Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dark Shadows DVD/Blu-ray specs

DARK SHADOWS is coming to DVD and Blu-ray Oct. 2, the first of three DARK SHADOWS films to hit home video in October (HOUSE/NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS will be released Oct. 30.) The U.S. edition of DARK SHADOWS looks to be less extravagant than the Japanese edition, but will feature a handful of deleted scenes and featurettes.

Special features include:
  • Maximum Movie Mode, viewable during the feature or in nine individual Focus Points:
    • Becoming Barnabas
    • Welcome To Collinsport!
    • The Collinses: Every Family Has Its Demons
    • Reliving a Decade
    • Angelique: A Witch Scorned
    • Alice Cooper Rocks Collinsport!
    • Dark Shadowy Secrets
    • A Melee of Monstrous Proportions
    • Dark Shadows: The Legend Bites Back
  • Deleted scenes:
    • “Dr Hoffman and Elizabeth Discuss Barnabas”
    • “David and Barnabas Discuss Dinosaurs”
    • “Carolyn and Victoria”
    • “Girl Talk”
    • “Police Warn Willie and Barnabas”
    • “Dr Hoffman Offers Victoria Help”

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Dark Shadows Experiment: The exit interview

One man watched and reviewed all 1,225 episodes of Dark Shadows in 45 days.

Patrick McCray, creator of THE COLLINS FOUNDATION, recently completed his marathon viewing session, wading through several centuries worth of vampires, witches, werewolves and the occasional zombie. He politely agreed to speak to THE COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY about his experience, as well as a little androcentrism, Dark Shadows: The Next Generation, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

1: Did you miss any major details by watching DARK SHADOWS on such an intense schedule?

Short answer: yes.

Middle-weight answer: It became tougher than I recalled to keep track of when and how Barnabas was a vampire and who knew what secret.

Raconteur answer: Details are certainly the first victims, although that seems counter-intuitive.  It all becomes a blur of details.  So many that it's like reading an odd form of binary code or knowing that a Seraut painting is just dots, I found that there were several modes of the project.  One was to obsessively data-mine and document every quip and factoid.  That gets old.  Then there's a mode where you just kind of co-exist with the show.  This is the "household errand" phase. Like a long-married couple, you do your thing, she does her thing, and if she asks for your attention, it's not a big deal to drop what you're doing.  Mission Control has codenamed my home "the Defiant."  That's in the DS9 sense.  One of the properties of the my "Defiant" and Sisko's is that they have small footprints.  Once the show goes on, it's very hard to get away from it... especially when the only internal door is to the bathroom.  The errand mode was a big one.  I'd rewind when necessary.  But another mode set in.  Those binary ones and zeroes would blur.  I would neither ignore the show nor scrutinize it.  It was almost like meditation; I was there.  I was aware of everything in the episodes.  But things like episodic beginnings and ends would vanish.  The best mode was just, you know, paying attention and enjoying the show as a fan... while taking a few notes.

2: The overall continuity of DARK SHADOWS is (mostly) circular, with the final storylines among some of the earliest in the various timelines. Watching the show with this in mind, did knowing the influence of Judah Zachary (as well as the fact that Barnabas was quietly slumbering nearby during the first 200 episodes) alter the experience of watching the entirety of DARK SHADOWS a second time?

Absolutely, and this was my intent.  I wanted to approach the entire show like a wholistic text, reverse engineering everything from the perspective of Judah's influence.  Intriguing questions arose, such as the demonic hierarchy in the series.  How do the Leviathans, Diablos, Nicholas Blair, and Judah Zachary rank and/or co-exist?  The great discoveries I made are that an androcentric reading (which is far from a misogynistic reading) is very helpful.  So often, we see stories of women pining helplessly for men.  In DARK SHADOWS, the opposite is frequently true.  What does this say of the new way in which men could be portrayed in the 1960's?  A text can be read from any number of valid perspectives.  The one in which the private psyches and sensitivities of men are explored is of most interest to me.  Finally, my thinking on the series was so reordered again that I may need to repeat (part of) the Experiment. The full story  is, flat out, a love story about Barnabas and Angelique, and how they save Collinwood by the power of mutual forgiveness.  That is its core, and that is what I will be exploring in the year ahead, and in Phase Three of the Experiment, next summer.

3: Is there a "right place" to begin watching DARK SHADOWS? Is there a "right place" to stop?
That depends on the intent of the viewer.  I'll use three tiers.

For the absolute diehard, go from start to finish.
For the person getting reacquainted with it, I'd start with 1795.
For the totally unfamiliar, I'd start with volumes 14-17.  1897 is in full swing and the show is simply a dizzying joy of freewheeling writing, strong direction, marvelous costumes, handsome cads and beautiful gals, and an acting verve -- anchored by Thayer David and David Selby -- that shows performers deeply in love with their craft.  They are relishing the prizes that the writers are delivering every day.  And once more, Don Briscoe shines as a moral man undone.
4: DARK SHADOWS ended with the fates of the original cast in limbo, possibly even living in an altered BACK TO THE FUTURE-esque timeline. Had the show survived the 1840/Parallel Time debacle, where should the show have gone next?

Well, follow @darkshadowstng on Twitter to find out!

Beyond that, this is what I see would have happened.  Morgan Collins survives to become some kind of monster who shows up in 1971 main time.  That's your crossover character.  I see an eventual move to LA and a change in producers as Curtis would move to features.  There would be plenty of good genre writers suddenly available.  David Gerrold, for example.  Their stories would probably impact the  rest of the show. Having mined a lot of classic horror, I think they'd turn it the seventies hits.  I also foresee two temporary location changes.  One would be David in the West Coast to take advantage of the fact that they are there. It also would have updated the look and feel of the show to what they saw as glamour back then.  The family, of course, would descend.   Also, a Savannah storyline is a must to capture the southern gothic possibilities of the Southern branch of the family.  I foresee a Civil War flashback.

5: Any plans to binge on the DARK SHADOWS novels by Marilyn Ross in a similar fashion?

I need a good source! Off to eBay!

Custom-made Barnabas figure wins the Internet

Charles Richards onmissed out on the Majestic Studios BARNABAS COLLINS figure that was released a few years ago. The figure routinely sells for more than $100 on Ebay these days, which was more than most people are willing to spend on a toy. So he found an interesting alternative:
I missed out on the Majestic Toys version of the Barnabas Collins action figure several years ago, and most that currently appear on eBay are grossly overpriced. So... I was resigned to not having a sixth scale Barnabas in my collection.... But then a few weeks ago, I saw a custom Barnabas head offered on eBay that looked much better (to me) than the Majestic version (the plain face...not the vampire). I won the auction and within a week, using a spare body, a suit and overcoat set, and shoes I already had, I set out to do my own 1/6 scale version. I removed the sleeves to the overcoat to make the Inverness coat, and sewed the cape portion myself. I also made his cane from a wooden dowel and Sculpty. 

As the owner of the Barnabas Collins figure produced by Majestic, I've got to say his creation is superior to the figure produced by Majestic. It's a terrific likeness and steers away from the habit of merchandisers of always putting Barnabas in a brown suit.What think you?

Friday, July 27, 2012

My Favorite Monster: Jeb Hawkes

THE LEVIATHANS story gets a bad rap.

Often blamed for the demise of DARK SHADOWS, the storyline rends ideas from ROSEMARY'S BABY and the work of H.P. Lovecraft and stitches them together to create some of the show's most genuinely creepy moments. The arc even manages to resolve one of the series' oldest mysteries by explaining what happened to Elizabeth's husband 20 years earlier, which is no small feat for a show known for it's love of dangling plot points.

We were going to tell you about Victoria Winters' real parents but VAMPIRES.

The Leviathans were a cult that worshiped alien gods and looked like something from the cover of a BLUE OYSTER CULT record. Destined to lead the cult was Jeb Hawkes, one of the most complicated characters to ever grace DARK SHADOWS. Initially dubbed the "Thing in the Box" by producers, Hawkes was introduced as a parade of increasingly older children, all known by different names. I'm not sure if this was a poke at Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome (was that even a thing in 1969?) but the changing shape of the Leviathan "leader" gave the character lots of opportunities to interact with - and threaten - the individual cast members. It's the most oppressively paranoid story this side of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.

That's not to say the Leviathans was flawless. It overplayed its hand by neutering its heroes: Barnabas Collins was turned into a cult drone, Quentin was given amnesia and most of the cast was gradually brainwashed into joining the Leviathans. It didn't take long for DARK SHADOWS to turn into a show about bad guys during the Leviathans arc. But none of that was the fault of actor CHRISTOPHER PENNOCK, who threw himself into a role that seemed to change on a daily basis.

Who needs a plausible backstory when you've got swagger?
Not only did Pennock bring youth and sex appeal to the role, but Hawkes seemed engineered to be everything that Count Petofi (the show's previous villain) was not: inexperienced, petulant, impatient, greedy and virile. He wasn't the brightest bulb in the basket, but keep in mind Hawkes was a 6'2" infant: the character bit the dust before he had the chance to blow out the candles on his first birthday cake.

Admittedly, I didn't warm to Jeb Hawkes right away. Had you asked me 20 years ago, I would have dismissed the character as a bratty misfire.  Gabriel Collins and John Yaeger are superior performances by Pennock, who was more versatile than he was probably given credit for at the time. For a guy whose photos regularly appeared in SIXTEEN and TIGER BEAT, he had a habit of playing seriously icky characters on DARK SHADOWS.

Today, Jeb Hawkes remains the most compelling of the bunch, though. A Lovecraftian Pinocchio, Hawkes is a character who revels in his lack of humanity, constantly chomping at the bit to reveal his "true form" to anyone who crosses him. His "true form" is never shown to the audience, partly because of budgetary restraints, but mostly because the vague descriptions we get sound repulsive. Covered in foul-smelling slime and leaving toxic footprints in his wake, I have trouble believing ANY network would let you show a monster like that on television at 4 in the afternoon.

Audiences didn't respond well to the Leviathans story, though. It's hard to get involved in a story where the bad guys consistently win, and whatever charms Barnabas and Quentin had were neutered by putting them on the sidelines for several months. It's also probable that the audience during the 1897 story had simply grown as large as it was ever going to get, and the decline experienced during the Leviathans story was natural fatigue. Whatever the case, producers learned what they could from the experience, returned Barnabas to his place as the show's figurehead, bumped off Jeb Hawkes (while graciously allowing him to redeem himself during his final moments) and instated Pennock as a regular cast member until the demise of the series.

I might be the only one clamoring for the return of Jeb Hawkes. Like ADAM, I'm curious to see where his character would have gone if allowed a "normal" life in Collinwood, but I seem to be alone in that regard. I doubt even Pennock gave much thought to Jeb Hawkes once he moved on to other roles. But that's the nature of DARK SHADOWS fandom: we always want more from our favorite television show ... even 40 years after the fact.


Barnabas Collins: Originally the villain of Dark Shadows, Barnabas Collins eventually morphed into the anti-heroic, teen-magazine cover boy star of the show ... but he was still a murderer. And even when he stopped (for the most part) chomping necks, he was still beating up his trusted assistant Willie Loomis and generally being a dick. Will McKinley

Laura, the Phoenix:  Burn, Baby, Burn! The Phoenix may not be Dark Shadows’ best supernatural villain, but she was its first, paving the way for the kinds of stories that would become the backbone of television’s first gothic soap opera.  Join us for a look back at the creepy charms of Laura Collins, motherly love ignited to a whole new, scorching level. The Drawing Room

Count Petofi: When it comes to the other “master villains” on the show, eventually we find out that they work for someone else, and this defangs them.  With two exceptions.  One is Judah Zachary, the oft-ignored prime mover of all misery in Collinsport.  The second is Petofi. The Collins Foundation

Eve/Marie Roget: Eve came along during a period in Dark Shadows history when Dan Curtis clearly realized that what the show was suffering from was a lack of voluptuous RealDolls with big red sexy hair and adorable button noses.  Plucky Chicken

Angelique: After 368 incestuous episodes, along came the most lovely creature a young monster could dream of: the housemaid Angelique. Her stunning beauty was only surpassed by her quest for demonic vengeance. It was a win-win really. Stuff Monsters Like

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My Favorite Monster

Long time, no post. It's been a weird week thanks to scheduling conflicts and an on-going bout of Captain Tripps. I've accomplished almost nothing this week, save for watching a few episodes of BREAKING BAD while trying no to die on the sofa. Even that write-up of SON OF DRACULA for Silver Scream was something that was I finished a while ago, making this week a total write-off.

Well, not a total write off. As I sit here running hot and cold, I'm working on fulfilling an obligation to another DARK SHADOWS blog-a-thon I pitched to my fellow Collinwood Maniacs a few weeks back. There are six scheduled participants for tomorrow's event, each taking a favored monster/villain from Dark Shadows and doing our thing. We'll be sharing links to the various pieces tomorrow, so stay tuned to Facebook and Twitter throughout the day. Expect some ... controversy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

First look at Japanese Dark Shadows Blu-ray set

DARK SHADOWS comes to home video on Oct. 3. While American audiences are still waiting on details about the U.S. video release, Warner Bros. has already announced details about the Japanese edition. Encoded for Region 2 (Japan, Europe and the Middle East,) the Blu-ray comes with a bonus disc of material, a 36-page photo album, a photo of Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins and a deluxe case. The bonus disc includes a "movie tour," deleted scenes and character profiles. The product listing does not explain why three discs pictured, or what content is bundled with that disc.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Night of Dark Shadows turns theater into
a "day care center," 1971 newspaper review

The Shadows Once Again Are Dark

The Robesonian, Aug. 13, 1971


When the ABC-TV series "Dark Shadows" left the airwaves back in April, it was a great disappointment to  the many fans left behind, but judging from a new release from Metro-Goldwyn Mayer, where television has left off, the flicks will continue.

The second of two movies based on the Dan Curtis video production, "Night of Dark Shadows" is currently  playing the Carolina Theatre here with many of the old familiar players seen in the TV episodes.

We've noticed that these film versions of the Collinwood story have a tendency to be a bit more gruesome than their television counterpart. This is understandable, however, in view of the current trend toward extreme realism in movie-making.

The story of the movie takes us once again to the ancient Maine manor house of Collinwood which has just been inherited by Quentin Collins, portrayed, as usually by David Selby, who brings his young wife, Tracy, played by Kate Jackson, to the mansion where he plans to settle down and pursue his profession as an artist.

It seems, however, that Quentin is the reincarnation of one Charles Collins, an ancestor of some 200 years standing who was in love with and loved by Angelique Collins, reputed to be a witch. This latter day Quentin
becomes enchanted by the ghost of Angelique, and things really begin to happen after that.

The supernaturalism in the flick is somewhat subdued, however, compared with, the first of the "Shadows" film versions — "House of Dark Shadows" which had that incorrigible vampire Barnabas Collins, the  high-flying Jonathan Frid role, as the featured boogy.

At our seeing of the film Wednesday afternoon, it would have appeared that nearly half  the youngsters in Lumberton were in the theatre — in fact — "day-care center" would have been a good word to describe the environment.

The 8 to 10 year olds were out in force and screamed at the slightest provocation. It was well reminiscent of the good old Saturday afternoon matinne days at the Carolina. In a somewhat different role was Grayson Hall, who instead of her usual characterization of Dr. Julia Hoffman, played the housekeeper Carlctta Drake in a very sinister but masterly fashion. If one is used to seeing iMiss Hall as a red-headed lady doctor (via color TV) then this sardonic brown-haired housekeeper was a definite surprise departure.

Other familiar faces in the Collinwood set up were Nancy Barrett, Christopher Pennock, James Storm and Thayer David.

Sotrm was noteworthy for his portrayal of the role of Gerard Styles, on the the TV series villains.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Dark Shadows featured in Diabolique magazine

Dark Shadows is featured in the July issue of Diabolique, a bimonthly print and digital magazine covering every aspect of the horror genre, including film, literature, theatre, art, music, history and culture. Dark Shadows not only graces the cover, but is the subject of three feature articles inside:

The Darkest and Longest of Shadows
David Del Valle remembers his friend Jonathan Frid

Collinwood Calling
Robert J.E. Simpson discusses Dark Shadows, old and new

Fear in the Afternoon
Drew Beard on Dark Shadows, Gothic horror and the soap opera

The print issue of the magazine is now available for order for $9.99, with the digital edition listed as "coming soon."

Moltke takes spotlight in Dark Shadows promo story

Alexandra Moltke In New ABC Series
The Dally Reporter, June 23, 1966

Alexandra Moltke, pretty young star of ABC-TV's new romantic suspense series, "Dark Shadows," (premiering Monday, from 3-3:30 p.m., Channel 5), made her acting debut at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts tilting slightly to the left, and with one arm stiffly extended. She was an airplane wing.

Before she graduated in 1965, however, her roles became somewhat more animated. She played featured roles in "The Reluctant Debutante" and "I Remember Mama," drifted languidly as Alexandra In "The Swan," and died the death of Desdemona in "Othello."

Her current role in "Dark Shadows," in which she plays governess Victoria Winters, comes less than a year after a stock tour with Eve Arden in Beekman Place."

By her own admission, Miss Moltke has been play - acting all her life, which began at the end of World War II in Stockholm, Sweden. Three months later, snugly ensconced in a laundry basket and transported via a United States bomber, she arrived with her parents in New York, where the family settled. Her father is Carl Adam Moltke, Special Assistant to the Ambassador from Denmark and her mother is the former Mab Wilson, formerly an editor at Vogue Magazine.

Miss Moltke has spent several summers in her father's native Denmark and in Ireland, her mother's favorite country outside the United States. The rented house in Ireland, surrounded by moors and overlooked by Mount Erigal, inadvertently prepared Alexandra for her involvement in "Dark Shadows," which has as its principal focal point a mysterious and brooding mansion surrounded by correspondingly somber countryside.

Prior to her enrollment at the Academy, with which ABC has a working arrangement to help develop young acting and directing talent for radio and television, Miss Moltke attended the Chapin School in New York. Her acting career at the all - girls school was launched with her portrayal of Joseph in a Christmas play and as the chief inquisitor in a production of St. Joan.

The actress, who lives in Manhattan with her parents, her sister, Vicky,. 20, and a Norfolk Terrier named "Whimsey," is now devoting part of her off - stage time to writing and illustrating a children's novel.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Barnabas Collins by Andy Belanger

I attended the HeroesCon in Charlotte, N.C., last month, and collected a number of original pieces of art featuring characters from DARK SHADOWS.

Among that art was this wonderful piece by Andy Belanger, a freelance artist from Toronto best known for his work on Kill Shakespeare and Black Church.

Andy was also showing off a Richard Corben/Meat Loaf parody to be featured in the upcoming sequel to Henry and Glenn Forever. It was fairly hypnotic, kinda like Van Gogh's Starry Night ... only more metal.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The end of Dark Shadows: A Cautionary Tale

Patrick McCray is nearing the end of his marathon viewing of Dark Shadows. He’s brainstorming ways to celebrate the end of his run, but I thought I’d take a moment to share with him this cautionary tale.

Late last year, I wrapped my own less-than-rigorous marathon of Dark Shadows. While Patrick is mainlining the show on a terrifying 40-day plan, I stretched my own viewing habits over the course of 18 months. When I reached the end of the show, I was working from home, one computer on my desk to handle business affairs, a laptop at my left playing episodes of Dark Shadows. If it wasn't for all the work it would have been my dream job.

It was my second go-round with Dark Shadows. The first was in the early 1990s, when the Sci-Fi Channel aired two episodes a day during the week. I’d watched the series from the first episode, but when I left home for college it became more difficult to catch. My mother recorded the week’s episodes and sent me cassette each weekend, but other things eventually took precedence. Of the show’s original 1,225 episodes, I guessed I’d missed the final 200 or so.

Dark Shadows reportedly didn’t end on a high note, so missing those episodes didn’t trouble me much. I’d heard (mistakenly) that the series ended with unresolved plot threads, which I assumed meant that show had been cancelled in the middle of a story arc. So, when I decided to revisit the show on DVD a few years ago, I braced myself for the eventual end.

That day came a little earlier than I thought.

Nobody appears to care that much for Bramwell Collins and his Parallel Time relatives. Some members of the cast have forgotten they’d even taken part in the story, probably because they've been asked about it so infrequently over the years. And it's not good. The final story is often tedious, the romance forced and unbelievable. The many continuity errors suggest Dan Curtis and his writers had lost interest in Dark Shadows. The show had jumped time streams so often that it had lost track of its central characters.

When it ended, Dark Shadows was no longer about anything or anyone.

But I enjoyed watching the cast do their thing one last time. I was on the third disc of the final collection of DVDs when I noticed a lot of plot threads were being briskly tied up. I thought there was still another disc of stories left to go when Dark Shadows came to a crashing halt, and the following monologue was read by Thayer David:
There was no vampire loose on the great estate. For the first time at Collinwood the marks on the neck were indeed those of an animal. Melanie soon recovered and went to live in Boston with her beloved Kendrick. There, they prospered and had three children. Bramwell and Catherine were soon married and, at Flora's insistence, stayed on at Collinwood where Bramwell assumed control of the Collins business interests. Their love became a living legend. And, for as long as they lived, the dark shadows at Collinwood were but a memory of the distant past.
Dark Shadows was over. And I’d barely been paying attention when it happened.

So, Patrick: Don’t be like me. Try to enjoy the final episodes of the series, because there’s still some good work being done by the cast. It’s highly likely you’ll never revisit the Bramwell Collins/Parallel Time story again, so stop and smell the fake roses.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Out-of-print Dark Shadows Movie Book available
(and it comes with a signed photo!)

Kathryn Leigh Scott, who's been absent from online Dark Shadows conversations since her exhaustive publicity campaign for RETURN TO COLLINWOOD ended, has copies of the out-of-print DARK SHADOWS MOVIE BOOK available for sale on her website.

The book includes the original, uncut screenplays for HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, as well as handwritten notes on the scripts and rare photos.

The book is described as being "slightly shopworn" and is being sold at half price. It is also accompanied by a free signed photo.

Scott is also offering a deal on he first novel, DARK  PASSAGES, which is also accompanied by a signed photo and a bookmark.

You can order both books from Scott at her official website.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dark Shadows cover artist wins Eisner Award!

Artist FRANCESCO FRANCAVILLA has won the 2012 Eisner Award for Best Cover Artist, work that includes his covers for Dynamite Entertainment's DARK SHADOWS series. Named in honor of creator Will Eisner, best known for his work on THE SPIRIT, The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards are considered the "Oscars" of the comic book industry. They are handed out each year in a gala ceremony at Comic-Con International: San Diego, the largest and oldest comics convention in the United States.

For a full list of this year's winners, visit The Eisner Awards official site at ComicCon International.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Collinwood Cocktails: The Victoria Winters

The latest Collinwood Cocktail comes to us from Tamara, who brings us the Victoria Winters Shandy.

Like the Burke Devlin, the Vicky Winters Shandy is a beer cocktail. It's a simple recipe, and Tamara has promised to brew her own pale ale to make an "authentic" VWS, but here's how to make your own at home:

Ice cold pale ale
2 splashes of cranberry juice,
A drop of grenadine

I made my own this afternoon using Ocean Spray cranberry/blueberry drink, and a Shock Top IPA. I might have gotten a little carried away with the grenadine, which gave my drink that not-so-subtle fruit juice color. But when you're getting drunk in the drawing room, who cares what color it is?

Meanwhile, explore the other drink recipes from The Collinsport Cocktail Recipe Book:

The Barnabas Collins
The Burke Devlin
The Roger Collins

Friday, July 13, 2012

Frid's fangs too big for Shadows movie, 1971


Jonathan Frid and Bats And Things That Go Bump
The Abilene Reporter News, May 24, 1971

EDITOR'S NOTE - There's not much call for vampires these days. But Jonathan Frid has managed to make a lucrative living out of the red-blooded profession. The vampire "hero" of a daytime television serial, Frid, fangs and friends are now starring in a movie version of the same game.

Associated Press Writer

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — This is Washington Irving country. Sleepy Hollow. The headless

Tarry Town, as the author described it: "In the bosom of those spacious coves which. Indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expanse of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators of the Tappan Zee, and where they always prudently shortened sail, and Implored the protection of St. Nicholas when, they crossed."

Irving wrote that "a drowsy, dreary influence seems to hang over the land and to pervade the very atmosphere ... certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie. They are given to all kinds of marvelous beliefs ..."

Now, some 150 years later, the Tappan Zee bridge snakes across that broad expansion of river and Sleepy Hollow refers as much to a local garage and the cemetery as the valley itself. And the people still  frequently see strange sights. Vampires for example.

Favorite Vampire
 It's true. Up there, at Lyndhurst. The Jay Gould family was the last lo live in that 19th century Gothic medieval castle until nine years ago. Now it's a house museum. With vampires.

It's Jonathan Frid, of course alias Barnabas Collins, the world's most popular living vampire. He's popular because of daytime television and the bizarre soap serial called "Dark Shadows"—which lias been on the air for four years. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, like all movie companies, ever infatuated wilh the other media's success, brought Frid, fangs and friends, up to Tarrytown and environs in an attempt reincarnate TV's good fortune on the wider screen for hopefully as wide an audience.

Indeed, "Dark Shadows" is a far, far taller tale of twilight superstition than even Irving conjured up in the hollow of the headless horseman. A 175-year-old vampire, bats and black cats, cryplo and ghouls, things that go bump in the night and bites on the neck ... Really?

6 Million Viewers
It is real to an estimated six million TV viewers Monday through Friday afternoon — housewives and teenyboppers. And to Fiid, now a three-year "zapping" veteran vampire?

"I just learn my lines and it all comes out in a funny way," says Frid, portraying a 44-yea-rold ex-Shakespearean actor in what is considered his real life "I'm hopelessly disinterested in the occult."

Frid, relaxing on the sprawling 67-acre Lyndhurst estate overlooking the Hudson, told of an award he received from the Dracula Society and their invitation to him to accept it in person. He declined.

"It's their thing," he said. "I'd just get the giggles."

As a professional actor-cum vampire, however, he's very happy with the role.

"It gives me flexibility, range as an actor. I'm aggressive. I'm passive. Sweet. Joyous. Loving ... I accept the premise and get the audience to build on it. The majority (of the audience) take it seriously. We "camp" at rehearsal, but we play it seriously."

Is he tired of playing the same role on TV for three years and now for the movies, with two more contract years to go on the serial?

"No. I'm not typed. I've kept he part flexible. I'm the least typed on the show. I've played compassion, violence, vampire self-pity, God, the devil.

"I'm not tired of it. The writers show fatigue. They've got the harder job. I was cured for a while once because the writers couldn't find things for me to do as a vampire."

In fact, he notes, the plot the TV show often is devised according to practicality and availability of the actors. MGM and producer-director Dan Curtis (who also does the serial) needed him out of the soap for five or six weeks make the movie. The ingenious writers chained him to a coffin for the duration of filming!

The movie, which carries over eight members of the TV cast including Joan Bennelt, is somewhat less intricate than the small screen version—and it has an end. There are other small differences in the switch to the cinema version. Frid's fangs appeared too big on the big screen. They had to be file down—and they broke!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Covers for next issues of Dark Shadows-Vampirella not much better than the first

You might recall I threw a bit of a hissy fit when Dynamite revealed the cover art for the first issue of the Dark Shadows/Vampirella crossover. It was terrible in a way that defies hyperbole. The only way I can rationalize that horrible, horrible cover art being used on the front of a legitimate magazine is if it was part of a Make-A-Wish Foundation effort. Or if the artist had photos of the publisher boning a terrier. Or something. But there's NO WAY an experienced editor looked at those covers and thought they were good.

Anyway, Dynamite has released the less-offensive-but-equally-shitty cover art for issue 2 and 3 of the series. I've seen samples of the interior art - which looks pretty good - but these covers? They might even make Rob Liefeld cry.

Display art for House of Dark Shadows, Night of Dark Shadows DVD releases

Above is the artwork for the upcoming Blu-ray releases of House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows, which will arrive in time for Halloween this year. It's something that many Dark Shadows fans have been waiting years for ... so why are people so angry?

Fans are already threatening to extend their boycott of the 2012 Dark Shadows movie, which will be released on home video a few weeks before the classic films. Warner Bros. seems intent on fucking the Dark Shadows brand at every turn, so I understand the anger. Don't interpret what I'm about to say as a defense of their counter-productive marketing strategy. (Note that Jonathan Frid's name is misspelled in the above ad.)

We have no reason to boycott the DVD releases of House of Dark Shadows or Night of Dark Shadows.

Yes, the lack of bonus features on these discs is a bad thing. There's only one reason for this: Warner Bros. doesn't believe the audience for these movies is large enough to justify the expense of developing additional content for the DVD releases. When you consider that these movies are being released just a few weeks after the DVD release of the 2012 Tim Burton movie, the studio is clearly hoping the original Dark Shadows films will get a boost from the Burton project.

I'm not holding out hope that House and Night will sell in such high quantities that we'll ever get more expansive releases of these films. But if we refuse to buy these relatively inexpensive movies because they don't have enough "value added content," then we're just shooting ourselves in the feet.

Refusing to buy these movies because of their skimpy bonus features is like refusing to buy a hamburger because you can't have ice cream afterward. A glass eye in a duck's ass is more intuitive than WB has been during the last year (I think their entire corporate strategy can be summarized as "SAVE US, BATMAN!") but some Dark Shadows fans aren't really helping the situation by declaring a fatwā on our beloved franchise.

Yes, the upcoming DVD packages could have been more thoughtful. I have no doubt that Kathryn Leigh Scott, Nancy Barrett, John Karlen, Kate Jackson, David Selby and James Storm could have been recruited for a commentary track. I'd like to have seen a featurette on the Lyndhurst Estate where both movies were filmed. There are deleted scenes still sitting in a vault, numerous international movie posters that would have made an interesting gallery, and the beauty pageants staged  as publicity stunts for both movies are events worth exploring. I'd love to find out what happened to Miss Vampire America.

Right now, I don't care about any of that. I'm getting digitally restored versions of the original two Dark Shadows films, and that's enough for now.

Crazy cool Dark Shadows fansite from Japan

At least, I THINK it's Japanese ... I'm American and barely speak English, so maybe someone could help me out. Because of the language barrier, I can't tell you the creator's name or the title of the website. But the artist has created some CRAZY manga inspired by the 2012 Dark Shadows movie that's a lot more fun than the actual film. I've included samples in this post, but you can head over to their website HERE and see the rest for yourself.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Dark Shadows of the X-Men

I'm going to climb out on a limb and argue that Chris Claremont was a fan of Dark Shadows.

Claremont spent most of his career writing for Marvel Comics and is best known for his landmark work on the various X-Men titles. He didn't invent the X-Men, but he might as well have, writing almost every X-related title for Marvel during a 17-year period. He's had one of the most influential, not to mention controversial, careers in comics.

He's been so prolific that it's hard to say where his influences begin, and where coincidence ends. When you write several comics a month for almost 20 years, you have to expect the occasional story to resemble something familiar, whether it's intentional or not. I'm not suggesting Chris Claremont ever "stole" anything from Dark Shadows, but circumstantial evidence suggests the Brooklyn-raised writer has seen a few episodes of the original series.

Exhibit A: This is a flimsy piece of evidence, so I thought I'd lead with it. See that image at the top of this post? It shows a group of villains who called themselves The Hellfire Club. It was a private group of ne'er do well "mutants" who dressed like fans at a Dark Shadows Festival (except for the ladies, who dressed like they're going to ComicCon.) This is pretty thin, but might be more compelling when you weigh the following evidence.

Exhibit B: The classic 1981 X-Men tale, Days of Future Past, shows a dystopian future where most of the book's characters are dead and the world is in ruins. The heroes must find a way to change the course of history to prevent this future from happening.

If this sounds familiar to you, it's because Dark Shadows did an extremely similar story in 1970. Barnabas Collins and Julia Hoffman are transported to an alternate future (1995) where Collinwood is in ruins and the Collins family is dead or insane. Barnabas and Julia travel back in time to try to break the chain of events that leads to the family's ruin.

Exhibit C: When Wolverine was first introduced in the 1970s, he was an intentional man of mystery. It was slowly revealed that he'd lost much of his memory following a government experiment, and that he was potentially much, much older than he looked. Also, bullets and knives didn't bother him too much. I think he and Quentin Collins would get along nicely. They could even trade grooming tips for their sideburns.

"It's easier if you just glue them on, Wolverine."

Exhibit D: Sebastian Shaw. If you're a Dark Shadows fan, you're thinking about the hippy psychic played by Chris Pennock. But remember that image at the top of this story? The Hellfire Club? That dapper looking guy in the middle is also named Sebastian Shaw, and has been a thorn in the collective asses of the X-Men since the late 1970s. The two characters don't have anything in common besides the name (which is also shared by one of the five guys who played Darth Vader) but is it a coincidence?

Again, these are minor details. I'm not arguing "Ermahgerd! Claremont stoled from Dark Shaders!" but I'd bet a modest amount of cash that he watched the show on a regular basis as a young man.

I apologize for wasting your time with this post. Please continue about your business.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Michael Stroka joins Dark Shadows, 1969

Not an All-American Role
Hutchinson News,  Aug.30, 1969

It took Michael Stroka nine years and over 7,000 miles of traveling around the country to make the 11 mile, 30 minute trip from his native town Garfield, New Jersey to the Manhattan studio where "Dark Shadows" is filmed.

Not that he belongs to the jet set, although his life probably can match that of the "beautiful people" of that fast-paced crowd. It's just that Michael is a young upcoming actor, and it takes a lot of moving and hard work to keep those pay checks coming in at a regular beat. Since 1964, when he graduated from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he studied drama, Michael has been the manager of an underground music radio station, a water ski instructor, a professiona! gin player, an assistant maitre d' and a black jack dealer. In between all his occupations he also managed to sandwich in several off-Broadway engagements and films. He appeared as a hippie gypsy character, in "Alive" at the Loft Theatre in Greenwich Village and also in "Down The Morning Line," at the Shakespeare Festival Public Theatre, and in the films "Thirty-Six-Hours," with James Garner, Eva Marie Saint and Rod Taylor and in "King Rat" with George Segal and Tom Courtenay.

Now he has landed his first continuing television role as Aristide, a new member in the family of ghouls of "Dark Shadows." As "Dark Shadows" goes, explaining one of its characters is usually a difficult task. Aristide is an elegant, vain, sinister young man. His origin has not been disclosed, but he is protected from the other villainous creatures on the show by an old medallion he always wears.

"I know as little about his character as anybody else," says Michael, who made his first appearance on the show July 7. "So far what they've told me about him is like a road map. One could go any old way. But he is a heavy and I like that. Those roles about the good all-American boy have never been my forte. I think that as the writers of the show get to know me better, Aristide will take on some of my personality."

If Aristide were to step out of the make-believe world of "Dark Shadows," and do some of the things the six-foot, green eyed, brown-haired Michael enjoys doing, he would fence and go horseback riding regularly, read books on philosophy, be active in city politics and date girls who are lively, and can talk intelligently  about many subjects from politics to bubble gum music.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Come, see how the vampires do it in 1080p*

House of Dark Shadows/Night of Dark Shadows 
coming to DVD and Blu-ray Oct. 30

A press release is making the rounds claiming that both House of Dark Shadows AND Night of Dark Shadows will hit DVD and Blu-ray on Oct. 30 this year. The bad news is that it doesn't look as though we will be getting the restored version of Night of Dark Shadows.

Even worse: the only bonus features to be included on the discs are trailers for the films, which is intensely disappointing. I understand that restoring a 40-year-old film is expensive, but where are the commentary tracks? And why aren't we getting featurettes on the Lyndhurst Estate, the annual Dark Shadows Festival or something resembling a tribute to Jonathan Frid?

Still, this is good news. Especially for those of us who have been making do with the old VHS releases, or the inconsistent Amazon digital downloads.

The press release:

BURBANK, Calif., July 9, 2012 - Rejoice, night creatures! Drafting off Dark Shadows, the 2012 horror-comedy film directed by Tim Burton and just in time for Halloween, two gothic fan favorites, House of Dark Shadows (1970) and the sequel Night of Dark Shadows (1971) creep onto Blu-ray and DVD Oct. 30 from Warner Home Video. Based on Dark Shadows, the popular occult soap opera that originally aired on weekdays from ABC from June 1966 to April 1971, both films have maintained a loyal cult following since their original release. House of Dark Shadows and the sequel Night of Dark Shadows will each have a suggested retail price of $19.98 (Blu-ray) and $14,96 (DVD.) Orders are due Sept. 25.

House of Dark Shadows features the talents of Jonathan Frid (Dark Shadows, Seizure, The Devil's Daughter), best known for his role as the vampire Barnabas Collins in the original TV series, Grayson Hall (TV's One Life to Live, "All My Children") and Kathryn Leigh Scott (Dark Shadows, Parasomnia, TV's "Huff"). In this film expansion, Vampire Barnabas Collins searches for a cure so he can marry the lovely woman who resembles his long-lost fiancee Josette. Night of Dark Shadows, the sequel to House of Dark Shadows, centers on the story of Quentin Collins and his bride Tracy at the Collinwood Mansion in Collinsport, Maine. David Selvy (Dark Shadows, The Social Network, Inhale), Lara Parker (TV's "Dark Shadows," Race with the Devil), John Karlen (TV's "Dark Shadows," "Cagney & Lacey"), Kate Jackson (TV's Scarecrow and Mrs. King," "Charlie's Angels"), Grayson Hall (TV's "One Life to Live," All My Children") and Nancy Barrett (TV's "Dark Shadows," "Ryan's Hope") star.

Run Time: 97 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG
U.S. Street Date: October 30, 2012
Order Due Date: September 25, 2012
Blu-ray Disc Cat / UPC: 1000298903 / 883929248469
DVD Cat / UPC: 1000299888 / 883929248926
Blu-ray SRP: $19.98
DVD SRP: $14.96


Run Time: 95 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG
U.S. Street Date: October 30, 2012
Order Due Date: September 25, 2012
Blu-ray Disc Cat / UPC: 1000298882 / 883929248452
DVD Cat / UPC: 1000298875 / 883929247042
Blu-ray SRP: $19.98
DVD SRP: $14.96

Note: All enhanced content/special features listed above is subject to change.

*Thanks to Will McKinley for the much-improved headline for this post.

Jonathan Frid gets an unlisted number, 1968

Girls Agog Over Jonathan Frid
The Daily Herald, Feb. 26, 1968

Jonathan Frid gets fan mail by the sack. Jonathan Frid had to change his phone number several times before getting an unlisted number. And he's had to change that once.

Jonathan Frid is a vampire. Or, more correctly, he's the actor who stars as vampire Barnabas Collins on Channel 4's daytime drama serial, "Dark Shadows" (Monday through Friday at l:3z p.m.)

Many of his fans — women and teenagers predominate — write to him as though were really were Barnabas. A handful of mail grabbed at random is sure to turn up at least one offer of marriage and one or
more seeking a date. One writer called him "the ghoul the girls go for"; another, "the grooviest vampire."

A gentleman vampire, Frid is loath to talk about even the kookiest of his fans. He even has admiration for the woman who, on reading that he was from Hamilton, Ontario, called his mother, told her she was a friend from England, and got his phone  number in New York. It was then he changed his unlisted number.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Vampires fear garlic, crosses ... and irony

"Somebody should have told the NBC executives who jerked around Dear John, Night Court and Quantum Leap that you never mess around with something that works," Adolfo Flores, Jr wrote in an entertainment column in 1991 for the Del Rio Herald. While his lede could double as a warning for Tim Burton, Flores was actually talking about NBC's habit of losing viewers by shuffling its programming. While the bulk of the piece was devoted to shows like Night Court and Quantum Leap, the Dark Shadows "revival" was also mentioned. Flores was hopeful that the initial mini-series would get picked up for a season, but he couldn't have known the show would later fall victim to scheduling problems ... thanks to the first Gulf War.

NBC learns lesson in scheduling with shows
Del Rio Herald, March 10, 1991

Somebody should have told the NBC executives who jerked around Dear John, Night Court and Quantum Leap that you never mess around with something that works.

After earning week after week victories with its super Wednesday lineup, somebody at NBC had the brilliant idea of splitting up the successful two-hour package and placing each of the shows in completely different

NBC's move was probably made in an effort to help out another night's dying lineup, like Friday night where ABC clearly knocks out NBC with its strong lineup of Full House, Family Matters and Perfect Strangers. By shifting around its Wednesday monster lineup it not only messed up two of their championship primetime hour blocks, but it left the three shows in a position of being cancelled by placing it in an unfamiliar time slot and losing its audience along the way.

Whenever a major network manages to earn a winning schedule like NBC had on Wednesdays, the last  thing you should do is change it. At least the network has been smart enough to leave its strong Thursday
lineup of Cosby, Different World and the most popular show of 1990 Cheers untouched. L.A. Law also benefited from the consistent wins the night would earn for the network.

Although Night Court originated on Thursdays after Cheers, it still did well as a lead-in to Dear John, which  can't be said for Grand, the short-lived sitcom that confused ABC's powerful schedule and has since been replaced by Wings. NBC's other successful night, Saturday, with the strong combination of Amen, Golden Girls and Empty Nest, has been left alone and should keep providing the same results.

Whether NBC will win back the popularity it had on Wednesdays, now that it has rejuggled its schedule with the old lineup back in place, remains to be seen.

Back to Collinswood
It's great to see old Barnabas Collins back in his role as the night stalker of the New England village of Collinswood. His face is different, but he's wearing the same winning fangs that made him a big heartthrob in the 60's afternoon soap opera, I can still remember rushing home from school to catch each day's installment of the 30-rninute saga of the Collins family and their 200-year-old cousin Barnabas, who is doomed to a life of a vampire, sleeping during the day and rising for dinner at nights.

Ben Cross' Barnabas is a fine recreation of the 60's cult figure. He gives the character charm and a sensitivity that should be winning audiences in its Friday 9 p.m. time slot. The cast has been very supportive in making the new Dark Shadows a strong prospect for renewal in the fall. Tune in Friday and see for yourself. You'll get yourself a hickey you won't ever forget.
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