“I intend, my dear, to create a race of superbeings who will serve my master and control the world.”
It’s about surprise; it is always, always, entirely about surprise.
I’ve been dissatisfied lately with the show’s focus on Adam, who’s been sitting around in a storage room for several weeks, getting progressively grumpier. The problem isn’t Adam, because I like him, and it’s not that he’s doing mean things, because he’s fictional and who cares.
The problem is the word “progressively”. If Adam gets a little more demanding and a little more self-centered whenever we see him, then there’s no point in our checking in on him every day. He’s getting predictable, and that’s the opposite of television.
Solving this problem in the most efficient possible way, Dark Shadows unveils its latest plot twist — Nicholas has brought Angelique back to life, as a vampire. Now, it’s not clear exactly how he accomplished this — the last time we saw Angelique, she’d just died of old age in an armchair, so how could she be a vampire now?
Answering that question is not important. Angelique is a vampire!
And she’s blonde again, which is fantastic. Putting on a black wig and calling herself “Cassandra” was fun at first, but after a while, it was clear that it wasn’t really going anywhere. Barnabas would try to talk to her as Angelique, and she’d pretend that she didn’t know what he was talking about, and we basically ended up with two antagonists who never talk to each other. That is not a productive situation for a soap opera.
But now the audience has a powerful ally — Nicholas Blair.
Angelique: How long do you intend to make me suffer?
Nicholas: Mmm, I’ll decide that — you may stay as you are indefinitely.
Angelique: Nicholas, please!
Nicholas: Don’t plead with me, my dear; you know how much it bores me.
Nicholas is exactly what Dark Shadows needs — a powerful villain with a short attention span. He got tired of the “Cassandra” act just around the same time that we did, and he decided to make the storyline more interesting.
And when Nicholas makes things interesting, he doesn’t hold back.
Angelique: Tell me what you want me to do.
Nicholas: Follow my orders.
Angelique: What are they?
Nicholas: First of all — you are my slave, totally and completely.
Well, okay, then. Does anyone remember when one of the main story threads was that Carolyn was dating a guy who rode a motorcycle? That was last summer. If you showed someone a Carolyn/Buzz episode and then this episode, they wouldn’t believe that this is the same television show.
And they’re doing things that you wouldn’t think were possible on daytime TV in 1968.
Nicholas: I will choose your victims. You will not attack anyone, unless I tell you to do it.
Angelique: Sometimes the craving is so strong!
Nicholas: You must resist it. You are my slave, remember?
One Life to Live was considered groundbreaking in 1978 when they did a story about Karen Wolek, a housewife who was pressured into becoming a prostitute by a former lover. It’s used as an example of OLTL’s bold approach to storytelling.
But here’s Dark Shadows doing it ten years earlier, plus Angelique’s pimp literally works for Satan.
So it’s fraught, and it’s getting more fraught all the time.
Later that evening, there’s a knock at the door, and obviously if you’re an undead member of the Collins family from the late 18th century and you’ve just returned from being dead for at least the third time, then naturally you answer the door whenever someone knocks. It would be terribly rude otherwise.
She finds a policeman at the door.
Deputy: Good evening. Is Mr. Blair at home?
Angelique: He’s quite busy right now. Could I help you?
Deputy: Are you his wife?
Angelique: No. I’m his secretary. But I think I could tell anything you need to know.
And she ushers him in, her eyes bulging. It looks like someone just got a food delivery.
The Deputy’s here to ask about Tom Jennings, the handyman who was attacked in the woods the other night, shortly after completing some work at Nicholas’ place. It’s one of those ironic sad-trombone police futility moments, where he happens to be talking to the assailant right now, and he doesn’t realize it.
He’s cute, by the way. This is James Shannon, a regular Dark Shadows fill-in actor who does minor law enforcement roles. He played the Hangman who executed Vicki in March, and he was one of the police officers who chased Adam off the cliff in May. He appears in 13 episodes, but this is the only one where he’s actually the focus of a scene.
It’s kind of a shame this was all they ever used him for, because he really is cute. He would have made a good Burke, if such a thing is possible.
It looks like Angelique agrees, because she’s currently throwing all of the crazyface she can muster at him.
Deputy: Is anything wrong?
Angelique: No, why?
Deputy: Well, the way you’re looking at me.
Angelique: Was I looking at you in some special way?
The answer to that question, obviously, is yes, and please keep doing it, because it’s making this television show way more interesting.
“If I was staring at you,” the vampire says, settling herself on a loveseat, “it’s probably because you’re so handsome.”
He says “Thank you,” with a disarming aw-shucks grin.
Angelique says, “I haven’t seen many policemen as handsome as you are,” and then the camera pulls in slowly for a close-up on his face.
It’s an interesting moment, from a film-crit perspective, because the dialogue, the blocking and the camera are working together seamlessly to create a sense of expectation, and then to fulfill that expectation in a satisfying way.
When the Deputy shows up at the door, he has a hat on, and his face is partly in shadow. He takes off the hat and messes with his hair a little bit as he comes in, and then turns away from the camera for the first few lines of the scene. That means we can’t really see him clearly — all of the shots are focused on establishing Angelique’s hunger.
By the time they walk into the drawing room, the audience is leaning forward, trying to get a good look at the guy. Is he really as hot as she seems to think that he is? Has anyone ever been that hot, in the entire history of cute boys?
When Angelique says, “It’s probably because you’re so handsome,” then it’s absolutely essential that we get a good look at him — and that’s the moment when the camera moves in for a close-up.
And, yeah. He’s cute. Let’s bite this guy.
“Why don’t you come here?” she says, indicating the loveseat. “We’re obviously attracted to one another. Don’t be shy. Come here.”
And he does. Because that’s the kind of show we’re watching now.
So here it is: August 12th, 1968 — the day that Dark Shadows discovers what it’s for.
This is always what vampire fiction has been about, from the very beginning. Six months ago, we talked about Varney the Vampire, the 1845 penny dreadful series that created the blueprint for every vampire story ever told. Varney ended Chapter 1 with the loathsome creature violating a nubile young woman in her bed, and a week later, readers were lining up to buy Chapter 2.
Vampire stories are all about the seduction/rape of attractive strangers. More specifically, they’re about how much fun it is.
Every interview with Jonathan Frid would always include some variation on the question: Why do you think the audience is so interested in vampires? And Frid would always answer with some variation of “There’s something about being bitten on the neck.”
And yeah, there sure is, especially when you have magical hypnotic powers that let you “bite” any attractive stranger that passes by. It’s the most basic sexual fantasy possible — you see someone that you like, you invite them to sit down, and then you do whatever you want.
This scene is structured like the opening to every cheesy porn film — a guy shows up at the door, you flirt with him, and within three minutes you’re getting down to business.
We’ve already played this scene many times with a male vampire and female victims, and it’s surprising that it took them a year and a half to realize that they could also do a female vampire. But they make up for lost time, and Angelique hits the ground running.
By the end of this week, Angelique will have bitten the three hottest guys on the show, and on behalf of the hot-guy-loving members of the audience, I can say: Dark Shadows has never been better.
Tomorrow: A Race of Monsters.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Lara Parker has a particularly hard time remembering her lines in the first act, looking at the teleprompter after almost every line.
Just after Angelique shows the Deputy into the drawing room, you can see someone’s shadow go past the doorframe in the hall.
Angelique asks Vicki, “Would I want to take your ring if I weren’t trying to help you? I only exist — I don’t exist in time. Worldly possessions have nothing to me, mean nothing to me.”
Behind the Scenes:
We’ll see James Shannon next in November, playing the 1795 Gaoler again.
Tomorrow: A Race of Monsters.
— Danny Horn