Friday, March 30, 2012

Dan Curtis predicts an early demise for Barnabas Collins, 1967

During he week of Aug. 21, 1967, Newsweek put Barnabas Collins in the spotlight for a short feature titled "The Ghoul Show." It's an interesting feature that has Dan Curtis publicly predicting the character's departure by the end of that year.

As we know, the show went in a very different direction. At the time this story was published, though, Curtis still envisioned Barnabas Collins as the first monster through a revolving door of supernatural story arcs. And that was still true as the summer came to an end in 1967. The week this story was published, the ghost of Sarah Collins was still pestering her older brother. The vampire's powers were, at the time, loosely defined ... mesmerism, teleportation, immortality and shapeshifting were among Barnabas' bag of tricks at the time, which made him pretty much unstoppable. Sarah was his one real weakness, her spirit an assault on a conscience that was otherwise dead as a door nail. Meanwhile, an adversary for the vampire, Dr. Julia Hoffman, had been added to the cast with one purpose: to kill a vampire. All of this suggests Barnabas was not long for the world when Newsweek ran this piece.

The timing also suggests that Newsweek's attention might have played some role in staying the executioner's hand. It's one thing for a magazine like Famous Monsters of Filmland or Afternoon TV to show an interest in DARK SHADOWS. But the attention of a publication like Newsweek? Something like that might have been enough to make Curtis realize he was onto something. By the time December arrived, Victoria Winters had already begun her visit to 1795, the fate of Barnabas Collins deferred indefinitely.

You can read a transcript of the feature below.

The Ghoul Show
Newsweek, Aug. 21, 1967

"In regular soap operas," says a writer for ABC's "Dark Shadows," "John and Mary end up in the sack and then everybody talks about it for three weeks. But in our show things really happen." They certainly do. Over the past few months, Bill Malloy was hurled from a cliff, Matthew was killed by ghosts, Dr. Guthrie was murdered by a Phoenix and Willie was bitten by a vampire, who strangled Jason and nibbled at Maggie, who — understandably enough — went mad.

For the 6.5 million housewives and shut-ins who tune in "Dark Shadows" each afternoon, such ghastly goings-on are more fun than a barrel of bats. And for ABC, the show has turned out to be a cobwebby bonanza. Unearthed more than a year ago as TV's first gothic soap, "Dark Shadows" was sagging under its rather prosaic Victorian trappings until packager Dan Curtis, 39, ordered the writers to deaden things up a bit. They obediently conjured up such a Caligari's cabinet of engaging ghouls (among them: a neurotic vampire and a strolling little ghost girl), that the ratings doubled and the show began drawing viewers away from a reigning queen of the soaps, CBS's "Edge of Night."

Exhumed: Curtis hired grandma Joan Bennett to give "Dark Shadows" class—as the reclusive mistress of a perpetually storm-lashed baronial mansion atop Widow's Hill on the rocky coast of Maine. But headliner Bennett has been upstaged by the show's newest ghoul: a 175-year-old vampire named Barnabas Collins, who was exhumed in the spring and passes himself off to the family as a visiting cousin from England. So far, Barnabas has been on his best behavior. He's killed only one character (a baddy) , thoughtfully takes his sustenance from local cattle and wears his fangs only in private. Indeed, his leering scowl is more Freudian than fiendish. "It's not his fault he's a vampire,” sympathizes Shakespearean actor Jonathan Frid, who plays  Barnabas with campy élan, "He's just a victim of circumstances.”

"A baddy."
Popular as Barnabas has proved to be (he draws 300 fan letters a week, including a recent one from a matron who enthused: "I wish he'd bite me in the neck") , soap-opera circumstances require his demise. Last week, a nosy woman psychiatrist, poking around Widow's Hill, was threatening to expose his secret, and Curtis plans to do him in, possibly by December.

But while the vampire must go, Curtis has a coven of other otherworldlies ready to fill the void. And with the show going into more-or-less living color later this month, "Dark Shadows" figures to enjoy its place in the TV sun for quite a while. And why not? It's a supernatural. 

Another look at the Barnabas Collins model

Universal Steve has posted a few images of a completed Barnabas Collins model kit at the Universal Monster Army message boards. Steve confirms some of the criticisms of Lyn Powell, who spoke about his work on the kit in a previous post here at TCHS.

Like Powell, Steve thought the flexible arms were "useless" and expanded on the base provided for the figure. He also purchased a replacement head for the model from CultTVMan, a part that looks more like actor Jonathan Frid than the item provided with the original plastic kit. He goes into more detail (and provides additional photos of the completed kit) at the UMA message boards.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Barnabas Collins wallpaper

Jonathan Frid's Fools and Fiends

This newspaper clipping from 1990 takes a look at actor Jonathan Frid's Fools and Fiends one-man show. "I've kept horror aspects in it," he says in the story. "I know which side my bread is buttered on."

Varney the Vampire Vs. Barnabas Collins

Dark Shadows was mixing acids and bases long before Seth Grahame-Smith came onto the scene.

The “author” of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith took the public domain Jane Austin novel and injected it was a little zombie mayhem.  It was dumb fun for smart people and would be better liked if it wasn’t for all of the cash-in garbage that followed it. Seriously … who the f*k was asking for Little Women and Werewolves?

While it’s yet to be determined if Grahame-Smith has what it takes to be a screenwriter, he’s otherwise a good choice to pen the Dark Shadows movie. The original television show began as homage to Jane Eyre, but the show really became interesting when Dan Curtis decided to add a vampire to the cast. It’s likely that Curtis had Dracula on his mind when Barnabas Collins was first discussed but the character has much more in common with an earlier vampire named Varney.

Varney the Vampire, Vol. 1
“Varney the Vampire; or, the Feast of Blood” was serialized in a penny dreadful magazine starting in 1845. The penny dreadfuls were the precursors to comic books and soap operas, providing lurid entertainment to the masses in serialized installments. But the similarities between Varney the Vampire and Dark Shadows run much deeper than format.

Sir Francis Varney is a troubled soul and a man cursed to be a vampire for his misdeeds during the English Civil War.  After moving into a home adjacent to their estate, he begins to harass the Bannerworths, an aristocratic family in decline. His connection to the Bannerworths might be more than just neighborly, though, given that Varney bears a striking relationship to the portrait of Marmaduke Bannerworth hanging in the family’s mansion. All of that should sound more than a little familiar to fans of Dark Shadows.

Varney the Vampire is a sprawling, messy epic that is much better than it is usually given credit for. Never intended to be collected as a novel, the “book” is really a series of lengthy vignettes that build and finish story arcs before moving the characters into new territory. Comic book fans will even recognize the occasional “filler” installment as the story pauses to allow for the inclusion of a short story, usually told by one of the story’s characters (the best of the bunch might be a story about vampire pirates.)

Varney the Vampire might not be great fiction, but that’s hardly a reason to avoid it. As much as I love Dracula, I can’t argue that it’s an especially well-written story, but it still remains effective more than a century later. Varney the Vampire has also has its merits and, like Dark Shadows, remains compelling in spite of (and because of) its funky style storytelling.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Stylish new Dark Shadows character banners

Apple has 9 new Dark Shadows character banners posted at the movie's iTunes site. You can see three of them above, with the other six (including a shotgun wielding Michelle Pfieffer) at the iTunes link.
Pay close attention and you'll see iTunes is continuing the woesome trend of misspelling Barnabas as "Barnabus."

David Selby: Best Actor/Villain Nominee

I'm not entirely sure where this came from or when it was published, but I suspect it was torn from an issue of Soap Opera Digest back in the '80s. David Selby found a great deal of success in evening soap Falcon Crest and, as you can see in this clipping, his connection to Dark Shadows was far from forgotten.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Barnabas Collins by Ken Turner

© 2012 Ken Turner.
Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, in this ink & watercolor portrait by artist Ken Turner

A visit to the home of Sam Hall

Back in 1989, New York Magazine took a look at the homes of notable New Yorkers, among them former Dark Shadows writer Sam Hall. Also included in the short feature is Matthew Hall, the son of Sam and Grayson Hall, and a writer on the 1991 Dark Shadows series.

If you haven't seen it, Matthew Hall has an excellent Wordpress blog where he's been writing about his experiences with his parents. The latest entry is titled 1967: Mom Gets  a Job, which explains how Grayson came to work on Dark Shadows.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Read the first chapter of Dark Shadows: Angelique’s Descent for free

Tor Books is re-releasing Lara Parker's novel Angelique's Descent in April. First published in 1998 by Harper Collins, Parker's first novel, as well as it's follow-up, The Salem Branch, are being released with new cover artwork in anticipation of the upcoming Dark Shadows film.

Tor currently has the first chapter of Angelique's Descent posted for free at their website. I suspect people buying the book after seeing the new movie will be surprised at this profoundly unfunny tale of child abuse, murder and romantic betrayal.

Exclusive interview with "Dress Me in Dark Dreams" writer Marty Ross

Marty Ross is no stranger to audio drama. Having written a number of scripts for Big Finish and the BBC, it was only a matter of time before he was drafted to write an episode of Dark Shadows.

His first professional visit to Collinwood, Dress Me in Dark Dreams, will be available for sale as CD and digital download from Big Finish on April 30. It's not only Marty's first trip to Collinsport, but Amber Benson's, as well. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer alumnus plays a young Judith Collins, starring alongside Dark Shadows veteran Terry Crawford. You can listen to a trailer for the episode HERE.

When Marty agreed to do an interview for this site, I immediately packed my bags and hopped on The Collinsport Historical Society's private jet for his home in Great Britain. The flight attendants and some guy identifying himself as a federal marshal politely informed me that the airplane belonged to British Airways, and that spray painting the words "Collinsport Historical Society" on the fuselage does not qualify as a legal transfer of property in any country.

Robbed on my transportation across the Atlantic, I decided to e-mail my questions to Marty. You can read his responses below.

Thanks to time traveling, astral projection and the occasional holes in reality, the original television show and previous Big Finish stories have left few unexplored settings. How did you settle on this particular time period for your story?
Marty Ross
     Big Finish gave a whole list of characters and eras they were interested in dealing with. I saw they were interested in a Judith/Edith story and I pitched for that, in part because I like writing for strong female characters, but also because I wanted to write a real grand-style gothic romance and a 19th. century setting seemed ideal for that. I'm a big devotee of the 19th. century gothic tale, of the Bronte sisters and Sheridan LeFanu and so on, as well as the reinvention of that kind of gothic in things like the Dark Shadows 1890s sequence, the Hammer films and the 'gaslight' melodramas of 40s Hollywood. Precisely because people - certainly people of the social rank of the Collins family - were much more strait-laced in that era, it gives a whole extra frisson to the idea of a young woman brought up that way casting caution to the winds and having a passionate, sensuous affair - with a phantom lover, at that. The tensions between what a respectable young woman is and isn't supposed to do are all the more extreme and tension, of course, makes for drama.

From a storytelling point of view, what is the appeal of Judith Collins?
     Well, one obvious appeal for me, and this is a thing that runs through a lot of my work, is that I'm happiest as a writer writing strong female characters - and Judith is nothing if not that. The biggest influence on my life was my maternal grandmother, who had been born in 1909 as part of a family of seven sisters and when as a kid I'd go visiting these great-aunts it was almost like Collinwood, with these grand old ladies living in Victorian tenements chock-a-block with old-fashioned decor - and if there was any family business outstanding, these great-aunties would creep off into shadowy back rooms to discuss it all in whispers. So that kind of pre-modern world of female experience is less distant to me than to most people of my generation! And my grandmother was basically a Bronteesque romantic disguised as a rather conservative older lady, so I know from first hand that dichotomy between an almost Victorian respectablity and a more passionate inner nature - maybe in part I'm paying tribute to her: she'd have loved Dark Shadows if it had only been on British TV.

Prequels are notoriously difficult to write because the audience frequently enters the story already knowing how it ends. How did you approach this issue with Judith, given that we already know there’s a dark, violent future ahead of her?
     I think the story gains extra tension from knowing what Judith's future is. We know Judith as this rather stern older woman, but I thought wouldn't it be poignant if as a younger woman she started out as someone much more romantic and open-minded, more Jane Eyre than Mrs. Danvers, and then this becomes the story of how experience forces a darker, more pessimistic vision on her, so that at the end of Dress Me you see this younger, brighter figure beginning to morph into the older Joan Bennett character. If she's simply a junior version of Joan Bennett right from the get-go, then there isn't the drama - ultimately, maybe, the tragedy - of seeing that transition begin right in front of you.

     Basically, the more you know about the character's future, the more poignant you'll find the place where she's left at the end of this story, precisely because there's a vanishing hint of how things could have been otherwise. There's one moment where Edith expresses a genuine hope for Judith's future - but the way she expresses this will set off alarm bells in the heads of listeners who know what lies ahead for Judith: it's not just an in-joke, it's more the tragic irony that Edith is trying to pass on a blessing, but the blessing will really turn out, in the fullness of time, to be a curse.  So the listener's knowledge of Judith's future is employed as a kind of dramatic element in the story: Hitchcock said that suspense was when you let the audience know well in advance there's a bomb ticking under the table where your characters are chatting happily. In a sense, Judith's future - as defined by the TV show - is the bomb ticking under the table here.

How did Amber Benson prepare for the role? Did Big Finish provide reference material to help familiarize her with the series?
     You'd have to ask James Goss and Joseph Lidster at Big Finish about the specifics of casting, and working with, Amber. I finished the script and was just told they had something fantastic in the works with the casting: I thought maybe they just meant they'd cast someone slightly dull out of Coronation Street. Then next thing I knew Amber was playing the lead. But unfortunately I didn't get a ticket to LA to hear her perform! Certainly, we writers were given access to the original TV episodes, so most likely Amber was too.

If you had the opportunity to write another Dark Shadows story, which character would you want in the lead?
     I don't want to preempt Big Finish's decision on whether I get to do another one: they seem to have liked the script, but we still need to see if it works for listeners! Certainly, I'd love to do more: my interest in the series goes right back to my childhood when the bargain bin in my local Glasgow Woolworths used to be filled with Marilyn Ross paperbacks (I even had the Barnabas Collins Joke Book!) - and I read all the US monster mags, which always had a lot of Dark Shadows material. So I feel quite at home at Collinwood.

     As far as specific characters and stories are concerned, when I was pitching this, there was one other idea that they seemed to like, centred around Maggie Collins, married to Quentin (i.e: 70s parallel time), but being trapped in a confrontation with John Yaeger/Cyrus Longworth - as a Scot, I'm very attracted to the Jekyll/Hyde theme. That would be a really great, more modern psycho-thriller, and Kathryn Leigh Scott is someone I'd love to write for.

     I also had an idea for a story about Eve, who's a great character, but Nicholas Blair was also involved and it hadn't been quite decided at the time what to do with Blair in terms of casting, etc. so the idea was sidelined. But I'd still like to do something with Eve.

     But at the end of Dress Me In Dark Dreams, I also wanted to leave open the possibility of another story or two based around this younger incarnation of Judith: we talked about her in the final scene becoming wholly like the older Judith, but as it is there's a hint that the younger, more romantic self is wounded but not quite finished off, leaving open the possibility for more adventures for this version of Judith and Edith. But, of course, I'd love to write something for Lara Parker too: I'm a romantic dramatist - nothing inspires me like a great actress - and Dark Shadows has plenty of those!

Tom Baker and Dark Shadows. How do we make this happen?
     Heaven knows, it took Big Finish long enough persuading him back into the Tardis! Certainly, he's a terrific actor and it's worth remembering how good he is at bad guys: he was a terrific Rasputin. Maybe it's 1914 and a mysterious refugee with a Russian accent turns up at the door of Collinwood on a stormy night, looking more dead than alive.... 

     But, to be serious, you'd have to pester the producers at Big Finish (way above my pay scale!) and they'd have to pester the great man himself!

We have a winner!

Our second contest came to a close this weekend. It was my intention to announce the winner yesterday, but my OCD prevented me from posting any material not related to the 1991 Dark Shadows revival series. Also, I had to open and close the bedroom door exactly 232 times, which really eats into a person's schedule.

The winner is Twitter follower FushigiFox, who was EASILY the most aggressive competitor in the "ReTweet" contest. If you're a fan of good sportsmanship, head over to her account and congratulate her.

Kathryn Leigh Scott cries foul
over L.A. Times article

Kathryn Leigh Scott, one of the original stars of Dark Shadows, has taken issue in a recent L.A.Times story by Geoff Boucher.
Tim Burton, director of the new Dark Shadows film, is quoted in the story as saying the original show "was actually awful," but Scott says the negative tone of the story was the work of the story's writer, not the filmmaker.


"To begin with, four of us from the original television series (Jonathan Frid, Lara Parker, David Selby and I) were on the Pinewood set filming cameos at the same time this Los Angeles Times reporter was visiting the studio. The unit publicist introduced Lara and me to Geoff Boucher and we chatted for several minutes. How strange that in his article, Boucher implies that the producers are distancing themselves from the original when four original cast members are in the new film!"
 She goes on to say:

"Boucher refers to “Dark Shadows” as “this monster mash of a show that attracted fringe taste, which is why it attracted the young outsiders who would be called goths today.” Huh? In fact, “Dark Shadows,” “awful” or not, attracted some 20 million mainstream viewers in its heyday and has earned the undying devotion of legions of fans worldwide. That’s a lot of fringe-taste goths, Mr. Boucher!"

Read the entire piece HERE.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dark Shadows Revival Trading Cards


I've shared some of these images here over the last few weeks, as well as at the Collinsport Historical Society's Tumblr account. All 70+ custom  "trading cards" in these series are now available for viewing at our Facebook page, so check them out!

Barnabas Bites Again: An early look at the 1991 Dark Shadows revival series

Welcome to the third installment of Revival Sunday, our weekly look back at the 1991 Dark Shadows revival series. First up is a story from a 1990 issue of Cinefantastique. It's an early look at the show's troubled relationship with NBC, something that would eventually doom the show after only 12 episodes.

This scan comes of us courtesy of Henriette, representing The Collinsport Historical Society's branch on Berlin.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Orly producing Dark Shadows-themed nail polish

I was expecting the usual action-figures-and-happy-meal-toys merchandise for Dark Shadows. As far as I know, there's been NO Dark Shadows movie-related product solicited yet ... until now. Orly is producing a series of nail polishes inspired by the film. Here's the press release:

ORLY International announced today a limited-time nail color collection partnership with Warner Bros. Pictures in conjunction with the release of Tim Burton’s “Dark Shadows,” starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter, set to open on May 11, 2012.

“ORLY strives to deliver innovative products and trend-focused nail shades,” said Jeff Pink, President and CEO of ORLY International. “The adventurous theme of ‘Dark Shadows’ was a perfect fit with our brand and the fashion colors we created for this collection.”

The collection will include four lacquers, with names and shades that reflect the dark humor conveyed in the film.

In support of the limited-time collection, ORLY will launch a “Dark Shadows” sweepstakes on their Facebook page April 1 – May 12, 2012 where the winner will receive a private screening at a movie theater near the their home for up to 50 guests.

The ORLY Color Collection inspired by the movie, Dark Shadows will be available in May 2012 for $8.50 each at and Sally Beauty and Ulta.

Barnabas, Quentin and the Crystal Coffin

The Spoiler-Ridden Synopsis

     “How long will Collinwood’s evil forces allow Betty Ward to search for her sister’s killer?
     Heiress Betty Ward is worried about her twin sister, who has eloped with Jeremy Frene. She followed them from Paris to the Frene estate at Collinwood – but arrives too late!
     Her twin is dead, victim of a mysterious illness. Her body has been sealed in a crystal coffin and kept in a darkened room. Jeremy swears that because her ghost returns to the castle each night, he refuses to bury the coffin.
     Betty is convinced her sister’s death was not a natural one. Jeremy’s aunt opposed the marriage. Her ally against the couple seems to have been Quentin Collins, a suspected werewolf.
     Betty turns to Barnabas Collins for help, despite the rumors that he is a vampire. But she does not realize that by doing so, she has placed herself in mortal danger …”
(From the book jacket)

The above synopsis resolves much of the novel’s mystery before the reader has even opened the book, but there are still a few gems to be mined from the pages of Barnabas, Quentin and the Crystal Coffin.

Stephen King has said that every horror movie, no matter how terrible it might be, has a message. These messages are sometimes unintentional, he insists, but they’re present if you’re willing to look for them. I can’t say with any certainty that this rule holds water when applied to Marilyn Ross’s Dark Shadows novels, but there’s definitely something taking place beneath the surface of The Crystal Coffin. 

There’s a strange undercurrent of paranoia in this story, and not just the usual “Who’s the Killer?” plot found in most of Ross’s novels. Instead, the story betrays a sense of mistrust in artists, who are all portrayed as eccentric (possibly even homicidal) weirdos. Most of Ross's books are about young women introduced to spooky, hostile environments, so it’s natural the residents of Collinwood are going to be a little odd, regardless of their profession.

But here’s where the thing: As a writer, Ross was an artist of sorts. By placing painters and sculptors among the same ranks as mad scientists and magicians, he betrays a sense of alienation to his own work. The message here is that the mechanics of science and art are equally unfathomable to him. As a writer of pulp romances, nobody expects him to know much about science. But Ross was a hack* who had learned how to pay his bills by writing without ever fully grasping the mechanics of storytelling.

And he’s swinging for the fences in The Crystal Coffin, a book that features some imaginative imagery (and even a solid idea or two.) As you read in the book’s synopsis, Betty Ward spends the first act looking for her twin sister, who has married an American artist she met in Paris. While visiting the city of lights she’s imprisoned by an evil "dwarf" who spends his days making nightmarish wax sculptures. He had made a sculpture of Ward’s missing sister to sell to a suitor she’d rejected, but decides that Betty would fetch a higher price that a wax figure.

I don’t think the fairy tale imagery is a mistake, even though Ross doesn’t always know what to do with it. When Ward later arrives at Frene Castle (one of the many ruined estates that litter the ever-expanding property of Collinwood) she finds that her sister is dead, and has been embalmed and displayed in a glass coffin. Her ghost rises each night to fill blank canvasses with disturbing images that sound like the kind of thing Basil Gogos would admire.

There’s also a werewolf lurking the estate, not to mention the vampire Barnabas Collins, who does nothing terribly vampiric (is that a word?) in this book. Quentin disappears early in the novel, popping up once or twice later in werewolf form. After Barnabas runs the werewolf through with a sword, Quention runs off into the night. We find out later he was part of a plot to kill the young women at Frene Castle, but are never given a reason why he’d participate in the plot or what he had to gain.

There are some fun ideas in The Crystal Coffin, but most of them are underdeveloped. It’s interesting to see how the dark psychology of fairy tales clashes violently with reality. Betty Ward is presented as a “modern women” who rejects superstition, but it’s not superstition that poses a threat to her. Human imagination is the real threat of the story, which makes Ross’s mistrust of artists that much more troubling. I expect these kinds of sentiments from people without creative impulses, but from a professional writer it’s just kind of … sad.

*As a fan of Kenneth Robeson and Walter Gibson, please know that I don’t mean that in a disparaging way.

House of Dark Shadows card of the day

Friday, March 23, 2012

New Dark Shadows photo (and missed marketing opportunities)

There's a new-ish photo of Johnny Depp and the "Barnabas Portrait" from the new film over at the L.A. Times that underscores how WB has bungled the marketing of Dark Shadows. It's rare that ANY movie keeps as much of its contents under wraps as this movie has, and it's not because of a misguided sense of secrecy.

When this kind of thing happens, it's a safe bet that the movie is a piece of shit.That's the excuse armchair critics use, anyway, because it makes them feel smart. But movies are difficult to make, so predicting any movie is going to be a disaster is like bragging about how many fish you shot in a barrel. In the case of Dark Shadows I suspect there's a bigger, more interesting problem at play: WB doesn't know what the hell the movie is.

The studio seemed to be hedging its bets with the previous trailer, cutting random (and obviously unrelated) scenes together to create the most LOLS. I think the film will have a lot of divergent qualities, and this situation flies in the face of modern movie marketing ... which is the very definition of lowest common denominator. If you're lucky you might get an interactive viral game or some other diversion, but many of those campaigns have little or nothing to do with the quality of the final movie (see Tron Legacy.) Instead, what we get is a lot of Photoshopped posters of floating heads and lens flares, shellacked in the flop sweat of marketing department slaves who live in constant terror that THEY will be blamed when a crummy film flops.

Is the Dark Shadows trailer bad? If it's supposed to be a comedy, it's not very funny. If it's a parody, I don't know what they're poking fun at. I don't see any horror elements that demand the movie be featured on the front of Fangoria, either. Right now, the film's primary word of mouth has focused on the LACK of publicity for the film. WB has let armchair critics (like me) do their marketing for them.

I wonder how they like the job we've done so far?

And marketing this movie should have been a no brainer. Back in 1984, there was another movie that mixed genres in some very silly ways. Long before the proper marketing campaign began for that movie, theaters were displaying posters showing only a cartoon ghost and the phrase "Coming to save the world this summer." No movie title. No cast names. It was a complete mystery, but in a positive way. It was a strange film, almost unclassifiable film that went on to make quite a bit of money.

If WB had any sense at all, teaser posters of that painting you see at the top of this post should have been hanging in every theater in the country six months ago, if not earlier. The movie's period setting created endless opportunities for promoting the film. At this point, though, WB is probably just counting on Batman to save their asses again this year.

UPDATE: Tim Burton calls original Dark Shadows series "Awful." Stay classy, Tim.

House of Dark Shadows card of the day

The Crimson Pearl

There are few Dark Shadows spinoffs as ambitious as The Crimson Pearl.

I'm hard pressed to think of even ONE trip to Collinsport since 1971 that has been as broad and eventful as this audiobook from Big Finish. It's a story that owes a great deal to modern comicbook storytelling ... the Dark Shadows equivalent of Crisis on Infinite Earths, if you will. Because it's not just a story that spans generations, but timelines, as well.

The story follows the path of a mysterious crimson pearl, discovered in 1690 by Isaac Collins as he is bringing his family from England to the colonies. The pearl falls from the sky without explanation and brings doom to almost everyone who tries to possess it. We get a peek into the Collins family in the years before Barnabas Collins (histories stained by tragedy and suicide,) as well as an idea of what happens to Millicent and Daniel in their later years. The pearl eventually falls into the hands of Angelique and ... well, I don't want to spoil things. But it's worth mentioning that Diabolos, Count Petofi, Jeb Hawkes and the Collins family of "Parallel Time" make appearances.

It's an incredibly respectful piece of work that isn't moribund in its devotion to capturing the show's tone. The horror elements are genuinely chilling, and the characters are even allowed to progress (as far as the brief vignettes can allow.) A few characters originally played by cast members now deceased also lurk the backgrounds of these tales, which is both haunting and sweet, with the story ending in the years after the  series' own demise.

The cast is as sprawling as the story. In addition to a varied supporting cast are appearances from Dark Shadows alumni Nancy Barrett, Roger Davis, Jerry Lacy, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, Christopher Pennock, David Selby and Roy Thinnes. The entire event feels like a sendoff of sorts, and the episode's final lines of dialogue, spoken by David Selby, had me worried:
"But one day, I am sure I shall return. For much as it is a place filled with horror and intrigue, it is also my home. And, as much as there is darkness, there is also light. For Collinwood is a place where stories happen. There will be more. So many more."
 It sounds like THE END, right? Luckily Big Finish has several new episodes scheduled to appear in 2012, with The Crimson Pearl's follow ups, The Voodoo Amulet and The House by the Sea, already available.

CLICK HERE to get THE CRIMSON PEARL from Big Finish Productions.

Coverage of 1988 reading by Jonathan Frid

When you can't correctly spell the name of a popular fictional character, don't expect me to take your word when you say "This is true ..."

From a February 1988, issue of Cincinnati Magazine.

Make your own Dark Shadows picture frame

Alexa, editor of The Swell Life blog, marked Halloween a few years back with a Dark Shadows-related crafts project. After coming across some old comics at a thrift store, she decided to clip some of the art and mount them on a photo frame. She's got instructions on how to complete the project at her site.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Quentin's Theme mentioned in Billboard

I feel kinda silly explaining Quentin's Theme to you folks. Thanks to the new film, though, I'm sure there are people wandering into Dark Shadows thinking it's just  summer movie ... so I probably shouldn't assume anything. If you're a noob (and there's nothing wrong with that,) Quentin's Theme was a Top 10 single in the late 1960s. It was an instrumental piece of music associated with Quentin Collins on Dark Shadows, but had a bit of spoken word hoodoo added to it in the popular release. You can listen to the music in the video below.

The clipping above is from the June 7, 1969, issue of Billboard.

Frank and Lara

Frank strikes again! Yesterday's first contribution to the Cribs feature also sent me this photo of him and Lara Parker, taken at the 2011 Dark Shadows Festival in Brooklyn.

Dark Shadows Cribs

Cynthia's Dark Shadows shrine is a do-it-yourself piece of work. Rather than stack things on shelves (which is as creative as I've been able to get with my own shrine) she decided to turn photos and clippings into a collage.

If you want to show off your Dark Shadows shrine, hit me up at my Facebook page,  Twitter feed or leave a comment anywhere on this site. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Erica and David, sitting in a tree ...

I've met a fair number of celebrities in my time (I've touched Chad Everett!) but haven't met any of the cast of Dark Shadows face-to-face. So I always get a kick out of pictures of the cast meeting their fans. Unlike a lot of television actors, the original cast of DS seems to actually LIKE their following.

Erica sent me this photo and I thought I'd pass it along (I think it speaks for itself.) If you're one of those types who clicks on the links I post in these entries, I'm going to go ahead and answer your question: Yes, I've seen her blog. And it brought a smile to my face.

Dynamite's "Dark Shadows" future

Dynamite Entertainment recently wrapped the first storyline in its new Dark Shadows comic series, which has been collected in a trade paperback scheduled to ship April 10. I've made my (resoundingly favorable) opinion of the series known on this website during the last few months, and thought I'd give you a look at the upcoming story arc. Dynamite has posted the cover art and synopses of the next four issues at their homepage. The cover for issue #7 has yet to be revealed and I haven't looked too deep into the solicitations for fear of spoilers, but here's how they summarize the first issue:

"Barnabas Collins finds himself increasingly troubled as Dr. Julia Hoffman continues her experiments to cure his vampire condition. Alone as the night draws in, a trip to the nearby town of Collinsport sees Barnabas stalked by a mysterious woman with a message. As he follows her into the night, he finds himself confronted by faces from his past, each with a score to settle..."
It looks like we're in for a change in creative teams for the next story, with Mike Raicht taking over the writing duties and Guiu Vilanova handling the art. You can find Vilanova online HERE.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Johnny Depp on the cover of Fangoria

Not to be outdone by Famous Monsters of Filmland, Johnny Depp's take on Barnabas Collins will grace an upcoming issue of Fangoria (which you can preview HERE.) In between non-so-sincere assertions that the new Dark Shadows movie is not a comedy, the film's creators have promised that a bit of gruesome vampire violence will be part of the movie's "strange" tone.

New Dark Shadows movie banners

WB has released individual character banners for Dark Shadows. If I were a speculatin' man, I'd venture a guess that the marketing campaign for the film was delayed because of inner conflicts between the studio and director over how they were going to market the (obviously bizarre) film. As with the other print materials released for the film the images are gorgeous and are doing their job (in this case, "doing their job" means "making me ignore my better judgement".)

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