“Tell me, why do you insist on being a bad historian?”
Quentin Collins is broadcasting on all frequencies, into the unknown. “We seek the spirit of our dear, departed ancestor,” he candle-calls, “who remains so very close to all of us!” That’s a bit of a stretch. Quentin is currently organizing this let-your-fingers-do-the-walking seance slumber party in order to find out why that dear, departed ancestor left him and his family with a hundred and sixty-one years’ worth of tedious curse, and Brutus isn’t even going to pick up the phone.
Instead, Melanie shuts her eyes, moans and arches her back, which is the seance version of clearing your throat. “Lottery!” she chokes. “Now!” Quentin and Flora look on, in horror. “Lottery!” she repeats. “Now! Or — all — will — DIE!”
She begins to scream. “PLAGUE!” she chants. “DIE! PLAGUE! DIE! PLAGUE! DIE!”
So obviously Quentin’s wondering, ummm, is it possible there’s someone else there that we could talk to?
Continue reading Episode 1211: Plague, Die, Plague, Die, Plague, Die, Plague
“How I mourn for my lost love Josette. I couldn’t help but remember how beautiful she was the night we met.”
Time is running out for the Collins family of 1841, if you believe in the letter that Brutus Collins wrote, and if you don’t, then take a look at the Nielsen ratings and get back to me. With only seven weeks left for me to write down everything I ever want to say about Dark Shadows, I’m going to take a day off from this parallel time, and circle back to The World of Dark Shadows, the unparalleled fanzine that reigned supreme for the first twenty-five years of DS fandom.
Continue reading Episode 1210: The Night We Met
“We’re innocent — yet, terribly guilty!”
You know, sometimes you find yourself in the woods, in the middle of the night, standing over a perfectly rectangular hole that you’ve dug, dressed up like an angry leprechaun and surrounded by plastic trees. You gaze down at the disaster you’ve uncovered — the busted body of your sister Stella, recently killed and inadequately inhumed — and you ask yourself, what the hell kind of soap opera am I living in, anyway?
Continue reading Episode 1209: Birdland
“Are you aware that you’re looking in the direction of the Old House?”
You know, I hate to be that guy, but if you can’t even do a duel properly, then I don’t know why you’re on television.
I mean, I remember the days when a Dark Shadows character could walk ten paces, turn and choose not to fire because they were being noble and heroic, and in return they would be shot in the face and die, like a man. And then they would come back as a revenant with an eyeball hanging out of their face and a different voice and they would say I WANT IN DEATH WHAT YOU WOULD NOT GIVE ME IN LIFE and people would be afraid of them and run away, and it would be crazy-looking and fun to watch. That’s what I expect out of a duel, some spectacle and excitement, and most importantly, an actual plot point that facilitates story progression.
But this? Bramwell stands there and lets Morgan shoot him in, I don’t know, the shoulder or something, and now he’s just saying sullen Bramwell stuff while he’s horizontal instead of vertical.
This is not romantic and noble. It’s not even story progression. This is just lying down and moping.
Continue reading Episode 1207/1208: A Duel’s House
“He left the sanitarium with no memory of the circumstances which had caused him to lose his mind.”
And in another band of time, running parallel to our own, ABC-Television makes some different choices, and Dark Shadows stays on the air.
Here’s how it wouldn’t have gone.
Continue reading Time Travel, part 15: Dark Shadows Without Dark Shadows
“The fire which will burn Collinwood cannot destroy a figure of four!”
So what, you may ask, of the young set? It’s been a while since we’ve checked in with the middle schoolers, who used to be one of the driving forces of the show’s popularity.
They got on board with Dark Shadows in early ’68, as the show took a hard swerve toward Halloweentown, with a vampire, a witch and a Frankenstein monster all featured at the same time. The young set is here for the skeletons, the dream sequences, and the disturbed graves. A magic mirror that lets you peek into a basement full of mad science equipment. A werewolf, crashing through a plate glass window. A woman screaming, trapped inside a ring of fire. A devilish man, calling to the dark creatures of nature as he passes his hands over the body of an unconscious babysitter. These discerning viewers demand playground games, and if Dark Shadows doesn’t provide them, then there’s a risk that they’ll drift over to Scooby-Doo, and stay there.
And now, it seems like that’s a demographic that the show is no longer interested in serving. This 1841 PT storyline is just people talking all the time, and occasionally pulling knives on each other. Nobody’s casting any spells, or bringing anything to life. They just put people’s names into a vase, and then take them out again and throw them away. There’s nothing here to stir the soul of a ten year old, and give them ideas for interesting things they could do with a curtain tie.
Continue reading Episode 1206: The Eyes of Children
“You are a demon — and the demons in me are in league with you!”
There is something about him that stirs you.
All it took was one look, and he knew. He can see that you’re lonely and unhappy, and he knows what you really want. He knows who you really are. He understands you better than you know yourself.
That moment you had together… it meant something. You can’t deny it, and wish it away. He felt it, too. And he remembers.
You try to fight it, but you can’t. You are drawn to him. It doesn’t matter what you say; you don’t have a choice. In the end, he will have you.
And then you have him arrested, I guess, or he gets shot in a duel. That’s usually how those stories end up.
Continue reading Episode 1205: The Bad Behavior of Bramwell, or Romance and Rape and Why Nobody Seems to Do Anything About It
“Tears never got anyone out of anything!”
Let’s talk about the decision-making process for the Collins family here in 1841 Parallel Time, a next-door existence where people have made different choices, all of them terrible.
In this version of the timeline, the Collinses are being held captive by a room in their own house. Refusing all entreaties and resistant to redecoration, this room has bedeviled them since before the house was even built. The room’s been there since 1680, and as I recall, they finished construction around 1795; they must have architected this entire mansion around the sinister locked door, which was floating in the air a couple stories above sea level.
I wish that I could say that was the stupidest choice this family ever made, but they have been breaking that record non-stop for as long as anyone can remember.
Continue reading Episode 1204: Minimum Security
“I think the only thing wrong with the Collinses is a hundred and sixty years of accumulated fear!”
Well, that spooky door is still at it, I suppose. I took a couple episodes off from writing about the 1841 Parallel Collinses, and I thought maybe they would have gotten hold of the situation by now, but no, they’re in just as much of a mess as they were in on Friday, maybe more so.
You see, there’s a really angry door in this version of Collinwood, an evil parallel door that has made different choices, and everyone in the family is afraid of getting on its bad side. You can’t let the architecture get ahead of you like this; at a certain point you have to tell the doors who’s in charge. You can’t live your life trying to make your doors happy; after a while, the walls start getting jealous, and then you’ve got real problems.
Continue reading Episode 1203: Frocks and Violence
“I have a premonition of unpleasant happenings at the antique barn.”
And the winners, apparently, are Paperback Library and Gold Key Comics.
Dark Shadows is still filling time for a couple of months on television, but as of last week, the show is no longer an active participant as a chronicler of the Collins family that we love. Barnabas is safe at home, Quentin is only as insane as he’s supposed to be, and that is all that we shall ever know about their ongoing activities. For ABC Television, the concept of “Barnabas” is no longer their concern.
But the tie-in media continues, long after that dreadful April Third. For one thing, the ridiculous Dark Shadows comic strip starts in March, and runs for a year, coming to an unsteady stop in March 1972. The Paperback Library gothics also run until March 1972, and the Gold Key comic book line stretches all the way to February 1976. There may not be enough housewives interested in Dark Shadows to make it worth All-Temperature Cheer’s while to support a vampire show, but there are enough teenagers to satisfy Gold Key that Dark Shadows can remain more-or-less current in American pop culture for another five years.
So these are the standard-bearers for the characters from now on, the only people who still believe that there’s a market for stories about Barnabas and Quentin. As far as television is concerned, these characters are museum pieces, and as the spin-offs spin on, the question becomes: Does anyone want to buy these antiques?
Continue reading Episode 1202: The Leftovers