Monthly Archives: May 2015

Episode 650: Happily Ever Before

“I’ll close my eyes — and when I open them, you’ll be here, and the watch will tick!”

And then, six hundred and forty-nine episodes later, she was gone.

This is girl governess Victoria Winters’ last day at Collinwood, so it’s a good time to go over her original briefing instructions, and see how well she scored.

My name is Victoria Winters. My journey is beginning — a journey that I hope will open the doors of life to me, and link my past with my future. A journey that will bring me to a strange and dark place — to the edge of the sea, high atop Widow’s Hill. A house called Collinwood — a world I’ve never known, with people I’ve never met — people who tonight are still only shadows in my mind, but who will soon fill the days and nights of my tomorrows.

Well, she was spot-on with opening the doors, at least. Like every other Dark Shadows character, she spent the last two and a half years basically just killing time between opening and closing doors. So that’s a slam dunk.

What else?  Widow’s Hill, Collinwood, people she’s never met — check, check. Yeah, I’d say she’s done pretty much everything on the list.

There’s just one more item that she has to check off — linking her past with her future. Well, she’s got one more episode; let’s see if she manages it.

Continue reading Episode 650: Happily Ever Before

Episode 649: The Rise and Fall

“Someone now dead lived in this room.”

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Tonight, our feature bout is a winner-takes-all cage match between the savvy psychic, Madame Janet Findley, and the sinister specter, Mr. Quentin Collins (deceased).

Quentin has been quietly haunting the halls of the great house at Collinwood for seventy years, lurking in his sealed-up chamber in the abandoned west wing. Lately he’s been reaching out to the two children of the house, urging them to visit his room, plot against family members, scatter tarot cards around the house, and listen to his hit song, not necessarily in that order.

Earlier this week, under their ancestor’s malign influence, David and Amy tricked Roger into falling down the stairs in the foyer. Concerned, Elizabeth has called in Madame Janet Findley, an exterminator for the already exterminated.

Madame Findley is one of the craziest dames that we’ve seen on Dark Shadows, and that’s getting to be a crowded field. She says surprising things, makes extravagant hand gestures, and goes into a trance at a moment’s notice. I will miss her terribly.

Continue reading Episode 649: The Rise and Fall

Episode 648: Astral Disturbances

“The letter M is very strong in this room.”

Yesterday, following Roger’s suspicious specter-assisted accident on the stairs, his sister Elizabeth found a tarot card on the drinks table in his bedroom. As everyone knows, discovering an unexpected tarot card is a sure sign of supernatural crisis, so she called Professor Stokes, the mad occult expert who is now making house calls at Collinwood on a weekly basis.

The Professor identified the card as the Tower of Destruction — the sign of the downfall of a great house. He agreed that this is extremely significant, and he promised to bring in a colleague who can investigate the unearthly events that have been piling up lately.

So here she is: Madame Janet Findley, the psychic sorceress on call. Apparently, things have gotten so bad at Collinwood that the occult expert is subcontracting with other occult experts.

Madame Findley walks into the drawing room, throws her hands in the air, and if there was ever a moment for somebody to say, is THIS your card? then this is it.

Continue reading Episode 648: Astral Disturbances

Episode 647: The Wire

“I fear the séance didn’t put an end to what’s been happening here.”

The Turn of the Screw opens with a group of devoted thrill-seekers at a week-long house party, entertaining each other with ghost stories. Griffin has just finished telling the story of a young boy waking his mother up in the middle of the night, because a dreadful apparition had materialized in the bedroom, and he wanted her to see it. That is the beginning and end of that story, as I understand it, but it sounds like it was the hit of the evening, so hooray for low standards.

Unable to cope with his seething jealousy of the master raconteur, a guest named Douglas tries a bit of casual oneupmanship:

Before we scattered, he brought out what was in his mind.

“I quite agree — in regard to Griffin’s ghost, or whatever it was — that its appearing first to the little boy, at so tender an age, adds a particular touch. But it’s not the first occurrence of its charming kind that I know to have involved a child. If the child gives the effect another turn of the screw, what do you say to TWO children — ?”

“We say, of course,” somebody exclaimed, “that they give two turns! Also that we want to hear about them.”

Obviously, this is setting a bad precedent. It’s only a matter of time before Griffin comes up with a ghost story involving four children, and then Douglas ups the ante to a half dozen, until finally there’s a story about thirty-five children, each with his or her own personalized specter, and the bottom falls out of the ghost story market. This is not a scaleable business model.

Continue reading Episode 647: The Wire

Episode 646: The Turning

“What we did was bury Quentin’s bones. His spirit is still alive, isn’t it?”

There are eight turning points in the history of Dark Shadows — moments where the focus and direction of the show changes permanently. You can’t really talk about the development of the show without these eight pivotal events.

Four of the turning points are character introductions, and four of them are backstage developments. In order, they are:

  • the introduction of Barnabas,
  • Julia’s offer to cure Barnabas,
  • writer Sam Hall joins the show,
  • the introduction of Angelique,
  • Jonathan Frid’s ten-city publicity tour,
  • writer Ron Sproat leaves the show,
  • the introduction of Quentin,
  • and MGM greenlights House of Dark Shadows.

Today isn’t one of them, by the way. I just thought I’d mention it.

Continue reading Episode 646: The Turning

Episode 645: Spirited Away

“We’ll go downstairs, and be ourselves again.”

Henry James’ 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw is one of Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis’ favorite stories. Dan used story elements from the book twice on Dark Shadows, and then he made a TV-movie adaptation in 1974.

It makes sense that Dan was fascinated with this story, because The Turn of the Screw is about one of the major themes of Dan’s career, namely how tedious and irritating governesses can be.

Continue reading Episode 645: Spirited Away

Episode 644: Phoning It In

“It doesn’t necessarily mean something.”

David and Amy, two young kids prowling the halls of the enormous haunted house where they live, are currently the subjects of an escalating struggle between two ghosts — Quentin, who wants to lure the children into a sinister scheme, and Magda, who’s trying to protect them. So far, we haven’t actually seen or heard either of these spirits, and there’s still a chance that this might all turn out to be one big misunderstanding.

The kids make their way through a secret passage to the west wing, where Quentin is silently urging them to go. Suddenly, a busted old grandfather clock tips over, and faceplants right in front of them with an unholy clatter.

This could be a symbol of today’s generation trying to avoid being trapped by the fears and prejudices of the past, but it’s probably not. Sometimes a child-endangering poltergeist clock attack is just a child-endangering poltergeist clock attack.

Continue reading Episode 644: Phoning It In

Episode 643: Interceding with Oscar

“You must intercede with Oscar. Only you can save me.”

So here’s the lost secret of Lost: They had no idea.

ABC made Lost for six dazzling, frustrating, mind-boggling years, weaving a web of mystery and misdirection and nonsense, one baffling hour at a time. I don’t know if it did anything for you, but I loved it. I was one of the sad cases who rewatched the episodes in slow motion, looked up all the references on Lostpedia, and listened to the weekly cry for help that they called The Official Lost Podcast.

Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, the show’s producers and head writers, used the podcasts, Comic-Con appearances and magazine interviews to present an intricate paratextual metafiction about two make-believe people named “Damon Lindelof” and “Carlton Cuse” who totally, totally knew all the answers to every single question that a viewer might have about the show’s rich mythology.

According to this ongoing behind-the-scenes fairy tale, Damon and Carlton could totally explain everything to you right now, but they won’t, because a) it’s very complicated, b) it would spoil the surprise, and c) It’s Not Really About the Mythology, It’s About the Characters.

In reality, after a while, it wasn’t even about the characters. It was about whether Damon and Carlton actually knew what they were doing, or were they just lying this whole time, because they needed to keep the plates spinning for another day.

That’s the question that Lost fans were dying to learn. We didn’t watch season six because we wanted to know if Jack, Kate and Sawyer would survive. We watched because we wanted to know if Damon and Carlton would survive.

Continue reading Episode 643: Interceding with Oscar

Episode 642: Mind Over Manners

“There’s not much point in being both rude and mysterious.”

Over the last couple of weeks, Christopher Jennings has murdered at least two human beings — I know they were only day players, but even day players are God’s children, presumably — and yet we like Chris, and we let him get away with being really quite skilled at covering up for his ongoing murder spree, because he’s sexy and polite and interesting, and what does that say about us? Probably something terrible.

Continue reading Episode 642: Mind Over Manners

Episode 641: Left Behind

“I’m positive he’ll give you a sign — a sign for you to forget all of this insanity!”

It’s Monday, and the start of a theme week on Dark Shadows — five straight episodes of ghost stories, featuring three different ghosts. That means a whole lot of windows blowing open, and a whole lot of doors slamming shut.

People will sit around a table, and make sure that their fingers touch. A book will fall off of a piano. A grandfather clock will commit suicide, right in front of us. And there’s a better than average chance that somebody’s going to feel a chill. A CHILL!

Continue reading Episode 641: Left Behind