Friday, February 24, 2017

Humbert Allen Astredo in FRAGMENTS, 1967

More than a year before joining the cast of DARK SHADOWS, actor Humbert Allen Astredo was sharing the stage in a one-act play called FRAGMENTS with Gene Hackman and James Coco. The production ran for 24 performances between Oct. 2 and Oct. 22 in 1967 and appears to have been a success despite its modest stint.

From what I can tell, Astredo was the top-billed actor in this performance, which also shared a stage with a second play from the same creative team, BASEMENT. (Hackman and Coco appeared in both plays.) Hackman had the louder of the roles, though, according to an Oct. 4, 1967 review in New York's Democrat and Chronicle. If the photos are evidence of anything, it's that Hackman had much more to work with that Astredo, who the newspaper said performed "while arranged supine on a cot so that only his bare soles confront the audience."

FRAGMENTS/BASEMENT has a pretty interesting pedigree. It was written by Marc Merson and Edgar Lansbury, the latter of which is brother of actress Angela Lansbury and the late producer Bruce Lansbury. (Edgar would go on to produce the movie adaption of GODSPELL and the cult classic BLUE SUNSHINE.) Merson was the executive producer of DOC HOLLYWOOD, a movie I've seen more times that I care to admit.

I'm not sure whatever happened to Hackman and Coco. I think one of them was in that moose movie with Ray Ramano.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: February 23


Taped on this date in 1970 

 Although Carolyn always expected a grand wedding, she realizes that all she wants now is Jeb. They marry in the drawing room, with Liz as witness and a reverend who looks like John Tesh. Jeb flaunts convention by refusing to name where they will go or for how long they’ll be away. In reality, he is escaping Angelique’s shadow curse. Sky Rumson visits Barnabas, angry that he is now the vampire slave of Megan. Through this, Barnabas learns that she is sleeping somewhere in the East Wing of Collinwood. He instructs Julia to keep working on Megan’s cure while he searches for her resting place. Meanwhile, Jeb is increasingly paranoid about his shadow as he leaves with Carolyn. In the East Wing, Barnabas discovers an occupied room that should be as empty as the rest of the area. Instead, he finds Elizabeth and Hoffman, now a maid, arguing about whether or not the room should be prepared for the new mistress of if it should remain the property of its owner. It’s clear that the owner is dead, but Hoffman insists she will return. The room shifts and is suddenly abandoned. He has gained his first glimpse of parallel time.

For a show that could crawl at a pokey pace, DARK SHADOWS moves breathlessly when it decides to, and this episode is panting. For Jeb, things are just a matter of time, and in some ways, waiting for the end is a strange cruelty for both him and Carolyn. During the wedding, I was struck that it was a rare appearance of a Christian clergyman who wasn’t trying to kill someone. They cut away during the actual vows, but I just imagined what was going on, on a cosmic level, as Jeb took his vows to the Judeo-Christian God. For one thing, what strange bedfellows. What brought us to this? A shikse. To many, the most potent and forbidden power in the universe. She alone truly brought down the Leviathans. So many mothers’ warnings were correct. But beyond that, it really is a bullhorn reading of the Riddle of Epicurus. You’d imagine that the Leviathan Messiah, pledging himself in his love to the God of the Bible, would be shielded from Shadow Assassins. But no. I would have thought that God might have protected him, if only for bragging rights. Sorry, Jeb. Yes, somewhere, Christopher Hitchens is looking up and smiling, I guess.

Just remember, Tina Fey is wrong. Women are no stronger than the rest of us poor slobs. Shikses, however? Whole other story.

We also glimpse Parallel Time. With this, more than anything, I can feel DARK SHADOWS growing full circle, to where we were when I began nearly a year ago. The scars of PT are fresh enough that I can still recall how profoundly disappointing -- and time consuming -- it truly is as a storyline. This is the first place where I feel like the breath of creativity was seeping from the balloon. Yes, yes, I know you have a movie to make, but if ever the rules of, well, anything didn’t apply, it’s now. What would you have done with PT, Gentle Reader? In her fanfic, Adriana Pena looked at their dark, fascist politics. I would have sent Barnabas into a world of vampires, where humans were both the ultimate prize and a daywalking threat. I can hear knuckleheads in the peanut gallery clearing their throats to tell me why that wouldn’t have worked, but I have a newsflash… neither does what’s here. DARK SHADOWS has few cheerleaders more athletic than I. Still… I am also not its Dr. Pangloss. I also dread it a bit because I know this is where Don Briscoe made his final exit. I still contend that he had everything necessary to the the breakout star for the 70’s.

 Behind the scenes at DS, all were gearing up to shoot HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. About 23 days out as I see it. Also, Guyana became a republic, and the Catholic Church thumbed its nose at convention and, upstart revolutionaries that they are, allowed women to give out the host at worship ceremonies. It’s all too much for me to handle.

Witches plan mass hexing of Donald Trump

Tomorrow night, Feb. 24, starting at one minute to midnight and going on for six minutes until 12:05 a.m., a (mostly) unidentified group of witches plan to perform a mass binding spell on President Bannon's orange homunculus, Donald Trump. The whole thing sounds surprisingly complicated, involving a sackful of props (such as salt, orange candles, pins and ashtrays), a ritual/spell, a selection of "variants" on the ritual and alternative participation methods for those who can't pitch camp outside Mordor Trump Tower or wherever the hell Trump is vacationing this weekend.

The ritual will be repeated at "every waning moon" at midnight until Trump has been "driven from office." This thing is making me so giddy that I can barely type. This is a magic(k) war, people! With candles! And Twitter! Is it too late to enlist?

You can read more about the event over at Extra News Feed HERE, and keep up with the group on Facebook at Bind Trump.

Collinwood makes a surprise appearance in THE DISCOVERY

First off, I apologize for all those fake DARK SHADOWS trading cards, sequels, posters and everything else I've cluttered up the Internet with over the years. While they've been fun, it makes moments like this a little awkward.

See that image at the top of the post? I swear to whatever god you believe in that it's not my work. Honest. It's the first shot of a trailer for THE DISCOVERY, an upcoming Netflix film starring Robert Redford, Jason SegalRooney Mara and Jesse Plemons. If the trailer is evidence of anything, then Seaview Terrace, the Rhode Island location that served as the exterior for the fictional Collinwood in the original DARK SHADOWS series, also has a role.

Again, this isn't my work! You can watch the trailer for yourself below. (H/T to David H. for the tip.)

The "Heiress of Collinwood" arrives

So, you've already had three months to pick up a copy of Lara Parker's latest DARK SHADOWS novel, "Heiress of Collinwood." Maybe you're the cautious sort, the kind of person who waits for everyone else to get into the water to make sure there aren't sharks lurking around. Or maybe you just forgot! It happens to the best of us. It even happened to Quentin Collins that one time, where he spent several months thinking he was some jerk named Grant Douglas. Regardless of your particular situation/phobia/neurological disorder, Parker announced on Facebook this week that her copies of the new book have arrived ... those of you wanting to get a signed edition from the author, head on over to her website and place your order! Here's a LINK to help you on your quest.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: February 21


While searching Quentin’s room, Barnabas discovers a stunned Amy, an old journal, and Quentin’s I Ching wands. Later, Amy explains that Quentin wants to transform David into Jamison, although that will lead to his death. Maggie rescues David from Collinwood, only temporarily breaking Quentin’s hold on him. By the time they get back to the Old House, he is in a coma. Barnabas asks Stokes to use the I Ching wands to communicate with Quentin. When Barnabas throws a pattern, it is the #49th… the Hexagram of Change. When he concentrates on it, he has a vision of coffin as his astral body splits from his physical one.

1897 begins, and as storytelling goes, it inaugurates DARK SHADOWS’ wildest, most entertaining, and most intriguing stint, and it does so with an episode emblematic of the mystery and sense of risk that defines the coming storyline. 1897 goes on for almost all of 1969, and is DARK SHADOWS’ own spinoff. Several years ago, I was stunned to learn that many fans have a cold shoulder to share with 1897. No, it doesn’t connect to The Whole Josette Thing, although she shows up in her most vital reincarnation there. This storyline is about Barnabas as a Man in Full. It’s 1795, but with a year of swagger under its belt. Guy fools around on a girl and gets turned into a monster over it… but it saves his soul. Sound familiar? It should. But in 1897, there are differences. It takes more chances because the writers know they can. Barnabas is an observer here, trying to mitigate the extent of the damage that similar circumstances once had on him. He’s now protector of the family because he is at once completely intrinsic to it and completely disposable. Barnabas savors the view from the top. Now that he’s complete, what’s he made of? When it’s taken away, what remains? What need still exists? Questions to be answered a year and a half later, in 1840.

It’s the birthday of George Mitchell, the first actor to play Matthew Morgan. His Matthew was a dour, sharp, fierce opponent. More of a scalpel to Thayer David’s hammer. He only appeared three times, but his work created the severity of the stakes in this universe. He can also be seen on THE TWILIGHT ZONE and in THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN. On this day in 1969, Time Magazine devoted its cover to figuring out what’s wrong with modern medicine. Medicine isn’t what it used to be. It seems it never was.  

Review: "Last Orders at the Blue Whale" is a winner


I approached the first story in the latest DARK SHADOWS anthology from Big Finish with a degree of sadism. "Last Orders at the Blue Whale" kicks off the new release, "Phantom Melodies," and features none other than Collinsport's answer to Jar Jar Binks, Harry Johnson. Let's face it ... nobody likes Harry. As I fired up this story, it was in anticipation that we'd get to see him die a horrible, horrible death.

As it happens, one person likes Harry: writer Rob Morris. Part of Big Finish's unspoken mission statement is to redeem some of the lesser-loved aspects of DARK SHADOWS. They did it with the Leviathans in "The Harvest of Souls," Aunt Abigail in "Blood and Fire" and even managed to one-up Parallel Time by giving us a sympathetic counterpart to Cyrus Longworth. Morris happily lacks fandom's sadistic streak, though, and attempts -- successfully -- to paint Harry as a confused, sympathetic figure.

That's not the same as being a good person, though. As Roger and Carolyn are hustling Harry out of town (tying up a loose plot thread from the original series that most people might never have notices) our reckless rogue makes the mistake of trying to steal from a very, very bad person at the Blue Whale. He winds up on the hook with a sinister sailor, who gives him a few hours to offer up another soul to pay for his transgression. His options? Roger and/or Carolyn.

"Last Orders at the Blue Whale"  feels very much like a lost episode of DARK SHADOWS. It's a good script and a terrific delivery by Matthew Waterhouse, who's tasked with not only playing the entire cast, but also in making sure we never lose track of the story's rising menace. Audio director David Darlington also provides perfect sturm to Waterhouse's drang. It's enough to make we wonder what kind of live reading these guys could pull off if left to their own devices. There's no reason they couldn't do this in front of an audience.

I'll be back later with reviews of the other three stories in this anthology ... and then try to play catch up on the previous entries. Meanwhile, you can find "Phantom Melodies" for sale at Big Finish HERE.

Barnabas Collins meets ... the Banana Splits?

Gold Key was essentially a comic book ghetto during much of its existence. While Marvel and DC were slowly changing the world with superheroes during the 1960s, Gold Key was gobbling up media licenses to publish mostly forgettable comics based on movie and TV properties. It's not that Gold Key hired poor talent; but they certainly provided poor editorial leadership. I try not to think about the good work that might have been produced with a good editor at the helm of the company's DARK SHADOWS, STAR TREK or THE MAN FROM UNCLE comics. Imagine Steve Ditko drawing DARK SHADOWS and try not to cry.

Gold Key's status as third-class citizens in the comic book world makes some of their books that much more interesting, though. That's not the same thing as good, mind you, but it's hard not to smile when seeing the likeness of Jonathan Frid buried in the back pages of Gold Key's THE BANANA SPLITS comic. Last week, Miss Baconalia found a teaser for the DARK SHADOWS comic in the pages in the second issue of THE BANANA SPLITS and sent me a few photos.

If you've got the theme from THE BANANA SPLITS stuck in your head now, I've included a video at the bottom of this post to help you get through it. Yes, that's Liz Phair singing.

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