Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 19


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 525

When Roger lets slip that Vicki once was tried as a witch in 1795, Nicholas hatches a scheme to rescue Angelique with the help of black magic and hypnosis. Nocholas: Humbert Allen Astredo. (Repeat. 30 min.)

Jeff awakens from a dream where Nathan Forbes berates him as Peter Bradford. Upon waking, “Jeff” realizes that this evidence ensures that he is Peter Bradford. At Collinwood, Nicholas connects Vicki to the painting and induces Roger to explain her convictions about 1795. He realizes that she knows the location of Trask’s execution tree, and uses her knowledge to locate it. There, Nicholas performs a ritual to summon Angelique. The sound of screaming indicates he may be a success.

Dark Shadowsis a paranoid’s delight, and is sure to leave you with reflexes and impulses that will last a lifetime -- an eternal gift to make a neurotic out of anyone. Vicki shows amazing fortitude and professionalism. Here she is, at her job, and living there -- living at her home and work -- is someone who is clearly the witch responsible for her murder. But, you know, the witch says she isn’t and is married to your boss, so you have to play along. Then, a sleazy guy with a mustache shows up, kisses hands, and claims to be her brother, which may be worse. One night, you come downstairs for your nightly brandy & bullion and catch him making weird hand gestures at a painting that looks like said witch… then he asks to “borrow it” for reasons that seem uncomfortably Kentuckian. Who borrows a painting of someone who looks like their sister? Nicholas Blair, that’s who.

This kind of stuff goes on there all the time. People at Collinwood, in the name of lack of evidence, lack of witnesses, or just a desire to be darn nice, end up sleeping three doors down from all manner of apocalyptic ne’er-do-wells, and they just lump it. Can you trust anyone?  I’m always wary when life throws me a guest star. The Collinses. Spend enough hours watching a show about them, and you’re in serious danger of taking that home and to work. Word to the wise.

525 is a joyous little core sample of the good stuff on the program. It’s Jonathan Frid’s day off, and the writers are determined to keep the suspense and ratings high. A wacky dream sequence with Nathan Forbes laughing maniacally is a reliable way to start any episode, corporate event, or bris. Joe must be either really tired of being associated with this weirdo or strangely proud, because it’s happening with a constancy that must make him think that Forbes is doing two sets nightly at the Blue Whale. All’s well, however, because it knocks a big chunk of the Jeff Clark identity crisis out of consideration. Quickly, we move to Nicholas sleazing around Vicki and drinking it up with Roger, finally comforting him with the company of a fellow fop. You kind of wish Burke Devlin would show up and try to intimidate Roger NOW… now that his buddy Nicholas is there. They’d just laugh at his taste in shoes until Burke skulked away to pen an angry letter to Brewster’s department store in furious shame.

Roger, on cue, spills the beans about Vicki’s conviction that she’d traveled to 1795 and was harassed by a witch hunter named Trask, tipping Nicholas off to the location of the Sacrificial Tree. It’s easy to be a villain on Dark Shadows. It’s not a job so much as a vacation. Nicholas just sits around the drawing room and drinks and leers at babes until people deliver exactly the exposition he needs, on cue. What’s left? Hypnotize Vicki, go to the tree, and call back Angelique. All in a day’s work.

Let’s praise Humbert Allen Astredo for carrying the show so effortlessly that it feels like we’re watching a talented writer unselfconsciously improvise rather than some guy reciting lines and working through blocking. It’s to the show’s credit that they didn’t simply hand over the storyline to him in perpetuity. How do you not screw up a scene? Include Nicholas Blair. It would be enough to make the rest of the ensemble paranoid. And, I guess, they share the wealth with us.

This episode hit the airwaves July 1, 1968.

The Silver Age of Dark Shadows fandom

Believe it or not, this isn't a photograph ... it's a composite image made up of more than two dozen individual elements assembled to give the impression of a three-dimensional image. Believe me, it would have been so much faster to just stack some VHS tapes and take a photo ... but that would have defeated the purpose here, which was to create something.

This image was inspired by a piece I made a while back for The Last Drive-In, the new show with  Joe Bob Briggs that currently wrapped its first season on Shudder. You can see that piece here, but it was a similar concept: to create a stack of VHS tapes depicting all of the movies shown on the show's first season.

I wanted to pay tribute to the Silver Age of Dark Shadows fandom, back when the quickest way to interact with the show was through home video releases. It was always a delight to walk into Suncoast in those days and see entire shelves full of Dark Shadows VHS tapes. I hope the love for those days shines through in this piece, though there might also be a troubling subtext about fandom's nostalgic obsession with consumerism. But that's a topic for another time.

You can find Analog Shadows at my Redbubble store here. And feel free to look around the rest of my silly store here.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Here today, gone today

The marketing for the audiobook editions of the classic vintage Dark Shadows novels by Marilyn Ross has been ... interesting. Compact disc and/or digital downloads for most of the series appeared on Amazon back in March, but I was told that these advance sales links were anomalies and that "nothing happening" with the books at the time. The name of an actress attached to perform the readings was included with these solicitations,which made these accidental listings seem improbably elaborate. The online concensus was that these new audiobooks were unauthorized recordings being produced by unknown persons ... a conspiracy theory I was not equipped to dispute. Three months later there's a not-insignifcant number of fans who believe these audios are bogus.

But now it looks like they are happening. The proof? Amazon has posted revised (and kind of awful) cover art for the first two books in the line, "Dark Shadows" and "Victoria Winters," with samples of a new, familiar actress perfoming the readings: Kathryn Leigh Scott. You can listen to a sample for yourself HERE.

Good news, right? Who knows! These first two recordings (MP3 CDs available for preorder for $5.86) were scheduled to be released today ... and are now tagged "temporarily out of stock."

You can find "Dark Shadows" available for preorder HERE, and "Victoria Winters" HERE. I guess we'll get them when we get them.

"Marilyn Ross" was the pen name of Dan Ross, a gothic romance hack who wrote more than 300 books over the course of his career. Among those titles are 31 books in the "Dark Shadows" series, published between 1966 and 1972. I'm actually excited about the audio adaptions of this series and delighted that Scott is reading them ... but early indications suggest this effort is going to be a bumpy ride. Buckle up!

UPDATE: I pre-ordered the first audiobook back in March, which is now marked as "shipped" and scheduled for delivery today. I'm on pins and needles.

UPDATE #2: After being marked as "Shipped," Amazon revised my order to "We'll let you know when the product is available." For what it's worth, it appears that "Dark Shadows" and "Victoria Winters" are available as audio downloads from Audible.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Pride Month: Witches and Role Models

Angelique Collins, Witch and Role Model:  
Thoughts on the Nature of Power and Pride


She’s staring sadly down at the little statue she’s cradling, the one he gave her, handsome hubby, standing behind her, Sky Rumson stupid soap opera name; it’s his tie, in fact, that she’s even now coiling around the statue’s neck.  “Nicholas didn’t tell you very much about me, did he,” she says.

Of course he didn’t; this is Dark Shadows.  Everyone’s got some kind of deep dark secret, things their friends and family don’t know about them because reasons.

He’s coming for her with a poker, by the way, and the poker is on fire.  Fire is anathema to her; she’s a witch, which is why she’s treating the statuette like a voodoo doll. In a moment it will be. He coos, says he wants to look at her one more time before he begins jabbing at her with the flaming stick.  At which point she – Angelique, that is, Bouchard Collins Collins DuVal DuBois Rumson, currently – viciously twists hubby’s tie around the neck of the doll, with instant results:  he gasps, beginning to choke.  “Put the poker in the fire, Sky,” she orders him, “or I’ll make it worse!” Her voice cracks a little at the end, or maybe it just goes up a register.  She’s terrified and she’s furious; she’s been living like Samantha Stephens, her television cousin-counterpart from Bewitched, for a few months now, and it’s been wearing thin.  She’s Angelique All-those-last names, after all, and she’s got mad skills.  She’s demonstrating them right now as she chokes the hell out of poor dumb blood-lusty Sky, her latest husband, and the second to try (unsuccessfully) to kill her.  Later in the episode, she’ll revert even further to type and zap two other characters with a love whammy. 

I’m spending so much time describing my favorite episode of Dark Shadows (#955, if you’re curious) because I’ve been pontificating on the nature of power the last few days, since Wallace graciously asked me to write this article, as The Collinsport Historical Society is celebrating Pride Month.  I’m a gay farmboy from eastern Montana who spent most of his life obsessed with monsters, which is why Dark Shadows appeals: it’s got a little bit of something for every monster kid out there, and since I was super into Universal and Hammer at a tender age, it was a natural fit. As I explored more and more the world of Collinsport, Maine, with its myriad monsters and multiple timebands, I enjoyed the monsters, yes, and the monster tropes (werewolf attacks and vampire bites and stakings and séances and lots of screaming); however, the older I grew, the more I began to appreciate the story elements, the characters, and the soapy nature of it all.

Episode #955 has all of that.

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.

Here’s why.

Sometimes queer people feel powerless.

A lot of the time, queer people feel powerless.

And Angelique had powers.  And sass.  And amazing hairstyles and a plethora of outfits, a killer wardrobe (literally) that made her blue-gray-green eyes just pop.

So I wanted to be her.  Not be like her.  I wanted to be her.

(I still do.)

Even though I was aware of the original series, Dark Shadows became more accessible to me, as I suspect it did to many people raised in the 80s and 90s, because of the 1991 so-called revival, the NBC nighttime version that Dan Curtis swore up and down he’d use to “get it right this time.”  I watched and rewatched every episode, taped them, recorded their audiotracks by holding a tape recorder up to the speaker of our television so I could listen to them on car trips and before bed.  I loved the Old Barnabas episodes (which, to this day, I remain extremely disturbed by, but for different #metoo related reasons), but it was the 1790 flashback that captured me whole.  Because of Angelique.

Because of the witch.

The one with the powers.

She bewitched Jeremiah and Josette; she stood on the rooftop and swore obeisance to unseen, shrieking primal powers if they would help her kill Jeremiah Collins, then she brought him back from the dead like it was nothing!  She twisted Ben Loomis’ arm via spooky straw doll so he’d do her bidding; “I like when a man treats me with respect,” she chortled.

With respect.

I was twelve at the time, and to say that the queerness of me was something that my classmates and the other residents of the teeny tiny farming community to which I’d been consigned had a hard time dealing with is a ridiculous understatement.  I teach high school students; I know that everyone has felt the cruel lash of adolescence.  But for GLBTQ kids, especially those from rural places, and especially especially for those who are unable to “pass” (as cousins from England?), being a teenager is a special kind of hell.

Well, Angelique was acquainted with hell.  And, honestly, it usually seemed like more of an inconvenience, something she was able to bounce back from.

And then, after the passing of the revival, and as I was able to access the show via the SciFi Channel, the more I became invested in the original series and Lara Parker’s portrayal of the passionate and vengeful sorceress from Martinique, and the more I came to identify with and, yes, to envy Angelique.

She was powerful.

She had no patience.

She did not have time for your crap, and she’d show you, either by choking you into submission or turning you into a cat or killing every person you’d ever met.

As I think back on those times, the hours in the locker room hoping that the other boys wouldn’t notice me, or, if they did, they wouldn’t call me names or piss on me this time, they now seem impossibly remote.  Quaint, almost.  “Hey, Laramie, if you were on a bus full of homos, would you get off?”  Dark Shadows was an escape, as it has been for so many for so many years.  The SciFi Channel was showing the Leviathan episodes around that time, and as I watched I realized how much I wanted more Angelique, more Angelique, more Angelique!  I loved her fancy outfits, her miniskirts and her leopard print coat, I loved her hair styles, the ringlets and the long falls, but I especially loved how she reclaimed her powers after husband number tres tried to set her on fire.

“I am what I was,” she intoned, “and what I shall always be.  I call upon the Powers of Darkness to help me once again …”

I get goosebumps thinking about it now.

Angelique was losing her humanity, or thought she was, in order to restore her powers.  An even trade.  But I knew what Barnabas and Quentin refused to acknowledge:  she was human, even with her powers, she did suffer, she had all kinds of feelings, and yes, she did horrible things, but I could get behind that because I could imagine doing horrible things to those who crossed me, and I didn’t have patience either (I still don’t); I could easily imagine strangling a doll until those assholes at my school treated me with, yes, some respect.  Angelique was just as human as the other monsters on Dark Shadows, which is something that the 1991 series and the Tim Burton remake failed to understand.  Lara Parker has written at some length about how she played Angelique as the heroine, who suffered and cried, until Jonathan Frid told her that she was “the heavy” and to “think vicious” at which point she really began to relish the role.  But it was this dichotomy that gave the character depth, that prevented her from being just another one note jealous psychopath, a la Alex from Fatal Attraction (although, don’t get me wrong; Angelique is plenty jealous, and plenty psychopathic, even at the best of times, but she’s hardly one note).  And it was this depth that attracted me to her.

Angelique could take whatever the world threw at her, and she’d throw it back thrice as hard.

She was a witch, and she was powerful.

After I came out of the closet and claimed my queer identity, which sounds super mythic and epic, and you’d be absolutely right to think that it was, I continued to hold Angelique up as a role model.  Not the obsessing over some dude who done her wrong part (though I’ve done that myself, plenty of times), but the part where she demands respect.  Angelique isn’t going to throw herself off a cliff; she isn’t going to descend, gibbering, into madness once the mask of humanity is stripped away and the monster she thought she knew shows itself for what it truly is; Angelique is a monster too, and she’s strong.

Angelique is strong.

I admire that.

“I am what I was, and what I shall always be.”

She can’t pretend to be human because she isn’t.

She can’t pretend to be anything other than what she is because, ultimately, she’s too strong and too smart for that.

Angelique is smart.

I admire that too.

“I call upon the powers of darkness to help me once again …”

Angelique is a witch.

Angelique is powerful.

And she made me feel powerful too.

Now, when they come for me with torches, I know what to do.

I know what to do.

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 13


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 780

Can Barnabas stop Carl from bringing about the end of Collinwood before Trask brings about the end of Barnabas? Quentin: David Selby. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Carl alerts Trask to the threat of Barnabas.  The vampire, now allied with a Quentin who knows and accepts his secret, removes the evidence of his coffin before going on to kill Carl to save the future. Trask confronts Barnabas, and the two men await the telling dawn.

Sam Hall. Such an ear for dramatic dialogue. Properly theatrical yet always true. His plots are modulated with a pace as organic as the human heartbeat. Characters, distinct. Payoffs, rich. Yet always unpredictable. As much as I admire the exquisite writing of Gordon Russell, Sam Hall is the undisputed Master of Collinwood, and his best scripts expand beyond the needs of writing Dark Shadows and take on a storytelling voice that has the resonance of art. Immediate, yes. Written briskly and under incredible demands to produce, produce, produce. Rather than excuse his work, these facts make it all the more remarkable.  In episode 780, his skill for economy melds seamlessly with the language of the characters, the substance of their climactic exchanges, and the propulsive risk inherent in the story. Put simply, he is a poet who gets out of his own way.

The “star’ of the episode is the brutal and brisk execution of Carl Collins. Carl’s fears and desires are understandable, and considering the threat of learning that a strange relative is a ravenous, undead engine of murder, not necessarily unwarrented. We let Carl’s prior extremity and histrionics too easily overtake the fact that at last, his panic is justified. In killing Carl, Barnabas trades the life of one Collins for many. If Barnabas goes, so do Quentin and David and who knows who else. It’s time. It’s time for this story to step outside the pleasant slow burn of the soap opera model, own up to its own stakes, and make things happen. Quentin accepts Barnabas for who he is, Carl is an understandable casualty of realpolitiks, and Trask faces down Barnabas with a bold fidelity to his faith.

It’s a four-man powerhouse of storytelling. Each character evolves and takes chances that define and redefine themselves. Barnabas reclaims the feral sense of strategy that established him on his release in 1967, but with values in line with something larger than addressing his immediate pain and loss. He even dares Trask to saddle him with Carl’s murder. A rousing gesture, but an irrelevant one because Trask, justified in his hunt, has him dead to rights, despite the paucity of eyewitness evidence. When Barnabas shrinks from his cross, there is no more proof that matters. Those fine points of who-didn’t-see-what are all words, words, words under the reality of the Damoclean sunrise.

Quentin does his part as well, and this episode is a microcosmic portrait of both his overall journey and what makes him the series’ second protagonist -- yet he never loses his essential gift for guile. He goes from melancholic repose with his companion music to smugly condescending to Trask’s self-serving sense of justice. From there, he sets aside fear to see Barnabas for the man within the monster, and even collaborates to cover Carl’s death with a fittingly unsentimental show of theatrical relish, not just enacting the con, but reveling in it.

Jonathan Frid, David Selby, Jerry Lacy, and John Karlen (in his final turn as Carl, his most unusual character) all seem to know that this is an episode of substance and almost rambunctious, driven meaning for the characters. Like the writing that enflames the installment, there is a confidence in their acting. Each man, undistracted, performs with the honest solidity of performers who know their characters and take them to inevitable destinations. That sense of inevitability is not an end, Carl excluded, but a beginning. Each man has a mandate to reveal his ultimate essence, and what results is like a series of Rorschach blots that unfold with the recognizable universality of a tarot deck.

Three years after filming began, 770 was captured on that soundstage. Dark Shadows has gone from a take of ambiguity and anxiety in a darkly domestic expanse to a tight chamber piece where each player defines himself with finality and yet, above all, possibility. Always possibility.

Except for Carl.

This episode hit the airwaves June 20, 1969.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

That time someone made a porno at Collinwood

A funny thing happened at Carey Mansion in 1975: A film crew managed to secure the former Dark Shadows location to make a porno. Uglies were bumped. Horizontal mambos were danced. And the residents of the staid Rhode Island community weren't their usual cheery selves, thanks to interloper Gerard Damiano.

Damiano had the world by the tail (sorry) in the years following his cross-cultural success with Deep Throat and The Devil in Miss Jones. He had about as much power as anyone in the adult film-making industry and decided to try his hand at making a "legitimate" adult film, originally titled The Room.

Yes. The Room. That title is surely damned.

A promotional photo of DARK SHADOWS cast members Alexandra Moltke and Louis Edmonds outside the mansion.

By the time audiences saw the film, it had been retitled The Story of Joanna. Here's a boiler plate summary of the film, courtesy of the smut-loving The New York Times:
"Jason is a possessive woman-hater who charms women in order to gain control over them and then abuses them. Joanna becomes interested in Jason and eventually decides to get involved with him, submitting herself to his cruelty and degrading requests."
It was a weird time for porn, which briefly flirted with mainstream success. You might even confused print ads for The Story of Joanna with contemporary films by Stanley Kubrick or Milos Forman, the marketing had become that emboldened and sophisticated. "Go west or east to see 'Joanna,'" Walter Goodman with The New York Times confusingly shouts from a newspaper ad. "The Story of Joanna brings a new dimension to porno chic," wrote Bruce Williamson for Playboy. "Far larger than life, its ingredients loom like a pornographic Mount Rushmore."

None of these artistic intentions meant much to Seaview's owner, who quickly ordered the film crew out after learning the content of the film they were making, insisting he'd been deceived. I'm not sure if the film had been completed at this point, but Seaview Terrace plays a prominent role in the final film.

Carey Mansion meets Scooby Doo.
It's worth pointing out that Carey Mansion served as the exterior for Collinwood for the original 1966-1970 Dark Shadows series ... which also inspired the opening credits to Scooby Doo, Where Are You? The mansion can be seen in the cartoon's original opening credits.

Below are a few news articles following the tumultuous film shoot of The Story of Joanna.

Pornographic movie is filmed at mansion here

From the front page of the Newport Mercury And Weekly News,  March 31, 1975

The director of "Deep Throat" is filming his third hardcore pornographic movie here at Seaview Terrace on Ruggles Avenue. The 62-room French Renaissance-style mansion, formerly the home of the Newport School for Girls and the Burnham-by-the-Sea summer school, was purchased last fall by Martin T. Carey, brother of New York Gov. Hugh Carey. At a Zoning Board hearing in September, Carey said the seven-acre estate would be used as a seminar and conference center for business executives. Carey could not be reached today at his New York home or office for comment on the movie. Gerard Damiano's Strawberry Hills Production Co. is making the film, entitled "The Room," based on his own original screenplay.

Damiano's second film after "Deep Throat" was "The Devil in Miss Jones." The script for "The Room" contains several explicit sex scenes. In one, the main character Jason rips off a woman's clothes and has intercourse with her on a table. The script's production notes give precise instructions on sexual technique and also suggest that the table might have a glass top

("It would be) quite interesting if some of the shots could be taken from under the table, shooting through the glass," it reads. Film production started in the mansion Wednesday and is scheduled to continue through this weekend. At least one local shop-keeper was told by a crew member that the film is a "horror movie." The exterior ot Seaview Terrace was used once in the horror soap opera "Dark Shadows" produced by ABC television. The mansion also formed a backdrop for Alistair Cook in the Newport segment of his television series "America." No filming has been seen outside the mansion, which is full of camera equipment and lights on the first floor.
The novelization (?!) of THE STORY
OF JOANNA, by Justin Collin.

On Friday night spotlights were set up outside the stained glass windows of the entrance way for interior shooting. About 10 days ago, the caretakers at Seaview Terrace were told they had to leave the mansion within three days because it had been rented to a movie company. A workman for Carey reportedly told them he had heard it was to be a pornographic movie and that he was quitting because of it. The crew arrived Wednesday.

Police Chief Jeremiah D. Sullivan said he was not told about the filmmaking, which he said requires no permits from the city. Carey's local attorney, Patrick Hayes, said he knew nothing about it. No crew members were at the house this morning.

Carey is the sixth owner of the estate, finished in 1926 at an estimated cost of $3 million. It was built by Edson Bradley, owner of a liquor company in Kentucky. He filled the Chateau-style mansion with many European art treasures, some of which figure in the film. Carey bought the includes a 16-room stone gatehouse, three tennis courts, and an Olympic-size swimming pool, for in October.

He is president of Carey Resources Inc., a marketer of petroleum products. He is also president or an executive of several family-held corporations in petrochemicals, shipping and general transportation.

His brother Hugh was elected New York governor last November. His other brother, Edward, is president of New England Petroleum Co., a major supplier of fuel oil to the New York metropolitan area with annual sales in the neighborhood of million. He is nicknamed "the oil baron" of New York City, according to the New York Times.

The executive center that the Zoning Board approved in September was supposed to be operating by Christmas. At the hearing, Carey said the seminars at the center would be given by officers-of major universities, who would lecture on their special fields to between 20 and 40 corporate executives. No mention was made of renting the estate.

Carey lives in an 1840 mansion in Lloyd Harbor, Long Island, as well as an East Side townhouse in New York City.

Carey's Brother Kicks Porno-Film Crew Out

Watertown Daily Times, April 2, 1975

Martin T. Carey, brother of New York Gov. Hugh Carey says he-was "highly indignant" when he learned that a 62-room mansion he owns here has been used as the setting for a new skinflick by the director of ,"Deep Throat."

In a statement released through his office Tuesday, Carey said unnamed "intermediaries" had "totally misrepresented" the planned use "of the French Renassiance style mansion. Carey'says he has give orders that the filmmakers be ordered out-of the-mansion.

Gerard Damiano, director of "Deep Throat" and "The Devil in Miss Jones," was "filming his newest creation in Seaview Terrace, a spacious, castle-like mansion on Ruggles Avenue, one of the many fabled mansions in this resort by the sea.

A man outside the French Renaissance style mansion, who said he was a -member, of the film crew, told reporters Tuesday filming was discontinued because of publicity. However, cars with New York license plates and rental vans were still outside the mansion in the  afternoon.

The man also insisted the film was not pornographic and was suitable for a television audience.

UPDATED: A reader sent me some screen captures from THE STORY OF JOANNA. Here are a few (SFW) highlights from the film, which show off some of the location shooting.

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 10


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 779

When Quentin learns Barnabas’ secret, the results could be deadly… but for which Collins? Carl Collins: John Karlen. (Repeat. 30 min.)

Barnabas mourns for Rachel, and thus, another Josette, when Angelique warns him to turn away from his mission in 1897. Quentin, after hearing of the powers of Petofi’s hand, learns of Barnabas’ secret hibernation chamber from Carl, and then promptly locks the snitch within. Magda begs Angelique for help, but Angelique says that Barnabas must learn for himself. What lesson? I suppose that he can’t rely on her to consistently mess up his life. She does this by refusing help that could end it. Carl escapes before the vampire rises, vowing that tonight would be the last night of Barnabas Collins.

In a long, long list of Episodes with Everything, 779 barges in like Ethel Merman as the Widow Loman and demands that attention be paid. As a viewer, I am the most eager of Borgnines.

It begins with triumph, as Barnabas reassures Magda that the Dirk Danger is gone and then visits the cemetery to reflect. Because he’s that kind of hero. A Josette is once again dead, and Barnabas’ trip to Rachel Drummond’s grave to take cosmic responsibility for her death now has the regularity of Otis checking himself into the Mayberry jail. Angelique visits, and what follows is another beautifully tense and romantic two-hander between Jonathan Frid and Lara Parker. He insists he stay in 1897, and she reassures him that the worst is yet to come. She shows a strange devotion. He not only represses the urge to set her on fire again, maybe having gotten it out of his system on his last trip to 1795, but he is deaf to her warning. What’s tantalizing, especially having seen the series before, is contemplating what she has seen. What does she know? Is this the Final Angelique in a timeline where Barnabas never (so far) went to 1840? It raises more questions that it answers. The easiest resolution is that she’s just lying. But why would she do that? Maybe she knows that reincarnation is on its fastest cycle and that Kitty Hampshire is already on a steamer and headed for town. Because it’s an eventual ticket back to 1795, again, more inevitable heartbreak, and a breakfast with Oberon and Haza.

More than likely, she’s speaking of the coming of Count Petofi. With the shoutout to the older part of the series out of the way, thanks to Laura and Dirk’s deaths, the show is wasting no time moving along to the main event, which is the Count. Count Petofi and the Leviathans are unique threats on the series, making the Collinses more bystanders than related targets, and this feels like an initiative for the show’s future storytelling that never came through. Nevertheless, Magda’s mention of Petofi’s hand and King Johnny Romano instantly expands the world of Dark Shadows beyond Collinsport, and still it’s woefully inadequate to prepare us for what is to come. And that would ruin the surprise. But honestly, little can adequately brace (or spoil) audiences for the rollicking banquet Dan Curtis would grill up over the the next dozen-plus weeks of 1969, which had to be the greatest three months to be a kid in the history of ditching summer reading for something actually interesting. Take that, Herman Hesse, and the Demian you rode in on. Sam Hall and Gordon Russell -- you know, writers with a gift for interesting storytelling -- led the charge with the Count and the King (and probably Basie and Presley, too) to make the Dark Shadows universe feel global while keeping it all in the familiar climes of Collinsport. In a metaphysical sense, the exchange that Magda and Angelique have, where the witch belittles the soothsayer’s amateur abilities, likewise solidifies the show as one where soapy cattiness over who-flirted-with-whom has been replaced by one-upping over the occult.

Finally, Quentin chooses between brothers. And he chooses properly. Sometimes, you go with the vampire for the block and the win. True or false, Paul… there is a cutting irony to Carl nearly dying by what can be read as the ultimate practical joke, borrowing his own gun to lock him in the vampire’s bedroom that he was tattling about moments before?

It all depends on where Barnabas bites first, Peter.

That notwithstanding, it’s a defining moment for Quentin and, considering where Barnabas was two years before, the series as well. 

This episode hit the airwaves June 19, 1969.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Pride Month: Queer Shadows


It can be very hard to talk about the queerness of Dark Shadows, especially that of the actors involved. It was a different era, full of fear, and few rights. So many went to their grave without saying anything about their personal truth because of the society they were raised and grew up in, it was even scarier coming out then compared to now. Even still now, it’s not great, we’ve still got a long way to go for human rights. It’s important that people know that Dark Shadows is a part of LGBTQIA+ history. By not acknowledging that, it’s as good as erasing the actors who brought many wonderful and not so wonderful characters to life. If you don’t listen to the previous lessons that history has taught, you’re doomed to repeat it. No one should live in fear of their career being ruined, or be ostracised just because of how they’ve been born.

I’ve been in the Dark Shadows fandom for a good 22 years now. One thing I’ve noticed is the preponderance of LGBTQIA+ fans. I’ve been to meetups where we outweigh the straight people, however on the internet it’s a different story. The straight fans seem to have a bigger voice regarding the series. I’ve seen flame wars started because people brought up Jonathan Frid being a gay man. How does this affect your life in any way? Did you not see the show? All that camp, the melodrama, lest we forget the HUGE metaphor of being in the vampire closet, and then there’s even an entire bit lifted from The Picture of Dorian Gray BY OSCAR WILDE. The show is very queer in and of itself standing on its own without me needing to talk about it. All the signs are there, all the subtext. Even though the 60s were considered a pretty progressive time, gay rights were still in their infancy. Being out could destroy your career, even today it’ll hurt it, but not as much as it did then. Unfortunately LGBTQIA+ rights are a case of you don’t ever win, the generation after you will do just a little bit better than the last. A good comparison is the saying, “Two steps forward, one step back.” It’s still progress, but it’s slower than what could be. So those of the cast who were gay tended to keep it hidden from the public. There was no reason to risk it. When you have to stay in the closet, it’s nerve-wracking, yet easier to stay in than to come out and face the public scorn. So many of the actors stayed in throughout their entire lives. One of the very few to mention it explicitly was Louis Edmonds in his biography. We’ve also lost a few Dark Shadows actors during the height of the AIDS epidemic. Even though Jonathan Frid never explicitly mentioned it throughout his life, he was known to frequent a few gay bars in New York and was even photographed with Louis Edmonds at a beach well known to be a place for homosexual men to meet up. He may not have said it out loud, but his actions speak volumes.

I’ve heard Dark Shadows described as the perfect show for theater kids and it’s so true. The sets falling down around the actors, having it accidentally set on fire, and all the general mayhem that comes with a one-take show really speaks to those with a love of live theater. The show must go on as they say. The actors kept going no matter what, consummate professionals. You know where a lot of queer kids hide? The theater. I was a theater kid. I didn’t do too much acting, but I did a lot of set building and sound work. The entire theater department was some form of the L, the G, the B, the T, the Q, the I, the A, or some other permutation that’s not in the acronym. It’s like everyone instinctively knew that was the place to go for safety, or at least some modicum of acceptance. It seems the actors of Dark Shadows took this to heart. Just look at the list of those over the years that have had stories come out about them or have actively said that they were some form of LGBTQIA+: Jonathan Frid (allegedly had some of his partners were hired on the show), Louis Edmonds (classic dandy!), Don Briscoe, Humbert Allen Astredo (allegedly bisexual), Christopher Bernau (one of the first openly gay soap stars), Joel Crothers, Anthony George, Gene Lindsey, Keith Prentice, Craig Slocum, Brian Sturdivant. I’m sure there’s many more I’m missing. It gets to a point where you have to wonder, who on Dark Shadows wasn’t gay?

Maybe their combined gay energy plus all the trappings of theater and camp drew me to it? My first plot arc with the series was Quentin’s Haunting of Collinwood. However, I didn’t connect with it on the level of a little queer kid until I found a place that rented out Dark Shadows tapes. It was then that I was introduced to the Barnabas Unchained storyline. I felt oddly drawn to it immediately. I had this feeling of understanding at Barnabas’s predicament. The only Barnabas I’d seen before this point was cured, human Barnabas. He was just the guy hanging out with Julia Hoffman. Watching him struggle with his vampirism as I struggled with my sexuality, hiding it from his family as I did, and trying to find love in all the wrong ways which I SO DID, spoke to me on a deep level. I related to it. I had this great secret. I can guarantee you it spoke to many others on that same level. You have that knowledge that if you reveal yourself you will experience a level of ostracization from society. It would change how people would perceive you before they meet you. It could even reveal their possible fear of you, and many who have the weirdly unfounded fear of you turning others. Vampires are the best beasties to use as a vehicle for queerness.

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. It helped prepare me for what was coming, what society would do to an outsider. The use of metaphor was loud and clear. I was used to being an outsider already being a sci-fi and horror fan, but my innate queerness made it even more complicated. Dark Shadows softened that blow a bit. I appreciate those LGBTQIA+ actors and crew that helped bring this show to life by injecting just a bit of themselves into this show.

Alice is first and foremost a horror fanatic but overall a fan of the "lesser" genres. Please give her your trash, your b-movies, your low budet/nobudget weird/kung fu/sci-fi/fantasty stuff. She's also a writer, musician, Your Horror Tran, and an all around general weirdo.
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