Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Do not attempt to adjust the picture

You might have noticed that a few days have passed without a new Dark Shadows Daybook entry. Fear not: Patrick McCray is busy this week and will return Nov. 1 with a new installment. I swear to god he's not locked up in my basement or anything.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The unsavory Jack Chick/Dark Shadows connection

It should come as no surprise to you that Jack Chick was not a fan of DARK SHADOWS.

The paranoid, hate-filled comics publisher died Oct. 23 at the age of 92, according to a Facebook post by Chick Publications. There are few people in America who have seen one of his tiny pamphlets, which tell violent parables in support of bigotry, fear and delusional myopia. Since 1961, Chick published more than 250 comics, tackling such crippling social problems as Dungeons & Dragons, rock music, homosexuality and Freemasonry. If it was the least bit fun, Jack Chick hated it.

Naturally, DARK SHADOWS was an easy target for him, though it's highly unlikely he ever watched an episode of the series. In 1972, not long after the ABC soap went off the air, Chick took a potshot at this show in his Chick Tract "Bewitched." Rumor has it story begins with Satan taking in an episode of DARK SHADOWS, it's distinctive gothic/serif font emblazoned on his television set.

"Why are these old re-runs so important, Master?" a nameless ghouls asks.

"Because, stupid, that show paved the way for our occult and vampire programming viewed by millions today," Satan answers dickishly.

And he's not wrong. Without Barnabas Collins, we wouldn't have THE NIGHT STALKER, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE and a host of lesser-known offspring. Chick takes a slightly dimmer view of DARK SHADOWS, though, using it as a springboard for his usual morality play about eternal damnation. In short, our protagonist, Debbie, does a bunch of acid before having her soul saved by the prayers of her grandmother. Awwww.

Again, some of this is just rumor. Later editions of "Bewitched" was revised: Debbie's name was changed to Ashley (why?) in later editions, and Satan's favorite TV show was altered to replace DARK SHADOWS with the credits for the sitcom BEWITCHED. (The curious reference to "vampire programming" remained.)

I've spent years casually searching for an original edition of "Bewitched," for no other reason than to satisfy my own curiosity. The 2015 book "The World of Jack Chick" includes a segment on "Bewitched" but does not mention DARK SHADOWS. For all we know, any appearance by the series in a Chick Tract  is myth.

But that's OK, because Chick has a much more interesting connection to DARK SHADOWS. But first, a word of warning: this post is going to go to some dark places.

One of Chick's associates was an evangelical Christian named John Todd, who first worked with Chick on "The Broken Cross," one of hsi company's magazine-sized "Crusaders" comics. "John is exposing Masonry which has infiltrated our churches," Chick wrote in 1978. "It’s an unseen enemy. John has given me valuable information on two new publications, 'Angel of Light' and 'Spellbound.' The latter on rock music will have a devastating effect on Christian rock music. I thank God John is risking his neck to warn us of the dangers and techniques used by the Illuminati."

Todd's narrative was that the Illuminati was actually a vast conspiracy of witches, a web that grew to include the KGB, Hollywood, the already mentioned Freemasons ... and the Collins family from DARK SHADOWS. Todd claimed his family was descended from Druids in Scotland, who fled the country after being persecuted as witches. His family name was "Kollyns," which was later changed to "Collins."

When he was a teenager, Todd claimed, he was asked to fly out to "Hollywood" with a diary he'd inherited from his great-grandmother. These diaries served as the basis of DARK SHADOWS, and his ancestor Lance William Collins -- a secretary for a coven that included Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton -- inspired Barnabas Collins. (For the record, the DARK SHADOWS production was located in New York.)

Todd also claims DARK SHADOWS was "literally prayed off the television," which is the first time I've heard that particular explanation for the show's cancellation.

"I back John up 100 percent with all his faults," Chick said of Todd in a 1978 letter. "I know this brother is doing his best to advance the kingdom of God. We must keep one fact in mind. John is not a minister, but a Christian layman sharing what he knows about a very explosive subject."

Wikipedia politely describes Todd as a "conspiracy theorist," a tagline that omits a great many of the man's more sinister faults. Todd was a lunatic and conman, having gone by the names "Lance Collins," "Kris Sarayn Kollyns" and "Kollyns Christopher Sarayn" at various points of his dubious career. According to "The Occult World" by Christopher Partridge, Todd was convicted of incest in Kentucky in 1984, for which he received a probationary sentence. In 1988, Todd was convicted in South Carolina of raping a college student, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. During that time, the once evangelical Christian filed a lawsuit against the state claiming he was not allowed to practice Wicca, and demanded "personal items" such as a pair of women's panties and some pornographic photos be returned to him.

Todd was released from prison into the care of the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, where he died in 2007. To this day, Todd has defenders who insist his arrests (and even his death) were the work of the Illuminati.Was Jack Chick among their numbers? We can only speculate. None of Todd's offenses were considered valid reasons by Chick Publications to discontinue any of the stories that involved John Todd. "The Broken Cross," which begins with Chick expressing his "deepest appreciation" to Todd, is still available for sale from the company.

Anyone else feel like they need a shower now?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Binge on Dark Shadows this weekend for Halloween

Decades will be airing a DARK SHADOWS marathon this weekend, beginning at 1 p.m. EST Saturday, Oct. 29.

DARK SHADOWS is turning into a Halloween tradition for Decades, which specializes in classic television. It's the second year running that the channel has marked the holiday with a "binge" marathon of the series. As a change of pace, though, this weekend's binge will not begin with the introduction of vampire Barnabas Collins, but will skip ahead a few weeks to episode 251. By this point in the storyline, Maggie Evans is already a prisoner of Barnabas, whose patience is rapidly running out as his victim refuses to bend to his will.

All together, Decades is airing 84 episodes of DARK SHADOWS, bringing the festivities to a halt at 6:30 a.m. EST on the morning of Oct. 31.

Click HERE to see if you get Decades in your area.

Happy Halloween!


Friday, October 21, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: OCTOBER 21


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 876

Was any character on DARK SHADOWS allowed the range of Quentin Collins? I don’t think so, and as such, he may be the writers’ most mature creation. Because both Quentin and David Selby are so incredibly charming and winning, and because Quentin has such a reversal from villain to hero, it’s disappointing when his story peters out. Quentin Collins II leaves the show sans sound, fury, nor satisfaction. But I would argue that it’s only truly unsatisfying if you expect something other than what it delivers. Yes, it’s rare that a foil is given greater dramatic opportunities than the person he reflects, but that’s the case here, and I say we thank the strange, wonky wanderlust of the DARK SHADOWS writers for giving us such depth and range at all. Overall, 1897 follows Quentin from cartoonish cad to a thoughtful, conflicted tortured optimist. (His chin is up a bit too much to be a pessimist, and he has too many covert schemes to qualify as a realist.)

The Quentin of this episode is almost unrecognizable from the man we met several months ago. In this installment, he goes through three or four ringers. First, Beth dies -- on Widow’s Hill, no less. Of course, this is another part of his Barnabas parallel. Quentin comes in after Widow’s Hill and pours a drink, almost with a sense of relief. No. Not relief. Just an acknowledgement of the inevitable. Beth was destined to absorb shrapnel. She practically threw herself in the way of it. Frequently. She was never going to get the 2.5 and white picket domesticity remix from Quentin, so she could at least create situations where he’d have to thank her for her sacrifices. Clearly, there was at least one master of Catholic guilt on the writing staff.

Selby is given the entire episode to ruminate on her death, and he goes from bemused resignation to gale force tears. Not one atom of ham in any of it. Selby… a very Zen man with access to a pain mine that could power Morgantown for the next thirty years.

These DARK SHADOWS actors.  They know what they’re doing.

In the news, Jack Kerouac died on the day they taped this episode. He was only 47.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: OCTOBER 19


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1131

Under the power of the head, Leticia hides Judah’s reanimated body and receives instructions on how to proceed.  At the Old House, Barnabas sends Julia to New Bedford to get more information on Judah Zachary. Meanwhile, Daniel recognizes Angelique from his youth, but is silenced with the the threat of his dead wife’s ghost… a dead wife he murdered. Julia returns with the story of Judah Zachary. He was a schoolmaster by day, but was an occultist supreme by night, using the title, “Son of Satan,” and wearing a jeweled Mask of Baal that would allegedly grant immortality. At his trial, a woman named Miranda testified against him, earning him the unusual execution of beheading — at the behest of a team of judges that included Amadeus Collins. The head would occasionally be displayed as a warning, but has been missing for some time. Barnabas remembers stories of Zachary from the past, knowing that the worst is to come. Angelique arrives at the Old House, and Julia leaves. She explains that they are still married, and she wants them to try again. Barnabas has no interest. Later, Leticia exposes Julia to the seductive power of Judah’s head, and she becomes enslaved.

Now that we sit atop nearly the entire series, the view provided by the writers is stunning. With so many episodes of perspective, 1840 is almost the ultimate crucible for the series. What’s burned away as meaningless? What endures? By beginning near the end, we have the perspective of ultimate storytelling economy. There is no time for waste. No time for distracting frippery. That’s all burned away in the distant past of exposition, character color, and side-stories.  What do we have, here? Angelique, Barnabas, Julia, the pained ghosts of the past, the (intro to the) reason that Angelique is good beneath the evil, and who-is-married-to-whom. The episode is a rich little confection of character, intrigue, and yet another dance with yesterday. Barnabas and Julia have a curious challenge with Angelique, also. Remember, this isn’t the Angelique of 1897, having girl-talk with Julia and curing Barnabas in a cave. Nor is it (shudder) Sky Rumson’s long-suffering wife. From what I can tell, her timeline is 1692, 1795, 1840, 1968, 1897, 1969. There are different opinions on that, with some placing 1897 at the end. But I recall that she doesn’t seem unfamiliar with Quentin in 1969, and that suggests she’s already been to 1897. Anyway, it’s to the credit of Julia and the stubbornness of Barnabas that they don’t greet her with a hug and a sigh of relief, reminding themselves that when she was last seen, she’d freshly enacted events that lead to the deaths of almost everyone Barnabas loves… including Barnabas, himself, if we count “undeath.”

And yet, if she hasn’t had the Great Mellowings... of marriage to Roger, enslavement to Nicholas, death, Hell Trials, vampirism, Petofi, almost-marriage to Quentin, teaming up against the Phoenix, befriending Julia, curing Barnabas, going straight and marrying Sky, and battlin’ the Leviathans… why is she so quick to be heroic? I think she’s had just enough time to feel guilt and loneliness and nostalgia. By 1968, who knows what bitterness sets in?  Especially because it’s all about Josette, all over again. Here, she comes back less than fifty years later to find Barnabas as a confident, un-self-loathing Vampire in Full. He’s got a female doctor sidekick. He’s no longer pining for Josette, but is still tantalizingly unreachable without being “Josette Unreachable,” if you know what I mean. And she’ll soon be dealing with Judah Zachary all over again, and that’s a brand of evil that makes what she does look like pea-shooters and short-sheeting. None of this happens in the first timeline, but it’s happening now. What triggers the revised timeline? I think it’s Judah, himself. Judah’s curse, for me, was initially a slow, existential one. By the time Vicki gets off the train, the family is a Buzz, a Burke, a Jason, and a David-going-through-puberty-and-bolting away from being a memory. That’s the curse. They’ve just dwindled to nothing. What starts to change that? Barnabas. He kills Jason. He alleviates Roger of the producing of being “the last Collins.” Sarah provides love and mystery and wonder for a family in need of it. Barnabas’ presence summons a healer. It summons Angelique, which introduces Stokes. So, what does Judah do? He unleashes Quentin. That should have killed the family right there, but Barnabas was too strong. So was Stokes. And Julia. Thus, the Leviathans. Nope. Okay, trap him in Parallel Time? Are you kidding? No cell or pocket dimension can hold Barnabas Collins. Fine. Raze it to the ground and humiliate Barnabas with his own powerless ignorance. Well, he didn’t count on Julia Hoffman, the power of the I Ching, and the catnip of Barnabas to Angelique. Or, as she was once known, Miranda.

The thing I really love is that Judah is ultimately in the same boat as everyone else. He gets the shaft from his own past. As is the case with Barnabas, the shaft belongs to Angelique. So to speak.

On this day in 1970, we celebrate the birthday of legendary funnyman and American treasure, Corky Romano, himself… Chris Kattan. All kidding aside, Kattan is one of those lost, SNL stars of great talent. It just got obscured by bad material and excessive Mango. Want evidence? Check out HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1999). He plays the comic relief in the film by playing it totally straight. Doing that, he really has it both ways. Kattan has many years ahead of him, so the DSD wishes him a happy birthday with the hopes for a few more haunts to come.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Collinsport represented in upcoming vampire doc

For more than a year now, actress Juliet Landau (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) and husband Deverill Weekes have been hard at work on A PLACE AMONG THE UNDEAD, which they're billing as the "definitive vampire" documentary. It's hard to argue with that tagline .... early additions to the film's panel of interviewees were Gary Oldman, Joss Whedon, Tim Burton and Anne Rice, with new guests quickly joining the roster.

It's an extensive guest list (see for yourself HERE) but  let me cut to the chase: Weekes tells me that DARK SHADOWS alumni Lara Parker and Kathryn Leigh Scott will be a part of the production. You can also expect a few DARK SHADOWS-related "perks" to be added to the film's Indiegogo campaign in coming weeks.

Below is a video of Landau with Scott and director Gary Shore (DRACULA UNTOLD), taken from the film's Facebook page. And below that is the original sales pitch for A PLACE AMONG THE UNDEAD. You can find more videos and an explanation of perks at Indiegogo HERE.

Excited yet?

The Dark Shadows Daybook: OCTOBER 18


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 610

Eve visits Jeff in the garden and is surprised when he fails to acknowledge his past love for her... when he was known as Peter Bradford. Perhaps because she looks different from when she was Danielle Roget? Inside, Vicki tells a melancholy Liz that she and Jeff will marry. Liz’s funk lifts briefly when Vicki invites her to help plan the wedding. Jeff descends into anxiety in the garden, giving Vicki her doubts about the wedding. Liz, too, returns to her thanatomania, and when she sees a spying Eve, she declares her to be the Angel of Death. Eve goes to Nicholas, demanding to know of her past identity -- a forbidden topic. They discuss the fact that she was seen by Carolyn, and now by Jeff.  He is livid. All she can offer him is the information that Jeff Clark and Peter Bradford are the same. Curious, Nicholas places Eve in a trance and learns that Peter came to loathe the deeds of Danilelle, who murdered Phillipe Cordier. Peter had, however, enough love to give her a head start before he alerted the authorities that she was a killer. Eve awakens, confirmed in her suspicions of the past. Nicholas is disturbed that other forces are at work in the midst of his own efforts.

What wasn’t going on in 1795? The authors loaded it up like a clown car of expanding cast members and storylines. It would be great fun to retcon the telling of 1795 to include hints of Danielle Roget. And let’s not forget the other, eleventh hour storyline lurking under the 1795 surface: Jeb Hawkes. He had existed in the 1790’s, too, and lured Vicki to leap from Widow’s Hill after her return to that time. Peter later came to the future as a ghost to punish Jeb. This is a storyline that could use a more memorable establishment of causality. On one hand, I give it a hearty WTF and go on to say that it makes the curly-q Ragnarok/1840 storyline look like the Maggie Kidnapping. But it is text. Seen that way, it’s one of Collinsport’s more cosmic mysteries, perhaps not meant to be lashed down with colored paper and a bow.

On this day in 1968, Aristotle Onassis announced his wedding plans with Jackie Kennedy. We also saw Apollo 7 return three bitter and sick astronauts to Earth. Finally, in the-more-things-stay-the-same department, athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos were suspended from the Olympics for giving a black power salute.

What year is it? Really? Forty-eight years later?

You’d never know.

Dark Shadows: Bloodline has been delayed

You're going to have to wait a little longer for "Dark Shadows: Bloodline."

The 13-part sequel to last year's "Bloodlust" was originally set for release this fall, but a conflict in schedules with the cast has pushed back production of the series.

“With a project as big as this,” said co-producer Joseph Lidster, “there are sometimes problems that are beyond our control. In this case, we can't get all of our actors in place to record their roles until later in the year. We’ve therefore decided to postpone the release of 'Bloodline' until early 2017.”

This is a good news/bad news situation, in my opinion. Tom Petty might believe the waiting is the hardest part, but when he wrote that song he'd yet to see ALIEN 3. That movie is all the proof you need that rushing a production to meet an arbitrary release date will only end in sadness. Ultimately, nobody will remember if a piece of media arrived late. If it sucks, though, they'll remember it forever.

“To be honest, considering the number of people we're regularly attempting to co-ordinate from half a world away, I've been continually astonished and relieved that this hasn't happened before,” said "Bloodline" co-producer David Darlington. “But we hope this is the first and last time. We’re so keen to ensure that 'Bloodline' isn’t rushed in any way, and that it’s a worthy successor to 'Bloodlust' – and we can only say we’re sorry for any disappointment this delay may cause.”

News of "Bloodline's" delay has eased some of my gloomiest worries of 2016. There was a bit of a pall over this year's Dark Shadows Festival, which had a vague air of finality to it. I've been a little worried that this year might also mark an end to Big Finish's line of audio dramas, but that will not be the case. In addition to "Bloodline," the company will also be releasing several new "anthologies" in the coming year, following on the heels of last summer's "Echoes of the Past."

The first, titled "Haunting Memories" is set for release in December and features Lara Parker, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Jerry Lacy and Marie Wallace. Details on the anthology are pending, but Big Finish has revealed that Wallace will be reading a story by Kay Stonham titled "A Face From the Past."

"A Face from the Past" is read by Wallace and tells the story of Elizabeth Collins Stoddard meeting a man who resembles the one true love of her life. Details on the anthology's other stories have not yet been announced. (Keep an eye on Big Finish's title listing HERE for updates. It's already available for pre-order.)

“I’ve been working with the writers of these stories for the last couple of months,” says Lidster, “and I’m so pleased with the results. We’ve used a mix of writers – some new and some old favorites – and we’ve a real mix of storytelling styles. Listeners are going to discover why Barnabas and Julia really went to Cairo, what happened when Doctor Robert Harper investigated a poltergeist, how Professor Stokes first met the iconic Madame Findley and even what happened to local petty crook Harry Johnson. Some of the stories are big fun adventures and others are haunting personal pieces. I genuinely think they’re some of the best drama we’ve ever produced so I really want to thank our writers - *deep breath* - Rob Morris, Penelope Faith, Aaron Lamont, Ian Atkins, Ian Farrington, Alan Flanagan, Lila WhelanAntonio Rastelli, Kate Webster, Paul Phipps, Daniel Hinchliffe, Cody Schell, Alan Ronald, Nick Myles and Antoni Pearce.”

Further details for the four collections - "Phantom Melodies," "Dreams of Long Ago," "Love Lives On" and "Shadows of the Night." – will be announced over the coming weeks.

“We’re also working on another two boxsets, hopefully to be released in 2017,” said Darlington, “which we’ll be announcing once they’ve gone into studio. So rest assured that Dark Shadows is still very much undead and kicking.”

Read the full announcement at Big Finish.
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