“Do you know that I’m shortly going to be a martyr to our blessed family name?”
Life was fun
Life was great
‘Til I made my big mistake
Oh no, it’ll never happen to me
“Really, my good man, there is more to life than one monster’s power over another’s.”
In today’s episode of ABC-TV’s Dark Shadows, the utterly haunted Collins family of 1841 Parallel Time actually goes ahead and holds the lottery that they’ve been talking about for weeks and weeks, with a dramatic reveal and an off-screen high-speed chase, which should probably be attended to at some point. But the great thing about 1971 Dark Shadows is that even if I take the day off today to talk about something else, they’ll still be there tomorrow, doing more or less the same stuff. That has not always been the case on this show, but is definitely the case now.
So you won’t mind if I allow Gabriel to slip quietly out the door for the day, while I tackle another task that has been personally haunting me for months: the second installment of the Parkerverse continuity.
“Whatever they know, I’m afraid it’s a great deal more than we care to imagine.”
You know, people say that Dark Shadows storytelling is slow, but just look at Gerard and Lamar; it was only yesterday that they even thought of looking for secrets in Ben Stokes’ diary, and now here they are, all the way downstairs in someone else’s house, tearing into the architecture.
“It was during the witchcraft trial,” Ben wrote improbably, “that the Reverend Trask made his last trip to the Old House. He made the mistake of finding the secret in the basement.” Upon reading this, Lamar Trask remembered hearing something bumping behind a brick wall a few weeks ago, and less than one minute later, he and Gerard have broken and entered the Old House, stormed to the cellar, and banged on a brick wall with a hammer and chisel, and now — ta-dah! — they’ve uncorked it, the co-star of The Cask of Amontillado.
And here he is, the Reverend Trask in skeleton form, hanging on a hook behind a pile of bricks, just like he was when they unveiled him last time, in spring 1968. I don’t know how many times they’re planning to unimmure the same guy; at a certain point, you ought to just leave him upstairs in a glass case and charge admission.
“It is a metaphysical attempt on my part to expand man’s natural horizons, that’s all.”
He’s not mad, really, just disappointed, and he’s also not a scientist, so how he ended up getting involved with mad science is anyone’s guess.
“Now, Gerard,” says Quentin Collins, “what would you think if I told you that by going up those stairs, you could actually travel in another time?”
Gerard is nonplussed. “Well, I’d say you were having a minor pipe dream.”
“But it’s true!” Quentin declares, with no elaboration. “This is my Staircase In Time.” Then he starts walking up the stairs, and nothing happens.
“For mother, the cards are blank. For me, they throb with life!”
Number one: The playroom. Right?
“Whatever it is that’s drawing you there, I hope it doesn’t harm you.”
Roger Collins wakes up, somewhat the worse for wear. He’s in a hallway, and his head hurts. He tries to take stock of his surroundings, but these particular surroundings are difficult to stock-take. Why is he on the floor?
A friend is standing nearby. He looks up at her, and moans, “Julia, what are you doing here?”
“Elizabeth said I could come and see the architecture in the east wing,” she chirps. “It’s very interesting.” Roger tries to assimiliate this information into his current worldview.
The problem is that he’s got a couple big holes punched in his memory card, one labeled Killer Octopus from Outer Space and the other Oh My God That Nice Woman from the Antiques Store Is a Vampire. Between them, that pretty much sums up everything that Roger’s experienced in the last couple of months; everything else is just make-believe visits to Bangor-on-Business, which is imaginary.
He tries to narrow down the problem, and lands on location. “The east wing?” he scowls. “Did you say the east wing?”
“Yes, Roger,” she says.
He shakes his head, and exclaims, “Well, what am I doing here?”
“Well, now, Roger, I’m sure you have a very sound reason,” Julia says, as she helps him to his feet, “but blows on the head have a way of making people forgetful.” Then she pats him on the arm, and encourages him to go talk about it somewhere else.
“Death runs faster than any man.”
A memo from young Icarus to his father, re: altitude. What are you talking about, Dad? These wings that you made from feathers and wax are working great. Why do you say that I’m flying too high? You’re supposed to fly as high as you can, that’s the whole point of flying!
And so, as Icarus sinks slowly in the west and learns some valuable lessons about swimming, let’s turn to Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis. In defiance of good taste and common sense, Dan has turned his poky little soap opera into a five-alarm spookshow spectacular, delighting the teenagers and housewives of America with larger-than-life characters, hair-raising plot twists and inventive special effects. The ratings are still climbing, which makes Dan wonder: What can I do for an encore?
Today, we see Dan’s first answer to that question — Dead of Night, a primetime pilot for ABC that tried to adapt the Dark Shadows formula to an hour-long nighttime drama. Dan produced this pilot in late 1968, with several members of his Dark Shadows family — director Lela Swift, writer Sam Hall, composer Bob Cobert, and actors Thayer David and Louis Edmonds.
ABC finally broadcast the hour-long pilot in late August 1969, because they’d already paid for it and you might as well. While he’s been waiting for it to air, Dan’s scaled his ambitions up even further — he’s currently pursuing a deal with MGM, to make a Dark Shadows film. So before that kicks off, it’s useful for us to take a look at this pilot episode, “A Darkness at Blaisedon”, and see Dan’s first attempt to bring Dark Shadows to a wider audience.
Constructed haphazardly out of feathers and wax, Dead of Night introduces a trio of new characters — psychic investigator Jonathan Fletcher, his live-in chum Sajeed Rau, and the beautiful young heiress Angela Martin — and throws them onto a haunted house set, to see how far they can fly. Icarus, you are cleared for takeoff.
“You have never been willing to admit to yourself that I might have feelings.”
Aristede smiles, as he tightens the straps around Quentin Collins’ wrists. So far, the plan is working out just fine. The razor-sharp axe is suspended by a rigged-up pulley system that allows it to slice in a nice, clean arc. The gears are timed to lower the axe slowly, inch by inch, until it reaches the helpless body strapped firmly to the wooden table. And Quentin will be trapped, watching the blade as it descends inexorably in the direction of down. Unfortunately, it’s still uncertain at what point this turns into anything but a crafts project.
Aristede wants the Legendary Hand of Count Petofi, a powerful artifact that Quentin does not have. And there’s nothing that Quentin can do to help Aristede obtain it, especially not when he’s tied down to this horological murder machine.
The big idea appears to be that Aristede is going to go to Angelique, who actually does have the Hand, and tell her that Quentin only has thirty minutes to live. As the pendulum swings closer to Quentin’s midsection, Angelique will gladly give up the Hand in exchange for her friend’s life.
Now, obviously, he could achieve exactly the same results by just locking Quentin up in a closet and telling Angelique anything he wants. That would have saved him all that time and expense, and probably two trips to Home Depot. This just looks like a whole lot of hassle to me.
“Every day, he becomes more like a mortal man… and no mortal man can spoil my plans.”
Barnabas Collins, drained of blood and low on get-up-and-go, has fallen to the earth. His ex-wife Angelique has been all up in his neck recently, and he’s got to get away before she turns him into the living dead for like the third time in a row. So we’re in the middle of a tense low-speed chase through the woods, as he tries to drag himself to safety before the sun sets.
Girl governess Victoria Winters finds him, because they suddenly have some kind of deep mental bond, and why not? Vicki’s standard emergency protocol kicks in, which means that she parks herself eight inches away from the patient and hollers reassuringly at him.
“I have to get you to Collinwood, and then we’ll find Julia!” she cries, but he insists that won’t help.
He moans, “I want you to take me someplace where no one will find me,” and guess where that turns out to be.
She says, “There’s a secret door to the west wing of Collinwood, which no one’s used for years!” And, for Pete’s sake, didn’t he just say that they shouldn’t go to Collinwood? This television show may need to invest in a few more locations. You can’t keep treating the west wing of Collinwood like it’s Mexico.
“Look, I’m not carrying anybody’s will but my own, and I’ll prove that to you!”
A summer crush is always fun, isn’t it? As we’ve been heading into June 1968, I’ve talked about nothing but Professor Timothy Stokes, occult expert and storyline accelerator. Over the last week, Stokes has taken the lead in five straight episodes — completely taking over the Dream Curse storyline, and sticking his nose into the Adam plot as well — and he’s done it using the sheer power of being smarter and more interesting than anyone else. He’s clearly a Dark Shadows star in the making.
But sadly, this is actually his peak moment for a long time. After one more episode later this week, Stokes is going to fade back into the chorus for a while. He has a little run of episodes in mid-July, and another in October, and besides that, he just pops up periodically over the next year. He doesn’t make it into the top tier of essential characters like Barnabas, Julia, Angelique and Quentin, who must have a major role in every storyline. So what happened?