“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 think Vicki could possibly have a starring role in The Crucible, 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.
— Danny Horn