The next installment of my review of the sadly short-lived 1991 Dark Shadows revival series. The story line is still following the general plot of the film House of Dark Shadows, but that’s not going to last much longer.
Episode 5: Dr. Hoffman’s Disastrous Jealousy
Barnabas’s courtship of Victoria Winters continues. Similar to the character in the film–as opposed to in the original series–this Barnabas Collins demonstrates that he’s aware that the best way to win the affection of the young lady he believes to be the reincarnation of his lost love isn’t to kidnap her and lock her up in the basement until she believes she’s Josette. Dinner dates will get him much farther.
Giving Vicky Josette’s music box as a gift after one such dinner does a lot too. Even better: asking her to dance the minuet to the music-box tune. It’s a lovely, romantic moment. Barnabas mightn’t have done badly to propose right then, but instead he prefers to wait to pop the question until he’s completed his treatment and is fully human again.
Unfortunately for him, Vicky plays the music box in her room the next morning as she wistfully looks back on their evening. Dr. Hoffman, who’s still living at Collinwood, hears the music and learns where Vicky got it from. After a conversation a couple of episodes ago, Julia had mistakenly imagined that Barnabas would give this significant present to her himself.
Even though Julia must know that they’ve had several such dinner dates in the past weeks, it comes as a surprise to her to learn that Barnabas has a romantic interest in Vicky. When Willie shows her the portrait of Josette and tells her about Barnabas’s plans, the doctor goes over the edge. Jealousy not only makes her stupid–it makes her a bad scientist who screws up her own groundbreaking research.
Declaring in her journal that that “a certain young woman” is hindering the success of the experiment (but you know what she’s really on about), Julia’s response to the situation is to alter the serum she’s been giving Barnabas to try and keep him at the same not-quite-cured level. She hopes to sustain this until Barnabas gets over his infatuation for Vicky.
Well, that won’t work, since Barnabas is already impatient to be cured of his vampirism. And Dr. Hoffman doesn’t realize just how stubborn he can be when he’s clinging to a romantic ideal.
Over in a subplot, Carolyn decides to go after her late cousin’s boyfriend. Joe Haskell’s not ready for a new girlfriend just yet. It’s only been a couple of months since Daphne was horribly and brutally murdered–twice! Joe found her body the first time, and witnessed her being staked the second. Not to mention his being Daphne’s victim during her brief existence as a vampire. None of this stops Carolyn from asking him to take her for a ride on his boat (which is named after Daphne, by the way).
While they’re out at sea, she attempts to beguile him with a can of Spam and a bag of chips, then climbs on him while he’s sunning on the deck.
These flirtatious overtures don’t go over as well as her cousin Barnabas’s do. Joe tells her firmly and emphatically No, removes her from his chest, and takes the boat back to port. But no hard feelings. Before they return to Collinwood (where I think Joe is still living too while he’s been recovering from Daphne’s bites), they stop for a bite at the Blue Whale. Joe likes a whole lot of ketchup on his hamburgers.
As Maggie Evans watches Carolyn wipe some ketchup off Joe’s face, she suddenly has a psychic flash of future events: Carolyn will be attacked by an ancient, red-eyed monster with blood on its mouth.
When a storm breaks over Collinsport that evening, Vicky is caught at the old house. Barnabas invites her to spend the night. She’s a bit reluctant, misunderstanding the kind of sleepover he’s suggesting, until he offers her Josette’s room. That is too tempting for her to pass up. Although, once she’s upstairs and wearing Josette’s nightgown, she doesn’t look as if she’d mind if he stayed in Josette’s room with her… and is maybe even a little disappointed that he doesn’t.
Barnabas is facing another, different kind of temptation. He goes all vampiry for the first time in weeks and even stands over Vicky’s bed as she sleeps, then runs out and wakes up Willie Loomis to chain him up in his coffin and go and fetch Dr. Hoffman.
He knows now that the doctor’s been holding back on his treatment–and even realizes why. Not that he appreciates her feelings nor her interference in his personal life. He says that their experiment is finished, but insists that she give him the final dose to cure him before they’re through.
Dr. Hoffman agrees. But if you’ve watched a lot of old horror movies, you know that look on Barbara Steele’s face means that something horrible is about to happen. She tampers with the serum before she injects it.
While everyone else was out running around in the pouring rain in the middle of the night, Vicky slept peacefully in Josette’s bed, unaware of all the goings-on. She wakes to sunny morning and comes downstairs to have breakfast with Barnabas, but doesn’t even have time to enjoy the cinnamon toast that Willie made specially for her.
Barnabas notices the first effects of whatever it was Julia injected him with: his hands have become withered and wrinkled. His face hasn’t changed yet. Vicky is escorted home, bewildered by being sent away so abruptly when she thought she and Barnabas were having such a nice time.
Willie’s other errand once he’s over at Collinwood is to get Dr. Hoffman.
She refuses to come.
This is where the revival series plot diverges from that of House of Dark Shadows. It’s at this point in the movie, when Barnabas turns very old and realizes that Julia has betrayed him, that he embarks on a killing spree that wipes out nearly everybody in the cast, leaving Jeff Clark to go play Vampire Hunter with a crossbow. But Jeff Clark isn’t in this new series, and the rest of the cast has to go on living so they can carry on the story.
It’s Carolyn, sent to the old house a little later that morning by her mother, who stumbles upon Barnabas looking his actual age, which is well over 200. The makeup is pretty good, but we only see it during this one scene. He pounces on Carolyn and brings her down like a leopard attacking a gazelle on the drawing-room carpet, has a deep and reviving drink of blood, then howls in heartrending despair at the hell he’s fallen back into.
The wrinkled face and hands of Old Barnabas dissolve away. He’s young again, but at a price. He can no longer bear the sunlight coming in through the window. His reflection has disappeared from the big mirror on the wall. He smashes the mirror and orders Willie to draw the curtains.
Before he flees to the cellar for the day, he has to take care of Carolyn. He calls her to him, and recites a sort of incantation to bind her to him: “Blood of my blood, kin of my kin. Soon you will walk with me as my partner of the night. You will come when I call, and do my bidding.”
The thing Carolyn will help him with is getting his revenge on Julia Hoffman. “She did this. She will pay.”
Episode 6: A Costume Party, a Ouija Board, and a Seance
Willie helps Carolyn clean up and takes her back to Collinwood, where she’s a bit spacey but informs her mother that, yes, Barnabas will be attending the annual Collins family costume party that evening.
I’m not crazy about this series’s version of Willie Loomis, but he did make me laugh:
“Boy, Barnabas, it’s too bad you can’t see your- self in the mirror anymore. You look terrific!”
Barnabas doesn’t look happy at this compliment, but he does look great in late 18th-century costume.
Actually, almost everyone at the party wears 18th-century clothes and all of them–with the exception of Willie–look fabulous.
Little ghost-Sarah stands up on the gallery, watching the festivities with delight. I suppose if anyone notices her, they take her for the child of one of the party guests; there’s quite a crowd of Collinsporters and old family friends.
Now that he’s reverted to being a vampire again and, knowing that he can’t control himself around Vicky, Barnabas is resolved to distance himself from her for her own safety. They don’t get to dance another minuet that evening, and Vicky is confused and disappointed. She’s wearing a dress of Josette’s that he gave her.
Dr. Hoffman is likewise confused–not only that Barnabas appears quite well after whatever she did to him, but that instead of paying all his attention to Vicky, he and Carolyn are whispering together and obviously sharing some secret.
She watches them closely all during the party, suspicious and wildly curious, but her one opportunity to ask Barnabas what’s going on isn’t reassuring.
“I am what I was,” he tells her curtly. “What I will always be… Scores will have to be settled.”
Barnabas certainly doesn’t want to continue the experiment, and who could blame him? Would you trust this woman to give you injections?
After the party, when most of the guests have gone, the family gathers with a few close friends–Maggie, Joe, George Patterson–to play with a Ouija board. Everybody’s still in their period costume.
Roger’s at his best with this type of occult game and gets in a good quip or two before everyone settles down. It’s the sheriff who first asks the board a serious question: “Is the person who caused all that trouble still in Collinsport?”
The Ouija board answers: YES
“Is it someone we know?”
The board answers YES again, or at least the planchett doesn’t move, so they next try asking it for an initial.
The Ouija board answers: C
That initial belongs to a lot of people in the room, but Barnabas begins to get a bit nervous when George asks the board to give them a first name; he stares hard at Carolyn until she dashes the board to the floor and runs out, putting an end to the game. Party’s over.
The next day, still following instructions from Barnabas, Carolyn goes antique shopping* and purchases a circa-1800 medical box with some of the old bottles of medications still intact. One contains arsenic–which has probably lost some of its kick over the last couple of centuries, so she has to put a nice, big spoonful into Dr. Hoffman’s tea that afternoon.
David, warned by Sarah, runs into the drawing room and knocks the cup out of the doctor’s hand in time, but Julia is now wary. Carolyn coming into her room that night to try and stab her in bed only makes the danger more clear.
Julia heads over to the old house to confront Barnabas. I tend to think of her as smarter than he is, but she actually asks him why he’s doing this like she can’t imagine what’s made him so angry.
Barnabas is forced to be explicit, getting all the more angry as he does so, until he loses control. Julia is about to get bitten and probably killed–when Sarah intervenes.
After giving her vampire big brother a good talking-to about behaving himself and not going around biting people, as she did in the original series on a similar occasion, Sarah then delivers a warning, which wasn’t in the old show: Unless all that happened is changed, Barnabas and everyone at Collinwood will be lost forever. Someone must go back.
Before anyone can ask what this means, Angelique shows up, floating like a Vorlon out of its encounter suit. Little Sarah wisely disappears.
Not that they’re exactly on friendly terms now, but both Barnabas and Julia are aware of the nature of the evil that threatens everyone and they agree that they need to understand what Sarah was talking about .
Since they don’t seem to know how often she shows up to chat with David, they decide that a seance is in order to contact her.
Julia gets Maggie Evans to help.
It was at this point that I realized that I’d done the same thing with this Maggie that I’d done with Kenneth Branagh about halfway through Murder on the Orient Express: Since he was nothing like any version of Hercule Poirot I was familiar with, I’d stopped trying to think of him as that character and he became the detective in this movie. This woman bears no resemblance to any Maggie Evans I know, so I’d begun to think of her as Roger’s psychic girlfriend. It’s not like I have any special affection for this actress because we have the same name.
Another stormy night at Collinwood, and everybody gathers around a table in the drawing room for the first official seance of the show. Roger gets in a few more quips, to the effect that if he’s going to summon up a spirit, he’d rather talk to Abraham Lincoln than to a little girl. But it’s Sarah the others mean to focus on. Her miniature portrait is placed on the table, and Vicky has the big book of Collins family history.
Sarah doesn’t appear in person, but speaks through Vicky. She repeats her warning: Everyone will die unless “someone goes back” to change things.
When the lights come on, Vicky’s gone and in her chair in her place is another young woman, a stranger in somewhat muddy and tousled condition wearing old-fashioned clothes. She immediately faints.
They take her upstairs and put her to bed. While Dr. Hoffman examines her, Roger reads a letter she’s brought with her. Dated April of 1790, it’s a recommendation from her previous employer, introducing her as Mistress Phyllis Wicke and speaking very highly of her character and work as a governess. The envelope is addressed to Joshua Collins.
So, if Miss Wicke has taken Vicky’s place in 1991, does that mean that Vicky is in 1790?
“Yeah, that’s where she is,” David comes into the room and confirms.
*The owner of the antique shop is played by Charles Lane. I was surprised to see that he was still working as late as 1991; he appeared regularly as a multitude of different characters on I Love Lucy and seemed to be half of the clients for McMann & Tate on Bewitched.