Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Artist Emily Christman finds comfort in DARK SHADOWS

In 2011, Emily Christman came down with chronic migraines and lived every day shut up in the house, subjected to constant blood tests, unable to take daylight.

“As a child, I had seen a little picture of Barnabas,” she said. “For some reason it struck a chord, and I had been determined to one day know what it was. I’m a big horror fan and I had heard somewhere about DARK SHADOWS, but knew little to nothing about it.”

Enter Netflix, which opened the world of Collinwood to her. The boxed collection of the entire original DARK SHADOWS series soon followed.

“During the little gaps of time I could actually see, I would watch the show in my darkened living room,” she said. “Then I got desperate to continue my art work, so I started carving little heads of the characters. Mostly, I did this during headaches and could barely see what I was doing."

Needless to say, these weren't optimal working conditions.

"I worked in poor light whenever I could bear it," Christman said. "Generally I'd get about two hours of relief a day, and 15 minutes or so where I really felt up to working." This narrow window of time meant she had to rush through many of the smaller pieces. Her vision gave her fewer problems at a distance, though, allowing her to struggle through an episode of two each day of DARK SHADOWS when she wasn't working.

Her doctor, she said, was familiar with the series.

"It actually worried me at first if watching the series was OK for me," she said. "But my doctor, who actually knew the show, thought it was the perfect little length to keep me sane and happy, without taxing me too much."

When she found herself feeling better, Christman decided to try her hand at creating a full-scale bust of a Dark Shadows actor. Grayson Hall, who played Dr. Julia Hoffman on the series, was her choice. In the beginning, Christman worked primarily from memory, sometimes using screenshots from the DVDs as references. Later, she drew from books and online images to help capture Hall's likeness when working on the full-scale bust.

"Watching her in motion also helps, just to give you a better sense of all her angles," she said. “I started by layering oil clay on a plastic skull, and instantly recognized a likeness in the basic face structure. Seeing these faces everyday for that year, and seeing little else, I became very fond of recreating them.”

With the help of her father, she created a urethane mold of Grayson Hall’s head and cast her in silicone. During this process, she started to recover and was accepted to art school in London.

“So I had to shove her in my backpack and take her with me to where I now am living,” she said. “So I’ve just been painting detailing, and working away in my spare time. It will probably be some time before I find the hair I need to finish the head, but I thought a good display method would be if I made her shoulders and arms, and had Julia in her I-ching trance.”

While it was Barnabas Collins that initially intrigued her, Christman said she slowly gravitated toward Dr. Hoffman as the series progressed.

"I have to say at first I wasn't sure what I thought of Hoffman, but she grew on my very quickly," she said. "I think she's my favorite character overall. I personally love the dysfunctional little family unit that is Barnabas, Willie, and Julia, and how it developed, most out of the whole series. I also really like the Sarah narrative; I wish they had done more with that."

She's hoping to revisit her Dark Shadows miniatures now that her vision has fully returned.
"My small heads were all made while I was having a migraine, so I could just barely see out of one eye," she said. "As a result, they are a little wonky. I can't say I'm terribly satisfied with the small pieces I have from before. Ever since I improved I've been really aching to create some little monster-model style kits of my favorite scenes and settings.”

She says she’s underwhelmed by the classic DARK SHADOWS models currently on the market.

“I'd love to do some moody little set-ups of Quentin's dusty room,” she said. “Or the mausoleum, intricate little set ups with the characters lurking in the shadows, Lara in flames, Vicky at the gallows, maybe a nice juicy staking. I have yet to try small scale in full health and proper light, and I'm wondering if I could get a refined likeness if I tried again.”

She said she hasn’t ruled out the idea of a more elaborate art project.

“Some crazy little portion of me wants to do some wax museum type affair,” Christman said. “Full-scale outlandish scenes, but it would be sometime before I could find a place to put it.”

Christman later met Lara Parker and Kathryn Leigh Scott at the Monsterpalooza convention, but decided against showing them her work.

“I was too embarrassed to show them,” she said.

Visit Emily Christman's online portfolio at Below is a video she created to illustrate her discovery of DARK SHADOWS titled DARK YEAR. It's well worth watching.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

DARK SHADOWS nominated for various RONDO awards

When it rains, it pours. In this case, it's raining award nominations for DARK SHADOWS!

The nominations for this year's RONDO HATTON AWARDS include a rash of DARK SHADOWS products, ranging from movies, DVDs, journalism and ... well, the entire list is below, and it's a doozey.

You'll also note that COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY regulars DAVID-ELIJAH NAHMOD and JESSICA DWYER are both up for Rondos this year. Congratulations!

UPDATE: It appears THE COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY has made the list of nominees for "Best Blog."

Here the list of this year nominations. You can read the full list HERE.

'Ladies of the Shadows,' by David-Elijah Nahmod, FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND #261. A reminiscence of Dark Shadows.

Michael Culhane: Interview with five cast members of classic Dark Shadows, including Jonathan Frid. FAMOUS MONSTERS OFFILMLAND #261.

Rod Labbe: Interview with Dark Shadows actress Marie Wallace, FANGORIA #313.

VIDEO WATCHDOG #169 (Dark Shadows remembrances)

Dark Shadows

Night of Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows: The Complete Original Series

The Collinsport Historical Society

DARK SHADOWS DVD collection nominated for SATURN AWARD

Dark Shadows: The Complete Original Series is nominated for Best DVD/BD Collection in this year's Saturn Awards. Ciollecting DARK SHADOWS into a single set was long thought to be impossible because of the economic difficulties in packaging so much material into a single product. Last year, MPI Home Video gambled on the project, and won big. Not only was the massive project a success, but it went into a second printing almost immediately. Included in the collection were 131 DVDs with all 1,225 episodes, a commemorative coffin package containing 22 amaray cases, a deluxe booklet with episode summaries,  Bloopers, Treasures & Behind The Scenes DVDs and more than  120 cast and crew video interviews.

The DARK SHADOWS feature film was also nominated for a number of Saturn Awards. Chloe Grace Moretz was also nominated for Best Performance by a Young Actor for her role as Carolyn Stoddard, and Rick Heinrichs was nominated for Best Production Design.

Here's the press release about this year's Saturn Awards:

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the leading film with nominations for the prestigious Saturn Awards presented by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.   Peter Jackson’s return to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth received 9 nominations.   Other films receiving major nominations include Ang Lee’s Life of Pi (8 nominations), and the 23nd entry in the James Bond franchise, Skyfall (7 nominations).
Comic book icons-turned-cinematic spectacles, Marvel’s The Avengers and Christopher Nolan’s triumphant conclusion to his Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, followed closely behind with 6 nominations each, along with the epic musical based on Victor Hugo’s classic Les Miserables.   Warner Bros. received a leading total of 23 nominations, while Sony Pictures and Universal Pictures each received 14 nominations for their ambitious slate of films released last year.

Television Entertainment also received nominations from the 41 year old Academy.  Leading this prestigious list was the beloved series, Fringe, which received 6 nominations and ended a five year run on the Fox Network.  Other notable series receiving multiple nominations include Showtime’s Dexter (5 nominations), and with 4 nominations each, Breaking Bad (AMC), Falling Skies (TNT), Leverage (TNT), Revolution (NBC), and The Walking Dead (AMC).

The non-profit organization was founded in 1972 by noted film historian, Dr. Donald A. Reed.  His goal was to find an outlet to honor and recognize genre entertainment often overlooked by mainstream awards organizations.  The Saturn Awards is considered the premier award for the entertainment we dub “exaggerated and/or enhanced reality”.  The scope of the genres we honor has been broadened in recent years running the gamut from dark and edgy entertainment to colorful and life-affirming fable-esque slices of life.

This year, the Academy is thrilled to inaugurate a new film category honoring independent film releases alongside the high-budgeted films which help drive the box-office.  Organization President Robert Holguin states “I’ve long admired and respected independent filmmakers and their focused vision.  I’m thrilled to see the organization create a category which expressively allows our membership to champion personal film projects which helps expand ideas and creativity in the genre field.”
This year’s 39th Annual Saturn Awards is slated to take place in June.  Please visit the Academy’s website for a listing of this year’s nominations,

RIFFTRAX swears vengeance on Bella, Edward

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy, the masterminds behind RIFFTRAX (and veterans of the late MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000) launched a Kickstarter campaign yesterday. The goal? To raise $55,000 in 30 days to stage a live lampoon of TWILIGHT. Within a few hours, the group had raised $70,000 toward that goal, and have already collected $117,000 by this morning ... and there's 29 days left to go. It's safe to say this Kickstarter effort has been a success.

The Rifftrax gang has had a lot success with previous "live" events, which are broadcast to select theaters around the country. I've had the pleasure to see them roast THE HOUSE OF HAUNTED HILL, BIRDEMIC and MANOS HANDS OF FATE and they were tons of fun. But I'm going to take a little extra pleasure in seeing them dismember TWILIGHT.

A few years back, an ex dragged me to see the first TWILIGHT film in the theaters. She felt I was obliged to see the movie out of some kind of misguided retribution for taking her to see the first BLADE movie, proving that her understanding of the word "retribution" wasn't terribly sound. By that point, word about the book had spread, so I knew what I was in for: A story crafted BY a self-hating woman FOR self-hating women. When that relationship ended, it meant I didn't have to suffer through the sequels.

So, when Rifftrax launches their live event, I'm going to be there. It will be a cinematic exorcism for me ... and, most likely, a lot of other people.

(Note: You don't have to wait for the live event to see Rifftrax mock the Twilight movies. They've got a number of commentary tracks for sale at their website.)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Seaview Terrace returns to television with STRANDED

SEAVIEW TERRACE will return to television in April. The historic landmark, used as the exterior location for the original DARK SHADOWS series, will find itself entertaining the cast on an episode of STRANDED, a new reality show on Syfy. The show debuts Feb. 27, with the Seaview Terrace episode set to air March. 6.

Later this year, DARK SHADOWS stars KATHLEEN CODY and SHARON LENTZ will appear at Seaview as part of a benefit for site. Lentz and Cody will appear May 18 with Jason Hawes (Ghost Hunters,) Dustin Pari (Ghost Hunters International) and psychic/medium, Chip Coffey.

The event benefits SeaviewCARES, a non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration of Seaview Terrace. For more details, visit

Here's the press release about STRANDED:


NEW YORK – If you thought Paranormal Activity was scary – get ready for Stranded. The new Syfy reality series, premiering Wednesday, February 27 at 9PM (ET/PT), uses the same stripped-down first-person method to document an unconventional – and terrifying – paranormal and psychological experiment in which participants are stranded at haunted location for a week and must record the entire experience themselves.

Jason Blum, producer of the Paranormal Activity movie franchise, Insidious and Sinister, serves as an executive producer; as does Josh Gates, the host and co-executive producer of Syfy’s popular series Destination Truth.

Each of the six hour-long episodes features the self-recorded footage of a diverse group of everyday paranormal enthusiasts. The footage from the subjects’ cameras is supplemented by strategically-placed security cameras at each location, creating a suspenseful, completely unscripted first-hand account of each group’s stay.

Over the course of the confinement, the subjects contend with increasingly pervasive feelings of fear and desolation, resulting in an experiment that represents a unique combination of psychology and the paranormal.

Star Island in New Hampshire serves as the haunted locale in the premiere episode of Stranded. Upcoming shows were filmed at sites such as Seaview Terrace in Newport, Rhode Island, and the West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville, West Virginia.

In addition to Blum and Gates, Stranded is executive-produced by Brad Kuhlman and Casey Brumels for Ping Pong Productions, and co-executive-produced by Gerard Bocaccio, who heads up Blumhouse TV.

Friday, February 22, 2013

VAMPIRES 101: Edward Gorey

Today is the birthday of the late writer/ artist Edward Gorey, a man whose style continues to haunt popular culture almost 13 years after his death.

It’s hard not to be occasionally resentful of Gorey’s work, which has been copied and homogenized to create a faux subculture. A style that was once unique has been turned into a brand by everyone from Hot Topic to TIM BURTON, and has somewhat diluted what made Gorey’s work so special in the first place. But, blaming Gorey for Burton’s paint-by-numbers approach to filmmaking is like blaming the Beastie Boys for Limp Bizkit. Some people are just determined to walk away from art with precisely the wrong message, and Gorey is no more to blame for Hot Topic’s exploitation of teenage morbidity than Mike D is for that unfortunate rash of “rape rock” in the late 1990s.

Since this is a VAMPIRES 101 segment, let’s focus on a small part of Gorey’s career: His involvement in the 1977 Broadway revival of DRACULA. Despite its low regard among fans of Bram Stoker’s novel, the DRACULA stage play has proven to be as resilient as its antagonist. Written in 1924 by Hamilton Deane, it was revised (possibly even re-written) by John L. Balderston a few years later in 1927. While F.W. Murnau’s 1922 film NOSFERATU was, technically, the first adaption of Stoker’s novel, the Deane/Balderston play was the first “authorized” production of the novel, and served as the basis for Universal’s 1931 feature starring BELA LUGOSI.

Gorey’s designs for the 1977 Broadway production of Dracula won him a Tony Award for Best Costume Design, as well as a nomination for Best Scenic Design. The play was a huge hit in its day, making a star of actor Frank Langella, who reprised the role in the much-less ambitious film adaption a few years later.
Unlike the movie, though, the play was Edward Gorey art brought to life. The stage, the backgrounds, the entire production was the work of Gorey’s deceptively simple line art. You can see examples of the set design in this post. While I’m not sure Hollywood was up to the task of creating a literal adaption of Gorey’s production design, it’s obvious the 1979 “adaptation” failed to port the real star of the show.

In addition to Gorey’s Tony nods, the Broadway production won for Best Revival and Best Costume Design, and earned Langella a nomination for Best Leading Actor in a Play. David Dukes, Raul Julia and Jean LeClerc would later take over the role of Dracula on Broadway, while the London production starred Terence Stamp. Martin Landau and Jeremy Brett took over the lead when the play went on tour in America.

DRACULA wasn’t Gorey’s only foray into Broadway. The following year, he staged GOREY STORIES, billed as “An Entertainment with Music.” The play had only one performance on Oct. 30, 1978, which suggests it was a production that was intentionally not built to last.

Google has recognized Gorey’s birthday today with a “Google Doodle” based on his artwork.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

DARK SHADOWS cast alert!

David-Elijah Nahmod tells me that VOGUES OF 1938, a musical starring JOAN BENNETT and Academy Award-winner WARNER BAXTER, will air on TCM on Feb. 21 at 6:45 a.m. EST on Turner Classic Movies. There's not a lot of information about the film online. VOGUES has a skimpy Wikipedia entry, but Variety had this to say about the movie:

"A distinct departure from routine picture producing, Vogues of 1938 has an ingenious script, of surprising elasticity. It has a group of superlative floor-show specialties. It introduces a dozen of the country's famous fashion models. And it is photographed throughout in some of the loveliest Technicolor so far projected."
On the DAVID SELBY front, SURVIVING CHRISTMAS is set to air 6 Feb. 23 at 6 a.m. EST on HBO 2. WHITE SQUALL, a much better film featuring Selby, is also scheduled to air several more times this month on cable. Visit the "airdates" page at for more details.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The "handsome stuffiness" of LOUIS EDMONDS, 1960

LOUIS EDMONDS and  GERRIANNE RAPHAEL found themselves prominent featured in the May 5, 1960, issue of The New York Times. The two were among the cast of ERNEST IN LOVE, a musical adaption of Oscar Wilde's THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST. (You can see photos of the recording session for the soundtrack, as well as soundclips of Edmonds singing, by clicking HERE.)

I think we're all pretty familiar with Edmonds' career, but Raphael is best known to geeks of a certain age as the voice of Jaguara, the sorceress from the '80s cartoon THUNDERCATS.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

DARK SHADOWS Valentine's Day news roundup

* DAVID SELBY will be the guest on next week's COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY podcast. He spent an hour talking with me on the phone last weekend for reasons I don't fully understand. Could it be possible he's just that ... nice? (Spoiler alert: Yes, he is.) Look for the next podcast to go live next Tuesday. (Those of you subscribing for free through iTunes might get it a little earlier, though.)

* Interested in visiting the shooting locations from Tim Burton's DARK SHADOWS? The website The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations has a breakdown of some of the places where Burton and crew shot the movie. Take a look!

* CATHOLIC BOY RICHARD talks about lapsed Catholicism, lapsed vampires and DARK SHADOWS.

* The Sara Monster has shared some animated gifs which are the best thing I've seen all day. One of them is posted at the top of this post, but you really need to see them all to get the full impact.

Dark Shadows Diary, Episode 68

Episode 68, "The Lady or the Tiger"
Sept. 28, 1966

I love you, Carolyn Stoddard, but you're crazy.  You're not Amanda Plummer nuts, but any guy who hooks up with you had better learn to drink.

Today, Carolyn, in her never-ending quest to be the center of attention no matter what the subject, stops by her uncle Roger's office to mention that she was in town to visit Burke Devlin. You know, they guy who's been trying to destroy him since the first episode of the series.  "Uncle Roger, he really thinks you killed Bill Malloy," she says in the biggest "DUH!" moment ... so far.

What's the purpose to all of this? On the surface, it's another case of wheel spinning as the writers struggle to draw out the show's latest mystery for as long as possible. DARK SHADOWS also has a need to repeat the premise of the mystery for new/tardy viewers, a practice that's made the mystery surprisingly convoluted despite being fairly simple. Usually, all of this noise plays to the strengths of the show's characters, making Roger, Burke and Liz all the more complex with their contradictory (and fully in-character) behavior.

For Carolyn, though, it just makes her look selfish and bratty. I don't think that's the show's intent ... Nancy Barrett knows she's playing a flawed character, but the scripts tend to make Carolyn look more stupid and unbalanced than dramatically conflicted. I think it's a good character, but the writers seem to understand her less than Barrett.

The "script noise" also plays to David's strengths as a character, making a crazy little monster look even crazier. In this episode he flies off the handle with Victoria (who's wearing her hair in the same style as her kind-maybe mother, Liz) after being provoked by ... well, I don't really know what. He's pissed off that Victoria didn't lie to support Burke's Theory of Everything (as in, "The Collinses are to Blame for Everything") and takes it as a personal slight.

His memories of Roger's fights with his as-yet-unseen mother Laura provide Roger with one more potential enemy. I mean, David already hates Roger (and has tried to kill him on at least one occasion) but now the boy's got more ammunition in their ongoing battle.

Faced with being flanked by Victoria and David, Roger falls back on his charms to defend himself. He pours in on a little thick with Victoria, asking to have dinner with her so that they can get better acquainted (it's not as sleazy as it sounds.) He also offers a softer side to David as soon as the brat flies into one of his paranoid rants. Instead of arguing with his son (or showing him brochures to Wyndcliffe Children's Hospital) he agrees with his every complaint. "If you had your choice," he summarizes, "who would you rather be rid of: me, or Miss Winters?" It's definitely a "Lady or the Tiger" decision for David, but a decision that is delayed until the next episode.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Louis Edmonds in ERNEST IN LOVE, 1960

Ever wanted to hear Roger Collins sing? In 1960 you could have heard just that, thanks to an appearance by LOUIS EDMONDS in the off-Broadway play ERNEST IN LOVE. The two-act musical was an adaption of Oscar Wilde's  comedy of manners, "The Importance of Being Earnest."

The play was well-received, with The New York Times review noting Edmonds' "handsome stuffiness." The photos come courtesy of Masterworks Broadway, which has several more photos of the recording sessions for the ERNEST soundtrack.

The soundtrack is available from Amazon, but the track listing incorrectly attributes Edmonds songs to "Louis Edmonts." 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Dark Shadows Diary, Episode 67

Episode 67: "The First Great Liar"
Sept. 27, 1966

The story of Ananias and Sapphira is one of the more disgusting accounts in the New Testament. The Book of Acts tells how the two claimed to be giving all of the proceeds of a property sale to the church, but were actually holding onto some of the money for themselves. They were struck down by God for their deceit. I'm sure Jim and Tammy Faye Baker loved this story.

Ananias is casually mentioned by Burke Devlin in this episode, who refers to him as "the first great liar." Considering Ananias's career as a liar lasted all of a few minutes, I think Burke is overestimating the man's abilities. But a Google search for the name "Ananias" prompted the appearance of a very interesting name:


As it turns out, the inspiration for Ananias and Sapphira to give all they had to the church was Barnabas, presented as a model of generosity in the Book of Acts. I don't think many people would confuse this guy with the vampire of DARK SHADOWS, but it certainly suggests a curious method behind the naming of the show's characters. I'm not sure what all it means (frankly, I don't think it means anything) but it's certainly interesting.

As the episode begins, everybody is pissed off at Burke Devlin. Even Maggie, Collinsport's answer to Mary Tyler Moore, seems to be letting the town's grim mood get to her, threatening at one point to "Slip rat poison into his coffee." Considering she's served just about every cup of coffee seen on DARK SHADOWS by this point, it's a threat to be taken seriously.

Outwardly, everybody expresses disbelief that Burke's claim that he was framed for a crime he didn't commit. There's some doubt in the delivery of these lines, though. Even Carolyn, who storms into the inn and starts the "rat poison" conversation with Maggie, seems dubious about her own anger. Or, maybe his fortified status as Public Enemy #1 in town just makes him more attractive to her. Who the hell knows with this crazy chick.

She doesn't get much satisfaction from Devlin, who mentions Ananias ("the first great liar") and suggests to Carolyn that Victoria might be under the same thrall of lies as the rest of the Collins family. Nobody is to be trusted, and he seems vaguely disappointed that she doesn't understand the rules of the game.

Meanwhile, Sam Evans is having trouble selling his alibi for Bill Malloy's untimely death to the sheriff, and suggests his memory for times isn't as strong as it should be (which is really something you don't want to tell a cop when he's investigating a possible murder.) Sheriff Patterson's investigation leads to a polite interrogation of Malloy's housekeeper, Sarah  Johnson, and BLAM! It's the same Sarah Johnson that will later take over housekeeping duties at Collinwood. Right now, though, she's got no love for the family and is convinced they played a role in Malloy's death.

She's not much help to Sheriff Patterson, claiming she wasn't in the habit of eavesdropping on her employer. He did order a "special" breakfast for the next morning before he left home for the last time, which she says isn't the action of a man planning to off himself.

Even Maggie finds herself the focus of Patterson's inquisition. Just as Sam is hinting around to Maggie that he might need her to invent some artificial support for his alibi, the sheriff wanders into their conversation and makes everyone uncomfortable.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

DOCTOR MABUSE premiere set for Dark Shadows Island Weekend

DARK SHADOWS ISLAND WEEKEND is scheduled for April 27-28 this year at Coronado, Calif. The event is one of two placeholders* for the annual DARK SHADOWS FESTIVAL, and serves as a premiere event for the feature film DOCTOR MABUSE. Directed by ANSEL FARAJ, the film stars JERRY LACY, KATHRYN LEIGH SCOTT and LARA PARKER. 

Dark Shadows alumni DAVID SELBY and CHRISTOPHER PENNOCK will also be in attendance for the event. There are details in the advertisement above, with more available at the event's Facebook page.

 I spoke with Faraj and actor NATHAN WILSON several weeks ago for a podcast interview, which you can download as an MP3 here.

(*A DARK SHADOWS CRUISE is also scheduled for later in the year.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

1967 interview finds Jonathan Frid coping with stardom

"TV Vampire Projects Charm, Sex Appeal"

July 24,1967
The Independent Star-News


NEW YORK—The newest matinee idol is a 43-year-old Shakespearean actor with a self-claimed cadaverous-looking face who plays the part of a sophisticated vampire on daytime network television.

Jonathan Frid, who has made a career out of playing villainous roles, has suddenly discovered what it means lo have fans. To daytime viewers, he is Barnabas, the vampire with an English accent on "Dark Shadows," an afternoon serial on ABC-TV, and he's being inundated with fan mail — at the rate of more than 300 a day.

And what fan mail!

"You are utterly fascinating," wrote a lady from Manhattan Beach, Calif. "Bela Lugosi was marvelous and weird, but he didn't have sex appeal and you do."

A 15-year-old girl from New York City penned: "I look forward to seeing you everyday. I just sit there drooling over you."

A woman from Newark, HI., air - mailed: "Please don't get rid of Barnabas. I wish he'd bite me on the neck. He gets me so excited I could smoke a whole pack of cigarettes just watching him."

A fan club at a high school in Hazelton, Pa., inquired: "How can a man be so good-looking, fangs and all?"

And so it goes. Jonathan Frid, who has appeared in more than 30 Shakespearean productions since he was graduated from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. (He's a Canadian National) and holds a masters degree from Yale University Drama School, suddenly has become the object of adulation from teen-age girls to grandmothers. At ABC-TV, the report is that [ive times as much mail has come in to "Dark Shadows" since Frid came on the scene ;wo months ago. He was only supposed to be on the daytime serial, which stars former screen star Joan Bennett, for six weeks and perhaps less. It now appears that he will be around much longer. "Dark Shadows" producer Dan Curtis las no intention of letting his vampire go, not with the new life a vampire lias uniquely given it.

Frid's reaction to his sudden fame, and new image, is one of amazement and bewilderment. The most acclaim he's ever had before has come from reviews, locally written critical praise. But adulation, fans, fan mail?

"It just seems incredible," Frid exclaimed. "Bartenders recognize me (they watch the show because they work nights.) Kids recognize me on the street. A man came over to me in a restaurant and berated me because I scared the hell out of his kids. Then he confided that he also watched the show when he had a chance."

Frid, a bachelor, gets all sorts of telephone calls. A 21-year-ols girl sent a picture, followed it with a phone call and told Frid she became so enamored of him that she went to a seance.

"She was sure," Frid said, "that she had first met me in 1233. To have a following is great, Frid  acknowledged, but some of it is so weird.

"It makes you wonder about people, and what attracts them," he observed. Then he pulled out another fan letter. It was from a woman in New Westminster, British Columbia, and it read, in part: "You're my favorite. You have great charm 'and dignity, but also you express the most evil, corrupt and forceful domination of your victims."

Frid also is philosophical about his current image. He's not quite sure yet what to do about it, capatalize on it and give It a strong publicity push.

"We've thought about making a thing out of it," he confided. "But I'm not sure what we should do, it anything. I've always ways thought of myself as an actor. Being a star is moonlightng. Being a star is altogether another profession."

Meanwhile, he's under options to "Dark Shadows" for a year and he doesn't mind being a villain all the time. Roughly 6 feet tall, with piercing eyes and square jaw which easily lends itself to sinister roles, Frid has been playing ornery characters for most of his 25 years on stage. He's a character villain with the background of a classic actor.

"I've played Richard III any number of times, and I can't remember the total castings in which I've played the villainous Catholic priests of the middle ages," Frid said. "There's enough villainy in this face of mine. It is sort of cadaverous looking."

Playing such roles has required special research, and rehearsal, Frid said.

"The only way to play villains is to play against them. I play it seriously in 'Dark Shadows, but with charm."

Schooled in Hamilton, Ont., and later at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, Frid's touch of charm comes with the flavor of an easily acquired English accent. For the past two years, Frid las been a member of the San Diego Shakespeare Festival in the summer and toured with Ray Milland in "Hostile Witness" in the winter. He has just completed the "Hostile Witness" tour when his agent called him and told him the Barnabas role was available. The audition was quick and successful, and now he's a famous vampire.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Looking for Richard (and Jonathan)

Scientists announced Monday that DNA testing had established that the skeleton found buried in an English parking lot was that of Richard III, one of Britain's most notorious monarchs.

Researchers located the skeleton in September while excavating the site of Greyfriars Church, where Richard's body was believed to have been buried in 1485. A week after researchers identified the remains of the church beneath a parking lot in Leicester, they announced the discovery of a skeleton believed to be that of Richard III. Earlier this week, the results of a test comparing the DNA from the skeleton to that of a 17th-generation descendant of Richard's sister proved the remains belonged to the last king of the House of York.

Sadly, one of Richard III's more famous devotees was not here to witness this historic moment. Jonathan Frid, who played vampire Barnabas Collins on DARK SHADOWS, passed away last April. Frid's stage career was much more varied than the "Shakespearean Actor" label applied to him by the media, which seemed to trap his career between the extremes of Shakespearean tragedy and pulp horror.

While Frid also appeared in a number of comedies and mysteries, he built his early stage reputation on playing Richard III, a character that fascinated him for much of his life. From the start, Frid was interested in grafting humanity to the villain created by Shakespeare, but later in life he took an active interest in the man behind the myth. Richard's public identity was wrested from him by writers and historians who had their own axes to grind, a situation that Frid knew a little something about.

Years ago, on his now-defunct website, Frid was chronicling his own feelings about Richard III. Here's what he had to say:
"As a curious amateur historian, however, I can now represent myself as a fledgling member of the worldwide Richard III Society whose purpose, if not to completely clear the name of this Plantagenet monarch, it most certainly seeks to give a balanced picture of his character against that of his arch enemy Henry Tudor.

"Warfare then was probably a nastier business than now especially when it came to the confusing question of the rules of engagement. Who among the participants wasn’t breaking them?  Whatever, Shakespeare was a spokesman for the Tudors during the reign of Elizabeth I … and in his 'histories' dealing with the Wars of the Roses only the Tudors could do no wrong.

"Ironically, Shakespeare's account of Richard Plantaganet on the eve of his final battle ... endows the king with some redemptive qualities in that Richard finally recognizes his own villainy in terms diametrically at odds with his boastful 'I am a villain' of the first scene of the play: Episode 1. It is an interesting delineation of this uniquely Shakespearean character (leave us not make judgements on the politics behind the telling of this story). It would seem that Shakespeare, being more the man than his political contemporaries, at least reveals Richard as a person able to make a full-fledged confession of whatever may have been his 'misdeeds' as  listed by his accusers. Yes, we get to see ... at least for a moment ... the man he might have been had he been chronicled in a more open society by others of his contemporaries."
I like to think Jonathan Frid would have been delighted to have seen the very-real human being unearthed last year in Leicester.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

New "Super Bowl" spot for DOCTOR MABUSE

Director ANSEL FARAJ has shared a new "Super Bowl" trailer for the upcoming film DOCTOR MABUSE, which features DARK SHADOWS alumni JERRY LACY, KATHRYN LEIGH SCOTT and LARA PARKER. Faraj and actor NATHAN WILSON stopped by The Collinsport Historical Society offices a few weeks ago to discuss the film in our weekly podcast, which you can find HERE.

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