• [Dark Shadows] Episode 810: The Most Dangerous Game

    From Kenny McCormack@21:1/5 to weberm@polaris.net on Fri Feb 5 14:52:26 2016
    XPost: alt.tv.dark_shadows, rec.arts.tv, alt.games

    In article <n00o41$tjs$1@dont-email.me>,
    Ubiquitous <weberm@polaris.net> wrote:
    Republican Primary choices:
    1. An out-of-touch crusty old relic that hates all non 1%ers, including you. >2. An out-of-touch crusty old relic that is asleep most of the time, and >probably botched most of the surgeries he was involved in.
    3. A legacy scion of an infamous American political dynasty (Nazi-collaborators).
    14 other indistinuishable knot-heads. Each about as crazy as the other.

    Ted Cruz sounds like every straight man's first wife.

    Ted Cruz is such a closet case his first name should have been Tom.
    (Note: The "Ted" moniker is a fictional creation)

    --- SoupGate-Win32 v1.05
    * Origin: fsxNet Usenet Gateway (21:1/5)
  • From Ubiquitous@21:1/5 to All on Fri Feb 5 05:52:19 2016
    XPost: alt.tv.dark_shadows, rec.arts.tv, alt.games

    “Satan is determined to take over Collinwood!”

    In the summer of 1969, the young set gather every afternoon at four
    o’clock to watch one of the great pioneers in educational

    Not Sesame Street, of course; that doesn’t start until November. For
    the summer, at least, the kids’ choice is Dark Shadows, and what
    they’re learning is that murder is awesome, and you can totally get
    away with it.

    Because I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but lately the show has
    responded to its rising popularity with the young set by getting
    noticeably scarier and more murdery.

    There’s always been a certain amount of Halloween Express haunted
    house spookery on the show — your vampire bites, your werewolf
    attacks, your witch’s brew voodoo maneuvers — but the mayhem’s
    always stayed on the Chiller Theatre side of the fence.

    But the other day, Aristede threatened to beat Magda in the face wth
    a hammer, if she didn’t tell him what he wanted to know. That was
    followed by Quentin telling Charity that he would kill her with his
    bare hands if she revealed his secret. We’ve seen an evil stepfather
    poison his wife. We’ve seen a man imprisoned under a swinging razor
    blade. There’s currently an open question about whether the eleven-
    year-old boy on the show still has two working hands.

    The threats are getting a lot more physical and a lot more personal,
    and they strike closer to home. You can reassure a young child that
    there’s no such thing as vampires, but you have to admit that we
    live in a world with hammers. In other words, Dark Shadows is not a
    show with a suggested age range of 6 to 14.

    https://darkshadowseveryday.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/810-dark- shadows-game-box.jpg?w=604

    But try explaining that to Milton Bradley, who decided that what
    America needs this summer is the Barnabas Collins Dark Shadows Game,
    a little gift-wrapped nightmare that promotes grave robbing as the
    centerpiece of an occult ritual to summon the living dead. Honestly,
    sometimes I wonder if the toys and hobbies industry really has our
    best interests at heart.

    585 dark shadows game box

    This is actually the second Dark Shadows game to reach the public —
    we discussed the first one, called the Dark Shadows Game, about a
    year ago. That game was produced by Whitman Publishing, who are also responsible for the Gold Key Dark Shadows comics. The way that you
    can tell the difference is that Milton Bradley is the company that
    actually has a handle on what Barnabas Collins’ face looks like.

    Given the trend of the game titles, it’s probably for the best that
    nobody made any more games after this, because the third one
    would’ve been called the Very Spooky Barnabas Collins Dark Shadows
    Game, followed by the Bonus Edition Very Spooky Barnabas Collins
    Dark Shadows Game, and at a certain point you run out of space on
    the toy shelf.

    https://darkshadowseveryday.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/810-dark- shadows-game-pieces.jpg?w=604

    But let’s crack open the box, and see what’s inside. There isn’t a
    board, surprisingly; the whole game is just a handful of props. Call
    me shallow, but I’ve always felt that a board game should have a
    board somewhere in the mix, but apparently the Milton Bradley
    Company is a law unto itself.

    What you get for your suggested retail price of $2.99 is a coffin
    full of plastic bones and wooden stakes, a set of cardboard
    scaffolds, and a spinner. This is what children had, in the days
    before ColecoVision. This is how leisure time worked.

    810 barnabas collins game coffin

    Now, I have several pictures of the coffin, and it doesn’t look that
    impressive when there’s nothing next to it to show the scale, but as
    we’ll see later on, this is actually a pretty solid piece of
    equipment. If you clocked your brother on the head with this coffin,
    it would make a noticeable difference in the way his day is going.
    I’m a younger brother, by the way, and that’s how we judge game
    pieces. Everything is a potential weapon. Do not let your guard
    down. Trust no one.

    810 dark shadows game spinner

    So there’s no use putting it off any longer, let’s just buckle down
    and I’ll explain how this works. You start out with your empty
    cardboard scaffold, and you spin the spinner, hoping to get either a
    skull or a ribcage. If you land on one of those, you can hang it on
    the scaffold.

    But here’s the catch: you have to have a body on your scaffold in
    order to connect the upper arm and upper leg pieces, and you need
    the upper arm and upper leg before you can collect the lower arm and
    lower leg pieces. So on your first spin, if you land on lower leg,
    then your turn was a waste of time, and you glower at everybody as
    you grudgingly hand over the spinner.

    If you land on Barnabas’ black onyx ring, then fortune smiles on
    you, because that gives you a free bone of your choosing. Grab
    anything you like.

    From there, according to the rules, “Play always progresses in a
    clockwise order.” I repeat: Always. This is not a laughing matter
    for the Milton Bradley people; this is what they do for a living. Do
    not fuck around with the clockwise order.

    810 barnabas game stake

    If the spinner lands on a stake, then what happens depends on how
    often you’ve played the game.

    If you’ve just opened the box and this is the first time you’re
    playing it, then landing on a stake means that you take one of the
    little wooden stakes from the coffin. If you collect three stakes,
    then you have to give back one of your bones.

    If you’ve played the game more than once, then you’ll have to make
    other arrangements, because it’s guaranteed that every single stake
    in the box will be irretrievably lost about three-quarters of the
    way through the first game. Nobody knows what happens to game pieces
    like these. After a while, they’re just not part of the picture
    anymore, and you adjust your expectations. That phase of your life
    is over.

    It goes without saying that the stakes are exactly the optimal size
    and shape to completely freak everybody out when you swallow one.
    I’m not sure when it was that people went crazy about the safety of
    children’s toys, but it was apparently sometime after 1969.

    BoardGameGeek says that this game takes 60 minutes to play, which
    seems impossible to me. Watching the show only takes half an hour,
    and they get a lot more done. Besides, it’s not like there’s room in
    this game to develop your own individual style. You spin the spinner
    and you take a bone. Even in elementary school, I think I would’ve
    put a hard limit of eighteen minutes on this experience.


    Now we need to discuss the commercial, which is by far the most
    interesting thing about the game. The ad actually set up as if it
    were a one-minute episode of Dark Shadows, which as far as I’m
    concerned it absolutely is.

    The ad is included on one of the extras discs in the complete Dark
    Shadows DVD box set, and apparently the only copy that they could
    find is from a really shitty second-generation black and white
    kinescope. Ordinarily, that would be a shame, but in this case I
    think the bad reception is an essential part of the Barnabas Collins
    Dark Shadows Game aesthetic. This is what the commercial looked like
    in 1969 on the little black and white set in the den, and this is
    how Milton Bradley intended you to see it. Their entire pitch relies
    on your inability to see the game clearly.

    810 game commercial collinwood

    The ad begins with your typical opening shot of Collinwood. There’s
    some whistling organ sounds strumming on the soundtrack, trying to
    organize themselves into a tune with no great success.

    810 dark shadows game commercial barnabas

    This fades to a quick glimpse of the fireplace, and then a shot of
    Barnabas sneaking up on Carolyn, who’s reading in the Collinwood
    drawing room. This is the actual Barnabas and the actual drawing
    room, and in one split-second, it sums up what everybody who doesn’t
    watch Dark Shadows thinks that Dark Shadows is like. He just sidles
    up behind the pretty girl, baring his fangs in the most unnecessary
    way, and this startles her all the way out of the picture.

    That isn’t the real Carolyn, but it’s the next best thing, which is
    Terry Crawford pretending to be Nancy Barrett playing Carolyn. It’s
    all the same at this resolution anyway.

    810 dark shadows barnabas collins game fangs

    “This is Barnabas Collins,” the announcer groans. He’s doing his
    sonorous Paul Frees Haunted Mansion voice, with extra reverb. “He
    lives in a strange world! A world of vampires, werewolves and dark
    shadows!” And then there’s a dramatic ZING! courtesy of the Hammond

    810 dark shadows game shot

    The shot of real Barnabas cross-fades to a shot of Barnabas on the
    box, and then we pull back to reveal the product. Make-believe Paul
    Frees says, “Now the world of Dark Shadows is yours — in a strange
    new game by Milton Bradley, the Barnabas Collins Dark Shadows Game!”
    ZING! There’s a total of six dramatic stings in this one-minute ad,
    and every one of them is right on the money. I will not hear a word
    said against those stings; they are phenomenal.

    By the way, that’s the actual screencap of the product shot, framed
    so that you can’t see the left side of the box. That’s because they
    knew you’re watching this on a shitty black and white TV, and they
    had no faith that you would be able to see anything other than
    Barnabas, the bat and the words BARNABAS COLLINS. So they put that
    in the middle of the shot, and screw the left side.

    810 dark shadows barnabas game kids

    Then they fade to what I think must be the single most thrilling
    shot in any Dark Shadows episode — four elementary school kids
    sitting around a table, playing the Barnabas Collins Dark Shadows
    Game in the middle of the Collinwood drawing room.

    They’ve presented a lot of weird, surprising spectacles on the show
    — that’s the entire purpose of Dark Shadows — but I think this tops
    them all. It’s the very definition of avant-garde filmmaking.

    The ad transitions from a hazy, dreamlike vision of the show as your
    parents imagine it to be, to a shot of the box top, and then
    suddenly there’s you — yes, YOU, with your brother and sister,
    magically transported inside the television set, so that you can
    play the game based on the show within the confines of the show

    And the most thrilling thing of all is that in this moment when your
    dreams are actually real and alive and all around you, these black-
    and-white kinescope children aren’t looking around in wonder and
    terror and awe, touching all the furniture and then rushing over to
    the wall, scrambling to be the first one to open the secret panel,
    like any ordinary child would do. The Collinwood drawing room and
    its amazing and terrible secrets means nothing to these amazing and
    terrible children.

    The kids have something even more engrossing to attend to. They are
    focused like four pint-size lasers on the most important thing in
    the entire universe — the Barnabas Collins Dark Shadows Game.

    This has got to be the greatest game ever made.

    810 dark shadows barnabas game coffin

    One of the kids spins the spinner and takes a bone, and do you see
    what I mean about the size of the coffin? It’s bigger than you’d
    think. Notice how all of the other kids lean in close, like who even
    knows what’s going to come out of the mystery box.

    “Each player spins,” says the breathless announcer, “and then
    selects bones from — ZING! — the coffin! But watch out for the
    dreaded — ZING! — stake!”

    810 dark shadows barnabas game glow in the dark

    “You struggle to complete a skeleton,” the announcer gasps. “A
    skeleton that GLOWS in the DARK!” Oh, by the way, the skeleton glows
    in the dark. I didn’t mention that before, because it has no impact
    on the gameplay.

    In fact, the rules on the inside of the box actually say, “The bones
    and the skull of the skeleton GLOW IN THE DARK, an eerie feature
    which adds a little extra thrill but is not a part of playing the
    game.” It’s nice in these cynical times to see that kind of
    transparency in the game publisher/game consumer relationship. There
    are no secrets between us and the Milton Bradley Company.

    810 dark shadows barnabas game set of fangs

    This is the point when the narrator starts to morph from Paul Frees
    into Frank Nelson, the “mmmm-Yeeeeessssss?” guy from I Love Lucy and
    The Flintstones. He gets kind of over-excited, and his voice rises
    at the end of each sentence. To be fair, what happens next is pretty

    “If you win the game, you get a set of Barnabas FANGS!” Yes, that’s
    the prize for winning the game — you get the honor of wearing the
    pair of plastic fangs that comes with the game.

    On the inside box lid, Milton Bradley acknowledges the issues with
    this eerie feature as well: “The Toy Fangs are not part of the game
    and belong only to the owner of the game. They are placed over the
    teeth of a player to play the role of Barnabas Collins. (They should
    be washed before a player uses them.)”

    This is a complicated concept to get your head around — they’re not
    part of the game, and they belong to the owner of the game — and all
    you can say is that it’s Art, and it does not need to explain

    810 dark shadows barnabas game child

    Still, as the kid with the Toy Fangs glances offscreen to see if
    it’s okay for him to close his mouth yet, we should take a moment to
    consider the implications. The instructions say that the purpose of
    the game is to construct a complete skeleton, and once you do that,
    you get to play the role of Barnabas Collins, fangs and all.

    So this is a game of competitive grave robbing, and the winner
    becomes a member of the living dead. I have to stress that, because
    by this point we have drifted so far away from human civilization
    that I’m not sure we can find our way back.

    But kids don’t really analyze these things in a broader context.
    They just know what’s fun, and this commercial actually goes some
    way towards explaining why elementary school kids are watching Dark
    Shadows, even as the show grows progressively darker.

    Kids want to play the active role, and when they’re playing, they
    don’t think about the morality of the situation. Adults can stand
    around and fret about what children are learning from this game, but
    the kids actually have a better handle on what’s going on.

    They’re not learning anything from the game. This is play. Nobody’s
    actually getting hurt; they’re just pretending.

    I can remember lots of examples from my childhood where an adult
    scolded me about the make-believe content in a game I was playing.
    There were days when I spent the entire afternoon with my friends
    having swordfights with sticks, and we would just massacre each
    other in grisly ways. And if somebody’s mom objected, then it
    wouldn’t make sense. We’re just playing. That’s why we’re doing it
    with sticks.

    So kids will happily take the role of an evil pirate captain, or
    Darth Vader, or Barnabas Collins. When you’re playing, the
    distinction between hero and villain is much less important than the distinction between active character and passive character. Of
    course you want to be the vampire, he’s the one who turns into a bat
    and breaks into your house. The victim just lies there, pretending
    to be asleep. There’s no glory in that role.

    810 dark shadows barnabas game bonus

    So I think that’s the spirit in which the 6 to 14 year olds are
    watching Dark Shadows, and as far as I know, all the kids who
    watched the show turned out fine, or as fine as they were going to
    be otherwise. All of the elements that make this commercial a safe
    make-believe space — the overwrought narrator, the silly dramatic
    stings, the weird transitions and mistakes, and the excessive
    theatricality of it all — those elements are present in the show as

    Yes, Aristede will pick up a hammer and threaten to smack Magda in
    the face with it, but we know that he’s not going to go through with
    it. There are a dozen subtle cues that we pick up on without
    noticing it, which tell us that we’re not going to actually see the
    hammer crack open her skull. There’s the lighting, the music, the
    acting style, the stage-play sets and blocking, and the fact that
    we’re only ten minutes into a half-hour show. The kids don’t lean
    back and analyze these things, and most of the adults don’t either.
    They just turn on the show, and unconsciously they pick up all the
    cues that tell them that this is a make-believe play space. Don’t
    worry about it. Before you put those fangs in your mouth, somebody
    is going to rinse them off in the sink for you.

    “Milton Bradley makes the best games in the world!” the narrator
    squeals, seriously tipping over into his “Yeeessss, Mr. Flintsone”
    persona. “And the Barnabas Collins Game is the SCARIEST! So GET IT!”

    And we do get it. The kids get it, too. I think they’re going to be
    okay; they usually are.

    Monday: Deadbeat Dad.

    Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

    The camera has trouble focusing and framing a shot as Charity opens
    the front doors for Magda, and then walks back to the drawing room.

    Magda laments, “If she dies, then Barn-banabas says that the future
    is dead, too!”

    Aristede refers to his twisted knife as the Dancing Lady. It was the
    Dancing Girl a couple weeks ago.

    Behind the Scenes:

    Legendary prop-spotter PrisoneroftheNight sends a note on today’s

    “The room in which Quentin brings the pendant to Lenore — one of the
    most frequently redressed sets of the show’s run — dates all the way
    back to August 1966, when it was first used in episode 45 as Roger’s
    office. Since then, it’s been the Collinsport law office of Frank
    Garner in 1967, the original 1795 bedroom of Barnabas, the 1795
    waiting room of the Collinsport Gaol, the front room of the
    apartment of Professor Timothy Stokes in 1968, and the main
    schoolroom in Trask’s school. It’s one of the most perfectly
    realized and serviceable rooms Sy Thomashoff ever designed.”

    Mrs. Fillmore is played by Mary Farrell, in her only Dark Shadows
    episode. In the late 50s and early 60s, Farrell appeared in several
    Broadway productions that I’m not particularly familiar with,
    including The Ponder Heart, The Loud Red Patrick, Orpheus
    Descending, Midgie Purvis and Look Homeward, Angel. In the 1980s,
    she had a bunch of guest roles on TV sitcoms that I’m unfortunately
    too familiar with, including The Love Boat, Newhart, Family Ties and
    Growing Pains.

    We see the colorful afghan again today, draped around the crib at
    Mrs. Fillmore’s house. It was on Charity’s bed yesterday, as Tessie
    breathed her last.

    Monday: Deadbeat Dad.

    Democrat Primary choices:
    1. An out-of-touch crusty old relic that wants to tax you to death
    2. Bernie Sanders.

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