Tag Archives: portraits

Episode 1025: Rebecca to the Rescue

“Fight me? When I’ve already won?”

It seemed to me, as I sat there in bed, staring at the wall, at the sunlight coming in at the window, at Maxim’s empty bed, that there was nothing quite so shaming, so degrading as a marriage that had failed. Failed after three months, as mine had done.

For I had no illusions left now, I no longer made any effort to pretend. Last night had shown me too well. My marriage was a failure. All the things that people would say about it if they knew, were true. We did not get on. We were not companions. We were not suited to one another.

I was too young for Maxim, too inexperienced, and, more important still, I was not of his world. The fact that I loved him in a sick, hurt, desperate way, like a child or a dog, did not matter. It was not the sort of love he needed. He wanted something else that I could not give him, something he had had before.

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Episode 1014: Are You the Quentin

“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?

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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.

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Episode 1004: The Way Home

“There’s a spirit at Collinwood that will not let you do what you plan!”

Haunted homeowner Quentin Collins strides down the hall in the east wing of his enormous mansion, headed for the suite occupied by his sister-in-law. Flinging open the doors, he finds himself face to face with an episode of Dark Shadows.

Quentin knows this room well; he’s in and out of it all the time these days. It’s mostly orange and pink, with a portrait and a piano and several dreadful secrets. But the doors have flung him into an unfamiliar space — the same room, but dark and empty and underutilized.

His son Daniel and niece Amy are standing in the middle of the room, having an argument. They don’t hear him when he calls, and he’s held back by some invisible barrier that he can’t penetrate. All he can do is stare in amazement at this new, grittier reboot.

This isn’t the television show that Quentin knows, but you can tell that it’s daytime programming, because the boy says, “Maybe if we stand here, something will happen!” and the girl says, “But I don’t want anything to happen!” That’s the new ad campaign for Parallel ABC Daytime.

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Episode 924: Pretty Woman

“We became friends in the past. Please, let us be friends now.”

Mrs. Rumson arrives at her palatial beach mansion on Little Windward Island, and greets her husband of six months, the handsome publishing magnate. She’s found peace at last, after so many years of struggles and schemes. She’s going to go straight, she said, and everyone laughed. But she’s on the level, this time. The dead past will bury its dead.

But nothing ever stays dead, not on this show. At least, not with Dr. Julia Hoffman around.

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Episode 923: Probably Her

“If we can find more realities like that, maybe we can get him out of the mist.”

Okay, so do you remember how pretty much all of last year I was saying that the writers didn’t have a big master plan that connected Quentin’s haunting with Chris’ werewolf story, and that they had no idea that they were going to use Charles Delaware Tate’s magic portrait skills to cure Quentin and bring him to 1969 to reunite with his long-lost great-grandson? And everyone was like, no, they planned that all out, they knew the whole thing, like, totally in advance. And I was like, no, they’re just making it up as they go along.

Well, here we are, in Tate’s big dark mansion, with the culmination of this master narrative — Quentin, werewolf, Tate, portrait. So what’s the big payoff?

Nothing! Because they didn’t actually have a plan.

So everybody else was wrong and I was right, and that’s why I am the god emperor of understanding how Dark Shadows works.

Continue reading Episode 923: Probably Her

Episode 910: Epistemology of the Portrait

“Look, I’m really not someone who lived a hundred years ago.”

We’ve got it all wrong, of course. We usually do.

An understanding of virtually any aspect of modern Western culture must be not merely incomplete, but damaged in its central substance to the degree that it does not incorporate a critical analysis of the structured binary opposition between the signifiers “Quentin Collins” and “Grant Douglas”. The only way to properly understand these meanings is to deconstruct the assumptions and knowledge systems that produce the illusion of singular meaning.

Quentin Collins understands that. I understand it, too. The rest of you are just going to have to catch up.

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Episode 884: Widow’s Hell

“I don’t know, and you don’t know, none of us knows, and we probably never will know, and besides, I don’t care.”

It’s morning, and time jockey Barnabas Collins is standing in the ruins of the scene of the crime, sifting through the fragments of storyline left behind after a raging inferno. Combing through the ashes, he finds a few traces of the battle that took place here — a pocket watch, a pair of glasses, a length of heavy chain.

The glasses belong to Count Petofi, and the chain is Garth Blackwood’s — the two titans who clashed and burned here — but the pocket watch is new to me. Did Count Petofi have a pocket watch this whole time, and I never noticed? Well, I suppose he can retrieve it from the lost and found on his way out.

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Episode 874: The Rape of Kitty Soames

“I mean, that makes a girl feel all creepy, having all that ‘ocus-pocus said over her!”

What do you think it feels like?

When you “switch off”, I mean. When you suddenly wake up and you’re wearing clothes that you don’t recognize, and you find out that you just had a fight that you don’t understand, with somebody that you’ve never met.

You haven’t been drinking; it wasn’t a blackout. You were just sitting in a room, and you heard a strange sound, and the next thing you know, it’s an hour later, you’re downstairs, and you’re screaming at an oil painting.

And what do you think it feels like, when somebody that you hardly know looks you right in the eye, and tries to convince you that you’re the intruder?

I don’t know about you, but if that happened to me? I’d probably punch that person in the face, and keep on punching until there’s nothing left to punch.

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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