Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 21


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 458

Naomi faces the ultimate choice when she discovers her son is one of the living dead. Naomi: Joan Bennett. (Repeat; 30 min.)

After seeing Millicent with Barnabas, an increasingly agitated Naomi discovers that Joshua may have found a relief to the curse in Boston. She nonetheless responds with pessimism. After writing a note, she visits Vicki, who remains concerned about Peter’s freedom. Vicki feels as if her visit with Naomi is the last she shall have, at which point Nathan arrives to take her in a gunpoint, unmoved by her admission that she, not Peter, killed Noah. Naomi drinks a draught of poison and then visits Barnabas, who confesses all. Despite his pleas to the contrary, she persists in her love for him. Joshua enters and cradles her as her body grows cold.

And then, it got really dark.

Naomi is one of Dark Shadows’ stronger, more willful characters. Every bit the equal to Joshua, which is saying something, she is admirably strong, honest, and loyal. These are all qualities that make her suicide either a show a defiant self-determination or a betrayal of her essence. Forgive the politics, and apologies to those whose loved ones have made that terminal choice (I rank among you), I see it as the former. Romantic literature might not… or might. These are Barnabas’ last moments before being sealed into semi-suspended animation, so this event and example -- this disposition toward death -- heavily influences the man we see rise in 1967. Death is both an option and simply one more choice. When he murders, perhaps he is consigning others to what he sees as an inevitability that exists without shame. These are very existential questions, and when you look at  in little bits, without considering the big picture, they are easy to ignore. Just as heroes in real life don’t go about spouting their ontologies like characters out of Chayefsky or Rand, nor do those on this show. Still, we can and -- as responsible fans of the show -- should discern what we can about the philosophies of the characters from their actions. With Barnabas, that’s a sticky wicket. Not only does he evolve, appearing in more episodes than anyone, but his perspective changes depending on whether or not he’s under the influence of what I refer to as the Beast. Critics of Barnabas are quite right. He can be the master of the double standard, easily rationalizing like a machine. In the balance, his life, abilities, options, threats, and nature of existence change violently and frequently. The choices he has to make and the range of shifting tools and consequences tied to those choices are rarely the same. The consequences demand categorical thinking. Seeing that his own mother held death as a choice galvanized Barnabas’ thinking, I believe. If it were not a shameful destination for her, it is not a shameful destination for anyone. Of course, she chose it and Barnabas’ victims do not, but if it becomes a questionable destination, then his actions to consign others there become equally questionable. Thus, Barnabas must maintain a casual attitude toward the undiscovered country.

Kids, don’t try this at home.

This episode was broadcast March 27, 1968.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Dark Shadows, The Road to Bloodline: Tainted Love


“I became a witch, I consumed a demon, but I still can’t make you love me!”

It’s a Year in the Life in Collinsport in the supremely satisfying Tainted Love, the fifth installment in my Road to Bloodline nonsense. My obsession with branding aside, this audio truly is a thing of beauty. Centered around a hellish love triangle that develops between David Collins (a returning Alec Newman), Amy Jennings (Stephanie Ellyne), and Hallie Stokes (Kathleen Cody), who has newly returned to Collinsport, this Daniel Collard written tale delivers old school Dark Shadows operatics, emotion, and mysticism. Honestly, this one has arguably been the most “pure” Dark Shadows experience of this whole section of audios, leaning into the more soapy elements of the property with aplomb which provides a kneer edge to the trademark weirdness the show always made great use of. But enough of my yakkin’, let’s get into it.

Right off the bat, Collard’s script along with David Darlington’s masterful sound design lets on early that this is going to be an episodic experience. Picking up mere days after the event’s of Bloodlust (another fantastic narrative choice that I will get into a bit later), Collard, Darlington, and the episode’s director Joseph Lidster open on David and Amy sharing a rare quiet moment in the great house of Collinwood. But, this being Dark Shadows, their calm is interrupted by a screaming man outside on the grounds, raving about his lost wife and trying to cross into the house. Enter the returning Hallie Stokes, who quickly diagnosis the man as “possessed” and then promptly...distingegrates him, saying it was the only way to expel the demon she was chasing.

From there we are treated to a tightly constructed relationship drama, set against the backdrop of the major holidays. Each one broken into well produced little vignettes, with their own opening Victoria Winters-esque narration from each of our three leads, supported by the theme tune in the background. I really love this choice for two reasons. One, it really allows the journey these characters take throughout Tainted Love to shine and breathe as the action isn’t confined to a few days. Had it been, I feel I wouldn’t have been nearly as invested in David and Amy’s growing relationship, even with Newman and Ellyne’s wonderful chemistry. The same goes for Hallie’s descent into madness, which is also played beautifully by Cody. Both plots are pretty well entwined with one another, but stretching it out over a whole calendar year allowed it to feel more natural, thus making it that much more engaging. 

The second reason I love this choice so much is that we finally get, or at least I FINALLY get, as this has been something I’ve been harping on for a while now, some actual, real time fallout and growth for the characters post-Bloodlust. We start mere days after the events, and instead of having more flashbacks to other stories or another side story, we get an actual movement and progression for two major players, moving us through a tremendous set up for the incoming Bloodline. I know that you are probably tired of reading about my feverish love affair with serialization but I really appreciated the forward momentum Tainted Love provided for David and Amy, supported by some choice cameos from some of my other faves from Bloodlust that I don’t really want to spoil here, but trust me, they are a lot of fun.

And I think even if you aren’t a big continuity hound like I am, you’ll get a lot out of Tainted Love. It has the novelty of starring some returning favorites, along with a fun central story, and plenty of amorous, touchy-feely entanglements to satisfy the more relationship minded Dark Shadows fans. I definitely think this is essential listening for anyone curious about the genesis of David and Amy’s relationship so that’s just one selling point on top of a whole pile of other unrelated selling points. Plus, ya know, Alec Newman.

NEXT TIME! The penultimate Road to Bloodline, ...And Red All OverMitchell Ryan, you guys! Until then, be seeing you.

Justin Partridge has always loved monsters and he thinks that explains a lot about him. When he isn’t over analyzing comics at Newsarama or ranting about Tom Clancy over at Rogues Portal, he is building Call of Cthulhu games, spreading the good word of Anti-Life, or rewatching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace for the dozenth time. He can be reached at the gasping Lovecraftian void that is Twitter @j_partridgeIII or via e-mail at Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 18


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 717

Can Rachel Drummond recruit Barnabas to confront the danger of the tower room before it consumes her? Barnabas: Jonathan Frid. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Judith discovers that a madwoman named Jenny lives in the tower room. Rachel Drummond, sensing danger, goes to Barnabas for help. As their mutual attraction grows, he vows to investigate the strange happenings at Collinwood.

Da plane, da plane, and welcome to the briar patch.

Traditionally, this is the one where I am supposed to talk about Crazy Jenny and Marie Wallace’s Bold, Uninhibited Performance, because this episode really establishes the character... beautifully. Not only do we see her at her nearly-most-histrionic, but we see range in both Jenny and Wallace. Neither character nor actress is one-note, and for such an extreme character, kicking off with that means to establish the potential for suspense any time she is on screen. Indeed, Jenny is an authentic wild card, and we’re never allowed to get ahead of her. Not only that, she’s a poetic one. Her intelligence tells us scads about Quentin and his tastes, once we learn that she is his wife, and it makes her both a worthy opponent and a victim who’s fallen from the highest of mental towers. Oh, and she has a musical number, which reveals a predictably rich voice for Wallace, a stage vet who never did featured singing in musicals. It’s exactly the character debut you’d want, both quintessentially “Jenny” and teasingly unpredictable.

But I don’t want to talk about that, so you’ll find no mention of it here.

The secret rockstar of this episode is Barnabas and the side of him we see emerging. He even has swagger to his melancholy. For all of the high stakes and tension of Mission: 1897, he’s having the time of his life. How much of this seems real to him? We are still in the pilot stages for a Dark Shadows that is essentially its own spinoff. In 1897, the show distills and refines itself, and then reinvents the recipe with that clarified formula. It’s not just Dark Shadows, it’s Dark Shadows that knows it’s Dark Shadows… what that means, what that allows, and does so without a lazy sense of privilege. The star, Barnabas, is getting the same rebooted treatment. Barnabas is like a successful nighclub act that’s finally getting two shows nightly at Caesars, and isn’t wasting a moment. He has almost a giddy sense of confidence that redefines the character without erasing his essence.

1897 is the perfect place to bring out his best, and he has to be wondering why the hell he had to wake up in the day-glo cereal box of post-Camelot 1967 instead of here. 1897… the Future! Just enough advances from his native time to crackle with new wiring, which probably shocked Dirk Wilkins across the drawing room more than once when he installed it. And just enough proximity to his own era to still know how to dress for dinner and pen a decent thank-you letter. Everyone is kind of a variation on what he already knows, but with a bit more transparency, and wait, here comes Maggie, I mean Josette, I mean Rachel, and by Rachel, I mean eventually Kitty, and by that, I mean Josette. Ah to hell with it. It’s Kathryn Leigh Scott and we’re darned glad to see her, too. And this character seems to be open to dating. He’s got gypsies instead of Willie, and they’re twice as wise and on a familiar level of untrustworthy. Plus, they’re superstitious, requiring him to waste less time making threats. They know the score. I was going to say that the downside is no Julia, but after a week or so without her nagging, spying, moralizing, and guilting, I’ll just say, plus, there’s no Julia. She may be a friend, but, as I said, he’s on vacation. And instead of pretending he’s on a secret mission, he really is on a secret mission. The worst that happens is that he gets stuck there. Oh, don’t throw me in the briar patch. And maybe the timeline gets changed a little bit. So what? Big deal. He was a tourist there, too. He’s got the Old House. He’s got Maggie more than he ever had her before. He’s got lackeys. And everyone enjoys a good, poetic turn of  phrase rather than just staring at him like they’re going to beat him up in back of the Blue Whale and take his lunch money. But on what is basically his big date with Rachel, he is smoother than caramel cognac. And the old dog knows it. It’s like a Hammer production of James Bond. His scenes with Rachel have dialogue that’s practically musical.

“There’s nothing childish about attempted murder.”

“Here at Collinwood, old hates don’t die. They lie in wait for the innocent and the unsuspecting.”

“I’ve lived through danger before.”

“No one is quite what they seem… except me, of course.”

“Such a lovely hand. Why would anyone want to harm you?”

Cornier than Kansas on the 4th of July. And they work. Every syllable, sincere. That’s the secret. Rather than a nightmare of endless terror, it’s Barnabas’ ultimate dream, complete with kisses from The Josette Character for his evil-smashing bravado. It’s a beautiful moment, and it underlines what 1897 is, measuring his fall with the Leviathans and long struggle to rebuild. Which he does.

The only thing missing? Mr. Rorke and Tattoo greeting Barnabas as he departs from a seaplane next to Scatman Crothers, Steve Lawrence, and Marion Ross, and explaining for the audience the fantasy he and the island staff are about to fulfill.

Come to think of it, it may be my fantasy, too.

This episode was broadcast March 25, 1969.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Dark Shadows clearance sale!

(UPDATE: The prices listed in this original draft of this story were incorrect and have been revised.)


Remember the other day how I said I don't ever get to cover news? Well, it seems the Dark Lord heard my blasphemous prayer, because, boy, do I have a story for y'all today.

Big Finish announced that starting today and going until MARCH 21st, fans can pick up the first FIFTY Dark Shadows "audiobooks" for just $5.30.

But that's not all! Along with the stories, Dark Shadows: The Legend Reborn would be available at just $2.64 WEB SPECIAL PRICE!and both volumes of music from the audio dramas will be available at a paltry $1.31.

All you have to do is head to this link and enter the code BLUEWHALE to see everything they have to offer.

The only catch is, you can only buy them on CD, which honestly, isn't even that big of a catch. Plan on buying some stuff? Let us know in the comments below!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Barnabas Collins by Shawn Gaston

I heard you people like Barnabas Collins. Well, you're in luck! Artist Shawn Gaston has a snazzy new print of Collinwood's favorite son available for pre-order. This art is 12"x18" and printed on "sexy thick stock." He's advising that there might not be a second run of these prints. The original art done almost entirely in Pentel brush pen, with additional shading and minor clean up done in Photoshop. The prints are $20 plus $5 shipping, which you can send to Don't forget to include a shipping address with your message.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Dark Shadows, The Road to Bloodline: Deliver Us From Evil


“Don’t live in the dark too long. 
You don’t know what’s waiting in 
there for you.”

It’s Sabrina Jennings vs. the Son of Satan in the blisteringly entertaining Deliver Us from Evil! The latest stop on the Road to Bloodline! Rounding out a quadrilogy of narrative threads that started in Beneath the Veil, then weaved on through The Enemy Within, then most recently tieing through Carriage of the Damned, Deliver Us From Evil brings Sabrina Jennings’ and Cyrus Longworth’s story to a beautiful and terrifying close for now; proving once again this range could support longer serialized narratives, while also just delivering a damn fine single story. Sharply written by Aaron Lamont and given a wide array of impressive effects and transitions by sound designer David Darlington, Deliver Us From Evil is a must own for fans of the Jennings clan, Christopher Pennock people, and discerning audiophiles alike.

Once again, we open with a post-Bloodlust framing device. After having left Collinsport after the revelation that her own sister killed her husband in a lycanthropic rage, Amy Cunningham (the always luminous Stephanie Ellyne) is looking to forget her troubles in Bangor. But the fates have other plans for her as she has a chance meeting with her sister Sabrina (a powerful performance from Lisa Richards) and the two are forced to confront the growing rift between them, leading to Sabrina to tell Amy about the sad, strange fates of Cyrus Longworth and Alfie Chapman (a returning and positively unhinged Simon Kent).

I have gone long on record about these framing devices, but this time, I didn’t feel like it was very obtrusive to my enjoyment or the overall story. Once the sisters are basically trapped together, in a situation straight out of sitcom, it is pretty much all flashback as Darlington deftly transitions us from the “present” to the “past" allowing Lamont’s script to really take off. And don’t let the apparent density of this being a “payoff” episode throw you! Though this whole thing is steeped in Big Finishverse lore, the script takes the steps to get the audience up to speed on what is actually being paid off that way no one is lost.

But long-time listeners or beginners (like me) I think will get an extra little thrill out of seeing all these threads pay off along with all the returning characters. I mean, this single story is cool for people coming in cold, but y’all know how much I love serialization. Sabrina is one again the star of the show and Richards more than rises to the occasion. Pennock also really impresses here, playing up the wounded terror of Cyrus as well as leaning heavily into moustache twirling villainy once the Son of the Dark Lord fully takes over his corporal form. The triple threat of baddies here James Unsworth’s John, Simon Kent’s Alfie, and Brigid Lohrey’s Danielle Roget also add plenty of dark delights for this story as the representatives of the “dark side”. This thing is even graced with an extra bit of star power from our own WALLACE MCBRIDE! Playing all the hits as his returning DJ character, Edgar McBride, which will always delight me to no end.

But I really loved this one, guys! It had a lot of great things for long time listeners on top of just a goddamn entertaining story starring some Dark Shadows mainstays! Kind of a win-win for all us nerds, right? Though I will say, I think listening to the whole cycle would give you that much more enjoyment out of this one, BUUUT there is still a lot to love about Deliver Us From Evil even without all the backstory.

NEXT TIME! Tainted Love! The return of the Kwisatz Haderach of my Heart, Alec Newman as David Collins! And another co-starring role for the mysterious Hallie Stokes! Until then, be seeing you.

Justin Partridge has always loved monsters and he thinks that explains a lot about him. When he isn’t over analyzing comics at Newsarama or ranting about Tom Clancy over at Rogues Portal, he is building Call of Cthulhu games, spreading the good word of Anti-Life, or rewatching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace for the dozenth time. He can be reached at the gasping Lovecraftian void that is Twitter @j_partridgeIII or via e-mail at Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Here's your first look at Dark Shadows: Bloodline


I don't get a lot of news crossing my desk here at the CHS. Mainly because my "office" (AKA: converted second floor broom closet) doesn't have a mail in box. But all that changed yesterday when a runner from the Bangor division of Big Finish wandered up the stairs yesterday, cordially inviting me and providing more details on the upcoming wedding of Amy Jennings and David Collins.

That's right, fellow audio creeps! Big Finish yesterday revealed a brand new trailer for the upcoming serial as well as the cover to Volume 1, new cast announcements, and synopsis of the story! Not too shabby for my paltry little beat, huh?

I will post the trailer below, because it is well worth the listen, but what follows is the synopsis, which you'll see we have a lot to unpack with.
In the Great House of Collinwood Amy Jennings and David Collins are finally putting years of tragedy and loss behind them and committing to a life together. And, as the ceremony approaches, friends old and new are drawn to the town at the edge of the sea. Once again, the tortured vampire, Barnabas Collins, is amongst them. But this time he is not alone. After so many years away, Doctor Julia Hoffman has returned with him, finally convinced she has the means to cure his affliction. But joy and happiness never last long in Collinsport, for malevolent forces are never far away. Among those gathered for the celebration are some who would conspire to tear the family apart. In this town some wounds refuse to heal, some secrets demand to be heard, and some sins cry out to be punished 
Welcome back to Collinsport.
Until death do you part.
JULIA IS BACK! No word yet on who is playing her, but that alone is cause for celebration. The release also lets slip that Jerry Lacy is returning as new character Matthew Young and Kathryn Leigh Scott is rejoining the cast as Maggie Haskell. Alongside Scott and Lacy are the new ensemble of Nico Diodoro, Sarah Pitard, Kelly Burke and Tom Michael Blyth (which should excite fans of the Tony & Cassandra Mysteries), all playing new locals filling out the cast around the regulars.

So if you weren't excited before now, I'm not sure what to tell you. I am very glad Lacy is back, doubly so for Julia, and maybe even triply for Scott's return! We are almost there, guys, as the serial aims for a bi-weekly release in April. You better believe we are going to cover it.

Until then, enjoy the trailer, and I'll be seeing you.

Update: Master of Dark Shadows screening

By now you've probably already heard about the upcoming documentary about Dan Curtis titled Master of Dark Shadows. (If not, you can take a gander at the trailer, summary and list of special features HERE.) Set for release on Blu-ray on April 16, you've got a chance to catch the documentary on the big screen earlier that week in New York City ... with members of the Dark Shadows cast! There have been a few changes to the premiere sceening in recent weeks. The bad news first: the April 13 dinner reception event has sold out. The good news: A few more members of the original cast have been added to the guest list. Click on the image above to read the details.

You can pre-order Master of Dark Shadows from Amazon HERE.
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