“Nothing seems more important to me at the moment than the strange goings-on in this house.”
And so the afternoons wear on, Monday through Friday, and day by day, everyone’s getting a little bit older and a little bit wiser. That’s the usual arrangement, of course, and it generally works out okay, but it’s something of a problem for a television show like Dark Shadows, whose market share is determined by the audience’s appetite for the deeply unwise.
There’s been a steady drumbeat of cultural warning signs over the last year, signaling that the space that Dark Shadows occupies in the American consciousness is destined to be rezoned. There was that push for non-toxic children’s television, which resulted in the fall 1969 debuts of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and Sesame Street. There was the disaster at the Altamont free music festival in December ’69, when everyone discovered, to the surprise of an entire generation, that an enormous crowd of drug-addled young people is not innately loving and peaceful. There was the embarrassing string of House of Dark Shadows ads over the summer promising a “bizarre act of unnatural love,” and the shift in public opinion around April 1970 that made people start to classify Dark Shadows viewers as perverts, dabblers and scag freaks.
And then there’s another case study to consider, as we tumble towards 1971: the fall of Aurora’s Monster Scenes.
Continue reading Episode 1150: The Strange Goings-On
“Be cautious with it! We don’t want a string of strange deaths in our group.”
But it’s the age old story, isn’t it? Man comes into contact with something other — something beyond our grasp, beyond understanding, beyond words — and it changes us, occasionally for the better. And we take that encounter, and we turn it into story.
I mean, not this story, obviously. This story is insane. You know how Joseph Campbell and the Mythkateers say that all mythic narratives are just variations on a single great story? Yeah. This is one of the exceptions.
But even the strangest sound has an echo, and here, in the midst of the ragged and unruly Leviathan tale clattering across our screens in double-time, we can reach out and grab hold of another story that’s following a similarly erratic track.
There is another story where Barnabas very gradually fights an otherworldly menace, where Quentin appears and disappears with little consequence, where Maggie experiences carefully controlled doses of mild peril, and where an upsetting reptile pulls the strings, and makes the puppets dance.
This is a story that our people tell. We call it Barnabas, Quentin and the Mummy’s Curse.
Continue reading Episode 946: Universal Monsters
“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.
Continue reading Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 5: Try to Forget
“You live in another body now, but your own body waits for you!”
Incipient teen idol Quentin Collins died earlier this week after he was stabbed by his insane ex-wife, which for the Collins family is practically natural causes. But like almost everyone who dies on Dark Shadows, he’s returned for another lap around the track.
Zombie Quentin is being remote-controlled by Barnabas’ insane ex-wife, who’s using him to play pranks on the family. At the moment, he’s scooped up the governess and is carrying her out to the graveyard.
Now, he’s not trying to eat her brain or anything; he’s not that kind of zombie. The flesh-eating cannibal zombie was invented by George Romero in Night of the Living Dead, which was released six months before this episode was made. And they’re not called zombies in that movie anyway; the Night of the Living Dead characters just call them ghouls. It wasn’t until the 1978 sequel Dawn of the Dead that Romero started describing the creatures as zombies, changing the pop culture definition of that word.
So compared to the slavering fiends of The Walking Dead, Zombie Quentin is actually very polite, and exceptionally well-groomed. He doesn’t bite anybody, and his hair and his outfit are in flawless condition, even after busting his way out of a grave covered in cement.
In fact, the only way you can really tell that there’s anything the matter with him is that he doesn’t speak, and he’s always bulging out his eyes and staring straight ahead. The nice thing about Zombie Quentin is that you always know he’s paying attention.
Continue reading Episode 724: Exquisite Corpse
“There must have been something about this bracelet that kept the animal from killing me.”
Okay, let’s get right into it, because pretty much everything happens today, and I don’t have time to mess around. This is one of those episodes your mother would have warned you about, if she was dead.
Continue reading Episode 672: Werewolf By Night
“There’s a way that you can call people from the dead. I’ve seen them do it downstairs a lot.”
Christopher Jennings, handsome and mysterious bad boy with a heart of gold and a secret sorrow, comes over to Collinwood to collect his little sister, who he’s struggling to care for. Their parents are gone, and the more reliable twin brother has recently died, and now it’s just Chris and Amy, trying to make their way in the world.
Also, Chris just murdered a guy last week for walking into his hotel room at the wrong moment. I guess everybody has a different way of coping with stress.
Continue reading Episode 640: Bad Wolf
“Adam, this is exactly the conversation I didn’t want to have.”
It seemed like such a good idea at the time.
We’ve got an empty basement, they said. We’ve got an apparatus, and some electricity, and a Mark 7 respirator, and a whole lot of spare time. Let’s go downstairs and make a human woman.
Continue reading Episode 591: The Sound of Science
“How could he talk so good in such a short time?”
We’ve been spending a lot of time lately with Adam, the enormous adolescent Frankenstein who’s hiding out in the abandoned west wing of Collinwood. His love life isn’t really working out, and he’s just learned that he was pieced together in a mad science experiment, so he’s in kind of a bad mood.
But that works out well for us, because there’s only so long that you can watch a guy hide in a room before you start wondering what’s happening on The Secret Storm these days. We need a change.
Happily, today Adam’s got some new things to say, and a new vocabulary to say them with.
Continue reading Episode 552: Hooked On Phonics
“What evil game are you going to play this time?”
“How do you do?” says the little man, as he emerges through the curtains and takes his place at center stage.
This is the opening of the 1931 Universal film Frankenstein, and since Dark Shadows is just beginning its own version of the story, it seems like an appropriate time to let this guy in and have him say his piece.
Continue reading Episode 477: We’ve Warned You
“Do you remember I told you when I was in the past that I shot someone?”
At the end of Friday’s episode, Dr. Eric Lang’s assistant brought him a package straight from the cemetery. Delighted, the doctor opened the box and said, “Oh, Jeff! Don’t be so squeamish! Come have a look at it! It’s a perfect specimen!”
Then the camera zooms in on the box to show us a detached human arm, which actually does look pretty nice, if you like guys from the elbow down.
We’re not going to reach that level of damn-the-torpedoes lunacy again until, ooh, about halfway through Tuesday, so we might as well take a moment to talk about The Munsters and The Addams Family.
Continue reading Episode 471: A Farewell to Arms