Episode 674: Donna of the Dead

“Would you want to see a sister of yours, if you’d been responsible for everything that had happened here?”

“There is one possible explanation,” Barnabas says, as he paces the drawing room thoughtfully. “The man turned into an animal.”

And you know what? He’s right. That is the only explanation that anyone considers. Nobody else even tries.

674 dark shadows julia barnabas pacing

Barnabas and Julia are hanging around in the drawing room of somebody else’s house, coming up with absurd hypotheses. “Oh, don’t be amazed, Julia,” Barnabas says. “There is a precedent for this, you know.” He never gets around to explaining what that means. It’s that kind of conversation.

The Junior Detectives are putting their heads together, trying to get to the bottom of the recent rash of mysterious animal attacks. Barnabas notes that the attacks started around the time that Chris Jennings moved to town, and the first person killed by the beast was the clerk at the Collinsport Inn, where Chris was staying. They don’t mention that they both saw the animal last night, and it was clearly wearing shoes, but you can’t think of everything.

Here’s the clincher:

Barnabas:  You yourself said that you thought that his attitude towards Amy was strange.

Julia:  Yes, I had to practically force him to go and see her at Windcliff.

Barnabas:  Would you want to see a sister of yours, if you had been responsible for everything that had happened here?

Julia doesn’t respond to that, because what can you even say.

674 dark shadows barnabas julia murder

Instead, she shoots him a series of meaningful looks.

Julia:  We must be sure, before there’s another murder.

Barnabas:  It may not be too difficult. We should know tonight.

Julia:  How?

Barnabas:  The moon will be full, and the man will become a wolf again.

And then there’ll be another murder, presumably, but I guess that’ll make them doubly sure.

674 dark shadows chris amy lamp

Meanwhile, in the other room, Chris and Amy are having their own weird conversation. Here’s a sample.

Chris:  I found the shirt in the fire. Why’d you do that?

Amy:  It was all dirty.

Chris:  I know it was dirty, but we can’t go around burning all our dirty shirts.

Amy:  I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to. I just saw it there, so I threw it in the fire.

You see what I mean? It’s a big day for weird conversations.

674 dark shadows carolyn donna redshirt

Then Carolyn comes in with a woman we’ve never seen before, and god damn it, she’s wearing a red shirt. Seriously, somebody needs to have a talk with the day players.

Carolyn says, “This is Donna Friedlander, she’s spending the day with us,” and the conversation goes downhill from there.

Carolyn:  I’ve been showing Donna the house, although I can’t find it all that fascinating.

Donna:  Oh, it is — you know it, Carolyn. I’m studying interior design. And honestly, Carolyn, I have never seen antiques like this before. This house is practically a museum!

Carolyn:  Sometimes, I think it’s exactly that.

So apparently today is the day when everyone’s decided not to talk like a human being. Well, I suppose it’s up to them.

674 dark shadows chris carolyn donna window

Chris thinks that he sees a pentagram on Carolyn’s face, which upsets him, and he decides that the most appropriate thing to do is to walk across the room, turn his back on everybody and pretend to look out the window.

Carolyn offers to show Donna the drawing room. On their way out, Donna says, “See you later, Chris,” and Chris says, “Yeah. We probably shall.”

674 dark shadows donna carolyn wow

And that, apparently, is enough for Donna.

Donna:  Wow, he is something.

Carolyn:  What do you mean?

Donna:  My type. Moody.

Carolyn shrugs, “Yes, he certainly is that,” and heads for the drawing room. I don’t know who let Donna off her leash for today. I had no idea this was what interior design students were like.

674 dark shadows barnabas chris other people

But the theme of the show today is that the only thing more scary than being ripped apart by a ravenous wolfman is interacting socially with other people.

On the whole, the Dark Shadows characters have become kind of remote lately; the recent emphasis on action and spectacle means that we don’t get a lot of “night out at the Blue Whale” scenes anymore.

It’s getting late by now, and Chris needs to leave before the moon rises. But he makes the mistake of walking past the drawing room as everybody’s having tea, and this gives the Junior Detectives a way to turn this pleasant afternoon into a trap.

674 dark shadows barnabas carolyn tea

“But, Chris, you’re always running off,” Barnabas says. “I was just about to invite Carolyn’s friend over to the Old House.” Then he pretends to get an idea. “I have it, Julia! Why don’t we have an impromptu dinner party there. All of us, tonight!”

Julia grins, “Why not? I think that’s a good idea,” and Donna and Carolyn agree, so now Chris is on the hook.

674 dark shadows donna chris no

Chris takes one look at Donna, and he does what any sensible person would do — he takes a deep breath, and fills the world with words.

674 dark shadows chris excuse

“I really can’t,” he says, “I have to go to Bangor, you see, I have to meet this guy there tonight, he’s flying away in the morning, and I’ll be lucky if I can catch him for an hour tonight, it’s business, it’s not the kind of thing that I can easily cancel, I was just about to leave right now.”

674 dark shadows donna chris anchor

And he’d probably have spun that explanation all the way to the front door, but he didn’t account for Donna’s determination to be a social boat anchor.

It turns out she’s going to Bangor too, and she was dreading the bus trip. This is a coincidence, because I expect the bus trip was feeling the exact same way about her.

For some reason, Carolyn is entirely in favor of having her boyfriend acting as chauffeur for another girl; she says that Chris would be delighted to have some company on the trip.

674 dark shadows chris let me leave

And I have to say, I’ve been harsh about Chris’ inability to control his serial killing, suggesting that maybe after several murders, he might want to look into expressing more than a general “oh, for gosh sakes” show of remorse.

But right now, I have never felt more sympathy for Christopher Jennings. Haven’t we all been stuck with Donna on a car trip to Bangor, in one way or another?

674 dark shadows donna chris victim

And it just gets worse as they head outside.

Donna:  Well, where’s your car?

Chris:  It’s just here by the gate, there’s no way to park it down by the cottage.

Donna:  Do you live on the estate?

Chris:  Yeah, just down that path over there.

Donna:  Oh. Is it an old and interesting house, too?

Chris:  Well, it’s — it’s old.

Donna:  Well, I’d like to see it… sometime.

It’s a nightmare. I mean, Chris wakes up in a pool of blood and body parts a couple times a month, and even for him, this is a nightmare.

674 dark shadows donna chris headache

Desperate, he tries the old headache trick, but this broad refuses to take a hint.

Chris:  It’s just that I’ve got this headache, you see, I get them all the time, it’s kind of like a migraine, I’ve just been thinking that I may not be able to go, after alll —

Donna:  Well, I’ll drive.

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

Chris:  No, no…

Donna:  It’ll be over by the time we get there.

Chris:  Oh, I know these headaches of mine, they just last, you know, there’s nothing I can do but try to get through them. Uh, why don’t you just take my car, and go on?

674 dark shadows donna chris take my car

And then he actually takes his car keys out of his pocket, and hands them over. He is literally giving away his car in order to ditch this woman. It’s like biting off your own leg to get out of a bear trap. I have lost so many cars this way.

674 dark shadows carolyn barnabas julia gossip

Clearing away the tea things, Carolyn gives Barnabas and Julia the 411 on Donna.

Carolyn:  I don’t really know her that well. She’s always been nice. Too nice, I sometimes think. She behaves as though we’re the best of friends, which we’re not.

And then she walks away, leaving Barnabas and Julia to reflect on the annoying young woman who they smiled and waved at, as she strolled happily towards her inevitable destruction.

So, you see what I mean about social interaction? Thank God we have the internet now.

674 dark shadows donna chris redshirt

Donna shows up again, of course, they always do, knocking at the door of Chris’ cottage just before moonrise. She’s brought him the car keys, and she wants to use the phone, and then she starts talking about the cottage, and he starts screaming at her to get the hell out of his goddamn house, and then she philosophizes for a while about the kind of guy he must be, and it all ends in pain and blood and a terrible silence.

Still, it’s better than that impromptu dinner party would have been. You know what I mean?

Tomorrow: The Unscooby Gang.


Footnote:

Just after posting this entry, I got an email from reader Joe Hart, with the following picture. There was a Dark Shadows Cast Reunion in Norwalk, Connecticut last weekend, as a fundraiser for Lockwood-Matthews Mansion, a filming location for House of Dark Shadows. This picture shows Joe with four of the guests at the event, including Beverly Hayes, the actress who played Donna in today’s episode.

From left, the picture shows: Nick Besink (cameraman), Christine Domaniecki (Miss American Vampire 1970, who won a part as a Barmaid in episode 1126), Bobbi Ann Woronko (Miss Polish America 1968, who won a part as a Windcliff nurse in episode 632), Beverly Hayes (Donna Friedlander), and Joe.

donnaf

So it’s a relief to know that werewolves and Windcliff couldn’t keep these nice folks down. Thank you, Joe!


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Barnabas’ right wrist is wrapped in bandages today. It’s not a story-related injury, so Jonathan Frid must have gotten hurt.

The reprise in the teaser is very different from the end of the previous episode. The dialogue is more or less the same, but Chris sounds much more angry, and the blocking is noticeably different. Also, Amy isn’t wearing a jacket anymore.

Amy asks Chris, “Why were you standing there looking at me, frowning at me?”

Amy’s book is called Colonial Life in America, but she tells Chris that it’s the story of one of the Collins ancestors, a little girl who grew up in a big house.

Carolyn tells Chris that she’s been showing Donna the house, but she doesn’t know why it’s so fascinating. Donna replies, “Oh, it is! You know it, Donna — Carolyn.”


Behind the Scenes:

Donna is played by Beverly Hayes, in her only Dark Shadows appearance. She also appeared in some other soap operas — A Flame in the Wind, The Edge of Night, and The Secret Storm. This is her last television credit, but she came out of retirement in 2010 to play a small part in the film Marathon. Now in her early 70s, Hayes has written a couple of short films, and worked as script supervisor on a couple others.

Tomorrow: The Unscooby Gang.

674 dark shadows julia barnabas cottage

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

35 thoughts on “Episode 674: Donna of the Dead

  1. I wonder if anyone one the show had trouble not laughing at phrases like “to Bangor” (which aren’t all that uncommon on the show). I know that it’s been used as a funny line on British shows like “Are You Being Served,” referring to Bangor in Wales. And it’s a phrase that would be equally likely to make people laugh in this country.

    1. Occasionally there are moments of unintended humor in the dialogue, like when Vicki goes to Collins family lawyer Richard Garner to find out about former Collinwood butler B. Hanscombe:

      Vicki: It’s hard to believe that there was ever any real gaiety at Collinwood.

      Richard Garner [grinning]: Oh, believe me, there was.

      And then, as a result of Vicki’s secret mission to Bangor to see Richard Garner, when Liz can’t determine Vicki’s whereabouts, there is the moment in the drawing room where Roger is standing by the liquor cabinet holding a drink when he says to Liz:

      “Well what do you want from me? Do you want me to go out into the cold of night and beat the bushes?”

      Then there’s one of my all-time favorites, from episode 2, when at the Blue Whale Burke Devlin says to Carolyn:

      “Now you go home with him, Miss Stoddard, before I take you over my knee and paddle you right here in the middle of the dance floor.”

  2. The character of Donna was about as contrived and unnecessary as that of ‘Claude North’ in the later Roxanne Drew episodes..

      1. Yes – but don’t you think it would have created a bigger impact if they had introduced Donna and then had her appear in a few episodes just to get the audience to identify with, and maybe get to like her somewhat (or dislike). Then her death would have generated some emotional response from the audience, ala Janet Leigh in Psycho…

    1. Well, they needed a victim for Chris, and she certainly made an interesting one. Carolyn’s sardonic, “Yes, he certainly is that” gives us a lot of insight into her attitude toward Chris at this point (was this pre- or post-breakup? I don’t remember). It was pure Carolyn resignation. Personally, I felt Carolyn was being unnecessarily snotty toward Donna, but she’s been under a bit of stress lately.

  3. I had an instant dislike for her. Little Miss Pushypush.

    She’s one of the fringe characters that I wanted off the show an hour ago, and was happy to see her die.

    She is one victim I could not feel sorry for.

    1. But why should we dislike her? She’s kind of a sympathetic character, really–too naive to sense Carolyn’s snotty attitude toward her, and unaware that Chris is the last man she’d ever want to fall for. Unless we’re supposed to root for the demise of socially inept characters….

      1. Well, there is a bit of the “Slasher Movie Sexism”: She is sexually aggressive, which is what leads to her death. Fortunately, we’re less inclined to think a sexually active woman deserves to die horribly.

        But, that aside, she comes on to Chris, who we know Carolyn likes. That makes her a bad friend. It’s not stated overtly that this is why Carolyn has a snotty attitude toward her, but it would certainly justify it.

  4. Big thanks to Joe for the awesome photo! Very cool to see Beverly Hayes in the present. I thought she was excellent as Donna.

  5. Oh gosh, Donna was irritating. I felt like yelling at the TV while she was on screen. She was one of those people who just can’t take a hint, even though at the end Chris was literally yelling at her to go. If she had been a man, she would definitely be pegged as a stalker type.

    1. Well she was like Burke, who Willie tried to tell him that Barnabas was in the coffin and would not like it too much if he opened his coffin willy nilly. Well he was hard headed and over confident, resulting in Barnabas politely breaking his neck. I thought that was sexy!

  6. Now…..it’s apparent that my dislike is like, apparently.

    Her execution in the role was spot on enough, that I felt real emotion against her,
    And that means….she’s good.

  7. What Barnabas means by “there is a precedent for this” is that the werewolf attacks are supernatural in origin. And lets face it, ever since Laura the Phoenix tried to immolate David, most of the threats to the residents of Collinwood have been supernatural (baring the occasional blackmail).

  8. Actually, now that I think of it, Chris sort of acts as a parallel to Barnabas back when he was a vampire. Both have/had a sister they didn’t want to be exposed to their immoral actions and both were a threat to all of Collinsport. The difference is that Chris actively tried to prevent himself from turning into a werewolf and causing harm to others while Barnabas fed on people at random without giving it a second thought.

    Once again, Dark Shadows creates interesting story developments and hidden depths by sheer accident.

    1. How did/does Christ actively try to prevent himself from turning into a werewolf? I don’t recall seeing anything like that up to this point. Except for his one lame attempt to chain and lock himself in his hotel room early on, he’s been pretty sloppy about taking no precautions at all to somehow restrain the werewolf, let alone try to prevent himself from turning into it.

      1. I think Julia and Barnabas were attempting to help him with that. I like this story line. It beats David and Amy nonsense.

  9. Was Beverly Hayes playing up the annoying “social boat anchor” role? or was that natural? i know the part was written that way but still….i am thinking about the casting call: “actress who can play a character with looks and demeanor so grating that her violent murder will create sympathy for a werewolf and relief for the audience”.
    the review of this episode is hilarious awesomeness all the way through, but there are some real gems in there e.g. “i’ll drive” oh for f—‘s sake and “she starts talking about the cottage and he starts screaming at her to get the hell out of his god— house”.
    i went back and read this piece several times for sheer enjoyment and then today literally laughed out loud to myself remembering in particular “Haven’t we all been stuck with Donna on a car trip to Bangor, in one way or another?” and the “i was happy to see her die” comment above. thanks for the chuckle

  10. It was a nice little Carolyn moment — and very Carolyn of her — to make the snotty little comment about Donna thinking them better friends than they are. That’s a line you’d never hear Maggie or Vicki say.

  11. Barnabas should maybe considered an accessory in this episode. He lets Donna go with Chris, and when Julia (rightfully) calls him out on doing so, Barnabas says he “imagines” Chris has made his excuses to her. He has in fact, but that’s an awfully big assumption to make when you known he’s about to turn into a murderous werewolf at any moment. And for the rest of the evening, he’s incredibly poky. When Barnabas says ho hum, he thinks he’ll go to the cottage now (but not before he pontificates on the might of his “legendary” [?] silver wolf’s-head cane], Julia admits to him that it’s too late–that Chris will have already changed. Then when Julia herself shows up at the cottage, she finds Barnabas standing in the middle of the room staring at the overturned furniture (is turning over furniture before you leave somewhere in the werewolf union contract?)–and he just mopes around and continues to do that. The monster is out stalking annoying young women, Barney, and you know it! Move your and your legendary silver wolf’s-head cane’s ass!!!

  12. Redshirts are ESSENTIAL – without them, you have to start dismembering core characters, and we simply can’t have that. I’m just liking how Donna just conveniently happens to be in Collinsport just in time to be shredded into girl-burger.
    And it helps more if they’re not all that likeable; I mean, if Donna had been just ever so peachy keen, and Chris had gone all goopy over her, we might have had a more negative reaction to her being torn apart by a ravening manbeast. And this is a lesson in 1960’s etiquette for young ladies; see what happens when you try to take a lead in relationships? (I often wonder how Chris kept Sabrina around…guess there’s just something irresistible about those moody types. (Oh, that’s right, they probably haven’t thought of Sabrina yet.) But I suppose I would have been able to tolerate a little moodiness from a guy who looks like Don Briscoe – but I would have to draw a line at the lycanthropy. There simply IS a limit.)
    But as you mentioned, the werewolf wore loafers. At least being a werewolf doesn’t seem to be as hard on Chris’ wardrobe as it was for Quentin, or (for a non-DS example) Bruce Banner.
    But I don’t see why he’s getting upset about Amy burning the shirt, not like he could have got it mended – maybe he was planning to use it next full moon (since it was already ‘broken in’)?

  13. Donna was an opportunist; we know this from both the background remarks Carolyn made about not being all that good of a friend (a rich gal like Carolyn would be a very handy contact for an interior decorator), and from her aggressive attempt to help herself to Carolyn’s boyfriend.

    This background made her a perfect werewolf target.

    The whole scene with Chris attempting to shake this girl off was quite close to comedy, and with a few tweaks would be somewhat black comedy pure and simple.

  14. Barnabas and Julia are hanging out in somebody else’s house, yes, but Barnabas has been hanging out at the great house for weeks now, ever since Roger gave him the “I hope you’ll be the man of house while I’m gone” speech.

    I think Chris’s issue with Amy burning his shirt is that it suggests that she knows he is in trouble and needs an accomplice to get rid of the evidence. He doesn’t want to put her in that position. In terms of Danny’s theme about people mis-interacting – to coin a word – the mis-interaction between Chris and Amy is more or less understandable. Neither of them wants to talk about the elephant in the room. (Chris: How much do you know about what’s going on with me?/ Amy: I don’t know, Chris, but I wish you’d tell me, and whether you do or not, I’m willing to help you if you need me.)

    I have thought in earlier episodes that it was time to give Chris a pamphlet entitled “Living with Lycanthropy.” But it is almost too late because Barnabas is about to give Chris some suggestions about improving Chris’s coping skills.

    Excerpts from “Living with Lycanthropy”:

    “During full moons, make sure you are locked in a secure location. Merely being isolated from other people in, say, a hotel room, may not be enough. Werewolves can get out to roam around, and nosy hotel clerks may check up on you.”

    “Do not bind yourself to the radiator. Your werewolf has superhuman strength and will snap rope, chains or pull the whole rig out of the wall.”

    “Do not let torn and bloody shirts pile up in your room. Destroy them completely on a daily basis. Be prepared to go through a lot of shirts.”

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