Episode 1109: The Last Straw

“Gerard, you took life from them once. Don’t do it again!”

“First, Gerard killed Quentin,” Tad explains. “And then, soon after that, Carrie and I died!”

“And then what happened?” Barnabas asks. He’s trying to figure out when we’re getting to the interesting part of this anecdote.

But never mind about that. Collinwood will crumble today, just like everyone thought it would four years ago. Turns out the vampire was a reprieve, not a cure; sooner or later, gravity reasserts itself, and Icarus takes a tumble into the sea. We’ll be leaving the Collins family as we know them, bound for the nineteenth century and points north, which means we’re not responsible for the future anymore, and Tad and Carrie can live or die in whatever order they choose.

Heads up, Collins family: Today is the last day of the rest of your life.

The problem is this: spectral mastermind Gerard Stiles has arranged for the reincarnation of three people that he doesn’t seem to like very much, and now he wants to kill them again, for reasons of his own. It’s not super clear what he was hoping to get out of this haunting, but he didn’t get it, and he’s furious about it.

Gerard is a white-hot five-alarm twenty-four hour spitfire rage machine, forged in Hell and taking no prisoners. He’s angry at Quentin (*not our Quentin) probably for stealing his girlfriend, and he’s angry at the children (*not our children) probably for not paying enough attention to the toy carousel music box that I guess maybe he gave them for Christmas and they never sent him a thank you note. He wants revenge and he wants justice, and most of all he really just wants to murder these children. I am entirely sympathetic with his goals. I don’t understand why the kids have to wear special clothes in order to be murdered, but otherwise I am completely on board.

Gerard silently issues commands, and everybody else just does what he wants; that was true when Barnabas and Julia visited the future, and it’s true now. I don’t know if anyone’s actually resisted him or even sassed back very hard, except when Barnabas told Julia not to kill herself with a knife. Everybody else has pretty much gone along with whatever Gerard suggests.

So he’s been puppeteering his way through a reenactment of whatever curse he got most of the way through back in 1840, painstakingly reviving the important players, and arranging for set design and costume changes. He re-created an impossible playroom that’s bigger on the inside, taking a medium-size linen closet and inflating it to a king-size toy palace. He distributed hypnoclothes and model ships and prophetic dreams, and he rescued objects from burning in the fireplace. He did a bunch of things with a dollhouse that are not easy to explain.

At Gerard’s instruction, Elizabeth redecorated the foyer. At his behest, Carolyn sang a song in the drawing room. He scolded and scalded and broke Hallie’s arm. He crashed a family picnic. He installed a green flag in the tower room, to be used as a self-destruct button for Collinwood. There was also a thing about an unfinished horoscope; I’m not sure what that had to do with anything.

And there honestly doesn’t seem to be any way for Barnabas and Julia to stop him; they’ve just been watching as Gerard advances his program, step by inevitable step.

They spent days reading through diaries and journals and combing through tax records looking for Rose Cottage, and finally they followed Carolyn and discovered that Rose Cottage was another name for the old MacGruder place on Cumberland Road. This discovery did not help them in any way.

They told Elizabeth to send the children away, and she refused. When they finally managed to send the kids to Windcliff, the ghosts just hitched a ride, and kept on doing chalk-and-candle rituals.

They persuaded Quentin to take Daphne and drive as fast and as far as he could manage, and while Quentin and Daphne were packing, Gerard poisoned them and then Quentin obediently buried himself in an unmarked grave.

And all that time, Gerard just smirked and sneered, and went on doing whatever he wanted. They can’t discover his weaknesses, because he doesn’t have any. They can’t negotiate with him, because he doesn’t want anything, and he doesn’t care what happens.

So all we can do is sit back and observe the coming cataclysm, as Gerard directs the players through their final paces. Barnabas and Julia dig Quentin out of the ground, and that feels like a victory for ten or fifteen seconds, but if Dark Shadows has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t solve your problems by digging up a mystery box. It only makes things worse.

“I was as though I became the Quentin Collins of 1840,” says the Quentin of today, recounting his underground experience. “And I had the memory — I had the memory of Gerard — of Gerard waving a green flag at a window, three times. Which window, I don’t know. But the destruction of Collinwood came right after that!”

Barnabas gasps, “You mean, the destruction was caused by the waving of the red flag?”

“Yes!” answers Quentin, so possibly he’s color-blind. “I don’t know why, or how, but that is how it happened!”

So as I understand it, he became the Quentin of the past, and then remembered something that’s going to happen about ten minutes in the future. That’s not what “memory” means, but I suppose there isn’t a good word for whatever the hell he thinks he’s talking about.

But the important thing is that the Quentin Collins of 1840 knew where the impossible playroom was, hidden behind some fold of the continuum, and he leads Barnabas and Julia straight to the spot.

But that’s not the important thing, because the children aren’t there, so our heroes have to leave the playroom and run around the house shouting out the children’s names, which they probably would have done anyway.

When they leave the room, Gerard remains, smiling at his handiwork. Gerard is everywhere, and the only thing he loves is ash.

And I hear that train a comin’, rolling round the bend, and nothing can stop it, not even the combined power of Barnabas, Julia and Quentin. One of Gerard’s many unacknowledged powers is that he fills the air with IQ-sapping nerve gas, rendering even the smartest characters foolish and unproductive.

“Now, listen to me, all of you,” Quentin pants. “I’ve got to be alone with the children.”

“Why, Quentin?” they ask.

“I have no time to explain. Barnabas, you take Daphne and Julia with you.” He passes Daphne over like she’s baggage. “You’ve got to trust me, all of you!”

And they do, for some reason, even though Quentin was the one who spent the evening burying himself alive, and he’s still not completely sure which Quentin he is. The Quentin of 1970 doesn’t love Daphne; practically the only thing that he knows about her is that she spent several weeks hypnotizing him with lilacs, and turning him against his friends. But they trust him anyway, all of them. It’s not the right call.

We seek the guidance of a star!

Quentin cries, looking out the window and appealing to an uncertain authority.

A star out in the cold of time and space, far out beyond us!

A star that is responsible for the guidance — not of two, but of four children!

For David Collins and Hallie Stokes are the ancestral twins — the astral twins! — of Tad and Carrie, who stand before me now.

Only by the light of the star was their possession possible, and only by the light of the star can they be restored to their selves!

But it doesn’t work. Or maybe it does, it’s impossible to tell. Quentin declares it a win anyway.

“You have lost, Gerard!” Quentin announces. “It’s all over now! Do you understand that? You have lost!”

But Gerard doesn’t care if you talk back to him. He likes it; it just makes him meaner.

Gerard grabs Quentin by the throat and tosses him away, and he goes to the window and raises the green flag, and he waves it three times, as he always has, as he always will.

And they’re off!

And here come the zombie pirates, buried in unconsecrated ground, without the benefit of a coffin. There’s just, like, an inch of loose topsoil that they shake off, and go.

And that’s the end of the world, really. Everything after that is just details.

You can’t stop something like Gerard. He is the inevitable consequence of whatever it was that you did. You can say “please” and “no” and “stop” as often as you like; you can call upon a star in the cold of time and space. You can run, and you can hide, and you can ask for an extension, but he will come for you, and he will make you put on somebody else’s clothes, and then he will murder the shit out of you.

And the pirates will come into your house, and they will look at your decor, and they will make the collective decision that Everything Must Go.

And the waters will rise.

They asked you what was wrong. They asked who you were talking to, in that empty room. They asked if you could hear the music, if you could explain the clothes, if you knew where Rose Cottage was.

They asked for your help. They tried to protect you. And you made the wrong choice, every single time.

So what happens to this timeline, to this house, when the heroes have gone? When the people who tried to contain the calamity find an access hatch and escape, back into the past? What happens, when the twenty-five years of suffering unhappen?

If this world is twice-doomed, first to fall and then to evaporate into the almost-was, destined to be contradicted and unwritten, then who shuts down this useless universe, this world without Dark Shadows?

“The dead are restless,” he said, way back when. “Very restless!” You can’t say he didn’t warn you.

“They were calling for help!” he predicted. “But there is no help for them!”

He knew it even then, way back at the beginning.

“There is danger here!” he said. “If you value your lives, you must go! Go!”

And they went, but in the opposite direction. Barnabas and Julia and Quentin, and all those restless souls, the housewives and teenagers, the eleven women and the fifty-eight lost children, running headlong into the four-year oncoming cataclysm that they refused to even try to avert.

Someone has to turn off the lights, and shoo everyone away. Someone has to arrange for the entropy, and tie up the timeline.

And someone has to stay behind, and make sure that no one sets foot in this shuttered universe again. “The dead must rest!” he will say. And they will, eventually.

Tomorrow: Attack of the Clones.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Gerard walks backwards as he beckons Tad and Carrie, but he has to look behind him for a second to make sure he’s not going to trip on anything.

Tad tells Carrie, “We weren’t here — we weren’t brought here just to see Daphne!”

Barnabas asks, “You mean the deshcrusht — destruction was caused by waving of the red flag?” He means green flag.

When Quentin takes the children to the tower room window, he puts his left hand on David’s head, and his right hand on Hallie’s head. The next shot is from underneath the window, and the children are reversed; Hallie is now on his left and David on his right. David is grinning as the shot begins, so maybe something happened that required a tape edit?

Then he says, “David Collins and Hallie Stokes are the ancestral twins — the astral twins! — of Tad and Carrie.”

As the pirates rise, you can see one of the studio lights on the right that’s flashing the “lightning” effect.

When Quentin, Barnabas and Julia leave the tower room, the camera shows the edge of the set on the left; you can see them past the set as they go.

When the pirates start smashing things in the foyer, watch the zombie in the black cloak. He walks up the stairs and pulls down the tapestry, but this makes his hood fall down. Looking around to see if anyone notices, he pulls the hood up to cover his head, and fusses with it. This is a great one, you should definitely look at this.

About twenty seconds later, one of the pirates throws a green blanket into the air, and it falls on the bald pirate’s head. He pulls it off, and looks up at the studio to see if the camera caught that.

When Barnabas and Julia come out on the landing, a bunch of stones and rubbish falls onto the scene — but the canvas that was holding the stuff is clearly visible; it should have been a lot higher.


Behind the Scenes:

The six pirate zombies are played by Chuck Morgan, James Donahue, James Langrall, Al Lust, Richard Molich and Victor Romano.

Chuck Morgan is the veteran zombie; six months ago, he played the zombie Emory Page in episodes 963 and 964. For the other actors, this is their only Dark Shadows appearance.

If you count the silent zombies who don’t appear in the credits, there are 13 actors in this episode — the most people in any episode of Dark Shadows. In act 2, there’s a scene that squeezes six people into the tower room, although you can’t see them all in one shot because the tower room set isn’t big enough.

Tomorrow: Attack of the Clones.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

34 thoughts on “Episode 1109: The Last Straw

  1. I enjoyed the scene where the styrofoam chunks – or whatever material the chunks were made of – came crashing down, especially with the canvas being so visible! I replayed the scene approx 3 times to get a better look at these falling chunks of Collinwood’s “ceiling.” Great scene.

    I thought perhaps that the release was supposed to happen a bit more slowly. But when the “plaster chunks” actually dropped during the taping, it was more like an avalanche! Too sudden.

    One could compare this scene to a similar scene in one of the Fall of the House Usher films, in which the mansion shakes and rattles over a longer period of minutes, gradually cracking the walls and ceilings, and then slowly sinking into the tarn at the end. But that wouldn’t really be a fair comparison, would it? Movie versions of House of Usher had bigger budgets than DS, and much more time for takes and re-takes to get the destruction scene exactly right.

    1. How have I gone all these years without making all the blatantly obvious connections between Dark Shadows and The Fall of the House of Usher?!?

      1. There were a number of versions of Usher over the years, with the 1960 version starring Vincent Price being quite memorable by virtue (or by vice!) of having the one-and-only Mr. Price in it.

        However I would guess that some of the other versions of Usher are also quite entertaining, since they would all have Poe’s well-written story as the foundation. I’d be interested to watch 1950 version, which may have been British, IIRC, if I recall correctly. The other versions include 1928, 1950, 1976, and … wow! … I just looked the up the title: Its seems there’s a DOZEN or so different versions of Usher out there, some for the movies, some for TV!!! Does that set some sort of record for number of remakes!?!?!

        Yes, I agree with you the tale has similarities in common with DS. For example, Elizabeth Stoddard’s catatonic state reminds of Roderick Usher’s sister, who also suffered from prolonged catatonia, to name the first example to pop into my head … I suppose there are more parallels to point out upon further consideration …

        1. I spent one Saturday last year just watching different film adaptations of TFotHoU: a German silent, a big-budget French, the 1960 Price/Corman, a 1979 made-for-TV with Robert Hats – anything I could find. It was awesome.

        1. “…I bid you welcome… to the house of Usher.”

          Indeed, Carolyn did welcome her that way! I must say, Priz, that you have excellent recall! But I’m no longer as surprised (as I used to be) at depth of your knowledge of DS. What would surprise me now would be if you did not know something …
          🙂

  2. There’s something about the emotion of watching the destruction of something that was central to a story…in this case the foyer and drawing room of Dark Shadows. There is the same emotion in watching the starship Enterprise’s destruction on Star Trek. (It worked so well for ST that they did it multiple times.) The first time i saw this in 1970, i darned near cried. You know you are invested in something when you want it to be restored, which Julia, Barnabas and a couple of writers just couldn’t pull off.

    The tendency of Dark Shadows to change rules is a tribute to the less than stellar writing. The last i heard a vampire can not be overcome by zombies, but here we have Barnabas restrained (and presumably killed?) by them.

  3. So on to 1840, where what we already suspected is proven beyond all doubt – that the Quentin & Daphne pairing is more boring than dirt.
    Selby should have demanded more scenes with that fantastic Virginia Vestoff and Kate Jackson should have begged for more scenes with that phenomenal Jim Storm.
    Actually, everybody should have begged for more scenes with Jim Storm.

  4. Coffin storage made Quentin extra moist and juicy; he doesn’t dry off until the last scene. (And like I said before, no locks or anything on the casket, which Barnabas actually removes from the grave before opening!)

    Guess when David waved the flag twice, the zombies managed to dig up to an inch or so below the surface, so when Gerard waved “officially”, they were all ready to go. And for such a small group, they do a terrific job at demo!

    Does anyone know what that red thing in the foyer is? Looks as though it’s made of wicker. And I’m thinking the fall of debris was supposed to be sooner, before the camera panned up to Julia – and the canvas holding it was supposed to be hoisted up immediately. But of course, this was a “one-time” take, so they couldn’t go back and reshoot it.

    I don’t recall any charred dollhouse in the 1995 playroom. And are Carrie, Tad, Hallie, David, and Daphne all ghosts again? Well, Carrie and Tad are, because we see them in 1995, and shouldn’t Mad 1995 Quentin still have been pining for his lost Daphne? And (I swear I’ll drop this now) the 1970 debris field doesn’t look like the 1995 wreckage. I suppose some settling occurred during shipment.

    But all in all, it was satisfyingly apocalyptic. And with bright hopes that they’ll finally be onto a winning storyline, Dark Shadows forges on into “The Past”. Again.

    1. ” … Does anyone know what that red thing in the foyer is? Looks as though it’s made of wicker. …”

      Good eye, Lieutenant! And an intriguing question. The red thing doesn’t look familiar at all from previous episodes. I hadn’t noticed the odd red object until you mentioned it. Now, what things would have been made of wicker? Or of rattan? … a chair or settee? … a baby carriage?
      
      Maybe it’s a leftover from Todds’ Antique Shop? Possibly an antique baby carriage from the 1890’s to take a pet *peccary* for a leisurely stroll down Main St., Collinsport, before the unfortunate creature took a bite out of its owner’s hand one day, and was then handed over to the town taxidermist for stuffing. *Poor pig weasel.* ;-)
      
      I would think the red thing must be some old prop that Sy Tomashoff didn’t give a hoot if it got destroyed in all the mayhem. Unlike the grandfather clock, which he would have been quite concerned about, and which is most definitely the finest of the various antiques featured on the show.
      
      Sy surely would have suffered conniptions had something happened to that clock. I suspect the half dozen or so actors playing the pirates were warned not to lay a finger on that fantastic grandfather clock!
      
  5. Notice how the zombies don’t touch the grandfather clock in the foyer — you’d figure that would be among the first items to be toppled. Can’t recall if they had it leaning at an angle in the Collinwood of 1995.

    By the way, episode 2 had a total of 18 actors including extras — the Blue Whale was very crowded the night Joe Haskell picked a fight with one of Carolyn’s dance partners and Burke Devlin stepped in to stop it.

    Episode 207, John Karlen’s second episode, also had 13 actors — another crowded night at the Blue Whale for the knife fight between Willie and Burke: besides the six credited cast members, there were two couples at the tables and three men at the bar including the bartender.

    1. Fairly early on the Whale suddenly gets a lot less crowded. The early episodes also have more one episode characters. Eventually if a new character had more than two lines with an established character they’d be important to the plot, like Donna Friedlander (Chris kibble) or Buffie in Parallel Time (TV hoarder). Even poor Mr Wells got this treatment, another serving of Chris kibble.

    2. Unless Quentin is setting it back upright, the grandfather clock is still in place in 1995. Evidently zombies have respect for a quality antique.

    3. Most of the props that were “destroyed” by the zombie pirates were things we’d never seen on the show: the wicker chair, the wooden blinds, the drapes; and did you notice that the two electric bulb candelabras that are normally placed on either side of the main doorway are missing? Also, we don’t see any of the drawing room being ransacked. In fact, we don’t see the drawing room at all in this episode.

      Anyway, I think Sy Thomashoff just bought some stuff from the Salvation Army store for this episode.

      1. BTW, the electric bulb candelabras are present for the first few days of 1840, until somebody on the set realized the bulbs should be candles.

    4. That Grandfather clock is scary. It always reminded me of those ill tempered apple trees in the Wizard of Oz – you pick one of their apples and they’ll slap you.

    1. Lovely edit, Bob! At first I thought it was an outtake from the show I’d missed. Almost makes you ache for the show that might have been. But in a spook show, it’s thrills and chills over character and story. After all, one can only build a roller coaster with a certain design and shape.

  6. This episode especially reminded me of some recent films I’d seen on MST3K (BRIDE OF THE MONSTER and THE UNEARTHLY). There really is a “B-movie” feel to the show right now, which is in a weird way sort of awesome — it veers from film noir, to Universal horror, to Hammer and then Ed Wood.

    I also love that one of the pirates/zombies rips up drapes. It’s not like monsters destroying a home, it’s like drugged-out rock stars wrecking a house.

  7. I always fantasized a scene of Barnabas escaping his captors by changing into a bat then grabbing Willie in Bat form and flying the heck out of there.

      1. Well, they sure forgot something — Mrs. Stoddard and David. You’d have thought Carolyn would have gone for her mother and Mrs. Johnson for David. Or is David still what’s his name? And what about Hallie, who had no grave in 1995? There are more loose ends dangling at the end of 1970 than there are bits of wreckage in the foyer and drawing room combined. Wasn’t Carolyn still possessed by Leticia? Oh, never mind…

        Dark Shadows still has great set designs and music to the very end, and, mostly, good acting performances.

  8. Nice nod to “Folsom Prison Blues,” Danny.

    The writers seem to have forgotten that a pack of zombies really wouldn’t be much of a threat to a vampire at night. Not unless they were wielding crucifixes, garlic, or the like.

  9. In Jim Storm’s interview, he claims that there was a wrong cue for the wrestlers to begin, and the ep played out of scene sequence. I suppose it was fixed for the DVD, but what actually happened first? The comedy version?

  10. When they finally managed to send the kids to Windcliff, the ghosts just hitched a ride,

    They’re one year past the opening of The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. They should know to “beware of hitchhiking ghosts!”

  11. Gerard grabs Quentin by the throat and tosses him away, and he goes to the window and raises the green flag, and he waves it three times

    Why didn’t he wave that flag in the first place?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s