Dark Shadows: The Christmas Presence

“Quentin Collins cordially invites you to spend Christmas in his company. On behalf of all those present here at Collinwood… I bid you welcome.”

It’s not the listeners of this audioplay Quentin extends this invitation to in his opening monologue–although, of course, we can feel free to drop in at Collinwood for the holidays too. The people he’s reaching out to, through means both commonplace and esoteric, are “those loyal to the Collins family” in Collinsport as well as “the missing members of our family” in hopes that they might be “reunited in the coming days.”

Christmas Presence

Quentin’s feeling sentimental as he plans an old-fashioned Christmas celebration, and the other inhabitants of Collinwood try to get into the holiday spirit to go along with him. Maggie Evans has come to cook the dinner and tries to get Barnabas (now voiced by Andrew Collins) to kiss her under the mistletoe. But even though he’s in a new body, Barnabas is still a vampire, and vampires don’t kiss; they just give hickeys. Angelique decorates a Christmas tree, and amuses herself with taunting Willie Loomis about how the townsfolk will come to blame him for the disappearance of their children.

A number of Collinsport children have been taken from their homes, from “under their parents’ noses” recently, but their abductor isn’t Willie, nor any mortal man. A scene at the beginning of this drama reveals one child’s abduction after his grandmother leaves him tucked up in bed in his room. Someone who says that he “could be” Santa appears and converses with the little boy, asks him what he wants. When the boy realizes that this isn’t Santa, it reveals its true self. The next thing you know, the child has joined this creature’s choir of voices.

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Dark Shadows: The Book of Temptation

This Dark Shadows audio drama on CD picks up where The House of Despair leaves off: Quentin Collins has returned to Collinsport to find his family home haunted and abandoned, and his family mysteriously gone; he’s summoned up Angelique, who in turn has resurrected Barnabas Collins in a new body (to match his new voice).

The Book of TemptationsWhile this long-lived and supernatural trio are up at Collinwood trying to figure out what happened to the rest of the Collinses, Maggie Evans, now proprietor of the Collinsport Inn, looks after  traumatized Willie Loomis.

Willie had a rough time up at Collinwood due to his own part in driving out the evil entity that occupied the house. For one reason or another, it became necessary for the newly restored Barnabas to bite him again, so Willie’s back where he was as far as playing Renfield.

Not that Maggie knows this. She’s forgotten that she ever knew Barnabas was a vampire,  and certainly doesn’t know that he’s alive again.

Willie has said something to the effect that “he wants me back” at Collinwood. Maggie assumes that “he” refers to Quentin and heads up to the house to find out what happened to Willie there and why he wakes up screaming.

At the house, she meets the new Barnabas, who introduces himself–not as the Barnabas she used to know, you understand, but another member of the Collins family with that  same name who’s come to help Quentin. He doesn’t claim to be a relative from England, but he sounds more British than Johnathan Frid did.

While she’s at Collinwood, Maggie is lured into a room in the servants’ quarters by a whispered woman’s voice.  She thinks it’s Angelique, whom she met as an “associate” of  Quentin’s when she first came in, and who was jealously catty to her because of that Barnabas / Josette thing two whole centuries ago.

Maggie discovers an old journal written by a maid named Charlotte Howell and reads the opening passages, which are dated April 16, 1926.  Charlotte writes that the Collinses have made her work hard but they’ve been kind to her, more kind than her previous employers. But they have a weird habit of locking the servants up in their rooms every night. There’s a touch of romance concerning a young man Charlotte met at the Blue Whale.

It doesn’t sound like much, but this is where the trouble for Maggie really begins, for this journal is the Book of Temptation mentioned in the audio-play’s title. Once you start reading it, you can’t stop.

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Dark Shadows: House of Despair

I hadn’t realized when I bought this Dark Shadows audio drama on CD that parts of it would already be known to me. When I listened to it for the first time, familiar phrases jumped out:

“My name is Quentin Collins. I come from an old family–and old families have long-held secrets…”

“I’d forgotten what a strange town this is…”

“…poor people, barely people at all. They seem empty.”

I’d heard these lines spoken multiple times in an ad that appears at the very end of each of the Dark Shadows: The Beginning DVDs, long before I’d seen Quentin Collins on the show or grew to recognize Angelique’s evil laugh. Intriguing as the ad might be, however, these phrases  never really gave me an idea of what the story behind them was about.

The House of DespairThe House of Despair takes place a few years after the end of the series–how many years, I’m not certain. Quentin Collins (David Selby) returns home from his world travels. Even before he gets there, the conductor on the train has some information for this passenger with a ticket to Collinsport. It’s a place with a reputation. “Bad things happen” there; “murder and sin are all they know”. The “Collins family is the scourge of Maine” [Quentin agrees, aware that the conductor doesn’t know who he is]. And, just as they arrive at the station, there’s this last piece of ominous advice:

“Once you leave this train, you won’t have a chance. It will be dark by then.”

A lesser man might be daunted, but Quentin has lived over a century and seen plenty of weird and horrible things going on in his hometown. He gets off the train, and soon finds  that the town is worse than ever. Collinsport has almost literally become a ghost town.

Few people remain in town since the cannery closed, and many of those who still live there are in a dazed state.  They’re called The Lost, since they go about wandering the streets at night as if they’re looking for something. They don’t even seem to remember who they are. Flocks of strangely behaving seagulls also menace the town. Townsfolk who are not afflicted lock their doors and stay in after nightfall.

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Dark Shadows: Curse of the Pharaoh

Last week, I went shopping on Amazon to see how many other Dark Shadows audio dramas were available, following Return to Collinwood. Quite a lot of them, as it turns out. They come in two types: 1. Audio plays performed like old-fashioned radio programs with a cast of actors from the original show in their old roles or new ones; 2. Dramatic readings of Dark-Shadows-based stories done by one, maybe two, of the actors. I picked out one of each.

Curse of the Pharaoh is a dramatic reading, done by Nancy Barrett, who played Carolyn Stoddard, and Marie Wallace, who played Evil Eve and Mad Jenny.

Why this one? From the description on the back of the CD box:

Curse of the Pharaoh“Finding Nefarin-Ka’s tomb was only the beginning… I made the most important discovery in archeological history.”

Dr. Gretchen Warwick, famed Egyptologist … comes to Collin- wood, searching for the answers to life in the hereafter.  At first, Carolyn cannot comprehend why an expert in ancient, mystical lore would desire her help, but to her horror, discovers that she is indeed the key to a dark, dangerous world on the other side of death….

In my review of the final episodes of Dark Shadows, I mentioned a feature on the last DVD where one of the show’s writers foretold a future for Carolyn in occult research; I said I would love to watch a spin-off series based on that premise. Although this story doesn’t follow that idea exactly, it seemed to be along similar lines. Also, I’d just listened to the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre play Imprisoned with the Pharaohs to prepare for writing that review, and I thought I’d like to hear another story about an evil ancient Egyptian ruler with a cult that survives into modern times. As it turns out, the story does have its own Lovecraftian overtones.

It was amusing to me that this story begins with Carolyn looking over “strange, alien” hieroglyphics and declaring that “It makes no sense!” just as Nathaniel Ward did.

Carolyn, however, is not in a deep and long-forgotten tomb in Egypt, but in her own home at Collinwood. She is making subtle changes to the hieroglyphs as transcribed in the notes of some person as yet unnamed, and is terrified that that person will come in and discover her before she finishes.

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Dark Shadows: The Mystery of the Missing Pen

ds-pen When I first watched Dark Shadows via Netflix, Collection 3 of the pre-Barnabas Beginning series wasn’t available. I skipped from the end of Collection 2, concerning the murder of Bill Malloy, to Collection 4, where the case is wound up, and missed most of the actual mystery story in between.

Since I got the entire Dark Shadows series on DVD for Christmas, I’m finally able to watch that missing section–episodes 71 through 105, about 7 weeks of airtime from the autumn of 1966.

Quick recap of the backstory: The body of Collinses’ cannery manager Bill Malloy washed up on the rocks below the cliffs of Collinwood, but the police believe that he was actually killed at a place a little farther up the coast called Lookout Point. His broken watch suggests that this happened at 10:45 pm, halfway between the last time he was seen alive at 10:30 by his housekeeper Mrs. Johnson, and the 11:00 Roger, Burke, and Sam waitingmeeting at the cannery, where Roger Collins, Burke Devlin, and Sam Evans were expecting him. Of course he never showed up.

Since Malloy intended to produce evidence that proved that Burke wasn’t driving the car during that drunken hit-and-run accident that sent him to prison for manslaughter–and that Roger was driving–Roger is very naturally the prime suspect. And Roger makes the most of it by trying to look as suspicious as possible.

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CD Review: Return to Collinwood

I’m not done with Dark Shadows yet. An extra feature on one of the final DVDs for the television series, after the last episodes, was about an audio play written by Jamison Selby, David Selby’s son; it was performed by some of the show’s actors at fan conventions in the early 2000s, then they went into a studio and recorded it.

I checked for it on Amazon. Still available!

Return to CollinwoodThe story is on 2 discs.  Some of the actors play their old, familiar characters again. Nancy Barrett is Carolyn Stoddard, now owner of Collinwood since her mother Elizabeth has passed on. David Selby is Quentin Collins, 140 years old, but he puts gray streaks in his hair to look like a well-preserved 50ish. Kathryn Leigh Scott is back as Maggie Evans. John Karlen is still Willie Loomis, living at the old Collins house.

I like that Jamison Selby has followed some of the projections for these characters provided by the show’s writer Sam Hall. Carolyn has been working for years as Head of Psychical Research at the University of Maine (sadly, not Miskatonic U). Maggie was married to Joe Haskell and has been widowed for about 1o years. Maggie now works at the nearby Windcliff sanitarium, where another old boyfriend, Sebastian Shaw (Christopher Pennock) is currently a catatonic patient. She and Quentin are an item again, and she meets him at the train station when he returns from a trip to Peru; he’s been traveling all around the world since 1970, and has most recently tried unsuccessfully to locate the long-missing David Collins. David Collins went away after a quarrel with his father Roger and hasn’t been heard from since.

Other actors from the show are present as new characters. Roger Davis, who played Peter Bradford/Jeff Clark, is Ned Stuart, Carolyn’s husband. They’ve been married about a year prior the events of the audio play. Donna Wandrey, who was Roxanne Drew, is the dour Collinwood housekeeper, Mrs. Franklin. Marie Wallace, who played Evil Eve and Mad Jenny, is the not-at-all evil and entirely sensible Jessica Loomis, Willie’s wife.

The Loomises are hoping to stay on at the old house now that Carolyn is in charge. Willie has been renovating the place, putting in electricity and plumbing, as well as a big-screen TV. He’s in the process of installing a hot tub when he discovers a mysterious package hidden within the wall–a package addressed to him.

The surviving Collins family has been summoned to Collinwood for the reading of Elizabeth Collins Stoddard’s will and to try contact her spirit at a specific date and time, since she expressed a desire to speak to them all one last time. The only actual Collinses to make it are Carolyn and Quentin. David wasn’t found. Roger predeceased his sister, and who knows where Barnabas is?

To contact Elizabeth, they’re going to hold a seance. You know that the Collinses love their seances even more than I do and will leap on any old excuse to have one.

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Revisiting the Dark Shadows movies

Old BarnabasA little while ago, I came to the conclusion that I’d watched House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows too early in my viewing of the television series; I decided that I’d watch them again after I’d finished the show to see if I understood how they fit into the overall story better.

With that purpose in mind, I Netflixed both this past weekend. I also took the opportunity to get some screencaps to dress my old reviews up.

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Dark Shadows: The Very End

We’ve seen the last of Barnabas Collins, Julia Hoffman, and the Collins family of the 1960s/70s.

Back in 1840, Desmond Collins tears down the transdimensional stairway built by his cousin Quentin. He tells his fiancee Leticia Faye what Barnabas told him about the room in Collinwood’s east wing that intersects with an alternate reality, then they go upstairs to take a peek into the room.

Desmond and Leticia watch as the alt-Flora and alt-Julia discover the body of Lamar Trask on the carpet. The two alt-ladies have no idea who this person could be, but assume that he must have been stabbed by Flora’s mad husband, Justin; Justin is “the problem” alluded to earlier, the reason these Collinses lock their bedroom doors at night.

Flora and Julia quickly dispose of Lamar’s body by taking it out to the woods and burying it.

The focus now shifts to the alternate Collinses. We’ve seen the last of Desmond, Leticia, and the 1840s Collins family too. The final episodes of Dark Shadows play out in the other reality with a bunch of people we barely know.

The Lottery (not by Shirley Jackson)

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Dark Shadows: Leaving 1840

And leaving behind Dark Shadows in the 1970s too…

I stopped the last time with Daphne and Quentin finding themselves in that alternate reality that intersects with an empty room in the abandoned east wing of Collinwood.

They don’t stay there very long–only a few minutes, enough to witness Catherine accepting Morgan’s proposal and hear the alt-Samantha’s advice that the couple live somewhere else once they’re married. Alt-Samantha takes care of someone named Justin, who apparently isn’t able to talk but the family hopes will speak again someday. Then the alt-Daphne comes in, and Quentin and Daphne are suddenly back in the empty room in their own reality.

What’s amusing about this is when Daphne tries to explain to Quentin what’s just happened, repeating what Professor Stokes told her about “parallel time”. Quentin responds, “Yes, of course! The Weitzman Principle!”

Because a man who builds trans-dimensional staircases would immediately grasp these complicated concepts.  “But that was only a theory…” He’s read about the possibility of alternate universes and is fascinated at being in one, however briefly.

Desmond and Quentin face execution“This is the most incredible thing that’s ever happened to me,” says the man who’s been accused of witchcraft by his best friend, who happens to be possessed by the severed head of a 150-year-old warlock in a glass box.

Once he’s back in his own Collinwood, however, Quentin is in danger of being recaptured and executed.

Gerard has been following the comings and goings of Daphne, her sister Joanna, and Dr. Julia Hoffman (who is going by “Julia Collins” in this time period) to the warehouse by the docks,  where Quentin and his wounded cousin Desmond have been hiding since they escaped from jail. Julia has patched up Desmond and says that he’ll able to travel soon. Quentin wants Daphne to come with them.

But Gerard has other plans. He puts a spell on Daphne so that she accepts his proposal and the wedding ceremony is performed right away in the drawing room. When Quentin hears about this, he falls into the trap set for him and rushes back to Collinwood to put a stop to it. He’s too late. Gerard and Daphne are married.  She’s free of the spell once she’s his wife; she knows that Gerard is really the warlock Judah Zachary, but she’s helpless to do anything about it.

Lamar Trask was waiting for Quentin behind the drawing-room door with a gun.  Not only is Quentin taken back to jail, but the police get Desmond too.

Poor Desmond never had a trial, but since he’s been consorting with a convicted warlock, the judges decide summarily that he must also be guilty.  Both men will be executed the next day.

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Dark Shadows: Daphne Discovers the Alternate Dimension

In the aftermath of his elder brother Quentin being found guilty of witchcraft and the family estate subsequently coming under the control of Gerard Stiles, Gabriel Collins seethes with resentment. Gerard, who is the real warlock around here, set Quentin up–but Gabriel doesn’t know that. He only knows that he hates Gerard almost as much as he hates Quentin.

Gabriel pretends he’s unable to leave his wheelchair, but he can walk well enough when he’s up to something. Increasingly jealous of his wife Edith’s relationship with Gerard and outraged at her constant insults to him about her preference for the other man, he waits until he is alone with her at Collinwood. He leaves his chair and sneaks around the house to jump out and strangle her.

Edith dead? Continuity problem: If Edith is dead in 1840, then she can’t be  the Granny Collins we saw on on her deathbed in 1897. Then who is? It’s not Samantha, Quentin’s wife, and there don’t seem to be any other options among the present female Collinses.

There have been other apparent discrepancies lately. Do the writers just not care about matching up their timelines as the show heads toward its final episodes?

Gabriel conceals his wife’s body in the abandoned east wing (since the house was only built in the 1790s, I begin to wonder if the east wing was ever occupied). The governess Daphne, wandering upstairs, makes her way into the empty corridors in that part of the house and eventually stumbles on that room that intersects with an alternate dimension.

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