“I want you to cut down a holly tree, and fashion a small stake from the trunk.”
The widow Collins draws her shawl close around her, regarding her late husband’s final resting place with a shudder. She has no friends now, and no place to go. All she’s got is a small suitcase carrying a few dresses, plus a bankbook worth a small fortune. Oh, and a big hammer, and a pointy stick. And a problem.
And she finally asks the question that the viewing public has been waiting to hear for more than nine months, namely:
“Do you know the word vampire, Ben?”
Vampire? Now that you mention it, that does ring a bell. Dude in a coffin, right?
But it’s not surprising that Ben’s not familiar with the concept. It’s 1795, for some reason, and the vampire folklore hasn’t really spread very far outside of Eastern Europe at this point.
Remarkably, for a show that everyone now recognizes as a vampire soap opera, this episode is the first time that anyone’s actually used the word “vampire” on Dark Shadows. The producers were reluctant to use the word in the early months of Barnabas’ story, just in case they decided to change their minds, and then they just got in the habit of not saying it out loud. It’s been nine months since Barnabas came out of the mystery box, and they’re just getting around to saying the word now.
We might as well take a minute to talk about the history of vampire folklore, because honestly I don’t have a single other thing to do. This is one of those days where they’ve got a really great Friday-cliffhanger spectacle, which is scheduled for the last eight seconds of the episode. And unfortunately, the other twenty-one minutes and fifty-two seconds is just recap and housekeeping.
For example: the opening scene, which is the first of three scenes today where Joshua walks into a room, disapproves of Angelique, and walks out again. In this one, he patiently explains to the audience that he has to bury his dead son in a secret location, with no ceremony and no headstone, because he believes that Barnabas has died of the plague, and he doesn’t want the town to panic.
This is a rather deft bit of improvisational plot construction, moving pieces into place that we’ll need if we’re going to end up with Barnabas in a chained coffin in a secret room in the mausoleum. But they already established all of this yesterday, so we might as well talk about Petar Blagojevich and Arnont Paule.
Petar Blagojevich and Arnont Paule were two suspected vampires from Serbia, who died in the mid 1720s. There was a “vampire hysteria” craze in Serbia at the time, which was similar to the 1692 witchcraft craze in Massachusetts. A man would suffer a violent death, and then that would be followed quickly by several other unexplained deaths, and you know how villagers are when they haven’t had a chance to break out the torches and pitchforks lately.
So they’d dig up the guy’s grave, and see that his hair and nails had grown after his death — which doesn’t happen, it’s just an optical illusion based on the flesh drying out and peeling away from the nails and hair, making them look longer.
But the villagers would drive a stake through the corpse’s unbeating heart, and then burn the body, and I guess that’s what you do for fun in Serbia while you’re waiting for somebody to invent video poker.
Now, when you think about it, that’s got to be one of the most harmless hysterias that ever swept through a populace. In Massachusetts, they hanged nineteen innocent people, and pressed a guy to death with rocks. In Serbia, they were just messing around with corpses, which is icky but much safer overall.
By the way, don’t worry that we’re missing anything in this scene either. This is just Josette and Natalie fretting about the book, which they already did yesterday.
Then there’s another scene where Joshua is being mean to Ben and Angelique, which we’ve already seen plenty of times. As far as I can tell, there isn’t an 18th-century Serbian in the whole cast today, which is a shame, cause it sounds like those dudes know how to party.
Anyway, you can’t go around disinterring things without attracting people’s attention, so the vampire concept spread to Western Europe, leading to some dreary German poems about vampires in the mid 1700s that I’m not going to bother to talk about because they sound awful.
But the vampires broke into English literature in the early 1800s, and that’s when it started to get interesting again. In 1813, Lord Byron wrote a poem called “The Giaour”, which is mostly about Turkish people killing adulterous women by putting them in a sack and drowning them, but it also includes a section on vampires.
At the time, the popular vampire trope was that they drank the blood of their own family, which hasn’t survived into the modern understanding of vampires.
“The Giaour” is a great poem, and the vampire section isn’t very long, and on the show there’s just Angelique packing a suitcase, so let’s take a look.
But thou, false Infidel! shalt writhe
Beneath avenging Monkir’s scythe;
And from its torment ‘scape alone
To wander round lost Eblis’ throne;
And fire, unquenched, unquenchable,
Around, within, thy heart shall dwell;
Nor ear can hear nor tongue can tell
The tortures of that inward hell!
But first, on earth as vampire sent,
Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent:
Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
And suck the blood of all thy race;
There from thy daughter, sister, wife,
At midnight drain the stream of life;
Yet loathe the banquet which perforce
Must feed thy livid living corse:
Thy victims ere they yet expire
Shall know the demon for their sire,
As cursing thee, thou cursing them,
Thy flowers are withered on the stem.
But one that for thy crime must fall,
The youngest, most beloved of all,
Shall bless thee with a father’s name –
That word shall wrap thy heart in flame!
Yet must thou end thy task, and mark
Her cheek’s last tinge, her eye’s last spark,
And the last glassy glance must view
Which freezes o’er its lifeless blue;
Then with unhallowed hand shalt tear
The tresses of her yellow hair,
Of which in life a lock when shorn
Affection’s fondest pledge was worn,
But now is borne away by thee,
Memorial of thine agony!
Wet with thine own best blood shall drip
Thy gnashing tooth and haggard lip;
Then stalking to thy sullen grave,
Go – and with Gouls and Afrits rave;
Till these in horror shrink away
From spectre more accursed than they!
Monday: Other People’s Blood.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
At the beginning of Act 4, the mic doesn’t pick up Ben’s first sentence; we just see him moving his lips. The sound switches on for his second sentence.
When Ben and Angelique are in the mausoleum secret room, look through the secret room to the mausoleum gate. The fog machine is going crazy out there; puffing out huge gusts of mist in exactly the way that actual fog doesn’t. When the shot changes to show Ben stepping through the gate, it looks like there’s a forest fire out there.
Behind the Scenes:
They’re recording the episodes live-to-tape, so it can be tricky to shoot back-to-back scenes with the same actors on different sets. In Act 4 today, Angelique and Ben are both talking in Angelique’s bedroom, and when the scene changes, they’re both in the mausoleum, opening the secret room. They pull this off by finishing the first scene with a long monologue by Angelique, delivered to an off-camera Ben while Thayer David moves to the mausoleum set. Then they cut to Ben in the mausoleum, delivering a long monologue to an off-camera Angelique, so Lara Parker has time to get there.
That’s not Jonathan Frid lying in the coffin — it’s fill-in actor Peter Murphy, who’s been seen recently as a stand-in for Burke, Barnabas and Dr. Woodard’s ghost. He also played the recast Caretaker, and Dr. Thornton.
The two Collins servants who carry Barnabas’ coffin out of the Old House are played by two regular fill-in actors, Timothy Gordon and Tom Gorman.
Timothy Gordon performed Barnabas’ hand in episode 210 coming out of the coffin to strangle Willie, and recently played Jeremiah’s reanimated corpse.
Tom Gorman is a regular customer at the Blue Whale, and two weeks ago, he played Vicki’s jailer, Mr. Prescott.
One of those servants is supposed to be Riggs, who was played by Dan Morgan when we saw him in December.
Also, resident prop-spotter Prisoner of the Night says that there are two coffins in this episode. The box that the servants carry downstairs is the coffin that Barnabas ordered Willie to make for Maggie back in June. When Angelique comes to the mausoleum, Barnabas is in his standard coffin.
Monday: Other People’s Blood.
— Danny Horn