Dark Shadows: Leaving 1840

And leaving behind Dark Shadows in the 1970s too…

I stopped the last time with Daphne and Quentin finding themselves in that alternate reality that intersects with an empty room in the abandoned east wing of Collinwood.

They don’t stay there very long–only a few minutes, enough to witness Catherine accepting Morgan’s proposal and hear the alt-Samantha’s advice that the couple live somewhere else once they’re married. Alt-Samantha takes care of someone named Justin, who apparently isn’t able to talk but the family hopes will speak again someday. Then the alt-Daphne comes in, and Quentin and Daphne are suddenly back in the empty room in their own reality.

What’s amusing about this is when Daphne tries to explain to Quentin what’s just happened, repeating what Professor Stokes told her about “parallel time”. And Quentin responds, “Yes, of course! The Weitzman Principle!” Because a man who builds transdimensional staircases would immediately grasp these complicated concepts.  “But that was only a theory…” He’s read about the possibility of alternate universes and is fascinated at being in one, however briefly.

Desmond and Quentin face executionOnce he’s back in his own Collinwood, however, he’s in danger of being recaptured and executed.

Gerard has been following the comings and goings of Daphne, her sister Joanna, and Dr. Julia Hoffman (who is going by “Julia Collins” in this time period) to the warehouse by the docks,  where Quentin and his wounded cousin Desmond have been hiding since they escaped from jail. Julia has patched up Desmond and says that he’ll able to travel soon. Quentin wants Daphne to come with them.

But Gerard has other plans. He puts a spell on Daphne so that she accepts his proposal and the wedding ceremony is performed right away in the drawing room. When Quentin hears about this, he falls into the trap set for him and rushes back to Collinwood to put a stop to it. He’s too late. Gerard and Daphne are married.  She’s free of the spell once she’s his wife; she knows that Gerard is really the warlock Judah Zachary, but she’s helpless to do anything about it.

Lamar Trask was waiting for Quentin behind the drawing-room door with a gun.  Not only is Quentin taken back to jail, but the police get Desmond too.

Poor Desmond never had a trial, but since he’s been consorting with a convicted warlock, the judges decide summarily that he must also be guilty.  Both men will be executed the next day.

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Dark Shadows: Daphne Discovers the Alternate Dimension

In the aftermath of his elder brother Quentin being found guilty of witchcraft and the family estate subsequently coming under the control of Gerard Stiles, Gabriel Collins seethes with resentment. Gerard, who is the real warlock around here, set Quentin up–but Gabriel doesn’t know that. He only knows that he hates Gerard almost as much as he hates Quentin.

Gabriel pretends he’s unable to leave his wheelchair, but he can walk well enough when he’s up to something. Increasingly jealous of his wife Edith’s relationship with Gerard and outraged at her constant insults to him about her preference for the other man, he waits until he is alone with her at Collinwood. He leaves his chair and sneaks around the house to jump out and strangle her.

Edith dead? Continuity problem: If Edith is dead in 1840, then she can’t be  the Granny Collins we saw on on her deathbed in 1897. Then who is? It’s not Samantha, Quentin’s wife, and there don’t seem to be any other options among the present female Collinses.

There have been other apparent discrepancies lately. Do the writers just not care about matching up their timelines as the show heads toward its final episodes?

Gabriel conceals his wife’s body in the abandoned east wing (since the house was only built in the 1790s, I begin to wonder if the east wing was ever occupied). The governess Daphne, wandering upstairs, makes her way into the empty corridors in that part of the house and eventually stumbles on that room that intersects with an alternate dimension.

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Dark Shadows: Warlocks and Witchcraft Trials

In 1840, Gerard Stiles, possessed by the warlock Judah Zachary, wants revenge against the Collins family since a Collins was among the judges who condemned Zachary 150 years earlier. He’s setting up Quentin Collins to be accused, convicted, and beheaded for witchcraft, just as Zachary was himself executed.

Desmond chokingTo start with, Gerard throttles Quentin’s cousin and best friend, Desmond, using Desmond’s cravat and one of those voodoo dolls so popular with the Dark Shadows witch community.

Gerard leaves the “strangled” doll on the trans-dimensional stairway that Quentin is constructing in his basement workshop / laboratory at Collinwood. Quentin displayed  the stairs to his supposed friend earlier and tried to explain his theories about the mutable properties of time and space–ideas which would sound more like magic than science to people who aren’t Time Lords.

Lamar Trask finds the voodoo doll on the stairs in time to untie the knot and save Desmond from choking to death, but the location makes him highly suspicious that Quentin’s work is satanic.

Lamar has also been extremely suspicious of Barnabas since the girl they were both in love with, Roxanne Drew, became a vampire, but whether he believes that Barnabas is a vampire himself or allied in witchcraft with Quentin fluctuates. Lamar’s the kind of guy who thinks that anybody he doesn’t like simply must be evil.

Quentin shows off his transdimenstional stairway To pile up the evidence against Quentin, Gerard has made a neighboring farmer’s cattle die; after the neighbor blames the Collinses, he is stalked and threatened in the woods.

Quentin’s wife Samantha’s and the vampiric Roxanne’s brother Randall is also attacked and killed in the woods. A note left beside Randall’s body bears the same circle-and-cross symbol as Quentin’s signet ring. Since Quentin is the one who stumbles over the body, he’s arrested for the murder.

When it comes to the inquest, Quentin is cleared of this murder charge, but it seems that the great state of Maine still has laws against witchcraft on its books as late as 1840. Lamar brings his accusations to the court and instead of laughing in his face and sending this looney on his way, the judge has Quentin bound over to be tried as a warlock.

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DVD Review: Horror Express

I recently mentioned this as one of my favorite movies. Since I wrote a brief review of it a long time ago, I thought this would be a good time to drag that out, revise and extend it a bit, and repost it.

Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing disapprove I love Horror Express more than is reasonable. It stars Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, but it’s not a Hammer film. Hell, it isn’t even Amicus or Tigon.

It was produced by a Spanish studio with a little help from Granada TV, and filmed in Spain; beyond Cushing, Lee, and Telly Savalas, there are few actors in the cast whose first language is English. The whole thing was filmed without audio, and the actors’ voices dubbed in afterwards.  Fortunately, the three stars have dubbed their own voices–it would be too weird if they sounded like someone else.

The story begins in China in 1906. Professor Saxton (Lee) is leading an expedition for the Royal Geological Society, when he discovers an apeman frozen in ice—he calls it a “fossil” even though there’s plenty of flesh left on those very old bones. He intends to cart this important find back to England on a trans-Siberian express train.

A rival scientist, Dr. Wells (Cushing) happens to be at the Shanghai train station at the same time (according to the signs around the station and dialog, it’s Shanghai; the caption at the beginning of the scene says it’s Peking). When Wells learns that Saxton’s discovered something remarkable, he’s eager to get a peek at it, but Saxton has the crate securely fastened shut with big chains and a padlock.

The big, padlocked crate draws attention from other people as well. A thief tries to pick the lock to see it there’s anything worth stealing inside, but he winds up lying dead on the station platform with his eyes glazed and white, as if he were blind. After this incident, a Rasputiny monk declares the contents of the box evil; he demonstrates it by failing to draw a cross on it. Saxton sneeringly dismisses this as a trick using some kind of special chalk or hypnosis. I think that the monk just didn’t press down hard enough.
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DVD Review: A Dark and Stormy Night

This is one of my favorite movies, right up there with A Room With a View and Horror Express. Watching it for the first time led me to start hunting down movies from that genre, and eventually led to my watching and reviewing Dark Shadows.

Suspects

This 2009 film was Larry Blamire’s last–and I really wish he’d do some more. As his previous works were loving parodies and recreations of the low-budget sci-fi movies of the 1950s and ’60s, A Dark and Stormy Night spoofs the Old Dark House movies that were popular from the 1920s through the ’40s. Not only is it in black and white, but the actors’ performances, the sets, the musical cues, and even the opening credits are very much in the style of that period.

The plot particularly follows that of one of the very first Old Dark House movies, the 1927 silent film The Cat and the Canary, which shows how little the template for this genre has diverged over 80 years.

Hand A family and various other suspicious people assemble at a huge and spooky old house for the reading of a will during a stormy night. There are multiple murders, secret panels all over the place, and even a phantom arm coming through a bedroom wall to snatch at a hapless young woman in bed.
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DVD Review: Crowhaven Farm

John Carradine carries the old door This was one of those spooky made-for-TV movies that I watched in my childhood during the 1970s. Over the long years between now and then, I’d forgotten almost all of it except for the title and a handful of images:

  • A woman being crushed beneath a large, wooden door weighted with stones.
  • The same woman seeing that same door being carried and reacting in horror to it.
  • A little girl toying with a wedding ring.

It had something to do with a 17th-century witchcraft trial.

So, when I was buying a bunch of DVDs on Amazon recently and saw that this title was inexpensively available, I thought “Why not?” and added it to my cart.

Crowhaven witches Watching Crowhaven Farm again as an adult, the first thing that strikes me is how clunky and expositional most of the dialog is.

The second thing is that the story is a takeoff on Rosemary’s Baby; it involves a woman who wants to be/becomes pregnant and is menaced by a coven of witches. Some characters and plot-points are similar, even if they misdirect one’s expectations. But the key difference is that this coven’s focus isn’t on the baby, and the heroine isn’t as much of an innocent victim of happenstance as Rosemary.
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Dark Shadows: The Head

Barnabas Collins and Julia Hoffman are time traveling again, this time to 1840 to prevent events that will lead to the destruction of Collinwood in 1970. Aside from preventing Quentin’s murder in 1897, they really don’t have a good track record in changing the past, but they have to keep trying.

Since their arrival in 1840, the two have witnessed a variety of goings-on at Collinwood, some of it involving Gerard Stiles, the man who will become the evil ghost who destroys the Collins family and their home. But there’s one item they haven’t yet seen, and it will prove to be the most important clue to the future disaster.

Desmond and the Head Cousin Desmond Collins has brought back a curious souvenir from his travels: A severed head in a glass box. He doesn’t think it’s real at first, but after a couple of people die, he begins to realize he has something truly awful on his hands. Researching some old newspapers, he also discovers that the Head has a history in the neighboring town of Bedford as well as a connection to his own family.

The Head belonged to a powerful warlock named Judah Zachary, who was beheaded in 1692 for witchcraft. One of the judges at the trial was Amadeus Collins. Zachary’s body was buried separately and secretly, and the Head was displayed for a time in the glass case before it was stolen. Legend has it that if the head and body are reunited, Zachary will rise and regain his powers.

Wasn’t this the plot of The Thing That Couldn’t Die? A fine, goofy B-movie, but not the sort of literary classic the Dark Shadows writers normally borrow from.

By the time Desmond has learned all this, however, the Head has already exerted its influence over him and he’s compelled to search for its body.

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Dark Shadows: 1840

When Julia Hoffman escaped into the past via a transdimensional stairway just as Collinwood was overrun by an undead pirate horde*, I said that she’d gone to 1841. Well, I was wrong. It’s only the autumn of 1840, which means the events that lead to Collinwood’s destruction have some months to unfold.

As with our previous trips into the past, we have mostly the same actors in new roles, with new names and period costumes. This time, everybody gets to dress up like Dickens characters.

Dr. Hoffman peeks through the playroom doorway to glimpse the 1840s inhabitants of Collinwood and, along with the viewer, it takes her some time to sort their relationships and the current situation out.

Louis Edmonds is playing family patriarch Daniel Collins, whom we last saw as a young boy in the 1790s when Victoria Winters saved his life. He’s now an old man, a bit batty, and is kept up in the tower room. Daniel has two sons, Quentin (David Selby, just like the later Quentin) and Gabriel (Christopher Pennock); the latter is in a wheelchair and is very bitter and angry about it. Quentin is married to a woman named Samantha, and Tad is their son. Gabriel is married to Edith (Terry Crawford, who was Beth in the 1897 storyline–nice to see her back again!).

Gabriel and Edith are presumably the ancestors of the present-day Collinses, since we know that Tad will die soon. Also, 1890s/1970s Quentin said that 1840s Quentin was his great-uncle. Children are mentioned, although we haven’t actually seen them. Will Edith then be the Granny Collins who was on her deathbed at the beginning of the 1897 story?

Gabriel, Flora, and Gerard (plus an accidental boom mike)Just at the time Julia Hoffman arrives in 1840, the Collins family has received some tragic news: Quentin and Tad were lost at sea. The person who brings this news is Gerard Stiles. He claims that he witnessed the two being swept overboard during a storm.

Given what we know about Gerard in ghostly form, and what we know about the final fate of this Quentin and his son, I strongly suspect that, whatever really happened to them, it was no boating accident.
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CD Review: The Colour out of Space

The Colour out of Space is closer to science fiction than horror than most of H.P. Lovecraft’s work, although it certainly has its horrifying aspects. This 1927 short story considers what lies out there in the vastness of space, unknown and incomprehensible to humanity; like the narrator, one may feel “an odd timidity about the deep skyey voids above” by the end of it.

Arkham newspaper article about the meteorite

The story begins with a meteorite that crashes on the Massachusetts farm of Nahum Gardner in 1882.

Scientists from nearby Miskatonic University come out to examine it, and discover an object too soft to be metal but possessed of peculiar properties. Not that they have much time for testing. The meteorite shrinks rapidly and, after several lightning strikes during a storm, disappears completely.

Yet something remains behind. That autumn’s crops grow extravagantly large and glossy, tinted with an indefinable color that reminds everyone of the fragile globule found inside the meteorite–but all the fruit is inedible. The next year, the plants grow stunted and brittle. Tree branches seem to move even when there’s no wind. Wild animals near the farm behave strangely and appear to be subtly deformed. The livestock that isn’t able to flee becomes ill and starts to shrivel, turning grey and brittle like the plants. The whole farmyard glows faintly at night. And although the water from the well is obviously contaminated, the Gardner family continues to drink it.

At first glance, this could be an early story about the effects of exposure to radiation; this being Lovecraft, however, there’s more going on than a mere environmental hazard. An active and conscious entity has taken up residence in the farm well and is draining the life out of everything organic in the vicinity.

The text is online at http://www.dagonbytes.com/thelibrary/lovecraft/thecolouroutofspace.htm.

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Dark Shadows: The Destruction of Collinwood

Dr. Julia Hoffman and Barnabas Collins return from a week-long visit to 1995 with horrible news about the future of the Collins family. Some time before the end of 1970, the following will occur:

  1. Collinwood will become an abandoned ruin.
  2. Most of the Collins family will have mysteriously disappeared, except for:
    1. 13-year-old David, who will die; Barnabas and Julia have seen his tombstone in the graveyard, and his ghost in the garden. A girl about the same age named Hallie Stokes will also die and appear in ghostly form with David.
    2. Carolyn, who will be found completely mad within the house. She’ll spend the rest of her life, which ends in 1995, as an unbalanced recluse.
    3. Quentin, who will be found wandering the woods, also completely mad and going on about someone named Daphne. He will spend the next 25 years in an asylum.

All of this will be brought about by an evil ghost named Gerard and another morally ambiguous ghost in a magenta dress, who turns out to be Quentin’s Daphne (Kate Jackson). Both died in 1841, although who they were and why they want to destroy the Collinses remains a mystery.

On their return to 1970, Barnabas and Julia try to warn Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard and Quentin about the things they’ve seen, but no one seems to care much about helping them to prevent this disaster from happening.

Bad things are already starting.

Gerard's ghost Gerard’s ghost is at Collinwood, even if no one’s actually seen him yet. Carolyn and Hallie sense someone is watching them. At a picnic near the cliffs, David snaps a photo of Quentin and Maggie; when he develops it in his darkroom, thinks he sees a face in the shrubbery behind them. It could just be a trick of light on the leaves, but it does resemble a scowling man…
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