The latest attempt at cramming the X-Men’s lengthy, years-long Dark Phoenix storyline into one movie is now in theaters. With everybody reviewing that cram course Balladeer’s Blog will instead take a look at the female Phoenix character from the original 1966-1971 run of Dark Shadows.
Amazingly enough, I often encounter people who claim to have never heard of the Gothic Horror soap opera Dark Shadows. Not the original 5-day a week cult series (still available in reruns), not the movies, not the attempted reboot in 1991 and not the ongoing series of audio plays set in the 1970s onward. If anything they’ve heard of the incredibly lame Tim Burton comedy version of the show starring Johnny Depp.
Decades before Bella Swan was torn between a supposedly hunky vampire and a supposedly hunky werewolf in the Twilight novels, female readers of Tiger Beat magazine were torn between Dark Shadows‘ horror heart-throbs. Jonathan Frid’s vampire Barnabas Collins was one and David Selby’s werewolf/ warlock/ Dorian Gray-figure Quentin Collins was the other.
In terms of female horror heart-throbs from Dark Shadows, Lara Parker’s evil witch Angelique is the best known, but obviously this post will address the unusual supernatural menace the Phoenix, aka Laura Collins, played by Diana Millay (right) on the original Dark Shadows.
In Dark Shadows lore Laura Collins was sold to a Phoenix Cult in Egypt in the 1700s by her evil lover, for whom she had abandoned her husband back in America. The cult used Laura as an offering/ guinea pig, transforming her into a supernatural figure called the Phoenix.
Periodically Laura the Phoenix would need to start a fire and die in flames, usually with her unwilling child or children trapped in her embrace as she and they burned alive. Laura would then slowly re-form from the ashes and live again.
If you know Dark Shadows you know their continuity was all over the map and was revised on the fly as often as early Doctor Who and most comic books. Sometimes it was explained that dying with her children was what enabled the Phoenix to rise from the ashes in a rejuvenated body.
Other times Laura would die in flames and emerge in perfect health when nobody was looking even if people had saved her children, like David Collins, preventing them from dying with her. Still other times she supposedly needed to die once every hundred years, but given the supernatural figure’s popularity it got so she died and was reborn whenever the writers felt like saying it had happened.
Ultimately, Laura Collins (with or without her children locked in her embrace) died in flames in 1767, 1785, 1867, 1896, 1966 and 1967. Dark Shadows often covered earlier centuries in Collins family history via flashback stories which lasted several episodes – it was on 5 days a week, remember. Time travel was also commonplace on the show, thanks to Collinwood Manor’s handy-dandy Stairway Through Time (No home should be without one!).
Another aspect of Phoenix lore that varied per story was whether or not Laura maintained continuity of consciousness. Eventually it seemed decided that she DID always remember who she was and that she died only to live again.
The first story, though, made it appear that when her body reformed after her most recent previous death she emerged as an amnesiac. A silly touch was the way she had wound up living in Phoenix, AZ for a time, drawn there purely by the city’s name. I guess we can assume she was just pretending to have fuzzy memories in that story. Or something.
Anyway, time travel and flashbacks and audio dramas allowed for Phoenix stories in multiple time periods after the original 1966 and 1967 tales. Joanna Going, who participated in the 1991 reboot series, went on to portray Laura the Phoenix in various Dark Shadows audio plays. Those plays ignored the reboot and carried on the supernatural saga of the Collins family from the original 1966-1971 run of the show.
With all the revisions and retcons it was inevitable that at some point Laura would wind up marrying one or more of her own sons or grandsons and that did indeed happen.
If the tale had been completely thought out beforehand they might have claimed from the very start that one of the reasons the Phoenix needed to die with her reluctant children in her arms was to prevent such incestuous unions from ever happening. But what can ya do?
FOR A VERY DARK SHADOWS-ISH NOVEL FROM 1812, HERE’S MY REVIEW OF ISABELLA OF EGYPT. (No Phoenixes, but you get gypsy witches, Mandragores, living dead men and a She-Golem.) CLICK HERE
FOR MORE HALLOWEEN ITEMS CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/category/halloween-season/
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