Time Travel, part 4: I Was Just Noticing Your Harpoon Collection

“She’s not like other people. She never was.”

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s not actually Thanksgiving for me, and it’s probably not Thanksgiving for you, but it is for the housewives, teenagers, assorted mental cases and inadequately supervised middle schoolers who make up the 1968 Dark Shadows audience.

On pre-emption days, I take a look at the 1991 Dark Shadows revival series, because apparently I don’t know what’s good for me. Here’s the rundown so far:

Episode 1 : Mostly gimmick shots, indoor mist, no clear idea what the purpose or tone of the show should be.

Episode 2 : Mostly about sweat and sexy biting time, including several ideas borrowed from House of Dark Shadows which weren’t even good the first time.

Episode 3 : Hot tentacles stretch upwards.

Okay, is everybody oriented now? Happy Thanksgiving. Let’s begin.

1991 dark shadows barnabas bleak universe

Previously on Dark Shadows: The severe and unreadable Dr. Julia Hoffman is helping secret vampire Barnabas Collins to control his urges for blood, a research program that so far has not been a roaring success.

Dr. Dave Woodard has been hunting for the creature responsible for several recent violent deaths, and he’s followed his nose all the way to Julia’s lab, where he broke into her desk, found her notebook, and took photographs of all the relevant pages.

Then Woodard went home and called Sheriff Patterson, telling him that he had photographs that would prove who the killer was. That’s a redshirt move if I ever saw one, so naturally the next thing that happened was that Barnabas appeared, and grabbed Woodard by the throat.

And now everything is fine.

1991 dark shadows julia woodard failed

That previously is mine, by the way. The episode doesn’t start with any reminders of what happened last time, so I took it upon myself to bring you up to date. Previouslies are commonplace on television now, but in 1991 they were still optional.

I didn’t actually remember the “Woodard takes photos” plot point when I started watching this episode, so my notes for this first scene are a lot of variations on: What are they talking about? What film? To be fair, you’re supposed to watch these episodes a week apart, and I watched episode 3 six months ago, but still. Throw the audience a bone.

1991 dark shadows woodard film

Anyway, Sheriff Patterson and Julia have come to Woodard’s house to collect the film, but the doctor — who’s still alive, apparently — gives them a mystifying little song and dance along the lines of I made a mistake, I never had any evidence, whoops, my bad, thanks for stopping by.

1991 dark shadows patterson raincoat

By the way, I know that these screenshots are terrible — all murky and underlit, and shot from weird angles — but it’s not my fault; that’s the way that the show looks. Executive producer Dan Curtis is still sitting in the director’s chair, and there’s a lot that he doesn’t know about how to frame and shoot a scene.

Anyway, the thing that you can’t really see properly is that Dr. Woodard handed the film over to Sheriff Patterson, and now the Sheriff and Julia are heading out the door.

As they’re leaving, Woodard says, “Oh, George…”

1991 dark shadows woodard vampire

And then this. He’s a vampire! Ta-dah!

1991 dark shadows patterson shoots woodard

So then we’ve got ourselves an action sequence. Woodard throws Patterson to the ground, and Patterson fires his gun several times into Woodard’s chest. Woodard still advances, hissing away, because that’s what vampires do, and it’s basically any vampire attack from any B-movie you’ve ever seen.

I may have mentioned in some of the previous entries that the revival series really can’t figure out what tone it’s going for, or how we’re supposed to feel about what’s happening on screen.

For example: This scene should be sad, because we’re seeing a moral, upstanding good guy turned into a horrifying beast, defiling his life’s work and sentencing him to eternal damnation. It should also be scary, because there are main characters in physical jeopardy.

But it’s not either of those things. It’s not sad, because they never gave us a reason to like Woodard. We’ve only seen him in vampire-hunting mode, and there aren’t any personal details that would make him stand out as a rounded character. And it’s definitely not scary, because it’s the first minute of the episode, and they’ve dressed up a 60-something TV character actor in vampire drag, and told him to act monstery. It’s embarrassing is what it is.

1991 dark shadows julia collection

Anyway, Woodard’s about to chow down on the Sheriff, and Julia looks around desperately, trying to find something to — wait, what’s that?

1991 dark shadows julia grabs

And then they just go right ahead and do it.

As everyone should know by now, Dr. Woodard’s living room is bristling with harpoons, so Julia just reaches out a hand and grabs the nearest one.

1991 dark shadows julia stance

Here’s the windup…

1991 dark shadows julia harpoon

And thar she blows!

1991 dark shadows patterson woodard harpoon

It doesn’t kill him right away, of course. First, the vampire has to lunge towards Julia, so that Patterson can come up behind him and thrust the harpoon straight through the guy’s heart.

And that’s how you make the worst thing broadcast on television on January 18th, 1991.

1991 dark shadows julia patterson raincoat

So that went awesome; another victory for Collinsport law enforcement.

Julia and the Sheriff go back to the police station, weltering in gore. Patterson tells Deputy Harker to develop the film, and then takes off his blood-soaked slicker.

“Jonathan,” he says, handing the coat over, “I want you to get rid of this.”

The deputy says, “Right,” and takes the coat away, without asking any questions like what happened or isn’t this evidence or can I at least put on some latex gloves before you start handing me outerwear that is currently dripping with the body fluids of the latest suspect that you harpooned in a spontaneous act of maritime justice.

Obviously this is a super common scenario for the Collinsport police department. It’s starting to feel a little Ferguson-y around here.

1991 dark shadows jonathan harker

By the way, the deputy is named Jonathan Harker, which is a character name from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. As you know, this is hilarious.

1991 dark shadows julia patterson nothing

Meanwhile, Julia doesn’t say anything, because 1991 Julia is terrible.

These two just went through a soul-shattering experience which was supposed to be one or more of the following — frightening, traumatic, bleak, emotionally raw, and/or goofy comic relief — but Dr. Julia Hoffman simply cannot think of a single damn thing to say.

She just stands there, like she always stands there, and she makes another in her endless repertoire of awkward, pinched faces, and she is terrible.

1991 dark shadows julia terrible

Now, when I wrote about the 1991 show six months ago, I got some comments asking why I didn’t mention Barbara Steele, who plays Julia.

As everyone apparently knows but me, Barbara Steele is a well-known horror icon, famous for her starring roles in Halloween, The Shining, Night of the Living Dead, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Cabin in the Woods, The Blair Witch Project, Poltergeist and Donnie Darko.

I’m kidding, of course. Those are all good horror movies, and Barbara Steele never got within ten miles of a good horror movie.

Let’s take a look at some items on her CV: In 1961, she appeared in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Then she was in the 1962 film The Horrible Dr. Hichcock, where she played Cynthia Hichcock, and then the 1963 film The She Beast, where she played Margaret Hichcock.

Meanwhile, the actual Alfred Hitchcock was making Psycho and The Birds at the time. It’s weird that he didn’t cast Barbara Steele in either of those; I hear she’s a horror icon. Go figure.

619 dark shadows julia eyebrow

Now, I’m not a big fan of terrible actors, obviously, but in this case it’s even worse than usual, because she’s playing Dr. Julia Hoffman, the greatest character in the history of fiction.

Briefly, Julia is a mythopoetic trickster figure who destabilizes narrative in productive and entertaining ways, using an elaborate system of lies, madcap scheming, and facial expressions. Julia creates a new world in every scene, inviting the audience to join her in a new and more compelling reality, and if the audience doesn’t take the bait, she throws that one away and tries another.

She also happens to be single-handedly responsible for the success of Dark Shadows. The vampire storyline was starting to run out of steam — Barnabas was in the process of seducing a second dark-haired ingenue, setting up a cycle of repetition that threatened to squander the meager momentum they’d managed to scrape together.

And then Julia showed up, the most interesting character in any given room, and she was interested in Barnabas, which gave the audience a reason to care. And that’s why there’s still such a thing as Dark Shadows.

For more information on how awesome Julia is, see practically every article that I’ve ever written. She is magnificent.

And the 1991 DS thinks that the part should go to the terrible, pinched Barbara Steele, because she is a horror icon. This is the same mentality that thinks it’s clever to call the deputy Jonathan Harker.

1991 dark shadows sam hall credit

And it’s especially irritating today, because this is the episode written by Sam Hall — the best writer on the original Dark Shadows, and the husband of Grayson Hall, who played Julia.

Sam was 69 years old, and close to retirement when Dan Curtis asked him to write for the Dark Shadows revival. Unfortunately, working on the show wasn’t a happy experience.

Here’s a quote from a 2009 interview with Sam:

“I finally said to [Dan], while we were working on the second version of Dark Shadows, that I wouldn’t work with him anymore. We were great friends in a weird way. I said, ‘You won’t let your writers have any dignity now.’ It’s true. He would have one writer in one room and another writer in the next room, both unaware of each other and each writing the same scripts.”

As you can see above, this episode’s credits say: “Written by Sam Hall and Steve Feke & Dan Curtis”. Steve Feke was a supervising producer. In fact, 10 of the show’s 12 episodes were written or co-written by a producer or executive story editor.

The Dark Shadows revival is Sam’s last television credit. This is the show that broke Sam Hall.

1991 dark shadows julia photos

Here’s a good example of why this particular show could crush the will of an intelligent writer. Deputy Harker develops Woodard’s roll of film, and the pictures just show fuzzy white shapes where the notebook pages should be.

And get a load of this:

Patterson:  The negative was exposed. There was an image. When we put it into the printer, this is what we got.

Julia:  I don’t understand.

Patterson:  Neither do I. And what’s more, there’s no longer an image on the negative, either.

Julia looks at him, and then she stops looking at him, and then the plot point just kind of rolls over and quietly dies.

So I am required to ask the obvious question, namely: What the hell? If the pictures were going to magically untake themselves, why did Woodard go nuts and start attacking heavily-armed protagonists with his canines? Also, how did the pictures magically untake themselves? To sum up: what the hell?

1991 dark shadows julia barnabas injection

Now, I know I’m being super harsh and demanding with the revival, and I’m a lot more generous when I’m talking about the original show’s lunatic plot contrivances. If the 1968 show postulates that a vampire has the power to degrade film stock even after a harpoon-assisted slaying, I would at least try to get into the spirit of it.

But even in November 1968, which is a particularly messy and badly-planned period of the show, they try to meet the audience halfway. Yeah, the plot twists are insane and the characters don’t make any sense, but at least they’re having a good time with it. They’re growling and rolling their eyes, and traveling through time, and using Chromakey mirrors, and talking to Satan. There’s an energy to it that covers over a multitude of sins. But this episode is just grim, and it seems like they’re trying to be annoying on purpose.

1991 dark shadows barnabas face

For example: Julia is giving Barnabas an update on the Woodard situation, as she injects him with anti-vampire juice.

She says, “Of course, you are aware that unless there are any more killings, you should be quite safe now.”

Barnabas’ response is to make this face, and nod slowly at her. This isn’t one of those mean gotcha screenshots, where you catch an actor halfway between two expressions. Barnabas makes this specific face, and holds it for two seconds. This is the actual reaction.

It’s honestly starting to feel like the people who are making this show just aren’t having any fun, and they’re taking it out on us.

1991 dark shadows sarah david now

Okay, next up is a scene with Sarah the friendly ghost, who’s visiting David while he’s playing with some Revolutionary War toy soldiers. As they’re chatting, David’s governess Vicki passes by in the hallway, and she hears part of the conversation.

1991 dark shadows vicki david soldiers

Naturally, when Vicki enters the room, Sarah silently evaporates. David confirms that he was talking to a ghost, and then Vicki gets interested in the toy soldiers.

Vicki:  Where did you get these? They’re very old.

David:  Two hundred years old. Sarah gave them to me.

Vicki:  That’s a very nice gift.

David:  Well, she’s my friend.

Vicki:  A generous friend. Do you give her things?

It’s honestly super difficult to tell what she actually thinks about this. Does Vicki currently believe that ghosts exist, or not? This is a show about the supernatural that doesn’t seem to have a model of what the main characters think about the supernatural.

1991 dark shadows sarah beckons

But she gets another whack at it. As soon as she leaves David’s room, she sees Sarah down the hall, beckoning her to follow.

Now, if Sarah wanted to chat with Vicki, then you’d think she’d just stick around in David’s room, but what do I know, I’m not even a ghost.

1991 dark shadows vicki enter

Vicki follows the ghost girl down a bright and well-appointed hallway, until she gets to a door that’s inexplicably covered with cobwebs. Apparently the dusting only goes so far in this house.

1991 dark shadows sarah book

Sarah hands over a book, which turns out to be her own diary, and then she disappears. I can’t explain why she can’t just say what she wants to say. Sometimes I can’t explain anything.

1991 dark shadows vicki emotion

Now, I’ve said some rough things about Joanna Going in the past, and she’s deserved it, but I have to say, she’s the only person on the show right now who bothers to express any feelings about the existence of the supernatural. You have to give her that.

She’s also very pretty, or at least she would be if she could keep her mouth closed once in a while.

1991 dark shadows barnabas vicki beach

Affected by her experience, Vicki goes for a stroll with Barnabas on the beach, and they have another one of their baffling conversations.

Vicki:  Over two centuries of Collins children must have splashed in these waves.

Barnabas:  I’m sure they did.

Vicki:  Perhaps some of their ghosts still come here to play. I hope children’s spirits have time to play.

Barnabas:  I hope so too.

You do? What a terribly odd thing to hope.

Now, I have to say that this doesn’t sound like Sam Hall dialogue to me. With the original show, I can usually spot a Sam Hall script with my eyes shut, because he’s the writer who can do witty, intelligent dialogue. But this episode sounds like all the others in 1991.

Sam’s style may have changed somewhat in the two decades since the original show ended, but there’s seriously not a single line that sounds like it’s his. I think the writer in the next room won most of the coin tosses.

1991 dark shadows vicki barnabas where

In an odd move, Vicki gives the diary to Barnabas, so I don’t know what Sarah’s plan was but it doesn’t seem to have panned out.

For a moment, Barnabas gets angry, and barks, “Where did you get this?” Vicki kind of pulls back and says that she found it in a deserted room. He apologizes for being rough with her, and that’s your one Barnabas/Vicki scene for the episode. They do one a week, and this one is better than most, actually.

1991 dark shadows barnabas willie mirror

So, as I mentioned earlier, Dan is still directing these episodes, which is obvious because he loves gimmick shots. He typically starts a new scene with a shot from above, and then switches to a camera position roughly three inches below Barnabas’ nostrils.

The next scene opens with a shot of Barnabas reading Sarah’s diary, as reflected in a mirror in the Old House drawing room. Then we pan over to the right until we see the same thing, but facing in the other direction.

It’s a nice shot, actually, except that two episodes ago, they made a big deal about Barnabas not appearing in mirrors. So if you miss having bloopers in the 1991 series, then there you go.

1991 dark shadows willie barnabas book

Barnabas is reading Sarah’s diary and getting kind of emotional about it, when he finds a piece of paper folded up and hidden inside the binding.

1991 dark shadows angelique portrait

The paper shows a portrait of a disheveled looking blonde. This upsets Barnabas, who stands up, crumples the paper into a ball, and throws it into the fire.

1991 dark shadows angelique fireplace

And then this happens.

1991 dark shadows barnabas choices

Barnabas handles this the way he handles any stimulus. He makes a stupid looking face, and then he just keeps on making it.

As you know, acting is all about choices. I guess this is his choice, and he’s going to stick with it.

1991 dark shadows angelique demon

So they have kind of a noisy standoff, where Barnabas makes the face, and the hovering, screaming fire creature just keeps hovering and screaming.

Finally, she gets bored and disappears, and Barnabas takes that as his cue to look moody and talk about himself some more. They never explain why Sarah gave Vicki a book that contained a secret piece of paper that summons lady fire demons. We’re on our own with that one.

1991 dark shadows barnabas willie evil

Naturally, Willie wants to know what the hell was that, so Barnabas paces across the room and strikes a dramatic pose, proving that backacting is still alive and well in the far-off year of 1991.

“Her name is Angelique,” he says, “the true curse of my existence.” There’s a rumble of thunder because that makes for atmosphere.

“She is a force so evil — so powerful — that even now she reaches across the centuries to destroy me.” Except when he says it, there’s a crash of thunder to punctuate “evil,” and then “me” a moment later. Ka-CHOW, it says, and then Ka-ka-ka-CHOW. But with lightning.

1991 dark shadows vicki david class

Okay, commercial break, and we’re moving on. Vicki’s teaching David, and she’s still having trouble keeping her mouth closed when she isn’t using it.

1991 dark shadows laura painting

Vicki notices that the boy has a mysterious oil painting hidden in his desk, as kids so often do.

She says, “David, where did you get this?” because today’s episode is about sixty percent people asking each other where they got things. Seriously, scroll back and check it out. This is the third time in this episode so far.

And I don’t know why they even bother to ask, because the answer is always: somewhere in the house where we live. Collinwood is a big house; it has a lot of places.

1991 dark shadows david vicki paint

Vicki wants David to put the painting back where he found it, so he leads her to yet another abandoned room. The set designers have strung a little bit of cobweb in one corner, but their heart’s not really in it. This is the second secret room that we’ve seen in today’s episode, and we’re only about halfway through.

1991 dark shadows laura david painting

David warns Vicki that they’re not supposed to be here, but Vicki is determined to poke her nose into anything she feels like. Scouting the area for spook potential, she finds a painting of a woman and her baby.

So I guess the long-term strategy for this show is to become a kind of unfocused Murder, She Wrote. Every episode, David leads Vicki to another lonely place to find a mysterious clue, and then Vicki stands there with her mouth open, trying desperately to figure out what the hell is going on in her life.

1991 dark shadows roger exists

The art appreciation is interrupted by David’s father, Roger, who walks in and gets upset. He asks, “What are you doing in this room, and how did you get in here?” which is essentially the “where did you get this” of locations.

Vicki tries to ask a question, but Roger barks at her and tells her to beat it. He closes with a moody line: “Miss Winters… this room, and everything in it, doesn’t exist anymore.”

1991 dark shadows vicki exists

Vicki gives him a look, which basically says: gotcha, a room that doesn’t exist. Roger that.

1991 dark shadows roger sweaty

And then we move on to something that does exist, namely another sweaty Roger and Maggie post-coital symposium on how spooky something is. I hate to be ageist or looksist or whatever I happen to be, but I am not a fan of these scenes, and I would prefer to have fewer of them.

People made fun of the unaired 2004 WB Dark Shadows pilot, because they cast all of the main characters as late-twentysomething hotties like Alec Newman, Kelly Hu and Matt Czuchry. It turns out that approach has some distinct advantages.

1991 dark shadows maggie other people

Anyway, the point of this scene is for Maggie and Roger to say some words about his estranged wife.

Maggie:  I know you never want to listen to me, when I have something to say about Laura.

Roger:  Maggie, please. I don’t want to start this again.

Maggie:  She’s not like other people. She never was.

Roger sighs and looks away, and that’s a wrap on that conversation.

1991 dark shadows david other people

And speaking of people who aren’t like other people, we see young David rummaging through his father’s room.

He picks up a handkerchief, some pipe cleaners, a pair of cuff links and a sample from Roger’s hairbrush. Then he crafts a homemade voodoo doll, and sets it ablaze.

1991 dark shadows roger thrash

This kicks off an upsetting sequence where Roger thrashes around and acts like he’s on fire, which I don’t even want to get into.

So are we totally sure that we didn’t want Matt Czuchry on a Dark Shadows revival? Why did we let him drift away? Must’ve been out of our goddamn minds. I don’t get it.

1991 dark shadows vicki maggie witch

So let’s review the last nine and a half minutes of prime-time network telvision.

Angelique — Barnabas’ dead wife, who is a force so evil, so powerful, that even now etcetera —  just manifested herself as a reproduction of an oil painting. Barnabas threw the picture into the fireplace, which erupted and spat out a shrieking lady fire demon.

And then the very next thing that happens is that Vicki is led by a trail of oil paintings to the cobwebby art studio of Laura — Roger’s institutionalized wife, who according to Maggie is an evil and powerful witch — and then a remote-controlled David uses fire to injure his father.

Now, as far as I recall, this Laura subplot isn’t mentioned again for the entire rest of this series. They just forget all about her and move on. So it’s a real mystery why they even bothered to bring it up.

1991 dark shadows barnabas upshot

Now, I’ve often talked about Sam Hall’s talent for creating narrative collisions — throwing elements of an older story into the current Dark Shadows storyline, just to see what happens — and they usually work out well.

Under Sam’s watch, we’ve seen the show take inspiration from The Crucible, The Cask of Amontillado, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Maltese Falcon and Jack the Ripper, with side bets on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Waiting for Godot.

But the 1991 series is attempting to collide Dark Shadows with other parts of Dark Shadows, which is not the point. It feels like they’re name-checking things just for the sake of it, whether it makes sense for the show or not.

1991 dark shadows fire mixup

If you’re a Dark Shadows fan, then you can already see the discrepancies between the Laura storylines in the original show, and the way that she’s being depicted here. The 1967 Laura wasn’t a witch — she was a different kind of creature called a Phoenix, who could burn to death and then return a century later, to lure a child into the flames.

Changing Laura into another witch is not a problem. I’m not the kind of fan who demands that a reboot must be faithful to the original text in every detail. If they can make a better story by turning Laura into Angelique, then they should go ahead and do it.

The problem is that they’ve turned Laura into Angelique in the same episode where they’re also introducing Angelique, which is unacceptable. I don’t even know how to respond to that kind of situation.

1991 dark shadows barnabas willie face

And then the episode’s final sequence mixes things up even more. Barnabas and Willie are in the drawing room, chatting about Sarah’s diary — and suddenly the windows blow open, and the fireplace suddenly flares up in a burst of flame.

Now, we’ve already seen that both Angelique and Laura use fire as a communication tool, so one of them has got to be responsible for this. Probably Angelique, because she’s the one with a connection to Barnabas, and besides, she did this exact same thing earlier in the episode.

1991 dark shadows sarah writing

Except then Sarah’s diary blows open, and Barnabas and Willie are astonished to find writing that appears on a blank page. It’s a note from Sarah, telling Barnabas to stay away from Vicki.

So… that means that we’ve now got three supernatural females, all trying to get people’s attention by using fire. Because obviously that’s how you do television.

1991 dark shadows diary flipping

And that’s not even the bad thing. The bad thing happens after Barnabas and Willie leave the room.

Left on a desk, the diary opens itself, and the pages flip by…

1991 dark shadows angelique why

… until we reach a portrait of Angelique, which for some reason occupies the last page of Sarah’s diary.

So, in conclusion: Does anyone happen to have a harpoon handy? Check your wall; there’s usually one hanging nearby. I promise I’ll give it back when I’m done with it.

Tomorrow: One Damned Thing After Another.

Next pre-emption special:
Time Travel, part 5: Consider Rhoda.

1991 halloween vicki mouth

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

71 thoughts on “Time Travel, part 4: I Was Just Noticing Your Harpoon Collection

  1. When you said you were reviewing this episode, I wondered if you’d comment on the weird facial expression Ben Cross makes during his first scene. Then I thought, “Naah… no one noticed that but me.” So, either I’m not crazy or we’re both crazy. Either way, you are awesome.

    That scene, however, does have relevance to my larger point of WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? This entire series feels like the dramatic version of a making a hamburger with mango slices instead of tomato and whipped cream instead of mayo. Clearly, no thought was given to how anyone consuming this abomination would respond. Seriously, the script has a scene in which a flat-out sociopath is delighted that an innocent man has taken the fall for his own crimes. Then a few minutes later, we have a romantic walk on the beach with him and the female lead. How are we supposed to feel about this? Shouldn’t we want Victoria nowhere near this monster? I don’t think even the people making the episode know.
    Yes, THE GODFATHER is about a bad person, as well, but Michael Corleone kills people who threatens his family and even those people are corrupt cops and gangsters. Woodard was a decent person investigating the murder of another decent person (Daphne, who Barnabas also killed without remorse). Yes, Barnabas on the original show could be a right bastard at times but during his most villainous period, the show made it clear that he was a force for evil and that we should feel *worried” about Vicki or Carolyn or David or the people he threatened. The 1991 series has no such interest in how the viewers feel about anything.

    Oh, and a great character moment when the TV version of Woodard died was his insisting that he’d rather die than become a vampire and even if Barnabas did make him a vampire, he would use his last bit of will power to destroy Barnabas and then himself. And we believed him. The 1991 Woodard cowardly chooses to become a vampire — the very thing he’s devoted his life to hunting! — to avoid a possibly painful death. And it frickin’ happens off camera just so that we can have a stupid shock scene. And the scene is stupid not just because it weakens whatever there was of the character but it’s stupid because Woodard behaves stupidly. Why attack the police officer and Julia? It makes no sense.

    There are no character arcs, just a relay race through DARK SHADOWS history — a shadow play of something better.

    BTW: I think Barnabas was able to admire his attractive yet oddly animated features in a mirror since the third episode.

    1. Yeah, I don’t know what to do with Ben Cross here. It really feels like he’s deliberately trying to be annoying. I have a vague memory that the show gets better after this episode, but they’ve already burned through all of my interest in watching either B. Cross or B. Steele.

      In surprising news, I’m actually finding myself warming to Joanna Going and Jim Fyfe, who aren’t very good yet, but they’re way better than they were. I’ll see what happens next month when I watch part 5 for the Christmas pre-emption. 🙂

      1. When the show was on there was a story that Ben Cross was asked in an interview why after starring in Chariots of Fire, an Oscar winning movie and then going on to star in several well regarded British dramas did he decide to do the Dark Shadows remake. His answer was that he wanted to do something completely different. In hindsight, he may have actually meant that as the dis that it sounds like, instead of a badly worded way to say he wanted to do a different genre.

        1. I wish an actor would flat-out say, “I’m doing it for the money.” I know people (mostly non-actors) claim this is “selling out” and a rejection of their noble craft, but working as an actor is almost like winning the lottery. You’re not guaranteed to keep winning. When an actor is “hot,” it makes sense to earn as much money as you can. There will be fallow periods. And if you’re a stage actor, it’s getting harder to live in New York unless you also go to L.A. and do a few pilots.

          I agree, though, that awful choices can typecast you and potentially ruin your career. But I can understand the appeal of a TV series, even one where you have to wear INCREDIBLE HULK contacts.

  2. Barbara Steele has one good movie that I know of, Black Sunday, from 1960. It’s very creepy.

    I agree that she was not the right person to play Julia Hoffman. She looks more like Mrs Johnson or Bathia Mapes. If I was doing a remake, I would want someone who could carry herself the same way. Someone who could tilt back her head and look down her nose at you suspiciously, until you crack and confess everything. And the same red hair.
    Barbara Steele, with her black hair, looks like sinister minister Trask.

    1. Danny sums up Julia best as a “trickster character” who makes stories more interesting. The 1991 series (as HODS did two decades earlier) reduces her to “doctor obsessed with Barnabas who attempts to cure him.” If Curtis understood what the character and actress brought to the show, he would have cast her differently and written the new series much differently. Victoria Winters arriving at Collinwood is the opening of a much different (much duller) TV series. Vicki should have been already “in residence” at Collinwood when Barnabas arrives (as Vicki was in the original series at that point.

      I’d go so far as to argue that the series should have started with Julia’s arrival at Collinwood, posing as a historian, but who is actually investigating mysterious deaths in the area. Barnabas could already be at the Old House and his release could be backstory — perhaps later shown in flashback.

      Julia is the protagonist of DARK SHADOWS. Sometimes Barnabas rises to the level of co-protagonist but Julia is the one who really stirs things up and pushes stories forward. I wonder if there were any female characters like her on a soap opera in the 1960s. She’s a wacky Jessica Fletcher.

      1. The thing is that you can’t actually remake Dark Shadows. It’s a story that can only be told once, because nobody would pace a story this way on purpose. You could argue that “the real story” begins in lots of different places, because every day was a jumping-on point for a batch of new viewers.

        Going back to the beginning — any beginning, start where you like — and you’re introducing people to an immature show that isn’t fully formed until Quentin arrives, almost three years in. Nobody ever uses Quentin when they reboot the show, because he’s not “supposed to be” on the show until season 3. But that’s when the show was at the peak of popularity, so you’re specifically designing seasons 1 and 2 to be not quite as good as it could be. No reboot ever gets that far.

        There are 1,245 steps to the ritual, and one of the steps is missing. The ritual has only been completed once. Thank goodness.

        1. I think you are right and Dark Shadows can’t be remade. It was lightening in a bottle, a happy combination of form and really lucky casting. If, and it’s a big if, it could be remade, I think it only works as a daily soap opera, where even though they lurched through storylines at an incredible rate, the necessity to full 5 days a week still allowed for character examination that soften Barnabas’s character and gave him the depth to become a protagonist.

          The other thing that would have to go was Dan Curtis’s obsession with the character of Victoria Winters. In the 1960s you could maybe stretch the idea that she had been raised in a foundling home. By the 90s it was pushing believability. Now, well let’s face it a pretty WHITE girl is abandoned with the note “Her name is Victoria, I can’t take care of her” and adoptive families would come out of the woodwork. It would hit the papers, the news and the Internet. Victoria Winters, girl governess raised in an orphanage is not going to work. On Once Upon A Time, the only explanation for Emma not being adopted was the Curse didn’t let her be. Vicki could not have had the background that Curtis is so attached to.

        2. This is why I love your blog. I enjoyed the 1991 Series exactly once – after probably a half-dozen complete run-throughs of the original series.

          That was good enough for me. Dark Shadows was like Woodstock. It could only happen in the context in which it happened, when it happened, where it happened. Trying to recapture that is like Woodstock ‘99.

          WHY it has never occurred to anyone (outside of the Big Finish studios at least) to tell a more modern version of the show, a “Next Generation” sort of thing, rather than yet another remake – is utterly beyond my comprehension.

        3. “Nobody ever uses Quentin when they reboot the show, because he’s not “supposed to be” on the show until season 3.”

          My first exposure to Dark Shadows was through the Big Finish audio revival (not a ‘reboot’, I know). And who was the first and leading character in that first audio series? Quentin, of course.

          And that’s how I became a Dark Shadows fan.

  3. I’ve not seen it for a couple of years but I seem to remember it getting better because of one of the things you point out here – that so far there’s a lot “this spooky thing happened in the original series so it sort of, maybe, somehow has to happen here as well”. Last time I saw it it felt like, as the show went on, there was a lot less of this and it gradually morphed into a bit more of a generic – but quite fun – 1990s TV series. It became a 1990s Dark Shadows series rather than this strange remake that requires you to know what’s important because it was important in the original series.

    1. The 1991 series soon starts to apply its Cliff Notes approach to 1795 instead of the early Barnabas storyline (with a bit of HODS thrown in). That storyline is already tighter, but I think Vicki is still useless in it, and Angelique is depicted as a standard issue crazy woman. If HODS was overall a C story, the 1991 Cliff Notes version was a D-, but I think that’s less of a tragedy than turning an A storyline (1795 from the TV series) into a C or even C+ story.

  4. I hate to say it, but even when Barbara Steele gets mentioned here, she gets written off. I know that ITALIAN horror films aren’t everyone’s speed, but she’s nothing less than the Queen of THOSE. And as far as American ones, there’s THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM. And as far as TV, there’s a pretty famous NIGHT GALLERY episode.

  5. Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Lon Chaney, Jr. were horror icons, and they never appeared in a Hitchcock film, either.

  6. Uh, oh, I feel like I’ve reached the point in a relationship where my partner reveals some pretty shocking news that makes me question our compatibility, like, “You mean you watch Fox News un-ironically?”

    Yes, Grant, I also hated to read Danny’s Barbara Steele dis. When mentioning her months ago, Danny admitted he wasn’t really familiar with her. Now it seems like he’s simply done a drive-by of her imdb page, picked out a few random credits and decided “Nothing to see, moving on…”

    Which strikes me as odd for someone who’s chosen to devote years of his life blogging about a near-50-year-old daytime soap — and who’s been curious enough to read through chapters of Varney the Vampyre to seek connections!

    No question, Barbara Steele was wrong for Julia Hoffman… but then who among the 1991 cast was really “right” for their poorly-written part? Could you pick out anyone who was an improvement over — or even the equal of — his or her original series fore-bearer?

    But Babs of Steele should be given her due… as she’s arguably (and I’d be doing the arguing) the Greatest Female Horror Movie Star of all time.

    Just saying that, of course, shows how male-dominated the field is: Chaney, Sr., Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney, Jr., Carradine, Cushing, Lee, Price… all dudes. Some might bring up various Scream Queens, from Fay Wray to Jamie Lee Curtis, but they made their fame as the screaming damsels in distress rather than playing the Big Bad Monstuh (as the guys usually did).

    Barbara Steele was different. Sometimes she’d play the heroine, but usually SHE was the witch, or vampire, or vengeful ghost. (Many times she was both as Steele often was cast in dual roles).

    MASK OF THE DEMON (known in the US as BLACK SUNDAY) isn’t just a good film, it’s a great one, the first horror film directed by Italian great Mario Bava (and if you don’t know about him, Quentin Tarantino weeps for you).

    The success of this picture made Barbara a star (at least within the limited confines of European horror films). THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK is a seriously perverse film that opens (in the uncut version) with our villain fondling a female corpse. Obviously some trimming was needed before this movie entered heavy rotation on Chiller Theater.

    Barbara joins the fun in Roger Corman’s second Edgar Allan Poe adaptation, PIT AND THE PENDULUM, playing Vincent Price’s dead — or is she? — wife. For my money, the last shot in this movie registers as one of the great moments in horror film history

    THE GHOST, TERROR CREATURES FROM THE GRAVE and THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH are all entertaining, but two standouts are CASTLE OF BLOOD and NIGHTMARE CASTLE, films that are literally built around Barbara Steele’s presence. If you saw either of these at a young age, you never forget her.

    Critic Richard Corliss once referred to this collection of films as “Barbara Steele’s witchy-poo horrors.” Although he was being a bit of a dick (surprise, surprise), even his dismissive-ness kind of proves my point. If you labeled something “a Karloff movie” or a “Bela Lugosi movie,” movie fans, certainly horror movie fans (at least of my generation), could fill in the blanks to know what you meant. You knew what kind of picture you were talking about. The same could be said of “a Barbara Steele movie.” Just the invoking of her name could identify the type of movie it was.

    So, Danny… Daniel!… even if you dismiss Barbara in the Julie role of the 1991 revival, please don’t so casually trivialize the part she played in horror movie history.

    And turn off Fox News. It will make you paranoid.

    1. A great defense of Barbara Steele. I happen to have an autographed DVD of Nightmare Castle and an autographed poster of The Pit And The Pendulum from here.

      She is definitely the greatest female horror icon — and if she is not on the same level as Vincent Price, Karloff or Lugosi it’s only because she became dismissive of the horror genre and tried to avoid being typecast as she strived to become a mainstream star. I’ve no problem mentioning her in the same breath as the other well known icons of horror, of course.

      I haven’t seen her work in the 1991 version of Dark Shadows, yet.

  7. To me it seemed clear they were rolling Cassandra Collins and Laura into one character. It would have turned out that Angelique had been hanging around Collinwood for centuries in different guises and at some point gave birth to David, calling herself Laura Collins.

    1. OK, I’ll try to re-do my original post – and make it briefer!

      Suffice to say, I’m kinda disappointed as well that Barbara Steele gets written off on the blog as not just wrong for the 1991 revival series (she was, of course, but the part was also poorly written), but that she also gets labeled a “bad actress.”

      Yes, many consider her a horror icon, and with good reason. Including the titles Danny already name-checked, Steele’s major titles include MASK OF THE DEMON (BLACK SUNDAY in the USA), a seminal horror film that marked the directing debut of Italian horror maestro Mario Bava. This made Steele a star, at least within the horror film world, and a number of other Italian horrors followed, the best of which are CASTLE OF BLOOD and NIGHTMARE CASTLE, movies that are literally built as star vehicles for Barbara. There are more titles, but these three are the ones most worth checking out. Yes, they’re Italian films, but the 1960s wasn’t just the era that was home to Dark Shadows, it’s also the decade that horror truly went international.

      In fact, I’d argue that Steele is the greatest Female Horror Star of all time. Granted, there aren’t many rivals to the title. (I wouldn’t include Scream Queens, from Fay Wray to Jaime Lee Curtis, as they played the damsel in distress, the menace-ee, while a true Horror Star – as shown by the male counterparts – plays the monster or villain, the menace-or). But Barbara is one of the few to not only be the real star of her films but the one playing the Big Bad.

      1. Steele is not very good in the 1991 DARK SHADOWS. I can be kind and say that she was given very little to work with in the scripts, but I could also be less kind and say the only reason I’m talking about her right now is because she played the part of Julia Hoffman, which had been made legendary by Grayson Hall.

      2. I completely agree with you. She is definitely a horror icon. It’s one thing to complain about her performance – that’s fair (although I thought she was actually one of the better characters in the revival). It’s quite something different to disparage her career and take cheap shots, like Danny did. She deserves better. She wasn’t in a Hitchcock film? Big deal. Hitchcock made exactly ONE horror film, “Psycho.” (The Birds” was more a disaster film than horror). Hitchcock did not make horror movies; he made suspense thrillers.

        The problem may be that people like Danny and some others on this blog are not familiar with the horror genre, they are soap opera fans. I’m not a soap opera fan; other than DS, I’ve never watched any other soap opera, to include nighttime soap operas like “Dallas.” On their other hand, I loved comics, SF, and classic horror. Being born in 1960, I grew up watching Universal monster movies, Hammer Production movies, the Amicus anthology films; etc. and reading comic books like Creepy, Vampirella, and Tomb of Dracula. I discovered DS when I was 9 years old – I didn’t even know what a soap opera was; to me DS was a 5 day a week monster show.

    2. MK: It looks like you posted the missing post under “monsterkid1963” instead of “monsterkid63”, and when there’s a comment from a new account, it gets held for approval. I just approved it, so your original post is on the page now. 🙂

  8. Legendary in the DS universe, but I’d be willing to bet many more horror fans know who Barbara Steele is vs. who Grayson Hall was.

    But my overall point being that it’s one thing to dismiss Craig Slocum or Addison Powell as bad when there are few other movie or tv credits to go by, but there are quite a few for Barbara Steele.

    I suppose there are those who are only interested in Dark Shadows but not interested at all in horror as a movie or TV genre (maybe those who come at DS through their interest in soaps as a genre rather than through horror), but if you’re someone who has a love of the horror movie & TV genre, Barbara Steele is someone whose films you should defintely check out.

    1. Danny could have dismissed her as an actress without questioning her status as a horror icon. To wit, a lot of people think Bela Lugosi sucked as an actor, but he remains a horror legend because his fans have made him one. Meanwhile, I think Madonna is a zero-talent freak, but I can’t deny her extreme popularity. We’re entitled to own opinions but not our own stats.

      1. After writing a blog for a year and a half that includes discussions of Satan worship, rape, mental illness, civil rights, outing closeted gay actors, exorcism, evolution, avant-garde theater and a random swipe at reiki certification, I have finally found the two topics this week that piss people off — John Lennon, and 1960s Italian horror movies.

        1. DARK SHADOWS is interesting because it has two distinct types of fans — lovers of horror and sci-fi and soap opera devotees (the housewives who loved Barnabas but would never sit through DRACULA). DS is neither and both. That’s what makes it crazy and wonderful.

          I appreciate this blog because Danny explores the soap opera connection (this is rare, I’ve found, on Internet discussions of DS).

          Barbara Steele is an example, I think, of symbolic miscasting. The original DARK SHADOWS had little in common with the types of movies she made, but HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS did (or rather would not feel too out of place in a themed film series with them). Thus, Steele for me represents everything I disliked about HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and thus sort of is bow on why I don’t care much for the 1991 revival.

          The 1967 DS, especially its forays into mad science and secret murder labs, felt more akin to Universal Horror, which I love. Now, if Valarie Hobson from BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (in her 70s at the time) had been cast in the revival — say as Abigail Collins, that would have felt more like a sign that the series was going in a direction that appealed to me (at least based on what it believed were its true influences).

          Also,a true nod to DS’s soap opera pedigree would have helped a lot. Susan Lucci is not the actress Grayson Hall was, perhaps, but she would have at least been fun to watch, as she’s closer than anyone they cast to the camp appeal of Ms. Hall.

          And Angelique is the ancestor to Phyllis Summers Newman or Kate Roberts or Kristin Dimera — not to Alex from FATAL ATTRACTION.

          1. Dark Shadows is a strange show because it is influenced by so many apparently different things. It’s true that there’s a strong Universal horror influence, but there’s also very strong Hammer and AIP influences, especially when they travel into the past. In fact, I’d argue that those influences are far more prevalent than the Universal ones as they take more visual and thematic cues from Hammer’s Gothic films and AIP’s many Poe adaptations.

            Many of Barbara Steele’s films fall into this Gothic aesthetic and the 1795 or 1897 storylines would not be out place in one of the many Italian/American horror co-productions she starred in. So casting Barbara Steele is not a stretch – however, I do think she’s miscast as Julia. She would have been better suited as a witch, perhaps a mentor to Angelique.

            I haven’t seen the remake series, so I can’t really say what its horror influences are – though it’s clear that it’s trying to be more of a horror series than a soap (and I agree with you that DS is first and foremost a soap). What I glean from Danny’s reviews of the revival, though, I don’t think it was going the Hammer or Gothic route, but more the wacky and over-the-top 80s slasher aesthetic.

            1. I think Steele was fine as Natalie (she didn’t have much to do, of course). Grayson Hall was spectacular in that she could convincingly play Julie, Natalie, and Magda! Three very different roles.

              Budget issues aside, I also think that the revival should have avoided the “repertory theater” casting for 1790. There really was no “in-story” reason for Natalie or Abigail to resemble Julia or Mrs. Johnson other than wanting to keep the actors employed for the months-long trip to 1795. The revival didn’t have that problem, as episodes were set in both the past and present.

              You know, I think it’s DS’s combination of camp and deadly earnest that reminds me more of Universal Horror. Also, the limited budget led to more theatrical staging, which is more at home in the early Universal films than the Hammer movies.

              1. Definitely. Though the first Universal horrors were Hollywood A pictures, it was still early days for film as a whole (and sound was still new which resulted in a completely new way of making films) so there’s a certain guerilla-style filmmaking that DS shares. And by the time the Universal films become B pictures, there’s a very strong everything-but-the-kitchen-sink mentality – especially when you get to the multiple monsters films – which is also shared by Dark Shadows, especially in 1968. So yes, that side of Dark Shadows is definitely more influenced by the Universal films.

            2. I think the problem is that the revival series is primarily influenced by “Dark Shadows” itself, mixed with a chunk of “House of Dark Shadows”. They’re taking DS as a finished text, and then adapting it, without any real influences besides their own personal taste.

              For example, I don’t think any other director in the world would use a gimmick for 95% of the shots. That’s just Dan being Dan, without the strict limitations that kept the original show from completely drifting off the map of acceptable television.

              So they’re not bringing in any new influences, they’re just proceeding according to a story plan that they think is already laid out for them. That’s doing Dark Shadows wrong.

              1. The revival skims through the early Barnabas storyline, which was DARK SHADOWS in a transition from gothic soap to kitchen sink madhouse. What’s interesting is the ’60s series redid Barnabas’s arrival to Collinwood three other times (1897, 1970 PT, and 1840), and they were all more entertaining. Mostly because they were dropping Barnabas into an exciting world of werewolves, witches, Jekyll and Hydes or headless men. The revival has you wishing for the blackmail plot to give the Collins something to do.

                Sarah’s ghost appears in the revival, and it occurs to me that she’s never mentioned after 1795 — not even by David, who you think would. I think Amy is around longer. It is bonkers to me to look at 1967 as the blueprint for doing DARK SHADOWS.

  9. Even with Sam Hall writing for (or with) Dan Curtis they could not come up with a decent remake of Dark Shadows. The original show was actually greater than the sum of its parts. To determine why that is and what that means is to discuss all the reasons why we still love Dark Shadows.

    I still think that rather than retell the story as if the original show had never happened, they should instead have reassembled the original cast and updated storylines left unresolved when the show ended. There wouldn’t have been Julia Hoffman, but there still would have been Barnabas and Angelique as well as Quentin, enough story to fill a few hours over weeks or months. Productions like Big Finish prove that this would have been possible.

    1. I always heard that the intention was to add, over time, appearances by some of the original cast (although not in their original roles), sort of like extended cameos, but obviously that never happened.

      Still, I can’t see how likely it would be for a major network to cast actors who were all, by then, in their late 40s, 50s & 60s for a primetime soap. The Big Finish audios work because they’re specifically targeted to a drastically more limited audience. And it certainly helps that, as they’re purely audio in presentation, the listener can imagine the actors looking, where needed, like they did during the original run. I mean, David Selby still looked good then (and even now!), but he certainly didn’t look as he did in 1971, which his Dorian Gray-ish portrait would have demanded. And Jonathan Frid, the immortal vampire? He certainly didn’t look the same!

      1. There would surely have been other, younger members in the cast as well, with a new generation of the Collins family having emerged since then. Besides, Larry Hagman and Joan Collins were hardly in the peak of youth when they became major prime time soap stars.

        They could have worked around the Dorian Gray/portrait element by writing as backstory that Quentin destroyed it in frustration years earlier, as Sam Hall in his post-1971 wrap-up (a YouTube video titled The Fate of the Dark Shadows Characters) indicated that Quentin was often tempted to do.

        Barnabas the immortal vampire? Not since Dr. Lang’s cure, after which he was only a vampire when time traveling to the past and would have aged normally from 1968 on.

        1. But apparently Dr. Lang’s cure didn’t work against Leviathan curses! According to Sam Hall’s TV Guide wrap up, Barnabas was still a vampire in the present day when the show ended.

          As Danny’s posts have demonstrated, while Dark Shadows, the gothic romance soap with shaky ratings, followed the trials and tribulations of Governess Girl Victoria Winters, Dark Shadows the surprise briefly-successful-beyond all expectatiion hit centered on Boy with a Box Barnabas Collins. I don’t see them going with a 60-ish semi-retired actor for that part.

          1. But also in that wrap-up Julia manages to find a cure and he again walks in daylight. When Frid reprises the Barnabas role in the 2010 Big Finish audio drama The Night Whispers, he is a very old man, his vampire existence a thing of times past.

            The Leviathans part of making him a vampire again–or at least keeping him that way as he travels from 1897 to 1969–shouldn’t really work in the present because of Adam. Though he was no longer written of in the show past 1968, Adam never actually died, and so there remains this link between Adam and Barnabas. But I suppose viewers, especially newer ones who began tuning in by 1969 and beyond, were not expected to be aware of the Adam/Barnabas connection, or at least to have forgotten this detail by 1970.

            1. I kind of vaguely remember Barnabas becoming a vampire again in present time and Julia saying something must have happened to Adam and that was the last time we ever heard about Adam. I’m pretty sure that’s why Barnabas crossed over to parallel time in the present, because he thought since the Barnabas in that time hadn’t been cursed, then he would not be a vampire in the parallel universe.

          2. Sam Hall’s TV Guide wrap up will begin haunting us at some point. I’m not sure when, because I haven’t come up with a pretentious avant-garde postmodern catchphrase for it yet. I’m sure it’ll come to me.

        2. What you’re describing sounds more like STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION. That works because the STAR TREK world itself is unique aside from the characters (Klingons, Vulcans, the Enterprise). But the DARK SHADOWS universe (vampires, witches, werewolves) is not that unique aside from its specific characters, who the series threw at assorted mash-ups of classic stories (DORIAN GRAY, JEKYLL AND HYDE, REBECCA, THE CRUCIBLE, THE WOLFMAN, JANE EYRE, and so on).

          1. There are a few examples of nighttime soap revivals that have gone the “20 years later” route. Dallas and Melrose Place are the two American TV examples that come to mind. They both used a limited number of original-show actors to provide continuity, and then built a new generation of their kids. Melrose only ran for a year, but Dallas had three seasons, and I think they did okay.

            The other example is the Big Finish Dark Shadows audios, especially Bloodlust. They made a conscious effort in Bloodlust to start building a new generation, mostly with Amy’s kids.

            1. But complicating that is the whole issue of reinventing a daytime soap – one from the late 1960s – into a nighttime soap for the early 1990s. It’s hard enough reviving an old primetime show, but moving a daytime soap to the evening isn’t something that’s ever been successfully done, has it? (Other than DS, I’m not sure any have ever tried.)

                1. Not even soaps, regular series, now that narrative arcs are very much the way shows are writte (and at the time they had the wonderful WISEGUY to get an idea of how to write a continuing story with an episode a week)

  10. I think the picture of VIcki and David looking at the toy soldiers together is a scene which I can picture happening in the 1960’s DS. It was good to see Vicki and David in the student/teacher roles again. Towards the end of the original show Vicki didn’t seem to have a clue as to what David was doing – that wasn’t a good way to end their relationship – David (David Henesy) himself brings up the fact that Vicki didn’t even bother to say good bye to him when she left Collinwood.

  11. This leads to another thought experiment (looks like we’re going into double-overtime in the comments section of just one post). Suppose DS didn’t get cancelled back in 1971. Supposed Frid had a change of heart, Dan Curtis wanted everyone to soldier on, they brought in new leads that proved reasonably popular, yada, yada, yada. Or, supposed they somehow successfully pulled back from all the lunacy, contacted Ron Sproat and said “Come back, Ron, all is forgiven,” and returned to a gothic romance.

    No matter, just suppose the show lasted for another 5, even 10 years. Do you think Dark Shadows would ever have become something they’d constantly try to reinvent? Would Worldvision ever have syndicated the run? Would VHS tapes, followed by DVDs, ever have been released? Would this blog even exist? Somehow, I think it’s the finiteness of DS that adds to its appeal. Yes, 1225 episodes IS a lot, but it’s still a number that we can reasonably wrap our head around. Re-watching the entire run IS do-able. But if we had 2500 episode or 5000? Would DS have disappeared into the ether like old Guiding Light episodes?

    Sorry, I probably should have waited until we hit Parallel Time to raise this question. 🙂

    1. I think the problem is that DARK SHADOWS became the Barnabas and Julia Show. Other soap operas are dependent upon families (The Abbotts, the Newmans, the Bradys) but those families can have multiple generations and even when a Jack Abbott or a Victor Newman remains a prominent figure, the series itself isn’t dependent upon him. The workload for either actor is also nowhere near as punishing as it was for Frid, who appeared in the bulk of the episodes after a certain point.

      Even Quentin, the other successful male lead, had a finite run. They kept Selby around in the present day and in parallel time and 1840 but he was never quite the same as he was in 1897.

      Here, I think, is where we shouldn’t compare DARK SHADOWS to other soap operas. A thousand episode run with a primary lead (Jonathan Frid as Barnabas) is incredibly impressive on its own terms, especially compared to other “genre” series (imagine a thousand BUFFYs or a thousand X-FILES).

    2. I know the comments on this post have already gone into major overtime. But as a general soap opera fan I would like to make one point. It’s been said several times by commentators and Danny that DS is the only soap that has 1960s episodes still in popular culture. Part of that is as far as I know DS is the only soap that has an existent daily run of episodes from the 1960s. At least none of the CBS soaps kept daily episodes until the very late 1970s. Earlier episodes were taped over because it was cheaper to reuse videotape than buy new. – DS wasn’t the only soap with budget issues. 🙂

      Proctor and Gamble for some unknown reason traditionally have been reluctant to release the episodes they do have as official DVDs, etc. When they did release a few through Soap Classics the company was overwhelmed by the response and sales were off the chart. The main reason Soap Classics is no longer releasing them is that CBS soaps at least from the 1970s on used a lot of popular music and rather than buy the reuse license they bought the cheaper one time use option so the cost and the process of buying the music rights to release on DVD was too much at this time. I don’t think DS used popular music, did it? So that may be one reason it was easy to syndicate and release on DVD.

      So while DS is special, there are reasons beyond itself why it is still around and others aren’t.

      1. I do agree. If I could get all the Edge of Night episodes that are available, I would buy them. There are runs of Guiding Light that I would be overjoyed to watch again. And early Santa Barbara (I know the first part got lost in a fire, so the whole series isn’t available), but Santa Barbara had some really great years. I’d throw in some classic One Life To Live as well.

        1. I would love to see other soap operas available for people to watch. SoapNet did a good job of showing some classic episodes of the ABC soaps in special-event marathons, and they showed at least the first few years of Ryan’s Hope.

          I think this stuff may get easier as viewers move away from DVD to streaming and download. Packaging, shipping and marketing multiple DVD box sets of an old soap opera is expensive, and then you have to fight for Best Buy and Wal-Mart shelf space — all for a show where the original audience is aging.

          Compared to that, putting episodes up for streaming or download is easier and cheaper, and you don’t have to worry about DVD titles getting remaindered and going out of print. I don’t know if the audience for Guiding Light and Santa Barbara has shifted to streaming, but as they do, the case for releasing old episodes gets stronger.

          1. I know AOL tried running the P&G soaps for a while, but didn’t get the response they wanted and dropped them. Sadly they dropped them right before the end of a big exciting mystery on EON. Someone uploaded all the EON episodes that AOL posted to YouTube, but we still don’t see the end of the mystery. I wonder if P&G would be willing to use YouTube to distribute their old soaps. They had some great ones back in the day.

          1. Oh, yes. I would watch the entire run of Margaret Colin and Justin Deas as Margo and Tom. They were magic and the writing was superb. The immediate recast of Tom wasn’t great, although when Scott Holmes took over, he was wonderful.

  12. DS worked because all the wacky supernatural stuff was a complete novelty in the world of soaps. That sort of novelty works once, then it’s over. There’s also the problem that no one, least of all Dan Curtis, ever made the slightest attempt to redo the show faithfully.

    1. But I guess that’s the risk you run in a blog of this nature. The 1990 posts bring up a series of questions about revivals of the show, choices, expectations, etc., along with comments about a completely different set of actors. But these are only “fill-in” posts for days the original DS didn’t air, so Barbara Steele won’t be discussed in tomorrow’s blog post, because she doesn’t appear in that episode… because she doesn’t appear in that show! So, if we want to debate back and forth, we’re stuck on April 26th… doomed to repeat the events that lead to our untimely deaths. Ye gods, can we ever break free?!

      1. Well, there’s always episode 5 for Christmas. I know from the stats that the Time Travel posts get more attention than a regular post, probably because there are more people around in 2015 who remember watching a 1991 show than a 1960s show. This should teach me something about picking subjects to write about, but I can’t figure out what.

  13. To see DS would not work today is BS. Vampire Diaries is a brother to DS. Big Finish is working very well with DS. We could have a good reboot but someone who cares would have to do it. Call Josss Weadon he says he is a fan.

    1. A contemporary remake of DS barely worked in 1991 and could not work today, and not just because someone would adopt lily-white Vicky. Think about it: A strange man who claims to be a cousin from England comes knocking on the door? First step: Google him, which would show no record of a Barnabas Collins in London. Second stop: Interpol, to begin an international fraud and/or identify theft investigation. If DS is ever successfully remake, it would have to be set in the original time period of 1966 … or even earlier.

      1. But Victoria doesn’t necessarily have to be white in a reboot. Sometimes I think you could redo it by taking it back in time instead of forward. Barnabas is released from his coffin in the Victorian era or the 1920s–that’s still a long time to be trapped, slowly going madder.

  14. I’m fine with a reboot taking place in the 60 or the 70’s but that being said it good be done like I said by either Ryan Murphy or Joss Weadon.

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