Sunday, April 13, 2014

The spirit of DARK SHADOWS lives on in RAGGED ISLE


It's an amazing world in which we live. Just a few years ago, aspiring musicians, filmmakers, writers and artists needed a faceless business interest sign off on their work before it could reach a large audience. Even a film like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, famously made for a modest $25,000 (depending on who you ask) required Artisan Entertainment to spend $1.1 million to acquire it ... and another $25 million to promote it.

Today, all that stands between a creator and their potential audience is time, money and talent. Unfortunately, it's that last element that continues to confound people: Far too many creators today have the opportunity to display their mediocrity before an uncaring world. I wonder how many future careers will end before they truly begin, thanks to the waning health of our corporate watchmen. It seems like a fair trade, in my opinion, but that lack of an editorial filter has created a fair amount of cultural chaos. Today, there's so much entertainment fighting for our attention that it's almost impossible to stand out in a crowd.

Which brings me to RAGGED ISLE, an independent webseries produced by husband-and-wife team  Barry Dodd and Karen L. Dodd. I've known about this show for a while, but wasn't able to muster the courage to visit it. Watching independent films can be an awkward experience. If you're lucky, you might discover something like Kevin Smith's first film, CLERKS, a cheaply made flick with weak acting that is ultimately worth more than the sum of its parts. On a bad day, you'll get something like Kevin's Smith's JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK. Or DOGMA. Or ... well, you probably see my point.

RAGGED ISLE is certainly a mixed bag, but has far more working for it than against it. Based on the first 11-minute episode, it's a professionally made, gorgeously shot production that's free of the bleak narcissism seen too often in independent filmmaking. I'm stunned by the photography, which is beautifully framed and lit throughout. It might sound like a backhanded compliment to harp on a technical aspect of the show, but this is really good work. Movies and television are visual media, and its incredibly important how a story reaches the eye. The photography of this episode is more than just pretty; it's used to establish the setting as its own character, much in the same way TWIN PEAKS did decades ago. RAGGED ISLE isn't the work of hacks.

While there are a few visual nods to TWIN PEAKS in the first episode, it's safe to speculate that the spiritual inspiration for RAGGED ISLE is DARK SHADOWS. The series begins with the arrival of its heroine Vicki Burke (yes, really) to the rural town of "Ragged Isle," located 21 miles off the coast of Maine. A journalism student, Burke has taken a job with a newspaper at Ragged Isle. Her twin brother, Eric, also works in the town on a lobster boat. The first episode ends on a note of mystery when one of Eric's shipmates gets pulled overboard during a nighttime trawl, but appears changed after being rescued.


RAGGED ISLE isn't perfect, and suffers from the same problems as most independent productions ... specifically the acting. I'd be a lot harsher if the show was a mainstream television feature and the cast were getting $40,000 each an episode. I don't think anybody's getting rich off RAGGED ISLE at the moment, so there's no need for me to be an asshole. In short, the acting can be a little stiff and amateurish. That's not to say it's bad, but the cast's lack of experience shows. Hopefully, these kinks will work themselves out as the series progresses.

That being said, I liked what I saw in RAGGED ISLE. There's room for improvement, but that's true for everything.

RAGGED ISLE is now in it's third online season. The first season runs ten episodes, spanning 1 hour and 47 minutes, the length of a feature film. All 19 episodes are available at the show's official website, as well as YouTube.

The series theme is also available for sale on Amazon for 99 cents.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

WARNING: Bootleg DARK SHADOWS boxed sets hit the market



This escalated quickly.

A few weeks back, I received a message from a reader on Tumblr by the name of "lzbarnabas." (He's a pretty active DARK SHADOWS fan and is well-worth following, FYI.) He had ordered DARK SHADOWS: THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL SERIES DELUXE EDITION and was disappointed when the package arrived. The product was so cheaply made that he was suspicious of its origins. With flimsy cardboard packaging, a UPC barcode that claimed to be "limited edition" and numerous DVDs with glued-on labels, he was pretty sure it was a bootleg.

It took a while for lzbarnabas to get his money refunded and, when he ordered the collection from a different vendor, he was pretty sure something was rotten in Denmark. Or, at least, Collinsport.

Luckily, he had the foresight to photograph and video both products for comparison. I forwarded the videos to a representative at MPI Home Video, the distributor of DARK SHADOWS: THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL SERIES DELUXE EDITION, who has issued this warning to customers:

    Dear Customer

    It has come to our attention that there are counterfeit sets being sold and distributed for Dark Shadows: The Complete Original Series Deluxe Edition (MPI item # DVD7991). These counterfeit sets appear nearly identical to the authentic sets. If you are experiencing playback issues with your discs, it is possible that you have purchased a counterfeit set. If so, please alert us as to where you purchased the set. The more detail you can provide us (seller, links, pictures, etc.), the more it will help us put a stop to this illegal distribution. Below is a list of ways you can tell you have purchased a counterfeit set:

  • The authentic set is wrapped in a plastic polybag whereas the counterfeit set is shrink wrapped.
  • The authentic set has a thread that prevents the coffin lid from opening too far. The counterfeit set will open all the way (i.e. no thread).
  • The colors are much purer on the authentic set (stronger reds and blacks).
  • The pages in the booklet are a thinner/poor quality whereas the authentic set is a thicker glossier stock.
  • The corners of the set might be banged up on the counterfeit set.
  • MPI used eco-friendly trays in the amaray cases which have holes in them to save on plastic where the counterfeit sets have solid black plastic backing behind each disc.
  • The picture quality of the actual program will be poorer. The counterfeit sets use a single-layer disc, compressing the quality onto one disc, whereas the authentic version contains dual-layered discs.
  • The counterfeit set will have defective discs whereas the authentic set should not.
    MPI is not responsible for the purchase or quality of counterfeit sets. If you have purchased an illegal set, we recommend contacting eBay and putting a claim against the seller of the counterfeit set. We also encourage you to make your purchases through established retailers such as Amazon.com. eBay is not a recommended outlet for this item, and MPI does not sell this item via eBay.

    Sincerely
    MPI Home Video
 Below is the original video from lzbarnabas showing him excitedly opening the bootleg DVD collection. For comparison, click HERE to see his video of the legitimate DVD product.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Dark Shadows! Dracula! Doctor Mabuse!


Tickets still are available for this “DDD Double Feature” – “Dark Shadows, Doctor Mabuse, and Dracula” all together on one movie screen!

The event will feature two films, 4 four Dark Shadows guests in audience Q&A and autograph/photo sessions, memorabilia for sale, a charity auction of Dark Shadows items, a surprise Dark Shadows screening, and more.

The event begins 6:15 p.m., Wednesday, April 30, at the Vista Theatre in Los Angeles.

"Doctor Mabuse” Etiopomar” is the sequel to “Doctor Mabuse,” which starred DS actors JERRY LACY, LARA PARKER, and KATHRYN LEIGH SCOTT. They reprise their roles and are joined by CHRIS PENNOCK in “Doctor Mabuse 2: Etiopomar ” Written and directed by ANSEL FARAJ, this is its world premiere. JERRY, LARA, CHRIS, and ANSEL will attend and be available for free autographs and photo opportunities with fans.

“Dracula” was a 1974 movie by “Dark Shadows” creator/producer Dan Curtis and stars Academy Award winner Jack Palance. Considered one of the most accurate adaptations of the iconic Bram Stoker novel, Dan’s version is newly remastered and is being shown on an American movie screen for the first time.

Dark Shadows Music Composer ROBERT COBERT also joins us as we celebrate his upcoming 90th birthday. He was the music composer for “Dracula” and will be available to autograph the debuting “Dracula” soundtrack CD.

Merchandise for “Dark Shadows,” “Mabuse,” and the “Dracula” soundtrack CD will be available for purchase. The evening will conclude with a surprise DS screening.

The event is at the Vista Theatre, 4473 Sunset Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90027  323-660-6639.

Tickets are $15 per person.

You can pay using PayPal, or by check or money order sent by postal-mail.

To pay via PayPal, the recipient email address is ShadowGram@aol.com

To pay by postal-mail:
Please make check / money order payable to:   ShadowGram.
Please include a SASE (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope) and send to:

ShadowGram
Marcy Robin
P.O. Box 1766
Temple City, CA 91780-7766

Advance order tickets must be received no later than April 23. Those who purchase their tickets in advance will receive a special DARK SHADOWS gift at the “Movie Night.”

Tickets also will be sold at the door.

DARK SHADOWS audiodramas nominated for SCRIBE award


Congratulations to Mark Thomas Passmore and Cody Quijano-Schell, who have been nominated by The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers for their work on Big Finish's DARK SHADOWS audiodramas in this year's SCRIBE AWARDS.

DARK SHADOWS: THE PHANTOM BRIDE and DARK SHADOWS: THE FLIP SIDE face off against a third Big Finish audiodrama, BLAKE'S 7: THE ARMAGEDDON STORM, by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright, in the "Best Audio" category.

Passmore and Quijano-Schell discussed DARK SHADOWS last year on the The Collinsport Historical Society Podcast. Passmore detailed the on-going adventures of Tony Peterson and Cassandra Blair HERE, while Quijano-Schell spoke about writing Carolyn Stoddard's last stand at The Blue Whale HERE.

The winners of this year's SCRIBE AWARDS are scheduled to be announced in July during Comic-Con International in San Diego, Calif.

Last year's winner in the audio category was also a DARK SHADOWS release: THE ETERNAL ACTRESS, written by Nev Fountain.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS added to Warner Archive Instant


It was only a matter of time: The always controversial NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS has been added to Warner Archive Instant.

Before we go any further, let me point out that this appears to be a high-definition version of the film's theatrical cut. While different sites list various running times for NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS (Warner Archive Instant says the film is 97 minutes long, while Amazon and IMDB believe the film to be 95 minutes) those variations do not suggest the missing 20-30 minutes have been restored to this new digital version. I don't think many people were expecting that to be the case, but it's likely to be a question on many people's minds.

While it plays fast and loose with the rules, NIGHT is a direct sequel to HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, which hit Warner Archive Instant just a few days ago. While I love what Warner Archive Instant is doing, I own just about every release of both HOUSE and NIGHT, and don't feel the need to purchase another edition of these films. If any of you have had a look at these versions, I'd love to hear what you think about them.

Meanwhile, if you want to know what was cut from NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS (and, just as importantly, why it was cut) check out our podcast about the film. Archivist Darren Gross explains the last-minute cuts made to the movie in 1971, as well as the process of finding and restoring the as-yet unreleased footage. Listen to the podcast HERE.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Podcast: THANK GOD IT'S FRID-DAY


As was announced last week, Jonathan Frid is one of nine nominees for this year's CINEPLEX LEGENDS AWARD from Canada's Walk of Fame.

This isn’t something that happened by chance. Volunteers Elena Nacanther, Cathy Robbins and Kathy Colby have been working for more than a year to get the late Canadian actor recognized by the national Walk of Fame organization. They’ve earned press notices for their work in both the U.S. and Canada for their efforts, where they’ve made their case for Jonathan Frid’s merits in print, radio, blogs and podcasts. They even created posters that were displayed around old Frid’s old stomping grounds in Ontario.

Earlier this week, Elena continued the quest to get her late friend included on Canada’s Walk of Fame by speaking with Scott Thompson at CHML Radio in Hamilton.

Listen to the episode streaming above, or download it as an MP3 by clicking HERE.

And subscribe to THE COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY podcast on iTunes for free by clicking HERE

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Barnabas Collins is a nut job


Just when I thought the David Henesy cereal commercial would be the most unusual thing I'd see all week ...

Artist Steve Casino paints detailed portraits on peanut shells. His subjects range from fictional characters and celebrities (such as the Barnabas Collins piece above) to custom works created for specific clients. (In other words, they're for sale.) I asked Steve about how he created the Barnabas Collins piece, and here's what he had to say: 
"I grew up on Dark Shadows so this was fun to do.

"A peanut is used as the canvas.  After figuring out who I'm going to paint (in this case, a D.S. fan hired me) I find a peanut that is close to the shape of the person.  Mainly I look for a face shape in relation to the lower body.  After that I crack it open, take out the nuts and re-glue it, sealing the inside to make it last.  I smooth the bumpy texture with wood filler.  The legs are bamboo skewers and the hands/cape are dense foam.  The cane is a toothpick.  The whole thing is assembled with a strong archival-quality glue and is very durable. The final piece is sealed in an acrylic coating then mounted inside a hand-blown glass dome to preserve it." 
I've included a few more examples of his work below, which might be relevant to your interests.

You can find Steve online at http://stevecasino.com, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/painterofnuts.





Tuesday, April 1, 2014

David Henesy hustles Sugar Coated Rice Krinkle cereal




I don't even know where to begin ...

Yes, that's David Henesy of DARK SHADOWS in the video above, which was a TV spot for Post's discontinued Sugar Coated Rice Krinkle cereal. It's incorrectly dated on Youtube as a "1950s" commercial (it was probably filmed not long before the premiere of DARK SHADOWS in 1966), but that's the least of its sins. The most noticeable problem is the odious presence of So-Hi, the mascot for Rice Krinkles. I suggest reading Gene Luen Yang's graphic novel AMERICAN BORN CHINESE to wash the taste out of your mouth.

Speaking on mouths: How did the generation before mine make it out of the '60s with any teeth and/or Type I Diabetes? Cereal and candy companies used to operate with the ethics of drug dealers. And not those cool drug dealers from PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, either. I mean those cutthroats from THE WIRE.

Anyway, folks. David Henesy.

(Thanks to Lynn Hontz Scherzinger for the link!)
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