Tag Archives: hods

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 828: It’s My Skeleton

“The sealed room — that’s my room! And the skeleton is my skeleton!”

There’s a special guest star on the blog today: eccentric millionaire Stephen Robinson, a long-time reader and commenter who I wanted to hang out with and watch Dark Shadows.

Danny:  Hello, Stephen! I’m speaking with you through my time television, which is built into a cupboard that I wasn’t using anyway.

Stephen:  Hello! It’s great to talk to you.

Danny:  You too! Now, I have to warn you that this may actually show you a vision of your own death.

Stephen:  But probably not.

Danny:  Yeah, most of the time it’s okay.

Continue reading Episode 828: It’s My Skeleton

Episode 818: The Green Light

“When I saw myself rising from the dead — with those fangs!”

There are eight turning points in the story of Dark Shadows — moments when the focus and direction of the show changed forever. Four of them are character introductions, and four are backstage events. Here they are, in order of appearance:

  • the introduction of Barnabas,
  • Julia’s offer to cure Barnabas,
  • writer Sam Hall joins the show,
  • the introduction of Angelique,
  • Jonathan Frid’s ten-city publicity tour,
  • writer Ron Sproat leaves the show,
  • the introduction of Quentin,
  • and MGM greenlights House of Dark Shadows.

Here we are in mid-August 1969, and we’ve reached that final turning point — the moment when a grown-up movie studio agreed to distribute a feature film about a daytime soap opera, using the same cast and crew, while the TV show is still in production. Everything that happens over the next year and a half of the show will be affected by that deeply peculiar decision.

The story that people tell about House of Dark Shadows is that creator Dan Curtis, like all artistic visionaries, was deeply misunderstood. He had a burning ambition to turn his vampire soap opera into a feature film, and nobody at the studios would believe in his dream. Finally, Dan found a kindred spirit in James Aubrey, the president of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, who recognized the value of a Dark Shadows movie and eagerly gave it the green light.

Once the film was greenlighted, the only headache to figure out was how to get the cast off the show for six weeks, while they filmed the movie. Dan and the writers came up with a way to focus on the actors who weren’t part of the movie cast, until the shooting was over. That way, the movie wouldn’t have a negative impact on the show, and when shooting wrapped, everything went back to normal. On release, the movie was such a success that it saved MGM from closing down.

That story is almost entirely false. This is actually the story of the destruction of Dark Shadows. It’s also the story of the destruction of MGM. And like all Dark Shadows stories, the line between hero and villain is not necessarily clear.

Continue reading Episode 818: The Green Light

Episode 682: The Four Maggies

“We know you were destroyed by some evil force! Now is your chance to destroy it!”

It’s a situation that only happens in long-running serialized narrative. The main character has run away, never to return, and she didn’t even bother to make up a decent excuse. “I’m going to go and live with my husband’s past-life doppleganger,” Vicki said. “If you need to reach me, I’ll be in the 18th century.”

So what can you do? You hire a new governess, and you move on with your make-believe life. The Collins family has lost their lost princess, and to take her place, they’ve found Maggie Evans, a waitress with no experience in education, and a gaping hole in her LinkedIn profile that she can’t explain.

It hasn’t been an easy transition for Maggie, because the process of Vickification involves stripping away all ties to her old life. In fact, on the night that she was offered the governess job, both her fiancee and her house were torn to pieces by a wild animal. I don’t know how you arrange for an onboarding process like that, but it definitely made the point. Her father and her fiancee are gone, her home is destroyed, her memory is wiped clean, and she has become Vicki.

But that interpretation assumes that there’s only one Maggie, and one Vicki. It’s more complicated than that. There are actually four Maggies, and most of them are Vicki.

Continue reading Episode 682: The Four Maggies

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