“Nothing seems more important to me at the moment than the strange goings-on in this house.”
And so the afternoons wear on, Monday through Friday, and day by day, everyone’s getting a little bit older and a little bit wiser. That’s the usual arrangement, of course, and it generally works out okay, but it’s something of a problem for a television show like Dark Shadows, whose market share is determined by the audience’s appetite for the deeply unwise.
There’s been a steady drumbeat of cultural warning signs over the last year, signaling that the space that Dark Shadows occupies in the American consciousness is destined to be rezoned. There was that push for non-toxic children’s television, which resulted in the fall 1969 debuts of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and Sesame Street. There was the disaster at the Altamont free music festival in December ’69, when everyone discovered, to the surprise of an entire generation, that an enormous crowd of drug-addled young people is not innately loving and peaceful. There was the embarrassing string of House of Dark Shadows ads over the summer promising a “bizarre act of unnatural love,” and the shift in public opinion around April 1970 that made people start to classify Dark Shadows viewers as perverts, dabblers and scag freaks.
And then there’s another case study to consider, as we tumble towards 1971: the fall of Aurora’s Monster Scenes.
Continue reading Episode 1150: The Strange Goings-On
“The underground vault below the unmarked tomb, of course!”
Lightning flashes, thunder crashes, the hunchback turns the wheel that pulls the pulley that hoists the creature to the rafters. The set explodes in enthusiastic bursts of galvanic excess. The crazed doctor squints as he peers at the ceiling, waiting for the moment when all the power of God’s creation will be at his disposal. More sparks, more zaps, and all of nature cries out — in exaltation or disgust, I know not which — as the operating table winds its way back down, to rest again on the floor.
The doctor rushes forward, craning his neck to catch even the mildest suspicion of success, hardly daring to hope, and there — in direct defiance of all the laws of God and nature — the dead man’s fingers shudder — twitch — and a pale hand rises from the resting position.
“Look!” the doctor gasps. “It’s moving! It’s — alive! It’s ALIVE!” And then the monster gets up, maybe thirty to forty minutes later.
Continue reading Episode 1137: It’s Alive, Sort Of
“We cannot succeed without it, because without it he cannot live!”
You know, she’s done amazing things in the past, but now she’s even more in the past, and look what she can do. Displaced medico Julia Hoffman, thrust by circumstance into a time not yet her own, has assembled — in the middle of the night, in the middle of a graveyard, and in the middle of the nineteenth century — a pop-up artisanal mad scientist coworking space with all the trimmings, including assorted glassware lashed into an impromptu apparatus with bubbling liquids of uncertain purpose, along with tables and lamps and switches and samovars and who knows what-all.
She’s even got things wired up with electricity somehow, with a good old-fashioned Jacob’s ladder spark gap buzzing away in the corner, in case the Nobel committee comes by and she needs to science the place up a little.
She’s in a secret underground crypt, by the way, built by ignorant and superstitious villagers a hundred and fifty years ago as a long-term radioactive-waste storage facility, so they would have a place to put decapitated wizards that they weren’t using anymore. It wasn’t zoned for whatever the hell this is, so Julia’s technically a squatter, and she couldn’t hire anybody to help her drag the enormous Frankenstein-size slab through the narrow trap door beneath the unmarked grave, and down the winding stairs to this busted basement. And yet she did it somehow, in absolute silence and secrecy, all on her own. It’s incredible what you can do, when someone else puts your mind to it.
Continue reading Episode 1134/1135: The Graveyard Smash
“Adam, this is exactly the conversation I didn’t want to have.”
It seemed like such a good idea at the time.
We’ve got an empty basement, they said. We’ve got an apparatus, and some electricity, and a Mark 7 respirator, and a whole lot of spare time. Let’s go downstairs and make a human woman.
Continue reading Episode 591: The Sound of Science
“How could he talk so good in such a short time?”
We’ve been spending a lot of time lately with Adam, the enormous adolescent Frankenstein who’s hiding out in the abandoned west wing of Collinwood. His love life isn’t really working out, and he’s just learned that he was pieced together in a mad science experiment, so he’s in kind of a bad mood.
But that works out well for us, because there’s only so long that you can watch a guy hide in a room before you start wondering what’s happening on The Secret Storm these days. We need a change.
Happily, today Adam’s got some new things to say, and a new vocabulary to say them with.
Continue reading Episode 552: Hooked On Phonics
“Woman loves man.”
The room is dark, and grim. The single window — if it even counts as a window — lets in stray slices of sunlight through a torn shade. The cobwebs are an inch thick, and there’s a large picture frame dangling at an odd angle from a beam, apparently supported mostly by dust and despair.
The room is more than just unused. It looks like a pack of timberwolves came through sometime around the Civil War, and it never really pulled itself together after that.
Also, there’s a monster in it.
Continue reading Episode 542: The Diary of Anne Frankenstein
“I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. Why do you want to kill me? Are you insane?”
Okay, here’s the meet-cute scenario: Adam, our enormous new Frankenstein monster, was running away from home after getting a savage beating from Barnabas, who we might as well call his dad.
Alone, afraid, and with only a slight vocabulary advantage over Chewbacca, Adam stumbled into Collinwood, where he demanded the only two things he knows how to ask for — music and food.
Then Barnabas rushed in with a gun, so Adam picked up the closest thing he could grab, which happened to be Carolyn Stoddard, and carried her away. Oh, like you’ve never had a weird first date.
Continue reading Episode 502: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
“Barnabas, Barnabas, please don’t go. Barnabas!”
Well, what’s the point of even having a Frankenstein monster, if he’s not going to go on a rampage every once in a while? You can’t keep him locked up in the basement forever. He’s a metaphor for the limits of human power, the unintended consequences of mankind’s sins made flesh and set loose upon the world. Now get out of the way, and let him do his goddamn job.
Continue reading Episode 501: Say My Name
“Food. That is food. Can you say it? Food.”
Okay, let me run this one past you: a teetotaling Dracula and his mad-scientist gal pal have brought a handsome Frankenstein man to life, and they’re teaching him how to speak by leaving him chained up alone in a filthy basement. Yeah, I don’t really get it either.
I mean, let’s do a quick inventory of things that Adam doesn’t have: A toy. A window. Someone to talk to. Any kind of toilet facilities. And then they try to teach him table manners. How do they possibly think this is going to go?
Continue reading Episode 495: The Talking Dead
“Whether he’s ordinary or not is not the point. He’s a living human being, and we are responsible for him.”
It’s one of those weird nitpicks that people like to bring up in conversation — that “Frankenstein” isn’t the name of the monster; it’s the name of the doctor who created him. Then you say, okay, so what’s the monster’s name? And then everyone just stands around and looks foolish, until finally somebody says, gee, will you look at the time.
Because the creature doesn’t really have a name — he’s billed as the Monster in the Boris Karloff movie, and sometimes people will say “Frankenstein’s monster,” but those aren’t satisfying names, and everybody knows it.
The name “Frankenstein” exists in this weird middle space, suspended between creator and creation. And when you think about it, they’re kind of the same thing anyway, aren’t they? The doctor is the one who thinks; the monster is the one who acts. It’s the ego and the id. “Frankenstein’s monster” and “a Frankenstein monster” are both true, at the same time.
So, this big guy who’s currently smashing up the laboratory — is he Barnabas’ monster? Or is this a Barnabas monster?
Continue reading Episode 492: The Terrible Twos