“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
“Coming back from the dead is not a trick, Bruno!”
Okay, everybody gather round the table; it’s seance time again. Our hands must touch, obviously. Everybody knows about the hands. You can’t get anything done unless your hands touch.
Today, we’re making contact with my friend Randall Jessup, who’s going to confer with me on several subjects of great importance, specifically: what’s wrong with Sabrina, the dubious value of re-enacting things, what’s wrong with Parallel Time, what’s wrong with Sabrina (again, at length), and finally, a foolproof plan for what’s going to happen in the final year of this blog.
Continue reading Episode 990: Let It Burn
“Not anything’s going to keep me from destroying you!”
More than once upon a time, there was a little lost princess…
Continue reading Episode 967: Vicki Ruins Everything, part 3: The Way It Happened
“Well, the spirit’s certainly acting in a very strange way.”
So, let’s say you’re a Leviathan. Not the hooded sparkle-face kind, or the secret transforming alien octopus kind, just the regular human type Leviathan, who was given a ring and a membership card by an occult entity who promised that you would get power and money and revenge on your dad if you agreed to work seven days a week for no salary, performing dangerous assignments that you don’t understand.
Look, you’re stupid. Let’s just say that you’re stupid.
And here you are, in the middle of the night, in a drafty crypt, in some fish-factory town in Maine. You read in a book that your boss is vulnerable to werewolves, which you didn’t realize there were any, but guess what, there are. Also, there’s vampires, you just found that one out too. Apparently there’s everything.
You met some spooky girl with white hair a month ago, who seemed like she knew who the local werewolf was. You just happened to run into her again tonight, and you shadowed her to her boyfriend’s house. You broke in, you found some clues, you found the werewolf. And there’s going to be a full moon tomorrow night, so you’ll know for sure that he’s the wolfman before you shoot him in the head with a silver bullet. It’s hard to call that a lucky break, but you might as well try. This is some nightmare version of “lucky” that’s basically all you have to look forward to.
Continue reading Episode 960: Time and Temperature
“It’s an incredible story — incredible and horrible!”
There’s a rap at the door, interrupting Laura’s fireside reverie. Laura Collins has been living in the cottage on the Collinwood estate for two months now, periodically ensorcelling people, as she prepares to enter the furnace with her son, and char for all eternity. Laura has a vivid interior life.
But the rap, as I said. She glides to the door, and finds a Dartmouth professor in glasses and turtleneck, standing at the threshold.
“Mrs. Collins?” he inquires, and Laura says yes.
“I’m Peter Guthrie. I’ve been wanting to meet you.”
“I was just thinking about you,” she smiles, quietly. “Wondering what you’d be like.”
And now I can see what you’re like, she thinks. Oh, well. You can’t win them all.
Continue reading Episode 949: The Last Days of the Guthrie Brothers
“I don’t understand any of it — or maybe I’m afraid to.”
She had these golden yellow protuberances all over her head, that was the first thing I noticed about her.
I mean, it’s called hair, obviously I know that now, but I was only three weeks old, and I didn’t know all the words for human components yet. I just liked the way that they fell around her face, these tiny tendrils, golden and moist, like she’d dominated a thousand jaundiced worms and made them cling to her head, shaking and sweeping every time she moved, always dancing, sighing in ecstasy at their chance to serve her. She looked like the queen of clotted fluids, empress of all the seeping things that pool in clumps. But she wasn’t, obviously. Not yet.
Continue reading Episode 945: My Sweet, Sweet Moves
“I’m not just a little boy in every room in this house!”
Right now, I’m writing these words, and right now, you’re reading them, and those cannot possibly be the same “right now,” and so there is a time distortion in everything that we know about each other.
On Dark Shadows, it’s January 1970. For me, at the moment, it’s September 2016. For you, it’s some impossible-to-predict time in the future — a couple hundred of you today, and a couple thousand of you this week, and then who knows how many, in the long tail of tomorrows to come.
Continue reading Episode 927: A Limited Number of Tomorrows
“Barnabas never ceases to be exciting.”
My husband opens the doors to the drawing room, and finds me deep in thought, puzzling over an old book. I’m reading carefully, and transcribing some of the more difficult passages.
As he makes his way to the drinks cabinet, he asks, “Is that for the blog?” I tell him it is, and I show him the cover. He asks why I’m writing about this now, and I say that the book just came out.
“But that looks old,” he says.
“Yeah, it just came out.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m in January 1970. This was published in December 1969.”
“Oh, I see,” he says. “You were meanwhiling.” This is why our marriage works.
Continue reading Episode 922: To My Fans, the Audience
“Why did you come out here at this hour, and why are you wearing that gown?”
As you know, I hate to speak ill of the dead, especially when they’ve gone to a lot of trouble and they’re only trying to help, but I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a ghost successfully deliver a coherent warning to anybody. Either they moan a person’s name and nothing else, or they issue a bunch of unheralded pronouns and don’t explain the context. They put all this spectral energy into piercing the veil between the living and the not, but when they get through, it turns out they haven’t really figured out their messaging.
The current example is even more baffling than usual. Kitty Hampshire — known Josette lookalike and alleged reincarnation — finds a note in her bechamber that says, “Know yourself. Be who you must be.” Then she hears the hypnotic chimes of a music box, which direct her to a vintage gown hidden in the cedar chest. Putting it on, the damsel in this dress drifts down the stairs, and out to the cliffs atop Widow’s Hill, a popular nightspot for the young and doomed. This is all standard practice for gothic heroines who are gradually becoming aware that they’re somebody else.
Arriving at the rendezvous point, Kitty finds the specter of Jeremiah Collins, who was shot in the face a hundred years ago. “YOU MUST LEAVE THIS PLACE!” he bellows. “LEAVE COLLINWOOD, AND NEVER RETURN! IF YOU STAY — HE WILL KILL YOU!”
So Kitty just stands there, and screams her head off. And Jeremiah, honestly, what did you think was going to happen? You’re an undead creature with an untreated head wound. You are scary. That is a thing that you are now; you need to recognize that, and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Continue reading Episode 862: Z-Jay
“She’s got doom and disaster written all over her face!”
Edward Collins finds an unconscious stranger, just outside his front door. It’s a woman, with a strange hairstyle and an unfamiliar style of dress. He helps her to her feet, but she’s groggy and unsteady. Edward brings her inside, and she looks around like she’s in a daze, squinting and blinking as if she’s never seen the inside of a house before.
She’s docile, at least — clearly not a danger to anyone — and he’s able to lead her into the drawing room, and park her on the couch. Slumping in her seat, she stares at Edward, a puzzled look on her face.
“Can you hear me?” he asks, patiently. “Can you understand what I’m saying?” She just looks at him. He persists. “Why did you come here?” No reply. “Who are you?” Still not receiving.
At a loss, Edward cries, “Where have you come from?”
She squints up at him, and says, “I don’t know, man. I mean, where does anybody come from?”
Continue reading Episode 837: The Trip