Episode 724: Exquisite Corpse

“You live in another body now, but your own body waits for you!”

Incipient teen idol Quentin Collins died earlier this week after he was stabbed by his insane ex-wife, which for the Collins family is practically natural causes. But like almost everyone who dies on Dark Shadows, he’s returned for another lap around the track.

Zombie Quentin is being remote-controlled by Barnabas’ insane ex-wife, who’s using him to play pranks on the family. At the moment, he’s scooped up the governess and is carrying her out to the graveyard.

Now, he’s not trying to eat her brain or anything; he’s not that kind of zombie. The flesh-eating cannibal zombie was invented by George Romero in Night of the Living Dead, which was released six months before this episode was made. And they’re not called zombies in that movie anyway; the Night of the Living Dead characters just call them ghouls. It wasn’t until the 1978 sequel Dawn of the Dead that Romero started describing the creatures as zombies, changing the pop culture definition of that word.

So compared to the slavering fiends of The Walking Dead, Zombie Quentin is actually very polite, and exceptionally well-groomed. He doesn’t bite anybody, and his hair and his outfit are in flawless condition, even after busting his way out of a grave covered in cement.

In fact, the only way you can really tell that there’s anything the matter with him is that he doesn’t speak, and he’s always bulging out his eyes and staring straight ahead. The nice thing about Zombie Quentin is that you always know he’s paying attention.

724 dark shadows quentin rachel zombie

Like Zombie Jeremiah in late 1967, this is the original Haitian voodoo version of the zombie — returned to life by an evil magician, drained of willpower and personality, and forced to do terrible things.

In this case, Angelique wants Zombie Quentin to strangle the governess until she passes out, and then carry her to the cemetery and lay her in a grave, in some kind of grim protest against homeschooling.

But the interesting thing is that this image — a mindless hulk carrying an unconscious woman — doesn’t fit either version of the zombie story. This is a whole other monster.

724 white zombie madeleine neil

In fact, in White Zombie, the zombie is the girl. White Zombie was the first zombie movie, made in 1932, and they hadn’t quite got the hang of it yet.

The movie stars Bela Lugosi just a year after he made Dracula; 1932 is the year that he stopped appearing in movies called Oh, For a Man! and Viennese Nights, and started appearing in movies called Chandu the Magician and The Death Kiss.

In White Zombie, Bela plays Murder Legendre, a Haitian voodoo master with unearthly powers and a Hungarian accent. He has half a dozen zombie slaves, all guys that pissed him off one way or another, turned into mindless goons. Now he gets all the pleasure of bossing them around, with no danger of backchat or sass.

The good guys in the movie are a young couple named Neil and Madeleine who have come to Haiti to get married, for some reason that I don’t believe anybody ever mentions. Charles, a plantation owner who they meet on the boat, has decided that he’s in love with Madeleine, and he contracts with Bela to drug her and turn her into a zombie.

They do it during the wedding, too, which is super douchey. Charles puts the magic potion on the flowers that she’s holding as she walks down the aisle, and she collapses mid-procession and dies. They bury her, and then Charles and Bela dig her up, and Bela hypnotizes her. Now she’s an empty shell, eternally staring off into nothing, and she lives in Charles’ house and looks decorative.

724 white zombie charles madeleine

The best scene in the movie is Madeleine all zombied out, sitting at a piano, staring off into space, and playing Liebestraum while Charles talks at her about how guilty he feels for doing this to her. She doesn’t care.

724 white zombie bela grip eyes

There is a supernatural element to all of this, but it’s a bit conceptual. Bela controls the zombies through telepathy, which he activates by putting his hands into the “zombie grip”. It’s not clear why this particular hand gesture gives you the power to control dazed fiancees, but they make a big deal about it, so I guess it’s important.

In the end, Charles, Bela and all the zombie slaves fall off a cliff conveniently positioned nearby expressly for that purpose, except for Madeleine, who breaks free of Bela’s control because Love Conquers All. She just kind of shakes it off and then she’s fine. It turns out that she was really just in a trance and wasn’t dead at all, which means she hardly even qualifies as a zombie in either sense of the word, so thanks for nothing.

724 forbidden planet mysterians

So if Zombie Quentin isn’t doing a Night of the Living Dead zombie and he isn’t doing a White Zombie zombie, then what is he doing picking up girls and carrying them off to the graveyard?

The way that he’s carrying Rachel looks super familiar, because there’s a long, unhappy tradition of dudes carrying unconscious women for our entertainment. This trope is not one of the most highly-evolved images in the history of film, for obvious lady reasons. The female in this image essentially has no will of her own, and she’s being tossed around like hand luggage.

Now, you could make the case that this isn’t as misogynist as it looks, because the guy carrying the girl around is a monster, or a robot, or an alien or whatever. He’s a villain, and he’s doing a villainous thing. It’s not like this is the Olympic girl-carrying championship, and he’s going to get a gold medal for this.

But the troubling aspect of the “pretty girl in peril” trope is that the audience is supposed to be enjoying the suffering of beautiful young women. The movie studios don’t put this image on posters because they want people to get angry and become feminists; they use this image because they know guys enjoy looking at images of helpless women in danger.

724 unconscious arm carryThe thing that makes this especially unsettling for me is that there are several people on YouTube who upload edited compilations of women losing consciousness and being carried around.

They’re even categorized by the way the girls are knocked out — Return of the Vampire: faint and unconscious arm carry, The Mummy Lives: drugged drink and unconscious arm carry, Night Nurse: punchout and unconscious arm carry.

Seriously, you can search on YouTube for punchout unconscious arm carry and get a whole bunch of clips. The worst are the head ko unconscious arm carry videos, which are so upsetting that I can’t talk about it any more. It’s obvious that these are guys who enjoy watching young women getting punched in the face.

724 mummy's universal posters

But — those guys did provide a helpful service for me, which was to confirm that the early pioneers in the field of non-consensual girl transport were the Universal Monsters Mummy films, particularly The Mummy’s Hand in 1940 and The Mummy’s Tomb in 1942, both of which feature the Mummy carrying a woman as the central feature in the movie posters.

The compilation above — which does not feature any images of women with head trauma, you’re welcome — is from The Mummy’s Tomb, with Lon Chaney Jr doing the honors. The video edits together only the shots with the Mummy carrying Isobel around, removing all the shots of the townspeople chasing after him with torches, so for a minute it just looks like he’s taking her out for a stroll.

724 dark shadows quentin rachel choke

Dark Shadows never got around to doing mummies on the show. It was one of the Universal Monsters characters that they just couldn’t figure out, along with the Invisble Man and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

But Zombie Quentin is kind of a shout-out to the Mummy iconography, a link in the chain of our collective superstitions and fears — stretching backwards from 1969 through 1940, to 1897 and then all the way back to 2600 BC. The Collins family tomb may not be as big and as fancy as an Egyptian monarch with his own soundstage, but our girls are just as pretty and just as unconscious as anybody’s, so that ought to count for something.

Tomorrow: The Unrest.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

At the beginning of act 1, there’s an unbelievable amount of mist inside the Old House, blowing in from the cemetery set. It’s really noticeable in the first shot of Sandor coming downstairs; it looks like the fog is rolling in. There’s also a developing weather pattern in the Old House basement later on.

When Barnabas interrupts Magda and Sandor’s conversation in the drawing room, you can see the boom mic over his head.

Magda has pronoun trouble. Sandor urges her to do what Barnabas asks, and Magda snaps, “He is under your control, not mine!” Barnabas retorts, “I can easily change that, Magda.” She means, “He’s under your control, not me.”

They cut to the wrong camera when Barnabas asks Sandor if he’s ever heard the word zombie; it’s zooming in to Sandor to set up the next shot.

When Quentin brings Rachel to the open coffin, the camera goes too high, and you can see a studio light. This happens pretty often with Quentin, because he’s so tall.

When Barnabas is talking to Sandor in the basement in act 1, you can see Magda’s shadow moving on the wall by the stairs, waiting for her entrance. The same thing happens with Sandor in act 3.

When Magda waits outside the Old House for Barnabas, you can see the edges of the flat that’s supposed to represent the dawn’s light.

Rachel runs into the house and grabs onto the bannister, which wobbles alarmingly.

Behind the Scenes:

When Zombie Quentin smacks Sandor, the gypsy falls in front of a tombstone that says “Laura Murdoch Radcliffe, born 1840”. This is an old prop left over from the Phoenix storyline in early 1967, before Barnabas was released from the mystery box. In 1967, it was revealed that Roger’s wife Laura was actually an undead phoenix, who dies and is reborn every hundred years. So finding the grave of Laura Radcliffe, who died in a fire in 1867, was a clue that indicated that Laura Collins was going to die in 1967, taking her son David with her.

Having Laura’s gravestone appear in 1897 is a nice callback to the earlier story, except that pretty soon they’re going to bring Laura back and update the “every hundred years” dates to the 1790s and 1890s. Oh, well.

Tomorrow: The Unrest.

724 white zombie bela grip

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

33 thoughts on “Episode 724: Exquisite Corpse

  1. Zombie Quentin is being remote-controlled by Barnabas’ insane ex-wife

    I suppose Angelique’s (dramatic, curse-laden) death could be considered a dissolution of their marriage in American jurisprudence, but could there be a difference in the jurisprudence of “the supernatural” that makes no such recognition and still considers them married? When she surprised Barnabas with her return in episode 718 she introduced herself as his wife and he made no objection to that term, but he was noticeably perturbed. Perhaps he hadn’t realized until then the extent of his marriage vows to a handmaiden of evil. After all, he had been carrying on with/draining the blood of a number of women in 1967 as if he was a swinging vampire widower.

    (Of course there’s her intervening marriage to Roger to contend with but I assume she had her fingers crossed behind her back during those vows, or it’s no big deal for a witch to gather and discard husbands as she pleases through the ages.)

    1. I think these circumstances have gone beyond the reach of human law. If Barnabas woke up in 1967 and decided that he wanted to get a divorce, it would be tough to file that paperwork, considering they were both missing presumed dead more than a century ago.

      If there’s any way to treat that marriage as still socially binding, then the fact that she married somebody else has to be seen as breaking that contract. Although technically, that happens seventy years from now.

      It’s hard to establish common law rules for time-traveling dead people.

  2. I always found Laura coming back as a Collins a bit jarring. I’d actually watched DS from the beginning, so I remember the search for the various Laura Murdochs throughout history. There was Laura Murdoch Stockridge and Laura Murdoch Radcliff but they didn’t find a Laura Murdoch Collins even though they had family histories. I mean I vividly remember when they found the report that Laura had been killed in a house fire and Vicki intoned “Laura Murdoch Collins died by fire” after they had found out about all the other Laura Murdoch [insert name here] dying by fire. It was eerie and neat. Then suddenly the 100 years went poof and Laura was stalking the Collins for no reason that I could see. I mean Edward and Roger weren’t that great and it wasn’t like she was going to live long enough to inherit the money and Jamison was supposed to die with her, that was one of her big points that she and her son would reincarnate forever. Ah, the problems with actually watching DS, the early years.

    1. On the other hand Laura might be carrying out an eugenics experient, infusing phoenix genes in the Collins bloodline (David got a double dose as Roger (“My incestors are buried here”) married his own grandma. That she tends to burn up the children is an obstacle, of course.

      By the way, who stopped Laura in the original story from burning Jamison before Barnabas came back to the past? Someone must have or there would have be no Liz and Roger, nor Carolyn, nor David…

      1. Watch the episodes in the Phoenix cycle which are approximately 123 through 192–I am doing this from memory but I am pretty close. The Phoenix is among the most important characters in all of DS history–and until say 3 or 4 years ago, relatively unknown to most DS fans except those who say the pre-Barnabas episodes when they originally aired–during the various and sundry “revivals” of DS on TV in the 80’s and 90’s they all started with “the arrival of Barnabas Collins”-if you don’t understand the early episodes you don’t understand the show-and I don’t necessarily meant that in a good way–as great as some of the later episodes were especially IMO the 1795 era, the 1897 era (best of all) and Parallel time 1970–DS was often the Barnabas-Julia-Angelique show and the Collins family wound up as cameos on their own series.

  3. The series seems to adopt a good share of mummy themes for the Laura Collins storyline (Egypt, scarabs, and so on).

    I wonder when they decided to bring back Diana Millay. As to her previous appearance on the show, there’s so little reference to pre-Barnabas episodes, it just feels like they are reintroducing Laura — same gimmick and powers, but different concept. They even link her to Barnabas as her backstory (Jeremiah’s wife) rather than to her appearance in 1967. Note that they do mention Angelique’s turn as Cassandra at least twice.

    1. I’m guessing but maybe Dan just wanted to cast Diana Millay as Edward’s wife. Then Diana put her foot down saying she only wanted to play the Phoenix, so Dan decided to incorporate the Phoenix into 1897.

  4. I love the interaction between Laura and Angelique in 1897. I always saw the original Phoenix concept as a proto-Angelique character…power from fire, manipulating men etc, but less ability, of course than Angelique herself.

    1. Did you see the scene in the Old House where Angelique tried to destroy Laura? One on the few times Angelique ever got owned on the series.

  5. I do not know if you saw the scene in which Barnabas, bargaining with Angelique asks her to resurrect Quentin. The prhasing “Make Quentin rise” brought a laugh at the DS convention as the audience gave it a dirty meaning…

  6. This just might be my favorite DS episode ever. The “mist” overpowers every set. Yet everyone continues acting their heads off, pretending it’s not unusual to have zero visibility in the Old House. Such great TV.

  7. The helpless woman being carried off in the arms of a man scene that springs to my mind is when Rhett grabs Scarlett and runs upstairs with her. Granted, she’s not unconscious and she’s fighting him but by the next morning, she’s all girlish giggles and smiles. Apparently, all most women need is a good ravishing by some hunky man to get their attitude adjusted to the proper setting. It worked for Scarlett, anyway.

  8. Bela Lugosi made a lot of dark and interesting films in the decade after Dracula and before the last 15 years of his career were relegated to comedy films. One such film is from 1935, Murder By Television–yes, a film about TV broadcasting as early as 1935! Though it has a lot of the common tropes of other murder mystery whodunnit capers of the time, the ideas presented of a quantum death ray transmitted through the waves of a live television broadcast signal are pretty advanced.

    As for the persistent image of helpless women being carried off by these monsters, one thing to keep in mind is that back when these images were being made popular there was another image of women being carried off that was front and center in the minds of people everywhere–the groom who picks up and carries his new bride over the threshold, an image which seems to have all but disappeared from modern popular consciousness. But these images presented above may just have been a subconscious perversion of the marriage threshold, where the woman is instead being forced into a marriage of doom and terror.

    Finally, isn’t Quentin–when he doesn’t speak but just stares, whether as a ghost haunting a closed off wing or a zombie shuffling numbly about–just about the most menacing of all the spooks to have been on the show? It must have to do with his height–and even though Selby is the second tallest cast member behind Robert Rodan, ghost or zombie Quentin is scarier by far, probably because of the initial innocence we associated with Adam, who was merely an overgrown child. Quentin, too, is an overgrown child–but in death or suspended animation, just that wide blank stare is enough to shiver the spine.

  9. 1982? General Hospitals most popular story arc EVER? Luke and Laura. He carries her to the dance floor and rapes her. The ultimate carry me away episode. With Herb Alpert playing in the background.

  10. To me, when it comes to being annoying, the “carrying a helpless woman” idea has nothing on the comedy and comedy-drama cliché of the man spanking the woman, or threatening to. But in my case, it’s not from considering it weird, or even anti-feminist. Somehow it just seemed “lame” to me from the very first times I saw it, before I even KNEW it was a cliché. And that’s how it can be with those “carrying” scenes – disliking the idea for being a cliché, or for being heavy-handed, can be all it takes, WITHOUT any more serious reasons.

  11. Apart from all the woman-schlepping, Zombie Quentin is fun. I love Selby’s bug-eyed expression and his automaton shuffle. I’m reminded of the remote-controlled Mr. Spock in the “Spock’s Brain” episode of Start Trek, which must be nearly contemporaneous with this DS episode.

  12. I can totally see Dark Shadows doing The Mummy. I should do a fanfic about Nora Collins (we never do find out what happened to her, do we?) out with Howard Carter in Egypt in the 1920s.

    1. I remember at some point David is sent off to an aunt in Boston. I don’t know if they mention her name. I wonder if it was Great Aunt Nora?

  13. OK, no comments about Sandor’s line to Magda after his fight with Quentin: “Oh, shut up. I cannot hit you – my arm’s too sore.” I remember laughing at this when I was a kid, and I laughed again when hearing it.

  14. I’d like to think that the enticing drama of the woman-schlepping (thanks for that one, Bob!) is more about the tension – I want this character to be okay, how is she gonna get out of it – rather than salacious hand-rubbing at the sight of unconscious women getting carted about.

    I’d like to, but I can’t, because I know you’re totally right. And it’s depressing to see this trend hasn’t really gone away.

    But I am loving this genuine zombie stuff going on. I’ve always been fascinated by Haitian vodou – I did a vocational course once which required a presentation and discussion; our advisors suggested something simple like healthy eating or effective time management, so naturally I did mine on Clairvius Narcisse and the practice of zombiism, with a sidebar on datura and tetrodotoxin. Fun times. The conflation of “zombie” and “ghoul” (which as I understand it is the correct term for a flesh-eating resurrected beastie and not just the generic monstery phrase it’s become) is something that irritates me to this day.

  15. In the original Boris Karloff THE MUMMY, the character only wears the bandages when they first dig him up. He spends most of the movie as a mysterious fellow with elaborately refined Old World manners who kills his enemies by strangling them and who is obsessed with the woman with whom he had a doomed romance in his previous existence. Struck by the heroine’s resemblance to that woman, he abducts her and attempts to erase her personality so that in her his lost love will live again. So I would say that DARK SHADOWS did, in fact, do its own version of THE MUMMY.

  16. I don’t remember Zombie Quentin from my 1969 viewing. He’s not around for long. We seem to have returned to the supernatural, leaving behind the drawing room comedy. Pity, though I imagine the kids in the audience were not enjoying it as much as I was. I got a bit bored with the Rachel stuff. For diversion, I found myself in a staring contest with Zombie Quentin. He won.

  17. Thanks for this view of woman-schlepping (that is now the official, academic term for this). I used to think it was romantic, probably because if anyone wanted to schlep me it would have to be a fireman’s carry. But with this view of the unconscious arm carry, hmmm, not so attractive and kinda creepy.
    (Maybe it was more a case of petite envy.)

  18. “It’s hard to establish common law rules for time-traveling dead people.”

    (our Danny does me in again. this one ought to have its own tombstone.)

  19. Kudos to David Selby for being able to keep his eyes stretched open. It’s better than Leonard Nimoy could do in “Spock’s Brain.”

  20. Even by Dark Shadows plotting standards, the action here makes less sense from minute to minute than I think we’ve ever seen before. Anyone got any clue what Angelique is actually trying to achieve here? How does any of it fit with bending Barnabas to her will, much less her stated aim of saving David? (I mean, getting rid of another Josette, sort of a secondary goal, I get that… but it all seems at least as counterproductive as Barnabas trying to save Quentin’s life in the first place.) And the whole idea that sticking Quentin’s soul back in his body won’t just let him die in peace, but instead will cure him of a minor fatal stab wound, but if he gets back in the grave which he was already in in the last episode he’ll be properly dead forever… Even by Dark Shadows standards, they’re just making this up from page to page, aren’t they?

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