Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Dark Shadows: Bloodline, Episodes 5-6


Klaatu Barata Nic-Spoilers Ahead

“Someone in this town is responsible for the deaths of 13 people and I’m going to make sure that they pay for what they’ve done!”

Welcome back, lovely cultists! I hope everyone’s weekend resurrection rituals and/or sacrifice offerings went great! I, myself hopped a bus to Bangor and holed up in their cinema for the weekend, topping that off with a riotous discussion down the Blue Whale with one Patrick McCray, he of The Dark Shadows Daybook! That boozy chinwag you should be hearing quite soon, BUT enough about my drinking habits, SOMEONE BLEW UP COLLINSPORT HOSPITAL! And we are here to get to the bloody bottom of it, aren’t we?

First up, we have the tense and claustrophobic episode 5 written by Alan Flanagan. When we last left our goth heroes, Collinsport Hospital has just suffered a massive explosion. With many of our central cast inside! What follows is this series’ first “bottle episode” with the action set mainly in the burning hospital as Barnabas, Julia, and Dr. Hill attempt to save the patients already admitted, plus the recently injured Cody and David Collins.

This thing seriously moves like a bullet, and Flanagan is constantly upping the stakes. Either by allowing another mainstay to leap into the fray, like Adam Hall’s Nu Burke, or by putting another “Towering Inferno-esque” obstacle in their way. This leads to some great tension between the two doctors Hill and Hoffman as well as a bit more sauce for the goose that is the “Vivian Bell Problem”. That’s right, in a canny opening gambit, Flanagan shows us the very seconds before the explosion for a certain set of characters and it’s revealed that Viv was ALSO in the hospital moments before the explosion. No doubt hoping to continue to put the squeeze on David, on the heels of a beating from Jamison Selby’s Ed Griffin.

It really is all around great stuff. Literally putting our cast through the fire makes for stellar listening and the sound design of David Darlington really amps of the terror and threat of the looming, rapidly spreading fire. We don’t get much headway toward a resolution (obviously) aside from some lampshading about how it had to have been a planned attack. Nor is this the most substantial episode on the Rosier front (if you’ll remember he was the Daniel Collard played demon who tried to end David and Amy’s relationship before it even started in Tainted Love). BUT it is a real belter of a listen with it’s constantly rising stakes, fantastic performances, and almost relentless pace.

And in the aftermath of this tragedy, the Big Day arrives for Amy and David in the Rob Morris scripted episode 6! Finishing on this first volume on a grand cliffhanger, one which finds the whole town FORGETTING David even existed, Morris, the cast, and the rest of the production staff rise admirably to the big occasion.

While the actual ceremony is the big headline here, this episode is surprisingly plot heavy for a volume “finale”. For one, we get plenty more headway into the Viv and Harry’s contentious relationship, beautifully acted by Georgina Strawson and Scott Haran. We also get some more insight into Barnabas’ lingering bloodlust and lack of viable food options which is driving him deeper into his monstrous side. I have spoken a lot here recently about my growing admiration for Andrew Collins’ portrayal of Barnabas and as this series goes on, I’m increasingly convinced this series might be his finest hour(s) as the character. Finally there is also the newly introduced thread of certain characters feeling a sense of unease rippling through their minds, all leading up to David literally ghosting on the altar. This is the kind of stuff that made us keep watching the next episode and Bloodline seems to be leaning into the more cruel cliffhangers of the show. In. To. It.

From a burning hospital to a disappearing groom, Dark Shadows: Bloodline episodes 5 and 6 have it all, ending this first volume on one hell of a mic drop. This series has been so, so fun so far because it seems that literally ANNNNYthing can happen. With Bloodlust it was just quaint little murders and witchcraft. But this thing? It’s on a whole other level. Until next time, goons, I’ll be seeing you.

(Editor's note: Episodes 5 and 6 of Bloodline are available HERE.)

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 justin@betweenthepanels.com Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.

Friday, April 19, 2019

So, where's my review of Master of Dark Shadows?

The Dan Curtis documentary Master of Dark Shadows was released on DVD and Blu-ray earlier this week. Even though I've spent the last few months promoting the release, there's been no review of the film here at the CHS. Why? MPI Home Video didn't offer me a screener. But that's OK ... the folks at That's My Entertainment still love me and sent an advance copy, so they got my review.

I enjoyed the special features more than the actual movie, and the way Jonathan Frid managed to upstage the movie's subject warmed the cold, cold cockles of my heart.

You can read my review HERE.

Also, if you're thinking about purchasing the movie be forewarned: The digital version does not include the bonus features. You can get the Blu-ray or DVD at Amazon HERE.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

In Dark Shadows, your reflection always tells the truth

This week marks 52 years since the first appearance of Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows. To celebrate the occasion, The Collinsport Historical Society is spending the week looking back at the "introductions" of the character in various media.


Barnabas Collins made his first appearance in any medium on April 6, 1967.

Even if you watched this episode, though, there’s a pretty good chance you missed him. During the closing scenes of the episode, Willie Loomis (played by James Hall in his second-to-last appearance on DARK SHADOWS) tries to assault Carolyn Stoddard, who pulls a gun on him and issues a stern warning ...

“If you don't leave me alone, I'll blow your head off,” she says. Fade to credits.

It was here that most people in 1967 — and probably many viewers since — probably stopped watching the episode. Those who stuck around, though, saw a significant piece of art had been added to Collinwood’s foyer.

In a bit of retroactive continuity, we later learn the portrait of Barnabas Collins has been hanging in full view for many, many years. After regenerating into John Karlen in episode 206, Willie takes an active interest in the portrait, eventually meeting Barnabas Collins face to face on April 10 during a bit of grave robbing. It’s not until the following episode that we get to see Barnabas for ourselves, when he makes his iconic arrival at Collinwood.

All of this makes it difficult to pinpoint the “first appearance” of Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows. Complicating matters is that the character's first physical appearance is in Episode 210 when Barnabas’ hand emerges from the coffin to choke Willie Loomis. On that episode, he was played by set extra Timothy Gordon. Meanwhile, the character’s “first appearance” is almost always credited to Jonathan Frid’s debut, which is fair … but that doesn’t make the milestone any easier to read. By the time we formally meet the character, we already know a lot about him.

Barnabas’ piecemeal introduction is in keeping with the dominant theme of Dark Shadows during much of its run, which is underscored in the final reveal of Jonathan Frid: In Dark Shadows, your reflection always tells the truth.

Duality was a series theme from the very first episode, which implemented a shocking amount of symbolism in its photography. As a daily series, it was never designed to withstand the scrutiny of re-runs, let alone the far-flung fantasy concept of "home video." The series was as disposable as a newspaper, something to be enjoyed for a few minutes and then forgotten. The writers and directors of Dark ShadowsS did not get that memo, though, and set about creating afternoon entertainment that was more psychologically complex than it had any right to be.

The first episode established this dynamic immediately. Victoria Winters is riding on a train through the night, her reflection in the glass beside her. We discover that she’s a “foundling,” anonymously abandoned to the state as an infant. She’s traveling to Collinsport, Maine, to take a job — and to learn the truth about her own mysterious past.

In other words, she’s looking for the real Victoria Winters — represented throughout this episode by her own reflection. We see Victoria reflected back in the window of the train carriage, the mirror in the restaurant of the Collinsport Inn, and in a mirror (in a flashback!) at her bedroom at the foundling home.

Most telling is the reveal in the episode’s final scene. When she arrives at her destination, the doors of Collinwood open to show Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard standing in the entrance, looking very much like Victoria’s reflection. (For me, this is all the evidence I’ve ever needed that Liz was Victoria’s mother.)

We get the same kind of imagery in the introduction of Barnabas Collins, though it’s less direct. Again, the “real” Barnabas is the character we see in the portrait — the ancestor who lived at Collinwood more than a century earlier. While it’s only a fraction of the truth, it’s much more reliable than the tales told by Barnabas, himself.

We see this over and over throughout the run the series, always to different effect. The portrait of Quentin Collins — a magical creation that spared him from harm — represents the real person, the Quentin that suffers the consequences of his own bad decisions. But this duality has a downside: Quentin will live forever, but he might as well not exist at all. Neither the world nor Quentin Collins had much effect on each other in the 20th century.They just drift through the years, body and soul detached.

Interestingly, Barnabas returned to the “portrait” well twice during the show’s first year. As a ruse to lure Sam Evans away from his daughter, Barnabas arranges to sit for the artist to have a new portrait done. The painting is meant to do something beyond keeping Sam occupied; it’s designed to transform Barnabas’ lie into something approximating the truth. The portrait would lend credibility to his tale of being “The Cousin from England,” enshrining his new likeness with those of the other Collins family ancestors at Collinwood. It makes his backstory legitimate.

It must have been handy for the writers to have characters like Sam Evans and Charles Delaware Tate in the cast. It made the symbolic use of portraits easy to justify without having to do logistical cartwheels to introduce each new prop. One of the first portrait devices used on Dark Shadows was an illustration by artist/alcohol enthusiast Sam Evans many years before the start of the series.  During a visit to his home, Victoria finds a portrait of a woman named Betty Hanscomb among his older works. Despite the obvious similarity (the portrait was unsurprisingly based on a photo of actress Alexandra Moltke) he claims he doesn’t see much of a resemblance. We eventually learn Hanscomb and her family are dead, and the plot point — like so many that involved Victoria — was left to dangle.

Another of Sam’s portraits would also reveal an ugly truth about Laura Collins. While under the influence of supernatural compulsions, Sam painted a portrait of Laura that shows her to be the demon that she truly is. By the time Barnabas Collins shows up — just a few weeks after the first incarnation of Laura Collins is dispatched — the writers had polished the old “Portrait as Id” trope to a high sheen. They’d go on to use it to different effect with Josette Du Pres, Angelique Bouchard, and several characters in the Night of Dark Shadows feature film.

Before the end of the series, Dark Shadows even introduced a character who was literally a portrait come to life. Amanda Harris, played by Donna McKechnie, was another of the magical creations of Charles Delaware Tate, who made a pact with Hungarian sorcerer Andreas Petofi for a boost to his "Talent" attribute. Once again, it was the portrait that was "real." Much like Victoria, Harris was unaware of her own origins. And what little she knew was fiction. Her romantic entanglement with Quentin Collins — a man whose soul was also linked to a magical portrait — was one of Dark Shadows' most appropriate relationships. Naturally, it was doomed to fail.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Dark Shadows: Bloodline, Episode 4


Grok it, Reader-Bots! Spoilers Ahead!

“You call him...Barney. Harry called him Uncle Barnabas. 

He wants to be ALL those things! He wants a family! He wants to live here, and see the sunlight again, but he’s CURSED! He’s a VAMPIRE! We must never forget that, Jackie!”

Click the image to get Dark Shadows: Bloodline!
Stag night in Collinsport comes to an explosive conclusion in Bloodline episode 4! Written by Aaron Lamont, he of Beyond the Grave and the recently Scribe Award nominated The Lover’s Refrain, this fourth episode just leans right the hell into some of the best soap opera narrative turns making them sing once again for Dark Shadows. But better than that, this episode really finds the serial as a whole picking up. Really working the resolutions of episode three’s cliffhangers and then doubling down on them in grand fashion with even BIGGER ones! While Bloodlust was more of a slow burn mystery, Bloodline, at least by this episode’s dynamic metric, is really looking to be more of an “event”. And why the hell shouldn’t it? It IS Amy and David’s wedding after all. Let’s get into it.

Addressing the absolute biggest cliffhanger first, Jackie is NOT DEAD! Which is great because I would have been gutted if the wonderful Alexandra Donnachie left us this soon. Though she WAS somewhat attacked by Barnabas (which mortified him, Julia’s words, not mine), she merely fainted. And who wouldn’t, being accosted by a hunger starved vampire?! This obviously leads to more sass from Jackie and a tense heart-to-heart with Julia that new Dr. Hoffman, Julie Newmar, digs into with aplomb. That pretty much rounds out Jackie’s involvement in this episode, but I am still really enjoying the continued focus on the “younger” cast members. Plus the extra bonus of the hungry Barnabas and Andrew Collins’ performance of such is a real dark treat of a plot simmering behind everything else.

Because the REAL affair of this episode is the dual bridal shower/bachelor party of Amy and David! Which goes about as wonky as you would assume it would! I spoke in my last review about how Bloodline has been a bit more conveniently “operatic”. Meaning that it’s kind of going back to the well when it comes to certain plots. Plots like Viv coming back to “reconnect” with Harry. Well, everything that happens during these scenes just continues to prove my point as Viv continues to seemingly undermine the incoming marriage of David and Amy, using Harry as a pawn to do it! Pretty tried and true stuff, right? But I really appreciate it here! It is really low-key, emotional stakes. A welcome change of pace after all the murder and mayhem of Bloodlust. I like that this serial so far is just about the hassle of planning a wedding and how awkward it is when your parents come to visit you. I can relate, Bloodline.

We even get a brand new Burke Devlin for our troubles! Voiced by noted voice actor and impressionist Adam Hall, Burke joins the festivities along with Kathryn Leigh Scott’s Maggie, having literally driven her out of ...And Red All Over just “days” before. Scott is always a welcome presence in the Big Finishverse as far as I’m concerned and hearing her instantly lock back into the role of “governess” to a completely drunk Amy Jennings and Rhonda Tate (Lachele Carl REALLY getting to let loose in this episode to great effect) warms my heart. Hall’s Burke is also wonderfully uncanny. Not only does he capture Mitchell Ryan’s swagger and booming cadence, but he also makes for a pretty damn good Burke! One who naturally commands a scene and charms in more intimate one-on-one interactions with other characters. I’m starting to think Big Finish has access to some kind of Time Lord science or has made some pact with the Dark One in regards to how well they can recreate the personas of certain characters.

My glib attempt at dork humor aside, Episode 4 really impressed me and I think you are all going to be further sucked into this tale. This serial continues to be everything you could want from a Dark Shadows “event” series. Even without the episode’s, shall we say, “explosive” cliffhanger. I will say no more, readers, but I WILL be back here to talk to you once the next episode rattles off the wires. Until then, how about you meet me in the CHS Drawing Room over on Facebook and we can talk theories over some healthy portions of the Good Brandy, if ya know what I mean? We can talk Barnabas’ hunger, why Viv Bell is out to ruin everything, and why is Ed Griffin such a friggen jerk?! It will be a fun time for all. Until then, 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 justin@betweenthepanels.com Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 16


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 738

When Dirk Wilkins works in the Ra, Laura comes back for more. But Quentin is Set to douse her flame for good. Dirk: Roger Davis. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Dirk instinctively recites a magical incantation that brings Laura back from the brink of death. She confronts Quentin, who has to deal with the strong emotions of Jamison, who has become very dedicated to his mother. Barnabas does an hilarious double-take upon entering Collinwood and seeing his former aunt alive and well.

Technically, this is about Laura demonstrating her powers by returning from the brink of death -- thanks to Roger Davis and his mustache, the eternal reasons for the season. But that’s not what leaped out to me. Yes, it’s a fun episode, full of the arch moments, preening, and catty revelations that make 1897 great again. That’s why I chose it. That’s the experience I thought I would have, and it didn’t disappoint in those regards. But I didn’t realize I would tear up.

1795 is the story of how a boring man became an interesting one... but in an often boring way. 1897 is about how an interesting man became a boring one… but in an always interesting way. When does Quentin’s transformation -- his REAL transformation -- start? As well it should, it starts with Jamison. He’s the end of the journey, with a resonance that rings in Quentin’s ears long after death. He’s also a completely modern man-in-the-making. He’s the bridge between the world of gas lamps and gas guzzlers. The works of Lara Parker, author, notwithstanding, we know dashedly little about Jamison. But we can tell a lot about him by who loves him, teaches him, and sticks up for him.

Of course, it’s Quentin. And if Jamison is the Victorian era’s ambassador to the age of modernism, then Quentin is the ambassador to Jamison. You can see the culture buckling through the eyes of Quentin. In a world of rules and strictures, Quentin’s every breath is an act of defiance. It’s a shame that, when he arrives at the modern world, the man is too scarred to enjoy it. He was, perhaps, too much of the antithesis to Edward. But Jamison can be something more than either of the men alone, and I think Quentin knows that. Edward’s too far gone, and so is Quentin. Carl doesn’t count, and Judith (literally) doesn’t have a vote in the matter.

This comes into focus with the twinkle-eyed sincerity of his shameless manipulation of the boy. If Jamison came in from school, terrified over dreams, Edward would have sent him straight back with no sympathy. Quentin understands. And when Jamison has qualms over waking a servant to make him tea, Quentin has no stake in the hierarchy (except, perhaps, being in good with the boss when he finds himself in old age). He explains to Jamison that he’ll be at the top and needs to get used to the idea. Edward might have shamed him with the lesson; Quentin inspires. He does that out of expediency and love. David Selby’s miraculous range comes through once more, suggesting that Dark Shadows was a vehicle built for over two years just to accommodate his talent. Because he’s both totally serious and completely opportunistic. Maybe it’s one and the same for Quentin. Maybe he doesn’t need to lie to get what he wants. He just wants things he rarely has to lie about, because everyone knows he’s a bottom-feeding scoundrel with the tastes of a hedonist. It’s when Quentin wants something loftier that we have to wonder. In 738, there is a benevolent purity to the con. Like so many before and after him, Quentin knows he’s doomed, himself, and fights for a better Collins. That’s the transformation that’s been building in the show since the 1795 storyline. Barnabas is infected by the outside influence of foreign magic and rejects it. Quentin is saturated with it so far he’s forgotten who he was prior. It’s the threat of Laura that initiates his thoughts of the man he can be with it, however.

Appropriate that Barnabas enters to see her just as she’s really spreading her plume. If Quentin becomes his second brother-not-brother, it fits that the same catalyst for the alien and occult also infected his first brother-not-brother, Jeremiah. He escaped Laura twice. There is something patterned about dark haired, baritone, Collins men (and Roger) finding their downfall in blonde women (sometimes wearing wigs) with penchants for magic. Somebody write a dissertation already, I’d do it here, but I got two shows in Vegas tonight.

Laura has encountered the Barnabas bullet twice. She and he are almost as linked as he and Angelique, except here, he’s simply an adversary… and it’s a way for him to get a perspective on an “Angelique-type” from the outside. Ironic that they should miss each other in the 1960’s by only a few weeks. It’s the great issue of the Marvel Comics/Dark Shadows What If? that never happened.

This episode hit the airwaves April 23, 1969.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

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Podcast Flashback: Humbert Allen Astredo

We're preparing to put all 94 episodes of The Collinsport Historical Society podcast into the vaults later this week. It's a bittersweet moment in the website's history, but one that will make more sense once the new series is released into the wild. If you don't already have our previous episodes, you should download them as soon as possible. You can find the entire archive online at iTunes ... and pretty much everywhere else podcasts are available.

Here's one of the highlights from the series: In 2014, Patrick McCray scored an incredibly rare interview with actor Humbert Allen Astredo, who entered the world of Dark Shadows with a bang in 1968 as warlock Nicholas Blair. He'd later go on to play the satanic Evan Hanley and Charles Dawson on the show, and had a lengthy career on the stage after the program's cancellation.

Astredo spoke with McCray about using comedy to survive the Korean War, the different perspectives between east coast and west coast acting schools, and how he landed his first role on Dark Shadows. This is very likely the last interview Astredo ever granted; he passed away in 2016 at the age of 86.

"A white knuckled interview," McCray said. "A really nice guy convinced he had to keep an icy exterior. A very complex man. I really worked for the opportunity. Terrifying, and maybe one of the best experiences of my life. I miss him."

You can listen to the interview below.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Podcast Alert: Flowers in the Attic

The increasingly inaccurate "March Madness" series from the Bodice Tipplers podcast is back, with the first of a two-part episode devoted to V.C. Andrews' 1979 gothic trash-terpiece "Flowers in the Attic." Sara and Courtney decided to split the epsiode into two parts because the whole thing topped out at three hours long ... and only ended then when their digital recorder ran out of memory.

"Flowers in the Attic" marks the halfway point in the March Madness series, which began with Peter David's Trekkie romance "Imzadi" and ends with an upcoming episode dedicated to "Barnabas Collins" by Marilyn Ross.

If you haven't read "Flowers in the Attic" you can find various editions of it on Amazon, which makes for a fascinting -- if depressing -- tour. Book cover art has really gone downhill since "Flowers in the Attic" was first published. Later editions of the book are shamelessly generic. (And make sure to check out the godawful cover of the audiobook.) Anyhoo, you can find a lot of great and terrible editions of "Flowers in the Attic" at Amazon HERE.

Sara and Courtney have written a lengthy blogpost to accompany the podcast, which you can find over at their website. If you're the impatient type and just want to get started, you can begin listening to it below.

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