1991 dark shadows daphne bite

Time Travel, part 3: Blood Chemistry

“Hot tentacles stretch upwards.”

We’ve reached a milestone in our uncertain and frightening journey into the past — June 6th, 1968, the day that Senator Robert F. Kennedy died. Kennedy was in the middle of a Presidential campaign, and he was gunned down by an assassin on June 5th, just after winning the Democratic primaries in California and South Dakota.

So Dark Shadows was pre-empted on June 6th, along with the other network daytime shows, to present news coverage of the assassination.

On this blog, a pre-emption day means I fill in with an episode of NBC’s 1991 Dark Shadows revival series. We watched episode 1 of the new series for Thanksgiving 1967, and episode 2 a month later for Christmas. Marking a more somber occasion, I’m going to draw a respectful curtain over the tragic circumstances of this particular pre-emption, and move on to my discussion of this mediocre vampire show.

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Episode 508: Dream Beater

“Why am I not opening your doors?”

What, when you get right down to it, is magic?

In the context of a story, anyone can have magic powers, and there really aren’t any hard and fast rules about how they work. Take Angelique, for example — a ladies’ maid from Martinique with reality-warping abilities, apparently granted to her by Beelzebub, the Lord of the Flies.

Angelique started out with some rather modest household voodoo, choking a toy soldier to make Barnabas gasp for breath. But pretty soon, she was raising zombies from their graves, and turning people into cats, and generally wiping the floor with the Collins family.

By this point, she has a baffling assortment of abilities, including the power of getting really super old when somebody paints over her portrait. She doesn’t use that one very much, because it’s hard to weaponize.

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507 dark shadows carolyn scream

Episode 507: The Spirit of St. George

“According to my calculations, only one more person must have the dream.”

I knew this was going to be hard. When I started this strange and terrifying journey through Dark Shadows, I knew that the Dream Curse storyline was waiting for me, and it was going to test my endurance more than anything else on the show. But here I am, six weeks into the story, and I just looked at my episode guide, and I’m only halfway through. We’re currently at the beginning of June 1968, and the Dream Curse ends in mid-July.

I know I keep saying “Here’s the problem with the Dream Curse,” but here’s the problem with the Dream Curse: characters just saunter in and out of the storyline, and it doesn’t seem to matter. The allegedly terrifying chain letter / dream sequence moves from one character to another, and once they’ve passed the baton on to the  next person, they drop out of the storyline.

Remember when it was a big deal that Mrs. Johnson needed to go to Boston, so she wouldn’t pass the dream on to Jeff? Or was that David? Or Julia. I’m pretty sure it was either Julia or River Song. No, wait, that’s Doctor Who. I’ve got this written down somewhere.

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Episode 506: After the Fall

“You broke into my room to tell me about a dream?”

Here’s the kind of thing that Dark Shadows had to deal with: They moved the taping schedule around to accommodate Jonathan Frid’s insane ten-city publicity tour a couple weeks ago, and as it shook out, there were three episodes this week that taped the day before they aired.

It’s actually hard to get your mind around how close to the edge that is. If anything went wrong with the taping, then there’s nothing to show tomorrow; it’s dead air. And this is Dark Shadows; of course something’s going to go wrong. Things go wrong, like, all the time.

So if this was a show produced by sane people, they’d probably want to throw together a couple episodes where everybody sits around in the living room and talks over the events of the day. That’s what every other daily soap opera ever made does all the time anyway. But, no — it’s Dark Shadows, which means we need three cops and a Frankenstein monster and a seance and a dream sequence and a skeleton and a brick wall falling apart and a root cellar.

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505 dark shadows barnabas patterson header

Episode 505: The Sinking Detective

“You might as well prepare yourself for an ordeal.”

It’s a tough job, I get that. Police officers on Dark Shadows combine the inadequacy of soap opera cops with the inadequacy of monster movie cops. Police officer characters can do very well, if they stay in their own genres, but when they stray too far from home, they start competing with characters that are automatically way more interesting.

The outbreak of lawlessness that Sheriff George Patterson is currently investigating centers around Adam, the patchwork Frankenstein monster. If they catch him, they’re planning to charge him with being brought to life without a license, which I don’t think is even a misdemeanor.

So you’ve got to feel bad for the Sheriff, unless you forget all about him the moment he’s off the screen, like everybody else does.

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504 dark shadows barnabas collins book

Episode 504: The Ladykiller

“It is tragic that your Greta is so deformed, for she really could play the role of Josette to perfection.”

It’s a Ron Sproat script today, which means that Carolyn’s still stuck in the root cellar, and so are we. So I’m going to invoke my executive privilege to ignore a filler episode, and talk about something else instead.

It’s time to start looking at the Dark Shadows merchandise, because this is the period where it becomes a real factor in the audience’s experience of the show. While this episode was being taped, Jonathan Frid was on a completely insane ten-city publicity tour, where he was besieged by literally thousands of screaming teenagers who were desperate to get closer to Barnabas, and the show. Recognizing that these kids have allowances, ABC started to tap into that market, with some success.

The first piece of Barnabas-related merchandise was released in May 1968, just in time for the publicity tour. It’s a 155-page book called The Curse of Collinwood, and it’s the fifth in the series of Dark Shadows-inspired romance novels published by Paperback Library. The Curse of Collinwood has a picture of Barnabas on the cover, and it sells spectacularly well.

Unfortunately, Barnabas isn’t actually in The Curse of Collinwood, which is about Vicki and therefore not worth discussing, so we’re going to talk about the next book instead.

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503 dark shadows adam carolyn manhandle

Episode 503: Lock Her Up

“I promise, no harm will come to you.”

Sproat: Threat, or menace? That is the question on the table.

Ron Sproat is part of the Dark Shadows writing team, and unfortunately, he’s not the good part. He’s the guy who thinks it’s okay to not do anything interesting on Wednesday, so you can save up the plot movement for Friday — and if not this Friday, then maybe next Friday.

Sproat’s other noticeable failing is his obsession with locking women and children up in a room and then just leaving them there. Just in the last year, he’s confined Maggie and Vicki for several months each, plus Josette for a few days and David for a week.

At the moment, we’ve got Adam, our new Frankenstein monster, who’s closed his first official rampage by kidnapping Carolyn and bringing her to an abandoned root cellar somewhere in the woods.

Yesterday, Sam Hall wrote the episode that brought Carolyn to the root cellar, and then who leaves her there for two days? Mr. Ron “I Never Met a Lock I Didn’t Like” Sproat.

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502 dark shadows carolyn blondes

Episode 502: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

“I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. Why do you want to kill me? Are you insane?”

Okay, here’s the meet-cute scenario: Adam, our enormous new Frankenstein monster, was running away from home after getting a savage beating from Barnabas, who we might as well call his dad.

Alone, afraid, and with only a slight vocabulary advantage over Chewbacca, Adam stumbled into Collinwood, where he demanded the only two things he knows how to ask for — music and food.

Then Barnabas rushed in with a gun, so Adam picked up the closest thing he could grab, which happened to be Carolyn Stoddard, and carried her away. Oh, like you’ve never had a weird first date.

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501 dark shadows julia barnabas my name

Episode 501: Say My Name

“Barnabas, Barnabas, please don’t go. Barnabas!”

Well, what’s the point of even having a Frankenstein monster, if he’s not going to go on a rampage every once in a while? You can’t keep him locked up in the basement forever. He’s a metaphor for the limits of human power, the unintended consequences of mankind’s sins made flesh and set loose upon the world. Now get out of the way, and let him do his goddamn job.

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