Tag Archives: secret magic number of the universe

Episode 1083: Your Dark Shadows Horoscope

“What’s frightening me is the feeling I have!”

We live in unsettled times, here in mid-August 1970. The publicity tour for House of Dark Shadows is about to crank into gear, in advance of the late-August premiere in the southeast and the early-September nationwide release. We’re going to lose some main actors next week, including Barnabas, as the Dark Shadows movie finds yet another way to do what it does best: destroy the Dark Shadows TV show. It’s no wonder everybody’s stressed out about the future; the current outlook is trending pretty bleak.

But you can’t look to the night sky for an answer to everything; that’s not what it’s for. The stars and planets aren’t there just for you. They’ve got their own orbits, their own desires and dramas. They have no time to worry about what patterns they make when viewed from Earth, which to them is just another random rock in the inky void. The stars that make Orion’s belt have nothing to do with each other; they’re hundreds of light years apart, and they’re not even friends on Facebook.

All those sparks in the heavens aren’t going to coordinate with each other just to let you know that you should avoid the color green, and move toward people with positive energy. Are you kidding me? They’re stars. They couldn’t care less.

But I know that’s disappointing to hear, so I’m going to let you in on the only real way to divine the future: your Dark Shadows horoscope. A couple weeks ago, I invited commenters to post their birthdates in the comments, so that I can reveal the truth: your personality and future are determined by the Dark Shadows episodes that aired on your birthday. Here, I’ll show you what I mean.

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Strange Paradise, Episode 3: Church and Estate

“We can only hold ourselves to the secret dreads and confessed fear of an evil soul seeking to control a saddened heart!”

But enough foolishness; let’s get down to business. We’re taking a break from Dark Shadows this week, to watch the opening episodes of the contemporary Canadian knock-off Strange Paradise. This daily supernatural soap opera aired for ten months in 1969-1970, to progressively smaller audiences.

It’s easy to imagine why a production company in fall 1969 would look at Dark Shadows, and want to take a crack at trying their own version. DS is at the height of its popularity during this period, and they’re making it look easy. Five or six characters per episode on a limited number of sets, taped as a stage play without retakes or editing, and using a mix of Freshman Lit and Universal Monsters for story ideas. That seems doable.

And if you’re a busy professional in 1969, you’re probably not watching Dark Shadows very closely. They didn’t have VCRs back then, to tape episodes and watch them at a more convenient time. You had to sit down in front of a television at 4 in the afternoon every day, which is a lot easier for housewives and teenagers than it is for people working on a medium-to-low-budget daily TV show in Ottowa, where I’m not even sure DS was being broadcast.

So it would be easy to miss Dark Shadows’ insanely detailed narrative complexity during this period. There’s probably a dozen overlapping story threads on the show right now, and the writers are expecting the audience to remember complicated plot points from more than six months ago.

Barnabas explains to Julia that Chris Jennings is stuck as a werewolf, locked in the secret room of the mausoleum, because he’s the grandson of Quentin’s infant daughter Lenore, who’s being raised in town by Mrs. Fillmore because Quentin’s wife Jenny went mad and couldn’t take care of them, and Quentin’s werewolf curse is being passed down to the male children of each generation — and four out of five of those characters haven’t even been on the show for months. We haven’t seen Chris since late February, and it’s currently mid-September and counting. For a daily soap opera in late 1969, the required cognitive load on the audience is staggering.

In other words: Sure, try and make your own Dark Shadows. Good luck with that.

So I’m not spending a week looking at Strange Paradise just because I want to have a new set of things to make fun of. I mean, that’s part of it, obviously. But I also want to know what a failed version of Dark Shadows looks like right now, to see what we can learn about why the actual show is currently a smash hit.

If you’re just joining us mid-week, here’s the other Strange Paradise posts, and if you’d like to watch along, there’s a YouTube channel with all of the episodes. I’m not saying that you should do that, necessarily. But it’s your life, and you can waste it however you want. Now that I think about it, that’s actually the motto of this blog. “It’s your life, and you can waste it however you want” T-shirts are now available in the Dark Shadows Every Day store, which does not exist.

Continue reading Strange Paradise, Episode 3: Church and Estate

Episode 736: All About That Vase

“We are looking for an urn. We do not know what it looks like, or what it contains, or even why we are looking.”

New Jersey Network — bearer of warmth and fire, giver of life, provider of the third year — may your name be praised. May it be written in the fanzines and the websites; your deeds shall not be forgotten.

Somewhere on the great estate, there’s a magical Egyptian urn that holds an eternal flame, which keeps freelance arsonist Laura Collins alive and simmering. This supernatural service is provided courtesy of Amun-Ra, the ancient Egyptian god of the sun, who is apparently still active and open for business, go figure.

Quentin Collins knows that the urn is the source of his sister-in-law’s artificially extended lifespan, and in today’s episode, he and his gypsy sidekick Magda are searching the grounds for this mysterious artifact. They find it, as it happens, and Quentin pours sand into it, extinguishing the flame and destroying Laura forever. There, I just saved you twenty-two minutes, you’re welcome.

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Episode 723: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Vampires

“Now, I want you to stay here, and look after the ladies, take them upstairs, and lock yourself in a room.”

Well, it’s true what they say, you can’t keep a good man down. Handsome rascal Quentin Collins has been stabbed in the chest, in the cottage, and in the prime of life, and that’s three strikes. We watched him bleed out on the carpet, and he’s currently the featured attraction at a swinging wake in the drawing room.

But dark sorcery has brought him back to life, sort of, by which I mean he’s lurching around with a glazed expression on his face. It’s not much of a life, more mannequin than man. Let’s say “life” with air quotes.

Barnabas is in this episode too, and he’s a vampire, so that makes two dead characters out of five today. Although I suppose from the point of view of the 1969 audience, everyone in the 1897 storyline is dead.

Actually, when you really sit down and think about it, we’re all dead — just a pack of not-yet-rotting corpses, advancing inexorably to the grave. That’s why I try not to really sit down and think about it.

Continue reading Episode 723: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Vampires

Episode 661: Greatest Hits

“Then you’ll be dead, and he will have changed the course of history.”

Barnabas looks grave. But he’s in a graveyard, so that’s appropriate.

“What did happen on that night?” Julia asks.

Barnabas says, “It was the most tragic night I have ever experienced,” and coming from him, that means a lot. This is a guy with a lot of candidates for most tragic night.

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Episode 623: This Is Happening

“All we know is, she was hanged. But whether she died or not is something everyone in Collinsport is still wondering about.”

Gosh. So much to cover, and I can’t explain any of it. The Great 1968 Wrap-Up is in full swing, and I don’t have the energy to take care of bystanders today. If you aren’t completely up to date on the ins and outs of the spine-tingling nonsense they’re passing off as a storyline these days, then there is honestly very little that I can say that would help.

If you’re super brand new to the blog, then you might be better off reading yesterday’s post. Wait, sorry — yesterday’s was even goofier than today’s. I don’t know, there’s a lot of posts to read. Pick a number between 210 and 623. Okay, now put it back in the deck. Was it 497? Damn it! I suck at card tricks.

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Episode 450: Scary Godmother

“Your hand will burn if you touch me!”

Her name is Bathia Mapes. Even that doesn’t make sense.

It’s difficult to say exactly how we got here; it all seems like a dream. A year ago, Dark Shadows was a daytime soap opera that did a couple of mild ghost stories. And now it’s 170 years ago, where a French aristocrat from Martinique is praying over a candle, trying to bring a witch to the house to cure a vampire who’s locked in a tower upstairs. The door slams open, and there’s the sound of thunder, and then in walks this magical Yiddish elf.

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Episode 397: Lord of the Flies

“This isn’t champagne! It’s blood!”

War is coming to Collinsport, one of those big mythological ones where everybody dies, and it takes a couple centuries before you figure out it was all a metaphor for something else. The big dance is going to kick off next week, so this week is about defining who the main combatants are.

Yesterday, we were introduced to “the dead”, who are running on the incoherent but passionately expressed platform that you have disturbed my rest, my rest has been disturbed, you must be punished for disturbing my rest, and so on.

Don’t worry about following that line of reasoning too closely; you don’t need to understand it. It’s a “the dead” thing.

Today, we’re going to take a look at Angelique, another major player in the saga, and we’ll ask: Where do her powers come from, anyway?

Continue reading Episode 397: Lord of the Flies

Episode 359: Love and Death

“I don’t think it’s very healthy, living in this house.”

Mrs. Johnson must be an angel in human form, that’s the only way you can explain it. I don’t care how many wings they’ve shut down — Collinwood is a mansion, and as far as we know, she’s the only person taking care of the whole place. She cleans all the rooms, cooks all the meals, and monitors the radio for plot-relevant air disasters. Plus, four months ago, Mrs. Stoddard held a wedding in the drawing room, confessed to killing her first husband, and asked the local sheriff to dig up his body in the basement, and Mrs. Johnson wasn’t even invited.

And now she has to deal with this nonsense. She walks into Julia’s room, and finds her standing on a chair, trying to take the drapes down.

Continue reading Episode 359: Love and Death

Episode 358: Boy Meets Ghoul

“Okay, you’re pretty, but we’re not on a bus.”

So then Carolyn rushes over to the Old House, to tell Barnabas what happened in yesterday’s episode. It’s not easy.

Carolyn:  Barnabas, I saw it! Hoffman’s notebook!

Barnabas:  Where?

Carolyn:  In her hands. She’d taken it from the clock.

Barnabas:  The clock? What clock?

Carolyn:  The large clock, in the foyer at Collinwood.

Barnabas:  Well, you seized the notebook, of course?

Carolyn:  I couldn’t!

Barnabas:  Why not?

Carolyn:  This lawyer came in.

Barnabas:  What lawyer?

I know, right? I feel bad for the guy; he’s only missed one episode, and now he has no idea what she’s talking about.

Continue reading Episode 358: Boy Meets Ghoul