Category Archives: Sam Hall

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.

Continue reading Episode 1169: This Wonderful Little Gathering

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.

Continue reading Episode 1167: The English Way of Death

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?

Continue reading Episode 1164: Almost Helping

Episode 1163: Love in the Afternoon

“I hope she’s not touched by what’s happening now.”

The Collins family files out of the mausoleum, marking the close of another funeral. Today they lay to rest Daniel Collins, who died in the tower room of finding out something surprising.

“What a dreadful day this has been,” groans Flora Collins, and she ought to know; her family has been experiencing one dreadful day after another for more than forty years. If anyone can recognize what a dreadful day looks like, it’s a Collins.

Suddenly, Carrie Stokes gasps, and every part of her face widens in alarm. “Someone’s been watching us!” she cries, and points at the scenery. “There!” I’m not sure why she’s getting so uptight, I believe people are still allowed to stand around in the woods if they want to.

Continue reading Episode 1163: Love in the Afternoon

Episode 1162: The Tribulations

“Counselor, I do not need you to tell me the laws of this state that I am honor-bound to withhold!”

A death, a dream, a Trask yelling witchcraft — yep, just another episode of Dark Shadows.

Today, Trask finds Quentin kneeling over a dead body, just like he did in episode 1156, a little over a week ago. Then Gerard casts a spell that sends Daphne a sexy dream, just like episodes 1146, 1151 and 1158. And Desmond says that the evidence against Quentin is circumstantial, just like he did yesterday and the day before, and for all I know he’s going to say it again tomorrow, and every day for the rest of our lives.

Man, I wish something would happen today that we haven’t seen recently, and I’m sure I will never regret making that wish.

Continue reading Episode 1162: The Tribulations

Episode 1161: The Monster of Collinwood

“What of the witchcraft?”

Well, wills were made to be broken, and this one’s about as broken as you can get. Tower-dwelling invalid Daniel Collins, purportedly of sound mind and body, has slipped away from his lawyers and nurses, and scribbled himself a will that leaves everything to the black hat villain Gerard Stiles, who’s currently hosting the furious spirit of the legendary Judah Zachery, and if you can find a worse thing to do with your fortune then you’re welcome to it.

The situation is particularly dire because we know that it’s interfering with the proper course of Collins family history, which runs from Daniel to Gabriel, through some unknown mid-century child, and then on to Edward, Jamison, Elizabeth and points south. Finally, it ends up in 1970, when the family is scattered and the mansion destroyed by Gerard Stiles, aka the furious spirit of the legendary — oh, dear. He’s got us either way, hasn’t he?

Continue reading Episode 1161: The Monster of Collinwood

Episode 1160: Look Who’s Walking

“Murder is only the first step.”

So who wants to talk about the last 85 episodes of Dark Shadows? Well, I do for one, although I know it hasn’t looked that way lately. I’ve been averaging somewhere between zero and four posts a month since August, and August was forever ago.

I could tick off the usual excuses — amnesia, curse, sudden appearance of an ancient stone altar owned by people who wanted me to do something terribly urgent — but it doesn’t really matter; the important thing is that we’ve got seventeen more weeks of Dark Shadows to watch. Let’s do this.

Continue reading Episode 1160: Look Who’s Walking

Episode 1154/1155: The Fall of Man

“I don’t want the Devil’s hands on me!”

“There is more to Gerard Stiles than meets the eye!” Desmond declares, so Randall runs off to search Gerard’s room for something incriminating. But what does meeting the eye have to do with anything? There’s more to a lot of things, you can’t just ransack other people’s personal property because of a perceived insufficiency in eye-meeting.

But it turns out Randall is one of those doomed investigators who pop up in Collinsport at irregular intervals, not for very long. Sometimes they’re policemen, or doctors, or psychics — someone with a little bit of soap opera authority, which makes them fun to mess with. This one’s a lawyer. It’s usually okay to dispose of lawyers, because you can always get another one. Anyway, there are three lawyers on the show at the moment, and you only need two, even with a witch trial approaching. Vicki’s witch trial only used one lawyer, and look how well that turned out.

So Randall goes on a fishing expedition in Gerard’s bedroom, hoping to find a voodoo doll or Watergate tapes. What he finds is the bejeweled golden mask of the notorious drag sorceror Ms. Judah Zachery, which came from who-knows-where and is relevant to no known plot points. It just sits there, and glitters. Randall stares at it, mouth agape, and learns nothing.

Honestly, it’s impossible for somebody to investigate on this show right now, because every character with a speaking part is guilty of some kind of tort or malfeasance, so all the investigator can do is just ping-pong back and forth between them, assembling meaningless clues and suspecting everyone, until one of the malefactors finally decides that enough is enough, and brings down the banhammer.

Continue reading Episode 1154/1155: The Fall of Man

Night of Dark Shadows: The Haunted Horse

“Kill Doubloon!”

Happy Turkey Day! It’s time for another pre-emption, as we reach Thanksgiving 1970 and ABC decides to spend the day looking at basketball. It’s traditional on pre-emption days to do a little time travel, and watch a future version of Dark Shadows. This time, we’re only jumping about eight months ahead; we’re going to watch the 1971 feature film Night of Dark Shadows, executive producer Dan Curtis’ next attempt to catch lightning in a bottle.

Last year, Dan signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to make a Dark Shadows movie, and he came up with House of Dark Shadows, a fearlessly unrestrained retelling of the original Barnabas storyline. The movie did well at the box office, considering how cheap it was to make, and MGM asked for a sequel. Unfortunately, almost every character in House of Dark Shadows met a grisly end in one way or another, so bang goes the Dark Shadows Cinematic Universe before it’s even started.

For the sequel, Dan had the good manners to wait until the TV show was over before hauling half the cast to Tarrytown, New York and dousing them with a hose. The final taping day on Dark Shadows was March 24th, 1971, and shooting began for Night of Dark Shadows on March 29th. Dan had nine hundred thousand dollars, six weeks, and a cast and crew that was mostly from the TV show. He’d planned to resurrect Barnabas for the second movie, but Jonathan Frid was sick of playing vampires, and asked for a million dollars. So Dan took the show’s second male lead, David Selby, and set him up with two leading ladies — Lara Parker, Dark Shadows’ veteran vixen, and Kate Jackson, an ingenue who’d joined the show about ten months earlier and was obviously destined for stardom.

Night of Dark Shadows was vaguely based on the show’s Parallel Time storyline, which was vaguely based on Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca, plus some inspiration from The Haunted Palace, a 1963 Roger Corman film that was supposed to be based on an Edgar Allen Poe poem, but was actually based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”, which when you get right down to it isn’t really very much like Night of Dark Shadows at all.

Continue reading Night of Dark Shadows: The Haunted Horse