“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
“Go back to Collinsport and bury someone!”
First there was the unconscious Roxanne from Parallel Time, who talked like a jungle girl and got mesmerized by random objects. Barnabas fell in love with her, and then the house burned down, while she was trapped inside.
Then there was the vampire Roxanne from 1970, who talked about astral twins and punctured Maggie on the neck. Barnabas fell in love with that one too, and then the house burned down again, while she was trapped in a box.
In fact, every time we run into Roxanne, there’s an omega-level apocalypse just around the corner; clearly, the universe wants nothing more than to destroy this girl, and murder everyone who comes into contact with her.
But every time we leave Roxanne behind, we get to the next place, and guess what we find? Roxanne! This girl is the unshakeable Droopy of Dark Shadows.
Continue reading Episode 1114: The Unshakeable
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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