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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Kolchak: The Vampire

The Vampire

“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.

Hands!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.

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DVD Review: The Night Stalker

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 seersuckerCarl Kolchak 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…”

 

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Revisiting the Dark Shadows movies

Old BarnabasA 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.

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Dark Shadows: Vampire Troubles

In my last Dark Shadows review, I wrote that Barnabas’s impulsive, bitey solutions to his problems only get him to deeper difficulties. As the story line for 1897 progresses, these problems get worse, but Barnabas does bring most of it on himself.

It starts when Barnabas bites and inadvertently makes Dirk, the Collinwood groundskeeper, into Dirk the Vampire (no relation to Tom the Vampire or Tom’s twin brother, Chris the Werewolf).

Pansy in a tranceOn his first night out, Dirk attacks Carl Collins’s fiancee Pansy, then goes into hiding in the cellar of the same abandoned building where Tim Shaw has been hiding since he was hypnotized into poisoning Mrs. Trask.

When Tim discovers Dirk’s coffin empty the next evening, Dirk bites him but doesn’t kill him to keep his secret safe. His next victim is Judith Collins when she encounters him over at the old house and orders him off her property (she had fired him shortly before Barnabas bit him). So now the mistress of Collinwood is his servant. He comes to her again the next night at her own home and gives her explicit instructions for a task she must perform at dawn.

Then Rachel comes to see Tim, and Dirk bites her too. Only a vampire a few days, and he’s building up quite an army of minions.

Dirk tries to use Rachel as a hostage to force Barnabas to bring Laura Collins back, but that simply isn’t in Barnabas’s power. When Laura doesn’t appear to him by sunrise, Dirk retreats to his coffin. At her new vampiric master’s order, Judith shoots Rachel.

To my surprise, Rachel dies. This is not how Jane Eyre ends.

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Dark Shadows: First Werewolves, then Vampires

The Collinwood maidservant Beth goes to Gypsy Magda to plead with her to remove the werewolf curse from Quentin. Now that his wife Jenny is dead, Beth hopes to marry him herself. But Magda tells her that the curse, once cast, cannot be revoked, and it will carry on to Quentin’s male children. If Beth marries Quentin, her own sons with him will become cute little were-puppies (Magda doesn’t put it that way, but it’s my mental picture).

Then Beth tells Magda something the gypsy-woman doesn’t know: Quentin is already a father and Magda has cursed her own blood. It’s been hinted at before; during some of Mad Jenny’s rants about her “babies,” one began to suspect that she wasn’t really referring to her baby-doll collection. Beth now reveals that after Quentin and Laura ran off together, Jenny gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl. Since she’d gone mad by then, Judith took the babies away to be cared for by a woman in Collinsport. Beth often goes into town to visit them and pays their nurse. Quentin knows nothing about this–presumably, he was gone before he had any idea his wife was even pregnant. Beth is adamant that the existence of the children remain unknown to Quentin.

Quentin the Werewolf

Once Magda learns that her werewolf curse also encompasses Quentin’s infant son–her own nephew–she’s contrite and anxious to revoke it. But such curses can’t be removed easily.

Barnabas gets involved with all this when he bites Beth and makes her tell him everything she knows about Quentin’s werewolf problem (which he already strongly suspects) and about the twin children (which he didn’t). Beth is sent to have a silver pentagram made to protect the little boy from the curse; the silversmith is a teenaged boy, who will become the aged Abe-Vigoda character we saw in the 1960s.

But before this plot can progress, Barnabas has to face a crises involving two other young boys–1890s Jameson and 1960s David.

Jameson has had a bad dream and awakes crying that “David Collins is dead!”
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Dark Shadows: Vampire Follies

And other plots to catch up on.

Elizabeth collapses on Peter Bradford's graveThe last time we saw Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, she’d been declared dead after collapsing in the cemetery, but it turned out she wasn’t dead after all. At least, this cataleptic episode has convinced Dr. Hoffman and Vicky that Elizabeth’s fears of being buried alive aren’t entirely unfounded. We don’t get her brother Roger’s reaction.

Vicky and the doctor discuss what will happen if Elizabeth has another attack of catalepsy. How can they be sure she isn’t really dead? It seems to me the wisest thing to do is keep her around in some cool but not too cold part of the house until her- um- physical condition makes it absolutely certain that she’s gone. But perhaps that idea’s a little too gross for this show, in spite of the number of undead persons already wandering around.

Regarding one such person, Professor Stokes, Dr. Hoffman, and Barnabas Collins haven’t lost sight of the theory that the recently created Eve has been given the soul of an 18th-century French murderess. They believe that she and Adam are staying over at Nicholas’s house (which they are) and have formed a plan to go over there and kill her before she has a chance to do anything evil.

Even though all three are apprehensive about it, and Julia Hoffman even has a dream warning her of disaster, they go ahead. Barnabas invites Nicholas over for dinner, then makes an excuse to leave and see how Elizabeth is while Julia and the professor chat for a very long time with his guest. Instead of going to Collinwood, Barnabas breaks into Nicholas’s house.

Vampire Angelique He doesn’t find Eve nor Adam at home (Maybe they’ve gone out to the movies?). He does, however, find Angelique waiting for him, fangs and all. Nicholas was aware of the plan all the time and had this little trap set up. Once Angelique has bitten Barnabas, she gains power over him; he must come when she calls, but Nicholas won’t let her turn him back into a vampire.
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