Episode 485: A Huge Naked Dead Guy

“How odd it is that I should feel this urge on this night.”

I hope everybody’s excited, because today’s the day that we’ve all been waiting for. It’s Experiment Day!

Yes, after weeks of build-up, we’ve finally reached this historic episode — the day that Barnabas regenerates.

485 dark shadows dream lang julia

But there are some tedious opening ceremonies to get through first, featuring the extremely hateable Dr. Lang.

Now, I only have a couple more opportunities to say this, thank goodness, so I’d like to direct your attention to the fact that Addison Powell is The Worst Actor Who Ever Appeared on Dark Shadows.

If you’re joining us late, the short version is that he’s smug, he hollers approximately one hundred percent of the time, he can’t remember most of his lines, he doesn’t know where to stand, he can’t find his light, he’s constantly indicating, and he has zero charisma. The long version is me saying that every day for the last four weeks.

485 dark shadows degree lang julia

Now, the good thing about Dr. Lang is that he’s a mad scientist, which is an extremely story-productive character archetype, second to none in its ability to generate unpredictable plot twists.

In this case, he’s built himself a patchwork man out of corpses and coconuts, and he’s planning to animate it by sucking the life force out of Barnabas. The vampire will leave his old body behind, and wake up inside this new body, free of Angelique’s curse.

Today is the climax of that bonkers storyline, so it would probably be a good idea for Addison Powell to really buckle down and get a handle on his lines. This does not happen to any noticeable degree.

485 dark shadows time lang julia

Part of the problem is that he’s the latest character afflicted by the Dream Curse, a storyline speed bump that just kind of putters along in the background and inconveniences people.

Lang has just had the Dream, and he’ll be disturbed by it until he tells the story to the next person in the chain. That person happens to be standing right next to him at this very moment, so it’s not clear what the holdup is.

Unfortunately, with Powell it’s difficult to tell whether he’s deliberately trying to act distracted, or if he just can’t remember what he’s supposed to say.

Lang:  I can’t work, Julia.

Julia:  Because of a dream about me?

Lang:  No, it wasn’t about you. It was a nightmare.

Julia just lets that baffling statement pass on by. She’s had conversations with Lang before; this is not her first rodeo.

485 dark shadows teleprompter lang julia

She asks him if he still needs an assistant for the experiment. He snaps at her.

Lang:  Julia, I only have a limited amount of time! Time is of the essence, and the body will begin to deteriorate after a certain number of hours.

Julia:  How many hours?

Lang:  Well, 48 at the most. I just simply can’t have these interruptions.

And then he goes back to fussing with the monster.

Now, that doesn’t sound like any cue that Julia’s familiar with, so she takes a long, hard look at the teleprompter. She sees that Lang’s got the dialogue backwards again, and she makes the understandable decision to just leave him to it, and see what happens.

485 dark shadows teleprompter lang

After a ten-second round of dialogue chicken, he finally consults the teleprompter, and this is what he comes up with.

Lang:  I’ve had hundreds of dreams before. I’ve always been able to get up, and get back to my business.

So: hundreds? Has he only started having dreams recently? It’s no wonder he’s so shaken up.

485 dark shadows naked lang julia

And then he spends the next three minutes on a step-by-step recap of his entire dream, which is simply intolerable.

This is a perfect example of the problem with the Dream Curse storyline: There’s a huge naked dead guy on the table right in front of you, and you’re ignoring him and telling us about the goddamn dream.

485 dark shadows letter willie barnabas

Thankfully, we eventually cut away to Barnabas and his fantastic new purple robe. He’s preparing to have his life force transferred into another dude, so it’s kind of a big evening.

Outside, the dogs are howling, which they always do when Barnabas has something on his mind.

485 dark shadows fridspeak barnabas

As the dognoise continues, he turns away from Willie and delivers a monologue in fluent Fridspeak.

Barnabas:  How odd it is that I should feel this urge on this night. Dr. Hoffman would explain it away psychologically, I imagine — a man faced with the unknown, his last night on Earth as himself — so, naturally, everything that he has done seems preferable to what he faces.

And I’m sure that’s true. Personally, I wouldn’t know, because I’ve never faced my last night on Earth as myself. That’s outside my area of expertise.

485 dark shadows seriously willie barnabas

But this is a nice, ominous setup for the dark deeds to follow, and Willie is certainly taking it seriously.

Willie:  What do you mean, your last night?

Barnabas:  I explained everything to you yesterday.

Willie: Well, what about me?

Barnabas:  There will be a Barnabas Collins, only he will be in a new body. Someone I’ve named… Adam.

He’s already referring to “Barnabas Collins” in the third person. They’re giving the audience every indication that they might actually go through with this lunatic plot contrivance.

485 dark shadows write willie barnabas

Barnabas writes a letter to Elizabeth, which lays out the next beat of the storyline.

Barnabas:  This letter will give Adam an entrée to Collinwood. Cousin Elizabeth will know that I am away for an indefinite period — and that in my place, there’s a young cousin from England named Adam Collins.

485 dark shadows shame willie barnabas

This whole setup is making Willie nervous.

Willie:  I don’t like it.

Barnabas:  That is a shame.

Willie:  Well, suppose he don’t like me.

Barnabas:  He will be exactly towards you as I am!

Considering their history, this statement is not as comforting as Barnabas thinks it is.

485 dark shadows suppose barnabas willie

But Willie has returned to his original role in the narrative, speaking to Barnabas on behalf of the audience. And it’s starting to sink in for him, and for us, that they’re about to recast the main character.

Barnabas is going to leave his old body behind, which means that Jonathan Frid is leaving the show, and he’ll be replaced by this new guy.

Willie is expressing the audience’s concern about this impending change to the status quo, and Barnabas is doing his best to stay on message.

Willie:  You don’t know that. You don’t know how this is all gonna turn out. You might come outta this all different!

Barnabas:  I want you to take this letter to Collinwood.

Willie:  It won’t be the same.

Barnabas:  And make sure that it gets to no one but Mrs. Stoddard.

485 dark shadows promise barnabas willie

But he can’t just brush this away.

Willie:  Well, suppose they won’t let you live here, then what’s gonna happen to me?

Barnabas:  Trust me, Willie.

Willie:  Barnabas… will I see ya before you leave?

Barnabas:  Very likely not. You will recognize me when I return. Even in that other body, you will know who I am.

485 dark shadows work barnabas willie

By this point, Willie has basically turned into an online fan forum.

Willie:  It won’t work.

Barnabas:  It will work, Willie!

The dog howls again.

Barnabas:  …Because it must.

So it turns out that there really is a narrative purpose for bringing Willie back from the sanitarium. This is the perfect moment to have him here.

Willie is the guy who let Barnabas out of the mystery box in the first place; he’s known him longer and better than anyone, and he’s convinced that this impending recast is a bad idea. He doesn’t know this new Barnabas, he doesn’t want things to change, and Willie is the character who speaks truth to power.

485 dark shadows coats lang julia

We cut back to the lab, where Julia is up to her neck in mad science. She’s wearing a brand-new lab coat — which is white this time, instead of powder-blue. Even the wardrobe is recasting.

485 dark shadows shot lang barnabas

As Barnabas enters the scene, there’s a great shot, where his face is reflected in the mirror above the monster’s head. In this moment, as he meets his new body, the scene includes a distorted twin Barnabas, hanging in the air.

They don’t do symbolic shots like this very often, and it’s another indication that the show is taking this moment seriously. They might actually go through with this.

485 dark shadows reveal adam

And then: the big reveal. Dr. Lang pulls the sheet down, and we get our first look at the next Barnabas.

485 dark shadows meet adam barnabas

For two weeks, this thing under the sheet has been a prop, just lying there in the background while the real characters talk and argue and complain.

But now, they’ve given the creature a face and a name, summoning it into the world. All of a sudden there’s a huge naked dead guy in the middle of the room, and nothing will ever be the same again.

485 dark shadows prepare barnabas adam

Barnabas lies down on the hospital bed, a mirror of his new twin.

The sacrifice is laid out on the altar. The dark ritual can begin.

485 dark shadows altar barnabas

So things get pretty hectic from here. Lang and Julia tighten the straps, and put the equipment in place.

485 dark shadows glimpse adam julia

We get one more glimpse of Adam — the second and last time today that the audience gets a clear look at him — and, delightfully, it’s in this stunning two-shot with Julia.

485 dark shadows feels barnabas julia

In this final moment, Barnabas turns to his friend, and says, “Julia… I’m glad you’re here.” And Julia smiles, in a way that we’ve never seen before.

If this is really Jonathan Frid’s final line of dialogue on Dark Shadows — and there’s every indication that it is — then that’s a remarkable way to sum up everything that’s happened in his year on the program.

Now, you may not have noticed this, but Victoria Winters is all the way off the canvas right now. Barnabas’ core storyline for this entire year has been about his search for a girl who he could transform into his lost Josette. Vicki is the latest candidate, and for months, he’s been saying that he wants to lose his vampire curse so that he can court Vicki properly.

But here he is, in his farewell episode, and nobody’s even mentioned her. In the end, it really is about his relationships with Willie and Julia.

485 dark shadows power cassandra

Oh, and then there’s the ex-wife. We can’t give him a proper sendoff without some help from Angelique, who’s currently standing in the Collinwood drawing room, with a sharp pin and a brand new toy to play with.

If Barnabas is being sacrificed on the recast altar, then obviously Angelique deserves a role in the ritual. She knows that something’s up over at Lang’s, and she’s determined to put a stop to it.

Dr. Lang thinks that he can make a living being out of inanimate clay, bringing it to life as a distorted reflection of the real thing. Well, he needs to get in line. Angelique invented that trick.

You can tamper in God’s domain all you want — despite what anyone says, He’s usually a pretty understanding and hands-off deity.

But Dr. Lang has made the mistake of entering Angelique’s domain. There will be severe and lasting consequences.

485 dark shadows switch lang

So that’s the overture; now, on with the show. Lang starts up the machinery, and the world comes alive with flashes and zaps and Frankenstein switches. The atmosphere is entirely electric.

485 dark shadows impossible lang

Now, I’m a big fan of the thrilling Friday cliffhangers, and this is one of the most suspenseful moments of the whole show.

Unfortunately, I think it’s impossible for us to really appreciate the impact that this cliffhanger had on the original audience.

I’ve been joking about the recast today, but we all know that Jonathan Frid doesn’t actually leave the show. That’s not a spoiler, because anyone who’s watching Dark Shadows now knows that Barnabas is the main character, and the driving force of the series until the end of its run.

485 dark shadows electric

But they don’t know that, back in 1968. They don’t know that the series is going to run for five years, and that Barnabas has lots more adventures coming up. They don’t know that he’s going to make friends with a werewolf, and find the hand of Count Petofi, and get stuck in Parallel Time.

They don’t have a soap opera press, distributing reassuring spoilers that everything’s going to work out okay. Soap Opera Digest, with its comforting weekly tabulations of Comings and Goings, is still seven years away.

485 dark shadows scream barnabas

It’s only now, in hindsight, that everyone knows that Jonathan Frid is a fixed point, the only actor who can’t leave the show.

His face is on the DVD box set; his name is in the summary on Hulu and Netflix. It’s impossible to access the show in any way that doesn’t involve absorbing some paratextual material about Jonathan Frid and Barnabas Collins.

As we know it now, this is disc 52 out of 126. Frid’s not going anywhere.

485 dark shadows experiment lang

But here, in this electrically-charged moment, try to imagine it as it must have been.

It’s a Friday in early May, 1968. This sleepy little black-and-white soap opera just suddenly perked up one day, and grabbed everybody’s attention. They put a vampire on the show, and then a ghost, and then seances and witches and time travel.

485 dark shadows pain cassandra

The show’s popularity skyrocketed — in fact, there’s a very good chance that you weren’t even watching it until a few months ago. All you know about the show’s past is that everybody says it was boring and nothing happened. Now it’s the show where absolutely anything can happen.

485 dark shadows tumbles lang

The last month has been a roller-coaster, turning everything that you thought you knew upside down. You only started watching when you heard about the big time travel stunt, so you’re just meeting the present-day characters. Apparently, Joshua and Naomi are called Roger and Elizabeth now.

485 dark shadows voodoo cassandra

And as soon as they got back to the 20th century, practically the first thing they did was announce that Barnabas wasn’t a vampire anymore. He got cured! Now the Dracula story is winding down, so they can move on to Frankenstein.

485 dark shadows pain lang julia

So that’s the shape of the show, as you understand it. There was something at the beginning that nobody watched, and then there was a phoenix, and then a vampire, and then time travel and witches, and now they’re doing this.

And everything about this episode — the preparations, the goodbye letter, the touching “I’m glad you’re here” moment — it all leads to the obvious conclusion, which is: Jonathan Frid is leaving the show, and the new guy is going to take over.

485 dark shadows adam

And here’s the conclusive proof, the snake in the mailbox that’s lying in wait at the end of the show: a credit for “Adam… ROBERT RODAN”.

That’s what Barnabas said his name is going to be, when he switches over to his new body. The huge naked dead guy isn’t just a stand-in; the credit doesn’t say “Monster”.

That’s Adam. That’s the new Barnabas.

485 dark shadows smoke lang julia

So, as Angelique sticks a pin into the voodoo doll and Dr. Lang collapses onto the machinery, as something at the back of the set explodes in a puff of smoke, and the entire structure of the show collapses around us — think about how this would have hit you in May 1968.

485 dark shadows collapse lang julia

You’ve got a whole weekend to worry about this cliffhanger. You’re going to go to school on Monday, and the only thing you want to talk about is: Did you see what they did on Dark Shadows? Is Barnabas really leaving the show? They can’t do that. I just started watching it!

485 dark shadows twin adam barnabas

As of 4:00pm, Dark Shadows is your favorite show in the world. And you have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen next.

Monday: If They Both Live.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In the teaser, Lang tells Julia, “The dream — this is exactly like the dream. You knocked on the door, and then you — you answered, and then you looked at me.”

Barnabas tells Willie, “I want you to take this letter to Elizabeth Collins, at Collinwood.” Her last name is actually Stoddard; the scripted line was probably “take this letter to Elizabeth, at Collinwood.”

When Cassandra sits down with Willie, she asks, “Have you known him for long — worked for him long?”

When Willie leaves Collinwood, the sound effect of the front door opening is heard well before he’s even close to the door.

At the very end of the last scene, as Julia calls to Barnabas, somebody in the studio has a coughing fit.


Behind the Scenes:

This is Robert Rodan’s first episode, as Adam. He studied commercial art in college, and worked in advertising for a few years. He got bored, and decided to be an actor, although he had trouble as a young actor finding supporting roles that would be appropriate for a guy who’s 6’6″. His first TV appearance was in 1963, on Day in Court, a scripted court drama. He had a couple minor film roles in 1964 — in a Connie Francis musical, Looking for Love, and a Tony Curtis/Debbie Reynolds romantic comedy called Goodbye Charlie. He moved to New York, where he found work in TV commercials and as a model for photos in love-story magazines.

Finally, a casting call went out for a tall, good-looking actor to play a Frankenstein’s-monster type creature on Dark Shadows. Rodan won the part, and we’ll see what happens…

Monday: If They Both Live.

485 dark shadows dead barnabas

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

16 thoughts on “Episode 485: A Huge Naked Dead Guy

  1. Do they think the fact that he has another body will really fool Angelique? I think Angelique is as likely to be fooled by another face as a Doctor Who fan at regeneration time.

  2. Robert Rodan as Adam bears a striking resemblance to Dick Gautier as Hymie the Robot, who by this time was well known from episodes in the first two seasons of Get Smart. Considering that Hymie the Robot was built artificially, though from machine and not human parts, I wonder whether this likeness had anything to do with the casting of Rodan for Adam in Dark Shadows, or whether he was merely chosen for his size.

  3. Barnabas is dressed like he’s going for a massage or an acupuncture treatment. Well, I’m ready to get back to the search for Vicki’s parents.

  4. Oh, so I’m not the only person who occasionally wonders how the original audience of the show must have responded to what was happening on the screen! There’s a fundamental difference in the way we experience “Dark Shadows”, knowing what is going to happen, than how it probably appeared then.

    (Are there any “original” fans on this site who would care to comment?)

    1. I was an original fan, and I honestly don’t remember. Mostly I can’t erase the fact that Barnabas stayed around, so if I was worried it got overwritten by Adam coming in and Barnabas still being alive. I also watched soap operas so I knew that people go on vacation and get written out for short periods of time, then come back, so Adam could have been JF goes on vacay and when he comes back the life force passes back into the original body. Lord knows that wouldn’t have been the wackiest thing the show did. This part of the show never sticks in my mind. Adam comes, SPOILERS FOR A 45 YEAR OLD SHOW! falls for Caroline, has them make Eve, runs off and presumably dies off screen when the writers decide that Barnabas is not as interesting as a human. He was unimpressive enough that he never even get a doppelganger in another time or even parallel universe. He really didn’t fit the DS mold for compelling male characters. We liked the various Jenning boys, Jeb Hawkins and other had some appeal, Quentin made us swoon, but Adam was just there.

    2. I am an original fan but I don’t remember anything past 1797. It’s like watching a new tv show 50 plus years later. I will say I probably stopped watching this when Bramwell time started.

  5. “Goodbye Charlie” is a supernatural comedy, so it’s fitting that Robert Rodan played a role in it, whether it’s a big role or not.

  6. I was one of the original DS viewers but can’t for the life-force of me remember my reaction to the possibility of Frid’s departure. Was I worried about it? Was I so confused by the bizarre story-line, it never occurred to me to worry? Possibly the latter.

    Frid was never my favorite actor on the show. I regarded him as the glue that held everything together once DS was past its “My name is Victoria Winters” phase (can’t believe Curtis wanted her back!), but as a young viewer I felt much closer, male character-wise, to David and Chris. And I had major crushes on all the women except Liz, who–now that I’m (gulp) her DS age–is easily the most attractive female in the cast. Back then, it was the scrawny (by 1966 standards) Maggie, with Amy a very close second.

    I became a regular DS viewer only when Vicki returned from 1795. I’d watched the first couple of weeks, decided nothing was ever going to happen, and returned from time to time–such as, when Matthew Morgan kidnapped Vicki. I found the show’s slow pacing hilarious (and typically soap-opera). Saw Josette’s first appearance, which got a lot of pre-show media buzz–so much so, our babysitter made sure we saw it. When J. stepped out of her portrait (who came up with that??), I thought I was watching a miniature apparition glide across a bedroom floor. The show looked very, very different on a portable B&W TV. You younger DS fans have no idea how good you have it!

    When I first saw the show in color (in reruns), it looked… wrong.

    Great blog, by the way!!

  7. I can relate to the time-travel disorientation. I first started watching during the first Sci-Fi run, during the 1897 sequence. I had no idea the show was actually set in the modern day. And of course, they come back and DON’T keep the regular soap format (as they had in 1968) which was probably the show’s ultimate undoing.

    Excellent points about how the 1968 audience must have felt. I pretty much spent every day during the second run on SciFi wondering when the heck Quentin was going to show up. LOL

  8. Even though I know Frid is staying, I’ve found this storyline distressing to watch. I guess it’s just too easy for me to see things through the lens of imagination, and I’m picking up on all the cues that Barnabas is toast. (Even if he physically sticks around, I’m not reassured by the way the writers have been treating him lately — there’s some good stuff but a lot not so good, too, so that underscores the feeling that “Barnabas is in danger”.) Since Barnabas is the entire reason I’m watching the show, that’s what we call a downer. I think if I’d been watching back in 1968, it would’ve been sheer torture.

  9. I’ve always enjoyed watching Addison Powell chew the scenery. But as of this episode, Dr. Lang is off my Christmas card list. When he was relating his tedious Dream Curse dream to Julia, he said that she looked at him, and motioned to him, but that she never said a word. In her charming, self-deprecating way, she smiled and replied “That proves it was a dream.” I wanted to hug her, but that ass hat Lang paid no attention to her adorable little joke.

    Have at him, Cassangelique! Here, lemme get you some more hat pins. How ’bout a harpoon? Roger tells me Lang’s got quite a collection upstairs.

    1. Brilliant, May. I liked that little joke, too. I find myself wondering whether Grayson ad libbed that line or Sam Hall wrote it for her.

      Like Savio, I regarded Liz as being too old, my mother’s age, but now I think she’s hot. No oedipal conflict here, right?

      I did not come into the DS fold until just after Barnabas recruited Carolyn, so I cannot speak to how it was for those who watched from the very first episode. I was really enthused about the 1795 storyline but less so about the Dream Curse. I may have stopped watching regularly for a while, although I was back again for Quentin. I guess what really turned me off was the replacement of Vicki by not one but two actresses I did not care for. I am curious to find out how Danny regards those replacements.

      Definition: Dream Curse. “A storyline speed bump that just kind of putters along in the background and inconveniences people.” Perfect.

      “No, it wasn’t about you. It was a nightmare.”

      Actually, for Lang to say that to Julia is kind of a negative compliment. Next he’ll say, “I wouldn’t mind being married to you too much. If Jeff wasn’t available, that is.”

      “When Willie leaves Collinwood, the sound effect of the front door opening is heard well before he’s even close to the door.”

      I actually took that to be the sound of Elizabeth coming into the house, and I thought, “Willie just looked out the window and saw her car coming. She must have pulled up to the front, dismounted like a NASCAR driver, and raced to the door.”

    2. May Lang was so damn stupid it just went over his head. Or his face cracked because she let him know he said some dumb shit to her and she was not going for it.

  10. Julia asks Lang if Barnabas will feel any pain during the procedure. Lang is evasive, saying that he will be unconscious. Probably from the pain, I thought. Spoiler alert: I was right.

    I notice on Dark Shadows wiki that they keep transcribing a phrase in the opening narration as “strange and frightening” but the narrator is clearly saying “strange and haunting.” What is up with that?

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