Tag Archives: chekhov

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.

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Episode 1089: Standing on Graves

“That bust was there in the future because you placed it there now!”

“We should be grateful that nothing has happened for the last two days!” says Hallie.

“That’s what’s bugging me most,” David moans. “Why hasn’t anything happened?”

The answer, I suppose, is because Barnabas is out of town, telling Women’s Wear Daily what he thinks about his new movie. Also, the writers may be running out of ideas.

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Episode 836: Murder, She Wrought

“I thought killing him would help me release from loving him. But it didn’t.”

Terror stalks the great estate at Collinwood this night, just exactly as it has for the last 189 nights in a row. The terrifying specter of Quentin Collins still rules the silent halls, while the family is couchsurfing at the Old House, waiting for it to blow over. Young David is still leaking get-up-and-go, teetering semi-permanently on the brink of death.

Hoping to resolve this difficult problem, Barnabas Collins used an ancient Chinese divination technique to contact the spirit of Quentin, and negotiate a cease-fire. It’s now six months later, and the problem has not been resolved in even the tiniest way. I think Barnabas needs to step aside, and let somebody else take a crack at it.

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Episode 484: Chekhov’s Gun

“Julia! Why am I leaving the room, Julia?”

So it’s been a rough ride, this returning to the present day. Deciding to do a lengthy 18th-century time travel story was a leap into the unknown, but once they’d started, they had a general outline to work from. They needed to turn Barnabas into a vampire, get Josette to jump off a cliff, kill pretty much everybody else in the cast, and hang Vicki as a witch. That was a plan that they could execute, if you’ll pardon the expression.

But returning to 1968, the writers face another weird challenge. They’ve decided to pretty much reboot every ongoing storyline that they had — hastily wrapping up, reversing or straight-up ignoring all of the old story threads.

This is a very unusual move for a soap opera. These last five weeks have basically been the equivalent of a season premiere, a narrative structure that even night-time shows weren’t doing in the late 60s. Dark Shadows has changed some core relationships, introduced new characters, and brought back Angelique as this season’s Big Bad. Structurally, this is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but thirty years early and from the monsters’ point of view.

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Episode 456: An Illogical Explanation

“Unless they are hiding him. They hide people here, you know.”

Daniel comes in through the window. That’s the thing I don’t understand.

Victoria Winters, time-displaced girl governess, is currently on the run after shooting herself in the shoulder, breaking out of prison and killing a guy, in that order. Fleeing the scene of her latest felony, she’s teamed up with ten-year-old Daniel Collins, who’s brought her back to Collinwood to hide.

Daniel enters the house by climbing in through the drawing room window. He looks around in the foyer, makes sure that nobody’s there, and then he opens the front door and motions for Vicki to come in.

Now, there are lots of reasons why this sequence has baffled the finest minds of our generation. For one thing, hiding Vicki in Collinwood is a ridiculous plan. The one person that they’re all afraid of right now is Lt. Nathan Forbes, who lives there. On top of that, Daniel stows Vicki in the study, which is a place that Nathan knows where it is. They have an enormous mansion full of rooms to choose from, and Daniel stashes Vicki behind one of the four doors that you can see from the foyer.

But the thing that gets me is: why doesn’t Daniel just walk in through the front door? All he’s doing is checking that the coast is clear. The only thing that climbing in the window accomplishes is taking the risk that someone will ask him why he’s climbing in the window.

So that’s where we are, as we begin our final week in 1795. We’ve moved beyond characters being stupid, into a whole new realm of nonsensical behavior. There’s got to be an illogical explanation for all of this.

Continue reading Episode 456: An Illogical Explanation