Episode 544: The Facts of Life

“Maimed and suffering spirits robbed after death in the name of false creation, I speak as your benefactor!”

Welcome back to another episode of Frankenstein in Love, the story that asks the question: Can this monster from a little mining town in the West find happiness as the wife of a wealthy and titled Englishman?

Here’s Adam, the jigsaw puzzle that walks like a man, currently hiding out in the abandoned west wing of Collinwood, reading poetry and developing a full-scale crush on the young mistress of the house.

From the audience’s perspective, the story’s a little tough to process, because everyone is supposed to act like Adam is a hideous God-defying abomination. In actual fact, he’s only Hollywood ugly, which means that he’s a very handsome man with some scars painted on his face. Also: he is a player.

544 gamesters

I mean, he actually pulls a Green-Skinned Space Babe maneuver, using a classic reverse-Kirk formation.  If you’re not familiar with the technique, the best example is from “The Gamesters of Triskelion”, a second-season Star Trek story that aired in January 1968, about six months before today’s Dark Shadows episode.

Here’s the crucial moment.

Kirk:  The thralls have no freedom, Shahna. You don’t think or do anything but what the Providers tell you.

Shahna:  What else would one do?

Kirk:  Love, for one thing.

Shahna:  What is love?

Kirk:  Love is the most important thing on Earth. Especially to a man and a woman.

Shahna:  We, too, have mates. When it is time to increase the herd, my Provider wil select one for me.

Kirk:  On Earth, we select our own mate. Someone we care for. On Earth, men and women live together, help each other, make each other happy.

Shahna:  I do not think your words are allowed.

544 gamesters kiss

Which leads, inevitably, to this:

Kirk:  You can stop crying now, Shahna. It’s all right.

Shahna:  You risked bringing their anger on yourself. Why did you do it?

Kirk:  It’s the custom of my people to help one another when we’re in trouble.

(He kisses her.)

Shahna:  And this. Is this also helping?

Kirk:  You could call it that.

Shahna:  Please. Help me once again.

And then obviously the punishment collars light up, and we’re off to the races.

544 dark shadows adam carolyn lithograph

So here’s the Dark Shadows version.

Adam:  Picture. Here, look.

Carolyn:  Oh, it’s an old lithograph. It’s lovely.

Adam:  Please explain.

Carolyn:  Well, it’s a picture of a couple, kissing.

Adam:  Kissing.

Carolyn:  It’s — it’s what people do when they love each other.

Adam:  Love each other.

544 dark shadows adam carolyn windup

Now, Carolyn doesn’t really have a lot of interest in dyeing her hair green, so she gets uncomfortable, and says that she has to leave.

But Adam’s ready for her. Here’s the windup…

544 dark shadows adam carolyn first base

And that’s how the monster arrives at first base, well ahead of schedule.

544 dark shadows carolyn adam dungeon

Bafflingly, she isn’t pleased.

Carolyn:  Adam… you must never try to do that again.

Adam:  Why?

Carolyn:  Because… well, because it’s not right.

Adam:  You hate me.

Carolyn:  No, of course I don’t hate you, Adam. But we’re friends… and that’s all we ever can be.

Adam:  I don’t understand.

Yeah, I don’t either. What the hell? Carolyn doesn’t have much of a social circle. She doesn’t have a job, she doesn’t go to school, and she mostly hangs around the house all day. She doesn’t know that many eligible guys her own age.

Now she’s got a gorgeous man-monster who’s desperately in love with her, stashed away in a secret makeout dungeon. What is the problem, exactly?

544 dark shadows carolyn stokes kiss

The next morning, Professor Stokes comes over to visit Adam, and bring him some books. Hopefully, it’s not Fifty Shades of Grey, or we’re going to run into some real difficulty.

Carolyn tells the Professor that Adam tried to kiss her, which Stokes finds disturbing. He tells her, “I’ll go up and talk to him, and give him these books. If I can persuade him to concentrate on his studying, I’m sure you’ll have no further trouble with him.”

They keep talking about Adam’s education; he’s apparently upstairs just reading nonstop. Is he going to take the LSATs? It’s hard to see where they’re going with this.

544 stokes adam books

The birds-and-bees conversation is absolutely adorable.

Stokes:  You like Carolyn, don’t you?

Adam:  Yes. I like her very much.

Stokes:  Adam, you must be careful not to… not to like her too much.

Adam:  Why?

544 dark shadows stokes adam why

Stokes paces across the room.

Stokes:  Oh, dear me. If only I’d had the foresight to marry and raise a family, I’d be equipped to answer that most annoying of all children’s questions. Why indeed?

544 dark shadows stokes adam chat

It’s so cute. You can always count on Stokes for a good scene.

Stokes:  Now, the most important thing for you is your studying. Everyone has… warm feelings toward certain other people. And that’s very good, but for you, learning must come first. Do you understand what I’m saying?

Adam:  I think so.

Stokes:  The sooner you are educated, the sooner you can leave this room, and go out among other people.

I have absolutely no idea what this means. I get that Adam needed to learn how to speak and behave, and how to avoid killing blind guys that he’s annoyed with, but I’m not sure how reading Elizabeth Barrett Browning is going to help them make any headway towards solving the real problems that Adam’s facing, like being wanted by the police. But it’s the late 60s; maybe this is one of those self-directed curriculums.

544 dark shadows nicholas kung fu

Meanwhile, out on the lawn, there’s another freelance guidance counselor taking an interest in Adam’s future.

Nicholas Blair, Collinwood’s resident Satanic sorceror, has learned that there’s a new form of life running around that he might be able to turn to the dark side. So he goes out to the terrace, strikes his magical kung fu pose, and makes with the dialogue.

Nicholas:  Nameless, miserable spirits lying in violated graves, hear me. Listen to my command. Come to me, and help me, if I am to help you.

He does this kind of thing all the time. This is a character who understands that he’s on television, and it’s his responsibility to do interesting things.

Nicholas:  Maimed and suffering spirits robbed after death in the name of false creation, I speak as your benefactor! And I command you — make your presence known to me!

544 dark shadows maimed spirits

And it works! It’s fantastic. Two gore-splattered Chromakey ghosts fade into view — one with no arm, and another without a head.

This is one of those moments where I need to take a second, and remind everyone that this is afternoon television. Little by little, the Dark Shadows team has managed to shift the limits of acceptable broadcast standards so gradually that they can put a bloody, headless ghost on screen, and it doesn’t feel out of place. A week and a half ago, ABC had The Dating Game in this timeslot. Now look what they’ve done.

Anyway, these are two of the unwilling organ donors who gave Dr. Lang a hand when he was stitching his monster together. Nicholas has called them from their graves, so they can lead him to Adam.

They don’t seem very chatty, so Nicholas says, “If you cannot lead me, then point the way to me!” which is just insensitive. One of them can’t see, and the other one has some basic deficiencies in the pointing department.

544 dark shadows point nicholas

Still, they do what they can. It’s a good thing that Nicholas decided to do this ritual within the line of sight of the house. The ghosts point to Collinwood.

Nicholas asks, “What part of the house is he in?” which is awesome. What are they supposed to do, charades?

But now Nicholas knows that the monster’s somewhere in the mansion where he’s staying, which is super convenient. If Adam’s still in an amorous mood, then this story might get real interesting, real fast.

Tomorrow: Teacher’s Pet.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

There’s a loud metallic squeak from the studio when Stokes says, “A humorless man, Mr. Blair, is an incomplete man.”

Adam and Stokes step on each other’s lines a few times in their scene together, especially just after Stokes sits down next to him.

Behind the Scenes:

Duane Morris is back today playing the headless ghost — we last saw him in May, when he was the stand-in for Adam’s headless body. We’ll see him again in November, playing Diabolos.

The one-armed ghost is played by David Groh, in his television debut. Groh appears in one more Dark Shadows episode, in January. Several years later, Groh played Rhoda’s husband in the Mary Tyler Moore Show spin-off, Rhoda.

Tomorrow: Teacher’s Pet.

544 dark shadows nicholas tv

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

36 thoughts on “Episode 544: The Facts of Life

  1. Yeah, I don’t either. What the hell? Carolyn doesn’t have much of a social circle. She doesn’t have a job, she doesn’t go to school, and she mostly hangs around the house all day. She doesn’t know that many eligible guys her own age.

    Actually, I can find several reasons why Carolyn isn’t interested. The guy kidnapped her and has killed someone a man Carolyn knew and who was the father of Maggie, who, at the very least is an acquaintance of Carolyn’s. Admittedly, all this rules against Carolyn helping Adam and she does it anyway, but Carolyn deciding to hide and help Adam doesn’t mean she has to return his affections. The second reason is that Adam is currently still functioning at the level of a child. I have no problem with Carlyn not wanting to feel like she’s taking advantage of someone who isn’t capable of giving meaningful consent. And not wanting to sleep with someone who is about 12 emotionally.

    Basically, all these years later, we are still arguing the fact that just because a man likes you doesn’t mean you owe him liking him back. Back when Dark Shadows was filmed there was a social idea that if a guy liked you, you were supposed to be so swept off your feet that you fell into his arms. I’m actually glad that Carolyn isn’t doing that. That’s my take on it.

    1. Unfortunately, Carolyn does wind up falling for Adam later when he’s far more dangerous. I agree with the issues you point out, but I think Danny’s issue — or at least mine — is less one of women owing men affection but a general character/plot criticism. Basically, the plot demands that Carolyn rejects Adam. This, coupled with Stokes’s revelation of Adam’s origins, makes him prime for Nicholas’s manipulation.

      Carolyn’s motives for protecting Adam are shaky in the first place. It’s not like she lacks the connections (financial and legal) to aid Adam in the charges against him. But, I think my problem is that Carolyn and Stokes shouldn’t be filling these roles in the Adam story. Thematically, it makes more sense for it to be Julia and Barnabas. Their motivation for shielding him from the police is stronger, and they do have a parental obligation to him that Carolyn and Stokes do not.

      So, we’ve set Carolyn up as Adam’s mother figure and Adam pulls an Oedipus and falls for her. This works better with Julia, but Julia doesn’t “read” as Hollywood attractive, so they’d never go that route for the rejection motif.

      But neither Barnabas nor Julia give a damn about the person they created, which really makes me not like either of them that much during this storyline. When Nicholas manipulates Adam into demanding a mate from Barnabas and Julia, it falls flat because they can only view Adam as an annoyance from their past, which they’d prefer stayed buried. If they’d filled the role of Stokes and Carolyn, Nicholas’s actions and Adam’s betrayal would have more weight.

      Rather than Stokes telling Adam a hard truth as opposed to Nicholas’s easy lies, it would be Barnabas who attempts to explain his origins to him. Instead, the protagonist just sort of pouts and whines about Vicki for a few months.

      It’s a soap opera, of course, so Carolyn needs something to do to keep the actress occupied but as a writer, it’s a frustrating example of character redundancy.

      1. I agree with you on Carolyn, especially since Nancy Barrett was one of the strongest actors on the show. I don’t disagree that she’s being used as a plot point, not a character and that makes me sad. I liked all the characters Nancy played and it is a shame that she got to do her best work as characters who weren’t Carolyn or at least weren’t Carolyn Prime.

        I don’t think Frankenstein fit into Dark Shadows the way other supernatural/horror genres did. Frankly this story could have played better if Carolyn had rejected Adam, not because of his looks (which she really didn’t do) but because of his violent behavior and then Nicholas convinced Adam that it was because of his being different. But they didn’t go that direction sadly.

        1. DARK SHADOWS never figures out what to do with the modern-day Collins family. They just stand still. Compare them to the far more interesting Collins of 1795, 1897, 1970 PT, and 1840. They’re played by the same actors, written by the same writers, and yet grind to a halt once they’re in modern dress.

          I’m not sure why this had to happen. The Leviathan storyline is a classic example: Everyone is under a spell and revert to normal with no memory of their actions when it’s broken. How could anyone think that’s good drama?

          Perhaps the problem is that they can’t do anything “permanent” to the modern-day characters. In 1897, Judith can kill her husband, Barnabas can be exposed as a vampire and hunted, Quentin can leave Collinwood, Charity can lose her mind and become Pansy Faye… because the writers know there’s an ending point and everyone can return to the modern-day characters. Stokes can burn down Collinwood in 1970 PT and Roger an go insane and kill everyone for the same reason.

          That’s why it’s always a shock to watch the pre-Barnabas episodes (one of the reasons I recommend doing so for putting the current cast in context). Carolyn and Roger especially had depth and were capable of the soap opera skullduggery fans of the genre love. It also furthers underscores the WTF! factor of the 1991 revival, which gave us this version of the Collins — static, mostly dull plot devices (and arguably without even the natural charm the actors have). Surely Dan Curtis remembered the 1966 Collins?

          Imagine if the 1991 revival had sampled liberally from 1897 and 1840 — making the vampire the audience identification character (rather than the dull VIcki) and dropping him in a world of shady mortals. In a way, 1897 is Victorian “noir.” Barnabas — like Mike Hammer with blood lust — becomes the hero by “default.”

          1. That’s why I think that PT should be the template for any reboot. Yes, the vampire comes in, but the first weeks he is low key, and only seen for a bit, while all the other storylines move forward. Then get him in.

      2. Actually, my point of view on this is that Adam is super cute, and if he kissed me, I’d kiss him the hell back. There are times when you want to get into a discussion of gender politics and the semiotic thickness of performance codes, and then there are times when you’re making out with the giant Frankenstein guy. It doesn’t have to be that deep all the time.

        1. Oh, great, now I ‘m off to write some DS fanfic about Adam falling in love with the cute blogger named Danny who comes to explore the mysteries of Collinwood. Thanks, Danny!

    2. Adam may be child like in some ways but he is still a man and I am thinking those feelings were rising fast. I think Carolyn handled it well, realizing she didnt need to egg the situation on.

  2. I don’t like Carolyn being written as the perpetual ‘victim’ when it comes to being abused, both physically and mentally by the people she cares about, from Burke to Buzz to Barnabas (don’t forget Adam is really an ‘extension’ of Barnabas essene so that makes this creature doubly disturbing). I liked the revival portrayal of the Carolyn character as originally having an outside life and then returning to Collinwood to help her mother after Roger and David came to stay there. However the fact that 60’s Carolyn has no real ambitions other than to live off her trust fund and party at the Blue Whale doesn’t gain her too much sympathy when she gets herself into trouble.

    1. But Carolyn wasn’t always a victim. One of the things I liked about 66/67 Carolyn is that she wasn’t simply a victim – she gave as good as she got. Sure, Burke used her. But she used Joe and it was her that used Buzz – really, as Danny pointed out at the time, Buzz really wasn’t that bad a guy. It was Carolyn who used him to get back at her mother and dumped him once she had no further use for him. She wasn’t exactly a nice person – she was spoiled, spiteful, bratty and somewhat immature, but she was definitely not just a victim and could easily stand up for herself. Unfortunately, this aspect of her character is pretty much forgotten once Barnabas enters the scene.

      1. Remember the amazing way Carolyn took charge of Collinwood after Laura put Liz into a coma? The way she had to constantly fight off Roger’s attempts to take over the estate? That’s the Carolyn I love – the spoiled brat who can really step up to the plate when it counts.

  3. That scene by the gazebo where Nicholas summons the spirits of the “organ donors” always strikes me as suffering from a lapse in logic in terms of how the show views the supernatural in general and matters of the afterlife in particular, as if to imply that what happens to the body after death also happens to the spirit. Doesn’t the spirit leave the body after death? Yet, time and time again we are led to believe that they are “at rest” all the while never leaving the soggy comfort of their graves. I realize it is a visually striking bit of imagery, to have them literally point Nicholas in the direction of Adam, and it seems necessary for plot acceleration purposes, but by this logic the spirit should appear as a skeleton after a certain interval has passed, or if the body is cremated after death then the spirit too would be immolated, but we have seen with other returning spirits (Trask, for instance) that one’s essence remains constant and are not disfigured in the afterlife (Josette for another example).

    1. You’re right; the rules don’t make sense. I found Lang’s business clothing disconcerting in the ep where Nicholas summoned his spirit. Why wasn’t Lang’s ghost in the lab coat he was wearing when he died? The lab coat epitomized his “mad scientist” persona too.

  4. But Danny, does Adam have any way of brushing his (formerly dead) teeth down there? That might explain why no one wants his kisses.

    Also, why did Lang just take one arm off David Groh? Adam’s arms should be different lengths in that case. Awkward!! Why not just reanimate a complete corspe? That never made any sense to me.

  5. And really if it was some guys head totally, wouldn’t someone in town recognize him? And why is his face stitched then.

    I’ll also just add to your Rhoda footnote. The plot of Rhoda was she returned home to NYC for a visit met a guy and upturned her life to stay there and date him. They move quickly to the wedding and after the wedding ratings tanked. This is the show that you hear referenced when they keep a couple apart for a ridiculously long time, that they’re trying to avoid that Rhoda ratings dive. Frankly, I think there are other reasons than the wedding, but that’s the lesson TV exec’s learned and passed down as sacred knowledge.

      1. It did, but part of that was that after coming up with all sorts of cool stuff surrounding the wedding they seemed to be completely out of new ideas for the last season. 🙂 I’m sure they point to that one too, but Rhoda is the one I see referenced the most.

    1. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but whenever I hear about this concept it’s framed as “the Moonlighting effect”.

      Which is nonsense, of course – the problem with that show wasn’t that Maddie and David hooked up, it was that the second it happened they were pulled apart again. Maddie disappeared for a season to mope at her parents’ place, then turned up again surprise-married, and she and David decided to just not go there. I can’t be alone in thinking the real issue is we never actually got to see them as a couple.

      (Which happens to be the exact same issue I have with Mulder and Scully, but that’s a rant I might not find my way out of so I’ll leave it there.)

      Regardless of the specifics, it’s a line of thought that has always bugged me. It’s basically saying a) life is entirely about finding a spouse, so once you have your story is over; and b) the dynamics of people in a relationship aren’t as interesting as endless will they/won’t they. From what I can dimly recall, relationships are rarely hassle-free easy rides and the people in them don’t stop being, well, people, so this is clearly ridiculous.

      1. I think it’s bogus too. Maybe it’s more challenging to write for a married couple, but on the ABC sitcom Happy Endings a few years ago, Brad and Jane were married and they were a great couple. Granted they were part of an ensemble, so they weren’t the sole focus of the show. But their storylines were given equal weight as the other four characters, and that’s when I thought: Aha! It can be done (writing good stories for a married couple, and that don’t focus on kids).

      2. Moonlighting’s problem was that Cybil was pregnant with twins and they had to accomadate her. They wrote her pregnancy into the script, but then had her lose the baby late in term. This in a light comedy/mystery show. It really never recovered from that year. There’s a scene where their assistant vents at David for not being around and you know the writers are venting at Cybil.
        Even as a kid I figured out that the leads getting married meant that the show would end soon. Besides Jeannie, there was also Get Smart. I’m sure there are others. More recently, Castle didn’t last long, but I think Bones did. I’m not sure what that signifies, if anything.

  6. I vividly remember both the Mary Tyler Moore show and Rhoda, being old enough to have seen both regularly in prime time. Incidentally, Rhoda is also a textbook case in how to make the audience like a character — have an innocent young child say they like the character. In the first MTM Show ep, Rhoda was supposed to get Mary’s apartment, and Rhoda did not like that their landlord Phyllis had rented the apartment to Mary. Phyllis (being generally rather obnoxious, prejudiced, self-centered, but in a kooky/goofy way) didn’t really like Rhoda, and with Rhoda being disagreeable toward Mary in that first ep, how could we, the audience, like Rhoda too? How could Mary and Rhoda become such good friends, as they did? The answer came in Phyllis’s young daughter Bess. Bess called her Aunt Rhoda. “I like Aunt Rhoda,” says Bess. “She’s not your aunt,” hissed Phyllis. If young Bess could like Rhoda, the audience would like Rhoda — I think they even re-wrote the script to give Bess these lines. Here, for years and years on the MTM show, Rhoda was pining for a husband – she was goofy, mod, funny, a wild early 70’s look. Some people on the network really wanted Rhoda’s spin-off show to move slowly, but no, the CBS execs pressured them to get Rhoda married asap. Well, they did – and there was such cross-over build-up and hype with both the MTM audience and Rhoda’s audience, that Rhoda’s wedding itself to David Groh was a ratings bonanza – at the time, compared to the birth of Ricky Jr. on “I Love Lucy.” Every eligible man in Hollywood auditioned to be Rhoda’s husband, including Valerie Harper’s real life husband at that time. Yes, after they were married — it was now what? The writers really didn’t know what to do. They tried to have Rhoda and Joe (David Groh) (his being a Dark Shadows ghost does not do him justice – he was an absolutely GORGEOUS man!) date other people (after they were married?!). Soon enough, Rhoda and Joe separated, eventually divorced, and Rhoda fizzled out. I just recently watched Rhoda’s wedding on youtube – the whole special one-hour episode — and with the news about Valerie Harper’s brain cancer, I tried doing a change.org petition to get TV Land to put up a statue of Rhoda in her wedding gown near a New York subway station (as Phyllis “forgot” to give Rhoda a ride to her wedding, and Rhoda was running through the streets of New York and taking the subway in her wedding gown). Didn’t get a whole lot of interest in my petition, Valerie Harper is still with us (as of this writing), and there is no statue of Rhoda in her wedding gown in NYC.

  7. Mark Perigard, thanks for looking out for Danny’s interests. (he’s such a swell fellow.) Lori Paige, you are ever so perceptively funny. thanks really, everybody. i enjoyed the comments almost as much as the post.

  8. Is that headless guy the reason they kept talking about Jeff’s face instead of the whole head? Maybe he looked freakin’ incredible from the back, but the face just wasn’t up to much.

    1. My observation is…if you are already dead, there’s no heartbeat to pump blood out and down your chest if your head is removed. But hey, it’s color tv, let’s gore it up a bit to go with the magic kung fu.

  9. Wow, David Groh. That’s one of those eldritch moments when you have to wonder what night have been. Like Harvey Keitel and Freddie Forrest as background dancers at the Blue Whale- what if one of those guys had been cast in a major part? Freddie Forrest is always goofily engaging, he would have made Frank Garner come to life. Harvey Keitel could have made Peter Bradford/ Jeff Clark and Charles Delaware Tate as interesting as Roger Davis made the dull. And just imagine David Groh as Harry Johnson! Harry and Carolyn would have been off to the races in no time flat.

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