Episode 1241: Frid’s Final Battle

“Don’t become a part of this Collins madness!”

At the top of the show today, Bramwell Collins lets himself into Collinwood, where he doesn’t live and isn’t particularly welcome. Walking nonchalantly into the drawing room, he observes Kendrick Young, silent and drawn.

“Good evening, Kendrick,” he says. “Well, after what I’ve heard about you and Melanie, I would expect you to be more cheelful.”

Well, nobody’s particularly cheelful, here in the final week of Dark Shadows, but that line read gives me a little smile, at least. In a matter of days, cataloguing Dark Shadows bloopers will no longer be one of my responsibilities, and I’m going to miss it very much. Creative writing is stressful, and on the days when my work doesn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, you can’t imagine how bracing it is to append at the bottom a long list of other people’s mistakes.

Through these years of watching and writing about Dark Shadows, there’s always been a consistent supply of mangled dialogue to keep me alert and give me something to think about. Barnabas was usually good for a phrase or two of Fridspeak whenever I needed it, and when he faded into the background a bit during the 1840 storyline, Gerard more than made up for it. These days, Gerard has passed the torch to Morgan, who can usually manage a scornful “Brutus!” or “Bramwell!” and then falls to pieces.

In general, Jonathan Frid as Bramwell has been a lot steadier in his lines than he used to be playing Barnabas. In the early days of this storyline, he was practically word-perfect, especially in scenes with Catherine. He’d specifically demanded a more romantic, non-vampire role, and when they gave him one, he made sure to show that he appreciated it.

For four years, Frid has been on this exhausting treadmill of having to learn and deliver a complete half-hour script several days a week, and that chore will soon be behind him. Many of his castmates will continue to work in afternoon television for years, but Frid is done. He’s going to be in an off-Broadway production of Murder in the Cathedral in a few weeks, and he’ll do a couple of forgettable horror movies over the next couple of years. After that, he’s going to take a long break from acting, and go and live in Mexico for a while, where nobody asks him to memorize anything.

But today, right here in the home stretch, Gordon Russell gives Jonathan Frid a continuous run of conversation that starts before the opening theme, and runs to halfway through act 2. He’s going to talk to Kendrick, and then Catherine, and then Morgan, and then Julia — essentially, four dialogue-heavy scenes in a row with no break. I don’t know if they did this to him on purpose as a farewell prank, but they’ve been writing for this guy for four years now and they should understand the limitations.

Happily, Frid’s not the only one who’s a mess in this scene, so I get to write one more blooper-appreciation post, before I turn in my tools.

In act 1, the fun begins with camera #1, which decides that it’s tired of being off-screen every day. As Bramwell asks Kendrick why he participated in the lottery, the camera glides into view past the drawing room doors.

I know that’s camera #1, because there it is behind Bramwell when they go in for a close-up.

Bramwell offers Kendrick some advice, after taking a look at the teleprompter: “Don’t become a part of this Collins madness. Take Melanie, and… take her as far away from here as you can.”

“Obviously, Bromwell, you haven’t heard the news,” Kendrick says. He calls him “Bromwell” through the whole scene; I don’t know why. “Melanie had another attack. She’s locked in the tower room. Shortly after it happened, Julia and I saw the ghost of Brutus Collins, right here in this room.”

“The ghost of Brutus Collins!” Bramwell scoffs. “Now, surely, you don’t imagine that you’ve imagined that.”

Kendrick says, “I blame myself for what happened,” and there’s a little burst of studio noise: some footsteps, a chair scraping on the floor, and somebody clears their damn throat. I don’t know who’s been doing this every day for the last three weeks, but I wish they’d either write him into the scene, or tell him to knock it off.

Catherine comes in at this point, and does the same dumb thing that she always does: puts herself in a compromising position, in order to complain about Bramwell putting her in a compromising position. Kendrick leaves the room, and Catherine hisses, “What are you doing here?” and then closes the doors, to make sure that everyone knows she’s having a private conversation with Bramwell.

She’s worried, because if Morgan sees them together, he’ll be very upset, so instead of walking away and letting somebody else handle it, she wants to have a conversation about it. Meanwhile, Bramwell insists that he’s not here to see Catherine, but as long as she’s here, he insists that she come and meet him tonight at the gazebo.

He tells her that if she promises to meet him at the gazebo, then he’ll leave before Morgan sees them, but then Morgan does see them, and Catherine still feels compelled to meet him at the gazebo anyway. This is just another example of why I’m sick of these two.

“Well, it’s important — it’s essential that you see me!” Bramwell says, and it’s probably not either of those things.

Then they screw up the music cue. Bramwell says, “Nine o’clock at the gazebo!” and Catherine says, “Yes, yes, now please, get out of here!” and the music goes dunn-dunn-DUNNNNN! as it so often does.

And then Bramwell goes to the doors and opens them, and there’s Morgan, just as the scene fades out.

Now it’s act 2, and we’re into Bramwell’s third scene in a row. Morgan excuses Catherine, and then he closes the drawing room doors, which is just rude; we all know that camera #1 is out in the foyer, clearing its throat and trying to attract our attention.

“You couldn’t have been more responsible for your wife’s death than if you’d taken a pistol and shot her down dead,” Morgan spits.

“So now murder has been added to the — my list of crimes,” Bramwell observes.

“Yes,” Morgan sneers. “I was on my way to the Old House to shoot you down like a common criminal, but Catherine persuaded me not to.”

“Well,” Bramwell says, “I must express my gratitude toward — to her.”

“How contemptuous you are,” Morgan says. He probably means “contemptible”.

Morgan walks across the room and stands behind the sofa, for some reason known only to the director. The camera tries to pick up this pointless bit of blocking, and it bumps into something, causing it to wobble.

Bramwell says, “If that’s what you want to believe, I will not try to stop you. But I know you so well. I know how easily — jealous that you can get.”

Then they do some more B-grade blocking. Morgan stands right in front of Bramwell and bellows that he should leave the house, and Bramwell bellows right back, “I will leave on orders from the head of the house, and that isn’t you!”

“No, it isn’t,” Morgan yells, “but that does not stop me from bodily throwing you out!”

Then Morgan grips Bramwell by the arms, and Bramwell grips Morgan right back…

Which looks silly, even for this ridiculous show.

And then Julia opens the doors and walks in, interrupting the struggle. I don’t know why they bother to close the drawing room doors, if people keep opening them and interrupting the discussion anyway. Julia tells Morgan to make himself scarce, and now it’s time for Bramwell’s fourth conversation in a row.

At this point, Bramwell is mostly delivering his dialogue to the camera; he has five lines, and he looks at the teleprompter six times.

Finally, he says, “Now, I want to go and see Julia — at least, to go and see, uh, Flora. Is she here?”

Julia says, “Yes, she’s in her room, and resting, and doesn’t want to be disturbed. Why do you want to see her?”

But now he’s turned around and can’t see the teleprompter anymore, and Grayson Hall, who has been acting with this man for four years, just goes ahead and delivers his line too. “To tell her the funeral arrangements, I expect. All right, you can tell them to me.”

And then, mercifully, we cut to another scene, and Jonathan Frid lives to fight another day.

Tomorrow: Cancel Culture.


More Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

There’s a whole new camera fault today; one of the cameras shows a yellow stripe down the left side of the picture.

Melanie screams, “You never intend to let me out of this room!” Kendrick takes a long pause, before saying, “Do you know what the lottery is?”

Kendrick says, “Julia, I felt there might be some hope.” She answers, “Well, there isn’t…” and then looks at the teleprompter. “And there isn’t, and there won’t be!” she continues.

Tomorrow: Cancel Culture.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

30 thoughts on “Episode 1241: Frid’s Final Battle

  1. “Now, surely, you don’t imagine that you’ve imagined that.”

    “Yes, I imagine that I’ve imagined that, and don’t call me Shirley.”

  2. “Obviously, Bromwell, you haven’t heard the news,” Kendrick says. He calls him “Bromwell” through the whole scene;

    This appears to be a John Karlen acting affectation: in 1897 he calls his girlfriend “Ponzie” instead of Pansy, as though she were a pyramid scheme.

    and somebody clears their damn throat. I don’t know who’s been doing this every day for the last three weeks, but I wish they’d either write him into the scene, or tell him to knock it off.

    You may have figured out how Gordon Russell got his part in the final episode.

  3. Frid, at least, is consistent. But when pros like Hall, Karlen, and Barrett start screwing up you know they just don’t give a crap anymore. And who can blame them? They can see the firing squad assembling in the courtyard.

    How did Frid support himself for the 95% of his post-DS life when he wasn’t working? I’ve heard that his family was big in construction and that he had some sort of inheritance or stipend from them but I don’t know if that’s true.

  4. “…we all know that camera #1 is out in the foyer, clearing its throat and trying to attract our attention.”

    I’m really glad nobody saw me nearly do a spit take of my own while reading that line, Danny.

    Honestly I hadn’t watched these episodes in about 20 years, and watching the final weeks again now they seem even worse than I remembered. I miss the vampires and werewolves!

  5. Frid didn’t want to be typecast. So he insisted on taking off the fangs, in order to avoid being associated with a specific genre.

    Well, it didn’t work. He could have accomplished the same thing – being typecast as a horror actor – by continuing to play Barnabas. The only difference would be that he would continue to receive a paycheck.

    “In a matter of days, cataloguing Dark Shadows bloopers will no longer be one of my responsibilities, and I’m going to miss it very much.”

    I wasn’t even here for all the years you wrote the blog. But I’m gonna miss it, too.

  6. That pesky, throat-clearing Camera 1. So annoying! And the lottery plot line is nearly as tiresome as the Dream Curse was. Come to think of it, they may actually be tied in that category.

    On a different note, I’m in total agreement with Danny about how good Jonathan Frid was at the beginning of PT 1841. He really was a joy to watch.

  7. The camerawork has gotten decidedly wonky. But I would like to give a shout-out to the final camera set-ups that appear under the end credits every episode. Considering that they could have just used a still photograph of Seaview Terrace, these images are uniformly interesting and stylish.

  8. “How contemptuous you are,” Morgan says. He probably means “contemptible”.

    Possibly Morgan does; but Bramwell is being pretty contemptuous. (You might be imagining that you’ve imagined that. Perhaps there isn’t, and there isn’t and there won’t be.)

    And no, there is literally NO reason why Cathy & Bram MUST meet at 9 o’clock. It’s a stupid risk that he takes (and that she agrees to), especially when her husband is watching her so closely

    1. and knows how easily jealous that he can get.

      Julia chides Bramwell for coming to the great house, saying that he should have had Josette relay the funeral arrangements. But didn’t Julia recently ‘request’ that Josette never come to Collinwood again?

  9. Blrgh. I hadn’t acted in a decade until about a year ago, when I agreed to do some community theatre with a few friends. Oh, man – I forgot how difficult memorization is and always has been for me. My sympathies to the cast of DS! My students complain about having to memorize little bits of text (they’re high school students, after all, and complaining is their birthright), and I tell them all the time I feel their pain, and then I tell them they’re lucky they aren’t given a 20 page script with their character spitting out long, melodramatic monologues on Monday night and then have to come back Tuesday morning with it memorized. I can’t imagine living with the kind of stress that must have haunted Jonathan Frid for four freakin years. Plus tours and Bozo and that cute little elephant he was photographed with … okay, so maybe the elephant gave him a bit of a break. I’m sure it pulled some focus. It was wearing a hat, as I recall.

    1. Compare and contrast what Barnabas looked like four years previous to what Bramwell’s closeups are showing in these final days. Yes, DS definitely has taken a lot from him. No wonder he wanted to have some time away from that, though in the long term it probably cost him the career. It’s kind of surprising that he didn’t do any guest star work – – would have been fun to see him on Charlie’s Angels, Dallas, or Falcon Crest with his old costars, or maybe a cameo on OLTL.

      1. John, I would have loved seeing Frid on Falcon Crest as one of Richard Channing’s business rivals. I could see Frid teaming up with Margaret Ladd’s Emma for some really good scenes. Falcon Crest became more and more removed from realistic fiction as time went on, but I really loved the show.

        1. I wish Frid had done more. I don’t know what it is about actors not wanting to be typecast into similar roles. Character actors bring so much to the shows they are in. Look at Christopher Lee. He did pretty well and eventually got more interesting roles.

          I would have liked seeing Frid show up as a guest on Fantasy Island. … but not Love Boat.

      2. Jonathan Frid would have done better on primetime TV. His anxiety about getting his lines right would have eased up knowing he could count on retakes. Still, I do love Frid Speak and all the other bloopers. It’s that very imperfection that makes Dark Shadows so dear to me.

    2. A point well taken. Also, with only one writer on the show, and a line producer who was doubling as one of only two directors, how far in advance of shooting could the scripts possibly have been ready? The afternoon before would seem like a very ambitious deadline under those conditions.

    3. The problem was that Frid was well known for “going up” on his lines even in the theater after considerable rehearsal. His final legit show–a production of Mass Appeal–reportedly had some very uncomfortable performances. (In a panel appearance, Dan Curtis cracked, “Jonathan could go up in the middle of his own name.”)

      Actually, in reading Danny’s quotes above, it occurred to me (yeah, backseat driver) that many quicker-witted actors could have gotten through those first awkward goofs. “So now murder has been added to the — my list of crimes” could have easily been turned into, “So now murder has been added to the list of my crimes.”

      “Well, I must express my gratitude toward — to her.” Frid could have kept on going with toward: “Well, I must express my gratitude toward her.” Not great but passable.

      “If that’s what you want to believe, I will not try to stop you. But I know you so well. I know how easily — jealous that you can get.” This could have been, “I know how easily you get jealous.”

      My point is not to make further fun of Frid but to note that it’s not so much his memory but his ANXIETY about not knowing his lines that seems to be tripping him up and accounting for his lurching “Fridspeak.”

      Oh, and I laughed my ass off at this post.

      1. Some actors, like Louis Edmonds, have the ability to quickly recover from misspoken lines, sort of like a race car driver pulling out of a skid. Others, like Jonathan Frid, freeze up and start stumbling when things go wrong. I suspect it’s an instinctual thing, either you’ve got it or you don’t.

  10. OK, bear with me here. In universe, it is canon that there was a 20th century TV camera in the foyer during that conversation. Maybe it’s not really 1841. Maybe in this timeline they’re filming one of those PBS historical series, and people have been recruited to live the way members of the PT Collins family did in 1841. “This week on 1841 House: Gabriel experiences the limitations of mid-19th century medical care after an accident with a sword, and in the ultimate act of passive-aggressiveness, Daphne dies out of shear spite.” During pledge, they’ll run fundraising appeals to get the next season of Never Too Young, the long-running soap that was saved from cancellation when they decided to add a character who was a vampire.

    1. I feel like, a long time ago, Danny said something about DARK SHADOWS being a reality TV show, and maybe no one is really a vampire at all.

  11. The scene between Julia and Kendrick outside the tower room irritates me intensely. Kendrick’s whole role has been that of Insistent Questioner; Julia’s whole role has been that of Secret Keeper. We are led to expect a climactic moment when the Secret Keeper realizes she must disclose the most closely guarded secret of all to the Insistent Questioner. We’ve seen the two actors together so much over the last few years that we can reasonably expect that scene to be great, in spite of everything else about this period of the show.

    But they don’t show it to us! All of a sudden Kendrick just knows about the lottery. We might have had a turning point in the plot that could establish Kendrick as a big enough hero that we can take him seriously as a potential curse breaker and a turning point in the relationship between Julia and Kendrick that could lead us to rethink all the Julia/ Willie, Magda/ Carl, and Hoffman/ Will scenes. Instead, we get this pointless little moment of dampness.

    On the other hand, I do agree with Verneaux about the image under the closing credits. That vase with the slips next to it would be at home on the wall of a very distinguished gallery. It’s good to see that even the demands of serving simultaneously as line producer and the only competent director on the show hadn’t worn down Lela Swift’s abilities as a visual artist.

  12. Finally, Melanie/Amanda clarifies her role. She has become Brutus’ servant. It appears Amanda is one of the lamest ghosts. Her sole power is to be able to possess Melanie. Unfortunately Melanie is the weakest member of the Collins family. That’s why she is such an ineffectual assassin. If only Amanda had the power to possess the strongest man…..such as Quentin. Then she’d be able to beat up and kill everyone with a knife one at a time. As it is, using the easily overpowered Melanie body has only resulted in getting locked up without a weapon. Yes, I know……that’s one of Amanda’s proven skills which she took advantage of in those 160 years she was locked in the Accounting Room of Death. I’m not really sure that makes Amanda/Melanie much of an asset. It doesn’t really help fulfill any prophecy nor advance the curse in any way.

    Kendrick Young (not a Collins, but now an official member of the family with all the prestige and all the privileges of entering all the family lotteries. It appears the PT version of RT Jeff Clark/Peter Bradford has taken possession of Kendrick, what with all that constant yelling. It made me wonder. Did the actor with the loudest volume get a bonus? I wouldn’t doubt it!

    1. I thought the scene between Kendrick and Melanie in the tower room was really good. John Karlen may shout a lot as Kendrick, but unlike Roger Davis he manages to project complex emotions while doing so, and in this scene he keeps hoping that a little bit of Melanie will come peeking out through Amanda. For her part, Nancy Barrett commits completely to playing Amanda’s unyielding rage. The result is a heartbreaker, probably the best use they ever made of the Tower Room set.

  13. I guess we can fanwank that Amanda, under Brutus’ evil influence for longer than James (possibly using his ‘potions’ on her, or mesmerism) so that Brutus could exercise control over her spirit, but not over James’.
    Of course James also wanted to see the Collins family fail, so the ends for both were the same, if not the means.

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