“I wonder if you are myself.”
“Do you enjoy your new life, mon cher?” says the pteranodon, hovering prehistorically in the foyer. “An eternity of darkness, feeding like a beast in ze night on human blood alone!”
She doesn’t say this with her mouth, of course. That is not the pteranodon method. She speaks only in the language of the eyes, and aviation.
Continue reading Time Travel, part 10: This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
“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.
Continue reading Episode 874: The Rape of Kitty Soames
“At last, after thousands of years, I shall be in the presence of the soul of my beloved!”
I’m traveling right now, so instead of writing regular episode posts, I’m doing a special two-week series on the 1971 Dark Shadows newspaper comic strip, because it’s easier to write these on planes. You might be wondering if having a book of vampire comic strips in one hand and scribbling sarcastic jokes with the other hand would excite comment among one’s fellow passengers. The answer to that question is yes.
But the interesting thing about the strip so far is that Barnabas has been a passenger too, riding shotgun on a storyline that was entirely about other people. He coasted through the magazine publisher warlock assassin story, which really could have worked itself out without him. Basically, he had one cool villain fight scene where he was temporarily enveloped in fire-retardant fire, and besides that, it was mostly thinks monologues. For Jonathan Frid, it’s hardly been worth showing up at the newspaper for work, really.
Continue reading Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 3: The Bite of Love
“When you were putting Miss Balfour’s room to rights, did you find a dead snake on her dresser?”
Shadows of the night, falling silently. “Quentin’s Theme” is steadily climbing the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and pretty soon everyone’s going to be humming that tune, whether they want to or not. In this world that we know now, Quentin Collins is a bona fide Dark Shadows phenomenon, with a hit record and everything.
And this phantom melody is even starting to intrude on the hazy parallel world of the Paperback Library gothic romance novels. This peculiar line of spinoff books has been spinning its own cracked version of Dark Shadows for several years now, first chronicling the adventures of an ersatz Victoria Winters, and then tumbling head over heels for Barnabas Collins.
We last checked in with the Paperback Library four months ago to read Barnabas Collins vs the Warlock — the 11th novel in the series, and the sixth to feature Barnabas. By that point, the PBL was following clear editorial guidelines that the greatest human being who ever lived is named Barnabas Collins, and everybody else can go to hell. His only flaw is that his hands are cold, and hands are not everything.
But even the Paperback Library can’t ignore Quentin forever. They can ignore consistency and common sense and the limits of human patience, but Quentin Collins requires a response.
Continue reading Episode 782: Don’t Leave Home
“Does something evil change to good for no reason?”
Okay, time to hit the books again. The new Dark Shadows writing team has decided that it would be cool to introduce a new subplot every week, just to see what happens, and they’ve gone back to the library for material.
They’re not content to just do a simple Turn of the Screw time travel sequel starring Count Dracula, like normal people would. Over the last six weeks, they’ve also introduced characters and plot points from Jane Eyre, The Crucible, The Telltale Heart and Nancy Drew.
And just when you think you’ve got a handle on what’s going on, there’s a knock at the door, and who walks in but a deluxe combo of Mr. Brocklehurst from Jane Eyre, and Mr. Squeers from Nicholas Nickelby. It’s like freshman English all over again; we should get course credit for this.
Continue reading Episode 727: Nick and Jane
“I intend, my dear, to create a race of superbeings who will serve my master and control the world.”
It’s about surprise; it is always, always, entirely about surprise.
I’ve been dissatisfied lately with the show’s focus on Adam, who’s been sitting around in a storage room for several weeks, getting progressively grumpier. The problem isn’t Adam, because I like him, and it’s not that he’s doing mean things, because he’s fictional and who cares.
The problem is the word “progressively”. If Adam gets a little more demanding and a little more self-centered whenever we see him, then there’s no point in our checking in on him every day. He’s getting predictable, and that’s the opposite of television.
Solving this problem in the most efficient possible way, Dark Shadows unveils its latest plot twist — Nicholas has brought Angelique back to life, as a vampire. Now, it’s not clear exactly how he accomplished this — the last time we saw Angelique, she’d just died of old age in an armchair, so how could she be a vampire now?
Answering that question is not important. Angelique is a vampire!
Continue reading Episode 556: Apotheosis
“I have a terrible fear that something’s going to happen.”
Yesterday’s episode closed with Adam, our enormous and confused teen Frankenstein, thrusting himself romantically at a young woman who would have preferred otherwise. He’s six-foot-six and has superhuman strength, while she’s somewhere in the low five feet, and at press time was saying “Adam, you’re hurting me.” Things were definitely shaping up to be one of those American tragedies that you read about in the papers.
Today’s episode begins with Carolyn walking downstairs, post-trauma. Her hair is messed up, but her blouse and skirt are intact, so I guess that means that everything worked out more or less okay.
Continue reading Episode 550: The Afternoon After
“All men are allowed to fall in love. It’s expected of them, actually.”
You know, people complain about how difficult homeschooling is, but it’s a breeze, really. At school, there’s a real problem with classroom size, and that’s even more important when your child is a 6’6″ Frankenstein with kung fu grip. He needs the personalized attention that he can only get from a child-centered environment. Besides, they’re teaching about evolution at school and not creationism — which, for a child assembled in a mad science lab, is pretty insensitive.
Homeschooling is super convenient, too. All you need to do is give him some books and keep him in a dusty old cobweb sanctuary, and the kid practically educates himself. Then you arrange for some seriously ill-advised sex ed training, and you’re good to go.
Continue reading Episode 549: Take What You Want
“You broke into my room to tell me about a dream?”
Here’s the kind of thing that Dark Shadows had to deal with: They moved the taping schedule around to accommodate Jonathan Frid’s insane ten-city publicity tour a couple weeks ago, and as it shook out, there were three episodes this week that taped the day before they aired.
It’s actually hard to get your mind around how close to the edge that is. If anything went wrong with the taping, then there’s nothing to show tomorrow; it’s dead air. And this is Dark Shadows; of course something’s going to go wrong. Things go wrong, like, all the time.
So if this was a show produced by sane people, they’d probably want to throw together a couple episodes where everybody sits around in the living room and talks over the events of the day. That’s what every other daily soap opera ever made does all the time anyway. But, no — it’s Dark Shadows, which means we need three cops and a Frankenstein monster and a seance and a dream sequence and a skeleton and a brick wall falling apart and a root cellar.
Continue reading Episode 506: After the Fall
“It is tragic that your Greta is so deformed, for she really could play the role of Josette to perfection.”
It’s a Ron Sproat script today, which means that Carolyn’s still stuck in the root cellar, and so are we. So I’m going to invoke my executive privilege to ignore a filler episode, and talk about something else instead.
It’s time to start looking at the Dark Shadows merchandise, because this is the period where it becomes a real factor in the audience’s experience of the show. While this episode was being taped, Jonathan Frid was on a completely insane ten-city publicity tour, where he was besieged by literally thousands of screaming teenagers who were desperate to get closer to Barnabas, and the show. Recognizing that these kids have allowances, ABC started to tap into that market, with some success.
The first piece of Barnabas-related merchandise was released in May 1968, just in time for the publicity tour. It’s a 155-page book called The Curse of Collinwood, and it’s the fifth in the series of Dark Shadows-inspired romance novels published by Paperback Library. The Curse of Collinwood has a picture of Barnabas on the cover, and it sells spectacularly well.
Unfortunately, Barnabas isn’t actually in The Curse of Collinwood, which is about Vicki and therefore not worth discussing, so we’re going to talk about the next book instead.
Continue reading Episode 504: The Ladykiller