Tag Archives: fangs

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 995: I’ll Bite Anything

“It is difficult to rechannel my thoughts after three years of thinking about nothing but you.”

So it’s not the late 60s anymore, is what I’m saying, and eventually a show that’s as adamantly late 60s as Dark Shadows is going to run into trouble when it tries to outlive its environment.

As you know, the difference between the 1960s and the 1970s is that in the 70s, America discovered the concepts of responsibility and safety. In late 1969, the innocent flower children of Woodstock met the lawless, murderous Hells Angels of Altamont, and the good trip became a bad one, to our lasting disadvantage.

At that point, the American people decided that maybe giving their children exposed metal hot plates as toys wasn’t such a great idea, and maybe we should try wearing seat belts, and using child-proof caps, and not letting the Manson Family stay in the guest house. You know, the whole actions have consequences, gravity is real, sometimes people are assholes thing that ruins so many promising utopias.

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Episode 971: The Cleanup Crew

“Whatever it is that’s drawing you there, I hope it doesn’t harm you.”

Roger Collins wakes up, somewhat the worse for wear. He’s in a hallway, and his head hurts. He tries to take stock of his surroundings, but these particular surroundings are difficult to stock-take. Why is he on the floor?

A friend is standing nearby. He looks up at her, and moans, “Julia, what are you doing here?”

“Elizabeth said I could come and see the architecture in the east wing,” she chirps. “It’s very interesting.” Roger tries to assimiliate this information into his current worldview.

The problem is that he’s got a couple big holes punched in his memory card, one labeled Killer Octopus from Outer Space and the other Oh My God That Nice Woman from the Antiques Store Is a Vampire. Between them, that pretty much sums up everything that Roger’s experienced in the last couple of months; everything else is just make-believe visits to Bangor-on-Business, which is imaginary.

He tries to narrow down the problem, and lands on location. “The east wing?” he scowls. “Did you say the east wing?”

“Yes, Roger,” she says.

He shakes his head, and exclaims, “Well, what am I doing here?”

“Well, now, Roger, I’m sure you have a very sound reason,” Julia says, as she helps him to his feet, “but blows on the head have a way of making people forgetful.” Then she pats him on the arm, and encourages him to go talk about it somewhere else.

Continue reading Episode 971: The Cleanup Crew

Episode 961: Protagonizing

“I want you to get good and mad — mad enough to rip a man to shreds!”

“My, my, Mr. Jennings,” Bruno says, splitting his face with a lunatic’s grin. “How you’ve changed!” He’s sneering at the snarling werewolf that’s currently chained to the wall of this desolate crypt, and he’s staying just outside the creature’s reach, like Foghorn Leghorn standing at the dog’s leash limit.

“Does the tone of my voice anger you?” Bruno jeers. “Good! I want you to get good and mad — mad enough to rip a man to shreds!”

This is not typically a problem for werewolf handlers, because the entire point of werewolves is to be a metaphor for unchecked fury and explosive violence. You don’t need to rile up a werewolf. They come pre-riled.

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Episode 955: Once Again

“Surely, you must have realized that neither of us has any chance for a normal life.”

There’s a spooky spellcasting music cue on the turntable, and newly-minted vampire Barnabas Collins stands on the terrace outside the great estate of Collinwood, speaking to people without moving his lips.

“I’m waiting for you, Maggie!” he vents. “You must respond! You must come to me! Now!”

And then she does; she just walks right out onto the terrace and starts responding. This is why Barnabas doesn’t need a phone.

Now, I was under the impression that Barnabas could only pull stunts like this because he’s psychically connected to his blood-slaves. But Maggie isn’t under Barnabas’ sway these days, so I don’t know how he gets this direct line to her nighttime terrace decisions. Maybe everybody’s had Bluetooth this whole time, and they just didn’t mention it.

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Episode 951: Into Darkness

“May that breathing never come from any room again!”

So our main character is dead again, hooray! Dark Shadows can fight its destiny as much as it likes — periodically sending Barnabas to rehab, distracting us with other monsters — but the fact is, this is a vampire show. It always has been, even before the vampire showed up, and it always will be, even after the vampire turns into a guy named Bramwell.

The novels say that Barnabas is a vampire, and so do the comics, the board games, the joke books and ABC’s marketing department. And now, thanks to the only worthwhile thing that the Leviathans ever accomplish, even the vampire show has to admit that their vampire is a vampire.

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Episode 922: To My Fans, the Audience

“Barnabas never ceases to be exciting.”

My husband opens the doors to the drawing room, and finds me deep in thought, puzzling over an old book. I’m reading carefully, and transcribing some of the more difficult passages.

As he makes his way to the drinks cabinet, he asks, “Is that for the blog?” I tell him it is, and I show him the cover. He asks why I’m writing about this now, and I say that the book just came out.

“But that looks old,” he says.

“Yeah, it just came out.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m in January 1970. This was published in December 1969.”

“Oh, I see,” he says. “You were meanwhiling.” This is why our marriage works.

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Time Travel, part 11: Trial’s an Error

“It was some kind of mumbo-jumbo!”

Meanwhile, it’s 1790, and governess Victoria Winters is trapped by time, stuck two centuries early with no ride home. She’s been locked up and accused of terrible things, and now she’s on trial for her life, represented by pop-eyed barrister Peter Bradford. Opposing counsel is the Reverend Trask, who’s assisted by reckless spinster Abigail Collins and his own eyebrows, not necessarily in that order. And the Countess Natalie DuPres is terribly worried about her niece Josette, a young woman who seems entirely unable to date anyone with more than a couple of days to live.

Oh, and Barnabas — d’you remember Barnabas? He used to be the main character on this television show — Barnabas is in a box, all by himself.

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Episode 915: The Walkback

“You can’t let sentimentality make you careless!”

For the last six weeks, Barnabas Collins has been behaving oddly, even by eccentric millionaire standards. He’s been freezing out his friends, and striking them with cars. He’s revoked his Murder Club membership by warning his family that werewolves are dangerous. He’s appeared unbidden in other people’s dreams, and he’s arranged for the remote involuntary circling of dates on calendars.

But we finally have an explanation for everything. He was being sarcastic!

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