Episode 509: Blind Date

“Germs — I’ve never been a big believer in them, but they do exist.”

A couple weeks ago, grouchy painter Sam Evans was struck blind, following an encounter with a witch that I don’t have time to get into right now. In a normal soap opera, a character going blind would be a huge focus for the show for months. We’d see all the doctor’s visits, they’d be trying out experimental treatments, and the character would go through a lengthy grieving process as they adjust to the loss of their sight.

But I don’t know why I even bother to bring that up anymore. I might as well say, “In a beach party movie, Annette Funicello would be singing about surfboards.” We may have reached the point where comparisons between Dark Shadows and normal soap operas are no longer relevant.

509 dark shadows adam sam help

The behind-the-scenes story here is that David Ford, who plays Sam, requested that his character go blind, so that he could wear sunglasses and read off the teleprompter. Ford was one of the handful of Dark Shadows actors who really had a hard time memorizing all of his lines, and this was his clever plan to stay on script.

At the start of today’s episode, Sam comes home to find a huge, murderous Frankenstein in his house. Sam calls out to him.

Sam:  Who is it? I know someone’s there. I can feel your breathing.

So I guess that strategy didn’t really work. What should we try next?

509 dark shadows adam sam hurt

Adam survived last week’s jump off Widow’s Hill, by the way. He’s a little banged up, and there’s definitely some wear and tear on the turtleneck, but it looks like we now have a character who can survive just about anything. We should go drop him off something else, and see what happens.

But I guess we don’t have time for that right now, because Sam is transforming before our eyes into a magical charity elf. This is fairly common among fictional people with some kind of handicap. Apparently, having a physical disability or a mental illness gives you an uncanny sensitivity to other people’s pain, coupled with an urgent need to assist passing protagonists. If the character combines either of those traits with being really old, homeless and/or African-American, then there’s a better-than-average chance that that character is actually God.

509 dark shadows sam adam blind

So Sam isn’t super bothered by the fact that there’s a huge, injured, practically mute intruder in his house. He just sits the guy down, asks his name, and goes for the hydrogen peroxide.

“You know, it’s kind of nice being taken care of for a change,” he says, as he stumbles toward the first aid supplies. “A man can get fed up mighty quick with being taken care of.” Maybe David Ford needs two pairs of sunglasses.

509 dark shadows adam sam wash

Still, it’s nice that Adam’s getting out, and meeting new people. So far, the storyline has depended on keeping Adam out of public view, which isn’t very story-productive. If Barnabas, Julia and Willie are the only ones who even know that Adam exists, then everybody else can just go about their daily lives, and it’s not a very high-impact story. If turning Sam into a Robin Williams character moves the story along, then I suppose we’ll have to go with it.

509 dark shadows stokes happening

The bonding scene is interrupted by the arrival of Professor Stokes, who is apparently now licensed to stick his nose into every single storyline.

Stokes has recently become one of the Dark Shadows kaiju, the powerful giant monsters who stomp through the show and destroy everything in their path. He’s come over to talk about the Dream Curse, but he’s perfectly happy to get mixed up with Adam too. Curiosity is his superpower.

509 dark shadows sam stokes trouble

Spooked by the newcomer, Adam runs off into the night. Sam yells for him to come back.

Stokes advises, “I’m not sure I would call him, Mr. Evans.”

“But he’s in trouble,” Sam says. And then he pauses for seven seconds.

509 dark shadows sam stokes looks

Taking another look at the teleprompter, Sam continues, “Serious trouble.”

“Yes, rather serious, I should say,” Stokes agrees, with the implacable calm of a man who’s willing to wait seven seconds for his cue.

509 dark shadows sam stokes measles

But I suppose dead air isn’t much of a concern, because he only came over to talk about the Dream Curse anyway.

The Professor says, “If you should have a dream which begins with a knock at the door, and a man — probably Barnabas Collins — gesturing you to follow him, will you please call me at once?”

Sam waves him away, like people ask him this kind of thing all the time, and he’s sick of it.

Sam:  Yes, yes. Of course.

Stokes:  I am most serious, Mr. Evans. A man’s life may depend on that.

Sam:  And Adam’s life may depend on his coming back here tonight!

Stokes:  Yes, yes, Mr. Evans! But I shall say this, and nothing more. In Adam’s case, there is not a witch involved! Good night, Mr. Evans.

509 dark shadows stokes look

Stokes shoots him a look — completely lost on him, of course — and walks out. And presumably Sam is now free to spend the rest of the day as he pleases.

Monday: Some Enchanted Evening.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When Cassandra hands Tony the Coptic cross, someone in the studio coughs.

Thayer David (Professor Stokes) is not listed in the credits.

The copyright date says 1967.

Behind the Scenes:

This episode’s master tape was damaged, and it was skipped in syndication — the distributor, Worldvision, didn’t realize that there was a black and white kinescope copy. The kinescope was found when DS was licensed to MPI for home video release in 1989. Out of the 1,225 episodes, there’s only one that’s actually missing — episode 1219.

After this one, there’s only five more kinescope episodes — we’ll see the next one in July 1969.

Monday: Some Enchanted Evening.

509 dark shadows sam grouch

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

20 thoughts on “Episode 509: Blind Date

  1. I wonder why they brought David Ford back for such a few episodes if he really wasn’t interested in putting in the effort to do the show anymore. In the early episodes he didn’t seem to have much of a problem with reading his lines – I personally don’t like the practice of bringing a long running character back just to kill him off – also it’s not really putting any plus points into the Barnabas and Julia column at this point. It’s also sad for viewers like myself who DO like the vibrancy of the early episodes – for example, the scene where Carolyn is introduced to the audience dancing at the Blue Whale contains an atmosphere that was lively and exciting. The place was hopping – I don’t remember it ever being that way again. I know most people don’t agree with me but there WAS something about the aura of the early episodes that was buzzing and energetic. Also the outdoor location shoots seemed to expand the Collinsport world at the time.

    1. I’ve been watching those early episodes myself lately and am also struck by the aura of relative calm, where they only have ordinary domestic issues to be concerned with, such as the threat of murder and perjury charges. Otherwise Collinwood is a rather stable environment before the later interlopers and monsters, the Jason McGuires and the Cassandra and Nicholas Blairs, arrive to overrun the place. The balance at Collinwood is first upset when Liz is sent away to Boston thanks to the handiwork of the Phoenix and soon after things will never be the same anyway once Jason and Willie arrive. It’s funny how this aura is gradually changed and thrown into disarray–one day everything is normal and under control and then at one point Jason McGuire walks in through the entrance of the Blue Whale and so on.

      One thing I noticed about David Ford in these early episodes is that from the day he first played Sam Evans he really grew into the role–literally. If you’ll notice, his first episode was the only time in those early days when he appeared clean shaven. He had a goatee, then the second episode a day’s worth of stubble which became more noticeable as the episodes wore on. It’s as if he were styling himself especially for the role. He read off the teleprompter frequently even then, but he really put a lot of energy into his performance, and the perpetually worried and high-strung character he played was believable as well as likeable.

      I do feel though that his performance came down a notch in his role as Andre DuPres. For one in such a dignified and aristocratic position, this character should have been more forceful, and yet instead Ford delivered his lines somewhat half-heartedly, almost tentatively. And, of course, the DuPres character disappears suddenly well before the 1795 storyline is resolved. Perhaps Ford was not comfortable in the role and his disillusionment in the show was beginning by this time, because before going back to 1795 he had been playing Sam Evans with his usual energy and aplomb.

      Since it was clear that he would not be on the show for long, I would rather that they had him killed off rather than attempt to recast the character. The personality that David Ford brought to the role was too strong and definitive to be taken over by someone else, largely because of the chemistry between Ford and Kathryn Lee Scott. You really did believe that they could indeed have existed as father and daughter.

    2. I wonder if what you describe isn’t an issue with many “genre/fantasy” series. BUFFY, for example, in its early years, especially when it was still set in high school, felt part of a larger world that slowly became more isolated to the operatic events happening to the core cast. I could list other examples, as well, including THE X-FILES>

      I don’t know if you watched the DARK SHADOWS 1991 revival, but I think the biggest issue with the characters is that they have no internal life and just behave as appropriate for the plot. It suffers greatly from not having the pre-Barnabas episodes that provided depth to the characters of Carolyn, David, Vicki, Maggie, Roger, Liz, and so on. For instance, Roger and Liz will interact from now on mostly as older sister and stuffy younger brother. There’s little hint of the previous antipathy between them. But at least the actors on the original DARK SHADOWS had that “muscle memory” of who their characters were. The 1991 show must have been almost impossible for the cast.

      I think things are scarier if they’re grounded in reality. A vampire turning up and upsetting an otherwise normal household and town has great potential — even now — but the battle will be to maintain that balance.

      1. “…the DARK SHADOWS 1991 revival… suffers greatly from not having the pre-Barnabas episodes that provided depth to the characters of Carolyn, David, Vicki, Maggie, Roger, Liz, and so on.” Bingo! I wholeheartedly agree. They should have used the pre-Barnabas plot lines – David’s attempt on his father’s life; Vicki’s seeking the secret of her origin; Burke’s animosity toward the Collins’ (this time with him sticking around as a legitimate threat to the Collins’ business instead of dying in a plane crash) – running parallel to the vampire story. Starting out with Liz never having left the place in 18 years, etc. would have given their characters life.

    3. My theory for why Sam’s return was short-lived is that asking for your character to be blind so you can read off the teleprompter is an insane thing to do, even for Dark Shadows.

      David Ford’s character hasn’t been front-burner since late ’66; there are a dozen other actors who have way more lines in way more episodes per week. Learn the damn script. Everybody else does.

      So the fact that they went along with the sunglasses plan indicates that they were more or less at the end of their rope with him. I’m sure it helped that the “blind old man” was already a familiar character from Bride of Frankenstein, so he had a narrative-collision role to play.

      But he’s flubbing just as many lines with the sunglasses on as he did before. It’s a stupid plan, and it doesn’t even work. At a certain point, you cut the guy loose and tell him to go be in a super successful Broadway musical, which is what he did next.

      1. Ford suffered from alcoholism, which is unfortunate and probably led to his death at 57. He’s actually younger than Frid and Edmonds, but looks a decade older.

        He was married to Nancy Barrett from 1967 to 1969, and I sincerely hope he was sober for at least some of that.

      2. And you just made me realize that he is 1776, one of my favorite movies. I never made the connection before.

      3. I imagine the only reason they went along with the insane plan to make Sam Evans blind was because they had the Frankenstein story going on and someone thought “Okay, we can use this.”

    4. Me too. I watched from the very beginning and was originally drawn to DS because of the gothic elements.

  2. The idea of the Creature jumping from a cliff into the ocean and surviving is used in one of the two 1973 TV versions of FRANKENSTEIN, but oddly enough, not the Dan Curtis one.

  3. Now I want to see the 1931 Frankenstein again. I do seem to remember that there was some scene with a blind man (blind woman?) who helped an injured, hurt Frankenstein. (Maybe this was also in the original Mary Shelley novel?) The scene with Adam and Sam Evans certainly played a great homage to that.

  4. Did I miss the part where someone (possibly Willie) teaches Adam about the inherent dangers of large kitchen knives, or did Adam just figure that out on his own? He might as well be threatening Sam with a paintbrush, or a spoon; for all he knows, they’re offensive weapons, too.

    1. It seemed to me that Adam tipped the knife back and forth slightly when he picked it up, like he was looking at it because it was shiny. That maybe he originally had picked it up for that very reason. (Does Adam even know about knives being sharp? I don’t recall him cutting himself on David’s pocketknife but I could be wrong.)

    2. I am amused by John E. Comelately’s comment because I just binge-watched the last season of “The Americans,” and in one episode Elizabeth grotesquely kills a painter with her own paint brush. (In Elizabeth’s defense, the painter was dying of cancer, but it is still grotesque.)

  5. And look how Ford uses that cane. He’s not using it in the way a blind person would (probing his immediate surroundings), he uses it as if he’s steadying himself. Jeesh.

  6. Danny, I liked that you zero-ed in on the two line-related boners that David Ford (DF) pulled in today’s ep. Who in the world would ever say they’re not a “big believer in germs.” He can’t even ad-lib right.

    I suppose one could say the same thing about Frid, but I always get the feeling that Frid’s at least trying to get it right. And he generally has more complex lines to deal with than Ford ever does. Ford just seems to have stopped caring about his craft. Why Nancy Barrett as a fellow actor could have found him interesting enough to marry is beyond me. I’ll be glad, glad, glad when he’s gone.

  7. Wow, did Tony just die from Cassandra’s poison?

    I really love these black and white copies the best. They remind me of the gothic atmosphere of the first 200 and so episodes before they went to color. Even Cassandra’s black wig looks better in black and white. So much more mysterious. And what a wonderful and scary shot of Adam looking back into the window from outside.

    The show has been stepping away from the slow burn of suspense for a while now. It really needs to slow down and reset. That’s why some people really like the beginning episodes starting from ep 1. It’s creepy and strange for a woman never to leave her house for 18 years. It’s haunted and forboding, the house itself, and David sees and talks to ghosts all the time. And David is trying to kill his dad, and the secrets of Burke, Sam, and Roger are credible and morose and insane. And, there’s a beautiful and tragic phoenix.

    What we are watching now is such a departure from the the tone of the first episodes. I actually really liked the scene with Stokes interviewing Vicki. It reminded me of a more sinister and haunted time that was more interesting than the current story line. But, I’ll keep watching…maybe it will get better….

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