Monday, April 30, 2012

A Touch of Grand Guignol

Over the weekend I watched about a dozen episodes of Dark Shadows. These were from the 1969 season. Funny thing is, I'm rather amazed that this show was aired at 3:30 in the afternoon back in those days. The Gothic horror tropes come fast and furious. In just these few episodes I've seen two vampires, a werewolf, numerous murders, children possessed by evil spirits, a premature burial, a young woman hanged, another woman set on fire, a couple of ghosts, a witch, and some really bad 1960s era fashions. Okay, that last one slipped by, but seriously, this is some strong stuff. There's a surprising amount of blood shown too. There's a flashback to when Barnabas Collins had just become a vampire, 200 or so years ago, and he ruthlessly stalks a man, terrorizes him, and then kills him. The witch Angelique gloats and laughs over the young woman she has cursed to be buried alive. The hanging scene is chilling as the woman is lead into a small courtyard and forced to climb a short ladder while Barnabas stands by helpless. Strong stuff. I remember being scared by this show when I was a small child, and I figured that I'd find Dark Shadows rather tepid now, but no, it holds up, mostly I think because of the writing and the atmosphere. It's still pretty darn creepy. Again I have to wonder if all of this stuff would get by on a daytime soap opera today. Sure the special effects are pretty poor, and the acting isn't always the best, but the show still exerts a strong feel of Gothic terror and horror. I'm having fun with it.

4 comments:

Keith said...

I suspect they were able to get away with showing this type of thing in the afternoon because no one took it seriously. Today there would be all kinds of protests.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Yeah, that's pretty much what I thought as well, Keith. Just a different world back then.

Will Errickson said...

I recently watched the very first episode and was surprised to see John Karlen starring in it - he of the early '70s lesbian vampire/arthouse masterpiece DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS.

Gotta watch more. NOT looking forward to the silly Burton remake.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Same here, Will. While I like some of Tim Burton's movies, I don't see how such a purported "big fan" of Dark Shadows could think a comedy was the way to go.