“Slow agonizing death is the worst kind, you know!”
It’s three days till Christmas 1970, and here we are in the dying days of Dark Shadows, a show that has specialized almost exclusively in dying days since its ratings peak in October 1969. Don’t tell the 1970 audience, but between you and me, the show only has 15 weeks left to run, which means, if my recent posting schedule is any guide, that this blog will shudder to a stop somewhere around the middle of 2075.
So we should get back to The War for Dark Shadows, the ongoing struggle to define what kind of story Dark Shadows becomes when it’s not a half-hour daytime soap opera anymore. This battle has been raging for decades in books, movies, comic books and the hearts of children, and there’s a lot of it, so we’d better buckle down and start taking this seriously. I mean, those deck chairs aren’t going to rearrange themselves.
Continue reading Episode 1172: The Deck Chairs
“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
“You said we could be together forever, now that I’m dead like you.”
“Barnabas Collins and I have been at war for quite a long while,” says Count Petofi, tapping on the chained coffin that he’s keeping in his basement lair. “This is one more battle in that war.” And then he turns, and stares directly into the camera. “But it is the last one, and it will go on until he gives me what I want.”
We cut to a different camera, with Petofi and his henchman Aristede in a two-shot. Aristede says that it won’t be easy to convince Barnabas to forget the mission that brought him back in time to 1897, but Petofi says he can do it. Aristede asks how, and Petofi turns, and stares directly into the camera.
“Military strategy, my boy!” he announces. “I shall do what one does to win any crucial battle… Increase the pressure!” The camera moves from his clenched fist to another close-up.
Aristede asks how Petofi’s going to increase the pressure, and the mad Count takes a few steps downstage. “So far, only those whom Barnabas Collins cares for in this time have suffered,” he says, and stares directly into the camera. “Now, I shall attack from another side!”
This is all taking place in a tiny basement, by the way. Petofi has turned away from the person that he’s talking to for the fourth time in the last sixty seconds, and he’s not looking out a window or anything. According to the logic of this set, he’s announcing his fiendish plans to a brick wall, which is approximately two inches in front of him. We’ve seen backacting before on Dark Shadows, but this really is the frozen limit.
Continue reading Episode 816: Midsummer
“I’m merely wondering if there’s something in you that reaches out towards unnatural creatures.”
The time is out of joint — O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
Continue reading Episode 790: A Tale Told
“Listen carefully, and you’ll hear my dream.”
Charity Trask dreams of sexy scoundrel Quentin Collins, just like everybody else in the summer of ’69. “I’ve been waiting for you,” he says. She replies, “I feel so lonely when you’re not here.” This isn’t the part of the dream where he closes his eyes while she gets murdered by a werewolf. This is the other part.
Charity’s father has suddenly decided that she should marry Quentin, for reasons that are mostly product placement-related. The Dark Shadows soundtrack album dropped on Friday, and today’s episode serves up a full-length music video of the feature single, “Shadows of the Night (Quentin’s Theme)”. By music video, I mean that they play the whole song while Quentin and Charity pose and make thoughtful facial expressions. It’s 1969; they haven’t figured out how music videos work yet.
Continue reading Episode 786: The Blog Post About The Original Music From Dark Shadows with The Robert Cobert Orchestra & Featuring Jonathan (Barnabas) Frid and David (Quentin) Selby
“The trouble, I guess, is that soaps are rather subterranean.”
Here’s a story that isn’t true:
In some ways the situation wasn’t unusual for a soap opera. A girl and an older man, in the process of eloping, had been hurt in an auto accident. However, the condition of the still-unconscious male patient baffled the examining doctors at the hospital. Although he had suffered only a minor head wound and was breathing normally, his veins were almost empty of blood and no heartbeat or pulse could be detected.
The treatment — massive transfusions — was already underway when the patient’s personal physician and a friend arrived at the emergency ward. “What do you think will happen to him?” asked the friend in a desperate whisper. “Who can tell?” was the M.D.’s equally tense reply. “After all, no one’s ever given massive blood transfusions to a vampire before.”
And then “a burst of eerie music is followed by a denture-adhesive commercial, and one more episode of Dark Shadows comes to a cliff-hanging conclusion,” except it didn’t happen that way.
Continue reading Episode 612: Reflections on the Golden Eye
“They’re going to keep Barnabas away from me, and avoid the duel. That means that all of your lies and deception will go unpunished.”
In yesterday’s episode, we saw the beginning of Vicki’s witchcraft trial, the first example of any kind of sustained legal procedure on Dark Shadows. And this is an odd moment for them to be apprehending suspects, because the 1795 storyline is basically the moment when we say goodbye to law enforcement in Collinsport.
When they get back to the present day, we’ll see a few scattered appearances of the useless Sheriff Patterson and his even more useless successors, but they don’t amount to much, unless you count rising from the dead as a zombie and then being torn apart by a werewolf.
But in 1795 — even with a whole subplot involving a trial and a prison term — we don’t see a single police officer. There’s a couple jailers, a few judges and an executioner hanging around in the back somewhere, but there’s nobody representing the police force. In fact, the main characters don’t even consider calling in the police, despite the sudden rash of suspicious deaths in and around the grounds of the Collins estate.
Continue reading Episode 428: Duel It Yourself
“The more one learns, the worse one feels. I did not realize life was like that. But probably it is a well-known fact that no one bothered to tell me.”
There’s big news from the royal family, as usual. They think that just because they’re rich and powerful, that means they’ve got a patent on the epic tragedy — although to be fair, they usually do. Regular people don’t poison each other and throw themselves off cliffs; they just don’t have the time.
So here’s the top headlines: Barnabas, Prince of Collinsport, killed his uncle Jeremiah in a duel. Barnabas was then killed by his own wife, the witch Angelique, and cursed with eternal life. After dispatching Angelique, Barnabas courted his dead uncle’s wife, Josette, and planned to make her his vampire bride.
On Friday — confused and frightened by a vision created by the ghost of Angelique — Josette rejected the undead Prince, and killed herself by jumping from the cliff on Widow’s Hill. It’s basically a cross between Hamlet, Macbeth and the juicier episodes of Dynasty, as directed by George Romero.
Continue reading Episode 426: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern