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The Journal of Bloglandia: The Dark Shadows Issue

“As a little girl in the early ’70s, I would come home from school every day and turn on the TV to watch reruns of what we called ‘Barnabas Collins,’ the show about the vampire.”

And 40 years later, she watched it all again from the very beginning. It started as a brief blog experiment: watch and review the earliest episodes of the 1960s soap opera Dark Shadows before the arrival of vampire Barnabas Collins… but then it kept going. In the end, Kathryn L. Ramage watched the entire series of more than 1200 episodes and wrote about the experience. This book presents the highlights of those reviews.


Sample pages
 

Where to buy: Amazon (eligible for free shipping). Not available in eBook format.

The Wapshott Press, publisher of Storylandia, is now an Amazon Charity. Yay! So if you could please choose Wapshott Press as your charity when you’re shopping at Amazon, it will help us a lot. Here’s the link to make Wapshott Press your charity, and you only have to register once.

DART Review: The Masks of Nyarlathotep: Part 4

At the beginning of this part, our band of adventurers breaks up into two groups, each following a separate line of investigation from the clues they’ve gathered so far. Time, they feel, is growing short.

Victoria Woodhull and Cecil Watson set sail for Australia on Cornelius Vanderbilt III‘s yacht. “Neily” is another old friend of Victoria’s. Hazel Claflin and Zeke Ford head farther south into Africa, along with Dr. Ali Kafour of the Cairo Museum, an Egyptologist who aided them during their adventures in Egypt.

We follow the latter party first.

Kenya

Hazel, Zeke, and Dr. Kafour sail to Mombasa and go to Nairobi. Zeke is still in a stunned and badly shaken state after his experiences at the end of Part 3.

Props: Map of Kenya, and other items

In Nairobi, they locate the guide who led Roger Carlyle’s sister to the site where he and his Expedition were killed, and to bring their bodies back for burial. The guide, Sam Mariga, agrees to lead them to the place where the bodies were found.

They’re also going to a semi-mythical place known as the Mountain of the Black Wind which is said to be an “unclean place… of darkness” where a powerful witch lives.

Before they set out, Dr. Kafour talks to the doctor who examined the bodies–what was left of them. There wasn’t really enough for proper, individual identification but, as the doctor concludes, who else could it have been?

Hazel flirts with a drunken former soldier in a bar who claims he met Jack Brady some years after the Carlyle Expedition was supposedly slaughtered, and who believes that the natives executed for the crime were innocent.

Are members of the Expedition still alive? If they are, what really happened to them? Hazel and her friends have heard several different versions of their fate during the story so far, but now it’s time to find the truth.

Continue reading “DART Review: The Masks of Nyarlathotep: Part 4”

DART Review: The Masks of Nyarlathotep: Part 3

Me and the Sphinx

This part was my favorite because of the setting. I went to Egypt last year after listening to another Dark Adventure Radio Theatre, Imprisoned with the Pharoahs, and because I couldn’t resist the opportunity to stand between the paws of the Sphinx. So I was delighted to hear the adventurers of this story going to some of the same places I’d been to.

Egypt

Insurance agent Cecil Watson is amazed to see camels in Cairo.

After the events at the end of Part 2, Cecil, Hazel, et al are traveling incognito. They’re staying under the name of Rockefeller at Shepheard’s Hotel, since they’re in the Rockefellers’ suite (the family has kindly lent it to Victoria while wintering elsewhere).

The group’s primary goal at this point is to find out what really happened to the missing Carlyle Expedition and how it relates to whatever all these cults around the world are planning. Before they follow their separate lines of investigation around the city, Zeke proposes a rule to his companions, to help them guard themselves against the vengeful Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh:

Postcard from Cairo

“Never go anywhere alone.”

It seems like I’ve heard that somewhere before.

Continue reading “DART Review: The Masks of Nyarlathotep: Part 3”

DART Review: The Masks of Nyarlathotep: Part 2

At the end of Part 1 of The Masks of Nyarlathotep, Victoria Woodhull stayed behind in New York to take care of some unfinished business in the city and to keep a promise she made. Her companions Hazel Claflin, Zeke Ford, and Cecil Watson went on ahead to England to continue their investigation.

Props: Letters, translations, and a cocktail napkin

England

When the trio arrives, they make themselves at home in Victoria’s spacious London flat under the care of her loyal Indian man- servant, Gupta.

Hazel’s been reading a book about occult sects in Africa during her ocean voyage, and she’s learned a thing or two about Nyarlathotep since her encounter with the Cult of the Bloody Tongue:

“That name’s Egyptian, but the god itself is older than the Egyptians. It has countless forms and manifestations for worshippers throughout the world, organized into different cults.”

Which gives our heroes some idea of what they’re up against.

Continue reading “DART Review: The Masks of Nyarlathotep: Part 2”

DART Review: The Masks of Nyarlathotep: Part 1

This latest episode of Dark Adventure Radio Theatre represents an ambitious undertaking from the HP Lovecraft Historical Society: A 6-disk, 7-hour audio play that spans five continents and includes an international cast of characters based, not on an original Lovecraft story, but on a Chaosium role-playing game.

Each disk in the boxed set breaks the story up into chapters, as the setting moves from one country to the next. I’m going to divide my review into the same sections, and try not to give too much away as the story progresses.

Props

America

It begins in New York City in the 1920s, at an engagement party for Hazel Claflin (Sarah van der Pol) and Marcus Buchannan in the grand ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria.

The Claflin family is quite prominent both socially and politically, and includes a state governor and a Speaker of the House.

Oh, and Hazel’s cousin is Victoria Woodhull (Kacey Camp),the pioneer American feminist who ran for President in 1872. Still an active old lady in her 80s, she’s come all the way from England to attend her young cousin’s party and upcoming wedding.

While at the party, Hazel receives a phone call from an old boyfriend, Jackson Elias, a writer and world traveler who researches cults and other arcane mysteries. His most recent investigation has placed him in grave danger and he desperately needs her help. Hazel goes to him–she feels she owes it to him since their relationship ended badly. Marcus insists on coming along with her.

“We’ll be back before you know it,” Marcus says as the young couple exits.

Given this set-up, the listener might anticipate that Jackson will drag both Hazel and Marcus along on a series of exciting and terrifying adventures, and it will be quite some time before they return to their guests at the party.

But that’s not what happens.

Continue reading “DART Review: The Masks of Nyarlathotep: Part 1”

Dark Shadows Revival: Episodes 9-10

Carrying on with the 1790s storyline.

Episode 9: HPhyllis Wickeow Barnabas Became a Vampire

In 1991, Phyllis Wicke remains dangerously ill with diphtheria, but she retains a connection with the events she was once part of in 1790 before she and Vicky switched places. In her delirious state, she tells the present-day inhabitants of Collinwood that it was such a pity, that handsome young man being killed. She’s referring to Jeremiah Collins, Barnabas’s younger brother.

When we jump to the 1790s story, the Collinses of that era are attending Jeremiah’s funeral. Josette, still under Angelique’s love-spell, is in hysterics over her husband’s coffin and sobs that Barnabas has “killed my only love!”

The pastor performing the service speaks of Jeremiah dying in a “tragic firearms accident” instead of being shot in a duel. The Collinses are already hard at work covering up their family secrets and rewriting the past.

Witchfinder TraskWitchfinder Trask interrupts the funeral, arriving to arrest the witch responsible for this calamity: not Angelique, but Victoria Winters.

The family protests, apart from Aunt Abigail, who literally points an  accusatory finger at Vicky.  Trask hauls Vicky into a carriage and takes her to the Collinsport Gaol.

Barnabas comes to the jail to stop any interrogation before Trask can lay a hand on her. He seems to think the whole thing is ridiculous even if the old witchcraft laws are still on the books, and tries to reassure Vicky that nothing bad will happen to her; she’ll be acquitted and she certainly will never be hanged as a witch.

But if you remember the original series, you know exactly how this is going to turn out. Vicky has every reason to be worried.

Continue reading “Dark Shadows Revival: Episodes 9-10”

Dark Shadows Revival: Episodes 7-8

The last episode ended with a seance, during which Victoria Winters Seance disappeared abruptly from the table to be replaced by another young woman, who was wearing colonial-era clothes and  immediately collapsed. A letter of recommendation she carried with her addressed to Joshua Collins provided her name, Phyllis Wicke*, and a date of April 1790.

The inhabitants of modern-day Collinwood wonder: Is that where Vicky has gone?

Let’s find out.

Episode 7: 1790

Unlike the original series during this same storyline, time does not stand still at Collinwood. Vicky is gone, but life goes on in the 1990s. Before we even find out what happened to her, this episode begins with Dr. Hoffman and Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard looking after the unconscious 1790s governess.

Phyllis WickAfter she’s tended to the young woman, Julia asks Barnabas if he recognized her. He confirms that he does: Phyllis Wicke was indeed governess to the children, and she arrived at Collinwood 200 years ago in pretty much the same state. The mail-coach from Boston overturned on its way to Collinsport and she was injured. She recovered from that, but soon afterward became ill from a fever and died.

Elizabeth falls asleep while sitting at Phyllis’s bedside. When Phyllis wakes up, she dashes out of the room and out of the house wearing only her colonial underwear.

Continue reading “Dark Shadows Revival: Episodes 7-8”

The Unnamable

H.P. Lovecraft’s 1925 short story The Unnamable, about something too horrible to be named that dwells in an ancient and abandoned house,   provides a basis for this 1988 low-budget horror film.

The original story is very short. You can read it in about 5 minutes online at: http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/u.aspx.

The Face in the Window So brief a story naturally needs some filling out to become a feature-length movie. In this case, I’m sorry to say they took the unimaginative route of making another standard-template slasher movie–which came thick and fast throughout the ’80s following the success of  Halloween and Friday the 13th; I watched more of them in those days than I can remember now. But it does have one really good feature that shows some creativity.

We start off well enough, with an historical flashback. Going by the costumes and later dialog (as well as the dates given in the original story), it’s the 17th century. An old man has locked some unseen creature that breathes with a loud, purring noise like a lion into a room in his attic. The heavy door features a huge padlock and chains, and a small perforated peephole (recalling the red door from The Shuttered Room).

While he’s downstairs in his study–or perhaps a laboratory given the jars of colored liquid and powders–attempting to read from his collection of quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore, the thing in that room continues to thump on the door and make howling noises.

Wizard WinthropFinally, he goes upstairs to speak to it, addressing it as a “denizen of Hell” and promising that someday he will find the means to enable it to walk in the daylight. Then he unwisely unlocks and opens the door, and gets his heart torn out of his chest.

The next day, a group of men including a clergyman of unspecified denomination gather the mutilated body up into a sheet. They call the old man a wizard, and the clergyman places some kind of religious invocation on the house, declaring that the evil within it will never be able to pass its walls. The men carry the wrapped-up body out to the adjacent cemetery, quickly lower it down inside an above-ground tomb that’s ready and waiting, and place the stone slab over the top. After the others scurry away, the clergyman remains to complete a short funeral service; he glances repeatedly and nervously up at the attic window of the house behind him, then hastens away as well.

From there, we jump to the same churchyard about 300 years later–that is, modern times. This is the part of the film that sticks most closely to Lovecraft’s story, except there are three young men sitting against the tombstones instead of two.

In addition to our Lovecraft stand-in, Randolph Carter, and his friend Joel Manton, the third boy is named Howard. They’re all students at good old Miskatonic U, the campus of which is just a short walk away.

Continue reading “The Unnamable”

The Legacy

The Legacy is one of those sophisticated devil-worshipper films that were popular during the 1970s following Rosemary’s Baby. While it has some narrativeBestowing the ring flaws, it was one of the staples of my late-night TV viewing as a teenager and I still have a fondness for it.  The story plays out as if it were an old-fashioned, country-house murder mystery and features a number of  grisly, magically induced baroque deaths. But there’s really little doubt about who’s responsible in the end.

Los Angeles architect Maggie Walsh (Katharine Ross) receives a job offer in England. The work itself isn’t clearly defined, but the letter encloses a check for $50,000 as a retainer–a massive amount of money in the 1970s–and asks that Maggie be in the UK by a specific date a couple of weeks away.  Her business partner and lover Pete Danner (Sam Elliott)* is dubious about taking a job they know nothing about, but the check is certainly real.

Maggie decides to accept. In fact, she wants to go right away to spend a few days as a tourist and to look up “where her English blood came from” before meeting with her client.

During the opening credits, accompanied by the movie theme song sung by Kiki Dee, we see Pete and Maggie in London, then zipping around the countryside on a motorcycle. They pass through a charming little village, stop to have a picnic lunch beside a stream, then ride down a narrow lane where they swerve off suddenly into the trees to avoid a crash with a Rolls Royce coming up the other way.

Motorcycle crashThe owner of the Rolls (John Standing) is extremely apologetic as he  checks the couple for injuries. They aren’t hurt, but the motorcycle is a bit banged up.

The gentleman offers to take them to his house for a spot of tea while the local mechanic comes for the bike and repairs it. Only when they’re actually in the back of the limo does he introduce himself as Jason Mountolive.

After a brief stop in that village for Harry the chauffeur to speak to the garage mechanic, they drive on to Jason’s house, Ravenshurst, which is a lovely old mansion on a grand estate.

Jason sends his guests in through the front door, telling them that “Adams” will take care of them. He stays in the car as it goes around to the back. While he seemed perfectly fine while talking to Maggie and Pete after the accident, something is seriously wrong with him; he’s very weak, and the chauffeur has to help him out of the car and up the back stairs to his room.

Maggie and Pete, meanwhile, are impressed by the gorgeous interior of the house. They see no sign of Adams or anyone else, apart from a white cat with mismatched eyes like David Bowie–one green and one blue.

The drawing room

Continue reading “The Legacy”

Dark Shadows Revival: Episodes 5-6

The next installment of my review of the sadly short-lived 1991 Dark Shadows revival series. The story line is still following the general plot of the film House of Dark Shadows, but that’s not going to last much longer.

Julia HoffmanEpisode 5: Dr. Hoffman’s Disastrous Jealousy

Barnabas’s courtship of Victoria Winters continues. Similar to the character in the film–as opposed to in the original series–this Barnabas Collins demonstrates that he’s aware that the best way to win the affection of the young lady he believes to be the reincarnation of his lost love isn’t to kidnap her and lock her up in the basement until she believes she’s Josette. Dinner dates will get him much farther.

Giving Vicky Josette’s music box as a gift after one such dinner does a lot too. Even better: asking her to dance the minuet to the music-box tune. It’s a lovely, romantic moment. Barnabas mightn’t have done badly to propose right then, but instead he prefers to wait to pop the question until he’s completed his treatment and is fully human again.

Unfortunately for him, Vicky plays the music box in her room the next morning as she wistfully looks back on their evening. Dr. Hoffman, who’s still living at Collinwood, hears the music and learns where Vicky got it from. After a conversation a couple of episodes ago, Julia had mistakenly imagined that Barnabas would give this significant present to her himself.

The minuet

Continue reading “Dark Shadows Revival: Episodes 5-6”

Dark Shadows Revival: Episodes 2-4

The next three episodes, following up on my review of the Revival Series pilot.

Episode 2: Daphne Dies Twice

While watching the pilot, I realized that this revival more closely followed the story of House of Dark Shadows than that of the original series, but with the newly created character of Daphne Collins in place of her cousin Carolyn for the Lucy Westernra role of victim-turned-vampire. This doesn’t leave Carolyn with much to do in these early episodes, but it keeps her alive for later plotlines that never had a chance to unfold.

Daphne meets Barnabas on the Collinwood terraceBefore Julia Hoffman first suspected that Barnabas was a vampire, she let slip that Daphne’s memory could return at any time.  Barnabas, unable to  take the risk that Daphne might be able to identify her attacker, summons her telepathically out of the house, past the sleeping deputy and Joe who are supposed to be keeping watch over her. Daphne meets Barnabas out on one of the Collinwood terraces and is bitten one last time.

When the two men wake the next morning, they run searching around the outside of the house until they find her lying where Barnabas left her, dead.

After Daphne’s funeral, we get a scene that’s straight out of House of Dark Shadows: David is bouncing a ball against a flight of steps on another terrace and chanting, “If I catch this one, Daphne isn’t dead.” He repeats this three or four times, and catches the ball every time. This spooks him a little, and with the hour getting late, he decides to head back inside. But his late cousin Daphne steps out of the mists and shadows to try and take a bite out of him.

Vampire DaphneDavid runs into the house and tells the grown-ups what he’s just seen. No one believes him except for Professor Woodard (standing in for Prof. Stokes, who believed him in the movie) and perhaps Dr. Hoffman, although she doesn’t say so.

Still scoffing, Daphne’s bereaved boyfriend Joe Haskell goes over to the Collins family crypt in the cemetery and meets up with Daphne for himself.

Continue reading “Dark Shadows Revival: Episodes 2-4”