7th Annual Favourite TV Show Blogathon – Dark Shadows – Episode 702 (1969, dir. Henry Kaplan)

I’m 759 episodes into Dark Shadows so there’s only another 470 episodes, two movies, a 90s’ reboot done by the original show’s creator Dan Curtis, and a failed 2003 pilot to go. It’s been quite the journey. What started as a black-and-white small-town soap opera has morphed into colourful tales of Gothic horror. There was always a hint of otherness present in the show right from the beginning, but it was there in the background in the hallways of the big house called Collinwood and the feeling that the family that lived there were hiding some terrible secret.

The main storylines which dominated the early days of Dark Shadows were relatively simple and revolved around two strangers who met on the same train to Collinsport. Victoria Winters (Alexandra Isles) has recently been hired as a governess to look after young David Collins (David Henesy), but there are hints somebody might have an ulterior motive for bringing her to town. Victoria was brought up in a children’s home and has no memory of her real family. Burke Devlin (Mitchell Ryan) is returning home having left in disgrace some years ago after serving time for manslaughter after causing a fatal car accident. Now he’s made his fortune and returned to take revenge on the man he blames for his imprisonment, Roger Collins (Louis Edmonds).

By the time we get to 702 both characters are long gone having both been recast then eventually written out completely. Their initial storylines were never finished and it seems unlikely they will be resolved in the remaining episodes. Dark Shadows main protagonist now is the vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid), whose first appearance was slowly built up to with references to a creepy painting of him as a young man in 1797 which hangs in a hallway in Collinwood, Then when he’s inadvertently freed from his coffin by petty thief Willy Loomis (John Karlen) he returns to his former home claiming to be a cousin from the London branch of the Collins family tree.

Why choose episode 702 over all of the others I’ve watched? There’s been a lot of good storylines in Dark Shadows and some really unsettling moments, notably the whole of the Laura the Pheonix story arc in which the mother of young David Collins (David Henesy) returns after many years to reclaim her child, but she’s not what she seems, “That’s not my mother.” But 702 is the episode when I realised how much of an influence Dark Shadows has had on Twin Peaks. The strange occurrences in a small town and soap opera elements of the early episodes had already alerted me to this, but later on we get actors playing several different roles, buddhist mythology, demonic possession, haunted paintings, a ring that carries meaning, and the protagonist travelling back in time to try and avert a tragedy. I don’t know if David Lynch or Mark Frost ever saw Dark Shadows but it must have been on in the background when they were kids.

In the episodes leading up to 702 David Collins and his friend Amy (Denise Nickerson) have been playing in the old abandoned west wing of Collinswood and disturbed the ghost of Quentin Collins (David Selby). In one of the show’s most terrifying moments they answer an antique telephone that rings despite not being plugged in. The children become possessed by the spirits of Quentin and former servant girl Beth (Terry Crawford), and David becomes seriously ill. Barnabas discovers I Ching wands Quentin used for black magic and attempts to use them to contact his spirit but instead sends himself back into his body in 1897, meaning he’s trapped inside a coffin, and Quentin and Beth are alive. The episode ends with a scene mirroring his first appearance on the show, a grave robber looking for spoils but finding only the hand of a vampire clasping his throat.

This time the intruder is Sandor, played by Thayer David who so far has been the busiest actor on the show playing four different parts. Dark Shadows had a half hour run-time and typically they would deal with around two or three storylines in the short time available. Here we have Barnabas finding himself in 1797, Quentin forming an alliance with Magda (Grayson Hall), and the fragmented nature of the Collins family as it’s matriarch lies close to death.

Scene 1 – Barnabas Awakes

Sandor has broken into the Collins family mausoleum looking for jewels he believes could be hidden there. Seeing the chained up coffin he assumes something must be hidden away in there, something nobody wants to be found, and he’s right. A hundred years ago Barnabas was entombed by his father Joshua Collins (Louis Edmonds in his 2nd role) who was horrified at his son’s transformation into a vampire. Having awoken Barnabas the terrified Sandor draws his sword only to realise there’s no point trying to fight a dead man who’s just climbed out of a coffin.

Scene 2 – The Inheritance

Magda visits Collinwood to see the dying Edith Collins (Isabella Hoopes) for what she assumes will be the last time. Quentin surprises her and offers an alliance. Magda’s a tarot cards grifter and Quentin assumes she’s been fixing her readings to swindle Edith. He offers her 1/10th of his inheritance should she able to use her influence his grandmother into forgiving him for his past indiscretions.

Scene 3 – A New Familiar

Having bitten Sandor Barnabas has now brought him under his control. He’s perplexed when Sandor tells him he lives at the Old House, which in 1969 is his home. Then it dawns on him. He wanted to communicate with Quentin and I Ching magic sent him to a place where he can. He resolves to find out all he can about Beth and Quentin while he’s back in the past. Sandor wonders why Barnabas keeps talking about time. “There are many times. You only have to find them.”

Scene 4 – After Edith

The longest scene follows on from scene 2 with Quentin quizzing Magda about her offscreen meeting with Edith and if she mentioned anything about a terrible family secret. “I have no prejudice against your kind.” For a reprobate who practices black magic and is planning to defraud his family, Quentin does at least have not being a bigot in his favour. Their talk is interrupted by Judith (Joan Bennett, in her third role), Quentin’s sister, who’s not best pleased to see her errant younger brother return to the fold, nor Magda visiting her grandmother. After practically pushing the gypsy woman out of the door Judith offers her brother money to leave town but Quentin wants something else, to see his young nephew Jamison Collins (David Henesy again).

Scene 5 – The Future Past

A brief scene taking Barnabas back home to the Old House. Barnabas is hit with a weird sense of nostalgia having grown up here in the late 1700s’ and lived here again as a vampire in 1969.

Scene 6 – Meet Jamison Collins

Quentin has a gift for his nephew, an expensive-looking model ship. There is a powerful bond between Quentin and Jamison and Judith disapproves thinking he will lead the boy to ruin. Judith wants Quentin gone, but the boy is adamant he must stay. Quentin’s possession of David in 1969 seems related to his affection for his nephew. Amy claimed in an earlier episode Quentin intended to turn David into Jamison.

Season 7 – An Unwelcome Guest

In the final scene Magda returns to the Old House to find her husband Sandor with Barnabas. She recognises him from the portrait in the hallway at Collinwood, but Barnabas deflects her questions. He’s a bit OCD about the house though, complaining about the mess and wondering where the painting of Josette (Kathryn Leigh Scott) has gone. A knock at the door and Quentin turns up wanting to finish the conversation Judith interrupted earlier. Barnabas gets a look at Quentin for the first time as he hides behind a door watching as Sandor and Magda try and get rid of this unwanted visitor. After Quentin leaves Magda quizzes him about Barnabas. They both believe in the supernatural and seem to have encountered such creatures before. “He has the mark of death on him..” and then she notices the bite marks on her husbands neck. Episode 702 ends in true soap-opera style with a cliffhanger.

I will have to continue my journey through Dark Shadows to see how these storylines will develop over the course of the show. At the moment I’m still in the 1897 time period so I have no idea how these storylines will be resolved, or if they will. Maybe Barnabas never returns to 1969, maybe I’m a few episodes away from it happening. Or maybe he ends up somewhere else or becomes someone else. At this stage anything seems to be possible.

This post is an entry in the 7th Annual Favourite TV Show episode blogathon run by Terence Towles Canote at his site A Shroud of Thoughts.

Dynasty – The Titans (1985, Irving D. Moore)

This post is part of the Cool Rider Blogathon run by Pale Writer dedicated to the work of Maxwell Caulfield. An actor whose developed a cult following in recent years thanks to a growing appreciation for two films, Empire Records (1995, Alan Moyle), and Grease 2 (1982, Patricia Birch). Neither film was considered a success at the time but over the years both have deservedly undergone a reappraisal. I’ve chosen to write about arguably his most famous role, Miles Colby and the character’s introduction in the first six episodes of Dynasty leading up to the The Titans, the crossover episode which would launch the spin-off show The Colbys.

Dynasty had ended its fifth season in with a massive cliffhanger dubbed The Moldavian Massacre which saw the fate of every character on the show left hanging in the balance after terrorists armed with machine guns put the windows in at Prince Michael’s wedding and left everybody on a pile on the floor. Apparently there were a lot of contracts up at the end of season five and this storyline gave the producers an out should any negotiations prove problematic. The Shapiros proved ruthless when it came to killing off or replacing characters. In the end it turned out there were only two casualties, and all of the main players returned. Though viewers would notice two new faces in the opening credits sequence.

The season six opener Aftermath follows on from the events in Moldavia but it also sets up The Colbys by introducing us to Fallon Mk II (Emma Samms) and Miles Colby (Caulfield). Fallon was last seen in the form of Pamela Sue Martin losing control of her car and heading towards an oncoming truck. Now she’s in Los Angeles having lost her memory. She’s drawn to a photo in a local newspaper of a handsome young polo player but it’s the caption underneath and the name Colby that seems to trigger some meaning. She heads to the stables to see if she can meet Miles and find out if he knows anything about her. Neither Miles or her realise she’s his cousin Jeff Colby’s presumed dead ex-wife he planned to remarry before she went missing.

In the next episode Homecoming Fallon explains her amnesia and she now calls herself Randall because she saw the name on the side of the bus. Over the course of the next few episodes leading up to The Titans they’ll get one scene in each episode furthering their relationship and hinting at her past. She’ll find out she can speak French, or she can ride a horse, or a trip to the ocean triggers a flashback. Miles seems like a nice guy but he’s impulsive, even going as far as proposing marriage to an amnesiac. She wisely turns him down.

Season 5 was when the producers really began to crank up the craziness in the storylines. In its early days Dynasty mostly focused on the feud between blue-collar oil worker Matthew Blaisdel (Bo Hopkins) and oil tycoon Blake Carrington (John Forsythe). Ratings weren’t great and Blaisdel was written out of the show, missing and presumed dead after a car crash in South America. Alexis (Joan Collins) became the show’s main antagonist and the show fully embraced 80s’ excess becoming a tale of the battles of the super-rich in the boardroom and the bedroom. If any working-class people entered this world they did so as a potential threat. Nothing emphasised this more than the amiable and decent Matthew Blaisdel returning at the end of season 7 as a ruthless villain out for blood.

By the time we get to The Titans the other story arcs running include the coup in Moldavia which has led Prince Michael to falsely believe he is now King, failed Hollywood film director Joel Abrigore kidnapping Kristal (Linda Evans) and coaching her double Rita (Evans) to replace her in the Carrington household, Jeff’s search for Fallon leading to his discovery she survived the car crash buy may have perished in a bright red WWI bi-plane flown by her former lover Peter (Helmut Berger), and Blake and Jason Colby (Charlton Heston) at loggerheads over an oil pipeline deal. All will culminate with a gathering held by Blake in honour of both families at his home in Denver.

Miles has no interest in attending the party, preferring instead to focus on helping Fallon. Up until now we’ve seen the kinder side of Miles but a meeting with his twin sister Monica (Tracy Scoggins) gives us some more insight into his character. “Why do you always have to embarrass him?” Miles is the wild child, prone to acting on impulse without really thinking his actions through. Fallon might have picked up on this already because she’s bought a ticket to elsewhere and is about to board a Greyhound bus to Phoenix. Miles gets there in time but misses an important clue. She’s wearing a horrendous pair of ivory tusk earrings, a sure sign she comes from money but Miles is more interested in getting her accompany him to the gathering of the clans in Denver. Without even knowing it he’s taking her home.

Meanwhile in Denver Joel and the exiled Sammy Jo (Heather Locklear) have successfully completed their Pygmalion experiment on Rita by schooling her in every detail of Kristal’s life. “I’m an artist, a filmmaker…” he insists. Now I loved Michael Praed in Robin of Sherwood but he’s lumbered with playing an insufferable prig in Dynasty. Last season Prince Michael spent most of his time belittling his beautiful wife Amanda (Catherine Oxenberg). Now that he thinks he’s a King he’s even worse and he’s driving Amanda into the arms of the show’s resident alpha-male, gravelly-voiced big belt-buckle wearing Dex Dexter (Michael Nader). Dex also happens to be Amanda’s step-father. There’s a lot going on there. As well as cuckolding Prince Michael, Dex also suspects the King of Moldavia is still alive and hatches a rescue mission which will involve sneaking back into the country and disguising Alexis as a nun.

The extended opening credits sequence lists a massive 21 stars and the majority of them are present at the gathering including the Colby matriarchs Constance (Barbara Stanwyck) and Sable (Stephanie Beacham). There’s plenty talk of Miles with most people wondering if he’s even going to show. Jeff is solemnly staring at couples and feeling a bit lost. Monica chides him, warning Jeff not to try anything with Miles new girlfriend when they arrive because “This one could be serious.” Way to kick a man when he’s down Monica. Blake later finds Jeff hiding away in another room staring at a photograph of Fallon. Just as he’s finally ready to let go and accept she’s dead, Miles drives up in his bright red Italian sports car and delivers her to the door. Only Fallon can’t go in. She knows this house and it terrifies her. So they drive away with Jeff running after them. A dynamic that will be repeated and switched around over two seasons of The Colbys.

The Titans is peak Dynasty from an era when it was really operating at the height of its powers. Storylines in later seasons eventually began to repeat themselves and as the show fell in the ratings the budget became smaller and the cast was thinned out. Jeff and Fallon returned to Dynasty after The Colbys ended, bringing Sable and later Monica with them. I was always a bit surprised Miles never made an appearance in the last two series although the show was cancelled during its hiatus so maybe there were plans to eventually bring him back for season 10. Miles does however play a leading role in the mini-series Dynasty: The Reunion (1991), and the rivalry between Jeff and him has only become worse since they discovered they were not cousins but in fact half-brothers. Fallon is now divorcing Jeff and he’s not best pleased to find Miles at the house playing football with his daughters. “Miles Colby doesn’t know how to be civilised. He’s all mouth and temperament. He has a history of bad behaviour.” It’s like Patrick Marber’s Closer with the same couples breaking up and getting back together every few years. As much as I enjoy the new Dynasty (2017-) I do wish they’d done something similar to Dallas and brought back the original cast alongside younger actors. These three would probably still be driving each other crazy and we might have found out if Fallon really was abducted by aliens, because they just dropped that storyline and hoped nobody would notice.

Incidentally here’s some other things Maxwell Caulfield has appeared in that I really like. I mentioned Grease 2 and Empire Records at the beginning of this post and both are terrific, and his hilariously obnoxious washed-up rock star in the latter might be his best work. But he’s also great as a crazed teenager on a killing spree in The Boys Next Door (1985, Penelope Spheeris), another film worthy of critical reappraisal. Haven’t seen it since it came out and I suspect it might not have aged well but Caulfield’s very funny in The Real Blonde (1997, Tom DiCillo). I didn’t much care for what the show Beverley Hills 90210 became, but the feature length pilot directed by Tim Hunter (River’s Edge) is really good and features Caulfield in a supporting role. Any excuse to watch The Rockford Files will do and Caulfield plays an unlikely mob associate in the 1996 TV movie Godfather Knows Best written by The Sopranos creator David Chase. There’s also some decent genre stuff. A pair of Anthony Hickox horror movies, Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1989) and Waxwork II (1992), plus enjoying himself in Full Moon’s Oblivion 2 (1996, Sam Irvin) as a top hat and tails wearing alien bounty hunter.