“I know you are men! She is a woman! I know this is a basement!”
They said we were mad, those fools at the Institute, but who’s laughing now? We found a loophole in the laws of nature, thumbed our nose at God — and what’s more, we’ve done it twice. Barnabas and Julia, those celebrated myth makers, have once again stolen fire from the heavens, and gamma-radiated a brand new monster.
And so, with a scream, a sizzle and a sigh, we offload a tedious day player, and zap some life force into our Corpse Bride. At long last, mourning becomes electric.
So please allow me to introduce Eve. She’s a new form of life, and she doesn’t have an off switch.
Dark Shadows is a bit of a patchwork creation itself, now that I think of it — a muck-encrusted mockery of a soap opera, stitched together from gothic novels, monster movies and psychedelic music videos. The mad genius of the show is its capacity for narrative collision — taking characters and situations from older sources, and chucking them into the storyline, just to see what happens.
In this case, they’re doing Bride of Frankenstein, which is a particularly challenging narrative to collide with. As we discussed last week, the Bride story is wafer-thin — the Bride only appears for three minutes, and she doesn’t have any dialogue. Now the Dark Shadows team has to figure out how to spin that into a character who can drive storyline on a daily soap opera.
With no particular goal in mind, they decide to just hit every note they can think of, and sort it out later.
Eve starts out rather fuzzy, as if she’s waking up from a long sleep. Adam is amazed that she can speak, and she gives him a drowsy grin. “Who are you?” she asks, and when he answers, she chuckles, “How appropriate. The first man I see is named Adam.”
But as she looks around, she starts to understand the scope of the problem. “Where am I?” she asks. “What is all this? Who are they? Why are you staring at me?” There are no easy answers to any of these questions.
I mean, imagine opening your eyes, and the first thing that you see is the Old House basement, stocked with mad science equipment. Where do you even start? You’d need some industrial-grade recap, and even that would only be enough to get you to the next filling station.
So they decide to bypass the whole problem, and just head straight for cray cray. She can’t quite remember what’s happened, and they do their new double-exposure camera trick as she describes waking up.
“It was as if I were watching a dream,” she says.
Julia is puzzled. “You know about dreams?”
Eve wrinkles her nose, and spits, “Of course.”
“Barnabas, how can she?” Julia asks. “How can she speak? How can she know everything that she does?”
Eve starts to exhibit distress, giving us more facial expressions per minute than any actor who isn’t Grayson Hall.
This is Marie Wallace, a new actress who’ll end up playing three different characters on Dark Shadows. This is not even the weirdest one.
Marie is tall and strange and stunning, and her first acting gigs were basically modeling assignments, wearing a sexy costume for walk-on parts in Your Hit Parade and Car 54, Where Are You?
She broke into Broadway theater in 1959, as a chorus girl in the original cast of Gypsy, and then appeared in The Beauty Part, Nobody Loves an Albatross and The Right Honourable Gentleman, none of which I’m familiar with. In 1966, she appeared in the original production of Sweet Charity, with choreogaphy by Bob Fosse.
Marie has learned what every former chorus girl learns, which is that if you want bigger parts, you need to get the audience’s attention. She’s very good at it.
When Marie auditioned for Eve, the casting director said that she was a good actress, but producer Dan Curtis wanted a different physical type for the role. But her agent kept pushing, and got her a callback with Dan.
She described the second audition in a Dark Shadows DVD interview:
“I looked at the other two women, and they were gorgeous, and they had long hair — blonde, brunette… And I thought, hmmm, I’m very different than they are. So I teased my hair up wild, because I had long hair, but it wasn’t long like theirs, that long, straight, Vampira-ish look. So I teased my hair up, made it very sexy, and the whole thing. I also said, I’m not going to be first out there. I’m going to watch them, and see what’s happening.
“The blonde went on, the brunette went on, and I saw what they wanted. It wasn’t acting anymore — now, it was looks. Walk forward, turn around, give us this look, give us that look. And I said, ahh, I know what they want. I went on with my teased-up hair, my sensual look — I thought — and I did all the little walks and stuff. And people told me that when I did my little stuff, Dan Curtis said, ‘That’s it! Let’s hire her.'”
As we’ve seen, one of Dan’s greatest talents was his unerring ability to spot the crazy. This was a good call.
So here’s Eve, with her black gown and her teased-up hair, taking a chunk out of the scenery. She doesn’t really have a coherent point of view, so they’re just throwing dialogue at the problem — and Marie takes that confusing instability, and turns it into a character. More than any other Dark Shadows actor, Marie excels at being straight-up unhinged.
“If you have a memory, you couldn’t have lived until now!” Barnabas says, somewhat obscurely.
“But I have!” Eve cries, starting to get restless. “Only — where? When?”
She turns on Barnabas like a caged animal.
“You know!” she growls. “You must! You know! You brought me here!”
Barnabas urges Julia to prepare a sedative, which obviously she has at her fingertips at all times.
Eve screams, “How could I have not LIVED until now! I am fully grown! I know you are men! She is a woman! I know this is a basement!”
Eve recoils as Julia comes toward her with the syringe.
“I know about pain!” she screams. “You will not touch me! Stay away! Don’t come near me!”
She takes a step off the table, and then she shrieks, and falls into a faint. It’s fantastic. Oh, I could watch this all day.
So Barnabas and Julia are at a loss; they have no idea how to deal with this bizarre creation. Then, happily, Professor Stokes shows up, and he’s got a newsflash from the refrigerator door.
Stokes has brought over a board with magnetic letters, and he spells out Leona Eltridge — the name of the mysterious woman who volunteered to die, so she could provide Eve with a life force.
“Watch my hands,” Stokes says, as he rearranges the letters.
Barnabas and Julia watch as he painstakingly spells out a different name — Danielle Roget.
Barnabas asks who she is, and Stokes says, “Don’t you know? I’m surprised. She was the most evil woman the 18th century produced!”
And that’s that, as far as the Professor is concerned. He was introduced to Leona Eltridge earlier in the evening, said “That’s an odd name,” and then dashed home for his magnets. He’s realized that Leona Eltridge is an anagram for Danielle Roget, and therefore the woman that they met was a demon conjured from Hell by the evil warlock Nicholas Blair.
Julia and Barnabas just stare at him, stunned, clearly thinking, well, “Professor Stokes” is an anagram for “Spook Fortresses”. What the hell does that prove?
Barnabas pooh-poohs the idea, saying, “Professor, you have a vivid imagination.”
Stokes barks, “I have a vivid sense of reality, Mr. Collins!”
And that’s the end of the argument. How dare you oppose the airtight logic of magnetic letters?
The marvelous thing is that, obviously, he is exactly correct. Professor Stokes is the wise old man, whose crackpot theories are downloaded directly from the writers’ crackpot plot points. If Stokes says that they ought to destroy Eve immediately, then he’s right. That’s his job.
He is the Spook Fortress. Ignore him at your peril.
Tomorrow: The Three Faces of Eve.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Before Eve rouses, Adam objects to Julia testing Eve’s sensations with the prick of a pin. Barnabas scolds, “Adam, we must let Julia do what she thinks best. She’s only half-alive. Now we must find out!”
Eve talks over Barnabas’ line, and then he gets it backwards anyway:
Eve: I was so tired. It was as if I could do nothing.
Barnabas: If you — if you —
Eve: Where did I come here from? Tell me!
Barnabas: If you have a memory, you couldn’t have lived up until now!
When Julia joins Barnabas and Stokes in the drawing room, Stokes asks, “Is Adam coming?” Julia fumbles, “Not for — immediately, I don’t think.”
Behind the Scenes:
One more early-Eve story: They originally intended for Eve to have stitches around her neck, to indicate that her head was sewn on to another body — but when they did a camera test, it looked like she was wearing a necklace. They took off the scars, and just decided that Julia did a better job assembling Eve.
Tomorrow: The Three Faces of Eve.
— Danny Horn