“The fire which will burn Collinwood cannot destroy a figure of four!”
So what, you may ask, of the young set? It’s been a while since we’ve checked in with the middle schoolers, who used to be one of the driving forces of the show’s popularity.
They got on board with Dark Shadows in early ’68, as the show took a hard swerve toward Halloweentown, with a vampire, a witch and a Frankenstein monster all featured at the same time. The young set is here for the skeletons, the dream sequences, and the disturbed graves. A magic mirror that lets you peek into a basement full of mad science equipment. A werewolf, crashing through a plate glass window. A woman screaming, trapped inside a ring of fire. A devilish man, calling to the dark creatures of nature as he passes his hands over the body of an unconscious babysitter. These discerning viewers demand playground games, and if Dark Shadows doesn’t provide them, then there’s a risk that they’ll drift over to Scooby-Doo, and stay there.
And now, it seems like that’s a demographic that the show is no longer interested in serving. This 1841 PT storyline is just people talking all the time, and occasionally pulling knives on each other. Nobody’s casting any spells, or bringing anything to life. They just put people’s names into a vase, and then take them out again and throw them away. There’s nothing here to stir the soul of a ten year old, and give them ideas for interesting things they could do with a curtain tie.
Continue reading Episode 1206: The Eyes of Children
“People I love haven’t always loved me back.”
Six months ago, in July 1970, the Firesign Theatre released a record called Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers, an avant-garde slice of psychedelic, time-traveling radio comedy that was mostly about a ’50s teen movie spoof called High School Madness. In the spoof, young Peorgie and his pal Mudhead investigate the theft of their school, Morse Science High, by their rivals, Communist Martyrs High School. Infiltrating Commie Martyrs, the two buddies find the mural from their school in a storage room, labeled “Mural: Auditorium, right rear. Heroic Struggle of the Little Guys to Finish the Mural.”
Meanwhile, six months later, as we cross the chasm between 1970 and 1971, that is exactly what lies ahead for Dark Shadows: a 13-week heroic struggle to wrap up this wild, untamed soap opera that has broken free of all ties to civilization as we know it. Dark Shadows has never really been about a girl on a train, a mad family and a lovestruck vampire. It’s about some writers, a mad producer, a cast of eccentric New York stage actors, and a lonely boom mic trying to break into show business, working feverishly on a shoestring budget to produce the strangest possible television show, for as long as they can get away with it. In the three months left between January 1st and April 2nd, they are going to finish this mural or die trying, or both.
Continue reading Time Travel, part 14: It Is What It Is
“I tried slapping her, and telling her there was no such person as Alvah.”
And so, as Sabrina sinks slowly in the west, we wonder: is there any other version of this story we could pay attention to instead?
I mean, the current storyline on Dark Shadows basically entails Barnabas struggling to save fake Maggie from fake Angelique, as they fight over an imitation Quentin made of straw and food coloring. Sabrina is gone and Julia is on the ascendant, but still, it’s Parallel Time and there’s only so much I can deal with. So how about today we turn to an equally ersatz band of time, and see what’s happening over at the Paperback Library?
Dan “Marilyn” Ross is currently pumping out Dark Shadows novels at the rate of 159 pages a month, and honestly they’re just as canon as anything else, so we ought to keep an eye on them just to make sure they’re not hurting anybody. The current installment as of May 1970 is #17 in the PBL Gothic series: Barnabas, Quentin and the Avenging Ghost, the second book to use the “Barnabas, Quentin and…” construction.
The cover blurb says “Barnabas and Quentin join forces against Collinwood’s ghostly killer,” which isn’t strictly accurate, in that they don’t join forces, it’s not necessarily Quentin, there isn’t a ghost, and nobody gets killed. Besides that, it’s fine.
Continue reading Episode 1034: Mistakes in Justice
“Not even the jaw of the wolf itself is more devastating than this cane, when it’s in my hands.”
Let’s see if we can figure this out, together. Eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins is in a parallel dimension, as you know, and he’s convinced that Maggie’s in terrible danger, which she is. But all he knows is that she’s gone, and that’s not much to go on. She’s probably being held somewhere by someone, but if so, then where, and by who?
Barnabas stamps into the Old House and shouts for Will, his blood slave and parallel landlord. “Will, are you here?” he hollers up the stairs. “I need you!” No answer. He crosses over to the back parlor. Still nothing. Then he approaches the bookcase, flips the hidden switch, and opens up the secret panel.
Question: Why does Barnabas think that Will is hiding behind the bookcase? It doesn’t seem super likely, and I’m not sure why he even wants Will in the first place. Will is a drunk, he hates Barnabas, he doesn’t care about Maggie, and he has no missing persons expertise. What value does he bring to the operation?
Continue reading Episode 1033: Follow the Money
“You can’t stop the trouble, Wicks!”
Time is running out for Sabrina Stuart. I mean, it’s running out for all of us, technically, but in Sabrina’s case, it’s running out even more than usual.
Yesterday, Sabrina watched as her mad scientist fiancee, Dr. Cyrus Longworth, clutched at his chest and transmogrified into a hideous angry man-monster, without warning, and without the aid of any magic potions or energy drinks. This is typical of late-stage Jekyll/Hyde syndrome, a metaphorical malady that will only get worse from here.
Sabrina was surprised, of course, but she dealt with this biology-busting miracle surprisingly well, by which I mean that she didn’t slump over in a chair and grow a mop of silver hair extensions, like she did the last time she saw a boyfriend transform into a monster before her very eyes.
When the problem was Chris turning into a wolfman, Sabrina was able to rally and reconnect with him, using the power of love and persistence and hair dye. He kept pushing her away, and she kept on loving him, and then she went out and bought a super-rare moon poppy to cure him. It didn’t work, but we all learned a valuable lesson about how you can’t solve every problem with flowers.
Continue reading Episode 1028: Can’t Stop the Trouble
“He is my cousin, as you are my cousin, in this time or any other time!”
“The countryside near Collinwood,” says Nancy Barrett, “lies quiet and serene on this night, in Parallel Concurrent Time. But in the great house, the web of evil being woven by Angelique will begin to ensnare its first victim — Maggie Collins — who will be placing herself in double jeopardy by her presence at her husband’s side, for Angelique is not the only force that could conspire for Maggie’s destruction.”
So, a few things. First, nobody calls it Parallel Concurrent Time. Second, the first victim of Angelique’s web of evil was Alexis, and the second victim was a random day player handyman, so Maggie is either the third victim or the fourth, depending on whether you count Dameon or not. Also, that’s not what “double jeopardy” means.
Still, Nancy’s talking about a character that we recognize doing things that we more or less understand, so hooray, Dark Shadows is saved.
Continue reading Episode 1017: The Struggle
“Is there nothing that can stop the power of that witch’s flaming hate?”
It’s day two of our special feature on the 1971 Dark Shadows comic strip, which appeared in newspapers every day for a year, starting about three weeks before the show was cancelled. The strip stars America’s grooviest ghoul Barnabas Collins, of course, who inhabits the great estate at Collinwood with a couple women named Elizabeth and Carolyn. And that’s it for the regular cast, so they have to import characters from the outside if they want to have anybody to talk to, or — as is often the case — anybody to look at while doing a lengthy thinks monologue.
There’s a lot of thinks in this strip; for Barnabas, it’s about 50/50 between thinks and actual dialogue so far, and the scale is tipping pretty strongly in the direction of internal dialogue. If they ever filmed this story, Jonathan Frid would hardly have to remember any lines at all; he could just pre-record everything, and then stand there doing facial expressions.
Continue reading Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 2: A Forever Death
“I don’t share your confidence in that cane.”
Quentin Collins, former human being, has turned into a snarling werewolf that runs around in the woods, attacking people and causing unrest. Quentin’s nephew Jamison is out tonight, running away from Reverend Trask’s sleepaway punishment school, somewhere on the Collinwood grounds. Trask didn’t say “Release the hounds,” because you don’t have to at Collinwood. The hounds are provided free of charge by the management; it’s just one of the great estate’s many fatal perks.
So now Beth is out looking for Jamison, wielding a gun that she found in a drawer somewhere. She hears a growl, and turns to find the werewolf sitting on a boulder, waiting to pounce. As we all know, people are the most dangerous game, but werewolves have got to be a close second. It just stands to reason.
Continue reading Episode 754: The Hunger Games
“I don’t see much point in a party that isn’t a surprise.”
It all started ages ago, back when handsome, irresponsible Chris Jennings was just beginning his career as a werewolf. A bad moon was on the rise, and Chris was planning to spend a quiet evening at home, chained to the radiator. But then his girlfriend came over unexpectedly, and booked a ringside seat for his hideous transformation.
The next morning, Chris decided that this would be a good opportunity to travel, so he took off, apparently without pausing to determine whether Sabrina was alive or dead. He just packed a bag, and ran. The worst thing about being a werewolf is that you don’t get a lot of security deposits back.
Continue reading Episode 698: Sister Act
“There must have been something about this bracelet that kept the animal from killing me.”
Okay, let’s get right into it, because pretty much everything happens today, and I don’t have time to mess around. This is one of those episodes your mother would have warned you about, if she was dead.
Continue reading Episode 672: Werewolf By Night