Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Mansions of the Gilded Age Symposium returns to Collinwood

The Mansions of the Gilded Age Symposium is returning this year to the historic Lyndhurst Mansion, the location used as the fictional "Collinwood" in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and its sequel, NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS.

Lyndhurst is a Gothic Revival country house that sits in its own 67-acre park beside the Hudson River in Tarrytown, New York. Designed in 1838 by Alexander Jackson Davis, the house's last resident was railroad baron Jay Gould. In 1961, Gould's daughter Anna Gould donated it to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The National Historic Landmark is now open to the public.

On April 29, Mansions of the Gilded Age Symposium will present a day of lectures and activities at Lyndhurst. Five speakers and authors will discuss topics related to Gilded Age homes, society and art at the mansion. You can find a full schedule of lectures and tours for the day at the official Facebook event page HERE. Tickets are available at lyndhurst.org.

(H/T to Will McKinley for the tip. Follow him on Twitter at @willmckinley.)

Monday, March 19, 2018

You can't see our faces, but we're blushing

Kathryn Leigh Scott gave the Collinsport Historical Society and Patrick McCray a shout out via Facebook over the weekend. The CHS has been nominated for Best Blog/Website of 2017 by the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards. I'm currently stumping for Patrick as a write-in candidate for "Best Writer," primarily for his work on the "Dark Shadows Daybook" series. You can read more about the nominations HERE. (And thanks again, Kathryn, for the vote of confidence!)
Attention Dark Shadows fans . . . The Collinsport Historical site is up for a Rondo award, which is like the Hugo of...
Posted by Kathryn L Scott on Saturday, March 17, 2018

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Sidequest: Rob Zombie announces "Devil's Rejects" sequel

2005's THE DEVIL'S REJECTS was a mission statement of sorts for Rob Zombie. The newly minted director had stumbled out of the gate with his first outing, HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, a primal scream of a film that Zombie had to compromise in order to secure any kind of theatrical release. Another director would have sought to remedy those sins with an expanded director's cut DVD and feature length commentary track/apology, but Zombie took a different approach: he gathered as much of the cast as he could and made a sequel. THE DEVIL'S REJECTS was raw, unsettling and uncompromising, right down the the film's climax that saw its anti-heroes gunned down in a blaze of glory. The heroes were villains, villains were heroes and everybody died. The end.

Since then, Zombie has taken a my way or the highway approach to filmmaking, alienating a lot of people in the process. He's as true an auteur as Hitchcock, for sure, but his obsessions don't always mesh well with audience expectations. His adaption of John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN is among the most controversial horror movies in recent memory, but response to that film was almost muted in comparison to his sequel, HALLOWEEN II. Since THE DEVIL'S REJECTS Zombie has done things his way, but it's a way that has lead increasingly to direct-to-video purgatory and crowdfunding initiatives. In 2003, Zombie made deep cuts to HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES to get it into theaters; today he only cares about completing a film on his own terms ... even of those films fail to find an audience (I don't know a single person who has seen his 2016 movie 31.)

Yesterday, he announced via Instagram that a follow-up to THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, titled 3 FROM HELL, had begun shooting. The response has been about what you might expect. Zombie's films are genetically engineered to be provocative, so it shouldn't be surprising that fans/haters immediately began to draw battle lines. I think this summarizes it in the most polite way possible:

There are a few ways to interpret Zombie's announcement, and none of them very helpful. The most pessimistic read is that the guy who directed the awful and/or gloriously bonkers HALLOWEEN II is making a sequel to THE DEVIL'S REJECTS. If you haven't enjoyed Zombie's recent output, then you're probably not all that excited about seeing his best work extended during the downward arc of his career.

On the other hand, THE DEVIL'S REJECTS was also made by the same guy who made HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, so anything is possible ... even in Zombie's misanthropic cinematic universe. Relationship Status: It's complicated.

Note: You can see RZ's original Instagram announcement below.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Dark Shadows newspaper strip collection is at the printers

The Dark Shadows newspaper strip made its debut on this day in 1971, so it seems appropriate to share some news about a collected edition of this series: the hardback, restored collection that's been promised by Hermes Press since 2014 is now at the printer!

Hermes Press has been fighting to get this book published for almost as long as this website has been around. The company successfully reprinted the entire run of the Gold Key comics line, but pre-orders for this particular title have stalled on several occasions. This has been disappointing to me, personally, because the Ken Bald illustrated newspaper strips are among the best of the licensed materials ever spun out of DARK SHADOWS.

The 224-page hardbound collection looks to be a keeper. Not only is it chock full of bonus material, but this edition reprints Sunday strips in color for the first time. While the various DARK SHADOWS comics that have appeared over the years have featured some terrific artwork,  Bald's linework on the newspaper strip might the best of the bunch. It's reportedly Bald's favorite work of his career, which is no small statement given that Guinness World Records has crowned him as the world's "oldest comic book artist." The man has worked on everything from "Doc Savage" and "Captain America" to "Dr. Kildare."

A paperback collection of these strips was published in 1996 by Kathryn Leigh Scott's Pomegranate Press. For whatever reason, those strips were published in format that emulated the dimensions of traditional comic books. This meant shrinking the strips down to sizes that weren't always pleasant to the eye. The Hermes Press edition presents the strips in a landscape format, two strips per page to better appreciate Bald's artwork. (Note: The Sunday strips have three-deck layouts and get entire page to themselves.) Also, this collection presents the Sunday strips as they were original published ... in color.

Amazon is predicting a July 10 release for "Dark Shadows: the Complete Newspaper Strips," and has the book available for pre-order HERE. (It is also available for pre-order directly from the publisher HERE.)

You can get a look at the cover and interior samples below.

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 14


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 196

Jason McGuire reintroduces himself to Liz by requesting favors and a room, reminding her about Paul and explaining that he’s her most important guest. Carolyn is thrilled, Roger is concerned, and Victoria promises Liz that she will never reveal what she saw the night before.

It’s Dennis Patrick’s birthday, and it’s wholly appropriate that it should also be the episode in which Jason McGuire and Liz Stoddard are reunited, allowing her to have her “Burke Devlin,” and allowing Patrick to charm the daylights out of the cast, characters, and audience. The Zen of DARK SHADOWS rests in the Koan of Jason McGuire: how can the show’s most lovable character be it’s one of its nastiest villains? One of my first memories of the show was the dirty secret that I tuned in for Barnabas, but I stayed for Jason; he was the real villain. Barnabas was just making the best of a bad situation.

Jason parallels both Burke and Barnabas in nefarious ways, making him an ideal reflector character. Like Burke, he was wrapped up with a predicament where one of Jamison’s kids was wrapped up with murder. Burke took the rap for a crime committed by Roger. Jason helped Liz dodge the rap for a murder she only thinks she committed. No wonder Liz went so easy on a guilty Roger. Similarly, both Jason and Barnabas deal with reluctant brides. Barnabas moves the world to win back the woman he sincerely loves. Jason just uses old-fashioned blackmail. But both are engaged with dark engagements at the same time.

In this episode, Jason tests the waters with Liz, gently advancing in his campaign of Gaelic guile. In the era of #MeToo uber Alles, we’re all too aware of the power of grooming, gaslighting, and social compliance. Everywhere from the film, COMPLIANCE, to the recent Derren Brown special, THE PUSH, the dark force of gently escalating mind control is on parade. In this sense, DARK SHADOWS was so far ahead of its time, it makes me wonder if Ron Sproat worked for Ewan Cameron and MKUltra. Watch Jason’s technique in this one. By gently reminding Liz of Paul Stoddard while making small, vaguely inconspicuous requests of a person of wealth -- some new clothes, a room with a view out of so many empty bedchambers -- he makes more and more extravagant demands seem imminently rational. And he’s in for far more than a penny.

On this day in 1967, President John F. Kennedy’s body was permanently moved to Arlington National Cemetery. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Here's how Marvel's version of "Dark Shadows" might have looked

For anyone who made a living creating comics during the second half of the 20th century, the Comics Code Authority was a huge pain in the ass. Adopted by comics publishers in the 1950s, the CCA was a misguided attempt at self-regulating an industry that had developed a lurid, exploitative reputation. Congressional hearings helped portray comics at the chosen entertainment of juvenile delinquents and perverts, the less-literary sibling to pornography. Everything from "Tales from the Crypt" to "Batman" was targeted, leading to a new set of industry regulations that dictated how elements such as crime and horror could be presented ... which was almost "not at all."

These rules are probably the reason why the DARK SHADOWS comic series was published by Gold Key, a company that mostly published licensed properties like THE TWILIGHT ZONE and STAR TREK. The license holders, not the Comics Code, had the ultimate say in Gold Key's product, so the publisher was among the few not to use the "Code Approved" seal on its covers. Meanwhile, Marvel and DC Comics still obeyed the rules, more or less ... rules that prohibited them from presenting vampires, werewolves, zombies and pretty much everything else depicted daily by ABC on DARK SHADOWS.

These rules relaxed a little as the 1960s came to an end, prompting DARK SHADOWS fan Roy Thomas to introduce Morbius the Living Vampire in the pages of "The Amazing Spider Man." Pretty quickly, Marvel began to adopt an editorial strategy that looked exactly like that of DARK SHADOWS: a "who's who" of public domain literary characters, from Dracula to Frankenstein's monster, shambled their way into a universe already inhabited by the likes of the Hulk, Doctor Strange and the X-Men. Joining their ranks were "The Living Zombie," "Werewolf By Night," "Satana" and more. Had Marvel been willing and able to adapt DARK SHADOWS into comics, this is pretty much what it would have looked like. (We would almost certainly have seen Barnabas Collins mixing it up with Spider-Man, as well.)

If you're curious about Marvel's horror universe, Amazon is holding a massive sale on digital graphic novels and collections with hundreds of books going for just 99 cents each. This includes a lot of superhero stuff, but also collections of "Tomb of Dracula," "Werewolf By Night" and an anthology of horror tales from the black and white magazine like called "Marvel Horror."

Click HERE to get started.

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 12


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 451

Millicent continues to behave erratically as Joshua and Bathia try to rend the curse from a possessed Barnabas. Joshua shocks Victoria by pressing for her release. Bathia eventually is immolated by the spirit of Angelique.

Bathia, it was nice knowing ya! Actually, it was! 451 begins the wrap up of 1795 with bold and uncompromising writing by Ron Sproat and Jonathan Frid’s Shakespearean knack making you think that actual blood will fall from a thundering sky, no matter the material. But Anita Bolster’s turn as Bathia Mapes is what sells it. A seasoned performer from Dublin’s famous Abbey Theater and the Broadway stage, DARK SHADOWS signaled one of her last appearances. One of our most avid readers uses “Bathia Mapes” as their online pseudonym -- or do they? It might be a gesture of camp, but it might not. Mapes only appears for a brief moment in the series, but between the performance and the script, she’s as memorable at the last episode as she is in 451, three years earlier. A hawklike crone, she seems to be such the keen match for Angelique that we never see her death coming. As if we needed any more reason to fear Angelique, Bathia’s death provides. Mapes is at a Stokes-level of formidability, and if Angelique can posses Barnabas and turn a potent sorceress into a pillar of flame, her powers know no limit.

She could even convince Roger to abandon life as a confirmed bachelor. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 9


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 976

Bruno again tries to kill Caroline by locking her in a room with a transforming Chris Jennings. Roger comes to the rescue, clocking Bruno and saving his niece. Later, Bruno persuades Carolyn to meet him, and the werewolf stops his assassination attempt by mussing Bruno’s ‘do to death. Roger tops off the day by checking on Parallel Time, seeing that PT Quentin is returning with a wife, and his dead former wife’s ghost will take him back to court or something. Roger is appalled to see his PT self wearing some questionable lapels.

Two-Fisted Fightin’ Fops!

Bruno and Worf. They have an important similarity besides being of the House of Martok and sporting girlish bouffants. They also get beaten up a lot by sometimes unlikely perpetrators. It’s one thing to be savaged by a werewolf. Happens to the best of us. But to be beaten up by Roger Collins is a clear indication that you need more roughage in your diet… maybe a brisk, daily swim, too. Roger used to dread thumb-wrestling with Liz and Indian burns from Mrs. Johnson. David would threaten to bruise his father’s palm by meriting a spanking. Well, clearly, he’s upped the snifter size he uses in his daily curls because he dispatches Bruno (with a candlestick) like Stokes going through a slice of Stilton.

I kid, I kid. But the hidden gem of the Leviathan arc is seeing Roger mix it up, Jack Lord-style. The Midnight Stroka goes out swinging, duking it out with a werewolf and holding his own until overcome by a fuller hairdo. 976 provides kids with the spring break joy of no less than two fight scenes broken up by another installment of Fretting About Jeb with Liz and Roger. It’s like its the series’ way of saying, “Man, you’re really going to miss us. In almost no time, it’s Parallel Time and jet black fatalism. So, have fun with some fight scenes while you can.”

DARK SHADOWS is about to hit puberty and become the sullen teenager of 1840 and then the  hallucinating college student of 1841 PT. Before that, Bruno gets blowed up by a wolfman real good as the last sip of childhood’s dandelion and lobster wine is vinted in the house by the sea.

I drink to your leg.
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