Monday, July 6, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 6



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this day in 1967: Episode 281

When a seance brings Josette to the present in Vicki’s body, to whom will Barnabas propose? Roger Collins: Louis Edmonds. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Vicki, possessed by Josette, narrates her last moments on earth until Barnabas stops her. Later, Barnabas hears Vicki speak of her love of the past, and presents her with the music box.

“What is the value of suffering if it isn’t to be enjoyed?”
-- Roger Collins, guru--

Roger Collins walks away with this one, but who is Roger? I’m not sure he ever is quite as, I don’t know, Roger as he is in this one. It’s as if a real guy were raised by Quentin’s nephew in an intensely haunted house, dodging murder raps, fire-demon ex-wives, vehicular patricide, and a hard-drinking, nymphomaniacal niece who never quite “got the memo.” The writers heard about this real guy and based a character on him. And for one episode, he got to write all of his own dialogue. Every aphorism is a gem. He’s giddy over the costume party, and equally oblivious to the terror and suffering endured by the employee forced to go there. In other words, he’s a great guy and I wish the writers had featured THAT Roger Collins more. Or that Roger Moore Collins. One or the other. But like that great thespian of the English screen might have done, Louis Edmonds dominates the episode. This is despite his minimal screen time. Roger has a marvelously fresh sense of aristocratic defiance in the drawing room scene, and the rarity of seeing a Collins enjoy himself is too much to ignore. Edmonds knows he has a killer scene, designed to make him look like a million bucks. He’s a team player, Louis. Yeah, he could out act a number of his fellow performers, but he shows Louisiana good manners by not doing so. However, in this case, the thoroughbred simply needs to gallop at full speed.

Roger aside, we’re cementing the mechanics of the seance, here. I suspect the staff is well aware that 1795 finery, seances, and Vicki in peril are their next servings of bread and butter. Although that’s months away, the long-game strategy of Team Shadows allows them to get the audience so used to it all that, when it happens, it’s so natural that I’m amazed anyone time travels without a seance. The costumes feel right on the actors because they’ve been training us. Like we were all rats in Dan Curtis’ insane maze. My god, we’ve got to get back to the ship. Don’t you understand? It’s a zoo! With a cookbook! What, which episode is this? Shit, “Hocus, Pocus, and Frisbee”? You gotta be kidding me. I need a better agent.



Back to reality, the show is also straining, barely successfully, with shoehorning Vicki in as Josette. But it can’t do it too well. Because, you know, she’s not. But with Maggie in the nuthouse and Barnabas looking for reasons not to linger in Dr. Hoffman’s bedroom when she puts on that Sergio Mendes album, opens up a Whitman Sampler, and starts daubing Campari behind her ears, someone has to be Josette. I guess it could have been Dana Elcar, but I think he’s off the show by now. Vicki is awkwardly attracted to the past, and the seance features a performance that is suggestive of something else. As Moltke rhythmically pants, moans, and says “Faster!” a lot, I expect the camera to pan over to Rob Reiner’s mom telling Willie, “I have what she’s having.”

One of the many original elements to Barnabas Collins is the terror he suffers. He may take far more than he dishes out. Not only is he a deeply tragic man out of time, he’s also haunted by two ghosts. But one appears to everyone OTHER than Barnabas, and she’s the one who’d give him solace. He’s in love with the other one, but she spends all of her time possessing people and trying to out him. In 281, he’s confronted by both. What’s Josette’s game? Perhaps Josette is the force that drags Vicki through time. Perhaps it’s the only way she can warn her about Barnabas. Unless she’s not trying to warn anyone about Barnabas. If I were Josette, I’d be warning people about Angelique. And if Barnabas would just let her finish a simple possession, maybe she would!

This episode hit the airwaves on July 24, 1967.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

See House, Night of Dark Shadows on Movies! in July



Whoops! That's what I get for not checking the rest of the Movies! schedule. As it happens, both House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows are airing on Movies! in July.  Here's the revised schedule. The times are EST.

July 3
1:30 p.m., House of Dark Shadows
3:45 p.m. Night of Dark Shadows

July 12
12 p.m., House of Dark Shadows
2:15 p.m. Night of Dark Shadows
July 14
4:40 p.m. 1776
8 p.m., House of Dark Shadows

July 15
8 p.m. Night of Dark Shadows
July 20
8:35 a.m., House of Dark Shadows
10:50 a.m. Night of Dark Shadows


Original, erroneous story follows ...

Night of Dark Shadows, everybody's second favorite Dark Shadows movie, is set to air four times next month on Movies! TV Network. Why July? Who knows! It's usually a month reserved for films as far flung as 1776 to Rocky IV, and Night of Dark Shadows screams a lot of things but "O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave" isn't one of them.

Speaking of 1776, exactly when does NoDS take place? The movie poster claims the flashback scenes happen 200 years ago, meaning 1771. Other summaries state 150 years ago, landing us on 1821. But the screenplay says Angelique died in 1810 ... which is a dud year in American history. The big news of 1810 was that the United States annexed West Florida shortly after it declared independence from Spain. In fact, it would be another decade before Maine, the location of all things Dark Shadows, would even become a state. That's one to grow on.

I've included 1776 in the schedule because I consider it to be an honorary Dark Shadows movie, thanks to the shows many cast members appearing in the film.

If you want to watch Night of Dark Shadows on Movies!, here's when it airs:

For more details, visit https://moviestvnetwork.com/movies/1765, and make sure to follow Will McKinley on Twitter. He's the guy who tipped me to this.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Hermes Press reissuing first Dark Shadows collection



How about some good news?

Hermes Press is bringing the first volume of its Dark Shadows series back into print. Back in 2010 the company began collecting the entire Gold Key comic book series into hardback, a collection that eventually spanned five hardcover books, a "best of" collection and a reprint of Gold Key's 1970 Dark Shadows Story Digest one-shot. All of these books have remained available in recent years, except for the first volume of the Gold Key comics collection. At the moment it's selling for $143 on Amazon, which is the cheapest it's been for years. No, really.

Hermes Press announced this morning that it's re-issuing the volume. While no release date is attached, the book is available for preorder for $49.99 at the company's website HERE. Go get it!

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Pride Month 2020: Things should be better


Earlier this week, the Trump administration rolled back an Obama-era policy that protected LGBTQ+ patients from discrimination. In case the decision wasn't already cruel enough, the move came on the  fourth anniversary of the massacre of a nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, that killed 49 people. I suspect Trump had no idea of the significance of the date until he later saw it discussed on Fox News. But the people within his administrtion pulling his strings absolutely do know the significance, but that doesn't make the situation any less outrageous.

The pandemic has left me unplugged from my normal routines. It has also cancelled Pride Month activities across the world, and this is a community that understands better than any other about the consequences of a pandemic. By 1989 there were an estimated 100,000 AIDS cases in the United States. The World Health Organization estimated there were as many as 400,000 cases worldwide.

At least four actors appearing on Dark Shadows died from AIDS related illnesses.

A 2019 post on The CHS Facebook page has become a place for heated discussion this week, leading me to believe this is a problem people want to discuss. We're all a feeling isolated this summer. I've had more time than ever before to plan a formal dislogue ... but I've also felt disinclined to express myself on anything but the most selfish of topics. Silence seems prudent when anger and anxiety are fighting for the wheel. As a straight, white man my sullenness is an expensive luxury.

Worse, it makes me an accomplice.

If you want to help, please consider donating to The Trevor Project, a non-profit organization  focused on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth. You can find them online at https://give.thetrevorproject.org/give/63307/#!/donation/checkout

Meanwhile, here's what The CHS did last year for Pride Month. It's all as relevant now as it was a year ago. I've included an abstract, the author's name and a link to their entire piece.

Our thoughts and feelings are valid
Brooke Perrin: "In addition to the backlash fans receive for celebrating the queerness of the talent involved in creating Dark Shadows, queer fans are also criticized by our straight counterparts for daring to see ourselves reflected in “their” characters. Although queer representation is making leaps and bounds today historically, the LGBTQ community have little to no representation in the media we consume." http://www.collinsporthistoricalsociety.com/2019/06/pride-month.html

Queer Shadows
Alice Collins: "Dark Shadows helped me get through a lot of my questioning and early coming out years (Unfortunate truth: You never stop coming out, you come out to each new person you meet.) It’s been my solace, my safe place to be scared because the outside world is even scarier." http://www.collinsporthistoricalsociety.com/2019/06/pride-month-queer-shadows.html

Witches and Role Models
Laramie Dean: "Originally, I considered writing about the in-the-closet nature of Barnabas Collins and his lycanthropic cousin Quentin, who must pretend to be their own ancestors so their hapless twentieth century relatives don’t discover their – gasp! – true natures, but that seems rather on the nose; and anyway, I want to write about Angelique.  Because she’s my favorite." http://www.collinsporthistoricalsociety.com/2019/06/pride-month-witches-and-role-models.html

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 25



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this day in 1967: Episode 248

When Barnabas woos Maggie with a tour of Collinsport’s cozier hideaways, will Willie provide a rude awakening? Maggie Evans: Kathryn Leigh Scott. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Barnabas punishes Maggie with an overday stay in a coffin. When she returns to the Old House, her true personality seems to permanently reemerge.

We’ve been teased for long enough. Maggie Evans knows that she’s Maggie Evans, but how are we supposed to feel?

If the original viewers of the show were cheering her on, the character of Barnabas would have had no future. If those familiar with the show say they are cheering her on, they aren’t that familiar with it after all.

This is the crux of the show’s most morally challenging storyline, but it’s not morally challenging for the characters. The compass there is clear. The challenge is for you, the viewer. Do you side with the character you know is destined to save the future, motivated by love and desperation, despite knowing that he is wrong? Or do you side with the brave, tortured woman you know will be free in time? It’s an ugly choice. If I were you, I wouldn’t even dignify the question. The show is relentless in confronting us with it, anyway, even though we may equivocate with, “neither” or, “both” or, “Are you crazy?”

It’s borrowing a page from Vertigo, and in that, too, we tacitly approve of extreme behavior by men toward women because we know there is a larger purpose. The difference is that Judy is not only responsible for Scotty’s pain, but (through complicity) the murder of Madeline. And Jimmy Stewart is not an undead hemovore (in that movie, anyway). With Barnabas, it’s more complicated. Maybe. Both men are driven by love. Both men are forcibly improving class status. And both men suspect that the true object of their affections lurks within. You realize that it’s a dark Cinderella, right?

There are different and theoretically forbidden dimensions to this entire topic for both men and women. Yeah, it’s clear why it’s abhorrent. Now, let’s talk about why it’s appealing, anyway. Not okay, but strangely appealing.

For women, let’s talk about the appeal first from what’s not going on. There’s no rape, and I can’t emphasize the power of that. Despite everything that’s going on, sexual violation isn’t one of them. In fact, there’s not even the hint. This is a driven and insistent and personal desire that involves who Maggie/Josette truly is rather than what she can do. Sex is fungible. Josette is not. With that off the table, the idea of this crime is one of the most flattering in the arena of the totally reprehensible. An all-powerful uber-patriarch comes to life and has only one focus: to love. Unlike Laura, there is no sacrifice involved. Yes, yes, Maggie will become one of the living dead, but in a very attractive, powerful, immortal way and, well, you gotta die sometime.

The prime demographic here (at this point in the run) is women home at four in the afternoon every weekday. I don’t need a Betty Friedan on my shoulder to both dislocate it and tell me that there’s a good chance this viewer might feel marginalized and unfulfilled. As much as Maggie screams for pop-pop-pop, she kind of has to. The story would be over if she didn’t. No one wants their identity replaced, but from the objective view of the audience, there are worse trades given the Byronic pining of her “host.” Josette sounds pretty great, and Maggie is a character destined for exactly the fate of many viewers… the beleaguered housewife of a working-class barfly who comes home every night stinking of dead shellfish and Kools. Go to bed with Joe Haskell and wake up with Curly Joe DeRita.

It’s quite the briar patch over at the Old House, and other than forgetting the forgettable minutiae of her former life, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of privation here. Yes, lack of air conditioning, but it’s Maine, you know?



For male viewers? I’m not sure there were many back then. But it’s clear that, while Barnabas’ desperate methods are cruel, his motives are not. Jonathan Frid projected a pain, melancholy, and lingering, unresolved desire better than any other actor in the medium. We have been there. I’m not going to say “incel,” because of the terrible baggage that perfectly decent descriptor (coined as a self-reference by a woman, I am led to believe) immediately gave itself, but… he didn’t explicitly ask for this. If a grown man is sitting around watching Dark Shadows, I can tell you that either his dance card is empty or he certainly knows what an empty one looks like. And while no rational human would contemplate kidnapping and brainwashing, Barnabas is s’darn earnest that we know that his motives are pure and motivated by a sense of profound loss, one that even the mighty, 1795 storyline strains itself to justify.

The fact that Barnabas loses her repeatedly in this, concluding in the shattering realization that he has caused the (supposed) death of another innocent person, is the ultimate comeuppance. His crime? The desire to not be alone. Yes, a phallocentric quest for power, but power over what was lost. Power to undo a crime of jealousy. And not Barnabas’.

If it sounds like I’m defending the undefendable, I am. But so is the show, because this man transforms into its hero, and we all kept watching. The reasons run deep.

This episode hit the airwaves on June 7, 1967.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

It's World Dracula Day!


1897 is an important year 'round these parts. Not only was it the setting for Dark Shadows' popular and creative peak, it was the year Bram Stoker's Dracula first reached readers. It wasn't the first vampire novel, but it has stood the test of time and proven itself the most important of its kind. Every vampire story since has had to define itself against Stoker's novel ... no matter the author's intentions.

Dracula was released on this day in 1897, which has since been recognized as World Dracula Day. Even though I know there are objectively better books out there (such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein) it's been my favorite for as long as I can remember. As a character, Dracula has proven to be endlessly malleable, warping into various identities over the last 120+ years. Dracula has become the Jerry Cornelius of bloodsuckers since falling into public domain, taking on various names and faces as he's spread virally across media. Dracula has fought Billy the Kid, crossed wits with The X-Men, and adopted pseudonyms like Johnny AlucardVladislav the PokerJerry Dandrige and yes ... Barnabas Collins. There will be Dracula stories long after we're all gone.

To celebrate, all of the vampire-related listings at Unlovely Frankenstein are on sale today for 25% off. Featured are my prints inspired by Vampira, the 1931 Dracula feature and its 1936 sequel Dracula's Daughter, Fright Night, House of Dark Shadows and more. You can find the sales listings at https://www.etsy.com/shop/UnlovelyFrankenstein?section_id=1

(Note: Episode 761 of Dark Shadows aired on this date in 1969. Set during durng the 1897 arc, the episode had Barnabas Collins engaging in some decidedly un-Dracula-like adventures, particularly the rescue of Nora and Jamison from a fire.)

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 23


By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 765

As Barnabas pumps Beth for information, will Magda pump Quentin full of silver bullets? She’s locked, loaded, and ready to say “I’m sorry” six times in a row. Alex Stevens: Quentin Collins. (Repeat; 30 min.)

With a wolf on the prowl, Barnabas knows that Beth holds the key to its secret. Barnabas bites her, and she informs him that the wolf is Quentin and that Quentin has a legacy he doesn’t even know about: two children. Magda, rife with remorse, hunts the wolf, as the wolf stalks the estate. Finally, Magda shoots the wolf, but fatally?

It would be inaccurate and hyperbolic of me to say this episode is “pure action,” so I will. For Dark Shadows, this is pure action. And if Dark Shadows action has a name (other than Thayer David), it’s Alex Stevens. We owe him a lot. He performs several spectacular falls in this one, on par with his astoundingly Marvel Comics explosion through the Evans Cottage window earlier in the series. His greatest stunt may have involved padding on the floor, but I didn’t see it, and the sudden reality of it is stunning. On the attack, the werewolf leaps over the railing on the second story landing in the foyer, lands, and keeps going. If you own an ankle, you realize what an impressive stunt this is, simply in its blunt relatability. It’s a straightforward moment, and it may be the most magical sight on the show.

Because special effects are clearly unreal, even at their most realistic, they are inherently devoid of wonder. The great Ray Harryhausen may be a magnificent artist and technician, but magician, he ain’t. Even when his work defined ‘state of the art,’ the herky-jerky movement and weirdness of scale immediately told you to start using euphemisms like “heightened” later on lest you be harassed by his devotees.

Magic is different. Magic shows the impossible as possible and leaves as the only conclusion: this happened. At that point, apologies to the makeup crew, Stevens could have gotten away with no appliances at all. Just a t-shirt that said, “werewolf,” and we’d be sold. It’s a moment of sudden wonder, and suddenly, from the floor up, Collinwood stops being symbolic of anything and becomes a real place.

It taped today, but it played on Friday, May 30, and I think that’s a symbolic day. It’s a good day to bring in a werewolf at his most exciting. And I hope the choice was strategic. This was, for many, the last day of school for three glorious months. In the past few days, Jonathan Frid and David Selby had recorded their contributions to the album, Original Music From Dark Shadows, which would become a massive hit in that year of massive hits. Viewmaster reels were steady sellers. It was the year of the Barnabas Collins Dark Shadows Board Game. And this one, action-packed, exposition packed installment slammed the locker door on school for the best part of the best year of the best show that millions of kids had ever seen. It was the last day they had to run home from anywhere to see it, and the writers ensured that the marathon mattered. It certainly feels as if there is more screentime for Stevens than on any other episode of the program.

Dark Shadows may have very well been at its zenith. Ratings and demographics were measured differently then, and so I can’t state anything definitively about who was watching. My instinct tells me that, given the items for sale and the significance of the day, this may be one of the most-enjoyed episodes of the entire series. It was certainly the most meaningful for a nation of kids. I don’t need anthropological data to back me up on that.

A great episode? Certainly. Mature? Thank goodness, no. You have bats. Beth, with a vampire’s dream of an endless neck, bitten and controlled. Barnabas learns of Quentin’s curse, the children, and finally, what he’s doing in 1897 at all. The last part is the vegetables of the episode, but at least there’s cheese sauce. The enlightenment of Barnabas Collins has been coming for months and months, and you know the writers are planning something big when they finally plug in the light bulb over his head. Now, equipped with as much of the truth as anyone knows, the adventure of 1897 should be concluding. Barnabas should be climbing into his coffin for the voyage home.

Of course, a certain Count is about to hear that a certain body part is waiting for him in Collinsport. And if stuntman Alex Stevens is magic, the Count is sorcery. 

This episode hit the airwaves on May 30, 1969.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 19


By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this day in 1969: Episode761

When Edward gains proof of the evil of the supernatural, will he become Collinsport’s last, best hope for victory? Edward Collins: Louis Edmonds. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Barnabas rescues the children by teleporting in, which causes the flames to die out. Edward, now having realized that Laura was a creature of the supernatural, vows to protect Collinwood from the occult. He’d better hurry, because Quentin and Evan have a Satan to summon!

With Laura dead, and that part of the series’ auto-remake out of the way, Mission: 1897 really flies off into new territory. Quentin’s transformation has begun. (So has Magda’s.) It’s a sobering transformation, so at least they keep him good and sauced, which is always entertaining. But equally entertaining and surprisingly mature is the evolution that goes largely unnoticed: Edward, played with comic exaggeration and human texture by the reliably underestimated Louis Edmonds. And he evolves in more ways than one. He’s one of my favorite characters in the series, the very picture of a Victorian straight-man. But let’s not limit him to that. In just this episode alone, he heals and matures in surprising ways and galvanizes into something beautifully ludicrous and completely understandable...

Edward Collins -- Monster Hunter.

It’s the evolution of Joshua, who lived for denial, and a rebuke toward Roger, who lived for willful ignorance. In between, with all of the insanity endured for a hundred years, you’d think that one Collins would grow a little backbone, believe what’s clearly going on, and grab the stake & hammer. In Edward, they do. And for a post-Dickensian cartoon, Edward is a surprisingly modern man. He’s a single father, now for reals, and his warmth toward his children is wholly authentic and heartwarming. Quentin, it seems, never robbed him of a wife because he never really had one. With that new perspective, of course, he must mend the family. Now that Judith has the wealth and Trask is amassing the power, all of the external sources of Edward’s anticipated identity vanished in months. What’s left but to be a genuine mensh? His relationships are all he has, and he’s no longer the forbidding iceberg. He’s Roger and Liz’s grandpa-in-waiting.

More than that, all of the forces he once saw as corrupting to that sense of John Harvey Kellogg propriety are, well, not that important. He’s now the Lovecraft hero who decides to strike back. That journey will take him to Barnabas. I think he has it in for Barnabas because Barnabas shames him by implication. He’s the guy who didn’t settle down. But he’s disciplined, unlike Quentin, concerned for others, unlike Carl, and warm, unlike Edward. He even macks on the KLS character with appropriately hygienic restraint. Barnabas is living the Edwardian bachelor dream, then proceeds to go full-on superhero. Did Edward save his kids? No, Barnabas did. Edward will have to kill Barnabas to become him. The fact that he’s a vampire is the berries in the sloe gin. This is secretly the story of Edward Collins becoming the best of the 20th century as Quentin retreats from being the worst of it.

And there’s the mustache, too.

This episode hit the airwaves on May 26, 1969
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