“Read the book, and you will know why the head must be destroyed.”
And meanwhile, from out of nowhere: a good television show.
It’s one of the great mysteries of 1970 Dark Shadows, that it can careen from low point to high point as often as it does. The Parallel Time story rattled to an incoherent close in July, killing the villain a week early and throwing in an unnecessary new love interest at the last minute. Then Barnabas and Julia traveled to 1995 for two fascinating, moody weeks that showed a sharp uptick in writing and production — and then it all fell to pieces over the next few months, as they returned to 1970 and forgot what they were aiming for.
And now here we are in October, in 1840 of all places, and the show is worth watching again, because Dan and Sam and Gordon have simply scrapped all of the previous stories and continuity and started over again, with a brand new soap opera. Barnabas and Julia aren’t on the show today, and nobody talks about them; the only character who we know from longer than two weeks ago is young Daniel, who’s now a dying old man and hardly even counts.
The star of this new show is Gerard Stiles — gun runner, smuggler, best friend and fortune-hunter — who has the same name and hairstyle as a ghost that used to be on the show, but otherwise there’s no resemblance. Gerard doesn’t threaten children or governesses, and he doesn’t do magic tricks with dollhouses. Why would he?
But this is how it works on this show, which has reinvented itself and risen from the ashes for another cycle. Once again, they’ve discovered that the best way to make Dark Shadows is to start from scratch and do something else.
Continue reading Episode 1120: House of Hurt Feelings
“No — you can’t be who you look like!”
And I’m here to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away
It’s not fair to deny me
Of the cross I bear that you gave to me
You, you, you oughta know
Continue reading Episode 1065: You Oughta Know
“But there’s always violence in love!”
Barnabas is trapped in Parallel Time, a fantasyland where everything’s the same as our world, except the stuff that isn’t. To the extent that there’s any logic at all, it’s the logic of dreams. People appear and disappear, taking various forms and shapes. Things that seemed dramatic and important in an earlier stage melt away, replaced by other concerns that are equally difficult to express. The ring. The seance. Someone is humming. Where is that sound coming from? Evil, calling to evil. Didn’t I tell you to take down that painting? The people in that room are different, but the same. Who was standing nearby when she died? We couldn’t explain it, so we burned the body, and nobody saw the fire, because we were quiet. Come, we will burn the book together. What happened to the ring? A skeleton, hanging in the cupboard, extinguished by candlelight. She was in Italy visiting with friends, now she’s in our house, visiting with friends. Does she have a job? What does she do for a living? Shouldn’t one of us be going to work occasionally?
Continue reading Episode 1014: Are You the Quentin
“My mission here has been a failure.”
Normal soap: Angelique is a scheming gold-digger.
Vampire soap: Angelique is a two hundred year old blood-soaked sorceress.
Normal soap: Sky is an arrogant magazine publisher who’s in deep with the mob.
Vampire soap: Sky is an arrogant magazine publisher who’s in deep with a pack of disgruntled blasphemies from the past.
Normal soap: Sky divorces his errant wife, and strips her of her home, her furs, her jewelry, her chauffeur and her social circle.
Vampire soap: Sky tries to murder his errant wife with a burning torch.
Normal soap: Angelique gets her revenge on Sky by teaming up with his business rival, using inside information to destroy him.
Vampire soap: I haven’t the faintest idea. Won’t it be fun to find out?
Continue reading Episode 974: Your Declining Days
“The book doesn’t say to like me, does it? “
A man is dead on Dark Shadows, which isn’t exactly stop-press news; over the last year, they’ve stacked up so many bodies that people had to come back to life as a new character, just to kill them all over again. Just last week, three characters died on screen, and only one of them even matters.
Here’s the roll call: Paul Stoddard was killed by a lot of noise in the other room, which rendered him inert and sticky; Amanda Harris died of being cast in a Stephen Sondheim musical; and Sheriff Davenport was murdered at the end of Friday’s episode by a Monster Point of View shot.
Now, when Amanda dies, they actually say that the half-life that she kind of lived over the last seventy years was erased from history, so that the only people who remember anything about her are Quentin and Julia. This was entirely unnecessary, because Quentin and Julia were the only people on the show who cared about her anyway. So it’s kind of rude to make a specific point of deleting her, but on the other hand, I can’t remember who we’re talking about, so whatever.
And then there’s Sheriff Davenport, who is so unmourned that when we see his grave later this week, it says “Sheriff Davenport” on it. He didn’t have a first name, apparently, and it’s too late to give him one now. I suppose he’s lucky he even got a gravestone of his own; they could have just used Jeremiah’s with a Post-It note stuck over it.
Continue reading Episode 936: The Dynamics
“You used to be a man with feelings.”
“You don’t want me involved in Paul Stoddard’s case, do you?” asks Julia, and Barnabas says, “I have no feelings one way about it at all,” and that’s why Barnabas and Julia should always be on my television forever.
Continue reading Episode 930: Man with Feelings
“It’s a creature without a soul, that has to find one to be real.”
They say that art should hold a mirror up to nature, but the problem is there’s an awful lot of nature, and who has the time to just stand there and hold up mirrors? Plus, you go buy a mirror, and then you rustle up a decent patch of nature to hold it up to, and after all that hassle, what do you have? Backwards nature. Meanwhile, everybody else is holding mirrors up to superheroes and car chases.
But what the hell, just for today, let’s leave the blasphemous starbaby in his box, and partake in some good old-fashioned fam dram. Today’s slice of life begins with faithless father Paul Stoddard, recently returned to Collinsport, as he discovers that somebody has tattooed an ancient cult symbol on his inside left wrist, without his knowledge or consent.
Continue reading Episode 899: The Fam Dram
“Is there nothing that can stop the power of that witch’s flaming hate?”
It’s day two of our special feature on the 1971 Dark Shadows comic strip, which appeared in newspapers every day for a year, starting about three weeks before the show was cancelled. The strip stars America’s grooviest ghoul Barnabas Collins, of course, who inhabits the great estate at Collinwood with a couple women named Elizabeth and Carolyn. And that’s it for the regular cast, so they have to import characters from the outside if they want to have anybody to talk to, or — as is often the case — anybody to look at while doing a lengthy thinks monologue.
There’s a lot of thinks in this strip; for Barnabas, it’s about 50/50 between thinks and actual dialogue so far, and the scale is tipping pretty strongly in the direction of internal dialogue. If they ever filmed this story, Jonathan Frid would hardly have to remember any lines at all; he could just pre-record everything, and then stand there doing facial expressions.
Continue reading Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 2: A Forever Death
“I know there’s good, and there’s evil, because I learned it from you.”
It’s been five months since the ghost of Sarah Collins first appeared to Maggie, back when Barnabas was running a compulsory youth hostel in his basement for pretty girls who remind him of his dead girlfriend.
Since then, Sarah’s been spotted by pretty much everyone, and we’ve learned that she’s the spirit of Barnabas’ beloved little sister.
Barnabas’ memory of loving Sarah is the one completely unselfish human quality that he’s displayed during his lengthy reign of terror. Over the last five months, Sarah has provided aid and comfort to his victims, but she’s never appeared to him directly.
And now — just as he’s about to strangle Julia, just as this storyline appears to be stretched to its breaking point — here she comes.
The question for today: Is this incident big enough to spark the seismic change that this storyline needs, in order to stay relevant and interesting? The answer to that question: Hell, yes.
Continue reading Episode 364: Boom Goes the Dynamite