Episode 671: The Phone Book of the Dead

“You know how girls are, they’re always having dizzy spells.”

Carolyn’s heading out for a moonlight stroll over to her mother’s private mausoleum. Elizabeth died three weeks ago, but Carolyn insists on paying regular visits to the crypt, just for old times’ sake.

Before she clocked out, Liz was convinced that she would be buried alive — everyone would think she was dead, but she’d really be lying in a comatose state, trapped in a coffin and unable to call for help. So she built herself a state-of-the-art mausoleum, complete with a push-button at her fingertips that she could press if she suddenly got better.

So Carolyn goes to visit every day, wondering if her mother will ever revive. Maggie tells her that it would be better if she could just accept her mother’s death, but Carolyn says that she still keeps hoping.

Maggie finally blurts out, “It’s not possible for someone to come back from the dead,” except on Dark Shadows, of course, where they never do anything else.

671 dark shadows carolyn coffin

So here’s one of those unexamined assumptions that I never really understood: Why do dead people know everything?

I mean, you’d think they would be the last people to keep up with current events. But the dead are always issuing cryptic warnings about the future, and they know everybody’s secrets. They even know what Christmas dinner is like over at Bob Cratchit’s place, which they’re happy to share with you in some detail.

It feels like a guy could be a grade-Z lamebrain his whole life, and then he catches a lucky break and dies, and all of a sudden he’s at one with the wisdom of the ages. I’m sorry, but I don’t think that’s plausible.

671 dark shadows liz underwater

For example, here’s Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (deceased), down but not out. She’s spent the last three weeks lying flat on her back, with a streak of light shining right across her eyes, which can’t be doing anything helpful as far as resting in peace is concerned.

But she’s not only aware that her daughter is quietly sniffling near the coffin, she also knows that Carolyn’s boyfriend is about to turn into a werewolf and go hunting for blondes.

“I am alive, Carolyn,” Liz thinks furiously. “I try to speak, but I can’t! I must find some way to tell you — you are in terrible danger!”

So I don’t know what’s going on there. Before she went down for a power nap, Liz didn’t know that Chris was a werewolf, but apparently being mostly dead gives you backstage access. As always, the medium is the message.

671 dark shadows chris transformation

But let’s check in with Chris the boy werewolf, who doesn’t have a plan for like the millionth full moon in a row.

I honestly don’t know why it seems to bother me so much that Chris is always caught unaware, even though he has the most manageable supernatural affliction that you could hope for, arriving exactly on schedule at easily predictable intervals.

But the audience wants as much werewolf action as we can get, and responsible time management is not a heart-stopper. I know this. And yet I keep yelling at the screen, dude, get a Day Runner.

671 dark shadows werewolf hands

Anyway, it all works out okay, in the sense that he turns into a snarling beast, and then engages in the silliest post-transformation werewolf routine this side of the Groovie Goolies.

He looks down at his hands, and acts startled, like he’s thinking, hang on, these look like werewolf hands, well I never, this is absolutely the frozen limit.

671 dark shadows werewolf mirror

And then he walks calmly over to the mirror to assess the damage.

It’s not until he gives himself a once-over in the mirror that he starts acting crazy and smacking light fixtures across the room. There is every indication that if Chris didn’t have a mirror hanging on the wall, then the werewolf would just sit quietly on the couch and think things over.

671 dark shadows werewolf housewares

Things get a little hectic for the housewares, and then the savage werewolf uses the doorknob and lets himself out for a walk.

This mirror-and-doorknob routine just makes me smile like a little kid at Christmas. Oh, ridiculous Dark Shadows werewolf, I wll love you until the day that I die.

671 dark shadows maggie david amy gaslight

At this point, the episode takes a turn for the worse, because we have to watch David and Amy’s incomprehensible possession plot.

The kids are currently being mind-controlled by their angry ancestor Quentin Collins, who’s dead and therefore has his finger on the pulse of everything happening on the estate, just like Liz and apparently every other dead person in the immediate area.

Quentin’s been trying to arrange things so that Carolyn goes over to Chris’ cottage at moonrise, although how Quentin knows Chris’ schedule in advance is one of those mysteries we were talking about earlier. Dead people must have an email newsletter or something; they’re very well-informed.

671 dark shadows amy david strange

The part that confuses me is that Quentin has been using the children to terrorize the residents of Collinwood, driving them all mad with anxiety. But then the kids keep sabotaging their own plan at every turn.

Check out this interaction with their governess, Maggie:

Maggie:  There have been so many strange things that have been happening lately, like Mrs. Johnson’s experience at the cottage.

David:  You don’t really believe that she saw some strange man there.

Maggie:  Yes, David, I think I do.

David:  I think she was just imagining it. Mrs. Johnson’s always been jumpy like that. Besides, there wasn’t any strange man when we got there, was there?

Maggie:  No, but he could have gotten out the back way.

David:  Then how come nobody’s seen him since?

Maggie:  I don’t know, David.

So my question is: what the hell? Isn’t the idea that they’re trying to convince everyone that this obviously haunted house is obviously haunted? Why are they always undercutting the tension, and saying that everything is fine?

It’s like they’re slow-motion reverse-gaslighting Mrs. Johnson, showing her a real ghost and then reassuring other people that everything is okay. Children, your plan makes no sense to me, and I refuse to be entertained by it. Take that.

671 dark shadows carolyn woods

Meanwhile, Carolyn spends most of the episode walking back and forth through the woods, because there’s a monster there and we need to give him somebody to play with.

As she’s walking, she suddenly hears her mother calling to her, breaking all known laws of physics, causality and common sense. “Carolyn!” Liz cries. “You must hear me! You are in danger!”

Again, not sure how Liz is keeping tabs on this developing situation. Apparently she has GPS on everybody involved. So everyone is psychic now, and they all have Spidey-sense, and if that’s Dark Shadows’ current approach to soap opera information management, then that’s how the show runs at this point.

671 dark shadows werewolf woods

Then we cut to the werewolf, who’s sort of prowling aimlessly through the woods, and suddenly the episode ends.

Tomorrow: Werewolf By Night.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

At the start of the show, Nancy Barrett’s voice has reverb behind it for the first few words of the introduction. The reverb fades by the end of the first sentence.

Maggie changed clothes over the weekend. The teaser in today’s episode repeats the final scene of Friday’s episode, but now Maggie is wearing a scarf, and her hair is tied back.

In act 1, when Maggie closes the front door at Collinwood, someone in the studio has a coughing fit. There’s another loud cough in act 3, when Carolyn puts on her coat. There’s been a lot of this lately. It’s January in New York City; I guess there’s a cold going around.

As the transformation happens, Chris postitions himself to stare directly at the camera, so they can line up the werewolf face. As the werewolf fades in, it’s obvious that the eyes aren’t lined up. They quickly move the camera to get the two shots in synch.

Chris’ shirt is more open at the neck when he’s human than it is when he’s a werewolf; the transformation buttons up one button. Not that I spend all my time paying attention to how open people’s shirts are.

The first time that we see “dead” Liz in the coffin, her eyelids move.

I fixed this in the quote above for clarity, but what David actually says is, “I think she was just imagining it. Mrs. Johnson’s been always jumpy like that.”

David tells Amy, “You couldn’t go by — the front way, because you would pass my room.”

Tomorrow: Werewolf By Night.

671 dark shadows werewolf silhouette

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

33 thoughts on “Episode 671: The Phone Book of the Dead

  1. During the Victorian era ‘safety coffins’ were developed to allow the occupant to signal that they have been buried alive and were popular during cholera epidemics in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some have suggested that phrases like “saved by the bell”, “dead ringer” and “graveyard shift” may have come from the use of these coffins although it’s debatable.

    There are no documented cases of anyone being saved by such a device.


  2. What the hell, indeed.

    The whole David/Amy possession bit is simple pandering to the school kid audience, and their interaction with adults was an indulgence that I, a ten year old, loved to do at the time….screw with my parents and teachers by acting crazy or possessed. They just couldn’t process it.

    Every kid loves power. Keeping the elders confused gave the children that sense of power.

    Real or not.

    It’s pure Kid Fun.

  3. At the time I just took it as the kids were trying to make the others think Mrs. Johnson was losing it. For whatever reason.

    As far as ghosts being smarter and all-knowing, I assume this is tied to the idea that once free of the body and its limitations, the “spirit” would have the ability to absorb knowledge and situations without its constraints (like space, time, etc). Not sure how this applies to Liz since technically she’s not dead but maybe being so close to death she’s able to tap into some of this. I’m just making all this up but then so were the Dark Shadows writers : )

  4. The possession storyline is mostly all over the place. I think previous antagonists had a clear agenda: Barnabas — new Josette, either Maggie or Vicki, and the treatments with Julia was a means to this end; Angelique wanted to become Mrs. Barnabas Collins; Nicholas failed, I think, because his goals were murky and not very compelling when clear.

    We don’t know what Quentin or Beth want, and the attempt at mystery is frustrating more than intriguing.

    David and Amy swerve, depending on the episode, from willing accomplices (the Devil Tots, as they were called by fans) to tortured children. David was originally a very disturbed child and it would’ve been nice to see him willfully falling under Quentin’s sinister paternal influence (because perhaps Jamison never did).

    1. I was hoping they would put David and Amy in mental institutions, especially David. They ought not to have played cheap tricks on people. As a result, they are both crazy as hell right now.

  5. To me, the possession story line evolves smoothly and logically. Unlike Peter Quint in Turn of the Screw, Quentin isn’t trying to drag a child’s soul into Hell–he just wants to drive everyone out of the house, and to do so he has to draw power from the living, starting with the youngest and most vulnerable. As his powers grow, he makes himself known to the other residents, and they’re afraid, and this gives him more power. The bit with Quentin driving Madame Findley nuts (or scaring her to death; whatever) was a bad move, because it made Quentin too powerful and deadly too soon, but DS is always jumping ahead of itself (and/or reinventing its plots as they progress), so what the heck.

    Remember–in Turn of the Screw, Quint’s chief power source is the governess’ suppressed sex drive. She’s attracted to her boss, and she projects this attraction onto his nephew, Miles. (Which is creepier–he influence on the kid, or Quint’s? That’s James’ gimmick.) Her thwarted desire provides the setting and energy for Quint to show up. No way DS could or would have pulled that off. DS being just slightly less nuanced than Henry James….

  6. Doctor, am I addicted to panic?

    Looking forward to tomorrow, my most favorite moment since Joe Haskell’s last nightmare about meeting Hairy, and Fang, in everyone’s favorite graveyard/hang-out.

  7. This is a little off topic but how did Liz attend to her hygiene needs while in a ‘trance state!’ I mean it’s one thing to be in a trance, even like Liz herself was during the phoenix storyline. Liz was sent to a fine private hospital where ALL of her mental and physical basic needs were attended to. Now it’s the second time around and no more Mr Dan Curtis niceguy – no more fancy sanitariums, just crate her up and let her sweat it out.

    1. Well, the spell put her in suspended animation, while her finger exercise kept her in physically fit condition! I love DS Logic.

    2. Good point, she just needed to go to the bathroom. Her periods probably stopped by then since she appears to be in her 50’s..

        1. Well I think all on the show have questionable hygiene habits. They definitely do not change clothes often or eat. Barnabas does have a few suit changes, however it would be nice to see him in some dockers and boat shoes. So if Barnabas never had electricity did he have indoor plumbing or just used a slop jar?

      1. I love that. It’s the first thing I thought of, too. Not “what does she eat? Why isn’t she terribly dehydrated? Doesn’t she get bored?” – nope, it’s “HOW DOES SHE PEE?!”

        If that makes me weird, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one.

        Also, though La Bennett’s blinking (and swallowing, in the profile shot) is clearly unintended, it doesn’t really register to me as a “goof” because, well, she’s not actually dead anyway.

  8. According to the Collins Family Fractured History, Volume II, Mrs Stoddard was fresh as a daisy when she rose from her crypt. Make that two daisies.

  9. The Liz-in-a-box plot bugged me because (OK, MAINLY because); as anybody who’s ever worked in foodservice can tell you, there is a handle on the INSIDE of the walk-ins so you CANNOT get trapped inside. Why all the angst about a buzzer in the casket, and the necessity for having someone on constant alert for it? Just put in a handle, get out on your own when you wake up.
    Guess La Liz does NOT do things for herself, she rings for staff.

    1. Oh, totally! She’s in a crypt too, so it’s not like she’d even need assistance digging herself out of the ground. And yet Barnabas, the terrifying monster that should never be released, is entombed in a mausoleum with a handy quick-release false wall.

  10. A side comment regarding the shot of Elizabeth in the coffin – she sure looks like she could be Victoria Winters mother.

    1. I thought I understood Joan, in one of her interviews that Vicki was indeed her real daughter. I could be wrong. I can see the resemblance though.

  11. Correction: In this episode, without her makeup, Joan Bennet has a strong resemblance to Alexandra Moltke. You could easily picture them as mother and daughter. I never noticed that before. I wonder if that is one of the reasons Moltke was hired.

  12. Re: the werewolf’s shirt buttoning–the one open button still is enough to reveal the werewolf’s neck, which is hairless.

    Where is Roger? (I know that the “real” answer is that Louis Edmonds is on a break.) Liz has supposedly been “dead” for three weeks, but he hasn’t returned to the family from his business trip in London in all that time? We have never had any indication that anyone was even able to contact him.

    When Maggie comes to the cottage door as Chris is about to undergo the transformation, why does he yell out, “Who is it?” They already knew he was planning to leave, so why didn’t he just not answer and pretend he had left? (I know, because then the plot wouldn’t move forward in the way it does.)

    1. Yeah, but… Chris is hot, so it’s cool.

      (Also I’d imagine a complete physical werewolf transformation is probably a bit painful, or at least weird-feeling enough to excuse some… questionable facial expressions. Lang pulls that kind of face when he leaves the teabag in for more than three minutes.)

  13. “So here’s one of those unexamined assumptions that I never really understood: Why do dead people know everything?”

    It’s a fair question, but the assumption itself goes back thousands of years, and is the impetus for ancient consultations with the dead, known as necromancy.

    Apparently the dead know more than we do about current and future events.

    1. It’s a snowball of credulity. If you can believe one crazy thing – that you can talk to the dead – it’s not so big a leap to the next crazy thing – that the dead know the secrets of the universe. It’s these incremental steps towards utter bonkers-ness that allow people to believe in all sorts of weirdness that, looked at directly, seem too strange to swallow.

      1. It’s also believed by many that those who are close to death have the gift of prophecy. I would imagine that Liz is as close to death right now as one can get and not be actually dead (or undead), due to the witch’s curse. She’s kind of like Schrödinger’s cat… both alive and dead at the same time.

  14. Anyone want to guess what the figure in the stained glass in Liz’s crypt is supposed to be? It looks to me like an elephant being hoisted in the air but that can’t be right!! But seriously, what is it? Weird looking angel!

  15. “It’s like they’re slow-motion reverse-gaslighting Mrs. Johnson, showing her a real ghost and then reassuring other people that everything is okay.”

    That’s exactly what they’re doing – they’re trying to discredit her since she came across them in the attic being weird in old clothes. They immediately started telling people that Mrs Johnson has been seeing things that aren’t there. They arrange for her to go the cottage, Quentin pops up and scares her then disappears before anybody else can see him. It’s all very much in line with the supernatural interpretation of “Turn of the Screw”.

    1. Yes, exactly this. At this point Quentin’s endgame isn’t “they all believe the house is haunted”, it’s “they all end up dead or mad”. In Mrs. Johnson’s case, it’s important that the others believe she’s crazy ASAP, because she knows a little too much.

  16. Okay, if we’re supposed to accept that Liz is now clairvoyant, couldn’t she be more specific with Carolyn? Rather than just, “Carolyn, you’re in danger,” how about, “Carolyn, there’s a werewolf on your trail. Make with the feet, girl!”

  17. Also, it looked like the werewolf picked up an undershirt sometime between leaving the house and arriving in the forest.

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