“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.
— Danny Horn