Monthly Archives: November 2015

Episode 769: Crazy Ex-Boyfriend

“I will not let him, nor what he knows, step in the way of what I must do.”

Oh, I know what I have to do! And I’m doing it, right now! I’m doing just what she says! Laura! Yes! She told me to give this letter to you! Now, you have to read it very carefully! Very, very carefully! Because it’s about — Barnabas Collins!

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Episode 768: Number One with a Bullet

“I can’t take my mind off this bullet.”

Yesterday, somebody found a silver bullet outside Collinwood, and now Quentin’s taking it super personally. As a Werewolf-American, naturally he’s sensitive to displays of lycanphobic sentiment. Trying to explain that anybody could be killed by a silver bullet and that all lives matter is not at all reassuring.

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Episode 767: Elegy for David C

“David Collins is nobody that exists.”

Back in ’97, Samuel Taylor Coleridge awoke with a splitting headache and a magnificent idea. Grabbing a pen and ink, his hands shaking with inspiration, he scribbled the first words of his masterpiece.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
David Collins is dead!

“That can’t be right,” Coleridge frowned, and scratched out the last four words, passing them along to the next available dreamer.

And so the crossed wires uncrossed, and the message wound its way from 1797 to 1897, whispering itself into Jamison Collins’ receptive ear.

But just imagine: if that mixed message had been traveling in the other direction, young Jamison could have become one of the great poets of his time.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

This is what Jamison got instead.

Continue reading Episode 767: Elegy for David C

Episode 766: You Have to Admit She’s Got a Point

“Do you think it’s right, to pray for a cursed thing like this?”

So it all turns out okay, obviously, it’s Quentin, of course it’s going to be okay. It takes more than a silver bullet to the chest to stop a phenomenon like Quentin. At this point, the only thing that could destroy the audience’s interest in Quentin Collins is a 95-minute MGM motion picture where he tries to drown Kate Jackson in a swimming pool. And what are the odds of that?

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Episode 765: Rabbit Season

“I already know how and where. What I want to know most of all is when.”

That — creature! I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s a vicious animal — but it wears clothes, like a man! It also runs like a man, wears shoes like a man, and uses doorknobs like a man. Somebody get me a man, so I can double-check. Get one for yourself too, if you want one. I mean, as long as you’re out.

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Episode 764: Straight Outta Collinsport

“The sensible option isn’t always the most interesting.”

When you get right down to it, what is a Dark Shadows story, anyway?

A couple months ago, I passed the blog’s halfway point, which means there’s now more Dark Shadows behind me than there is ahead. I mean, we’ve stll got plenty of time — it’s only 1969, and what does time really mean anyway — but it makes me start to wonder about what happens when there’s no more Dark Shadows.

One thing that I know for sure is that trying to retell the story over again is a bad idea. They’ve tried three times — the failed 1991 show, the failed 2004 pilot, and the failed 2012 movie — and there’s just no point to it. This is a story that can only be told once, and it’s not like it even made that much sense the first time.

But there’s another path for post-Dark-Shadows Dark Shadows which is marginally more sensible, and that’s the road taken by the Big Finish audio dramas, the Lara Parker novels and the Dynamite comics.

Instead of trying to squeeze the original story into a new shape, they say: Okay, it’s April 3rd, 1971. Now what?

Continue reading Episode 764: Straight Outta Collinsport

Episode 763: The One Where Magda Finds Out

“An afternoon of cards — a night of murder!”

The curtain rises on what is honestly one of the most irritating scenes that Dark Shadows has ever done.

So you already know the thing with Tim Shaw, we’ve talked about this. He’s played by Don Briscoe, who only three months ago was the undisputed titleholder of Only Hot Guy on the Show. Except he’s not the sexy haunted bad boy werewolf anymore, with a Southern drawl and an easy smile and a tendency to take his shirt off on camera whenever he feels like it. Now he’s a prissy schoolmaster with a tight collar and a weird part in his hair, and he translates Latin for kicks. Oh, and he’s being secretly trained as an assassin.

You’d think that maybe the trained-assassin thing could be kind of sexy and interesting, but no. They’ve decided they want to do The Manchurian Candidate this week, because that’s what you do when you’ve got a spare few minutes on your soap opera spookshow. So Tim is being hypnotized into murdering someone on cue, without being consciously aware of it.

Now, I’ve never been opposed to having the cute boys hypnotized and forced to do shocking and terrible things against their will. That concept is entirely okay with me. But the way that they hypnotize Tim is that they paint the edges of a book with magic hypno-assassin juice, and they ask him to read it. So he sits there and reads, and every time he’s done with a page, he licks his finger and turns to the next page.

This is a deeply unsexy thing to do.

But that’s how they establish that Tim is being hypnotized, so they spend several long scenes with us just watching him sit there and read, licking his finger. They even have a conversation where they specifically point out that he licks his finger to turn the page, just to make sure we’re spending a lot of time focusing on this entirely aggravating and unsanitary habit.

Even the murder weapon is boring and lame. When Tim sees the hypnotic trigger — the Queen of Spades, just like in The Manchurian Candidate — then he goes and pours a drink, dumps some poison in it, and hands it to whoever’s in the room with him at the time. And they spend several scenes running drills — showing him the trigger, and making him go put poison in a drink. This is not a particularly difficult skill to grasp, but they make us watch it three times over the course of two episodes. And honestly, that poison drink looks more and more appetizing every time we see it. The whole sequence is dull and baffling and unpleasant and disappointing, and it makes me want to hit somebody.

And yet this is one of the most thrilling Dark Shadows episodes ever made. Explain that!

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Episode 762: Dark Shadows’ Agents of THEY

“Who are ‘they’, Mrs. Trask?”

Let’s start at the middle, and work backwards from there.

Mrs. Minerva Trask — devoted wife and helpmeet of the celebrated Reverend Gregory Trask of Worthington Hall — arrives at Collinwood with a jar of damson plum preserves, and proceeds to make herself comfortable — or, at least, as comfortable as Mrs. Trask ever allows herself to get.

She’s come over to give the preserves to Judith Collins, because that’s what you give to a multi-millionaire who lets you operate a for-profit business in her back yard rent-free. But instead, she ends up talking to Judith’s dissolute brother Quentin, who’s currently dissolving in the drawing room.

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Episode 761: After School

“This is no time to try to understand anything.”

This is a world of magical foxes, who approach young children and try to convince them to jump into a well. It’s a world where recipe books appear in the strangest places, filled with the most dangerous ideas. A world where stopwatches run backwards, where ancient stones murmur secrets in lost languages, where the walls are smeared with tears and blood and substances no one can explain.

This is a world where anybody — literally anybody — can address any god they can imagine, and get a fair hearing. In this world, “magic” is just another word for interior design, the careful placement of mirrors and candles and arcane symbols scratched into the carpet. Magic is so close to the surface here, it crackles and hums on the back of your hand. It will kill you. It will definitely one hundred percent kill you.

And the only rule that keeps this world turning is: Leave the mundanes alone.

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Episode 760: Light Fuse and Get Away

“Well, I’m sorry, I think the idea is absurd, and impossible to grasp.”

Okay, we’re finally here — the big finale for Laura the phoenix, filmed in full color Cinemascope, with a serious uptick in the ol’ suspension of disbelief.

Now, I know this has been a lengthy battle with a lot of extra distractions, but according to the opening narration, the family has really taken their collective eye off the ball.

A violent conflict rages within the great house of Collinwood, between two supernatural forces — one determined to snuff out the lives of two young children, the other equally determined to save them.

Only Barnabas Collins is aware that the safety of Jamison and Nora is vital to the whole future of the Collins family.

So — wait, really? Barnabas is the only one who’s aware of that? Cause those are the only two kids in the house, and looking at the adults, I don’t see a lot of reproductive potential. If they really don’t understand that you need kids to have a future, then somebody needs to have a long talk with the Collins family, while we still have one.

Continue reading Episode 760: Light Fuse and Get Away