Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: AUGUST 24


Taped on this date in 1966: Episode 53

The morning after Carolyn and Vicki found -- and then lost -- the body at Widow’s Hill, David is unusually contentious and morose. He once again blames Vicki for preventing his mother to return, and then goes on to say that she is marked for death and that he has no plans on attending her funeral. As the day wears on, he continues his assault on happiness, pronouncing doom for Joe and Carolyn’s love and insisting that last night’s body truly was Bill Malloy. Elizabeth visits Matthew, seeking answers. He confesses that the body was Malloy’s and that he pushed it back into the sea.

After demonstrating how risky, insightful, and nimble they could be as storytellers with episode 50, Team Curtis grounds itself with safe, predictable surprises, cliffhangers, and general foreboding. David once again harps about his mother with the nonsensical assertion that Vicki is preventing her return. I feel both envious of and sorry for Diana Millay. They are clearly building Laura up with a mythic stature befitting her abilities. It’s hard to give a bad performance when the audience has been told how to regard you for months and months. At the same time, it’s a lot to live up to. One reason that Laura is so disappointing as a villain is that no actress short of Agnes Moorhead could step out of a shadow like that. But it’s a step in the right direction. As for the current story?  For viewers in-the-know, the promise of Laura and her powers makes the humdrummery of a simple murder seem like last week’s mashed potatoes. They end the Matthew Morgan storyline with such splash and panache that it feels as if the writers know that the show must change.

It’s been a good week for Dana Elcar across the timeline. He’s like Chekhov’s Gun. They mention Sheriff Patterson today; they’ll be showing him tomorrow. However, they won’t be shooting him the day after that. Dana was, I think, invulnerable to bullets, anyway.

Today is the birthday of Stephen Fry, who played Professor Stokes in my fevered imagination’s version of the Tim Burton film. Speaking of DARK SHADOWS movies, today is also the anniversary of the release of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS at the DeMille Theater in 1970. My review of HODS has been hailed by me as a highlight of TASTE THE BLOOD OF MONSTER SERIAL, although it has yet to appear on the website. Another reason to buy that great book.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Video: Everything Wrong With Dark Shadows

Ugh. Tim Burton's DARK SHADOWS. I know a few of you out there like this film, to which I say peace. Don't take anything I say about this movie (no matter how profane or vulgar) personally. Also, try not to get your feelings hurt by the new video from CinemaSins, "Everything Wrong With Dark Shadows." It's a little bit superficial, but manages to hit on a lot of the movie's more significant problems.

And for those you who who hate it? "Everything Wrong With Dark Shadows" will absolutely rub salt in the wounds. So, pour yourself a stiff drink and watch the video below ...

The Dark Shadows Daybook: AUGUST 23


Taped on this date: Episode 312

As Victoria reveals her sensitivities, a seemingly sympathetic Barnabas tells her exactly what she wants to hear until she is lulled into inattention and he has the opportunity to strike. Inevitably, Carolyn interrupts. The search for David continues, and with that comes the discussion of Sarah -- David was looking for her when he went missing. Joe concludes that the Old House is the only place they haven’t searched. Over Willie’s objections, Barnabas encourages Joe and Sheriff Patterson to thoroughly case the joint. Barnabas’ reasoning? Willie has already made them suspicious; this is the only way to calm the waters. Barnabas maintains his cool until the search party demands to rifle through the basement. Thinking quickly, Barnabas claims to have lost the key, and just as Joe is offering to repair any damage done by kicking the door down, they find that David may be alive elsewhere on the estate.

Funny episode. The modern sitcom has all but eschewed the laugh track in swankier circles. Now, we have only the reassurance of a show’s genre to tell us it’s a comedy. If I told you that this were a wryly observational sitcom, and had you no other knowledge, you might agree. First, Barnabas does every condescending trick in the book to distract Vicki with the illusion of his sensitivity. He does everything but roll his eyes as he agrees with everything she says while plotting to get into her veins. Later, as Joe and Patterson come to search the Old House, he and Willie turn into the Honeymooners as they passive-aggressively bicker about whose fault it is that they’re being searched at all!  Finally, just when we think Barnabas has pulled it off, Willie gets the last, nervous, inner-laugh when Joe just happens to remember the basement, and Barnabas stammers for an excuse to bar him, sounding as flustered as a prom date trying to rationalize the presence of a box of condoms in the back seat to his date’s father. Barnabas and Willie have one of greatest and most uniquely subtle comic partnerships in the history of television. Why does he put up with him? Wait, who’s the “he,” and who’s the “him”? Exactly. It could go for either. They need each other and, despite their better judgement, they love each other. Like all great romances. Platonic or otherwise.  

Hey, welcome back, Dana Elcar. It’s been 38 episodes, and the overheated housefrau of 1968 America and I have been jonesing for our Pattersonian fix. I wonder what the show would have been like if Dana had remained a fixture, appearing in every timeline? Anyway, where was Dana in his absence? Maybe shooting THE BOSTON STRANGLER. It would come out in October. Perhaps that’s cutting it too close. 1968 was fertile year for Elcar. He appeared on six different TV series that year, two feature films, and two different movies of the week. Take that, Tab Hunter.

In history, it’s the birthday of Keith Moon and Barbara Eden. They never shot a film together. At least, publically. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: AUGUST 22


1897. Quentin chains himself up for the transformation ahead, while arming Magda with a gun containing six silver bullets in case he escapes. Trask bursts in and deduces the truth about the werewolf’s identity from the clues given. Unfortunately, his plan to take Quentin to the police is stymied when he is reminded that Quentin has a document fingering him as his late wife’s murderer. He locks Quentin in a tiny cell where he may safely watch the change to the wolf form, but a spell by Angelique forces a hypnotized Trask to write a suicide note/confession stating that he is the wolf. Meanwhile, Petofi arrives with a special painting of Quentin, and he’s very excited to watch it during moonrise. Trask escapes the spell and eagerly awaits Quentin’s transformation.

831 is a glorious example to doubters that yes, things happen in DARK SHADOWS. More and more as the series goes on, but yes, things happen. The episode follows through on the past, and sets up even more. Trask is always good for “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” moments with his outrageous pride, and we’ll tune in tomorrow not so much to see what happens to Quentin as to see what will happen to Trask… this time. Petofi, also, is lovably impish as he reveals the painting, thus setting up what may be the most important piece of prop-related mythos since, well, Barnabas’ portrait. Still, since the transforming portrait only shows what happens to QC2 from the waist up, what happens from the waist down? Does that age and turn into the lower part of a werewolf? Only Beth knows for sure. And Amanda Harris. And Daphne. And some chorus girls from Sioux City.  And….

Again, to realize how lucky we are to be in the glorious age of 1897, consider what the episode takes for granted… werewolves, guns with silver bullets, hypnotism, mind control, magical paintings, and the wig on Thayer David. 1897 was determined to send the kids of 1969 back to school miserable. What a fantastic summer break to have to end. Let’s hope the buses got them home in time to keep watching.

It was a quiet day in history, although Ray Bradbury would celebrate his 49th birthday today. Bradburian characters and sentiments would pop up throughout the series, but I suspect that Quentin, that wistful Edwardian, is the most steeped in them. That he would face off against the show’s other most Bradburian figure, the devilish Petofi, so much like a merrier Mr. Dark, is richly apropos. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Batman and Robin return in November

Believe it or not, the Collinsport Historical Society was the first website to break the news about the upcoming BATMAN animated film starring Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar. I happened to be in the audience during a panel featuring West and Ward at Mad Monster Party in Charlotte, N.C., back in March, 2015. Assuming fans of DARK SHADOWS were probably also fans of the classic BATMAN series, it seemed like a nice fit. By chance, we were also the first website to deliver the news to folks not attending the convention. (I usually don't care about the dubious distinction of being "first," but holy crap ... it's Batman!)

Since then, there's been little news about the feature (which, at one point, was even rumored to be splitting into two movies.) Entertainment Weekly has just shared a trailer for the film, BATMAN: RETURN OF THE CAPED CRUSADERS, which will hit DVD and Blu-ray on Nov. 1. You can read more about the film HERE, and watch the trailer below.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: AUGUST 15


Aug. 16, 1969
Taped on this date: Episode 826

Magda is bound and gagged by a large, mute gypsy soldier. King Johnny appears, savoring his victory of finding her. They take her to the cemetery, the place where the trouble started. The place where Barnabas was released. Johnny reveals that he tortured and killed Szandor, who spilled the beans, in return for Magda’s theft of the hand. They take her to the secret room in the crypt where she is to stand trial. It’s gypsy justice! They go inside and Johnny announces that her jury will be comprised of dead murderers, conjured by him in an elaborate ceremony. They are all she deserves. As he summons them, the gypsies appear out of thin air and take their places. He introduces her as the thief of Petofi’s hand… and to use on an outsider. The second charge? The murder of Julianka! The third charge? The death of the child (as the result of Julianka’s curse). Finally, the last charge. When he came looking for the hand, she defrauded him with a false hand. He tries to close the case, but she asks for a gypsy witness. He conjures the dead Szandor, in whom she entrusts her life. He appears, but she is forbidden from embracing him. They are only given the time of a burning candle. She tries to question him, but is constantly interrupted by King Johnny. Ultimately, as much as Magda was trying to help situations, she was always the cause of them. Johnny announces that her time is up as he blows out the candle. The case is closed, he intones. Szandor vanishes back to his grave, and the jury is asked if any believe she is innocent. They remain silent. The mute soldier, her judge, orders her to die. She asks how he will do it. Johnny announces that her method of death is a game called ‘hunt the weasel,’ and she is the weasel. He then frees her. If she hides effectively, she lives. When will it begin? She’ll have to learn. He tells her to run, and she does. He laughs maniacally after her. Inside the crypt, he orders the jury to play the game. The first to find her is sent away in a blaze of light with her gypsy power. She rejoices, but Johnny’s laughter cuts short her victory. But she can’t find the source of his voice. She runs once more. She finds herself back at the crypt. Two jurors appear, but because she doesn’t know how they died, she cannot banish them. They approach with arms outstretched. As they do, she commands both to return to death and they do. She begs Johnny to stop the game. He says the game ain’t over, and she runs once more. Once more Szandor appears to her. He wants to take her back with him. She says he belongs to the dead and tearfully banishes him from the earth. She is exhausted; Johnny approaches with his soldier and says that she has lost. The cliff of Widow’s Hill behind her, Johnny stalks Magda, forcing her toward the edge.

With a cast of nine, 826 is packed with both players and excitement. And yet, it has a strange intimacy; the only speaking parts are Johnny, Magada, and Szandor. Interesting to note that many of the gypsies should seem familiar. Henry Baker, who plays Istvan the mute soldier, can be seen as Jackal the Giant, towering over Jonathan Frid in Oliver Stone’s 1974 comedy, SEIZURE. Another, Joseph Della Sorte, was one of the “Buttons” that Joe Spinell witnesses about in THE GODFATHER PART II. (He was also on CAGNEY AND LACEY, a show with John Karlen.) Another gypsy, John LaMotta, also appeared on that show, as well as playing sweaty wife-beater model, Trevor Ochmonek, on NBC’s prequel to THE X-FILES. Of course, I’m referring to ALF. (Additionally, he was Jake LaMotta’s nephew.) Yet another gypsy, Victor Mohica, appeared in many of the same series as the others. I think they all appeared on that sophisticated comedy-of-manners, AIRWOLF. Norman Riggins, yet another gypsy, was a man of mystery. Know him by his subsequent appearance in THE ALIEN DEAD. As far as the final gypsy, Andreas, goes, we have feud on our hands. iMDB credits Joe Van Orden. But Craig Hamrick’s BARNABAS AND COMPANY, as well as THE DARK SHADOWS ALMANAC, cite the part as played by Ray Van Orden. Will any of us sleep? Joe only has one credit on iMDB, and it’s the episode. Nothing for a Ray van Orden. I can’t solve every mystery. I had a crush on Joan van Ark from KNOTS LANDING, if that helps.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: AUGUST 10

    Gentle Reader,
    Sometimes, a man has a long day. Like,“real long” to be scientific. And on those days, although Roger stays mad, and although Burke and Barnabas have the overrated conversation about squaring off with cards versus cutlasses (made wacky by the Herb Alpert-ian music in the background), you gotta say… “I’ll have a Big Montana, medium curly fries, and a Jamocha shake.”
    But you must also say,“If I chronicle but one episode of this, the greatest thing on TV not starring Benny Hill, which should it be? When we look at the vast expanse of Collins history, what moment is most crucial?”
    And you feel like a Kryptonian Elder in a mylar frock, and you… hey, what am I doing? I have to write about this or I’ll be up all night. 

Aug. 10, 1970
Taped on this date: Episode: 1079

Quentin, entranced by Daphne’s ghost beyond reason, follows her to her grave. Acting with all of the sad wisdom of a lovestruck teenager, he moves to embrace the ghost. Acting like an existential punchline from a Henny Youngman joke, she draws a blade to stab him in the back. When Quentin offers to put her spirit at peace, she puts the knife away and looks away. He’d do anything to put her at peace. After he says this, she vanishes. Quentin wants to help her, despite the blade she leaves behind on the ground. David visits Hallie and finds her in the antique dress she was to put into the attic. David is disturbed that he found clothes from the same period on his bed. She begs him to put them on, guilting him by saying he wants to make neither she nor Daphne happy. She storms off. Quentin enters Collinwood, and Julia reminds him that “the day of the picnic” was the second clue in Future Carolyn’s note. Quentin says that nothing happened, but Julia senses Gerard’s presence. Quentin says that they owe it to the spirits to try and perform an exorcism to put them at rest. Future Stokes almost lost his life in an exorcism of the house, but Quentin brims with braggadocio and insists on performing it that night. David and Hallie discuss the trouble she will be in. She claims to have walked to Gerard’s ship where she spied him kissing Daphne, both of whom grew angry at her voyeurism. David says it makes no sense. She now resists being called “Hallie.” When things grow shrill, the door squeals open and Daphne enters. Hallie apologizes to Daphne, offering to accept punishment.

But after a wordless communication, Hallie knows that Daphne forgives her. Hallie takes her hand and encourages David to take Daphne’s other. Downstairs, Julia paces. Quentin enters with divining rods. He says the ceremony is simple but may leave distress in the house when finished. He and Julia go outside, and Quentin begins his ceremony. Upstairs, David is reluctant to take Daphne’s hand, but Hallie tempts him that he will learn the truths of Gerard and his ship. Outside, Quentin continues a vaguely Christian-but-not-quite exorcism. The exorcism disturbs Daphne, who flees. Hallie is convinced that someone else is angry and will punish them. David insists that they are alone in the playroom. Hallie, however, screams and collapses. Outside, Quentin just keeps going. As he’s reaching a head, he suddenly stops, struggling with the phrase, “Cast thyselves back into the darkness from whence ye came.” He asks Julia to wait as he heads inside. In the foyer, he sees Daphne glaring at him with burning intent. Up in the playroom, Hallie comes to, and Hallie complains of her injured arm and wonders why she’s in the strange clothes. David is determined to learn who Gerad and Daphne are, and takes Hallie to find Julia. Before they can, Julia comes back in to ask Quentin what’s wrong. A semi-dazed Quentin says that he never thought there would be that reaction to the ceremony. He says that the spirits in the house mean no harm. Julia is incredulous, wondering why he stopped when he did. David and Hallie enter and report the injured arm. She sends them into the drawing room, telling Quentin that the spirits injured Hallie during the exorcism. Later, Hallie (with her arm in a sling) and David go to the playroom to hold a seance to answer their questions. David’s seen the grownups do it a lot of times. David prepares the table, lights a candle, and dims the lamp. David begins to summon the spirits. He asks for a sign and the strange, whirring drone of the spirits begins. He then hears his own voice repeat, “Let us live.”

As I wrote about in the MONSTER SERIAL essay on INSIDIOUS, horror exploits our paranoia of losing control. While some critics of this storyline may claim that the protagonists are behaving out-of-character, that is, of course, the point. Quentin, the most seasoned and cynical member of the ensemble is turned into a weak, lovestruck flunky for Gerard and Daphne. Think about that. We see this all through the eyes of Julia. Although she knows that one possible endpoint is in the midst of Quentin’s future madness, she (as do we) also know that Present Quentin is one of her toughest, most knowledgeable allies in the fight against Collinwood’s looming doom. Seeing him taken out and turned against her is disquieting enough. Seeing him so hopeless and languid in the process is even more disturbing because we know that he is rewarded by neither savage joy nor the release from fear. He’s doing it to please a woman we know will and can never truly be his. Gordon Russell, a stellar author, pushes our buttons and defies our expectations, all at once. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Come see how the vampires do it in Pennsylvania

Life doesn't present many opportunities to see HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS on the big screen. It offers even fewer to see its controversial sequel, NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, on anything larger than the TV set in your living room. Next month, though, a drive-in theater in Pennsylvania is planning to screen both films in celebration of the 50th anniversary of DARK SHADOWS.

From DS superfan Gene Caruso:
"This year marks the 10th Anniversary for Drive-In Super Monster-Rama and the 50th Anniversary for DARK SHADOWS. Monster-Rama is a two-day event which occurs annually every September and this year it will be screening great quality 35mm prints of both Dark DARK SHADOWS movies on Saturday, Sept. 10."
But wait! There's more! The original DARK SHADOWS movies will be followed by the Amicus feature THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD and AIP's THE BAT PEOPLE. Admission is $10 per person. Caruso says a few other DARK SHADOWS surprises are also planned for the event, as well a raffle offering items from both films signed by members of each cast. Creepy Classics will be on hand selling DVDs, magazines and T-shirts.

"This is a great chance to relive those old drive-in days," Caruso said. "The Riverside has the best snack bar around and camping is available on site and hotels are close. Come early and enjoy the pre-show socializing, shopping and eating."

The screening is scheduled to take place rain or shine at the Riverside Drive-In Theatre, located on Route 66 N, Vandergrift, PA, 15690,  about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh. For further information and questions, visit the Drive-In Super Monster-Rama page on Facebook.
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