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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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 by 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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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: 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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