Friday, November 30, 2012

Dark Shadows Diary, Episode 50

Episode 50: "DEATH!"
Sept. 2, 1966

The DARK SHADOWS DIARY turns 50 today. Time for it to get sports car and a girlfriend half its age!

Carolyn (who, coincidentally, is in the market for in older man, wink wink) is brooding at Widow's Hill when she's joined by 1964 Miss Gloom & Doom USA, Victoria Winters. Carolyn claims she's looking for ghosts, but that's probably just metaphorical. Victoria, who says she's never seen a ghost (despite having heard them on more than one occasion since coming to Collinwood,) is just wandering around in the dark because it's expected of a gothic heroine. Those houses aren't going to run from themselves.

Carolyn's real problem is that she's not especially interested in Joe Haskell, despite their current boyfriend-girlfriend status. She's not the only Collins feeling sorry for themselves. David is also whining to Liz that nobody cares about him, a sentiment that is occasionally followed by a murder attempt. She's in no mood to hear about Carolyn skulking around the Collinsport's second favorite suicide spot, and is already in a foul temper thanks to suspicions that Roger is following in his son's homicidal footsteps.

Roger comes home uncharacteristically cheerful, but declines to stop to speak to anyone as he makes a beeline to the kitchen. Oh, and Bill Malloy is still missing, which probably did a little something to put a spring in his step.

Riddle me this, Batman: When the word "DEATH" gets scrawled on the mirror of a certain Collinwood governess, who do you think is responsible? The suspect list is short. Literally. He stands about four feet tall and tried to murder his own father a few earlier in the series. That doesn't stop David from getting butthurt when accused of vandalizing Victoria's mirror, but this might be one of the rare exceptions when he isn't responsible for an act of sinister weirdness.

Victoria and Carolyn bundle up and go back into the night to find a watch she lost. Really. No, REALLY. A fucking wrist watch. THAT'S what the writers came up with. I guess they figured the next scene would make the audience forget the stupid motivation, though ... the Dramatic Duo spot the corpse of Bill Malloy washed up on the shore below.


This week's installment of Bill Branch's classic HOWLERS comics.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Squirrels in the Park

Ever see a newspaper photo and wonder "Why the hell did they print THAT?" Local television news has an allotted amount of time to do their job, but newspapers have to fill a news hole that's determined by however many ads are sold for that issue. If the ad department gives you 30 pages of ads and you only have 20 pages of content, you have to come up with something to fill the empty space ... whether it's interesting or not.

This leads editors to send out photographers to get photos of whatever. Those in the business have come to call these "Squirrel in the Park" photos because that's often all there is to take pictures of. It's been a slow news day so, in the spirit of desperate journalism, here are a few Squirrels in the Park (gleaned from Tumblr.) The Charlie Brown/Barnabas Collins sketch is mine, though.


One big room, full of bad bitches.

Dark Shadows Diary, Episode 49

Episode 49: "Dragnet"
Sept. 1, 1966

Yay, Maggie's back! Shit's been getting depressing around Collinsport lately, so Little Miss Sunshine is a welcome sight. She can turn the world on with her smile and is especially exuberant in the first scene, which has her brightening up a moment that involves troubled manly men Burke Devlin and Joe Haskell at the Collinsport Inn diner. Burke orders orange juice, scrambled eggs, bacon and coffee, in case you were wondering.

Everybody's been looking for Bill Malloy, who hasn't been seen since calling a meeting to discuss the DUI incident that sent Burke to prison ten years earlier. Naturally, Burke's looking for him because Malloy could expedite his plan to harm Roger Collins grievously beyond immediate recognition. Future "World's Cutest Couple" candidates Joe and Maggie want to find Malloy out of compassion.

Carolyn (and a boom mic) interrupt the proceedings, complaining there's something wrong with her car's carburetor and that it "will take about an hour" to fix. I suspect there's nothing too wrong with her carburetor if it's only going to take an hour to fix, but maybe the Suckers Collins family supports the town in more ways than one.

Burke goes looking for Sam, who expresses his own variation on the theme of "I haven't seen Bill Malloy." Burke's getting increasingly frustrated by the town's (almost willful) ignorance. People keep making excuses for Malloy, insisting the man might have taken an unexpected trip without requesting any vacation AND leaving his car parked in front of his house. Constable Carter will probably get to the bottom of things once he finishes lunch.

Joe tells Carolyn that David revealed more than just Malloy's fate. In addition to predicting Malloy's untimely demise, he revealed Carolyn would someday marry Burke. "I don't think I like the idea of a crystal ball deciding my future," Carolyn says, totally missing the point.

Sam slips up a few times with Burke, mostly because he's a bit shifty and always looks guilty no matter the circumstance, and refers to Malloy in the past tense ... which pisses off Burke. Sam doesn't do much better with Maggie, who runs home to check on her pop now that it looks like he's embroiled in a possible murder. He can't bully Burke, but he makes a solid effort to push his daughter around. When that doesn't work, he takes to ignoring her. He punctuates his allholery when she leaves by, once again, wrecking his portrait of Burke, this time by slinging paint on it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Book Report: The Salem Branch

Reading a book written by an actress sounds about as much fun as watching a professional chef teach himself to play saxophone. I'm sure it's fun if you're the one holding the sax, but it's as satisfying as a lap dance for those of us in the audience. Regardless of how fond I might be of Lara Parker, I didn't have any interest in watching her (or anyone else) pass off their learning process as entertainment.

After a dozen Marilyn Ross novels, though, I ran out of reasons not to see what Parker had to bring to the table. A first-time novelist can't be any worse than a someone like Ross, who was more passionate about how fast he could crank out a story than in, you know, telling a good story. To paraphrase H.P. Lovecraft's thoughts on Robert Chambers, the most frustrating thing about Ross's DARK SHADOWS novels is how easily they could have been made better.

Circumstances eventually paved the way that made me a little more open to the idea of reading THE SALEM BRANCH.
For a few months in 2011 I had an hour-long commute to work in Lumberton, N.C. When you're driving at 3 a.m., you feel like the only person on the planet. Some people can't handle that level of placid isolation. As a card carrying misanthropist, though, I loved it. What I didn't love so much was the drive home in the afternoon. It was hot as hell and the traffic was bumper-to-bumper on the interstate at 80 mph. But, this wasn't the problem.

When you're awake at three in the morning, three in the afternoon feels like your biorhythms have been wrapped in a wet towel. When your body's ready to shut down, energy drinks, sunlight, danger and your least favorite Mötorhead album won't be enough to keep you awake. More than once I found myself nodding off behind the wheel as my car rocketed down the highway at 80 mph. I was too tired to be scared, but knew there was a problem.

Big Finish came to the rescue. I'd been interested in their products for a while, but didn't have a lot of time to sit and stare into space for an hour at a time to listen to their original audio dramas. The commute to Lumberton changed that and, within a few weeks, I'd breezed through about half of their DARK SHADOWS inventory. And that included the two releases that comprised the reading of Parker's first novel, ANGELIQUE'S DESCENT.

It ... wasn't great.

ANGELIQUE'S DESCENT wasn't a total waste of time, though. Big Finish wisely chopped the book into two volumes. The second contains Parker's retelling of the 1795 storyline, though its a version of the tale that's been gutted of nuance. It also includes a few ridiculous additions to the melodrama (Spoiler Alert: Angelique and Josette are really ... SISTERS!

But the first half of the story, the part that has no significant obligations to the television show's continuity, wasn't bad. It was fairly compelling, reading (at times) like Margaret Mitchell filtered through WEIRD TALES. It tells the story of Angelique's childhood, when she was held in bondage by a Caribbean farmer who used her as a figurehead "goddess" in voodoo rituals to keep his slaves docile. It was spooky and the stakes felt significant, but it never felt much like DARK SHADOWS. Afterward, I wasn't doing cartwheels about the idea of reading THE SALEM BRANCH.

I'm not made of stone. Put Jonathan Frid on the cover of a book and, sooner or later, I'm bound to read it. I'd probably abandon all of my values and read a Dan Brown novel if Barnabas made an appearance. It's not something I'm proud of, but it's true. (Note: STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM DARK SHADOWS, MR. BROWN.)

THE SALEM BRANCH represents a huge step forward for Parker as a writer. Set in two time periods, the book attempts to elaborate on the relationship between Angelique/Miranda DuVal and warlock Judah Zachary, while following "modern" Collinwood in the years after the original series ended in 1970. I never understood the connection between Miranda/Angelique (it always seemed like sloppy storytelling to me on the part of the show's writers) and THE SALEM BRANCH didn't do much to erase my confusion. Fortunately, the two time periods have little to do with each other narratively, but they created a decent amount of tension as the two tales unfolded.

What I liked about the book was Parker's grasp of characterization. While still sympathetic, Barnabas is painted as a man damned by his own contradictory nature. As the story begins he's once again human, though troubled by his own frailties. He's also beginning to regret promises made to his fiancee, Julia Hoffman, mostly because he knows he lacks the strength of character to follow through with them.

The crazy (sometimes silly) story elements are in keeping with the crazy silliness of the original show and don't feel out of place (as did the twists in ANGELIQUE'S DESCENT.) Barnabas and David unknowingly try pot brownies, vampires, zombies and (gasp!) hippies roam the grounds of Collinwood, and the rivalry between Barnabas and Quentin is revived as a woman who might be Angelique moves into town. The flashback story might be a little grim, but the "modern" stuff is a hoot.

Admittedly, I might be a little beaten down after 2012. The Tim Burton movie was a disappointment and the DARK SHADOWS comics from Dynamite have gone downhill faster (and nastier) than the contents of a ruptured sewage line at Mordor. I might have been easy pickings.

Still, THE SALEM BRANCH represents one of the few times we've been allowed to return to Collinwood than didn't make me want to cry myself to sleep in a dark room. It was good enough to make me look forward to her follow up, WOLF MOON RISING, though it appears to have been pushed back a year to October, 2013. I'd also be interested in reading a book from her that wasn't about DARK SHADOWS, hint hint if you're reading this, Mrs. Parker.

Dark Shadows Diary, Episode 48

Episode 48: "Think About the Future"
Aug. 31, 1966

There's nothing quite as unnerving as the sight of David Collins smiling. Fortunately, it doesn't last long. Victoria returns his drawing to him at the start of this episode and, much to my surprise, he doesn't go all stabby when he finds out she took the sketch without his permission. He actually seems pleased when she tells him how much she likes it.

Then she says she showed it to Roger and the boy promptly tears it to pieces and reverts back to his normal Hulk-like personality:

"I didn't draw it for him."

"You had no right to steal it out of my room."

"You're  a thief just like you called me, and I wish you'd go away and never come back."

"I hate you just like I hate him."

Ah, welcome back, Collinwood Status Quo.

A present arrives in the mail for David. My gut told me it was probably something venomous (or maybe even Gwyneth Paltrow's head) but it's actually something stranger ... a crystal ball. From Burke Devlin. It's accompanied by a note, telling the little creep "Now you can tell us all where we're going." You don't need a crystal ball to see where David is going, and giving him a CLUE-like murder weapon will only accelerate things.

Joe arrives at Collinwood under the pretense of delivering some papers for Liz to sign, but is really there to tell the audience that Bill Malloy hasn't been seen since the night before. His maid, a "Mrs. Johnson" (is there only one maid in Collinsport?) said he never came home, while Joe confirms he didn't come to work, either. The manhunt for Bill Malloy has begun.

Victoria gets the ball rolling by telling Liz that Malloy was at Collinwood the night before to visit prime Suspect #1, Roger. Then she says stupid shit like "Maybe (Malloy) had some kind of emergency and had to leave town unexpectedly."

David predicts Malloy is dead, the victim of murder. And that his father did it. While one of these three answers is wrong, he's still batting .666, which is more than good enough to play major league baseball.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Autographapalooza (/ˈôtəˌgrafəpəˈlo͞ozə/)
Noun: A plethora of penmanship.

DARK SHADOWS alumni KATHRYN LEIGH SCOTT and DAVID SELBY are offering authgprahed products in time for the holiday season. The announcements have been making the rounds on social media networks in recent weeks, so this might not be news to some of you. For those of you not on Facebook or Twitter, here's the lowdown:

SCOTT is offering a signed 9 1/4″ x 4″ holiday card featuring a still from HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. The offer runs until Dec. 14, 2012. Click HERE for details.

SELBY is offering signed copies of his book MY SHADOWED PAST. Selby's official website suggests ordering the book before Dec. 2, 2012, to allow time for processing and shipping prior to Christmas. Click HERE for details.

While she's not offering any unusual holiday deals, LARA PARKER also has an assortment of autographed merchandise available at her website, including signed prints of a new portrait of ANGELIQUE. Don't take my word for it, go see for yourself!

Len Handeland's Dark Shadows

Len Handeland knows how to throw a party. Back in October, 2010, he and some friends held a DARK SHADOWS themed event in honor of the original television series. Filmed at home, the two videos below are obvious labors of love, and include some pretty terrific production values. It's hard not to smile while watching this, even though I'm a little pissed that I didn't get an invitation to the party.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Dark Shadows Diary, Episode 47

Episode 47: "Welcome Back to the 
Beginning and the End of the World"
Aug. 30, 1966

Liz senses a tremor in the Force. She might be self-delusional and crazy manipulative, but when Liz has a bad feeling about something you'd best put down your Xbox controller and listen to what she has to say. She's not psychic (as far as I know) but she's been on the giving and receiving ends of ill will so many times that she can smell trouble a mile away.

She deals with the problem like any loyal devotee of the Miss Havisham Club for Single Woman by playing piano in the dead of night. Carolyn finds her playing an instrumental version of Johnny Mandel's "Suicide is Painless" (just kidding; I don't know what piece she was really playing) in the darkened drawing room. Liz ceases her nocturne to tell her daughter she's feels an "impending disaster" is looming. She fesses up that the feeling has something to do with Bill Malloy, which leads Carolyn to conclude it also has something to do with Roger. "You know how fond I am of Uncle Roger," she says, reminding us of those her uncomfortable comments from Episode 3 (when she admitted she had a crush on him.) I hate to be the one to remind you of that unfortunate conversation, but it comes with the territory.

Meanwhile, the cabal is growing restless at the Collins Cannery as Malloy STILL hasn't arrived for the meeting. Everybody but Burke is ready to amscray, which shouldn't be a surprise considering he's the only one with nothing to lose. Roger is surprisingly cool considering his twitchy disposition at the end of the last episode. Neither Roger nor Sam seem all that interested in continuing the meeting without the guest of honor, but Burke demands they keep their asses planted at the cannery until he finds out what happened to Malloy.

One they're alone, Roger seizes the opportunity to assert his dominance over Sam, which doesn't take much effort. They're already getting suspicious of each other and nobody even knows what happened to Malloy. Roger suggests Sam has a motive to get rid of the manager of the shipping fleet, which looks to the audience as though Roger's already propping up a patsy. EVERYONE'S A SUSPECT (dum dum DUM!)

As Burke returns to the cannery, Roger smugly begins to extract himself from the gathering, confident that Malloy isn't going to show. Roger tries to return the silver pen Burke had given Carolyn, but it's mysteriously missing from his pocket. I'm going to climb out on a limb and speculate that neither Dan Curtis nor the writers had a clue who killed Bill Malloy at this stage. The pen will become a narrative "hot potato" with the eventual culprit being the character left holding it when the story runs out of gas.

Confident he'd heard the name "Bill Malloy" for the final time that night, Roger returns home to get the third degree about the man from his sister. Liz tells him Malloy spilled whatever beans he had about Roger's involvement in Burke's conviction. Roger coyly admits he was responsible for Burke going to prison ... by testifying against him in court. Zing!

As the credits begin to roll, the show STILL hadn't told us if Bill Malloy is dead or alive. I thought it was a little strange that they didn't drop this bombshell on a Friday episode, because those are the kinds of weekend cliffhangers that soaps love. But, here it is, a Tuesday episode, and we STILL DON'T KNOW what's going on with Malloy. Are they going to drag this out all week? And will we soon see the first appearance of the mighty Thayer David on DARK SHADOWS?

Marie Wallace recovering from Oct. injury

Marie Wallace (who played Eve, Crazy Jenny and other characters on DARK SHADOWS) was injured in October during a performance of "THE LAST ROMANCE" at the Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury, Conn.

Wallace was injured in a fall immediately after a stage blackout at the end of the play's first act when she lost her footing in the darkness and fell down the stage stairs, according to The Republican American. Last night on her Facebook page, actress Kathryn Leigh Scott updated fans on Wallace's condition:

Marie Wallace, our beloved Dark Shadows friend, suffered a broken shoulder and serious injuries after an horrific fall during the performance of her play. I’ve been in touch with her and wanted to pass along her message: “Please tell our Facebook friends and fans that I’m recovering very well, and feeling stronger each day. I appreciate all their loving and healing thoughts. There’s no room for flowers here in rehab but I would certainly appreciate a note or card.”

Please send to:
Marie Wallace Pollack
Kateri House
150 Riverside Drive
Room 1305A
New York, NY 10024

Thank you. I know your best wishes will speed up her recovery!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Japanese Dark Shadows video ad

FushigiFox sent me a DVD circular from Japan, which features DARK SHADOWS on the cover. Inside was a two-page spread dedicated to the film, which plays up the more successful collaborations between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. (Click the image for a closer look.)

Dark Shadow Diary, Episode 46

Episode 46: "Cabal"
Aug. 29, 1966

Louis Edmonds isn't having the best of days. He's given the kind of dialogue in this episode that would be later reserved for Jonathan Frid: long stretches of elaborate, verbal goulash that don't require much participation from the other actors on camera. Edmonds fumbles around with it a bit during the opening scene, but (mostly) lands on his feet. You see this kind of thing happen on the show from time to time, thanks to DARK SHADOWS' penchant for turning some of its supporting players into virtual sounding boards for the lead actors. If you ever wonder why Alexandra Moltke was frustrated by the show, look no further than this episode, which requires her to do nothing more than react to Edmonds' apocalyptic musings.

We get a good bit of dialogue from Edmonds during his struggles at the top of this episode. Victoria wanders into the drawing room in search of a drawing (no pun intended?) she'd borrowed from her psychopathic ward. "I think David would kill me if I lost this," she tells Roger. "My son might kill you even if you didn't," he responds.

Victoria suggests David meet with pickled artist Sam Evans to nurture his new found, probably never-to-be-mentioned-again creative talent. Roger doesn't handle it well, which is understandable considering his blackmail-y relationship with Evans. Roger is also not thrilled by an ultimatum given to him by Burke Devlin over the phone: meet him at the Cannery at 11 p.m. or else.

Sam responds with equal disdain when he's issued the same demand from Bill Malloy, who then ventures up to Collinwood to impress upon Roger the importance of attending the late-night meeting (what good is a barbecue without the pig?) Malloy pretty much lays his cards on the table and tells Roger he thinks he was responsible for the wreck that sent Devlin to prison. Roger stops short of admitting his guilt, but doesn't deny it, either. It's pretty fun to watch Roger stew in his own bastardry for a moment as he watches his avenues for escape slowly disappear around him.

Victoria seizes the awkward moment to confront Roger about his dislike for Sam Evans, suggesting he's discouraging her from visiting the artist because he might know something about her mysterious past. The idea provokes an uncomfortable display of crazed laughter from Roger.

As scheduled, the conspiracy cabal begins to arrive at Roger's office around 11 p.m. Burke gets there first, lurking in the dark as Sam enters. Roger is next, leaving one man absent: Bill Malloy. I suspect he's not going to make it.

Adam Ant as ... Barnabas Collins?

It happened. Sorta.

In 1993, Adam Ant appeared in a movie called "Love Bites," a comedy about a vampire named Zachary Simms who awakens from 100 years of sleep to find himself in a very strange (and inexpensively staged) world. He rousts himself from his coffin, with a costume that includes an inverness cape, black ring and forehead locks.

What, you ask, does this have to do with DARK SHADOWS?

That's right. Malcolm Marmorstein, a writer for the original DARK SHADOWS series who's among the many people to claim credit for creating Barnabas Collins. I've go no intention of wading into THAT dispute here, but Marmorstein wasn't the only talent involved with the show to try to spin off concepts into other programs. Ron Sproat was involved in the "Canadian Dark Shadows," STRANGE PARADISE, while Dan Curtis, Sam Hall and Lela Swift got in on the action with the failed primetime pilot, DEAD OF NIGHT.

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp might have saved themselves the trouble of making an intentionally funny version of DARK SHADOWS had they bothered to watch LOVE BITES, which appears to depend on the same "Rip Van Winkle" jokes of the 2012 film. You can watch some of LOVE BITES in the video below. Don't say I didn't warn you. (Special thanks to the good folks at the WILLIE LOOMIS SAVES COLLINSPORT forum for bringing this to my attention.)


This week's classic HOWLERS comic from Bill Branch.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Fangsgiving in Collinsport

THE COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY is approaching its "unofficial" one-year anniversary this month. Back on Nov. 25, 2011, I created the first post for this site ... and then abandoned the project for almost two months.

These kinds of pages are easy to create, but it's incredibly difficult to connect them with an audience. Competition from a planet full of bloggers creates a constant hum of white noise, and I've been in publishing long enough to know you never, ever take an audience for granted. Even with 7 billion people on the planet you can't assume you're going to chance upon another like-minded person, let alone enough to sustain a publication. I've watched newspaper circulations slowly dwindle over the last 15 years as writers, editors and publishers lost touch with the needs of their readers, and I wasn't entirely sure my pronounced idiosyncrasies would be a good fit for this subject matter. The idea for this page was far from a slam dunk.

I don't remember what finally prompted me follow through on the website, but it probably wasn't any one thing. Looking back, the first post reads like a rough "mission statement," and the concept hasn't really changed much since. This is a page about DARK SHADOWS, but it's mostly about the show's passionate fans. The volume and variety of tributes that fans have created over the years is astounding, especially when you consider DARK SHADOWS hasn't received much of a boost from mainstream media. We've been content to do our thing and have never really cared if the outside world "got it."

Since then, THE COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY has developed a devoted following. It's not the most heavily visited website on the planet, but my readers are smart, funny and opinionated without ever veering too far into Crazytown. I'm not trying to temp fate, but this blog isn't regularly patrolled by grammar nazis and Dark Shadows Fundamentalists demanding to see our credentials.

I've also been fortunate in conning convincing some very talented people to contribute material to this site from time to time. Kathryn Leigh Scott subjected herself to my babbling for an interview back in February, and I was able to rope Matthew Hall into chiming in for a blog-a-thon about his late mother, Grayson. DARK SHADOWS fandom went off the rails shortly before the new movie was released in theaters, and I'm happy to report that we survived the experience. It's been an interesting year.

But, I can't really take any credit for that. If you're reading this, chances are you heard about this site by word of mouth. And that conversation was started by people much more influential than myself. If you've got a moment, please visit their websites. You won't be disappointed:

Will McKinley:  He's not only pimped this site more heavily than anyone else, he's also let me chip in a little commentary (both spoken and written) to his various projects. He's the 2012 COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY MVP, for sure. You can stalk him on TWITTER, too.

Plucky Chicken: Plucky has taken part in almost all of our little blog-a-thons this year. Smart and funny, I have a feeling she'll be a celebrity blogger by the end of 2013. So go visit her website so you can say you knew her before she was famous. (TWITTER.)

THE COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY has two soul mates, whether they know it or not. The first is Julia Hoffman, Md. a Tumblr feed that is a constant source for inspiration and an early sign to me that a DARK SHADOWS page could be simultaneously vicious AND funny. The other is The Collins Foundation, another website that breathes life into a not-so-new television show.

Bill Branch: I was away for a few weeks and didn't want to put this blog on hold while I was gone. In the weeks leading up to my departure, I struggled to line up material to post automatically while I was away. But some of it was ... less than good. As luck would have it, I heard from Branch as I was scheduling these posts, and he provided a lot of interesting content that kept THE COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY vital in my absence. I hope you enjoyed his contributions as much as I did.

George Caltsoudas: The art you saw at the top of my page for the last few months came from George Caltsoudas, who does some amazing work. I'd LOVE to see him create a comicbook, but I've given up hope that he'll ever be allowed to work on the DARK SHADOWS series from Dynamite ... he's too damn good for them. Frankly, I'd be more excited to see him pour his creative energies into a book of his own creation.

"Victoria Winters" and "Fushigi Fox" sent me a few gifts in the mail this year. Miss Winters upgraded her DARK SHADOWS DVD collection by purchasing the massive "coffin set" and sent me her duplicates of the first two box sets of DARK SHADOWS: THE BEGINNING. That's the reason you're reading the new DARK SHADOWS DIARY feature. Mrs. Fox sent me a collection of promotional materials for the new DARK SHADOWS movie, as well sending me a copy of the Japanese reprint of the Marilyn Ross HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS novel for All Hallow's Read. I'm incredibly grateful to them both.

And, finally, my Twitter followers. I'm not as active on Twitter as I should be, and I made a decision earlier in the year that was well-intentioned but probably counter productive. Terrified I'd forget to mention somebody on #FF (Follow Friday) I took to re-tweeting anyone that mentioned me in a #FF tweet. The idea was to promote my followers and their interests without putting myself in a position of alienating someone by omission. (It helped that I could complete this task with the press of a single button.) Ultimately, I think it looked like I was just promoting myself, which wasn't the case. So, here's a short list of some of my favorite Twitterers:

Even after all that, I'm STILL convinced I've left someone out. Anyhow, the point to this editorial is to say thanks to those of you who take the time to read it. There's a lot of competition for your attention, so I'm flattered you think this site is worth a few moments of your time.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Vampires 101: Transylvania

The guy sitting in front of me was a talker. He wasn't the chatty bore you're probably picturing, droning on for hours about his grandkids and the weather. This guy was the life of the fucking party, like Roberto Benigni on amphetamines and an accent like Bela Lugosi. He ran his mouth to anyone who'd listen for several hours on the flight into Bucharest, whether they were interested or not.

The Carpathian Mountains at sunset.
Having seen the HOSTEL movies more than a few times (don't judge me) my mind was wandering into all sorts of dark places. But I've made it this far in life without starring in any torture porn, so I figured I could last a few more days. I tried to have faith that the other fliers weren't speaking openly of performing vivisections on American tourists, confident their red-faced visitors spoke no language other than English. Which, of course, we didn't.

It was curiously frustrating to hear such manic glee and not have any idea about what they were talking about. It all sounded violently fun.  It was the Battle of Gettysburg of conversations. While none of it was in English, the ringmaster did speak two words I understood: "Count Dracula."

In the middle of a string on sentences so prolific they would have caused a lesser man to asphyxiate, he made a joke about Bram Stoker's famous vampire that got a few giggles from his seat mates. Having not even arrived in Romania yet, I was still a little nervous about the country's attitude toward vampires, werewolves and all that Dracula business. The inspiration for the character is one of their national heroes; how would I feel if the rest of the planet was only familiar with Abraham Lincoln because of his passion for vampire hunting?

The view from Peleș Castle.
As it turns out, they're cool with Dracula ... to a point.

Bucharest was the first stop on my two-week honeymoon, and the new Mrs. Cousin Barnabas and I weren't off the plane more than a few minutes before we saw the first Dracula souvenirs. In the lobby of the airport were a few vendors (as well as some of the most literate collection of  airport paperbacks you'll ever see; it was Tolstoy instead of Dan Brown) who had lots of items for sale bearing the image of Vlad Tepes, "the Impaler." Gabriel, the man who'd take us on a tour of Transylvania the following day, said Romania is happy to provide tourists with whatever they want, including pimping out a national hero in the name of rebuilding its post-communist economy.

Everyone who mentioned Vlad did so with pride. Vlad Tepes held the borders and kept his people free from the Turks, who spent a few centuries treating the rest of Eastern Europe with less courtesy than the Rolling Stones used to treat hotel rooms. Yeah, Vlad might have created a few "forests" of corpses thanks to his habit of impaling those who displeased him, but what's a little homicidal mania in the name of national defense?

Brasov's "Hollywood" sign.
What I didn't realize until much later is that there were two very different kinds of souvenirs. The first were Vlad Tepes tokens, such as figurines, post cards and shot glasses showing the image of King Vlad III. The second was run-of-the-mill vampire merchandise that wasn't even good enough to be sold at Hot Topic.  

The funny thing? I saw nothing that combined the two concepts. Vlad was mostly sacred. You can buy your vampire coffee mugs and t-shirts, but don't expect them to tart up a national hero in fangs and a cape just because you like horror movies.

Among our day-long tour of Transylvania were stops at the beautiful Peleș Castle, Biserica Neagră (or "Black Church") and Pelişor Castle. We arrived at the latter to find it closed for maintenance, but were at least able to get a look at its art nouveau design. It was one of the more recent constructs on the tour, built about 100 years ago by Queen Maria and  King Ferdinand of Romania.

Even though we didn't get a peek inside any of its 160 rooms, Peleș was much more impressive. Not only is the structure beautiful by anybody's definition, the view of the Carpathian Mountains is stunning . The "Black Church" had an interesting history (it acquired its name thanks to layers of soot that once coated its walls following a fire) but the surrounding courtyard of Brasov was more interesting to me. I wish we'd had more time to tour the area, but daylight was wasting and we had a final stop to make before sunset: Bran Castle.

Bran Castle.
Billed as "Dracula's Castle," Bran has little to do with the actual Vlad the Impaler, who used the location for military planning. As the ruler of Wallachia, he had little use for a fortress so far removed from the country's capitol in Bucharest, but he is believed to have visited the site frequently for military counsel (and his grandfather once owned the property.)

Bran's status as "Dracula's Castle" says a lot about Romania. Vampires were little-known in the nation until the fall of communism in 1989. The rest of the world has equated Romania and Transylvania with vampires for more than a century, but the phenomenon was a fairly recent surprise to the people who actually live there. Dracula and all other stories about vampires were banned for years as examples of the “decadent” West.

But that doesn't mean Romania is without its monsters. "The only blood suckers in Romania are in government," Gabriel told us, but said the Strigoi played a role in Bram Stoker's interpretation of the vampire legend. In fact, many of the characteristics of what we think of as vampires (graveyards, stakes through the heart, etc.) come from the legend of the Strigoi, which were evil spirits that refused to rest. The stake was intended to pin the deceased to its grave, keeping it from venturing our at night and causing trouble. 

I don't know when Bran was first marketed as "Dracula's Castle," but you can bet things started to get a little nuts once dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu took a dirt nap in 1989. Bran Castle looks every bit the part of Dracula's Castle, and is now decorated inside with placards of Vlad Tepes (and his vague connection to the property) and original props from the 1992 film, BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA. As we reached the top of the stairs leading to the castle's entrance, we heard the sound of a very loud raven call. It was so note-perfect that we wondered if it hadn't been staged (it had not.)

The sun was beginning to set as we neared the top of the castle, and the enormous building cast a deep shadow across the town beneath it. While the castle was tastefully decorated inside, the courtyard at the foot of the hill was a glorified flea market, full of the same kind of junk you'd see at an American equivalent. If you go, take some time to look around the town, but don't waste your time browsing at the flea market.

The Romania National Tourism Office isn't doing the country any favors. It has little standing on the world stage as a tourist attraction, and has managed to earn an unfair reputation as a "dump." While that's bad news for Romania, it's good news for tourists. The people are extraordinarily friendly, there are tons of historic landmarks to visit, your money will go far and you won't have to fight mobs of tourists at every corner. Downtown Bucharest is like Bourbon Street in New Orleans (minus most of the sleaze) and the food is terrific.

Bran Castle.
If you go, you will NOT want to drive. The English language hasn't developed the words to describe the chaotic, terrifying traffic of Bucharest (even "chaotic" and "terrifying" aren't strong enough.) Imagine MAD MAX if everyone was dressed in pea coats and scarves.  When it comes to the right of way, Might Makes Right, and you'd better watch your ass. It's best to have an experienced driver, and the cab rides are alarmingly inexpensive. If you get a dishonest cabbie who rips you off, you won't pay more than $15-20 for a trip, even from the airport. As we left Bucharest we almost missed our train out of the country. Our cab driver threaded the iron needle of Romania traffic and got us to the station on time ... for $5. And then he tried to refuse a $10 tip. So Yay! Romania!

This isn't meant to take the place of a professional travel advisory, and I'm sure I've made a few factual errors here and there. I'm no expert on Romania, but I enjoyed the three days my wife and I spent wandering around the country. While my experiences were anecdotal, I think the country is a fine spot for a vacation, even if you don't have an especially adventurous spirit.

Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't share one more photo with you. On our cab ride to the airport in Budapest, I noticed a familiar name on the driver's radio. As it turns out, there's a station in Hungary called Petofi Radio. Rather than playing a bunch of Edwardian chamber music, though, it plays modern pop hits ... I like to imagine Count Andres Petofi sitting behind the mic in a Hungarian radio station, pumping out songs like CALL ME MAYBE and LA VIDA LOCA. I'd call that just desserts.

Victoria Winters by Bill Branch

Victoria Winters' messy backstory meant she was one of the few leads on DARK SHADOWS that never had a portrait created for her. Barnabas Collins and Angelique Bouchard Blair Rumson Collins Mellencamp both had two, while Maggie Evans/Josette DuPres technically had one.

BILL BRANCH corrected this oversite by creating a portrait of ALEXANDRA MOLTKE as Collinwood's original governess.

"This is a painting of Victoria Winters holding Josette’s Music Box and wearing the dress she wore during the masquerade party," Branch said. "I met Alexandra in the early '90s when she brought her son and guests to Delmonaco’s Restaurant on Wooster Street in New Haven, CT for her son’s Yale graduation party. I recognized her immediately while her party waited to be seated. She was very gracious autographing a notepad, then 20 minutes later signing Kathryn Leigh Scott’s MY SCRAPBOOK MEMORIES. She was fascinated by the book and flipped through it. I was in Heaven to have finally met her since at the time she did not attend Festivals. She was stunning and very sweet."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dark Shadow Diary, Episode 45

Episode 45: "Word Gets Around"
Aug. 26, 1966

Burke Devlin arrives at the Blue Whale before Roger, and finds an increasingly cryptic Bill Malloy lurking in the shadows. Malloy warns Devin that the Collins family are catching on to his game, an admission that prompts a lot of obligatory drinking from them both.

Malloy offers up Roger as a sacrificial lamb, even though it doesn't appear he's got evidence that Roger's done anything besides abuse his liver during the last decade. We find out that Malloy gave Devlin his first "man's job" years before, and that Malloy is holding a "hole card" in their present negotiations. Devlin's still infatuated with the idea of burning down Collinwood and pissing on its ashes, so it's going to be tough to sell him on armistice.

When Roger fails to show at the Blue Whale, Malloy goes to the cannery and demands a conversation with him. It's always difficult to keep track of time on DARK SHADOWS. I was convinced it was nighttime, but it's apparently early in the day if Roger's at work. I guess.Who the hell knows with this show. When Barnabas Collins joins the cast later in the series, forcing the show to move most of its goings on to nighttime (i.e. "vampire") hours, things get even more squirrelly.

Carolyn makes a brief appearance at the cannery under the pretense of visiting Joe Haskell, and is quickly dismissed in favor of some Roger-on-Malloy verbal fistacuffs. Malloy reveals his "hole card" is Sam Evans, the town's pretentious drunk. I kinda wish the show had taken this plot idea to screen, just to see the baffling, stilted dialogue that actor David Ford would have had to spew while Sam "testified" in front of a jury. I like to imagine he'd (wrongly) quote a lot of Baudelaire while going through DTs in court. It would have let the show go full-on MACBETH.

At Collinwood, Carolyn shows Roger the silver pen given to her by Burke, and he flips out. "I told you he wanted something from you," he tells her. "He's paying in advance." Malloy calls the house to remind Roger that the clock is ticking on his ultimatum, thankfully ending Roger and Carolyn's creepy conversation.

After acting like a jackass, Roger tries to make amends (which is his way) and Carolyn admits she's mostly interested in Burke because he pisses everyone off. Also, she took note that Devlin was meeting with someone who was recently asking a lot of uncomfortable questions about their family business. Roger went  all "creepy uncle" when he found out Carolyn had lunch with Devlin, but doesn't seem all that upset when he gets validation that his rival is drawing up plans to financially attack his family. Weird.

Devlin and Malloy meet again at the Blue Whale to ... well, it's not exactly clear why then needed to meet, except to pad the episode a bit more. They arrange to meet at Roger's office later that night "to get this whole thing settled once and for all."

I think we're getting close to saying farewell to Mr. Malloy.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dark Shadow Diary, Episode 44

Episode 44: "Bill Malloy's Last Stand"
Aug. 25, 1966

Carolyn's hair looks funny. That probably sounds superficial, but it was a little off-putting to see such strange and subtle differences in her hair. Did the usual stylist have the day off? Did Nancy Barrett roll out of bed late? Was the stylist feeling unusually adventurous?

Thanks to the paternal nature of Hollywood (which is just an economic extension of our own hangups) actresses tend to be ornamental in movies and television shows. If their characters decide to change their hair, it becomes a major plot point in the story.  A change in Sarah Michelle Gellar's 'do resulted in an episode of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER where she was literally invisible for most of its running time. It's as though someone changed a prop and felt the need to explain it in the narrative.

I totally forgot where I was going with this.

Anyway, Carolyn finds Bill Malloy getting krunk at the Blue Whale. He lets it slip that everyone knows she's been catting around Bangor with Burke Devlin, and she seems content to nurture that delusion ("stalking" doesn't count as a "date" unless you're John Hinckley Jr.) Both of them have business at Collinwood, and it's a not-that-thrilling race to see who gets there first.

Liz has invited over a business associate named John Harris to talk to her about trouble at the cannery. Buiness ain't good, says Harris, a man who couldn't win a charisma roll with a +10 cloak of enchantment, a few extra dice and a bucket of roofies. Liz's attempts to contact the much-discussed, never-seen Ned Caulder go bust and leads to a storytelling dead end. She speaks to Caulder by phone, and her dialogue conveys in Capital Exposition that Ned doesn't want to take over the management of the cannery. Since the actor has never appeared on screen (and consequently doesn't have a screen credit) I don't even know if I'm spelling his last name correctly.

Harris tells Liz that Malloy sucks at business, Roger sucks even more, and maybe she needs a man to run her life for her. "Ned Caulder is one of the finest men I know," he says, suggesting his real goal is a fantasy three-way between him, Liz and Ned.

Harris sets up a trustfund for David (who's been absent from the series for a while) to make sure the boy is set for life, ensuring him a future of notoriety on Rich Kids of Instagram. Even though it's going to cause a bit of a hiccup in the Collins family cash flow, Liz is more concerned with Carolyn's behavior with Burke Devlin ... and she doesn't even know Devlin is the actual victim in this "relationship."

Malloy interrupts this confrontation at Collinwood with something "unpleasant" to tell her about Roger. "He can try all he wants, he'll never live up to Ned Caulder," Malloy says of Roger, building up Caulder to be the James Bond of cannery managers. Malloy tells Liz that Devlin has returned to town because he wants to prove his innocence and is looking for proof that Roger was the guilty party in the manslaughter case ten years earlier.

Oh, and we ALSO HEAR WHAT HAPPENED IN THAT CASE: Burke was convicted of killing a man while driving drunk, which was probably a misdemeanor in the 1960s. Also in the car at the time of the wreck were Roger and his estranged wife, Laura.

Carolyn's creepy behavior in Bangor accidentally leads to Harris connecting Devlin to a private investigator that's been snooping around the Collins business interests. Convinced Roger's glorious bastardy is putting the family in danger, he tells Liz he's going to intervene with or without her blessing. Finding the nearest payphone, he calls Roger and demands some facetime ... or else he's going to the cops. As the credits roll, he waits for Roger at the Blue Whale, the weight of the world on is shoulders.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dark Shadows Rocks!

I get bored easily. When that happens, Photoshop usually comes to the rescue, producing a lot of crap that (mostly) finds its way to my Facebook and Tumblr feeds. I've amassed a small collection of faux album covers for DARK SHADOWS music, and thought I'd share them. Enjoy!

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