“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
“Someone must be destroyed, but it won’t be me.”
Alexis finds it hard to take a breath, which is a shame, because it’s one of her last and she should probably be enjoying it more.
“This can’t be happening!” she gasps. “It’s impossible!”
But this impossible thing that can’t be happening rises from the casket. It’s her twin sister, Angelique, who’s been dead for six months in a row, and doesn’t feel like doing it anymore. She opens her eyes, she breathes, she speaks, and — most disconcertingly of all — she smiles.
“But you’re dead!” Alexis chokes. “You’re dead!”
Then she frowns, frustrated. “The prompter is going three times faster than I would go,” she says. She gestures toward the studio. “He just zipped to my next line!” This is something that Dark Shadows characters have been wanting to say for years, but never had the guts.
Continue reading Episode 1001: Wife Swap
“I never once believed that she could survive death — until tonight!”
It always starts with a box.
You try your best. You bury the dead. The evil twin dies, and you say thank goodness that’s over with, and then you put her in a box and plant it in the dirt. You figure it’s a one-way trip, no refunds and no returns. At that point, it’s someone else’s problem.
It always starts with a box. It often ends with one, too. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell beginnings and endings apart.
Continue reading Episode 1000: Back From the Death
“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
“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
“Do you know why I brought you back from the grave?”
Who needs coffins? Coffins are for wimps and losers, say the grief-stricken loved ones of Sheriff J. Davenport.
Continue reading Episode 939: My Father’s Killer
“I suppose I’d better pay a visit on the antique shop which specializes in a succession of strange, disposable little boys.”
Scene One: Grave, Indeed
EXT. PHOTOGRAPH OF COLLINWOOD — DAY
PROFESSOR STOKES (O.S.)
For Maggie Evans, a time of terror at Collinwood has ended, and the source of her torment has been identified as Michael, the boy who lives with Megan and Philip Todd at the antique shop.
INT. ANTIQUE SHOP BEDROOM — DAY
Michael stares directly into the camera, waiting for his cue to begin acting.
PROFESSOR STOKES (CONT’D)
And now Michael faces his own time of terror. For with shocking swiftness, he has fallen ill, and as she examines him, Julia Hoffman knows his illness is grave indeed.
Having received his cue, Michael shuts his eyes and rolls around on the bed. Julia positions a stethoscope somewhere in the vicinity of his heart.
Come on come onnnnnn when do I get to inject him with something
Continue reading Episode 928: Another Day in the Uncanny Valley
“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
“I think the man I’m talking to is a ghost!”
Previously, on Dark Shadows: Dr. Woodard has discovered that Barnabas Collins is the kidnapper that everyone’s been looking for — and a member of the living dead. Armed with a journal which contains notes of Julia’s mad experiments, Woodard is planning to speak to the Sheriff, and expose the evil presence that threatens to destroy them all. But a bat appears at the window — and Dr. Woodard is horrified to see the vampire materialize in front of him.
And then… nothing, for three years. At least, that’s what it was like when I saw it.
Continue reading Episode 639: Vampire Excites Wives, Young Set
“The one that she will try to kill will be you. So, you see, your presence is vital.”
So I guess it’s fair to say at this point that the current Bride of Frankenstein storyline is not setting any land speed records for Dark Shadows. It’s been dragging on for weeks, and the Bride is still just a bandaged-up mannequin, lying on the lab table and not even bothering to decompose.
Still, it’s part of Dark Shadows’ nature that even in its darkest and most shadowy hours, they’ll find something to do that justifies our patience.
Today’s episode is weird and disappointing in several ways, but the cliffhanger sets up one of my favorite lunatic plot contrivances. When I am old and gray, and the world has taken everything from me but my basement murder lab and my hypnotic medallion, I will think of today’s cliffhanger, and a flicker of a smile will play across my careworn features.
Continue reading Episode 594: Weak Shoddy Adversary