“I demand that counsel define the term ‘occult practices’.”
We’re going back to court for another witchcraft trial on Dark Shadows today, and once again, people have missed the entire point of the Salem story. The witch trials that took place in Massachusetts in the late 17th century happened in the actual real world, where I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s no such thing as witches. Salem 1692 is a story about a justice system perverted by superstition and mob panic, where innocent people were jailed and executed based on the claims of a pack of hysterical middle schoolers.
But in modern Salem, they’ve discovered that it’s a lot more lucrative to pretend there were real witches in the late 17th, and build a tourist trade by promoting Halloween parades and haunted house tours. Yes, they have a Witch History Museum that tells the real story, but on the whole, it’s more fun to build events around spooky fictional witches instead of focusing on the thing that’s really scary, which is putting Christians in charge of a legal system.
So there are a whole bunch of TV shows and movies that depict real witches on the scene of the Salem witch trials — Charmed, Bewitched, Hocus Pocus, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, I Married a Witch, The Vampire Diaries, that WGN Salem series with sexy versions of John Alden and Mary Sibley. This is basically like making a TV show about the Holocaust in which the Jews kind of deserved it.
Continue reading Episode 1165: In the Haze of History
“I thought I had removed the life force completely, but apparently not.”
The vampire rises from his crypt, murder on his mind. Someone has intruded on his private sanctum, and she must be destroyed.
“So you’ve found me out!” he growls. “It will be the last thing you’ll ever do.”
She backs away. They always do — the doomed ones, the prey — scuttling towards the wall, squeaking, searching for the magic words that will make this nightmare stop coming true. And then the interloper says the one improbable thing that could flip the script on the oncoming train wreck.
“No, Barnabas, it’s me!” she chirps. “It’s me, Julia! I’m dressed this way for a reason!”
Continue reading Episode 1038: The Spy Who Loved Me
“There is a evil here!”
It started with radio, of course, this war of the words, with Painted Dreams and Just Plain Bill and The Romance of Helen Trent. All those listening women needed something to listen to, and radio soaps offered fifteen minutes of pure uncut conversation. But there comes a time when even soap opera characters need to admit that they don’t know what they’re talking about, and pipe the hell down.
Take the parallel Sabrina Stuart, spouting nonsense at one of those pop-up seances which they construct on the fly in high-traffic areas on the Collinwood estate. “She’s dying, she’s dying!” Sabrina cried, pointing at someone who wasn’t dying. “Murder! Murder! MURD-ERRRR!” It wasn’t clear whether she was pro or con. It probably doesn’t matter, one way or the other.
Continue reading Episode 991: Parsing Sabrina
“It’s been my experience that death causes as much ill-feeling as life.”
Time-tossed vampire Barnabas Collins is stuck in the year 1897, lost behind enemy lines on a ghost-hunting recon mission. For all he knows, he’s here to stay, so he’s trying to make friends with the locals.
At the moment, he’s in the Collinwood study with Edward, the putative head of the household, in front of an open casket containing Edward’s grandmother. The old lady spent the last several decades telling everyone that she had a family secret that she would pass on just before her death, but it turns out that’s a tricky deadline to plan around. Now Barnabas is the only one who knows the secret, which was: Don’t let Barnabas get out of his coffin and hang around Collinwood. So that worked out great.
Grasping at straws, Edward harangues Barnabas for a while, begging him to tell the secret, but Barnabas just stonewalls and that’s pretty much all they can do.
Frustrated, Edward grouses that Edith even kept the location of her will a secret. She left instructions with Judith in a sealed envelope, and now they have to find it.
And that’s the last time anybody mentions the secret. From this moment on, the story is all about finding the will. It’s the most blatant MacGuffin relay race handoff you’ll ever see.
Continue reading Episode 708: Will Power
“No human hand has touched these clothes since I took them away.”
Okay, the Ron Sproat script countdown continues; we are currently at nine episodes and holding.
Sproat, if you haven’t read my other posts on the subject, is the third-best out of three on the Dark Shadows writing team, and he and I have been engaged in a tense standoff since April 1967. He’s got one month left until he leaves the show, and it’s going to come down to the wire on which of us is going to crack first.
Now, I’m going to write today’s post as if there’s somebody out there who still likes it when I spend the entire day complaining about Ron Sproat and his terrible scripts. “Oh, boy,” this make-believe person might say, passing by in a hot-air balloon. “These are my very favorites. I shall read today’s entry with particular relish.”
But now that I’ve written that down, it doesn’t sound super likely. I mean, does anyone even talk like that? And why a hot-air balloon?
Continue reading Episode 656: Unspooky
“I summon you in the name of the charred and blackened stars that reigned at my beginnings!”
Angelique has had enough. She lights a candle.
Prince of Fire, she says, I call upon the flame to summon you. I call up all the dark creatures of nature to summon you here to me.
I summon you in the name of the seven plagues, in the name of the charred and blackened stars that reigned at my beginnings, to rise out of the darkness of the earth!
I call you forth from the mouth of the dragon, and of the beast, and of the false prophet! I call you forth from the subterranean rivers of blood, from the smoke of torment which rises forever and ever!
In the name of every evil spirit — evil, and obedient only to you — I invoke you! Appear to me NOW!
And then she erupts into a furnace of psychedelic Chromakey flames, screaming and pleading for her life.
This is Wednesday, by the way. This is what we do on Wednesdays now.
Continue reading Episode 628: Horrible Bosses
“I promise you, Julia, we’ve only seen the beginning of this.”
“Julia, I’m puzzled,” Barnabas says. “Terribly puzzled. I’ve just come from Collinsport.”
Julia asks, “What happened?”
“Nothing has happened, that’s what’s wrong.”
Julia says, “I don’t understand,” and then Barnabas says “Third base!” because it’s just that kind of day.
Continue reading Episode 579: Sproatinger’s Cat
“I don’t love you. I love Maggie Evans. I don’t even know you.”
Oh, it’s the same old story. You invite a guy over, you spend the night together, there’s an exchange of body fluids, and the next day, he doesn’t even want to see you anymore.
Joe Haskell looks out the window at the approaching dusk. “It’ll be dark soon,” he thinks, “and she’ll want me to go to her. I’ve got to resist her. I’ve got to!”
Spoiler alert: He doesn’t resist her.
Continue reading Episode 562: He’s Just Not That Into Being Supernaturally Controlled By You
“It’s more than a little peculiar. I’d say it was very peculiar.”
Okay, let’s get started; it’s the middle of the night, and there’s a lot of plot mechanics to get through.
On Friday, Sarah the apparently-friendly ghost lured young David to the Eagle Hill cemetery for some kind of necromancy play-date. She disappeared, and he went looking for her in the secret room hidden in the Collins mausoleum. You know, like they always do on soap operas.
Meanwhile, Sarah’s vampire brother Barnabas and his blood-slave servant Willie are also looking for the little ghost, at her final resting place — the Collins mausoleum. Startled, David closes the door, and hides inside the coffin in the secret room.
The mausoleum is apparently empty when Barnabas enters, but he wants to check the secret room. Willie opens the panel.
Barnabas walks in and poses with his hand resting on the coffin, which is kind of superb. This is supposed to be high drama, but it’s actually a plot point from a farce, with everybody piling into the secret room. I’d give anything to have the Marx Brothers show up and start ordering hard-boiled eggs.
Continue reading Episode 311: A Tomb of One’s Own
“You know something, doctor? I’ve just decided that I don’t believe you.”
Today on Dark Shadows, we learn what a rich kid does on his day off — he rides on a bus. Carolyn is taking David on a trip into Bangor, and he’s got his heart set on that bus trip. But their plans are interrupted by a visit from Sam and Joe, who have something to discuss with David.
You can tell that it’s important, because Sam uses Dramatic Clarification — a technique where you pretend that you’re being super focused and intense, when really you’re just saying the same thing twice.
So when David asks why Sam needs to talk to him, Sam says, “Well, it’s about something urgent. Something very, very urgent.”
Continue reading Episode 308: In Circles