Although episode 210 is credited as the first appearance of the vampire, Barnabas Collins, the audience only sees his lace-laden hand as he grabs Willie Loomis around the throat. This hand does not even belong to Jonathan Frid, the sterling actor who made Barnabas a household name. Barnabas’ hand was that of regular series double Tim Gordon.
Episode 211 begins with the voice-over:
“My name is Victoria Winters. The dawn will soon come to Collinwood, and bring with it the unresolved troubles of another day. A man – a frightening and violent man – has disappeared. But the fear he has created has not disappeared with him. Wherever he is, some violence is surely taking place.”
The beginning sequence is a repeat of the cliffhanger from episode 210: Willie enters a secret chamber in the Collins Family Mausoleum and finds a solitary coffin, wrapped in thick, sturdy chains. Convinced this is the resting place of the coveted family jewels, he gets to work on prying the chains loose. Willie opens the coffin. A look of terror passes across his face as a hand reaches out of the coffin and grabs him by the throat!
The main theme of this episode is the sudden disappearance of Willie. Jason is arguing with Elizabeth in the drawing room at Collinwood and they are both concerned about the recent disappearance. Elizabeth wants to be sure whether or not Willie is gone for good and Jason is convinced Willie is embarking upon some scheme without him.
In a conversation with Jason, Mrs. Johnson tells him she saw Willie taking supplies from the tool shed before he left Collinwood last evening. Mrs. Johnson further reveals that Willie had grown uncharacteristically infatuated with the portrait of Barnabas Collins hanging in the foyer. Mrs. Johnson elaborates that she in fact told Willie about a legend concerning a treasure trove of family jewels that had been buried with the 18th century family matriarch, Naomi Collins.
It is not until Act IV of the show that Mrs. Johnson answers a knock at the door, and is greeted by a well-dressed gentleman who introduces himself as being a cousin to Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, visiting from England and wishing to pay his respects. Mrs. Johnson lets him in and goes to tell Mrs. Stoddard. The gentleman removes his hat and cloak and stands next to the portrait hanging in the foyer. Coincidentally enough, the man in the portrait and the man standing next to it appear to be the spitting image of one another. This is Barnabas Collins.
Although there is no hint in this episode that Barnabas is a vampire, we do know he is a supernatural creature. My question is where did Barnabas get his modern clothes? Considering he had locked in his coffin since 1797, all his clothing would have been out-of-date. Did Willie buy these clothes for Barnabas? The assumption is this can be the only logical answer, but where did Willie gather the strength to perform this errand? Wouldn’t he have been weak from the loss of blood? This is only question never answered in the television series or in the movie HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS.
Like most fans of the series, this episode is one of my favorites. Not only did I become infatuated with Barnabas Collins, but I spent my childhood looking for a ring and wolf-head cane so I could play the reluctant vampire character with my brother and sister.