s actually part of what I like about this episode, in a perverse way — that it’s just baffling. It’s almost an “Us vs Them” episode — it only makes sense if you’ve watched at least a month of the show.

  2. “A woman at war with archictecture” — I’m gonna put that on a tee-shirt.

    DS would later take advantage of the voiceover intro to convey effective recap rather than simply setting the mood.

    I can see how Trevor, a viewer who stumbled upon this episode cold, would not respond well to it. There are no basic soap opera recaps in dialogue to explain who everyone is and what the stakes are. As someone committed to the series at this point, I recall finding the episode gripping, well, maybe not the solitaire, because it was very possible for Julia to “lose” it and be carted off to the mental hospital in the next episode. She’d seen Sara, which usually meant the kiss of death at this point.

    Grayson Hall’s threatricality is sometimes on a different planet from Frid’s Shakespearan work but it’s what makes the Countess and Magda work so well, I think.

    1. I remember an interview with Sam Hall on one of the DS dvds where he talks about Grayson’s ‘theatricality’ and how he didn’t like to end scenes with her because he felt that was when she was most over the top (or words to that effect).

  3. Maybe Julia got a phone in her room, when she reupped as a permanent resident. Some kind of bonus. Then again, if she’s really losing her mind, she might not really have a phone there. She could be talking into her hand. She could still be playing solitaire and this is all in her head.

  4. Here’s something you probably didn’t know. Ron Sproat wrote a very similar episode of the teen soap that DS replaced, called “Never Too Young.” While there were no supernatural elements in that NTY episode, it did feature a young woman being stalked by someone and she was alone in a house and played solitaire, but kept hearing and imagining things. Ron Sproat simply adapted the NTY episode for this DS installment.

    1. This was a great episode of Julia meltdown sponsored by Barnabas and his crazy ass. What does he think is gonna happen to Julia that Julia will not come out as the winner? Julia can peep Barnabas game a mile away. Hang in there Julia!

  5. This episode DOES raise the ‘crazy’ bar…by a few miles!

    I can think of only one thing you could have done, Danny, that would be more wicked; to have made a novice like Trevor sit through a ‘lost pen’ installment. But then he’s a friend (I mean, I HOPE he’s still a friend. Or at least still returning your calls).

  6. At the end of the disc in the interview with Sam Hall he explains how he came to write for the show ( didn’t seem he really wanted to)and how the writers had to work around Jonathan Frid not being able to memorize lines, and Grayson Hall’s tendency to over act when she had to react in a final shot .

  7. Just got to this post, and…wow. Trevor is still your friend after this? I love the show, and even I would’ve demanded dinner afterward.

  8. I enjoyed the episode, but it’s definitely not an episode someone should be introduced to the series on. I enjoy episodes with fewer characters – they tend to rely more on atmosphere, as well as extended interactions between the characters that are in the story (since they can’t just break to a new scene with new characters after 5 minutes). Although in this one, there’s barely anyone other than Julia – Sarah’s only in the reprise, and Carolyn is just there for a two minute cameo.

    The one thing that definitely should have been changed, though, was the light in Julia’s room – Even with the lamps off, there’s just as much light, and we probably wouldn’t have known that there was supposed to be a power outage if she hadn’t said it. The scene would be a lot more effective if they if they made the scene a lot darker,

    Also, the blood would have looked a lot better if the show was still in black and white.

  9. I… yeah. That was an experience.

    I can’t really sort out how I feel about this one, so I’ll have to make do with some disjointed nitpicks.

    That ghost-thing haunting Julia really strongly reminds me of something, but I can’t place what. Whatever it is, it’s certainly not Dave (in any of his incarnations). As does the sound effect when the room starts going wonky… Ooh, it’s going to bug me all day.

    Was that the ‘Liz crying in the basement’ effect in the mausoleum?

    Hall had to work pretty hard to get that strawberry sauce on her palm.

    She lays out the last few columns wrong when setting up the solitaire game – she puts down the final, face-up card on the sixth column, then hesitates before putting another face-up card on the last column (there should be one more face-down card first). I guess that’s a sign of how much attention I was paying…

    1. And she left the cigarettes in the mausoleum. “Meh. I can always buy another pack now that the door’s unlocked.”

  10. Here’s a blooper, London Bridge is heard in the key of F major, and the piano keys we see depressing would have made us hear the song in A minor. Also, this is just me, but the witch scream kinda sounds like Clarice Blackburn could have done it.

  11. Another… I don’t know if this is really a blooper or was intentional… but the door of her room not only bends, but the image reverses. The door knob switches from right to left, the plant and the picture on the wall also change sides, though you can only see that the picture has changed when the camera pulls back enough to show its edge.

  12. Horrible episode. I disliked Julia as a small child and now on rewatch, I hate her for so many reasons. The acting is truly terrible. Her voice is unbearable and her screams grating and totally unconvincing. The illogic and inconsistency. Then she has a hideous hairdo that I literally have never seen another person wear (it’s like she has reverse bangs that are glued upward). And there are the eyebrows that frequently look like they creep downwards to meet, clown like, on the bridge of her nose. (Did no makeup staffer ever watch the show to evaluate their handiwork?)

    Julia better die soon, and violently.

    1. …lol…DS Willie you are wrong for that…lol. Julia’s screams are unique. But I think the purpose of the episode is to show the low depravity of Barnabas thought process in his respect for her which he claims to all of a sudden now have. It is as if he wants to see how much torture she can handle. It reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock and Tippy Hendren. Alfred Hitchcock was in love with Tippy and she would not return his advances. On the scene when the birds were in the phone booth with her, he used real birds and kept re-doing the scene 5 times letting the birds just pluck her damn near to death. Its cruel and awful. Barnabas knows he is not as strong as Julia.

      1. As far as Barnabas not being as strong as Julia – and certainly not to excuse his abusive behavior – but considering what he’s already been through, especially in his long, undead life, I’d think he’d have to have had pretty good fortitude to come out of that chained coffin with any semblance of sanity & manners whatsoever.

        No, as someone who’s survived many years of past emotional abuse, I do not condone it.

    2. Ah, Willie – a fan after my own hate –er, I mean HEART. 😉 I’ve also never been a Julia/Grayson fan, as I find her characters to usually be insufferable, smug, sanctimonious, and nosy busybodies. Plus, ditto on that gawd-awful hairdo! I’ve seen better hairdos on Phyllis Diller!

    3. Her hairdo is a bad example of one that was popular during that time. It was usually more poofed or rounded on the top and not as harsh looking. Hall has severe face angles and that hairdo wasn’t a friend.

      I’m not a Julia fan, but it is what it is when it comes to her presence on DS. This episode was terrible. It felt ultra-Sproaty. I lost sight of Barnabas being the reason behind Julia losing it, due to the interminable over-acting and hokey terror/screaming. I kept looking at the clock, hoping it would stop! (Not that I couldn’t have turned it off, mind you.)

      The faux-Woodard ghost is just bad news. Are we supposed to be seeing his face or are my eyes bad? The melting reversed door was an unusual touch for the time. Trippy. Sadly, seeing the cigarettes is a partial reminder of Hall’s loss at a rather young 62, from lung cancer. For all we know, she could have quit the following year.

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