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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.

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.

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Daughters of Darkness

Daughters of DarknessThe late 1960s and early ’70s were the prime era for UK or Euro lesbian vampire films. Most were based, more or less, on Sheridan LeFanu’s Victorian novella, Carmilla. A smaller number use the historical figure Erzsebet BathoryDaughters of Darkness is one of the latter, and makes “the Blood Countess” an actual vampire instead of an all too real, human monster.

Daughters of Darkness is remarkably international. It was filmed in Belgium by Belgium director Harry Kümel, but funded by six or seven different countries. Its star is famous French actress, Delphine Seyrig, but producers in their respective nations also contributed German actress Andrea Rau and French Canadian actress Danielle Ouimet (playing a Swiss). America’s contribution was the lead actor, a Brooklyn boy playing British–I think; the character’s name and his accent sound more Eastern European than Brit to me.  Anyway, it’s John Karlen, who has had previous experience dealing with vampires. He’s the reason I wanted to look at this film after seeing the trailer for it on one of the Dark Shadows extra features DVDs.

This film begins on a train, with newlywed couple Stefan and Valerie Chiltern demonstrating how to have sex within the confines of an upper berth. She seems a nice enough young woman, if a tad vapid, but we soon learn that there’s something just a little off about him.

Due to an accident on the line ahead, their train is late arriving at Ostend and they miss that evening’s ferry to England. While they wait for the next  ferry, the couple checks in at the massive Hotel des Thermes right on the beach. It’s the middle of winter, so the hotel is empty and seems to be staffed only by one elderly concierge, who gives them the Royal Suite.

Stefan and Valerie

Not that Stefan minds the delay. He’s reluctant to get home with his bride. When he asks the concierge to put in a phone call to the UK for him, he slips the man a note as well as a tip. The note asks the concierge to say that he couldn’t get the call through.

Why doesn’t Stefan want to go home? It’s his mother, who he says will not welcome this impulsive marriage, which followed a whirlwind romance during a few weeks’ vacation in Switzerland. “She already hates you and she doesn’t even know you exist,” he tells Valerie.

Mother is going to be the least of their problems. While the couple discusses the matter over dinner, another pair of guests arrives in a stylish, old-fashioned car: the Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who is dressed like a glamorous 1930s movie star (Seyrig’s look specifically recalls Marlene Dietrich) and her cherry-lipped companion, Ilona.  The concierge is surprised to see the Countess; he’s sure he’s seen her before, 40 years ago when he was first working at the hotel as a young bellhop. And yet the lady doesn’t look as if she can be much more than 40 (she admits to 35).

Countess Elizabeth Bathory“It must have been my mother,” she responds coolly.

The Countess wants the Royal Suite for herself, until she catches sight of the newlyweds in the dining room. She takes immediate  interest in the young couple, and accepts the suite next to theirs. In the privacy of their room that night, the Countess and Ilona discuss their neighbors. The Countess hasn’t stopped talking about Valerie since she first saw her, which makes Ilona jealous.

When Ilona observes that Valerie and her husband will only be staying at the hotel for one night, the Countess replies that many things can change in a night.

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Dark Shadows: The Revival Series

The Dark Shadows Revival series aired in 1991, but ran for only 13 episodes. I never saw it at the time, but have heard something about it since and was interested because of the cast. It’s too easy to say “I can’t imagine anybody but So-and-so playing that role”–I tend to be more curious about recasting, and more forgiving, if it’s an actor I already know and like. Jean Simmons as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, for example, or horror-film icon Barbara Steele as Dr. Julia Hoffman. Ben Cross from Chariots of Fire as Barnabas? I definitely had to have a look.

Barnabas returns!

Last week, to celebrate the publication of my new book about blogging   Dark Shadows from beginning to end, I bought the revival series DVD set. I’m not going to review each episode individually, but the pilot is an hour and a half, the same length as a standard feature film; I’m going to consider that by itself before I go on with the rest in batches, and try to stay with my first impressions.

The episode opens with a train winding along a coast at sunset. When I first saw this, I said, “Vicky’s taking Amtrak.” Then I noticed that the sunset was on the wrong side. This show was filmed in California, not on the east coast where you’d  never see the sun setting on the Atlantic Ocean.

As she did at the beginning of the original series, Vicky introduces herself in voiceover:

Vicky's train“My name is Victoria Winters. My journey is beginning, a journey  I hope will open the doors of life to me and link my past with my future. It is a journey that will bring me to a strange and dark place… to a house called Collinwood. To a world I’ve never known, with people I’ve never met, people who tonight are still only shadows in my mind and who will soon fill the days and nights of my tomorrows.”

I haven’t compared them word for word, but this sounds very much like her speech in the first episode of the old show. We do not, however, go from Vicky (Joanna Going) on the train to Roger and Elizabeth waiting for her and arguing about whether or not she should have come to Collinwood.

Instead, Elizabeth is getting Vicky’s room ready for her with the help of the housekeeper Mrs. Johnson (Juliana McCarthy, who was Enabran Tain’s housekeeper Mila on Deep Space Nine, although I didn’t recognize her without the Cardassian makeup).  Elizabeth’s daughter Carolyn and her niece Daphne are also present. I wondered if Daphne was meant to be Roger’s  daughter and David’s elder sister, but later on she’ll be referred to as Roger’s niece as well, so there must have been another Collins sibling who was her parent.

Roger (Roy Thinnes) and Elizabeth do have a conversation about why David needs a governess and can’t go back to the local public school “after what happened,” but their focus is on the boy’s behavior and not on Vicky herself.

Vicky, meanwhile, has arrived at the Collinsport train station. It’s after dark. No Burke Devlin gets off the train with her, but I wasn’t expecting him to be there. She walks over to the Blue Whale, run by Sam Evans and his daughter Maggie, and phones Collinwood to ask that someone come and pick her up. Daphne is at the Blue Whale too by this time with her hunky boyfriend Joe Haskell. I experienced a moment of confusion regarding the two similar-looking blonde Collins girls, since I thought that Carolyn would be with Joe. This time around, Daphne’s the one he’s dating. Not that we should get too attached to Daphne.

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The VVitch

The witch

“Wouldst thou like the taste of butter?
A pretty dress?
Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?
Wouldst thou like to see the world?”

 

All that in exchange for signing your name in a book and handing over your immortal soul.

The VVitch is titled in that style to mimic the printed works of the 16th and early 17th century, when U, V, and W weren’t quite distinguished as separate letters of the alphabet. This was one of the things that attracted me to this movie before I even saw it. The other thing was learning that the language used was also in the period style, with dialog taken directly from pamphlets and trial accounts of the era. While some have found this mode of speech and the character’s accents off-putting, for me it’s the best thing about the movie. The way the characters talk and their social and religious attitudes are as close as we’ll probably ever get to authentically historic, while remaining accessible to a modern audience.

Aside from a few quibbles–like the breed of dog, the number of candles, or the pierced holes in the  heroine’s earlobes–the look of this film is also marvelously well done with regard to historic details. It feels right.

Subtitled “A New-England Folktale,” The VVitch evokes several classic  fairytales, but gives them a darker turn. It’s almost a version of Hansel and Gretel in which the witch triumphs.

It’s 1630 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. We meet a transplanted Yorkshire family with no given last name as the father William (Ralph Ineson) is being judged by members of a Puritan council. With him are his wife Kate (Kate Dickie), their teenage daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), 12-year-old Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), and the 6-year old twins, Jonas and Mercy.

William is having religious differences with the elders. Those who came from England to the North American colonies during this period seeking religious freedom were generally in one of two categories: Puritans, who sought to purify the Church of England and remove all taint of Catholicism and “Popish” practice from its rites and ceremonies, and separatists, who gave the Church up as impossibly corrupt and wanted to strike out on their own with their individual ideas of true Christianity. William falls into this second category, and his ideas are out of accord with the rest of the community.

After calling the council “false Christians” and declaring his beliefs to be the true way, William is banished from the colony. He loads his family into a cart and they head out alone into the wilderness.

They journey for two days before they come to a meadow near a vast primeval wood and decide that this is the place where God meant them to settle. Everyone kneels to pray.

The farm

We next see the family some months later, in the bleak, late autumn: the trees are bare and a small field of colorful but somewhat blighted corn has been harvested into standing stacks. There’s also a withered garden. William has built a one-room thatched cottage and a goat-shed, but a larger barn is still under construction. Kate has had a new baby since the family settled here, a little boy named Samuel.

Unfortunately, with the family living in such isolated circumstances, Samuel hasn’t been baptized.

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Dark Shadows: The Skinwalkers

The Skinwalkers
I bought this Dark Shadows dramatic reading CD at the same time I bought The Ghost Watcher. Of the two, I liked that one better. I picked this one because it had to do with that period just after Quentin Collins’s departure from Collinwood in 1897, which is a part of the story I thought I’d like to hear more about.

This audio story begins with that gramophone music of Quentin’s that we’ve heard 400 times before, a sweet and sentimental old waltz. Quentin (read by David Selby, as always) announces that he’s “the last man standing, as ever.” Locked in a room, all alone. No, wait. Angelique (read by Lara Parker)  whispers in the background until Quentin finally hears her. The two strike up a conversation.

After some banter about the old days, Quentin settles in to tell Angelique the story of what happened to him after he left Collinwood.

He says that he arrived in New York City in 1899–which is odd, since that’s where he was headed for when he got on a train at the Collinsport station in the autumn of 1897. Either that was a very long trip, or else in his sleepless and brandified state, he got on the wrong train, ended up on the far side of the country, and took some months to get back to the East Coast.

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The Quiet Ones

The Professor and his team So you think I got an evil mind?
Well, I’ll tell you, honey–
I don’t know why.
And I don’t know why…

anymore.

Most Americans are probably more familiar with Quiet Riot’s cover of “Cum On Feel The Noize” in the 1980s, but it was originally a big hit in the UK for a band called Slade in the early ’70s. You’ll hear a lot of that song in The Quiet Ones, a Hammer revival film set in 1974; it’s just the kind of music you want to use to keep a suicidally depressed girl with a poltergeist from getting any sleep.

Now, why would anybody want to do that?

It’s a psychological experiment. Oxford professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris, the luckless Lane Pryce on Mad Men) explains it during a lecture just before he hires a cameraman to document his work.

“What if you could prove that the supernatural was merely a manifestation of what already exists in the mind, the subconscious?” The professor doesn’t believe in ghosts or demons, but that the negative energy of a disturbed mind can create the type of physical phenomena that looks like a haunting or possession. He thinks that he’s near to finding a cure for it; if he can externalize the phenomena, it can be removed like a tumor. “We cure one patient, we cure all mankind.”

The patient he has in mind is a young woman named Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke). Orphaned at an early age, with no memory of her past, Jane has grown up in a series of foster homes but she’s never stayed anywhere for very long. Sooner or later, “things started to happen”–poltergeist activity that made it impossible for her foster family to keep her. After she was hospitalized for a suicide attempt, Jane came voluntarily into Coupland’s care. He’s currently keeping her in a house in town, under the observation of three student assistants. No, make that two assistants. One quits, angry and appalled at what he calls Coupland’s “unethical” practices before he storms off.

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The Resurrected

Some time ago, when I was reviewing the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre’s audioplay  The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, I cited the two rather loose film adaptations of this same HP Lovecraft story that I was familiar with: AIP’s Lovecraft-dressed-up-as-Poe Haunted Palace starring Vincent Price (which I really am going to review one of these days), and this film, which is Lovecraft noir placed in a modern setting.

The Resurrected was released in 1991, and everything about it has the looks of that late ’80s-early ’90s period.

Curwen and Ward

In my above review of the audioplay, I mentioned that both films have one significant change. In Lovecraft’s story, Charles Dexter Ward is a boy in his teens and early twenties. The films make him much older, and a married man as well. Chris Sarandon, who plays Ward here, was just short of 50.

After an introductory scene at the asylum, in which we learn that mental patient Charles Ward has escaped out the window of his padded cell, leaving behind the beheaded body of the orderly and a large. strange burnmark on the floor, our protagonist and narrator, private detective John March (John Terry) sits in his office and reports that this is the end of the case of Charles Dexter Ward. Like Carl Kolchak–or more like Walter Neff, since he’s bleeding from a wound in his shoulder–he speaks into a tape recorder.

“Three weeks ago,” he tells us, “Providence was a sane enough place.”

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Time Team Travels: A Corner of Westminster Abbey

I’ve visited Westminster Abbey a half-dozen times since I first went to London in the 1980s. I’ve been inside 2 or 3 times, and found myself inadvertently standing on a grave-slab in the floor over someone famous: Sir Isaac Newton on one occasion, and Aphra Behn at a later date.

Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey

I don’t intend to give a general overview of the Abbey inside or out, nor of its long history.  For the purposes of this blog, I’m concerned only with my most recent visit, which was a very brief drop-by while I was in London one spring afternoon.  As long as I was nearby, I had to take a few minutes to  see the site of  Time Team’s 17th-series opening episode, Corridors of Power.

In this episode, Time Team was looking for the location of the sacristy of Henry III, the 13th-century king who began building the current abbey to replace the older abbey of Edward the Confessor on this same site (although it wasn’t finished until more than a century later; in the nave you can see the point where the original, elaborate stonework was left off and resumed in a more simply carved fashion).

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Dark Shadows: The Ghost Watcher

I’ve been left hanging about the fate of Quentin and Barnabas Collins after the fiery conclusion of The Rage Beneath. Unable to obtain the next episode in this particular audio series, or even to confirm what the next title is, I ended up purchasing a couple of other Dark Shadows dramatic readings, based on how interesting their descriptions sounded.

The Ghost Watcher, has the following description on its back cover:

As Maggie Evans leaves the Windcliff Institute, she begins to build a new life for herself away from the Collins family.The Ghost Watcher But when an enigmatic stranger arrives in town, searching for phantoms, Maggie finds herself plunged into a world of intrigue and danger.

What is the Ghost Watcher’s secret, and what is the true cost of his gift to the people of Collinsport?

Dramatic readings, unlike audio dramas, are voiced only by one or two actors rather than a full cast. In this case, Kathryn Leigh Scott tells the tale through her character’s voice, assisted by Alec Newman as Nathan Hawkins, the Ghost Watcher. The Collins family are peripheral figures: Barnabas makes a brief appearance, Roger sort of floats around in the background, and Carolyn shows up a couple of times to converse with Maggie–but this isn’t their story.  This one is Maggie’s own.

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