Sunday, February 5, 2012

In which Dark Shadows becomes an Ed Wood production

I feel fortunate to have lived in a world where BARNABAS, QUENTIN AND THE BODY SNATCHERS happened.

Before we go any further, I need to mention that a translucent pink flying saucer plays a major role in this novel. There's no Scooby Doo reveal at the end where the UFO is shown to be an illusion created by some creepy old guy hanging around an amusement park. It's not a dream, it's not a hoax, and it's not a THREE'S COMPANY-esque misunderstanding. There's a goddamn flying saucer parked in the swamps outside Collinwood.

I love the MARILYN ROSS novels, not just because they were some of my first entry points into reading (and were my introduction to DARK SHADOWS) but because they often shows signs of genuinely good writing. Yes, they were cranked out at a breakneck pace by a writer who had almost no experience with the television show. The DARK SHADOWS novels are the definition of hack work by any measure. Ross (whose real first name was Dan) sticks to a basic JANE EYRE formula in the series, but there are lots of good character moments spread throughout. And the casual disregard for the television continuity always provides pleasant surprises. I consider the novels to be a "parallel timeline" that went unexplored by the television show.

Marilyn "Dan" Ross.

But BARNABAS, QUENTIN AND THE BODY SNATCHERS sees Ross veering far, far afield from CHARLOTTE BRONTË. This isn't a book report so I'm going to keep the summary brief:  Murdoch Gray, a college chum of Roger Collins, visits Collinwood with his daughter, Marjorie. Gray is a NASA scientist who is planing a manned U.S. spaceflight that has earned the unwelcome attention of the planet Velva.

Not to be confused with Velveeta.
Velva has dispatched a flying saucer and several agents to persuade Gray that it would be in Earth's best interest to keep its rockets in the garage until we gain a little more maturity. They land their translucent pink flying saucer in the swamps outside Collinwood and put Plan 10 from Outer Space into motion (which involves kidnapping residents of Collinwood and replacing them with alien duplicates.)

Get your Twilight-loving ass out of my Dark Shadows page.
But wait! There's more!

Gray's daughter has fallen in love with a mysterious rock star named Jim James, who has somehow launched a successful recording career without ever having had a single photograph taken of his face. James turn out to be none other than Quentin Collins, who had been run out of Collinsport after some werewolf-related business in an earlier book. And the townsfolk are none too happy to see him. Even though he's CLEARLY Quentin Collins he constantly insists that he's not, telling one person "I'm Jim James, a singer. And I've got the identification to prove it." OK, then.

If you're worried about coming in late to the Ross novels, never fear. The #26 you see on the cover might as well be printed in vanishing ink. Ross cared nothing for continuity, with either the television series or his own novels. Victoria Winters, the main character in the series when they were first launched, disappears between books with no explanation. Characters travel through time, usually visiting Collins family relatives who can't possibly be related to each other. And the people of Collinsport all seem to know Barnabas Collins is a vampire and are grudgingly accepting of it.

But none of this matters. This is a book about a vampire and a werewolf/rock star who team up to fight aliens from the planet Velva. BARNABAS, QUENTIN AND THE BODY SNATCHERS should be on the required reading list of every high school in the country.

As a tribute to this novel, here's a video for the song "Alien Movies" by THE DARK SHADOWS.


Laramie Dean said...

I am quite, QUITE enjoying your page! Your sense of humor and style really set it apart!

Cousin Barnabas said...

Thanks a lot!

Anonymous said...

Well, of course a flying saucer showed up at Collinwood. They had vampires, werewolves, zombies, witches, mad scientists, and just about everything else, so why not some aliens from space?

Anonymous said...

The similarity to "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "Plan 9 from Outer Space" is obvious. Also "I Married a Monster from Outer Space." The ending reminded me of "The Human Duplicators." It seems Ross drew more inspiration from movies than from the series itself.

retzev said...

'ckin awesome, I can't wait to read this.

retzev said...

Get your Twilight-loving ass out of my Dark Shadows page!

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