Tag Archives: voodoo

Episode 1153: How to Explain the Doll

“Then how do you explain the doll?”

“We were in a little village in Brazil,” says Gerard Stiles, “up the river.” He’s looking back on an experience he had with his friend, Quentin Collins, on an unspecified business trip in South America. “One of the crew members got very ill, suddenly. Quentin had heard of a witch doctor who could perform miracles — or so Quentin said.”

God-fearing buttinsky Lamar Trask recoils. “You let him take a Christian soul to a pagan?”

“It wasn’t my decision!” Gerard swears. “When the witch doctor was doing his incantation, Quentin mentioned the ring that he was wearing. When the ceremony was over, I could see plainly that Quentin wanted that ring very much, but was afraid to ask for it. So I bought it for him.” End of anecdote.

Several questions spring to mind. First: did the crew member get better? Why wasn’t Gerard afraid of the witch doctor? And — most baffling of all — what the hell were you doing in Brazil?

Continue reading Episode 1153: How to Explain the Doll

Episode 1152: The Truth of You

“I have never harmed anyone simply for the sake of harming them.”

And what do Barnabas and Julia have to do with all this warlock malarkey? Practically nothing, I’m sorry to say. Barnabas might be vaguely aware that Quentin has something on his mind, but it’s certainly not keeping him up all day. The simmering tensions between Quentin, Gerard, Daphne and Desmond, which we might call Plot A, have entirely escaped our gentleman vampire, who’s been focusing his attention on Plot B, a cul-de-sac sidequest involving Roxanne, Julia and Angelique.

I’ve had to speak sharply to the main characters in the past about this unfortunate tendency of theirs to drift off into side issues. Two months ago, Barnabas and Julia traveled to the 19th century hoping to avert the Collinwood-closing catastrophe of summer 1970, and practically the only thing that they understand about those future events is that they involve shady gun-runner Gerard Stiles in a prominent role. But Gerard has been permitted to run roughshod over the entire show for weeks and weeks, getting possessed by warlocks and working his wiles on Daphne, entirely unchallenged by the two characters that the audience has presumably tuned in to see.

We last saw Barnabas on Thursday, when he brought a day player named Randall to a nearby crypt, handed him a hammer and stake, and gave him instructions on how to kill the lady vampire heading in that direction. Then Barnabas sprinted off towards his own coffin, leaving this pop-eyed nonentity to handle the protagonist duties. And where is Barnabas now?

Well, that’s what local undertaker and part-time detective Lamar Trask wants to know, observing to Julia that Barnabas is still missing. “No, he is not missing,” Julia sniffs. “He was grief-stricken about Roxanne, and he is in seclusion for several days.”

“I hardly think the circumstances warrant going into seclusion,” Trask scowls, and I agree. What we need right now is for Barnabas to shake that B-plot off his shoes, and get himself involved in the main story.

But seclusion is where he’s going to stay, I’m afraid, because Jonathan Frid is taking a two-week vacation. Barnabas won’t be back until episode 1159, when he’ll walk into Collinwood and act like he just stepped out for a breath of air. You’d never accept that kind of behavior from a main character in any other medium, but this is daytime soap opera, a genre composed of 15% creative storytelling and 85% logistics.

Continue reading Episode 1152: The Truth of You

Episode 1139: Nothing on Earth

“There’s nothing on earth that can keep us together, or apart!”

Well, here we go again. The legendary head of Judah Zachery has detached once more from the legendary neck, and is now on display in the bedroom of Gerard Stiles, who happened to have a severed-head display case in his closet, just gathering dust. This is why you shouldn’t throw anything away; you never know when you might need it. In fact, that’s pretty much the guiding principle of the show these days.

Continue reading Episode 1139: Nothing on Earth

Episode 1019: Peer at a Prop

“I’m trying to figure out how something you’ve never seen before managed to get into your suitcase.”

So the plan, as I understand it, is as follows: sinister sorceress Angelique Collins and her housekeeper pal Hoffman will break up the marriage between Angelique’s one-time husband Quentin and his now-time wife Maggie, by making Maggie paranoid and hysterical, so that Quentin won’t be able to stand living with her. They’ll accomplish this by doing super suspicious things right in front of Maggie, and then acting weird and petulant about it, so that she knows they’re doing something suspicious, and thereby lulling her into a false sense of insecurity. It’s the perfect plan; she’ll never see it coming.

Continue reading Episode 1019: Peer at a Prop

Episode 1016: Fire Is Not a Friend

“Fingers of flame, make healthy again what I have diseased!”

Well, here we are, another week in Parallel Time, and the logic deficit is just as bad as ever. We’re four days into an utterly baffling plot arrangement involving a parallel triangle between Quentin, Angelique and Maggie, who are all married to each other and desperately unhappy about it.

Quentin’s first wife, Angelique — who’s dead, but pretending that she isn’t — wants him to fall in love with her again. But he’s already in love, sort of, with his second wife Maggie, who fled the house weeks ago so she could go upstate and make a movie. That left Angelique alone with Quentin to work her wicked wiles, but they don’t really have a hell of a lot of chemistry these days, and she’s getting desperate.

So Angelique keeps doing these supernatural middle-school science experiments, and then getting all angsty when they don’t produce the desired results, which are unspecified. First, she slipped Quentin a magic potion that was supposed to drive him crazy, and it worked. Unfortunately, he went entirely crazy, rather than the 60% crazy that Angelique was apparently budgeting for, and he slipped up to the attic to hang himself. She managed to talk him down, of course, because obviously she doesn’t want her weird magic spells to hurt the man that she loves.

Except here she is twenty-two minutes later, and she’s attacking him again, this time by sticking a silver pin into a voodoo doll and triggering a massive coronary. Then she heads downstairs, and finds exactly what she ought to expect — Quentin lying on the floor, and everybody else standing around, telling each other not to have hysterics.

“Quentin!” she cries, and rushes to his side, horrorstruck by the idea that he might die from the heart attack that she deliberately induced one minute ago. And then she spends the rest of the episode worrying about him, and wondering if maybe she could have handled this differently.

So I don’t even know what to say. The all-powerful living dead soap vixen at the heart of this storyline is hell bent on doing exactly the opposite of what she actually wants, and then she’s unhappy. What’s going on? How is it possible to be this bad at your job?

Continue reading Episode 1016: Fire Is Not a Friend

Episode 1015: You Were Murdered

“We must find out whose hand that was!”

Attic, Angelique’s room, attic, Angelique’s room, attic, drawing room, Angelique’s room, Angelique’s room, attic, attic, drawing room. If you like watching people walk back and forth between one room and another, then Dark Shadows has an episode made just for you.

But guess what? Sinister twin Angelique Collins is just as anxious as the rest of us to move this storyline along, so she’s cast a spell on her ex-husband, Quentin, to make him fall in love with his new runaway bride, Maggie. Now, as far as I know, Quentin already loved Maggie — at least, he married her, which is a pretty solid piece of evidence — but Angelique has decided that he doesn’t love Maggie enough, so she’s giving him an unasked-for upgrade.

She’s got a plan, you see, a wicked plan, and it’s hard to talk her out of it. If Angelique can make Quentin fall even harder for Maggie, then he’ll call her and ask her to come home, and when she does, Angelique will get Quentin to fall out of love with Maggie, and back in love with Angelique, who’s actually dead and impersonating her twin sister Alexis, but somehow he won’t mind, and I’m afraid that’s about as watertight as plans get around here.

But this brilliant scheme has backfired, quelle surprise, and Angelique’s potion has pretty much driven Quentin straight out of his mind. He’s just had a hallucination that suggested that he’d killed Maggie remotely by attacking her portrait with a letter opener, and now he’s headed for the attic, just like everybody else today.

Sensing that things may have gone mildly awry, Angelique settles down with a tarot deck to summon up some news. She deals out a simple arrangement of cards, and then flips over the middle card which is really the only one that matters, and — it’s the Hanged Man!

Shocked, Angelique leaps from the table and dashes for the door, convinced that the card is conveying up-to-the-minute bulletins. What’s that, Tarot? she cries. Quentin’s about to hang himself in the attic? Gosh, if I can only get there in time! Lead the way, girl!

Continue reading Episode 1015: You Were Murdered

Strange Paradise, Episode 3: Church and Estate

“We can only hold ourselves to the secret dreads and confessed fear of an evil soul seeking to control a saddened heart!”

But enough foolishness; let’s get down to business. We’re taking a break from Dark Shadows this week, to watch the opening episodes of the contemporary Canadian knock-off Strange Paradise. This daily supernatural soap opera aired for ten months in 1969-1970, to progressively smaller audiences.

It’s easy to imagine why a production company in fall 1969 would look at Dark Shadows, and want to take a crack at trying their own version. DS is at the height of its popularity during this period, and they’re making it look easy. Five or six characters per episode on a limited number of sets, taped as a stage play without retakes or editing, and using a mix of Freshman Lit and Universal Monsters for story ideas. That seems doable.

And if you’re a busy professional in 1969, you’re probably not watching Dark Shadows very closely. They didn’t have VCRs back then, to tape episodes and watch them at a more convenient time. You had to sit down in front of a television at 4 in the afternoon every day, which is a lot easier for housewives and teenagers than it is for people working on a medium-to-low-budget daily TV show in Ottowa, where I’m not even sure DS was being broadcast.

So it would be easy to miss Dark Shadows’ insanely detailed narrative complexity during this period. There’s probably a dozen overlapping story threads on the show right now, and the writers are expecting the audience to remember complicated plot points from more than six months ago.

Barnabas explains to Julia that Chris Jennings is stuck as a werewolf, locked in the secret room of the mausoleum, because he’s the grandson of Quentin’s infant daughter Lenore, who’s being raised in town by Mrs. Fillmore because Quentin’s wife Jenny went mad and couldn’t take care of them, and Quentin’s werewolf curse is being passed down to the male children of each generation — and four out of five of those characters haven’t even been on the show for months. We haven’t seen Chris since late February, and it’s currently mid-September and counting. For a daily soap opera in late 1969, the required cognitive load on the audience is staggering.

In other words: Sure, try and make your own Dark Shadows. Good luck with that.

So I’m not spending a week looking at Strange Paradise just because I want to have a new set of things to make fun of. I mean, that’s part of it, obviously. But I also want to know what a failed version of Dark Shadows looks like right now, to see what we can learn about why the actual show is currently a smash hit.

If you’re just joining us mid-week, here’s the other Strange Paradise posts, and if you’d like to watch along, there’s a YouTube channel with all of the episodes. I’m not saying that you should do that, necessarily. But it’s your life, and you can waste it however you want. Now that I think about it, that’s actually the motto of this blog. “It’s your life, and you can waste it however you want” T-shirts are now available in the Dark Shadows Every Day store, which does not exist.

Continue reading Strange Paradise, Episode 3: Church and Estate

Strange Paradise, Episode 2: Crypt Kicker

“We must send that demon back to Hell. The mystic drums must sound again!”

This week, we’re taking a break from Dark Shadows to watch the first week of Strange Paradise, a strange Canadian/US knock-off supernatural soap that began here, in fall 1969. If you need the links, here’s the other Strange Paradise posts and a YouTube channel that has all the episodes, although you can consider this a week-long warning label, rather than a recommendation.

What I’m interested in is figuring out what happens when somebody decides to make a Dark Shadows-like show, using the same format and timeslot as Dark Shadows, with similar resources, and with exactly the same cultural context, and still winds up with something that doesn’t feel like Dark Shadows at all. I’m not sure what the rest of you are interested in.

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Strange Paradise, Episode 1: Dry Ice Burns

“Mr. Desmond, please! Has the Devil taken your SOUL?”

Dreamed in darkness and filmed in Canada, the Shadow of Shadows was dragged from the earth. The creatures scratched at the well-worked soil, pulling what little they could from the oft-defiled graves. Look! A rag, and a bone, and a hank of hair. Isn’t it beautiful, they said. We have given it a name.

In the fall of 1969, a show called Strange Paradise shambled onto the air — a Canadian soap opera with supernatural themes, conceived at the height of Dark Shadows’ popularity. The daily show premiered in America in September, with the Canadian debut six weeks later.

In the US, Strange Paradise aired around 7pm on local stations owned by Metromedia and Kaiser Broadcasting, but not for long. A month after its debut, Metromedia pulled the low-rated show from New York and Los Angeles, and Kaiser stations moved it to the early afternoon.

In an attempt to save the show, the production company replaced the producer and writer after the ninth week of production. When they finished the first 13 week cycle, the show was extensively retooled, ditching most of the cast and moving the setting from the Caribbean island of Maljardin to the Desmond family’s ancestral home in North America. It didn’t work. They managed to scrape through another 26 weeks, and then gave up.

Strange Paradise enthusiasts talk about the show’s “three 13-week arcs,” but that’s just a fancy way of saying that it was cancelled after ten months. In Dark Shadows years, that’s just at the moment that they would have hired Jonathan Frid, and saved the show.

As a Dark Shadows fan, I’ve seen Strange Paradise mentioned in books occasionally, and I always thought it was a DS clone created by ex-Shadows staffers. That’s not actually how it happened. The creators were Jerry Layton, a producer who’d mostly done crime dramas before moving into romance, and Ian Martin, a soap writer who’d worked on Search for Tomorrow, Young Doctor Malone and The Nurses. The pair had worked together on the successful NBC soap The Doctors, before being hired for Strange Paradise.

The Dark Shadows people were brought in later, following the Metromedia and Kaiser disaster. Producer Robert Costello was brought in to replace Layton at week 9, and Ron Sproat joined the writing team for the second 13-week cycle, with occasional scripts by Joe Caldwell.

So this is a weird footnote in the history of Dark Shadows, and since the show started during this period, I’m going to watch the first week with you, to see what people do when they think they’re making Dark Shadows. All of the episodes have been posted on YouTube, so you can watch along, if you like.

I figure it’ll be fun — we’ll take a week’s vacation from Dark Shadows, and see what it’s like on the other side. What could possibly go wrong?

Continue reading Strange Paradise, Episode 1: Dry Ice Burns