“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
“I want you to get good and mad — mad enough to rip a man to shreds!”
“My, my, Mr. Jennings,” Bruno says, splitting his face with a lunatic’s grin. “How you’ve changed!” He’s sneering at the snarling werewolf that’s currently chained to the wall of this desolate crypt, and he’s staying just outside the creature’s reach, like Foghorn Leghorn standing at the dog’s leash limit.
“Does the tone of my voice anger you?” Bruno jeers. “Good! I want you to get good and mad — mad enough to rip a man to shreds!”
This is not typically a problem for werewolf handlers, because the entire point of werewolves is to be a metaphor for unchecked fury and explosive violence. You don’t need to rile up a werewolf. They come pre-riled.
Continue reading Episode 961: Protagonizing
“Well, the spirit’s certainly acting in a very strange way.”
So, let’s say you’re a Leviathan. Not the hooded sparkle-face kind, or the secret transforming alien octopus kind, just the regular human type Leviathan, who was given a ring and a membership card by an occult entity who promised that you would get power and money and revenge on your dad if you agreed to work seven days a week for no salary, performing dangerous assignments that you don’t understand.
Look, you’re stupid. Let’s just say that you’re stupid.
And here you are, in the middle of the night, in a drafty crypt, in some fish-factory town in Maine. You read in a book that your boss is vulnerable to werewolves, which you didn’t realize there were any, but guess what, there are. Also, there’s vampires, you just found that one out too. Apparently there’s everything.
You met some spooky girl with white hair a month ago, who seemed like she knew who the local werewolf was. You just happened to run into her again tonight, and you shadowed her to her boyfriend’s house. You broke in, you found some clues, you found the werewolf. And there’s going to be a full moon tomorrow night, so you’ll know for sure that he’s the wolfman before you shoot him in the head with a silver bullet. It’s hard to call that a lucky break, but you might as well try. This is some nightmare version of “lucky” that’s basically all you have to look forward to.
Continue reading Episode 960: Time and Temperature
“You caused something to happen to me! Why?”
You didn’t come to this place by accident, did you?
Continue reading Episode 942: A Vast White Ring Conspiracy
“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 feel as if something is trying to get inside of me!”
And another thing…
It’s my own fault, I recognize that. I was the one who wanted to write about Dark Shadows in the first place, and I was the one who decided that on pre-emption days, I would watch an episode of the 1991 revival. I did not open the mysterious box; I did not read the forbidden book; I did not receive instructions in my dreams. This is on me.
But here I am, in November 1969, when the show was pre-empted twice in the same week — for the Apollo 12 splashdown on Monday, and then for Thanksgiving on Thursday. So now I have to write about two 1991 episodes, which is straining endurance.
Continue reading Time Travel, part 9: Frequent Flyers
“Why did you come out here at this hour, and why are you wearing that gown?”
As you know, I hate to speak ill of the dead, especially when they’ve gone to a lot of trouble and they’re only trying to help, but I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a ghost successfully deliver a coherent warning to anybody. Either they moan a person’s name and nothing else, or they issue a bunch of unheralded pronouns and don’t explain the context. They put all this spectral energy into piercing the veil between the living and the not, but when they get through, it turns out they haven’t really figured out their messaging.
The current example is even more baffling than usual. Kitty Hampshire — known Josette lookalike and alleged reincarnation — finds a note in her bechamber that says, “Know yourself. Be who you must be.” Then she hears the hypnotic chimes of a music box, which direct her to a vintage gown hidden in the cedar chest. Putting it on, the damsel in this dress drifts down the stairs, and out to the cliffs atop Widow’s Hill, a popular nightspot for the young and doomed. This is all standard practice for gothic heroines who are gradually becoming aware that they’re somebody else.
Arriving at the rendezvous point, Kitty finds the specter of Jeremiah Collins, who was shot in the face a hundred years ago. “YOU MUST LEAVE THIS PLACE!” he bellows. “LEAVE COLLINWOOD, AND NEVER RETURN! IF YOU STAY — HE WILL KILL YOU!”
So Kitty just stands there, and screams her head off. And Jeremiah, honestly, what did you think was going to happen? You’re an undead creature with an untreated head wound. You are scary. That is a thing that you are now; you need to recognize that, and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Continue reading Episode 862: Z-Jay
“Are you still a zombie, Quentin?”
Against all odds, it’s still the summer of 1969, and Dark Shadows has never been more popular. Eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins has transported himself back in time to 1897, where he discovers that today’s teen dream Quentin C. is a restless, shambling zombie.
Young Jamison is possessed by the spirit of Quentin, or possibly the other way around; it’s difficult to tell. To save the family, Reverend Trask tries to perform an exorcism, and then a gypsy tells Quentin’s fortune. Meanwhile, Mad Jenny finds a set of keys, while somewhere a werewolf must hurry, for darkness means death. And that about brings us up to date.
Continue reading Episode 822: A Giant Evil Force
“Where is this uncle he thinks he is?”
Okay, let’s see if we can summarize.
Eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins has traveled back in time to 1897, in order to stop Quentin from dying alone, sealed up in his bedroom, and then sitting around and stewing about it. If Quentin dies under those circumstances, then he’ll return as a ghost in 1969, to haunt the family and kill David.
We’re currently a month into this loosely-defined rescue mission, and Quentin has already been stabbed to death. Barnabas decides that this is a mission-critical failure for some reason, and he asks Angelique to use her magic and bring Quentin back to life. As an act of spite, Angelique brings Quentin back as a mindless zombie who attacks the governess and tries to bury her in his own grave. To make matters worse, Quentin’s spirit possesses the body of his nephew Jamison.
Once the governess is rescued, Zombie Quentin leaves the cemetery and goes to the Old House, bashing the door in and fighting his way past several gypsies to make it to the basement, where he sits down quietly in a chair and just kind of chills out. Barnabas and the gypsies try a seance to reunite his body and his spirit, but it doesn’t work, and the zombie leaves the basement, with Barnabas in pursuit. We finished yesterday with a shot of Zombie Quentin on his belly, dragging himself desperately toward his open grave.
Nope, it looks like we can’t summarize this after all. That’s a negative.
Continue reading Episode 725: The Unrest
“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