For the impatient out there: I’m going to spend sixty days spanning from late May to early August watching the core storyline of DARK SHADOWS. For each episode, I will write a diary entry about the events of the episode as one of the characters from the show. Primarily Barnabas. By doing this, I hope to gain a deeper perspective on the show. They will be published here along with regular updates. You may also find them in a digital archive devoted entirely to them, http://collinschronicles.com.
For those who like to read: See above.
And… This is somewhere between an episode guide and a strange, epistolary novel… appropriate, because DRACULA was, too. And it’s a book I’ve wanted to see for nearly thirty years. As a kid, I enjoyed good novelizations of films. I have no idea who came up with the idea, but a good one could really flesh out a story. But DARK SHADOWS is so vast, a novelization is ludicrous. An episode guide? Maybe not. I’m still shocked that one’s not been professionally published as a (thick) standalone book. The CONCORDANCE books are wonderfully insane (in the best way), with their fastidious detail and loving assembly. But the entries are so detailed that it becomes exhausting to read cover-to-cover. I’m glad they’re there. Essential scholarship and eloquently written. An exhaustive look.
The various pieces that have been printed in the Pomegranate books (and the related booklet with the Big Coffin Set) are good, but are too brief for a semi-thorough guide. I’m looking for something around a paragraph. 100 words. Novels max out at about 100,000 words on average. Ultimately, that’s an average of 82 words an entry. A good length. So, I wanted an episode guide of enough length to be informative, but enough brevity to access quickly.
Then I read DOC SAVAGE: HIS APOCALYPTIC LIFE by Philip Jose Farmer. It was a biography of a fictional character, and the idea came to me in a flash. Combine all of it. Bam. There’s your diary and there’s your episode guide.
I put the idea away for a quarter decade or so. Then I did last year’s experiment. And it took me to some very weird places, emotionally. The contact that I had with people on the internet was great, as was the real life company. So, as a reminder… Feel free to interact with me as the Experiment goes on! Write in! Tweet! Your opinion counts, and I love the conversation!
By the time the Experiment wrapped, I felt like I was looking at the Dark Shadows Story like a big mosaic, or the way Bryan Singer had Superman watching all of Earth at once from orbit. It was kind of awe-inspiring to have seen all of it in such a sort time. There it was. The whole thing. One, big picture and story all together. Over 45 days, nothing was so distant that it was forgotten by time the show’s ending gave a context to it all. I gained all sorts of flashes of insight.
One of the things that stuck with me was the impact that women have on men in the series. Your two eventual protagonists, Quentin II and Barnabas, both suffer from curses laid on them by women. The power of women is what drives much of what they do. And women inevitably see that their power is too potent and was too wantonly applied with their curses. But by then, the damage is done. Even they (sometimes) can’t lift the curses. The Nine Steps of One of the Core Patterns on Dark Shadows
1. Men disappoint women. (Quentin II tips his first domino by fleeing Jenny.)
2. Women react from pure emotion and curse them.
3. The curses basically render them so animalistic at night that the routine, animalistic, nighttime behavior to which they’re accustomed is impossible.
4. Everyone gets hurt.
5. The women regret it.
6. They can’t cure it.
7. Strangely enough, men can. (Lang. Count Petofi.)
8. When Angelique finally does, her death is an eventual result.
9. Nothing’s cheap in Collinsport.
And that was just one thing. (In nine parts.)
Just the other night, I realized that one of the key themes in the show is that love with frak you up in DARK SHADOWS, but not nearly as much as telling the truth. That’s an essay for another time.
My favorite movie is VERTIGO. I’ve always identified with Scottie on many levels, and so the parallels between Barnabas and Scottie really hit home. Transitive principle and all that. But Scottie is always self-driven. Barnabas eventually becomes a full-blown hero. Even more appealing. And then to see him hurt as he is in the end. Literally Operatic the grandest sense. Wow. So, I knew that I had to go back. After watching DARK SHADOWS, I finally knew how to watch DARK SHADOWS.
After tossing around a lot of ideas for Phase III (Phase II was an exhausting Christmas spent in outer space), I was reminded of my diary idea. Of course. Just focusing on the Barnabas storyline. (Eventually, it expanded to much more in the name of completeness and adventure.) And now, it was not so much an episode guide as it was, in my mind, a series of little, internal character sketches. I’m not sure what they will form. But I’m eager to find out. By doing so, I hope to understand what I think is a larger story that the writers, unconsciously, ended up telling. And I hope to track down exactly why Barnabas ended up being so meaningful to me, at this age.
In the words of Z-Man, “Let the games begin!”