“There will be a knock on the door, a man will enter, and before he leaves this room, I will know where my body is.”
So here we are, having a nice conversation with Roxanne of all people, when the door opens and in walks Lamar Trask, descendant and undertaker. This Trask is just as judgey and accusatory as all the others, and he has an old letter that he claims will prove once and for all whatever it is that he thinks he’s talking about.
Barnabas tells him to put his letter away and stop bothering people, but Trask insists. “Evil has many faces, Mr. Collins!” he announces, and then the camera pulls allllll the way in for another one of those terrible too-close close-ups that they’ve been doing for the last few months. It’s been happening since the 1995 storyline, and I have to admit it’s killing me.
I mean, what is the point of this? Yes, the eyes are the windows of the soul, but the thing that’s talking is the mouth, and we might as well get it in frame, since that’s a pretty crucial part of the entertainment.
At this point, it would probably help if I had some kind of film-crit analysis about the use of the extreme close-up in movie history that would explain why the Dark Shadows directors are suddenly super into people’s eye shadow, but I don’t. I have a bunch of random examples, but they will not help us in any way.
Like for example Jack’s eyes in Titanic, when he’s drawing Rose’s portrait, which indicates how hard he’s concentrating; it draws us into an intimate embrace between artist and subject.
Or there’s this shot of Clint Eastwood as the Man With No Name in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, as Angel Eyes shoots him a look, which reinforces the deep connection between the characters.
Or this shot of Caesar from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which is meant to emphasize the human-like intelligence and cunning of the ape leader.
And then there’s this shot of Desmond Collins from yesterday’s episode of Dark Shadows, which indicates that Desmond is listening to somebody talk, and they’ve decided to save money on scenery.
And in today’s episode, they really make a meal out of the extreme close-up, as Trask tries to hypnotize Roxanne just by looking at her really hard.
“Your eyes are veiled, Roxanne!” he observes, as the camera pulls in tighter on his face. “Filled with secrets! They weren’t that way before!”
And then we get a look at Roxanne’s eyes, which don’t look particularly veiled as compared to anybody else’s. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she says.
“Your evasions!” he counters. “Over the attacks — and over that man!”
Back to Roxanne, who says, “Lamar, one has nothing to do with the other!”
And then we’re on the move, pulling in closer as Trask says,
“No one said they did —
“No one but you!
“What did you mean by that?”
And then back to Roxanne.
“Roxanne, look at me!” Trask orders, and she does —
as we pull in for an equally extreme close-up on her.
And then back to Trask, who’s speaking in a soft but commanding voice, ordering her to tell him what she knows.
And back to Roxanne, who takes a breath —
and then finally snaps out of it, with the camera pulling back as she snaps out of her mini-trance.
Roxanne cries, “No!” and turns away, as Leticia storms in, asking, “Is he bothering yer, ducks?” And now it’s a scene about whether Trask is bothering Roxanne’s ducks.
So, okay, I can see what they were going for in that sequence — Trask was badgering her so intensely that it was supposed to be almost hypnotic — but still, that’s almost a full minute in the world of the extreme close-up, and that’s not what was happening when Trask was yelling at Barnabas about faces a few minutes ago.
They’ve discovered a new toy, apparently, and for whatever reason they’ve decided to use it a lot. Executive producer Dan Curtis is a huge fan of the gimmick shots, and House of Dark Shadows was full of them — shots from above, from below, across the candlelight, and through the rungs of a ladder — and now somebody has decided that the extreme close-up is the hot gimmick.
Personally, I would allow it for these borderline hypno-moments, where it kind of works, but beyond that, I would suggest we stick to regular close-ups and try to keep the mouth in view whenever possible. All in favor of that proposal, say — oh, never mind.
Tomorrow: Things You Say to Otis Greene, Deceased.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
The opening narration says, “This night, with Quentin, Desmond and Leticia, Flora has read the tarot cards for Quentin.” Leticia wasn’t there, it was Daphne.
After Roxanne tells Barnabas, “I hated being sick,” there’s offscreen banging, a couple footsteps, and then a scraping sound. Then someone in the studio loudly shushes the noisy person.
Trask announces, “It seems that at Collinwood at the time, there were these same mysterious attacks.” I’m pretty sure he means Collinsport.
Trask tells Roxanne, “You have admitted that you remember little. But that is not true.”
Leticia says to Trask, “You believe in it now, aren’t you?”
Trask tells Leticia, “I want to know where my bother — my father’s body is.”
At the beginning of the episode, Desmond says in thinks that Otis will arrive at ten o’clock. When Otis arrives at the end of the episode, the clock on the table says nine.
Desmond asks Otis, “Was your family involved in the trials?” Otis answers, “They were,” just as Desmond shouts, “I asked you a question, Mr. Greene!”
Behind the Scenes:
Otis Greene is played by Abe Vigoda, who’s one of the two Dark Shadows cast members most famous for something other than Dark Shadows. Vigoda only appeared in three episodes — as Greene today, and as comedy silversmith Ezra Braithwaite in two episodes in February 1969. Both characters die in their first appearance. After Dark Shadows, Vigoda appeared in the 1972 film The Godfather and its 1974 sequel. Starting in 1974, he appeared in the sitcom Barney Miller as Detective Phil Fish; in 1977, he starred in a spin-off called Fish. People Magazine incorrectly reported that Vigoda was dead in 1982, beginning a string of “Abe Vigoda is dead” hoaxes and jokes that lasted until his actual death more than 30 years later, in 2016.
Tomorrow: Things You Say to Otis Greene, Deceased.
— Danny Horn