Episode 552: Hooked On Phonics

“How could he talk so good in such a short time?”

We’ve been spending a lot of time lately with Adam, the enormous adolescent Frankenstein who’s hiding out in the abandoned west wing of Collinwood. His love life isn’t really working out, and he’s just learned that he was pieced together in a mad science experiment, so he’s in kind of a bad mood.

But that works out well for us, because there’s only so long that you can watch a guy hide in a room before you start wondering what’s happening on The Secret Storm these days. We need a change.

Happily, today Adam’s got some new things to say, and a new vocabulary to say them with.

552 frankenstein friend good

So we’re jumping ahead a few years, influence-wise, from the 1931 Frankenstein to 1935’s Bride of Frankenstein.

In the original movie, the Monster doesn’t talk at all; he just growls. But he perks right up in the sequel, learning 44 words and carrying on like a regular little chatterbox. He says “Alone bad, friend good,” and “Work! Finish! Then sleep,” and “We belong dead”.

552 dark shadows adam words

But that’s nothing compared to Adam, who’s come to the Old House for a meeting with Barnabas. A double-digit vocabulary may be okay for Karloff, but Adam’s a soap opera character, and he’s got time to fill.

On a soap opera, speaking is like breathing; the only time you’re allowed to stop talking is when you open and close doors, and sometimes not even then.

552 dark shadows barnabas adam ugly

Adam uses 165 words today, easily shattering all previous records for monsters in his weight class.

Here’s the Frankenstein monster, talking to Dr. Pretorius:

Pretorius:  Do you know who Henry Frankenstein is, and who you are?

Monster:  Yes, I know. Made me from dead. I love dead. Hate living.

And here’s Adam:

Adam:  It will not help you to lie to me, Barnabas. I know what is true! Whoever created other people made them beautiful. But you created me and made me ugly, and that is why people are afraid of me! They don’t want to look at me, they run from me! And I am alone. I do not like being alone, and I will not go on being lonely and unhappy. Ordinary people cannot love me. But someone who is different — like me! — could love me, and be with me all the time. And that is why, Barnabas, you will create for me — a woman!

Phew! Once you get Adam started, you can’t shut him up. Imagine having this guy as a roommate; you wouldn’t have a moment’s peace.

552 dark shadows adam barnabas

Still, he’s hanging on to one last quirk that marks him as different — the use of contractions.

Like all monsters, primitives and foreigners, Adam knows that contractions are for ordinary people. He does slip up a couple times with a “don’t” or two, but for the most part it’s all “it will not help you” and “that is why people are afraid of me.” It’s just enough of a stilted speech pattern to sound like the guy’s learned English recently.

552 dark shadows barnabas adam can't

Of course, sometimes it sounds like Barnabas is new to the language as well.

Barnabas:  It was Dr. Lang who found the way to create life artificially. Now, please believe me when I’m telling you the truth!

Adam:  I cannot believe that.

(Barnabas sighs, fusses with his hands, and looks at the teleprompter.)

Barnabas:  Then… I can’t do that.

Adam:  You cannot?

552 dark shadows barnabas adam prompt

That little cloverleaf detour through the dialogue confuses Adam so much that he has to check with the teleprompter too.

This kind of thing never happened to Karloff. Life is easier when the only thing you have to remember is “Fire no good.”

552 dark shadows adam barnabas feelings

Still, it’s nice to be able to do a soliloquy once in a while.

Barnabas:  It isn’t as simple as you think. Now, please try to understand me.

Adam:  I understand only one thing, Barnabas! I can not be happy until there is another one like me. You gave me great strength, Barnabas, and a good mind. But you gave me strong feelings with which to love!

552 dark shadows adam willie want

So that’s gorgeous. And it gets even better when Willie walks in, because he’s got some linguistic challenges of his own.

Willie:  Barnabas, listen to the way he’s talkin’! How could he talk so good in such a short time?

Adam:  I’ve learned many things in “such a short time,” Willie.

Willie:  Yeah, I’ll betcha have. I tell you, you can take your learnin’ someplace else, you hear? Barnabas and me, we don’t need any of it, you understand?

Apparently, in addition to the expanded vocabulary, Adam has also learned how to do sarcastic air quotes. I wonder when Professor Stokes taught him that?

552 dark shadows adam barnabas clock

But there’s one more important skill that Adam really needs to brush up on, which is how to set up a commercial break.

Barnabas:  Adam, it’s impossible for me to do what you ask.

Adam:  You say it is impossible. But I do not believe that! I will give you time to change your mind.

(Adam points at the clock.)

Adam:  I will give you — until nine o’clock.

And then the camera zooms in on the clock, so we can see that it’s currently eight-forty. There’s a big dramatic music cue — Eight-forty!

552 dark shadows barnabas adam nine

We cut to Collinwood for a Vicki scene, and then it’s back to the Old House for the third act.

The clock chimes nine. Adam, Barnabas and Willie have apparently been standing around in silence for the last twenty minutes.

Adam:  It is nine o’clock, Barnabas. What is your answer?

Barnabas:  The same as it was then. No.

And then they go on with the scene, like that’s a totally normal way to structure a conversation. Still, I can’t complain; it’s just nice to be outdoors for the day.

Tomorrow: What Not to Do.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

The first couple minutes of act 1 are kind of a mess. Barnabas and Adam both take several looks at the teleprompter, there’s studio noise, and the camera wobbles. Just after Adam says “strong feelings with which to love,” there’s a boing sound from the studio, like something struck a hollow metal container.


Behind the Scenes:

If you’re curious, here’s the monster’s 44-word vocabulary from Bride of Frankenstein:

Alone, bad, belong, bread, dead, do, down, drink, finish, fire, Frankenstein, friend, from, go, good, hate, I, it, know, like, live, living, love, made, make, man, me, must, no, others, she, sit, sleep, smoke, stay, then, wait, want, we, woman, wood, work, yes, you.

And here’s Adam’s 165 words from today’s episode:

A, afraid, after, again, alive, all, alone, am, and, another, answer, are, at, away, back, Barnabas, beautiful, be, before, being, believe, but, came, can, cannot, change, convince, could, create, created, creature, days, decision, did, die, died, different, do, Doctor, done, don’t, else, evening, eyes, feelings, finished, for, friend, frightened, from, gave, get, give, go, good, great, happy, have, he, help, her, here, him, his, hurt, I, if, impossible, is, it, I’ve, know, knows, Lang, learned, leave, lie, like, lonely, look, love, loved, lying, made, many, maybe, me, met, mind, mine, my, need, never, nine, no, not, nothing, o’clock, of, on, once, one, only, opened, ordinary, other, people, power, refuse, remember, run, said, say, see, she, short, someone, soon, sorry, standing, stay, strength, strong, such, table, take, tell, that, the, them, then, there, they, thing, things, time, to, told, trouble, trust, two, true, ugly, understand, unhappy, until, very, want, was, were, what, when, which, who, whoever, why, will, Willie, with, woman, work, would, yes, you, your.

I recognize that nobody was actually curious about that, but I went to all the trouble of counting, so there you have it.

Tomorrow: What Not to Do.

552 frankenstein want

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

5 thoughts on “Episode 552: Hooked On Phonics

  1. Wasn’t Willie a little more eloquent when he first came on the show as James Hall? I also remember a noticeable Southern drawl that disappeared overnight.

    1. James Hall played the Willie role a bit like James Dean, and also tended to talk about himself in the third person, like when he orders Carolyn to get him breakfast one morning: “Tell the cook I’ll want two eggs, sunny side up, toast, and throw in a small steak. Willie’s really hungry today.” Hall does have his admirers. If you Google “Dark Shadows – Cowboy Casanova”, you’ll find a music video dedicated to his scenes on the show as well as plenty of commenters who appreciate his dark and edgy portrayal of Willie Loomis.

  2. The only thing I regret about James Hall leaving is that he didn’t stick around just one or two more episodes.
    Then we’d have the pleasure of watching him being beaten up by Burke Devlin.

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