Dark Shadows: A new way to watch the original show…

Now that I have nearly all of the DVD’s (some collections have missing discs or are unwatchable, and I am correcting that…)  I can do what I’ve always wanted to do….Tighten up the show a bit, reduce the soap opera formats’ necessary drag, and watch it in timeline order rather than air date order.

Now particularly because of a history changing event during the 1840 storyline I’ll have to do a little jumping about.

Purists will be angry because I am cutting three parts of the show out as excess weight during this run through.

I did not watch the Daphne and Gerard’s Ghosts portion of 1840 or the Quentin and Beth’s Ghost’s portion of 1897.  Not because I don’t enjoy those, but it muddles the purpose.

I may also ditch the Leviathans.  That is purely personal preference.

When in the past I want to stick to the times the show was actually in the past.

I should have started with the two 1692 episodes, and if I ever do this again, I will do that.

I began with 1795, and went straight into 1840.  That benefited my enjoyment of the 1840 arc because it seemed much more like a continuation than a rehash.   I stopped watching 1840 right before the history changer (Edith’s death) but I will get back to it.  I am now in the middle of 1897, having jumped directly to it from 1840.  After that I may take a short break to read Lara Parker’s new novel “Wolf Moon Rising,” that is set in the 1920’s. I’m not sure about that.  In any case, DVD wise the next two epis will be the ones set in 1949 (Concerning Paul Stoddard’s disappearance.] and then move to “The Beginning,” in 1966.  I’m going to stay in the present,  move in air date order until fall of 1967 and skip Viky’s trip to the past, and go directly into 1968, (Adam, Cassandra, Nicholas Blair)…then, possibly the Leviathan portion of 1969.  What’s left then is 1995.  After jumping to that, I’ll take the staircase through time back into 1840 and let the history change play out…I’ll move into Parallel Time 1841, but start watching with the 1690 episodes (…Brutus, and James/Amanda)  I’m hoping this will let me enjoy that arc a little bit because it isn’t really the end of the series at that point.  I’ll move into Parallel Time 1970, and let that story play out….

And, If I wanted to be cyclical and do this a second time…from the end of Parallel time, I’d go back to 1692 original time, and start the clock over again….So far, making those changes makes the story tighter, and more of a single unit…I’m hoping I’ll like it.

I don’t dislike the two ghost arcs really, it’s just that they’re getting in the way of what I want to accomplish here.

Drawn in, drawn back…

A little missive on how my DS fandom worked itself out.

There was the thoughtful and the hilarious.

Thoughtful first.

I am about four years younger than David Henesy.  So the notes in the scripts, the corners that seemed to invite me were similar to the things and places that seemed to tug at young David Collins.

1. This show was my first exposure to the idea that.

Old things can be cool.  Ancestors.  Old Pictures.  Vintage clothing….I was completely enthralled by the idea of visiting the past.  I’m quite confident that it was Dark Shadows sojourns in the past that were the earliest experience (among other later ones) that led me to love reading history, and to study it as an academic discipline later in life.

2. Ghosts aren’t necessarily things to fear.  The idea that while there are malevolent ghosts out to haunt the living and drive them mad, there are also others who take a positive interest in what goes on here.

3.  I had never seen a horror film or read any novels pertaining to the genre prior to watching the first run of DS…but afterwards the interest led me to Poe, and Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley, and the early Universal horror films….and from them to other authors and films and television shows related to horror, suspense, and (for a short while) Gothic romances.

4.  I found myself at eight years old, wishing for a secret room so badly that I *made up* the idea of a secret room in my school’s furnace room, with a special door that could only be opened by  a “key” of broken brick that I had found outside.  Most of my childhood and adolescence wherever I found a room hidden away from the rest (or even a hidden space in nature)  I would retire there for a while and think or read until weather, discovery or boredom drove me out.

5. The school for special needs children that I attended had a courtyard surrounded by a brick and concrete wall.  One half of it had a small relatively well-tended lawn and some picnic tables we were allowed to eat at once a year.

The other half had really begun to revert back to nature.  Heavy ivy cracking the bricks and tall grass inside the courtyard that was untended, and difficult to walk through. I fled to this second half once and hid in a sheltered corner for a while, and played at it’s being Collinwood’s terrace, overgrown by some disaster. (Perhaps I had just seen the 1995 arc and it was having an effect on my imagination…)

Now, on to the hilarious.

a favorite cousin of mine had loved Dark Shadows as much as I did when she was small. When we played together at the ages of five and seven we combined certain toys with the idea of flashing lights and different colors and scaring each other to death that was firmly rooted in DS imagery.

In the mid nineteen eighties, the local Fox affiliate began to re air Dark Shadows locally.  A date for the beginning of the Barnabas storyline was announced.  My cousin and I remembering the old days said, “We have to watch the first episode together!”  I don’t drive so as it happened my cousin’s boyfriend came by in his truck to pick me up that day.  My cousin’s house was about fifteen minutes away by car, driving normally in regular traffic.

Only problem was he came by at about 11:55 and the show started at noon.

He advised we would get there on time and risked life and limb breaking speed limits and raising all of our blood pressures, weaving in and out of traffic while speeding.  It was really quite dangerous and as I look back I’m really thankful no one got hurt.

But…the first moment I sat down was really only about four minutes into the show; he had made up so much time with his rocketing up the main drag that my cousin and I barely missed a thing and got to watch that ‘first’ episode together, of an arc we’d not seen originally because we were too young in 1967.  In our twenties then, we laughed as much and enjoyed that day of Dark Shadows as much as we had  the episodes we’d seen when we were children.

That’s my version of ‘ran home from school to watch it’ I suppose.

Parallel Time 1970: the slow slide down begins (some spoilers)

I’m not going to dwell on what I dislike about Parallel Time in both it’s pieces (too much) instead I’ll say:

Roxanne Drew’s shag rules.

Roger was magnificently cruel to Maggie all the time.

I love “Ode to Angelique” almost as much as “Shadows of the Night,” and I wish it had been more popular.

I always like the role reversal here where Willie’s chaining up rather than unchaining.  Also Willie’s swan song in this is pretty interesting to watch.  Caught between two supernatural forces trying to claim him, the way he manages to protect Barnabas is at once sad and stirring.

I wish we’d seen more of Stokes-as-drunken-loser than we did.

I thought the writers were pretty ingenious at working in the actors necessary absences to do House of Dark Shadows.

But…ok here’s the dislike.

Quentin was just a winy *****.  So disappointing.

Roxanne had to be the most pliant, vacant staring “yes dear” sort of woman I ever saw.  And that’s  *after* she woke up and spoke, and before Barnabas had even laid his teeth into her.

And I believe the bongo drums (Really?)  and the newer scores overlaying some old ones began in this segment and continued through to the end of the series.  Wasn’t at all fond of the xylophone updated score.

 

 

 

1897 or the Best and the Brightest (some spoilers)

There was so much good in the long complex 1897 arc…the show was never quite the same after it ended and it introduced so many good things.

I remember seeing a great deal of this on first run…my memory also played a trick on me and I “remember” a scene that never actually happened. I swear I remember 1840’s Quentin (as a ghost) having a rapier sword fight with his very much alive 1897 nephew.

Barnabas’ motives for returning were so noble. Save a sick child and a cursed man, and the Collins family will continue…but his own nature kept frustrating his noble motives.

(Beth Chavez, used by Barn and Quentin at the same time. Poor kid.)

I usually split it into three parts in my head: Quentin the Ghost, Quentin the Player and Quentin the Cursed.

I loved Beth’s white dress during her time as a ghost and wished she’d worn it when she was alive. (FWIW I think Terry Crawford had the most amazing eyes, but her chin stopped her from being beautiful.]

I really hate the idea of a ghost deciding to control children and make them do evil. so the ghost part of the arc isn’t something I enjoy as much as the rest…but it’s got the victrola going, so it can’t be all bad.

I also love the fact that the arc went on so long, they had to rework the skeleton in Quentin’s room from being Quentin himself…to being the hapless Gregory Trask, by the end of the arc. Normally I’d prefer to think that this simply occurred because Barnabas changed history enough to make it necessary, but that would mean that Judith wasn’t the smart woman we see her as. I prefer to think Trask got what he deserved whether Barnabas had gone back in time or not. (Maybe he wasn’t bricked up in Quentin’s room, but there would have been many many ways to “make him go away.” Judith was a wealthy woman, and not without imagination, as we saw. ]

Grayson Hall couldn’t help but try and play the wise woman again with Magda even though it was a much more basic wisdom than Julia Hoffman’s was. She pretty much ran Sandor even before Barnabas bit him. Edward was a pain in the ***, period. I liked Quentin, but I so much wanted to run up to him at the beginning of his “alive” period and say, “Look, you’re enough of a hit with the women as it is, you don”t need to dabble in the “black arts,” to get more.

My favorite thing about Quentin is how contradictory and fickle he was. He wanted Jenny and married her. Then, he had an affair with Laura, was he seeing Beth at the same time? He loved Beth, no, he wanted Rachel, no, he was intrigued by Pansy, or Angelique, or even momentarily, poor chewed up Tessie.

How he could throw over devoted Beth Chavez, or intoxicating Angelique for a vanilla waif like Amanda Harris, and then have them chase each other for a century or more, cast as each others’ ‘great love?’ Ridiculous. I think his love was Beth Chavez, and he never knew it until she was gone.

Carl was a freak and a loser, and I wasn’t sad when he died, but it was clear John Karlen had fun playing against type.

Dirk Wilkins, who brought surly servitude to an art form, and was the Bestest Junior Vampire Ever. I can’t talk about his short stint in a coffin because I just laugh too much.
Laura Collins. It was a great treat to see her, particularly because from the original airdates until about 1995 her previous run as the Phoenix creature was not seen by fans. I always loved her disdain for men she’d previously coveted. Got the kid out of (some of) them and that was all she needed. The scenes between her and Angelique are just priceless, I’m not going to describe them. Go to Netfix or buy the DVDS.

I have little to say about Charity Trask/Real Pansy Faye/Charity-possesed-by-Pansy Faye.

Now *that* song, and that attitude and her pitiful obsession with Quentin were just nuts and in my opinion, a giant waste of time. There was enough courage and spunk there though, to have made quite a good character instead, and I always wondered why they didn’t concentrate on that part, the part that was determined enough to stake Barnabas and actually managed it, and dogged enough to try to keep Quentin from being possessed a second time…

…By Andreas Petofi. Now *that* was a villain. Intellectual, composer, gourmand, drinker, and with a casual power over vampires, werewolves, witches…you wondered where his expertise in the dark side of power began and where it ended, Creepier than Nicholas Blair, and not nearly so fastidious. I was ok with him possessing Jamison, because that got me the ongoing insolence of a ten year old asking for a brandy… I was also ok with him killing a few substitute I-Ching users, just so he could get the right combination of wands….I like the sort that don’t have to get their own hands dirty to achieve their ends. I understood that that’s why he needed Aristede, but that didn’t keep me from hating that skinny little vermin.

I never understood Petofi’s fear of the gypsies once he got the hand back…there were so many ways to outrun them…to simply be elswhere when they showed up…
He had so much power, that it was completely believable that it took a long time and multiple attempts to save people from him and even, even when he left the canvas, it was with a bit of mystery an open door for a possible later return. I shiver a bit when I think of what he would have made of 1969 Collinwood if he got there. Would the Leviathans (gag) have bested him? I think not.

I feel really lucky to have seen a lot of this during it’s first run…because it’s amazing to watch it take almost a years worth of episodes to unfold. When you see that old style telephone, you should know you will be in for one wild ride.

A DS Nerd’s view: 1795 (Spoiler Alert.)

I’ve just finished watching the first, and in my opinion best “back in time” arc 1795.

Highlights are: The Introduction of Angelique.

Things I noticed more, this time around.

Seeing the purely human Barnabas is more than a little heartbreaking…you get a sense of how far he fell when he changed.  Mr. Frid did an excellent job of showing what a complicated fellow Barnabas was…even before his adventures in coffins.

It’s pretty clear from the dialogue in Angeliques scene where they are alone in  his room, that Barnabas was *not* entirely head over heels for Josette when he and Angelique were lovers.  Barnabas wasn’t clear that Josette loved him, so he couldn’t have been entirely set on their future.  He had feelings, but it didn’t become the ‘great love,’ until he was certain Jossette returned his feelings.

So, I feel a little bit more for her than I did…it’s a bit more credible that she would believe all she had to do was show up,  and the chem would happen.

It’s also clear from her attempt to “strangle” Barnabas with the toy soldier that she would not have accepted the place of mistress…or let the wedding go forward…

Her ego was so big, apparently,  that she figured she could just make Andre and Joshua forget about the huge business deal that went along with the marriage if she could have convinced Barnabas to resume their affair.

She is by turns meglomaniacal, childish and conflicted.    She wants him to suffer, and yet holds back on killing him at first.   She has enough power on her own to manipulate or use magic on nearly everyone:  Barnabas, Victoria, Jeremiah, Josette, Joshua,  Ben, Sarah….It’s amazingly entertaining to watch a character so completely free of boundaries.  And, that laugh.    Shiver.

Abigail is fixated enough on the wrong idea that Angelique doesn’t have to do a thing to her….which parallels how Abigail dies near Barnabas…not at his hand directly…but out of fear.

The other characters:

I love the growth of Ben Stokes throughout the arc:  He begins as a surly errand runner, shows a softer side as Barnabas’ earnest student learning to read, and by the end of the arc he is gently guiding Naomi Collins through the most impossible of revelations:  that her dead son is up and walking around.

Jeremiah is so painfully honest.  It’s almost if he can see the entire chain of events from the time Josette shows up in his room, and stoically accepts the condemnation and the duel. (I always thought he and Vicki should have run off together instead!)

Peter Bradford makes me laugh.  He’s so smitten with Vicki that he’ll believe in time travel and airplanes.

Natalie Du Pres overdoes the sophisticate’s ennui a little bit, but she’s entertaining as well.

Millicent annoys me.  I don’t know why.  I should have incredible sympathy for her…but I just want her off my screen.

And now, to Nathan Forbes and the Reverend Trask.

Nathan Forbes is a narcissistic loser, a greedy debauched thug who gets a very well deserved comeuppance in the end.  Preying on Millicent’s naievete and Daniel’s youth, he gets himself a prize seat at Collinwood’s table.  He reminds me of Jason McGuire in a uniform, only worse.  The gaslighting of Millicent as a road to attempting to murder Daniel, and have her funds to himself is deplorable.  But  what I love about Nathan Forbes is that it proved Joel Crothers range once and for all.  He clearly could have played anything between the Incredibly Good Boy Joe Haskell, and the serpentine Forbes…I really really wish this actor was still around because I’d love to hear some of his reminiscences about how fun it was to play Forbes.

The coolest thing I discovered this time about Jerry Lacy playing Trask is in the extra interview, where he talks about being in “Play it again Sam” at night and playing Trask during the day.  Talk about a hard working guy.    Trask falls in to the mistake of so many self made preachers, thinking that God loves him best, and will have his back no matter what he does.  Hypocrisy is apparently not on his list of sins to fight against.

Louis Edmons Joshua is the best of his characters in my opinion.   Pompous pronouncements are what’s needed and he delivers.

He makes Joshua age appropriate and effective…and since he shows little emotion during the first two thirds of the arc, it’s all the more startling to see him admit the depths of his feelings in the last third.

And I freely admit to being a Naomi Collins fan.  I could watch Joan Bennett stride around the sets in those great gowns all day. I loved watching her advocate for Josette and Vicki…she was clearly identifying with her own youth and watching out for the younger women.  I think the least campy and most emotional scenes for her involve a bottle of sherry, a small flask, her absolution of Barnabas and a note left for her husband.  Great stuff.

The script didn’t favor Josette until the death of Jeremiah, and her reconnection to Barnabas…she was clearly growing up very fast, and was trying to be brave and do the right things…I enjoyed her much more during the second half of the arc.

I can see why, between this and 1968,  Alexandra Moltke had had enough of playing Vicki as a perpetual victim.

Those are my thoughts…If you haven’t seen the whole arc yet…you should🙂

I had the Viewmaster…

So a few years back when I got DVD collection 11  I was kinda pleased.  I was looking forward to revisiting all that hard work my six year old self did in 1968 (with my mom’s help)setting up the projector in a darkened room…putting the slide wheel in and getting really great still shots from it.  Watching it with my cousin (who was a DS nerd as well, as a kid.)

And then 7 out of ten of the episodes on the first DVD in the collection turned out to be *completely depixellated* no pic, no sound just some intermittent flashes of color…very annoying…because I really love a lot of 1968.

Angelique with her best hair (and not that gawdawful bonnet thing with the box curls they made her wear in 1795.  What was up with that?)  Or the stupid black wig.  Her time as a vampire was also one of her better gowns…the white.

Julia also had her best hair…Short with no fru fru.

Barnabas, be careful what you wish for…etc.

So recently I was able to view those epis…took me right back to that little room in my house and recreating a bit of Collinwood right in my own space.

Fun.

 

Dark Shadows: The Beginning…Why DS Nerds should put themselves through these early episodes

I don’t know if this will be a top ten or not, but there are reasons to watch some of the pre-Barnabas era  (From the June 66 premiere until episode 205  in 1967…)

SPOILER ALERT:

 

 

 

 

10…Laura Collins had a music box too…She gave it to David…and it predates the hyped Josette box themes one and two…

9.  When Vicki’s really pushing in the early episodes to find out why she got hired, she’s a nosy bitchy, defiant little person.  A refreshing difference.

8….Also, her first hairdo is her best look…about the first twenty episodes of the show…

7.  Carolyn is a textbook 18 year old nightmare…doing the wrong thing just to see heads explode.  And since Joe Haskell and Carolyn were dating in the beginning…more of a mismatch could not be had.  Poor Joe.  But you do see Joe and Maggie’s first date which is quite cute.

6.  If you thought David Ford’s Sam Evans wasn’t the greatest since he had trouble with the TelePrompTer…be grateful.  Sam Evans the First, whomever played him initially could barely speak his lines.

5.  Frank Garner Jr.  the human piece of drywall as Vicki’s love interest makes you profoundly grateful for both Burke Devlins, and Jeff/Peter.

4. Roger comes off as the nastiest father on record…cheerfully admitting he’d like to institutionalize his kid…

3…and he has reason, because David is The Bad seed, lying, whining, crying, throwing huge temper tantrums over nothing…and there was that pesky attempt on his father’s life…all at the ripe old age of nine.

2.  One little conversation between Laura Collins and Burke Devlin has her all but admitting that her Bad Seed son isn’t really a Collins at all, but the son of Burke Devlin!  No wonder…

1.  and Most Important  It is implied, fairly clearly in one episode, that Bill Malloy carries quite the torch for Elizabeth.  (Vicki’s mother and father, anybody?)