Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: July 26


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 555

Nicholas further champions lying as a central tool for Adam’s burgeoning immorality. He then suggests moving Vicki to his home for safekeeping. He then goes to Carolyn and tries to shift suspicion onto Barnabas. Jeff reports about Tom Jennings’ strange death. As Carolyn joins the search for Vicki, Nicholas paints an increasingly suspicious picture of Barnabas to Jeff. Later, Vicki pleads with Adam to show the gentility that Carolyn reported he had. Nicholas tries to dictate terms to Adam about how to handle Vicki, but Adam is protectively resistant. This is countered by Nicholas with an assertion that Barnabas will soon begin the experiment to create a mate, and he should bring Vicki. She awakens in Nicholas’ home, but is uncertain of the location beyond hearing waves. Elsewhere, in his home, Nicholas opens a coffin that contains an undead Angelique.

Normally, morality plays about lying involve children and adults. But with Adam, you get a very articulate adult, and he provides much more of a force of physicality and conscience against which Nicholas clashes. It’s so tiring to see the devil once again treated as the Prince of Lies, but in this case, the DARK SHADOWS writers present Nicholas’ position as a philosophically valid slice of realpolitik. Adam wrestles with very real issues, and I find myself identifying with him on his journey. Kudos to both Humbert Astredo and Robert Rodan for taking what should be an obvious dilemma and breathing real dimension and unpredictability into it. Poor Adam, caught in such a web of lies. We can see that it pains him, and yet Nicholas is so marvelously sincere that it’s hard to imagine the lug responding any other way.

On this day in 1968, America was intrigued with the replacement series, THE PRISONER, which debuted earlier that summer. Going on to legendary status, it would also be explored by the fine folks at Big Finish. 

House of Dark Shadows: Music from the Motion Picture

If you see something on this website and wonder if it's real, the answer is almost always "No."

When Dan Curtis made his first feature film, HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, he brought with him much of the cast and crew of the television series. Series writers Sam Hall and Gordon Russell banged out a script that retold the introduction of vampire Barnabas Collins. The cast was made up entirely of actors (and, in the case of George DiCenzo, a producer) from the television series. Robert Cobert was even brought over to create a cinematic interpretation of his small-screen music

Perhaps because of the rushed production schedule (and also because MGM was calling the shots) the  marketing blitz of its television counterpart was missing from the feature film adaption. Absent were the trading cards, posters, toys and other products sold under the DARK SHADOWS brand. The movie's merchandise was more or less limited to the Marilyn Ross novelization. We didn't even get a soundtrack release until many, many years later.

The television series, of course, had its own pop soundtrack. It was populated mostly by Cobert's music, with some newly crafted spoken-word parts written for actors Barnabas Collins and David Selby. It sold well, but was aimed more at mopey proto-goths than the kind of kids you saw dancing every week on AMERICAN BANDSTAND. Which made me wonder: What would a contemporary pop soundtrack for HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS had sounded like?

It would probably have sounded awful, to be honest, most likely stuffed to the gills with acts like The Cowsills, Bread or Tony Orlando and Dawn. Barf.

But hindsight is 20/20. Given unlimited resources, what kind of album could I have built that would be an honest reflection of both the movie, the year and the market? Which brings me to the point of this nonsense: "House of Dark Shadows: Music from the Motion Picture," a Spotify playlist. You can find the playlist  online HERE. Below is commentary on the playlist.

Did Lou Reed watch DARK SHADOWS? It's a question you might ask yourself while listening to the lead track, "Ocean," a 1969 outtake from The Velvet Underground that would later find its way to Reed's first solo effort. "Ocean" sounds at times as if Reed is narrating the opening credits to DARK SHADOWS: "Here comes the ocean/And the waves down by the sea," with the lyrics diving deeper into the kinds of imagery that once haunted by Edgar Allen Poe. It's also a reminder that we never see the iconic shores of Collinwood in either of Dan Curtis' feature films, which is weird, right? (Note: Bob Dylan apparently saw more than a few episodes of DARK SHADOWS.)

From here, I wanted the songs to explore 1970 as much as possible, no matter how painful the results. I wanted the sounds and lyrics to lightly touch on the movie's themes and imagery, while also saying something about the musical landscape of the year. "Love Buzz" by Shocking Blue would have made a superior substitute for the rock and roll muzak playing at the start of the film, as Maggie is searching for David. Simon & Garfunkel's "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright" is a reminder that this is 1970, and popular music was still kind of precious. "Can I See You In the Morning" finds The Jackson 5 at their most cinematic and esoteric. It's not a song many people are ever going to dance to, but it's still pretty cool.

After that is the even slower, dirge-ier "Planet Caravan" by Black Sabbath. As my late grandmother used to say, "Dark Shadows is metal as fuck," so it seemed weird to overlooked Sabbath's 1970 masterpiece, "Paranoid." But there's no one moment in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS that calls for Sabbath's driving, bottom-end rhythms ... but "Planet Caravan" is a perfect song for DARK SHADOWS, regardless of context.

I think George Harrison's (i.e., "The Best Beatle") 1970 song, "Beware the Darkness," speaks for itself, doesn't it? The Beatles were too much of a thing to graft themselves well to DARK SHADOWS, but the solo tunes are a different story. Paul McCartney is just too damn chipper for DARK SHADOWS, while I just want to punch John Lennon in the throat. And Ringo is ... Ringo. Which ain't a bad thing to be, but it's just not DARK SHADOWS.

Hey, it's The Velvet Underground again! Sorta! Nico's "Janitor of Lunacy" is as cold as ice, and makes me wonder what an entire score for the film by Nico and her collaborators might have sounded like. HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS already has the atmosphere of an extended funeral. (It's telling that Curtis has to use an actual funeral in the film to break up the extended moments of darkness.) This isn't my favorite track of Nico's, but I've always been impressed that she was willing to carry the chilly banner of the first Velvets album for as long as she did. RIP, you magnificent warrior woman.

Don't forget, this is 1970. So here's "Down is Up, Up is Down" by the Delfonics to bring the movie's themes home in the most contemporary way possible. "If I told you the sky was brown/would you look up or down?" kinda sums up the Barnabas/Maggie "relationship" as well as anything Bob Dylan would write. Meanwhile, Krautrock band Can conjures up music for a Spaghetti western with "Deadlock," while also foreshadowing Italy's Goblin by a few years.

For reasons I can't quite explain, Neil Diamond and DARK SHADOWS go together like peas and carrots, at least for me. HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS doesn't call for one of his bouncy, Everly Brothers-inspired songs, so I opted for "Coldwater Morning." It's the kind of ballad that would have been at home in the closing credits of an Irwin Allen movie. The next track, Hawkwind's "Hurry On Sundown," might hit the nail on the head a little too fiercely, but is also a good chaser for Diamond's sentimentality.

Which brings us to the theme for our closing credits: "Thunderbuck Ram" by Mott the Hoople. I 1970, the band was on the eve of a makeover, courtesy of David Bowie, and were still ... well, I don't know what the hell they were in 1970. This song isn't quite heavy metal, but I'm at a loss as to how else to describe it. Making it all the weirder is that lead guitarist Mick Ralphs is handling vocals here instead of Ian Hunter. "Life must still go on whatever's right or wrong/Realize what's gone and was never healing" describes a great many of the characters in this movie, most notably our anti-hero. It's sad, epic and loud. Just like HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: July 25


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 554

Jeff and Barnabas search for Vicki in the woods, and Barnabas discloses that the howl of wolves is a sure portent of the vampire. Elsewhere, Nicholas stands over Angelique’s coffin in an iron doored room. As he exits, he encounters Tom Jennings, his handyman. Afterwards, Nicholas suggests that the worst is yet to come for Tom. Jeff soon finds Tom dead, bite marks on his neck. Nicholas, from afar, says that it begins. At Collinwood, Barnabas hears wolves and knows that something must be amiss. He informs Julia that Adam has Vicki hostage. Self-aware, he’s more dangerous than ever. Nicholas enters and claims that he saw Barnabas in the woods earlier, running away. Jeff then also enters to call the police to report Tom’s death.

Barnabas reluctantly begins to ponder the loss of his cure. What more appropriate force could make him a vampire other than another vampire… at last, Angelique. Nicholas is a crafty SOB and he deserves a lot of thanks for the irony. Also notable in this one... we have one of the first encounters with Tom Jennings. It's so odd to see Don Briscoe as a redneck, but he plays it well, and yet again proves that he is one the best actors on the show. It's my opinion that 1970s cinema would have looked extremely different had Briscoe survived. As it stands, he is the sad Brian Wilson of DARK SHADOWS. When I did the DARK SHADOWS experiment in 2012, I dedicated it to  Briscoe, much to Mission Control’s understandable bewilderment in the post-mortem toast. Because, for some strange reason, my heart just went out to Mr. Briscoe. I’ve even calculated how long it would take to get to Memphis and his grave. There is a strange soulfulness and is acting that moves me tremendously. Pay attention. Perhaps he'll have that effect on you.

On this day in 1968, work began on the extensive electrical system needed to support the disastrous 1968 Democratic convention that would unfurl in a month. Politics was never the same. In some ways, that’s a tragedy.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: July 24


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1070

Barnabas awakens in his coffin to find the sherrif ready to kill him, so he eliminates the lawmen in self-defense. Upstairs in the Old House, Julia confesses to divulging Barnabas’ secret to the sheriff. She is under the command of Gerard, but Barnabas quickly trumps the phantom with vampiric mind control, releasing the doctor. Summoning Stokes, Barnabas insists on a seance to reach Carolyn and find out more information about Collinwood’s doom. In the ceremony, Julia is possessed by Carolyn, who reveals the six clues that led to the fall of Collinwood. Gerard appears, ending the ceremony and killing Stokes. Julia vanishes, and Barnabas finds her with Gerard in the playroom. She is about to kill herself when the ghost of Carrie appears and reveals a door. Barnabas drags Julia through it and down a strange staircase. Emerging, they find themselves in an undamaged Collinwood where a twin of Carrie demands to know who they are.

Beginning with a rousing start of pure action, episode 1070 is an express train of action that doesn’t stop until the closing credits. Not only does it end 1995 with true blood and thunder, it sets the tone for the breathless Ragnarok storyline to come… itself a springboard for the 1840 flashback that concludes the series and brings the story of Barnabas to a close that is both deeply satisfying and terribly sad. Barnabas is certainly ready for the fight, and this episode puts an exclamation point on that. He has gone from an uncertain and paranoid victim at the beginning of the series to heroism of Homeric bravado and unshakable determination. His loyalty to Julia is a testament to her own heroism, and we see him in 1070 as fully engaged in the defense of his home and family. It is simple, rousing, bold, and sans pretense. Barnabas Collins is every bit the tactician we saw him as when he first appeared as the series’ villain, but one transformed by the events of the series into its uncompromising champion. The flashforward began in the ruins of Collinwood, and it just kept increasing the pressure and urgency with the deaths of beloved characters that it audaciously unfurled. It is both quintessential DARK SHADOWS and totally unlike the small and timid program that debuted just four years prior.

On this day in 1970, the USSR performs nuclear Test at Eastern Kazakh/Semipalitinsk. It was not in relation to the birth of November 1992 Playboy Playmate, Stephanie Adams, also born on this day.

That’s the official story, anyway. 

Dark Shadows DVD set for sale at Amazon for $10,000

Two weeks ago, Dark Shadows: The Complete Series (the DVD "coffin set") was on sale for a few hours at Amazon for $265. Today, it's available at the same online retailer for the low, low price of $9,999.99. What gives?

Well, it's probably not time to panic. When you see these fantastically insane prices at Amazon, it's almost always a sign that the product is simply out of stock from all available vendors. Rather than update online inventory whenever a product is temporarily out of stock, some vendors will use bots to quietly boost their price point above their competitors. The idea here is to keep you from ordering something that's out of stock. After all, why would someone order the most expensive item when there are identical units for sale at the same site?

When everybody sells out, though, the bots go on a rampage. Prices expand rapidly as the bots compete to stay ahead of the other vendors in hopes that nobody orders anything, leaving us gifts like a $10,000 price tag for a $300 (give or take) product.

I've got my concerns that Dark Shadows: The Complete Series will go out of print someday, but it doesn't appear that that day has arrived. Over at MPI Home Video's website, you can still grab a set for $375. That's not quite the bargain that Amazon was offering a few weeks ago, but certainly better than $10,000.

Via: Amazon

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: July 20


Taped on this date in 1966: Episode 27

As Liz, Carolyn, and Vicki await the return of a missing David, we find that the scamp has snuck into Burke’s hotel room. He and Burke bond and declare friendship, but when Burke leaves the room to make a “Burke Devlin Special,” David hides the bleeder valve under the couch. After he leaves, Burke discovers it.

The early part of the series specialized in episodes where characters just, well, talked to each other. Sounds boring? Hardly. The characters were ripe with potential about a very active and high stakes world totally unspoken, except in allusion and lies of omission. I could have chosen an action packed 1995 episode, but this one feels like it has more going on in it. Large dominated by a Burke/David two-hander (interspersed with diametrically opposed, feminine hand-wringing at Collinwood), it is almost… almost… a completely inert installment. Inert, except that in their conversation, we see one would ending and another world beginning. Burke’s indulgent patience always gets me (points to heart with thumb) right here. When he finds the bleeder valve that David clumsily hid, he doesn’t display anger, just bemused resignation. What else was he to expect? Only in Collinsport do people foster deep, meaningful, authentic friendships to later betray with lethal deceit. It’s what gives the town its charm. GAME OF THRONES? Catch up!

We may see the best acting in the first part of the series with episode 29, as Burke and David continue to bond. They have an astounding rapport, with a kidlike Burke interacting with David with unaffected mirth, and an astoundingly mature David exploring one of the only two points of kindness and trust in his life, and doing so with winning gravitas that Burke keeps cracking through. David needs a dad, friend, and big brother, and here he is. As for Burke? Even though I think the timeline forbids it, I still wonder if Burke thinks David might be his son. It certainly plays that way.

On this day in 1966, Gemini X returned to Earth after docking in space and going higher than we had ever gone before. The crew, Michael Collins and John Young, enjoyed later illustriousness. Collins went on to pilot the Apollo 11 command module, and Young commanded the maiden flight of the first space shuttle. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Exclusive to The Collinsport Historical Society: 25% off Dark Shadows short stories

Big Finish Productions have been producing officially-licensed DARK SHADOWS audio dramas since 2006 – bringing back many of the original cast to continue the story on from where the television series ended. Last year they released their first short story collection, the critically-acclaimed "Echoes of the Past." To celebrate today’s release of their fifth collection, "Love Lives On," the Collinsport Historical Society is pleased to exclusively offer 25% off Echoes of the Past and the following three collections.

To access the offer, visit and enter the code “quentin” when required. The offer expires 23:59 (UK time) on Aug. 31, 2017.

We asked series producer Joseph Lidster to tell us about the stories.

“We’ve been producing full-cast audios for a number of years but recently we wanted to try something a bit different. I love short stories – there’s an intimacy to them that you can’t find anywhere else. The television series is basically one long bedtime story. It’s something you watch in the dark to be scared and thrilled by. And, of course, it’s the story of one family and their friends (and enemies!) set over hundreds of years. These collections have allowed us to get inside the minds of many of those characters. As well as telling stories set after the television series, they’ve allowed us to fill in some of the gaps from throughout the history of the Collins family. What happened to Quentin Collins before his return to Collinsport? How did Josette du Pres’ mother die? Why did Harry Johnson leave Collinsport? Who was Elizabeth Collins Stoddard’s one true love? What happened to Sebastian Shaw in Windcliff Sanitarium? Performed by actors Nancy Barrett, Andrew Collins, Stephanie Ellyne, Jerry Lacy, Lara Parker, Christopher PennockLisa Richards, Kathryn Leigh Scott, David Selby, Marie Wallace and Matthew Waterhouse, the collections also include two stories written by Angelique and Trask themselves – actors Lara Parker and Jerry Lacy. It’s been a real honour to produce these stories – complete with sound effects and music – and I’m so pleased as to how much the actors have enjoyed performing them and the fans have enjoyed hearing them.”

The link also offers you the chance to download a story for free. The Missing Reel, starring David Selby, sees Quentin Collins meeting a mysterious film collector in Los Angeles, 1958.

Trask The Exorcist 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 
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 
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 
The witch Angelique sits alone in her cottage, writing a confession. But what is she confessing to? And why can’t she stop writing?

Hell Wind by Marcy Robin
A young Josette Du Pres is terrified for her life as a deadly hurricane smashes into the island of Martinique. She rushes for shelter but she’s not the only one fighting to survive…

Communion by Adam Usden
1861 and War rages across America. The preacher Elias Trask and his young son Gregory, are hiding from men who wish to kill them. But something else is already in their hiding place…

The Ghost Ship by Lara Parker
The warlock Nicholas Blair has transformed the witch Angelique into a vampire to serve him. Her love for Barnabas Collins, though, will never die…

A Face from the Past by Kay Stonham
Elizabeth Collins Stoddard is returning to her home town of Collinsport. But on the train, she is stunned to see the young man who was once the love of her life. Could he also have returned to the town that once tore them apart?

Last Orders at the Blue Whale by Rob Morris
Thrown out of Collinwood, petty criminal Harry Johnson is waiting to catch the next train out of town but a rash decision in the bar of the Blue Whale will unwittingly lead him into a battle for his very soul.

The Scarlet Bride by Ian Atkins
Agnes is getting married but what should be the happiest time of her life is being spoiled by strange dreams of a scratching at her bedroom window. She dreams of a mysterious man trying to break into her room… A man who stares at her as she dreams…

On the Line by Ian Farrington
Carolyn Stoddard is embracing her new life at university but a mysterious telephone call is about to change everything…

In a Broken Dream by Penelope Faith
In an attempt to distance herself from her past, Amy Jennings is visiting Elizabeth Stoddard and Roger Collins in Paris but, mysteriously, they are not there. Will her life ever be free from the unexplained?

The Reflected Man by Alan Ronald
Sabrina Jennings is broken. Her husband is dead and her life means nothing. Alone in the city of New York she believes that her life can’t get any worse. But she is about to discover that there’s always something darker… hiding in the darkness…

Old Acquaintance by Matthew Waterhouse
New Years Eve, 1971 and Quentin Collins is celebrating in the Blue Whale. But something is coming for him… Something he first met in a Welsh village in 1914. Will the people of Collinsport survive to see 1972?

Devil’s Rock by Kate Webster
Barnabas Collins and Willie Loomis are beginning a journey. A journey that they hope will lead them to their old friend, Julia Hoffman. But, on this night, they are about to discover that Collinsport isn’t the only town in Maine to have a dark, terrible secret.

Cobwebs by Aaron Lamont
Something is very wrong at Windcliff Sanitarium. Sebastian Shaw wakes from a nightmare, alone. There are no doctors... no nurses... just a tiny little spider weaving its web on his wall. And outside, in the hospital corridors, the Burned Man is calling for him again.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: July 19


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 550

Carolyn contacts Stokes in a tizzy over Adam’s maturing interests in her. As he comes to the rescue, Jeff Clark asks Vicki to marry him, and she agrees. In a later conversation with Adam, Stokes determines that the best way to cool his jets is to explain how and why they are different. That involves disclosing his origin. After Stokes leaves, Adam’s existential crisis drives him to attempt suicide.

Okay, okay, who let in Gene Roddenberry? This episode exists on a STAR TREK-level of existential mystery. Professor Stokes, despite his open mind on the occult, is sadly limited by small-town, New England thinking when it comes to guiding Adam toward appreciating (or, at least, not hating) his nature. But who, besides starship captains, actually gets trained in the practical application of questions surrounding What Makes Us Human? Of course, to generate drama in the fewest possible steps, Stokes must be inadequate at bolstering Adam’s spirits, and Adam must be disgusted at his difference. Even now, we have an organic bias that favors the natural and shuns the man-made. Usually, DARK SHADOWS characters have every reason to loathe rather than embrace what makes them different… their differences are usually lethal until understood and focused. Not so with a maturing Adam. The tragedy is not that Adam is different, but rather that no one can translate why that should be celebrated rather than condemned. So, he was created in a lab? So what? To me, that makes him a marvel. Where is Virginia Postrel when we need her? Or Michael and Denise Okuda? They’d straighten him out. And does this make the manipulatively accepting Nicholas Blair this story line’s Magneto? Hardly the only similarity between DARK SHADOWS and X-MEN.

On this day in 1968, the world said hello to future thrash metal artist Robb Flynn of Machine Head. Happy birthday, Robb!
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