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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Dark Shadows: Barnabas Collins: Fearless Vampire Hunter

It starts when Angelique bites Joe Haskell’s cousin Tom, who then dies in the hospital after Joe, who has also been bitten and is in thrall to Angelique, leaves the window open so that she can get at Tom a second time. Barnabas, who isn’t a vampire at present, doesn’t know that Angelique is the new vamp in town, but he knows that there is one and that Tom will soon rise from his grave; he tells Willie to sharpen a stake. They head over to the cemetery the evening after the funeral but arrive too late to deal with Tom–his grave is empty.

Tom the Vampire While Barnabas and Willie are out hunting for him, Tom the Vampire comes to the old house. Dr. Julia Hoffman is alone down in the basement, working in the laboratory she set up to create a new girlfriend for Adam. Julia used to be much better with vampires when she was managing Barnabas, but Tom is a complete stranger to her.  She can’t fend him off and he bites her.

When Willie finds her on the floor a short time later, he doesn’t see the fresh teeth-marks on her neck since she’s wearing a high-collared blouse under her lab coat. She doesn’t tell him what happened and asks him not to tell Barnabas, but Barnabas gets the story of the supposed fainting spell out of Willie after Julia goes back to Collinwood to lie down.

As Joe is with Angelique and Willie, Maggie, and Carolyn were with Barnabas, Julia is now enthralled to this vampire who speaks all his lines in such a stilted manner. (Maybe it’s the fangs hindering his speech?). Whenever he calls out to her, she goes to him and gets bit again.

This goes on for two or three days, but Barnabas soon figures out what’s going on. After all, he knows all the signs of a vampire’s victim, including that tell-tale scarf wrapped high around the neck. He confronts Julia about it and tries to help her, but the call of Tom the Vampire is impossible to resist.
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Dark Shadows: How Barnabas Became a Vampire Again

Or maybe not.

The dream curse that’s been going around among the main characters has finally reached Vicky. Since Barnabas is the next person–and the last person–who will have it and it will destroy him, she refuses to tell him about her dream. She will continue to have the same dream every night until she does; the other people who tried not to pass the dream on only managed to hold out for about three nights, but Vicky is stubborn and intends to remain firm as long as she can.

Barnabas, on the other hand, can’t stand to see Vicky suffer and goes over to Collinwood to insist she tell him.

During their conversation, there’s an interesting little exchange where Vicky asks why Angelique hates Barnabas so much, and he explains that it must be because he looks so much like his ancestor. Vicky remembers that that Barnabas died in 1795 soon after his marriage to Angelique and didn’t go to England as the family history has it, but she doesn’t take the next step and wonder how modern-day Barnabas could therefore be descended from him. She does eventually agree to tell Barnabas her dream.

After he’s heard it, he goes home, takes a sleeping pill, and sits down in his armchair in the drawing room. Now it’s his turn to dream. He’s certain that he won’t die afterwards, but that the old curse will return and he’ll become a vampire again. Before he falls asleep, he asks Julia Hoffman to please drive a stake through his heart to prevent him from becoming that monster.
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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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