Tag Archives: dan

Time Travel, part 12: Nevertheless, They Persisted

“She wants to destroy the Collins family for all time!”

On October 23rd, 1970, Richard Nixon gave a speech to the United Nations about his desire for world peace. “In Southeast Asia, let us agree to a cease-fire and negotiate a peace,” he said. “In the Middle East, let us hold to the cease-fire and build a peace. Through arms control agreements, let us invest our resources in the development that nourishes peace.” And then they kept on fighting the Vietnam War for another five years.

But ABC decided that Nixon’s close-order hypocrisy display was important enough to pre-empt their daytime schedule, so as we always do on these pre-emption days, instead of watching the 1960s Dark Shadows that we know and love, we’re going to watch the 1991 Dark Shadows that we’re aware of and barely tolerate.

Continue reading Time Travel, part 12: Nevertheless, They Persisted

Episode 1126: To Your Head

“How are we gonna explain carrying a coffin around?”

It’s got a wobbly, unmarked styrofoam gravestone. It’s got spooky stairs leading down to a story-productive secret passageway. It’s got a mystery box, containing a headless corpse and a gold mask studded with improbable jewels. It’s got the great visual hook of an eight-foot wooden cross, pinning down a forbidden coffin lid. It’s even got a hapless 1840 equivalent of Willie Loomis, unwittingly unboxing an evil from the past. This should be right up my street. So why am I so unhappy?

Continue reading Episode 1126: To Your Head

Episode 1124: We Had Faces

“There will be a knock on the door, a man will enter, and before he leaves this room, I will know where my body is.”

So here we are, having a nice conversation with Roxanne of all people, when the door opens and in walks Lamar Trask, descendant and undertaker. This Trask is just as judgey and accusatory as all the others, and he has an old letter that he claims will prove once and for all whatever it is that he thinks he’s talking about.

Barnabas tells him to put his letter away and stop bothering people, but Trask insists. “Evil has many faces, Mr. Collins!” he announces, and then the camera pulls allllll the way in for another one of those terrible too-close close-ups that they’ve been doing for the last few months. It’s been happening since the 1995 storyline, and I have to admit it’s killing me.

Continue reading Episode 1124: We Had Faces

Episode 1105: The Burning Question

“You don’t know how much I’d like to have been in that crypt.”

“I didn’t know what else I was going to do,” says Dan Curtis, Dark Shadows’ executive producer and driving force. “I couldn’t think of another idea.” This is from an early-2000s interview for the DVD box sets.

“I was becoming very disenchanted, right along with the audience. Probably, over the last six months of that film — people didn’t see a lot of me, during that last six months of the show.”

So there’s a Freudian slip for you — when Dan looks back at this period, he can’t help thinking about the thing he really cared about, which was the Dark Shadows films.

“I was just hoping it was going to end,” he continues. “I just wanted to move on. I couldn’t squeeze my brain any harder to come up with one more story, and I wanted to move on and out.”

You can tell that we’re approaching that last-six-months mark, because they’re currently doing scenes from House of Dark Shadows as if they’re part of the show. For today’s episode, they drag poor Willie Loomis back out of retirement, so he can shine his flashlight through the door of a darkened crypt, and find the coffin of the vampire who’s killing Maggie Evans. They might as well put up a chyron saying “House of Dark Shadows, currently in theaters”.

So it’s worth asking the question: How do you run out of ideas for a soap opera, a genre that’s specifically designed to run forever?

Continue reading Episode 1105: The Burning Question

Episode 1022: Suddenly Shipping

“How could I dream something that actually happened?”

“Maggie, I hate to see you this upset,” Cyrus says, which is a shame, because being upset is pretty much Maggie’s job.

And why shouldn’t she be upset? She’s just had a terrifying dream in which she saw her new husband murdering his first wife, and wives, as a class, are pretty sensitive on the subject of wife-murdering. So she rushed over to Dr. Cyrus Longworth’s place, for a consultation.

Cyrus holds Maggie’s hands tenderly, to reassure her. “I just wish there were more that I could do,” he murmurs.

She smiles. “I wonder if you know how kind you really are,” she observes.

He looks into her eyes. “Don’t hesitate to come back here and visit me, if there’s anything more that I can do.”

“I won’t forget,” she says, and then asks, “Is something wrong?”

“Wrong?” he asks. “Why?”

“The way you keep looking at me.”

“Oh, no!” the doctor stammers, remembering himself. “I’m sorry, that’s just me! Absent-minded Cyrus Longworth, staring at something, without knowing what he’s staring at.”

She chuckles, and says good night.

And he watches her, the dear wife of a dear friend, as she walks upstairs and leaves the house. Then his glance falls on a pair of white gloves, left behind on a table. Grabbing them, he hurries to the door, but she’s already gone.

Cyrus Longworth looks down at the gloves, and then he takes them and rubs them against the side of his face.

Continue reading Episode 1022: Suddenly Shipping

Episode 1021: Five Things

“If you had murdered someone, what’s the most logical thing that you would do?”

It’s Monday, as you know, because here we are and it’s Monday. Just look around, this is what Monday looks like. Right? Okay.

Now, I’m going to tell you five things about this week on Dark Shadows, and one of them is going to be hard to believe, so you’re just going to have to trust me on this.

First: One of the main characters — who we thought was in love with one character, and has been drawn into a complicated relationship with a second character — is suddenly and without warning going to be madly in love with a third character, and then we’re supposed to pretend that it’s been that way all along.

Second: There’s an episode this week that only has four characters — one nice person, and three nasty people who spend the entire half-hour criticizing her, gossiping about her and openly mocking her.

Third: You know that rape subtext that sits awkwardly behind practically everything that happens on Dark Shadows, including the vampire bites, the possessions, the enchantments, the body swaps and the aggressive reincarnations? You know, the thing that makes us uncomfortable, because we enjoy a show that expects us to be interested in the love lives of serial rapists? Well, that’s going to graduate from subtext to actual text this week. In fact, we’re going to see a villain do a brief monologue on the subject of how great it’s going to be when he literally rapes someone you like.

Fourth: A relationship that you’re interested in, and that maybe you’re rooting for, will get blown to bits this week, and you will never care about it again. This is no longer a story about love triumphant in the face of evil, it’s just a story about things that happen to this particular set of complex, haunted people.

Fifth — and this is the one that’s hard to believe — this is what it looks like when Dark Shadows gets better.

Continue reading Episode 1021: Five Things

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 983: The Terror of Tarrytown

“She said Collinwood was like a perfect clock.”

And they’re off, out the door and down the path and away to Tarrytown, New York, to film House of Dark Shadows, an unwise reprise which revisits the past and destroys the future.

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Time Travel, part 9: Frequent Flyers

“I feel as if something is trying to get inside of me!”

And another thing…

It’s my own fault, I recognize that. I was the one who wanted to write about Dark Shadows in the first place, and I was the one who decided that on pre-emption days, I would watch an episode of the 1991 revival. I did not open the mysterious box; I did not read the forbidden book; I did not receive instructions in my dreams. This is on me.

But here I am, in November 1969, when the show was pre-empted twice in the same week — for the Apollo 12 splashdown on Monday, and then for Thanksgiving on Thursday. So now I have to write about two 1991 episodes, which is straining endurance.

Continue reading Time Travel, part 9: Frequent Flyers

Episode 834: The What’s-Thatters

“Death runs faster than any man.”

A memo from young Icarus to his father, re: altitude. What are you talking about, Dad? These wings that you made from feathers and wax are working great. Why do you say that I’m flying too high? You’re supposed to fly as high as you can, that’s the whole point of flying!

And so, as Icarus sinks slowly in the west and learns some valuable lessons about swimming, let’s turn to Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis. In defiance of good taste and common sense, Dan has turned his poky little soap opera into a five-alarm spookshow spectacular, delighting the teenagers and housewives of America with larger-than-life characters, hair-raising plot twists and inventive special effects. The ratings are still climbing, which makes Dan wonder: What can I do for an encore?

Today, we see Dan’s first answer to that question — Dead of Night, a primetime pilot for ABC that tried to adapt the Dark Shadows formula to an hour-long nighttime drama. Dan produced this pilot in late 1968, with several members of his Dark Shadows family — director Lela Swift, writer Sam Hall, composer Bob Cobert, and actors Thayer David and Louis Edmonds.

ABC finally broadcast the hour-long pilot in late August 1969, because they’d already paid for it and you might as well. While he’s been waiting for it to air, Dan’s scaled his ambitions up even further — he’s currently pursuing a deal with MGM, to make a Dark Shadows film. So before that kicks off, it’s useful for us to take a look at this pilot episode, “A Darkness at Blaisedon”, and see Dan’s first attempt to bring Dark Shadows to a wider audience.

Constructed haphazardly out of feathers and wax, Dead of Night introduces a trio of new characters — psychic investigator Jonathan Fletcher, his live-in chum Sajeed Rau, and the beautiful young heiress Angela Martin — and throws them onto a haunted house set, to see how far they can fly. Icarus, you are cleared for takeoff.

Continue reading Episode 834: The What’s-Thatters