“You may find that out in a frightening fashion.”
As we’re moving through these grim final weeks of Dark Shadows, I’ve been taking the opportunity to catch up on the spinoff media: the books and comics and audio plays and weird fan poetry that people have generated over the decades. Going into this period, I expected that I would like some of the stories and really very much not like others, but I wasn’t sure how that would play out. And now that I’m here, waist-deep in Dark Shadows apocrypha, I’m surprised to say that I’ve been looking forward to the Paperback Library posts.
I mean, Dan Ross’ Dark Shadows gothic novels are not good literature; they’re tepid, repetitive 156-page chill delivery devices with cardboard characters and nonsense plots, and there’s no good pretending that they’re anything else. They treat women as disposable objects — even the heroines, sometimes — and every character spends all of their time gossiping and complaining about everyone else.
And yet here we are, on the brink of Barnabas, Quentin and the Body Snatchers, and I am delighted. How do you account for a thing like that?
Continue reading Episode 1221: The Snatch
“We just pretend things, that’s all.”
Let’s review the current state of affairs. The children have been spending time with an older relative, playing a mysterious game. The kids were excited when this began, but now they’re scared and confused. What they do with the older man is a secret, and they know that he’ll hurt them if they tell anyone about it.
So what we’ve got is a surprisingly intense storyline about fantasy-metaphor child sexual abuse. If these characters had feelings, I’d be really worried about them.
Continue reading Episode 679: The Not Happening
“Don’t ask questions. Now, you mustn’t panic, or ask — or be afraid, or ask questions, because something unexpected may happen. And you mustn’t panic! Do you understand?”
So where do I even start with this? Barnabas Collins has handwaved himself back into his own history, where girl governess Victoria Winters is still awaiting execution for witchcraft. You’d think the statute of limitations would run out after 170 years, plus she’s already been hanged for this, so it’s double jeopardy. Also, it’s not even the real Vicki.
But Barnabas is doing what the Collins family does best, namely: rewrite their family history with a black magic marker, powered by authentic black magic.
This is the start of a challenging run of episodes, because Sam Hall and Gordon Russell — also known as the good Dark Shadows writers — are taking a week off to figure out what they’re going to do with the show following this little cul-de-sac in story progression.
So the next five episodes are all written by Ron Sproat, who’s not a very good writer, and directed by Dan Curtis, who’s not a very good director, and it’s smack in the middle of nine consecutive episodes featuring Jonathan Frid, who’s not very good at remembering his lines. It’s like the perfect storm of barely adequate television production.
Continue reading Episode 664: Sproat’s Last Stand
“I fear the séance didn’t put an end to what’s been happening here.”
The Turn of the Screw opens with a group of devoted thrill-seekers at a week-long house party, entertaining each other with ghost stories. Griffin has just finished telling the story of a young boy waking his mother up in the middle of the night, because a dreadful apparition had materialized in the bedroom, and he wanted her to see it. That is the beginning and end of that story, as I understand it, but it sounds like it was the hit of the evening, so hooray for low standards.
Unable to cope with his seething jealousy of the master raconteur, a guest named Douglas tries a bit of casual oneupmanship:
Before we scattered, he brought out what was in his mind.
“I quite agree — in regard to Griffin’s ghost, or whatever it was — that its appearing first to the little boy, at so tender an age, adds a particular touch. But it’s not the first occurrence of its charming kind that I know to have involved a child. If the child gives the effect another turn of the screw, what do you say to TWO children — ?”
“We say, of course,” somebody exclaimed, “that they give two turns! Also that we want to hear about them.”
Obviously, this is setting a bad precedent. It’s only a matter of time before Griffin comes up with a ghost story involving four children, and then Douglas ups the ante to a half dozen, until finally there’s a story about thirty-five children, each with his or her own personalized specter, and the bottom falls out of the ghost story market. This is not a scaleable business model.
Continue reading Episode 647: The Wire
“We must not be emotional about his death.”
On Friday, Julia and Dr. Lang performed the experiment to free Barnabas from his vampire curse by transferring his life force into a Frankenstein monster. It went about as well as any DIY project, which is to say: It ran for about three minutes, and then ended in confusion, ruin and despair.
Lang had a heart attack mid-experiment and fell over onto one of his buzzing machines, and then something shorted out with a pop and a puff of smoke, and then there was electricity and life force just flying all over the place, and there was an earthquake and a flash flood and the box of scorpions tipped over and the sun got in my eyes and I think we need a do-over.
Continue reading Episode 486: If They Both Live