“Because that’s where the blood is.”
I’m out of the country this week — it’s one of those “He dropped out of school, alienated all of his friends, started going off to the mountains for weeks at a time” type situations. But if I leave you all alone, you’ll wander off to the west wing and start talking into broken telephones, so instead I’m going to leave you with selections from the February 1969 Paperback Library effort, Barnabas Collins In a Funny Vein.
My theory is that this is better than nothing. That theory is looking pretty shaky already.
Continue reading X2: Why Did Barnabas Become a Vampire?
“Hot tentacles stretch upwards.”
We’ve reached a milestone in our uncertain and frightening journey into the past — June 6th, 1968, the day that Senator Robert F. Kennedy died. Kennedy was in the middle of a Presidential campaign, and he was gunned down by an assassin on June 5th, just after winning the Democratic primaries in California and South Dakota.
So Dark Shadows was pre-empted on June 6th, along with the other network daytime shows, to present news coverage of the assassination.
On this blog, a pre-emption day means I fill in with an episode of NBC’s 1991 Dark Shadows revival series. We watched episode 1 of the new series for Thanksgiving 1967, and episode 2 a month later for Christmas. Marking a more somber occasion, I’m going to draw a respectful curtain over the tragic circumstances of this particular pre-emption, and move on to my discussion of this mediocre vampire show.
Continue reading Time Travel, part 3: Blood Chemistry
“This isn’t champagne! It’s blood!”
War is coming to Collinsport, one of those big mythological ones where everybody dies, and it takes a couple centuries before you figure out it was all a metaphor for something else. The big dance is going to kick off next week, so this week is about defining who the main combatants are.
Yesterday, we were introduced to “the dead”, who are running on the incoherent but passionately expressed platform that you have disturbed my rest, my rest has been disturbed, you must be punished for disturbing my rest, and so on.
Don’t worry about following that line of reasoning too closely; you don’t need to understand it. It’s a “the dead” thing.
Today, we’re going to take a look at Angelique, another major player in the saga, and we’ll ask: Where do her powers come from, anyway?
Continue reading Episode 397: Lord of the Flies
“Blood… oozing through the wall! Where’s it coming from? What does it mean?”
This is the beginning of an important week for Dark Shadows, as we lead up to one of the all-time great storyline twists in soap opera history. In fact, the upcoming story is so bizarre that they aired a special promotional announcement to warn the audience that it was coming.
In the 25-second bumper, Vicki is filmed against a stark black background, looking off into the distance with her typical dazed expression. They play one of those rising-tension music cues, made of strings, kettle drums and reverb.
An announcer says, “This Friday, you and Victoria Winters begin a strange and terrifying journey into the past, back to the year 1795, to discover the origins of this man,” — Barnabas, posing against the darkness — “and the secret of the chained coffin.” The scene fades on a shot of his hand resting on the coffin.
They don’t actually say, “Oh, by the way, it’s Dark Shadows,” or the time slot or anything. They don’t have to. What else could this possibly be?
Continue reading Episode 361: The One Where Julia Loses Her Mind
“I wonder what I’ll be like, as a human being?”
Okay, now we’re talking. Right out of the gate today, the first thing we see: dark red liquid bubbling in a glass jar. It’s connected with tubes and wires to a bunch of other equipment, and there’s a grinding motor noise that indicates that there’s some kind of complicated machinery at work.
Backing up a step, we see Dr. Julia Hoffman in a pale blue lab coat, squinting at equipment and making adjustments. She’s in a basement room, with brick walls, exposed timbers and huge cobwebs. The doctor uses a pair of tongs to grab chunks of dry ice, and she drops them into a huge bubbling cauldron.
That cauldron is full of more dark red liquid. It’s a bubbling cauldron of blood. This is mad science, we’re actually watching mad science.
Continue reading Episode 343: The Apparatus
“Is it necessary to continue to threaten me? I know the status of our relationship.”
Today’s episode opens with a shot of David walking through the woods, with a sunny meadow behind him. This is the show’s first use of chromakey, a new special effects technique that they’ll come to rely on for all sorts of supernatural malarkey. This shot only lasts about ten seconds, but it’s an incredibly important moment in the development of the show. Also, it looks awful.
Chromakey is very familiar to modern viewers; it’s also called “bluescreen” or “greenscreen”. You film the actors in front of a colored screen, and then you replace that color with the input from a different camera. It’s used for TV weather maps, and for the news correspondents on The Daily Show reporting “live” from unlikely locations.
If the lighting is set up properly, and if the actor isn’t accidentally wearing something blue, then you can create the not-very-compelling illusion that the actor is standing in front of something. And if the lighting isn’t set up properly, then it looks like this.
Continue reading Episode 305: Paranormal Activity
“I find it very egotistical of you to think that only your kind can come back from death.”
The moon rises over the great estate of Collinwood, and at the Old House, Barnabas and Julia are spending a quiet evening at home. She’s preparing an injection that she hopes will cure his vampirism, and he’s browsing through a family album, dreaming of the people that he’d like to kill.
Continue reading Episode 302: The Serpent
“I know what you were planning to do there. I know what you are.”
Today’s episode begins with Vicki standing at the drawing room windows, looking aimlessly at the sunset. There’s a distressingly large number of episodes that start with Vicki staring into space, in one direction or another. It’s like nobody’s ever told her that television exists.
Julia strolls in, and Vicki mentions that last night she dreamt that someone was in her room. When she woke up, her music box was playing. Obviously, Julia knows that means that a vampire was sneaking around Vicki’s room at the end of the last episode. I probably should have mentioned that in yesterday’s post, but I had other things on my mind.
Continue reading Episode 300: The Other Woman
“This is gonna be soft and soothing. And you’re gonna listen to it, and you’re not going to hear anything.”
Here’s today’s supervillain human resources moment: Barnabas has promised Dr. Woodard a sample of Willie’s blood. I guess it’s basically the same concept as a mandatory drug test, but Willie’s taking it pretty hard; he’s shaking and sweating and begging Barnabas to reconsider. The doctor saw a “skirmish” going on in Maggie’s vampire-infected blood, and Willie’s convinced that his blood will reveal the same thing.
Now, I’ve seen television before in my life, so the fact that Barnabas is clearly not concerned about the situation means that he probably has some kind of plan in mind.
The interesting question is: Who are we supposed to be rooting for?
Continue reading Episode 245: Tragic Malady
“How odd. Graveyards don’t fascinate most people.”
So here’s another totally normal thing that doctors do: show up at your door and ask for a blood sample. Yesterday, somebody broke into Dr. Woodard’s office and stole Maggie’s blood tests, so now he has nothing to do but go and see if anyone else has some spare blood lying around.
Woodard shows up at the Old House, and Willie recognizes him as the doctor who came to visit when he was sick last month. The doctor asks if he can examine Willie’s wounds again, and then casually drops, “Oh, and I’d also like to get a sample of your blood, for my records.”
For a doctor, Dave Woodard seems to have a lot of time on his hands; I can hardly get mine to call in a prescription refill.
Continue reading Episode 243: Blood Drive