Episode 581: Light My Fire

“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.

581 dark shadows jeff angelique basement

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.

581 dark shadows angelique jeff switch

So, as Jeff pulls the big switch and begins the experience, let’s turn off our minds, relax, and float downstream.

581 dark shadows jeff instruments

The sequence starts with Jeff twiddling on some instruments. A chorus of bleeps and bloops kicks up.

581 dark shadows angelique squeal

There are some extreme lighting effects as Angelique moans in a kind of pained ecstasy…

581 dark shadows spark gap

Some jolts of electricity from a nearby spark gap…

581 dark shadows apparatus

A guest appearance by the apparatus, bubbling away…

581 dark shadows angelique agony

Some more exquisite agony…

581 dark shadows equipment

Mood lighting for the equipment…

581 dark shadows angelique machine

And then the images start merging, and flowing together. The boundaries between Angelique’s sensations and the buzzing machinery begin to blur.

581 dark shadows angelique apparatus

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.

581 dark shadows angelique step out

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.

581 dark shadows jim morrison

It starts with a long shot, to set the scene…

581 dark shadows doors keyboards

We see close-ups of hands manipulating the instruments…

581 dark shadows doors ecstasy

Moans of agony and ecstasy…

581 dark shadows doors machinery

Some shots of the machinery at work…

581 dark shadows doors overlay

And, of course, the in-camera mixing of the main character’s face and the noisy, chaotic action exploding around him.

581 dark shadows angelique multiple

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.

581 dark shadows jim morrison faces

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.

581 dark shadows doors colors

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.

581 dark shadows angelique colors

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.

581 dark shadows lurid pink

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

16 thoughts on “Episode 581: Light My Fire

  1. Funnily enough, Dark Shadows gets name checked at a Doors concert right around the time this episode was made. If you listen to the Doors at the Hollywood Bowl, just before a performance of The End, Jim Morrison is having a problem getting the house lighting tech to cooperate in providing a specialty spotlight for him with a certain color, and as he stands there imploring and shadowed by the lighting tech’s reticence, you can hear someone in the audience call out “Dark Shadows!”

      1. You can hear it on the double CD The Doors In Concert, which has the Hollywood Bowl 1968 version of The End as the final track.

        If you have the CD, start the track, number 11 on disc 2, and listen carefully with headphones or a really good stereo system. As the band launches into a brief instrumental improvisation to start the song, at 0:08, in the left channel, you hear a young male voice from the audience going “Dark Shadows time!”, and at 0:11, in the right channel, you hear a young female voice going “Dark Shadows theme!”, so it’s name checked twice, and then Jim does his “Hey Mr. light man!” routine….

        Who knows, maybe to some rock fans the Doors and Dark Shadows seemed complementary, with each exploring the darkest uncharted reaches of their respective medium. When I’m watching the 1967 and 1968 episodes, in the evening I’ll put on the Doors’ first three albums as a prelude. To me they seem to fit well together, and apparently also to the production and technical crew when conceiving the scene in the lab with Angelique for today’s episode.

    1. Perhaps we can explain away Angelique’s reflection in-show because she’s not a “pure” vampire – in the same way Barnabas is? I mean, we really don’t know what methods Nicholas used to transform her. Barnabas was bitten directly by a vampire bat, hence his “purity”. It’s possible Nicholas used another method entirely and maybe she’s some sort of weird hybrid vampire-like creature? That’s my theory anyway.

  2. Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed is one of the grimmest of the Hammer Frankenstein films. The writer, new to the series, reversed recent trends and made the Baron a real bastard–much more so than in Hammer’s last Frankenstein movie, which was… (wait) for it… Frankenstein Created Woman!

  3. Speaking of Hammer, today in the mail a 5-DVD set arrived of the complete Hammer House of Horror, which was a 13-episode series that aired on British TV in 1980. One of the special features is titled “Grave Recollections: A Visit with Kathryn Leigh Scott” who appeared in one of the stories in the series, “Visitor from the Grave”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammer_House_of_Horror

  4. Fond childhood memories, just turned 11 in ’68. Watched Ed Sullivan, sure I saw The Doors. Watched as much Dark Shadows as I could, couldn’t get home from school in time, so only saw it in summer, school holidays, snow days, sick days. I did see the first and last episodes, as they aired, but caught the rest in the 90’s on SciFi.
    I also remember how, back in the 60’s, Hammer previews scarred the bejeezus out of everybody who was in the theater to see Don Knotts in The Ghost And Mr Chicken.

  5. If you didn’t quote a Beatles lyrics, then I probably wouldn’t have to correct you:

    Turn off your mind, relax, and float (not “flow”) downstream

    — from “Tomorrow Never Knows” (final track on “Revolver” — probably one of the first psychedelic LPs).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s