“So they’ve begun their madness again!”
Bramwell: So they’ve begun their madness again!
“So they’ve begun their madness again!”
Bramwell: So they’ve begun their madness again!
“Really, my good man, there is more to life than one monster’s power over another’s.”
In today’s episode of ABC-TV’s Dark Shadows, the utterly haunted Collins family of 1841 Parallel Time actually goes ahead and holds the lottery that they’ve been talking about for weeks and weeks, with a dramatic reveal and an off-screen high-speed chase, which should probably be attended to at some point. But the great thing about 1971 Dark Shadows is that even if I take the day off today to talk about something else, they’ll still be there tomorrow, doing more or less the same stuff. That has not always been the case on this show, but is definitely the case now.
So you won’t mind if I allow Gabriel to slip quietly out the door for the day, while I tackle another task that has been personally haunting me for months: the second installment of the Parkerverse continuity.
“I had Philip look all over the house, for a monster of some kind.”
Now, granted, I don’t have any kids myself, but I think if you’re going to care for a telepathic space baby that came out of a box, you’re probably better off doing it within the confines of a private residence.
That’s what the Whateleys did, in the H.P. Lovecraft story The Dunwich Horror, which is what this cockamamie Leviathan storyline is based on. They had a whole farmhouse and a barn all to themselves, where they could raise their hideous blasphemies in relative peace.
But Megan and Philip have been chosen by the Leviathan people to house a monstrous god-creature at their antique shop, a site which has two obvious drawbacks as a storage area for unseen horrors: employees, and customers.
It probably would have been easier if they’d just closed down the shop for a while, until this all blew over. Then they wouldn’t have to worry about people examining their forbidden space artifacts, or asking impertinent questions, like why is your child mostly packaging material.
“All my instincts tell me… it wasn’t a wolf! No… It was another kind of creature!”
So here’s the question: Is Dark Shadows cursed?
Over the last couple years on this blog, I’ve watched and read and listened to a growing number of Dark Shadows spinoff products — the 1991 revival series, the Gold Key comics, the Paperback Library novels, the trading cards, and the Big Finish audio dramas — and they all have one thing in common, namely: They don’t make any goddamn sense. And we haven’t even gotten to Night of Dark Shadows yet, one of the outstanding leaders in the field.
It seems like people are unable to write Dark Shadows stories that hang together in a coherent way, up to and including the writers of Dark Shadows. So what kind of chance does the Dark Shadows comic strip have? For these two weeks, while I’m out traveling, we’ve been reading this 1971 strip, and so far, it looks like the curse of not making sense is in full effect. So as we go along today, I’m going to periodically check in with the ABC7 AccuWeather Sense Tracker, to see if we can figure out what’s wrong with the structure of Dark Shadows stories.
“I must go. I have a feeling that there are evil forces at large tonight.”
As you know, it’s September 1969, and our vampire soap opera is reaching the peak of its popularity. After school, the kids all hurry home to check in with Collinwood, and find out what the vampires and witches and mad scientists are up to. Dark Shadows owns Mondays through Fridays — but on Saturday mornings, where we least expected it, a new creature is born. It has five heads and twelve legs, and it will run forever.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! is an occult-tinged mystery-adventure cartoon sitcom about four hep teens and a talking Great Dane, who travel around the country in a van called the Mystery Machine. Each week, they visit one desolate tourist attraction after another — an abandoned circus, a deserted mansion, an old marina or a haunted hunting lodge — where they inevitably find a ghost, a witch, a Frankenstein, a phantom (which is a kind of ghost), a mummy, a zombie, a killer robot, or a snow ghost (which is also a kind of ghost).
The monsters are thrilling, but they aren’t real; the creature is always caught at the end of the episode and unmasked, revealing that they’re actually someone that the teens already know. This is a comforting, rational world, where there’s no such thing as a monster — there’s just your Uncle Stuart, or that nice archaeologist, or the curator of a local museum, and they’re dressing up as monsters because they’re committing a crime, and they want to murder you.
On Dark Shadows, of course, there are actual monsters, and the real mystery machine is the television, which is broadcasting directly at a defenseless audience of housewives and children with twenty-two minutes a day of black magic and werewolf attacks. For the last two and a half years, we’ve been asking the question, “How did they get away with this?” The answer, as far as I can figure, is that nobody actually cared. Everyone thought that Dark Shadows was perfectly acceptable children’s television; that’s why they made trading cards and View-Master reels and joke books.
But as summer wanes, that begins to change. The fall of 1969 is where we start asking the flip side of that question, namely: How did they stop getting away with it?
“I thought it unusual, to say the least, to find an empty coffin here.”
Hapless quisling Timothy Shaw is on the lam, unjustly accused of a murder that he did technically commit. Earlier in the evening, Tim dumped nightshade into his boss’ tea, acting on a post-hypnotic suggestion so irritating that I’ve decided I will never try to explain it again.
So now he’s found his way to Peabody’s Farm, which is on the Collins estate somehow, and he crawls down into what appears to be an abandoned mining shaft with no obvious agricultural purpose. It’s a mess of bricks and greasy black stone, held up with timbers at awkward angles. You couldn’t keep animals down here, or food, or equipment, or plum preserves or whatever imaginary farmers don’t keep in the weird mixed-use storage dungeons that they have no reason to build.
The only thing a person could use a room like this for is to store the empty coffin of a newly-risen vampire, so that’s what Tim bumps right into. I guess it’s true what they say: you can run and run, but you can’t run away from your own terrible hairstyle.
“What I was is not what I am. What I am is what I will be.”
So let’s say you have an entirely crazy person on your hands, and you need to keep her in your home for an unspecified amount of time. This is a common concern for modern homeowners. According to the experts, you should keep her in a warm room with indirect light, check the top of the soil before watering, and fertilize once a month in the spring and summer. No, wait, that’s ficus trees.
Well, here’s what vampire-about-town Barnabas Collins does, once he’s taken it upon himself to immure Quentin’s crazy wife for the foreseeable. He stashes her in an upstairs bedroom, locks the door from the outside, and then goes down to the basement to sleep in a coffin, leaving a note for the comedy gypsies who serve as his unwilling housekeepers.
I’m not saying that’s the appropriate way to handle it, I’m just telling you what Barnabas does.
“Where did this woman come from, all of a sudden?”
There’s a moment in today’s episode where you can see the edge of the sky.
“Well, of course it’s necessary; we can’t have prowlers on the place, attacking people.”
Carolyn and Tony are reunited, at last. They were torn apart by the weird, mad woman who married uncle Roger, and who seemed to delight in luring Tony away from Carolyn’s side. But the witch has melted away, as witches do, and with a little time, the betrayal fades, the harsh words forgotten. They’re just two kids — funny, and headstrong, and good-hearted — finding their way back to each other.
But it’s wrong. It’s all wrong! Can’t you see it? Something terrible has happened to Carolyn. Some dark new creature has crawled inside her skin and is making itself at home in her flesh.
“You broke into my room to tell me about a dream?”
Here’s the kind of thing that Dark Shadows had to deal with: They moved the taping schedule around to accommodate Jonathan Frid’s insane ten-city publicity tour a couple weeks ago, and as it shook out, there were three episodes this week that taped the day before they aired.
It’s actually hard to get your mind around how close to the edge that is. If anything went wrong with the taping, then there’s nothing to show tomorrow; it’s dead air. And this is Dark Shadows; of course something’s going to go wrong. Things go wrong, like, all the time.
So if this was a show produced by sane people, they’d probably want to throw together a couple episodes where everybody sits around in the living room and talks over the events of the day. That’s what every other daily soap opera ever made does all the time anyway. But, no — it’s Dark Shadows, which means we need three cops and a Frankenstein monster and a seance and a dream sequence and a skeleton and a brick wall falling apart and a root cellar.