Friday, January 19, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: JANUARY 19



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1971: Episode 1198

Lamar Trask shoots Angelique before she can hear Barnabas pledge his love. Barnabas is stabbed in the attempt to apprehend Trask, and stabs him in return. Trask stumbles into Parallel Time, never to return. Meanwhile, Desmond and Letitia are reunited, and he oversees the destruction of the staircase after Barnabas, Julia, and Stokes return to a restored 1971. Barnabas is shaken, but proceeds with his friends and Liz to see Roger speak at the opening of the other Collinsport Historical Society.

I have watched this episode far more than is healthy. It is theatre as opposed to cinema. It is about consequences more than action, although Barnabas does what he can. As Barnabas chases Trask, and they have exactly the awkward and inept fight that you would expect from two guys who have no idea how to spar, the mortician finds himself in the Parallel Time room in an awful irony. (I kind of wonder how the show would have fared had he survived and tried to blend in.) When that happens, I wonder how Barnabas feels about Collinwood. He says that, without knowing it, he committed the perfect crime, but did he or did the house? It is the closest we come to the house being a character and exacting vengeance for one of its own. We rarely think of Collinwood as a character, but Collinwood shows more free will than any of its inhabitants. Do the Collinses find time portals, doors to mirror dimensions, and the crypts of ghosts on their own or does the house reveal them when its residents need them? With this episode, I think we can argue the latter, and that understanding reorders everything we’ve seen. Of course, it pingpongs Vicki and Peter back and forth to 1795 and 1796 from 1968. Of course, it unfurls Quentin and Gerard to David and the family even though they’ve snooped endlessly through the house and never found them before. What, don’t you think that Roger and Elizabeth’s dad ever wondered why his uncle’s room vanished? And what about the way it toys with the playroom’s blueprint baffling presence? What about the way in which it turns a Parallel Time room into a Vertical Time room to take Barnabas and Julia into a future it wants averted? Or how it gets Julia out of harm’s way on a staircase through the centuries when she needs it most?

It’s both completely random and completely intentional, and in this one moment, it has more than an investment in the survival of its denizens. It cares for the very recently cleansed conscience of its favorite and estranged son, Barnabas Collins — for whom the house was built, and who never lived there except to save it. Turnabout, etc, etc.

It’s easy to talk about the tearjerking nature of the episode and of Jonathan Frid’s masterful performance as he, Lara Parker, Joan Bennett, Thayer David, and Grayson Hall say goodbye to their most beloved characters forever. Just as touching is when we see the future of the Collins family, not just in Tad but in Desmond, and by Desmond, I mean Willie. Because they’re all the same characters, metaphorically, just in the drag of different centuries. To see Willie and Barnabas as brothers, and to see Willie finally clean himself up and win “Carolyn,” with the approval of “Liz” is a beautiful balance to the loss that Barnabas is suffering.

The most strangely poignant moment is only seen as such when you ask why it’s happening at all. When the subject of Angelique’s funeral comes up, Stokes insists they leave before it takes place. His lame excuse is that the time portal may not wait if they stay any longer.

How emotionally tone deaf. How sad for Barnabas.

My theory? He knows that if Barnabas sees that ritual, he’ll never come back… either to 1971 or be the man he was the moment before Trask fired the weapon. And Barnabas needs to return if he is to ever traverse the time stream and rescue Angelique.

It’s the last and most important DARK SHADOWS story, and the one that has never been told. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Amazon Prime gets "darker" in the UK, US


Amazon Prime subscribers in the UK woke up to good news yesterday morning: All 1,225 episodes of DARK SHADOWS are now available streaming on Prime. This number includes all 26 DVD collections, as well as the six volumes that make up DARK SHADOWS: THE BEGINNING, the so-called "Pre-Barnabas years."

It wasn't too shabby a morning here in the US, either. While there are still a few missing pieces, Amazon Prime subscribers in America have access to everytihing but seasons 18, 20 and 21. (UPDATE: Every episode of DARK SHADOWS is now streaming on Amazon Prime!) All six collections of DARK SHADOWS: THE BEGINNING are also available for the first time ever. Why there's a discrepancy between Prime offerings in the UK and US is anybody's guess, but it's possible those American gaps will be filled in soon.

And don't forget: MPI Media Group has also launched www.darkshadows.tv, a streaming service devoted to all things DARK SHADOWS, which includes all 1,225 episodes of the series, the "Fan Favorites" and "Best of Barnabas" collections, as well as a number of "exclusive" bonus videos are streaming.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: JANUARY 16



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1971: Episode 1197

Angelique interrupts the execution to deliver Judah’s head as evidence that Dawson and Stiles were behind the witchcraft at Collinwood. Afraid that he might escape, Desmond shoots an incensed Gerard, causing the possession to end. The head dissolves to an empty skull and Quentin is freed. Later, as Quentin reunites with Daphne, Barnabas sees Bramwell, on fire with jealousy over Catherine’s engagement, in the Parallel Time room. Going to the courthouse to free Angelique, he learns that she has been released. At Collinwood, he finds her, but Barnabas is unable to tell Angelique that he loves her before Lamar Trask shoots her.

On DARK SHADOWS, you can turn back the clock, but you can never stop time. And that’s one of the great tragedies of the show. There is a singularly unique, heartbreaking energy to those moments in the foyer when Quentin just knows that Barnabas wants Angelique. It’s clear. And he points him toward the drawing room. And Barnabas goes. And the only words that demand to be said are the only words that aren’t. There is some occult energy between the frames in that endless second. A five-year ritual working is at last delivering.

There is more irony here than in the entire TWILIGHT ZONE canon. Certainly more poignant. Angelique, felled by the one part of her curse that she forgot to lift. Killed at last by a Trask in the manner that Barnabas tried to do employ in 1795… the act that brought on the curse in the first place. She’s killed for an association with sorcery that is now a part the past she can never escape… after having been part of the past that Barnabas could never escape. This is the kind of irony that you slice into chunks and keep in the basement for the winter. But it’s not forced. As I said before, it’s inevitable. It is, as James Whale might have said, “part of the ritual.”

After watching the near-entirety of the series, this sequence is eviscerating. Especially after meeting his own son in Parallel Time and seeing how furiously tormented and shrill he is at being denied love. Very few DARK SHADOWS episodes are such freight trains of joy, and this one was too good to last. The shot heard ‘round Collinsport and my childhood more than drown out the laughter and gaiety of Quentin and Daphne and Desmond. In this episode and the next, DARK SHADOWS at last earns the mantle of horror show. But not one where fear and anguish are delivered by ambassadors of the supernatural. This comes from real horror. Real cruelty. The weapon is the human heart. The ammunition? The sickening knowledge that ego delayed happiness and salvation until neither could be seized and enjoyed. What use is being a hero if the peace you create is the last thing you’ll be allowed to share?

The message? Prize your passion without ego and without delay because nothing is permanent. How long did it take Angelique to do the right thing? How long did it take Barnabas to look past his parents’ expectations and follow his heart?

How long?

One gunshot too long.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: JANUARY 15




By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1971: Episode 1196

Angelique’s attempt to thwart Judah is stalled when he appears in Gerard’s guise and robs her of her powers. She is reminded that he gave them to her in the 1690’s when she was known as Miranda Duval. They take her to Dawson’s, and her peril is clear, but faster than you can hashtag a metoo, she smacks the advocate over the head with a candlestick and escapes. Meanwhile, Barnabas vows to Quentin that he will deal with Gerard and then take care of Tad. Letitia and Desmond marry in his cell, and with Quentin, the new groom goes off the face the headsman with the casual calm of the just. Meanwhile, in Parallel Time, the elderly Justin becomes incensed when it is suggested that Catherine might be joining the family and exposing herself to the curse.

My favorite episodes of DARK SHADOWS are payoff episodes. Rarely has a slow burn paid off in such a spectacular manner. Probably because this has been slowly burning for three years and finally wraps up, pretty much, the series. The key question: is it satisfying? Immensely, and as the first of three episodes, it’s only beginning.

All of the potential energy for Angelique to be a force for good is released by just the chance that Barnabas might believe in her. But there are transformations and resolutions all over the episode. Judah Zachary no longer has to wear the mask of Gerard, and James Storm manages the new character with an elegantly brutal menace. He takes her powers as easily as she took Barnabas’ curse. The ease of both actions mocks the years of struggles endured to cure one and mitigate another. Yep. It really was just that simple. For someone in power, anyway.

Speaking of transformations and resolutions, the scene between Barnabas and Quentin in the jail cell sums up who Barnabas is by series’ end. When Quentin unfurls a laundry list of requests, Barnabas assures him, “I will do it all.”

Words for the character -- almost -- to go out on. Anyone doubting who Barnabas is (prior to Angelique’s death) need only hear that one sentence. Not the monster who kidnapped Maggie. Not the indecisive worrywart who semi-bungled through Adam and the Leviathans. No. This man. The clay is out of the kiln, and there should be no doubt that this IS Barnabas Collins. Everything else was just a rough draft.

Finally, I love the strange, macho-buddy pallsiness of Quentin and Desmond as they Bo and Luke their way to the headsman’s block. It’s taken nearly five years, but DARK SHADOWS finally has a masculine moment with more than two butch actors on screen at the same time. If they’d only had Mitch Ryan, it would have looked like a Rat Pack movie. They are ending an era. My, how a little show about a lost girl from New York has changed. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Podcast Alert: Tony & Cassandra Are Assigned



BY ROBERT DICK

In June 2016, David Darlington, co-producer of Big Finish Production's DARK SHADOWS ranges, and I flew to New York to attend the Tarrytown celebrations for Dark Shadows' 50th Anniversary.

When the fans visited the Big Finish tables, they all had requests for what they'd like to hear from the range... "Something with Julia", "More Tony and Cassandra", "Quentin and Laura in Eygpt", "More Tony and Cassandra", "What Happened Next to Adam", "More Tony and Cassandra"... All weekend, over and over, we were asked for further adventures of Tony and Cassandra. And it wasn't just us... when we were chatting with Lara Parker and Jerry Lacy about the stories they had both recently been writing for Big Finish they told us they'd been delighted by the requests for more they had been getting.

So make more Tony and Cassandra we did. David and fellow co-producer Joseph Lidster got to work on The Tony and Cassandra Mysteries and - with script-editor Alan Flanagan - assembled their team of writers and a company of actors who could take on the guest roles in all four plays. And over in LA Jerry and Lara got ready to crack four more cases, this time joined by Jerry's wife, the multi award-winning Julia Duffy, as Tony's secretary Rita Channing.

I attended the UK recording sessions and spoke to Davy, Joe and Alan... and the four writers and four guest actors to see what mysteries I could solve myself.

You can download the episode as an MP3 file by clicking HERE, or listen to is streaming below.

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: JANUARY 8



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 405

Barnabas arranges for Josette to be moved to a remote location where he will later join her. When Angelique discovers this, she goes predictably ape and tortures Sarah via a voodoo doll to prove that she still wears the pointy hat in the family. Barnabas has had all he can stands and can’t stands no more, and just shoots her. It’s a fatal shot, but it leaves her enough time to curse him with words that will later curse even her: anyone who loves him will die. Much like with Bruce Wayne, a bat smashes through his window and bites Barnabas on the neck.

Barnabas Collins is the Inspector Clouseau of the DARK SHADOWS universe… and I mean that as a high compliment. In true Punchinello style, he mixes abject, hand-wringing fear with a bravado that has no interest in reality. When he smirks, it’s almost inevitably a sign that he’s in for a fall. I said ‘almost.’ Because of this, his moments of victory have the indescribable sweetness of the astoundingly rare. In 405, however, there is no victory… only the worst defeat of his life. We can rely on Gordon Russell to deliver a script of nimble power play between Barnabas and Angelique, and Jonathan Frid plays the build-up as if he were wisely navigating between Noel Coward and Edward Albee. His mellow smugness with Angelique is the perfect and satisfying retort to months of extortion and abuse. Barnabas finally has this one by the tail. For a moment. Unfortunately, he’s still no great shakes as a duelist and has never heard of a head shot. Come to think of it, poison would have done the trick.

Frid’s downplayed haughtiness portends the fall to come beautifully. He rarely seems this confident, and the same can be said for Barnabas. No real line trouble, either. Hijinx and exposition are senseless bores to memorize. Characters in vital action have easy lines to remember. The other hero of the episode is Lara Parker, who crafts such a playful menace that she must be a reincarnated cat. It’s the only explanation for her complex approach to mixing fury and sadistic fun.

The real hero of the beach, however, is Bill Baird. The guy swings a mean bat. He gets Frid on the neck with uncanny precision. A noted puppeteer, Bill had a ripe career in his field. He was the author of the steamy tell-all, THE ART OF THE PUPPET, and and was honored in 1980 by the Union International de la Marionette and Puppeteers of America at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

Bil Baird with his lion puppet, Charlemane.

On this day in 1968, Jaques Cousteau became the most prominent, French seaman on TV with the airing of his first special. Mickey Dolenz celebrated this by having his wife give birth to their daughter, Ami, on the very same day.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: JANUARY 7


By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 666

Ben stops Forbes from staking Barnabas, killing both him and the Countess in the process. In the present, Willie and Julia fret over how to draw Barnabas back to the present. In 1796, Barnabas helps Ben with disposing of Forbes and Natalie before being rechained in his coffin. Meanwhile, Willie’s trip to the mausoleum is fruitless. Later, however, the ghost of Josette implores Willie to return to the coffin. Barnabas materializes within, eager to escape.

The 1796 sequence ends with high adventure and some deeply satisfying moments, shifting back and forth between the past and the present. Seeing Nathan Forbes shoot Ben... only to have Ben shake it off like a an ineffectual mosquito bite... and come back swingin’?  THAT was fantastic enough for a week’s worth of episodes. But to have him induce a heart attack simply by looming over Natalie? Even better. Rarely has DARK SHADOWS cleaned house in quite that way, The 1790’s has been veddy, veddy good to the franchise and to audiences, and it’s nonetheless time to move on. If there were any real reason to do this sequence, it would be to close the lid on that, clean up the loose ends, and prepare the table for Uncle Quentin. 666 readies us for the insanity of 1897 by using the same kind of insanity to end 1796. We may still be at Collinwood, but the rules are wildly different.

Taking us full circle is the fabulous moment when John Karlen recreates his famous disentombing of Barnabas, and expectations have never been more skewed. Notable also is Grayson Hall’s turn as Julia. Standing in the cemetery, imploring the cosmos to return Barnabas, I am gobsmacked at how that character has changed from the hard-edged, empiricism-driven scientist we met back in 1967.

It’s been an interesting two years.

On this day in 1969, the WALKING DEAD’s Norman Reedus tore his way from his mother’s innards with a piercing shriek. So, happy birthday!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: JANUARY 4


By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1971: Episode 1187

Daphne reports on the events in the Parallel Time room, and later, the visions reappear. Now, Julia Collins learns that Morgan plans to bring a new love to Collinwood, despite the fact that no one new may be allowed in for reasons he clearly knows. In Main Time, Daphne sees that Edith is dead and assumes that Gerard is the killer. Instead, she learns that it was Gabriel, who rises from his chair to attack her.

Parallel Time strikes again as one forgotten storyline melts into a more forgotten storyline. I champion both 1840 and 1841PT. Because they may be the least-seen, I think of them as DARK SHADOWS’ bonus prizes, and if you can watch for months about pens and bleeder valves and the best lobster in Logansport, Vicki, you can watch this. Both time periods have hidden, dramatic gems and are visually sumptuous. By skewing the era a tad, vibrant costumes were introduced for 1841PT, and for the first time, they were custom made rather than rentals. The show’s hair and makeup design is also differing, allowing Grayson Hall and Lara Parker to have strikingly decadent looks. It’s the second time we see Morgan Collins, and I remain fascinated and a little challenged by the show’s last leading man (and eventual heavy), Keith Prentice. Yet another BOYS IN THE BAND alum, Prentice is easily the loudest actor on the show as the character becomes truly manic. Right now, he’s painted as a quietly tortured lover, bucking Collins tradition to bring someone new to the house. With the re-introduction of PT, it’s time to wrap up 1840, and as Gabriel rises from his chair, we’re reminded of just what a giant Christopher Pennock is -- and how frightening. The episode ends on a wonderful note of fear as he lurches to attack, like a strange cross between Boris Karloff and Dr. Strangelove.

On this day in 1971, Ohio agrees to pay $675,000 to relatives of Kent State victims. 
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