Thursday, June 30, 2016

"Blood & Fire" is Dark Shadows in microcosm


There's a careful reverence to DARK SHADOWS: BLOOD & FIRE that falls somewhere on the spectrum between alchemy and magic. Designed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the original series, BLOOD & FIRE isn't the result of rushing a product to the marketplace in order to hit some arbitrary date on a calendar. There's genuine love and affection on display here, plus a superstitious attention to detail that is almost frightening. There are so many layers to BLOOD & FIRE that we might be discussing this story for years to come.

It's so packed with substance that, a few paragraphs into writing this, I've surrendered any pretense to trying to discuss them all. BLOOD & FIRE is a thematic pageantry of all things DARK SHADOWS, and you'll find just about everything that's ever been associated with the series buried within its text. There are references to "Collins House," the pre-production name for Collinwood that managed to slip into Marilyn Ross tie-in novels; the presence of one of the leads from the 1991 DARK SHADOWS "revival" series; and an appearance by a member of the ne'er–do–well Cunningham family from the more recent Big Finish audios. The decision to incorporate elements tangential to the original series reminded me of this Old English rhyme:
"Something old,
something new,
something borrowed,
something blue,
and a silver sixpence in her shoe."
This is the sentiment that drives BLOOD & FIRE, and one that becomes all the more relevant when you consider that the story, like the rhyme, is about a wedding.

As with Big Finish's BLOODLUST serial, BLOOD & FIRE takes the storyline back to its soapy roots. It's broken into four episodes which spend in inordinate amount of time dwelling on backroom skulduggery. On the main stage is the pending wedding of Joshua Collins (Andrew Collins, doing a swell impression of Louis Edmonds) and Laura Murdoch Stockbridge (Joanna Going.) On the way to Collinsport, Laura's carriage picks up a stranded traveler, Cassandra Peterson (Lara Parker), who offers a backstory to explain her predicament that makes little sense and puts a few people on guard.

That's because Cassandra is Angelique Bouchard, dropped into the distant past by a demon with plans to destroy the Collins family TERMINATOR-like before they can gain a toehold on history. In that regard, BLOOD & FIRE makes about as much sense as any story involving time travel ... which isn't much. Seeing as how DARK SHADOWS has a long, proud history of bullshit time travel paradoxes, though, these logical inconsistencies feel right at home.

Once at Anchor House (the home of the Collins family in 1767) the writer's time zone begins to shine through. American soaps are notoriously trashy. Even when DARK SHADOWS debuted in 1966, the story lines could be a bit coarse. Soaps were created for an audience that was marginalized by mainstream culture (in this case, women) and they made every effort to pander to them. Soaps dabbled in everything from legitimate women's issues (abortion, equality) to romantic escapism (infidelity, kidnapping, blackmail, etc.) By the 1980s, American soaps really went off the rails. The less said about Luke and Laura on GENERAL HOSPITAL, the better.

The soapy elements of BLOOD & FIRE, though, play less like American pulp melodrama, and more like the kind of polite shenanigans you'd find in an episode DOWNTON ABBEY. Which is perfectly OK, because U.K. writer Roy Gill has tarted things up with all manner of supernatural elements. Some of the best moments in the story showcase petty confrontations that take a turn for the sinister. Example: Early in the story, the head housekeeper (played by Marie Wallace) makes Angelique aware that she finds her presence in the house both inappropriate and unnecessary. It's a good scene, but one made better as Wallace's dialogue shifts from that of a testy, territorial servant to that of a woman possessed by a demon.

Joanna Going in the studio.
It's interesting to see Angelique essentially in the same predicament as Victoria Winters in the 1795 story arc, and this role is made more fascinating by having Joanna Going playing opposite her. For those of you coming in late, Going played both Victoria Winters and Josette DuPres in the 1991 revival, and she kinda steals the show in BLOOD & FIRE. (Which is no small feat given the staggering level of talent on display.) It's a gentle, mysterious performance, and I spent most of the first half of BLOOD & FIRE trying to figure out Laura's game. It seems unlikely that any DARK SHADOWS character could be as kind and sincere as Laura is here, and it makes her fall from grace that much more tragic and compelling.

The conflict between Laura and Angelique mirrors both the characters' relationships in the 1897 story line, as well as the relationship between Angelique and Josette. What this amounts to is a character that is an Angelique-as-Victoria hybrid playing against Josette-as-Laura, and all which that implies. I told you this was complex.

The story's climax is all the more thrilling because it shows that the writers understand Angelique in ways that few others ever have. Since the 1991 "revival" series, iterations of Angelique have been unending riffs on FATAL ATTRACTION, but the character was never that easy. BLOOD & FIRE reinstates her role as a chaos figure, a woman constantly at odds with authority both real or symbolic. She's more a force of nature than anything else, but not an unreasonable one.

BLOOD & FIRE also offers a few do-overs for some of the principle cast members from the original series. I've always loved James Storm, but Dan Curtis' writing staff took a confident, magnetic actor and shackled him to a story that never delivered. BLOOD & FIRE allows Storm to redeem that experience, to a degree. Here, he plays Abraham Harkaway, a pirate in love with a young Abigail Collins and trying to make the transition from criminal to legitimate businessman. A zombie might make an appearance in their courtship.

Speaking of the future Aunt Abigail: Daisy Tormé makes me like the character for the first time ever. That's not a swipe at Clarice Blackburn, who played Abigail on the original series. Blackburn's job was to make you root for her impending death, but Gill and Tormé manage to give you a deeper look into what makes the character tick with such an erratic rhythm. You might feel slightly more sorry for her the next time watch the series.

And it goes without saying that it's great to have Mitch Ryan back in the fold, but I'm going to say it anyway. Ryan missed out on the DARK SHADOWS' wacky costume drama/time travelling moments when he left the show in 1967, so he's a welcome face at the party. And besides, nobody does "authority figure" quite like Ryan, who has made a career out of bossing around movie stars on screen for more than 40 years. More, please.

Christopher Pennock, Andrew Collins, Ursula Burton, Jerry Lacy, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, Lisa Richards, Mitchell Ryan, James Storm and Natalie Britton.
BLOOD & FIRE should have been a disaster. I can't readily think of anything similar that didn't play like a glorified clips show, but somehow the producers managed to keep most of the story's many, many plates spinning throughout the course of the tale. One of two still manage to fall here and there ... and I have a quibbles:

The book-ending pieces, which involve Parker speaking to a demonic Lisa Richards hiding under layers of voice modulation, feels unnecessary. At this stage, we already know that Angelique's presence anywhere is cause for alarm, and her mission is underlined several times throughout the story. It feels like a wasted opportunity to explain the mission so handily (and maybe patronizingly?) in a "James Bond banters with M" kind of way. Her sudden appearance near the crumbling Widow's Hill/Widow's Walk was all the introduction the character really needs.

And while I'd never turn away David Selby and Nancy Barrett, their arrival halfway through the story feels a little wonky. Playing the Collins relatives from New York, the pair arrive shortly after a huge, supernaturally powered storm has devastated the coastline. They appear out of nowhere, dropped into an already large cast, with their only purpose to firmly address the origins of Millicent and Daniel in the 1795 story. I'd like to have seen the two actors given more to do.

And then there's the Barnabas Problem. How do you celebrate the 50th anniversary of DARK SHADOWS without either Jonathan Frid or Barnabas Collins? At last weekend's festival, someone made the dour decision to screen the show's final episode for fans, which seemed like a poor way to celebrate the show's inception. In BLOOD & FIRE (which was made available to customers earlier this week on the 50th anniversary of the show's debut on ABC) the producers decided to include the birth of Barnabas Collins as part of its story-ending vignettes. I've got mixed feelings about the execution of these vignettes, but won't argue with their sentiments. Especially when Angelique's demonic master woefully declares "With the birth of Barnabas, the future of the Collins is assured." This is true on so many levels.

BLOOD & FIRE is as fine a way to mark the gold anniversary of DARK SHADOWS as any I can imagine. While the time traveling nature of the story forces us to look momentarily backward, its eyes are always on the future. There might have a bit of a pall over last weekend's festival (which occasionally had an air of finality to it), but Big Finish is demanding a better future for DARK SHADOWS with the release of BLOOD & FIRE.

You can order DARK SHADOWS: BLOOD & FIRE from Big Finish HERE.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: JUNE 29


June 29, 1966
Taped on this date: Episode 13

Roger finds Burke in the drawing room, and pours a drink as he listens to Burke’s reasons for being back in Collinsport. Roger thinks Burke still blames him for going tp prison, but Burke says he wants to forget the past. He wanted to see home and prove to others that he’s a success. As far as prison? A man was killed, Roger gave testimony, and the jury sent Burke to jail. Why is he meeting with people, now? Just to get to know them. Elsewhere, Vicki visits Matthew. She wants to know what the family’s connection to Bangor is. Matthew says that’s where Burke’s trial happened. But that’s old business. In the drawing room, Roger is alone with Burke and presses him for the truth. Roger threatens to make life from prison seem to be a paradise if Burke’s lying. Burke counters by asking about Roger’s wife. They agree it’s all past history. Over muffins, Vicki learns that Roger only recently came back from Augusta, and it’s a terrible thing for Liz. At Collinwood, Burke exits, dropping hints that he might want to buy Collinwood or the business… maybe both. He then asks Roger to meet him later that night at the Blue Whale for a business proposition. Meanwhile, Matthew describes a near fatal car accident of the past. Matthew receives a call from Liz for firewood and learns that Vicki lied about having her permission to visit him. She leaves, only to find Burke by Roger’s car, with a tool he said was on the front seat. Burke implies that all is patched up. Up in the drawing room, Roger fills in Liz. Are they in the clear? He is awfully unwilling to forget. The only way for Roger to know is to visit Burke at the bar. Vicki then checks in with Liz, and asks if Roger is using his car that night.

The great highlights in episode 13 are the inversions of character that we see in Burke and Matthew. Any whiff of sincerity that Burke might have mustered is gone. His visit to Collinwood has so much forced innocence, it’s like he’s channeling Eddie Haskell. Then, once he has Vicki alone by Roger’s car, his stab at appearing innocent is equally insincere. It’s not too far to say that he even seems a tad unhinged. The universe would be completely unsafe were it not for the cranky, high-hatted warmth shown by Matthew Morgan. He has every reason to call the cops on Vicki, but instead, he is very inclusive towards her. I really wish they had not switched to Thayer David. David played the part he was handed, but by then, Morgan had devolved into a cartoon. This is far more nuanced.

June 29, 1967
Taped on this date: Episode 276

At the Old House, Willie shoves jewels at Jason in the Old House, but they’re not enough for him. He thinks they’re in the coffin. Jason’s last living act is to open the coffin before Barnabas strangles him. Awake, Barnabas finds that Jason forced his way down there past Willie. This placed Barnabas in danger, but they must dispose of the body, first. They can bury him in the secret room of the Collins tomb. Willie is squeemish over the body of his friend, and Barnabas reflects on his own friendship with Sarah. They carry the body out, leaving Jason’s fallen cap for later. In a corner, Sarah plays with a ball. She places the cap on the coffin lid. At Windcliff, Woodard studies a drawing of Sarah, convinced that the girl is the connection that will connect Maggie to the kidnapper. Woodard insists on showing the picture to Maggie. Maggie doesn’t seem to recognize the sketch until she blurts out, “Sarah.” She says that Sarah came to the room. What room? Maggie begins to panic. She tried to escape from the room, and then she repeats the riddle. Although she screams clues, Julia has her sedated. Woodard sees this as progress. The girl will lead them to the kidnapper. At the mausoleum, Willie and Barnabas trigger the secret door to deposit Jason. As they leave, Willie asks about Barnabas’ relatives in the tombs. He emphasizes Sarah’s sweetness. After they leave, Sarah appears under her own headstone.

Call Jason ‘Mint Jelly,’ because he’s on the lamb. But not for long. It almost feels as if they were contractually obligated to stretch the courtship and wedding out for x-number of episodes. Completely arbitrary. With that wrapped up, we get an episode where Major Things Happen, but at a thoughtful pace. It feels as if the shows was straining to get back to the macro-arc of Barnabas, and with Jason gone, the potboilerish pettiness seems officially over. DARK SHADOWS is moving on to be a supernatural thriller within the soap opera format rather than a real world soap opera with supernatural implications. It’s about time. It’s also the first episode narrated by Kathryn Leigh Scott. With that, DARK SHADOWS is no longer just the story of a woman whose name is Victoria Winters.

June 29, 1970 
Taped on this date: Episode 1051

1970PT. At Loomis House, the blade-wielding stranger embraces Roxanne, says he was foolish to let her go. The man angrily searches for Stokes and tries to get through to his semi-catatonic lover. He is Claude North. Perhaps the blade will remind her. It no longer has the effect it once had… he will undo whatever Stokes has done. At Collinwood, Maggie reveals that “Alexis” has had another seizure and insists on seeing her father. Hearing this, Barnabas rushes to Loomis House. There, Claude is unable to reach her by hypnosis. He doesn’t care about the deal he made with Stokes… he’ll return the money, but he must have her. He hears Barnabas entering and hides. Barnabas asks how she got up to the main floor. Spotting the knife, he asks if Claude North is there. No answer. He takes her down to the basement. Claude leaves, quietly vowing to come back for her. Time passes. Barnabas comes upstairs to see that the blade is gone… that can only mean that Claude was there. He calls Buffie, telling her he needs to hide Roxanne with her. At Collinwood, Maggie hears footsteps outside her room. No one is there. Meanwhile, Claude returns to Loomis House and finds the lab equipment in the basement. He hears Maggie calling for Barnabas and accosts her. He demands she look into his eyes and tell what she knows of Barnabas. Where has he taken her. Maggie is bewildered. He locks eyes with her and commands her to tell him he’ll be back. Maggie staggers back to Collinwood and describes her encounter to Barnabas. Maggie is convinced there is a murderer in the house -- Quentin -- and she will be leaving directly. If Quentin isn’t guilty, where is he? How do you explain everything else that’s happened? Quentin overhears her concerns from his hiding spot. Later, Barnabas looks over Roxanne, knowing that she must be restored, both to save Quentin and to fulfill his curiosity. Several rooms over, Maggie dreams of Quentin coming home in a chipper mood, greeting her merrily. He cut short a board meeting… he wants to take her away for six months. She’s elated. No planning! Just go! Start living! Things change when he spots a bouquet… the flowers Bruno used to send Angelique. Quentin accuses her of seeing Bruno! He says that Bruno is why she doesn’t want to go away with him. How long has the affair been going on? Quentin begins to strangle her. She awakens to find him leaning over her.

It’s the first appearance of Claude North, a formidable character whose brief life in the series almost seems like a non sequitur. Brian Sturdivant plays a forceful antagonist with crisp, shrill intensity. That he should only be around for a few episodes is a shame. Several years later in 1979, we would say goodbye to Jane Rose on this date. She played Mrs. Mitchell, the old woman with whom Vicki spoke on the train, and who informed her that her solitary trip to Collinsport had been more than enough. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Happy birthday, Dark Shadows!

It seems weird not to have some elaborate essay/podcast/stunt ready to run today. The first episode of DARK SHADOWS aired on this date in 1966, a milestone that the federal government refuses to recognize as an official holiday no matter how much I protest. (Thanks, Obama.) Regardless, I've given the staff the day off, which means things are going to be a little quiet around here today.

If you've never seen the first episode of DARK SHADOWS, today is the perfect day to remedy that oversight. Below is streaming video of the episode, which was voted as the second best in the series by our readers back in 2014. Yes, it's really that good.

The gang's all here!

Well, this is an unexpected delight: Big Finish has released a pair of new recordings to mark the 50th anniversary of DARK SHADOWS today! We all knew this was coming, but to have two such mammoth ventures dropped on the same date is kind of astonishing. Both installments are double-disc sets and feature massive casts that includes players from throughout the show's long history.

Here are the new titles:

A two-hour adventure celebrating 50 years of Dark Shadows!

“Some are born with magic, some acquire magic, and others have magic thrust upon them...”

The year is 1767. Young widow Laura Murdoch Stockbridge is to marry Joshua Collins, heir to the Collins fortune. Meanwhile, Joshua’s sister Abigail is in love with disreputable sailor Abraham Harkaway.

But the course of true love never did run smooth… especially when the witch Angélique Bouchard is around.

For Angélique has been sent back in time. And she has one mission…

To destroy the Collins family forever.

The cast includes Lara Parker, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Mitchell Ryan, Joanna Going, Andrew Collins, Daisy Tormé, James Storm, Lisa Richards, Christopher Pennock, Marie Wallace, Nancy Barrett, David Selby, Matthew Waterhouse, Jerry Lacy, John Karlen, Ursula Burton, Alexandra Donnachie, Scott Haran, Walles Hamonde, Daniel Collard, Michael Shon and Natalie Britton.



TRASK THE EXORCIST written and performed by Jerry Lacy
A tired and hungry Reverend Trask is summoned to perform an exorcism. But when he meets Penelope Bascomb he will face the Devil’s greatest weapon... temptation.

THE MISSING REEL by Ian Farrington, performed by David Selby
Los Angeles, 1958. The world is changing – but then again, it always does. Only people with short lives assume things stay the same. When you’re immortal like Quentin Collins, you realize that it all moves at a lightning pace...

LUNAR TIDES by Philip Meeks, performed by Kathryn Leigh Scott
Maggie Evans knows everything. She knows what Barnabas has done and has banished him from the town. But who will help her when a mysterious mist descends on the town and the people of Collinsport start falling ill?

CONFESSION by Paul Phipps, performed by Lara Parker
The witch Angelique sits alone in her cottage, writing a confession. But what is she confessing to? And why can’t she stop writing?


For more details about both releases, visit the Big Finish website HERE.

Dark Shadows Turns 50

June 27 is a major milestone for DARK SHADOWS. For orthodox fans, it's the official birthday of the show, which debuted on ABC in most markets on that day in 1966. Sure, the series rebooted (ugh, that term) itself several times during the next 1,225 episodes, but for practical purposes DARK SHADOWS began with Episode 1.

Still, you'll find a great many people who prefer to celebrate the beginning of DARK SHADOWS with the arrival of Barnabas Collins less than a year later. Case in point: Today, Decades will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the series by broadcasting the first 12 episodes of DARK SHADOWS ... beginning with actor Jonathan Frid's debut in episode 211. Keep in mind that Decades is not binging these episodes. Rather than airing them in a single six-hour blast, they'll be peppering blocks of episodes throughout the day (and into the next morning.) There's also an episode of the hour-long program "Through the Decades" that will be include a segment devoted to DARK SHADOWS.

Also worth mentioning is the Decades Feature, "The Celluloid Closet," which will air several times throughout the day. The documentary is about the depictions of homosexuals in film and television, and will probably be of interest to many fans of DARK SHADOWS.

Below is a directory for the day's events. Click HERE to see if you get Decades in your area.

Note: All times and dates are EST.

Monday, June 27

7 a.m. Through the Decades
On June 27, Through the Decades turns back the lens of time on the day in history when the landmark gaming company Atari was founded. We’re also looking back on the origins of the LGBT community’s annual Pride Parade and we remember the debut of television’s cult classic DARK SHADOWS. The episode features an interview with fan Steven August Papa, and Walter Podrazik, television curator at the Museum of Broadcast Communications, as well as interviews with DARK SHADOWS cast members Jonathan Frid, Kathryn Leigh Scott and Lara Parker.

9 a.m. Dark Shadows, Episode 211
A stranger arrives at Collinwood, introducing himself as Barnabas Collins, a cousin from England. (Originally aired April 18, 1967.)

9:30 a.m. Dark Shadows, Episode 212
At the Old House, Barnabas speaks to the portrait of Josette, declaring that he has come home to stay. (Originally aired April 19, 1967.)

10 a.m. Dark Shadows, Episode 213
Carolyn Stoddard tries to learn what hold Jason McGuire has over her mother Elizabeth Stoddard. (Originally aired April 20, 1967.)

3 p.m. Dark Shadows, Episode 214
Barnabas meets Roger Collins, who comments on his resemblance to the original Barnabas’ portrait. (Originally aired April 21, 1967.)

3:30 p.m. Dark Shadows, Episode 215
At the Blue Whale, Willie refuses to tell Jason where he’s been. Jason notices blood on Willie’s sleeve. (Originally aired April 24, 1967.)

4 p.m. Dark Shadows, Episode 216
Jason forces Willie to apologize to Carolyn and Elizabeth. He discovers bite marks on Willie’s arm. (Originally aired April 25, 1967.)

7 p.m. Through the Decades 

9 p.m. Dark Shadows, Episode 217
Hearing a heartbeat, Willie sneaks out of Collinwood and goes to the cemetery, Jason follows him. (Originally aired April 26, 1967.)

9:30 p.m. Dark Shadows, Episode 218
Barnabas asks permission from Roger and Elizabeth to take up residence in the Old House. (Originally aired April 27, 1967.)

10 p.m. Dark Shadows, Episode 219
Dr. Dave Woodard informs Roger that Willie’s illness has been caused by a loss of blood. (Originally aired April 28, 1967.)

Tuesday, June 28
1 a.m. Through the Decades 

3 a.m. Dark Shadows, Episode 220
Elizabeth allows Barnabas to live at the Old House. Barnabas moves in with Willie as his servant. (Originally aired May 1, 1967.)

3:30 a.m. Dark Shadows, Episode 221

Waitress Maggie Evans meets Barnabas at the Collinsport Inn. She later feels she is being watched. (Originally aired May 2, 1967.)

4 a.m. Dark Shadows, Episode 222
Barnabas commissions artist Sam Evans, Maggie’s father, to paint a portrait of him, but only at night.. (Originally aired May 3, 1967.)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Dark Shadows: A 50th Anniversary Appreciation

The Best of Fiends


My aversion to soap operas probably began when I was a child visiting my grandparents’ house. We didn’t go often, mind, but this was a house where some of our British soaps were a mainstay of primetime viewing. Every time I went I found myself subjected to far more Crossroads or Coronation Street than should be inflicted on any child – at least without social services becoming involved.

So when Joe Lidster, esteemed producer of the Big Finish Dark Shadows audios, first exhorted me to give the series a try (“oh, and by the way, how about buying these two CDs – only a tenner to you”) you’d have thought I’d take more convincing. But I’d somehow heard of the show before and despite my natural instincts toward soaps I kind of liked the “time-travelling vampire” premise so I decided to start at episode 1 and see where it took me.

Now I’m no stranger to entertainment where ambition exceeds resources (I enjoy such British institutions as Doctor Who, Blake’s Seven and Bananarama after all) and so the early glacial pace and production wobbles didn’t put me off at all. Soon I found myself munching through episodes like popcorn, my rate increasing as the writers increasingly went for broke with ever more literary pillaging and a number of lead actors who could lift a scene simply by managing to be in shot. But of course, on one happy day, a wonderful thing happened: they paired Jonathan Frid with Grayson Hall.

Obviously the series turned a corner when Barnabas popped out of the box, but for me it was only when Julia joined him on screen that the enjoyable melodrama was elevated to be the delicious concoction I now adore. All their sparring is a delight to watch but I think I fell truly in love when Julia lit her cigarette from one of Barnabas’ candles. It was such a simple character moment: calculatedly care-free, defiant and provocative. In short: so very Julia.

My fate was sealed when Barnabas staked Tom Jennings to save his new best friend. One day I found myself raving to Joe about the line “you’ve saved my life so often that I don’t deserve thanks” – how touching and perfect it was, and how the writers had so cleverly turned their enmity into friendship.

So perhaps it’s not entirely coincidental that soon after Joe asked if I wanted to pitch a Barnabas and Julia story for Big Finish and that later “Dark Shadows: The Curse of Shurafa” came into existence. Nor is it a surprise that very scene was in my thoughts as I wrote it. To cling to the coat-tails of Gordon Russell, Violet Welles, Sam Hall and others for just a short while was a massive privilege. To be honest, I’m still not able to believe my luck.

But despite this unlikely development, what keeps me coming back to Dark Shadows is the scale of its ambition. Everyone involved is working toward a common goal: to create a story that will surprise and captivate. And captivate and surprise they do – even my jaded modern eyes can’t quite believe what they got away with. And the fact that they did makes me ridiculously happy.

Dark Shadows has turned out to be an incredibly positive force in my life. Not only has my first work of fiction now been published but the show still holds a powerful fascination for me. On a dull, dispiriting day I can look at the Rectory scene between Angelique and Julia in episode 842 and all my troubles float away. Not even Revenge or Ugly Betty have seen so much shade thrown in one scene, which – frankly – is something of an achievement.

So, Happy Birthday Dark Shadows. You have enriched my life in so many ways and I think by now your magic is burned deep within my bones - and I, for one, pray it will never leave.

Rob Morris is the writer of Big Finish’s “Dark Shadows: The Curse of Shurafa” and is one of the writers of this year’s forthcoming thirteen-part serial “Dark Shadows: Bloodline”. He has also contributed articles to the book “1001 TV Shows You Must Watch Before You Die” (sadly he didn’t write the Dark Shadows entry, but at least there is one). He can be found on Twitter @lemonfreshrob.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: JUNE 22


JUNE 22, 1966
Taped on this date: Episode 8

In Vicki’s room, Liz finds that an open window has scattered Vicki’s papers around. Carolyn enters and asks why Vicki was chosen for David. Liz gives her standard lie, and Carolyn knows it. She also knows that Vicki is calling the foundling home to seek the real story. On Vicki’s end, she reaches Mrs. Hopewell at the home. She says that no one recommended her. Liz was lying. At Collinwood, Carolyn awaits Joe as Liz stares outward. Liz claims that she brought Vicki to Collinwood to help give Carolyn a peer. Joe arrives, toothpaste grin and flowers for all. He tells Carolyn he’s an ex-fisherman. She is distant and snippy with him. Joe was promoted to a supervisory position with a modest raise. They kiss. With his money, he can buy a boat and expand it into a fleet. He is a self-made man, and she thinks he’s wonderful. Carolyn confesses her love, and Joe responds by proposing. She pulls away, and Liz enters with tea. He shares the news, remarking that Malloy promoted him a bit too spontaneously. Carolyn accuses Liz of engineering the promotion. Liz says she approved a promotion, and that it would make it easier for her to marry Joe. She is put off by this. Vicki enters and Carolyn brings her up to speed, cursing the house and then herself. She’s scared to get away. In the drawing room, Joe mentions Burke Devlin’s bribe offer at the Blue Whale. He knew about everyone… including Vicki. Carolyn comes in and reports on Vicki’s call to Miss Hopewell. Liz confronts her and Vicki counters that no one could confirm Liz’s story about Vicki’s referral. Liz reasons around her concerns, and cites that she was needed in the house for the happiness of everyone. We go to the foundling home, where a detective visited with questions similar to Vicki’s. The detective? Wilber Strake, the same man who works for Burke.

It’s the second and last appearance of Elizabeth Wilson, who plays Mrs. Hopewell. So what? So, she’s an amazing, Tony-winning actress; just a few years later, she was in David Rabe’s STICKS AND BONES (1972). What else? A favorite actress of Mike Nichols’, who directed her on Broadway and in a number of his films, including THE GRADUATE. That not enough? She was in PICNIC and QUIZ SHOW… along with THE GRADUATE, that makes three Best Picture Oscar nominees! So what? Yeah, what about appearing in a marvelous Hitchcock movie… NOTORIOUS? Or THE BIRDS? Or Rod Serling’s pre-TWILIGHT ZONE drama, PATTERNS? Or studying under Sanford Meisner, one of the great Stanislavski-inspired American acting instructors? Or getting an early role at the Barter Theater with Ernest Borgnine? Or even acting in the 1991 ADDAMS FAMILY? Yeah, that one mattered to you? There. I’m glad something satisfies you. Here I am, slaving over a hot column, and Hitchcock doesn’t matter but a crappy Barry Sonnenfeld movie works? Too bad she wasn’t in WILD WILD WEST! And you know, ADDAMS FAMILY really bit. Raul Julia. Just because he’s dead doesn’t mean I have to say he’s better than John Astin. This isn’t a charity. And Uncle Fester is an imposter for most of the film. Stick a light bulb in THAT and see if it lights up. Jeez. And no Vic Mizzy music! You know what? No Vic Mizzy, no ADDAMS FAMILY. It’s science. But Elizabeth Wilson? Love her.

JUNE 22, 1967
Taped on this date: Episode 270

Carolyn rifles through Jason’s room, desperately. She finds a locked journal. She slices it open and begins reading as Jason catches her, and tells her she’ll regret being there. Jason says he would never write down a nefarious plan, although as husband, he’ll be exercising his power as man of the house. She must marry Buzz and leave “his house.” He’s been pushed around too long. The exit must be that night; he’s serious. She goes to drink at the Blue Whale where she puts on peppy music. The bar is empty, driving her to keep drinking. Joe arrives and wants to sober her up; she says she’s waiting for Buzz. Carolyn claims Liz wants to get tid of her, distraught. Suddenly, an idea occurs to her. She asks Joe to take her back to the wedding. There, Carolyn gathers a revolver. The judge arrives for the wedding, as well as Burke Devlin. Jason rhapsodizes on her beauty and how she was when she married Paul. He greets Liz warmly and with an Irish twinkle. Carolyn checks the gun in her purse. The judge has them stand in front of him. They join hands. Carolyn readies the gun as the judge asks if she will take Jason as her husband. She stumbles on the words, “I do.” Liz can’t. She breaks off. Looking at everyone in the room, she states, “I killed Paul Stoddard, and that man was my accomplice.” And then, you know, she's pointing at Jason. Just in case that wasn't clear.

Dennis Patrick. It all begins and ends with Dennis Patrick. He has only a few episodes left, and he makes them count, going from chilling Carolyn’s blood to tearing up over Liz’s beauty. This is the episode that I was waiting for when I was a kid. I knew the Barnabas arc was continuing, but either Liz and Jason were getting married or not. He was the real villain, and he’s warming up the big gun on his Death Star of Evil Love. And at a very special ceremony. Even Burke and Roger stand each other’s company. With nine cast members, this episode is DARK SHADOWS’ equivalent of INTOLERANCE. One of the largest casts they’d ever have, and for a truly auspicious event.

(Episode 259 airs on this date.)

June 22, 1970
Taped on this date: Episode 1047

Barnabas and Carolyn return to Loomis House, as he promises to send Angelique back to her grave. He goes to the hidden room to find the body gone. Julia comes home, reporting that Angelique became impossibly wan. They must find the girl; Stokes may have her. As Barnabas leaves, Carolyn asks if he’s done enough. He apologizes for Will’s death, but she’s unforgiving. Why should Will be dead instead of Quentin or Maggie. Her life is over. It wasn’t worth it. She’s lost in bereavement. What if she has a plan? Barnabas says that Will’s death is meaningless if Angelique walks. Carolyn won’t betray him. It doesn’t make any difference. Barnabas leaves as she collapses. Looking up, she sees brandy and quaffs a snifter. At Collinwood, Stokes speaks on the phone to Angelique about the importance of finding Roxanne. But they have extraordinary enemies. He goes into the night as Julia reports on Angelique’s ill health. The body walks in the woods, but moves away from Barnabas’ footsteps. After he passes, she emerges. At the cemetery, Stokes approaches the mausoleum, followed by a Barnabas from whom he hides. Stokes wonders what he knows as Barnabas opens the secret door. Barnabas lights candles within and sees that the room is cleaned up. Is this where she lives? He also sees that the dagger is gone. On the bed, he finds a cufflink on it that says ‘CN’ - Claude North! Back at Loomis House, Carolyn finishes her 15th brandy as Stokes arrives. He wanted to extend his condolences. She tries to dismiss him, but Stokes wants a brandy, first as he sings Will’s phrases. What influence did Barnabas have on his life? His biography of the 18th century Barnabas was his greatest success. Did the new Barnabas provide material for a new book? Why did a man of Will’s talent deliberate destroy himself. Carolyn says she doesn’t want to talk about it. Stokes continues that there must be someone else involved. She confirms his opinion. Barnabas enters before she can say whom. Stokes insinuates to Barnabas that he saw Barnabas at the cemetery. And Will suggested that Barnabas might have a girl somewhere. Barnabas sends him away. Alone with Carolyn, Barnabas tells her that his kindnesses toward Will were to manipulate her.
She goes running off to Collinwood, drunkenly in search of Will. At Loomis House, Barnabas sends Julia to find Carolyn, then go to Stokes. He will go to the mausoleum. Back at Collinwood, Carolyn mourns at the window from which Will jumped. Quentin appears behind her and expresses how sorry he is. She informs him that Alexis is Angelique, is dead-yet-walks, and will destroy them all. Quentin says he destroyed Angelique himself. She tells him his secret is safe and leaves. At the mausoleum secret room, Barnabas waits. Roxanne appears, but moves away quickly. He finds her sitting at a gravestone. For whom? Claude North, d. 1866.

Because she did a lot of suffering, looking forlorn, singing “I Wanna Dance with You,” and not playing a monster, it’s easy to overlook the truly dedicated acting of Nancy Barrett. When she really reaches, with a beautiful script to support her, Nancy delivers some of the best acting on the show. In fact, in those moments, it stops feeling like acting. See for yourself. Episode 1047. Joe Bob says check it out.

(Episode 1041 airs on this date.)

Wacky Wally tackles Dark Shadows

2016 is a major milestone for a lot of classic television shows ... both BATMAN and STAR TREK debuted 50 years ago, as did DARK SHADOWS. And CHS contributor Wally Wingert is ready to tackle them all! He recently shot episodes devoted to BATMAN and DARK SHADOWS, which are set for release on the web sometime soon. Here's what he had to say over at his blog.
"These are the most ambitious episodes we’ve shot so far. I wanted to make them a little more complex just to see how we’d handle the content as a crew, and see what our limits are. It went magnificently. Of course, the subject matter for the two shows was extremely close to my heart, so I wanted to make sure we did good shows. 2016 marks the 50th anniversary for 3 of my favorite TV shows of all time…”Batman,” “Dark Shadows” and “Star Trek.” We did the “Batman” and “Dark Shadows” episodes today, and we’ll do “Star Trek” and James Bond next."
You can track WACKY WALLY'S VINTAGE TOYS on Youtube. Meanwhile, watch some behind-the-scenes video of last weekend's production below. I've never tried embedding a video from Facebook before, so you might have to "like" his page to get permission to see it. Which you should totally do anyway.

Posted by Wacky Wally's Vintage Toys on Saturday, June 18, 2016
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