Friday, September 19, 2014

Jonathan Frid not yet famous enough for Canada

The results of this year's Canada's Walk of Fame campaign were announced earlier this week. Despite the long-standing effort to get Hamilton, Ontario, native Jonathan Frid recognized in some capacity by the organization, his name was not among the 2014 finalists. Here's who will be inducted during the Dec. 19 ceremony.
  • Louise Arbour, a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada,
  • The Band
  • Rachel McAdams
  • Ryan Reynolds
  • Hayley Wickenheiser (athlete)
  • Jeff Healey (Cineplex Legends Award) 
Frid's name was on the ballot this year for the "Cineplex Legends Award." Now, if you're visiting this website, chances are you're a DARK SHADOWS fan. It's pretty easy to make fun of a list of honorees that includes Rachel McAdams, Green Lantern and the guitar player from ROADHOUSE. I mean, HOLY SHIT it's easy. But I won't go there.

Slim Goodbody: The Motion Picture took audiences to some disturbing places.
"As the administrators of Nominate Jonathan Frid to Canada's Walk of Fame, Cathy Robbins, Kathy Colby and I are very disappointed that Jonathan Frid did not make it into CWOF this year," said
Elena Nacanther, who has been canvassing the Internet for several years to get Frid on the walk of fame. "But, since we started our campaign four years ago, we have built momentum and got him on the list for Cineplex Legends Award Nominees, and we will continue this campaign until we accomplish our goal of getting this loyal Canadian son the honor he truly deserves."

"I would say that Jonathan Frid will be recognized, it's a matter of time," said Robbins. "There are many deserving Canadians and Jonathan is one of them. Canada's Walk Of Fame has noticed him and they have told me they realize that he his is a 'Great Canadian.' Persistence is the key here."

Despite the setback, Nacanther said the campaign plans to keep moving forward.

"We would ask everyone to continue nominating Jonathan every day at, and together we will celebrate his induction into CWOF in the very near future," she said.


Last month, The Collinsport Historical Society asked you to name your five favorite DARK SHADOWS audio dramas from Big Finish. Every day this week we'll be revealing the results.

#1 The Night Whispers

While the character of “Barnabas Collins” has made scattered appearances in Big Finish’s line of DARK SHADOWS audio dramas, only once was he played by the actor who originated the role on television: Jonathan Frid.

In fact, “The Night Whispers” represents Frid’s only return to the role since the cancellation of the series in 1971.

“‘The Night Whispers’ was probably always destined to be Jonathan Frid's swansong,” said Stuart Manning, the episode’s writer. “There was a vague notion that it might be the first of many Barnabas stories, but I always expected it to be a one-off.”

“‘The Night Whispers’ was produced before I joined the DARK SHADOWS audio range, but I remember just how utterly exciting it was to hear Barnabas again,” said Joe Lidster, who today produces of the line for Big Finish. “A fantastic script by Stuart Manning that explores his relationship with Willie, three lovely performances and some beautiful sound design make it really something special.”

"The Night Whispers" received a great deal of attention outside of DARK SHADOWS fandom, as well, and won the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award for "Best Horror Soundtrack" in 2012.

Frid has been resistant about not only returning to the role of “Barnabas Collins,” said Jim Pierson, the marketing director and producer at Dan Curtis Productions. The actor also refused to take any role even vaguely similar.

“The art for Jonathan was in delivering the lines,” said Pierson, who directed Frid’s recording session. “He was in paradise when delivering his one-man shows like ‘Fools and Fiends,’ the ‘Shakespearean Odyssey,’ and all the variations of those performances — whether it was in a library, a theater or somebody’s living room.”

The audio dramas proved to be an easy transition for Frid, Pierson said.

“He resisted doing anything vampiric after DARK SHADOWS, and he turned down tons of things,” he said. “Everything from movies to tooth paste commercials. Because he was coming back to be with fans for the 40th anniversary of ‘Barnabas,’ it seemed to be a natural progression.

“He got his fangs wet again and really had a good time,” Pierson said.

Jonathan Frid and John Karlen
 “As detailed in the ‘Remembering Jonathan Frid’ book, the play took a long time to come together and it's really only due to the gentle persistence of Jim Pierson and Bobbi Jacobs-Meadway that it happened at all,” Manning said. “During the writing I listened to Jonathan's narration from the old Dark Shadows music LP on a loop, trying to get his vocal tics down, and those speeches are probably etched onto my psyche permanently as a result. I may well have been the first ever sufferer of Frid earworm.”

Darren Gross, co-director of “The Night Whispers,” said it took careful coordination to get the actors’ lines recorded. Because of the international nature of each production (Big Finish is headquartered in the United Kingdom) the participating actors sometimes never meet in the studio.

“Often the actors are recorded separately, sometimes months apart and thousands of miles away,” Gross said. “‘The Night Whispers’ was done in three pieces, with John Karlen, Barbara Steele and Jonathan Frid done in separate recording sessions.”

Frid in the studio for "The Night Whispers."
Frid’s session was recorded in Canada, while Steele recorded her lines in Burbank, California. Both sessions were supervised by Jim Pierson.

Gross directed Karlen’s performance, which was also recorded in Burbank.

“For this kind of piecemeal recording, I brought in Andrew Collins to read-in for Barnabas and the other characters, so that Karlen had someone to play off of,” Gross said. “You don’t know how the other actors are going to play their lines, so for scenes that are tricky or where there’s arguing, low key line delivery or some kind of intense moments, I would tend to get a couple of different versions to give Nigel Fairs or David Darlington latitude in the editing.”

The goal, he said, is to make sure the actors sound as though they’re performing together in the same room.

“It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it’s miraculous and very convincing,” Gross said. “We did the same thing for ‘Beyond the Grave,’ where most of the pieces were recorded in the U.K., except for the sessions with Kathryn Leigh Scott, which I recorded in Los Angeles, again playing off of Andrew Collins.”

Andrew Collins, who played “Barnabas Collins” in earlier DARK SHADOWS audio dramas from Big Finish, was a vital part of recording sessions, Gross said.

Barbara Steele as "Dr. Julia Hoffman" in the 1991 DARK SHADOWS television series.

“Andrew just makes these sessions fun, as he’ll do a dozen different voices as he jumps from character to character, feeding lines to his scene partner,” Gross said. “These sessions can be a bit of a challenge for the actors, as we’re frequently jumping from scene to scene, but it does create a very focused atmosphere, as we only focus on their character’s scenes.

“I’ve always felt blessed to have actors like John Karlen and Kathryn Leigh Scott, who can just turn on a performance like a light switch,” Gross said. “That kind of engagement in the material is invigorating."

“Honestly, I was just grateful that Jonathan played ball,” Manning said. “After 30-plus years, he finally agreed to be Barnabas again for a day, and that alone was a milestone. It was a little piece of history and I hope we did the old guy proud.”

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Alec Newman (and David Collins) return for BLOODLUST

Alec Newman as "David Collins."
Big Finish Productions has announce three more cast members for the upcoming serial 2015 serial, DARK SHADOWS: BLOODLUST.

The announcement includes two very familiar names: Alec Newman and "David Collins."

“Alec’s performance as David in 'Kingdom of the Dead' is fantastic,” says co-producer Joseph Lidster. “The character starts off as a lost innocent before heading down a much darker path. David has changed since we last met him though. No longer a doctor, he’s opened up a mine in the grounds of Collinwood.”

Marley Shelton and Alec Newman as Victoria Winters and Barnabas Collins, from the unproduced 2004 WB series.
Newman briefly played "Barnabas Collins" in a 2004 pilot for The WB. Co-starring with Marley Shelton,  Jessica Chastain and Blair Brown, the pilot was not picked up for series by the network. The uncompleted episode has been screened at the annual Dark Shadows Festival. A clip from the pilot is available on Youtube.

“We wanted to return to the core DARK SHADOWS idea of the Collins family owning a business that employed many of the townsfolk,” says co-producer David Darlington. “And of course mining was big news in the early 1980s... Whether David is a villain like J.R. Ewing or a good guy like Bobby Ewing is something we’ll discover throughout the series.” 

Benjamin Franklin and Kate Ripperton
Working in David's mine is Benjamin Franklin – known to his friends as Frankie. A new character to Dark Shadows, and played by Roger Carvalho, Frankie works hard and plays hard. He’s been a bit of a ladies' man in the past - but he  seems to have settled down. And his girlfriend is another returning character – Kate Ripperton (Asta Parry) from 2013’s Beyond The Grave.

“Kate’s now the editor of local newspaper, the Collinsport Star,” says Joseph Lidster. “And she and her reporter, Andrew Cunningham (Matthew Waterhouse) are going to be kept very busy when a murderer strikes. As the former host of a television show in the UK, the reasons for her being in Collinsport are a bit of a mystery. Could she be a killer?”

DARK SHADOWS: BLOODLUST is a 13-part miniseries released in January and February 2015. It's available to pre-order here.


Last month, The Collinsport Historical Society asked you to name your five favorite DARK SHADOWS audio dramas from Big Finish. Every day this week we'll be revealing the results.

#2 The House by the Sea

Released in March 2012, “The House by the Sea” is one of the most recent DARK SHADOWS audio dramas to make “The Favorite Five,” it’s also the only episode not to feature any members of the original cast.

Former DOCTOR WHO Colin Baker played “Gerald Conway,” an Englishman attracted to Collinsport by an inexplicable compulsion. It’s almost a one-man show, a story told through Conway’s diary recordings as he meets the mysterious denizens of Collinsport, struggles with madness, and finally meets one of the town’s most notorious sorcerers.

“When James (Goss) and I took over the range, one of the first things he said he wanted to do was to write a single-hander for Colin Baker,” said Big Finish producer/writer Joe Lidster. “And so he did. And it’s brilliant. What I love about the script is how deceptively clever it is. James has a way of writing something that feels utterly simple.”

“‘The House by the Sea’ came up for three colliding reasons,” Goss said. “Colin Baker had expressed an interest in doing a DARK SHADOWS. The film was coming out and it seemed good to have a ‘Beginner's Guide To Collinsport.’ And finally, I was dying to write a one-man outsider's view of that crazy, crazy town.”

Colin Baker in DOCTOR WHO.
“You could mistake ‘The House by the Sea’ for just being all about atmosphere,” Lidster said. “It’s certainly got atmosphere. I remember how scary it was in the studio – thanks to James’s script and Colin’s amazing performance, but it’s not just a spooky ghost story. There are clues throughout as to where it’s going and the character of Gerald Conway is so nuanced and three-dimensional. When you add onto that David Darlington’s terrifying sound design, you get something really special. I genuinely think it’s one of the best pieces of drama I’ve ever heard.”

Because the character is recounting his experiences to the listener, it opened to door to allow for characters not usually depicted in the audio dramas. Big Finish has been resistant to recasting actors from the original series, which has meant characters played by actors and actress no longer with us – such as Grayson Hall, Joan Bennett and Joel Crothers – have not made appearances.

“The cameos just seemed a great way of introducing some characters we'd otherwise not get a chance to meet,” Goss said. “It was also a joy working with Colin Baker – he stormed through the script, barely needed a second take, stopped only for a quick bite of lunch and to check a YouTube clip to hone his version of someone's voice... just amazing.”

Because Baker was essentially “playing” all of the roles, it meant every character was fair game for ‘The House by the Sea.’ Including Barnabas Collins.

“That was the only bit that took some explaining to him, ’So, just to be clear, I'm NOT acting with Johnny Depp?’” Goss said.

A treasure trove of DARK SHADOWS memorabilia hits Ebay

A DARK SHADOWS fan is selling an interesting collection of classic memorabilia on Ebay. Some of this stuff I've never seen before, mostly because I wasn't born until after the show left the airwaves. Regardless, these are the kinds of items I actively collect, and I've never even seen scans of this material of other DARK SHADOWS fan sites. This is rare stuff.

This collection appears to be made up mostly of fan club material produced during the heyday of DARK SHADOWS, such as members certificates to the "Dark Shadows Vamp Club," news letters, stationary and pocket calenders. Most of the fan club items date back to before Alexandra Moltke's departure from the show in 1968 (she's featured prominently in the photos.)

Here's the catch: The starting bid is $499.

For all I know, that's a perfectly fair price. It might even be a bargain, depending on the relative availability of these items. When it comes to collectibles, items are only worth whatever people are willing to pay for them. This collection might sell for far more than the starting bid; then again, it might not sell at all.

If you're interested in bidding (or, like me, you're just want to see how much the collection sells for) you can find the Ebay listing HERE. The auction ends Sept. 23. Which just happens to be the day before my birthday, if you're looking for the prefect birthday present for that special blogger in your life.

(Thanks to Catrena Hall for the tip!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Last month, The Collinsport Historical Society asked you to name your five favorite DARK SHADOWS audio dramas from Big Finish. Every day this week we'll be revealing the results.

#3 The Crimson Pearl

Released in August, 2011, “The Crimson Pearl” is one of the most ambitious episodes in Big Finish’s DARK SHADOWS line of audio dramas. Beginning in 1690 with the arrival of the very first Collinses in the New World, the story spans not only centuries, but multiple timelines, as well.

It also featured one of the largest casts ever featured in a single episode, with 19 credited actors appearing.

“Initially, we figured that, with some creative work with the director Darren (Gross), we could get all that year's cast to record a short letter or two in character, the end result building up to a bonus release,” said writer James Goss. “I've always loved epistolary novels, and the idea of the various generations of Colinsport encountering a shared mystery seemed a great one.”

Big Finish producer Joe Lidster said “The Crimson Pearl” was part of a production strategy to make the dramatic readings more dynamic than they’d been in the past.

Christopher Pennock, records his dialogue for "The Crimson Pearl."
“Up until then they had mostly been two-handers, usually featuring two actors who had appeared in the TV series,” Lidster said. “So we looked at bringing in other actors to play smaller roles and we just played around with how things were written and recorded.”

Goss said the concept proved to be more challenging than they’d imagined. The roster of characters became so large that outside actors were brought in to help fill out the cast.

Ursula Burton and Jerry Lacy.
“I had a reasonably simple idea,” Goss said. “Joe turned up with the entire history of Collinsport, and the simple idea became more and more complicated and epic and, in the end, there were quite a few extra recording sessions. But, on the other hand, you got Roy Thinnes (“Roger Collins” on the 1991 DARK SHADOWS “revival” series) playing the founding Collins! You got gypsies and the alternative universe and those cunning Leviathans.”

“James was clever with the budget and I went crazy on which characters we could use,” Lidtser said. “I think it works as a real celebration of Dark Shadows – it’s scary and sad in places, but it’s also fun. And Nigel Fairs’s reworking of the theme tune is just glorious.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Come see how the vampires do it in Ohio

Is HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS realizing some kind of resurgence? I hosted a screening of the film in Charlotte, N.C., during the MAD MONSTER PARTY event back in March, and the film is among the those on display this weekend at the Spook-Er-Roo Spectacular in Montgomery, Pa.

Next month, the fiendish Dr. Bob Tesla will be showing HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS on Saturday, Oct. 11 as part of the third annual October Spectacular and costume contest. Now, three screenings in a year (that I'm aware of) don't exactly amount to a "resurgence," but it's possible the one-two punch of Tim Burton's 2012 fiasco and the release of a glorious new HD transfer for HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS on DVD and Blu-ray have raised the film's esteem in the eyes of the public.

If you want to attend, the show starts at 11:30 p.m. at the Gateway Film Center, 1550 N High St, Columbus, Ohio, 43201. You can find the event's Facebook page by clicking HERE.

About that DARK SHADOWS comicstrip collection ...

If you are among those to pre-order DARK SHADOWS THE COMPLETE NEWSPAPER DAILIES, you're already aware that there's been a delay in the book's publication.

Scheduled for release Sept. 9, a representative of Hermes Press told me the book has been delayed because of low pre-orders.While a new release date has not yet been scheduled, I've been assured DARK SHADOWS THE COMPLETE NEWSPAPER DAILIES has not been cancelled. It's just a matter of waiting for the company to received the appropriate number of orders before going into production.

In May, Hermes Press began soliciting help from collectors to complete work on the 224-page hardcover collection. The company was looking for complete copies of the original strips as they appeared in print, covering the publication dates of Nov. 14 1971 to March 4 1972. I suspect these strips were needed specifically as color keys for the Sunday strips, which will be reproduced in color for the first time as part of this publication.

While the various DARK SHADOWS comics that have appeared over the years have featured some terrific art, Ken Bald's work on the newspaper strip might the best of the bunch. It's reportedly Bald's favorite work of his career, which is no small statement. Bald has worked on everything from DOC SAVAGE to CAPTAIN AMERICA to DR. KILDARE during his long career.

If you've got an interesting in seeing this book become a reality, please consider pre-ordering a copy on Amazon.
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