Thursday, February 4, 2016

See You 'Round (Like a Record)

An interesting relic from the original production of DARK SHADOWS is up for auction on Ebay: A 33 1/3 record with music by composer Robert Cobert used during the show's 1840 storyline. This isn't a commercial release sold in stores, but a disc used during the actual production of the series to layer music into scenes.

There are four tracks on the record, slugged 316, 317, 318 and 319 on the paper sleeve. If these numbers correspond to the those accompanying "The Complete Dark Shadows Soundtrack Music Collection" compact disc release from 2006, then these are the selections you'll find on the album:

  • Poignant Bridge
  • Poignant Curtain
  • Cue #2 (J & H) Variation With Xylophone
  • Tremolo - Woodwinds To Sting

These tracks can be found on Disc 4 of the 2006 CD release.

The seller mentions in the item description that it was purchased in 1999 at that year's Dark Shadows Festival.

Via: Ebay 


Join Robert Dick as he interviews Big Finish producers David Darlington and Joseph Lidster and writer Rob Morris. They look back at the BBC Audio Award short-listed BLOODLUST and the 2015 season of Dramatic Readings, and also look forward to the 50th Anniversary audio releases. Davy and Joe reveal the title of the standalone special as well as dropping a few details and teases regarding that and BLOODLINE.

You can listen to the entire episode streaming below, or click on the arrow to download it as an MP3.

And don't forget to subscribe to the CHS Podcast on iTunes HERE.

Friday, January 29, 2016


UPDATE: Amazon has "Dark Shadows: Heiress of Collinwood" scheduled for release Nov. 8, 2016, and has shared an early draft of the cover. At least, I hope it's an early draft, because this artwork is dull as dishwater.

Still, I'm pretty excited about this book.

It is now available for pre-order HERE.


Lara Parker's next novel, "Dark Shadows: Heiress of Collinwood," now has an official page at Macmillan Publishers. It also has a tentative release date of November, 2016. This is the first word we've heard about the book from the publisher since Parker announced the title in December.


Vintage DARK SHADOWS comic art up for auction

I've mentioned before how much I love the work of George Wilson, the artists that created many of the covers for Gold Key's DARK SHADOWS comics during the 1960s and '70s. (Seriously, LOOK AT THIS.) A few pieces of his original art are now available at Heritage Auctions, among them his painting for issue #20, first published in June, 1973. If I had to guess what's happening in the image, I'd say that Quentin Collins has invented a game called "Mad Science Tee Ball," and Barnabas is upset that he wasn't asked to play.

There's a metric ton (I've weighed it*) of Wilson's art currently available at Heritage Auctions, included cover art for issues of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, STAR TREK and BORIS KARLOFF: TALES OF MYSTERY. You can find them HERE.

(*No, I didn't.)

Via: Heritage Auctions

The 10 Scariest Episodes of Dark Shadows

Welcome to The Creep Factor, a feature designed to scientifically determine which episodes of DARK SHADOWS are the scariest. The results of this evaluation were arrived at through a process involving the I Ching, no fewer than three séances and several experimental blood transfusions. They are presented in no particular order. Also .... SPOILER ALERT!

Knife to Meet You

Episode 509, June 7, 1968

Adam, believed dead after leaping off Widows’ Hill, arrives at the home of Sam Evans. Collinsport’s version of the Frankenstein Monster is wounded, a little pissed off at the world and brandishing a kitchen knife. Evans, who lost his sight in a previous episode, has no idea how close he’s standing to a violent death. The image above is almost Hitchcockian in its composition, with the knife both masking and replacing Adam’s eyes.

I've got a certain fondness for Adam, a character I didn't much care for the first time I watched the series. When I gave it another viewing a few years ago I was really taken with Robert Rodan's performance and realized it was the cheesy, repetitive "Dream Curse" part of this storyline that I didn't like. Much of Adam's story is about a battle for his soul between the father figures of Nicholas Blair and Timothy Stokes, who have very differing ideas on what it means to be a man. In that regard DARK SHADOWS brought something quite new to the Frankenstein story.

It's hard work following in the footsteps of Boris Karloff (something Robert De Niro found out the hard way) but Rodan created an interesting, tortured character that was as dangerous as he was sympathetic. It’s a shame that he was hustled out of the original DARK SHADOWS television show without fanfare.

This episode benefits from being a Kinescope salvage, which stands in here for the lost color masters. Although DARK SHADOWS learned to use color in some beautiful ways, there's a spookiness to the Kinescope tapes that I love.

Apocalypse at Collinwood

Episode 1,109, Sept. 24, 1970

Few television shows ever pushed their characters harder than DARK SHADOWS. In episode 1,109 things take a turn for the apocalyptic when the ghost of Gerard Stiles murders David and Hallie. And the death of two children was just the beginning of the end of Collinwood.  By the end of the episode, the mansion has been demolished by a band of zombie pirates and the family exiled from its home. As the mob storms the crumbling, burning building Julia discovers the stairway through time has re-appeared ... but it arrives too late to save Barnabas Collins. Julia has to travel back to the past and attempt to change history by subverting the tragedies that lead to the 1970 (and 1995!) haunting of Collinwood.

Funhouse of Madness 

Episodes 919/921, Jan. 5, 1970

Charles Delaware Tate was not among anyone’s favorite DARK SHADOWS characters. While his storyline brought a fun Rod Serling/Jerome Bixby/Richard Matheson element to the 1897 arc, Roger Davis was more than a little miscast as the temperamental artist type.

But when DARK SHADOWS returned to the "present" Tate's character became a lot more interesting. Suspecting that the reclusive Harrison Monroe is really the elderly Tate, Chris Jennings seeks out his help. Almost a century before, Tate had created a painting of Quentin Collins, a portrait that absorbed all of Quentin's ailments and injuries (including his pesky werewolf curse). Hoping that Monroe is the reportedly deceased Charles Delaware Tate, he finds the artist living in a house that would frighten a James Bond villain.

Monroe, who looks to the audience exactly like Tate in 1897, keeps Chris and Quentin at a distance as he taunts them from behind a shadowed desk. Quentin eventually loses his temper and hurls a vase toward Monroe, whose head topples from his body and rolls to Jennings' feet.

Jennings picks up the head and discovers it's an absurdly lifelike mannequin head. Adding to the creep factor is a quick cut to Jenning's "discovery," which shows actor Roger Davis looking back at him with glassy, doll-like eyes.

I didn't much like Charles Delaware Tate's arrival to Collinwood, but I loved his exit. It was also the last role Roger Davis played on the series, which might have been for the best. Davis only appeared in 128 episodes of the series but played four (possibly even five) characters during his brief stint. The decision to re-cast him so frequently created a few tedious storytelling issues ("You look just like so-and-so!") It was time for a break.

The Lonesome Death of Dr. Woodard 

Episode 341, Oct. 16, 1967

While relatively bloodless, the murder of Dr. Woodard is the first genuinely cruel scene in DARK SHADOWS. It lacks the gore and violence seen in later episodes, but the static nature of the camerawork adds a certain “snuff film” panache to the events.

After learning that Dr. Woodard has discovered he is a vampire, Barnabas Collins begins planning to do away with his new enemy. Rather than bloody on his own hands, Barnabas gives Julia Hoffman two alternatives: she can murder her friend and ensure Woodard's death is relatively painless, or Barnabas can deal with the problem and make sure things resolve themselves in a particularly painful manner.

Hoffman arrives as Woodard's office with a hypodermic needle and a narcotic that will make it appear the doctor died of a heart attack. When it becomes obvious that she can’t follow through with the plan, Barnabas arrives and begins … aggressive negotiations.

They try to reason with Barnabas, but Woodard is unable to promise that he will stand aside and let the vampire continue to use the women of Collinsport like so much energy drink. He bolts for the door, but Barnabas stabs him with the needle before he can escape.

It's not the best written scene in the series, nor is it the most overtly scary. But its cavalier attitude toward life and death makes it one of the more unsettling moments in DARK SHADOWS. It also stands in stark contrast to the sympathetic, often heroic take on Barnabas Collins in later years.

The Head of Judah Zachary 

Episode 1,117, Oct. 6, 1970

In 1840 Desmond Collins returns from a trip to the Far East with a gift for his cousin Quentin ... a human head in a glass case! While it might seem like an odd idea for a gift, the origin of the head is even stranger: It belonged to Judah Zachary, a warlock and all-around nasty fellow executed in Maine during the 17th century. Like Rasputin, Zachary proved to be very difficult to kill. He was ultimately decapitated and his head shipped off to the farthest corners of the earth.

If having a prop of a severed head decorating the sets of a television show isn't unnerving enough, DARK SHADOWS revealed that Zachary's head was still sentient by having it open its eyes. While this storyline had its problems (such as revealing Angelique has been alive somehow since the 17th century?!) DARK SHADOWS took the opportunity to ramp up its horror elements with the invention of the Zachary character.

Adam's Ghosts

Episode 544, July 25, 1968

In an effort to find Adam, warlock/badass Nicholas Blair summons the ghosts of the different men used by Dr. Eric Lang to create the monster. Two of them appear outside Collinwood missing the parts unwillingly donated to Lang's experiment and direct Blair toward Adam's location.
It's one of the goriest scenes in DARK SHADOWS, which might have been an unavoidable hallmark of the Adam storyline.

It's not the blood and suggested violence that makes the scene disturbing. Instead, it raises a few unanswered questions about the nature of the show's latest ambiguous monster, chief among them "Did Adam have a soul?" Diabolos and has lackeys clearly believed he did not, which was a major factor in their plan to create a rival to humanity that had no ties to divinity. But the driving force behind this arc was the loss of Adam's own innocence, which was gradually eroded by Barnabas Collins, Nicholas Blair, Eve and just about everybody else he came into contact with. If he never had a soul, then this conflict was a little beside the point.

Reach Out and Touch Someone

Episode 639, Dec. 5, 1968

Not all of DARK SHADOWS' spookiest moments involved blood, fangs and murder. Many of them were unsupported by props, make-up or visual effects and were the product of pure acting. While episode 639 features an appearance by a werewolf, it’s actually best remembered for a scene involving nothing more than children playing with an antique telephone.

David and Amy are exploring the west wing of Collinwood when they discover an old telephone among the dusty items. Amy suggests they use the phone to pretend to call the people who used to live in the room, which isn’t creepy at all. She begins a conversation that is far too engaging to be the work of imagination and tells David a ghost is speaking to her through the ear piece. Probably worried that someone is horning in on his shtick, David scoffs at her claims. When he takes the receiver he finds the line dead but, after a few seconds of silence, he gets the surprise of his life.
The scene's structure is pure drama and relies almost entirely on the acting skills of its two young actors. We never hear the voices on the other end of the line and it makes the scene all the more eerie. In fact, the voice of the character on the other end, Quentin Collins, wasn't heard until several months later.

That’s Just Gross

Episodes 933/934, Jan. 21-22, 1970

Paul Stoddard was one of the most discussed characters of DARK SHADOWS. His mysterious disappearance played a role in several of the show’s early years and was the driving force in Elizabeth’s decision to become a home-bound recluse. When it was revealed that Stoddard was not dead and buried in the basement of Collinwood (as Elizabeth had long believed) it was just a matter of time before he was introduced to the contemporary storyline.

Stoddard, as it turns out, had become associated with the Leviathan cult, a secretive apocalypse cult looking to bring its own anti-messiah to life in Collinsport. When it looked like Stoddard was having a change of heart about the plan, the cult’s bastard creation — Jeb Hawkes  — took matters into his own hands and killed him.

Jeb’s  “true form” was never shown on screen. It’s easy to dismiss this decision as a budgetary issue, but the verbal descriptions of his real appearance suggest he was too disturbing to show on television. He/it leaves a trail of slime in its wake, as well as a foul stench. Anyone familiar with the work of H.P. Lovecraft (one of the inspirations for the story) pretty much knows what Hawkes looks like … and it ain’t pretty. It’s safe to say that any costume or special effect created for the show would have paled in comparison to the monster created in the imaginations of its audience.

Barnabas attacks Carolyn 

Episode 351, Oct. 30. 1967

Barnabas Collins started life on DARK SHADOWS as a petulant psychopath, a guy in the throes of some very serious problems that he’s often unwilling to confront. This episode really brings those flaws into focus: His roving eye has fallen on waitress Maggie Evans, a relationship he wants to pursue without his problematic vampire curse. He coerces Julia Hoffman into accelerating the treatments so that he can woo the Evans during the daylight hours, but things don’t go as he’d hoped. Instead of curing his condition, his body begins to show the full affects of his 200-years of age.
Believing that blood will return him to his “normal” state, he attacks his cousin, Carolyn Stoddard. As he attacks  her, he promises he’d never drink from “his own flesh and blood,” illustrating just how delusional he’d become. During this story arc Barnabas didn't exactly a strangle hold on reality, spending most of his nights playing dress up games with a brainwashed hostage. While it was unclear if he really believed Maggie was the reincarnation of Josette, his attack on Carolyn shows he was in deep, deep denial when it came to his own actions.

Joe Haskell Goes Crazy

Episode 613, Oct. 30, 1968

DARK SHADOWS was a television show about moral ambiguity, but there were a handful of characters that lacked any shades of gray. Among them was Joe Haskell, an all-around Good Guy who was probably captain of the Collinsport High School football team. He was the town’s answer to Captain America.

Until Angelique hit town, that is.

Turned into a vampire by the Nicholas Blair, Angelique had become one of the warlock’s unwilling lackeys. He used Angelique to split up Joe and Maggie, ordering the witch/vampire to introduce a little infidelity into their relationship. Things go much worse than planned: Joe is unable to process the many levels of betrayal around him and goes insane. The character’s last hurrah involves trying to strangle a sleeping Barnabas Collins with a length of curtain cord. The last we see of him, he’s being dragged to an asylum ... proof again that nice guys finish last in Collinsport.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Abe Vigoda: 1921-2016

ABC News is reporting that eternally geriatric actor Abe Vigoda has died at the age of 94.

I expect a lot of news outlets will be very cautious about reporting his death. People Magazine famously reported his demise back on 1982, an error that has since turned into one of the weirdest comedic touchstones in America. There's even a website devoted exclusively to reporting the actor's status: It's not the most tasteful gag in the world, but there it is.

Vigoda's big break came in 1972 when he landed the role of "Sal Tessio" in THE GODFATHER, later joining the cast of BARNEY MILLER as the cantankerous Det. Phil Fish (a role that carried over to a short-lived spinoff in 1977, simply titled FISH.)

DARK SHADOWS fans remember Vigoda from two brief roles on the series. In 1969, he appeared in two episodes as jeweler "Ezra Braithwaite." Vigoda returned to the show near the end of 1970 as "Otis Greene." Both characters met quick deaths at the hands of supernatural entities.

Source: ABC News

Ridiculous, amazing DARK SHADOWS book covers from Germany

DARK SHADOWS has had several lives outside of the original 1966-1971 television series. Even as the show was charting new (and frequently contradictory) timelines, its peripheral feature films, comic books, comic strips, novels and audio dramas adopted policies of charting their own unique narratives. It's possible to be a longtime fan of DARK SHADOWS without ever having seen the original television show.

For a lot of counties, watching the TV series was never an option. DARK SHADOWS has always been an unwieldy beast, and few markets were willing (or able) to make room in their schedules for 150 minutes of programming each week for the daily serial. But that didn't stop Barnabas Collins from eventually going globe hopping.

In Germany, DARK SHADOWS found a second life in pulp magazines. The Paperback Library published 32 DARK SHADOWS novels written by Marilyn Ross, some of which were later recycled as content for German horror- and gothic-themed pulp digests.

The first book to be published in Germany was Ross's first DARK SHADOWS novel from 1967, re-titled "Der Witwenhügel" (which refers to "Widows Hill" located near Collinwood). The novel was reprinted as part of the Gaslicht series in 1973.

The next books in the series, "Victoria Winters" (“Keine Gnade für Victoria”), "Strangers at Collins House" (“Die Fremde im Collins-Haus”), and "The Mystery of Collinwood" (“Das Haus über der Todesklippe”) would be published out-of-order in Gaslicht,

The misadventures of Barnabas Collins, though, would find their way to the Vampir: Horror Roman series in 1977 and 1978, usually featuring cover art that looked like something from Marvel's TOMB OF DRACULA comics. Below is a sampling of covers from that series. Look carefully and you'll spot Arnold Schwarzenegger on the back cover of the first photo.

The final image in this post is from the Dämonen-Land series, which published its first issue in 1989.

(Note: Many of these images made their first appearance on this site back in 2012. I was unable to learn much about their origins at the time, though.)

"Barnabas Collins and the Mysterious Ghost."
"The Secret of Barnabas Collins" and "Barnabas Collins and the Mysterious Ghost."
"Barnabas, Quentin and the Avenging Ghost" and "Barnabas, Quentin and the Haunted Cave"
"Barnabas, Quentin and the Nightmare Assassin"and "The Peril of Barnabas Collins"
"The Phantom and Barnabas Collins" and "The Demon of Barnabas Collins"
"Barnabas Collins" and "The Foe of Barnabas Collins"
"Barnabas Collins"
"Barnabas Collins"

Monday, January 25, 2016

"A far superior name for a vampire," 1969

DARK SHADOWS is one of those rare, demographic-busting phenomena that comes along once in a generation. How many television shows can claim housewives, college students and monster kids as their fan base? It was a show followed with equal gusto by magazines like Tiger Beat, TV Guide and Famous Monsters of Filmland, which probably presented both challenges and opportunities for ABC's marketing department.

Below are scans (and a transcript) from a 1969 issue of CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN detailing the make-up process that transformed actor Jonathan Frid into Barnabas Collins. The feature seems like a little bit of a rush job ... the overall package suggests that the editors weren't yet sure if DARK SHADOWS was fully in their wheelhouse.

Castle of Frankenstein, #13
Spring, 1969

That 175-year-old Victorian villain, Barnabas Collins, of the afternoon soaper “Dark Shadows,” has been playing a vampire for over a year now, and the ladies love it.

Conducted in a serious “high camp” fashion, “Dark Shadows” is turning into a shrine for Barnabas, a tall, gaunt, sad and soulful character.

It’s a puzzling success story for Yale actor Jonathan Frid who has found himself acting on afternoon TV with two fangs that he pops into place before striking.

The name, Jonathan Frid, is enough to turn the head. It’s a far superior name for a vampire than Barnabas Collins, and if Frid develops his macabre talents, he might make the world of Bela Lugosi and Boris  Karloff.

Time Good 

The time is ripe for a first-class villain in show business. Neville Brand’s powerful leathered face frightened folks as Al Capone, but few others are around to strike a little old-fashioned terror into hearts. Frid looks as if he could play a cultivated monster, giving a good scare. He’s developing his talent in the afternoon before stepping up in class.

“We take Barnabas very seriously,” Frid admits. “The idea was to jazz up the show When I came in.”

The way Frid plays Collins in a polished, witty Victorian style, the viewers develop sympathy for the poor, sick man, rather than turn away in horror. Barnabas’ hangup concerns an old love, Josette, and he’s forever hopeful of finding her. He keeps trying to recreate Josette’s image in a modern girl. The way things are going, Barnabas’s search for Josette seems endless and the fans will put up with the wildest versions. Even director Lela Swift refuses to worry about story inconsistencies knowing the audience will justify the gaps.

“I play Barnabas as a human,” says Frid. “Then, anything do is heightened as a vampire.”

Yaleman Frid has been playing villains since college, as training for the 175-year-old blood lover. Character acting takes seasoning, and Frid didn’t impress Broadway scouts right off the bat in college productions. He hit the road, working in San Diego’s Shakespeare Festival’ touring Ray Milland in “Hostile Witness,” summering at Stratford, Conn.

The part of Collins was experimental and was only supposed to last three weeks. Frid admits to shaky early footing.

“I improved eventually, but at first things were very tenuous.”

Mail has changed the entire situation. Admirers claim he has more sex appeal than Bela Lugosi, and fan clubs are almost, vociferous in ardent-letters. There are also fans who write of other-world contacts.

One remembers meeting Frid back in 1233.

Balmy days are ahead for  Frid, he can do no  wrong, other than lose a hold on his fangs.

“We generally leave time for me to run across the stage and slip my two teeth on,” says Frid. But, not long ago I came into the key shot with them rolling about in my mouth. I feverishly tried to fit them into, place. My victim was in hysterics at the clicking of dentures, but I had to dig in anyway for the coup de grace.”
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