548 dark shadows nicholas angelique bleak

Episode 548: Bleak Lives Matter

“I can make you older. I can make you die. But I cannot assemble a human being and have him live.”

You know, the great thing about having an evil magician as the lead villain of your television show is that conjurers tend to be showmen. Yes, even the evil ones. You don’t devote your life to the study of pulling demon rabbits out of sinister hats without developing a certain panache.

At the moment, the Great Nicholas is punishing his lovely assistant, Angelique, for disobeying his direct instructions. He’s taken her powers away and made her mortal again, and now she’s crumbling to dust while we watch.

Angelique staggers upstairs to find her portrait, which has helped her overcome setbacks in the past. But when she gets to Vicki’s room, she finds that the portrait is cracked and peeling, suffering the same fate.

And then Nicholas steps out of the shadows and turns on a lamp, as if to say, is THIS your card?

Continue reading Episode 548: Bleak Lives Matter

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Episode 547: Justice in Hell

“Instead of a dream, you threaten me with a gun. Are you bored with your tricks and your spells?”

In yesterday’s post, I did a little compare and contrast exercise between Dark Shadows and a March 1968 episode of General Hospital, which was DS’ lead-in at the time. What I found was two shows that share the same network and afternoon timeslot, but feel like they were made in different decades.

By 1968, General Hospital’s storylines were starting to break away from the old-fashioned kitchen sink approach to soap opera, where the stories are supposed to be a slice of life that the audience can personally relate to. The GH episode that we looked at includes a girl who’s accusing her stepmother of killing her father, and a woman who’s struggling to put her life back together after a traumatic car accident resulted in a miscarriage.

Those situations aren’t really a part of typical daily life, especially when they happen to the same extended family at the same time, but they’re not outrageous.

Meanwhile, a Dark Shadows episode starts at unbelievably insane in the first scene, and then ratchets the tension up from there.

Continue reading Episode 547: Justice in Hell

546 dark shadows angelique axe

Episode 546: A Little Bored

“I can punish you for having such human emotions!”

Angelique approaches her boss, her eyes pleading. “Mr. Blair,” she ventures, “do you think maybe I should talk to her?”

“Well, all right, Angelique,” Nicholas nods.

“Thank you, Mr. Blair,” she says, and moves toward the door.

“Oh, Angelique…” he says. “You won’t say anything to her about not being able to have any more children?”

“Oh, no, Mr. Blair, I won’t do that,” says Angelique. “But maybe I can help her come to her senses. You know, she has so much to be happy about, Mr. Blair, and I’m going to tell her so!” Fire flashes in her eyes. “Somebody’s got to!”

And then she turns and leaves the room, and the organ music starts up, and it turns out we were watching General Hospital by accident.

Continue reading Episode 546: A Little Bored

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Episode 545: Teacher’s Pet

“It must be done as only another human being could do it.”

So here’s something I never thought I’d say: Ever since the Dream Curse storyline wrapped up last week, Dark Shadows has been a little dull.

That’s an extraordinary statement, because the Dream Curse storyline was a completely static piece of soapcraft that spent months walking in circles, and then fizzled away to nothing at all. You’d think that it would be impossible for a story to look sedate compared to that. And yet, here we are.

Continue reading Episode 545: Teacher’s Pet

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Episode 544: The Facts of Life

“Maimed and suffering spirits robbed after death in the name of false creation, I speak as your benefactor!”

Welcome back to another episode of Frankenstein in Love, the story that asks the question: Can a monster from a little mining town in the West find happiness as the wife of a wealthy and titled Englishman?

Here’s Adam, the jigsaw puzzle that walks like a man, currently hiding out in the abandoned west wing of Collinwood, reading poetry and developing a full-scale crush on the young mistress of the house.

From the audience’s perspective, the story’s a little tough to process, because everyone is supposed to act like Adam is a hideous God-defying abomination. In actual fact, he’s only Hollywood ugly, which means that he’s a very handsome man with some scars painted on his face. Also: he is a player.

Continue reading Episode 544: The Facts of Life

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Episode 543: The Trouble with Harry

“I know enough to send you back to prison, if I want to.”

Did you know that in July 1968, there were close to 8 million people living in New York City? It’s true; I just looked it up in my well-thumbed copy of What Month It Was When There Were Close to 8 Million People Living in New York City.

So how many of those people do you think were actors? I mean, the only real professions of any consequence in New York are actors, waiters and cab drivers; everybody else is scenery.

Doing a little back-of-the-napkin demographic analysis, I would estimate that there were 850,000 young male actors who could have played the role of Harry Johnson on Dark Shadows. And yet they managed to pick the very worst one. How do you account for something like that?

Continue reading Episode 543: The Trouble with Harry

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Episode 542: The Diary of Anne Frankenstein

“He knows that if you and Adam both live, then something will happen to both of you. But if Adam dies — something else will happen.”

The room is dark, and grim. The single window — if it even counts as a window — lets in stray slices of sunlight through a torn shade. The cobwebs are an inch thick, and there’s a large picture frame dangling at an odd angle from a beam, apparently supported mostly by dust and despair.

The room is more than just unused. It looks like a pack of wolverines came through sometime around the Civil War, and it never really pulled itself together after that.

Also, there’s a monster in it.

Continue reading Episode 542: The Diary of Anne Frankenstein

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Episode 541: Death of a MacGuffin

“Julia — when you do the experiment again, if both Barnabas and my creation live — if they both live — Barnabas will be free and healthy, as long as Adam lives. Adam will drain Barnabas’ affliction from him, but will not suffer from the disease itself, because he lives. But if Adam dies, Barnabas Collins will be as he was before.”

As we open today’s reckless stumble into the unknown, sinister sorceress Angelique — currently masquerading as Roger’s innocent new wife, Cassandra — is listening to a recording of a man’s voice that young David has discovered on a tape recorder.

On the tape, the man addresses Julia, and tells her that when she does the experiment again, if both Barnabas and his creation live — if they both live — Barnabas will be free and healthy, as long as Adam lives. The man goes on to say that Adam will drain Barnabas’ affliction from him, but will not suffer from the disease itself, because he lives. But — the man warns — if Adam dies, Barnabas Collins will be as he was before.

This is a fortunate coincidence, because Cassandra is on a very tight deadline to find out why her Dream Curse didn’t turn Barnabas into a vampire again. The answer, it turns out, is that Julia did the experiment again, and both Barnabas and the man’s creation lived — they both lived — and Barnabas is free and healthy, as long as Adam lives. In other words, Adam is draining Barnabas’ affliction from him, but does not suffer from the disease itself, because he lives. But — and I honestly cannot stress this point emphatically enough — if Adam dies, Barnabas Collins will be as he was before.

Continue reading Episode 541: Death of a MacGuffin

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Episode 540: Mission: Inscrutable

“I don’t want to understand about those things; they scare me.”

Okay, here’s what’s going on: I have entirely no idea.

I know that Angelique, spurned lover and secret sorceress, is currently in residence at Collinwood, posing as Roger’s innocent new wife, Cassandra. She’s come to wreak a terrible slow-motion vengeance on reformed vampire Barnabas Collins, and she’s spent weeks and weeks lobbing a hex that never quite landed. And that is pretty much the beginning and the end of the list of things that I understand about what Cassandra’s doing right now.

It’s not just me, either. The writers have had the better part of three months to figure out what they were going to do with Angelique after the Dream Curse storyline. They have not used that time effectively.

Continue reading Episode 540: Mission: Inscrutable

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Episode 539: Grieve a Little Grieve

“I’m not delirious. You know what she is.”

One of the things that you learn when you watch Dark Shadows is that there are several different kinds of weird. This is not a particularly helpful thing to learn, and learning it will not improve your life in any measurable way. It just happens, and there isn’t much you can do about it.

There’s the everyday, domestic kind of weird, which involves eccentric people doing unusual things — say, a college professor taking an enormous feral Frankenstein home with him, and teaching it to read the word “clock” off a flash card.

There’s the fancy, bespoke kind of weird, which involves people acting in a completely illogical way just for the sake of an exciting cliffhanger — like burying their dead friend in the woods, and then realizing that he’s come back to life, and they only have half an hour to dig him up again.

And then there’s the kind of weird where you honestly have no idea why the scene that you’re watching even exists. That’s the kind we’re going to be talking about today, thanks to scriptwriter Ron Sproat, among other mistakes.

Continue reading Episode 539: Grieve a Little Grieve