Not to be confused with The Beginning of the End, which is a film about giant grasshoppers crawling on photographs of Chicago. This Big Finish audio drama is about the Doctor in four regenerations in four different time periods, but all of them eventually facing the same cosmic crisis.
A brief prologue introduces us to the Kethlar Death Lords—an “ancient order of ruthless warriors”—who were engaged in a great war eons ago. Only one survived their final battle and, while floating aimlessly through the millennia, he “declared war on the Universe.” This survivor, Vakrass, is the narrator of this opening piece, and provides occasional bridging comments between the three short dramas that follow.
The second part of this anthology of the best short films from the annual Festival. There are more adaptations of Lovecraft stories on this DVD than on Part 1.
The Shunned House (2012)
This is a modern-day and pretty good retelling of Lovecraft’s story. Water drips from the leaf-clogged end of a gutter spout as Uncle Eli Whipple and his nephew Robert drive up to the house and park in the street out front.
“Jesus!” exclaims Robert as he looks it over. “Did they build this place knowing it was going to be a haunted house?”
I’ve been to the Shunned House. It doesn’t look like this.
Later dialog will establish that Eli often goes on this sort of ghost-hunting adventure, and his nephew enjoys going along. The pair has brought along electronic equipment and a camcorder. Robert records his uncle as they enter the house; Eli makes an introductory statement about the Shunned House’s long history of “pain, suffering, misery, death.”
The dripping from the gutter stops abruptly as they go inside.
As they go down into the basement, Uncle Eli continues to tell us pretty much the same story of the people who died in the house or suffered strange illnesses as related in Lovecraft’s original story, but with the date of events moved up from the Colonial era to the 19th and 20th century. Robert makes note of a vaguely man-shaped dark patch on one wall, but his uncle says it’s probably water damage.
They settle down to set up their equipment. When Robert turns on the EMF detector, it fairly shrills with whatever energy it’s picking up. After checking the batteries, he decides that it’s malfunctioning and turns it off again while Eli carries on with his story.
Unnoticed by either man, that dark patch spreads across the ceiling.
Although the Dark Shadows 1991 revival series was favorably received when it started off, it soon lost its audience–quite literally, since episodes were frequently preempted by news reports during the first Gulf War; viewers didn’t know when they could see the next one. Sadly, the show was not renewed.
I’ve finally gotten to the last episodes in my own recent, belated viewing.
The 1790s storyline has progressed more or less as expected, with only minor variations in the details. Although there are some nice touches here and there, it’s in the modern-day story that the real twists come–including one event that completely astonished me, and which I wouldn’t dream of giving away to anyone who hasn’t seen the series.
Episode 11: Vicky’s Trial & Josette’s Fate
In the previous episode, Josette agreed to leave Collinwood; Vicky convinced her that if she didn’t stay to die at Widow’s Hill, then Vicky herself would be saved and be able to return to her own time.
In spite of these good intentions, Josette’s resolution doesn’t hold up once she discovers that Barnabas is still over at the old house. So happy is she to see him again that all thoughts of Vicky and her own documented fate go out of her head. Once he reveals that he’s become a vampire, she even offers him a bite of her throat.
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.
Episode 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.
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.
Before 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.
David 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.
The 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 Bathory. Daughters 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.
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).
“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.
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.
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:
“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.
“This vampire didn’t come from Transylvania. It came from Las Vegas!”
Although no one says so distinctly–probably for copyright reasons–this episode is a sequel to the original Night Stalker movie.
Catherine Rawlins, the eponymous vampire, is another victim of Janos Skorzeny, never found during the time he stalked Las Vegas. Now, she returns from her unmarked grave.
The story begins one night about three years after the events of The Night Stalker in the desert just outside Las Vegas. A lone driver takes a wrong turn and finds herself on a dead-end road that’s closed for repairs, then she a flat tire. She gets out to change it, cutting her hand in the process and dripping a small amount of blood on the ground just off the road near her car.
While she changes her tire, she doesn’t immediately notice an upheaval in the sandy ground behind her. Two slightly out-of-focus hands emerge from the earth.
Unexpectedly for the beginning of a Kolchak episode, the car’s driver doesn’t become the newly-risen vampire’s first victim. When she finally sees the hands reaching up out of the ground, she abandons her car and runs away screaming into the night. Civilization mustn’t be very far away. Carl Kolchak’s narrative informs us that by the time the woman returned with the police, there was no sign of a body, dead or undead, by the roadside. The police dismissed the report as coming from an hysterical and over-imaginative kook.
Now that I’m finished with Dark Shadows, I’ve decided to go on to another short-lived but influential series that began life as a Dan Curtis production and the movie that started it off.
The Night Stalker, screenplay by Richard Matheson, aired on ABC in 1972. According to the interview with Dan Curtis on this DVD, it was a huge success, hitting the highest ratings for any made-for-TV movie up that point. Different from Curtis’s previous work with its gothic settings and trappings, this was a thoroughly modern and cynical horror movie that let a vampire loose to hunt in a big and brash city, and introduced a vampire hunter who was nothing like Van Helsing.
We first see Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin), not in what would become his trademark seersucker suit and battered straw hat, but as a guy in a T-shirt in a small and shabby apartment. He pushes the Play button on his pocket tape-recorder, then gets a beer from a tiny fridge, and wanders around in the background before settling down on the bed to listen to his own recorded voice saying:
“This is the story behind one of the greatest manhunts in history. Maybe you read about it–what they let you read about it, probably some item on a back page. However, what happened in that city between May 16 and May 28 of this year was so incredible that to this day the facts have been suppressed to save certain political careers from disaster and law enforcement officials from embarrassment.
This will be the last time I will ever discuss these events with anyone. So when you’ve finished this bizarre account, judge for yourself its believability and then try to tell yourself, wherever you may be, it couldn’t happen here…”
A 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.