“I feel as if something is trying to get inside of me!”
And another thing…
It’s my own fault, I recognize that. I was the one who wanted to write about Dark Shadows in the first place, and I was the one who decided that on pre-emption days, I would watch an episode of the 1991 revival. I did not open the mysterious box; I did not read the forbidden book; I did not receive instructions in my dreams. This is on me.
But here I am, in November 1969, when the show was pre-empted twice in the same week — for the Apollo 12 splashdown on Monday, and then for Thanksgiving on Thursday. So now I have to write about two 1991 episodes, which is straining endurance.
Continue reading Time Travel, part 9: Frequent Flyers
“Well, you know how he gets when he possesses someone.”
Behold the educated viewer, watching an episode of Dark Shadows. Charity Trask is looking at the unfinished portrait of Quentin Collins, on the night of the full moon. To her surprise, she sees the portrait change before her eyes, the painted face transforming into the image of a werewolf.
“Ah,” one nods appreciatively, “an allusion to The Picture of Dorian Gray.” One says this to oneself, because nobody else can stand to be around one while the television is on.
Continue reading Episode 807: Dickens Without Poor People
“What you saw consumed in flames was an exact replica of me.”
“Get me a mirror,” Angelique says, out of the blue. “A full-length mirror.” This is her idea of a security system.
This week, the Dark Shadows A-Team has united against Laura Collins, a phoenix firestarter who’s returned to Collinwood to turn her children into fire demons. Barnabas, Quentin, Angelique and Magda are on the case, each of them distracting Laura from her mission just long enough for another one to plan a new attack.
This is a new team that’s just emerged this week, and Angelique has stepped into the role of tactical expert. It’s a surprisingly natural fit, considering her dismal track record — remember, this is the woman who cursed the man she loves with a spell that kills everyone who loves him.
But in this context, it makes sense for Angelique to step up. Barnabas is terrible at making plans, Quentin is impulsive and reckless, and Magda is the loosest possible cannon. So when the woman says “get me a mirror,” the appropriate response is: one mirror, coming right up.
Continue reading Episode 759: Kill Me Maybe
“You are forbidden to enter this house! You no longer exist!”
All right, if everyone will take their seats, we can begin today’s class on how not to write scripts.
Continue reading Episode 729: Good Night
“There were infinite possibilities in infinite combinations.”
Monday’s episode was the first credited to Violet Welles, one of the best writers on Dark Shadows, and one of the most mysterious. She was a theatrical press agent, working on a varied slate of Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. She also wrote for several television shows, but almost always as a ghost-writer; Dark Shadows is her only credited work as a writer, and she had to be talked into becoming a full-time writer on the show.
There are several websites that list Violet’s credits as a press rep — Playbill Vault, Internet Broadway Database and the Internet Off-Broadway Database — but almost nothing is known about her television work.
Happily, there’s a fan resource to the rescue: The World of Dark Shadows, the flagship DS fanzine which ran from 1975 to 2001. Issue #59/60, published in June 1991, ran a four-page interview with Violet Welles, giving us a rare glimpse into the day-to-day experience of the Dark Shadows writing team. The interview is fantastic, and I’m going to post it here in its entirety. It was conducted by Meghan Powell-Nivling, who I have not contacted for permission, so I hope nobody minds. Here’s Violet.
Continue reading Extra: An Interview with Violet Welles
“What would her spirit be doing wearing a glove?”
At the end of yesterday’s episode, Barnabas finally drew a line in the sand.
“YOU have the will, Quentin!” he said to Quentin, who did.
“I will leave you now,” he continued, raising several eyebrows. “There’s only one thing that you have to decide in the next hour — how to give it back. Because if you don’t — I will have to do something about it. Something drastic!” And then he walked out the door.
So David can suck it, I guess, is the current attitude of the program.
Continue reading Episode 709: Forget You
“It’s been my experience that death causes as much ill-feeling as life.”
Time-tossed vampire Barnabas Collins is stuck in the year 1897, lost behind enemy lines on a ghost-hunting recon mission. For all he knows, he’s here to stay, so he’s trying to make friends with the locals.
At the moment, he’s in the Collinwood study with Edward, the putative head of the household, in front of an open casket containing Edward’s grandmother. The old lady spent the last several decades telling everyone that she had a family secret that she would pass on just before her death, but it turns out that’s a tricky deadline to plan around. Now Barnabas is the only one who knows the secret, which was: Don’t let Barnabas get out of his coffin and hang around Collinwood. So that worked out great.
Grasping at straws, Edward harangues Barnabas for a while, begging him to tell the secret, but Barnabas just stonewalls and that’s pretty much all they can do.
Frustrated, Edward grouses that Edith even kept the location of her will a secret. She left instructions with Judith in a sealed envelope, and now they have to find it.
And that’s the last time anybody mentions the secret. From this moment on, the story is all about finding the will. It’s the most blatant MacGuffin relay race handoff you’ll ever see.
Continue reading Episode 708: Will Power
“I don’t know how you came back, and I don’t care!”
As we’re settling into this 1897 time travel story, the thing that’s really remarkable is how much the writers have learned about setting up dramatic conflicts within the core Collins family.
It’s early 1969, and by this point in the show, the present-day family has been entirely nerfed. All of their secrets have been exposed, explained and apologized for, and any future story-driving difficulties have to be imported from the outside.
Last year, we spent some time with the 1795 family, and they were actually pretty well grounded too. Naomi was a drunk, Joshua was a grouch and Abigail was a fanatic spinster, but they were a functional family who would have carried on pretty well, as long as they could avoid having sex with pretty French vengeance demons.
But the Collins family of 1897 is absolutely out of their goddamn minds. At the start of today’s episode, Judith walks into her dying grandmother’s bedroom, and finds her brother Quentin strangling the old lady, and demanding to know the family secret.
This is the second time in two straight episodes that Judith enters a room and interrupts Quentin in the process of murdering a family member. She doesn’t even have that big of a reaction, she just shoos him out the door and gets on with her day. That’s how insane this family is; a murder attempt means nothing to these people.
Continue reading Episode 705: Prisoners of Emily Post
“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
“It’s happening, Julia! The spirit of Philippe Cordier is killing Adam!”
Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present — for one night, and one night only — the insubstantial spirit of Monsieur Philippe Cordier.
Now, for people who are just joining us, I’d like to give you a brief introduction to Philippe, so that you understand his role in the current storyline. Unfortunately, this is impossible. He only showed up at the end of Friday’s episode — and by “showed up”, I mean he possessed Barnabas at a seance and ranted in French for two minutes — and in today’s episode, he’s banished forever, immediately following the opening titles.
An explanation of who Philippe is, and why he’s on the show right now, would involve at least six character names, two Universal Monsters references, an anagram, the French Revolution, the phrase “life force”, and maybe a couple of Doors songs. You basically need a Ph.D. in Dark Shadows to approach this particular plot point.
Continue reading Episode 601: The Last Days of Ron Sproat