Episode 542: The Diary of Anne Frankenstein

“Woman loves man.”

The room is dark, and grim. The single window — if it even counts as a window — lets in stray slices of sunlight through a torn shade. The cobwebs are an inch thick, and there’s a large picture frame dangling at an odd angle from a beam, apparently supported mostly by dust and despair.

The room is more than just unused. It looks like a pack of timberwolves came through sometime around the Civil War, and it never really pulled itself together after that.

Also, there’s a monster in it.

542 dark shadows adam smiles

The monster is a walking jigsaw puzzle of corpse parts with a romantic streak and an imprecise grasp of personal pronouns, assembled by a mad scientist and unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

Adam is now a fugitive on the run, with a trail of the injured and dead scattered behind him. He’s being protected by Carolyn, who he somehow befriended mid-kidnapping, and he’s holed up in the abandoned west wing of Collinwood, waiting for somebody to figure out what he’s supposed to do next.

He’s been stuck here for several days, and he’s not getting out anytime soon, because we’re in the middle of a five-episode stretch written by Ron Sproat, who loves locking characters up in rooms and then worrying about them.

542 dark shadows adam carolyn frame

But Adam brightens up when Carolyn arrives with his breakfast, which she sneaked out of the kitchen on a tray because Carolyn is hardcore.

He has no interest in the food; he’s just delighted to see her. He’s spent the last couple days in lonely confinement, with nothing to do but dream about her and read poetry.

542 dark shadows adam carolyn read

Yeah, you heard me. Professor Stokes has smuggled a stack of books across enemy lines, and Adam’s been memorizing lines from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese.

He hands Carolyn the book, and points out the passage that he’s been studying. She reads aloud.

The widest land
Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine
With pulses that beat double. What I do
And what I dream include thee, as the wine
Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue
God for myself, He hears that name of thine,
And sees within my eyes the tears of two.

So here’s a tall, handsome guy who sits around in a dark room reading love sonnets and pining for the woman he loves. It’s not everybody’s definition of the ideal boyfriend, but he’s definitely more dream date than violent ghoul.

542 dark shadows carolyn adam book

So the question, as always with Adam, is: what the hell kind of character is this? There’s a long line of eccentric oddballs on Dark Shadows, but I don’t think there’s been another character who just confounds categorization like this.

Is he the villain or the hero, a dangerous abomination defying God’s plan, or a sweet recluse who just wants to be loved? Is his passion for this exceptional young woman romantic, or deranged, or some new hybrid that nobody’s ever thought up before?

542 frankenstein little girl flower

I mean, a Frankenstein monster is always the misunderstood loner. Treated gently, he’d prefer to spend his days sitting in the sunshine and picking flowers, but he was born in darkness and pain, and all he knows is suffering. When he tries to connect with an innocent young girl, he makes a clumsy, fatal mistake, because he doesn’t know his own strength, and neither does she, until it’s too late.

Crossing that story with a daytime soap opera creates an even stranger mix of jigsaw pieces. Characters have described Adam as an ugly brute, but he’s Hollywood ugly at worst, a melancholy grad student in a turtleneck and slacks.

542 dark shadows carolyn adam love

So now he’s going to make his move. Observe the technique.

Adam:  What does it mean?

Carolyn:  It’s a poem.

Adam:  Poem.

Carolyn:  A love sonnet.

Adam:  Love sonnet.

Carolyn:  That’s right.

Adam:  But what does it mean?

Carolyn:  It’s a poem written by a woman, telling a man how much she loves him.

Adam:  Woman… loves man?

Carolyn:  Yes.

Adam:  Woman loves man.

And then he stares into her eyes. Gentlemen: take note. The “what is this thing you Earth people call kissing” approach may have fallen out of fashion, but it’s pretty effective.

542 dark shadows adam carolyn hands

Carolyn looks away, and tries to make a joke. It’s actually not super clear what she thinks she’s doing here.

And that’s when things start to get a little handsy.

542 dark shadows adam carolyn head

So for Nancy Barrett, this moment could be played in just about any way she’d like.

Adam is enormous, and supernaturally strong. He ripped apart a jail cell and escaped; he survived a jump from Widow’s Hill. But even without that — just using the strength of a normal man that size — he could do pretty much anything he wanted here, from the gentle and consensual to the unbelievably horrific.

542 dark shadows carolyn scared

And you look at Carolyn’s face, and she’s scared. I’m not sure if surprised is in there or not. But she definitely knows that she’s in way over her head, and she really isn’t sure what’s going to happen next.

It would be possible to play this scene as if Carolyn is flirty and pleased with the attention. That is not Nancy Barrett’s choice. Carolyn thinks that Adam is a good guy. Partly she feels sorry for him, partly she’s amazed by how remarkable he is. But she’s also frightened, and she knows that he could do pretty much every worst thing possible, without even understanding what’s going on.

So it’s a weird, complicated story beat, and Adam is a weird, complicated character. He’s making Carolyn uncomfortable — but he’s also making it clear that he doesn’t mean any harm. He’s improperly socialized, a monster child raised by people who kept him in a cage. His body is way too big and way too strong for the level of emotional maturity that’s currently powering it.

542 dark shadows adam carolyn story

But he’s picking things up fast. He’s already got passive-aggressive down.

Carolyn:  Don’t.

Adam:  Carolyn is afraid of Adam?

Carolyn:  No. No, of course I’m not afraid of you.

Adam:  Carolyn hates Adam.

Carolyn:  No! No, of course I don’t hate you, Adam. I’m your friend.

542 dark shadows adam carolyn hand

She holds out her hand, and he takes it, delighted, in both of his enormous meathooks. It’s a nice moment — but, again, Nancy Barrett is playing against it.

Imagine Alexandra Moltke as Vicki, in the same situation. She would play this scene entirely at face value, as if it never occurred to Vicki that Adam was anything more than a pal that she’s trying to help out of a jam. That’s why Vicki never grew or took off as a character; the actress didn’t have the talent or the self-awareness to play against the grain of the scene. Nancy Barrett can do that, and her performance allows a more complicated ambiguity to develop.

542 dark shadows adam carolyn grain

So what’s going on here? Is this a romantic scene about two crazy kids from different worlds falling for each other, or is this the doomed little girl by the lake, ten seconds before the bad thing happens?

And more importantly — does this scene make you want to watch another scene? In the end, that’s the only question that actually matters in a material way. Every scene of a television show is an advertisement to stay tuned for the next scene, and that goes double for daytime. Television only has one rule, and it’s “Don’t touch that dial.”

For me, this is working. I want to watch this scene, and I want to watch the next one. This scenario could go in several different directions, all of them heartbreaking. Plus, you never know when the next undead poetry slam is going to start.

Tomorrow: The Trouble with Harry.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

As Mrs. Johnson leads Harry out of the drawing room and around the corner, someone cracks up laughing. It sounds like Harry, who was breaking into a wide grin while exiting the room.

In act 3, when Carolyn enters the drawing room to talk to Barnabas, you can hear footsteps in the studio.

Behind the Scenes:

Resident prop-spotter Prisoner of the Night says: “Adam’s room in the west wing of Collinwood was originally Angelique’s room at the Old House in 1795, and also Peter Bradford’s independent lodging later on. The giveaway is those sloping green walls on either side of the window. Adam’s room also has the same 2-foot-high base of wood paneling running around the room. The main difference is that the fireplace at stage right has been removed, and a small alcove created where Adam’s bed is. The added space without the fireplace gives the impression of a larger and therefore different set space.

“In episode 539, when Carolyn first shows Adam the room, we see that it even has the same bright sea green door as did Angelique’s and Peter’s rooms. At some point, they just change it to the type of standard wood-colored door that we tend to associate with that room.

“We’ll next see this set redressed — and filmed from a different angle — in episode 632, when Chris Jennings makes a room-service meal out of Mr. Wells the hotel clerk.”

Tomorrow: The Trouble with Harry.

542 dark shadows adam carolyn stay

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

20 thoughts on “Episode 542: The Diary of Anne Frankenstein

  1. The many abandoned wings of Collinwood! It’s like a haunted house within an actual house. It’s not made clear if there’s electricity or even plumbing, but no one on TV ever thinks about the latter in situations like this.

    Elizabeth dismissed the servants when she was afraid of Paul Stoddard’s body being discovered. Now, you’d think she’d invest in a couple to clean the rest of the house. How expensive could it be?

    But back to Adam: You correctly note that he’s Hollywood Ugly. Soon, his entire motivation will be based in the idea that he’s doomed to loneliness without a mate as hideous as he is. This falls apart because even now, you’d think he could do all right for himself at the Blue Whale, and later, Eve, who is conventially attractive, rejects him outright. This loses the irony of BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN when a monster rejects another monster. Eve never even looks like a glamorous monster. If you caught an episode with her after the experiment, you’d think she’s possibly a vampire or, just a normal woman who enjoys evening gowns.

    1. Yeah, I don’t think the writers really know what to do with Adam. With Barnabas, they took the Dracula story and gave it an interesting twist – making the vampire somewhat reluctant and sympathetic (though alot of that had to do with Jonathan Frid). Adam’s story, however, doesn’t really deviate from the original story in any particularly interesting direction. It’s missing that good twist that gave the Barnabas story the jolt it needed. I’m not sure what that twist should have been, for Adam, but what ended up on screen is somewhat tedious.

      1. The whole Adam and Eve story was just too far outside the realm of reality – the vampires, werewolves, witches and ghosts are easier to accept because they happen outside of the characters control so it’s the normal people (who viewers can identify with) versus ‘evil’..

      2. I think the “twist” for Barnabas was when Julia offers to cure him. Prior to this, we get hints that Barnabas doesn’t enjoy his condition but more often, we seem him rhapsodizing over the beauty of a coffin and the glories of living forever and only at night. The expectation is that Julia is closing in on him, just as he’s set his sights on Vicki as his undead bride. Then suddenly, Julia makes what we’d now call a “face heel turn” and joins Barnabas, who now wants to “live a normal life.”

        That changed the entire direction of the series. We don’t get that with Adam, which as you point out runs fairly close to the plot of the FRANKENSTEIN films. Nicholas even plays Pretorious to Barnabas’s Frankenstein. Nothing happens that we wouldn’t expect. Carolyn falling for Adam, against all reason, fits with a lot of soap opera conventions but instead of creating dramatic irony (Adam loves Carolyn but thinks she won’t love him because he’s a monster so he behaves like a monster in order to create Eve, who doesn’t love him either) it just falls flat.

        There are also no real stakes in the storyline, at least on a personal level that might concern us. When Quentin haunted Collinwood, we feared for the souls and lives of two children. But Nicholas’s diabolical plan is to create a girlfriend for Adam, and once Julia succeeds in bringing Eve to life, the writers suddenly realize they have a dead shark of a storyline on their hands. Waiting for Adam and Eve to populate the world with a race of monsters might take more time than the audience is willing to give. So, threats and peril are thrown against the wall to see if they stick: Stokes convinces Barnabas and Julia that they have to kill Eve because she’s “evil” (not really sure what they expected prior to this). This plan is ludicrous because even if they kill Eve, Adam would just force them to make another mate for him. This could go on forever. But I think the writers are desperate at this point, but really, Adam and Eve are just annoying but not a true threat to anyone at Collinwood.

        Adding to Joanne’s point, I think that a spin on FRANKENSTEIN might have worked better if set in the past (1897, 1840 and so on). It does seem easier to “modernize” vampires, werewolves, and witches but the Frankenstein motif demands angry villagers and pitchforks and creepy mountain laboratories.

        1. Well said, as always. You’re right, there’s really no sense of peril. Adam threatens to kill Vicky if his mate isn’t created, but this is somewhat diluted by Nicholas and Angelique getting in the way. And once Nicholas gets his hooks in Adam, all Adam gets to do is walk around, pout, whine and throw tantrums. And though Nicholas wants Adam and Eve to be the heralds of a new race, we don’t really know why this would be a bad thing because there’s no immediate threat.

          What worked in the original Frankenstein literary story is that at a certain point, the creature gets fed up with being treated like a monster and decides he’s going to become one – hellbent on revenge and hurting others. He’s the master of his destiny and he makes a conscious choice to destroy. This doesn’t happen with Adam which is a shame because it might have made him more interesting.

          1. Yeah, Nicholas and Angelique really do “get in the way,” don’t they? Adam is just an errand boy with little agency. What he wants is what Nicholas wants (and there’s no twist where Nicholas desires something completely different).

            They also continue to Cassandra Charade where Nicholas pretends he’s not evil even when around people who know that he’s not Cassandra’s brother and that Cassandra is Angelique. It’s a shame because I love the scenes between Barnabas and Nicholas when the masks are dropped at the end of the arc.

            Adam is not a popular character in DS fandom and I think it’s because he gets stuck emotionally at sullen teenager. And as Adric, Wesley Crusher, Dawn Summers, Anakin Skywalker, and Connor from ANGEL demonstrate, NO ONE likes sullen teenagers. They are dramatic dead weight. Adam is also a humorless idiot. It’s a no-win role.

            Stokes at one point talks about how Lang had given Adam the mind of a genius. It would be great if we’d seen this. Then like the actual literary Frankenstein monster, he could seize his destiny rather than just be dumb muscle for Nicholas.

      3. I agree, the writers don’t really know what to do with Adam. Ultimately, they just stuff him in a closet (literally!) and forget about him.

  2. I just watched this one. I was going to make the same passive aggressive joke, but it’s right there. It’s right there.

    I also enjoyed the way Carolyn delivered her “class dismissed” joke.

    1. Class dismissed was my lol moment, but I love the handsy with these two, that’s why I also love the root cellar.

  3. I like your excellent discussion of NB’s acting here. To my eye, as soon as she realized what was going on, Carolyn was thinking as fast as she could, knowing that freaking out or rejecting Adam outright would be huge mistakes. There is that moment all too many know: the sudden acute awareness and sick dread that this terrifying, strong guy that you trusted can do anything he wants to you, and just might. There is an instant where even as an adult, I’m genuinely scared for Carolyn. But Carolyn is smart and she’s not a pushover. She at least knows there is genuine goodness in Adam, not to mention innocence, and she keeps her shit together. She has the wherewithal to extract herself from the situation, redirect Adam to the friendzone, and escape. She’s smart enough to know things can’t continue like this, and tells Stokes that Adam can’t stay much longer. Really great job by NB.

  4. Remember that episode of Star Trek where Kirk and the alien woman are getting romantic in his quarters and then there’s a fade-out and the next thing you see is Kirk sitting on the bed pulling on his boot? I got that kind of vibe when Carolyn left the room carrying the tray. I’m probably wrong but it would certainly be an interesting twist if Carolyn acquiesced rather than resisted.

    Of course that would require Adam to be anatomically correct. I can just imagine Jeff Clark trying to find that particular part during one of his graveyard shopping excursions.

    I suppose Professor Stokes could’ve brought those books but I got the impression that they were already in the room just gathering dust.

    Craig Slocum returns. On the DS excitement scale, this ranks somewhere between Maggie cleaning paintbrushes and Willie clipping his toenails.

  5. I’m not at all sure you’re being fair to Alexandra Moltke. She turns in some nice little performances in her scenes in this part of the series. She’s arrestingly fierce in her confrontations with Cassandra-lique, and in the confusion of her references to what she kind of remembers from 1795 she finds a kind of music. Each time she brings up her half-memory that the original Barnabas never went to England, but died in 1795, it’s a theme that resonates a little differently with everything else around it. Yes, Vicki was a dead-end character after the end of the Phoenix storyline, but I do wish the Countess had done a bit more screen acting.

    1. Furthermore, I wish Vicki and Adam had a number of scenes together. The only thing that worked in the first 209 episodes was the relationship between Vicki and David, a theme crowned by the Phoenix storyline. Alexandra Moltke Isles and David Henesy made it work because they are both actors who excel at precisely crafted, quietly realized little scenes, and it was in scenes of that sort that the story of David learning to trust Vicki moved forward. When the vampire comes in and the overwrought style of acting (“Go back to your grave!”) takes over, the show doesn’t have room for many scenes like that. So often Isles and Henesy seem like chamber violinists trying to accompany a heavy metal band. Robert Rodan is of the same type.

      As I say above, I believe Isles found a way to have an impact on a heavy metal concert with her chamber violin, and the others did as well. But it would have been satisfying in a different way if the chamber musicians had been paired with each other on a regular basis. Scenes with Vicki helping Adam could have been as compelling as the first season scenes of Vicki giving David his lessons were, as could scenes of David interacting with Adam. Granted, any change that takes scenes away from Nancy Barrett would be a sad thing. Perhaps what we might wish we had is not a different past in which the Carolyn/ Adam story is erased, but two Parallel Time versions of 1968, in which everything else is the same as in our band of time, but in one Vicki is cast as Adam’s protector, and in the other David is. Then we could watch all three versions.

    2. I think Alexandra was directed to play Vicki a certain way, and wasn’t allowed to deviate. In re watching the series, there are moments a stronger, fiercer Vicki starts to appear and then the next day, Victim Vicki is back. Though I would agree she is not as strong an actress as Nancy Barrett.

  6. No doubt about it. Besides, once the Phoenix story reached its conclusion and Vicki’s relationship with David was sorted, there was no apparent reason why she was still a foreground character. It was the same thing that happened to Burke once the “Revenge of Burke Devlin” story fizzled. Rather sad when the two of them become lovers- “These two characters who are irrelevant to the show? They’re dating each other!”

    I wish we had a window into an alternate universe where Vicki, not Maggie, was Barnabas’ original target. I think Mrs Isles could have handled that just as well as did Kathryn Leigh Scott, and seeing David’s friend Vicki start to turn into the vampire’s ghoul-friend would have been substantially scarier even than seeing good ol’ Maggie turn on Joe. Doing that would have left KLS with as little to do on show as they choice they actually made left Mrs Isles, so I wouldn’t wish away the show they actually made.

    And I suppose it would have to have been a different sort of show for them to have decided to commit Vicki to the vampire story. Maggie was a relatively disposable character in the Spring of 1967, so if the audience hadn’t taken to Barnabas and they’d had to scuttle fast they could have thrown her overboard in a way they couldn’t have done with Vicki. But once they made the decision that the vampire would grab Maggie rather than Vicki, the die was cast. It would probably have been best for all concerned if Mrs Isles had left the show at that point, perhaps to return as a different character in a different period.

  7. The one very peculiar aspect of this episode is the sudden re-emergence of Harry, Mrs. Johnson’s delinquent son. Both the Johnsons have been MIA for an extremely long stretch here and it’s almost laughable how they get resurrected suddenly for plot purposes. It’s always wonderful to see Clarice Blackburn and hope at some point she gets a decent modern-day storyline to sink her teeth into. But the hapless Craig Slocum….it just seems like a New York actor wandered in off the street and they said, “Hey, you’re going to be in this scene this afternoon, here’s the script.”

    As far as the long scene between Adam and Carolyn, there is almost way too much time spent on the interplay between the two. It plays creepy and off-pitch because we are having to actually having to contemplate the possibility of a union between this Beauty and Her Beast. As we know the writers could certainly never go THERE in 1968, it all just feels like wasted time somehow. As everyone has opined above, the Adam arc, like the creature himself, is clumsy, lumbering and needs to be put out of it’s misery.

    The great camera work throughout the episode with the dissolves from one section of Collinwood to the other are very well-done. Great atmospherics and thoughtful pausing as we eventually “find” Adam in his lonely room somewhere in the West Wing.

    It’s odd though: the episode opens strong with the scene between Julia and Barnabas–and then they are never seen again.

    The closing shot of Harry being pulled into the room by Adam is also dodgy. You would think Harry would at least scream or something. It comes off more like a guy who is cruising around an Old House who happens to find another guy and pulls his into his room for some nefarious purpose.

  8. Ugh ! The repulsive Craig Slocum is back. I swear he had to be Dan Curtis’ nephew, there’s no other explanation for his presence on this show. Nancy Barrett looks good in everything, but that orange/butter colored dress is the worst. Others on this site made fun of her clown kaboom skirt in 1967, but I always thought she looked groovy in that outfit. Also, why can’t Julia use her powers of hypnosis to make David remember the specifics of Lang’s message on the tape machine ?

  9. One thing made note of on previous episodes was the strange use of the word “pulsebeat” for either “pulse” or “heartbeat.” I wonder if the Barrett Browning poem had been floating around the writers’ room for a while, because “with pulses that beat double” might just be the phrase’s secret origin.

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