Category Archives: Sam Hall

Episode 1184: The Graham Crack-Up

“Being a mental patient seems to make anything possible.”

So we might as well gently check ourselves into an asylum, is what I’m saying. It’s about time, and it doesn’t appear like anyone’s going to do it for us. I think at this point we could all do with a little rest cure at a home for the mentally unwell, if only to hang out with the rest of the Dark Shadows fanbase.

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Episode 1183: Damn Daniel

“There comes a moment when one loses control of one’s own life.”

Prince of Fire, I call upon the flame to summon you. I call up all the dark creatures of nature to summon you here to me.

I summon you in the name of the charred and blackened stars that reigned at my beginnings, to rise out of the darkness of the earth.

In the name of every evil spirit, I invoke you! Appear to me now!

Damn, Daniel!

Damn, Daniel!

Damn, Daniel!

Back at it again with the white Vans!

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Episode 1182: I Feel Ya

“Won’t anyone listen to me? That woman is dead, I tell you, she’s dead!”

“How now, Samantha,” says Gerard Stiles, on the battlements of Collinwood. “Stand and unfold yourself.” It takes a minute, but she manages it; a person like Samantha Collins can get herself pretty comprehensively folded.

You see, at the end of yesternight’s episode, the deceased Joanna Mills, Quentin Collins’ former mistress, showed up at the front door of Collinwood, and told Samantha, Quentin’s existing wife, that she wanted to talk to her sister Daphne, Quentin’s current mistress.

“What art thou that usurp’st this time of night,” Samantha said, addressing the spirit. “By heaven I charge thee, speak!”

“You and I know of each other, although we’ve never met,” spake Joanna, harrowing Samantha with fear and wonder. “I don’t mean to disturb you; I only want to see my sister.”

So Samantha allowed this dreaded sight into her house, because you don’t want to be rude, even to an apparition. In the gross and scope of my opinion, this bodes some strange eruption to our state, although now that I think about it, Samantha is responsible for strange eruptions pretty regularly, all by herself.

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Episode 1177: The Unfinished Dream

“Then we shall simply have to change the course of history, and find him.”

Let’s face it: 1840 has been letting us down on the visual spectacle. There used to be a monster in this storyline, split into two parts: the Head glowering in a glass case, and the Body roaming the woods like a murderous pantomime horse. There used to be vampires, feeding on the blood of the innocent. There used to be a guy in a wheelchair, which isn’t a monster but at least it’s something to look at. Now the only monster is a smooth-talking warlock, who rigs court cases, and casts spells that make governesses fall asleep.

These days, the show is dominated by people wearing old-fashioned clothes, gossiping with each other about who’s responsible for what. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to have a zombie, or a skeleton, or even a severed hand flying around the room. Think back: isn’t everything better when there’s a mischievous, floating severed hand?

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Episode 1176: The Week Between

“I dream about her only because I hate her!”

Cockney mentalist Leticia Faye dashes into the drawing room of the sumptuously-appointed Rose Cottage, making a beeline for Flora with a bulletin from the courthouse.

“Oh, Flora!” she sobs, plunging into the woman’s arms.

Startled, Flora cries, “Tell me what’s happened!”

Leticia tries to pull herself together. “It’s Desmond!”

“What about my son?” Flora asks, and that’s how you know it’s Christmas.

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Episode 1174/1175: Merrie Gentlemen

“What has shaken your little mind now, that makes you not believe me?”

It’s Christmas Eve 1970, and the tidings aren’t as comfortable or as joyful as you might wish. In-universe, Gerard Stiles, possessed by the will of the legendary warlock Judah Zachery, is himself in possession of the Collins family estate. If allowed to go unchallenged, this will result in the destruction of Collinwood, one way or another, which is a shame, because I’m not done looking at it yet. Out-of-universe, this is the last Christmas that Dark Shadows will ever see, because this trial storyline is ruining everything.

Quentin’s only been on trial for witchcraft for three weeks, but somehow it has drained the plot of all momentum; everything else has to slow down while the lead characters get foiled again and again. We spent most of this week concerned about a plot to get Daphne in trouble for dropping a note in an oak tree, and today it turns out they don’t even need that, because they have different, even more damning evidence. By the end of the episode, it looks like Quentin probably should be beheaded for witchcraft after all, and so should pretty much everybody on the show. I don’t know about you, but I am letting something me dismay, and I don’t care who knows it.

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Episode 1173: The One Where Everybody Finds Out

“I will be your ghost tonight. I will be your ghost twice.”

“Oh, Julia, if you could have seen his face yesterday,” Angelique breathes.

“I did.”

Angelique whirls around. “And his eyes?”

Julia doesn’t respond, so I assume she’s thinking, You know what? I saw his face, but I totally forgot to look at his eyes. Oh, well, maybe next time.

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Episode 1169: This Wonderful Little Gathering

“We cannot love at will, any more than we could prevent our love.”

Oh, it was such a good idea at the time.

When Dark Shadows went to 1795, the show discovered that they could shake up the soap by traveling back into the past, using the existing cast but dressing them up in old-time costumes, and giving them new names and storylines. It was a spectacular way to move forward, interrupting a story that didn’t have anywhere to go, and breathing new life into the premise. While they were in the past, they figured out that you could have more than one monster on the show at the same time, and once they came back to the present, they started piling them up in heaps.

Problem is, they’re now doing time travel for the fourth time, and it turns out giving everybody a new character name every six months doesn’t automatically refresh the show; you also need to think up some new storylines. In fact, traveling to another time means that it’s possible to rehash the same plot points with a freshly neuralyzed set of family members, and there’s nobody around to say, wait a minute, this already happened, fifty-seven years from now.

Well, live and learn, I suppose, although on this show, it’s more like live and die and come back to life and then learn the same stuff over again.

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Episode 1167: The English Way of Death

“So the next step is that we must go to the basement!”

So with pop sensation Quentin Collins on trial for introducing plot points, and the show’s ratings sinking slowly in the west, I might as well introduce The War for Dark Shadows, a latter-days theme that’s going to run through the last few months of the blog. We’re approaching the dreaded April Third, 1971 — history’s first day without Dark Shadows — and naturally the show’s not just going to lie down and take it. Going gentle into that good night is not what you might call one of Dark Shadows’ core competencies.

After April Third, the show does in fact go on, hopping from one medium to another in a long line of spinoffs and remakes. The Paperback Library novels keep running until 1972, and the Gold Key comics stretch all the way to 1976. We’ve already discussed the Dark Shadows comic strip, the Night of Dark Shadows movie and the 1991 NBC remake, each of them disastrous in their own individual way, and there are more disasters to come, including a book series, a failed pilot, another comic book series, and yes, a certain medium-budget Hollywood spectacular.

But the thing is, the show is so complicated that none of the remakes and spinoffs can agree on what Dark Shadows actually is. For the comic strip, Dark Shadows is an adventure serial, the story of hardly-hungry vampire Barnabas Collins, who secretly battles a series of supernatural villains in order to protect his cousins, Elizabeth and Carolyn. Meanwhile, the 1991 show thinks that Dark Shadows is a super-sexy time-travel love epic, spending a lot of time setting up a quite vicious Barnabas with Victoria Winters, who’s the reincarnation of his lost love Josette.

Those two ideas have very little in common, aside from a few character names and the fact that they only lasted for a year. They’re not the same kind of story at all. But when you look at either one, you can recognize that they’re based on Dark Shadows as you understand it. So the concept of “Dark Shadows” must be big enough to encompass both of these kinds of stories, and probably more to come, and each interpretation is casting a vote for a particular way to read the show. The War for Dark Shadows is a decades-long struggle to figure out what kind of show Dark Shadows was, and what it means for us today.

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Episode 1164: Almost Helping

“I don’t know what is happening inside you, but it is evil.”

“Witchcraft!” cries Barnabas. “Of course I’ll help Quentin, I’ll do anything I can.”

He seems utterly shocked by the idea that Quentin’s been accused of witchcraft, even though everyone’s been talking about it for weeks. I know the dude only works nights, but seriously, how are you this out of touch? What have you and Julia been doing all this time?

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