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Episode 1072: Something Terrible

“I was concerned, because people that are highly sensitive are usually very receptive to supernatural phenomena.”

And on top of that, she’s psychic, too, so now we have another reason for Hallie Stokes to stand around looking breathless and unwell, and we don’t even get a weird theremin sound or the scent of lilacs or anything.

“You know those strange feelings I get sometimes?” she says, so here we go; it’s one of those. Hallie’s telling Quentin about unexpectedly running into Barnabas and Julia in the hall earlier this evening, an experience which has shaken her to the core.

“I guess the reason I was frightened was the way that they looked at me, and talked to me,” she grouses. “They said things that made me think that they’d seen me someplace before, and I know I’ve never seen them before!” She tries to catch her breath, which appears to be a constant pursuit. “But then when I brought them downstairs, I had the awful feeling that something terrible was going to happen!”

But something terrible is already happening, thinks Quentin. It’s you.

Continue reading Episode 1072: Something Terrible

Episode 1058: When I Am Not With You

“Do you know how the world is? It’s so very light when I’m with you.”

Roxanne is terrible. Dear god, she is terrible.

I’m hard on Barnabas love interests in general; I don’t actually like Josette all that much, either, which I know is a controversial stance. I appreciate her role in the story — obviously, she’s crucial — but when Josette and Barnabas are together, they don’t talk about anything but love. His relationship with Vicki was neutered and unimportant — in that case, he was really just a third-wheel spoiler between Vicki and Jeff. The parade of Josette lookalikes were kind of fun, but only when they were Rachel and Kitty and Maggie; as soon as Josette took over, they got boring again. Really, the only story-productive relationships that Barnabas has are with Angelique and Julia, and everyone else is an also-ran.

But Roxanne is so far beyond anything we’ve seen before. Roxanne is toxic.

Continue reading Episode 1058: When I Am Not With You

Episode 1046: Woke

“There’s such a fearful unreality about this place.”

It’s alive! as Dr. Frankenstein would say. It’s alive! Well, partially.

Cross-dimensional eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins has been pulling the old wall switches and setting the apparatus humming in the basement again, trying to restore life force to a young woman who’s low on get-up-and-go.

For the last few months, the lady in Stokes’ back parlor has been flat on her back, donating her élan vital to prop up the dangerous regime of soap-vixen sorceress Angelique. Barnabas, always open to new experiences, has decided to inexplicably fall in love with this comatose couchsurfer, who so far has opened her eyes once and is otherwise resting in peace. So he’s kidnapped the girl, strapped her to some mad science junk in the Old House basement, put several minutes of lightning through her veins and then stroked her face, all of which managed to get her to open her eyes again.

Now, in a perfect world, Roxanne would leap up onto the table and do a high-kicking musical number, like the frog in the Looney Tunes cartoon. “Hello ma baby, hello ma honey, hello ma ragtime gal! Send me a kiss by wire — baby, my heart’s on fire!”

This doesn’t happen. She just opens her eyes, stands up and looks around with a bland expression. The world is still just as imperfect as we always feared it would be.

Continue reading Episode 1046: Woke

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 944: Essence and Intelligence and Werewolves

“No, they do make sense! I don’t know why, but they do!”

So apparently it’s written in the book that the Leviathans only have one weakness, which is werewolves.

Now, I get why the Dark Shadows writers have suddenly come to this surprising decision, because they currently have two monster storylines that have nothing to do with each other. The primary storyline is about ancient blasphemies from outer space, who are attempting to rig the presidential election and install Carolyn Stoddard as a teratologically fabulous first lady. The other storyline is about a guy who turns into a werewolf on a regular schedule, and refuses to take even the most basic precautions to avoid bloodshed.

They want to connect these two storylines somehow, so now the Leviathans and the werewolves have a brand-new long-standing feud that dates back to a time before man existed, when there was only essence and intelligence, and none of these shapes that human beings wear today. That’s not me saying that, mind you, that’s dialogue from Dark Shadows. “Before man existed,” the Leviathan guy said, “when there was only essence and intelligence [and werewolves].”

Therefore: Jeb Hawkes, the teen gang leader who can turn into a giant slime-wrapped tentacle monster with glittering eyes and a thousand razor-sharp teeth, is vulnerable to werewolves. Well, I suppose everybody’s vulnerable to werewolves.

Although the other day, we saw Quentin Collins knock Jeb unconscious by hitting him over the head with a vase, so apparently he’s also vulnerable to antiques. And he lives in a place that’s full of antiques! Collinwood has a lot of antiques too, and so does the Old House. Jeb must fear for his life pretty much 24/7.

Continue reading Episode 944: Essence and Intelligence and Werewolves

Episode 888: Little Shop

“Something terrible is going to happen to us if we stay here!”

We’re back in the swinging sixties, and just in time. Barnabas’ trip to the nineteenth century was held over by popular demand, and if they’d kept it up for another six weeks, then by the time he came back it would be the 1970s, because of how time works.

The new storyline is just getting started — this is actually the first episode that takes place entirely in 1969 — so they’re still lining up the plot points. So far, Barnabas has been hijacked by some kind of ancient pyramid scheme death cult, Julia is anxiously awaiting Barnabas’ return from the past, and Carolyn is wearing a terrible clown skirt.

But today, we get our first big shock: Jason McGuire is back!

Continue reading Episode 888: Little Shop

Episode 880: The Further Adventures of Other People

“I like Collinsport. There’s all this stuff going on all the time. Weird stuff.”

The 1897 storyline is coming to a close this week, and once again Dark Shadows is tying up a time trip by murdering everybody who isn’t nailed down. Do you remember how they killed everybody at the end of 1795, and then went back eight months later because they realized they hadn’t killed Natalie? Well, they’re not going to make that mistake again.

This scorched-earth approach is hard on everyone, but it’s especially tough for the folks at Big Finish, who watch these episodes, and all they can see is the lights going out on one spinoff after another. Big Finish has been producing new Dark Shadows audio plays for the last ten years, and every character that gets exterminated is just money taken out of their pockets.

I mean, this is a production company that’s made twelve box sets worth of audio stories about Jago and Litefoot, two secondary characters from a six-episode Doctor Who story made in 1977. Now, I don’t think they would have squeezed that much juice out of The Adventures of Evan Hanley and His Assassin Associate Aristede, but I’m sure they would have appreciated the opportunity to try.

Continue reading Episode 880: The Further Adventures of Other People

Episode 877: The Killing Club

“Do you usually kill people you disagree with?”

Why do they do it, the villains? Why do they turn on their own people?

Dracula pushes Renfield down the stairs, Gutman’s gunsel takes the fall, Blofeld shoots Mr. Osato, Tobias Vaughn decides the Cybermen have betrayed him, Barnabas declares that Willie Loomis must die…

I mean, I get it about the blundering. You work hard to come up with an evil plan, and then all the blundering happens. It’s discouraging. But killing your employees after they’ve made a mistake means that’s one less person standing between you and the hero. Yes, you’ve removed someone that you can’t trust from your social circle, but that doesn’t make the rest of them any more trustworthy. Everybody else just starts updating their LinkedIn profiles.

Continue reading Episode 877: The Killing Club

Episode 870: The Collapsing Cat

“Have I come back to tragedy and death again?”

We left off yesterday with Erwin Schrodinger and his magical cat, trapped in a thought experiment about quantum indeterminacy that threatens to destroy us all.

Here’s how it works: The theoretical cat is placed in a sealed chamber with a Geiger counter, a hammer, a flask of cyanide, and a small chunk of something radioactive, which may or may not decay over the course of an hour. Within that hour, there are two possibilities:

#1. The atom decays, which is detected by the Geiger counter, which trips a sensor that makes the hammer smash into the flask, releasing the cyanide and killing the cat.

#2. The atom doesn’t decay, which means no Geiger, no hammer, no cyanide. In that case, the cat is alive at the end of the hour, and it can go about its business.

Now, according to quantum mechanics, the atomic decay in the radioactive substance is in both states simultaneously — both decayed and not — until it’s observed, at which point it resolves into one state or the other. And if the cat’s life is determined by the unresolved atomic decay, then the cat is both alive and dead at the same time — until you open the box and look inside, which causes the wave function to collapse into either “alive cat” or “dead cat”. And then you feed the cat, or bury it, as appropriate.

But Schrodinger and his imaginary thought-experiment grad students completely missed the third alternative, which is that the cat would look at all this equipment, and figure out what’s going on.

At that point, you have an undead cat, sitting alone in a steel box with a flask of cyanide, a hammer and an active source of plutonium, and nothing to do for the next fifty-five minutes but think about the future. Schrodinger has created a dangerous supernatural entity, and provided it with an arsenal.

You don’t resolve a situation like this by opening the box. Opening the box is the beginning of act two.

Continue reading Episode 870: The Collapsing Cat

Strange Paradise, Episode 5: When Raxl Attacks

“Killed? Revenge? We?”

Okay, one more lap around the track, and then we’re done with this forever, I promise. This week, we’ve been taking a break from Dark Shadows to watch the first week of the failed 1969 Canadian knockoff, Strange Paradise, and it’s even stranger than I expected it would be. This is the fifth episode — here’s the other Strange Paradise posts if you want them, and if you’d like to watch along, there’s a YouTube channel that can scratch that itch. But I have to warn you that there’s a strong possibility that the show does not actually exist. We may be experiencing a shared dream, and this is all an illusion.

Because when you think about it, the whole concept seems unlikely. Dark Shadows is on television every single afternoon, fifty-two weeks a year, minus a few days off for Thanksgiving and Christmas and Apollo splashdowns. And the people who like Dark Shadows really like it a lot; when Strange Paradise debuts in September 1969, it’s the high point of Dark Shadows’ popularity.

So if you’re launching a second half-hour daily supernatural soap opera at that time, then there are only four possible theories that might justify such a thing.

#1. The people who are currently enjoying Dark Shadows for 30 minutes every day would like it even better if there were 60 minutes of supernatural drama in the afternoon.

#2. There’s an untapped audience of people who don’t currently watch a daily spookshow soap opera, who might turn on your show by accident and get hooked on it.

#3. You think that you would be better at making Dark Shadows than the people who are already making Dark Shadows, very successfully.

#4. You have a television production company, and you know that Dark Shadows is popular, and you honestly can’t think of a single other thing to do.

So what we have here is the Shadow of Shadows, a muck-encrusted mockery of a mad-science duplicate, trying to capture somebody else’s lightning in a bottle. They’re tampering in Dan Curtis’ domain, with predictable results.

Continue reading Strange Paradise, Episode 5: When Raxl Attacks