Episode 607: In a World of Turtlenecks

“Put down that letter opener, you look ridiculous.”

We’ve watched our enormous teenage Frankenstein monster as he was brought to life from weeks-old corpse parts. We’ve seen him read poetry, and play chess. We’ve seen him kidnap women, break out of jail and jump off a cliff. We’ve even seen him cry.

But have you ever seen him in bed, wearing revealing nightwear? Welcome to Dark Shadows After Dark.

607 dark shadows adam nicholas bedtime

Today’s episode opens with sinister mastermind Nicholas Blair waking Adam out of a sound sleep to announce that he’s prevented Barnabas from hurting Eve, which if it was stop-press news Adam would have already been awake for.

You don’t typically see characters in bed on Dark Shadows unless they’re setting up a dream or some kind of hypnosis sequence, so it’s an unusual way to begin a scene that’s otherwise just a standard information-management exchange.

But they stage it this way for one reason: to reveal that Adam has mysterious bite marks on his neck. Well, two reasons.

607 dark shadows adam chest

Just to get this out of the way, I’ll explain the bite marks.

Angelique, who’s a vampire now, has just bitten Barnabas, who isn’t. Barnabas and Adam share a life force, for complicated “if they both live”-related reasons, and that means that anything that happens to Barnabas also happens to Adam, except when it doesn’t, which is most of the time.

There, that takes care of the lunatic plot contrivance for the day; now we can talk about something that actually matters. The real “This Day in Dark Shadows History” item is that today we see Adam’s chest hair. The importance of this moment cannot be overstated.

607 dark shadows adam nicholas glove

Six months ago, I discussed the rules of Dark Shadows fashion in some detail. Sportcoats and ties are mandatory for all older male characters and authority figures, even as casualwear. Younger men can wear turtlenecks, or switch between ties and turtlenecks, depending on their role in the scene. Usually, if you’re planning on raising your voice, you should have a tie on.

As a man-made man, Adam was literally born wearing a sportcoat, and he’s been rocking a green turtleneck sweater for the last couple months. But today, for the visual enjoyment of the eager housewives and teenagers in the audience: a glimpse of what lies beneath.

As Adam wakes up, we get a quick flash of his chest, but then he starts rubbing his neck, blocking our view. Then Nicholas reaches out and says, “Let me see your neck.” It turns out Nicholas has been the hero of the show this whole time.

607 dark shadows adam closeup

And here it is, the close-up view that the audience has been hoping for. It’s a tremendously exciting moment.

Now, it’s easy for modern audiences to miss the significance, because shirtless guys are commonplace on TV now. That’s especially true on daytime soap operas, where many of the male actors under 40 are issued a Magic Mike-style wardrobe that is largely conceptual.

On my other favorite soap, One Life to Live, they used to have sauna scenes that would span multiple episodes, with an assortment of male characters discussing current events while wearing nothing but towels. It was a golden age.

Unfortunately, I don’t know how Dark Shadows compares to its 1968 contemporaries, because nobody’s written the comprehensive history of dudes taking their shirts off in soap operas, which now that I think about it should definitely be my next project.

607 dark shadows jim morrison

But things have been heating up in pop culture since Dark Shadows began. When the Beatles landed at JFK in 1964, they were all wearing jackets and ties. By 1968, they’re doing Transcendental Meditation, and you can’t do that with a vest on. Even more importantly for late 60s sexuality, Jim Morrison’s 1966 “Young Lion” photo shoot set a new standard for bedroom poster hotness.

607 dark shadows adam pjs

So as the teenagers start to edge out the housewives as the primary Dark Shadows demographic, the show has been exploring new, productive areas of male objectification. What follows is a quick survey of what we’ve seen this fall, since Angelique became a vampire.

(By the way, if you think that I’ve chosen this topic just because I’m shallow and I like talking about cute boys, then you’re wrong. I’m doing this because it’s a Ron Sproat episode and I don’t have anything else to say about it, plus it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want, so shut up.)

554 dark shadows tom accent

There’s always been a handful of handsome men hanging around Dark Shadows, but the introduction of Tom Jennings in August was the first time that the show brought in a new guy specifically for the purpose of visual spectacle.

After all, we only knew Tom for half an episode by the time Angelique bit him. He hardly even counts as a character; he’s basically just a smile and a Southern drawl.

563 dark shadows tom meat

In his second appearance, Tom was put on display like a buffet lunch for monsters, and we got the first known confirmation that Collinsport men actually exist from the neck down.

556 dark shadows deputy angelique vampire

Since then, Angelique’s been going through the dudes like a buzzsaw, biting practically every guy on the show between the ages of 18 and 39. After Tom, she had the cute day-player deputy, and then Joe, and Jeff, and she probably would have got Tony too, if he hadn’t left the show just a minute too early.

602 dark shadows jeff angelique fantasy

Barnabas’ vampire bites have usually been played as two parts hunger and one part shame, but the new vampires have taken a much more intimate approach. Joe and Jeff are being seduced rather than assaulted — and in the moment, at least, they’re clearly having a good time.

597 dark shadows eve back

And it’s not just the guys, of course. Marie Wallace’s audition story was all about how the producers wanted to find the right “look” for Eve, and they brought in a panel of three girls — blonde, brunette and redhead. Marie teased up her hair and deliberately gave them a bold, sensual performance, and she got the job.

That’s a different approach to casting than we’ve seen before. The days of Reverend Trask standing around and yelling at Joshua and Andre may be drawing to a close.

607 dark shadows barnabas julia joe hell yeah

To wrap this up, I’m going to jump ahead to tomorrow’s episode for the ultimate expression of the new, more tactile Dark Shadows.

Joe’s got a self-inflicted stomach wound, for reasons that we don’t need to discuss right now, and Barnabas has called in Dr. Hoffman to patch the boy up. She fusses around and takes his pulse or whatever, and then she gets to the real emergency medical care — taking a big pair of scissors out of her bag, and methodically cutting Joe’s turtleneck in half.

Flustered and overwrought, Barnabas asks, “Is that necessary?”

Julia just clicks her tongue and says, “Well, obviously. I need to clean the wound.”

The idea of simply asking Joe to take his shirt off is not an option at this point, because this is not a medical procedure. It’s a ritual.

Joe’s turtleneck can’t just be removed and discarded. It must be destroyed.

607 dark shadows julia joe cut

So they fill up some time with idle chatter about Maggie, while Julia gets to work on the menswear.

607 dark shadows julia joe peril

She has some trouble cutting through the fabric as she gets to the top, and there’s a fierce little struggle over the last couple snips. Joe is squirming slightly and moaning in pain, his eyes clamped shut so that he doesn’t have to look at the blades pointed directly at his face.

It’s actually difficult to watch this sequence without flinching, because there’s a moment when she’s pushing at the fabric and it really looks like she’s about to stab him in the neck. Dark Shadows is pretty much the only scripted programming where life-threatening injury to a cast member is actually on the table as a possible outcome.

607 dark shadows joe chest

But she finally breaks on through, and now we can all see the important thing in this shot — the vampire bite marks, right there on Joe’s neck.

I said the neck, people. Try to focus on the neck.

607 dark shadows joe beefcake

But it’s no use; we’ve seen enough neck wounds on the show, and they no longer have the power to grip. So Joe just squrims around and moans and breathes heavy, basically doing everything that he can to make the show more interesting.

This is definitely some good medical care. I don’t know about Joe, but I’m feeling better already.

607 dark shadows joe chatter

So you can see why this sequence is such an important milestone in the show’s uncertain and frightening journey through time. It was only two months ago that the show even hinted at the existence of the male torso, and here’s Joe, fully exposed for the world to see.

At one point, he actually tilts his body toward the camera to make sure the audience is getting their money’s worth. For 1968 daytime, this is practically porn.

607 dark shadows barnabas julia joe ritual

So that’s where we’ll leave him for now, lying on the altar like a sacrificial victim, as Julia performs the ceremony to end the tyranny of shirts forever.

Let the joyous news be spread, the turtleneck is finally dead. Feast your eyes on the shape of things to come.

Tomorrow: You Are My Someone.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Nicholas is off his game today. In the teaser, when Adam wakes up startled, Nicholas says, “Well, who did you think I — who did you think it was?”

In act 1, when Adam tells Nicholas that he didn’t see Angelique tonight, there’s a long pause, and then Nicholas looks at the teleprompter. He says, “Well, I think I know what happened,” and then looks at the prompter again. Delightfully, his next line is “I haven’t time to explain.”

In the middle of act 1, as we cut from Adam’s room to the parlor, there’s a ton of studio noise in the background — shuffling feet, and a door opens. There’s a little tape edit here, and the music cue skips ahead a couple seconds.

When Angelique tells Joe to look in the magic mirror, we can see the reflection of the stagehands wheeling in the blue screen behind them.

The copyright date at the end of the episode says 1966.


Behind the Scenes:

Tom Gorman plays the Bartender at the Blue Whale, a role that’s usually played by Bob O’Connell. Gorman played one of the judges in Vicki’s 1795 witch trial, and he also played Ezra Simpson, a dead criminal who presided over Barnabas’ mock trial in June.

Adam is sleeping under the colorful Collinsport Afghan, an often-used prop that’s usually seen on the back of Maggie’s couch. It’s recently been on a tour, popping up in Josette’s room at the Old House, in Liz’s bedroom at Collinwood, and in Joe’s apartment.

The checkerboard Ralston-Purina lamp is also close by, on the nightstand by Adam’s bed. This is usually seen in the Collinwood study, but it migrates occasionally.

Tomorrow: You Are My Someone.

607 dark shadows joe mirror screen

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

19 thoughts on “Episode 607: In a World of Turtlenecks

  1. Actually the soap opera world was more dangerous than you think. As The World Turns had two notable incidents. The first was when a character was in the hospital in an oxygen tent. The stage hand didn’t realize that it was a real tent and that real tents were completely sealed. The poor actress’s hands started turning blue from lack of oxygen. Fortunately one of her co-stars noticed, moved near the hospital bed and unzipped the back of the tent while speaking his dialog. ATWT was the last soap to go to tape, so they were shooting live and couldn’t stop. Later, after they went to tape, they shot a hurricane scene. The actress (different actress) had to lie in the “rain” and puddles for several scenes over a day or two. She became terribly ill and almost died. She also was part of a religion that did not believe in doctors (I’m guessing Christian Science but the magazines of the day didn’t state it outright) so she wouldn’t go to the hospital and recovered via prayer.

    I’m sure there were other onset injuries on other soaps. Those are the ones I heard about.

  2. I guess green turtlenecks were big at that time – unless Carolyn also bought this one for Joe before they went they’re separate ways and she bought one for Adam – did Burke get one too?

    1. All sorts of shades of green were “in”, in the late 60’s, from the subdued moss greens sometimes worn by Roger, to the “hot green” sweater that Carolyn wears. Green really gave blue a run for its money, until the early ’70’s when deep blues and purples reigned.

      1. That’s true. I remember lots of black ones, too, like James Bond. Also Nehru jackets and shirts with Nehru collars. I had a shirt with huge paisley in bright green and a Nehru collar right about this time. It was groovy.

  3. It was a most iconoclastic time. Barriers broken, rights gained, unheard-of freedom, fashion and music evolving right before our eyes, and soon movies like Midnight Cowboy, Barbarella, and I Am Curious Yellow. Sex was suddenly “in”. Mae West made a comeback.

    You are probably right about Dark Shadows breaking some new ground here. The Dan Curtis “So what?” attitude that skips over logic, and drives people crazy, could very well be responsible for Shirtless Joe, too. The flip side of that coin. He probably said “This’ll hang on to those housewives in Peoria!”
    Dark Shadows was a rule breaker, game changer. Not the re-creation of a proven experiment, but the actual experiment, itself; mistakes, wrong turns and all.

    I’d like to know what you can find out about “who was the first shirtless guy on a daytime soap opera?” That’s a potential Jeopardy answer. I would not be surprised if this was the first, but have no idea.

      1. That’s easy, all you need is an Acme Exorcism Kit, which includes crosses, crucifixes, three vials of Holy Water (blessed by the pope of your choice) and The Andy Williams Christmas Record.

        You’ve done a great job of getting past the highlights of the time period and really getting at deeper layers. I’m impressed, especially liked the Arthur Brown thing.

        There’s a song from 1967 that’s important to the mood of the time, Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode To Billy Joe”. Southern Gothic at its best. I love that song, it’s beautiful, creepy, and utterly hypnotic. For anyone who doesn’t know it, can’t recommend it highly enough.
        She played it on The Smothers Brothers Show, now on You Tube. It was a huge hit. The spookiness that haunted the late ’60s found its way into country music, here. Dim the lights when you listen to it.

    1. I think Jonathan Frid looks much younger with this hairstyle – the way they had his hair on the show aged him at least 10 years.

    1. It’s deliberate, I’m sure – part of his convoluted long-term plan to populate the world with monster babies and Disney movies.

  4. My god Joel Crothers (or “Joel Crotchless”, as my autocorrect would have it) is magnificent. His scenes with Angelique today are electrifying.

    One of the frustrating things about this show is you get scenes like this, or Maggie and Willie in the mausoleum, where the actors are giving you everything they’ve got, and then scenes like… anything with Vicki and Jeff.

    That mausoleum scene in particular is good for this comparison – it’s a Sproat, so nothing much happens and the dialogue is bad, but the performances are so good the screen bursts into flames. It’s so intensely watchable entirely because of KLS and Karlen.

    Meanwhile, Roger Davis and Alexandra Moltke are talking about the various duties associated with being in love and you can’t help thinking what it would be like if either of them had an ounce of the talent some of their co-stars had. We don’t even need both of them to be super-talented; those scenes with Nicholas and Harry were hilarious due to the obvious imbalance in their abilities, and in Harry’s scenes with Carolyn Nancy Barrett constantly looks like she’s physically restraining herself from slapping the incompetence right out of him, which is brilliant.

    In other news, I was genuinely surprised by that opening bit with Adam’s chest (and, presumably, the rest of him, though tbh he could have been headless again and I probably wouldn’t have noticed). It did have that startling feeling of a corner being turned; hopefully one we’ll see explored very thoroughly in the coming weeks.

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