Episode 1035: Elegy for the Truly Two

“Cyrus must have been terrified at his own duality.”

“That weapon won’t do you any good,” Barnabas snarls, “so you might as well just put it away.”

And, dude, if John Yaeger had any capacity for that, he wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with. Putting things away is not his area of expertise.

Let me begin by saying that man is chemical in his composition. I mean, everything is, but at the moment we’re talking about man — specifically, stupid man. Stupid man is even more chemical than usual.

For example, Dr. Cyrus Longworth of the parallel Longworths, who’s currently in the “you’ll never take me alive” stage of his criminal career. Cyrus is currently doing business as the odious John Yaeger, an altered ego who’s brutalizing the woman he’s been telling himself that he loves. He’s keeping Maggie locked up in the basement of an abandoned farmhouse, where he’s trying to prove that you can get a woman to love you by abducting her and then offering her champagne. Dr. Longworth is not very good at designing research projects.

“Now, if the proper compound was distilled and administered to a human being,” he said, “this chemical composition could be radically altered.” The fact that we already have this compound — it’s called alcohol, we’ve had it for a while — has not stopped him from radically altering his life by guinea pigging himself into a crime spree.

This is the magic elixir, made out of horsehair and bad karma, that took a brilliant young doctor with a fiancee and a future, and turned him into a violent thug who leaves a trail of battered women behind him as he lurches toward extinction.

We’ve been watching this story unfold for two months now, and I think it’s reasonable to ask for some kind of status report. What are the results of this experiment? What have we learned?

It started back in 1886, of course, with Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Jekyll wasn’t the first person to realize that human beings struggle with a divided nature, but he owns the patent on weaponizing it. Here’s the mission statement, courtesy of Robert Louis Stevenson:

“With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to that truth: that man is not truly one, but truly two.

“If each, I told myself, could be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable; the unjust might go his way, delivered from the aspirations and remorse of his more upright twin; and the just could walk steadfastly and securely on his upward path, doing the good things in which he found his pleasure, and no longer exposed to disgrace and penitence by the hands of this extraneous evil.”

You know, it takes a special kind of guy to inquire into the nature of humanity, discover a fundamental truth, and then say to himself: I wonder if I can screw around with this a little? I mean, yes, this duality is obviously part of God’s divine plan for humankind, but I’m sure He won’t mind if I make a couple adjustments.

“Let her go!” Barnabas thunders, appearing on the stairway like a deus who’s just ex machina’d on short notice and has no time for backchat. “If you don’t, you’ll never leave this place alive.”

“I’m aware of what little time I have left,” Yaeger spits, “but I’m going to go out my own way!”

And he keeps a tight grip on Maggie, like he’s King Kong battling biplanes on the Empire State Building. This is not going to go well.

Here’s the thing: Dr. Jekyll is brilliant at chemistry, lousy at philosophy, and catastrophically bad at urban planning.

Because this duality thing doesn’t really make a difference on the individual level. “Good” and “evil”, to the extent that they exist at all, only make sense in relation to other people. You can’t just sit at home and be evil all by yourself. You have to get up and hurt somebody.

So, ultimately, this is a problem of cities. Millions of strangers leading their invisibly intertwining lives, each of them truly two. When the unjust decides to go his or her way, delivered from the aspirations and remorse of his or her more upright twin, then that’s going to impinge on other people. It’s bound to. We don’t need everybody to be one hundred percent upright all the time, but you have to at least try.

And I’m not sure that ever registered with Dr. J. He just decided to bifurcate the species and birth a race of remorseless killers, and if that happens to impinge, then hey, it impinges.

Yaeger throws Fay Wray to the floor, where she knocks her head against something and ceases to take an active role in world affairs.

He unsheaths the sword from his secret sword-sheath, and waves it in Barnabas’ direction.

“That weapon won’t do you any good,” Barnabas growls, and Yaeger’s like, duh, I don’t want to do any good. That’s kind of my whole thing.

It’s actually hard to imagine what the story would be like if they took the premise seriously — if there really was a “good” version of Cyrus, actively trying to thwart Yaeger’s plans. I mean, Cyrus has his remorse moments, where he considers putting off transforming himself into a hundred-percent nightmare man, but mostly he’s an enabler.

That’s because Cyrus and Yaeger basically want the same things. Cyrus wants to stay out late, get into fights and torment barmaids, just like his unjust twin. The difference, as Yaeger has pointed out multiple times, is that Cyrus waits, and Yaeger takes. Cyrus fantasizes about dominating Maggie, and claiming her for his own. He just hasn’t gotten around to it.

So the point of the story, for both Stevenson and the Dark Shadows writers, is that evil is stronger than good. It’s addictive and fun, and it’s an opportunity to achieve your goals without hesitation. The only thing that keeps us all from falling into the abyss is that evil eventually destroys itself, when it rubs up against the city and its protectors.

Yaeger, who’s super doomed at this point, thrusts his blade into Barnabas’ soft areas. And Barnabas pulls it back out again, unbloodied.

“What kind of creature are you?” Yaeger boggles, and the creature just smiles. It turns out he’s not the only one who’s truly two.

By the way, do you know what would’ve been great? Sexy John Yaeger.

I mean, Chris Pennock is a good-looking guy — he’s no Selby, but who is? — and they could have played up Cyrus’ mousiness and Yaeger’s sex appeal. Take off the fake nose, the greasy wig, the hairy palms, the bad fashion, and give him a roguish smirk and a nice wardrobe. Still evil, obviously, but less obviously evil.

I know that Mr. Hyde isn’t supposed to be sexy according to a strict construction of Stevenson, but if Dark Shadows did things by the book, then the storyline would be 75% percent Cyrus’ lawyer talking to housemaids about what Cyrus is doing offscreen, behind a locked door.

Anyway, it all works out. The philosophical, moral and biological questions posed by this experiment all have the same answer: a burst of violence.

That’s not Stevenson’s answer, by the way; that’s a Dark Shadows special. Stevenson thinks that the evil side of man’s nature is overcome by society — a system of rules and laws and special prosecutors, checks and balances and democratic norms. He’s probably right, in the long term.

But if you have to wrap this story up in a hurry, and that’s what Dark Shadows is about to do, thank goodness, then the only way to stop an evil guy is to go get another evil guy. And that’s how you get from two to zero.

Monday: I’m Not Hoffman.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Yaeger’s sword-cane brandishing doesn’t come off as well as it should — the sword slips partway back into the cane, so it’s kind of stubby when he holds it towards Barnabas.

When Barnabas chokes Yaeger to the floor, there are electrical cables visible.

Maggie gets up and stumbles through the door to the basement cell, and we can see past the edge of the set to what I think is the Collinwood foyer, and the corner of Barnabas’ portrait. (See the screenshot below.) When she moves again, you can also see a folding chair.

Boom mic cameo #1: When Barnabas leads Quentin out of the drawing room, the boom mic can be seen through the doorway.

Barnabas tells Quentin, “This is no time for self-incrimination.” He means it’s no time for recriminations.

In the basement, Barnabas says, “After all, it was Cyrus who told me to find — told me where to find Maggie.”

Boom mic cameo #2: When Hoffman is on the phone to Angelique, we can briefly see the top of the set, and then a very noticeable boom mic.

When Barnabas shows Cyrus’ body to Quentin, somebody slams a door in the studio.

In the drawing room, Hoffman looks up from her book to get her cue before starting her scene.

Boom mic cameo #3: When Hoffman eavesdrops on Carolyn and Barnabas, a boom mic lurks overhead.

Monday: I’m Not Hoffman.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

46 thoughts on “Episode 1035: Elegy for the Truly Two

  1. I don’t know it well, but the Hammer film “The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll” goes for a sexy Mr. Hyde.
    I don’t know how many other times someone has tried that.

    1. Hammer always tended to emphasize the more sensual side of things, but then they had more leeway with film.

      With Dark Shadows they were mainly going for thrills and fright, etc., and they also had to consider that their audience was largely underage.

      Come to think of it, Yaeger’s “rape” of Buffie Harrington seems to have been taken from Hammer’s “Two Faces”, but with such activity done off screen and merely implied. Prior to the Hammer adaptation, there were never any instances of rape in the film adaptations, nor was anything along these lines mentioned in the original literary work, to my knowledge.

      1. I think Fredric March’s treatment of Miriam Hopkins in the Mamoulian Jekyll & Hyde was pretty rough–it was Pre-Code. I can’t remember the Barrymore (silent), but that’s one where Hyde beats a child to death so anything’s possible. But Hammer was far more explicit, obviously, about what was going on. (Has anyone seen Curtis’s Jekyll and Hyde?)

        1. I have Curtis’ Jekyll and Hyde as part of a DVD compilation, The Dan Curtis Macabre Collection. The Cyrus Longworth/John Yaeger story is essentially a carbon copy of Curtis’ own adaptation. There’s a side door to the laboratory and a Horace Gladstone type character who decides to blackmail the doctor, who Hyde subsequently runs through with a sword, just as on the TV show. It’s even shot on videotape, with a Bob Cobert soundtrack. I suppose Hammer Films was more… “Post-Code”, and was from where Curtis was drawing upon for influence — which is why House of Dark Shadows turned out to be so bloody.

          1. I saw that back in the day, and never since, but I recall Palance’s acting was way under the top compared to Pennock’s, who always seemed to be stifling laughter in Yaeger mode. I was surprised to see prime-time videotape (on a non-variety show) and delighted to hear Cobert’s music. I’d forgotten that it was the model for the Cyrus/Yaeger storyline, blackmail and sword cane included.

            1. That Yaeger clown make up must have been embarrassing for Chris Pennock. He had already done a Hyde-ish performance as Jeb Hawkes, so he clearly could have pulled it off if only he hadn’t looked like a walking cartoon character.

                1. Thanks! I can even remember me & my friends back in 1970 saying “What the hell??” over Yaeger’s make-up job – and we were only 13!

      1. In the six degrees of Kevin Bacon department: Martin Beswick became a friend of Frid’s after their nightmarish experience together in Oliver Stone’s debut Seizure, Frid’s only other theatrical feature (not counting his totter-on in the horrible Burton movie).

        1. There’s also a 1973 TV movie, The Devil’s Daughter:

          Did Frid find the experience in making Seizure difficult? I have that on DVD, and though I’m not an Oliver Stone fan, I do like that one — it’s very strange, almost cartoonish in its approach. I believe it was even filmed in Canada, so Frid should have felt more at home.

          1. He loathed the Seizure experience. He was vocal about it. He said everyone was on drugs and that the atmosphere was chaotic and unpleasant. I can’t imagine Stone also happy with someone like Frid, who wasn’t exactly a Method wild man who’d go with the flow. Frid said the only good part was meeting Martine Beswick.

  2. Am I mistaken, or does somebody scamper out of the way when Maggie bestirs herself after falling against that “wall?”

    1. Oh! The scampering is Barnabas, but there is a blooper there — you can see through the doorway into the Collinwood set. I posted a screenshot above. I can’t believe I missed that, it’s super obvious now that you prompted me to look for it.

      1. Ah–I was turned around. For some reason I thought Yaeger had gone the opposite way. It was a 180 camera switch, which is rare for DS. But I knew there was something off–a spacial anomaly, as our Star Trek friends would say.

  3. We know this is a TV show and not real life, because in real life locking up that nasty woman, Maggie Evans, would be part of Mayor Yeager’s plan to make Collinsport great again.

  4. I think Cyrus’s secret formula is a delicate blend of Jack Daniels and spirit gum.

    …then the storyline would be 75% percent Cyrus’ lawyer talking to housemaids about what Cyrus is doing offscreen…

    So they COULD have thrown Parallel Chris and Parallel Sabrina together!

  5. Ohhh, we touch on the philosophical! “Still evil, obviously, but less obviously evil” is a great reminder that what is truly evil…and scary…is often cloaked as something, or someone, who comes across as beneficial. The best Ebenezer Scrooge i’ve seen was played by George C Scott in the 1986 version of “A Christmas Carol”. He didn’t exaggerate the character, and almost whispered his wish for the poor “Then let them die and decrease the surplus population.” The evil Yates would have been scarier if he could mingle with the crowd and even make them believe that he had their best interests at heart.

  6. The body count’s rising, we must be getting to the end of the story line. (Say, wasn’t Barnabas supposed to use his cane to kill Yaegworth? He had a whole big speech about it. Then he just ups and gets strangly. Still, Maggie’s rescued.)

    Is it bugging anyone else that everyone from Collinwood Classic is schlepping all the way over to the East Wing to have plot point discussions? Julia and Quentin have BOTH SEEN Parallel Time, enough to at least suspect that it will work for both realities! But Quentin just HAS to blab about Barnabas’ “little problem”. Well, I suppose it makes for a good cliffhanger. And, hey, look! The wandering coffin has reappeared, too!

    1. I always though tit was ridiculous for anyone to go to the East Wing room for ANY reason after being warned that it could result in being trapped in PT. I get why Julia wants to go there but still blabbing about Barnabas with Quentin is just plain stupid.

      1. Absolutely – there had to be some other way for Hoffman to discover Barnabas’ secret. Guess the writers were in a big rush to get this turkey cooked.

    1. Reboot? No.Sequel. Yes.Either pick things up from where they left off if 1971 (with new actors obviously) or a 40+ years later deal. And rebuild the tiny sets or something close to them. Shoot it on video.New exterior shots of the restored Seaview Terrace.

      1. No, pick up the story in 1841 PT. Just kidding, though I remember one fan thought that that was what the NBC series in 1991 was going to do.

      1. The only appropriate way to make Dark Shadows is to create something ambitious and new, and call it something else. Dark Shadows is the name of the process.

        1. Actually there is a Canadian reboot. “Lost Girl” which has Barnabas and Vicky be the same person. Bo is a succubus with a conscience. She lives in a wreck of a house with her sidekick – a petty thief, and is helped by a brilliant female doctor who has the hots for her.

          She is looking to find who her parents are, and the man (creature?) she becomes a protégé of is actually her grandfather – but she does not find out until after a couple of seasons. She is attracted to an older man (creature?) who has a troubled past.

          Then she disappears into a mysterious journey, and returns with a brand new boyfriend…

          I recommend it to you.

  7. Of course Barnabas couldn’t be hurt here so he wasn’t exactly risking much. But his actions were still seen as heroic. Looking back, his acts of heroism were pretty few and far between. All in all glad to see this lame, ultimately pointless subplot reach is conclusion.

    1. Tony, remember, he was the first of what became the trope of the heroic vampire. The writers were finding their way, and were not very clear of what they wanted to do, so the character was plenty inconsistent, with the viewers’s imagination filling in the plot and characterization holes.

      Dan “Marylin” Ross had it clearer – mainly because he was the only writer, and did not have to worry what someone else had done to his character. In any case his series became canon in the characterization of Barnabas (consistency wins over chaotic mess).

      The ones that followed took advantage of what had been done before and developed their own characters which were pretty consistent.

      Think of Barnabas as the rough draft of what came afterwards.

  8. I voted yes, but the last thing we need is a “reboot” — a retelling of the original story.

    We need a continuation: Either in our present day or pick up more or less where they left off in 1971 (keep the parts you like, throw out the rest) or either set it in the past to begin with. The biggest thing: No Barnabas. No Angelique. You need to set up independent stories. Collinwood needs to the common thread — not a specific character or two.

    I think a DS set in 1929 — on the cusp of the Great Depression — would make a great set-up. The Collinses family, like many others, are enjoying the last days of the boom years of the Roaring ’20s. Like many wealthy families, they take a big hit financially, and that’s just the beginning of their woes.

    1. Rebooting has been tried, and (say what you like about The Gulf War preempting DS91 and stealing ratings), it didn’t work out. I might * watch a “Next Gen” version, with Carolyn as mistress of the manor, but sadly, television has gone too much into graphic violence and gratuitous sex – a new DS would be constrained to use those elements (as did DS91), and just make me miss the original that much more.
      *Dark Shadows
      is a unique combination of talents, mistakes, and luck which came together at the right time. I don’t say it would be impossible to make something similar happen, I simply think it unlikely.

  9. I like that.

    But the future has not been told.

    So.

    If the story must continue, it must be in the 21st century.

    I like that.

  10. The only decent transformation scene in the Cyrus/Yaeger storyline, and it took a still photo to do it. Amazingly well lined up, anyway. They should have killed Yaeger off more often. Robert Sharp can answer this–the dissolve is still to live action, right? (Maybe I can send this without WordPress demanding the umpteenth password change….)

    1. Hi Gurlitt. So I just watched the scene again, and here’s how I think they did it:

      Barnabas strangles Yeager. Maggie comes in a screams very loud. They cut. (They were smart to fade out the music right before the cut.)
      Tape is stopped. They get a close-up shot of Yeager on the floor and freeze it using a framer storer (it was a device that was used back then).
      Everyone breaks for Pennock to get rid of the wig and mustache and they do a makeup touch-up. He gets back on the floor in the same spot as before.
      Tape is still not rolling. With the same camera, they get a close-up of Pennock as Cyrus. They are able to fade between the previous still shot of Yeager and Cyrus to make sure they match. They then freeze the frame of Cyrus and store it on the frame storer. Now they are ready to resume taping.
      They roll tape, start with the freeze of Yeager, start the new music cue, and then fade to the still of Cyrus. Then they cut back to the live camera with Barnabas and Maggie. The shot eventually zooms out to a wider shot that includes Pennock as Cyrus.
      Once they’ve finished shooting all of the rest of the show, they go back and do a tight edit from where taping had stopped and then resumed. Because they can now do electronic editing, it looks very smooth.

      Thanks so much for thinking of me to explain this!

  11. blah blah blah…healing afghan on Maggie…blah blah blah…Collinsport afghan on the couch of Loomis House…blah blah blah…best to keep a record of these things…

  12. Without the makeup, Yaeger would be recognizable as Cyrus–unless they put Cyrus in the makeup.

    But! Better than that, change Yaeger’s name and have him be Cyrus’s twin brother–the charming, dashing one! If one set of identical twins is good, two sets is even better! Instead of a crude, violent bad guy, Caleb Longworth could be charming-but-devious, rather than obviously evil.

  13. I would love to see a Dark Shadows next generation. When the Depp movie was in the works, some of us talked about what we would write and how we would do it, if it were up to us. I wrote out a pilot of sorts, and a few plot points. It was fun.

  14. Check out “Confessions of a Justified Sinner” by Andrew Hogg. The protagonist accidentally meets his twin and is dogged by him in an almost supernatural way–turning up without warning. Often the hero is responsible for the actions of the “other.” His increasingly desperate measures to stop his counterpart end badly. It scared the daylights out of me. Far more effective that Jekyll/Hyde and may have served as an inspiration (it was published anonymously in 1824.}

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