“For a variety of reasons. All of them, I think, quite valid.”
Barnabas Collins is standing around helplessly in the Old House drawing room, constitutionally unable to take a step that will advance the storyline in any meaningful way.
Then there’s a knock at the door, and who should walk in but Leona Eltridge and a Large Teen Idol.
As house guests, these two make a challenging couple. Adam is a violent, impatient Frankenstein monster who wants Barnabas to create a made-to-order Bride for him, and she’s the temporarily embodied spirit of an 18th century French guillotine enthusiast named Danielle Roget.
Danielle is trying to keep her true identity a secret, so she’s adopted an anagram, “Leona Eltridge”, as her pseudonym. That’s not the silliest thing that Dark Shadows has ever done, but it’s damn close.
She’s terrible, by the way. People make fun of soap opera actors, but it’s not until you see a truly terrible actor on the show that you realize how incredibly skilled the regular cast actually is.
Leona has clearly been trained in enunciation — she pronounces each word as if it were hewn from the living rock — and she completes every line by allowing her face to fall back into its default resting position.
The conversation is a bit strained.
Barnabas: I don’t know who this lady is, or where she comes from, and I want to know.
Leona: I told you who I am. My name is Leona Eltridge.
Barnabas: Adam has told you about this experiment?
Barnabas: And you’re willing to participate in it?
Leona: Yes. Quite willing.
Leona: For a variety of reasons. All of them, I think, quite valid.
Barnabas: Where did you come from? Where did you and Adam meet?
Leona: It’s a long story, and I’m very tired.
Yeah, no kidding. This has been a rough storyline, and watching this episode in particular makes me feel like I’m at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, with six miles of ocean pressing down on my head.
I feel that way for a variety of reasons, all of them quite valid. For one thing, they’re building up to their third straight attempt to bring Adam’s bride to life, which was thrilling the first time but has now become a chore.
You’d think that by now they’d have the protocol pretty much figured out, and they could get right to work, but this is Friday, and they want the Bride coming to life in the last three seconds so that viewers will have to come back on Monday to see what she’s like. That means there’s a solid 21 and a half minutes of padding between us and the only thing that actually happens all day.
Julia brings back reinforcements, in the person of Professor Stokes, so they have more people to stand around and recap to.
First, Barnabas tells them that Carolyn is alive, which Julia seems to find upsetting for some reason. Then they dive into more recent developments.
Barnabas: Just a few minutes ago, he came back with this girl, the girl that’s upstairs now.
Stokes: What did she say her name was?
Barnabas: Eltridge. Leona Eltridge.
Julia: And that’s all she told you about herself.
Barnabas: Yes. She wouldn’t answer any more questions. There’s no logical explanation for anything that’s happened tonight.
This may qualify as a new low for Dark Shadows recaps: Barnabas is describing a conversation that we saw three minutes ago. There hasn’t even been a commercial break yet. At a certain point, we’re going to reach the stage where people are recapping while the scene that they’re describing is still going on.
Adam comes downstairs and says that they should begin the experiment now. Julia says that they can’t, because it’ll take a little while to set up the equipment. This is not an acceptable position to take.
Julia has spent the last several weeks setting up the lab equipment — twiddling knobs, adjusting switches, frowning and tapping — and there doesn’t seem to be any way to get her to stop.
Upstairs, Leona is lying down on Josette’s bed, going over her future plans. “If this experiment succeeds,” she says in thinks, “if I am allowed to live again through that creation, I will destroy all these people. All of them. All of them.”
Now, you’d expect that to be a fairly exciting if oddly-phrased threat, but on Tuesday, Adam ran out of the house, claiming that he was about to kill everyone at Collinwood. The next day, Willie came in and said that he’d just passed Adam in the woods, sitting under a tree. These people have got to start following through on their holocausts.
Professor Stokes comes upstairs, and asks Leona to explain why she’s volunteering to be the life force in the experiment, even though she may die. She gives him an explanation which I will not bother to repeat, because I value your time.
Instead, let’s head down to the laboratory for another minute of Julia flipping switches and tapping on things. Barnabas comes downstairs, and she says that she’s ready to start.
“Then we can begin the experiment,” Barnabas says.
“Yes,” Julia agrees. “Yes, Barnabas, we can begin.”
And then they break for a commercial. Seriously, I can’t deal with this anymore.
Even the characters are getting fed up by now. At one point, Adam says, “Julia, you’re wasting time,” and Barnabas sighs, “All right, let’s get this thing done.” I don’t think that’s a very common attitude in Frankenstein movies.
Julia goes through her pre-flight checklist, and then they do cross-check and all-call. The flag goes up, and it’s time to pull the big switch and infuse the patient with some vintage élan vital.
Running through the experiment this time, they actually use fewer lighting effects and weird camera angles than the last two times, because honestly every single person involved is sick of it.
Finally, they switch off all the machines, and Barnabas and Julia immediately launch into their well-rehearsed excuses for why they failed this time.
But then the Bride moans, and starts to move. They unwrap the bandages from around her head, and Adam shouts, “She’s alive! She is alive!” because I guess somebody has to.
Monday: Spook Fortresses.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
One of the cameras has broken again, and there’s a bright green stripe down the left side of the picture. This happened about six weeks ago, and it took them two weeks to fix it.
Leona’s has a different hairstyle than she had at the end of yesterday’s episode.
As Adam leads Leona to the stairs, he bumps into Barnabas’ cane, which is hanging on the coatrack. The cane rocks back and forth in a distracting way for the rest of the scene.
The camera pulls in on Leona as she’s lying on the bed, but it begins to shake. There’s a quick cut to another camera, shooting her from a similar angle.
Immediately after that, Adam says, “You must be quite a good friend of his to be willing to go through with this to do this.”
At the end of the episode, Eve moans as she comes to life. When Barnabas rushes to her side, a boom mic can briefly be spotted overhead.
Monday: Spook Fortresses.
— Danny Horn