Episode 827: A Cloud of Bats

“I remember the firelight, how the knife gleamed as it came close to my hand.”

Imagine, if you will: A gypsy, emoting furiously, on a high cliff overlooking the sea. The night is rough, and thunder-kissed. She has banished the shade of her dead husband, refusing to accompany him to the world beyond. Then a mob boss from Boston in a check suit emerges from the darkness, accompanied by his muscular, partly-clothed assistant. “The game is over, Magda,” he says, advancing on her with a switchblade. “You lost.”

But you don’t have to imagine this scene, because here it is, recorded and preserved for posterity, using magnets and lasers and nostalgia and hope. They actually performed this scenario and broadcast it on television; I can’t say why. Surely somebody tried to stop them.

827 dark shadows barnabas istvan johnny magda

And then — in a cloud of bats, and a Heigh-ho Silver — here’s eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins, the idol of American youth, whose stirring exploits and unparalleled heroism are familiar to us all. He’s here to save the day, of course, and prevent any more needless bloodshed. Well, except for Istvan, who he casually murders just to score a point in an argument. But everything else he does is saga-worthy.

“Let her go!” he cries. And when Johnny Romana — King of the Gypsies! — does not instantly comply, Barnabas uses his hypnotic vampire powers to frog-march Johnny’s burly companion off the cliff, to a messy death on the presumably deserted beach below. If there’s anybody down there at this time of night, then they’re about to receive two hundred and twenty pounds of free-falling Istvan, which ought to give them something to think about. That kind of thing could change your whole outlook.

Barnabas clearly considers this necessary collateral damage, but if you ask me, it’s a waste of good gypsy. Istvan was a human being with feelings and a bright future as an underwear model, and he deserves more than the seven seconds of mourning that he receives. Good night, sweet Istvan, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

827 dark shadows barnabas johnny magda cross

Okay. Anyway. Where were we?

Oh, right — Barnabas is back! Our hero was encased in carbonite for a couple weeks, unable to do anything but feel sorry for himself. He was rescued two episodes ago in a tense negotiation, and now he’s back in action, getting the hero pants on and kickboxing an angry gypsy at gunpoint.

Actually, the gypsy has a cross around his neck, which is totally unfair. Everybody has a cross these days! Apparently in the late 1890s, Maine was part of the Bible Belt. I’ve never seen so many pious crime bosses in my life.

But Barnabas has a trump card — he knows where Johnny can find the Legendary Hand of Count Petofi, which is the thing he’s in search of. Actually, almost anybody on the show could tell Johnny that, it’s pretty much common knowledge in this town. He just never asked, is all.

827 dark shadows johnny barnabas

So that was easy; this was all just a big misunderstanding. Once Barnabas offers to share information on the whereabouts, the hostage crisis turns into a casual social event. They decamp to the Old House, where Barnabas and Johnny stand around and make collaborative decisions.

They clear up the whole who-killed-Julianka situation, for one thing, and then they raise some new business. For some reason that I can’t quite explain, I find the following exchange unbearably cute.

Johnny:  Where can I find him? A few miles from here, you said.

Barnabas:  So he is. But I will tell you no more, until you agree to one last condition. When you find the Hand, you must use it on Quentin Collins.

Johnny:  The one who’s cursed?

Barnabas:  Yes.

Johnny:  He’s not a gypsy. I can only use it on gypsies!

Barnabas:  But he married a gypsy! And his children are part gypsy! You will be using it against your own people, unless you cure Quentin!

Johnny:  All right. I ain’t got time to horse-trade! There’s something more important I must do. I’ll be back.

Barnabas:  Where are you going?

Johnny:  I must start something that must be done. It takes time to do it right. Wait for me.

And then he just walks out the door. I don’t know quite what it is about that scene; it’s like everyone is suddenly in a good mood. “I ain’t got time to horse-trade!” It’s just adorable.

Johnny and Barnabas are going to take care of Petofi, and then they’re going to cure Quentin, and then I guess they’ll have some big “farewell, my friend” scene where they’re both trying to pretend they don’t have tears in their eyes. Murder bros.

827 dark shadows magda johnny cape

And then it turns out that the “something that must be done” is a costume change, which is the best possible option. He comes back to the house wearing a velvet purple cape, which he is so excited to show off.

Magda opens the door, and gasps, “King Johnny!”

“How do you like me in these robes?” he says, twirling in a circle. “Magnificent, ain’t I?” And then he says, “Where’s Barnabas?” like he’s annoyed that his new friend isn’t around to see his awesome outfit. These people were holding each other at knifepoint, literally five minutes ago.

827 dark shadows magda barnabas johnny scimitar

The new ensemble comes with accessories, too. King Johnny pulls out a curved sword, and everybody gasps all over again. “The golden scimitar of the Romana tribe!” he announces.

“A hundred years ago,” Magda says, “it severed Count Petofi’s hand from his wrist. It has always been sacred to the gypsies.”

“Tonight,” Johnny adds, “it’ll be more sacred.”

You know, the gypsies have really put a lot of effort into hating this one guy. They might want to consider spreading the legends out a bit more, try to diversify. But maybe they figure that would be bad for the brand.

827 dark shadows magda barnabas johnny brand

Barnabas gives the blade a once-over. “So that’s how you’re going to get it back,” he says.

“Oh, it’s going to do more than that, Mr. Barnabas,” Johnny says. “It’s going to do much more than that, with King Johnny behind it!”

Barnabas is puzzled. “What do you mean?”

“You want to know too many gypsy secrets. You just leave it all to King Johnny.”

The obvious response to this is, okay, jeez, you brought it up, but Barnabas doesn’t want to ruin the costume party.

827 dark shadows magda barnabas roommates

So that’s where we leave our hero, chatting quietly with his roommate while another dude goes out to battle the legendary monster. It turns out Barnabas doesn’t actually have very much to do with this epic saga after all. He did manage to save the day, in the sense that he turned an intense cliffhanger into an episode of Antiques Roadshow, and then we don’t see him again until late next week. I hope somebody remembers to tell him how it all worked out.

Tomorrow: It’s My Skeleton.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When Istvan jumps off the cliff, you can briefly see the studio lights.

There’s a tape edit in act 2, in the middle of Barnabas’ conversation with King Johnny.

Tomorrow: It’s My Skeleton.

827 dark shadows goodbye istvan

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

38 thoughts on “Episode 827: A Cloud of Bats

  1. I know it’s all part of the melodrama side of the show, but whenever Barnabas kills someone for theatrical reasons I don’t like it. I guess the vampirism victim he put in the first Reverend Trask’s bed doesn’t entirely count, but Trask himself does. So I always see Istvan as almost the ultimate case of that – someone who’s killed to scare someone else (unlike the girl I just mentioned, who’d ALREADY been killed, and was then USED to scare someone else). And yes, the fact that he’s the only black character in the entire series (?) doesn’t help matters.

      1. Yeah. Multi purpose ethnic. Same as Anthony Quinn who got to play all the non-Anglo characters wherever they came from.

        1. Yes, Istvan is an interesting choice for a gypsy because overall, the show has been depicting them as a very WASPish view of Jews: “strange” religion with curious rituals, money focused, but still somewhat tolerated within WASP society to a degree. I don’t see even senile Edith letting Istvan live at the Old House.

          1. I think you have to read Istvan as black. “Gypsy” is an amazingly haphazard concept — there’s no logical way to see Magda, Johnny, Istvan and Jenny as being the same race. They don’t even have similar accents.

            They clearly could cast people who looked similar to Johnny — if that’s what they were going for, the guy who played Marco in yesterday’s episode could have played Istvan. (He’s the one in the yellow vest, second from the left.) But they were going for something different with Istvan. You don’t cast that actor by accident.

              1. They are strangely fascinated with his pants. I know that I sometimes exaggerate the amount of male-centered ogling, but there are so many shots in all of his episodes that emphasize either his crotch, his ass or his arms. I was actually pretty restrained in my screencapping.

      2. I always fanwanked that Magda and Jenny were half sisters, and that’s why they looked so different. As far as Istvan goes, I got nothin’.

        1. I didn’t have much of an issue with Jenny “passing.” Historically, actual full siblings often looked differently enough that one could “pass” while the other couldn’t. But the clear differences in speech, which implies that Jenny was educated in ways that Magda wasn’t, bolsters your “half sister” theory.

          1. The real “problem” (which isn’t actually a problem) is that there’s no way for Magda to exist in Civil War-era New England. How did she develop her weird creole dialect? She basically grew up in Amherst.

            1. Exactly. DARK SHADOWS stopped existing in the real world. 1897 was very much set in a Universal Horror movie universe, which had not set “time period.” (For instance, in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Henry and Elizabeth Frankenstein dress in mostly contemporary 1930s clothing, yet there are no automobiles). The band of New England gypsies is just hilarious. I sometimes wish Sandor and Magda had spoken like Kennedys.

            2. When Magda first mentions King Johnny, it’s with a triumphant look as she declares that he is “in Boston now.” Not that he is usually in Boston, or that he has been in Boston for years, much less that he and she grew up in Boston together. In other episodes she talks about having been all over the world. I don’t see any grounds to assume that either she or King Johnny were in Boston, or New England, or for that matter anywhere in the USA in the 1860s, 1870s, or 1880s.

              Indeed, King Johnny’s shabby circumstances would suggest that he and his followers are recent arrivals in the USA. If he’d been the head of a criminal organization in Boston for years and not only lacked the rubies and diamonds Petofi tries to bribe him with, but also had to go out himself with one henchman to carry out a hit, he’d long since have lost his position.

              I think we have to assume that he just recently led the Romana family across the Atlantic, and that they headed for Boston for the same reason other immigrants chose particular destinations, namely that coethnics of theirs had recently settled there. Perhaps Magda and Sandor had been among those who arrived in Boston several years before, and perhaps word of their relative success had made its way back to the old country, along with stories of others who had done well in New England. Certainly the fact that word has reached Magda that King Johnny is in Boston would suggest that she is in touch with a network of Gypsies exchanging news about each other.

          2. Yes, I agree. And it’s possible for Rroma to have red hair IRL. GH is 1/4 Rroma and pale (maternal grandmother). I rest my case!

    1. I am going to add Istvan to my cast of my revenge fan fic in which Barnabas gets visited by his victims (not the ones summoned by Trask who has no sense of humor) and they all show up to annoy him. Carl will play practical jokes, Jason Mc Guire will make puns, Woodard will regale him with nauseating medical stories (a lot having to do with cleaning up after diarrhea), and Istvan will play the accordion. I have to come up with other annoying habits for ghosts to have fun at Barney’s expense

    2. I don’t think Barnabas’ reasons for killing Istvan were purely theatrical. King Johnny Romana, was planning to kill Magda, and he therefore should have been Barbabas’ target. But sundry plot points required King JR to stick around, and Istvan was the next best candidate. Istvan was, after all, King JR’s torpedo, and doubtless had a whole slew of previous killings to his considerable credit. I concede, though, that the world is always poorer for the loss of a wearer of such truly fabulous pants.

    1. Sorry but Adam had the hook up to Barnabas’ immortality that Istvan lacked.
      We won’t discuss what Istvan had that Adam lacked.

  2. I’m sorry they didn’t keep King Johnny around – he’s a kick ass character. If Barnabas had taken HIM to 1969, he’d have fit right in.

  3. Barnabas was chained in a coffin for a couple of weeks. We know how he feels about that . One time he shoved Julia’s face in his coffin and asked, “How would you like to be in there for 200 years”? He was obviously in a bad mood.

    Poor Istvan, pants and all, were just in the way. And as a bit player who didn’t speak because he would have been paid more, well, let’s have the vampire show he’s still mean and protect Magda at the same time. Bye, Istvan.

    And yes, King Johnny, you are magnificent.

  4. Check out the screen grab of Magda in Episode 787: The Dog Pound. Magda is wearing the same red and gold vest as Istvan. Probably not the exact same vest, since Grayson was a much smaller person. But I guess they were on clearance at the local hippie head shop when Mostoller was shopping for gypsy clothes.

    1. Well spotted! I think it is definitely the exact same vest. Note how big it is on Grayson. I think if might be a period piece rather than something bought or created for the show. It breaks my (costumers) heart that they used actual 1920s dress for the party scene (where they jump in the fountain) in the 1974 movie The Great Gatsby but they did. Just “old clothes” at the time

  5. I bet that (given the chance) Istvan played an AMAZING game of ‘Hunt The Weasel’.
    The loss to the Gypsy community may be irreparable.
    I bet he used to sneak into King Johnny’s caravan and put on that purple robe…and I will lay odds he looked a million times better in it than Johnny ever did.

  6. Watching Magda’s face as Istvan goes flying over Widows Hill, is the equivalent of hearing “splat”. I recommend everyone rewatch that scene, keeping a close watch on Magda’s face. Another reason why Magda, like Julia Hoffman, is a Rockstar.

  7. Is this the campiest episode this program ever taped?

    When King Johnny came through the front door of the Old House and literally did a spin while asking Magda what she thought of him now….

    And that ludicrous “kingly” get-up? Whew, when you throw in Istvan, I don’t know how this ep could be topped for sheer outrageousness.

  8. I don’t get why Istvan was never listed in the credits. He can’t be “just an extra” if he is in multiple consecutive episodes with equal minutes of screen time as the other actors. He doesn’t speak yet neither did Quentin in his first dozen or more episodes and he was credited. Even the unspeaking wearwolf Alex is listed in the credits. It has to be because black guys on Dark Shadows do not get listed.

  9. Not sure if this would be a blooper but when Istvan goes off the cliff at Widows Hill you can hear his feet thud on the floor immediately after his mini-jump. Judging by how soon it was he must have been about 3 inches above the floor.

  10. “They cut out his tongue. But if he COULD speak I’m sure he would say, ‘What? You couldn’t’a told King Johnny about the Hand BEFORE you threatened to send me off the cliff?'”

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