Episode 640: Bad Wolf

“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.

632 dark shadows clerk mpov

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.

640 dark shadows chris carolyn smile

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.

640 dark shadows chris carolyn reason

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.

640 dark shadows chris amy psycho

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.

640 dark shadows carolyn chris date

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.

640 dark shadows carolyn chris moon

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.

640 dark shadows barmaid pentagram

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.

640 dark shadows chris plan

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.

640 dark shadows alex stevens werewolf

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.

640 dark shadows werewolf last call

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.

640 dark shadows werewolf glass

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.

640 dark shadows werewolf jump

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.

640 dark shadows werewolf action

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.

640 dark shadows werewolf attack

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.

640 dark shadows wolf man pentagram

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

27 thoughts on “Episode 640: Bad Wolf

  1. Alex Stevens, the stuntman/werewolf, passed away a few weeks ago, on April 15th, at the age of 80… 😦

  2. I’m sorry to hear that. Quentin’s werewolf curse is one of the first things I associate with the show. So even if I never really knew him by name, that makes Stevens a big part of the cast for me.

    The idea of the werewolves looking smaller than Briscoe or Selby has a kind of precedent – in the book (as opposed to the movies) Mr. Hyde is noticeably smaller than Dr. Jekyll.

  3. And not only does Quentin shrink when he becomes the wolf that walks like a man, his eyes change from blue to brown! I am a fan of this type werewolf. I don’t care for the more modern take of becoming, literally, a wolf. I have always loved the DS werewolf. When it works it certainly works well.

  4. The werewolf is an ideal monster “protagonist” because he literally becomes a different person, so you get the monster spectacle but you can also identify with your leading man who is suffering from the curse, but is otherwise a nice guy. It’s an extreme form of the Incredible Hulk (but with a much higher body count, of course).

    Vampires are problematic because they retain their intelligence, so when they attack and kill people, it’s hard for the audience to distance them from their evil acts. Angel was a successful vampire protagonist but in name only (as he didn’t drink human blood or attack people).

    Also, everything that we like about Chris could conceivably continue if he was ever cured. He’s charming and kind. If you remove the darkness from Barnabas, he’s just a kindly uncle character.

    The worst thing you can say about Chris is that he doesn’t just kill himself, but some werewolf fiction makes that impossible (he can’t die in human form and the werewolf is not that accommodating). The full moon aspect adds a predictability that should result in better planning, which is why I liked the WEREWOLF TV series from the 1980s that presented the change as occurring randomly — the lead never knew when it might happen.

    1. I think Chris could take some steps. He’s in his late 20s, and this has been going on a few times a month for a while, on a regular schedule (give or take the weird time progression on soap operas). And he doesn’t have a protocol for it? When we saw him last week, his entire plan was to go into a room in a populated area and close the door.

      1. In Chris’s first episode, Joe tells Julia that Chris was always “hard to track down” and moved around a lot. I think he was making better efforts to keep himself away from others. We’d have to assume that’s the case because he hasn’t been exposed.

        So, it’s staying in Collinsport — a small town but still a town — where he has no routine or easy place to hide that is making things more difficult. We get the sense that if he didn’t stay for Amy, he would have moved on and back to his former reclusive life.

        I prefer that explanation in that it makes Chris more sympathetic and I like Chris.

        1. Yes, suddenly being responsible to take care of Amy means Chris needs to be in town. I think that once he realized what was happening, he could take himself to the woods, far from people during the full moon. Then there isn’t anyone around to kill. I too liked Chris, so I want to believe that is how it happened.

          1. I think this is a perfect example of how the audience doesn’t really care about the moral qualities of characters. I like Chris too — he’s cute and occasionally funny, he has friends, and he generates plot points.

            But if you lived next door to him, in real life, you wouldn’t want to hear a list of excuses that explain why he accidentally killed and ate your child. Yeah, it’s tough to turn yourself in, or end your own life. But that’s one person’s life, rather than all the people he has already killed and will probably kill in the future. He should be locked up.

            So when we make excuses for him — which we do, and I do too — it’s because Chris’ value in the narrative is higher than the hotel clerk’s or the barmaid’s. It’s a fairly dark fact about human nature that we care about the people we know way more than the people we don’t know.

            1. I do agree. If my hypothesis that previously Chris had gotten himself to isolated areas during a full moon is right, then the responsible thing to do when they tracked him down and told him that Amy needed him to take care of her was for him to say “Nope, I’m a total heartless flake. Let children and family services find a place for her.” and continue to live the way he did the least damage. That, however, would have meant no Quentin storyline, or a very different one. So irresponsible it is!

            2. When Chris is in a good mood, he does a little W. C. Fields impression, like when David visits him, early one morning.

        2. Ditto. Joe also said that Chris went off to the mountains a lot. He can’t do that now because he’s Amy’s primary caregiver.

          Meanwhile I always got the impression that Carolyn/Chris knew each other but she didn’t realise he had a sister. After all, Joe’s a small-town Collinsport boy and Chris/Tom/Amy-Molly are their cousins (and SPOILER ALERT descended from royalty), so it’s not a jump to Carolyn/Chris knowing each other. Of course, I don’t believe for a second the writers were planning more than 7-8 episodes ahead at this point!! LOL

  5. I agree, I love werewolves, and prefer they walk upright, and wear pants. I like half man/ half wolf, not mostly wolf.

    Modern monsters tend to be too overwhelmingly strong, there’s no contest and that’s really boring and juvenile. It’s fine if you know the vampire or werewolf is somewhat physically stronger than the hero, but not to the point where they can throw a car at you, and can perform fantastic feats of gymnastic stupidity.

  6. As part of the ABC cross-promotional campaign ahead of the release of House of Dark Shadows, Alex Stevens appeared as the Werewolf on a 1970 episode of the popular game show What’s My Line? and stumped the panel. Stevens then removed his makeup. This clip is in the game shows segment of the Bloopers & Treasures DVD.

    https://scontent-iad.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpf1/v/t1.0-9/534586_333470730035685_1115010361_n.jpg?oh=c344909d52a9eaa441661da75b6073f8&oe=55D21674

  7. Actually way back at the beginning of the Barnabas storyline Joe Haskell related the story of the killing and mutilation of the farm animals. He mentioned that this occured on his uncle’s farm on the outskirts of town. It would make perfect sense that this was probably the Jennings farm that Joe was referring to – thereby Carolyn would have known the Jennings brothers from the time she dated Joe. Liz may have heard of the family but being a recluse for 18 years she may not have known them by site.

  8. I agree that the werewolf makeup is marvelous–and scary. Reviewers love to diss it, but if you saw Alex Stevens coming at you in that get-up, you’d run like hell out of the DS woods–which might have taken 30 seconds, given the size of that set.

    40, maybe.

    I have a different take on the awkward edits before and after the Chris/werewolf transformation. Namely, they had to have Stevens in the same spot as Briscoe to accomplish the live camera-to-camera dissolve, and Briscoe had to be someplace else. They could only do that by stopping and restarting. Note that all we see during the moment of dissolve is Briscoe’s face fading into Stevens’. This is to hide the fact that Briscoe is on another set.

    They could have used duplicate sets for the dissolves, but of course that would be way out of the DS budget. The bad splice following the transformation is less easily explained. Maybe the attack was earlier footage.

    A similar edit happens much later in the series, when the werewolf is about to finish off Jeb in the Old House. To effect the dissolve, Stevens has to be on a second set, and so they do the same bit of stopping and restarting.

    In the scene where Joe witnesses Chris’ change, the camera awkwardly dwells on Joe while Alex replaces Briscoe in the chair. Thus, they avoided a sloppy tape edit but killed the scene’s momentum with the long pause.

    Interestingly, by the time we get to Cyrus Longworth, the show has figured out how to do a same-set dissolve (but not, unfortunately, how to align it properly).

  9. About the They: I figure “They” are a conglomerate of every spirit of every person, good or bad, who ever died at Collinwood. A committee of the Dead who quarrel amongst themselves like the gods on Mount Olympus. There are probably more good than bad, but even one bad apple is trouble. A list would be interesting.

      1. Going to try to do a list of who I think would be on the side of good, and who would be on the side of dirty, rotten evil.

        For example, I would imagine Abigail Collins on the side of good. As horrible and awful as she was, she truly believed she was doing right. She was blind and stupid, but she believed in good. She just had the wrong point of view, the wrong attitude.
        In death, she would see how wrong she was, and might even try to make up for it. Maybe in death, she actually gets to do what she always thought she was doing. I like the concept of redemption.

      2. That would explain a lot. After all, the caretaker warned us! If they can’t rest, this is what happens.

  10. Alex Stevens also doubles for Cavada Humphrey when Janet Findlay crashes down the stairs at Collinwood.

    His stuntwork was usually very spirited and energetic. In the 1995 remake of Kiss of Death, Nicolas Cage yanks him out of the cab of a truck and Alex goes flying dramatically to the pavement. Shortly after seeing him in that scene, I got a chance to compliment him on it and he seemed pleased to have his work appreciated.

    At one point, Alex was listed as one of the stuntmen who would be appearing in the Matthew Broderick Godzilla movie. By the time the film was released, his name was removed from the list. 😦

  11. Probably the most impressively athletic feat Alex Stevens pulls off as the werewolf on Dark Shadows, and this happens more than once, is when he is on the top landing of the Collinwood foyer and grabs the railing with one hand to vault himself over and onto the floor below, landing on his feet with perfect agility and spring, his knees hardly bending when his feet hit the floor. This must be a good twelve to fifteen feet drop from the landing to the floor below, and I doubt that just anyone would consider attempting such a jump. Stunt people have a certain hardy fearlessness to them that most others do not possess.

  12. »Although, to be fair, the full moon shows up a lot more often in Collinsport than anywhere else in the world. «

    Yes, and it’s even worse in the past!! I do like that they tried to explain this with Chris’ “moon’s cycle of fullness” line, allowing them some story leeway.

    1. And at one point Chris transforms without there even being a full moon! It’s remarked by Barnabas and Julia that he shouldn’t have changed though not sure if it’s ever actually explained. But might also show that his transformations were getting a bit wonky and no longer sticking to a regular schedule.

  13. Can’t resist the wardrobe malfunction joke….

    With Amy taking centre stage, have these episodes become… “The Denise (K)nickers on show”?

  14. Regarding Chris as the sympathetic “good guy,” that was more or less Larry Talbot’s characterization as well in the Wolf Man movies. There really wasn’t any malevolence in his human identity, and he was desperate to rid himself of his curse.

    More bloopers:

    When the door to Amy’s room mysteriously opens during the seance, a black figure is seen standing some distance from the door, making it seem as if the door opened itself. Of course we immediately learn this is Victoria. But if she was the figure standing away back from the door, how did the door open?

    When Chris looks at the teleprompter when he forgets his line, he actually has to move himself and Amy (he’s holding her hands) a couple of steps past the bed in order to see it.

    When Chris and Caroline are at the Blue Whale, the clock on wall at the bar says 1:00, even though it’s been established that it’s early evening. In the later scene when the barmaid is closing up, the clock still says 1:00 (which clearly was the intended time).

    When Chris notices it is getting dark outside, he looks at his wrist as if to be looking at a wristwatch. He doesn’t appear to be wearing a watch, however.

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