In my recent viewing of Dark Shadows, I can see a major shift of plots coming up. The Eve story is winding up. The tale of Nicholas Blair as evil mastermind is also drawing to a close. New characters are being introduced.
Worst of all, one of the episodes on the last disk I watched began with a voiceover announcement: “The part of Victoria Winters will be played by [someone else].”
Noooo! I knew that Alexandra Moltke wasn’t going to be around much longer and had half-decided that I’d stop watching and reviewing this old show when she left unless there was something interesting to keep me around. But the moment has finally come. The show is about to lose its plucky and strong-willed, if not terribly bright, frequently abducted heroine.
It’s not the first time an actor has been substituted shortly before the character is removed from the show. Burke Devlin, for example, was played by Anthony George instead of Mitchell Ryan in the final weeks before his plane crashed in the Amazon and Jeremiah Collins was shot in the face by Barnabas in a duel. The actor playing Julia Hoffman’s doctor friend was also replaced a few episodes before he was murdered. Alarmingly, Nancy Barrett was replaced as Carolyn Stoddard for just one episode a little while ago and I was afraid that would be the end of her–but she returned to her role the next time Carolyn appeared; I wondered if she had called in sick that day and they had to find a quick replacement. It’s a bit weird seeing a new face on a character you’ve come to know well, kind of like not knowing if Dick York or Dick Sargent or some guy you’ve never seen before is going to be Darrin this week.
Anyway, the final storyline picks up after the murder of Eve. Angelique finds Adam hiding out in the woods and tells him how Nicholas has been using him. She wants his help in destroying Nicholas.
I’m not sure what she needs Adam for. To destroy Nicholas, Angelique calls upon the Powers of Darkness to banish him. Psychedelic fires rise up and consume her and, for a moment, I thought that her plans had backfired and she was being blasted into Hell herself. Well, she does go to Hell, but it’s only for a short visit.
A deep, booming voice declares, “You have summoned me. Why?” and when Angelique doesn’t answer immediately, she’s transported into what looks like a cross between a fancy Chinese restaurant and a smoke-filled office in a cave, with twisty sculptures, exotic-looking wall decorations, and a black-cloaked figure seated at a large desk. This would be the Master whom Nicholas and Angelique have alluded to from time to time. He’s meant to be the actual Devil, but they call him Diabolos; that’s the name that appears in the credits.
Angelique rats on Nicholas, telling the boss how Nicholas’s scheme for creating a master of race of artificial people has failed now that Adam has wound up killing Eve. She also tells Diabolos that Nicholas has fallen in love with Maggie Evans. Love is forbidden among the satanic set, and this love affair has made Nicholas inattentive to his evil duties.
Back at Nicholas’s house, Dr. Hoffman has come to tell him about Eve’s murder. Jeff has been arrested since Eve’s body was discovered in his room. Dr. Hoffman knows that Adam is the one who did it, but she also knows that he can’t be arrested and hanged for the crime because of Barnabas. On the other hand, she doesn’t want Jeff to suffer for a crime he didn’t commit. She makes Adam feel guilty, since Professor Stokes did manage to instill some sense of decency into him before he fell under Nicholas’s influence. However, she doesn’t particularly care about Eve’s death–after all, the doctor, Stokes, and Barnabas were plotting to get rid of Eve themselves just a few episodes ago before Eve could launch her evilness upon the world.
I have to note Eve really didn’t do anything evil during her brief life. She was bitchy to Adam and ruined Vicky’s and Jeff’s wedding, but on a soap-opera scale of wickedness that’s barely enough to register.
After Dr. Hoffman leaves, Maggie comes to the house. She seems a little dazed and confused about why she’s there, and we soon see why: She’s possessed. Collapsing on the sofa, she begins to speak in that deep, booming Diabolos voice and tells Nicholas that his judgment is approaching. “Prepare.” Better get a good lawyer. His trial will be at midnight.
When the appointed hour arrives, Nicholas faces his superior alone and manages to talk his way out of being banished for the time being. His plan is to have Dr. Hoffman run the experiment again and create a new bride for Adam. They already have a body ready, if they can get hold of Eve’s right away.
When he broaches this to Julia, she refuses at first. It’s only when he says that, if she doesn’t, he has no further use for Adam and will kill him–and thereby destroy Barnabas too, that she reluctantly consents. This time, Maggie will provide the spark of life.
Nicholas has worked out a plan by which he can get to have Maggie. He wants her to undergo a Black Mass and become one of his coven or whatever; then they can get married and live happily and evilly ever after.
Earlier in the day, we were introduced to one of those new characters I mentioned above. Joe Haskell, who’s been recovering in the hospital after his suicide attempt as well as his flipping out and trying to strangle Barnabas, has a visitor. It’s Tom the Vampire! No, it’s only Tom’s twin brother Chris.
Chris Jennings is looking into his brother’s death. He seems especially interested in the idea that Tom was bitten by some kind of animal. The Jennings boys also have a little sister; they say that her name is Molly during this scene, but when we meet her a few episodes later, she’ll be Amy. After Chris leaves, Joe tells a nurse that his cousin had an abrupt personality change a few years ago, dropped out of college, stopped seeing people, and went up to live in the mountains. This being the 1960s, we might infer that drugs and perhaps a hippy commune played a part in Chris’s change of lifestyle… except that we cannot forget which show we’re watching. The explanation will of course be much weirder than turning on and dropping out.
When Nicholas sees the unpossessed Maggie the next day, he repeats his proposal; this time, she accepts. News of their engagement doesn’t go over well with Maggie’s friends, and the new so-called Vicky heads over to the Blair house to confront him. Deciding that Vicky will be an obstacle to his plans, Nicholas retaliates by going down into the basement and prying up a slab in the floor. Underneath is a coffin and, inside it, his emergency back-up vampire.
Fortunately for Vicky, and happily for me, Tom’s resurrection is short-lived. Barnabas has just come home from the hospital that day and happens to be at Collinwood when the badly acted young vampire climbs in through Vicky’s bedroom window to attack her. Barnabas recognizes this vampire as the same one he staked not too long ago and manages to drive him off. He finally tells Vicky something about the vampires at Collinwood, referring to “the curse of the living dead,” which I’m pretty sure was a zombie movie.
This new Vicky does not have the makings of a Slayer in her, and it’s up to Barnabas to finish off the job again. While Nicholas is out fetching Eve’s body from the morgue, Barnabas sneaks into the house and finds the empty coffin. Armed with a crucifix, he confronts Tom just at daybreak and prevents him from returning to the coffin and exposes him to the sunlight. Let’s hope he’s not coming back again after that.
Then it’s Barnabas’s turn to tell Nicholas to leave Maggie alone. They have this amusing little exchange, when Barnabas accuses Nicholas of having “diabolical” intentions for Maggie.
“Marriage?” says Nicholas. “How is that diabolical?”
Given Barnabas’s ex-wife Angelique, I’m sure he knows just how diabolical a marriage can be. And he’s right; there is a diabolic element to Nicholas’s treatment of his intended bride.
There’s a complicated bit of business with an ancient Egyptian cup that Nicholas says used to belong to Cleopatra, but the point of it is that he drugs Maggie’s champagne. This makes her amenable to whatever he suggests and the next thing you know she’s wearing a white dress and a little veil on her head like a lacy scarf, but the ceremony he performs with her is that Black Mass, not a traditional wedding. Few weddings involve the bride lying down on the altar.
Nicholas declares her “My bride for all time” as well as one of the Damned, like him. Then he takes her over to the old Collins house, where everything is set up in the basement for Round 4 of the experiment.
For some reason, it’s Barnabas and not Julia who fiddles with the knobs on the electrical equipment this time, and perhaps that’s why things go horribly wrong. You need a properly trained mad scientist for this kind of experiment to work out, and have to trust that she or he won’t flip out in the middle of it. As Barnabas does.
In the midst of all the blinky lights and zaps and the rest of it, Maggie screams. Eve lifts one hand as if she is coming back to life… and then suddenly she becomes that skeleton with the firm jaw that also stood in for the walled-up Reverend Trask and the skeletal bride in various nightmares. Only this time it’s wearing a wig in the same shade and style as Eve’s hair.
When Maggie awakes, she can’t remember anything, even who she is. Dr. Hoffman is back to where she was when she first appeared on the show–trying to help her patient recover her lost memory.
Adam is furious over the experiment’s failure and blames Barnabas. In spite of Nicholas’s efforts to restrain him, he leaves the house and is last seen at Collinwood, heading up the stairs presumably to kill Vicky in revenge. I’d be more worried about her if she were still the Vicky I liked but, as with the whole incident with Tom the Vampire, I don’t care what happens to this new girl.
Nicholas thinks that if he can get another dead body right away, he can try the experiment one more time. He goes to the graveyard to see if there are any freshly buried young women–but it’s too late. Diabolos has had enough and Nicholas disappears in a psychedelic blast.
That’s it except for one scene I’ll mention since I’d heard about it and knew it was coming. In the very earliest days of Dark Shadows, the innkeeper at the Collinsport Inn was played by Conrad Bain. He disappeared from the show a long time ago, but he’s back again for one episode in which Chris Jennings comes to the inn. Chris requests a room with no windows, so that he can’t see the full moon that night, and asks the innkeeper to lock him in and not let him out until morning. The innkeeper ignores this second request and, overcome with curiosity at the sounds he hears inside the locked room, opens the door. He is promptly attacked and killed by a werewolf.
So now we know what Chris’s big personality-altering secret is, although there’ve been plenty of clues in his few scenes so far. But I’m not very interested in the further adventures of Chris the Werewolf.
This DVD ends with one last interview with Alexandra Moltke as she talks about her son, her career mostly behind the camera since leaving Dark Shadows, and her thoughts on the character of Victoria Winters.