Episode 740: Local Parlor Tricks

“The evil here always follows you, doesn’t it? The evil here never stops.”

As today’s episode begins, eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins emerges from the basement, and wouldn’t you know it, the gypsy’s on the fritz again.

“You should leave tonight,” she mutters. “Tch, I am not permitted to tell you what to do, am I? What do I care what you do?”

She sighs, and throws her hands in the air. “I should not have said that, I should go and talk to Sandor, and say, let us hitch up the wagon and go! But you have taken Sandor from me. When they find you in your coffin down in the cellar…”

See? This is what happens when you leave your gypsy running all day. He needs to get an EnergySaver or something.

740 dark shadows barnabas magda pout

But you have to admit, she’s got a point. The mundanes over at the big house have noticed that Charity Trask has a bite mark on her neck, and you know how people get about their whole “top of the food chain” paranoia.

Magda says, “You wanted them to know, didn’t you?” and earns herself one of Barnabas’ pouty expressions.

“You think I did this by choice?” he barks, and then moves center stage for a strange interlude. “I don’t expect you to understand… No one could. My only mistake is my unwillingness to give up what life I have. Can I be blamed for that?”

Magda narrows her eyes, thinking, Yes, of course you can. What are you even talking about?

740 dark shadows barnabas magda look

But Magda is the Jiminy Cricket these days, a thankless role that’s often played by the Grayson Halls, Thayer Davids and John Karlens of the world. It’s a losing proposition with Barnabas, but somebody has to stand there and try to talk sense to the man.

“If you continue to see Charity Trask,” she snarls, “other people will be ‘summoned’ to your coffin. And they will come with a stake and a hammer.”

He says, “You’re right. We must act quickly. Go to Laura Collins, make some excuse, but spend the evening with her.”

This is how you can tell that Magda’s a seasoned professional: she doesn’t blink and say, What does that have to do with anything? If you’re going to spend time with Barnabas, you learn to cope with these sudden hairpin turns in the conversation.

740 dark shadows laura barnabas meet

It’s no use; Barnabas Collins is absolutely determined to make life difficult for himself. Last evening, he was introduced to Laura Collins, and he took one look at her and decided that she’s a dangerous enemy who must be neutralized immediately. But I suppose everybody has that reaction to Laura, she’s not big on making friends.

His issue is that he recognizes Laura as the woman who married his uncle Jeremiah back in the late 18th, and she died in a fire. So he makes the same deductive leap that Quentin did on seeing Laura: Hello, you’re dead, I must instantly plot your destruction.

I’m not sure what Barnabas is getting so worked up about. He knows lots of people who have been dead for a hundred years, it’s practically his entire social circle.

740 dark shadows magda barnabas portrait

So he’s pulled an old portrait out of the attic, which proves that the Laura he knew then is the Laura they know now. Or they just look alike or it was a lousy artist or it’s a coincidence, it’s hard to say. This is why you don’t see a lot of murder trials where they bring in an oil painting as evidence.

“I must know the truth about Laura Collins,” he declares. “I have this fear that she will defeat me, unless I find out.”

The obvious response is: Why? She has exactly nothing to do with you. So far you’ve spent thirty-five seconds in her presence, and I don’t think she even remembers who you are.

Barnabas doesn’t know about her plans to lure the children into a blazing inferno and destroy the Collins family. He just wants to kill her because he wants to kill her.

This is why normal soap operas don’t usually have a main character, so there can be separate story tracks that only intersect occasionally. But on Dark Shadows, Barnabas has to participate in every story, and in a plot-stocked period, it’s like following a kitten around. He’s got a long list of top priorities.

740 dark shadows barnabas laura portrait

So then guess what he goes and does? He heads straight for Laura’s, to show her the only thing that’s guaranteed to raise her suspicions and make Barnabas her target — the portrait!

And she blushes and stammers, obviously, and says, “Why, I might have sat for this myself.”

“Yes, you might have!” Barnabas smirks. “You must have had a near-relative living in these parts, a hundred years ago.” His dialogue is studded with these “never drink wine” moments, where he’s winking at the audience so broadly that you have to believe that the other characters can tell. Magda was right, he really does want to get caught.

740 dark shadows laura barnabas hamlet

But Laura does seem rattled, so hooray, that’s one point for Hamlet, I suppose. “The Murder of Gonzago” made King Claudius uneasy, well done. Now what?

Brightening, Laura declares, “I shall take this as an omen.”

This doesn’t leave Barnabas with a lot of conversational options. What do you say when someone tells you they’re taking something as an omen? So he just kind of wanders off to see what Sandor’s up to. The end.

Monday: Lunch Date with Destiny.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

They must be having a ball in the booth for the beginning of act 1; they keep putting Barnabas and Magda in super-tight close-ups that they aren’t expecting. At one point, they zoom in on Barnabas’ eyes for a while, and then zoom out for a blurry two-shot with Magda. Then Barnabas takes a step forward, completely out of his light, and does the next line in darkness.

Barnabas has an Elmer Fudd moment when he’s talking to Sandor in act 1: “Wait a minute. If I’m correct, they buwied her in the crypt underneath the old meeting house.”

When Laura and Magda talk about the tarot cards, something is heard bumping around in the studio.

Monday: Lunch Date with Destiny.

740 dark shadows barnabas magda frit

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

28 thoughts on “Episode 740: Local Parlor Tricks

  1. Maybe I’m missing something, but was Barnabas ever really a millionaire (per Danny’s description)? I don’t think he was ever able to claim his inheritance. Wonder when he aged (via Dick Smith’s make-up) if this became a bigger regret than losing Josette.

    1. No, he’s independently wealthy — or, at least, he lives that lifestyle. He seems to be bankrolling his misadventures by selling off a secret cache of old jewelry. But he never thinks about money, and his only job is running around getting involved in other people’s problems.

      1. Barnabas’s wealth is sort of the ultimate WASP Privilege or in Cartesian terms “I say I’m rich. Therefore I am.” What I love about Danny’s “eccentric millionaire” description is that it consistently defines Barnabas: When he’s a painfully naive guy who winds up shooting his uncle in the face and marrying a homicidal witch: Eccentric Millionaire. When he’s a lunatic vampire who wants to brainwash a local waitress into believing she’s his dead girlfriend: Eccentric Millionaire. When he’s a moderately more sane vampire who wants a mad scientist to cure him so he can marry the governess: Eccentric Millionaire. When he’s an otherwise normal human being who is working with his mad scientist BFF to build a Frankenstein monster in his basement murder lab: Eccentric Millionaire. When he’s willing himself back to the 18th Century to rewrite history and save the governess: Eccentric Millionaire. When he travels back to the 19th Century using some Chinese “black magic”: Eccentric Millionaire. When he’s leading a cult of abomination worshippers who hang out in an antique shop: Eccentric Millionaire. Barnabas Collins might be many things at many times (and timelines) but he’s always an Eccentric Millionaire.

    2. Barnabas always knows where the Collins family royal treasure is hidden, in the walls. It’s worth zillions and there are always diamonds, rubies and emeralds to be sold, for quick easy cash. Even with all the time travel, the mysterious and not-always-mentioned box of jewels follows Barnabas around through the centuries, always keeping him super-rich, and jet set-y.

      1. I bet with all the bonus time-pilfering in 1840 and 1897, when Barnabas got to 1967 the first time, he must have thought, “What the hell happened? I could’ve sworn there was way more stuff in this box.”

        But hiding treasure in the walls actually does make sense for this family, given a) their secret room/passage paranoia, b) everybody dies before they can tell anyone where the stuff is hidden, c) bananas.

        1. In the beginning wasn’t Willy looking for the jewels of Naomi Collins? That’s what started this mess – Naomi was supposedly given these fabulous jewels by a PIRATE no less (would have been a good plot to bring back the actor who played Bill Malloy as the pirate) but having Joan Bennett play the Naomi character seems to make this legend seem out of place. Also in the 1991 remake didn’t Barnabas actually take the jewels from the coffin he was kept in? This would make more sense because there’s probably more of a chance to find them in the walls (unless your a Collins and never do any home demolition or renovations.)

        2. That’s funny. Accounting + time-travel = what a headache!

          I always figured Barnabas was a smart cookie, and kept the rocks in more than one box, in different locations, so he alone could have quick and easy access. Like, he keeps a $50 bill taped to the back of his portrait in the foyer of Collinwood, just in case.

          1. Any time specific dollar amounts are mentioned on Dark Shadows, i always go straight to the inflation calculator, to see how it compares to now, or to see what 1795 money might be worth in 1968.

            Joshua’s offer of a payoff to Angelique, the paintings Roger bought from Sam, Nicholas offer to Maggie, or the $500 Jason was supposed to give Willie to get lost.

            $500 in 1967 is worth $3, 567.60, now.

        3. That’s why in my reboot I am trying to give Barnabas another source of income. First Maggie hired him to take surveys (he is the perfect survey taker as no one will slam the door on him, or hang up the phone), and then he plans to open a bed and breakfast (a perfect set up for him. He does not have to chase his victims, they come to him, and pay him besides)

  2. I believe Joanne is correct about Willie searching for the jewels Naomi got from her pirate boyfriend. Even before that, Abigail is mentioned as the 1790’s Collins with the pirate boyfriend.

  3. I think the Collins became retroactively wealthier when Barnabas arrived. I haven’t watched the early episodes in years but the Collins felt more moderately rich (New England WASPs)– not the aristocrats the Collins became when Barnabas showed up. I never recommend trying to make sense of DARK SHADOWS backstory, but I suppose it’s possible that the Collins took a big hit during the depression. After all, this is a family that allowed their ancestral home to turn into something from GREY GARDENS (speaking of which, the Beales house fell into almost unlivable disrepair within just a few decades — it’s laughable to imagine Willie Loomis alone restoring the Old House).

    1. There might have been a serious dip in the families fortunes when they started making ships out of metal instead of wood. Suddenly the availibilty of wood in Maine was no longer a competitive advantage, and other shipbuilders took their business there.

  4. Interesting discussion on the state of Collins family wealth through the years. As founders of a town and its primary industries, they certainly ascended the social ladder to affluence. We learn at some point from Roger that the first Collins to arrive in the New World did so with only 18 dollars in his pocket and a work ethic.

    According to Art Wallce’s Shadows on the Wall, money became scarce during World War I, during which time the East Wing was closed off and never reopened. But after World War II, with the economic boom, Wallace writes that “…The fishing fleet was expanded, the canneries doubled production, and…as through the centuries…the name of Collins continued to signify success, importance, and solidity.”

    Then there’s the period where Liz abruptly releases her servants and other staff and becomes a recluse, closing up part of the West Wing as well. We learn from Burke Devlin’s inquiries into the state of Liz Stoddard’s wealth and holdings that she asked to get a property tax reduction for the parts of the house that were no longer in use. We also find that Liz is unable to top Burke’s bid on the rival Logansport fishing fleet and cannery. Further, in order to start a Swiss bank account at Jason’s insistence, she is forced to sell off one of her properties.

    If anything, the Collins family is largely upper middle class. Take Carolyn, for instance. Why isn’t she being romanced by a rich young boyfriend who’s in college and on his way into one of the actuarial professions, say, at the executive level? Instead, when the series begins she’s dating a local fisherman who has never set foot in a college classroom. The Collins’ are hardly ivy leaguers, and don’t seem to give off the snobbishness one would expect from the super rich.

    As for Barnabas, he never was truly an aristocrat, because the United States does not and never has had any such titled nobility. Even Joshua sneers at the thought of the DuPres’ of France with their insistence on carrying their aristocratic titles, reminding them at one point that they fought a war and that they live in a republic and that all are equal… except perhaps the servants.

    Regarding Barnabas’ expenses for 1967, well, because the deed to the Old House is in Liz Stoddard’s name, she would be handling the property tax. He has no electric bill, only one suit of clothes which he sleeps in and apparently doesn’t have to send out to be laundered or even ironed, he’s on a liquid diet so that cancels the grocery expense, and no need for toiletries because he never has to bathe or shave, as he always rises from his coffin looking all GQ as usual. His only actual expenses between 1967 and 1968 involve commissioning Sam Evans for portrait work, one to honor himself and the other to attempt to destroy Angelique/Cassandra, and this could be done by pawning some jewels.

    In fact, in 1968 Barnabas should have written a book: How to Live Like a Rich Man for a Year on $1,500 or Less.

    1. Exactly. The pre-Barnabas Collins family is upper middle class at best. Carolyn seriously dating Joe is a good example. I recall Joshua noting the financial benefit of the Barnabas and Josette match. Carolyn should be at an Ivy League school or just any exclusive New England college getting her Mrs. degree.

    2. Barnabas’s biggest expense would be blue candles, and how much can they cost? I’m sure he buys them wholesale and sends Willie to pick them up. 🙂

  5. Barnabas isn’t the only eccentric millionaire – Julia hasn’t had a paycheck in years yet she has a never ending supply of power suits, matching shoes, purses, gloves and gypsy vests. Well – I guess Liz might be paying her for all the sedatives she doles out – that could add up at Collinwood.

    1. I’ve mentioned before that narratively Julia breaks a lot of rules. Why she’s at Collinwood and who she is in relation to the family is not clearly explained or even mentioned much after she reveals she’s a doctor. New viewers would have to be confused, and I wonder how many might assume she was a Collins or related to them in some way. She lives in Collinwood and is all up in the family business. When they don’t play up the unrequited love angle of her feelings for Barnabas, you could buy the two as close siblings.

      Of course, it doesn’t matter because she meets the most important rule: She’s always interesting and always moves the plot forward.

        1. Yeah, in 1840, they pose as siblings, the offspring of the original Barnabas Collins. Yet, that’s when they choose to ramp up the Julia is in love with Barnabas trope, which I don’t like that much. If she’s in love with him and he doesn’t return her feelings, then there’s a power imbalance. I like them much more as great friends.

    1. Own??

      Never saw or heard that.

      I thought it was head of staff and psychiatrist.

      Specializing in rare blood disorders,

      And moving into your house without paying rent.

      1. I always assumed Julia was paying some kind of boarding fee at Collinwood, it was just never discussed on camera (this is strictly my interpretation however). I don’t remember a reference to her owning Windcliffe, but she was definitely still working there while up to her Collins family shenanigans as there would be mention every once in a while to her being there – part-time, I imagine.

        1. There are definitely examples where she refers to Windcliffe as “my sanitarium”, and she means “the place that I run” rather than “the place where I work”. It comes up whenever she needs to get somebody incarcerated or released at whim.

  6. I always got the idea Liz was mostly what one calls “cash-poor.” As in, she was worth a lot, but couldn’t get her hands on a lot of cash without liquidating assets at a loss as she did to buy Roger out of the business and pay off Jason. Apparently the trusts she set up for Carolyn and David would be worth a lot, but only someday.

  7. I’ve always imagined Julia was a director / owner of Windcliff and pissed off a lot of her employees when she totally abandoned the place to work full time as a vampire enabler. I imagine she got someone else to do the day-to-day, but still collected a paycheck. And Elizabeth asked her to stay at Collinwood even after she found out she was a doctor cuz heaven knows they always seemed to need one. Liz may well have also suspected Julia was Barnabas’ main squeeze –but out of discretion, no one ever said anything.

    Also, back to this episode. It’s really creepy and well done. At least it was for a 7 year old kid totally hooked on the show. The cliffhanger of what’s in Laura’s coffin gripped my childish imagination so hard– and then I had to miss the next episode! I had no idea what they found. I was devastated. would act out what i imagined had hapened in my back yard. It took me 20 years to finally see the episode and I was as excited then as I was at seven. I know Danny isn’t fond of her, but I loved Laura. I grieved for months after she was gone, hoping she’d come back and writing letters to TV mailbags in the newspapers pleading for her return. I was such a little geek. Still am, I guess.

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