Episode 760: Light Fuse and Get Away

“Well, I’m sorry, I think the idea is absurd, and impossible to grasp.”

Okay, we’re finally here — the big finale for Laura the phoenix, filmed in full color Cinemascope, with a serious uptick in the ol’ suspension of disbelief.

Now, I know this has been a lengthy battle with a lot of extra distractions, but according to the opening narration, the family has really taken their collective eye off the ball.

A violent conflict rages within the great house of Collinwood, between two supernatural forces — one determined to snuff out the lives of two young children, the other equally determined to save them.

Only Barnabas Collins is aware that the safety of Jamison and Nora is vital to the whole future of the Collins family.

So — wait, really? Barnabas is the only one who’s aware of that? Cause those are the only two kids in the house, and looking at the adults, I don’t see a lot of reproductive potential. If they really don’t understand that you need kids to have a future, then somebody needs to have a long talk with the Collins family, while we still have one.

760 dark shadows barnabas edward supernatural

But even in our darkest hours, we can always count on the Louis Edmonds character to make everything better. Edward tells Barnabas that the children are hidden somewhere in the mansion, and Laura won’t be able to find them.

Barnabas:  Well, she won’t go about it in any ordinary way. She has unusual powers at her command.

Edward:  I can accept the fact that she’s a disturbed and dangerous woman, I’ve known this all along. But you would have me believe that she possesses — what did you call it?

Barnabas:  Supernatural powers.

Edward:  Well, I’m sorry, I think the idea is absurd and impossible to grasp. I simply don’t understand it.

And then he walks around the room and bristles his mustache. You have to love Edward. He doesn’t recognize the phrase “supernatural powers,” even though pretty much everybody in his social circle has some.

But Barnabas warns him to be prepared: “Her powers are weakening, because her energy has been taken away from her. But she’s desperate; she has very little time.” It’s not clear how Barnabas knows any of this, but all of a sudden everybody’s an expert in Laura Science.

“There must be no fire or flame in the house this evening,” Barnabas declares. “All fireplaces, oil lamps, candles and stoves must be extinguished. You may use whatever electricity that you have.” Again: no idea where these best practices come from. Next he’s going to tell Edward to make sure his small electronics are in airplane mode.

Then Laura walks in and falls to the floor, so maybe there’s something to this “energy has been taken from her” jive after all. Barnabas tells Edward, “Don’t call the doctor. By the time the doctor gets here, she will be dead.” Okay, cool. Are we done?

760 dark shadows edward laura energy

But no, then we have to carry her upstairs, and we’ve got like twelve minutes left. Edward tucks her in and says, “I think you should be still and quiet,” so amen to that.

You know, it’s funny, this feels like a real throwback post for me, where I’m not doing anything but posting quotes and sniping at the characters. This is what the Laura storylie has done to me. I don’t think I’ve been this cranky since Vicki left.

760 dark shadows nora jamison faces

I think the problem is that the core of the story is just incoherent. It started out with “Laura wants to burn up the kids so they can join her in a spooky fire world forever,” and it hasn’t advanced beyond that one single step. It doesn’t make sense, and there’s nowhere to go with it.

It’s just an A/B choice — Laura burns the kids, or she doesn’t — and they’re kids, so the smart money is on “doesn’t”. So what are we waiting around for?

They’ve had six weeks to elaborate on this story, and we still don’t understand what Laura actually needs to do in order to succeed. It seems like she just needs to appear in the fire and say, “Children, come join me,” except she’s already done that several times with each kid, and nothing happened.

We don’t know what she needs. We don’t know what she’s waiting for. She’s already lost two vessels containing her fire energy — an urn and a scarab — and that’s supposedly why her energy is failing, but then Edward lights a fire for her like a chump, and all of a sudden she’s good as new, and ready to appear in the fire and say, “Children, come join me.”

And the kids don’t really make any sense, either; they’ve been flip-flopping like mad on the “going away with Mom” issue. A few episodes ago, Barnabas hypnotized Nora to be frightened of her mother, but that only lasted for a day. Now all of a sudden Jamison is a travel agent, selling Nora on the wonderful place they’re all going to go, where the sun is always shining, and so on.

Also, someone’s been telling Denise Nickerson that she needs to be super expressive all the time, which is not the case. She’s never just happy or scared these days, she’s exploding with manic glee or en route to the electric chair. We need her to dial it back before she pulls something. Sorry, I told you this story was making me cranky.

760 dark shadows chromakey laura edward

But, like I said, the Louis Edmonds character will always come through for you. Here, Edward is finding out first-hand that the supernatural exists, and he used to be married to it. And he’s just baffled and horrified, and his concept of the way that the world works is crumpled up in a ball and thrown away. He watches his wife turn into Chromakey, and fade into the afterworld. This is not the kind of thing you get over in a hurry. This will have consequences.

760 dark shadows nora jamison faces 2

So we just have to hang on. Like Nora and Jamison — aka the whole future of the Collins family — there’s not really anything we can do, except huddle together and back away from the flames. As long as we don’t do something stupid like enjoy a scene with Laura, I think we can let the professionals take care of it.

And they do, somehow. Probably. Barnabas hits something with his cane, I think, and Angelique casts a spell, and Magda mixes a potion, and Quentin kisses somebody. Or maybe they just dump some water on the fire and put it out, like a normal person would do. Am I the only one who’s thought of that?

Monday: After School.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Barnabas tells Edward, “Her powers are weakening, because her — well, her energy has been taken away from her. But she’s — she is well aware that… she’s desperate. She has very little time.”

Laura tells Edward not to interfere, or they will both go up in flames. “My God,” Edward says, and then walks around Laura to pose on the other side. He glances at the studio several times before continuing, “I should have listened to Barnabas.” During this time, Laura must have been taking off to another set, to prepare for the Chromakey effect at the end of the scene. It seems like Edward is pausing more than he should, to make sure that everyone’s giving the right cues.

Barnabas asks Edward, “Where do they have them — where do you have them hidden?”

Jamison and Nora are trapped behind the flames. Nora says, “We’ve got to get out of here!” and Jamison responds, “We can’t! There’s no way out!” There’s a pause, and then Jamison cries, “Where, mother? Where?”

Behind the Scenes:

When Laura ages at the episode’s climax, it looks like she’s using the same old-lady wig and mask that Angelique used, back in May 1968.

Also: Ralston-Purina lamp, showing up for work. It gets two nice close-ups today, because it is the secret star of the show.

Monday: After School.

760 dark shadows nora jamison lamp

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

28 thoughts on “Episode 760: Light Fuse and Get Away

  1. How about dropping a pail of water on Laura. And she goes “Oh, my beautiful wickedness” And Barnabas gets to keep the ruby slippers…

    1. We can’t actually shpw them doing it because of the censors. We just come back from commercial and it’s all done.

    1. That was fun! Haven’t seen it here, or anywhere, so thanks for posting. Did you notice that one of those kids–the one with his back to the fireplace at 0:26–bears more than a passing resemblance to David Henesy, the way he looked when the show started in 1966?

    2. I had this game. My sister and I played it a lot. We enjoyed putting the skeletons together, and it’s a little bit demented that the prize for winning is the curse of eternal bloodlust. Man, the ’60s were great.

  2. I always thought there was a great missed opportunity in this episode, although it’s understandable given the show’s budget and limitations on special effects for the 1960s. But wouldn’t it have been cool if, when Angelique casts her spell to make the children see Laura as she “really is,” instead of seeing a really, really old lady they saw a scary, flaming, bird-like creature — the phoenix-thing that Laura presumably is in actuality? That would certainly have scared the hell out of me as a kid!

    By the way, since this is the last of Laura, let me say that my favorite scene in the 2012 cinematic retcon of Dark Shadows (you know, the one where Johnny Depp likely killed off Barnabas Collins once and for all?) is when Dr. Hoffman says that David believes his late mother possesses “some sort of cyclic immortality.” At that moment the camera focuses on him with a fireplace blazing in the background. Only devotees of the original TV show would’ve grasped the significance — a little gift to the true fans.

    1. I like your idea.

      If I could do a remake, I’d keep the part with Laura fading and aging in the fire, until she looks like she’s five thousand years old, then she’d collapse like the Wicked Witch, and the fire would dwindle down to almost nothing.

      Then, without warning, there’d be a blinding flash coming up through the spot on the floor where she disappeared, almost like an explosion, and there, just for a fleeting moment, you see the Phoenix herself, beautiful and terrifying.
      She rears her head, lets out a shriek, and with one great flap of her fiery wings, she’s gone in a flash, without a trace.

      Jamison and Nora see this, but as soon as she’s gone, instant amnesia.

  3. I wouldn’t have minded if she’d taken nora with her – 1 out of 2 ain’t bad.
    Louis Edmonds is worth his weight in gold! I have yet to see the scene that he doesn’t steal.

  4. When it comes to story line paralysis, let’s not forget that nothing beats the dream curse. I enjoyed this episode in part because of Edward’s reliable disbelief in the supernatural, but also because Angelique is wonderful in it. I love her superior smirk when she punks Laura. She knows that she’s the alpha witch on the show and is not afraid to tell Laura so. Does anyone else want her to turn to the camera like Bugs Bunny and ask the audience “Ain’t I a stinker?”

  5. May 23, 1969 – the day I became a Dark Shadows with episode 760. I was 8 years old. It scared the crap out of me but I loved it and was hooked forever.

    1. thanks for sharing that, Sean. i thought i’d comment, having been eleven at the time when i watched it too, so you’d know someone at least saw your post, hosting its ghost.

  6. “Also, someone’s been telling Denise Nickerson that she needs to be super expressive all the time, which is not the case.”

    IIRC, Lara Parker Herself mentioned at one of the conventions (I wasn’t there, but saw a video excerpt) how any kind of restrained acting was discouraged, and the producers wanted all the dialogue dialed up to 11. I would guess someone really was telling Denise to crank up the volume.

    Speaking of Denise/Nora, it seems like TPTB were flirting with making Nora a “scary little girl”; a trope now, but I don’t think a very developed trope back in ’69. Some of those shots that end with her smiling directly at the camera make it seem she is more a potential threat than an innocent victim.

  7. The real problem with Laura isn’t just that her scheme is pointless and nonsensical, it’s that she doesn’t even need it. If Laura dies with her children, she comes back. If Laura dies without her children, she still comes back. So… why does she keep killing children? It’s not like it serves any purpose–she’ll die and be reborn regardless. Killing her children throughout time isn’t something she has to do; it’s just a dick move that she WANTS to do. So… why?

    1. The first time they told the story, pre-Barnabas, Laura was trying to kill David. When Vicki was saving him, Laura said that if he died with her, he would be reborn as well. That she was trying to give him eternal life, although he would only hit about 12 each time. It’s still an odd plan, but she is trying to keep him alive forever, more or less.

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