Monday, September 25, 2017

Open your third eye with these Dark Shadows blacklight posters

Artist Dean Monahan has a few pieces of interesting art currently available on Ebay. These 16'' X 20'' canvas paintings depict Lara Parker as "Angelique," Diana Millay as "Laura Collins" and Kathryn Leigh Scott as Maggie Evans. (There's also a fourth painting of Collinwood available.) These portraits were made using acrylic paint that reacts to black light, while they're eyes (and Angelique's fangs) are painted with phosphorescent paint that glows in the dark.

Monahan has a few other pieces of DARK SHADOWS-related art available, as well as work inspired by Brian DePalm's CARRIE, BLACK SUNDAY, THE HONEYMOONERS and THRILLER. You can find his vendor page HERE.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Louis Edmonds in "The Choice is Murder," 1964

Louis Edmonds would have been 94 years old today. At this point, I'm willing to accept that the well has been pumped dry in regards to his complex tenure on DARK SHADOWS. When I went spelunking for obscure media about the actor, it was with little anticipation of finding anything new related to the series. My goal was to find something interesting about his work on ALL MY CHILDREN, but the best piece -- a newspaper editorial slamming the show's producers for its failure to recognize Edmonds' death in 2001 -- seemed a bit dark for the occasion.

Instead, let's look back on something so ephemeral that its very existence is even dubious: 1964's "The Choice is Murder." The play had a two-week run in July that year at Bucks County Playhouse in Pennsylvania, with hopes that it would make the leap to Broadway later that year (though I could find no evidence this actually happened.)

"I had an idea for the perfect murder and originally planned to build the whole play around it," author Denis Heber told The Philadelphia Inquirer shortly before the play's debut. (Note: Copyright information on the play credits the author as Denis Heber Caslon.) "But the script has undergone such radical revisions since then that now my idea only occupies the first act."

The story suggests that Edmonds was already in danger of being typecast. The play's principals are once-wealthy married couple brought low by the husband's many gambling debts. "The wife wants to get rid of him before all the money runs out," Heber explained in 1964.

The play is set in Surrey, England, and had at least one honest-to-god British actor in the cast: Paddi Edwards played the sinister spouse. While the name might not sound familiar, you've absolutely heard her voice: She provided the voices of Flotsam and Jetsam in Disney's THE LITTLE MERMAID and Gozer in GHOSTBUSTERS. The play's third lead, Gerald S. O'Loughlin, was among the stars of William Blinn's THE ROOKIES from 1972-1976, and had a wildly varied theatrical career that includes IN COLD BLOOD, ENSIGN PULVER and THE VALACHI PAPERS.

Located in New Hope, Pennsylvania, Bucks County Playhouse opened its doors in 1939 and eventually became a jumping-off point for both actors and entire productions. Bela Lugosi starred in a production of "Arsenic and Old Lace" there in 1947 .Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park" had its premiere at the theater in 1963, starring Robert Redford and Elizabeth Ashley. In 1964, Rob Reiner completed an apprenticeship at the Bucks County Playhouse, not only working on "The Choice is Murder," but also "Sunday In New York" (starring Alan Alda), and "Broadway" (with Merv Griffin). At the moment, George Wendt is appearing there as J. Edgar Hoover in ROCK AND ROLL MAN: THE ALAN FREED STORY.

Friday, September 22, 2017

There's no escape from Barnabas Collins this Halloween

When it rains, it pours: Decades is broadcasting an extended block of DARK SHADOWS episodes in time for Halloween!

Marathons of the series have become a holiday tradition for Decades, a network that specializes in classic television. As a lead-up to its "official" launch in 2014, Decades broadcast  68 straight hours of DARK SHADOWS during the summer, followed later that fall with a weekend marathon at Halloween called "The Binge." This is the third year running that the channel has celebrated Halloween with a DARK SHADOWS marathon, which showcases episodes pulled from the earliest appearances of vampire Barnabas Collins in 1967. While a schedule of this year's activities is pending, look for this extended block of DARK SHADOWS to air the weekend of Oct. 28.

Click HERE to see if you receive Decades in your hometown.

Coincidentally, Oct. 28 is also the day TCM is airing a double bill of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS. HOUSE begins at 4:15 p.m. EST, with NIGHT following at 6 p.m. ... which means a few fans will have to decide whether or not to change the channel for a few hours that day. Has something like this ever happened before? It feels unprecedented.

If that's not enough for you, Freeform is offering to rot your teeth with the cinematic equivalent of candy corn, Tim Burton's DARK SHADOWS. While the movie is keeping a respectful distance from Oct. 28, you can catch it on television at 4:10 p.m. EST Oct. 23 as part of a Burton marathon, and again 8:20 p.m. Oct. 26, 7 a.m. Oct. 27, and 11:30 a.m. Oct. 30.

For those of you who cut the cord, fear not! Amazon Prime is now streaming the first 17 DVD collections of the series ... plus two collections of "Dark Shadows: The Beginning," taken from the first 200 "Pre-Barnabas" episodes of the series. All told, this represents more than 750 episodes of DARK SHADOWS, taking you from the introduction of Jonathan Frid as "Barnabas Collins," right up through the entire 1897 story arc and David Selby as "Quentin Collins."

Meanwhile, over at Hulu, you can watch nine DVD collections of the series. Sadly, they're not entirely consecutive ... the streaming service is offering volumes 1 and 2 of the series, followed by volumes 5-9. It's a little anemic, sure, but Hulu appears to be the only service streaming all 12 episodes of the 1991 DARK SHADOWS "revival" series. So, there's that.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: SEPTEMBER 21


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1115

Barnabas appears in Roxanne’s room, and his remorse at feeding is met with her smitten rapture. Has he found love at last? Downstairs, Gabriel finds Samantha sitting in mournful contemplation over her lost son, Tad, and -- to a much lesser degree -- her estranged husband, Quentin. Gabriel pouts that the family fortune should be his, but instead, Daniel’s will states that it should go to Quentin and Samantha. With Quentin lost at sea, that means he had better be nice to Samantha. Later, Gerard Stiles tries to woo Samantha, but his plan is disrupted by Gabriel. In private, Gabriel reveals that he’s done research on Gerard, and has found his real name to be Ivan Miller. He changed it ten years prior in London, and is wanted globally for all manner of crimes including dabbling with the occult. With knowledge of this safely protected, Gerard is at his mercy. Gerard’s first task as Gabriel’s puppet? Poison Samantha. She, however, has conferred with her sister Roxanne, who has slept late and seems a tad frail in the daytime. Roxanne reveals that a new man is in her life, but cannot say more. Elsewhere, Barnabas writes to Ben, begging his forgiveness. In the garden of Collinwood, Roxanne gives herself to his thirst. Satiated, Barnabas leaves her to die… and rise?

Well, well, well. Ivan Miller. I guess I’d change it to “Gerard Stiles,” too. Was his middle name, “Hair”?  I jest.

In every respect, this is a DARK SHADOWS episode that makes a viewer go, “yes, that’s more like it." Every scene unfolds something new and dramatically important. Christopher Pennock is, as usual, a delight. Gabriel is the Roger Collins we met in 1966, dialed to 11. While Pennock’s choices are passionate and committed, they are never predictable, and he brings the same gleam in his eye that he brought to the wickedness of John Yaeger. Freed from the silence of the spectral, James Storm shows an intense charm and brooding smoothness that reveals, at last, the dramatic firepower of that fully armed and operational battle station. This is why he was cast! Their chemistry shows a marvelous range of gleeful naughtiness, making them the Chang and Eng of evil. The program, just when we think we’ve seen its top, tops itself in marvelously watchable, new ways. Chris and James, where have you been all my show?

The other scene stealers are Jonathan Frid and Donna Wandrey. This is a Barnabas reset to his 1795 ways, and in his approach to Roxanne we see a fantastically assured vampiric seducer; the sex appeal of the character is evident even to those who doubted it at first glance. The romance is there, but it is neither innocent nor entitled nor fearful. Why? Although he’s relatively fresh from Josette, Roxanne is a different animal for him to encounter. Does she know he’s a vampire? It doesn’t matter. She’s that rarest of dream girls for the Unusual Man: one who simply and deeply “gets him.” Without, I might add, the usual dash of crazy that so often goes with that territory. No struggle. No sales pitch. No power agenda. Saying the wrong thing is actually impossible. She simply is present with him in ways that even Angelique is not. Does that make her a simp? No, and that’s the heart of her magic. Angelique is looking for a sparring partner. Roxanne is just looking to celebrate an extraordinary man.

Only a week into 1840, and the times are rife with intrigue. Finally taking a cue from the audience and representing a very counter cultural sentiment, the writers give us Roxanne. Like most of the audience, she was all too happy to have eternal youth and beauty and superpowers in exchange for supping on the occasional extra. Come to think of it, there are vast stretches of Barnabas’ vampirism where he goes on a rather extreme diet. It’s not like they have to feed that often, apparently.

I often compare STAR TREK to DARK SHADOWS. One of the shared principles is the importance of compassion toward the other. (In DARK SHADOWS, the other usually wants to assimilate. But that’s an issue I dealt with in a different essay, on September 6.) For DARK SHADOWS, it was rooted in a fear of the unknown that would seem like an irony, but all that did was reflect public sentiment. We all feel like monsters -- the misunderstood kind -- at times, but at least at Collinwood, we have good hair and the latest off-the-rack from Orbach’s and Junior Sophisticate. They took our fear of being the other and glamorized the taboo possibilities. Of course she wants to be a vampire. Everyone does. Perhaps Maggie was symbolic of the last generation to not glamorize their sense of difference. She had to be carted off as insane rather than remain a voice in the new era.

I was always fascinated with how the relative pasts of Collinwood looked. Before we got to those time trippy storylines, I eagerly anticipated how the designers would create yet another new world. 1840 doesn’t disappoint, and just like the show’s story, the visual world of 1840 distinguishes itself in a heavy, thunderous manner. The colors are darker and the scenic elements feel weighty. 1795 was about shape, in design elementese. 1897 was an orgy of color. 1840? Texture, and that’s so appropriate for what may be the show’s most textured era.

On this day in 1970, the world gained Monday Night Football. Dan Curtis put golf on TV. There’s a connection for ya. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 19


Taped on this day in 1968: Episode 589

Back at Collinwood, Vicki is uncertain that her assailant was Adam, and Barnabas supports her ambiguity. Meanwhile, at the mausoleum with Willie, Maggie finally remembers what happened when she was kidnapped, and by whom. Finally, Carolyn visits Barnabas at the Old House and reveals that she wants to be the life force.

And then there are times when I have to call shenanigans on the whole thing, and 589 has it coming. Other episodes are shot live on tape, but I feel as if they filmed this one on a Moebius strip. Not only within the episode, but within the series. Maggie remembers… again, I think. She does this in the series for the very first time at least twice. How many times will Julia have to fix this? Can Barnabas get a mind wipe with a warranty? No wonder he wants to kill Julia. The whole thing was humiliating. He has his long lost love. Then, he doesn’t. Then, he thinks he’s killed her! Then, he lives in suspense over whether she’ll talk. Eventually, she’s seemingly happy again, and he turns his attentions to a fresh start with Vicki, only to be faced with her blabbing again. Oh, and everyone wants to be the life force except for the truly expendable. So, think about this when you see Barnabas louring. At least Jonathan Frid is having a good day. His handle on the action is smooth, committed, and confident. We can say the same for Nancy Barrett and an unusually (even for him) charming Louis Edmonds. Kathryn Leigh Scott is put in the unenviable position of playing a broken record very slowly and (successfully) trying to keep the song fresh. The performances of these actors all stand out because John Karlen’s take on Willie in this one is as outlandish as he can make it. No one can fault Karlen for lacking passion, however, in his attempt to summon up Willie’s panic for Maggie, his choices are sometimes so overwrought that the whole thing collapses into unintentional parody. Counter this with other choices, such as his quiet musing when it’s clear that he has no choice in Maggie’s treatment. I suppose he takes this from 4 to 11 as legitimate attempt at texture, but it makes it easy to forget the more surgical work Karlen does at other places. Orson Welles used to tell actors, “Deeper, not bigger.” When Karlen is at his best, few go as far to explore the truthful core of the deepest dilemmas.

On this day in 1968, American audiences were seeing Cliff Robertson elevate minds and break hearts in the groundbreaking film, CHARLY. Harlan Ellison considers it to be one of the best science fiction films ever made. As usual, Harlan’s right. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 18


Taped on this day in 1970: Episode 1110

Julia Hoffman encounters the world of 1840, where an aged Ben Stokes becomes a new ally, Quentin’s ancestor is missing at sea with his son, Tad, and his paralyzed brother, Gabriel, is scheming to gain control of the family fortunes in the escaped and insane Daniel’s will. She disguises herself to fit in and is promptly assaulted by a mysterious, caped figure.

This is a tiny masterpiece of tone, both consistent and surprising. Following the darkest and most apocalyptic episode of the series, 1110 finds now-seasoned time traveler, Julia Hoffman, in the year 1840. Excluding 1995 (which was too brief for a honeymoon), the other time jaunts begin with deceptive sunniness. They’re playgrounds of innocence (or harmlessly naughty larceny at the worst) with evil lurking around the edges, hardly commensurate to the threats that will later emerge. Sure, Barnabas gets voodoo-choked pretty quickly, but it’s against a background of overwhelming optimism. 1897 has colorful and charming gypsies and a retinue of other cartoonish weirdos. Quentin, now talking, is an instantly beguiling rascal. But 1840? With a dark and sweaty color palette, hideously Jack Kirby-esque makeup on Ben Stokes, and intense, threatening, angry, mournful characters, we are thrown into a fire that would very likely produce the kind of ghost who would later order armageddon on Collinwood. There is no charm here, although Gabriel will eventually develop a marvelously mordant sense of humor, allowing the luminous Christopher Pennock to shine even brighter than ever. Overall, this is a Collinwood in a cycle of decay. As mentioned, Ben is a mass of age and tumors. Daniel is mad. Gabriel’s body is (seemingly) half-dead. The only capable members of the household we meet -- Samantha and Carrie -- are paralyzed themselves, only from within, with mourning. Julia arrives at an implosion of wildly unhappy people. Solving the mystery of Gerard will be difficult enough. Just making it through a day with these already-paranoid grouches, cretins, and lost souls will be just as difficult. It continues a storyline that spoon-feeds you nothing. Neither viewers nor time travelers can claim the cockiness of experience. It can be a challenge to watch because of its dark, unhappy intensity, and yet the benefit to the characters is proportionately positive. Grayson Hall, now the show’s heroine, takes on the mantle with a confidence that never lampoons itself into cockiness. If ‘humanity’ can be synonymous with something other than frailty, then she nails it.

Virginia Vestoff joins the cast as Quentin’s widow, Samantha, and is the last major female lead to round out the company. At this period, performing simultaneously in 1776 at night would not have been out of the question, and that alone is an impressive feat. I have mixed feelings about her, otherwise. To her credit, Vestoff has a furrowed sense of restlessness that adds to the wonky feel of the storyline. She would not reappear in the 1841PT sequence, and that may be for the best. What she adds in intensity, it could be argued she lacks in dimension. Although her Broadway pedigree is prestigious, it takes a tad more range and theatrical relish to mesh with the established, DS ensemble. I admire Vestoff a great deal, but as a DARK SHADOWS regular, she’s a wonderful Abigail Adams. No saltpeter required.

On this day in 1970, Grayson Hall celebrated her 48th birthday. Given that she leads this inaugural episode of a sequence celebrating heroism and mystery, it is an apt gift to her from its writer, husband Sam Hall

Tim Burton's DARK SHADOWS returns to 13 Nights of Halloween

Once upon a time, 13 Nights of Halloween was once called 13 Days of Halloween. The television movie festival began life on The Family Channel, which became Fox Family, ABC Family and is now called Freeform. If you were trying to duck creditors, it would look a lot like this.

I mention the convoluted history because it's a lot more interesting than the point of this post: 13 Nights of Halloween is bringing 2012's DARK SHADOWS movie back to the schedule this year. Because I'm a masochist, I was vaguely hopeful that The Family Channel Fox Family ABC Family Freeform would be airing DARK SHADOWS on Oct. 28, which is the same day that TCM is airing HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS back to back. It would have been nice to see the Collins family stake a claim to the airwaves for a day, even if that day would represent a gradual decline in movie quality.  The stars failed to align, though, with Tim Burton's 2012 feature showing up at 4:10 p.m. EST Oct. 23 as part of a Burton marathon, and again 8:20 p.m. Oct. 26, 7 a.m. Oct. 27, and 11:30 a.m. Oct. 30. You can read the full event schedule HERE.

Get Eldritch or Die Trying

The curious Dark Shadows/hip hop connection


DARK SHADOWS has a recent-but-proud relationship with punk rock. The series was originally broadcast when the movement began to ferment in New York City during the late 1960s, but it wasn't until after the show hit The Sci-Fi Channel during the 1990s that DARK SHADOWS began to have any influence on the anti-genre. How we managed to never get a Ramones song about the Collins family is one of life's great mysteries, but The Damned, Misfits and Argyle Goolsby were more than ready to step up and fill that void.

Because the fan base of DARK SHADOWS is painfully white, the show's influence on hip hop during the 1990s went mostly overlooked. It shouldn't be surprising that the fans who picketed the cancellation of the series on the New Jersey Network during the 1980s weren't listening to the likes of Gang Starr or Chino XL a decade later, but they missed some of the most delightfully weird crossovers ever heard in popular music. If you thought those reggae tributes to DARK SHADOWS were offbeat, you ain't heard nothing yet.

Chino XL, "Waiting to Exhale"
From 1996 album "Here to Save You All"
This is one of the more subtle uses of composer Robert Cobert's music from DARK SHADOWS ... which is odd, because it's also one of the most pervasive. The song samples the music used for the "Meditations" track on "The Original Music from Dark Shadows" album from 1969. Jonathan Frid's dialogue from the original version is gone (more on that later) and the music re-pitched, creating the kind of background track that's equal parts horror movie and crime thriller. Frid's matra on "the throbbing sound/of a one way path to eternity" is replaced by "I'm slick like Deon Sanders/jheri curl when I represent." So, there's that.

Metal Fingers, "Hyssop"
From the 2003 album "Special Herbs, Vol. 4"
If you're familiar with Metal Fingers/MF Doom, the use of the DARK SHADOWS theme won't come as much surprise. This is a guy who routinely samples things like the 1967 FANTASTIC FOUR cartoon, SCOOBY DOO and Godzilla movies. Dude's a straight-up nerd who makes mc chris look like Bender from THE BREAKFAST CLUB. While a few of the artists on this list are fairly obscure, Doom has had a huge impact on music .... and you really should check him out. His 2004 album "Madvillain" is as good a place to start as any. Get thee to Amazon!

Gang Starr (feat. Big Shug and Freddie Foxxx), "The Militia"
From  the 1998 album "Moment of Truth"
Hey, look! It's the DARK SHADOWS theme again! As with the Chino XL track, Cobert's music is used to make things a bit tense, if not downright unsettling. If you've got any doubt that his score to DARK SHADOWS isn't balls-out terrific, just listen to how it retains its power even when stomped on by hip hop beats, chopped up and matted with dissonant lyrics. I don't have much of an opinion of Gang Starr (the only track of theirs I'm familiar with is "1/2 & 1/2" from the BLADE soundtrack, which isn't my favorite song in the world) but they get extra credit for this tune. (But I might subtract that credit because of the cheesy "Jack the Rapper" lyric here.)

Third Sight, "I Will Never Leave You"
From the 1998 album "The Golden Shower Hour"
David Selby makes his first (and maybe only?) contribution to hip hop with this track, which begins with his spoken word "Shadows of the Night." I've got to admire the balls of an artist "sampling" almost an entire track before sliding directly into another piece written by the same composer. (Cobert's "Meditations" is used again.) Bela Lugosi gets a shout out here, but at this point the use of the same pieces of music in exactly the same way is getting a little tired. But hey, it ends with a short clip of more DARK SHADOWS music, this time some of the faux-rock used during scenes at The Blue Whale. The whole thing is a little ponderous, but I'm still chalking this up as a win.

King Geedorah,
"Take Me to Your Leader"
From the 2003 album "Take Me to Your Leader"
If you love MF Doom, you already know the name King Geedorah ... because they're the same guy. Doom's identity crisis is pretty well established, but if you're interested in catching up you can find a short outline of his many aliases HERE. In "Take Me to Your Leader" he throws everything and the kitchen sink at the beats, including dialogue from FIST OF THE NORTH STAR, "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" by Hall and Oates and Looney Tunes. Does it all add up to anything? I can't tell.

Hive, "A Chain of Prophecies"
and "One Way Path"
From the 1998 album "Devious Methods"
With these last two tracks we're leaving hip hop behind for the world of trip hop/drum & bass. Hive is a Los Angeles DJ who made the kind of music that would have sounded right at home played behind images of Wesley Snipes killing vampires. These two tracks are essentially the same, so I'm leading with "One Way Path." Once again, Cobert's "Meditations" is sampled, but this time with pitch-shifted vocals by Jonathan Frid. The title of this tune is taken from the original lyrics to "Meditation," which fit these dreamy beats like a glove.
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