Saturday, August 4, 2012

Satanic Madmen: Nicholas Blair

In which I try to recap one hundred episodes of Dark Shadows in one thousand words or less.

June 25, 1968. In the great foyer at Collinwood, three knocks are heard at the door, signaling to the audience that a new character has arrived.

What ho! What have we here - a dapper looking man in a tailored three piece suit sporting a Snidely Whiplash mustache, introducing himself as Nicholas Blair, cousin to the recently disappeared Cassandra (whom everyone at home knows is really Angelique in a smart black wig). Roger Collins does the noble thing and invites him in for a drink. Right away, Barnabas suspects this one is up to no good. His eyebrows raise and he gives Julia the eye. You know, that eye, the one they always give each other when the other actors are mugging for the camera. Then Julia does that thing with her nose, that “I smell a rat” thing, and we just know this one’s a bad apple.

In spite of all the supernatural hokum which was rolled out at four o’clock every day for more than five years, producer Dan Curtis knew what he was doing when it came to casting. Dan had fed us ghosts, witches, vampires, a thing called a phoenix and even a Frankenstein monster, what can he throw in the pot next?

Enter Nicholas Blair, Warlock Extraordinaire, In League with the Dark One and making no bones about it. Besides, he’s a snappy dresser, so he can’t be all bad, can he? Remember the ZZ Top song about the Sharp Dressed Man? It works. Trust me. I’ve been there.

Years ago when I first joined the internet and didn’t know what else to do with it I got involved in a Dark Shadows roleplaying group and picked Nicholas Blair as my character. The girls in the group took to calling me Nicky B. Somehow that took all the menace out of it. But I digress.

Meanwhile, back at the Collinwood estate, Nicholas has High Satanic Priest Fun with Angelique, turning her into one of those Hammer style vamps complete with flowing white dress and low neckline. Well, not too low. It’s daytime television after all. And being In League with the Dark One, Nicholas immediately sets about trying to destroy mankind by creating a superhuman race to…um, destroy mankind. I never have figured out why Satanic Madmen always want to destroy the human race, like all those guys in Lovecraft Country, Wilbur Whately et al. Nevertheless, Nicholas needs a woman to mate with Adam, the aforementioned Frankenstein monster in order to create these superhumans.

Adam was rather clumsy and had lots of scars. He is a Frankenstein Monster after all, even if he does wear a nice green sweater, but he needs a mate. Nick pulls off something really stellar – he summons the spirit of a 17th Century murderess, Danielle Roget, and through Satanic Ingenuity, brings to life Eve. Still with me? Good. Eve is this full figured, gorgeous red head who flits around the cemetery in a stunning black evening gown, occasionally snagging it on one of the many artificial trees. It doesn't slow down Eve one bit, but the actress does stammer her lines a bit.

Just like in the movies, the Bride of Frankenstein - I mean Eve rejects our hand stitched homeboy and makes eyes at Jeff Clark, Vicki’s time tripping boyfriend. Who’s Vicki, you ask? Not important, so let’s move on. She’s about to abandon ship anyway, so who cares?

In grand soap opera style, Adam strangles Eve in a fit of jealousy and then throws himself off Widow’s Hill in a fit of despair, putting the kibosh on Nicholas’ superhuman race idea.

This is all hunky dory, Daytime Friendly Satanism and all. But Dan decides to push the envelope for once. Nicholas sets his sights on the lush Maggie Evans. (Don’t know who she is either? Just another simpering heroine with an annoying voice.) First, he has to get Joe Haskell, Maggie’s worthless, humorless boyfriend out of the way so he commands Angelique to bite Joe and make him start acting goofy. See, that whole Angelique as a vampire subplot came in handy. Now Maggie is free to date Nicholas. He’s suave, debonair, and independently wealthy, how could she resist?

Meanwhile, back to Angelique. We all know she’s a vengeful drama queen, so she takes a little side trip to Hell and tells The Man Downstairs that his faithful servant isn’t so faithful. He’s fallen in love for God’s sake…er, you know what I mean.

Nicholas gets summoned to the Principal’s Office and slapped on the wrist for this love business and is sent back upstairs to make the ultimate sacrifice - that would be Maggie Evans at a Black Mass complete with altar and black candles and Nicholas waving his arms and intoning just about my favorite line of the entire series, “let the Legions of the Damned salute you!” Cue red lights so we know things have gotten really out of control.

It’s all downhill after that. Dan needed to wrap up the Nicholas Blair storyline so he could start the werewolf stuff. Nick tries to revive Eve with Maggie’s life force, but Barnabas swoops in on his bat wings and saves the day. Nicholas goes up in a ball of flame, and that’s all she wrote. Which is a shame. I really like Nicholas Blair. That don’t make Satanic Madmen like they used to.

The Nicholas Blair storyline is available on the Dark Shadows DVD Collection volumes 8-10.

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