“One day she’s perfectly rational, and the next day, she’s suddenly back to talking about death, and mausoleums, and being buried alive.”
As the Bride of Frankenstein storyline ends its seventh straight week of boring the hell out of me, I’ve decided that I’m going to sneak off and play a game today — specifically, the Dark Shadows board game, released by Whitman Publishing in fall 1968 to an eager audience of eight-year-old psychedelic soap opera fans.
Sometimes I do a little late-60s archaeology here, and try to imagine how watching the show might have felt at the time that it was airing, using books and old newspaper articles and TV schedules and guesswork. But there’s one thing that I’ve never really been able to get my head around, which is how old the audience was supposed to be.
My basic understanding of the Dark Shadows audience is that it was mostly housewives and teenagers, with side bets on hippies, mental patients and stoned college students. But then something like the board game comes along, and I have to wonder: were elementary school kids watching Dark Shadows? And, if so, why didn’t anyone stop them?
Continue reading Episode 585: The War on Halloween
“I don’t care if this danger that you’re so afraid of really exists, or if it’s just in your mind.”
Here, if you’ll pardon the expression, is the current storyline:
At the end of yesterday’s episode, Barnabas snuck into Maggie Evans’ bedroom, with the intention of luring her to the basement of the Old House, where she would be hypnotized and have her life force sucked out of her body in a Bride of Frankenstein experiment.
Today, Barnabas returns to Julia’s mad-science laboratory, and he’s got startling news. “Well, I got into the house,” he says, “went to her bedroom. The bed had obviously been occupied, but she wasn’t there.”
And then, with a shocked expression, he says, “Julia — she’s been kidnapped!”
Continue reading Episode 584: The Fugitives
“These people, they’ve got plans for you!”
Okay, time for another crackpot plot twist in the Bride of Frankenstein storyline. The writers have dug themselves into a rather unlikely hole, and they just can’t figure out what the hell to do about it.
Adam, the show’s resident Frankenstein monster, is demanding that Barnabas and Julia create a woman for him. They don’t really want to, because it’s gross and scary, but he’s threatened to kill girl governess Victoria Winters if they don’t, so they’re giving it a whirl. They’ve managed to assemble a lady monster out of dead person parts, and now their problem is that they need to suck the life force out of a living woman in order to get the Bride off the table and onto her feet.
Now Barnabas and Julia are standing around in their basement laboratory, discussing who they’re going to use for the life force. “I’ve thought about it endlessly,” Barnabas says. “I’ve considered every woman we know.”
Julia says, “Must it be someone we know?” and you can tell that she’s thinking, dude, we only know, like, five women. It’s not that big of a cast.
Continue reading Episode 583: Every Woman We Know
“I wish I understood why this table is the way it is.”
Okay. Gosh. Lots to do today, and I’m not really sure how it’s all going to come together. I’m gonna start with Jeff’s surprise face, and then see how it goes from there.
Continue reading Episode 582: The Can’t Let Me Know What Scene
“It has possessed me more than once, so that I’m no longer afraid of it. Death and I are old friends.”
Angelique just wants to be free.
She needs to expand her consciousness, liberating her life force energy and extending it beyond the limitations of the earthly plane. She needs to get outside her own head, transcending the guilt and hang-ups of the past, to be at peace with the harmony of the universe.
I mean, yeah, she’s a vampire. But apart from that, she’s just like every other young woman in 1968.
Continue reading Episode 581: Light My Fire
“Do you think a woman’s just going to volunteer to risk her life for something as insane as this?”
Jeff Clark — an 18th century lawyer who’s been transported through time to 1968 — rubs his neck, and tries to concentrate on the journal he’s studying. He’s in the basement of a spooky old haunted house, where he’s helping a mad scientist assemble a female Frankenstein monster, because the local male Frankenstein monster has threatened to kill Jeff’s fiancee if he doesn’t.
So he’s leafing through the journal of his former employer, who was murdered by a witch in the middle of the last experiment, and Julia is next to him, painstakingly pouring some suspicious-looking red fluid from one test tube into another.
Jeff stands up, and says that he’s going to Collinwood — but then he stops, and sighs. Julia walks over to him, concerned.
“Jeff,” she says, “there’s something bothering you.”
Continue reading Episode 580: Temporary Sanity
“I promise you, Julia, we’ve only seen the beginning of this.”
“Julia, I’m puzzled,” Barnabas says. “Terribly puzzled. I’ve just come from Collinsport.”
Julia asks, “What happened?”
“Nothing has happened, that’s what’s wrong.”
Julia says, “I don’t understand,” and then Barnabas says “Third base!” because it’s just that kind of day.
Continue reading Episode 579: Sproatinger’s Cat
“Well, of course it’s necessary; we can’t have prowlers on the place, attacking people.”
Carolyn and Tony are reunited, at last. They were torn apart by the weird, mad woman who married uncle Roger, and who seemed to delight in luring Tony away from Carolyn’s side. But the witch has melted away, as witches do, and with a little time, the betrayal fades, the harsh words forgotten. They’re just two kids — funny, and headstrong, and good-hearted — finding their way back to each other.
But it’s wrong. It’s all wrong! Can’t you see it? Something terrible has happened to Carolyn. Some dark new creature has crawled inside her skin and is making itself at home in her flesh.
Continue reading Episode 578: The Understudy
“We’re not going to solve my mother’s problems by talking about them.”
You know, I like Carolyn Stoddard a lot. She’s a great soap heroine — she’s pretty and funny and feisty, she’s got a smart mouth, she falls in love with all the wrong men, and she’s got this little catch in her voice when she’s sad that makes you want to go out and rescue a cat from a tree or something. I think she’s fantastic.
But I don’t think she’s very good at planning ahead. That’s where Carolyn and I part ways. She’s got this enormous Frankenstein that she keeps in an abandoned wing of the house, and she comes by every once in a while to bring him food and books and a clean turtleneck, and I don’t think she has the slightest idea what’s supposed to happen next. The writers don’t, either. Bad planning is kind of an epidemic around here.
Continue reading Episode 577: Artificial Intelligence
“Why can’t I speak? Why can’t I move? They’re going to bury me alive!”
Today, there’s exciting news in daytime television to discuss — that is, if by “today” I mean early September 1968, and if by “exciting news” I mean that I find minor adjustments to network television schedules exciting.
And, guess what? I mean both of those things!
Continue reading Episode 576: When They Think I’m Dead