Friday, August 23, 2019

Podcasts! Weclome to Collinsport and The House by the Sea

If you subscribe to The Collinsport Historical Society Podcast, you might have found another episode in your download queue yesterday. The last few weeks have been incrediblt stressful, what with getting a child ready for kindergarten and all. So my wife and I took the day off yesterday to play videogames and depressurize, so there was no announcement about the podcast here at the website. But yesterday Big Finish's Welcome to Collinsport, and features a chat by the producers of Big Finish's line of Dark Shadows audio dramas about why extending the show's storyline has always been about extending the Collins family.

You can download the episode HERE, stream it below or listen to it on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcheriHeartRadioYouTube where ever you find your podcasts.

Today's episode is The House by the Sea with Jessica Dwyer. Jessica explains why the sins of Collinsport's royal family aren't always as sinful as they appear. You can download the episode HERE, or stream it below. If you've been keeping count, Jessica's episode marks the end of this week's "single serving" series, meaning you've got new episodes coming your way Monday!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Podcast: The Dark Shadows Daybook

Another day, another Dark Shadows podcast! Patrick McCray and Justin Partridge have a drink at The Blue Whale and talk about the Master of Dark Shadows documentary, how the series speaks to the lonely, and why the 1897 storyline is essentially an episode of Fantasy Island for Barnabas Collins. Pull up a seat at the bar and give it a listen!

You can download the episode HERE, stream it below or listen to it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, YouTube where ever you find your podcasts.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Podcast: My Drawing Room

The first installment of the rejvenated Collinsport Historical Society podcast was a graveyard smash. But the kaiju-sized format has proven difficult to keep up with, so we're going back to formula. New episodes will be coming your way next week, but in the meantime enjoy these single-serving installements extracted from the first episode.

In the first episode of My Drawing Room, Alice Collins talks about discovering Dark Shadows on The Sci-Fi Channel while home sick from school at age 11, and seeing something familiar in the show's themes and characters.

You can download the episode HERE, stream it below or listen to it on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcheriHeartRadioYouTube where ever you find your podcasts.

Monday, August 19, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 19


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 566

Barnabas becomes suspicious of Julia when she begins sleeping all day, wearing high collared shirts, and longing for the embrace of the undead. Tom Jennings: Don Briscoe. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Julia is attacked and bitten by Tom, and later denies it to WIllie, who takes her to Collinwood to recover. She instructs Mrs. Johnson to leave her alone, and when the housekeeper brings her a letter from Barnabas, she tears it up. Later, Julia is summoned by Tom for the second meal of the day, and upon coming back to Collinwood, her bite marks are discovered by Barnabas.

I know that alcoholism isn’t funny. And drunks aren’t funny.

Having made that clear, Dark Shadows was produced before these modern opinions, and we’re swimming in its pool, so get that lampshade off your head and jump in. Once you’ve seen the episodes enough times, which could mean just once, it becomes pretty clear that the writers often had a good time by doing an episode in drag. I don’t mean that Sam Hall was wearing a dress, because I always saw him as more of a smart, designer pantsuit kinda guy, much like future tv hunk, Bea Arthur. No, I simply mean that the episodes are often about something else. Usually with no conclusion. Just an opportunity to explore a situation or human moment that was fun or challenging or necessary to write about. All you have to do is re-frame a little bit of the context.

I think the reason that drinking was kind of funny for so long was that the drinkers were often in on the joke, and the joke kind of changed before, during, and after the imbibing. “Morning after“ humor is a strange mix of regret, everyone agreeing to ignore the obvious after-effects, and the paradoxical pursuit of hair of the dog. In this case, the dog is Tom Jennings. Because if you look at this episode and kind of ignore the bite marks on its neck, it looks for all the world like Julia is sleeping off a hangover and everyone is either trying to deny what they know or find out what they fear. And it’s not just a minor hangover. This is, in the immortal words of Robert Urich, “a full, adult-size bangaroo.” It’s also perfect commedia dell’arte, where the hapless servants are trying to understand the decadence of one half of the household and then cover it up to the rest. What can Mrs. Johnson possibly be thinking? She worked for Burke Devlin, so whatever it is, it can’t be new.

In the midst, Barnabas is more of a fussbudget than ever. He had to put up with months of Nathan Forbes and, I’m sure, more than one night of Jeremiah in his cups, thumping around the almost-Old House while chasing maids or sneaking in doxies from the docks. In the 20th century, that level of wanton sherry consumption might pass at Collinwood, but this is his house, thank you, and Young Loomis and Dr. Hoffman were hand-picked because they didn’t go in for those sorts of shenanigans. Which is why he wants to get to the bottom of it, even more. And Willie does everything to keep him from knowing. And Julia, knowing exactly what Barnabas is up to, tears up Barnabas‘s note, because it probably said, “Lay off the sauce and get back to work, you lug.”

The scene where Willie and Barnabas have their confrontation in the lab is priceless, because someone has forgotten his lines, and I can’t wager which one it was. But Barnabas seems so appalled at what’s happened that awkward silence mixed with helpless astonishment are indistinguishable from a fully-voiced response. If anything, it’s more realistic. I mean, what do you say? This is an episode with no really progressive dialogue, just evasion and implication with Tom Jennings in the middle.

Tom is the bartender here, and he’s worse than the clientele. Actually, that’s stretching it all. Tom Jennings is a very peculiar vampire. Maybe one of the scariest, because he’s the most consistently feral. Via makeup and performance, Don Briscoe emphasizes the undead and driven quality of the monster, stripping away the velveteen refinement and leaving a working-class killer underneath… and perhaps the portrayal is a commentary on class paranoia by the writers. (It’s a reflection, anyway.) Barnabas can be trusted with the satanic powers of the undead; he’s been to university. But a guy like Tom Jennings? Lock up your Doctor Hoffmans! There’s a union man on the loose!

Episodes like 566 are situational popcorn. Even when monotonous, they are character-driven delights to watch. Like any good sitcom, I know exactly what’s coming and yet it always satisfies. Actually, it satisfies on a more metaphysical level even than that. Barnabas had his chance with Julia and he ignored it. Rather than see her victimized, I almost see her avenged, and the vaguely post-coital splay and daze in which she’s found by Willie and Barnabas after her two encounters say far more than what’s on the page. Is Barnabas horrified because she was claimed by a vampire or by a vampire other than he? 

This episode hit the airwaves Aug. 26, 1968.

Podcast: Jonathan Frid and the Clunes Reunion

We're chopping up the last podcast and spreading the remains all over the world. Every day this week we're disposing of another gory chunk of our massive episode "It Runs in the Family." We've already released the contributions from Dana Gould and Ella Minnope. Today's segment is The Clunes Reunion: On the seventh anniversary of Jonathan Frid's death this year, his production staff and creative collaborators reunited in New York City to remember the life and career of the man best known for playing Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows. There are a LOT of surprising details revealed here.

You can download the episode HERE, stream it below or listen to it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, YouTube whereever you find your podcasts.

The Dark Shadows theme is performed by Valentine Wolfe.

Dark Shadows: The Marilyn Ross Codex #1 - Dark Shadows


I suppose I owe you lovely readers an apology first and foremost.

It has been a good while since I have graced the hallowed halls of the CHS. So long in fact that my typewriter and paltry desk lamp have been moved BACK down to the Cupboard Under the Stairs, right back next to the mop and spare encyclopedias. It really is my bad.

Truth be told, some freelance work took me up to accursed Bangor and kept me there far, far too long. I got to talk about Swamp Thing over at Newsarama a bunch. I covered some horror film festivals AND wrote in a quite good zine (available now and with issue #2 on the way!) over at Dis/Member. I was even in a magazine! The Eisner winning PanelXPanel #25, all about the Sandman franchise, which was a trip and a half. It would have all been worth it had I not been in that festering cesspool of mediocrity that is Bangor. Schlepping down to what they pass off as a bar, filling pieces while choking down that weak freaking tea they call beer all while dodging mouth-breathing jabronis who haven't heard a goddamn Steely Dan song they didn’t love.

Anyone who tells you Bangor is a “decent enough town” is WRONG. Dead wrong. And probably selling you something.

But I’m back! And I have plenty of work ahead of me, work that will hopefully get me out of the broom closet and back into something at least resembling a workspace. Which brings us to this new column! The Marilyn Ross Codex! That’s right, after all these years, the Paperback Library’s’ Marilyn Ross books are finally receiving the audiobook treatment thanks to Oasis Audio. We here at the CHS have gotten a hold of some of these beauties and are going to be taking a listen to them. The immensely talented and far smarter than I am Alice Collins (@VampAly!) will also be joining us eventually along the way, and maybe a few other guests, if yer lucky! Welcome to The Marilyn Ross Codex!

So, I have a special relationship with the Marilyn Ross books, in that I DON’T have a relationship with them. Like my beloved Big Finishverse, I had only become aware of the cult classic tie-in novels here recently. Which is a bummer as I have heard they are quite insane. Like, fighting mummies and offering a completely separate prose universe alongside the TV canon insane. All of that sounds very much my jam. A lot of fans seem to really like these, and I have always meant to get around to them but a 32 book long series is daunting even for the most devout of fans. The closest I have come to really getting into these is listening to the fantastic Bodice Tipplers podcast episode about book #6 Barnabas Collins, by all rights, the horniest of the Marilyn Ross affairs.

Which is why I am excited to get to these reviews! I now have a pretty great in point for these and should I want to double-dip, buying both the old novels to display while keeping the audiobooks as my “reading copy” I totally can! It is nicely symmetrical for the obsessive collecting dork in me.

So how is the actual content itself, you may be asking now. And to that I say, pretty great! Though lacking the production values of the Big Finish audios and clocking in at a pretty decent chunk of time (which I will get into later), this first audio, carefully and lovingly read by Maggie Evans herself Kathryn Leigh Scott, is a fantastic entry point into this “Expanded Universe” of Dark Shadows.

Stop me if you have heard this before, but Victoria Winters has come to Collinwood. Lured by an offer to work at *checks notes* Collins House as governess to a child that lives there. Something, something beginning and the end of the world, you get it.  What follows is a pulpy, fairly loose adaptation of the first dozen or so episodes of the original TV series, stocked with all new characters and variants on the show’s opening dynamics. Characters like Ernest Collins, a seemingly famous concert violinist and suspected murderer who lives in Collins House (a canny anachronism that continues for the first few Ross books).   

As a fan of Expanded Universe, I sincerely love the idea of a semi-independent canon that stands alongside the TV canon, with it’s own cast and storylines. That said, the lack of production values is a bit of a bummer, especially when compared to the still ongoing Big Finish Dark Shadows line. Another bummer is the lack of any other cast members. Maybe the idea further down the line is to get other cast members in the booth and I DO love hearing Scott talk just in general as she has a smooth, caring tone that I find psychologically soothing. But part of the charm and drive of the Big Finishverse is hearing her play once again against other actors. I fear these might sound a bit stuffy after the full-cast efforts.

I also fear that the time commitment of this opener might be a turn off for casual fans. Clocking in at six hours, this thing really is a true blue audiobook (which, honestly, should have been something I anticipated going into this). Which means it's just bare bones reading for the whole time. Not helping matters is the fact that this first book is largely worldbuilding, setting up Vicki, Collins House, and the expanded cast of these novels. It has a pretty good hook, but anyone familiar with the TV canon won’t really be too surprised here. That said, I think die-hard Shadows people will find it a pretty great adaptation of this weird EU starter, but not having the frills of music or other cast members might be a tougher sell for me when I yell at people to get into the franchise. 

You might think that is a contradiction to what I said above, but I really, really did enjoy Dark Shadows. I think Scott continues to be really comfortable behind the microphone in any capacity and Ross’ odd, but engagingly written prose provides a spooky weekend listen for those still wondering what the hell this Dark Shadows thing is all about anyway. Those in the know too will find this fun as well as it brings the weirdness of tie-ins and the franchise overall into a wider market, hopefully snapping up more fans and devotees. To quote a great man, Joe Bob says, check it out.

NEXT TIME! Marilyn Ross #2! 1967’s Victoria Winters! To be honest, I’m just hoping we can get to the mummy fighting. 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.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Podcast: Evolving in the Shadows

The first installment of the rejvenated Collinsport Historical Society podcast was a graveyard smash. But the kaiju-sized format has proven difficult to keep up with, so we're going back to formula. New episodes will be coming your way next week, but in the meantime enjoy these single-serving installements from the first episode. We're dissecting them into more manageable portions, posting an episode a day throughout the week. Yesterday, Dana Gould explained how Dark Shadows might have been gothic as all get out, it was still as American as apple pie. Today,  Ella Minnope talks about how the romantic aesthetic of the deep South compares to the dysfunctional Collins family in Evolving in the Shadows. You can download the episode HERE, stream it below or listen to it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio or whereever you find your podcasts.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Podcast: Dark Shadows is as American as apple pie

Mistakes were made.

The first podcast turned out better than I could have ever imagined, a two-hour sprawling epic with more contributors than I could count. The traffic on the episode was great, as well ... but trying to publish an omnibus podcast on a monthly basis proved to be beyond my abilities. I've got some good stuff already in the can for episode two, but trying to get everybody to manage their schedules at my whim is unrealistic. From now on I'll be releasing "single serving" episodes as they become available, collecting them into an anthology podcast at a later date.

Which means I have to break down the previous podcast into single serving installments ... beginning today. Each day throughout the week a complete segment from our first episode - "It Runs in the Family" - will be shared as an individual MP3 file. Hopefully this might also attract a few of you who blanched at the thought of a two-hour podcast.

First up: Night Rally by Dana Gould! Dana and Bobcat Goldthwait were injured Thursday in a car wreck in Atlanta, suggesting they might need to follow some sort of Air Force One protocol for future live appearances. Get well soon, guys.
You can download Night Rally by clicking HERE, or stream it below. The Dark Shadows theme is performed here by Valentine Wolfe.

Tomorrow: Evolving in the Shadows with Ella Minnope!
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