Episode 891: Curious People

“I feel like if we open it, our lives are going to change.”

The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them, they walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen.

So there they are, Pandora and her husband Phil, staring at a puzzle box that will wipe the earth clean, just licking their lips and desperate to get their hands on it. She’s wearing a necklace decorated with the sign of the Naga — a four-headed serpent, a creature without a soul, and the very latest Thing in fashion.

Now they’re at the Old House, these reckless antiquers, and they’re delighted to find a Naga-branded mystery box that would complete their stockpile of hazardous material.

“Is there anything inside?” she asks, and the owner admits, “To tell you the truth, I’ve never looked inside. Is that strange to you?”

“Well,” she grins, “we’re very curious people.” Yeah, you can say that again.

891 dark shadows philip barnabas megan box

I mean, Megan Todd is the kind of person who finds a five-pointed slab of green soapstone of blasphemous design, direct from the mountains of madness, and she goes and hangs it around her neck. What do you do with a person like that?

They say they don’t know where the Naga necklace came from, that they just happened to find it in an odd lot they bought at an auction. But it’s obvious that Megan’s got a hankering for ancient evil housewares, and you don’t get that way by accident. I bet they’ve been bidding on Mi-go brain cylinders  for years. She’s looking at that box, and thinking how nice it would look on the mantelpiece, next to the Shining Trapezohedrons and the Klerksdorp spheres.

We already know that their antique shop of forbidden merchandise includes a haunted painting by Charles Delaware Tate, one of Pansy Faye’s lavender feather boas, and that weird stuffed pig weasel thing on the back shelf. Now they’re hoping to persuade Barnabas to sell them his Hitchcock chair, which will look great next to their Stephen King bureau and the Clive Barker dinette set.

They keep complaining that they don’t get enough foot traffic, but if every seventh customer who walks through the door spontaneously bursts into flame, then what do you expect?

891 dark shadows philip megan barnabas normal

Part of the confusion, I suppose, is that Megan and Philip are supposed to be a normal, everyday couple who just happen to trip and fall into an eternal pit of nameless horror, but they’ve cast Marie Wallace and Christopher Bernau, two actors that hardly even register as human.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Marie Wallace. I’ve long been on record as being a huge fan of Eve, her first character on the show — a high-camp psychodiva Bride of Frankenstein who wore glamorous gowns, and spread chaos and disorder with every step of her high-heeled clodhoppers. And then she was dagger-wielding ex-wife Crazy Jenny, haunting the halls of Collinwood with a song in her heart and her eyelashes on backwards.

But Megan isn’t supposed to be a crazy kaiju character, stomping through Tokyo; she’s supposed to be the girl next door. The point of Megan is actually to be a contrast to the big, grandstanding Dark Shadows characters. She should be a visitor from a normal soap opera, whose world turns upside down when she discovers how invigorating a life in Collinsport can be. We should hardly notice her.

And yet Marie Wallace is making unstable acting choices that say to the audience that she’s just on the verge of a crack-up. Always grinning and cooing and gasping, she surprises us with the delivery of every line. That’s the correct approach for almost every other Dark Shadows character but her.

891 dark shadows philip megan you are

Meanwhile, Philip is from a whole different universe, specifically: a super gay just-after-Stonewall stage play.

My description of Chris Bernau’s uncanny-valley interpretation of a hetero husband is absolutely doomed; it will not convince anyone who doesn’t already see it. I’ll begin with this: the pants! Also: the eye-rolling, the hands on his hips, the wry delivery of even the most casual line.

“I’m beginning to think that what we need is less merchandise and more customers,” he eye-rolls wryly, hands firmly on hips.

Then he notices his daydreaming wife. “Very thoughtful,” he pronounces, and bends at the waist to address her. “You are,” he says. This is not diction that occurs in nature.

He crouches down next to her. “You’re thinking about something very important, and I can tell,” he scolds her. She claims that she’s not, and he raises his eyes to heaven. “Out with it,” he sighs.

And this is gay, it is completely and entirely and unstoppably gay. It’s Paul Lynde-level open-secret barely-surpressed weapons-grade gay.

891 dark shadows philip megan out

This is not to say, of course, that gay actors can’t play straight people. Of course they can, most gay actors do nothing but. On Dark Shadows, Joel Crothers comes to mind — gay as you please, but completely nailing the roles of Maggie’s perfect boyfriend Joe, and the aggressively heterosexual non-stop seducer Nathan.

And in 1969, most people were wilfully blind to the astonishing gayness of gay people when they saw it. For most of our history, family life depended on making polite excuses for high-campery, to keep the peace, and people naturally extended that courtesy to the folks they saw on screen. Even now, in our post-Obergefell live-your-truth paradise, people will deny the obvious when it’s right in front of them; see the comments under “Win a Date with Jonathan Frid” and “Sitting in a Tree“. And possibly under this post too; it’s too early to tell.

Anyway, my point is that even with the 1969 blinders on, Philip does not register as a normal het husband. This is only the couple next door if you live next door to the Addams family.

891 dark shadows barnabas philip megan box

So when a messenger from the Elder Things Glee & Perloo Society delivers a package of raw nightmares, then obviously the Todds are going to grab their Pnakotic fountain pen and sign for it. And once they get their hands on that box, this is the unearthly couple that’s going to open it, and unleash whatever needs to be unleashed.

Sure, the Elder Things are old, but they aren’t blind, and they know a sucker when they see one. A tentacle, too, if you have any.

Tomorrow: Welcome to Dunwich.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When the Todds approach the Leviathan box, the camera pulls back a little too far, and you can see a couple studio lights at top left.

I edited Barnabas’ quote above for clarity; what he actually says is, “To tell you the truth, I’ve never looked inside. You see… well, is that strange to you?”

Chatting about the Todds, Barnabas tells Liz, “They’re most, uh — they’ll be a great ass — asset to the town.”

At the start of the cottage scene, Maggie trips over something on her way to the door.

When Maggie closes the door after Paul comes in, the door doesn’t latch, and swings open again.

Barnabas and Megan talk over each other:

Barnabas:  You know, I think we’re going to see a lot of each other.

Megan:  Oh —

Barnabas:  I have an —

Megan:  I hope so.

Barnabas:  — unusual feeling that I think we will see each other again —

Megan:  Yes.

Barnabas: — soon.

Megan:  I hope so.

Tomorrow: Welcome to Dunwich.

891 dark shadows carolyn philip gay

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

72 thoughts on “Episode 891: Curious People

  1. I just bet Philip will be a great ass to the town!

    If THAT Freudian slip doesn’t convince these foolish naysayers about Frid, let’s just give up.

    1. Thanks, Brad and Danny for pointing out this thrilling, Frid-style Freudian slip. I’d somehow missed it, or maybe I’d heard it and couldn’t believe I had.

  2. My theory is that Megan and Phillip had to be created because of both Vicky and Joe being written out. If Vicky was still governess, then Joe and Maggie could have set up the antique shop, and be chosen as the parents of the Leviathan child…. That would be a more realistic normal couple enmeshed into it…

    1. I totally agree with you, Adriana. Joe immediately came to mind, and KLS’ descent to evil would have been quite moving. As it is, they didn’t know why to do with Maggie in this story. Or Stokes. Or Roger.

      I’m just finishing the Leviathan tale, and it definitely ends with a whimper, not a bang. But I do feel they started out with a clearer idea of what the story was this time around. They didn’t trust themselves and started to go wrong when they switched Barbabas’ motives mid-stream, essentially rewriting the story’s origin while we still had the first version clear in our minds.

      My guess is that they were following the diminishing ratings and trying to fix things. But something really weird will start to happen by the end: weird edits that destroy story continuity. It’s baffling.

      1. Yeah, Barnabas is full-on evil now, endangering Carolyn and the Todds in ways that rank up there to his worst actions when introduced in 1967. Retconning all of this to his acting under coercion and so on just makes him a plot robot.

        A year or so later, Frid wouldn’t want to play Barnabas any more. If he had decided this earlier, he could have had two great options for exits: Literally killed by Pansy Faye and not returning from the grave or turning to the Dark Side and having to be defeated by Julia and Quentin at the climax of Leviathan (perhaps he could have even made a dying sacrifice). Julia and Quentin don’t have quite the chemistry as Barnabas and Julia but I think they could have worked as the new junior detectives.

        I know the conventional wisdom is the series doesn’t work without Barnabas but we only really have 1841 PT as evidence, and that’s a storyline with no Julia or Quentin (more or less) either. It’s a nice “what if” to have Frid playing a very UnBarnabas character and Lara Parker playing a heroine, but it doesn’t maximize the core strengths of the lead stars.

        1. The problem with Barnabas is that his motivation is out of the left field. There is nothing in his previous history that would lead to his becoming suddenly the leader of a group of people he never heard of. Unless he was subjected to an industrial grade brainwashing, with a massive infodump thrown in, we cannot imagine how it could happen. It would make more sense to have him captured, and the real leader of the Leviathan make himself look like Barnabas;

          And why did then need him to bring the box? Didn’t they have enough agents in place to do it that they had to kidnap and brainwash a complete stranger?

          If I were to redo it, I would say that

          a) Barnabas and Julia are the only ones who remember Quentin and the haunting, as that never took place (since Quentin is still alive) Everyone else lived a different set of experiences and Barnabas and Julia get dropped in just in the middle of it (just as a regular viewer who tunes in to a soap opera for the first time, and has to figure out what went on before and why certain things are SO important)

          b) The box gets there by regular means introduced by a character who is corrupted by his unfulfilled desire (“What do you want?” as Morden said in Babylon 5)

          c) Barnabas and Julia unravel the mystery very much like the viewers, which makes the mystery much more fascinating,

          d) And the finale, when the Leviathan are defeated involves a lot of explosives

          1. Yes, Barnabas behaves as we’d expect Nicholas Blair would if he were in charge. We later learn (SPOILER)

            that Blair is in charge but it’s out of left field by that point.

    2. It makes sense that Joe and Maggie would have taken the Phillip/Meghan role in this story. It would have been uncomfortable for me to see Barnabas sick the Leviathans on Maggie, though. I mean first he kidnaps her and tries to turn her into Josette then he turns her and her husband over to a great evil, intent on destroying the world. And that was after he originally was pitching Maggie as the life source for Eve, before he suddenly changed his mind on that.

      It would have been hard to watch Barnabas so completely use Maggie in that way. In character, for sure, but hard to watch.

  3. Speaking of “what ifs”, I wonder how the Burke/Vicki story would have played out if Mitch Ryan hadn’t drunk himself off the show, and how he would have played the role of Jeremiah. Frankly, I couldn’t see Mitch Ryan playing that role — he seemed more suited for the straight-up, hard-boiled noir-type mystery style that the show built itself on in its first few months, rather than the theatrical camp that had taken over by the 1795 story. As the supernatural elements crept in, first with the Phoenix and then with Barnabas, Ryan’s Devlin became an increasingly incidental presence, one who instead of driving the plot from point to point merely supported the story as it moved along. Rather than stirring things up with a mean swagger and angry threats, he became instead a shoulder to cry on and a coat hanger on which to rest an occasional story recap. In the end, rather than bringing tension to a scene he wound up instead merely bringing a ham sandwich to Sam Evans (to console him over Maggie’s disappearance).

    Likewise, I couldn’t see Joe Haskell in the role of Philip Todd. He grew up as a fisherman, boats were his life. How would the show explain his sudden interest in becoming an antiques dealer over the last year?

    I think the Todds were cast as bland and detached so that the viewer does not become emotionally involved with them for a reason — as the story demands, they were designed to be expendable.

    1. I think you’re right about Joe, but they could have used Maggie & Joe without giving them the antique store. All they had to do was introduce the box, which could have been a belated wedding present from Barnabas. Not being outsiders with unknown family histories would have made the introduction of three little boys more complicated–as it was, it was strange and suspicious.

      1. Well, I got around it in my reboot. Maggie and Joe become foster parents, and the “social worker” assigned to them is a Leviathan agent. That allows different boys to come in and out.

    2. I think they would have explained Joe as an antiques dealer the way they explained a former waitress as the governess.

      I do think Mitchell Ryan poses as interesting “what might have been.” I’ve argued that we owe DS as we know it to Ryan’s drinking problem. Anthony George’s Devlin lacked the charisma to avoid having Frid’s Barnabas still the show from under him. Up until even Burke’s off-screen* death, the plot is building toward Burke destroying Barnabas. All story logic would dictate this outcome, once Barnabas set his sights on Vicki.

      If Ryan had stuck around, would they have played out the story in this direction, with Julia also dying? Or were the ratings bound to increase anyway because of the vampire storyline and they would wind up going to 1795 to avoid ending it?

      1. The original plan was to have Dr. Woodard drive a stake through Barnabas’ heart, thereby saving Maggie Evans, after just six weeks. Frid had teaching prospects he was looking into (which would have happened in the fall of 1966 if he hadn’t applied for the position too late), and would be heading out to California that fall. For Frid, Dark Shadows was to be just a temporary job, a way of picking up some extra money before heading out West to begin his teaching career. But the ratings changed everything — it wasn’t the vampire story so much as the Frid factor. If Bert Convy had been chosen instead, you can be sure that the Barnabas storyline would have folded in the spring of ’67, and the show itself soon after.

        I’m sure that as we near the end of the show’s run we’ll discuss in greater detail the impact of Dark Shadows without Barnabas. Remember, this was the groundbreaking character that was the game changer as to how vampires could be portrayed forever onward — Frid’s Barnabas was The Beatles of vampire portrayals. Frid’s decision to no longer portray Barnabas is the soap opera equivalent of The Beatles breaking up. Frid as Bramwell is like the beginning of the individual Beatles’ solo careers — often pleasing results, especially early on, but never again as compelling, as iconic, as the entity that forever changed everything when they made their big splash.

        Or, you could even say that Dark Shadows without Barnabas is like The Doors without Jim Morrison. Did you know that the three surviving Doors went on to record and release two more albums after Jim Morrison’s death, and that the official breakup of the band didn’t occur until 1973? Not many music fans realize this, for obvious reasons.

      2. I kind of liked how they ‘brought back’ Burke in the new audio book ‘And Red All Over’ – the incorporation of the ‘INK’ (won’t give too much away) could have added a layer of complexity to the character of Devlin and how he made his $$ (kind of like Paul Stoddard in his deal with the ‘devil’). Also I think there was a secret ‘relation’ between Paul and Jason (maybe half brothers or no good cousins). From a literal standpoint this works nicely with Dennis Patrick playing both roles and having this ‘team’ bamboozle Liz for so long. Also wasn’t David’s toy soldier also in the antique shop (the one Sarah gave him to ward off the evil Barnabas)?

        1. I’m having another listen (my third so far) at the minute. I’m hearing the part about the talking portrait. A great and mystifying production. Burke Devlin at last gets to make a “big finish” to his story indeed. 🙂

        2. I also like how when Burke is telling Maggie his backstory they have him reprise one of his lines from an early Dark Shadows episode when he says, “I’ve lied to a lot of people in my time. Doctors, lawyers, firemen, even an Indian chief.”

        3. Yes it does appear to be the same toy soldier – the one that Barnabas owned as a child (and Angelique used to magic him), that Sarah then gave David to protect him. I figured the antique shop was where they just dumped all the props they weren’t currently using. But then I realised there were all these weird taxodermic specimens hanging around…

      3. The shop would be a good fit for Maggie, as I assume she’d be trying to sell Sam’s old paintings there. Joe could still be working and saving for his boat assuming they didn’t do the story where he lost his day job over his blood slavery to Angelique) which would explain why Maggie would need Carolyn’s help in the shop.

        Speaking of Maggie and Carolyn, I’ve never quite gotten over being annoyed with Maggie for tricking Carolyn into meeting with Paul. Just because Maggie had a loving father that she misses doesn’t mean everyone else is in the same situation. I mean, I know I’m bringing my own baggage into it but that’s kind of the point. Maggie shouldn’t make assumptions about other people’s emotional needs any more than I should.

        1. In the audio drama Return to Collinwood (from 2003 and written by David Selby’s son Jamison), Maggie Evans (with Kathryn Leigh Scott reprising her role) has remained in the service sector, but as a nurse at Windcliff. Not sure where Maggie would have gotten the money to go into business for herself as a shop owner, with only, aside from waitressing, renting the Evans Cottage to tenants and then having to buy all those antiques to fill the store, not to mention the rental cost of the property on which the antique store stands.

          Regarding Maggie scheming to bring Carolyn and Paul together, it’s still in keeping with, for example, the way Vicki schemed to bring Laura and David together for a meeting after David had refused to see his mother. At that point, what reason would Maggie have had to suspect Paul’s motives, just as Vicki couldn’t have suspected Laura so early on? For the sake of the story, something has to bring Paul and Carolyn into contact, which means someone will have to act as a go-between, someone Carolyn can trust, and having taken Vicki’s place and role in the house, Maggie seems the logical choice.

    3. Maybe Joel Crothers would have played Jeremiah and Mitchell Ryan could be Nathan Forbes. Although we would have lost Crothers earlier, since he relished playing a bad guy. (And he was sexy as hell doing so!)

      1. Or Mitch Ryan could have some back and taken the role of Peter Bradford so we didn’t have to bear the insufferable Roger Davis.

      2. Or, keeping with the original idea of Jeremiah being an older man with a young bride (thus making the Barnabas/Josette pairing a classical tale such as Tristam and Isolde/Francesca and Paolo/ Pelleas and Melisande, which has inspired poets, musicians and painters over the century) you could have David Ford as Jeremiah, and Anthony George as Josette’s BROTHER Andre du Pres, leaving Anthony George free to romance Vicky, and sparing us Roger Davis

    4. Well, bland and detached describes Vicki & Burke better than Maggie &Joe! I could see the V&B team opening an antique store.

  4. I think they would have explained Joe as an antiques dealer the way they explained a former waitress as the governess

    I have to respectfully disagree with this analogy. Joe Haskell’s dream was to someday own his own fishing boat. He even announced in one episode the exact dollar amount he needed to save to achieve that goal. If he gave up on that dream and opened an antique shop instead, he would already be perceived as a failure at the beginning of the Leviathan storyline, having settled for less than he dreamed of.

    We’re not given any reason to believe waitressing is Maggie’s dream job come true. Her switching to governess was actually an upgrade. Switching from waitress to antique shop owner would be at least a lateral career move for her. If Joe let his Dreams Die to open the shop with her, compassionate Maggie would’ve always felt sorry for him and guilty that he missed out on his boat-goal to accommodate her. I think we’re supposed to perceive the Todds as believing they’re on top of the world and as having made their dream job come true, making their Leviathan-induced downfall even more tragic.

    1. Not really. As a waitress, Maggie worked for someone else. As the owner of a shop she would be her own boss. She would not be her own boss as governess. Isn’t owning your own business part of the American Dream?

      1. Well, if we’re imagining alternate histories — why does it have to be an antique shop? If it was Joe and Maggie, you wouldn’t necessarily need to squeeze them into an antique shop somehow. You just have the story happen differently, based on the people and the sets and the ideas that you have at the time.

  5. It never even occurred to me that Megan and Philip were supposed to be the ingenue couple-next-door until I saw their dialogue written here in black and white. I realized I had been paying more attention to their delivery then to what they were actually saying, even though I’ve watched this story several times!

    I had pegged them as one of those insufferable artsy couples from the City who move come out to a small town to “get away from it alland” and never let anyone forget how much more cultured they are then all the hicks they’ve settled amongst and complain that they can’t get real bagels anywhere. That’s how much that part of the story failed to go off as planned.

    1. “I cannot believe we’re eating Cantonese. Is there no Szechuan in this town?”
      Delia Dietz, in ‘Beetlejuice’

  6. Danny, I think you’re making progress. Nobody “denying the obvious” this time (so far!) Then again, it’s Chris Bernau and not Jonathan Frid.

    1. Since we “foolish naysayers” are apparently being trolled and/or ridiculed here, I should mention that it was I who set off the unintentional firestorm over Jonathan Frid in a previous post. I made a comment to the effect that there was no evidence one way or the other about Frid’s alleged leanings, since no one — neither family nor friends nor professional colleagues nor persons in media — could connect anyone romantically to Jonathan Frid, whether male or female. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, he never mentioned to friends and colleagues and family anything about his preferences, whether toward men, women, or both. If he had wanted the rest of the world to know about the personal business of his private life, then he would have said so during his lifetime.

      As for “denying the obvious this time”, with Frid there was nothing obvious, because there was no concrete evidence. With Joel Crothers, Anthony George, etc., it’s certainly obvious because they were open about it with people they knew personally, whereas the opposite is true of Frid. Though I don’t spend any measurable length of time dwelling on it, I’m inclined to believe that Frid was perhaps homosexual rather than heterosexual — but, for all we know, he may even have been bisexual. That’s just it — we don’t know for certain, because none of us here knew him personally. We shouldn’t presume to speak on such a personal level for someone who has passed on and therefore can provide neither a confirmation nor a correction.

      I don’t understand why one’s sexuality has to be such an issue. What does it have to do with one’s work as an artist? I dislike speculating on the sexuality of people I have no personal relationship with, as it adds nothing to my appreciation of their work. Instead it only polarizes people, because such discussions tend to get political.

      So, having taken the bait as a “foolish naysayer” who is said to “deny the obvious” (and here I thought I was merely being open-minded), I’ll say no more on the matter and will just instead await the post for episode 892.

      1. I reread the posts from the previous discussions on this, and wish to submit that there is a possibility that has been ignored (even by me). All the debate has treated preference as either a) straight; b) gay; or c) both, ie ‘bi’.
        And ignored d) none of the above.

        It is possible that, although displaying gay sensibilities, some people prefer life without ‘the joy of the flesh’. “What!” you say. “Impossible! And even so, preference labels you, even if you never take a partner.” Okay, I’m splitting hairs, but really, is it so different to the assumption that one is automatically gay, because one doesn’t admit to being straight?
        Okay, I’m going to stop now, this is giving me a really creepy McCarthy witch hunt vibe. (“Are you, or have you ever been, a member of the Lavender Party? Answer the question! Bailiff, remove the witness, he’s uncooperative! REMOVE THE WITNESS!)

      2. About Frid’s sexual life what I find fascinating is how many people seem to have their own identity wrapped up in asserting it one way or the other. He was a New York actor. What difference does it make in the grand scheme of things what he was?

        But for the record, I did overhear enough things at the Festivals to convince me that he was gay, information that I filed in my brain as “things that you know and can find no possible use for”, like say, the capital of South Dakota.

        1. In the end, Frid’s or Bernau’s or Crothers’ sexuality doesn’t matter. What does matter is that on the Internet, in general, the sudden need to “not go into a person’s sexuality unless we have “proof”” only applies when we are talking about homosexuality. Admittedly that doesn’t apply to this site, because there hasn’t been a lot talk about potential liaisons of het actors BTS, possibly because there weren’t any. So this is just a comment about how sexuality gets handled across the Internet.

          Basically when het actor and het actress separate or get a divorce, there is tons of speculation as to who caused it and was the cause a sexual dalliance. . No one says “Oh, we shouldn’t talk about that, unless we have proof”. Even when it comes to dead celebrities, there isn’t a respect for privacy for their sex lives, even though it isn’t confirmed. For example there were public rumors that Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn were involved in a long term affair years before people who really knew confirmed it. Or the fact that Loretta Young had a child after being raped by Clark Gable and then she “adopted” her own child that was conceived in that rape. Those stories circulate and we don’t get a hue and cry about how we shouldn’t make assumptions about what actually happened.

          But have someone speculate that a star was gay and suddenly we are supposed to think well maybe he was bi (because at least then he would have wanted a woman at least once in his life), or asexual. I mean being gay isn’t something that should be reviled or something to be ashamed of. But make the conjecture and suddenly the need for proof comes into play. We treat it as if being even thought to be gay is SO AWFUL that we must suddenly respect a person’s privacy rather than give voice to the thought.

          When Chris Bernau became ill, AIDS was still thought of as a gay disease. Guiding Light announce that he was ill and they hoped he would recover enough to come back to the show. When he died after “a long illness” people put two an two together and came up with AIDS and that he had probably been gay. His family rode to the rescue and announced that yes, he had died of LYME’S DISEASE because even in death we couldn’t give the impression that he was gay. Years later the truth could be admitted, and we acknowledge that he was gay.

          Silence and secrecy keep being gay stigmatized. It doesn’t matter if Frid or any of the other actors were or were not gay. Reflexively stating that postulating that he was gay is some kind of slur and must not be mentioned perpetuates an attitude that led a lot of people to hide who they were. Its an attitude that I hope is dying and that I want to see die. Frid behaved in ways that were similar to how closeted gay men behaved during that time period, especially men who had public careers. I never met the man, so I have no knowledge of his sexuality, any more than I know (insert celebrity couple here) and so have no knowledge of their sex lives. Yet, in Frid’s case I’m told that without proof we must not speculate, where in the case of unnamed het couple we can speculate as much as we want and not worry about how rumor might be wrong. The dichotomy is what bothers me.

          Sorry Danny for the long speech on my soap box.

      3. Well, that’s what I get for being fair and open-minded — a long, scathing diatribe about how I’m contributing to the stigmatization of a given type of personal identity. In addition, I’m accused of a double standard — but I can’t recall having speculated here on the sex lives of so-called “het” folks either; if I don’t know someone, then their personal life is none of my business. Only their work is of interest to me. Who am I to speak for someone I never even knew?

        But if you type paragraphs of words on an Internet forum and 10 different people read those words, then there will be 10 different interpretations of what you have posted.

        As one commenter pointed out, people seem to project themselves into the topic when speculating on Frid’s sexual identity, which is why it’s impossible to have a discussion on the subject — no matter what you type, people will instead read into what you have typed rather than simply read it at face value. Also, though Frid was indeed living in New York during his Dark Shadows days, he was in actual fact a Canadian actor.

        By the way, for what it’s worth, my college degree was in journalism. A “fact” presented without “proof” is just “hearsay”.

        I’ll move on now from this discussion, before it deteriorates into something hostile, as happened in the previous comments section regarding Frid. I now return to my regularly scheduled program.

        1. I bet that in fifty years or so (on whatever the future internet will be) that they’ll probably be having this same discussion about straights like Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.
          And maybe by then they will have made a successful ‘new’ Dark Shadows?


          1. Y’all can keep doing this every time I say somebody’s gay, if you feel like it. I think we kind of covered this ground in the comments that I linked in the post, but feel free to spark up new iterations as needed. I’m sure it’ll come up again. 🙂

  7. Christopher Bernard is an terrible actor, and Marie Wallace is too camp and old to be an ingenue, girl next door. She’s more faster pussycat. Die, Die , or video vixens from Venus. Movies from the acclaimed director what’s his name? Russ….???

    1. Whatever his lack of acting skills on DS, when given the right role he could do a really great job. His Alan Spaulding on Guiding Light was one of the most interesting and compelling characters in soap operas. Perhaps, as someone said in elsewhere playing a villain gave him cover for lack of heterosexual oomph. Or maybe he just got better. He was part of a very popular het couple on GL.

  8. Another hilarious post. I’m giggling at your descriptions about Benau’s mannerisms. So I agree with you about him, but at the same time Laura above is so right that he is terrible. Him being such a queen is great to laugh about in the supposed context of him being a married straight guy who is supposed to be totally normal, but he is wrong for the part in other ways too. How can someone be swishy and wooden at the same time? I can imagine him doing a lot better playing Dracula on stage.

    But I don’t really agree with you about Marie Wallace, and I have been trying to figure out why. I liked her in this part from the start. I think it’s because I have seen so many women trying desperately hard to be “normal” housewives in my time (70s and 80s), and failing as hard as Marie Wallace does here. Including my own (adoptive) mother. Batshit crazy is the norm when you’re expected to be a housewife and show no other ambitions or talents and definitely no signs of dissatisfaction. For me it is charming that her character can’t help leaking out this flamboyance and creativity and eccentricity, just like so many weird “moms” I have known. This pair are perfect representatives of the “Strange Normal Ones”.

    1. This was summed up so beautifully by Edith Massey’s character in John Waters’ “Female Trouble”: “the world of the heterosexual is a sick and boring life…” LOL.

    2. I think Marie Wallace should have started as a down to earth character, who got believeably more batshit, albeit slowly, and easily could have been funnier with the same lines……and smarter, too.

      She was too Precious.

  9. Just one additional thought on the idea of possibly using Maggie and Joe as, if not the antique shop owners, then as the foster parents of the Leviathan kids to come (I mean, assuming Mr. Isles and Ms. Moltke hadn’t had that endorphin rush together that night [or day] in 1968; that Joel Crothers hadn’t left the show out of boredom in 1968/1969; and that David Ford hadn’t left or been fired from the show for a lack of memorizing lines, all of which leaves Maggie’s character with absolutely zero atmosphere to work with).

    I believe — now, I stress that, because I don’t know for sure, but I believe — that Dan Curtis never would have sacrificed Joe and Maggie that way.

    I mean, they, Maggie and Joe, were on, respectively, the first and second episodes of the show. We know what happens to Philip, then to Megan. Curtis would never have had those things happen to Joe and Maggie — not unless one or the both of them wanted to leave the show, because these are “flagship” characters, so to speak. Alexandra Moltke needs to leave the show, so he doesn’t just kill her off, but instead has her travel to the past and have a happy ending. When Joel Crothers says that he has to leave, just make him insane and pack him off to a sanitarium. Same with Maggie Evans when Kathryn Leigh Scott decides to leave — just send her to Windcliff. Perhaps Dan Curtis was just hoping that one day these characters would come back — which made it so much easier for Big Finish to update their respective stories, so that they could be believably incorporated into overhauling their characters into a modern retelling that would make sense. After all, there was some talk around this time that Alexandra Moltke might return to the show — but we’ll later find out what Curtis’ response was, during the Leviathan story.

    So, defiling such flagship characters would have been impossible and unthinkable, and I doubt that Dark Shadows fans would have wanted to have seen it. I know I wouldn’t have. We should be glad for the Todds (that we don’t grieve that they are expendable), and not the Evans/Haskell cottage, which Dan Curtis would never have thought of defiling again, especially so soon after the struggle between Blackwood and Petofi.

    1. But Maggie and Joe could be rescued, and brought back to normal, sadder and wiser…. There is no reason to make them expendable. Marie Wallace was too much kaiju for normality to be an option, and Bernau never would make a heartthrob, s they were expendable. But Maggie and Joe would be kept

    2. I’ve been watching ahead and small at the end of the Leviathan story, so I just got the full brunt of “Curtis’ response” to Vicki’s happy ending. I had forgotten this WTF moment from earlier viewings.

      I believe Maggie would gave survived being the “chosen one,” but if they had used this story to kill off Joe – and heroically, not in the senseless way they dispatch Philip – it might have packed more emotional punch for viewers than sending him off to Wyndcliff. He could have been brought back to life if he ever wanted to return. Every soap does that, and DS has more tools at its disposal for that trick than any other show!

  10. Chris Pennock should have been cast as Philip. He and Marie would have chewed up the entire shop in their first scene.

    1. Chris Pennock perfected that lateral swivel of the head to directly face the teleprompter. No furtive fumbling like Frid but a commanding admission that this performance will be read, thank you very much. And when he managed to turn back to face his listener before the camera switched shots to give him away, he would nearly get away with it.

      I agree with you, Samantha, about his chewing the scenery. He even got all tentacle-y when he hugged and kissed, just like Roger Davis. But unlike Davis, I have nothing but find feelings toward Pennock.

  11. Collinsport has always been crawling with us queer boys – hence the popularity of the village’s only gay bar, The Periwinkle Whale.

  12. I guess I was naïve when I first watched this, but it never occurred to me that Gerry Todd was throwing off a gay vibe to him, it makes sense now that you pointed it out. As a normal, everyday married couple, I didn’t believe it either.

  13. Megan and Philip Todd are just about as “normal” as Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse because the Leviathan storyline is the Dark Shadows version of the Cthulhu Mythos meets Rosemary’s Baby.

  14. This has been a great thread but the one thing that sticks with me about this episode is the first scene. The dialogue really needed to be:

    “Mr Collins, my name is Phillip Todd and this is my wife Megan…. err Mr Collins, could you please stop staring at my wife’s breasts so obviously?”

  15. Am enjoying your recap! I’ve seen some (not all) of the Leviathan storyline (it would have probably bored me first-run in grade school!) I’m a big HPL fan and have fond memories of seeking out “Dunwich Horror” to read in the library one hot summer afternoon when I was about 30. I think the DS version was done perfectly (even though it didn’t help the show, which was burning out anyway!) Frid’s aloof performance here is perfect, and the Todd’s unfunny jokes fit perfectly with the “wrongness” about them and their store. If you want to see Dennis Patrick in another fun role, check out the old “Dallas” around the time of “Who Shot J.R.?” Patrick is a primo suspect!

  16. The reference to Paul Lynde in the original post reminds me of THE PAUL LYNDE SHOW, a sitcom which aired on ABC in the 1972-1973 season. It’s a fascinating artifact. Lynde’s character has a wife and two daughters. The opening sequence sets the tone- it flashes through several readily identifiable scenario (falling off a bicycle, etc) which end with Lynde falling into one or another kind of trap. Lynde plays each of those little vignettes with the same series of expressions on his face, the first a grim look of deep-seated misery, the last an explosion of panic. Each episode focuses on Lynde’s character stumbling into some kind of excruciatingly awkward situation, suffering through a rapidly escalating series of embarrassments, and finally escaping from it with his dignity annihilated but his wife and daughters feeling sorry for him.

    It’s routine for people to cite that show as an example of how clueless the entertainment industry and the public who consumed its products were about gay people in the old days, but it is so plausible a version of what it might have been like for Paul Lynde to have married a woman that can’t imagine it wasn’t intentional on some level. You can read it as an exploration of a gay man and a woman who’ve ended up married to each other for whatever reason, and who have resolved to do what they can to make a marriage work. After all, they like each other, they want their daughters to know where home is, and they have a position to maintain within the community. They show the result as something that’s pretty nearly tolerable for all concerned, but at no point does it look like something great. Lynde’s daily frustrations, confusions, and humiliations are the basis of the comedy, but they could just as easily have been explored in a drama that makes their source explicit. It certainly gives academics interested in Queer Theory a lot to write about.

    If the public wasn’t in fact as oblivious to gayness as is sometimes suggested, it would have been even more daring- or more clueless- to cast Christopher Bernau as a married man than you suggest. Especially so considering that he’s supposed to be an antique dealer, an occupation often stereotyped as a province of gay men. His performance in this episode is not as obviously gay as was his performance in episode 890- even if you were in an all-male porn video, it would be a challenge to be as obviously gay as Bernau is in episode 890- but it’s pretty darned flamboyant.

    Maybe they had seen so many other gay actors play heterosexual characters convincingly enough that it didn’t occur to them that he would have a problem. Joel Crothers has been mentioned several times, but I would also bring up Louis Edmonds. As Edward Collins, he is perfectly credible in his scenes with Kathryn Leigh Scott’s Kitty Soames. And as Roger in 1966, he was credible both as a slimy guy coming on to Vicki and as the estranged husband of Laura.

  17. Speaking from the straight side of the street, Bernau’s gay mannerisms sailed right over my head. True, the “cutesy” banter between the Todds doesn’t work but I blame that more on the writers than the actors. I will agree with one point made above: Marie Wallace is too old for the role of Megan. An actress like Donna Wandrey or Kate Jackson – that type, I mean – would’ve been a more appropriate choice.

  18. I appreciate the reference to “Paul Lynde-level open-secret barely-surpressed weapons-grade gay.” In his last episode of Bewitched, Season Seven’s “The House That Uncle Arthur Built” (2/11/71) Arthur announces that he intends to marry the beautiful redheaded witch Aretha – a woman who Marie Wallace could’ve totally played. You can see it in Elizabeth Montgomery’s face that she thinks this is hilarious and not correct for her uncle. Aretha is very straight-laced (no pun intended) and doesn’t enjoy his practical joking so he decides to suppress that side of him, but of course, things go awry. Samantha even tells him that he needs to quit pretending to be something he is not. It’s sad that these actors couldn’t live their lives out in the open.

    The sound that comes out of the box made me jump. It sounded very spooky and it’s different than what happens in the recap in the next episode.

    1. it was like a hissssss. i agree, really scary! love your bewitched comments. i havw the box, next on the list i guess! never thought i would getbtjis far on shadows as a grownup! thanks!

  19. i really don’t get the problem so many people here seem to be having with a gay antique dealer married to a woman, as if that wasn’t more likely than not, anywhere in America, in 1969. have you ever been to an antique store? there’s tons of ’em, coming out of the woodwork. and out of all the gay actors on Dark Shadows, the only one that was totally out of the closet went and played a gay man married to a straight woman. and now everybody’s bent out of shape over it, because apparently you’ve pent in by imaginations that can only deal with ideal straight couples, as if 1969 wasn’t a world where gay people were being hounded just for existing, and in which most gay people spent their entire lives pretending they were straight. clearly the writers wanted a gay character. so they hired M. Bernau, and the camera men followed his butt around the set. a gay man hiding in a sort of happy marriage. try and deal with it boys and girls. how cool to have a soap opera imitate real life.

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