Episode 499: A Senior Moment

“There will not be time to make you understand!”

Angelique is outside in the garden at night, wearing a cloak with the hood pulled up over her head.

“I have not been able to hear you,” she cries, apparently to her own portrait. “I must find you, and get to you!”

It’s not super clear why Angelique thinks that she should be able to hear an oil painting that’s several miles away. I mean, I don’t think that she’d be able to hear an oil painting anyway, even if it was two feet in front of her, but the distance can’t be helping. But there’s a lot I don’t know about fine art.

“Oh, try and speak to me,” she begs. “Try! TRY!”

This doesn’t seem to be a super effective communication strategy, but Angelique has suddenly aged to about seventy years old, so we should cut her some slack. Maybe she needs her grandchildren to come over and show her how to use her smartphone.

499 dark shadows angelique flame

So here she is, our beautiful young witch/soap vixen, magically transformed into a wrinkled old lady.

During the spring of 1968, the Dark Shadows team realized that they’ve got a growing audience of teenage viewers, and while this episode was filming, Jonathan Frid was out on a week-long promotional tour, holding press conferences with the editors of high school newspapers.

And if you want to shock a nation of teenagers, you serve up the thing that they fear most — getting old.

498 dark shadows angelique portrait

Angelique has been living at Collinwood for a month now, in the guise of Roger’s new wife, Cassandra. She’s supposed to be renewing Barnabas’ expired vampire curse, but she doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry about it. Back in 1795, Angelique was a full-service plot accelerator, managing multiple hexes at any given time. In 1968, she’s mostly been hanging around the house.

So Barnabas has had plenty of time to figure out how to fight back, and he’s hit on a way to use her own weird black magic against her.

499 dark shadows sam portrait

He’s given her portrait to an artist, Sam Evans, and asked him to make the woman in the painting appear older. He’s supposed to do this in stages, aging her gradually as if she was actually getting older.

Obviously, this is a ludicrous thing to ask someone to do, but apparently Sam will do just about anything for five hundred dollars.

499 dark shadows angelique older

The aged-up portrait is absolutely gorgeous. I don’t know who painted any of the portraits on the show; that seems to be one of the best-kept secrets of Dark Shadows. Even the most obsessive and therefore best DS book, The Dark Shadows Almanac, doesn’t say a thing about who did the art. There are a couple of people listed in the credits as Scenic Design over the years, but there’s no Art Director, and they probably used a contractor anyway.

If anyone knows who painted these, I would love to know, because I think they’re fantastic.

499 dark shadows angelique makeup

And the craziest thing is that she changes again mid-episode. In the first act, we get this version of old Angelique, and then she gets even older for the final act.

So that’s two special make-up jobs, and two bespoke portraits, and they only get used for about five minutes each. This is an insane amount of extra work to put into a single episode, and it’s not even Friday.

499 dark shadows carolyn tony breakup

In act 3, there’s a long Carolyn/Tony breakup sequence — a classic soap opera scene that gives Carolyn all kinds of hurt feelings to express. It’s a great scene, and under ordinary circumstances, I’d linger on this for a bit. But who has time for humans on a day like this?

499 dark shadows sam weather

Because it turns out that they didn’t have that scene because we’re supposed to be deeply invested in Carolyn and Tony’s relationship. They just needed somebody to stand in front of the camera while Angelique gets her second extreme makeover of the day.

Now we’re back at Sam’s house, where he’s still working on the portrait. There’s a crash of thunder and lightning, so apparently this is one of those freak weather conditions like they have in Collinsport all the time, where there’s a raging thunderstorm with exactly zero visible signs of rain.

499 dark shadows angelique ancient

And here’s portrait #2, with Angelique aged up to somewhere around a hundred and seventy.

499 dark shadows angelique painting

And it’s stunning, isn’t it? Look at that. It’s like a Famous Monsters of Filmland cover. I honestly can’t believe that they did all this work for a single scene.

499 dark shadows sam pants

But here comes Angelique, hot on the traiil of her missing portrait. She bangs on Sam’s door, and says that she needs to talk to him. He tells her that he’s busy, but old people never listen. They just pretend the battery on their hearing aid is running down.

499 dark shadows angelique twins

She walks over to the portrait and pulls off her hood for the big reveal — and here she is, Miss America 1795.

499 dark shadows angelique resemblance

So, you know, plot logic and everything. Yes, we know that there’s a connection between Angelique and her portrait, because it showed up in Collinwood and started hypnotizing people a couple weeks before she arrived.

But nothing we’ve seen so far would indicate that making the portrait look older would also affect Angelique. They didn’t do a black magic ritual, and Barnabas doesn’t have any oil-painting-related powers that we know of. They just went ahead and told us that this was a thing they were going to do, and now they’ve done it.

499 dark shadows angelique sam fight

But this can’t be judged as anything other than spectacle, the show’s most effective mode.

There are only three questions that matter on Dark Shadows: Does the metaphor work?, Does it make sense for the character?, and Have we ever seen anything like this on television before?

If the answers are yes, yes and no — and they are, in this crazy scene — then that’s what Dark Shadows is for.

499 dark shadows angelique sam door

And this is a great moment for Angelique, in a period where the great moments are few and far between. Since her dramatic reappearance a month ago, she’s been basically untouchable. Barnabas yells at her and threatens her, and she just walks away. Admittedly, she hasn’t really achieved much, except hypnotize a couple people and inspire some nightmares, but whatever she’s done, she’s gotten away with it.

499 dark shadows sam losing

Now, we’re finally seeing a weak spot. Barnabas has found a place where she’s vulnerable, and Angelique needs that for her character to work.

As the only person on the show with official magic powers, Angelique can easily become Diabla ex machina if you let her. She just pulls a new spell out of the box, and gets what she wants. But a complacent and happy Angelique is not what we want. She thrives on passion.

499 dark shadows vision

So we end the day with another twist. Sam hustles Angelique out the door, and then returns to the painting to finish the job.

499 dark shadows sam mugs

Everything starts to swim before his eyes, and we get some nice shots where he’s just looking straight into the camera and making funny faces.

499 dark shadows sam blind

This is the perfect ending for the episode, because everything today has been about the visuals. They went all-out to give us fun new things to look at, and this is the price that Sam pays — losing his vision, thanks to some mysterious off-camera Angelique insta-spell.

499 dark shadows angelique sam warning

As Sam stumbles around, Angelique sneaks back in to snatch the portrait away. She probably has an artist of her own on standby, ready to paint her back to her twenties again.

499 dark shadows sam eyes

And now Sam can’t see, which is probably going to put a dent in his art career. On the bright side, in a couple years it’s going to be the 1970s, and there’s going to be a lot of stuff that he probably wouldn’t want to look at anyway.

Tomorrow: Really Big Brother.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In act 2, just after Cassandra runs away from the gazebo, there’s an audio break in Carolyn’s line, “Tony — don’t go after her.”

Tomorrow: Really Big Brother.

499 dark shadows angelique ending

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

20 thoughts on “Episode 499: A Senior Moment

  1. I think that causing Sam to go blind (permanently, not just one of her reversible spells) was incredibly vicious, even by Angelique standards. Even the worst of her spells (sticking the Sarah doll with pins and making Barnabas into a vampire) were things that she had to power to ‘undo’. When Julia examines Sam’s eyes she notes permanent damage. Now Sam was basically a stranger to her, not a boyfriend who dumped her for a girl of his own ‘class’. I’m not criticizing Angelique per se but I find it hard to condone this undeniably cruel action on her part..

    1. Well, I don’t think we’re supposed to condone her actions. But yes, it is definitely one of the cruellest things she’s done. In her defense – well, actually not really in her defense – but she did give him the opportunity of letting her walk out with the painting without any harm befalling him (instead of just automatically striking him blind on the spot). But I guess when you kick Angelique out of your home, be prepared to pay the consequences. I suppose she theoretically could have undone the spell in the future, but just chose not to cause she’s just that type of witch.

    1. I’ve recently acquired the book Barnabas & Company, and according to Robert Rodan the blindness of Sam Evans was all David Ford’s idea, as a demand he made to the producers so that he wouldn’t have to study lines and could just read from the teleprompter while wearing dark glasses, otherwise he wouldn’t agree to stay on the show.

      Who knows, perhaps he found the daily grind of the soap opera tiring and even unrewarding. As pointed out above, he didn’t appear particularly enthusiastic by this stage.

      It should also be pointed out that by this time Dark Shadows is no longer placing an emphasis on acting and character development, which has pretty much taken a back seat to technical effects. This is the reason why Joel Crothers likewise became disillusioned with the show, because the directors no longer had time to work with actors on characterization, which is one of the trade-offs in transitioning from a standard soap opera to a serialized horror movie.

      1. Which is another reason – apart from the Lang/Clark overacting, and Angelique in black wig and green clothers, and the Dream Curse which seemed to think that buckets of dry ice are terrifying – that many are very unhappy with the 1968 timeline.

  2. It makes sense to me that the portrait somehow was Angelique’s anchor to our time. It’s interesting though because it’s the opposite of the “Portrait of Dorian Grey” which I assume was the idea behind this plot.

    I really like the portraits too. It reminds me of an old high school English teacher who had a portrait painted of himself with Harvey in place of the Jimmy Stewart character. I loved that. I wonder if any Dark Shadows fan has repainted any of these portraits.

  3. Wow – this whole thing with Angelique and the portrait both aging is a great twist and nod to “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” I totally get how captivating this show was at the time (and still is). Sure, it’d be nice to have more of character development and even “supernatural consistency,” but I’d go with the horror spectacle — and yes, I agree, whoever did the paintings for the show did a fantastic job.

    1. Get Smart did an episode in 1969 called Age Before Duty, where a KAOS agent used applied special paint to physically age CONTROL agents through their staff photos. The writer of that episode must have seen this, as well as read Dorian Gray (the paint was called Dorian Gray).

  4. OK, just noticed an apparent blooper in ep. 499: Angelique’s legs were not appropriately aged. Walking in and out of Sam’s cottage, under her hooded cloak, her legs looked like the legs of a 20-year-old. Maybe that’s because Sam didn’t paint her legs?

    1. I noticed Cassandra’s legs while she was sitting on the patio with Tony. It doesn’t make sense that her legs didn’t age because Sam wasn’t painting them, though. Sam also wasn’t painting her hands, but in the previous episodes, Cassandra’s hands were shown to be quite aged–in fact, her hands had aged extensively even while her face had not since Sam had just started working on the painting.

  5. I can totally buy Barnabas not having to do any magic ritual on the portrait for this to work. He already knows there’s a great chunk of magical power in the portrait from his attempts to destroy it.
    True, he couldn’t know for sure the painting plan would work, but he likely figured it was worth a shot.

  6. Carolyn behaving like she’s in a standard soap opera infidelity plot, completely ignoring how Cassandra’s cloaked and hooded like the Grim Reaper is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

  7. Carolyn behaving like she’s in a standard soap opera infidelity plot, completely ignoring how Cassandra’s cloaked and hooded like the Grim Reaper, is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

  8. When Sam started getting up close and personal with the camera, I just assumed someone had reduced the font on the teleprompter.

    Last episode, I was irritated by the logic of aging Cassandra through her portrait. But a lot of that has evaporated now we’re getting some good long looks at the pictures – as you said, they’re gorgeous. I’m particularly impressed by the depth and texturing in the hair, and the personality in the eyes… the ancient Cassandra looks so sad…

  9. As Barnabas explained, various attempts to destroy or do away with the painting had all failed. It’s actually a common reoccurring concept in the fantasy, etc genres that magic typically has certain rules that must be adhered to in order for a spell, potion, etc to have its desired effect. The trick to battling such magic works is that you need to know what the rules are and how to play by them in order to mount a proper defense.

    With the voodoo doll, once a link is established between the doll and its target, the doll needs to be directly manipulated in order for the target to feel what the doll experiences; the enchanter can’t usually just command the doll.

    The painting has its own rules as well, one being that in order to impact the subject to whom it’s attached, one must make use of the same medium with which it’s made. The other aspect of this painting spell is likely similar to a more recent bit of magic that many here may still remember… namely Voldemort’s horcruxes in the Harry Potter series.

    SPOILER ALERT!!! in case you’re one of the few who enjoy the fantasy/mystical/horror genres and haven’t either read, heard about, or watched the related storylines.

    The painting could be much like a horcrux and actually contain a significant chunk of Angelique/Cassandra’s life-force (you know, the same stuff the very scientific Dr. Lang kept talking about but didn’t care to expand on exactly what it was). The Angelique painting had first appeared in 1795/96 by seemingly pure magic when a pre-existing painting suddenly turned into her portrait. Perhaps, much like mirrors (and other reflective surfaces) are said to be a window (or doorway) to another realm, it could be that Angelique’s devil-powers allowed her to partly come back from the nether-realm, and while it wasn’t a complete transition, it did allow for a foot-in-the-door by leaving her impression in the painting. Perhaps this let her absorb cosmic energies or human suffering or whatever through the centuries to allow her to step through successfully, but with her impression still there, and a piece of her still anchored between the 2 realms.

    I just remembered another fantastic example of this in Roald Dahl’s “The Witches” (also turned into a decent movie with help by the Jim Henson Company. There, a painting in a family’s home suddenly contained the image of the daughter of that home soon after she “went missing”, and over the years, not only did the image of the girl slowly age and eventually become an old woman, but the spot where she was in the painting would change every now and then, with nobody seeing the move occur.

    As far as the sudden magic occuring, like Sam’s quick blindness and Barnabas’ death-curse, it seems quite possible that Angelique can have large bursts of chaotic power when she is put in extreme conditions. It might not be too different from that classic tale of a mom getting an adrenaline rush to lift a car off her kid. My favorite so far is the poor old woman who seemed to be capable of driving Angelique and her curse away, only to end up basically spontaneously combusting in front of Roger Collins, and he all but shrugging his shoulders and forgetting he even enlisted the woman to her own demise.

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