Category Archives: May 1969

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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 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!

Continue reading Episode 763: The One Where Magda Finds Out

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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.

Continue reading Episode 762: Dark Shadows’ Agents of THEY

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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

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Episode 759: Kill Me Maybe

“What you saw consumed in flames was an exact replica of me.”

“Get me a mirror,” Angelique says, out of the blue. “A full-length mirror.” This is her idea of a security system.

This week, the Dark Shadows A-Team has united against Laura Collins, a phoenix firestarter who’s returned to Collinwood to turn her children into fire demons. Barnabas, Quentin, Angelique and Magda are on the case, each of them distracting Laura from her mission just long enough for another one to plan a new attack.

This is a new team that’s just emerged this week, and Angelique has stepped into the role of tactical expert. It’s a surprisingly natural fit, considering her dismal track record — remember, this is the woman who cursed the man she loves with a spell that kills everyone who loves him.

But in this context, it makes sense for Angelique to step up. Barnabas is terrible at making plans, Quentin is impulsive and reckless, and Magda is the loosest possible cannon. So when the woman says “get me a mirror,” the appropriate response is: one mirror, coming right up.

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Episode 758: Give Me the Strength to Crush My Enemy

“It’s the ceremony I don’t like. It comes too close to the angry ancient gods for comfort.”

Amun-Ra, Prince of Light and Radiance! Creator of things that came into being when the earth took form in the beginning! Master of the bounds of eternity! Shining one! Dweller in light! Accept this sacrifice to thee!

That’s not me saying that, by the way. That’s Quentin, from TV’s Dark Shadows. He seems to think it’s an acceptable way to begin a television show, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Continue reading Episode 758: Give Me the Strength to Crush My Enemy

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Episode 757: Drunk History

“I’m not here because I want to see your face, or you want to see my face.”

So let’s see if we can get a handle on this. Laura Collins — alias Laura “several middle names” Collins — has vowed to destroy Quentin, Barnabas, her children, Worthington Hall (nailed that one) and as of today, Angelique. Her malevolent scheming keeps getting sidetracked by her inability to decide who she’s scheming against.

In fact, today’s episode is the clearest possible example of this unfortunate character flaw. Laura is literally just about to destroy Barnabas, holding the hammer aloft and ready to drive the stake through his chest — when suddenly Angelique grabs her wrist, and sets her off on a whole new branch of furious revenge.

But that’s how life is here in 1897, where the popular catchphrase is “I have to kill her, before she kills me.” Every person on this show wants to kill every other person, before each of them kills any of them first.

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Episode 756: I Know You Are But What Am I

“I’m sure that book has a name for whatever you are!”

Curtain rises on a dark cemetery, and dark deeds. Furtive grave-disturbers have unearthed a moldy coffin from its resting place, and found a secret journal hidden in the casket.

As they reach for the book, a bolt of lightning sears across the sky with an angry blast. The man looks worried, but the woman chides her companion. “It’s just a storm, that’s all!”

“Is it?” the man asks. “Is it just a storm?”

So that’s where we start today’s episode. That’s step one.

Continue reading Episode 756: I Know You Are But What Am I

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Episode 755: This Means War

“I’m putting myself in charge!”

You know, it’s been a minute since we checked in with faux-Egyptian firestarter Laura Collins and her insane plan to burn to death with her children, and then take off for some strange desert otherworld where the sun is always shining and everyone gets their own pyramid. It’s lucky that we stopped by today, because she’s got a new made-up deadline that she just made up.

Her son Jamison has stopped by; he’s run away from his terrible school to spend time with his terrible mother. He’s worried that his father will send him back to school, and she busts out with, “If I go away, then you could come with me. I must go, Jamison, soon!” Unfortunately, it’s one of those soap opera soons where it could mean the end of the episode but is probably more like two weeks from now.

Continue reading Episode 755: This Means War