“I’m not here because I want to see your face, or you want to see my face.”
So let’s see if we can get a handle on this. Laura Collins — alias Laura “several middle names” Collins — has vowed to destroy Quentin, Barnabas, her children, Worthington Hall (nailed that one) and as of today, Angelique. Her malevolent scheming keeps getting sidetracked by her inability to decide who she’s scheming against.
In fact, today’s episode is the clearest possible example of this unfortunate character flaw. Laura is literally just about to destroy Barnabas, holding the hammer aloft and ready to drive the stake through his chest — when suddenly Angelique grabs her wrist, and sets her off on a whole new branch of furious revenge.
But that’s how life is here in 1897, where the popular catchphrase is “I have to kill her, before she kills me.” Every person on this show wants to kill every other person, before each of them kills any of them first.
So Laura and Angelique end up having a mean-girls diva battle next to a sleeping vampire in a spooky basement, which I figure has got to be an all-time first in diva battles. As ever, Dark Shadows is breaking new ground in the field of whatever the hell this is supposed to be.
Angelique starts in with the backhanded compliments, delivered as an objective evaluation. “Laura Stockbridge Collins,” she announces, “one of the legendary beauties of the Collins family. You’re still very lovely, my dear… but perhaps time is beginning to press in on you a little.” An oh snap hangs in the air.
Angelique says that she’ll protect Barnabas, and Laura snaps, “If you persuade him to leave me alone, I shall leave him alone?”
“Are you making a bargain with me?” Angelique smiles. “That’s very amusing.” The oh snap has landed.
But then it’s Laura’s turn, and she gets to take a bite too. She mocks Angelique for getting hung up on Barnabas, proclaiming, “The Collins house has always held unhappy women, and Barnabas is a Collins. Perhaps you can force him to love you, to do what you say by spells and potions and whatever, but if he really had a choice, do you think Barnabas would choose you?”
That stings, and she follows up with, “How does it make you feel to know that you are succeeding as a — whatever you are — but failing as a woman?”
And then she surrounds Angelique with a ring of fire, which I don’t really like Laura but that’s kind of an awesome finishing move.
Laura struts her way out of the house, and a shaken Angelique goes upstairs looking for somebody else to shake. Happily, Magda’s upstairs, giving Angelique the chance to criticize someone. She says some mean girl words about Magda’s utter failure to protect Barnabas in his coffin, and then starts in on her plan to destroy Laura.
And that’s how this whole day is going to go. It’s an all-singing all-dancing all-kaiju extravaganza on Dark Shadows today; there are four characters in the episode, and they spend the entire half hour throwing shade at each other.
I mean, look at these two. They’re supposed to be talking to each other, but these are two actresses who both categorically refuse to turn their faces away from the camera for a second.
Angelique tells the gypsy to go to Collinwood and get Quentin, and Magda refuses. A few weeks ago, Quentin murdered Magda’s sister, and she cast a gypsy curse on him, turning him into a savage beast when the full moon rises, and sending him off to tear his family to shreds. This is a major cataclysmic turning-point plot thread that Angelique is absolutely not interested in hearing anything about.
Angelique’s reaction is pure Bridezilla. “Since Barnabas is in danger, everyone will do exactly what I tell them to do, including you! And right now, I’m telling you to go to Collinwood, and get Quentin!” And then Magda just stands there, making acting faces until it’s time for a commercial break.
Okay, now over to Collinwood, where the wolf man is trying to forget about his recent murder spree by working his way through all of the alcohol in the house. This is impossible, of course, because Collinwood is equipped with a magical bottomless liquor cabinet, but he’s going to give it a try and see how far he gets.
In times of stress, Quentin has several telegenic coping strategies, including alcohol abuse, sexual harassment, Satanic rituals, threatening people with swords, or — in a real emergency — dying and returning as a ghost to haunt his descendants. When Quentin’s unhappy, ain’t nobody happy, except the audience, obviously.
So now he’s dressed in a fantastic magenta robe, stumbling around the foyer and bumping into things. They even messed up his hair a little. It’s a really good episode, is what I’m saying.
Magda shows up at the door, and Quentin executes a complicated drunk diva rant, laughing and snarling and yelling at her to get out. She takes a step forward, and he backs away like she’s about to hit him in the face.
“Are you finished with me?” he shouts. “You’ve done it all! There’s nothing left to do, madam gypsy! Witch! Hag! There’s NOTHING LEFT TO DO!”
I know that people don’t usually refer to men as divas, but I believe in gender equality and there’s no other way to describe what Quentin is doing right now. He’s completely unpredictable from one second to the next; every time he speaks, almost anything might happen. Diva basically means living your life in an upper register, and never doing the same thing twice in a row.
“I’m here,” Magda says. “I don’t want to be here, but I am. I got business with you.”
Quentin snarls. “I know why you’re here. You’ve come back to see if I’m still alive. Well, I am! I refuse to lie down and die, do you understand that? I won’t lie down and die!”
And Magda just laughs. “But you’re having trouble standing up.”
He turns angry. “You stupid WITCH!” he shouts. “I’m going to KILL you for what –” and then he stumbles and falls down on the stairs.
“Look at you,” she spits. “Look at you, lying there! You think I have destroyed you, you fool! Don’t you realize you are destroying yourself?”
This is a Violet Welles script, by the way, pretty much taking the title of Best Writer On Dark Shadows away from Sam Hall and Joe Caldwell all at once. By her own admission, Violet isn’t that strong on plot development, but she does this kind of thing better than anybody else.
Plotwise, they don’t even need this scene. All they need here is for Quentin to go to the Old House and help Angelique, and they could accomplish that in a dozen different ways. In a pinch, Quentin could just show up at the Old House to talk to Barnabas; he’s done that a couple times recently, and it’s totally in character.
So Violet is making a deliberate choice to set up a three-minute Magda vs Drunk Quentin kaiju battle, because they haven’t had a chance post-curse to talk about their feelings.
He ends up on his knees, begging Magda — for the sake of her sister’s love for him — to put an end to the werewolf curse. The gypsy snorts. “Would that help? Would that bring her to life again, sane and happy? If it would, Quentin, I would do it, I would end the curse on you — if it cost me my life!”
Thanks to Violet, this is what they do on Dark Shadows now. They figured out a while ago that Dark Shadows needs plot twists and funny lines and crazy spectacles, but satisfying emotional set pieces like this are a new addition to the repertoire.
There’s no boring functional dialogue today, like Ron Sproat and Gordon Russell are so attached to. Nobody says good morning, or please come in, or thank you. When they cut to the next scene, Angelique is already mid-conversation with Drunk Quentin.
In fact, they open the scene with a close-up on Angelique, so that Quentin has a few seconds to hurry from the Collinwood set to the Old House set, and get into place by the time the camera pulls back. This is one of my favorite Dark Shadows late-60s soap opera tricks.
It would be easy to give Quentin time to stroll over to the other set, just filling time with Angelique pacing around the room and looking worried. Sproat did that kind of thing all the time. But Violet doesn’t live like that; she wants every moment to count.
So now Angelique has to put her plan into operation using a stubborn gypsy and a hung-over wolf man, while they complain and ask impertinent questions. It’s like herding kaiju cats.
Everybody gets their own part in the scheme; they’re like the A-Team. Magda will use her wily gypsy expertise to steal the magical scarab from Laura’s cottage, and Quentin will use his black magic experience to perform a summoning ritual over the scarab. Angelique is the one with voodoo witch powers, to point the spell in Laura’s direction.
So here they are, three of the four major Dark Shadows kaiju, together in the same room for the first time, and they’re teaming up to rescue Barnabas. Laura has no idea what’s about to hit her.
Tomorrow: Give Me the Strength to Crush My Enemy.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Magda sneers at Quentin: “You can not give her your boyish charm and smiles. She’s like lot — not like Jenny, or Beth, or any of the others!”
When Angelique tells Magda to steal the scarab, the camera bounces up and down for a couple seconds.
Tomorrow: Give Me the Strength to Crush My Enemy.
— Danny Horn