Episode 1091: You, the Living

“I know I shouldn’t summon you, but won’t you appear to me?”

It’s exactly midnight, obviously, and in walks Maggie Evans, dazed and consumed.

She’s come home from a brisk walk that she took through the pitch-black dystopian nightmare surrounding her extremely haunted house. She was just going out for a bite, she said, and look what happened.

Julia sees Maggie stumble through the door, and she knows at once that something is amiss; Maggie’s head is traveling south, while her heels are trending north-north-east. You don’t have to be a doctor to tell that she’s in a bad way, although Julia is a doctor, so even more so.

Julia says, “Maggie, what is it?” as the girl topples over, but you know what it is, as well as I do. It’s vampires, is what it is.

So here we are again, and not a moment too soon. The current storyline is making me lose the will to live something fierce, but a vampire story is sure-fire; we’ve never had a bad one. Vampires, werewolves and Angelique getting mad, these are Dark Shadows’ core competencies. A Dark Shadows storyline without a single vampire would be intolerable, so thank goodness they’d never consider doing such a thing.

Naturally, Julia’s not as pleased as I am; if Barnabas has fallen off the Drac wagon, then that’s going to cut into their spook-detective time. She’s been trying to make progress on this whole ghosts-from-the-future thing or whatever it is, while he’s been traveling around the country, judging beauty pageants and telling people how vulgar his new movie is. Now that he’s back, she doesn’t want him wasting his time on side missions.

Earlier in the evening, Julia caught Barnabas ogling Maggie’s juicy jugular. He claims that he was just window shopping, but that does raise the question of where he’s been slaking his thirst lately. This is one of the rare stories in the history of vampire fiction that’s about a protagonist who just happens to be a vampire, so when he’s involved in non-vampire-related activity, it’s not super clear who and how often he’s eating.

This time it isn’t Barnabas, as it happens; it’s some new freelancer, so we get all the fun of watching Julia get boiling mad at Barnabas with none of the calories. It goes like this.

We open on Barnabas in his easy chair, quietly reading a book. He happens to look up, and discovers that his friend Julia is standing two feet away, erect and motionless in the middle of his living room, as if she silently materialized on the premises.

Casually, he says, “What is it, Julia?” and she scowls, furiously.

“You know very well what it is!” she hisses, and turns to stone. And haven’t we all had moments like this, when the thing that’s wrong is the fact that you don’t know what’s wrong, and even asking them to explain what’s wrong is going to make things so much more wrong that it’s probably best to just apologize and pack your bags?

The conversation gets progressively fraught.

Barnabas:  What’s happened? Something to the children?

Julia:  Oh, Barnabas, why did you do it? We’ve been trying so desperately to save Hallie and David from Gerard, and now, to do this to Maggie!

Barnabas:  To Maggie? Julia, what are you saying?

Julia:  Barnabas, you cannot get away with it! You cannot possibly!

Barnabas:  Can’t get away with what? Julia, tell me! What’s happened to Maggie?

Julia:  You know as well as I do, Barnabas! You cannot possibly get away with your attack on her tonight!

And then this expression, and one of those big Dun! Dun! DUNNNNNNNN! dramatic stings that are basically all that I live for.

Naturally, if you’re going to do an intensely dramatic, heart-stopping scene about nothing at all, then the first thing you have to do is go out and get Julia, because she is where the facial expressions come from. The pictures above depict nine seconds in the life of Grayson Hall.

Barnabas:  Julia, are you sure — absolutely sure — that Maggie was attacked by a vampire?

Julia:  Oh, Barnabas, I saw the marks on the neck myself — marks that only you could have made!

Barnabas:  Julia, I swear that I didn’t —

Julia:  Barnabas, stop it! You attacked Maggie when she was walking through the woods. How can you deny it?

And then Barnabas gets a perfect little closeup, as he says, gently, “I can deny it, Julia, because I didn’t do it.”

So this is still my favorite show, Hallie or no Hallie, because I get to watch these two haunted people battling over heartbreak, just before daybreak.

Julia:  What you’ve done is terrible enough, Barnabas, but to lie to me, the one person you can trust!

Barnabas:  Julia! The sun will be up soon. I must convince you! I tell you that I never lie to you.

Julia:  I want to believe that, Barnabas, but it’s so incredible!

And it really is incredible, this little two-person tribute to the alienation of modern life. This is a tricky bit of scripting, because we want to enjoy Julia’s fury and sorrow, but not for too long. She has to stop suspecting him pretty soon, because otherwise it’s a betrayal of their actual relationship, but still, you want them to clash like this, at least for a scene or two.

And then they get into this position, and they hold it for a full twenty seconds.

Barnabas:  Julia, I beg of you, believe me! Now, go to Maggie, and stay with her. There’s no point in questioning her, as long as she’s under the spell of another. But she may let something slip, or give us some clue!

Julia:  Barnabas…

Barnabas:  Now, go to Maggie! She needs you! I will see you tonight, and I will find out whoever has done this.

It’s a love token, really, from the writers to the audience. We’ve fallen down a well, they’re saying, and we can’t find our way out. We’re halfway through a terrible story that isn’t working, and we can’t skip past it until Kate Jackson graduates from drama school. But here, if it helps: a little piece of the best we can do.

“Listen to them,” he says, indicating the dognoise. “How well I know that sound. The summons to Maggie… is now a summons from someone else. I hereby swear with all solemnity, on the graves of all my ancestors, that when I’ve found who has done this to her, I will drive the stake myself!”

And then he walks away, into history.

Tomorrow: The Tenterhooks.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In act 1, when Julia tells Hallie to go to her room, her closeup is out of focus.

Hallie says, “David, please! To question him directly — and you mustn’t!”

In act 4, after Carrie watches the carousel, the scene cuts to the drawing room — where somebody on the left is holding a script on camera.

Tomorrow: The Tenterhooks.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

37 thoughts on “Episode 1091: You, the Living

  1. I have to confess that the last two weeks of this blog were bringing me down. I know you were tap-dancing as hard as you could, nearly always with hilarious success, but I was sensing a profound crisis of faith. And now this. The return of your elation is contagious. Danny Horn is himself again.

  2. We’ve survived Hallieosis. It, too, will pass.

    The writers must be childless, to write the David and gal pal drivel they do.

    Like the awful David/Amy banter.

    David: Statement 1.

    Amy: Repeat statement 1?

    David Statement 2.

    Amy: Repeat statement 2?

    Let’s just get to some Roxanne munching. Which they never did enough of.

    I wonder… If they could force her into her coffin with a cross, and lay it on her chest….

    Then cover it with a blanket……could Barnabas drive the stake?

    1. At least Amy had her relationship with Chris, and you felt for her when he had to disappoint her due to becoming a real dog during his time of the month. Amy is even introduced through Chris. Meanwhile Hallie’s relationship with Professor Stokes just isn’t there. We’re told he’s her uncle, but there’s no spark and they hardly ever interact. So Hallie’s only role is in a thankless storyline that is a retread of a previous storyline that, like most sequels that rehash the plot of the original, falls short of the quality of the original.

  3. The writers probably could have gotten a good few episodes making it ambiguous whether Barnabas really had bitten Maggie. He acts evasive because he has another secret he doesn’t want to tell Julia (he’s been at the cattle again, trying an alternate blood source) and she’s always called away before she can say she thinks he bit Maggie. Then they both come clean and make friends again.

  4. They could easily have explained Barnabas’ control over his teeming blood lust by indicating that Dr. Julia kept the refrigerator stocked with fresh deliveries courtesy of that local mad scientist medical supply house where she and Dr. Lang had charge accounts.
    Isn’t that what the vampire did in that first Kolchak movie? Keep fresh packages of blood in his fridge?

    1. Samantha, it’s true that the vampire in the Kolchak movie (The Night Stalker) got blood from the blood bank and/or hospital, but what he did was really interesting: he gave one of his victims a blood transfusion so that he could later bite her again and again without killing her.

    2. I took it that after Buffy, he learned how fly under the radar. If you recall, Buffy survived the experience, and it happened indoors, without witnesses, and where she could faint over the bed.

      Notice that at no time there never any mention in PT of any attacks. Even without Julia’s access to a blood bank.

      In which case he would be a forerunner of Henry Fitzroy of “Blood ties” Henry gets a different bimbo in bed every night, who leave with the memory of having had great sex.

      1. Adriana, I’ve never heard of “Blood Ties” but after seeing you reference it, I downloaded the first novel in the series. Henry Fitzroy sounds like a real fun date – let’s do hope Barnabas took a page from his playbook and left many happy bimbos all over eastern Maine!

  5. Boy, did this episode get my juices flowing again. This is the first time I’ve seen it, so it totally took me by surprise. The howling of the dogs…brought back so many fond memories of the earlier Barnabas/Willie/Maggie episodes. A big thanks to Joe Cadwell for writing such a memorable episode.

  6. Barnabas meets with his moment of truth: seeing Maggie in her condition, sorrowful that he himself could have ever inflicted this on anyone else, emotionally caught up in the moment and vowing to drive the stake through the individual in question HIMSELF (then realizing that, in HIS condition, that is really not an option).

    This late in the series, they could still always come up with some incredible powerful moments.

  7. Really? Pirates’ graves are bubbling and there is the sudden intrusion of another vampire? How rude! I’m not sure if vampires are supposed to be territorial (since this is long before the Anne Rice/Twilight series of vampires, but that could be part of Barnabas’ issue. If any one is going to neck with Maggie, it’s gonna be him.

  8. Barnabas as a vampire who doesn’t actually vampire is problematic because we of course enjoy vampires because they vampire not just sit around reading in their parlors.

    Barnabas has no real physical opponent against whom his vampire talents would be useful (like in his scenes with Yaegar). And he doesn’t have to fear exposure or death because he can’t function during the day.

    ANGEL overcame this by having him constantly vampire but in a super heroic way — he’s strong and resilient and his weaknessss (fire, direct sunlight, etc) are interesting “kryptonite”.

    Barnabas isn’t a “super hero” obviously so his vampire ness requires scenes like this one where you are reminded that he is constantly resisting the urge.

    I love how the two play it — as if a wife is confronting her husband over infidelity.

    1. This is another of those situations that has continued into modern soaps: What do you do when all of your heroes are, in fact, monsters? General Hospital’s longtime leading man, Sonny Corinthos, is a mobster. But the show has gone out of their way to say he’s a “good” mobster. He doesn’t allow drug trafficking or arms smuggling or prostitution… leaving many to wonder how, exactly, he makes his money. (The leading theory among Soaps in Depth readers is that he runs an illegal Gummy Bear smuggling ring).

  9. Good observations, SER. Barnabas, of course, was the first vampire role to play on people’s sympathies. Those who came before were consumed by evil and had to be destroyed. Of course, for Barnabas to remain on the show there had to be some way to redeem him and he began to display characteristics that an addict might have. (While I was/am intrigued by this in DS, I had/have little patience for the Twilight vampires and none for Buffy’s)
    Anyway, I can’t remember how this sub-plot line resolves itself, but pitting one vampire against another would be intriguing. Which obviously won’t happen in DS. lol.

    1. Absolutely right, Benj. Unless I’m badly mistaken, Barnabas Collins was the first ever “sympathetic vampire,” one who is (or at least becomes) essentially heroic. This is undoubtedly the single greatest contribution of Dark Shadows to popular culture. There’s been no shortage whatsoever of “sympathetic vampires” ever since.

      1. Stoker’s Dracula is written as more complex than the popular conception of him in horror movies. He’s still a monster but like Kahn in STAR TREK, there is something compelling about him.

        Barnabas in 1967 is a modern dress vampire (that itself was interesting) but otherwise was still monstrous. I think 1795 and pater 1897 that changes everything in that Barnabas is the vampire protagonist — the hero of the show if not entirely heroic. His anti-hero nature also adds a “film noir” or “hardboiled” aspect to the storytelling because it’s no longer a clear cut battle of good vs evil, which most monster movies were and DS itself was in 1967: Barnabas and Julia on the “bad” side w Vicki, Burke, David et al on the “good side.” Barnabas and Julia soon were anti-heroes against worse monsters (Blair, Petofi, Jeb, Angelique).

        Nancy Barrett’s portrayals of Carolyn and Charity, both under Barnabas’s power, were good examples of this change. For the former, Carolyn was presented as fully corrupted by the “dark side” whereas Charity was seen as, well, “loosening up” from her seemingly mutual relationship with Barnabas — an improvement from stick in the mud Trask, who represented the hypocrisy of supposed “goodness.”

        Frankly, I think the biggest misread of DS was that Barnabas was a romantic leading man (the 1991 revival made this error) or that DS itself was a romance. Barnabas’s key relationships were marital — the best scenes between him and Angelique and him and Julia play off this well.

    2. Two things made this possible: Ron Sproat, and the serialized format within the medium of television.

      As Jonathan Frid has said, it was Ron Sproat who was most influential in casting him in the role of Barnabas, since Dan Curtis was away in England filming a movie at the time; and because Frid and Sproat knew each other from years before at drama school, Frid was able to get the part written more the way he preferred rather than the way Dan Curtis preferred — that is, Frid could say to Sproat things like “Don’t write me spooky.”

      But even so, comparing the 1967 early Barnabas to here in 1970, the early Barnabas is positively ice cold, whereas lately he’s practically Shakespearean, like in the wrecked drawing room of 1995, with such expansive elocution in his voice (“JULIA!! Come here and look at this!”).

      The other factor resulting in the portrayal of Barnabas was audience reaction. With a vampire movie, or even a filmed adaptation of Bram Stoker, it’s only there in front of you for 90 minutes to 2 hours, and in those days you would be going out to the movie house for the experience if it was a new film. But with daytime television in the serialized format, suddenly it’s more personal because the vampire is visiting your living room for a half hour every day, week in and week out for months on end.

      Imagine if Dan Curtis had done it his way — cast someone else like maybe Bert Convy and had him staked as planned after 13 weeks so Dark Shadows could go off the air with a bang — we wouldn’t be here still talking about the show and commenting like this after 50-plus years.

      That’s why Dark Shadows can never happen again, never be rebooted — a remake is something that is planned, whereas what made the show the phenomenon it became was that so many things that went into the making of the show happened by chance.

      The so-called sympathetic vampire is one of those “by chance” occurrences.

      1. Arguably, you could replicate what happened by chance. But for whatever reason, the attempted remakes ignore it all. Barnabas in 1991 is the aloof unsympathetic bore from HODS. Julia is the obsessed jilted love from HODS rather than the canny, fun character from the series. And so on.

        But even Dan Curtis himself seemed to not understand what made DARK SHADOWS fun and appealing in the first place (at least based on what he did when left to his own devices).

        1. HODS is a lousy basis for a continuing series.

          Notice that all the characters (well, most of them) are dead at the end? Who is going to carry the story afterwards?

          A continuing story is based on keeping the people alive so as to get as many storylines out of them. And if you cannot find stories, send them out of town, until you need them again.

        2. I tend to think you could easily reboot DS, but you would have to do it not by simply recreating the original storylines but by doing an honest-to-god modernization, much in the way the CW did with Dallas a few years back. Don’t try and recreate the storylines which made the show a success, simply borrow the format and setting, modernizing both.

      2. Prisoner wrote, “Imagine if Dan Curtis had done it his way — cast someone else like maybe Bert Convy and had him staked as planned after 13 weeks so Dark Shadows could go off the air with a bang …”

        Gotta love the imaginings of PrisonerOfTheNight! Bert Convy as Barnabas!!! The idea has me shaking my head and smiling ear to ear! Thanks so much, Priz. That one really cracks me up for some reason … (And don’t forget to check out Prisoner’s blog titled “Dark Shadows from the Beginning” covering the pre-Barney episodes.)
        🙂

  10. RE Vampires –
    When did the retractable canines develop? I recall that Nosferatu had batlike teeth (front teeth with points); Lugosi’s Dracula didn’t have any unusual dental appendages that I recall; was it the Hammer films that began the fangs?

    Barnabas’ curse is presented as more an illness or addiction, since he can apparently resist his bloodlust through force of willpower. Of course, he ‘went without’ for 170-odd years, so he’s used to long dry spells (so to speak). Despite which, he didn’t seem particularly thirsty on being freed – I would have thought he’d have sucked Willie down to a prune! But then Barnabas did have his nightly tart patrols for a while, too.
    But (without too much spoilering) this new Vampire X – I am guessing it didn’t just fly in tonight to suck some Maggie. There are so few characters in the storyline that it’s fairly obvious who it is (whoever Barnabas would least want to destroy, duh-uh), so why haven’t we had any dog alerts prior to this? More vampire celibacy? And why hasn’t the new bloodsucker been more controlling with her current slave? Does seem like this new plotline was just thrown in. (Ohmigosh, are the writers just making this up as they go on?)

    1. It’s why I think Danny describes Julia best as an “alchemist” during the 67 cure storyline. She is attempting a metaphysical change in Barnabas rather than one that makes sense scientifically. It’s basically Pence-style conversion therapy to transform Barnabas into a “normal” man who can have a “healthy” relationship with a really dull woman.

    2. My take on Roxanne was that she fed under the radar. Her victims all lived, just could not talk about it, or even completely forgot about it.

      She was emotionally attached to Sebastian. The scenes between of them show her more concerned with him than Barnabas was ever with Willie.

      When Maggie moved in, attracting Sebastian, Roxanne retaliated. Like “Keep away from my man”

  11. I believe this new plotline was used as a way to write KLS off of DS since she was leaving the show to follow her husband to Europe. Dan Curtis wanted to leave the door open for her eventual return, but DS ran out of time.

  12. WIth deep apologies for this nerdery, we do seem to wrong the facts when we say that Barnabas was the first sympathetic and reluctant vampire–that role seems to go to the penny-dreadful protagonist Varney the Vampire from 1845-47. Varney influenced Bram Stoker, and, as I read, originated the fangs, the puncture wounds in the neck, the hypnotic powers, and the superhuman strength for the breed, as well as a serious distaste for his affliction.

    This does NOT mean that I think our Dark Shadows writers consulted with the old penny dreadfuls to create a new conflicted hero (who evolved from temporary deep-dyed, sleek villain to central antihero to emblematic supporting player), and I do think that Barnabas, not Varney, directly influenced all the reluctant and lover-resurrecting vampires since.

    Back to more interesting discussion–

  13. By the way, Danny, is the title of this entry, “You, the Living,” a conscious nod to a line from that 1962 classic, “Monster Mash,” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers? If so, it’s most appropriate given that Halloween is just a few days away.

  14. I just watched NODS and got reminded of how well James Storm, as a PT handyman,
    played it as early Willie Loomis…although dumber, maybe “touched”, in the early scenes.
    He showed range that we did not see on TV.

    Karlen, who was playing the rational fiction writer, must have schooled him, a bit.

    And Barrett, rational wife/co-writer, showed none of the emotional simplicity of any of the Carolyn characters…..although less compelling, she also showed a side that we did not see on TV, mostly.

    Ditto Grayson Hall, who is holding back on the truth of Angelique, showed tension from the start to the reveal of being the reincarnation of Sarah Castle. You can’t take your eyes off of her….any moment, she could explode. But does not.

    The day-as-night scenes were infuriating. What, you can’t wait for an overcast day to film?

    At least, not show the audience obvious sunlight, as opposed to moonlight?

    It’s like they were so over budget that they just wanted to get it all over.

    Yet, it was a film without an ending.

    I felt ripped-off without actually paying.

    You’ve got Lara there, in her whites, and you do NOTHING with her after a second or two.

    It’s like they cut the ending badly, to make the GP rating.

    And maybe that’s exactly what happened.

    If only we could see the Director’s Cut.

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