Episode 1124: We Had Faces

“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.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

35 thoughts on “Episode 1124: We Had Faces

  1. I will say it again: Donna Wandrey has the loveliest skin I’ve ever seen and bless the directors for those tight close-ups. The actors were all so young and even the beauteous Kathryn Leigh Scott and Laura Parker had their blemish-y days. And don’t talk to me about Hallie’s skin–a mess. But not Donna. In terms of mise-en-scene (pardon my French), I believe the director is scrutinizing her exquisite face through Trask’s eyes–hence getting closer and closer on them to emphasize his demonic fixation on her. Let’s not forget that the spurned Trask will play a decisive role in the somewhat laughable but affecting last two episodes of the 1840 arc. As for the Desmond close-ups, no f—ing clue.

  2. I love the overripe elements of the1840 plot line where the actors seemingly have a sense that they are approaching the final hurrah. Jerry Lacy and John Karlen acting with extra gusto (and a few extra pounds which give them some gravitas) and my favorites Grayson Hall and Nancy Barrett in scene after scene together.

  3. I think you are right with DS overdoing the close-ups. Those are most effective in making a point at a crucial moment of the story…showing intense concentration, anger, or love. But not repeatedly. Of course DS was trying these things out for the first time more-or-less, and it’s easy to be judgemental after almost 50 years of film photography evolution

  4. The Very Close-Ups aren’t so bad on clear-skinned young folks with dewy skin, but they can be pretty unforgiving to character makeup or actors over forty.

          1. Liked Carol’s ‘Joan Crawford’ in ‘Mildred Fierce’ better, but Nora Desmond IS a classic.
            Nora: Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaax!
            Max:
            Is that you, Madame?

        1. And no matter how many times I’ve seen it, I still get a chill when Max tells Joe that he was “Madame”‘s first husband. Such a great film!

  5. If the eyes are the windows of the soul, then the windows of Lamar Trask could do with a few wipes of Windex. Windex — another work saver from Drackett.

    The dark shading under the eyes, on Dark Shadows that ghoulish touch is typically reserved for vampires, such as when Barnabas was in his kidnapping of Maggie phase or newly transformed vampires like Dirk Wilkins.

    It’s to symbolize a shade of evil. Notice now how Barnabas doesn’t have that shading now, because he’s on a benevolent mission.

    But Lamar Trask is something else — that’s why I think they pull in close on Lamar’s eyes when he talks about evil having many faces, to emphasize a touch of irony. The vampire in the room isn’t the evil one; judging from the behavior toward his fiance, it’s the pious undertaker who has the greater capacity for darkness.

    Come to think of it, didn’t the other two Trasks also have a similar devilish black shading around the eyes?

  6. I can’t remember if the other Trasks were shaded, i think they were the only (very vague) reference to religion in the series and were all cast as evil hypocrites. In order to keep the character of Barnabas, he had to be redeemable on some level. You are spot on with the observation that Frid’s make up was much less ominous. It made him less fearsome.

    1. For sure, Gregory Trask was an opportunistic hypocrite but I think original Rev. Trask was sincere in his religious beliefs. He was infuriatingly (marvelously) dramatic and heavy handed in his judgmental proclamations and we all hated him for treating Vicky so bad but all of that was because of Angelique’s manipulations. Rev. Trask knew there was a witch in the house – he was right.
      I don’t find Lamar to be evil either. He’s just awkward and kind of a pedantic bore. But as far as potential boyfriend material, he’s got Barnabas beat hands down.
      I love Jerry Lacy and was always delighted when he showed up in all his incarnations, including Tony Peterson. Trask the Butler could have been interesting if they’d developed that storyline.

  7. “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.”

    That’s right, and besides, these are the days before closed captioning. If the hearing impaired cannot see the lips, how are they supposed to have a prayer at knowing what the characters are saying?

    1. The Blake’s 7 episode Voice from the Past has a character whose head is wrapped in bandages most of their screen time (clearly the budget ran out on convincing mummy head), and between that and the cod awful accent the actor puts on you can barely understand what he’s saying. Shivan makes Bane from Dark Knight rises a perfect example of how to do RP.

  8. I was starting to think I was the only one getting REALLY peeved by the XCU – It’s particularly annoying when they just keep zooming on EVERYONE in the scene; loses all the potential for tension that it’s supposed to be creating when there is no reason to be getting THAT close to the actor. (It’d be great to have someone actually flinch away as the camera hit them, but I think they did that one on Benny Hill…) There are moments where XCU is perfectly acceptable as a camera technique to heighten drama in a scene, but just using it as a gimmick is distracting. I suppose we’re fortunate that they weren’t zooming in that close on people’s mouths; ooh, guess who had the spinach salad for lunch! (Eeew!)
    That said, this actually WAS a time when that was used fairly effectively.

    On another note (so to speak) – Lamar sure seems to have bided his time in revealing this letter from his dad, hasn’t he? Came to Collinsport, opened a business, courted Miss Shaw, and is JUST NOW getting around to the forty-five year old reason he came here in the first place? Shouldn’t the letter have been from 1795-6? Wouldn’t Reverend have been dead a year by 1797? (Maybe the missive was delayed; you know how bad the posts are.)

    And I’m sure I just missed the episode with the explanation for WHY Leticia is staying at Collinwood. Long lost British cousin? Came to investigate what REALLY happened to Suki Forbes forty-five years ago? I-Ching? Also has some grudge against Quentin, and is packing a gun in her garter? Moon poppy sales rep?

    1. She’s staying with Flora and Desmond in Rose Cottage, a companion for Flora who Gerard brought with him when he came to Collinwood. Leticia is there to help Flora with her inspiration.

      1. I knew I just missed the reason.
        And she’s not ticked off that he’s married some other bird? Or is she intent on grabbing another Collins for herself…Desmond, perhaps? Of course, she could always just make a play for Daniel, but he tends to get strangly around girls…can we consider Quentin to be available now (well, legally available, I mean)?
        And doesn’t Daniel change his will back so that Quentin again gets the estate, and Samantha gets some pittance – thereby invalidating the whole reason for Gerard marrying her?
        (Sorry, probably jumping a little ahead of the plot.)

  9. Apparently, the eyes have it… a decade earlier, Ernie Kovacs was experimenting with those extreme close ups. “Operation from a patient’s point of view” sketch, just one example from his eclectic 1961-62 series of videotape specials. Kovacs himself would keep his eye on the end of each special. Literally. An extreme, extreme close up only on Ernie’s right eye as he would “wink” (?) goodnight to the viewer. He was also doing those wavy dream sequence visuals in “Street Scene”, “Anticipation Of Romance”, videotape cameras and editing just as difficult for him as it would be for “Dark Shadows”. Kovacs was an interesting person. We lost him way too soon.

  10. I am reminded of the scenes in Tootsie when I see these extreme closeups. (Dustin Hoffman played a female soap character in drag.)

    Director (Danny Coleman) : Now go in for a closeup.

    Producer (Doris Belack): Not too close.

    1. Producer (Doris Belack): “I’d like to make her look a little more attractive. How far can you pull back?”
      Cameraman: “How do you feel about Cleveland?”
      Producer: “Knock it off.”

  11. Danny, I must disagree with your assessment about Abe Vigoda being one of only two DS cast members more famous for something other than DS. I imagine Kate Jackson must be the other one you’re thinking of, but surely Marsha Mason qualifies. How about Conrad Bain as Mr. Wells at the Collinsport Inn? He surely gained far, far more fame for his roles on Maude and Diff’rent Strokes. And I believe one can make excellent arguments for both David Selby and John Karlen fitting into that group as well. Selby gained a great deal of attention for his longtime role in Knots Landing, and Karlen even won an Emmy for his also-longtime role on Cagney and Lacey. More debatable arguments can be made for one or two others as well.

    1. Wayne, I agree with you about David Selby; not to quibble, but he was on Falcon Crest, not Knots Landing. I liked both Lorimar shows, but there was a world of difference between them.

      1. Yikes! You’re absolutely right about that. As they say, “My bad.” I was never a fan of either show (KL or FC), anyway — I don’t believe I’ve seen a single episode of either one — so they tend to blur in my mind. 😉

        1. Understandable. David’s character of Richard Channing on Falcon Crest reminded me very much of the 1897 Quentin in that he had an acid tongue and, along with Jane Wyman, had some of the funniest lines on the show.

  12. Guess it is only fair to clarify: the operation from a patient’s point of view sketch is better remembered simply as “Operating Room”, set to Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite”. There is also a kaleidoscope video (black and white television, yet!) set to “Through The Looking Glass – The White Knight”. Ernie Kovacs, like “Dark Shadows”, was creating a kind of television that nobody else was even thinking of, in either of their eras. There do seem to be more than some passing similarities in video presentation… even Kovacs was working with early Chroma Key!

    So, for good or ill, Had Kovacs been alive and Dan Curtis asked him to step in and direct here and there (Curtis was losing interest at this point, the occasional guest director could have meant good publicity and a boost to ratings), we might have been witnessing extreme eyeballs for the better part of the half hour! One can only imagine. Certainly would have been memorable.

    1. Ernie Kovacs was a genius. I have a few compilations of his work; maybe it’s time to dust them off and give them a view.

  13. I like this version of Roxanne. She had spunk, as did Samantha. I wish we could have had a few scenes of the three Drew siblings trading notes on the Collinses and the mayhem going on around them. They were really onto something with them — more than I think they realized.

    1. I, Claudius, remember it well. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

      Our ABC affiliate was having severe audio problems with the feed they were getting from the network; it sounded like a loud vacuum cleaner! I had to wait until a week later when another station aired the episode on kinescope with sound intact.

      1. So you had one station showing DS in color and another showing it with a week’s delay with a black and white kinescope? Did you know or wonder why? Was it in a different time slot?

  14. Not a fan of eye acting. As one poster mentioned here, it’s okay every once and a while but it became ridiculously abused by the final months of the series. Although not credited at the end of the episode, (consult the DS episode guide book from Kathryn Leigh Scott’s Press) this particular show was directed by the all time worst director in all of DS History. No, I don’t mean Sean Dhu Sullivan, (aka Jack Sullivan) but every actors worst nightmare, the abominable Henry Kaplan! The constant zooming in on the eyes, and cutting off the heads became even worse toward the end of the run thanks to dear old Henry. If you review Kaplan’s episodes you will see that he overly abuses this technique in every show he did, and it was horribly amateurish. Dan Curtis didn’t care anymore by this time. He admitted he couldn’t wait to get out there and end the show during the last year. He was no longer putting his stamp of approval on things, and by now it was clearly evident. But he did do one right thing before ABC swung the ax. Dan had fired Peter Minor and put Lela Swift in the producer chair. A move that he should have made a year earlier when Robert Costello left. If you have ever been to a Festival, practically none of the actors had anything nice to say about Henry. Especially Karlen. He was overly critical of the actors performance and would rate them a score at the end of the day while they were in their dressing rooms. Lela Swift was the shining talent of the production run, and her shows rarely ever lop off the heads during scenes. The production of Shadows was at it’s best during the B/W episodes before the color cameras came in and they had zoom lenses. I much prefer the pushing of the camera into the scene as it gets the viewers more involved in the suspense and drama of the scene at work. When the zoom lenses came in, the production got shoddy as time went on. Also notice after Robert Costello left as producer in spring 1969, the camera work got more hectic and the zooming started to become a daily practice.

  15. What is going on with Letitia’s hair?? It looks like they plopped a bird’s nest on top of her head. Why isn’t her hair up like proper 1840s woman? A young girl wears her hair down and presumably Letitia’s a woman of the world. So . . . . ?

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