Episode 639: Vampire Excites Wives, Young Set

“I think the man I’m talking to is a ghost!”

Previously, on Dark Shadows: Dr. Woodard has discovered that Barnabas Collins is the kidnapper that everyone’s been looking for — and a member of the living dead. Armed with a journal which contains notes of Julia’s mad experiments, Woodard is planning to speak to the Sheriff, and expose the evil presence that threatens to destroy them all. But a bat appears at the window — and Dr. Woodard is horrified to see the vampire materialize in front of him.

And then… nothing, for three years. At least, that’s what it was like when I saw it.

639 dark shadows wnbc adYou see, I discovered Dark Shadows in 1982, when they started showing reruns every day at 4:30 on WNBC in New York. I was in sixth grade, and not particularly on the lookout for a lifelong love affair with a vampire soap opera, but the ad in the newspaper showed a hand reaching out from an open casket to grab a guy by the throat, and what can I say? I was a weird kid.

They started with episode 210, obviously, because that’s when the show starts, and I was there every day — from Barnabas’ first visit to Collinwood through Maggie’s abduction, Barnabas and Julia’s alliance, Sarah’s friendship with David, and Willie getting shot in the back — all the way up to Dr. Woodard’s shocking confrontation with the vampire.

And then the show ended, with no particular fanfare, after episode 340. The ratings were disappointing for WNBC, so after six months, they pulled the show, and I was left to wonder what happened next. I’d read that the show lasted for five years, and included a trip back to the 18th century to see how Barnabas became a vampire, but it was 1982, and if they didn’t feel like showing it on television anymore, then I didn’t really have a lot of options.

639 dark shadows liz alarmed

Okay, three years later — it’s 1985, and I’m 14 years old. To be honest, at this point I actually was looking for a lifelong love affair with something or other, because I was hitting kind of a rough patch.

I’d started going to a new school, where I didn’t really like anybody enough to become friends. I’d figured out that I was gay, which gave me a strange and terrifying secret that I couldn’t tell anyone about, and my older brother was making my home life a bit challenging. He was suffering from depression and anxiety, and Prozac wasn’t invented until 1987, so he got most of the attention in the family, and I was kind of left to fend for myself.

I’m not complaining about my horrible childhood or anything, because I was very comfortable and well cared for, and everything turned out fine — but this was a period in my life when I was mostly alone. No friends, big secret, brother who has panic attacks at irregular intervals.

And that’s when I discovered that Dark Shadows was on TV again, just in time for today’s episode.

639 dark shadows liz amy woods

The show had been airing every day on New Jersey Network, a public TV station, since 1983, but I never watched NJN. It was a UHF station, which means it was on a separate dial on the TV set, and there was hardly ever anything good on those stations. I mean, except for my favorite show, obviously, which was running for two years before I even noticed it.

So this is one of those magic episodes for me. I have a really clear memory of watching it for the first time — a woman walking through the dark woods, hearing the growl of an approaching animal, and oh my god, that’s Elizabeth from Dark Shadows, this is actually Dark Shadows.

I can’t tell you how excited I was. I could finally find out what happened to Dr. Woodard!

639 dark shadows david amy collinwood

Just by chance, my re-entry into Collinsport happened to be the beginning of a brand new storyline. The show’s been offloading old characters and tying up loose ends for the last month, practically starting over — and the status quo that they’re returning to is exactly the show that I remembered from sixth grade.

Elizabeth and Roger, Carolyn and David, Barnabas and Julia and Willie, Maggie and Joe and Vicki — it was still the mysterious, haunted dreamscape from middle school.

And the interlopers who’d been cluttering up the place while I was gone — Angelique, Nicholas, Adam, Eve, Jeff — had all been tucked away, just in the last couple weeks, so it was super easy to catch up. It’s like they knew I was coming, which for all I know maybe they did.

639 dark shadows wives young set

To get this new phase of the show rolling, they’ve just introduced Amy Jennings, an obvious pander to the young set. This audience segment has been getting more attention lately, what with the board games and trading cards and Halloween costumes, but young David has been essentially benched for most of the year. His governess, Vicki, has been otherwise occupied — traveling through time, falling inexplicably in love, being kidnapped and hypnotized by practically everybody — so David’s just been drifting along in the background, more or less storyline-free.

But here comes Amy, the little sister of the Jennings twins, Tom and Chris. Tom is a vampire who was recently cooked to a crisp by the sunlight, and Chris is a werewolf who’s been making a bloody mess of passing hotel clerks.

She’s been living in the Windcliff Sanitarium for months, but you can’t keep Amy J. tied down for long. She just looks at you, and smiles, and makes for the exit.

Like I said, I had some older brother problems of my own back then; I knew what it’s like to have a brother who periodically turns into a monster. So I was happy to follow Amy as she broke out of the asylum, ran for her life, and found herself a new place to stay.

639 dark shadows amy david lightning

I mean, get a load of this kid. Every responsible adult in her life is dead, she’s homeless, she just walked for miles in a thunderstorm through a dark forest alive with mythical beasts, and just look at her. Unbothered.

David:  Doesn’t lightning and thunder scare you?

Amy:  No.

David:  It does most girls.

Amy:  It shouldn’t. It can’t hurt you.

She’s full of stuff like that. Girl is hardcore.

639 dark shadows david amy fireplace

She’s only staying the night — tomorrow they’re going to send her back to the sanitarium — so she doesn’t waste any time. She sits down with David, and gets right to work.

Amy:  Tell me all about this house. What’s it like to live here?

David:  Oh, I guess it’s the same as any other place.

Amy:  How could it be? It’s bigger than any house I’ve ever seen. It must have a hundred rooms!

Can you believe this girl? Yeah, we get it, you don’t have a place to live. I bet she planned this whole scenario, the scheming little baggage.

639 dark shadows amy david exploring

Amy is acting like the widest of wide-eyed innocents, but she is completely in control of this situation. She keeps saying things like, “I bet you’ve never even been to the West Wing.” and “I love exploring houses!” and “What’s in this room?” and before you know it, she’s invited herself along on a flashlight tour of the abandoned and almost certainly haunted wing of the house.

639 dark shadows amy david phone

Once she’s maneuvered herself into the dusty storage room that she’s clearly been heading for this whole time, she reaches out a hand and grabs the instrument of summoning. It’s an antique telephone, the kind that you use if you want to talk to the dead.

I don’t know how Amy knew that telephone was here, or why she wants to harness its power, but she’s been making a beeline for that thing this whole episode. She walked all the way from Windcliff, just to get her hands on it.

You know what? I think she might be working for They, the dark and shadowy organization who forcibly removed Jeff from the series a couple of days ago. I haven’t figured out who They are yet, but this is just the kind of thing They’d arrange. This has They written all over it.

639 dark shadows amy david pretend

Observe the technique.

David:  You want to make up a game? We could pretend that this room doesn’t have any of the junk in it. And that it’s the same as it was when the West Wing was still open.

Amy:  And see the people who lived in it, too!

David:  Well, I don’t know if my imagination’s that good.

Amy:  Well… if we can’t see them, wouldn’t it be fun if we could talk to them?

David:  How could we talk to them, if they weren’t here?

Amy:  By telephone!

639 dark shadows amy david ghost

Amy:  Let’s pretend, when we pick up that telephone, we’ll be able to talk to someone who lived in the past! Maybe in this very room!

David:  But I don’t know who lived in this room.

Amy:  You mean, you don’t want to play?

Honestly, it’s that easy. You could pretty much say anything, and boys will do whatever you want. Boys are stupid.

639 dark shadows amy david game

So she gets on the line, and makes a ghost-to-ghost call.

Amy:  Hello? My name is Amy Jennings. What’s yours? That’s a nice name. Where do you live? Somewhere near this room? If David and I came looking for you, could we see you? Could you hold on for just a minute?

So that’s what we’re dealing with here — a girl who makes contact with the infinite, and then puts it on hold. Amy is a rock star.

639 dark shadows amy david hold

She tells David that she’s talking to Quentin Collins. He says, “I’ve never heard of a Quentin Collins,” which is the very last time anybody in the United States ever said that sentence.

It’s They, I’m telling you. It usually is. Amy is an Agent of They.

639 dark shadows david amy album

So here we are, the two of us, young Amy Jennings and young Danny Horn — the young set. Two children, a little bit crazy, a little bit lost, both of us searching for a home called Collinwood.

Tomorrow: Bad Wolf.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In act 1, right after Amy says, “Are you Mrs. Stoddard?”, they cut to a different camera, and we can see the silhouette of somebody’s head quickly ducking out of the frame. Right after this, there’s a bit of banging and walking around in the studio.

Julia asks Liz, “Can’t you think — of anything about the animal that attacked you?”

When David and Amy settle down in front of the fireplace, you can see the base of a camera roll by behind them, at the top right of the screen.


Behind the Scenes:

Quentin’s name is partly inspired by Peter Quint, one of the sinister ghosts from Henry James’ 1898 novel The Turn of the Screw. We’ll probably talk some more about this novel at some point.

Tomorrow: Bad Wolf.

639 dark shadows liz reacts

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

33 thoughts on “Episode 639: Vampire Excites Wives, Young Set

  1. “Don’t answer that phone! It might be a werewolf!”

    Late one night the Kindly Queen was walking through the Enchanted Woods by the light of the full moon. Suddenly, the Cursed Prince appeared and growled at the queen, and made her scream. She couldn’t recognize the prince because he was in his “other” form, the one he takes when the moon is full.
    Just as the Cursed Prince was about to leap at the Kindly Queen, from out of nowhere appeared the Little Princess, sister of the Cursed Prince, and she scared the wolf away, not knowing it was her brother. The KIndly Queen thanked the Little Princess for saving her, and took her back to her Haunted Castle to stay for the night.

    Then, there was a phone call….

    1. “Who was that on the phone, dear?”

      “It was that werewolf, again.”

      “What did he want, this time?”

      “I don’t know. There was just a lot of growling, and it was all I could do, not to scream, until I finally realized I could just hang up the phone.”

  2. After weeks of dull story going nowhere fast, DS is doing everything right. Amy is a psychic connector to the supernatural. Consider: She’s werewolf repellent; she connects with a ghost on her first phone call to the beyond; and in a few episodes we’ll discover she can sense who the werewolf will attack.

    Take that, David Collins, “I-Visit-Josette-Down-At-The-Old-House.”

    In retrospect, it only makes sense that Quentin would talk to Amy over David first. Amy is a direct descendant, tho’ we won’t find that out for several months.

    Has a show ever done such a massive flip in storytelling – and so successfully? One of the reasons why I love the Haunting of Collinwood is that it puts the focus back on the family in a huge way. There’s great mystery and suspense here. This is DS at its best.

    I’m not sure I agree that the writers were pandering to the audience with the introduction of Amy. DS is retelling “The Turn of the Screw” and it needs two kids here to terrorize the governess.

    1. Heh, heh… just think what must be going through Alexandra Moltke’s mind. For the past year, she’s had a boring storyline, one that had her complaining about her character’s ineptitude, and now she’s knocked up and off the show. And what plotline NOW comes down the pike? “Turn of the Screw,” for which the essential requirements are a couple of creepy kids, a couple of elusive ghosts… and a governess!

      As one commenter recognized, after unsuccessfully recasting the actress, DS ends up recasting the character, transforming hash-slinger Maggie Evans into new Governess Girl.

      And, once again, DS lucks into something fortuitous, because what the “Turn of the Screw” storyline really needs isn’t just a governess, it’s a NEW governess.

      1. I think KLS is a stronger actress than Moltke or at least was better suited for this storyline. Most people talk about the “Devil Tots” and Quentin, but Maggie played a key role that I couldn’t imagine Vicki — at least the character she’d become — managing to make work.

        1. I agree about KLS being stronger than Moltke. In many ways, the scene where Vicki talks David out of going with Laura as she is about to burn as the Phoenix is parallel to Maggie getting David to reject Quentin. I remember the scene with Maggie and Quentin being more urgent and Maggie being more of a fighter than Vicki was with Laura. It could be because I’ve seen the Maggie scene more than the Vicki one (since most reruns of DS start after Vicki’s scene), but I do remember Maggie seeming more desperate and more intense.

  3. I remember this as the time when the show became genuinely scary. I found Amy a little annoying, but I had a crush on her, so no matter. (I realize now what a terrific child actor she was.) Yes, this is when the show became hellaciously good, though I’ll always maintain the show hit its stride early with the wonderful and crazy Phoenix story-line, only to toss that momentum out the window with the arrival of Barnabas. That’s when DS went back into one-plot-point-per-week mode.

    Amy, Chris, and what’s-his-name are here. Now it’s DS.

    1. 100% agree with your assessment – Laura Collins, not Angelique was the original DS female villian – although Diana Millay does a great job of reprising her role during the 1897 storyline, her character kind of gets ‘lost in the crowd’ with all of the other things going on.

      1. Although Laura came first, I think Angelique furthered the shift we saw with Barnabas toward “villain protagonists” or DS as a noirish monster show, where the good guys can be hard to tell from the bad guys.

        I am glad that Millay is able to return for 1897 as Laura, and I wonder if it wasn’t a case of Curtis liking her and the Phoenix concept and dropping her into the series at a point when it’s safe to assume that most of the viewers hadn’t seen her original run on the show. (Note that Angelique’s time spent as “Cassandra Collins” is mentioned during 1897 but the “future” Laura is never referenced.)

        1. I think you are right that Curtis liked the idea of Millay and the Phoenix storyline. As someone who actually watched the show when it first started Laura being a Collins twice was a complete retcon. They made a big deal of tracing the Laura Murdocks back over the centuries and although they always married wealthy men and always died by fire, Laura Murdock never married a Collins until she married Roger.

          It’s probably one of those things that Vicki changed with her jaunt into history.

          1. Plus the fact that they had to adjust the 100-year cycles for the Laura of 1897. The 19th century Laura Murdock died as a Radcliffe in 1867, and so wouldn’t have existed in 1897.

            The retcons are understandable, because it’s a completely different writing team going into 1969 than it was in 1966 and 1967, so these later writers probably just wanted to follow their own creative instincts, and Dan Curtis in his usual devil may care attitude simply approved retcon after retcon, given that soaps are less about conforming to history as laid down by departed writing teams and more about serving the story as it unfolds in the moment.

            One other point that is striking is how in 1897 Barnabas reveals that she was married to his uncle Jeremiah, and we were originally led to understand that Barnabas and Jeremiah were pretty close in age, enough to be rivals for the same woman in 1795, yet when Jeremiah is bringing Laura to Collinwood and she is sitting for her portrait Barnabas was described as a love-struck child of ten or so. Perhaps in this retcon, an age gap of fifteen or twenty years widened between Jeremiah and Barnabas. In stories that involve time travel and the like, anything is possible, even retcons.

  4. Julia must have been counseling Amy on the art of Freeloading 101 – these two should have been blood relatives – Amy is Julia’s new mini-me..

    1. That’s funny.
      Although, Julia is a doctor, and comes in handy in medical emergencies, from time to time. Maybe that’s how she earns her keep. She might be sort of status symbol for the Collins family, a live-in doctor. That, or the Collins family are just a bunch of junkies, and they really, really like what’s in her little black bag.

      That gives me a really bad idea for a DS story:
      Julia loses her mind and takes control of EVERYTHING. Through hypnosis, drugs, mind control, coercion, arm-twisting and contortionistic jazz exotica, she has everyone in Collinwood under her control. They think they are living their normal lives, but in reality, they have all become Julia’s helpless, hapless slaves and chauffeurs.
      It’s all part of an evil master plan to steal the master bedroom from Elizabeth. Julia’s room is nice, but Elizabeth’s has the best view of the ocean, and with the help of some strange unseen forces, she’s going to have it!

      1. Julia’s presence at Collinwood is interesting, because just a few months earlier, prior to the resolution of the McGuire Blackmail plot, Elizabeth Stoddard would never have allowed a stranger to live at Collinwood. But the paranoid shut-in portion of Elizabeth’s personality has vanished and is never mentioned again.

        Her continued presence, especially after she reveals that she’s actually a doctor, is never explained because it’s rightly understood that no one cares: We love the character and want her nearby. She’s more the leading lady than Elizabeth or Vicki.

        HODS, which speeds through the Barnabas storyline, plops Julia on the scene as a doctor on sabbatical who’s writing a history of the Collins family. (Her historian background is also ignored in the movie, as it’s Stokes who uncovers the truth about Barnabas’s background.) The 1991 series follows this path and it’s irritating dramatically (though much about that show is). TV Julia’s arrival at Collinwood isn’t a coincidence. And she’s been working on her vampire cure for a while.

        1. Julia kept them all well supplied with sedatives, that’s why they wanted her around…

          (Come to think of it, why didn’t he shoot Barnabas full of sedatives when he was so bent on strangling her? It would have improved his mood.)

  5. I do like the ‘they angle’ that comes into play from this point forward. The whole aspect of the uncharted strata of Collinwood spooks lying around the forgotten corners of the east and west wing. Interesting to as Quentin Collins is in part a forgotten piece of dark shadows early script- the proposed (was it Benjamin Collins?) ancestor lurking in the east wing in Art Wallace’s Shadows on the Wall treatment, that ended up split into Barnabas and the Quentin. We start playing with some interesting levels of planning for Dark Shadows as Amy and Chris get slowly drawn to their origins. I also love how it plays with the dynamic as Barnabas begins to become a truly paternal force for the family, hell bent and resolving their issues for once instead of his own. Though of course this being Barnabas his transition is far from smooth.

    1. Yeah, Barnabas’s trip to 1796 to save Vicki is in his own lovesick fool self-interest, but he’s also willing to see her run off with Peter Bradford. That itself is mild progress.

      I’ve argued that Vicki’s departure is not just good for the show but it’s specifically good for Barnabas. He starts to become more focused on the family as a whole, and although Frid had no chemistry with Motltke, a tender rapport starts to build between him and KLS during the haunting of Collinwood that works well.

  6. Compared to how the show evolves in 1969, beginning with this episode, 1968 seems to represent the “growing pains” period of Dark Shadows. Once the show becomes a huge hit, it’s as if the makers don’t quite know how to adjust. They know they’ve got a new and younger demographic tuning in, and because their idea of youth is some 10 or 20 years outdated, as epitomized by the appearance of “contemporary” beatnik biker Buzz in 1967, the writers and producers are a bit out of touch with that demographic. It’s as if they feel they have to use fast-moving shock value, gimmicks, and special effects to keep that demographic interested. The 1968 show becomes a case of spooks run wild because for these crucial few months the makers seem unwilling to trust in their sense of story as the first and foremost element that drives the show.

    But now, just in time before the show goes too far to the extreme and runs off the rails completely and begins to parody itself the way the Universal monsters began to after their first decade, the makers swiftly jettison all the excess story baggage that had made the show a compartmentalized mishmash of unrelated and slow-moving plots that only served to marginalize such core characters as Liz and David, not to mention Vicki. Now, the producers are trusting in, and finally mastering, their fundamental strength of pacing and story balance, where the show now becomes integrated and focused to the point where, if something happens, like Quentin taking over the house completely, everyone at Collinwood is affected because everyone has something at stake.

  7. My favorite moment in this episode (or is it in the previous one?) is when David and Amy are talking in his room, and David says,

    ‘Why would Quentin talk to you and not me? He’s /my/ ancestor.’

    It makes me wonder when exactly they decided to have Quentin be Chris’ and Amy’s great grandfather. Was this laid out yet for this episode? Or did they decide that later

    1. It’s really hard to say how planned out this was. I remember basically thinking, once the 1897 storyline is that we never really find out how the heck Quentin ended up a ghost in that room. Barnabas showing up changes everything and so we never learn the real story behind Quentin or why he wanted Amy and David.

    2. Yes, I’m going to watch carefully to see when this is made clearer. I know there’s a seance and Carolyn is possessed by Magda, who refers to “my curse.”

      It’s very possible, also, that Quentin is popular.The wrewolf is popular. And when we go back to 1897, they have the idea to combine them — rather than say, having Tim Shaw (as played by Briscoe) be the cursed ancestor. Amy and Chris’s relation to the Collins is only briefly mentioned in the present day and never becomes a story issue.

  8. I can’t help it, David and Amy are OTP for me. I can’t imagine a future in which they don’t eventually get married and spend the rest of their lives wandering around the boarded up sections of the house in their PJs.

    1. In the Big Finish timeline, Amy and David are happily engaged by 1984, with the wedding promised for the forthcoming “Bloodlines” full cast audio.

  9. The telephone scene was incredibly eerie. Granted, i’m watching in the middle of night in a quiet house, not in broad daylight as originally aired. Afterwards, i made the mistake of reading up on “The Turn of the Screw”. I was unable to sleep, just as David warned.

    There is a controversy about the Henry James novella: are the children making it up in order to frighten the governess, who then goes insane? or are there really ghosts?

    Is Amy pretending to talk to someone on the other end of the antique phone to play with David’s head? She is such a strange little girl anyway, appearing out of nowhere in the woods like that was bad enough.

    Although i think we all know there are definitely ghosts at Collinwood and we all know Quentin is coming.

    Wikipedia says this about “The Turn of the Screw”:

    “Other critics have strongly defended the governess and that The Turn of the Screw was intended as a straightforward ghost story. James’s Notebooks entry indicates that he was inspired originally by a tale he heard from Edward White Benson, the Archbishop of Canterbury. James was told was about an incident in Hinton Ampner, wherein in 1771 a woman named Mary Ricketts moved from her home after seeing the apparitions of a man and a woman, day and night, staring through the windows, bending over the beds, and making her feel her children were in danger.”

    They also compare it to “The Others”

    Exceptional storytelling on the part of DS. The suspense was really amped up on this episode. I had to stop for the night and couldn’t get it off my mind today.

    1. I love first episode stories…. (how I lost my Dark Shadows virginity?) First episode I saw was Cassandra killing Dr Lang. My second … Angelique rising as a vampire for the first time. Lara Parker became the only woman I ever fell in love with… ha

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