Episode 614: Curtains, Foiled Again

“I don’t know what to believe. Everyone tells me the sensible thing to do is the crazy thing to do.”

Okay, let’s review the rap sheet.

Mon, Oct 21 : Breaking and entering (Barnabas sneaks into Nicholas’ house), attempted murder (Barnabas tries to kill Eve), first degree assault (Angelique bites Barnabas).

Tues, Oct 22 : Attempted suicide (Joe, with a letter opener).

Wed, Oct 23 : Attempted murder, conspiracy (Angelique tells Barnabas to take Joe into the woods and kill him).

Mon, Oct 28 : Conspiracy to commit murder (Nicholas gives Harry poison to kill Joe).

Tues, Oct 29 : Breaking and entering (Harry sneaks into the Old House), attempted murder (Harry puts poison in Joe’s medicine), first degree assault (Angelique bites Barnabas), conspiracy to commit murder (Angelique tells Barnabas to kill Joe), attempted murder (Barnabas gives poison medicine to Joe).

Wed, Oct 30 : Attempted murder (Joe tries to kill Barnabas with a curtain tie).

So we’ve reached the point where they’re averaging one major felony an episode. Dark Shadows might have more murder per hour than How to Get Away with Murder.

612 dark shadows barnabas halloween costume

And this, as we know, is a network daytime television show that’s actively being marketed to children. The headlines say “Vampire Excites Wives, Young Set,” and the corner drug store is stocked with board games, bubble gum cards and Halloween costumes.

In fact, today’s episode aired on October 31st. Ben Cooper has done brisk business with Barnabas Collins masks during the 1968 Halloween season, and the kids are running home from school to throw their costumes on, get out on the street and start collecting candy by the sackful.

I mean, not right away, of course. First, they have to find out if the guy they’re dressing up as will be strangled to death on television at 4:02 in the afternoon.

614 dark shadows barnabas strangle

So, you know that popular catchphrase, “Kids, don’t try this at home”?

Well, this scene is being broadcast to an audience of children, many of whom have easy access to a curtain tie or other throttling-appropriate implements, plus their brother is literally wearing a Barnabas Collins costume right now.

Honestly, in 1968, people just did not give a shit. It’s amazing that anyone survived past Christmas.

614 dark shadows barnabas johnson joe strangle

And it’s not like the Wives are unaware of what the Young Set are looking at. People only had one TV back then, and it was smack in the middle of the den. Mom would have to be engaged in some seriously compelling laundry to miss this happening in the other room.

Mrs. Johnson:  JOE!


Mrs. Johnson:  NO! STOP IT!






And then he yells, “YOU CAN’T STOP ME!” and pushes the housekeeper across the room. I mean, I know people were pretty heavily involved in anxiolytics, but how much Valium could you possibly take, to make this okay for your kids to watch after school?

614 dark shadows mrs johnson help barnabas joe

And then Mrs. Johnson stands in the middle of the room and shrieks, “HELP! HELP! SOMEONE HELP!”, just to make sure that all of your neighbors are aware of the five-alarm emergency that is apparently taking place in your living room.

614 dark shadows mrs johnson barnabas joe shirt

Once Barnabas is good and dead, the man in the cut-open shirt with grievous wounds on his neck and stomach runs out of the house, escaping more or less scot-free.

I’m trying to imagine what a children’s television show could possibly do that would be more irresponsible than what happens in this episode. The only thing I can think of is if Joe finishes throttling the guy in the Barnabas Collins costume, and then runs outside and asks the neighbors for candy.

614 dark shadows mrs johnson barnabas don't tell dad

And the great thing is that once this blows over, it turns out that the theme of today’s episode is Don’t Tell Dad.

Barnabas:  I’ll be all right. You must go back to Collinwood… and forget.

Mrs. Johnson:  Forget?

Barnabas:  Please, Mrs. Johnson!

Mrs. Johnson:  Well, how can I forget that madman — that maniac — I won’t feel safe until the police have locked him up!

Barnabas:  Mrs. Johnson — as a favor to me — don’t call the police!

614 dark shadows barnabas puppy dog

And she doesn’t! Barnabas just stares at her with those puppy dog eyes, and she agrees to not report the crime. I don’t even know how many offenses we’re looking at here. Felonies are just piling up all over the place.

614 dark shadows mrs johnson loses it

When Mrs. Johnson gets back to Collinwood, Liz and Roger are dragging in a half-conscious Joe, who they found hiding in the cemetery.

A horrified Mrs. Johnson screams, “He was trying to murder Mr. Barnabas!”

Shocked, Roger snaps, “Mrs. Johnson, that’s ridiculous!” but it’s far too late to worry about what’s ridiculous and what isn’t. Don’t even try.

Mrs Johnson insists, “I saw it! I saw it with my own eyes! He had a rope around Mr. Barnabas’ neck!”

614 dark shadows johnson liz helpless

Everybody’s stunned; they don’t know what to say.

“Nobody’s going to do anything,” Mrs. Johnson wails. “Everyone’s going to tell me to be quiet, and they’re not going to do anything!” This is the learned helplessness of someone who’s been dealing with the Collins family for a significant period of time.

614 dark shadows mrs johnson joe couch

So what we’re seeing here is the next logical step in Dan Curtis’ policy of Infinitely Escalating Thrills. It’s hard to imagine the show getting even more shouty and murdery and irresponsible, but that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

In fact, we’re not that far away from an episode where two young children lure their teacher into a deserted room so they can psychologically torture her. The Wives and Young Set won’t know what hit ’em.

Tomorrow: The Truth About Cats and Dogs.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Mrs. Johnson tells Harry, “You keep out of this! Mr. Roger and Mrs. Stoddard are here, and they’ll do what’s right!”

As the credits begin, someone starts to walk onscreen at the right, but quickly realizes his mistake, and steps back out of the shot.

Behind the Scenes:

In the graveyard, Liz and Roger look at a tombstone, which says, “In memory of Jonah Collins who died June 15th 1863, Aged 23”. That means the baby was born sometime between June 16, 1839 and June 15, 1840. We’ll be visiting 1840 a couple years from now, and we’ll see the events of September 1840 through January 1841. It’s possible that Gabriel and Edith had a baby named Jonah that we don’t hear about; they hardly speak about their children at all. Maybe he was always taking a nap while his parents ran around and acted like lunatics.

Tomorrow: The Truth About Cats and Dogs.

614 dark shadows mrs johnson joe shove

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

29 thoughts on “Episode 614: Curtains, Foiled Again

  1. I have the feeling that if Dark Shadows had survived post-1971, it would have drawn heavy fire by all the watchdog committees that were formed at that time, scrutinizing every show aimed at kids and severely neutering 1970s TV. Cartoons especially were ridiculously watered down. And while DS was not a children’s show, the fact that it was marketed at kids and its timeslot would have made it a prime target. They may even have hired a child psychologist to be a consultant like many shows did.

    1. It might have skated by because Dark Shadows did not portray the evil sex! My stepmother was very strict about books, TV, and movies. She was crystal clear that I could not watch regular soap operas. She had no issue with DS because everyone was clothed, no one got pregnant and pre-marital sex and adultery were only hinted at, not (as she would call it) flaunted.

    2. If you notice on all the tombstones of those who passed, they all died at age 21. And all the people killed on the show were buried in the back yard or in the basement.

  2. And yet in 2015, kids play the most relentlessly violent video games,purchased by their parents as a reward for just existing.
    Also the fact that ANY child bloomed and grew pre helicopter mom and dad is a testament to the survival skills of childhood.

  3. That initial photo of the close-up of Joe with the rope and that desperate look–at first glance you think it might be Adam in a rage. Maybe it’s the green shirt and the similar hair. To think it would come to this, when you see Joe Haskell at the Blue Whale with Carolyn in Episode 2 back in 1966, too uptight to dance and probably never drunk a day in his life.

    1. I miss the good old days at the Blue Whale – Episode 2 had a real ‘swinging crowd’. Also Danny hits the mark with his comments about 1968 and no one giving a shit – as a 7 year old at that time a group of us (all 7 or younger) were given free rein to trick or treat alone throughout our entire town – none of this supervised ‘playdate’ BS..I’m glad I was a child during the 60’s/70’s..

      1. Thanks, that was cool. Collinsport rockin after 9 pm. Carolyn Stoddard, Burke Devlin. It’s great to see so many extras in the Blue Whale. Love the music on the jukebox, guess that’s an East Coast version of California Surf Music. They are on the coast, so it’s only fitting that the sound should be similar. The twang’s the thang.
        Lately I’ve been watching Laura’s first appearance over again. It really is wonderfully creepy and subtle. The atmosphere was really strong, then. Black & white was perfect for Laura’s first rendezvous. So many lines crossed for the very first time. Laura was their first Weirdo.

        1. Yes – I think that the Phoenix story contained an eerie creepiness that was never really achieved by the later flashy color episodes. Very much like Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls and my ultimate childhood nightmare Night of the Living Dead.

          1. Yeah, that is a good one.

            With Barnabas, we know he’s a vampire from the get go.
            With Laura, all we know is her strange tale of the Phoenix, as told to Maggie Evans AND that everyone recognizes her as someone they used to know. They all think they know her. That’s part of the fun. It’s quite a strange little mystery, that we get to unravel slowly, along with Vicky.

            Some of my favorite scenes are when Vicky and Frank Garner go for a late night ride all the way out to the old creepy crypt with the world’s most decrepit caretaker. When he meets Vicky and Frank, he says “You’re alive?”, because that’s not what he’s used to.

        2. On the Complete Dark Shadows Soundtrack Music Collection, that jukebox number from Episode 2 is titled “Medium Slow Blue Whale” and there are two versions (music cue nos. 73 and 73A). Some of the many Blue Whale extras who appeared on Dark Shadows are notable for what they went on to accomplish later on, like Harvey Keitel, who appeared uncredited as a dancer at the Blue Whale in Episode 33 from August 1966.

          I’m just now watching the retelling of the Phoenix storyline as Laura returns to Edward in the Collinwood of 1897. The Laura/Phoenix story of 1966 to 1967 is stronger and more effective in my opinion, mainly because there is no one to stand in her way. She can do anything to anyone, and who is there to stop her? In the 1897 retelling the effect is diluted in the way she is overmatched by the more powerful Angelique. The Laura/Phoenix story of 2 years earlier leaves a more profound and lasting impression.

    2. Green is the color of evil on DS. If you’re wearing green, you’re about to do something unpleasant to someone. And the pukier the green, the more evil you are.

  4. Since roughly the 1980’s, the low point of the 20th century, we have been bombarded with so much sex and violence and sickness on TV and in music and everywhere else, that the idea that any of it is “responsible” would hilarious, if it weren’t so pathetically sad. We now live in a time of garbage. At least Dark Shadows had an iota of dignity.

  5. Earlier, the ‘Standard Feminine Death Heap’ has been discussed; I will submit that Joel Crothers is presenting the ‘Standard Masculine Death Heap’ in his recent appearances.

    And I have absolutely no problem with this.
    Television needs more cute males with greater focus on objectification! Remember the brouhaha a few years ago over the “Victoria’s Secret lingerie halftime show”? My feeling is that it should have been followed up with a “Joe Boxers underwear halftime show”, featuring teams of brawny males running down the field in their undies. America needs Equal Time Objectification, that’s my opinion. We are moving closer to this goal, but still have a long way to go.

    1. Mrs. Johnson at this moment is sick the Collins family and their crazy asses. She did not sign up for all the b.s. going on at the moment…lol.

  6. So… What was Mrs Johnson doing at the old house? Should we just not ask?

    Credit to ’em for actually picking up the last episode’s exciting cliffhanger for once.

    And the whole thing ends with a close-up on Roger’s most serious of serious faces! Suddenly it’s just like the old days.

  7. Smiling cobra Nicholas Blair offers you a choice: “I will give you three consecutive episodes without Adam, Vicki, or Jeff BUT,” and here his smile broadens, “Two of the three episodes will feature…CRAIG SLOCUM!” Dun Dun DUUUUUN! Do you take him up on his offer? You must!

    Since the subject of gay identity has come up (as it often does here), nothing screams “closeted gay man” more than Joe’s body language as he watches Carolyn dance in the clip Joanne posted back in 2015.

    Could Jonah Collins have been a member of Joshua Chamberlain’s 20th Maine Volunteers? Might he perhaps have died of injuries suffered at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862? Or perhaps from an outbreak of smallpox that swept the regiment in May 1863?

  8. I’m so tired of Liz’s preoccupation with death…even on Halloween 1968.

    Joe strangling Barnabas should’ve been scary but considering how many times people have come back from the dead, death no longer is scary. The only repercussion would be Joe being convicted of murder but then Angelique would just spirit him out of the prison.

    I love Mrs. Johnson and how smart she is. It’s sad that nobody believes her. That couch in the drawing room has got to be the most uncomfortable to lie on. And I wish Joe would do us all a favor and strangle Harry.

    I really appreciate you showing off the Cooper masks (along with all the other memorabilia you’ve shown). I have in my collection five Ben Cooper Samantha from “Bewitched” costumes.

    And speaking of “Bewitched”, Halloween 1968 was the first time in the show’s run that a Halloween-themed episode wasn’t produced. In fact, that night the show was pre-empted for an announcement from President Lyndon B. Johnson that there had been a complete halt of U.S. bombing over North Vietnam in the hopes to restart peace talks.

  9. I’m old enough to have been through several iterations of (fill in the blank) is ruining our children. In the 1950s, it was rock and roll; 1960s, drugs and rock and roll; 1970s, tv; 1980s, video games….
    The kids are fine.
    I’m sure in 1600 someone complained that Shakespeare was ruining children with “Romeo and Juliet”.
    In previous centuries kids survived losing their parents, losing their siblings, going to work as an apprentice or in a factory at 12, getting married at 14, losing their baby at 15. Life was freaking horrible.
    Dark Shadows is a tv show.

  10. I have to agree with the commenters above, I think the 1967 Laura the Phoenix story was one of Dark Shadows creepiest story arc. Kudos to Diane Millay for making Laura so mysterious and other worldly. I saw her in an interview on the DVD set, and she implied that she believed in reincarnation and the Phoenix mythology.

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