633 dark shadows maggie black mass

Episode 633/634: All Our Dead Have Turned Into Skeletons

“Your powers, Mr. Blair. Where are they now?”

Okay, so that happened.

Nicholas Blair, who we might as well call the Big Bad until something Big Worse comes along, has realized that he’s going to be transferred back to the home office in the Netherworld pretty soon, and if he wants to hold on to his girlfriend Maggie, then he needs to put The Ring on it.

So he does what any young lover would do, namely: drug her champagne, carry her downstairs to the bloodstone circle, and recite a romantic selection or two from the Malleus Maleficarum.

Yesterday’s episode is the example that I cite whenever I’m trying to explain how unbelievably weird Dark Shadows can be, because it’s pretty much the furthest they ever go in this particular direction. Not because it doesn’t work (although it doesn’t, really) — just because at this point there is literally nowhere left to go.

You’ve just shown America’s children how to perform a Black Mass. The only thing you can do after that is run away, screaming You’ll never catch me alive! and laughing maniacally.

Continue reading Episode 633/634: All Our Dead Have Turned Into Skeletons

632 dark shadows nicholas salute

Episode 632: The Owl, the Raven and the Bat

“You will live, as I live — as one of the damned!”

Fall 1968 is a rough time for the Dark Shadows writers, because they’re stuck with a convoluted storyline that just won’t unconvolute. So they’ve embarked on the Great 1968 Wrap-Up, where they shed all of the characters, actors and plotlines that are surplus to requirements, which is practically all of them.

In this time of turbulent change, we turn to the old traditions for comfort. I mean the really old traditions, like dressing up in animal skins and making blood offerings to Asmodeus.

Continue reading Episode 632: The Owl, the Raven and the Bat

631 dark shadows vicki the goat

Episode 631: The Goat

“If you want tomorrow to happen, you will see me now.”

Dark Shadows fans don’t like Betsy Durkin. This is an established fact; ask anyone.

The Dark Shadows audience is unbelievably tolerant when it comes to acting styles — we have to be, it’s a survival skill — but it seems like nobody in the world has a nice thing to say about the actress hired to replace Alexandra Moltke as girl governess Victoria Winters. She doesn’t look right, she doesn’t feel like Vicki, she’s not a good fit for the role. And it seems like the producers agreed, because Betsy only appears in ten episodes, and then they cut her loose. She’s bad at Vicki.

Except that this is not actually the case. Betsy Durkin is fine. There are some serious irritants who pop up on Dark Shadows over the years — like Harry Johnson, who’s in today’s episode, working as hard as he can to ruin his scenes. Betsy is nowhere near that level. Betsy is fine.

So let’s see if we can figure out why fans dislike her so much, as the recently reconstituted sexy vampire boy Tom Jennings climbs in through the window and tries to murder her.

Continue reading Episode 631: The Goat

630 dark shadows vicki peeved

Episode 630: Vicki Ruins Everything

“Oh, I know you’re going to say it’s none of my business, and it isn’t. Except that I’m making it my business!”

Recasts are always tricky on soap operas, by which I mean that they usually turn out to be an alien shapeshifter or some other kind of hoodoo from the notworld, feeding off the audience’s precious life essences for its own malign purposes. Recasts are not to be trusted, and should be handled with extreme caution.

So when we hear the announcement over the credits — “The part of Victoria Winters will be played by Miss Betsy Durkin” — we are on alert. Hackles are raised.

Continue reading Episode 630: Vicki Ruins Everything

629 dark shadows view master colors 2

Episode 629: In Many Somber Colors

“Again, fate took a hand in the form of a woman.”

Have you ever tried to describe a childhood toy to someone, and realized halfway through that time is real, and mortality is real, and you have become super mega tragically old?

Well, if you haven’t, then listen up. This is what it sounds like.

Continue reading Episode 629: In Many Somber Colors

628 dark shadows angelique flames

Episode 628: Horrible Bosses

“I summon you in the name of the charred and blackened stars that reigned at my beginnings!”

Angelique has had enough. She lights a candle.

Prince of Fire, she says, I call upon the flame to summon you. I call up all the dark creatures of nature to summon you here to me.

I summon you in the name of the seven plagues, in the name of the charred and blackened stars that reigned at my beginnings, to rise out of the darkness of the earth!

I call you forth from the mouth of the dragon, and of the beast, and of the false prophet! I call you forth from the subterranean rivers of blood, from the smoke of torment which rises forever and ever!

In the name of every evil spirit — evil, and obedient only to you — I invoke you! Appear to me NOW!

And then she erupts into a furnace of psychedelic Chromakey flames, screaming and pleading for her life.

This is Wednesday, by the way. This is what we do on Wednesdays now.

Continue reading Episode 628: Horrible Bosses

627 dark shadows chris header

Episode 627: Bad Moon Rising

“What kind of life do you lead, Mr. Jennings?”

Two weeks ago, Dark Shadows entered a period that I’m calling The Great 1968 Wrap-Up, a long overdue narrative house-cleaning. Soap opera storylines are always a bit of a tangled web, but if you’re not careful, the structure becomes so dense that it collapses in on itself, and becomes a dangerous gravitational singularity.

For example:

  • Barnabas Collins isn’t a vampire anymore, because his life force is shared with
  • Adam, a Frankenstein monster who’s trying to start a family with
  • Eve, a female monster who’s animated by the life force of
  • Danielle, a French Revolution-era murderess, who’s madly in love with
  • Peter, the 18th-century lawyer who’s traveled through time to follow
  • Vicki, the Collins family governess, who was just left at the altar by
  • Jeff, who’s discovered that he’s actually a reincarnation of
  • Peter, and he’s not very happy about it.

Obviously, that’s a complex set of facts and relationships for the audience to keep in mind, especially because the one thing that absolutely everybody knows about Dark Shadows is that it’s the story of Barnabas Collins, who yes he is a vampire, what are you even talking about that he’s not a vampire anymore?

So that’s the level of mess that we’re dealing with here. We’re currently two weeks into this massive clean-up project, and we’ve now reached the stage where they’re just strangling cast members and leaving them in the closet.

Continue reading Episode 627: Bad Moon Rising

626 dark shadows peter find

Episode 626: The Amazing New Phenomenon

“You want to keep track of me? The amazing new phenomenon? The ghost who breathes?”

As the black-robed executioner opened the door to Vicki’s cell, her lover looked into her eyes, and promised her every last thing he could think of.

I love you, Vicki, he said. That’s all that matters.

The hangman grabbed her shoulder, and pushed.

Somehow you managed to travel through time, and find me. Somehow, I’ll find you. No matter what happens, I will find you.

She was led from her cell, down a dark corridor, to the gallows.

Our love will transcend time, her lover cried, shouting desperately over the squeal of the waiting crowd.

We are stronger than time! We are stronger than death!

The hood was placed over her head.

Remember me!

It was a promise, and a prayer.

I will find you!

It was the only thing she could hear, as the rope tightened around her throat.

I will find you, through the centuries, and we will be together again!

Our love will never die!

And as it turns out, that is exactly what happened, so I don’t know what the hell he’s complaining about now. That’s a three-pointer if I ever saw one. That was nothing but net.

Continue reading Episode 626: The Amazing New Phenomenon

624 dark shadows vicki liz radiant

Episode 624: Lost and Foundling

“I have no control over human emotions.”

A year and a half ago, I wrote an entry called “The Last Normal Day“, about the end of the final non-supernatural storyline. Liz and Carolyn talked about how Jason had been blackmailing Liz, and they agreed to never let anything come between them again. And then Jason went off and got killed by a vampire, which pretty much put a period at the end of that sentence, and since then it’s been wall-to-wall crazy.

But here we are again, with Liz and another daughter (kind of), pretending that they’re having a normal soap opera wedding.

Continue reading Episode 624: Lost and Foundling