Tag Archives: acting faces

Episode 1091: You, the Living

“I know I shouldn’t summon you, but won’t you appear to me?”

It’s exactly midnight, obviously, and in walks Maggie Evans, dazed and consumed.

She’s come home from a brisk walk that she took through the pitch-black dystopian nightmare surrounding her extremely haunted house. She was just going out for a bite, she said, and look what happened.

Julia sees Maggie stumble through the door, and she knows at once that something is amiss; Maggie’s head is traveling south, while her heels are trending north-north-east. You don’t have to be a doctor to tell that she’s in a bad way, although Julia is a doctor, so even more so.

Julia says, “Maggie, what is it?” as the girl topples over, but you know what it is, as well as I do. It’s vampires, is what it is.

Continue reading Episode 1091: You, the Living

Episode 853: Head Games

“Don’t touch me! Let his eyes tell me what to do!”

It must have been hard, over the last several years, to always play the good girl on a show increasingly inhabited by loud ladies. Kathryn Leigh Scott started out on Dark Shadows as waitress Maggie Evans, who was originally supposed to be a tough cookie, but mellowed fairly quickly into the sweet girl next door, and stayed there.

The show’s writing team turned over several times, early on — from Art Wallace to Francis Swann to Ron Sproat and Malcolm Malmorstein, in less than six months — and when the writers change rapidly on a soap opera, you’d better have a really firm grip on your character, or you risk drifting into just playing a version of yourself. That’s what happened to Roger, who started out as a villain and got himself nerfed all the way into harmless gay uncle. Maggie was a cynical young woman taking care of her alcoholic dad, but those rough edges got sanded off clean by the time Barnabas emerged from the mystery box.

And then Julia happened — a high camp trickster, whose priorities are finding her light, getting her hands in the shot, inventing facial expressions and paying attention to other actors, in that order. She was the pioneer loud lady on Dark Shadows, establishing a no-holds-barred theatrical style that chased all the nice girls off the stage.

In 1795, other actresses got to be louder and crazier — witch-vixen Angelique, obviously, and angry Aunt Abigail, and the eternally teetering Millicent. After a while, loud lady became the default setting for new characters — Eve and Magda and Judith and Jenny and Laura and Minerva and Charity Trask, all of them strutting and scheming and getting into fights on the regular.

But Kathryn Leigh Scott was stuck in the nice girl persona — the kidnapped Maggie, the spellbound Josette, the innocent Rachel. She’s spent the last two years being upstaged by one vixen after another. And then there’s Kitty.

Continue reading Episode 853: Head Games

Episode 820: The Hand Shakedown

“This is a little more grisly than your usual request.”

There was a storm kicking up that night, one of those dry storms you get this time of year that are heavy on sound effects and light on moisture. The boss had a plan, or at least he said he did.

The gypsies were in town, he said. Black-robed, silent, faceless gypsies with curved scimitars and impenetrable cloaks, who could melt into the shadows and then appear over your shoulder, ready to chop something off and keep it as a souvenir. Some kind of unstoppable Persian ninja gypsy with a prop-closet sword, who needs an extra hand in a big hurry.

The boss said he saw them in somebody else’s dream, which figured. It’s just the kind of thing an android vengeance gypsy would do, show up in some hallucination next door just to let you know they’re en route. Everything’s got to be a legend with gypsies; they’re theater people with a bad case of mythology. But the boss had a plan.

Come on, he said. Let’s go out back and see what we can dig up.

Continue reading Episode 820: The Hand Shakedown

Time Travel, part 6: One Giant Leap

“SHUT UP I WILL HEAR NO MORE!!!”

Today’s episode of Dark Shadows did not air on July 21st, 1969, because over the weekend, a couple of crazy kids from the Kennedy Space Center went and landed a rocket ship on the entire moon. This amazing stunt was picked up by the press somehow — I guess they had viral videos back then — and there was continuous commercial-free coverage of the event on all three networks for 34 straight hours.

The Eagle landed on the moon on Sunday afternoon Eastern time, and on Sunday night, Neil Armstrong was the first person to step onto the surface of the moon. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left the moon on Monday afternoon, and at the time that Dark Shadows would have been on the air, the Eagle was approaching Command Module Columbia to prepare for the return trip to Earth.

ABC got hammered, by the way. All three networks were showing basically the same thing, but CBS had Walter Cronkite, who was that most elusive of creatures, a respected television news anchor. They also had a scale model of the lunar module, and a seven foot long conveyer belt so they could simulate what it would look like for the astronauts orbiting the moon. But mostly they had Cronkite, for 32 of the 34 hours of coverage. Apparently his keepers at CBS wouldn’t let him sleep.

So CBS got a 45 share of the viewing public, NBC got a 34 share, and ABC had a 14 share. Each network invested 1.5 million dollars to broadcast the mission, and they couldn’t run commercials in case something blew up or they found a moon monster. So ABC lost a lot of money, and everybody was watching Cronkite anyway. They might as well have showed Dark Shadows.

I wonder, on that sunny Monday afternoon, if there were any kids staring at the scale models pretending to dock with each other, and thinking, Come onnnnnn! They just ripped off Count Petofi’s hand on Friday! Enough already with the moon! I probably would have thought that, but I’m bad at priorities.

Continue reading Time Travel, part 6: One Giant Leap

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.

Continue reading Episode 757: Drunk History

Episode 702: The Vampire Strikes Back

“Don’t touch me! Your grandmother knows how easily I bruise.”

It always starts with a box.

The malicious spirit of Quentin Collins has taken over present-day Collinwood, and he’s in the process of slowly murdering young David. Desperate to save the boy and unable to think of anything else, Barnabas turns to the I Ching, an ancient Chinese secret that has transported his soul back to the late 19th century. There, his astral body meets up with his physical body, which is trapped in a chained-up coffin.

And like any travel experience, it takes forever, there’s hardly any leg room, there’s nothing to eat, and he doesn’t even know where he’s landed. This is why you should never try to check yourself in as luggage.

Continue reading Episode 702: The Vampire Strikes Back

Time Travel, part 4: I Was Just Noticing Your Harpoon Collection

“She’s not like other people. She never was.”

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s not actually Thanksgiving for me, and it’s probably not Thanksgiving for you, but it is for the housewives, teenagers, assorted mental cases and inadequately supervised middle schoolers who make up the 1968 Dark Shadows audience.

On pre-emption days, I take a look at the 1991 Dark Shadows revival series, because apparently I don’t know what’s good for me. Here’s the rundown so far:

Episode 1 : Mostly gimmick shots, indoor mist, no clear idea what the purpose or tone of the show should be.

Episode 2 : Mostly about sweat and sexy biting time, including several ideas borrowed from House of Dark Shadows which weren’t even good the first time.

Episode 3 : Hot tentacles stretch upwards.

Okay, is everybody oriented now? Happy Thanksgiving. Let’s begin.

Continue reading Time Travel, part 4: I Was Just Noticing Your Harpoon Collection

Episode 597: The Three Faces of Eve

“How strange you all are, to spend your time this way.”

It seems so obvious now, in hindsight, that it’s incredible nobody thought to mention it before.

Adam, the local teenage Frankenstein monster, has fallen for a girl who just wants to be friends, and he’s decided that the only way that he’ll ever be loved is if somebody invents a mate for him. So he’s spent the last two months browbeating Barnabas and Julia, demanding that they set up a mad science lab in the basement, and create a made-to-order corpse bride for him.

They had objections, of course. For one thing, they weren’t sure they knew how to put a body together. Then they had to find someone willing to die in order to donate her life force to Adam’s mate, which took forever. The whole process was basically one long hassle, and they took every opportunity to voice their concerns.

But nobody thought to explain to Adam that you can’t just wake up a brand-new woman and tell her that she’s your mate, and expect her to instantly fall in love with you. That’s not how women work. Women are super complicated.

Continue reading Episode 597: The Three Faces of Eve

Episode 519: Ex Wife

“The Devil has painted your hair — but still, I recognize you!”

Professor Stokes declared war on the Collins witch two weeks ago, and to be honest with you, it’s not really going that well. He was trying to interrupt the Dream Curse, but Cassandra managed to get it jumpstarted again, and the curse is now a step closer to its final intended victim.

Stokes did score a point when he raised the spirit of Reverend Trask, the 18th century witch hunter who never actually managed to catch a witch. The revenant Reverend tried his best — setting Cassandra ablaze with ghostly fire — but she managed to put the flames out, and move on with her day.

But it’s not a fair fight, really. This war is being waged by “magic”, so the writers do whatever they want. Cassandra can say, “My powers are greater than yours!” but that just means that she has more plot points coming up.

The Dark Shadows audience is clearly okay with having villains stick around for an extended run, so the only way Cassandra can be destroyed is if her schemes become predictable and repetitive, or she gets sidetracked on a pointless B-plot. Fortunately for her, that will never ever happen.

Continue reading Episode 519: Ex Wife

Episode 517: Burn Notice

“In a moment, your flames will be nothing but harmless smoke.”

Here’s Cassandra Angelique Bouchard Blair Collins Collins, a poor girl from the mean streets of Martinique. She worked her way up from a menial servant position to become the lady of the manor — twice, in two different centuries — thanks to her charm, her intelligence, her boundless capacity for ruthlessness, and her contract position with the Lord of the Flies.

She’s currently living with rich Collins husband #2, and scheming to turn husband #1 back into a vampire. But you can’t just sit around and scheme all day. Here’s what she’s doing with her free time.

Continue reading Episode 517: Burn Notice