“There’s a way that you can call people from the dead. I’ve seen them do it downstairs a lot.”
Christopher Jennings, handsome and mysterious bad boy with a heart of gold and a secret sorrow, comes over to Collinwood to collect his little sister, who he’s struggling to care for. Their parents are gone, and the more reliable twin brother has recently died, and now it’s just Chris and Amy, trying to make their way in the world.
Also, Chris just murdered a guy last week for walking into his hotel room at the wrong moment. I guess everybody has a different way of coping with stress.
Now, we never found out what Chris did with his victim’s mutilated carcass. It must have been quite a clean-up job, because the kill was a spectacularly messy event, and it happened in the hotel room that Chris had just checked into. The whole room was torn up, and the body was savaged, so you’d imagine the trail of blood and bone and skull fragments would have been pretty easy for anybody to follow right to the scene of the crime.
But this is Collinsport, where the police force is still trying to figure out who killed all those cows two years ago. You can basically just drag your blood-soaked corpses out to the curb on recycling day, and then clean the carpets at your leisure.
So when Chris shows up at Collinwood to pick up Amy, he’s just the same charming guy that he was back when he was felony-free, and it looks like the daughter of the house has noticed.
Carolyn says, “It’s been a long time!” and smiles, and then she says, “You haven’t changed,” and smiles. So there you are. Carolyn is open for business.
This is a mild retcon, I believe — I don’t think there was any hint before that the Collins family and the Jennings family had ever met. Liz found Amy in the woods yesterday, and it didn’t seem like she recognized her, and several months ago, Julia was moaning about Tom Jennings, and I don’t think anybody knew who she was talking about.
But I’m not going to go back and check, because who cares. Chris and Carolyn like each other. On with the show.
The funny thing is that they’re treating him like a sweet guy with an unfortunate hang-up, rather than a radioactive serial killer, which is what he is.
Neither the soap opera or the monster movie genre are particularly subtle with the characterization, because in both cases, you’ve got to keep the audience pretty well informed about what’s going on, or their minds tend to wander. So if the villains even bother to hide their dark intentions at all, they do it behind an easily permeable sneer, and as soon as everyone’s back is turned, they say mwa-ha-haaaa, and start poisoning everyone’s sherry.
But Chris is awkward, and bashful, and polite, and everybody seems to like him. That means a lot for a new character — making a friend means that you have value in the narrative, and that goes double if they can establish that you’re already friends with a core character, like Carolyn. There’s no ambiguity here. The audience is under strict instructions to like Christopher Jennings.
So I guess we’re just straight-up rooting for the psychopaths these days. This approach is new for the show; we’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Barnabas has become the central character, but I don’t think there’s ever been a moment where we’re supposed to think that he’s a great guy. He’s almost always plotting to commit some horrible crime, to cover up for his previous horrible crimes.
Similarly, Adam started out as an innocent, clumsy child, and became a romantic grad student under Carolyn and Professor Stokes’ care, but once he fell under Nicholas’ satanic influence, he turned into a monster, and couldn’t come back.
What we’ve got here is a character being served to us unambiguously as a potential new romantic lead, and a mass murderer, at the same time.
In fact, by mid-episode we’ve even got Chris and Carolyn on a date, where they’re both just stammering and blushing away like a couple of kids, and it’s almost like his next victim isn’t right here in the room.
But then the church bell rings five, and Chris realizes that it’s getting dark, which is terribly irresponsible.
I mean, his whole shtick is that he’s always brooding over the curse which haunts him every moment, and he’s even had a couple of noticeable twinges of guilt during this conversation, but this is now the second time that we’ve seen him caught off guard by the lunar cycle.
It’s not like the moon can sneak up on you all of a sudden. I think somebody needs to invest in an almanac and a bookmark.
Although, to be fair, the full moon shows up a lot more often in Collinsport than anywhere else in the world. Chris killed the hotel clerk last week, and he was prowling in the woods last night, and today there’s another bad moon on the rise.
Now, as we’ve discussed before, time never works the way you think it should in serialized narrative. The events of a single night can go on for five episodes, but as far as the audience is concerned, whenever you turn on the TV, the episode takes place today.
So if you want to be nitpicky and poke fun at Collinsport’s lunar peculiarities, there are two ways to go. You could use the air dates to measure the time between full moons, or you could watch carefully and count all of the days and evenings that pass by in story time. Both methods will give you the same result, which is that nobody cares.
After all, if you’re fortunate enough to be making a television show that includes werewolf attacks, then the last thing that you want to do is wait a month between werewolf attacks. You want as many werewolf attacks as you can squeeze into your werewolf show, because werewolf attacks are awesome.
Still, Chris ought to have a better plan than this. He’s had either a month or a week or twenty-two minutes since the last time this happened, and he has not used that time constructively. He just runs back to his hotel room, locks the door, chains his ankle to the radiator, and hopes for the best.
I mean, you have to ask how often he’s had to do this, and if it has ever, ever worked. We just saw him do the “lock the door” trick last week. It was not a success.
But, oh, will you get a load of this. Dark Shadows makeup artist Vinnie Loscalzo worked on a lot of cool stuff during his time on the show — vampire bites, Frankenstein scars, zombie heads and Quentin’s muttonchops — but the werewolf is his greatest achievement. Just look at it, it’s gorgeous.
And they’ve got this awesome new snarling dog sound effect for the werewolf that is probably the single scariest thing they’ve had on the show. It is not possible to hear that growling and not get at least a little bit nervous; it operates on a primitive level that gets under your skin.
So this is the point — the makeup, the sound effects, the stunt man with yak hair glued to his face crashing through the window at the Blue Whale after last call. It’s phenomenal. People make fun of how cheap Dark Shadows is, with its wobbly sets and no retakes, and the show really was running on a ridiculously low budget.
But with that reputation, you’d expect that the werewolf costume would look silly, and he’d just run into the room snarling, rather than jumping head first through the window. Instead, it looks amazing. They spent the money and time where it really counts, which is the spectacle.
So they close the week with one of the most effective action sequences they’ve ever done. For my money, it’s Barnabas getting bitten by the marionette bat, and the werewolf jumping through the window at the Blue Whale. Everything else is a distant third.
The barmaid squeals, and the wolf man looks us straight in the eye, and all is forgiven. All the sins and trespasses of the last several months — the missteps, and the crimes against narrative — they are forgiven, now and forever.
It’s a good day to be alive. Not for the barmaid, obviously, but in general.
Monday: Left Behind.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
David sits down in front of the fireplace, and says, “I know what we can do!” It takes Amy a couple beats before she remembers that she’s supposed to say, “What?”
As David and Amy set up the seance, you can see the reflection of a yellow studio light in the window behind David.
I don’t usually mention the boom mic shadows, because they’re so common, but there really is an epic example when Carolyn introduces Chris to Vicki in the foyer. You can practically read the serial number off it.
David tells Amy, “Don’t feel too bad, Amy. I don’t like to feel my — I don’t like to see my relatives.”
When Chris enters the room and Amy runs into his arms, he picks her up and swings her around. Her skirt rides up, and you can see her underwear.
Chris gets off track:
Amy: Where have you been?
Chris: Now, wait just a minute. The question is not where have I been.
Amy: It is!
Chris: That’s not it. That’s not the question. (He looks at the teleprompter.) You were supposed to stay in that hospital!
When Carolyn and Chris walk upstairs, a music cue starts and then suddenly stops. We cut to the next scene, and the music starts up again.
The jukebox music suddenly cuts off in the middle of Carolyn and Chris’ scene in the Blue Whale.
As Chris manacles himself to the radiator, somebody in the studio says, “Hey, just a minute!”
The scene with Chris turning into the werewolf was filmed earlier and then edited in. This creates some odd jumps in the music at the beginning and end of the sequence.
Behind the Scenes:
The pentagram appearing on the barmaid’s face is a reference to Universal’s 1941 film The Wolf Man. In the film, the mark of the pentagram can be seen on the hand of the werewolf’s next victim.
This may also have been referenced in episode 632 last week, when Chris killed the hotel clerk. Check out the screenshot above — when they’re seen from the right angle, the shadows on the wall suggest a pentagram.
The werewolf is stunt man Alex Stevens, who appears in 25 episodes over the next year and a half. It’s early in his screen career. Until now, he’s only been in two movies — Lady in Cement starring Frank Sinatra, and the Kirk Douglas movie A Lovely Way to Die. In 1969, he’ll do some memorable stunt work for the first season of Sesame Street, playing the baker who sings, “Six chocolate cakes!” and then falls down the stairs.
He’s credited as “Stunt Coordinator,” although the credit appears in the middle of the cast list.
People are always pointing out that it’s funny that the werewolf “shrinks” — Don Briscoe and David Selby are both over six feet tall, and Stevens is five foot eight. Why people think that turning into an animal should make you taller, I don’t know.
The barmaid is played by Carol Ann Lewis, in her only Dark Shadows appearance. Lewis appeared in a couple episodes of Route 66, and in a 1969 movie called All Women Are Bad. She appeared in a small role in Spofford on Broadway in early 1968, and that’s all my intel on her.
Monday: Left Behind.
— Danny Horn