“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
“Must you read meanings into everything I say?”
“Why do I feel this sense of doom tonight?” Barnabas Collins asks, in thinks. “Why can’t I shake it off?” I don’t know why he’s asking us; it’s the first we’ve even heard of it.
Barnabas is pacing the living room, following a house call from Dr. Julia Hoffman, his private physician. Julia came over to give him a good, stiff belt of anti-vampire sauce, both shaken and stirred, and injected directly where he needs it the most. This off-label concoction is supposed to unleash a stream of metaphysical scrubbing bubbles on his immortal soul, wiping it clean of sin and sickness. For some reason, it doesn’t seem to be working.
Suddenly, he stumbles. “What is happening to me?” he squawks. “Why do I feel this way?” He lunges for a passing armchair.
“No!” he says. “NO!”
And then: “I must have BLOOD! I’ve never felt this NEED for blood so strongly before!”
Now, I’ve seen this entire episode and the ones that follow, and as far as I can tell, there is absolutely no explanation for why Barnabas gets this irresistible craving for the red stuff. Possibly, it’s a reaction to Julia’s injection — there’s a hint that Julia doesn’t realize that Barnabas has been drinking blood lately, so maybe it’s not the right dose or whatever — but there’s not a lot to go on. He just feels the need, that’s all, and once he drains his victim dry, then he’ll settle back down, like it never happened.
That’s because we’re not watching a regular episode of Dark Shadows today. Episode 963 is actually an issue of the Gold Key Dark Shadows comic book, which they decided to air on television this afternoon for reasons that surpass all understanding.
Continue reading Episode 963: The Golden Key
“I just can’t remember all the reasons why we should get rid of the vampire.”
Well, here we go again. Vampire fugitive Barnabas Collins — on the run, and spending his days sleeping in a cave, apparently — pirouettes into his secret headquarters at the old rectory, and tells his friend Julia — who has recently channeled the zeitgeist in order to travel back in time and help him — that they have to change their plans to defeat the mad old wizard who’s threatening the future of the Collins family, and all of the people that he loves. Why? Because he just ran into somebody who reminds him of Josette. That’s why.
It’s maddening, and just imagine how Julia feels. She came all the way here from the 20th century for this. Barnabas is the one who convinced her that they need to stay in this time so they can counter the wicked Count Petofi, and now, quelle surprise, he’s going off-script.
He was just out rambling around in the woods, like he shouldn’t be, when all of a sudden who should come along but Lady Hampshire, a brand-new character who’s played by the same actress that played his long-lost love a couple years ago, and therefore she is the actual reincarnation of Josette, according to rules that only seem to apply to this specific instance. And you know how Barnabas gets, when he thinks he’s found a reincarnation. This is his third consecutive swing at that particular plot-point piñata, and it’ll probably end the same way, with gunfire.
You know, I’m starting to see Count Petofi’s point. Barnabas Collins must die.
Continue reading Episode 845: Barnabas Collins Must Die
“If we only knew what these three bullets meant.”
“Miss Collins,” Rachel says, eyeing the loaded heater in her former employer’s hand, “you must put the gun down. You’ve got to realize!” And then: Ka-POW! It turns out she doesn’t got to, after all.
So we start the week off with a bang, and it’s going to get messier from here. This is a particularly dangerous time to be a Dark Shadows character; we had two murders last week, and there’s going to be three this week, including the governess who just got fired ten seconds ago. Soap operas don’t usually have a weekly body count like this, except for General Hospital, obviously, where they have a dedicated budget for ammunitions.
Continue reading Episode 776: Blood Sports
“Go get me the stake and the mallet. I still have blood plasma downstairs from the experiment.”
Okay, if everyone can take your seats, we’ll begin. Today’s lesson: How to kill a television character.
Continue reading Episode 621: Better Than Medicine
“Did someone ever look at me, as I now look at you? No… or I would not be alive now.”
We open the week with a fight to the death between the already-dead, as ex-vampire Barnabas Collins battles with still-vampire Tom Jennings, in order to free Barnabas’ best friend, Julia, from Tom’s hypnotic spell.
It’s a crucial step in Barnabas’ development from villain to hero, a Jungian transformation of the psyche. Barnabas is both prince and dragon here — wrestling with his own demons, confronting and rejecting the darkness in his own soul. It’s also one of the goofiest things you’ll ever see on television.
Continue reading Episode 571: Raising the Stakes
“If that curse had been placed on you, or me… how would we have behaved?”
Barnabas Collins is dead! I mean, he already was. But now he’s even more dead than usual.
On Friday, Barnabas opened his front door and walked outside, and a huge bat shadow swooped down and bit him hard on the neck. Now he’s on the ground, weltering in gore. This was the shock ending to a three-month storyline that I am no longer under any obligation to discuss.
Continue reading Episode 536: Advance Directives
“That’s what happened to me, isn’t it? I was in that coffin because I was dead.”
It always starts with a box.
The local nobility are up to their usual tricks — keeping secrets, shooting each other, sleeping with the help, generally making a nuisance of themselves — and it comes back to haunt them, as it always does.
So here we are, opening another mystery box, and something terrible is loosed upon the world again, for the first time.
Continue reading Episode 411: Other People’s Blood
“I want you to cut down a holly tree, and fashion a small stake from the trunk.”
The widow Collins draws her shawl close around her, regarding her late husband’s final resting place with a shudder. She has no friends now, and no place to go. All she’s got is a small suitcase carrying a few dresses, plus a bankbook worth a small fortune. Oh, and a big hammer, and a pointy stick. And a problem.
And she finally asks the question that the viewing public has been waiting to hear for more than nine months, namely:
“Do you know the word vampire, Ben?”
Vampire? Now that you mention it, that does ring a bell. Dude in a coffin, right?
Continue reading Episode 410: Nightfall
“She was here for a while, but now she’s gone forever.”
Hey, is anybody sick of Maggie just floating around the Old House, telling everyone that she’s Josette Collins?
Well, guess what: so is Maggie. That ends right now.
Continue reading Episode 250: Exit Strategy