Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Dark Shadows – A History; Part Three - The Temporal Misadventures of Phyllis Wick

Barnabas Collins takes his first victim, 1795


Taking the blame for Maggie Evans kidnapping, Willie Loomis was safely locked away at the Windcliff sanitarium. Maggie Evans was slowly recovering from her own ordeal with the Collins families’ resident vampire, her memories held in check with a hypnotic suggestion from Julia Hoffman, a mental scab, that Julia worked hard to make sure that Maggie didn't pick. As for Julia Hoffman, dedicated to protecting Barnabas Collins secret while at the same time desperately trying to cure his blood lust found the 200 year old vampire taking over her entire existence. It was obvious that she was in love with Collins, as it was equally clear that Barnabas didn't share her feelings, but was still quite happy to manipulate her because of them. 


Cast photo, Dark Shadows, 1967



Inside the Collins family, Elizabeth free from her self-imprisonment found some joy just by occasionally leaving the estate, but still spent most of her time worrying about her daughter. Carolyn meanwhile found herself growing increasingly attracted to Barnabas while also growing increasingly suspicious of her cousin as well. Roger was still being his normal pompous self, though with the threat of imprisonment no longer on the table, he was even more intolerable then usual. 




David and Sarah Collins

And David, well David had made a new friend, a little girl named Sarah. Sarah we would discover was the ghost of Barnabas Collins young sister who had died tragically of pneumonia in the year 1795. Over the next few weeks Sarah speaks to several family members, even Barnabas, though the long dead Sarah is terrified of him.



The ghost of Sarah Collins speaks to her brother Barnabas



As for the 200 year old master of Collinwood, Barnabas was still trying to find that certain someone. Josette was dead, Maggie Evans was just a mistake from the beginning. Now he had set his sights on Victoria Winters, who grieving over the apparent death of Burke Devlin (now played by Anthony George) in an air crash, found herself responding to the mysterious Englishman's charms.




Victoria Winters and Barnabas Collins

Julia Hoffman had performed a scientific miracle. Executing a series of complete blood transfusions combined with injections of a serum of her own devising Hoffman had used science to overcome the supernatural, freeing Barnabas Collins of his vampirism. 

Walking in the sunlight for the first time in centuries Barnabas finds himself living the life of a normal man, yet always being the first person to sabotage his own best interests, Collins grows impatient with the slow progression of his treatments, demanding that Julia rush his treatments and hurry the cure leaving him free to marry Vickie.




Vickie and Barnabas talk about their future


What both Barnabas and the doctor have forgotten is that with the treatments, they were turning Collins into a man. Forgetting that a 200 year old man is a very different thing from a 200 year old vampire.



Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) finds what life is like for a 200 year old man

In make-up from the great Dick Smith, Barnabas  finds himself transformed into an ancient, brittle husk of a man. 






Only after almost draining Carolyn Stoddard dry does he return to his original form, though once again a vampire. Only now a vampire with a grudge. Convinced that what happened was all Julia's fault, Barnabas swears to see the doctor dead.




Barnabas threatens Julia

Still, it's not like Barnabas didn't threaten to kill everyone now and then.



Sunlamp, who bought the damm sunlamp?????

Before Barnabas could act on his plans to kill Julia though, the issue of Sarah Collins had come to a head and Elizabeth, Roger, Carolyn (now Barnabas Collins slave), Vickie, Julia and Barnabas sat down to hold a séance in an attempt to summon the ghost child. At the ceremony, Sarah speaking through Victoria Winters tells the assembled people that she had come to them to tell them the story of what happened, and how it had all come to pass. 


Speaking to the dead, just another Friday night at Collinwood

The room, for just a moment, goes completely dark, the power comes back on and Victoria Winters has vanished as if she had never existed. At the table in Vicki's place sat a very confused Phyllis Wick.



Fallen out of time, Phyllis Wick arrives at Collinwood

Taking just a minute to adjust to the newcomer in their presence, the family  leaves the newcomer in Barnabas care and begins to search the house and grounds for Vickie. The instant they are alone, the vampire turns towards the terrified Miss. Wick, snarling with menace, obviously recognizing the girl, Barnabas demands to know what she is doing there.


Great picture of Jonathan Frid during his Dark Shadows days


On a sunny day in November 1795, near the great estate of Collinwood, a carriage tumbles and crashes after losing a wheel killing several of the passengers and injuring others. One of the passengers is a woman dressed in the strangest, and starkly revealing clothing that anyone can recall ever seeing. As best as anyone can make out the young woman is Phyllis Wick, the governess, newly hired from New York by family patriarch Joshua Collins (Louis Edmonds) as the governess for the children of Collinwood. Appearing at the great house the woman meets Barnabas and Sarah Collins who assuming she is the newly hired governess take her in and show her to her room.



Victoria Winters finding herself in 1795 meets a very much alive Sarah Collins and her older brother Barnabas

The young woman tells Joshua Collins that she is the governess at Collinwood, and her name is Victoria Winters, not Phyllis Wick. Confused and angered by both the young woman's clothing let alone that she wasn't Phyllis Wick, Joshua is ready to send the girl away, however he is convinced to let her stay by his wife Naomi (Joan Bennett) who finds herself drawn to the mysterious young woman. 




Naomi, Abigail and Joshua Collins, 1795



His sister Abigail (Clarice Blackburn) however, is instantly suspicious of Winters, knowing a whore of the Satan when she sees one. 



Abigail Collins instantly believes that Vickie is a bride of the devil

On the other hand Joshua's much younger brother, Jeremiah ( Anthony George), and his slightly younger nephew and closest friend Barnabas are both totally charmed by Vickie when they meet her. And most important of all her charge, little Sarah Collins, is instantly affectionate to the newcomer. 



Vickie meets Jeremiah Collins, a man who looks exactly like her lost love, Burke Devlin


Confused by how she got where she was, and with no apparent way back home, Victoria convinces the family that her odd statements were because of the blow to the head she had received in the accident, though she is unable to explain how she got the strange cloths. Everyone except Abigail accepts her story and Victoria finds herself once more as the governess at Collinwood, only this time Collinwood 1795.





Jonathan Frid and Dan Curtis 1968

Dan Curtis had wanted to tell a story with flashbacks to the 18th century for some time, feeling that it would be a good way to tell both the story of how Barnabas Collins became a vampire, but also as a chance to finally tell the story behind Josette and so many of the shows early mysteries. Eventually Curtis and his head writer Sam Hall (husband to Julia Hoffman actress, Grayson Hall) decided to do the biggest flashback in television history, taking 100 episodes and 5 months to tell the story. Over the next few months the audience would watch an increasingly sympathetic Barnabas Collins move from human to vampire, and his eventual fate of being chained into his coffin for 200 years. Meanwhile Victoria Winters would find herself swept up into the madness of the mob, as she faces charges of witchcraft, spending months in a futile effort to clear her name. 

 
Peter Bradford and Victoria Winters


100 episodes of a soap opera covers a lot of time. Over that period in the typical series, characters come and go, relationships change, friendships are betrayed, new loves are found, old loves are lost, this weeks villain is next weeks leading man and it was the same with Dark Shadows. Like all soap operas the series worked every day to end the episode with a cliffhanger or a twist, sometimes major, often just enough to get the viewer to tune back in the next day and the next. Basically over the course of the storyline a whole lot happened. I can sit here and try to write about every detail but it would make what's going to be a long blog entry about three times longer, so I'm going to condense just a bit.



Millicent Collins and Nathan Forbes

I haven't written too much a this point about actor Joel Crothers, mostly because his character in the main storyline Joe Haskell, was a nice enough guy, but dull as dishwater. In 1795 though Crothers was cast as the dashing though despicable US naval officer Lt. Nathan Forbes. Forbes was handsome, smart and dashing, with very few people suspecting that was in reality both totally corrupt and a craven coward. Forbes sets his sights on the foolish, though extremely wealthy Millicent Collins (Nancy Barrett), proposing marriage despite the slight difficulty of already having a wife.

Forbes is murderous, cowardly and yet oddly charming all at the same time. He goes from attempting to seduce Vickie to testifying against her at her witch trial despite knowing she is innocent, or in his courtship of the flighty, foolish Millicent Collins (Nancy Barrett), all while his real wife pretending to be his sister helps move the plan along.



Forbes bullies Daniel Collins, Millicent's younger brother

When the story was over and Corthers found himself back in the role of hero, you could see him growing tired of the role. After playing Forbes, going back to bland Joe Haskell just wasn't any fun. And while the writers would try to add more edge to the resident good guy, it was never the same. Nathan Forbes was a complete rotter and Crothers played him with a gusto that made it hard to hate him, even at his most reprehensible, and Joe Haskell just couldn't compete.




Trask draws Nathan Forbes into his plans

Of all the characters to come and go on Dark Shadows, the one character who was there specifically as an agent of the light, was the easily the most unlikable,sanctimonious, hypocritical, dark hearted character of the entire bunch. Unlike almost any other character on the series Jerry Lacy's self absorbed witch finder, the Reverend Trask was undeniably evil. Originally coming to Collinwood to defraud Abigail Collins, Trask quickly becomes convinced that unlike the innocents he's accused of witchcraft over the years, in the case of Collinwood, he finally found the real thing. Trask becomes consumed in his quest to prove that there is a witch in Collinsport, and her name is Victoria Winters.




The Reverend Trask

Trask, as played by Lacy, who would go on to a certain fame playing the spirit of Humphrey Bogart in Woody Allen’s Play It Again Sam, is vicious, harsh, vindictive, abusive and cruel. Embodying the worst of religious hypocrisy, rich in the rules, but completely lacking in the spirit of his faith, yet Trask is convinced that not only is he working on God's side, he is certain that his is blessed above other men by God.

On a personal note, I have always been fascinated that on Dark Shadows the single most intentionally unlikable person on the entire series was the only one pledged to the side of the angels.


Trask had good reasons to believe that he had run across real witchcraft. First there was the sudden, mysterious appearance of Victoria Winters a woman with no known past, dressed in mysterious clothing and carrying a book titled Collins Family History, a book filled with stories of events that hadn't happened yet.



Barnabas and Jeremiah face each other in a duel over Josette


There was the strange case of Josette DuPres who along with her father Andre (David Ford) and aunt the Countess Natalie (Grayson Hall) had traveled from the island of Martinique to Collinwood for her upcoming nuptials to the young Collins heir Barnabas. Mere days after her arrival, though Josette had instead eloped into the night with the best man, Barnabas's uncle and friend Jeremiah. A situation that had become even more tragic when the enraged Barnabas had killed his one time friend in a duel. 




The ghost of Jeremiah Collins appears to his widow Josette


A tragedy, and yet only a few days after that while his sister Sarah lay at deaths door of some mysterious aliment, Barnabas had suddenly married another woman, Josettes young maid who had accompanied the family from their island in the Caribbean. Another tragedy then struck, for no sooner then the child Sarah recovered, Barnabas Collins new bride was found strangled, then equally as mysteriously Barnabas Collins had died as well. And then the final sorrow as the young girl Sarah, who for reasons nobody could understand had remained outside all night in the rain and cold, dying from pneumonia. 

It was obvious to Trask that these tragedies were all brought about by witch craft, but he was wrong about it being Victoria Winters who was to blame. In this case, Vickie was just a pawn. The catalyst for everything that happened was a very different woman. Regal, with long blonde hair, cheekbones that were sharp as knives, a burning madness barely hiding behind her stunning green eyes, combining obsession, vindictiveness and passion into one of the most maliciously formidable women in the history of television, in Collinsport the witch was Josette's maid, the witch was Angelique.




Angelique

In the 1960's television was full of magical characters. Samantha, Jeannie, Gomez and Herman were just the cream at the top of the overflow of fantasy characters that were running around television in those days, but almost to a one they were harmless and kind, not really monsters, just different. 



Victoria Winters finds an unusual doll in Angelique's room


But not Angelique. 




As brought to ferocious life by actress Lara Parker, Angelique was a full blown master of the black arts who had no hesitation using her power to control Collins estate foreman Ben Stokes (Thayer David) turning him into her helpless slave. 



Madness and malice behind those beautiful eyes


Or making Josette and Jeremiah fall in love to break up the upcoming marriage, forcing Barnabas to marry her in return for Sarah's life. Angelique was a nasty piece of work.







It's Barnabas Collins fault though.


In Martinique Angelique, the DuPres household servant had spent many passionate nights in the bed of the visitor from Maine, Barnabas Collins. Nights that Barnabas, once engaged to Josette, hypocritically pretends never happened. Still in deeply in love, but even more deeply enraged at her betrayal, Angelique becomes the ultimate scorned woman. Evil, yet because of her betrayal, not so evil that the audience couldn't identify and sympathize with her anger at Barnabas.



Barnabas and Angelique


Eventually Barnabas has enough of Angelique and strangles the witch. With her dying breathe the witch curses Barnabas, and only a short time later he is attacked by a bat, which kills him. having hidden Angelique's body, nobody knew she was dead. Barnabas is buried and left to his final rest, that night though he rises from the dead a new born vampire.With his family believing him dead, Collins makes himself known only to Ben Stokes who promises to protect him during the day time. 








Stokes, like all the characters played on Dark Shadows by Thayer David is great fun, and has more meat to them as characters then many others, Stokes is given what is probably the most improtant observation in the story, when in a fit of anger he points out that even before he was a vampire, Barnabas was a complete bastard, and it was because he was a complete bastard, and just didn't see it it, his entire fmaily was forced to pay.


Ben Stokes, smarter then he looks


Okay, it was 1967 so he doesn't say bastard, but still.






With eternity in front of him, Barnabas decides he does not want to face it alone and makes plans to turn his beloved Josette into his vampire bride. At first, overjoyed to find her dead lover still alive, Josette is almost convinced to willingly join him as one of the undead. This is a situation that Angelique, now hanging around in spirit form is not going to put up with so the witch sent Josette a dream granting her a (realistic) vision of what her existence as a vampire would be like. 




Angelique shows Josette her future as the bride of Barnabas Collins

Repulsed by the idea of an eternity of murder Josette walks to Widow's Hill, and while Barnabas desperately tries to reach her in time to stop her, Josette throws herself off the cliff to the rocks below.



Barnabas is unable to reach Josette before she throws herself from Widows Hill


While all this death, murder, revenge, curses, destruction and violence was going on Victoria Winters spent most of the time either hiding out from the authorities or sitting in a jail cell waiting for her trial. This trick allowed the folks at home to follow along with all the bad deeds and supernatural  shenanigans while allowing Vicki plausible deniability when she eventually returned to the future knowing little more then she had when the storyline started.

While standing trial, Victoria is defended by the same man who was acting as her jailer, Peter Bradford, played by Ride the Wild Surf's, Roger Davis


Bradford who is deeply in love with Vickie, and who is as in love in return, does his best to clear the girl but after Trask blackmails Nathan Forbes perjuring himself, let alone the last minute appearance of a very much alive Angelique as a witness against her, Victoria's fate was sealed. Found guilty she is sentenced to hang.


Sarah dead from exposure after hiding in the night from her vampire brother, his mother, Naomi after this final loss now hopelessly insane from grief  his uncle dead, Josette dead. Now finding himself helpless to save Victoria from hanging, Barnabas sets out for revenge. 



Millicent Collins Forbes

Angelique remained out of his reach, but finding Nathan Forbes, he strangles the traitorous officer. 

With Trask, Barnabas takes his time. In one of the series most memorable moments Trask is slowly walled into a alcove in the basement of the old house, by the almost jovial vampire. 




His revenge, settled and with no way to rescue Victoria Winters, Barnabas convinces his  father Joshua to drive a wooden stake though his heart setting him free. But once he sees his son in the deathlike state the daytime brings him he can't bring himself to do it and instead with the help of Ben Stokes, they chain Barnabas into his coffin, place him in the secret room of the family vault and leave him for his long wait for Willie Loomis to set him free.



Trask meets his fate at the hands of Barnabas Collins

All the plots are settled and all the stories over, except for one.

While a restrained Peter Bradford looks on, Victoria Winters is led in the early morning sunlight to the gallows, her hands tied behind her back. Reaching the top, a hood is placed over her head, the last sight of her face shows Victoria terrified, but brave, always brave. Standing straight and tall, Victoria Winters ready for her fate. 







The gallows drop a small cheer goes out among the crowd. After some time, a lifeless body is lowered to the ground, a heartbroken Peter Bradford moves to take one last look at his beloved. With fumbling hands he removes the hood, his eyes going wide, Peter Bradford gasps as he stares down into the face of Phyllis Wick.



Phyllis Wick, back in her own time..at last









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