Monday, July 23, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: July 23



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 552

Adam demands that Barnabas make a mate, even after learning that it was Julia who eventually created him, not Barnabas. Vicki tells Barnabas that she and Jeff are to marry, and Barnabas takes it with grace. However, Adam sees his affection for Vicki and kidnaps her.

I don’t know what it’s like to find out that one of your parents -- presumably the mother -- had been artificially inseminated. However, if I did, I think I would understand more of how Adam feels. I so understand some of it. He’s been dealing with Barnabas as a bad parent and now he’s merely a bad sibling. The role of parent now goes to Julia, and somewhere in Barnabas’ mind has to be a smidgen of Schadenfreude. For a year, she’s been the author of various greatest hits, including a “cure” that aged him hideously. At last, credit where due. Like any couple, there is affection, loyalty, and constant stealth warfare. She’s the one who ticked Adam off by stabbing him with a needle when he was first born, after all. Kinda informs a guy’s view on the world. Well, Julia, how about them Promethian apples?

While Adam’s demand for a mate and the kidnapping of Vicki are straight out of BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, I was also reminded of DARK SHADOWS… but DARK SHADOWS backstage. As well as a specific work by Stephen King. Guess which one. As Adam looks to Barnabas to solve all of his problems, I felt a bit as if I were watching Sam Hall recount Grayson’s encounters with unhinged fans who looked to the stars as living gods. Those “godstars” made them as they are, after all. And if they understand the true nature of those stars, it must work in reverse. How dare the godstars blashpheme themselves by disavowing their own omnipotence? There is a subtext to this with Adam and Barnabas, as if Adam were the ultimate fanboy. Jonathan Frid turned him into a fanboy, and by godstar, now Jonathan Frid will turn a girl into a fanboy to keep him company between episodes.

As Adam threatens and cajoles Barnabas into considering making a “sequel” to Adam, holding Barnabas’ very life at stake, I suddenly saw vision of Kathy Bates. (And not the ones I normally do. Only in my private visions does she visit me dressed as all of the Fruit o’the Loom guys.) But it was Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes, the deranged fan of injured romance novelist, Paul Sheldon, in MISERY. She holds him hostage to bring Misery Chastain back to life in an unplanned sequel to the romance novel in which he killed the heroine. Now, Barnabas must appease Adam by bringing yet another woman back to life. King was all too aware that he was writing about deranged fans. Was Sam Hall? Even if he wasn’t, he was.

Frid spins the tension of Adam’s visit into an unusual benevolence toward the news that Vicki is marrying Jeff Clark. At least someone is visiting him happy, with good news. The relief radiates off the screen. But this is the worst thing for Adam to see… for Barnabas, anyway.

This episode hit the airwaves Aug. 6, 1968.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Stan Against Evil goes full Collinsport in season 3


The teaser for season three of STAN AGAINST EVIL debuted Saturday at Comic-Con, with the cast and crew on-hand to give fans an idea of what to expect when the series returns to IFC on Oct. 31. I'm too busy to dive deep into this trailer at the moment, but needless to say: Familiar imagery abounds! If you get a DARK SHADOWS vibe from the vampire elements (such as that screencap of series MVP Janet Varney at the top of this post) that's by design. Series creator Dana Gould has spent a lot of time in Collinsport and knows his way around town. I'll have more to say about all of this later, but for now enjoy some images from DARK SHADOWS that are some obvious touchstones for STAN AGAINST EVIL. (Bonus points of you spot the reference to KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER in the teaser.) You can should watch the trailer for season three at the bottom of this post.



Friday, July 20, 2018

Dark Shadows Lives!



For a television show cancelled in 1971, there are a lot of people talking about DARK SHADOWS today. Here's a roundup:

►The Dark Shadows Daybook dwells on the sadness of 1967, specifically the specter of a dead child looking for a playmate on the grounds of Collinwood in episode 292. Patrick McCray says: "Despite all of her talents, Sarah is a prisoner to the Collins estate, as are so many others for so many reasons, most of which boil down to relationships." Read the entire essay HERE.

►Dark Shadows Before I Die arrives at episode 539. This part of of John and Christine's summary should have been the published TV Guide summary: "I'm having a hard time believing that the kid who was able to figure out how to remove a bleeder valve from his dad's car to make the brakes fail when he was two years younger is now having difficulty working a tape recorder. Or that he would go to his evil stepmother for help with it. Where's his governess and why isn't she doing her job?" Read the entire post HERE.


►OK, this one's not new, but it's new to me: a cocktail named after our very own Joan Bennett. This one's been around for a while, according to Difford's Guide, which explains:
"Adapted from a Tiki drink featured in Jeff Berry's 'Intoxica' and originally created in 1932 at Sloppy Joe's Bar, Havana, Cuba. Named after Hollywood ingénue, Joan Bennett, who in the same year starred in Fox's Careless Lady. Years later she hit the news when her husband, producer Walter Wanger, shot her agent in the crotch after catching them in bed together."
You can get the drink recipe at Difford's HERE. And a shout-out to @joanbennettfan on Instagram for bringing this one to my attention. Also note "Served in a Collins glass."

►This Amazon fail is self explanatory.


►Below is a video from Instagram. I made this and feel deeply embarassed by it. I also kind of love it. It's awful. And it's getting buried at the bottom of this post in hopes that fewer people see it. Don't judge me.



Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: July 19



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 292

Woodard confronts Julia about Maggie’s extended stay at Windcliff, and she reveals the connection to the supernatural, convincing to continue covering for her. Outside the Old House, Sarah bemoans the fact that she can’t find the very much alive Maggie. David takes the story of Maggie’s survival back to Collinwood, and Vicki reveals to Burke that she’s become strangely smitten with a new house by the sea.

Let’s hear it for Gordon Russell and his first episode. Over the next four years, he will become DARK SHADOWS’ most prolific writer. In it, we see his one of his great strengths: writing relationships with truth, twists, and surprises. Grayson Hall is particularly adept at pulling off his verbal labyrinths. In the first scene with Woodard, Julia actually talks the hard-headed generalist into receptiveness toward her vision of science’s conquest of the supernatural. She evades, warns, bullies, and eventually flirts her way into his trust. Her coming out as what has become a mad scientist is done with both credibility and wit. DARK SHADOWS has expanded its redefinition of the soap opera universe as one in which the supernatural is seen as something absolutely real… and one in which we humans have a fighting chance. By selling Woodard on it, she further sells the audience. So often, supernatural stories -- from DRACULA to the world of Lovecraft -- posit a universe where terror exists because it cannot be understood.  Her quest to do so isn’t folly at all, and it further roots one of the key concepts of the series. These things have limits and origins, just like we do. Moreover, they have accessible weaknesses. This isn’t man vs. the omnipotent. The seemingly “omnipotent” have challenges and foibles of their own. The story shifts from drama to horror, then back to what DARK SHADOWS truly is: drama involving horror. The power that people like Barnabas wield makes their vulnerabilities all the more poignant. And doesn’t DARK SHADOWS begin that way? Despite all of their sway, the Collins family cannot escape guilt and fear.

We see further limits with the next scene, involving David and Sarah.  Sarah, a ghost who can materialize at will, has lost Maggie. As the scene went on, I wondered what the show would be like if Sarah had simply followed Maggie to Windlciff and encouraged her to escape. Just as interesting, but probably shorter. There is a natural sadness to the scene. Despite all of her talents, Sarah is a prisoner to the Collins estate, as are so many others for so many reasons, most of which boil down to relationships.

Russell curiously juxtaposes this with the next scene involving Burke and Victoria. Vicki is a human empowered by knowledge of the paranormal, and credits it with helping her discover Seaview, a house beyond, to which she’s inexplicably drawn.Escape from Collinwood may be possible after all.  So, what is the supernatural in so many of these cases but love? It’s an extraordinary power to some and an imprisoning imposition to others. Instead of referencing it literally, DARK SHADOWS accomplishes the same thing figuratively. It’s all the business of the daytime genre, but by using the supernatural as a metaphor, Russell gives the idea an even greater universality. Not only that, he opens up a world in which both love and the occult can be examined with fresh, occasionally jaundiced, and ultimately optimistic eyes.

This episode hit the airwaves Aug. 8, 1967.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Dark Shadows Lives!


For a television show cancelled in 1971, there are a lot of people talking about DARK SHADOWS today. Between you and me, the whole "Dark Shadows Lives!" thing was an experiment, one meant to illustrate that the series has an active, vibrant fanbase despite having been off the air since Nixon was president. There were some nagging doubts that this feature would blow up in my face Looney Tunes-style after a few days. Instead, I've been struggling to keep you with you all. Here's a roundup of today's activities:

The Dark Shadows Daybook reaches peak Barnabas/Julia with episode 291.It's an episode that Patrick McCray thinks is a prime example of everything the series does well. "Some episodes are more fun. Some are cleverer. And some are more pivotal to the canon. But you know what? Not many. 291 is neither an origin nor a resolution, but a key moment of change and evolution for some of our main characters." Read the entire piece HERE.



Barnabas and Adam are trapped in a coffin together over at Dark Shadows Before I Die. Only one of them is physically in the coffin, but that doesn't matter much given the spiritual bond they unwillingly share. Abstract: "Sadly, the events of today seem to seal Adam's fate. As long as he lives, Barnabas will be free of the vampire curse. And that can't last forever. We'll see how long it takes for Angelique to find out, at which time we can expect she will have a new target." Read the entire piece HERE.




The poster for HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS is the topic of discussion at the MoviePosterPorn subreddit HERE. For some users it's their first time learning of the film. The post is scoring well, but there's not much in the way of commentary attached to it.


DARK SHADOWS "peg people" by Michael J. Pribbenow, courtesy of his Instagram account @mikeysimagination. DARK SHADOWS was "campy, kooky 60's madness at its best," he says. You can get individual looks at these creations on his Instagram feed. He also has an Etsy store HERE.

Remember @lunettarose from yesterday's "Dark Shadows Lives?" Well, that's not her in the photo below, but that's her artwork on the shirt.

OK, Anna Bowden. You have my attention.


Dark Shadows was never a soap opera



By WALLACE McBRIDE

More than 50 years after its debut on television, DARK SHADOWS remains a show that's difficult to quantify.

As far as the mainstream media is concerned, DARK SHADOWS is "that soap opera about a vampire." It's thumbnail sketch of the series drawn primarily by people who hadn't actually seen it, journalists tasked with writing an authoritative exploration of America's latest cultural phenomenon despite their lack of experience with it. As is generally the case with American media, these stories were almost always told from the outside looking in. They're not stories of "us" but of "you," the author immune to the charms of whatever nonsense is currently holding the peasantry in thrall. Bitter? Maybe a little. But living though several decades of "Pow! Bam! Comics aren't just for kids anymore!" story ledes will do that to a person.

When it debuted back in 1966, DARK SHADOWS got as aggressive a media push as ABC could muster for an afternoon drama. You can read many of those stories in our archives, but they are of two varieties: general announcements that there's a new show on the way, and short feature pieces on the individual cast members. After that initial blitz the media took little notice of the program again for more than a year. Even the audacious move of adding a vampire to the cast in 1967 wasn't enough to make any immediate waves. Jonathan Frid's introduction to DARK SHADOWS was roundly ignored by those who should have been paying attention. It would take another year before the entertainment press was forced to acknowledge a cultural phenomenon, and you can feel the resentment in the collective voice of the gatekeepers when pens were finally put to paper. Too many write-ups focused on such things as "plastic bats" and Joan Bennett's status as a fallen diva. If there was anything lower on the pop culture stratum than a soap opera it was a horror. And here were both in the same program, making the beast with two backs Monday through Friday on network television for all to see. It was unseemly.

Another year went by (1968, if you're keeping score) before TV Guide, Time Magazine, Tiger Beat and Famous Monsters of Filmland finally took notice of what has happening on DARK SHADOWS. The variety of those publications and their hesitant response suggests that none of them knew who this show "belonged" to. By all rights, Famous Monsters should have been first on the scene, but it's possible they overlooked the program as something made for the "housewife set." Its first feature story on DARK SHADOWS was titled "Video Vampire Number One" and avoided use the term "soap opera." (The term "vampire opera" was used in one of the captions, though.) TV Guide published a few women's fashion pieces about the show in 1967, while the writers for Tiger Beat and Time were likely deeply confused when they found their readership overlapping. But hesitate they all did until 1968. By this point Frid was already pulling in thousands of fans during stops on his promotional tours of the nation, bringing in crowds larger than Richard Nixon's campaign stops (which is a weird metric, but one actually used Time Magazine.)

And this is how DARK SHADOWS received the logline that it was a "soap opera about a vampire." It was not meant with love. It was a code used by writers to tell editors that there were more important things they could be doing with their time than discussing (ugh) daytime television.

And you might want to sit down for my next assertion: DARK SHADOWS was never a soap opera.

This isn’t a matter of genre snobbery on my part. (At least, not entirely.) DARK SHADOWS was certainly constructed to meet the programming requirements of a soap opera, but it differed from its counterparts in a very significant way: It had a premise.

A soap opera isn’t automatically defined as “serialized entertainment,” the same way that serialized entertainment is not automatically a “soap opera.” The presence of melodrama in a serial doesn’t automatically make something a soap. If it did, programs like MAD MEN would better qualify as a soap than DARK SHADOWS does. Hell, TWIN PEAKS was as overt a soap opera as there's ever been (and even parodied its own soapy elements in the show-within-a-show, "Invitation to Love") yet neither PEAKS nor MAD have been corralled into the soap opera ghetto.

Comic books and professional wrestling are other forms of serialized entertainment with elements of melodrama. While it's occasionally argued they sometimes resemble soap operas, nobody seriously considers them as such. Marvel's "Fantastic Four" comic, the 19th century penny dreadful "Varney the Vampire," Stephen King's "The Green Mile," THE SOPRANOS and DARK SHADOWS are all serialized and share elements of melodrama ... but they also have premises.

Soap operas do not have premises. I dare you to tell me what RYAN'S HOPE or DAYS OF OUR LIVES is about. These programs are Venn diagrams of conflict, but there's no "there" there. When asked, people will tell you about the big moments, such as the time Luke and Laura got married ... but that's not a premise, is it? It's not even a story. If pressed, most fans of GENERAL HOSPITAL would probably have to submit that the series is about nothing more than a bunch of assholes hanging around a hospital.

From the very beginning, DARK SHADOWS had a premise, however abstract, that informed the series until the very end despite its many changes in between. There’s a reason we’re still talking about this show 50 years later and that’s because there’s something to talk about. You can actually spot the moments when rot began to take hold of DARK SHADOWS, because those were the moments when writers began to lean on soap opera cliches as substitutes for story. Nobody really cared if Quentin got custody of his kid from Samantha, or if Bramwell Collins  knocked up Catherine Harridge. More importantly, even the writers by this point didn't care. DARK SHADOWS devoured stories at an alarming rate and its appetite was insatiable. By 1971 it had already burned through "Dracula," "Frankenstein," "Jane Eyre" (twice!), "The Turn of the Screw" (twice!), "The Lottery," a bunch of random H.P. Lovecraft elements, "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," and Daphne du Maurier's "Rebecca" ...  not to mention parallel timelines, alternate futures and even (gasp!) alternate pasts. Many of these tales and tropes, even the gothic ones, were actually science fiction. And that's not even mentioning the witches, werewolves, zombies and other phantoms that called Collinsport home.

Let's do the time warp again.
DARK SHADOWS was a fantasy program that was built to occupy available real estate, which happened to be a block of afternoon programming previously inhabited by a soap opera. In 1966 ABC asserted the series was part of it's "continuing effort to bring fresh new forms of entertainment to daytime television." Comparisons to PEYTON PLACE aside, I think ABC was successful in creating something very different in DARK SHADOWS. During the first year the program was teased as a "suspense serial." By the next year that term had become a "mystery narrative" and "romantic suspense series." But the show's descriptions became more dismissive as it grew in popularity. A 1968 newspaper story published in Indianapolis said "Housewives, and the mico-boppers who can rush home from school in time, love it." DARK SHADOWS was an illegitimate phenomenon because its fanbase was illegitimate. Or, you know, predominantly female. This wasn't a huge problem when nobody was watching it, but once it exploded onto the cultural landscape ... well, some people needed to be reminded of their places. If you think this attitude has changed much in the last 40+ years, go back and read some of the coverage of Stephenie Meyer's TWILIGHT series, which committed the cardinal sin of appealing to women. Granted, TWILIGHT is awful ... but we give a great many awful thing in this country a pass as long as they're entertaining. Nobody seems all that put out by the toxic masculinity on display on THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS series, but those movies are candy for dudebros. And dudebros get whatever they want, or else. (Which is a pretty good summary of the F&F movies, to be honest.)

And this, my friends, is how we arrived at the "soap opera about a vampire" logline. It's one that got trotted out every few years as DARK SHADOWS migrated into syndication and cable television and has been more difficult to shake than the term "Trekkie." Neither were designed to be terms of endearment.

Because of marketing demands, though, I guess you have to call DARK SHADOWS something. But to call it a soap is to confuse structure with content. And the latter is much more important when defining the identity of the series. Admittedly, the structure of DARK SHADOWS contributes to much of its charm. It gave the show room to live and breathe in a way later adaptions of the material have not enjoyed. But there's the rub: When that first "Barnabas Collins" story was ported over to theaters as HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS in 1970, it created something that nobody would ever confuse with a soap opera. And the 1991 "revival" series leaned slightly on motifs from evening dramas of its day, but was also not tagged as a soap. Tim Burton's 2012 feature film tried to force soapy elements into the narrative (particularly the rivalry between the two local canneries) but they didn't amount to much. Four years later the film has become a programming staple on Freeform's "13 Nights of Halloween" marathon.

To my knowledge there's never been an effort made to bring a new version of DARK SHADOWS back to its original daytime address. There might be a reason for that. But you could also make a strong argument that DARK SHADOWS has not exactly thrived when transplanted to other environments. Perhaps the concept demands an extremely complex ecosystem in order to survive.

Again, please don’t interpret this argument as “Dark Shadows isn’t a soap opera because soap operas suck.” That’s not what I’m saying. It's just that DARK SHADOWS has little in common with other soaps except a structure.  With its superficial qualities stripped away,  DARK SHADOWS sits comfortably on the shelf with contemporary programs like STAR TREK, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, WILD WILD WEST and even BATMAN. All of these programs share a dedication to unique ethos which remained the same no matter how their respective casts or stories changed. THE TWILIGHT ZONE had unmistakable themes, motifs and obsessions that always held true no matter how the individual stories were presented, and DARK SHADOWS was no different.

The Dark Shadows Daybook: July 18



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 291

Barnabas attempts to kill Julia at Collinwood, only to find that he’s been duped by a dummy. Julia emerges from the shadows and reveals that she knows his secrets, is a doctor, has a fascination with him as the link between life and death, and then wants to cure him. This fascinates Barnabas enough that he provides room for her at Collinwood while semi-secretly planning to kill her. When she reveals that Maggie lives -- and that she controls her amnesia -- Barnabas has no choice but to delay his plans to ensure that the doctor is out.

“Show me an episode of DARK SHADOWS.”

That prized and dreaded question from someone curious about what you’re into.

It’s somewhere between flattering and petrifying. Where do you begin? What can sum it up, show it off, move it out, Rawhide? Before I go on about that problem, let me say that 291 is your answer.

Some episodes are more fun. Some are cleverer. And some are more pivotal to the canon. But you know what? Not many. 291 is neither an origin nor a resolution, but a key moment of change and evolution for some of our main characters. It’s early enough that they’re still dropping exposition bombs on new audience members to catch them up. As for the present, this episode introduces and explains the strange and long-running relationship of Barnabas and Julia, which will mellow and evolve for the next three years. It is the longest running partnership on the show. But what is that relationship? With two unlikely stars playing even unlikelier characters, it’s not exactly enemies -- except when they’re trying to kill each other. It’s not always friends -- because they’re sometimes trying to kill each other. And we can’t really call it romantic, except that Julia often acts out of love. Even though Barnabas probably doesn’t reciprocate it, he’s aware that her motives become romantic. He plays up a counterfeit interest when necessary, but that’s an act he drops when it becomes clear that she’ll remain loyal to him anyway.

They’ve already met, so we can’t call this an origin story. But this is where she explains her fascination with life, death, and her desire to cure Barnabas in the name of SCIENCE! Oh, she also comes out of the closet as a doctor. Few characters establish themselves as so admirably formidable. When she lays her trap for Barnabas, she does so with no mirror, cross, impending sunrise, nor wooden stake at the ready. All she has are the revelations that she’s a doctor... who suspects his secrets... and has a living Maggie Evans as a patient she can control absolutely! That’s a lot of exposition to get out, so it’s a good thing that Barnabas is a very patient strangler.

We think of Julia as the mercurial one in the relationship, being so constantly in love with Barnabas that she schemes to get him exposed, hideously aged, and generally on edge for nearly the first year they know each other. And yes, that is the quintessence of the mixed bag, but when it comes to mixed bags, Barnabas doesn’t just have a bag… he has a Harrod’s. Willie (who also gets reintroduced enough in the episode that we learn who he is all over again) is so baffled by Barnabas in 291 that if this were the poster to a Dean Jones movie for Disney, he would be at the center of it, arms crossed, pointing in either direction with a perplexed expression… and maybe a cat paw print on his forehead. First, Barnabas moves her in, then he announces he’ll kill her, then he insists she stay even longer. Then he tries to kill her again. In the same scene with no real prompting to shift tactic! Which is it? I’m glad that she says that she has Maggie’s memory in her control. It buys us all some time. I know that men are loathe to commit, but this is outrageous!

And it’s just the beginning.

This episode hit the airwaves Aug. 7, 1967.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Dark Shadows Lives!


For a television show cancelled in 1971, there are a lot of people talking about DARK SHADOWS today. Here's a roundup:

The world lost Thayer David on this day in 1978 at the age of 51. David was the utility infielder for DARK SHADOWS, dealing easily with any job thrown at him. The Winchester, Massachusetts native played more roles on the show than any other actor. On July 17, 1970, he taped an episode of DS that took place in a future he'd never see: 1995. "It makes an episode like this incredibly poignant, showing the actor at an “old age” (68) that he never reached, Patrick McCray recalls in The Dark Shadows Daybook episode installment for #1065. "Anyone familiar with the daybook knows that Mr. David is the real star of the show and this column. A touch of that is camp, but it’s a sincere camp, sincerely inspired. Chris Pennock considered David to perhaps be the program’s finest actor." You can read the entire piece HERE.

Speaking of Christoper Pennock, he might be the only man on the internet that hates Donald Trump more than me. In between his (totally on-point) rants about Orange Twitler he let slip an important detail: he's going to be part of the cast of the upcoming DARK SHADOWS: BLOODLINE. Who's he playing? I don't know! But if you've heard his recent appearances in the Big Finish audios it's not difficult to make an educated guess. You can bask in his righteous rage at @ButtockPennock.

Dark Shadows Every Day arrives at Episode 1149, described by blogger Danny Horne as the climax of the epic tragedy of Barnabas Collins and Roxanne Drew. "He’s followed her through three layers of paradox to arrive at this choice slice of cliffhanging: the zenith of all his mistakes, piled up on top of each other and ready to topple." Read today's installment HERE.

Dark Shadows Before I Die reaches one of the many peaks in the Barnabas/Julia/Angelique/FILL IN THE BLANK love quadrangle with episode 537. Abstract: "Julia's feelings have been on the table, the wall, the floor...pretty much everywhere for a long time. I loved her comeback when Cassandra accused her of being in love with Barnabas." Read it all HERE.

Of all my fake internet friends, @lunettarose is among my favorites. She's a smart, funny and talented artist who also reached a sort of milestone today with DARK SHADOWS. Below is the first tweet in a thread that's worth reading.


How about some Barnabas Collins pixel art?


I sometimes forget that Tim Burton's DARK SHADOWS movie was a thing. (Just kidding. I'm gonna take that grudge with me to the grave.) My monolithic quibbles with the movie aside, it was a gorgeous production ... which is reflected in this "makeup test" by @Fernanda Andrade.

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