“There’s someone in that coffin, isn’t there?”
It always starts with a box.
Now, there’s a lot I don’t know about storing radioactive material, but I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to open the lid every once in a while to see how everything’s going. It’s more of a binary situation — you’re either sealing this nightmare in a keep-out container for the foreseeable, or you’re trying to get us all killed. There isn’t much of a middle ground on that one.
Continue reading Episode 1011: The Cast Came Back
“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
“It suddenly occurred to me that you might be telling the truth.”
Meanwhile, in the other spooky old haunted house of the American imagination, 999 restless spirits were settling into their new digs on the opposite coast.
This is the week that Disneyland opened the Haunted Mansion, a long-awaited E-ticket attraction that invites theme park guests to tour a post-mortem retirement home for the corporeally liberated. This is the old house, abandoned by the family after the dark and terrible tragedies of the distant past, now left available for whatever ghouls care to move in and set up housekeeping. I wonder if Quentin knows about this one?
To be honest, the Haunted Mansion has nothing to do with Dark Shadows, but I love Disneyland, and there’s no way I’m going to ignore the other spook sensation of ’69.
Continue reading Episode 813: Happy Haunts
“I will tell you an old gypsy saying. Walk fast, and the Devil will overtake you. Walk slow, and misfortune will catch you!”
How to Not Catch a Vampire, lesson one: In order to not catch a vampire, you have to not think like a vampire.
Continue reading Episode 781: The Hunt
“Do you have any objection to my looking at your cellar?”
There are rules about these things, apparently, even on a show like this. A vampire bite is primarily a sexual act, and therefore only to be used upon ladies and members of your personal domestic staff.
In 1967, Barnabas could bite Maggie, Vicki or Carolyn on the neck. He could bite Willie on the wrist to gain control over him, in the same way that he was also preying on cows at the time, because domestic servants are basically just cows with jobs. But he couldn’t bite Burke, or Dr. Woodard, or Sheriff Patterson, no matter what the danger or provocation. It simply wasn’t done.
Those rules are still more or less in effect here, in 1897. So far, Barnabas has bitten Charity and Beth, and he’s using Sandor as a servant. He’s also going into town occasionally to feed on drunk women, who are basically cows without jobs.
But it feels like the standards are loosening a smidge. Yesterday, Barnabas bit Dirk on the neck, basically just because Dirk was being an asshole, and now he’s brought the guy home, with no real idea of what to do with him. Barnabas doesn’t need Dirk for anything in particular. I think what we’re looking at here is a second date.
Continue reading Episode 770: Clockwork
“I found out what it was to be a Collins!”
And then, fortunately, she went insane and died. Hooray!
Continue reading Episode 706: The Cliffhung
“They become just as helpless as this pencil.”
Dr. Julia Hoffman comes home to her luxurious mansion, which belongs to other people. She’s brought a friend, a handsome young serial killer named Chris. They’ve just had an unpleasant afternoon with Chris’ ex-girlfriend, who was traumatized by Chris several years ago to such an extent that she no longer moves or speaks.
Chris is a little uneasy after the encounter, but Julia’s in full Murder Club mode, telling him that Sabrina still can’t speak, so she can’t identify him to the police. This is Julia’s idea of reassurance.
After Chris leaves, she’s joined by Professor Eliot Stokes, another dangerous houseguest who’s snapped his leash and is now wandering around at will, drinking other people’s liquor and planning unholy rituals in other people’s back gardens.
“I’m glad you’re here, Julia,” he smiles. “I’m going to exorcise the ghosts from this house tonight, and you are going to help me.” This is what Julia’s life is like, just one damn thing after another.
Continue reading Episode 693: Sticks and Stokes
“Don’t get mad at me, Quentin. I just don’t like when you do terrible things.”
INT. COLLINWOOD — NIGHT.
We hear a young boy’s voice, as we pan across the foyer. “Are you sure that’s all you want me to do?” he wheedles. “Are you telling the truth?”
We move through the open drawing room doors to find young David, communing with an impossible shred of hatred and regret which has clawed its way out of the unseen, a forgotten trespasser bespoiling the surface of the earth. It’s just standing there, in the drawing room. It’s the damnedest thing.
Continue reading Episode 685: A Fish Called Ezra
“Aunt Natalie, I don’t mean to be impatient with you, but I think these questions are annoying.”
Josette is wearing a ring.
I’m making that super clear right up front, just in case anyone has a hard time processing the concept. It’s a hard ring to miss — it’s gold, with a big black onyx stone, and it’s usually seen in the company of a vampire. But now the ring is on Josette’s finger — Josette being the young woman you can see here, the one standing behind the enormous ring — and that is apparently a compelling dramatic situation.
You can tell that it’s important, because this is a five-minute scene, and Josette is under strict instructions to keep the damn ring in shot as much as she possibly can. This involves making several hand gestures which do not occur in nature.
Josette’s aunt, the Countess Natalie, is concerned about this, because she believes that the ring is connected to a witch’s spell, which will lead to Josette’s death.
Exasperated, Josette says, “Why do you persist in this ridiculous nonsense about witches?” which would be a perfectly reasonable question, except that’s not what Josette thinks, and therefore Ron Sproat is trying to kill me.
Continue reading Episode 422: Confining Women
“Oh, Peter — what a fool I’ve been!”
Fade in on Josette Du Prés Collins, who wakes up happy and refreshed, with a song in her heart and a brand-new neck wound.
Her boyfriend Barnabas stopped by for a bite last night, and they had a long talk about love and change and eternity. Then one thing led to another.
And it’s a strange thing to say, but this is actually a familiar scene on Dark Shadows by now. We’ve already seen several previous versions of the hypnotized heroine, as she smiles her secret smile, and joins the Sisterhood of the Scarf.
You know, I’ve heard that there are other soap operas on the daytime schedule that are about people falling in love, overcoming obstacles, getting married and starting a family. I wonder what that would be like?
Continue reading Episode 421: Bird Planes