Tag Archives: dracula

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.

Continue reading House of Dark Shadows: Let’s Not Play Insane Games

Episode 1009: The Great Train Robbery

“I implore you to remember the dead!”

Dark Shadows is currently engaged in a murder mystery storyline with no detectives, suspects, corpses or clues. Every few days, the characters forget that they’re doing a mystery story, and the only person who brings it up is the deceased.

Angelique was killed six months ago, during a seance in the Collinwood drawing room. At the time of death, her husband Quentin had his hands around her throat. A ghost said that she was cheating on him, which he already knew, and he decided to choke her to death, only to discover at the next-to-last moment that she’d already been killed by someone — or something! — else.

The doctor said it was a stroke. Angelique, who isn’t dead, insists it was an invisible hat pin, poked into her brain while her husband was innocently strangling her. It’s likely that the real murderer, if there is one, was one of the people at the seance, except I can’t remember which ones they were, or if any of them had a motive for killing Angelique, other than her husband, who has an airtight alibi. He couldn’t have killed her, you see, because he was standing right there at the time that she died, murdering her.

So I don’t know, maybe we ought to bring in another investigator, like Sherlock Hemlock or Inspector Gadget or somebody. We need a fresh pair of eyes, or at least a fresh pair of eyeglasses. But all we’ve got is another seance.

Continue reading Episode 1009: The Great Train Robbery

X1: What Does Barnabas Say After He Bites a Girl?

“Dig the groovy new humor craze that’s sweeping the country!”

I have to take a week off, I’m afraid, because I’m out of town at a conference. Plus, I’ve finally moved past the “writing about Ron Sproat” phase of my life, so it’s a good time to take a moment and reflect.

But I can’t just leave you with nothing to read all week, so instead of episodes, I’m going to post excerpts from Barnabas Collins In a Funny Vein. Allow me to explain.

Continue reading X1: What Does Barnabas Say After He Bites a Girl?

Episode 572: Junior Detectives

“But it isn’t possible, Julia! He exists by day!”

Tom Jennings — local handyman, vampire, and one of the cutest guys on Dark Shadows — died yesterday, following a brief struggle with a main character. He was 28 years old, not counting the last two weeks.

Now, Tom was a fun character, with family and friends and an entertaining story point and several attractive hairstyles, so we would be well within our rights as members of the Dark Shadows audience to mourn his passing, but it’s just not possible right now.

Barnabas and Julia are as happy as could be, and so am I, because Tom’s destruction means that they get to play Junior Detectives again.

Continue reading Episode 572: Junior Detectives

Episode 522: Brother From Another

“Angelique has no blood brother. But a brother spirit, a brother devil…”

Here’s where we are: Cassandra, the lunatic sorceress from Martinique posing as Roger’s new wife, has been cast into darkness by the spirit of Reverend Trask, an 18th-century witch hunter raised from the dead — or from the Old House cellar, which is more or less the same thing. She hasn’t been seen for a couple days, and Barnabas and Julia have just discovered that her magic portrait has turned white and faded. Ding dong, presumably, the witch is dead.

But things are never that simple, especially on this show. There’s a knock at the door, and a dapper man in a hat introduces himself as Nicholas Blair — Cassandra’s brother.

So the question for today is: Who the Hell is this guy?

Continue reading Episode 522: Brother From Another

Episode 436: Quivering with Emotion

“Why isn’t she here? Because she’s vanished.”

So I guess it’s true — you start out thinking that the past was a golden age, but then you go back for a visit, and it’s just one disappointment after another. Plus, after a while they accuse you of witchcraft and execute you.

Writing this blog every day has been my own uncertain and frightening journey into the past, back to my younger days when I watched one episode of Dark Shadows a day, in order and without fast-forwarding, because it was on television and DVDs didn’t exist yet. And the way I remembered it, 1795 was the perfect jewel of a storyline — tragic and hand-crafted and brilliant. I’d completely forgotten that it goes into unexcused overtime like this.

And here I am, sentenced to watch episode after episode about Vicki’s witchcraft trial, which is just spinning in circles and refuses to end. It seems like every witness gets to come back for a bonus round, with more accusations and objections and pointless sidebars at the bench. Well, I can’t take it any more; I’m going for the Backup Plan instead. Episode overruled!

Continue reading Episode 436: Quivering with Emotion

Episode 425: Jump Street

“I would not let them be together in life… and they shall not be together in death.”

So far, there have been lots of surprises in the 1795 flashback storyline — some of them pleasant, and some not so much. I think the most disappointing surprise has been the characterization of Josette. She’s supposed to be the heart of the whole story, but as I’ve talked about this week, there’s not much there to hang on to.

Josette is basically just a spoiled rich girl. She never shows any real maturity, or makes any difficult decisions. She’s the blank slate that other characters write on — and not just the supernatural characters. There was that episode where Reverend Trask talked her into a weird, borderline-sexual exorcism ritual, and he didn’t use hypnosis. He just told her what he was going to do, and then he did it.

So, standing here at the precipice, the real tragedy is that Josette’s tragedy doesn’t feel like much of a tragedy. It’s the end of the girl as we know it, and I feel fine.

Continue reading Episode 425: Jump Street

Time Travel, part 2: Blood, Sweat and Tears

“Oh, God. Oh, God. Doc… please. Oh, God, doc. I’m beggin’ ya. I’m beggin’ ya. I’m beggin’ ya. Please, doc. Please. Oh, God. Oh, God. God. Oh, God. Oh, God. Doc. No. No. God. No.”

Merry Christmas! Today’s episode of Dark Shadows was pre-empted for Christmas Day 1967, because apparently people would rather watch football than 18th century vampires on Christmas, go figure. I want this blog to keep the Monday-to-Friday rhythm of the original broadcast, so we’re going to do some more time travel today, back to the year 1991, when NBC recklessly decided to give executive producer Dan Curtis another shot at making Dark Shadows all over again.

As we saw in the two-hour pilot episode, the Dark Shadows revival started with all the best intentions and all the worst ideas.

The main character is Victoria Winters, because after all these years we still think that’s a solid plan, but at least they did us the favor of not having her speak very much. I don’t think she has a single line in this entire episode.

We’ve also got a mentally challenged backwoods Willie Loomis, a sour-faced Julia with no sense of humor, a breathless Cinemax refugee who answers to the name of Carolyn, and don’t even get me started on Barnabas and the turtlenecks. On the plus side, we’ve got a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt as David, so at least there’s some star power on the set.

NBC aired the two-hour pilot on Sunday, January 13th, and then the second and third episodes together on the next night, and pretended it was some kind of exciting four-hour miniseries event. To be clear, we’re just watching episode 2 today. I’m only human, and besides, it’s Christmas.

Continue reading Time Travel, part 2: Blood, Sweat and Tears

Episode 324: The Wrong Man

“The eyes in the painting… They were alive! I could feel them!”

At the top of the show today, Elizabeth finds young David standing in the foyer, staring at the 18th-century portrait of Barnabas. She asks David what’s wrong, and he suddenly runs upstairs and slams the door. Perplexed, Liz looks at the portrait.

And unfortunately, that’s as close as we’re going to get to the vampire today. Elizabeth is actually just coming back from four weeks of summer vacation, and we hardly noticed. But Barnabas is at the heart of every storyline now, and if he takes even one day off, the show starts to sag.

This is the first episode without Barnabas in two weeks. That portrait is going to get a workout today.

Continue reading Episode 324: The Wrong Man

Episode 291: The Alchemist

“The basis of your problem is the destructive nature of your blood cells.”

In Friday’s episode, Julia baited Barnabas into coming to her room to strangle her. But she knew he was coming, and waited quietly in the corner. Now she steps into the moonlight, and delivers some absolutely explosive dialogue.

Julia:  I know what you are. You’re Barnabas Collins — the only Barnabas Collins, who died over a hundred and thirty years ago.

Barnabas:  That’s an absurd statement.

Julia:  Don’t try to deny it. I’ve investigated you thoroughly, and I’ve seen you in your coffin.

Barnabas:  You realize that such knowledge puts you in great danger.

Julia:  Well, of course. That’s why I took the precaution of putting a dummy in the bed.

Which is an unbelievably badass thing to say. Whenever someone asks you for an example of why Dark Shadows is the most surprising and therefore the greatest television show of all time, you can direct them to this scene.

(Note: There is a very good chance that nobody will ever ask you this question. But it’s good to be prepared, just in case.)

Continue reading Episode 291: The Alchemist