Tag Archives: fog machine

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 478: What Dreams May Come

“Through sight and sound, and faceless terror…”

It’s been a little over a year since Dark Shadows opened the mystery box, letting a vampire loose and transforming this relatively aimless show into a bubbling cauldron of visual spectacle and lunatic plot contrivances. One of the most remarkable changes is the pace of the show, which used to just drift from day to day, with long sequences of characters telling each other how worried they are about something.

But not anymore. Yesterday, for example, the episode ended with Barnabas falling asleep in a chair, and dreaming about his ex-wife making a promotional announcement about the upcoming story direction. Continuing this rocket sled to adventure in today’s episode, we’re going to watch Maggie fall asleep, too.

We’re going to see a lot of this over the next couple months. I guess making Dark Shadows is exhausting; everyone’s taking afternoon naps.

Continue reading Episode 478: What Dreams May Come

Episode 413: The New Black

“I’ve often thought it’s very sad that we live in two worlds that are so far apart in time from each other.”

Last night, assistant jailer and aspiring lawyer Peter Bradford sprung accused witch Victoria Winters from the Collinsport Gaol, so she could break into somebody’s house and steal a key piece of evidence in her case. Then he lied to opposing counsel about it, and indicated that he would perjure himself on the stand if required.

This morning, he feels bad about lying, so he’s planning to go to Reverend Trask and apologize.

I think it’s time for somebody to communicate to young Peter that he should stop coming up with new ideas, possibly through the medium of a prison sentence.

Continue reading Episode 413: The New Black

Episode 410: Nightfall

“I want you to cut down a holly tree, and fashion a small stake from the trunk.”

The widow Collins draws her shawl close around her, regarding her late husband’s final resting place with a shudder. She has no friends now, and no place to go. All she’s got is a small suitcase carrying a few dresses, plus a bankbook worth a small fortune. Oh, and a big hammer, and a pointy stick. And a problem.

And she finally asks the question that the viewing public has been waiting to hear for more than nine months, namely:

“Do you know the word vampire, Ben?”

Vampire? Now that you mention it, that does ring a bell. Dude in a coffin, right?

Continue reading Episode 410: Nightfall

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

Time Travel, part 1: Mist Opportunities

“I’m just glad to be here.”

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Thursday’s episode of Dark Shadows was pre-empted this week, so ABC could air football on Thanksgiving afternoon. I want the blog to keep the Monday-to-Friday rhythm of the original broadcast, so today, the normal blog entry is pre-empted by our own Thanksgiving treat.

Today, we’re going to do some time travel, fast-forwarding to the mysterious far-off year of 1991. It’s a Sunday night in January, and NBC is airing the prime-time remake of Dark Shadows. This first episode is a two-hour journey into the unknown, so let’s get started…

Continue reading Time Travel, part 1: Mist Opportunities

Episode 276: Crime Scenes

“Your friend? But you told me he tried to kill you.”

Today’s episode kicks off with an interesting milestone — it’s the first time Barnabas Collins kills somebody. There was that business with the cows early on, and lately he’s been snacking on the locals, but those have all been off-screen and apparently non-fatal. After three months, this is the first bona fide vampire kill, and happily, it’s a character that everybody in the audience wanted dead anyway.

Now, technically we don’t see the actual murder on screen. A hand grabs Jason’s throat, and then there’s the opening titles. When we come back, Jason is dead on the floor.

So we don’t see the specific moment when Barnabas actually chokes the life out of the dude. But that’s probably for the best, because it’s the middle of July, it’s 3:30 in the afternoon, and there are children watching. Suddenly, this dull soap opera has transformed into a daily half-hour horror movie, so they’re still feeling their way around, tone-wise.

Continue reading Episode 276: Crime Scenes

Episode 230: The Transylvania Twist

“I’m in a graveyard. How did i get in a graveyard?”

It’s been four weeks since we opened the mystery box and let the vampire out, not that anyone’s actually saying the word “vampire” yet. The show is actually strangely coy about it — nobody says the V-word out loud for nine months. They finally break it out in episode 410, and by then it’s not the craziest thing on the show anymore.

But who needs labels when you have howling dogs? Over the last month, we’ve seen hypnosis, nightmares, fangs and unexplained blood loss — and this is the episode where it all comes together. This is the first big Friday cliffhanger, and exciting things are finally happening.

Continue reading Episode 230: The Transylvania Twist

Episode 220: Never Drink Wine

“It’s hard to believe that a few hours ago you were collapsing all over the place.”

It’s sunset at Collinwood, and Willie’s out of bed. Jason enters the sickroom and finds Willie putting on his shoes, and here we go again.

Come on, guys, hurry it up! There’s a good story here, just waiting to be told. All we need is for Barnabas to stay away from the livestock for five minutes and start paying attention to the humans. But not today, apparently.

Continue reading Episode 220: Never Drink Wine