“What evil game are you going to play this time?”
“How do you do?” says the little man, as he emerges through the curtains and takes his place at center stage.
This is the opening of the 1931 Universal film Frankenstein, and since Dark Shadows is just beginning its own version of the story, it seems like an appropriate time to let this guy in and have him say his piece.
This is Edward Van Sloan, by the way; he plays Dr. Waldman in Frankenstein, as well as Professor Van Helsing in Dracula, and Dr. Muller in The Mummy, so I’m kind of a fan.
Before the opening titles of Frankenstein, Van Sloan walks out through the curtains, and presents a few words on behalf of the producer:
“Mr. Carl Laemmle feels that it would be a little unkind to present this picture, without just a word of friendly warning.
“We are about to unfold the story of Frankenstein — a man of science, who sought to create a man after his own image, without reckoning upon God.
“It is one of the strangest tales ever told. It deals with the two great mysteries of creation — life, and death.”
But, hey, who doesn’t? We’ve been dealing with those two mysteries of creation for over a year now. For example: here’s Barnabas Collins, an undead creature recently returned to a more-or-less mortal existence, and he’s currently dealing with the two mysteries by wearing his awesome green dressing gown and falling asleep in a chair.
This might seem like a slightly unromantic pose for a creature of darkness, but he spent the last 172 years on the night shift. Not being a vampire anymore must be seriously messing with his sleep cycle.
Then the doors open, and in wafts the ex-wife. Angelique is currently doing a tour of duty up at Collinwood, wearing a black wig and calling herself Cassandra, but this appears to be her night off.
She’s in her old Angelique outfit, and there’s some reverb on her voice, as if she’s calling Barnabas from a long way off. “Barnabas,” she calls. “I must see you, and tell you what the future holds.”
Barnabas hears her voice, but he can’t get up — he just kind of moans a little. Angelique explains that he’s having a dream, which is helpful.
They filmed the show live-to-tape with no editing, so a lot of Dark Shadows dream sequences begin with the character getting up from the bed, and then walking to wherever the dream is supposed to take place. It’s possible that this is actually what dreams were like in 1968.
Anyway, in this case, the dream actually makes a house call, which is super convenient, although Barnabas doesn’t seem to appreciate it much.
She tells him, “I’m causing you to have a dream, so we can be together again, for just a moment.” This is apparently a thing that Angelique can do now; she can project herself into people’s dreams. I don’t believe that we’ve ever seen her do this before, but the powers of darkness must have some kind of Spell of the Month club or something, because she’s always manifesting some new mutant power like this.
Obviously, this isn’t just a social call; she’s got some business to attend to.
Barnabas: Tell me what you want to say, and then go.
Angelique: I came to tell you — to beware of dreams!
This is not an easy instruction to heed. I’m not exactly sure what I would do if somebody told me to beware of dreams. I’ve mostly just been hoping that it wouldn’t come up.
Barnabas also seems unprepared.
Barnabas: What do you mean? What evil game are you going to play this time?
Angelique: Beware of dreams, Barnabas. Of yours, and of those of everyone about you. Because that is the way the curse will return to you again.
Cut to Angelique, who seems very excited.
Angelique: It will be… a DREAM CURSE!
Somewhere off-camera, Barnabas moans: “A dream curse…”
And just wait until you hear what the hell that means.
“First, one person will have the dream,” Angelique explains. “And that person will remain terrified by the experience! Until they tell the dream to a second person.”
And then Angelique does what is possibly the most avant-garde thing that anyone has done on Dark Shadows so far. She turns away from Barnabas, and just addresses the audience directly.
“Only this time, the dream will go a step further,” she says, “and be even more terrifying.”
She actually walks away from him, and crosses to stage right. This presentation is clearly not for the benefit of Barnabas, who’s behind her and has his eyes closed.
“And that person will not rest,” she continues, “until he has told the dream to a third person.”
“And THAT person will have the dream! And he will tell it to a fourth!”
So here’s what’s going on. They’ve got a big new storyline starting tomorrow, and it’s kind of high-concept. The last time they launched a special story like this, it was the trip to 1795, and they made a promotional announcement that aired for a week, giving viewers a heads-up that we were going to go back in time and learn about Barnabas’ origin story.
The Dream Curse isn’t as mold-breaking as the 1795 trip was, so they don’t make a special bumper for it. Instead, they just go ahead and do the promotional announcement during the show.
But the logic here is exactly the same as Edward Van Sloan introducing Frankenstein. They’re not actually worried about your emotional well-being. They know that if they flag how scary the story is about to get, then the nervous anticipation that you feel will make the experience more exciting.
As it turns out, both of these introductions progress along very similar lines.
“I think it will thrill you.”
“And on and on it will go, and each time the horror of it will increase!”
“It may shock you.”
“And the terror will mount! And the fear will be more unbearable!”
“It might even — horrify you.”
“Until — finally — someone tells it to you, Barnabas.”
“So if any of you feel that you do not care to subject your nerves to such a strain…”
“And then you will have the dream. Step by step you will go, until the very end.”
“Now’s your chance, to, uh…”
“And the dark and terrifying thing that you will find there — will turn your blood to ICE!”
“Well… we’ve warned you!”
Tomorrow: What Dreams May Come.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
At the start of the episode, Carolyn rings the bell, and Cassandra lets her in. She’s apparently just coming back from a trip to Boston with David, but… she doesn’t have a key to her own house?
After Cassandra takes the cigarette lighter from Tony’s briefcase, she only latches one side of the case. He doesn’t seem to notice.
When Cassandra hypnotizes Tony with the lighter, the flame goes out mid-spell, and she has to click to light it again.
At the beginning of Barnabas’ dream, Angelique steps on his line:
Barnabas: What are you doing to me?
Barnabas: Yes, you are!
Angelique: It’s because you’re —
Barnabas: Why can’t I move?
Angelique: It’s because you’re having a dream.
Tomorrow: What Dreams May Come.
— Danny Horn