“It’s one thing to apply black magic to someone’s portrait. It’s quite a different thing to paint someone, and have that someone come to life!”
Stop the presses: Quentin Collins is in love again. At least, he says that he is, and he should know; he’s been in love one hundred and eighteen times so far, occasionally with the same person twice in a row. This time, the lucky lady is Amanda Harris, who I think he’s had maybe five scenes with so far.
Amanda is a Graphite-American, part of a vanishingly small minority of people who were created by that well-known hysterical painter and head-clutcher, Charles Delaware Tate. A couple years ago, Tate drew a picture of his dream girl, and the picture came to life, wandering the streets of New York City with a dress and a hairstyle, and precisely no idea where she came from. Recently, Amanda learned the truth about her secret origin, and she watched Tate create a brother for her, out of thin air and a magic marker. Naturally, this was upsetting for Amanda — nobody wants to see their parents having sex, especially if your parents are Charles Delaware Tate and some art supplies.
It’s kind of like the story of Pinocchio, if Gepetto was furious all the time and wanted to have sex with the puppet, which for all I know maybe he did. There isn’t a Blue Fairy in this story who can turn Amanda into a real woman, but Quentin’s willing to take a whack at the problem.
So let’s begin today with Quentin and Amanda in the Collinwood drawing room, making themselves comfortable. Quentin’s got some music playing — his own hit record, naturally, because Quentin is a baller — and they’re finishing up a passionate kiss. He stares into her eyes and says, “I love you, Amanda,” and she gets up and walks across the room. So that’s strike one.
He follows her, smiling, because he’s Quentin Collins, and he knows precisely how irresistible he is, down to three decimal points.
“We can’t have it this way,” she sighs. He asks why not, and she says, “Tim, you don’t know enough about me,” which pretty much puts a period at the end of that sentence.
The fact is, Quentin doesn’t really know enough about her, except how she looks and dances and what the inside of her mouth tastes like, and it’s a bit mysterious why they’re suddenly in love. They first met in early August, and then they didn’t see each other for a month. In early September, they hooked up again and danced in the drawing room a little bit, and then last week he started kissing her, and now they’re all the way in love. The way they’ve paced the story, it feels like Quentin would fall in love with anybody he runs across, which is basically true, so I guess it’s not really a problem.
As usual, there’s a backstage story that explains this sudden shift in storyline direction. Donna McKechnie was originally hired a couple months ago, when producer Dan Curtis saw her on Broadway, appearing in a frothy musical comedy called Promises, Promises. The show is opening in London soon, and she’s going to appear in the debut, so they’ve got to write her out of the show by Friday.
This is going to require some romantic accelerant, and luckily we’ve got some right here on the set, in the super economy size. It calls itself Quentin.
“We like each other,” Amanda admits. “We enjoy being together. That’s the way it should be. No sadness, no regrets.”
He moves in closer, and grins. “You don’t believe a word you’re saying.”
“Oh, yes I do! I know what’s good for us, and what isn’t.”
He murmurs, “Amanda, look at me.”
She pouts. “Why?”
“Just look at me.”
So she turns, and she looks, and that’s pretty much the end of the “we like each other” stage in their relationship. Quentin is a closer.
Still, they’ve got some problems to overcome, namely that she’s imaginary. He needs to get out of town, for complicated reasons distantly related to the Hungarian nobility, and he wants her to come with him, running away to some far-off land where nobody has a hand that’s any more magical than anybody else’s.
She’s not having it. She can’t love anyone, she says, and no one can love her. She actually has more potential boyfriends than anyone else on the show; I think she’s currently captivated just about every male character who’s older than eleven and younger than a hundred and thirty.
For example: Tim Shaw, the schoolteacher-turned-ineffectual-rogue who found Amanda in New York, and got her invited to stay at Collinwood as part of a revenge scheme against Reverend Trask that still hasn’t been fully explained, and it’s starting to look like it never will be.
Tim seems to think he has some claim on Amanda’s affections, because he’s been feeding her and giving her jewelry, and setting her up on dates with creepy old men. Apparently this means nothing to Amanda; she must think creepy old men grow on trees, like she sort of did.
You know, now that I think about it, it’s no wonder that Amanda’s a bit brusque with people. She had no parents, no school and no upbringing. She appeared out of nowhere two years ago, and she’s just been winging it since then. You have to cut her some slack.
They’re having emotional conversations today, so there’s a lot of backacting, where both characters are facing the camera, while one of them delivers dialogue towards the back of the other’s head. It’s goofy if you think about it too hard, but it looks fantastic, and it’s a key element in the Dark Shadows house style. At one point in this scene, Amanda and Tim are both backacting at the same time, a new record in unlikely human social behavior.
Anyway, Tim’s main point is that Amanda can’t be in love, because Quentin doesn’t know that she’s essentially a walking oil painting. In the 1890s, society didn’t approve of mixed marriages between three-dimensional people and two-dimensional people, a small-minded prejudice that unfortunately persists to this day in some quarters. You wouldn’t imagine the trouble you could have trying to get a marriage license in Kentucky, especially if the marriage license is the person you want to marry.
Tim’s point is that Amanda has no mortality, whatever that means. He’s telling her what happened to Henry, her imaginary brother. “He fell to the floor, and he disappeared,” says Tim. “That man disintegrated into thin air! You know why it happened that way?” She doesn’t. “Because he had no mortality! And you have no mortality either, Amanda.” Apparently not having mortality is an issue, for Tim Shaw. “You have no right to lead any other life, except the one you’re leading now.”
I’m not sure what he’s getting at, frankly. She’s already leading the life that she’s leading now. Isn’t she?
Amanda says, “Please leave me alone, Tim!” and then she says, “Just go away!” and then Quentin says, “I think you’d better be going, Mr. Shaw.” Those are probably the three most common things that Tim Shaw ever hears.
“I’ll go, Quentin,” Tim says, petulantly. “I think you two deserve one another!” Which is not a very good exit line. And then he walks outside and falls down a manhole, and he’s never heard from again.
Quentin and Amanda sit down and have another few stolen moments of doomed romance, and then there’s a knock at the door, and guess who it is, it’s Charles Delaware Tate, because Amanda can’t go more than a minute without having another weird stalker boyfriend stop by. They must be lining up on the lawn. Here I was thinking that having no mortality sounded pretty cool, but I guess there’s a downside.
So Quentin says she doesn’t want to talk to you, and Tate says, why doesn’t she speak for herself? and Amanda says, I don’t want to talk to you.
Now, I don’t disagree with a single word of that, but I would like to strike a note of caution about this potentially dangerous trend. You can spend an entire episode telling people that you don’t want to talk to them if you want to, but at a certain point, you run out of cast members.
Amanda goes upstairs to her room, packing for London as fast as she can. Meanwhile, the boys have a backacting-heavy scene in the foyer, where Tate says that he created Amanda, and Quentin says I’m pretty sure that you didn’t, and they just go back and forth about it for a while, until eventually Quentin just decides the hell with it, there have got to be some broads in this town with less baggage.
I mean, imagine Thanksgiving at Quentin and Amanda’s place. These are the in-laws, right here: Charles Delaware Tate and his sketchpad. Quentin’s trying to carve the turkey, and meanwhile, Charles is sitting there at the table, doodling up some new relatives, just to screw with the seating chart. Then Tim Shaw busts in, explaining to everybody how they have no mortality. This is no way to live.
So I hate to be a downer, but maybe there’s another enchanted princess out there that Quentin could fall in love with. He might have to leave his house to go find her, but sometimes you have to exert yourself.
Tomorrow: Here Today.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Amanda is looking out the window at the start of act 1, a person’s shadow crosses her bed.
During Tim and Amanda’s argument in act 1, one of the cameras shows a blue spot in the center of the frame.
When Tate steps off the staircase in the Collinwood foyer, there’s a crunching sound.
Not strictly a blooper, but an odd moment: Tate smirks at Quentin, and reminds him that the portrait he painted is keeping Quentin’s curse at bay. We’ve never seen Petofi tell Tate about this, and it’s unlikely that he would have; the Count isn’t big on sharing information that he doesn’t need to share. But it’s not impossible that this happened off-screen for some reason.
Tate slams the door when he enters Amanda’s room, causing her to hesitate in the middle of her line.
Tate says, “Quentin’s going to leave you, Amanda, I assure you of that. He’ll walk right out on you, just the way he did all the others, as soon as he understands that I’ve told you the truth about him — about you.”
When Quentin and Amanda finish their kiss, there’s a little strand of saliva strung between their mouths. This moment is mentioned in Donna McKechnie’s chapter in Barnabas & Company: “Once, my brother called me up, and he and his fraternity brothers had been watching an episode, and they were all laughing. It was one where David Selby and I kissed, and when we pulled apart there was a little string of saliva between us — you know, the sort of thing you could blot away and start over again, if you could start over again. But we couldn’t! And I was just furious that he was laughing about it. When you’re trying to be serious, you don’t want to be laughable.”
Tomorrow: Here Today.
— Danny Horn