Tag Archives: grave robbing

Time Travel, part 13: Total Blood Volume

“Less talk, more crowbar!”

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A man walks into a crypt, looking for buried treasure. He crowbars his way into a mystery box, and what does he find? A pain in the neck.

Today is Christmas Day 1970, happy holidays by the way, and the show is taking the day off. On pre-emption days, the blog is visited by the Ghost of Dark Shadows Yet to Come, often to our great and lasting regret. During previous pre-emptions, we watched the 1970 movie House of Dark Shadows, the 1971 movie Night of Dark Shadows, and the 12 episodes of the 1991 NBC revival. The short version is that they weren’t very good, because trying to catch lightning in a bottle is difficult, especially when you’ve already used that bottle a couple of times. Lightning’s funny that way.

Today, we’re taking a look at the next chapter of that story: the 2004 pilot for a new prime-time Dark Shadows, prepared for and rejected by the WB, which used to be a television network.

You see, Dan Curtis — Dark Shadows’ creator and executive producer — never gave up on Dark Shadows, except while he was making it, when he definitely did. Having tasted the thrill of unexpected success in 1968 and 1969 as the show’s popularity reached its peak, he decided to make a movie version, using the same cast, crew and writers, while the television show was still on the air. That left the show coasting for months on ABC-TV with the B-squad characters, and when Dan finally came back to the series, all he really wanted to do was make another movie, and that’s why the show came to a gradual, disappointing end.

In 1991, Dan decided to try again, making a 12-part prime-time series for NBC that used a lot of ideas from House of Dark Shadows, and it didn’t work out, for lightning/bottle reasons. And then he just kept on trying to remake the remake for the next 12 years, finally managing to convince the WB to spend five million dollars on a pilot that nobody liked.

I asked you to stop me if you’ve heard this before, but frankly, it’s no use trying. The only way that Dan could stop retelling the story of Dark Shadows was to die, and even then, I bet he’s up in Heaven, pitching Saint Peter on another series. I’m kidding, of course; executive producers don’t go to Heaven.

Continue reading Time Travel, part 13: Total Blood Volume

Episode 1126: To Your Head

“How are we gonna explain carrying a coffin around?”

It’s got a wobbly, unmarked styrofoam gravestone. It’s got spooky stairs leading down to a story-productive secret passageway. It’s got a mystery box, containing a headless corpse and a gold mask studded with improbable jewels. It’s got the great visual hook of an eight-foot wooden cross, pinning down a forbidden coffin lid. It’s even got a hapless 1840 equivalent of Willie Loomis, unwittingly unboxing an evil from the past. This should be right up my street. So why am I so unhappy?

Continue reading Episode 1126: To Your Head

Episode 834: The What’s-Thatters

“Death runs faster than any man.”

A memo from young Icarus to his father, re: altitude. What are you talking about, Dad? These wings that you made from feathers and wax are working great. Why do you say that I’m flying too high? You’re supposed to fly as high as you can, that’s the whole point of flying!

And so, as Icarus sinks slowly in the west and learns some valuable lessons about swimming, let’s turn to Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis. In defiance of good taste and common sense, Dan has turned his poky little soap opera into a five-alarm spookshow spectacular, delighting the teenagers and housewives of America with larger-than-life characters, hair-raising plot twists and inventive special effects. The ratings are still climbing, which makes Dan wonder: What can I do for an encore?

Today, we see Dan’s first answer to that question — Dead of Night, a primetime pilot for ABC that tried to adapt the Dark Shadows formula to an hour-long nighttime drama. Dan produced this pilot in late 1968, with several members of his Dark Shadows family — director Lela Swift, writer Sam Hall, composer Bob Cobert, and actors Thayer David and Louis Edmonds.

ABC finally broadcast the hour-long pilot in late August 1969, because they’d already paid for it and you might as well. While he’s been waiting for it to air, Dan’s scaled his ambitions up even further — he’s currently pursuing a deal with MGM, to make a Dark Shadows film. So before that kicks off, it’s useful for us to take a look at this pilot episode, “A Darkness at Blaisedon”, and see Dan’s first attempt to bring Dark Shadows to a wider audience.

Constructed haphazardly out of feathers and wax, Dead of Night introduces a trio of new characters — psychic investigator Jonathan Fletcher, his live-in chum Sajeed Rau, and the beautiful young heiress Angela Martin — and throws them onto a haunted house set, to see how far they can fly. Icarus, you are cleared for takeoff.

Continue reading Episode 834: The What’s-Thatters

Episode 820: The Hand Shakedown

“This is a little more grisly than your usual request.”

There was a storm kicking up that night, one of those dry storms you get this time of year that are heavy on sound effects and light on moisture. The boss had a plan, or at least he said he did.

The gypsies were in town, he said. Black-robed, silent, faceless gypsies with curved scimitars and impenetrable cloaks, who could melt into the shadows and then appear over your shoulder, ready to chop something off and keep it as a souvenir. Some kind of unstoppable Persian ninja gypsy with a prop-closet sword, who needs an extra hand in a big hurry.

The boss said he saw them in somebody else’s dream, which figured. It’s just the kind of thing an android vengeance gypsy would do, show up in some hallucination next door just to let you know they’re en route. Everything’s got to be a legend with gypsies; they’re theater people with a bad case of mythology. But the boss had a plan.

Come on, he said. Let’s go out back and see what we can dig up.

Continue reading Episode 820: The Hand Shakedown

Episode 810: The Most Dangerous Game

“Satan is determined to take over Collinwood!”

In the summer of 1969, the young set gather every afternoon at four o’clock to watch one of the great pioneers in educational programming.

Not Sesame Street, of course; that doesn’t start until November. For the summer, at least, the kids’ choice is Dark Shadows, and what they’re learning is that murder is awesome, and you can totally get away with it.

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Episode 756: I Know You Are But What Am I

“I’m sure that book has a name for whatever you are!”

Curtain rises on a dark cemetery, and dark deeds. Furtive grave-disturbers have unearthed a moldy coffin from its resting place, and found a secret journal hidden in the casket.

As they reach for the book, a bolt of lightning sears across the sky with an angry blast. The man looks worried, but the woman chides her companion. “It’s just a storm, that’s all!”

“Is it?” the man asks. “Is it just a storm?”

So that’s where we start today’s episode. That’s step one.

Continue reading Episode 756: I Know You Are But What Am I

Episode 741: Lunch Date with Destiny

“What if he found out what I believe to be the truth?”

Barnabas and Sandor are on the trail of Laura Collins, a renewable resource who has spent the last several centuries marrying into the Collins family, having a kid or two, bursting into flames, and then coming back a hundred years later and doing it all over again. It seems like a fairly pointless lifestyle, but maybe there’s a tax break or something.

In the last episode, Barnabas and Sandor broke into the crypt of Laura Stockbridge Collins, a previous incarnation, and discovered that her coffin was empty. This was kind of a wet slap of a Friday cliffhanger, because it tells us nothing and goes nowhere.

Now Barnabas and Sandor are standing around, trying to figure out why there’s no body in the casket. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that there’s nothing there because she died in a fire. You know, I think it’s time they try branching out from grave-robbing as an investigation tool. Honestly, every time with these people.

Continue reading Episode 741: Lunch Date with Destiny

Episode 702: The Vampire Strikes Back

“Don’t touch me! Your grandmother knows how easily I bruise.”

It always starts with a box.

The malicious spirit of Quentin Collins has taken over present-day Collinwood, and he’s in the process of slowly murdering young David. Desperate to save the boy and unable to think of anything else, Barnabas turns to the I Ching, an ancient Chinese secret that has transported his soul back to the late 19th century. There, his astral body meets up with his physical body, which is trapped in a chained-up coffin.

And like any travel experience, it takes forever, there’s hardly any leg room, there’s nothing to eat, and he doesn’t even know where he’s landed. This is why you should never try to check yourself in as luggage.

Continue reading Episode 702: The Vampire Strikes Back

Episode 684: Barnabas Collins and the Mysterious Ghost

“Lots of things happen in this house that no one can understand.”

It always starts with a box.

You take your fears and your crimes and your regrets, and you bury them deep in the earth, and you tell yourself that no one will ever know. Nobody has a key, and nobody knows where you buried it, and nobody knows that it even exists. The mystery box is hidden forever.

But you know that it’s only a matter of time. Boxes open. That’s pretty much the whole point of boxes.

Continue reading Episode 684: Barnabas Collins and the Mysterious Ghost

Episode 626: The Amazing New Phenomenon

“You want to keep track of me? The amazing new phenomenon? The ghost who breathes?”

As the black-robed executioner opened the door to Vicki’s cell, her lover looked into her eyes, and promised her every last thing he could think of.

I love you, Vicki, he said. That’s all that matters.

The hangman grabbed her shoulder, and pushed.

Somehow you managed to travel through time, and find me. Somehow, I’ll find you. No matter what happens, I will find you.

She was led from her cell, down a dark corridor, to the gallows.

Our love will transcend time, her lover cried, shouting desperately over the squeal of the waiting crowd. We are stronger than time! We are stronger than death!

The hood was placed over her head.

Remember me!

It was a promise, and a prayer.

I will find you!

It was the only thing she could hear, as the rope tightened around her throat.

I will find you, through the centuries, and we will be together again! Our love will never die!

And as it turns out, that is exactly what happened, so I don’t know what the hell he’s complaining about now. That’s a three-pointer if I ever saw one. That was nothing but net.

Continue reading Episode 626: The Amazing New Phenomenon