Tag Archives: redshirt

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 946: Universal Monsters

“Be cautious with it! We don’t want a string of strange deaths in our group.”

But it’s the age old story, isn’t it? Man comes into contact with something other — something beyond our grasp, beyond understanding, beyond words — and it changes us, occasionally for the better. And we take that encounter, and we turn it into story.

I mean, not this story, obviously. This story is insane. You know how Joseph Campbell and the Mythkateers say that all mythic narratives are just variations on a single great story? Yeah. This is one of the exceptions.

But even the strangest sound has an echo, and here, in the midst of the ragged and unruly Leviathan tale clattering across our screens in double-time, we can reach out and grab hold of another story that’s following a similarly erratic track.

There is another story where Barnabas very gradually fights an otherworldly menace, where Quentin appears and disappears with little consequence, where Maggie experiences carefully controlled doses of mild peril, and where an upsetting reptile pulls the strings, and makes the puppets dance.

This is a story that our people tell. We call it Barnabas, Quentin and the Mummy’s Curse.

Continue reading Episode 946: Universal Monsters

Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 5: Try to Forget

“All my instincts tell me… it wasn’t a wolf! No… It was another kind of creature!”

So here’s the question: Is Dark Shadows cursed?

Over the last couple years on this blog, I’ve watched and read and listened to a growing number of Dark Shadows spinoff products — the 1991 revival series, the Gold Key comics, the Paperback Library novels, the trading cards, and the Big Finish audio dramas — and they all have one thing in common, namely: They don’t make any goddamn sense. And we haven’t even gotten to Night of Dark Shadows yet, one of the outstanding leaders in the field.

It seems like people are unable to write Dark Shadows stories that hang together in a coherent way, up to and including the writers of Dark Shadows. So what kind of chance does the Dark Shadows comic strip have? For these two weeks, while I’m out traveling, we’ve been reading this 1971 strip, and so far, it looks like the curse of not making sense is in full effect. So as we go along today, I’m going to periodically check in with the ABC7 AccuWeather Sense Tracker, to see if we can figure out what’s wrong with the structure of Dark Shadows stories.

Continue reading Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 5: Try to Forget

Episode 674: Donna of the Dead

“Would you want to see a sister of yours, if you’d been responsible for everything that had happened here?”

“There is one possible explanation,” Barnabas says, as he paces the drawing room thoughtfully. “The man turned into an animal.”

And you know what? He’s right. That is the only explanation that anyone considers. Nobody else even tries.

Continue reading Episode 674: Donna of the Dead

Episode 663: Being This Way Again

“I had forgotten how overwhelming this urge for blood could be, and how helpless I would be to resist it.”

Last year, Dark Shadows took a bold leap, spending four months in a detailed flashback to the 18th century. This risky endeavor turned out to be a huge win, a creative high point for the series.

When the time travel story ended in April, the question was: after an ambitious and successful storyline like that, what do you do for an encore? And then they spent the rest of the year not really coming up with a coherent answer to that question.

Instead, they stumbled their way into a set of tangled story threads involving a mad doctor, a Frankenstein monster, a time-traveling witch with dream powers, a demonic crime boss, an occult expert, a root cellar, two new vampires, multiple kidnappings, a brick wall, an anagram, the French Revolution, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Jim Morrison and a View-Master reel.

It’s not easy to tie that all up and have it make sense, so they didn’t bother. They just threw a werewolf at us, which kept us entertained while they quietly directed the surplus characters to the exit.

But now the production team is doing a bit of soul-searching, trying to figure out where it all went wrong. And since there are clearly no rules about what qualifies as acceptable afternoon programming anymore, they might as well take us along on their annual review.

This week, they’re doing it all over again. Dark Shadows is going back to going back in time.

Continue reading Episode 663: Being This Way Again

Episode 649: The Rise and Fall

“Someone now dead lived in this room.”

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Tonight, our feature bout is a winner-takes-all cage match between the savvy psychic, Madame Janet Findley, and the sinister specter, Mr. Quentin Collins (deceased).

Quentin has been quietly haunting the halls of the great house at Collinwood for seventy years, lurking in his sealed-up chamber in the abandoned west wing. Lately he’s been reaching out to the two children of the house, urging them to visit his room, plot against family members, scatter tarot cards around the house, and listen to his hit song, not necessarily in that order.

Earlier this week, under their ancestor’s malign influence, David and Amy tricked Roger into falling down the stairs in the foyer. Concerned, Elizabeth has called in Madame Janet Findley, an exterminator for the already exterminated.

Madame Findley is one of the craziest dames that we’ve seen on Dark Shadows, and that’s getting to be a crowded field. She says surprising things, makes extravagant hand gestures, and goes into a trance at a moment’s notice. I will miss her terribly.

Continue reading Episode 649: The Rise and Fall

Time Travel, part 4: I Was Just Noticing Your Harpoon Collection

“She’s not like other people. She never was.”

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s not actually Thanksgiving for me, and it’s probably not Thanksgiving for you, but it is for the housewives, teenagers, assorted mental cases and inadequately supervised middle schoolers who make up the 1968 Dark Shadows audience.

On pre-emption days, I take a look at the 1991 Dark Shadows revival series, because apparently I don’t know what’s good for me. Here’s the rundown so far:

Episode 1 : Mostly gimmick shots, indoor mist, no clear idea what the purpose or tone of the show should be.

Episode 2 : Mostly about sweat and sexy biting time, including several ideas borrowed from House of Dark Shadows which weren’t even good the first time.

Episode 3 : Hot tentacles stretch upwards.

Okay, is everybody oriented now? Happy Thanksgiving. Let’s begin.

Continue reading Time Travel, part 4: I Was Just Noticing Your Harpoon Collection

Episode 629: In Many Somber Colors

“Again, fate took a hand in the form of a woman.”

Have you ever tried to describe a childhood toy to someone, and realized halfway through that time is real, and mortality is real, and you have become super mega tragically old?

Well, if you haven’t, then listen up. This is what it sounds like.

Continue reading Episode 629: In Many Somber Colors