“Sometimes I was frightened of Barnabas, and sometimes I wasn’t.”
So, yeah. It’s been a weird couple weeks on Dark Shadows, and it was already a pretty weird show to begin with. We had some fun vampire time for a while, but that seems to have passed, and now we’re back in detention with the Bride of Frankenstein story.
Adam, our resident Frankenstein, wants Barnabas and Julia to create a female creature for his bride. They’ve got the body assembled, but now they need a woman to provide the life force to get the new girl up on her feet. This part of the process has been exactly as much fun as you’d expect.
The most perplexing thing this week has been this odd little plot cul-de-sac with girl-next-door Maggie Evans. Barnabas decided that Maggie would be the life force, but Willie’s got a crush on her, and he’s determined to protect her. So Willie’s kidnapped Maggie, as you do, and now they’re hiding together in the secret room in the Collins mausoleum.
This has jogged Maggie’s suppressed memories of being abducted and brainwashed by Barnabas last year, back when he was an evil Dracula. He’s cured now, and trying to put those days behind him, but if Maggie remembers what actually happened, then she’ll expose him, and he’ll be destroyed. So they’ve been doing some flashbacks to the 1967 story, showing us what Maggie remembers about her ordeal.
The puzzling thing about this sequence is that it doesn’t seem to be affecting the mad science story in any meaningful way. By the time Adam found out that Barnabas wanted to use Maggie, she was already gone. And it doesn’t even matter, because he wants to use Carolyn for the life force anyway, so it seems like the Maggie thread was just a pointless side trip.
But we’ve got it backwards. The “Maggie in the mausoleum” story isn’t here to support the Adam story. It’s the other way around — they’ve added a litle bend in the Adam story, so that they can do the flashbacks. Maggie’s flashbacks are the whole point of this week.
You can tell that the flashbacks are super important, because the show is actually investing quite a bit of money and effort in these scenes.
These aren’t the kind of lazy flashbacks that you get on a normal show with modern technology; they’re not taking a chunk from a previous show and splicing it into today’s episode. The period that they’re flashing back to was taped in black and white, months before the show switched to color.
So they’re actually restaging these scenes, using old costumes and props to pretend that this is what it looked like back then.
And it’s actually even more difficult than that, because they’re pre-taping some of these flashback scenes, which is something that they almost never have the time and energy to do.
If you’re joining us late, here’s a quick note about videotape technology in 1968: it was terrible. Back then, editing videotape involved X Acto knives, scotch tape, and a sound editing booth that the grown-ups at ABC were using for other purposes. The Dark Shadows team just couldn’t afford to make edits on a daytime TV budget.
Instead, they recorded Dark Shadows “live-to-tape,” all in one continuous take, including blank space for the commercial breaks. That’s why you see all those line flubs and boom mic shadows — the producers just didn’t have the time or the resources to stop taping, fix the problem and then edit out the gap.
So when they pre-taped flashback scenes for three episodes this week, it was a huge hassle. The first time they tried it, in last Thursday’s episode, they ran into technical problems that ate up all the rehearsal time. In the end, they just filmed the dress rehearsal, and that’s what the audience saw that day.
Now you’d imagine, after that kind of mess, they’d dial it back, and maybe even ditch the flashbacks altogether.
Nope. They’re actually doubling down.
Yesterday, there was another flashback to Maggie’s time in Barnabas’ house, as he tried to brainwash her into becoming his dead fiancee, Josette. This flashback was actually more like a dream sequence, with strange lighting and Willie acting uncharacteristically sinister.
Today, there are two flashbacks, one of them pre-taped and the other performed live, with costume changes in between.
The first flashback is the live one. This is a more faithful representation of the Willie/Maggie relationship during the abduction. He feels sorry for her, but he thinks that the only way for them both to survive is to go along with Barnabas’ insane demands as well as they can.
So Willie gives her the wedding dress, and calls her Josette — and when she starts to break out of the vampire trance, he uses the music box to get her back under the influence.
This flashback isn’t actually reproducing a specific scene from last year; it’s more a pastiche of the kind of thing that happened during that storyline.
But the final flashback in today’s episode is the greatest-hits show-stopper — the big mausoleum punishment scene. The visual gag at the end of this sequence is one of those unforgettable TV moments, so this flashback is very faithful to the spirit of the original.
As the scene opens, Barnabas is furious because Maggie tried to escape from his home-school brainwashing seminar, so he’s brought her to the mausoleum to teach her a sharp lesson.
Maggie tries to convince him that she’s sincere about the brainwashing, and she answers to the name Josette. Barnabas is pleased, and says that he’s reconsidering the punishment he has planned for her.
But when his back is turned for a moment, Maggie makes a break for the exit.
Spoiler alert: It doesn’t work out.
Grabbing his squealing prey, the monster pushes her up against the stone wall, bares his fangs and feasts on her blood.
She collapses, and Barnabas carries his victim into the mausoleum’s secret chamber. He lays her in the open casket…
… and then he closes the lid, as she screams for mercy.
So, here’s the important question — why did they go to all the trouble of restaging those scenes?
This was a lot of extra work — rewriting the scenes and pre-recording them, doing costume and makeup changes — when they could have had Maggie just stand there and say, “I remember what Barnabas did! He bit me on the neck, and then he locked me in a coffin!”
Also, this whole sequence has precisely zero to do with the actual current storyline. We already memory-wiped this girl. This is old business. Why even bother?
And here’s the answer: the Dark Shadows trading cards. We looked at these a few weeks ago — they came out around this time, in fall 1968. The photos for the set are mostly portraits — posed photos of the actors in costume, smiling or grimacing at the camera as needed.
But there’s eight cards in the set that depict a sequence from an actual episode. Anybody want to guess which episode it’s from?
The problem really started in May, with Jonathan Frid’s crazy week-long publicity tour, when he visited ten cities in his vampire drag, sparking mass panic and Beatlemania-style mob scenes.
And now there’s the trading cards, and the board game, and the romance novels, and the Halloween costume, and it’s all based on Barnabas Collins being a vampire.
It’s been a good year for Dark Shadows — they’ve gone from the brink of cancellation to a massive breakout hit. All of a sudden, people are paying a lot of attention to this weird little cow-town spook show.
And if you ask absolutely anybody what Dark Shadows is about, they will all say the same thing. It doesn’t matter if they’re a devoted fan, or if they’ve never seen an episode before.
Everybody in America knows that Dark Shadows is the story of the terrifying and conflicted vampire, Barnabas Collins.
Which is great, and very exciting for everyone, and there’s just one teeny little problem: Barnabas isn’t a vampire anymore. He got cured, like, four months ago.
In fact, the cure happened just one week after Frid’s big publicity tour. If anyone was inspired by the promotion to tune in and see Barnabas bite people on the neck, it’s been nothing but disappointment, all summer long.
So exec producer Dan Curtis and the writing team have been spinning their wheels a bit for the last couple months, trying to figure out different ways to give the audience what they want to see.
They spawned a a couple new vampires — first the witch-vixen Angelique, and then sexy Tom Jennings, the Dark Shadows equivalent of Jim Morrison. Tom only lasted a couple weeks, but Angelique’s still got her fangs in all the cute boys in town.
But, still — Barnabas is the guy on the board game box. If Barnabas isn’t the vampire, then it’s just not the same.
The frustrating thing for the producers and writers is that they introduced a brand new monster on the same day that they cured Barnabas — Adam, the enormous Frankenstein man. They thought they were doing the smart thing, getting one monster offstage as they brought the next one on.
But the Adam story has bogged down, and is currently going almost entirely nowhere. The guy’s been stuck in the attic for months, and honestly, he just didn’t catch on with the audience the way that Barnabas did. Nobody is clamoring to dress up as Adam for Halloween.
So, in lieu of an actual storyline, they’re throwing the audience a bone this week — a series of flashbacks that give people a glimpse of the vampire that they’re longing to see. That’s why they’ve got Maggie setting up make-believe clips from old episodes.
Over the next few weeks, Dan is going to find a way to get Barnabas involved in some vampire action again — and he’s also thumbing through his Big Book of Famous Monsters, cooking up a replacement for Adam who might have more audience appeal.
Come to think of it, it’s a shame that they killed Tom Jennings so quickly. He was really cute, and he got a lot of fan mail. If only Dan could find a way to bring Tom back, and have him be the new monster…
Well, don’t worry; I’m sure it’ll all work out. Dan’s on the case. Things may look bleak right now, but the rescue party is on the way. And oh, what a party it will be.
Tomorrow: In the Fewest Words Possible.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the act 1 flashback, as Maggie enters the room and approaches Willie, you can see the shadow of a camera moving around on the left.
At the end of the act 1 flashback, Maggie leaves the room, and the camera lingers on Willie and the music box for about twenty seconds. This gives Maggie time to hustle over to the mausoleum set, and throw on her nightgown over the dress she was wearing in the flashback. When they cut to Maggie in the mausoleum, you can see the yellow collar of her dress poking through under the nightgown.
In act 2, when Carolyn hears Nicholas knocking on the front door at Collinwood, the music stops, and there’s no music for about a minute and a half.
When Barnabas carries Maggie into the secret room, the door doesn’t quite shut behind him.
Behind the Scenes:
There’s a big change to the show’s structure that starts today — it changes from four acts to three. It stays this way for about two years — up through episode 1050, in July 1970. I’m going to talk about this in the next couple entries, but this episode is actually when the change happens.
Maggie’s first flashback is kind of a pastiche of her abduction experience, so it’s not based on a specific episode. The closest match is probably episode 239, which aired in May 1967. The second flashback is a remake of a sequence in episode 248, from June.
Tomorrow: In the Fewest Words Possible.
— Danny Horn
19 thoughts on “Episode 588: Maggie Evidence”
I’m anxious to read your posts from the beginning, I may me able to start later today. I think you are hilarious and finding this blog has made my life better. Your way with words is great. You know so much about the behind the scenes stuff, I’ve learn a lot. A different perspective is fascinating. I’m a trivia sponge, so getting all these details is great.
I wanted to say something about Robert Cobert’s music for Dark Shadows. I play keyboards and have been writing since I was a kid. I’ve tried to emulate things like Steiner’s King Kong, Rozsa’s Ben-Hur, Jarre’s Laurence Of Arabia & Doctor Zhivago, Poledouris’s Conan The Barbarian, and Led Zeppelin and maybe a little Mussorgsky.
I’ve spent a lot of time examining TV scores, the original Johnny Quest, Twin Peaks, Peter Gunn, Star Trek, Lost In Space, The Green Hornet, The Pink Panther, The Virginian, The Jackie Gleason Show and Dark Shadows. Dark Shadows, most of all.
For me, Robert Cobert’s score for Dark Shadows is the greatest television score I’ve ever heard. Twin Peaks is right up there, but if I had to rank them, I’d have to put DS at number one. A big part of the reason I say that is because of the difference the score makes to the show. In this case, it’s huge.
The music works wonders, it makes an inexpensive show, seem like a lavish production. It’s quite a magic trick, but it totally Put A Spell On Me. Without that score, yikes, the imperfections might get to me. A good, strong dark and stormy atmosphere is one of my favorite things, and the score gives it the right extra dimension, it draws me in, makes me feel like I’m there. It enables my escapism. A show about magic with a score that works magic. When hypnosis is being done, the music is as hypnotic as can be. If I could raise one eyebrow, like Mr Spock, I would.
Yeah, I totally agree. There’s a weird blooper today in act 2 where they don’t play any music for a minute and a half, and it feels like a different show. It’s really noticeable.
I agree that Cobert is fantastic, and Dan’s insistence on using a full orchestra instead of the standard soap opera organ music was one of the many examples of his crazed genius that made this show work.
I wish I had more opportunities to talk about the music in my posts — it’s just hard to discuss it when nobody can actually hear it but me. 🙂 I can use screenshots for the visual stuff, but someone else is going to have to make a daily podcast about the music.
That’s right, I forgot about those old organs. I’ll have to check act 2 for that space you mentioned. Occasional miscues are one of the more spell-breaking bloopers. It would be cool if you could comment on the music. I got the soundtrack the moment it came out in 1969, and still have it and the poster inside. My favorite tracks from Volume 1 are The Secret Room, just a flute, some vibes and rattling percussion, but it’s Mood City. Also love Back At The Blue Whale, it rocks.
The screen shots are great, too. Thanks for all the time you put into this.
Welcome, Richard. I’m also a tremendous fan of Cobert’s DARK SHADOWS score. When I think back to watching the series for the first time with my mother in the late ’80s, I can hear the music.
“A Darkness at Collinwood,” which became Barnabas’s theme, remains one of my favorite pieces. I remember it popping it in an iPod shuffle while my wife and I were driving through a torrential downpour in pitch black night. She turned to me and said, “I think this might be too on the nose.”
I just listened to “A Darkness at Collinwood”. Man, it is brilliant and exquisite, I’m going to play it again.
Starting with those timpani, and sustained sinewy notes, appearing and disappearing, a shift to something stealthy, like someone sneaking about, then it seems to panic a little, because it’s either happening, or it’s about to. and finally it gently winds down and vanishes like smoke.
It’s vivid, and I think I had overlooked this one a little bit, so I’m glad you mentioned it.
I think the opening theme got under my skin from the first day, in ’66. I think it’s been my favorite show ever since. My most favorite track is not on Volume 1, and I have no idea what it’s called. I’ve been trying to find later volumes on YouTube, so I can identify it, but haven’t gotten anywhere, yet.
It has a steady, impending beat on the timpani, a pulsing rhythm from a back and forth on a minor third, I think, and little oboe wandering through. It’s very suspenseful, often used with flowing camera work, like someone walking in a dream from room to room, searching for something.
Good downpour story, very funny, hope it wasn’t too suspenseful, driving in the rain.
It doesn’t always rain here, but when it does, I watch Dark Shadows.
“My most favorite track is not on Volume 1, and I have no idea what it’s called. I’ve been trying to find later volumes on YouTube, so I can identify it, but haven’t gotten anywhere, yet. It has a steady, impending beat on the timpani, a pulsing rhythm from a back and forth on a minor third, I think, and little oboe wandering through. It’s very suspenseful, often used with flowing camera work, like someone walking in a dream from room to room, searching for something.”
Richard (if you’re still following this discussion four months later), you’re probably describing Cue 31. The five versions of this cue are tracks 54-58 of disc 1 of the 8-cd boxed set, THE COMPLETE DARK SHADOWS SOUNDTRACK MUSIC COLLECTION. I couldn’t find it on YouTube either, but I found something else you might like. The first time I hear it, I was reminded of this:
I like how they restage the scene in the mausoleum from the original Barnabas storyline because it provides a glimpse of how this period of the show would have appeared in color, with the spectral lighting effects to add a touch of the gruesome to the mood. But still I think the early Barnabas days are better served by black and white, as it more aptly captures the cold barren darkness of Barnabas’ nature, when his persona was more Lugosi-like.
This “Maggie gets her memory back” plot is irritating because it goes nowhere. If it did, it would make a far better storyline than Adam reading Sigmund Freud and playing chess – and trying to make us believe it is scary (Cue Count Floyd “Isn’t is scary, kids?”). So they have their diabolos ex machine reset the memory and it NEVER HAPPENED. It was even worse that “It was all a dream” of Dallas when they find Patrick Duffy in the shower…
DARK SHADOWS approached its characters far differently than most soap operas — especially the ones I grew up watching in the 1980s. It would not be unusual on, say, YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS or DAYS OF OUR LIVES for a character like Maggie to learn the truth about her abductor and either forgive him or — in a drastic personality shift — attempt to hold it over him. The fact that Maggie has lost her fiancee and her father would be adequate justification. It would also be standard soap opera style for Maggie to learn that Nicholas is evil but still choose to stay with him. So she’d willingly participate in the experiment to recreate Eve.
But Carolyn can’t remember that Barnabas was a vampire who had her under his power. Maggie can’t remember that either nor can there be any real consequence of her relationship with Nicholas. Carolyn can’t even know that she married an ancient monster in human form who killed her father. No, DARK SHADOWS was insistent on there being “normal” characters and “abnormal” characters and the former’s exposure to the latter was always temporary. But by the time I was a kid, there really were no “normal” characters on a soap. Even a Vicki could be capable of a face-heel turn and try to destroy the Collins family if there was a good story in it.
Again, the exception was in the flashbacks, especially 1897 and 1840. I loved how everyone had an angle when Barnabas arrived in 1897.
I think a big reason they went back in time so was often, was that they were free to “let things happen”. It’s like a vacation from the main story. “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!”. Trips to the past always end with a high body count. You can get away with things, the consequences aren’t as consequential, because the past is buried, and can’t get at you, unless the writers want it to.
In the past, you could knock over all the dominoes you want. In the present, the dominoes can be threatened, but they have to stay standing, or things would really go to hell. Once you get back home, wild behavior must be left behind. Things may happen, but they have to stay below the surface.
That’s why Roger, Elizabeth and Maggie are kept in the dark about so many things, the threat of them “finding out” has to be maintained. They provide the illusion of continued normality.
There were times when it seemed Professor Stokes was about to be let in on Barnabas deepest secrets, and it seemed like such an exciting idea, but they never actually did it. It would have made for an awesome moment, but then what? As far as the present was concerned, they had to keep that cat in the bag, as much as possible, preserving the possibility that it could get out, some dark night….
Also, there was a real watershed in the late 70’s/ early 80’s, where the thinking on so many things shifted so radically. In 1976, John Lydon introduced “hate” into rock and roll, something unthinkable a few years before that, when it was all about peace and love. In 1980, Ronald Rayguns, who had been such a joke, for so many years, finally got elected president and there was a new trend toward conservatism. I remember at the time thinking “How do things become MORE conservative? How can the clock be turned back? How is that even possible?” I was 23 and under the naive impression that conservatism was “of the past”, and was not something that COULD return. Little did I know.
Soap operas changed too, everything did. I’d give everything, to go back and live before that watershed.
Up to this point other than the dental issues I don’t really see the difference between vampire and non-vampire Barnabas. Actually in rewatching the series 40 years later I find non-vampire Barnabas less likable than his vampire counterpart. I guess in the pre-Twilight era Barnabas not being a vampire automatically made him one of ‘the good guys’. I know Barnabas is considered the first ‘sympathetic vampire’ but if that’s what they were aiming for at this time they still had a ways to go….
Unlike Angel/Angelus in the “Buffyverse,” DS was never able to fully distinguish between vampire and non-vampire Barnabas. Yes, the CRIMINAL MINDS unsub Barnabas of 1967 was closer to the two-dimensional Nicholas Blair black-hat, but it was really a narrative “sleight of hand” that made Barnabas more “likable” or “sympathetic.” Basically, the series now told us that Barnabas is our protagonist and we should want him to succeed in his goals, as opposed to when we are rooting for Maggie to escape from the Old House. Also, he was a more engaged character in the lives of everyone around him. But yet he was still capable of selfish acts if not deliberately cruel ones. Later on, he actually says with a straight face that he might have to “silence” Maggie because she might foolishly make a fuss over how he abducted and tortured her, which he dismisses as those “first few months at Collinwood.”
(This to me is very much a soap opera characterization. Men like Jack Abbott and Victor Newman are always in the gray, even when there were periods when they were very much in the dark.)
And if you remove the 1967 Barnabas from the equation, it’s even harder to find a difference between the current human Barnabas of 1968 and the vampire Barnabas of 1897, 1970, and 1840. There are certainly narrative challenges to Barnabas’s vampiric state — he’s never around during the day and his existence demands that he kill people. Of course, DS only made the former an issue whenever convenient and the latter seemed to vanish as an issue entirely (aside from a brief period in 1970). His desire to bite young women is presented like an alcoholic resisting a drink. But in Barnabas’s case, he should need to drink every day, but it’s never really mentioned.
A good point. I think that after being a Blood Thirsty Killer from 1795 to 1968, Barnabas found the habit not so easy to break. If somebody had had the wrong attitude before, he could just get rid of them, but when he became human again, he needed to re-learn his coping skills. That’s never easy.
It means no more taking the easy route. It means no more beating Willie to death with the cane, just because he broke an ancient tea cup or brought home the wrong brand of coffin polish.
It was a tough adjustment for Barnabas. The moment where he decides not to kill Jeff and steal his face for the experiment represents his attempt at this new way of thinking. Going back to being human meant being even more conflicted about things.
I blame Angelique, but don’t tell her I said that.
Into this elevated discussion I bring a shallow annoyance with the costume Department for this episode. In order to make Maggie’s hair dark again as it had been in episode 248, the wig used here to cover all of her red hair up is just abominable even by Dark Shadows standards. By the way thank you again for this blog it’s been really entertaining. I know I’m jumping in and out because I’m not watching the show as completely linearly anymore as I used to. And the small flashback of Maggie remembering things is something I enjoy. At least until they reset her again. But that wig makes me want to leave through the screen and tear it off her head. I think the viewers of Dark Shadows would have put up with her present hair in the redo of those scenes.
Into this elevated discussion I bring a shallow annoyance with the costume Department for this episode. In order to make Maggie’s hair dark again as it had been in episode 248, the wig used here to cover all of her red hair up is just abominable even by Dark Shadows standards. By the way thank you again for this blog it’s been really entertaining. I know I’m jumping in and out because I’m not watching the show as completely linearly anymore as I used to. And the small flashback of Maggie remembering things is something I enjoy. At least until they reset her again. But that wig makes me want to lunge through the screen and tear it off her head. I think the viewers of Dark Shadows would have put up with her present hair in the redo of those scenes.
Well thank god for this little interlude of fan service. I like the show best when Barnabas is biting people because I’m a girl and that’s why we like vampires. It is no use in trying to pretend otherwise. By the way that also sums up everything that is wrong with Twilight: a non bitey vampire. Plus as some of you have said Barnabas the good guy is simply not all that good. What was the first thing he did when he realized Adam would not see reason on the whole life force thing a few episodes ago? Yep – right for the shotgun. Let’s just let him go back to using his teeth, it’s handier AND less messy.
In these last few episodes we see how Maggie – for a while at least – has usurped the role of gothic heroine from Vicki. The Maggie we see here is smart, resourceful, tough, relentless – everything a gothic heroine is supposed to be and everything Vicki no longer is. Vicki is now nothing more than a generic female victim, as amply demonstrated in the silly “strangulation” scene.
Fashion note: Carolyn looks fantastic in that midnight blue dress.
It’s a shame this Maggie storyline doesn’t go anywhere. I love Maggie and man, can she scream!! Barnabas putting her in the coffin was seriously frightening.
Shout-out to John Karlen for looking very 60s in his purple turtleneck. Maggie’s gray/yellow dress is freaking cute and Carolyn’s blue one is awesome. Wardrobe is hit and miss on DS and today they hit it.