Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 16, 2017


Marie Wallace, Robert Rodan, Humbert Allen Astredo

When I was a kid I loved Dark Shadows, but as I got older I only caught part of some of the story arcs. One of these was the arc involving Adam and Eve, which for much of its length also included that interminable business with the "dream-curse." Now that I've caught up with this arc, here are my impressions:

Wanting to finally lose his curse of vampirism, Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) works with Dr. Lang and Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall) to cobble together a creature that can house Barnabas' consciousness. The idea is that when his mind occupies a new body, he will no longer be a vampire. However, things don't go quite as planned. Barnabas indeed loses his curse, but the creation, "Adam," develops his own distinct consciousness. The two are linked together so that if Adam dies, Barnabas will revert to being a vampire. To say that none of this has any kind of scientific basis is an understatement! Eventually, Adam insists that Barnabas and Julia make him a mate or all Hell will break loose.

Robert Rodan was an unusual choice to play Dark Shadows' variation on the Frankenstein Monster, for Rodan was tall, dark, and handsome and probably made the best-looking "Frankenstein" ever. They put scars and stitches on his face, which made Adam feel he was "ugly," but none of that really disguised the actor's good looks -- why not give the housewives something to look at? Even better was the fact that Rodan was a very good actor, doing his early silent scenes of pantomime in such a fashion that made it convincing instead of comical. As Adam developed the ability to speak and acquired knowledge (much of that thanks to the efforts of Professor Stokes, played by Thayer David), Rodan successfully etched a portrait of a bitter, confused, sexually -- and even romantically -- aroused man-child who, while incredibly dangerous, was searching for love.

To that end, the show created Eve (Marie Wallace), who (as in Bride of Frankenstein) has absolutely no interest in Adam. This part of the story arc also employed the considerable talents of the smooth, urbane Humbert Allen Astredo as Nicholas Blair, a demonic figure who hoped to use Adam and Eve to create a new dark race. Eve's body, also put together from corpses, was imbued with the spirit of a long-dead murderess who was supposed to be one of the most evil women who had ever lived. That certainly gave the viewers some frightful situations to contemplate.

Unfortunately, little of much interest was done with Eve. She did not really become this demoness stalking the Collins family, and didn't even murder a single person. Instead she focused on Jeff Clark (Roger Davis), who was actually a displaced person she had known in a previous century and whom she wanted for her own. If they were going to turn Eve into a mere love-smitten kitten, one has to wonder why they gave her the spirit of a thoroughly degenerate and remorseless female in the first place. (In one of the series funnier moments, Angelique the witch, has the gall to say of Eve: "She is evil!" Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.) In retrospect there seemed little purpose in even introducing the character, but at least the actress playing her was cast in other roles on the series later on.

I thought the writers missed the boat on another potential development: someone recognizing Adam's face, now being worn by a body of spare parts. What if the man that face belonged to had had a wife, family, parents, people who would recognize him even though he was dead? Not only did this never happen, there was never any interest in determining whom Adam may have been in his past life, nor did we even know if the brain currently residing in his cranium was the same one that had originally been inside his head. Who was "Adam?" Adam seemed to not only have a completely separate personality but no recollection of past events.

In the end, Adam goes off to Europe with the professor, who tells him there are things they can do about his scars. Professor Stokes eventually shows up again sans Adam, so one can assume the two did not live happily ever after. The policeman that Adam killed during a shoot out is never mentioned, and Adam -- whoever the hell he was -- is never seen again. Now that Frankenstein was gone, the Wolfman was next!

Verdict: Essentially a low-brow "borrowing" from Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, but fun, and with some good actors to boot. ***.

NOTE: It's interesting to note that in season two of the Showtime horror series Penny Dreadful, the notion comes up that the dead woman, Lily, revived by Henry Frankenstein, will mate with his male experiment, John, and create a new dark race. Sound familiar? Later, however, she decides to mate with Dorian Gray instead, creating an even darker new race? .


angelman66 said...

Wow, this story arc really does resemble Penny Dreadful. I always thought that the HBO series True Blood was the 2000s version of Dark Shadows...
I barely remember this season of the show but would love to see this again.

angelman66 said...

Oh, and forgot to mention my big crush on Roger Davis. He was hot (Jaclyn Smith's first husband; I also thought her second hubby Dennis Cole was dreamy!!)

William said...

Yes, they were nice-lookin' fellas! I will have to check out True Blood.