Episode 439: Something About That Hate

“I have feelings, Ben. I can hate. And I can do something about that hate.”

Henchmen. Right? It’s a complicated relationship.

Barnabas wakes up today and climbs out of his coffin, and the first thing he says is, “Good evening, Ben. Did you see Trask today?” That’s the kind of boss he is. Not a lot of small talk, just straight to business.

439 dark shadows disturbed barnabas

He’s got that smile on his face today that means that he’s got an exciting new project to work on, namely: murdering Reverend Trask, the lunatic witch-hunter. Barnabas always needs some violent crime to focus on; otherwise, he just gets moody and hangs around the basement all night.

But this week, time-traveling governess Victoria Winters has been found guilty of witchcraft, and sentenced to hang. Barnabas wants to do something to help Vicki — or, at least, he says that he does. He doesn’t really give it a lot of thought.

439 dark shadows determined ben barnabas

But Ben is determined to spoil everything.

Ben:  You better just leave well enough alone. Make him leave Collinsport, if you want. Send him running back to Salem.

Barnabas:  And let him find another innocent girl to prosecute?

Ben:  It’s no business of ours what he does after he’s left here.

Barnabas:  I’m making it my business!

So it’s tough on Barnabas. Here he is, clearly trying to rebrand himself as the Protector of Innocent Girls, and all Ben can do is try to talk him out of it.

439 dark shadows culture barnabas

Barnabas tries to explain his vision for the master plan.

Barnabas:  He will come here out of his own curiosity. One night, he will have a dream — a nightmare! And he will be compelled to come here. Yes. That’s what it will be.

439 dark shadows alcove barnabas ben

He walks over to an alcove that’s conveniently appeared in the wall, just in time for this new project.

“You will get a large brass ring,” he says, “big enough to tie someone’s hands to, and you will place it here.” He indicates a spot at the top of the alcove.

This is delivered very casually, as if it’s super easy to find a brass ring that’s big enough to tie someone’s hands to.

Barnabas:  Bricks will be needed… enough to wall in this space. Mortar, of course. You will bring it here as soon as you can, and you will make certain that no one sees you coming in the house.

So this is what Ben’s life is lke now, just doing Home Depot runs for a serial killer.

439 dark shadows basement barnabas ben

But he can’t do it. Not again.

Ben:  I ain’t gonna help you on this.

Barnabas:  Of course you are!

Ben:  No, no. I can’t, I’ve — I’ve seen as much killin’ as I can stomach!

And look at Barnabas. He’s still smiling.

439 beatles february 1968

And the truly weird thing — among the many, many weird things about Dark Shadows — is that this could hardly be more out of touch with the spirit of the times.

It’s February, 1968. This episode was recorded the week that the Beatles traveled to India to study Transcendental Meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The Reverend that everyone’s talking about is Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who’s organizing the Poor People’s Campaign, and demanding that the American government invest 30 billion dollars in affordable housing and anti-poverty efforts. This is the era of “All You Need Is Love”.

439 dark shadows assassination barnabas

But not on Dark Shadows, where the main character is standing in a dungeon and discussing his plans to assassinate a Reverend.

Ben:  You’re beginning to think you can get away with anything. You ain’t got no feelings about anything any more.

Barnabas:  Oh, I have feelings, Ben. I can hate! And I can do something about that hate.

439 dark shadows popular barnabas ben

And yet the show literally could not be more popular right now. A March 1968 poll found that Dark Shadows had the highest Q rating among females aged 12-34 — in that group, 46 percent said that Dark Shadows was one of their favorite shows. For the population as a whole, DS was tied for first place with Bewitched, which is basically the same show but with a laugh track.

So I’m not completely sure how that’s possible. Across the country, millions of young women — many of them wearing tie-dyed shirts and peace sign buttons — would turn on the television every afternoon, to watch this daily dose of gleeful sadism. It’s like the young people of America needed an outlet to express their dark side — the hate and fear and frustration that goes along with watching the slow progress of the civil rights movement, and the hideous, endless Vietnam War.

Because it’s not all sunshine and Transcendental Meditation sessions in the spring of 1968. The Tet Offensive is in full swing. Reverend King is assassinated in April, and Senator Robert F. Kennedy in June.

When Ben says, “I’ve seen as much killin’ as I can stomach,” the audience must have been feeling some resonance with the carnage that they’re seeing every night on the news. There’s a culture war going on in America, a clash between the idealistic young people and the parents, police and Presidents maintaining the status quo. This is an ongoing national referendum that’s literally about whether people naturally tend towards “Love” or “Hate”.

You could claim that Ben is supposed to be the audience identification character here, pleading for non-violence and a respect for human life. But if the audience really couldn’t stand watching Barnabas killing somebody on screen practically every week… then why are we watching this?

439 dark shadows hypocrite barnabas maude

Because we’re obviously on the side of darkness. Standing in the basement, Barnabas makes a big speech about Trask hurting innocent young women, and then he goes outside and hurts innocent young women.

439 dark shadows cause barnabas maude

But Dark Shadows isn’t a show that gives easy answers — at least, not anymore. This used to be a show about Good People and Bad People, where the virtuous struggled against the irredeemable. Now it’s just a mess of contradictions and overlapping hypocrisies.

The show invites the viewers to choose up sides in battles where everyone is in the wrong — zealots, murderers, schemers and collaborators. The war between Barnabas and Reverend Trask is just as reckless and confusing as any of the conflicts playing out in the news.

Dark Shadows is the secret history of 1968. These are the nightmares of the nation.

Tomorrow: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Vampires.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Barnabas is wearing a gold pinky ring on his left hand at the beginning of the show; you can see it clearly when he closes the coffin lid.

When Ben leaves Barnabas in the cellar, he walks up the short flight of stairs leading off of the set. The camera is in the wrong place, so we catch a glimpse of Ben walking down the other side of the fake stairs.

There are a couple dialogue anachronisms today, which I know about thanks to the Dark Shadows Wiki entry: Maude uses the word “spiffy”, which wasn’t used until 1853. Nathan tells Maude that she should go to the police, but that use of the word was uncommon in the 1790s; he’d be more likely to tell her to make a report to the constable.

Behind the Scenes:

This episode is Craig Slocum’s first appearance on the show. Slocum appears in 17 Dark Shadows episodes, first as Noah Gifford and then as Mrs. Johnson’s son in 1968. Slocum had an undistinguished career before and after DS. He’s got one stage credit on IBDb, as Second Orderly in a 1953 production of End as a Man, whatever that was. He also appeared in an educational short for teens called Is This Love?, which was mocked in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode — here’s the MST clip.

Maude Browning was played by Vala Clifton in three episodes. She’s terrible. I have no idea what else she ever did.

Bob O’Connell plays the Eagle bartender for the last time today. We’ve seen him a lot as the Blue Whale bartender, but this is his last appearance for a while. He’ll rejoin the series sometime around the 900s.

Tomorrow: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Vampires.

439 dark shadows nightmare barnabas maude

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

13 thoughts on “Episode 439: Something About That Hate

  1. Barnabas was always the worst “boss” imaginable. He would make impossible demands and any failure was the incompetence of his “staff.” He never shared the blame.

    “Julia, despite all your medical objections, I want you to accelerate the treatments to cure me and if that fails, I’ll kill you because of your obvious malpractice.”

    “Willie, follow Burke Devlin around all day to see what he does but don’t get caught. I won’t tell you how to do that. You’ll find a way.”

    The “you’ll find a way” is classic bad boss behavior. It implies that your employee is capable of genius-level creative thinking to resolve flaws in your own idiotic plan. If it doesn’t work, then they are a “clumsy idiot.” Yet, if they are such a stooge, why did you entrust them with this job? And if “finding a way” was so easy, why not just tell them what the “way” is rather than expect them to do it?

    Starting with the return to 1968, Barnabas will continue his toxic employer tactics but he’ll throw him responding to a very clear and logical objection with a flowery poetic or philosophical line that doesn’t mean anything but sounds good while the “Barnabas” theme (“A Darkness at Collinwood”) plays.

    Willie: Won’t someone notice all this equipment (for the Eve experiment) in the basement?

    Barnabas: This room has held other secrets.

    Sometimes, he won’t even look at the person raising the objections and just gaze into the camera for his soliloquy.

    Barnabas in 1897 to Julia: You must make it possible for me to live again during the daytime.

    Julia: Oh, you mean try the same experiment that failed in the present but under worse conditions?

    Barnabas: You will find substitutes!

    Julia: OK, I’m not even going to try to explain to your raggedy non-doctor vampire ass all the chemicals used in your injections, but hey, sure, why not — I’ll replace them with paprika and cinnamon. I’m not making a souffle, you moron.

    1. Ha, yeah. This is basically standard operating procedure for Bond villains. “You will feel unswerving loyalty to me, or I’ll kill you without a second thought.” At a certain point, you run out of henchmen.

    2. As they say, nothing is impossible for the man who does not have to do it himself.

      I am afraid that Barnabas was spoiled by being the local aristocrat. I have in my fanfic someone who says that Barnabas needs a cure for being a Collins.

  2. I can’t quite remember the exact dates, but wasn’t this also the year when everyone’s ‘nightmare of the counterculture come true’ Charles Manson was out performing his own unimaginable deeds. And similar to Barnabas he was also beseiged with his minions of young female followers despite his atrocities.

    1. The Manson killings were the next summer, in August 1969. As with absolutely everything else that happened in the 60s, the killings were inspired by the Beatles — in that case, the release of the song “Helter Skelter” in November ’68.

  3. Keep in mind that The Doors were also very popular around this time, in fact they were peaking in popularity among 12- to 24-year-olds: Break On Through To The Other Side, End Of The Night, The End, Moonlight Drive, Horse Latitudes–the darkest subject matter rock and roll was capable of at that point.

  4. I’m not sure if I buy the argument that Dark Shadows represents the national subconscious of 1968: a lot of art has been asked to carry such weight.

    But teenage girls (and me) have been attracted to the tropes of the Gothic since that genre emerged in the 18th century. The novel as a whole was condemned as a immoral distraction for young women with too much time on their hands. These women were the audience for Richardson’s novels of imperiled (Pamela) or assaulted (Clarissa) women. Or the novels of Anne Radcliffe later in the century. Dark Shadows as a show captures the spirit of that serial narrative tradition and fuses it with the 20th century’s premiere serial narrative form, the soap opera.

    And seriously, Barnabas attacks another lady of the night? I’m ok with a lot of his murders, but this is truly unseemly. Just go finish Trask off.

  5. Totally agree re: Vala Clifton. Having her in the same episode as Craig Slocum makes any elementary school play look like Shakespeare in the park.

    When do they finally decide that it was OK for a male actor to do the opening VO? This is the second episode that the esteemed Miss Clifton delivered the narration in an utterly bored Martin monotone.

  6. I started watching DS in 1969, when I was 9 years old. With all due respect, I think all of this pop culture, social analysis is horse hockey. I can’t speak for others, but I watched it because it was an entertaining show that had monsters straight out of Universal Studios. Most of my friends watched it for the same reason – I could see Barnabas 5 days a week and watch Dracula or Frankenstein on Saturday’s “Creature Feature.”

    Vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein’s monsters were very much part of the pop culture on the late 1950s and 1960s. It began with the release of syndication packages of Universal movie monster films. An excellent book that covers this is “Monster Mash: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze in America 1957 – -1972”

  7. I would have to agree. The vampire was not a symbol of anything other than just that creepy guy who scared the bejeezers out of you and Barnabas was interesting because at least this guy kind of was sympathetic.

    On a side note I keep waiting for Ben to say “Rocky do you believe that America is the land of opportunity?”

  8. Dark Shadows wiki lists all of the narrators (https://darkshadows.wikia.com/wiki/Narrator).

    Thayer David is the first male cast member to narrate (episode 459), and he is not the last. (Well, he is the last in the sense that he narrates at the end of the final episode.)

    Women narrate the most episodes (At the top: Alexandra Moltke, Grayson Hall, Nancy Barrett, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Joan Bennett and Lara Parker – with Clarice Blackburn in seventh place among the women and eleventh place overall).

    Among the men, David Selby narrates the most, followed by Thayer David, Louis Edmonds, John Karlen, Jerry Lacy, Humbert Allen Astredo and Jonathan Frid. Many other men and women also narrate, but most of them only do a few episodes – many doing as few as one or two. (David Henesy does three.)

  9. OK, I’m glad to see I’m not alone in my opinion of the awful Vala Clifton. Where did they get these people? The only day player who’s been even halfway competent was the actress who played Suki Forbes.

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