Episode 1006: Too Big to Do Anything But Fail

“I’m Larry Chase. I’m Chris Collins’ partner, and as you know, Chris is Dr. Longworth’s lawyer.”

Angelique Collins is talking things over with an old friend, who’s been summoned by the candles of the seventh secret. “They can send you back to your grave, forever!” she explains. This is a thing candles can do.

“I’m not a living being anymore,” Dameon points out. “The candles have no power over me!”

“Then try to move!” she says. Angelique gets into arguments like this all the time. “Try to lift your hand, and snuff the candles out!”

Suddenly, Dameon looks frightened. “I — I can’t move!” he yelps. Dameon is a ghost.

She breaks it down for him. “When the seventh candle was lit, you appeared. When the seventh candle is snuffed out, you will return to your tomb, and never appear again!”

“NO!” he cries. “No, you can’t do it! You CAN’T DO IT!” But she does it. And with one last agonized squeal, he disappears, leaving his bug-eyed skeleton hanging up in the closet, which is where Angelique keeps that kind of thing.

The witch lets out a triumphant cackle. “Now, nothing stands in my way!” she exults. “The house will be mine again! Quentin will be mine again! And nothing can stop me. NOTHING!”

And then something stops her, like, immediately.

That was the first scene in today’s episode, that loopy disagreement about the relationship between ghosts and candles, and then Dameon is gone forever, and Angelique is gone for the day. It seemed like she was just getting things rolling, but we have other concerns today, and they concern other people.

Instead, we’re going to spend the day with Dr. Longworth and Mr. Yaeger, a pair of God’s-domain dabblers who plan on achieving some kind of scientific breakthrough by splitting man’s nature in two. So far this has resulted in theft, destruction of property and domestic abuse. No word yet on the benefits of this experiment.

Now we’ve got John Yaeger, embodiment of all that’s wicked, hanging around at the Eagle, waiting for his girlfriend to get off work. Then he has a business meeting with his other half’s lawyer, who’s been tasked with setting up a separate bank account for him. So I’m sorry, but I have to ask: why is this supposed to be scary?

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is supposed to be a horror story, but from this angle, it mostly looks like white guys having meetings.

There’s “the good Dr. Longworth”, who cures no one and lies to people all the time, and then there’s his wicked self John Yaeger, who rapes and humiliates his girlfriend. At its core, this is basically the story of an alcoholic who wears a wig and a false mustache, so that he can be even more of a jerk than he already is.

I mean, they can talk about chemical compounds if they want to, but it’s basically a mustache. The physical transformation is fairly mild, and if they used the words “whiskey” and “chaser” instead of “compound” and “antidote”, it wouldn’t really change the story that much. The guy drinks, and then he goes out and wastes money.

To make this a horror story, you’d want to see somebody else under threat. What if Hydeism was an infection that passed from Dr. Jekyll to the general public, and all of a sudden everyone wants a sword cane? Or maybe he’s married to somebody who goes to sleep with one man, and wakes up with another? If the horror is the transformation, then there should be somebody who sees the transformation and gets horrified by it, but Cyrus and Yaeger have completely different social circles. Larry here is mostly concerned about the bank accounts.

Larry refuses to open a new account for Yaeger — a task that I imagine could be handled pretty well by just going to the bank and asking for one — so the malefactor races home to uncork the antidote and ditch the mustache.

“I don’t relish the thought of being Cyrus Longworth again,” says the man-monster, “but that lawyer must be brought into line, and soon!” And then he drinks the magic potion, and brings a lawyer into line.

Following the de-yaegification, Cyrus bustles around his lab for a while, like he usually does, and then Yaeger’s girlfriend comes over to complain about something. She’s spotted by the guy from the chemistry company, and then the lawyer comes over, and they talk about the bank account, and Cyrus’ will.

But they save the real pulse-pounder for the third act, when the guy from the chemistry company visits the girlfriend, and he sees a picture that used to be in Cyrus’ lab, until Cyrus put a false mustache on, took the picture off the wall, and gave it to Buffie.

And that means the guy from the chemistry company knows about the mustache!

So it’s fine, I guess, if you’re interested in facial hair and home furnishings, but I’m not scared, and I’m not planning to get scared any time soon, because what on earth is there to be afraid of, except that my favorite TV show is gradually getting worse?

The lunatic candle standoff at the top of the episode was obviously Dark Shadows, because it was high-energy supernatural prop comedy, and it had Angelique in it. But the rest of the day is an afternoon-television adaptation of Dan Curtis’ Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde TV-movie using three sets, including the bar from Dark Shadows.

The story features one major actor, one recurring actor and two day players from the Leviathan story, and occasionally the werewolf guy, except not in a major role and now not even that. It’s not connected to Collinwood or any of the characters that we like, and I’m entirely sick of it, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s going to go on for another six weeks. Six weeks!

The weird thing is that this is the thing that Dark Shadows usually does well. It’s narrative collision, taking another story and throwing it into the show, just to see what happens. They’ve been doing monster mash-ups like this for three years running, and it usually works out pretty well. But this time, they’ve forgotten a vital step, which is that the narrative is supposed to collide with something, preferably Dark Shadows.

A year ago, in May 1969, the show was basically a drawing room comedy with plot points from Dracula, Jane Eyre, The Mummy’s Hand, The Wolf Man, Nicholas Nickleby, To the Devil a Daughter and The Manchurian Candidate. All of those plots were happening at the same time, overlapping and kicking up sparks, and they all had an impact on Barnabas, and the future of the Collins family. But the Jekyll and Hyde story is just Jekyll and Hyde, and it affects nobody.

Down in the basement with Dameon’s skeleton, we don’t have much collision going on, but there’s Quentin as a brooding Maxim de Winter and Angelique as Ligeia, with the promise of a soon-to-be unboxed Barnabas, and the hoped-for return of Julia — not as Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca, but the actual Julia from Dark Shadows, because at this point, Dark Shadows is more interesting than either Rebecca or Jekyll and Hyde. For better or worse, the show has outgrown its sources.

So if you’re looking for the moment when Dark Shadows runs out of stories to steal, then it might as well be here, in this lonely little cul de sac of Longworth Lane.

They’ve done basically all of the horror classics — Stoker and Shelley and Poe and Wilde and Lovecraft and mummies and Turn of the Screw — and there’s no more monster movies to plunder. The only Universal Monsters left are The Invisible Man and Creature from the Black Lagoon, neither of them very helpful. Stephen King hasn’t started yet. The writers manage to scrape together a couple collisions for 1841, but for the most part, they’re pretty much on their own, from now on.

I’ve been talking lately about the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which holds that a system has to keep taking in energy from the outside, or it slides into entropy, a static state where all of the energy is used up, and turned into forms you can’t use anymore. On Dark Shadows, that new energy has come in the form of narrative collisions, but if they’re running out of suitable horror stories, then they basically have four options.

#1. Science-fiction. They’re practically there already; they’ve done mad scientists, time travel, parallel dimensions and Flowers for Algernon, and they’re going to take a trip into the future pretty soon. Up until now, Professor Stokes has been deployed as an occult expert, but you could easily retune him into an inventor, or a replicant hunter. Ray Bradbury is doing a mix of horror and sci-fi anyway, you could try that. It’s hard to picture UFOs flying over Collinwood, but you wouldn’t have thought it was possible that they could do The Crucible with Vicki in a starring role, until they did it.

#2. Start acting like a soap opera again. Soap operas are designed to be perpetual story machines, fed by a slow but steady influx of new characters, new secrets and long-lost children. No, it doesn’t look like they’ll ever get back to Vicki’s addled family tree, and we’ve run out of Stoddards, but now they have Quentin, who spent the last seven decades drinking brandy  and sleeping with whoever’s available. Quentin has dozens of illegitimate children — brand-new Collinses, by the fistful — and they’re waiting just outside the studio door, checking their watches and drinking brandy. Go let one in, preferably a sexy one. Just kidding; they’re all sexy.

#3. Do vampires, science-fiction and soap opera, and become the television show that Dark Shadows was always meant to evolve into.

#4. Give up, and keep doing a pastiche of Dark Shadows until you burn through all the fuel, and drift gently into entropy.

As it turns out, they went for option #4, which is a valid choice. But you can’t say they ran out of material, because there’s plenty. They chose not to use it, that’s all.

Tomorrow: Saving Dark Shadows.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In the opening narration, Larry trips over the sentence, “He is unable to follow the different fates of… of those around him.”

Dameon’s off mic for the first few words of this sentence: “(I’m not a living) being anymore, Angelique.”

Angelique explains to Dameon’s ghost, “When the seventh candle appeared, you appeared. When the seventh candle is snuffed out, you will return to your tomb!” She meant “when the seventh candle was lit”. Also, there’s only five candles.

Larry says, “I want you to tell me why Chris is bestowing, and putting in your deposit, this much money in your name.” He means Cyrus, and he flubs the rest of the sentence.

Talking to Larry, Yaeger trips over the word “laboratory”.

Larry orders scotch on the rocks, but the drink is served without ice. He coughs after taking a sip of the drink.

The wall safe is open when Yaeger drinks the potion. After the transformation into Cyrus, the safe is closed, and the picture is hanging over it.

Cyrus tells Larry, “As my lawyer, you are obliged to do as I wish, not to disobey my — or question my motives.”

Larry’s response is, “Well, Cyrus, I mean — as an attorney — I’m not just an attorney, but I’m a — I’m a friend of yours.” Larry is a mess.


Behind the Scenes:

There’s another transformation edit today — a scene where Yaeger drinks the potion and instantly turns into Cyrus, by shooting both parts of the episode and editing them together. This used to be so difficult and expensive that they never did it on purpose. But I’ve lost track of how many they’ve done lately; this is practically becoming commonplace for the show.

Ken McEwen appears as Larry Chase today, a last-minute fill-in to replace Don Briscoe’s character, Chris Collins. Briscoe had drug problems and was becoming unreliable, so he was fired last week after he was sleepwalking during his only scene in Monday’s episode. McEwen was Dark Shadows’ associate director, and he’s not much of an actor. His other credits are a couple late 50s appearances: a 1957 appearance on Robert Montgomery Presents, and an episode of The Phil Silvers Show in 1958. He’ll stick around for five episodes.

The master videotape for this episode was missing or damaged, so Worldvision, the syndication company, substituted this black-and-white kinescope copy. This is the first kinescope since August 1969, and it’s the second-to-last overall. We’ll see the last kinescope episode in two weeks.

Tomorrow: Saving Dark Shadows.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

47 thoughts on “Episode 1006: Too Big to Do Anything But Fail

  1. I’d actually have enjoyed a take on THE INVISIBLE MAN – possibly having some scientist from Collinsport not only learning of a formula for invisibility but using it to gain access to Collinwood to find out some valuable information…whereupon he overhears Barnabas and Julia discussing the former’s vampirism? The scientist confronts Barnabas and tries to blackmail him, which shouldn’t normally work, except that the scientist is just as invisible to Barnabas as to anybody when he’s taking the formula, so he can elude even the vampire. Then as the effects of the invisibility formula start slowing driving the scientist mad (because that’s what these things do when not properly carbonated), the story becomes less WHETHER the scientist will reveal the secret as WHEN he will do it…

    Can you tell I’m avoiding grading papers?

    I completely agree, though, the J&H storyline would’ve worked much better if they’d left it as a simple bog-standard alcoholic turning to the bottle to make him a new (and worse) man, much the same way so many other soaps have done, so that we can finally move onto something more interesting. Still, if the contents of the bottle are the only thing keeping Yaeger in check, wouldn’t that then make the liquid in question…a Jagermeister?

    ducks

    Yes, yes, I’m sorry. Back to paper grading I go. Just trying to have some fun, gee whiz…

  2. I do feel that this is where the strain of keeping the show going 5 days a week and the movie starts to show. A split has emerged in the seem, and for now, we’ll just try not to move around too much. Next becomes layering with some old favorites (and a few new ones), but even that cannot stop the slow degeneration.

    Nowadays, our age of reviewing and internet make it so easy to see what loose threads are out there, begging to be filled in. Perhaps the issue with Quentin’s descendants is that the males are all supposed to be werewolves, leaving little flexibility for writing. Then again, a fresh werewolf trashing the Blue Whale would spice things up a bit.

    1. More VAMPIRES!
      And not just ones that are around for a few days (er, nights) and then get destroyed; get a whole community going.
      Barnabas could stage interventions – Julia could start a support group.

      1. Hey, maybe make an early “KIndred: the Embraced”

        (does anyone remember that show?)

        (I can imagine Julian Luna doing an intervention on Barnabas “we got hundred of vampires where I come from, and no one behaves as stupidly as you”)

  3. It really would have been interesting if Quentin’s prodigies turned up. You could have have 70 year olds, men in their 60s, 50s, etc. ABD, thee would also be the prospect of new werewolves: the eldest sons of Quentin’s wide array of illegitimate children.

    1. They sort of did this with the show NEW AMSTERDAM a few years back. The main character was immortal and had descendants of various ages all over the place. It was a pretty good show–needless to say it got cancelled right away.

  4. I think what possibly could have worked (for awhile, anyway) would have been to have the show become more of a soap opera, but not like All My Children. It should have been more like The Edge of Night – a crime drama/soap. There could still be supernatural events, but mystery, melodrama and suspense could been a big draw. Also, bring in more attractive males. Now the big issue is how to tie a crime soap in with Barnabas and the Collins family. Would it have worked? Who knows, but I will say that The Edge of Night truly kept me on the edge of my seat for years.

    1. Totally agree. I’m really sorry EON isn’t available anywhere, because I think Danny would enjoy it. It remains one of my favorite soap operas ever.

      1. There are lots of YouTube clips featuring complete episodes of Edge of Night, some of them going back to the fifties, as originally broadcast and with the commercials included.

        There are also complete episodes available from the late seventies (the first one uploaded by DSED commenter Bob Sharp):

        and early to mid eighties:

        In fact, if you search with the terms “edge of night youtube”, you’ll find numerous clips of complete episodes that span decades.

        1. Oh, I’ve seen the clips, what I wish was that the entire run, or at least the episodes from the ABC days were all up. They were being run on AOL(?) but they stopped right before the reveal of the Puppet Killer and people did tape and post those, but part of the fun is finding out who the murderer is, because it was always so well done. The clues were there, but I rarely could guess the actual culprit.

          I just wish P&G would put the entire run of what is available up for those of us who loved the show.

          1. Percy’s Owner and Prisoner: I’m part of a group that watches Edge online regularly with Sharon Gabet, who played Raven. Email me if you’re interested in joining us. We are currently into the Sky Whitney/Jefferson Brown storyline. Sharon is very friendly and down to earth, and doesn’t mind answering viewers’ questions.

            rsharp831@gmail.com

            1. Hi Bob! For some reason I never tuned into Edge of Night when I was watching soaps 35-odd years ago. I’d watch Young and the Restless (love the opening theme!) and All My Children (a Dark Shadows alumnus there, which kept me watching!).

              However, I always enjoy Robert Gerringer’s performances on Dark Shadows, so when I get a free moment I’m going to have a look at that episode with Gerringer that I posted above.

              If I get hooked, you’ll definitely be hearing from me. Thanks for the invite. 🙂

              1. Prisoner, I hate to say this, but Robert Gerringer’s character on Edge was nothing like Dr. Woodard. IMO, his character was VERY ANNOYING. His character didn’t appear until the last year or so of the show. By this point a new head writer had taken over and this period really didn’t represent what was wonderful about the soap. But that’s my opinion.

              2. I like him too (there is a belief that if he had been playing Woodard to the end, the audience would not have been so quick to forgive Barnabas).

                In my latest fan fiction his ghosts gets to show up at the end of the show, and screw up both Julia and Barnabas (Julia is told that all records of her ever getting a medical degree have been erased, and to leave Maine if she does not want to be arrested for practicing without a degree – and Barnabas is gifted with having to listen to Weird Al’s “The Achy Breaky Song” with the coda “and you are more annoying than that” each time he goes into a self-pitying rant)

    2. I believe i mentioned it in a comment before but I think one direction would have been turn DS into an Agatha Christie-type mystery series with supernatural overtones And Barnabas and Julia as a soap opera version of Holmes and Watson. After all this is what they were often doing in their time trips sideways trips./..solving mysteries. They could have had limited time storylines that took place in modern day or a trip in time to solve a mystery from Collinsport’s past.

  5. The painting given to Buffie could have been from the Vincent Price Fine Art Collection for Sears. That would have been pretty scary, right, kids? Owooooooooo…

    /end Count Floyd voice

  6. Mentioned it in the last posting, but just because ‘enquiring minds want to know’; exactly how was Dameon ‘in the way’ for Angelique? How was he stopping her from her goals of having the house and Quentin again?
    Seems that whole ‘coldness of the grave’ thermal issue is more of a stumbling block for her, since she has to murder somebody every couple days now…wonder if that little challenge can be overcome using livestock, just as Barnabas was tapping cows as a blood supply way back when? Guess we’ll know if Angie starts needing to be milked before she goes out to pasture.

    1. Again with extra credit nitpicking – before Dameon is returned to his tomb, we see his corporeal form, as (sigh) another skeleton. Albeit this time without a wig and glass eyes. He has only been dead for about a year, and while I am able to imagine that rats and roaches might have picked off all his flesh in that time, shouldn’t there be some vestiges of his clothing still there? (Yes, it does imply that his ensemble is so tasteless as to be inedible.)
      And (I know, it HAS been mentioned before) what’s holding the skeleton together? It should be a pile of loose bones on the floor.

    2. I don’t know if livestock would have worked for Angelique since it was the life force of another human that kept her going. And, there’s another factor here which will soon be revealed

    3. yeah look, they never really do satisfactorily explain why Dameon is a threat, as far as I can remember. There is this allusion to some dark secret they don’t want him to reveal, which never materialises. It’s really annoying. Not only do they not use other possible stories that were available, they don’t even fully utilise the ones on hand.

      1. Has Big Finish Productions done any PT stories? They could do the back story for Dameon and his Big Secret…right up to his murder by Bruno.

  7. That’s another funerary custom unique to Collinsport. People tend to be buried 6 inches deep, in a wet paper sack, with their skeletons wired together.

      1. Say, comes to it – we never saw any undertakers in Collinsport, considering the shocking death rate in the community. And there was only one scene in a funeral home chapel (I think), when the Todds had their viewing for Michael. And he was just faking! Guess it’s lucky there were no undertakers, they might have tried to embalm the little dickens…

  8. DARK SHADOWS also became extremely plot-focused, which as I’ve commented before, made it more similar to a prime time sci-fi/fantasy series of the period (THE AVENGERS, THE PRISONER, DOCTOR WHO). By those standards, it was extremely successful (1,000 episodes!).

    Soap operas endure because of relationships. You can throw any crazy plot to see how the relationships react, and that’s what people are tuning in to watch. Barnabas/Julia and Barnabas/Angelique were typical of those classic soap relationships but the rest of the cast lacked that connection.

    It’s astonishing to me that within less than a year Burke Devlin is proposing to Vicki and neither Liz nor Roger are working against the union (that would have been classic soap opera).

    1. What’s even more astonishing about the first year is how Burke Devlin, 32, is courting Carolyn Stoddard, only six months past her seventeenth birthday, and plying her with liquor in his hotel room in the early stages of a seduction, and the only thing Liz and Roger have against this arrangement is Burke’s business-related activities directed against the family.

      1. Burke Devlin, 32, is courting Carolyn Stoddard

        I don’t think he was courting her. She was throwing herself at him in an obvious but fairly naive way and he was enjoying the attention, but I don’t think he would have taken the bait. He’s focused on his revenge plans but needs some way to while away the evenings, and it’s more fun to have Carolyn puttering around his room (and then leaving) than to sing old sea shanties at the Blue Whale. Maybe I’m supposed to read more into it, but at face value it works (I’ve seen the pre-Barnabas episodes twice).

        One could go so far as to say that Burke’s arrival gives everyone what they need to strengthen their character: Liz – a business rival; Roger – a conscience; David – a father figure; Carolyn – a suitable (yet safe) suitor.

        1. No, in Art Wallace’s original series outline, Shadows on the Wall, he is 32. When he was 22, nine years after Paul Stoddard disappeared, he was working on one of the Collins family’s ships and “struck up and nurtured a friendship with Roger Collins, who was four years older than he”. (p. 20)

          Likewise, in real life Mitch Ryan in 1966 was 32 as well. Some sources have him listed as being born in 1928, but I’d prefer to think he was born in 1934 — because it means chances are he’ll be with us that much longer. 🙂

          1. Thank you for explaining that so kindly. I really need to see those original episodes. Guess I always think of Burke as being middle aged thanks to Anthony George.

  9. “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is supposed to be a horror story, but from this angle, it mostly looks like white guys having meetings.” <– THIS!

  10. OK Larry might not be much, but before we bag him too much, please consider they only had 5 days from when they recorded an episode with Chris in it, to when they recorded one with Larry, 2 of which were the weekend. Now either this was planned or it had to be done in a major hurry, which would mean not much preparation time for the actor. Look how messed up the shooting schedule was around that time. I’m not sure what the reason was.

    1001/1002 may have been displaced in the first place because Don Briscoe was too messed up, for all we know. Then they had to delay the taping of 1006 because he clearly wasn’t going to be able to do it (or they sacked him, or he walked off). Sacking him seems the least likely in that with the story coming up, it might be more trouble to do that and find a new guy than just keep him. And they had enough problems, what with the movie and all. And notice they didn’t kill him but just pretended he was away – so they must have hoped he would improve and return, or they could talk him into returning.

    1000 17th April – with Trask, Angelique/Alexis, Quentin, Cyrus, Amy
    1003 20th April – with Hannah, Angelique, Quentin, Amy, Daniel, and poor Fred
    1004 21st April – with Trask, Quentin, Hannah, Bruno, Dameon, Angelique
    1005 22nd April – with Dameon, Quentin, Hannah, Angelique, Horace, Cyrus/John
    1002 23rd April – with Buffie, John, Quentin, Amy, Daniel, Sabrina
    1001 24th April – with Trask, Alexis/Angelique, Quentin, Cyrus/John, CHRIS
    1007 27th April – with Elizabeth, Hoffman, Angelique, Quentin, Cyrus
    1008 28th April – with Hoffman, Daniel, Angelique, Quentin
    1006 29th April – with Angelique, Dameon, Buffie, Horace, Cyrus/John, LARRY
    1009 30th April – with Roger, Angelique, Cyrus/John, Horace, Quentin, Larry

    The shooting goes back to normal after this.

    Having said all that, according to the legend, Grayson Hall had about the same amount of preparation before joining the show.

    1. The way I originally heard the story was that Briscoe just disappeared one day. If that’s true, and I don’t suppose I have any way of knowing if it is or not, then the idea that they were hoping for him to return makes sense. I suppose it’s even possible that they waited until the last minute to cast the role of Larry for the same reason. Although, again I’m indulging in speculation.

      1. Yeah but if he “just disappeared” (unexpectedly) why would they delay the taping of his episode, 1001? There must have been some lead-up to it…but then his actual departure must’ve been unexpected, because the late taping of 1001 left them with very little time to find a replacement. It looks like they were trying to work around him, because they could’ve planned to tape 1002, 1001, 1006 (which would be next in sequence), all together. I am thinking the stories about him showing up tripping and/or not being able to be found might’ve happened when they should’ve taped 1001 in it’s original sequence (i.e, Monday 20th – must’ve been quite a bender). Then they had to tape something else and come back to them later in the week – a bit like the Mitch Ryan debacle. That is my own speculation. There isn’t any way to find out what actually happened. It’s pretty clear that nobody remembers. It must’ve been a very chaotic time.

    2. In Dark Shadows Almanac (Millennium Edition), there’s a photo (p. 124) where the caption reads: “Don Briscoe relaxes in the studio rehearsal hall.” He’s laying back flat on a bare tiled floor with his feet propped up on a plain metal chair, his hands clasped together over his abdomen in a funereal pose.

      If ever a picture could say a thousand telling words, then that one is it.

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