Tuesday, August 14, 2018

House of Dark Shadows ... in 3D!

Consider this a do-over, of sorts. A few weeks back I posted some faux sterographic images of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, animated gifs consisting of screenshots designed to create the illusion of depth. Since then, I've been tinkering with red and blue anaglyph 3D images based on the original television series. Given the "soft" nature of the videotape used by the series, it's been a real challenge to make those 3D images look like anything other than a hot mess. For every image you've seen there were 3-4 others that didn't work on any level. HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, shot with film and recently remastered by MGM, has none of those image problems. The film's hit-to-miss ratio has been much better, giving me a significantly bigger haul. Rather than dole these out over the course of several weeks, I'm sharing the entire batch in a single post. Once again, you'll need a pair of red/blue 3D glasses to make these images work. Below are links to all six (!) reels I created collecting 48 3D images, posted over at "Blood Drive," the CHS Tumblr feed. I've waived the usual View-master framing on these images because I couldn't stand the idea of cropping them.

REEL 1    REEL 2    REEL 3

REEL 4    REEL 5    REEL 6

Monday, August 13, 2018

The "lost" Dark Shadows View-Master reels

DARK SHADOWS peaked in popularity in 1969, reaching approximately 8.4 million homes every day. Unsurprisingly, it was also the year the series produced the most merchandise. The companies that invested in licenses for the series in 1968 finally started to get their wares to the shelves, with surprisingly mixed results. Gold Key released just a single issue of its DARK SHADOWS comic in 1968, with more than a year passing before a second was published. More trading cards, posters, records and anything else that could bear a trademark stamp was produced, among them a set of 3D View-Master reels from General Aniline & Film Corporation. The images in the series were captured the year before during "The Dream Curse" storyline and did not feature 1969's breakout star David Selby.

For reasons that GAF probably doesn't even remember, a second series of View-Master reels was never produced, robbing us of the chance to see Quentin Collins in 3D. The Collinsport Historical Society is doing its part to fill that void ... to a certain extent. View-Master reels traditionally feature seven stereoscopic images per reel, with three reels packaged in each set. Below are seven 3D images representing a second "lost" reel from DARK SHADOWS. You'll need a pair of red/blue anaglyph 3D glasses to view them, but I suspect DARK SHADOWS fans are the sort to have those kinds of things laying around the house. I've struggled a bit with how best to present these images ... splitting them up between different posts feels messy, while dumping all 21 images under a single header doesn't feel like a solution, either. So, here's what I've done: All three "reels" have been shared to the CHS Tumblr account. Click on the reels below to view them!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Spend Christmas at Collinwood

Lyndhurst Mansion, the Tarrytown, N.Y. property that served as the fictional "Collinwood" in both HOUSE and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, will summon a few ghosts on the estate this Christmas. "Mr. Dickens Tells a Christmas Carol" recreates Charles Dickens’ own performances of the classic tale that brings the travails of Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim to life. Actor Mikel Von Brodbeck plays Charles Dickens, who uses the author's original script as he takes guests on a tour of the main floor of Lyndhurst where you will meet various spirits and characters that haunt the grounds.

The event takes place Dec. 14-30. Visit Showclix to purchase tickets to the event.

Now, if we can only convince them to host a live reading of the Big Finish audio "The Christmas Presance."

H/T to @willmckinley.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 8


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 300

At the Old House, Barnabas awakens and asks for Willie. Barnabas orders Willie to spy on Vicki and Burke as closely as possible. Is Barnabas afraid of losing her to Burke. Later, Julia reports to Barnabas that his cure is coming along. She accuses him of being in Vicki’s room. Barnabas admits to temptation, but nothing happened. Julia emphasizes that there must be no next time. He chafes at taking orders. Neither Julia nor he can afford the questions. He agrees to stay away from Vicki. Later in the garden, Burke reveals that he’s buying Seaview for Vicki, and then asks her to marry him. She loves him but is torn. She’d have to leave the Collins family. She needs time to think. Meanwhile, Willie sees all. He and Barnabas meet at the Old House, and he reports the proposal. Barnabas vows there will be no marriage. Devlin must die!

When we think of social issues on fantasy TV of the sixties, the conversation begins (excluding a few months of 1959) with TWILIGHT ZONE and ends with STAR TREK. DARK SHADOWS addresses political circumstances, too, but in the case of episode 300, it is with fear and the shackles of baffling tradition. In STAR TREK, differences are celebrated. In DARK SHADOWS, they are often (initially) seen as challenges to be hidden and overcome. If you examine DARK SHADOWS politically, it has moments that are shockingly conservative for genre television. However, DARK SHADOWS was not really genre television. I mean it. It was a soap opera aired in the late afternoon for housewives, designed to sell canned hams and pantyhose. That makes the subversive moments enjoyed by the show even craftier. Number 300 is not subversive, but it is sadly revealing of the era. There is a lot we take for granted now. Even I am bewildered by the 60’s attitude regarding Vicki and Burke. Really? Vicki’s marriage would necessitate her leaving her job at Collinwood? The assumption is that she’s immediately supposed to become a baby factory for Burke. For a show filled with strong women, is it all smoke and mirrors under this core ethos? Because it’s taken for granted. I’m sure women from the time would affirm that it’s an accurate portrait, and that makes the decision by several of the show’s actresses to remain child-free even more remarkable.

Just as significant is the conversation that Barnabas and Julia have about what life will be like when he’s a “normal” man with no secrets… someone who can “love like a normal man.” Okay. New York. The Sixties. The theatrical arts. Haven for confirmed bachelors. Wallace and I have written about homosexuality in and around DARK SHADOWS before in separate essays. Secret identities. Living in various closets. The family can never know. Tortured yet compulsed. If you see their real self, you’re horrified. Vampirism is a razor-pointed metaphor for the pitfalls and power of closeted gay life in the 1960’s. Metaphorically, the secret of the Collinses isn’t that some of them are monsters….

On this day in 1967, the Association of South East Asian Nations was formed.

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 3


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1076

During the lunar eclipse, the children find the playroom, and Hallie seems possessed by a woman from an earlier time. She doesn’t remember this later, but Daphne’s ghost reappears to tempt her with a Regency-era dress. Meanwhile, a loveless Quentin spots Daphne’s grave, and a dream appearance by her becomes reality when lilacs mysteriously appear in the drawing room.

On the podcast in which Wallace, Will McKinley, and I discussed NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, we agreed that the film was more of an art film than a horror movie. If that motif has a beginning for the franchise, it’s right around here. It’s tough to write about the Ragnaraok sequence without meditating on both its difference from the rest of the franchise and its representation of it. In fact, it’s becoming an annual tradition at the Daybook. It needs advocates, and those are tough to find. The reasons? As 1076 shows us, it’s not fun. It’s vaguely piebald when it comes to characters who’ve been with the program from the beginning. Barnabas and Julia seem more desperate and less certain than ever. Quentin is joyless and joylessly untrustworthy. Visually, the fashions and hair make it stand out wildly from what we’re used to from most of the show. Most importantly, it’s a downer. Other storylines are about averting probable doom. In this, it’s about witnessing a protracted inevitability. The minute we see characters in period costumes and know that at least two time portals exist within the house, it’s clear this is headed to 1840. Do we really have to see Maggie become diseased and insane and bedridden to make that happen?  Soaps thrive on cliffhangers. Ragnaraok is a checklist of bad things we know will happen.

The trick to this sequence is adjusting expectations. This is not Lyndon Johnson’s DARK SHADOWS; it’s Richard Nixon’s. And that’s okay. Before, the series was about who and what. Who was behind the door? What is Barnabas going to do next? Now, it’s more a show about when and how. Gerard is a prime sadist, and like a moodier Petofi, attacks his opponents’ weaknesses with Seraut-like precision. Hallie is shuffled between homes, and his approach is to show her an era in which she has meaning waiting for her. David, growing up too suddenly and too fast, enjoys a playroom and alternate identity that literally turns back -- way back -- the clock. And Quentin gets a terrible, manipulative girlfriend. There’s a reason that Commander Riker turned away Q’s powers on TNG and Dr. Chidi Anagonye rejected Michael’s “opposite tortures” on THE GOOD PLACE. As anyone who falls into the gifting reciprocity trap can tell you, it’s never good.

Yes, there is some mystery and suspense, if fatalistic. This sequence is as much a chance to actually “be” with the characters, and the combative David/Hallie sequences are offset by the ones with Quentin and Julia. Where do the latter go to think? Of course, Quentin would go to a cemetery, and what’s that like for him, even under normal circumstances? He remembers so many of the years on both ends of these lives. And, of course he would flirt with Julia. For Quentin, she’s an unthinkably younger woman. When Quentin muses about needing a woman, Julia says he wants a drinking partner. Perhaps she’s missing a drinking partner and hinting for one, and he’s hinting as well. Of course, he puts down his glass, she drops the subject, and everyone remains good, sober friends. No wonder this doesn’t feel like traditional DARK SHADOWS.

Is this padding? You bet. Is it padding with great characters and touching, revealing moments? Right again, and it’s worth it for that.

This episode hit the airwaves Aug.10 , 1970.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

First look at David Selby in CASTLE ROCK

I"ve been waiting for this for a while, but Hulu has finally released a trailer for its Stephen King series CASTLE ROCK featuring David Selby. It was announced many, many months ago that Selby, already a vteeran of Maine's horror landscape courtesy of DARK SHADOWS, would be appearing on the show. Thanks to producer J.J. Abrams' tendancy to "mystery box" pretty much everything, little more was known ... in fact, we still don't know who Selby is playing, but this trailer suggests his character is not a happy camper. You can catch him in the trailer below at around the 35 seconds mark.

The fourth episode of CASTLE ROCK, titled "The Box," is set to air today on Hulu. Here's the official series summary for those of you just tuning in:
"A psychological-horror series set in the Stephen King multiverse, Castle Rock combines the mythological scale and intimate character storytelling of King’s best-loved works, weaving an epic saga of darkness and light, played out on a few square miles of Maine woodland. The fictional Maine town of Castle Rock has figured prominently in King’s literary career: Cujo, The Dark Half, IT and Needful Things, as well as novella The Body and numerous short stories such as Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption are either set there or contain references to Castle Rock. Castle Rock is an original suspense/thriller — a first-of-its-kind reimagining that explores the themes and worlds uniting the entire King canon, while brushing up against some of his most iconic and beloved stories."

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: July 31


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 815

Petofi and his hand are reunited, and Barnabas’ demands that he help Quentin are met with ambiguous responses. Petofi removes Barnabas’ ability to teleport and then shows him what he thinks is the vampire’s impending death. Instead, he sees David die in 1969. Petofi learns that he cannot show a death he did not cause. Petofi then goes to Magda, who sees the Hand and follows his command to be shown Barnabas’ coffin. There, he lays on the Hand and has Aristede chain the coffin.

Absolute evil provides too much fun to be all that bad, all the time. Christopher Pennock, one of the heroes of this column, once remarked that John Yaeger was rooted in the joy and freedom of pure evil. And let’s draw the line between evil and meanness. For our purposes, evil is intense self-interest to the exclusion of the needs of others. Cruelty is about causing harm to others for the sake of pleasure. Of course, “pure” is probably a bad word to use. These things aren’t scientific absolutes. (Which is a polite way of telling people with counterexamples what they can do with them.) Count Petofi is an interesting case. Much is made of his evil, and St. Thayer David rolls his eyes and cackles like he’s trying to show Plato’s Ideal a thing or two about how you really play a heavy. However, his punishment of others only comes when they get in his way. Just because he’s theatrical about it doesn’t mean that he’s deviating from his purpose: to get them to stop getting in his way. Ultimately, his desires make sense. He wants his hand back. (You know, so he won’t die.) He wants to escape an organized manhunt via extremely thorough means. He wants to ensure that those who threaten him leave him alone. Permanently. Can’t fault him for that. Along the way, like a dark Dr. Lao, he usually imparts some kind of lesson or reveals some kind of profound or lasting truth. He’s at least 150 years old, and so he views wants, needs, and consequences differently. I’m not saying that I would mind crossing the guy, because I intensely would. But unlike Angelique, he’s not cruel. His techniques have a more pedagogical bent, “Here, I made my point by taking away your powers of teleporting. Imagine what else I could do? Now, sit down and have some champagne whilst we talk about what brought us together.”

From the teaser for the episode onward, Petofi owns 815, both displaying his powers on Barnabas with surgical relish and then being hoisted by his ample petard when Barnabas teaches him a thing or two about gazing into the future. As arguably the most powerful character on the show, short of Diabolos, Judah Zachary, and Lela Swift, he needs regular humblings. First, they keep the program from lasting ten minutes. Secondly, they get him good and steamed, which is when great things tend to happen. He has surprisingly little ego -- after a tantrum or two -- about learning new things, even his own limits. DARK SHADOWS has introduced its first real supervillain since Nicholas Blair, and he’s arguably more powerful because of his unallegiant nature. Barnabas is intermittent as a presence now, and his almost-guest appearance requires a great show. The teleportation shuffle is just that, and add to it the wonderfully ambiguous loss and victory of seeing David’s death mixed with the knowledge that Petofi’s powers to display tomorrow are extremely limited. Does Petofi have the last laugh? It started about a drama regarding a will and has become the pilot for a never-made DEADLANDS tv series. Of course he does. Magda gets knocked down a cribbage board worth of pegs and Barnabas has the Hand placed on him in his soon-to-be-chained coffin. We’re off to the races.

This episode hit the airwaves Aug. 8, 1969.

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: July 30


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 557

Adam refuses to divulge Vicki’s location to Barnabas, who is equally worried about Tom Jennings and the threat of multiple vampires in Collinsport. Jeff Clark then berates him for his inability to help, forcing Barnabas to follow a hunch and go to Stokes. The professor, under a deadline from Howard Hughes and Hugh Hefner, is none to pleased to have his business of correcting ancient Tibetan love making manuals interrupted, but receives Barnabas, anyway. Stokes is shocked at the kidnapping and agrees to help find Vicki, but refuses to reveal Adam’s location. Then Adam tells Stokes that he might just kill to teach ‘em all a lesson. So, there.

Professor Eliot Stokes gains fascinating dimension in 557. Normally, jovial and helpful, we see his protectiveness of Adam reveal an irascible and sternly just man within. Anton LaVey extolled “responsibility to the responsible,” and there are few other places where Barnabas gets both barrels of that. Stokes is perhaps the most inherently good man in Collinsport since his fellow freemason, Bill Malloy, took his last diving lesson. (Ironically, at the hands of Thayer David’s first character.) Stokes’ prime reason for siding with Adam and not Barnabas? The former vampire and Julia have withheld vital information for months. Yes, they have necessary trust issues, but this is Stokes we’re talking about. Adam may be a wildly unpredictable man-beast, capable of leveling Collinsport to sand before breakfast, but he’s also (until later in the episode) a prime graduate of Rousseau’s Finishing School for Noble Savages. He’s nursed greedily on the milk of morality that spurts abundantly from the ripe and straining teat of of Eliot Stokes’ moral tutelage. It takes a Nicholas Blair -- so often Stokes’ foil -- to teach him the less savory lessons in humanity. Stokes knows that there’s only so much danger in which Adam can find himself… Victoria Winters is another matter.

It’s one of the loudest episodes since episode 46, in which men with beards (of one kind or another) spend most of it shouting in Roger’s office. It may also be the shoutin’est until Keith Prentice joins the cast and acts as if he thinks the mic is broken, and thus he must raise his voice so that even viewers in Fresno can hear every word. It’s a tough day for Barnabas. He’s a man used to operational fiction and only wants some peace and quiet. Adam yells at him. Julia yells at him. Just when he’s ready to leave, Jeff Clark is hanging out at the door, waiting to yell at him. Then, Stokes yells at him. (Then, Adam yells at Stokes.) Geez, ma, stop givin’ me the business! No wonder he wants to visit Tom Jennings in the hospital. All Tom would do is hiss. And no wonder poor Jonathan Frid has unusually pointed trouble with his lines. He’s really lost at sea in 557, but as I always say, I’d forget my lines, too, under such circumstances. For me, those moments don’t rob the show of its realism, they heighten them. It’s especially bad for him because the only token he has of Vicki’s safety is that cheap ring Jeff probably got on sale from Wal-Mart (founded about five years before, thank you).

The Adam storyline gets a lot of guff, but it probably contains DARK SHADOWS’ most philosophical episodes. Barnabas, Jeb, and Quentin all deal with intense alienation, with Quentin’s starting before his curse. Jeb doesn’t care until the end of his storyline, but Adam is born with it. At least the other three can pass, but Adam’s scars send people running. And that was always a bit harsh of them. The makeup department had a responsibility that Jack Pierce dodged; they had to make Adam both a monster and a potential soap sex-symbol. It’s a clever trick of perception because the audience sees him as (very) ruggedly handsome while the characters view him as a patchwork golem. On a very realistic note, audiences of the time were used to Vietnam vets coming home in far worse condition, but that was a war that blessedly never reached Collinsport. Again, Robert Rodan is an unsung hero of an actor, delivering his existential angst with passion and truth. It’s a shame that his identification with an eventually unpopular character was probably a factor in Rodan not being recycled by Dan Curtis, despite being the dark-haired, blue-eyed “type” that typified the ruggedly handsome, DS norm (such as Selby, Lacy, Crothers, George, Ryan, Prentice, Storm, Bain, etc.)

Yes, 557 is loud, how can anyone contemplating the solitude of existence be heard without making some noise?

This episode hit the airwaves Aug. 13, 1968.
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