Tag Archives: trickster

Episode 1036: I’m Not Hoffman

“I assure you, I am who I am.”

Parallel housekeeper Julia Hoffman approaches the coffin with hammer and stake. There’s a vampire at Loomis House, an undead creature with jaws that bite and claws that catch, and the only one who’s able to do anything about it is this fearless domestic. She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the forces of darkness. She is the one that destiny has chosen. She is the Slayer.

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House of Dark Shadows: Let’s Not Play Insane Games

“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.

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Episode 987: Truly Two

“I know that what he really wanted to do was to see if I was real!”

“With every day,” writes Dr. Jekyll, “and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to that truth: that man is not truly one, but truly two.”

He doesn’t say anything about how many woman is, because it’s 1886 and not really his concern, but in this case, I think it’s safe to round up.

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Episode 985: The Cassandra Complex

“Twins usually do resemble each other, or haven’t you heard?”

Except it’s not Angelique, obviously. How could it be? She’s dead, probably.

Although Angeliques do have a habit of making post-mortem comebacks; they’re a tenacious people. It doesn’t matter how often you strangle them, exorcise them, shoot them in the shoulder, set them on fire, burn their portraits, or dump buckets of water over them and dissolve them into a well-dressed puddle. They always return, with fresh schemes. What a world, what a world!

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Episode 934: The Pet Detective

“I don’t know what to say either, except that he died horribly.”

A man is dead.

Like, super dead. You know how some people are dead? Well, this guy is even more dead than that. Way more.

Kneeling, the Sheriff pulls a discreet sheet over the deceased, shaking his head.

“Have you told his family?” he asks the people who were in the room when the man died but claim that they have no idea what killed him.

“No, I didn’t quite know what to say. I thought after you saw him…”

“Well, I’ve seen him,” nods the sheriff. “And I’ve seen that room that he was destroyed in. I don’t know what to say either, except that he died horribly.”

He paces around the crime scene. “I’ve never seen a room destroyed the way that one was, or a corpse that looks like that!” He sighs. “I haven’t the faintest idea who, or what, murdered him.”

Yeah, no kidding; you’re a Collinsport sheriff. You live in the most murdery town in America, and you’ve never solved a single crime.

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Episode 910: Epistemology of the Portrait

“Look, I’m really not someone who lived a hundred years ago.”

We’ve got it all wrong, of course. We usually do.

An understanding of virtually any aspect of modern Western culture must be not merely incomplete, but damaged in its central substance to the degree that it does not incorporate a critical analysis of the structured binary opposition between the signifiers “Quentin Collins” and “Grant Douglas”. The only way to properly understand these meanings is to deconstruct the assumptions and knowledge systems that produce the illusion of singular meaning.

Quentin Collins understands that. I understand it, too. The rest of you are just going to have to catch up.

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Episode 859: If I Were You

“Oh? And what a strange suicide that would be!”

Fridays have always been fairly freaky on Dark Shadows, but this week they’ve upped the ante with a body swap story featuring the mad wizard Count Petofi’s hostile takeover of teen idol pop star Quentin Collins’ body. Petofi claims that he’s stolen his co-star’s face because he wants to escape from a pack of gypsies baying for his blood, but I think there are some other things at play. I know what I’d do if I suddenly looked like Quentin Collins, and I wouldn’t be wasting my time researching I Ching hexagrams.

But body swap stories tend to be light on the benefits and heavy on the downsides, a way to explain and reaffirm the status quo as the best of all possible worlds. This goes back to the first example of the trope, an 1882 comic novel called Vice Versa.

I’ve been reading Vice Versa lately, and it’s pretty funny. It’s about a pompous English businessman named Paul Bultitude who can’t stand children, up to and including his own son Dick. In the opening chapter, the winter holidays are over, and the boy’s about to go back to boarding school. Dick isn’t looking forward to it, so Mr. Bultitude delivers a pompous lecture about the joys of school and boyhood, ending with a wish that he was a boy again.

As it happens, Bultitude is holding a magic stone that his brother-in-law brought back from India, a region with a high rate of magic stones per capita. His wish is granted, and he’s turned into a perfect duplicate of his son. Delighted at the chance to skip school, Dick wishes himself into his father’s body, and then sends his perplexed dad off in his place.

The novel follows Mr. Bultitude through a very uncomfortable week at his son’s terrible punishment school. He tries to act like the mature gentleman that he is, in order to demonstrate that he’s not actually Dick — which gets him bullied by the other boys, persecuted by the headmaster, and generally ill-treated by everyone.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but I assume that it ends with father and son going back to their own bodies, wiser for their experiences, and then they go and burn down the school, to the delight of all. That’s the point of body swap stories, seeing the world from the other person’s point of view, and learning to appreciate other people’s perspectives. Except for the movie Face/Off, of course, which is about figuring out whether it’s better to be born looking like Nicolas Cage, or to be born as somebody else and become Nicolas Cage later on in life.

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Episode 841: Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There

“He revels in every form of torture and bloodshed known to the mind of man!”

“It’s the third one,” says Dr. Julia Hoffman — blood specialist, hypnotherapist and the world’s most adaptable person. “The Kun hexagram.”

“What does it signify?” her captor asks, and Julia consults the reference material.

Julia’s flipped back in time to the late 19th century, where she’s currently assisting mad god Count Petofi, the Butcher of Ozhden, as he attempts to bend space and time to his implacable will. He needs to take his legendary magical hand to the far-off space year of 1969, and he’s going to use the I Ching, a Chinese divination technique that he has no prior experience with. So now he’s casting the I Ching wands, and Julia is looking in her Junior Woodchucks guidebook to see which of the 64 hexagrams he’s laid out on the table.

She’s doing this under duress, if that helps. Julia does a lot of things under a lot of things.

“There will be great progress and success,” she reads, and Petofi’s face lights up. “The character Kun shows how a plant struggles, with difficulty, out of the earth, gradually rising above the surface.” Petofi is utterly thrilled, but there’s more.

“The top line is divided,” Julia warns. “The horses of the chariot are obliged to retreat. There are weeping tears of blood.”

Petofi grabs the book out of her hands, and snarls, “I will hear no more!” Then he sits down in front of the hexagram, meditating furiously.

Now, this is where Count Petofi and I part ways. If it was me, the weeping tears of blood would give me pause. But what do I know, I don’t even have a legendary magical hand. I just have regular default hands. I didn’t even know magical hand was an option.

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Episode 837: The Trip

“She’s got doom and disaster written all over her face!”

Edward Collins finds an unconscious stranger, just outside his front door. It’s a woman, with a strange hairstyle and an unfamiliar style of dress. He helps her to her feet, but she’s groggy and unsteady. Edward brings her inside, and she looks around like she’s in a daze, squinting and blinking as if she’s never seen the inside of a house before.

She’s docile, at least — clearly not a danger to anyone — and he’s able to lead her into the drawing room, and park her on the couch. Slumping in her seat, she stares at Edward, a puzzled look on her face.

“Can you hear me?” he asks, patiently. “Can you understand what I’m saying?” She just looks at him. He persists. “Why did you come here?” No reply. “Who are you?” Still not receiving.

At a loss, Edward cries, “Where have you come from?”

She squints up at him, and says, “I don’t know, man. I mean, where does anybody come from?”

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