Episode 410: Nightfall

“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?

410 dark shadows coffin ben angelique

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.

And 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.

410 dark shadows coffin angelique joshua

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.

410 dark shadows book natalie josette

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 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.

410 dark shadows book josette natalie

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.

410 dark shadows mean ben joshua

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.

410 dark shadows contract joshua angelique

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.

410 dark shadows suitcase angelique ben

“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!

410 dark shadows poem ben

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:

410 dark shadows hell ben angelique

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!

410 dark shadows mausoleum ben

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,

410 dark shadows stake barnabas angelique

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:

This episode is the first time that anyone’s used the word “vampire” on Dark Shadows; the producers were reluctant to use the word for the first nine months of Barnabas’ story.

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.

410 dark shadows face angelique

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

23 thoughts on “Episode 410: Nightfall

  1. This combination of vampires and the plague reminds me of the classic movie Nosferatu. In both the original silent version and the brilliant 1979 remake the arrival of the ghastly Count Orlock from his native home in the Carpathian Mountains to the port city of Varna is accompanied by the arrival of the plague. The cause of the outbreak was the swarm of rats that had infested the ship in which Orlock had made his journey. So maybe that crackpot doctor that examined Barnabas was onto something with his ‘rats in the port city’ theory…

      1. Thanks Danny – if you get a chance definitely see the remake – the scenery and music are eerie and the scenes of the plague victims give the film a very surreal feeling..

      2. Danny,

        After you’ve seen Nosferatu, check out Shadow of the Vampire, which is a fictional account of the making of Nosferatu, starring John Malkovich as F.W. Murnau and Willem Dafoe as Max Schreck.

  2. You note that this is the first time we actually hear the word “vampire,” saying “the producers were reluctant to use the word for the first nine months of Barnabas’ story.” My husband Russ and I have been pondering this reluctance for quite some time on our Dark Shadows podcast. I wonder if you or anyone else reading this has any information about WHY the word “vampire” was so studiously avoided for so long, other than a simple “reluctance.” We’re finding it difficult to find any further information on this. Were there issues with censors? If not…then why be so coy for so long? Why not just come out and say….VAMPIRE???

    But thanks for the background! That does indeed shed some light on why the characters respond the way they do in this 1795/96 storyline.

    1. Pedro addresses your question well, and I’ll just echo it slightly to add that in my opinion, the full-on vampire tropes worked better in the past (1795, 1897, 1840) than in the present day. In the past flashbacks, you can really amp up the Universal Horror elements without it veering into perceived camp. For instance, compare the Dream Curse and Adam storylines to 1897. The subtle touch of the early Barnabas episodes worked well. It felt like it was occurring in our world and was actually slightly spooky as a result (especially in black and white).

      This is why I thought the 1991 series went off the rails quickly for me. Like HODS, they are publicly doing a vampire hunt with crosses and stakes. It was jarring. At least on the TV series, it felt like there was a “secret” club of people aware of the supernatural goings-on. And Edward Collins in 1897 wearing a cross around his neck worked better than, say, Roger Collins doing so.

      Speaking of the present day storylines, I thought Quentin’s ghost worked well — perhaps because he was used so sparingly.

  3. I remember reading somewhere – and for the life of me I can’t remember where – that the way the production team approached the material when Barnabas was introduced, was to pretend that the world at large had never heard of vampires (ie. no Dracula, or vampire stories or movies, etc.).

    This might explain the avoidance of the word – and also why no one recognizes the vampire tropes: I’m sure if my girlfriend was suffering from loss of blood and had two punctures on her neck, my first instinct would be to be cry “VAMPIRE!!!!” regardless of how ridiculous it would appear. Yet no one thinks this way when Maggie is attacked. But if vampire folklore was not well known, this would explain it.

    Has anyone else heard this or did I just dream it?

    1. Interesting theory! This “pretending” that the world at large does not know about vampires. It seems like that could indeed be the case, and I hope someone will come here to reply and verify that they heard the same.

      But I have to wonder: DID the world at large at that time (1967) know about vampires? The housewives and school kids running home to watch the show? Did they understand better than the characters what was going on? Was it maybe the writers’ way of letting the audience feel smarter than the characters?

      I was a kid back then, and when I was watching Dark Shadows, I KNEW what a vampire was. Though, and I don’t remember this exactly, it may have been THROUGH Dark Shadows that I learned what a vampire is. Did I understand the concept before this? Can’t remember. Would love to hear if anyone else wants to share how and when they learned what a vampire is.

      1. I think the reluctance started because they were embarrassed that they were making a “spook show”. They were already making a soap opera, which is somewhat shameful, and it was a low-rated one, which is worse. And now they were adding ghosts and vampires.

        So they avoided saying the word because for a while it was still possible to pull back from it. Up until episode 250, when we see Barnabas in the coffin baring his fangs, they had the option to say, “No, he’s just a crazy person who thinks he’s a vampire.” But people liked it, and it was working, and then they were basically just chasing after a crazy train that’s rolling downhill.

        As for knowing about vampires — Dracula has been an incredibly popular story in lots of different mediums since it was published in 1897. The 1931 Bela Lugosi movie is the absolute last moment that you could say that there were people in the world who might not know who Dracula is.

        1. What’s interesting is that even well after it’s obvious Barnabas is a vampire (fangs, coffin, biting, etc.) they STILL don’t use the word pre-1795. He’s referred to as ‘the living dead’ or the ‘undead’ but not vampire.

  4. When DARK SHADOWS premiered, it was a standard soap opera that morphed into something so mad and wonderful that the simply the words “Dark Shadows” is sufficient description.

    The audience at the time was, I believe, predominately housewives. Arguably, the complete demographic opposite of the audience for Universal Horror or spooky films and books in general.

    But these elements hooked them nonetheless. There was a period during which DARK SHADOWS was really the one small step into the supernatural/sci-fi genre for its audience. In the past 20 or so years that’s changed, the middle-aged women who watch DS now are also into TWILIGHT, BUFFY, ANGEL, X-FILES, DOCTOR WHO, TRUE BLOOD and so on. I trace this back to DARK SHADOWS and its at the time unique mashup of genres,

  5. Hi, folks. Danny, I love this blog. Just wanted to weigh in here a bit. My mother, the typical 60s/70s housewife, absolutely adored horror movies & was the one who told me, “You’ve got to watch this soap opera with me–it has a VAMPIRE!” We watched a lot of the Hammer movies and a number of others available at the time whenever they were telecast. But she certainly did not want her friends to know she was such an afficiado…& I have to admit, although she launched me successfully into a lifetime of loving these supernatural tropes, I didn’t exactly want my pals at the time to know I was such a fan. They would have thought I was weird. Innocent weirdness, but a bit off nonetheless. Bad enough I was an avid and obsessive reader, which tended to put “normal” kids off as it was. I just believe there was a slight stigma attached to watching (& thrilling to!) horror in those days…tho the genre is broadly embraced now. DS may have even helped that along, by the time Quentin was on board. So I think there’s something to the “slightly embarrassed, but we can always back out of this if the ratings slide again” idea.

  6. It’s quite possible that my first exposure to the word “vampire” was Dark Shadows itself. In spite of knowing plenty of horror films, including Hammer and Universal ones, I can’t think of a single Hammer or Universal VAMPIRE film that I knew extremely early. Though there’s the Italian comedy “Uncle Was A Vampire,” which I would’ve seen around the same time as DS.

    I know one thing – I’ll usually take characters with NO background information on the subject over the other extreme, which is characters (and not just the “Van Helsing” of the story, but OTHER characters) who already know ALL the literature and pop culture on the subject. To me, that idea works once in a while, in movies like THE LOST BOYS, but it gets overdone.

  7. Having the lines of the poem interspersed with screenshots of Ben Stokes made me hear in my head the poem being read aloud by Thayer David in his Ben Stokes voice. Sometimes what happens in my head is very entertaining.

  8. Angelique looks like an early era version of Buffy–who, incidentally, loved a vampire whose first victims were his own family–in some of those stake shots.

  9. Possibly (okay, long shot) the DS producers were worried about copyright infringement? Seems like that would be fairly easy to check up on, even in the pre-internet ‘quill & parchment’ age; but I recall that Bram Stoker’s wife kicked up quite a fuss over copyrights. So nobody wanted to use the ‘V’ word for a while.

    But we knew, we all KNEW!

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