Episode 1016: Fire Is Not a Friend

“Fingers of flame, make healthy again what I have diseased!”

Well, here we are, another week in Parallel Time, and the logic deficit is just as bad as ever. We’re four days into an utterly baffling plot arrangement involving a parallel triangle between Quentin, Angelique and Maggie, who are all married to each other and desperately unhappy about it.

Quentin’s first wife, Angelique — who’s dead, but pretending that she isn’t — wants him to fall in love with her again. But he’s already in love, sort of, with his second wife Maggie, who fled the house weeks ago so she could go upstate and make a movie. That left Angelique alone with Quentin to work her wicked wiles, but they don’t really have a hell of a lot of chemistry these days, and she’s getting desperate.

So Angelique keeps doing these supernatural middle-school science experiments, and then getting all angsty when they don’t produce the desired results, which are unspecified. First, she slipped Quentin a magic potion that was supposed to drive him crazy, and it worked. Unfortunately, he went entirely crazy, rather than the 60% crazy that Angelique was apparently budgeting for, and he slipped up to the attic to hang himself. She managed to talk him down, of course, because obviously she doesn’t want her weird magic spells to hurt the man that she loves.

Except here she is twenty-two minutes later, and she’s attacking him again, this time by sticking a silver pin into a voodoo doll and triggering a massive coronary. Then she heads downstairs, and finds exactly what she ought to expect — Quentin lying on the floor, and everybody else standing around, telling each other not to have hysterics.

“Quentin!” she cries, and rushes to his side, horrorstruck by the idea that he might die from the heart attack that she deliberately induced one minute ago. And then she spends the rest of the episode worrying about him, and wondering if maybe she could have handled this differently.

So I don’t even know what to say. The all-powerful living dead soap vixen at the heart of this storyline is hell bent on doing exactly the opposite of what she actually wants, and then she’s unhappy. What’s going on? How is it possible to be this bad at your job?

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Episode 1015: You Were Murdered

“We must find out whose hand that was!”

Attic, Angelique’s room, attic, Angelique’s room, attic, drawing room, Angelique’s room, Angelique’s room, attic, attic, drawing room. If you like watching people walk back and forth between one room and another, then Dark Shadows has an episode made just for you.

But guess what? Sinister twin Angelique Collins is just as anxious as the rest of us to move this storyline along, so she’s cast a spell on her ex-husband, Quentin, to make him fall in love with his new runaway bride, Maggie. Now, as far as I know, Quentin already loved Maggie — at least, he married her, which is a pretty solid piece of evidence — but Angelique has decided that he doesn’t love Maggie enough, so she’s giving him an unasked-for upgrade.

She’s got a plan, you see, a wicked plan, and it’s hard to talk her out of it. If Angelique can make Quentin fall even harder for Maggie, then he’ll call her and ask her to come home, and when she does, Angelique will get Quentin to fall out of love with Maggie, and back in love with Angelique, who’s actually dead and impersonating her twin sister Alexis, but somehow he won’t mind, and I’m afraid that’s about as watertight as plans get around here.

But this brilliant scheme has backfired, quelle surprise, and Angelique’s potion has pretty much driven Quentin straight out of his mind. He’s just had a hallucination that suggested that he’d killed Maggie remotely by attacking her portrait with a letter opener, and now he’s headed for the attic, just like everybody else today.

Sensing that things may have gone mildly awry, Angelique settles down with a tarot deck to summon up some news. She deals out a simple arrangement of cards, and then flips over the middle card which is really the only one that matters, and — it’s the Hanged Man!

Shocked, Angelique leaps from the table and dashes for the door, convinced that the card is conveying up-to-the-minute bulletins. What’s that, Tarot? she cries. Quentin’s about to hang himself in the attic? Gosh, if I can only get there in time! Lead the way, girl!

Continue reading Episode 1015: You Were Murdered

Episode 1014: Are You the Quentin

“But there’s always violence in love!”

Barnabas is trapped in Parallel Time, a fantasyland where everything’s the same as our world, except the stuff that isn’t. To the extent that there’s any logic at all, it’s the logic of dreams. People appear and disappear, taking various forms and shapes. Things that seemed dramatic and important in an earlier stage melt away, replaced by other concerns that are equally difficult to express. The ring. The seance. Someone is humming. Where is that sound coming from? Evil, calling to evil. Didn’t I tell you to take down that painting? The people in that room are different, but the same. Who was standing nearby when she died? We couldn’t explain it, so we burned the body, and nobody saw the fire, because we were quiet. Come, we will burn the book together. What happened to the ring? A skeleton, hanging in the cupboard, extinguished by candlelight. She was in Italy visiting with friends, now she’s in our house, visiting with friends. Does she have a job? What does she do for a living? Shouldn’t one of us be going to work occasionally?

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Episode 1013: What Does a Crazy Woman Want

“Just come, and bring all your amulets and herbs!”

Today’s episode of Dark Shadows begins with some people in Parallel Time talking about the Parallel Time room, where they’ve just seen some people from Parallel Parallel Time, i.e. whatever the opposite of Parallel Time is. Mainstream Time? The Curtisverse? Is there any kind of fan consensus on what to call whatever time it is we’re usually looking at?

Anyway, this is Parallel Quentin talking to Non-Parallel Barnabas, the dimension-hopping vampire crossover artist who came to this uncharted Collinwood accidentally on purpose and can’t figure out how to leave. Quentin and Barnabas have been in the east wing, taking a peek through the veil, and they saw some Regular Time people discussing their Regular Time concerns, like where do you think Barnabas went.

Quentin’s been mulling it over all the way downstairs, and by the time they hit the drawing room, he’s ready to deliver his verdict: Barnabas is the Barnabas they’re talking about in that room. Obviously this is the case, because the multiverse is big enough to hold several Brunos and anywhere up to five Sabrinas, but the good Lord only made one Barnabas.

But Barnabas decides to bluff it out, because they still haven’t developed the technology to determine whether somebody’s Parallel or not. He says that he’s not the Barnabas from the room, and Quentin’s just going to have to take his word on that. So Quentin shrugs and says okay, but it’s a weird coincidence, and Barnabas says that it certainly is. And there you have it, a pleasant and perplexing slice of afternoon television that accomplishes nothing of consequence.

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Episode 1012: Trapped in a World (Not Mine Own)

“Nothing must disturb the sleep or sully the name of that other Barnabas Collins who died in this time.”

Trapped in a false dimension and freshly liberated from a chained coffin not specifically his own, the strange and brutal Barnabas Collins, fugitive vampire in a world he never made, is onboarding a new employee.

“Please let me go,” Will pleads, “and I won’t tell anyone anything about you.”

Barnabas gives the trainee a lopsided grin. “Go, if you want to go.”

Will concentrates. “I can’t get away!” he grimaces. “You know I can’t.” He stares helplessly into a future he doesn’t care for. “What are you going to do with me?”

It’s a close-up so we can’t know for sure, but the smart money says Barnabas is steepling his fingers. “Surely you’ve learned enough from our conversations recently to realize the position that you’re in.”

“I must do your bidding?” Will gulps.

“Precisely. Your agonizer!”

Will takes a step backwards. “No. Wait!”

Barnabas is firm. “Your agonizer, please!”

Continue reading Episode 1012: Trapped in a World (Not Mine Own)

Episode 1011: The Cast Came Back

“There’s someone in that coffin, isn’t there?”

It always starts with a box.

Now, there’s a lot I don’t know about storing radioactive material, but I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to open the lid every once in a while to see how everything’s going. It’s more of a binary situation — you’re either sealing this nightmare in a keep-out container for the foreseeable, or you’re trying to get us all killed. There isn’t much of a middle ground on that one.

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House of Dark Shadows: Let’s Not Play Insane Games

“I haven’t seen the light of day in almost two hundred years.”

Right this minute, teenage bad boy John Yaeger is in the basement of the Old House, pulling apart the locks and chains that keep Barnabas Collins shut up tight in his coffin. Six weeks ago, the Dark Shadows cast took off for Tarrytown to shoot a feature film, leaving the newcomers and second-stringers to keep the show warm while they’re gone. Now they’re cracking open the mystery box, and once more unleashing Barnabas upon the populace. Dark Shadows is back at work.

To celebrate, I’ve invited actual famous grown-up film critic David Edelstein to come watch the 1970 film House of Dark Shadows. David’s the film critic for New York magazine, NPR’s Fresh Air and CBS Sunday Morning, and he’s also a lifelong Dark Shadows fan and a friend of the blog.

Five years ago, David wrote a very funny review of the Tim Burton movie, which he figured was his only chance to write about Dark Shadows. But it turns out he’s got more in the tank, so we’re going to watch the 1970 film House of Dark Shadows together, and discuss the whole thing from start to finish. David saw HoDS when it first came out, and he’s always loved it, so yeah, I know, just another example of bias in the mainstream media.

Today’s journey involves Hammer movies, overstuffed sets, inadvertent love triangles, how you can tell it’s daytime, cameos, cannons, the color of blood, and the age-old war between actors and scenery, and it ends with the extermination of everything that you love.

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Episode 1009: The Great Train Robbery

“I implore you to remember the dead!”

Dark Shadows is currently engaged in a murder mystery storyline with no detectives, suspects, corpses or clues. Every few days, the characters forget that they’re doing a mystery story, and the only person who brings it up is the deceased.

Angelique was killed six months ago, during a seance in the Collinwood drawing room. At the time of death, her husband Quentin had his hands around her throat. A ghost said that she was cheating on him, which he already knew, and he decided to choke her to death, only to discover at the next-to-last moment that she’d already been killed by someone — or something! — else.

The doctor said it was a stroke. Angelique, who isn’t dead, insists it was an invisible hat pin, poked into her brain while her husband was innocently strangling her. It’s likely that the real murderer, if there is one, was one of the people at the seance, except I can’t remember which ones they were, or if any of them had a motive for killing Angelique, other than her husband, who has an airtight alibi. He couldn’t have killed her, you see, because he was standing right there at the time that she died, murdering her.

So I don’t know, maybe we ought to bring in another investigator, like Sherlock Hemlock or Inspector Gadget or somebody. We need a fresh pair of eyes, or at least a fresh pair of eyeglasses. But all we’ve got is another seance.

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Episode 1008: This Terrible Truth

“No, it wasn’t in this room, it was in another room, but it was behind the same door!”

Young Daniel is drawn to the drawing room of Loomis House, aka the Old House to anyone who matters. He’s here on an art school field trip, on the advice of a spooky oil painting of a Collins ancestor who speaks to him through the pounding of an off-screen kettle-drum heartbeat. Once he enters the house, Daniel isn’t sure what he’s supposed to do, because it turns out kettle-drum heartbeat is not as precise a communications medium as people sometimes think.

Looking around, his eye lights upon a manuscript sitting on the sideboard. He picks up the top page and begins to read, because Daniel is nosy and he has no respect for other people’s intellectual property.

“For long enough,” he reads, “the world has lived in ignorance of this terrible truth.” Realizing that this must be a page of Will’s new book, Daniel sits down and helps himself to some literature.

So, yeah, me too. This is a thing that young Daniels do, apparently, when we find ourselves just south of episode 1006, wondering what happens next. We read a book.

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