“The screaming was unbelievable.”
There is another world.
There is a better world.
“The screaming was unbelievable.”
There is another world.
There is a better world.
“There comes a moment when one loses control of one’s own life.”
Prince of Fire, I call upon the flame to summon you. I call up all the dark creatures of nature to summon you here to me.
I summon you in the name of the charred and blackened stars that reigned at my beginnings, to rise out of the darkness of the earth.
In the name of every evil spirit, I invoke you! Appear to me now!
Back at it again with the white Vans!
“Linger, my friend, while I tell you my fascinating thoughts.”
“Mr. Collins, are you there?” calls Lamar Trask, talking to a brick wall. He’s excited, this is his first murder.
Trask has walled up the trans-temporal eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins in a basement alcove, for vengeance purposes. First he thought that Barnabas murdered his father, the Reverend Trask, fifty years ago. Now he knows that Barnabas isn’t a vampire, but he still thinks that Barnabas is responsible for his father’s death. Or maybe it was Barnabas’ father who was responsible. It’s not clear to me what Trask thinks. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, one way or another.
“Mr. Collins, something has occurred to me,” he continues. “Something I think you might find interesting. Shall I tell you?” From behind the wall, Barnabas says yes. Apparently he’s still taking calls.
“Good,” Trask smirks. “You’re not dead yet. Linger, my friend, while I tell you my fascinating thoughts.” Which kind of sounds like what I’m saying, at this point in the blog.
“Less talk, more crowbar!”
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A man walks into a crypt, looking for buried treasure. He crowbars his way into a mystery box, and what does he find? A pain in the neck.
Today is Christmas Day 1970, happy holidays by the way, and the show is taking the day off. On pre-emption days, the blog is visited by the Ghost of Dark Shadows Yet to Come, often to our great and lasting regret. During previous pre-emptions, we watched the 1970 movie House of Dark Shadows, the 1971 movie Night of Dark Shadows, and the 12 episodes of the 1991 NBC revival. The short version is that they weren’t very good, because trying to catch lightning in a bottle is difficult, especially when you’ve already used that bottle a couple of times. Lightning’s funny that way.
Today, we’re taking a look at the next chapter of that story: the 2004 pilot for a new prime-time Dark Shadows, prepared for and rejected by the WB, which used to be a television network.
You see, Dan Curtis — Dark Shadows’ creator and executive producer — never gave up on Dark Shadows, except while he was making it, when he definitely did. Having tasted the thrill of unexpected success in 1968 and 1969 as the show’s popularity reached its peak, he decided to make a movie version, using the same cast, crew and writers, while the television show was still on the air. That left the show coasting for months on ABC-TV with the B-squad characters, and when Dan finally came back to the series, all he really wanted to do was make another movie, and that’s why the show came to a gradual, disappointing end.
In 1991, Dan decided to try again, making a 12-part prime-time series for NBC that used a lot of ideas from House of Dark Shadows, and it didn’t work out, for lightning/bottle reasons. And then he just kept on trying to remake the remake for the next 12 years, finally managing to convince the WB to spend five million dollars on a pilot that nobody liked.
I asked you to stop me if you’ve heard this before, but frankly, it’s no use trying. The only way that Dan could stop retelling the story of Dark Shadows was to die, and even then, I bet he’s up in Heaven, pitching Saint Peter on another series. I’m kidding, of course; executive producers don’t go to Heaven.
Happy Turkey Day! It’s time for another pre-emption, as we reach Thanksgiving 1970 and ABC decides to spend the day looking at basketball. It’s traditional on pre-emption days to do a little time travel, and watch a future version of Dark Shadows. This time, we’re only jumping about eight months ahead; we’re going to watch the 1971 feature film Night of Dark Shadows, executive producer Dan Curtis’ next attempt to catch lightning in a bottle.
Last year, Dan signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to make a Dark Shadows movie, and he came up with House of Dark Shadows, a fearlessly unrestrained retelling of the original Barnabas storyline. The movie did well at the box office, considering how cheap it was to make, and MGM asked for a sequel. Unfortunately, almost every character in House of Dark Shadows met a grisly end in one way or another, so bang goes the Dark Shadows Cinematic Universe before it’s even started.
For the sequel, Dan had the good manners to wait until the TV show was over before hauling half the cast to Tarrytown, New York and dousing them with a hose. The final taping day on Dark Shadows was March 24th, 1971, and shooting began for Night of Dark Shadows on March 29th. Dan had nine hundred thousand dollars, six weeks, and a cast and crew that was mostly from the TV show. He’d planned to resurrect Barnabas for the second movie, but Jonathan Frid was sick of playing vampires, and asked for a million dollars. So Dan took the show’s second male lead, David Selby, and set him up with two leading ladies — Lara Parker, Dark Shadows’ veteran vixen, and Kate Jackson, an ingenue who’d joined the show about ten months earlier and was obviously destined for stardom.
Night of Dark Shadows was vaguely based on the show’s Parallel Time storyline, which was vaguely based on Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca, plus some inspiration from The Haunted Palace, a 1963 Roger Corman film that was supposed to be based on an Edgar Allen Poe poem, but was actually based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”, which when you get right down to it isn’t really very much like Night of Dark Shadows at all.
“She wants to destroy the Collins family for all time!”
On October 23rd, 1970, Richard Nixon gave a speech to the United Nations about his desire for world peace. “In Southeast Asia, let us agree to a cease-fire and negotiate a peace,” he said. “In the Middle East, let us hold to the cease-fire and build a peace. Through arms control agreements, let us invest our resources in the development that nourishes peace.” And then they kept on fighting the Vietnam War for another five years.
But ABC decided that Nixon’s close-order hypocrisy display was important enough to pre-empt their daytime schedule, so as we always do on these pre-emption days, instead of watching the 1960s Dark Shadows that we know and love, we’re going to watch the 1991 Dark Shadows that we’re aware of and barely tolerate.
“What does it all mean? Why did you have to die before you could tell me?”
I kept telling them, death is only an extension of life. Then I killed them. Even then, they didn’t really get it. I guess it’s one of those jokes that’s only funny from one direction.
“You don’t know how much I’d like to have been in that crypt.”
“I didn’t know what else I was going to do,” says Dan Curtis, Dark Shadows’ executive producer and driving force. “I couldn’t think of another idea.” This is from an early-2000s interview for the DVD box sets.
“I was becoming very disenchanted, right along with the audience. Probably, over the last six months of that film — people didn’t see a lot of me, during that last six months of the show.”
So there’s a Freudian slip for you — when Dan looks back at this period, he can’t help thinking about the thing he really cared about, which was the Dark Shadows films.
“I was just hoping it was going to end,” he continues. “I just wanted to move on. I couldn’t squeeze my brain any harder to come up with one more story, and I wanted to move on and out.”
You can tell that we’re approaching that last-six-months mark, because they’re currently doing scenes from House of Dark Shadows as if they’re part of the show. For today’s episode, they drag poor Willie Loomis back out of retirement, so he can shine his flashlight through the door of a darkened crypt, and find the coffin of the vampire who’s killing Maggie Evans. They might as well put up a chyron saying “House of Dark Shadows, currently in theaters”.
So it’s worth asking the question: How do you run out of ideas for a soap opera, a genre that’s specifically designed to run forever?
“Well, at least there’ll be no more murders.”
Angelique returned from the dead to destroy her ex-husband Quentin, and between you and me, she’s done a kick-ass job. Quentin’s on the run from the law, accused of several murders that he’s only partially responsible for, all of his friends are dead, and a minute from now, either he’s going to murder his second wife or she’s going to murder him. This is about as destroyed as a person needs to be.
We’re down to the last week of the Parallel Time storyline; there’s just a few more people to kill, and then Barnabas and Julia can go back to their own dimension, satisfied with a job well done. Everything Must Go, says the sign in the front window, and here it is: everything. Let’s see how it goes.
Angelique herself is only seconds from destruction — her vitality depends on sucking the life force out of a woman named Roxanne, and if the mysterious Claude North can get Roxanne to speak, then it’s lights out for Angelique.
But Barnabas offers the witch one last shot at redemption, handing her a confession to sign that would clear Quentin’s name. She won’t even touch it. Screw you, she says, if you people don’t appreciate me, then I’ll go down, and I’ll take the whole goddamn show down with me.
Then Roxanne speaks — and Angelique dies with a curse on her lips, as Angeliques should. Really, at the core, she’s saying: I don’t want to live in a world where Roxanne has dialogue. You’ve got to admit she has a point.
“My eyes have the power to restore you to me!”
It’s been four months since the terrible flashlight man came into our lives — a dark stranger, appearing with no warning just outside Angelique’s room, gazing in a perplexed manner at a scene that he could see but not participate in. “Elizabeth!” he cried, but she couldn’t hear him, and neither could Hoffman. “It is hers, it will always be hers,” Hoffman said, and it was, and it will, and the goggle-eyed man from another place just stood there on the threshold, saying, “Quentin! Husband?” and generally making an ass of himself.
His name is known to us now: he is Barnabas Collins, the Destroyer of Worlds.
Trespassing on our favorite show from an alternate world where I hope they appreciate him more than we do, this monster has brought a wave of supernatural violence to our sleepy little soap town, killing two thirds of the cast and driving the ratings into the earth.
Hoffman is dead. Carolyn is dead. Will is dead. Bruno is dead. Cyrus and Sabrina and Larry and Dameon are dead, plus Chris is missing, and Liz isn’t looking too well. Barnabas Collins has swept through our show like a buzzsaw. Everybody said that bringing a vampire onto a soap opera was a terrible idea, and they were right, especially this vampire.