“It has possessed me more than once, so that I’m no longer afraid of it. Death and I are old friends.”
Angelique just wants to be free.
She needs to expand her consciousness, liberating her life force energy and extending it beyond the limitations of the earthly plane. She needs to get outside her own head, transcending the guilt and hang-ups of the past, to be at peace with the harmony of the universe.
I mean, yeah, she’s a vampire. But apart from that, she’s just like every other young woman in 1968.
So she’s waited until the adults are out of the house, and she’s down in the basement with her new boyfriend, messing around with stuff that they’re not really sure how to use. He doesn’t think it’s a good idea, but she tells him to be cool, and just let it happen.
And just like anything that’s worthwhile in 1968, it’s going to be a sunshower of lights, colors, electricity and noise.
So, as Jeff pulls the big switch and begins the experience, let’s turn off our minds, relax, and float downstream.
The sequence starts with Jeff twiddling on some instruments. A chorus of bleeps and bloops kicks up.
There are some extreme lighting effects as Angelique moans in a kind of pained ecstasy…
Some jolts of electricity from a nearby spark gap…
A guest appearance by the apparatus, bubbling away…
Some more exquisite agony…
Mood lighting for the equipment…
And then the images start merging, and flowing together. The boundaries between Angelique’s sensations and the buzzing machinery begin to blur.
Angelique isn’t being affected by the experiment anymore; she’s become a part of it. Her experience is the experience.
So, if we can step outside of the experiment for a minute, the obvious question is: What the hell are we looking at here?
Because these visuals — this is not what a Frankenstein movie looked like, circa fall 1968.
For example: Hammer’s 1969 film, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, starring Peter Cushing.
The props look familiar — the apparatus is present and correct, showing up in the first five seconds of the trailer — but beyond that, there’s no connection with the ecstatic, noisy lights-and-sparks aesthetic of Angelique’s experiment.
For one thing, everyone in the Frankenstein trailer looks super grumpy. I’m not sure what they’re all so hung up on, but everybody appears to be in a barely-contained murderous rage almost all of the time.
Practically every shot involves running, or pushing, or shooting, or breaking down doors, or shaking people, or knocking things over, or tripping over the furniture. It’s all terribly aerobic, and nobody’s having any fun, up to and including the audience.
Clearly, Dark Shadows is not doing a Frankenstein movie, and Lord knows this looks nothing like a daytime soap opera, so why does this style look so familiar?
This is what Angelique’s head trip actually looks like: The Doors performing on The Ed Sullivan Show in September 1967.
Seriously. Check it out.
It starts with a long shot, to set the scene…
We see close-ups of hands manipulating the instruments…
Moans of agony and ecstasy…
Some shots of the machinery at work…
And, of course, the in-camera mixing of the main character’s face and the noisy, chaotic action exploding around him.
That’s the shot that really makes this a late-60s variety show musical number — seeing the lead performer from multiple angles at the same time.
They did this kind of shot all the time on variety shows and in concert films, for exactly the same reason that they’re doing it on Dark Shadows — it’s a one-time live performance, they’ve got three cameras, and showing the same person from multiple angles at the same time is super engaging to look at.
It teases the brain and tantalizes the eye, a kind of double-perception that is literally impossible to achieve unless you’ve got psychoactive chemical assistance, or (failing that) a video editing board that lets you do in-camera effects.
On The Ed Sullivan Show that night, they even used the same colors that Dark Shadows reaches for when they want things to look unearthly — that lurid pink and uneasy green.
In this moment of anguished celebration, calling upon the powers of the Horned God and the Lizard King, the witch is both consuming and consumed, tied to the stake of transcendental enlightenment.
Come on, baby, she purrs, standing on a pile of stacked kindling. Light my fire.
Tomorrow: The Can’t Let Me Know What Scene.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Once again, they set up several shots of Angelique reflected in a mirror. It looks fantastic, but vampires don’t cast reflections.
Angelique pauses in the middle of a line, and Jeff thinks that’s his cue:
Angelique: You will have to learn all that you need to know by tomorrow night.
Jeff: You’re —
Angelique: I’ll come back here, and you can do the experiment for me then.
Jeff: You’re crazy. I couldn’t learn enough in twenty-four hours.
Carolyn gasps for breath when Adam wakes her, and she ends up coughing over his line.
Jeff has obvious bite wounds on his neck in act 1, but then he talks to Carolyn in act 3, and the wounds are apparently gone.
Tomorrow: The Can’t Let Me Know What Scene.
— Danny Horn