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Episode 1178: The Mary Sue

“Linger, my friend, while I tell you my fascinating thoughts.”

“Mr. Collins, are you there?” calls Lamar Trask, talking to a brick wall. He’s excited, this is his first murder.

Trask has walled up the trans-temporal eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins in a basement alcove, for vengeance purposes. First he thought that Barnabas murdered his father, the Reverend Trask, fifty years ago. Now he knows that Barnabas isn’t a vampire, but he still thinks that Barnabas is responsible for his father’s death. Or maybe it was Barnabas’ father who was responsible. It’s not clear to me what Trask thinks. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, one way or another.

“Mr. Collins, something has occurred to me,” he continues. “Something I think you might find interesting. Shall I tell you?” From behind the wall, Barnabas says yes. Apparently he’s still taking calls.

“Good,” Trask smirks. “You’re not dead yet. Linger, my friend, while I tell you my fascinating thoughts.” Which kind of sounds like what I’m saying, at this point in the blog.

Continue reading Episode 1178: The Mary Sue

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 1172: The Deck Chairs

“Slow agonizing death is the worst kind, you know!”

It’s three days till Christmas 1970, and here we are in the dying days of Dark Shadows, a show that has specialized almost exclusively in dying days since its ratings peak in October 1969. Don’t tell the 1970 audience, but between you and me, the show only has 15 weeks left to run, which means, if my recent posting schedule is any guide, that this blog will shudder to a stop somewhere around the middle of 2075.

So we should get back to The War for Dark Shadows, the ongoing struggle to define what kind of story Dark Shadows becomes when it’s not a half-hour daytime soap opera anymore. This battle has been raging for decades in books, movies, comic books and the hearts of children, and there’s a lot of it, so we’d better buckle down and start taking this seriously. I mean, those deck chairs aren’t going to rearrange themselves.

Continue reading Episode 1172: The Deck Chairs

Episode 1017: The Struggle

“He is my cousin, as you are my cousin, in this time or any other time!”

“The countryside near Collinwood,” says Nancy Barrett, “lies quiet and serene on this night, in Parallel Concurrent Time. But in the great house, the web of evil being woven by Angelique will begin to ensnare its first victim — Maggie Collins — who will be placing herself in double jeopardy by her presence at her husband’s side, for Angelique is not the only force that could conspire for Maggie’s destruction.”

So, a few things. First, nobody calls it Parallel Concurrent Time. Second, the first victim of Angelique’s web of evil was Alexis, and the second victim was a random day player handyman, so Maggie is either the third victim or the fourth, depending on whether you count Dameon or not. Also, that’s not what “double jeopardy” means.

Still, Nancy’s talking about a character that we recognize doing things that we more or less understand, so hooray, Dark Shadows is saved.

Continue reading Episode 1017: The Struggle

Episode 1012: Trapped in a World (Not Mine Own)

“Nothing must disturb the sleep or sully the name of that other Barnabas Collins who died in this time.”

Trapped in a false dimension and freshly liberated from a chained coffin not specifically his own, the strange and brutal Barnabas Collins, fugitive vampire in a world he never made, is onboarding a new employee.

“Please let me go,” Will pleads, “and I won’t tell anyone anything about you.”

Barnabas gives the trainee a lopsided grin. “Go, if you want to go.”

Will concentrates. “I can’t get away!” he grimaces. “You know I can’t.” He stares helplessly into a future he doesn’t care for. “What are you going to do with me?”

It’s a close-up so we can’t know for sure, but the smart money says Barnabas is steepling his fingers. “Surely you’ve learned enough from our conversations recently to realize the position that you’re in.”

“I must do your bidding?” Will gulps.

“Precisely. Your agonizer!”

Will takes a step backwards. “No. Wait!”

Barnabas is firm. “Your agonizer, please!”

Continue reading Episode 1012: Trapped in a World (Not Mine Own)

Episode 1011: The Cast Came Back

“There’s someone in that coffin, isn’t there?”

It always starts with a box.

Now, there’s a lot I don’t know about storing radioactive material, but I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to open the lid every once in a while to see how everything’s going. It’s more of a binary situation — you’re either sealing this nightmare in a keep-out container for the foreseeable, or you’re trying to get us all killed. There isn’t much of a middle ground on that one.

Continue reading Episode 1011: The Cast Came Back

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

Time Travel, part 1: Mist Opportunities

“I’m just glad to be here.”

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Thursday’s episode of Dark Shadows was pre-empted this week, so ABC could air football on Thanksgiving afternoon. I want the blog to keep the Monday-to-Friday rhythm of the original broadcast, so today, the normal blog entry is pre-empted by our own Thanksgiving treat.

Today, we’re going to do some time travel, fast-forwarding to the mysterious far-off year of 1991. It’s a Sunday night in January, and NBC is airing the prime-time remake of Dark Shadows. This first episode is a two-hour journey into the unknown, so let’s get started…

Continue reading Time Travel, part 1: Mist Opportunities

Episode 328: Look! A Ring!

“There are a dozen reasons why that’s impossible.”

So here’s your standard, kitchen-sink soap opera situation: Willie was shot a couple days ago, and he’s still in a coma. Barnabas is pacing around the drawing room, waiting for Julia to come back from the hospital to report on the patient’s recovery.

But this is Dark Shadows, and what he’s really worried about is that if Willie pulls through, he’ll tell everyone that Barnabas is a vampire. So when Julia tells him that Willie is still alive, Barnabas explodes with anger.

“I know what you’re going to say!” he shouts. “You’re going to tell me to remain quiet and forget it. Well, I refuse to do that any longer! Willie must die!”

Continue reading Episode 328: Look! A Ring!

Episode 323: Fire at Will

“I haven’t spent the evening browsing through anything.”

At the end of yesterday’s episode, the trap was sprung — thinking that Maggie’s memory had returned, the kidnapper came to Maggie’s room in the middle of the night, and was shot by the police.

Today’s episode starts with a reprise of that scene, and darn it, the guy shows up and gets shot all over again. People in teasers just never learn.

Continue reading Episode 323: Fire at Will