Episode 580: Temporary Sanity

“Do you think a woman’s just going to volunteer to risk her life for something as insane as this?”

Jeff Clark — an 18th century lawyer who’s been transported through time to 1968 — rubs his neck, and tries to concentrate on the journal he’s studying. He’s in the basement of a spooky old haunted house, where he’s helping a mad scientist assemble a female Frankenstein monster, because the local male Frankenstein monster has threatened to kill Jeff’s fiancee if he doesn’t.

So he’s leafing through the journal of his former employer, who was murdered by a witch in the middle of the last experiment, and Julia is next to him, painstakingly pouring some suspicious-looking red fluid from one test tube into another.

Jeff stands up, and says that he’s going to Collinwood — but then he stops, and sighs. Julia walks over to him, concerned.

“Jeff,” she says, “there’s something bothering you.”

580 dark shadows jeff julia awful

And the crazy thing is, there actually is something else that’s wrong, on top of all the other reasons why Jeff might be feeling a little unsettled. You don’t usually see a guy with this many simultaneous problems.

His other source of distress is that he’s recently been bitten by a vampire, who’s currently eavesdropping on this conversation through a magic mirror. Angelique is communicating with him telepathically, telling him to stay in the basement, and he doesn’t know why.

Hey, you know that thing where sometimes you’re trying to come up with a comparison, and you realize that you can’t, because the thing you’re describing is utterly unlike anything else in the history of the world? That just happened to me for, like, the third time this week. I’ve been getting that a lot lately.

580 dark shadows julia jeff head

Jeff and Julia proceed to have one of the most blood-curdling conversations ever aired on late-60s daytime television, and the fact that we’re seeing it via magic-mirror-cam just makes it even more bizarre.

Julia says that their corpse-monster will be ready tonight, but they can’t bring her to life yet, because they haven’t found a woman who’ll supply the creature’s life force.

Uneasy, Jeff asks, “Who’s Barnabas planning to get?” Julia says that she doesn’t know, but Jeff presses: “You must have talked to him; you must have some idea.”

Julia cocks her head. “Why are you so curious?” she asks, as if it’s hard to fathom why anyone would waste time worrying about the victim of the crime they’re currently participating in.

580 dark shadows julia jeff problem

But Julia has other things on her mind. “Barnabas will have to find someone, and quickly,” she sighs. “Once the body’s completely finished, we’ll have the problem of its decomposing.”

This is an interesting thing to bring up, because I’ve been wondering why they’ve been leaving this thing lying around in the basement with no refrigeration. Apparently, the decomposition clock on this gruesome crafts project kicks off once the body is “completed”, a term which here means “when we start auditioning for an actress to replace this mannequin I’ve been fussing over for the last three weeks.”

580 dark shadows julia jeff lonely

“It’s not going to do any good,” Jeff says, “because he isn’t going to find anybody. Do you think a woman’s just going to volunteer to risk her life for something as insane as this?”

For some reason, Jeff seems a little discouraged about the whole project, which means it’s probably time for a team-building exercise that helps them all focus on their core principles. Maybe a ropes course or something.

580 dark shadows jeff julia pre-game

We’re seeing all of this through Angelique’s mirror, so they’re doing the entire scene from a single camera angle, forcing them to hold this two-shot for a lot longer than they usually do. At this point, Jeff steps behind the table, and it looks like they’re doing an NFL pre-game show.

Julia isn’t sure who they’re going to get to be the life force, but she says, “If Barnabas doesn’t find someone quickly, it’ll mean serious trouble.”

Jeff asks, “What are you talking about?” because he’s been thinking it over, and he can’t find a single flaw in their foolproof scheme.

580 dark shadows jeff sanity

After a while, the conversation peters out, because even the most perfect scene has to end sometime. Julia goes upstairs to rest, and Jeff kind of wanders around the lab, fondling the equipment. He touches some of the machinery, and then works his way over to the corpse, walking around it and messing with the sheet and shaking his head.

580 dark shadows machinery

There are some close-ups of Jeff, grimacing and rubbing his head, interspersed with random shots of the lab equipment — dials, and switches, and beakers filled with mysterious colored liquid. This goes on for a full minute and a half, which I think is only fair. They’ve put a lot of work into assembling this ludicrous storyline, and every once in a while, they deserve a chance to just sit back and admire it.

580 dark shadows jeff sane

Then, in a sudden burst of temporary sanity, Jeff decides to grab a scalpel and put a stop to this whole depraved enterprise. He’s going to just cut the damn thing to pieces, and start again with a new storyline.

And you have to admit, it’s tempting, isn’t it? I mean, maybe they’ve actually taken this show about as far as it’s possible to travel in this particular direction. Once you’ve reached the point where a significant chunk of your episode is performed through a magic mirror, it might be time to consider whether this is a productive use of the American Broadcasting Company’s resources.

580 dark shadows jeff angelique reverse

It doesn’t work, of course, because it’s too late, far too late. Angelique appears out of basically nowhere, and she backs Jeff up against the operating table, and then she just opens wide and tears a chunk out of his jugular vein.

And god damn, it tastes good. You know? I mean, we might as well enjoy ourselves whiile we’re here.

Monday: Light My Fire.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In the teaser, the camera tracking Adam as he walks into Nicholas’ drawing room bumps into something, and the picture jolts as they quickly cut to a different camera.

When the magic-mirror-cam first pulls back from a shot of Julia, there’s a brief flash of one of the studio lights before the camera settles into the correct position.

When Julia brings up the subject of the woman who’s going to supply the life force, Jeff stammers, “How’s Barnabas — who’s Barnabas planning to get?”

Jeff tells Julia that he broke another date with Vicki tonight, and Julia says, “Well, perhaps you can go there, and — and — make it out.” I have no idea what she was actually supposed to say.

As Julia walks upstairs from the basement, someone in the studio clears his throat.

Monday: Light My Fire.

580 dark shadows fluid

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

9 thoughts on “Episode 580: Temporary Sanity

  1. Why don’t YOU volunteer JULIA since you love BARNABAS so much??? You can then be with a part of him through Adam. Let Jeff and Willie run the experiment with help from BARNABAS!! She is a real piece of work….

  2. When Angelique is watching the Old House cellar on the magic mirror, before and after she tunes in, the mirror appears to be reflecting some floral wallpaper, presumably on the opposite wall in Nicholas Blair’s parlor, but there is no floral wallpaper anywhere in that room.

  3. Just before Angelique appears, you see Jeff looking over at something, and then you see a shadow move next to him. I guess she was crouching there next to him.

  4. “Julia says, “Well, perhaps you can go there, and — and — make it out.” I have no idea what she was actually supposed to say.”

    At a guess – ‘take her out’, ‘make it up’, or ‘make out’? (Please don’t be the third one, PLEASE!)

  5. I remember the magic mirror from 1968. I thought it was cool. It must have been cutting-edge at the time.
    The more I rewatch this, the more I feel like the whole show is taking place in a parallel world. Dark Shadows no longer has even the tiniest connection to reality. Everyone’s connected to a supernatural storyline. I forget what Roger’s current status is. Is he still under Cassangelique’s spell? Shouldn’t he be? Elizabeth wasn’t freed when Cassandra died, so Roger shouldn’t be either. I guess?
    I think I will just assume all of Dark Shadows post-1795 takes place in a parallel world. Vicki did not return to the same Collinwood she departed from. All the stuff that seems odd or confusing makes perfect sense in a world with different laws of physics and a different history. They have quiet solar-powered generators and everyone shares the same phone number party line.

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