Dark Shadows: How Barnabas Stopped Being a Vampire

After their car crashes on the way to the cemetery, Vicky and Barnabas are taken to the local hospital. Vicky’s got a few minor injuries, but the hospital staff are alarmed that the unconscious Barnabas apparently has no blood pressure or pulse. This man needs a transfusion right away! He is soon under the care of a Dr. Lang, who seems to pick up on what Barnabas is pretty quickly and isn’t afraid to say the word “Vampire” out loud.

Except that Barnabas isn’t a vampire anymore. That blood transfusion started his cure, and Dr. Lang gives him injections that further it. He no longer craves blood and can stand the sunlight.

One of the subplots that was dropped during the long storyline set in 1795 was the enmity between Barnabas and Dr. Julia Hoffman. Dr. Hoffman was at the point of a nervous breakdown when Vicky went into the past but was perfectly fine and medically competent when Vicky returned and took change of her recovery. The doctor and Barnabas are allies again. When he first comes to in the hospital after the accident, he demands that they send for her as his personal physician. Dr. Hoffman does rush right over but by the time she gets there his transformation has already begun. She and Dr. Lang have some previous acquaintance as well; neither of them believes that the other’s attempt to cure Barnabas is the most effective way to do it.

By a remarkable co-incidence, the young man Vicky nearly ran over works for Dr. Lang. He was also the one who thoughtfully phoned for an ambulance. While she’s still in the hospital, he introduces himself. Even though he looks exactly like Peter Bradford from 1795, his name is Jeff Clark. This new name doesn’t stop Vicky from believing that he’s the same person, keeping his promise to seek her out through time, although she doesn’t harp too much on it and scare him away by sounding like a lunatic.

As it turns out, Jeff’s pretty well inured to the bizarre. What was he doing up at the cemetery in the middle of night? Collecting spare body parts, of course.
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Dark Shadows: Back in 1968

After being hanged as a witch in 1795, Vicky finds herself back in 1968, lying on the floor of the Collinwood drawing-room with a group of concerned people gathered all around her. The whole time-travel sequence might have been a dream, except that she’s wearing the same old-fashioned dress she was wearing in 1795 and she has a bandaged bullet wound on her arm. (She was winged while escaping from the jail.) Plus, everybody else in the room saw that other woman who said she was the Collinses’ governess.

Vicky back in 1968In her first moments of disorientation. Vicky speaks to the people around her as if they were their 1795 counterparts. Most of them are merely confused, but one of them is actually the same person.

When she speaks to 1968 Barnabas as if he were 1795 Barnabas, it disturbs him very much. When he learns that she’s actually been living in 1795, he’s certain she knows more about his past than she really does. Being shut up in jail during all the goings-on up at Collinwood, she missed out on a lot, especially the part where Barnabas became a vampire.

While watching the 1795 storyline, I wondered if modern-day Barnabas remembered Vicky from that earlier time and why he didn’t recognize her when he was first freed from his coffin. But it turns out that the woman Barnabas recognized was the other governess; he tells Dr. Hoffman that she was the one hanged as a witch, and that somehow Vicky must have taken her place. Not that this really makes sense: what made Vicky so vulnerable to the witchfinder was her odd behavior and foreknowledge of the future. The other governess wouldn’t have done the same things that Vicky did to lead to her arrest, trial, and conviction. Vicky herself will poke holes in this premise. She doesn’t believe that Peter Bradford would have fallen in love with that other governess as he did with her.

Her memories of her adventures in the past are blurred and muddled. She isn’t clear on a lot of what happened. But she doesn’t forget Peter and she feels sure he will keep his promise to try and reach her.

While she’s waiting, other parts of the past have followed her into the present.
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Winding up Dark Shadows 1795

The newly vampired Barnabas falls quickly into the routine of his undead life. He and his henchman Ben Stokes move the coffin to the basement of the otherwise unoccupied old house and Barnabas rises each night to wander the streets of Collinsport in quest of blood. He attacks women who have the misfortune to encounter him. Colonial Collinsport, by the way, has a surprising number of floozies and trollops; it must be because of all the sailors at the port.

He also sinks his teeth into Josette. Not that he intends to at first–he only wanted to warn her away from Collinwood before Angelique’s curse destroyed her too–but now that he’s a vampire, his impulse control has pretty much disappeared. He keeps coming back to her, not simply to feed but to try and make her a vampire as well. Though her family tries to protect her from a danger they don’t fully comprehend, she’s more than willing to go to him, even to the point of slipping out of the house via a secret panel in her bedroom.

Josette as a vampire Of course, this ends badly. Josette can’t escape her fate.

While wandering the cliff top, she encounters the apparition of Angelique, who shows her a pale and ghastly vision of herself as Barnabas’s vampire bride. Horrified, Josette flees and heads straight off the cliff to fulfill that destiny we’ve been hearing about from the first time her name came up in the earliest episodes.
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Dark Shadows 1795: How Barnabas Became a Vampire (Part 2)

If you were worried about Barnabas’s witchy wife Angelique being buried alive, don’t be. It takes more than a premature burial to keep her down.

Jeremiah buries AngeliqueAngelique is dug up and rescued by the Collinses’ indentured servant Ben Stokes, whom she has ensnared with her spells, before she’s even out of breath.

Unfazed by having a dead man come up out of his grave to try to kill her (I guess that’s just the sort of thing that happens when you’re a witch), she is soon focused again upon her ultimate purpose of making Barnabas love her or else destroying him and his entire family–one or the other; she fluctuates wildly between the two from episode to episode, which makes her motivations seem a tad inconsistent.

Meanwhile, Vicky Winters has been arrested for witchcraft due to her 1960s clothes, her odd behavior while adjusting to being thrown over 170 years back in time but still seeing the same familiar faces all around her, and her foreknowledge of certain events. Also, Angelique needs a scapegoat to draw attention away from herself, and poor hapless Vicky is certainly the best candidate.

Vicky does, however, have a few friends. Naomi Collins is as kind and supportive as Elizabeth Stoddard-Collins always was. She also gains a cute young law student named Peter Bradford as her advocate. Barnabas also believes her innocent–at first because he doesn’t believe in superstitious nonsense like witches, then because he suspects who the witch really is. It’s Angelique’s unwilling henchman Ben who finally gives her away, using his new-found basic literacy skills by writing down her initial for Barnabas; he too is sympathetic to Vicky’s plight.

This is where Barnabas’s downfall truly begins. Once he’s certain that his bride is in fact a witch, Barnabas decides to put a stop to her before she can do any more harm. An attempt at poisoning her wine doesn’t work; a plan to stab her is likewise thwarted. By this time, Angelique is aware of his plotting against her and tells him plainly that if he doesn’t knock it off, Josette will be the next one to die. Instead of giving up his plans when faced with this threat, Barnabas first tries to get Josette safely away from Collinsport before he carries on.
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Dark Shadows: How Barnabas Became a Vampire (Part 1)

The old Collins house, looking pretty

Time has been suspended at Collin- wood. It waits for the completion of an uncertain and frightening journey into the past, back to the year 1795…

With some variation, this is the new opening voiceover for every episode of Dark Shadows. Since the character of Victoria Winters has been sent back into the past to witness the beginning of the unhappy story of Barnabas Collins and his family, actress Alexandra Moltke no longer does these introductory speeches and the other women in the cast take turns with it. Sometimes, it’s a voice I don’t recognize and I wonder if the woman speaking is a production assistant or perhaps the show’s director, Lela Swift?

I have to note that when we were first introduced to Josette Collins in the very earliest episodes of Dark Shadows, and even when Barnabas first arrived, the key events of their lives and deaths were supposed to be happening in the 1830s. At some point in the narrative, the timeline shifted back about 40 years to the late colonial era, which is where Vicky suddenly and unexpectedly finds herself.

Vicky has been in love with the past and dreaming about the history of Collinwood for some time, but she’s about to discover that the olden days weren’t all that great to live in.

Not that we’ll see this at first. As we and Vicky approach the old Collins home when it wasn’t so very old, the initial impression is of a bright and cheerful place. There are flowers all around the handsome colonial house. Inside, the drawing room is painted pastel colors–pink and minty green.

Vicky. Barnabas, and SarahBarnabas, who seems like he might’ve once actually been a nice guy before that whole vampire thing, is out in the sunshine with his little sister Sarah, awaiting the arrival of his bride-to-be, Josette, from Martinique.

Vicky is more than a little bewildered, not just by this information that contradicts what she knows of the Collins family history–that Josette was the bride of Jeremiah Collins–but also that this Barnabas who looks just like the Barnabas she knows in 1968 doesn’t recognize her.

Poor Vicky’s bewilderment will only increase as she meets the rest of the family, who also look just like people she already knows. No wonder it takes so long for her to accept that she really is in the past; this double casting gives things a sort of Wizard-of-Oz “and you were there, and you,” dream-like feeling.
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Going on with Dark Shadows after all

It’s been awhile; I’ve continued to watch Dark Shadows on DVD, but for a long time wasn’t sure whether or not I would go on writing about it since we’re now well into the part that most people who know the show at all are already familiar with.

But what the hell.

Since a whole lot has happened since I last wrote about this series and I want to catch up, I’m going to condense the story through a number of episodes.

When last we looked in on Barnabas Collins, he was renovating his old home to make it look as it did when he lived in it over 100 years ago. Now that he has parts of the old house fit to receive company, he invites his family and a few chosen others over for a costume party; he will provide the costumes.

Costume partyNormal people might say “What fun!” or “I’m not dressing up in that silly outfit,” but the Collinses regard the upcoming party with a strange sense of foreboding, as if they’re expecting something terrible to happen. They repeatedly speak of how Vicky is too much in love with the past.

As Barnabas delivers the party clothes, he also provides historical identities for each person, based on whom their clothes used to belong to. Elizabeth Collins Stoddard and her brother Roger are given clothes belonging to Barnabas’s parents Naomi and Joshua. Carolyn’s dress belonged to a cousin named Millicent, and Vicky’s once belonged to Barnabas’s beloved Josette. Burke Devlin, who has also been invited, is given a suit belonging to Josette’s husband, Jeremiah Collins.

Barnabas’s hostility toward Burke isn’t just due to this old rivalry, however; at this point in the story, he’s rather smitten with Vicky himself and she and Burke are about to become engaged. (I’ve no idea what happened to Vicky’s sort-of boyfriend Frank; he just disappeared awhile ago without comment.)
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DVD Review: Hangover Square

This movie begins with a murder.

In a foggy street in turn-of-the-century London, we glimpse an old man through an upper-floor window above an antiques shop, just as he is being stabbed by an unseen assailant. The camera then shifts point-of-view to show the murderer, played by Laird Cregar, as he throws down an oil lamp to set the room ablaze. He walks away from the burning building in a dazed state, ignoring the shouts of “Fire!” and alarm bells ringing behind him, bumping into people on the crowded street and grazing the side of his head on a large wicker basket being carried aloft. Slowly, he begins to recover as someone speaks to him, and makes his way home to Hangover Square.

The story Hangover Square was based upon was originally set in modern times, but after the enormous success of The Lodger, 20th Century Fox remade it into another gaslight thriller set in 1903 and reused the same director, John Brahm, as well as two out of three of the same stars. Laird Cregar basically reprises his role from The Lodger, with one significant difference. The Jack-the-Ripper stand-in in The Lodger was consciously and deliberately a killer of women. Aspiring composer George Bone, on the other hand, is a kind and gentle man most of the time, until loud, discordant noises–like a cartload of gas pipes crashing into the street, for example–send him into a fugue state. At such times, he’s capable of anything.

The hapless George has had several blank spells before, but he’s particularly disturbed when he learns about the death of the antiques dealer; since he came back to himself only a few streets away and found blood on his face and clothes, he’s afraid that he was responsible this murder. Which is he is, although even after several viewings I’m not sure exactly why he killed the man. No overt explanation is ever given and the only point I can see to it, to conceal the theft of a decorative and easily recognizable dagger, comes to nothing since George’s subsequent murder attempts will be stranglings and not stabbings.

On the advice of a young-lady friend who also lives on Hangover Square, George consults a doctor, a well-known Home Office analyst played by George Sanders. The doctor has the blood stains tested and finds them to be George’s own blood from the injury to his head. The doctor also states that there’s no evidence connecting George to the murder–which isn’t quite the same as saying that he couldn’t have done it–and attributes George’s memory lapses to stress. George has been working very hard on a piano concerto which he hopes will be his greatest work and make his name as composer. The doctor advises him to set aside his serious work for awhile and spend time going out and having fun. He means well, but this will only lead George into more trouble.
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DVD Review: The House of Dark Shadows

The House of Dark Shadows is a film based on the popular soap opera, made in 1970 while the show was still running and while some of the original cast were still around. It’s a highly compressed version of the first 100 episodes or so starting with Barnabas Collins’s resurrection, with some events and characters rearranged.

The film begins with Maggie Evans and another young woman whom I don’t know named Daphne searching for David Collins, first around Collinwood–which looks like a real house instead of a collection of flimsy sets. Then Maggie goes over to the abandoned old Collins house to look for the boy. Dialog will later establish that Maggie is David’s governess; Vicky Winters is long gone or else, in this version of the story, never existed.

While at the old house, Maggie runs into Willie Loomis, who apparently works for the Collinses and in his spare time hunts for some long-missing jewels. He tells Maggie about an important clue to their whereabouts and, after David’s father Roger fires him a few minutes later, decides this is the right time to follow up by visiting the Collins family crypt.

Willie gets choked - in color!Willie doesn’t find the jewels, but he does find a coffin sealed with chains, which he opens… and the rest of the scene plays out pretty much as it did in the television version except that it’s in color.

As in the television version of events, all we see of Barnabas is a ringed hand.

Oh, and Daphne? No point in getting attached to her. While leaving Collinwood that evening, she walks down a long and spooky avenue of trees toward her car and becomes Barnabas’s first victim before we’re ten minutes into the movie.
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DVD Review: The Lodger

Having done about all I can with Old Dark Houses, I’m moving on to Gaslight Thrillers–that is, crime and suspense dramas set in the late Victorian era.

The Lodger is a 1944 film, a remake of the silent version directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1927; both are based on a short story by Marie Belloc Lowndes in which a married couple suspects that the gentleman renting their room upstairs in is fact Jack the Ripper. (You can read the original story on the Gaslight Web site at http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/lodger.htm)

Hitchcock’s earlier film took greater liberties with the story–the principle change being that the suspected man was innocent. I’ve heard different accounts of how this came about: either the star himself, Ivor Novello, or the film’s producers didn’t want him to play a villain. The star of this later version, Laird Cregar, had no such objections and his performance is the highlight of the film.

There are, however, a few noteworthy differences in the 1944 film. The first is a matter of social class. In Lowndes’ short story, the couple are retired servants long used to putting up with the eccentricities of gentlemen; in the film, they are middle class, a former businessman and his wife forced to take in paying guests to make ends meet. They can’t afford to turn down five pounds a week even when their lodger’s odd behavior begins to trouble them. Another alteration has to do with the film production codes of the day. The murder victims are not prostitutes, but women who have at some time appeared on the stage–down on their luck actresses, music-hall performers. Even so, their names recall those of Jack the Ripper’s real-life victims: Katie, Annie, Lizzie, Jane.

Which brings us to the most important change from short story to film: a young daughter who doesn’t live with the couple has been transformed into a grown-up niece named Kitty, played by Merle Oberon, who does live in the house. A talented singer and dancer, Kitty has just returned to London from a triumphant tour in France. Her act consists of saucy little can-can style dances with a dozen or so young women in a chorus line behind her. We’ll be seeing two of these numbers in full during the course of the film.

Kitty's big dance number

To begin at the beginning: Our story opens atmospherically in the foggy streets of Whitechapel. Bobbies walk in pairs and mounted police and citizen patrols roam the streets as well. A drunken music-hall singer leaves a local pub and, after giving us one last jaunty Cockney song, heads for her home–“just around the corner.” The moment she’s out of sight, we hear her speaking to someone she’s surprised to encounter. Then she screams. A cloaked figure scurries away. Police and citizens rush to the spot, but it’s too late. The Ripper has claimed another victim.
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DVD Review: The Undying Monster

The Undying Monster is a 1940s old dark house mystery concerning a family legend about a werewolf. It was directed by John Brahm, who also did two much better movies in the “gaslight” thriller genre in the 1940s: The Lodger, and Hangover Square. All three came together in the same boxed set, which is how I got hold of this less well-known work of his.

Hammond Hall

After an opening voice-over that introduces the legend of the Hammond Monster and sets the story we are about to see in 1900, the movie takes us around the interior of an old mansion somewhere on the English coast.

The clock is striking 12 and chords of ominous music play. We end up in the drawing room, lit only by the fire in the fireplace.

Arm A woman’s arm is seen dangling limply over the edge of the sofa. An enormous Great Dane lies sprawled on the carpet. Are they both dead? Victims of the Monster?

No–it’s just a little directorial fake-out. The butler comes in a minute later and both the dog and the woman wake up. “I must’ve fallen asleep,” the latter says apologetically.

Great Dane

This young lady is Helga Hammond, who was waiting up for her brother Oliver’s return from the laboratory of a doctor friend who lives nearby. Oliver isn’t usually out this late. There is some conversation about poachers on the family estate and the butler quotes an old poem about the Hammond Monster: When there are “Bright stars, frost on the ground” (as there are on this particular night), “beware the bane on the rocky lane” (the path Oliver is most likely to take home). The Hammond siblings’ grandfather died on the cliff path along the sea coast 20 years ago–after seeing the Monster, the butler maintains.

Helga scoffs at the old family legend. She believes her grandfather killed himself. She doesn’t seem very worried about her brother, even after the Great Dane barks at something outside before running away into the frosty night, but she does telephone the doctor to confirm that Oliver did leave his house some time ago. She is about to go up to bed when a dog or wolf is heard howling in the distance.
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