Friday, November 29, 2013

BLACK FRIDAY madness falls upon Collinsport

It's BLACK FRIDAY today, which is a little like New Year's Eve for the retail industry. Everybody tends to take things a bit too far, make promises they can't possibly keep, and we all wake up the next morning suffering from a case of buyers remorse. It's the perfect American holiday.

For today only (Nov. 29, 2013, to be specific,) Amazon is making DARK SHADOWS: THE COMPLETE SERIES part of its "lightning deals" sale. The deal is incredibly time-sensitive, and begins today at 5:20 p.m. EST. The complete series of 1,225 episodes (and more than 100 interviews, blooper reels and featurettes) will sell for just $253.09.

CLICK HERE AT 5:20 p.m. EST to catch the deal while it lasts.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Preview: DARK SHADOWS #23


Dynamite's DARK SHADOWS series comes to an end this week with issue #23. The publisher has shared a few preview pages from the book, which goes on sale tomorrow. It's been a while since I've read the series, but the current storyline looks appropriately kooky. Here's the official summary:
"It is a turning point in the lives of the residents of Collinwood. Reeling from the aftermath of their confrontation with Dark Barnabas and his family of vampires, no one has been left unscathed. With no place else to turn, and little hope of surviving another vampire encounter, Willie is forced to call in help from the most unlikely of sources... vampire hunters."

Joan Bennett costume accessory sells for $2,500

Bonhams conducted an auction of classic movie memorabilia in New York yesterday. Dubbed WHAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF, the auction lot was curated by Turner Classic Movies and featured a staggering array of items for sale. In case you think the auction's title was just hype, they even had actual "Maltese Falcon" lead statuette available for bidding. It sold for a whopping $4 million.

Also up for auction was a cape worn by Joan Bennett in the 1939 James Whale adaption of THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK. The royal blue cape sold for $2,500. You can see the cape as it was presented for auction in the photo to your right, as well as how it was used in shooting of the film in the image below. (Special thanks to Will McKinley for alerting me to this auction. He spent much of yesterday live-Tweeting the event.)

Barnabas Collins model actually looks like Barnabas Collins

Remember that Barnabas Collins model kit released in the 1960s? The one that looked more like a creepy ventriloquist dummy that Jonathan Frid? Good news! MPC has done a bit of work on the sculpt, revising the heads for both the Barnabas Collins model and the classic Chris Jennings werewolf kit.

The "classic" kits were re-released a few years ago, compete with vintage-style packaging and a sarcastic product description. While I love the idea of getting the kit as it was originally produced, it still looks a little ... weird. (It doesn't help that the Barnabas Collins kit appears to be little more than a re-purposed Dracula mold.)

New editions of these models will be available from Entertainment Earth in January, complete with new sculpts for their heads. I've never heard anybody complain about the werewolf sculpt before, I have to admit the new version is an improvement. Both figures will be available in a two-pack. CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS.

Monday, November 25, 2013


DARK SHADOWS aficionado Darren Gross recently found a rare Greek VHS edition of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. Released in 1991, this particular home video release was probably prompted by the 1991 "revival" series, but also followed the previous year's home video release of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS from MGM/UA. There's a wealth of promotional materials created for the film's theatrical release back in 1970, yet "Audio Visual Enterprises," the company that licensed the film for home video in Greece and Cyprus, opted instead to use what appears to be a photo of Castle Bran on the cover. Bran is located in Romania, and is often marketed to tourists as "Castle Dracula."

Gross is told the film's Greek title translates as "The House of Shadows." I guess the overseas distributors decided the "Dark" was implied.

UPDATE: Artist George Caltsoudas posted a translation of the film summary in our comments section. The movie's title translates as THE HOUSE WITH THE SHADOWS:
"The residents of the estate of Collinwood are startled by the arrival of their cousin Barnabas (VarnAvas) Collins from England. And this is because the newcomer relative bares an exact resemblance to the portrait of the founder of the tower, who came from the other side of the Atlantic to start a new life after the mysterious death of his fiancee...

What the don't know, though, is that he is the one and the same ancestor of theirs!
Because Barnabas Collins is a... vampire! And he has come here, to New England, from the underworld, with the intent to hunt the beautiful governess of the area, Maggie, who bares and incredible resemblance to his dead beloved..."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

DARK SHADOWS fan brings Collinwood to life

Think your custom-made Barnabas Collins costume is hot stuff? An unidentified Pittsburgh millionaire has raised the bar for DARK SHADOWS fans everywhere by transforming his home into Collinwood. The remodeling didn't stop with the exterior, either, which is based on the Rhode Island mansion used for exterior shots in the original TV series ... he also paid contractors to redesign the interior, bringing Collinwood's various sets to life. I'm going to raise a drink in this man's honor tonight.

The DARK SHADOWS fan spoke with a local CBS affiliate about the project, but declined to be identified. Thankfully, the contractors who helped bring Collinwood to life were a bit more forthcoming. Get a tour of the home in the video HERE, courtesy of KDKA. (I'd embed the video, but the code doesn't want to play nice.)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Christopher Pennock: "I would make a fine vampire"

Christopher Pennock, who doesn't get mentioned here often enough, speaks with John Solari as part of the series, THE METHOD ACTOR SPEAKS. It's a fun interview, which touches on a lot of subjects, ranging from Tim Burton's DARK SHADOWS film, working on Ismail Merchant's and director James Ivory's first American film SAVAGES, making the DOCTOR MABUSE sequel, and his obsession with KING LEAR.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

AFTER SHADOWS: Jonathan Frid in SEIZURE, 1974

UPDATE: I asked Oliver Stone about his feelings on the film, 
and got the following answer ...


There are no heroes in SEIZURE, the 1974 directorial debut of Oliver Stone. The film has great fun in pretending that leading man Jonathan Frid is the film’s protagonist, which he might be, if only by default. But it’s an ugly, nihilistic film about humanity’s many shades of cowardice. Had it been a better film, its dense, cryptic rhythms might have attracted the kinds of conspiracy theorists that so love Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING. As it stands, the film is just a minor curiosity.

Frid plays successful novelist Edmund Blackstone, who is entertaining a motley group of friends at his lake house for a weekend. Without exception, these are all horrible human beings, with Frid presented as a quiet everyman. Haunted by a recurring nightmare, Blackstone puts on a brave face for his wife and child and does his best to entertain this group of A-holes. The festivities come to a halt when a trio of violent party crashers arrives on the scene: The Spider, The Jackal and The Queen of Evil. Looking like the backup band for Alice Cooper, this supergroup of psychological archetypes forces the party guests to compete against each other in a host of mundane blood sports, with the loser of each activity forfeiting their life.

The group of “friends” turn on each other within minutes, to the surprise of nobody. For a while, Frid’s family seems to be immune from this behavior, until a shocking turn of events near the movie’s climax. Rather than face the inevitable, Blackstone’s wife (played by future Eternian sorceress Christina Pickles) commits suicide. As the number of guests begins to dwindle, Blackstone comes to the conclusion that his own life is worth more to him than his own son’s and sells the lad out. The movie is an experiment in trolling the audience, and will probably leave you feeling vaguely dirty afterward.

Part of SEIZURE’s problem is its opaque plot. I’m not entirely sure what the movie is really about … these monsters seem to have sprung from Blackstone’s imagination, but we’re not given any clues as to why until moments before the credits roll. Even then, the explanation is a cop-out. The movie is so intentionally cryptic that there might be a great many things buried in the script that could illuminate matters, if you were inclined to dig deeper. Then again, Stone is a well-known fan of hallucinogenic drugs, so who the hell knows what his motivations were.

SEIZURE is not a great movie. It’s not even a good movie, but the stock value of its many creative curiosities has soared since its brief theatrical release more than 40 years ago. At the top of that list is, arguably, the film’s status as Oliver Stone’s first feature film. Stone would go on to become a much better filmmaker, and complete his career arc by again becoming a terrible filmmaker. Fans of PLATOON will see little of Stone’s presence in SEIZURE. Fans of NATURAL BORN KILLERS, on the other hand, will see his fingerprints all over it. (It’s worth noting that I quite like NBK, despite its many, many self-indulgent failings.)

SEIZURE’s cast is a lot more intriguing. Today, it’s best known as the film that broke Jonathan Frid. He had a love-hate relationship with acting for many years, and was preparing to quit the business entirely when he was convinced to take the role of Barnabas Collins on DARK SHADOWS in 1967. He had no particular fondness for horror and even less patience for crap, and SEIZURE proved to be one disappointing experience too many. He wouldn’t appear on screen again until 2012, in a too-brief walk-on role in Tim Burton’s DARK SHADOWS film.

SEIZURE is a film so terribly miscast that I have to believe its few functional decisions are just happy accidents. The only actors who come out of this movie unscathed are Mary Woronov and Hervé Villechaiz, who nail their every scene. Frid is less fortunate because of the bizarre decision to cast him as wallflower. He had a magnetic stage presence that sometimes worked against him, and was an ill fit for a role probably written with someone like Dustin Hoffman in mind. Frid’s performance in SEIZURE works sporadically, due to a script that purposefully seeks to obscure the true nature of his character. The movie intentionally gives Frid little to work with until the final act. His best moments in the film are his quiet moments, when he's not weighed down by clunky dialogue.

For all purposes, SEIZURE is a “lost” film, existing only today as a DVD ripped from an early VHS release. It’s likely to maintain its orphan status forever, because there’s no crass motivation to rescue it from obscurity. Just about everybody involved with the film has disowned it, and its legal rights are even in dispute, thanks to some shady business dealings involving the producers.  This means that future audiences will experience the film under dreadful conditions. I suspect the DVD currently available for sale on Amazon is an illegal bootleg (not that anybody cares,) but the picture transfer is shoddy, and the soundtrack is no better. SEIZURE's legacy hasn't even been given the benefit of a fighting chance. Meanwhile, you can HOWARD THE DUCK on DVD, complete with special features and 5.1 surround sound, a fact that should shake your faith in whatever god you pray to.

If you’re a fan of anybody involved with the film, SEIZURE is still worth searching out. It’s got the kind of creepy, stoner vibe seen not often seen in American horror films, and is so bizarre and original as to be almost refreshing. It’s not a movie you’re going to fall in love with, but is fine for an afternoon dalliance.

(NOTE: SEIZURE is a film I've been avoiding since first spotting it on video store shelves back in the 1980s. The cover art was typical of small-release horror films during the golden age of VHS: A photograph of a hooded, leather-clad executioner that would have more at home on the cover of a Molly Hatchet record than a horror movie. This "art" was a giant red flag. Independent video companies had no qualms when it came to bilking customers out of their movie, and frequently used misleading artwork (sometimes even changing the name of the film on packaging) in order to move units.

Besides, I liked Jonathan Frid. At that point, I hadn’t seen much DARK SHADOWS, but had concerns that SEIZURE was his PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE and had no interest in playing spectator to his professional decline. Those concerns have never really gone away. Since the ‘80s, I’ve seen DARK SHADOWS twice from start to finish, have become fairly familiar with Frid’s obscure stage credits, and have poured over hours of audio and video of his one-man shows. This past Halloween, I finally pulled the trigger and watched SEIZURE.)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

David Selby invests in West Virginia's motion picture industry

David Selby and producer Jeff Tinnell are launching the equity based management investment fund Dream Factory LLC, designed to nurture filmmaking in their home state of West Virginia.

Chances are you already know Selby, who launched his professional acting career with DARK SHADOWS back in 1968. Tinnell is a producer and co-founder of The Allegheny Image Factory, which produces an incredibly array of media projects in West Virginia (including the Eisner award-nominated graphic novel, FEAST OF THE SEVEN FISHES.)

Dream Factory will be headquartered in Selby's hometown of Morgantown, W.Va., which is also home to Allegheny Image Factory.

"You don't have to be in Los Angeles anymore," Tinnell told The Charleston Gazette. "You can be anywhere and work."

Selby has had an active presence in his home state's arts community since his days as a student at West Virginia College. Most recently, he portrayed Abraham Lincoln in a production staged during the annual FestivALL in Charleston, W.Va.

For more about the Dream Factory project, visit The Charleston Gazette.

Friday, November 8, 2013

All work and no play makes Maggie a dull girl

Admittedly, it's been a slow news week. We've been kicking ass behind the scenes, though, preparing a bunch of new features that will be headed your way ASAP. We've got two new interviews recorded for the podcast, with two others in the planning stages. I've also got a review of 1974's SEIZURE that will be headed your way during the next few days.

In the meantime, enjoy this photo from Jeff Goad, taken during last week's DARK SHADOWS CRUISE. This image looks like the audience from THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW wandered onto the set of THE SHINING ... which is actually a pretty good recipe for a DARK SHADOWS convention, now that I think about it.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Video: Kathryn Leigh Scott talks DARK SHADOWS

Kathryn Leigh Scott has been all over the place this month. In addition to joining Lara Parker and Marie Wallace on the DARK SHADOWS CRUISE over Halloween, she also appeared opposite George Segal last night on an episode of THE GOLDBERGS. If that wasn't enough, she also spoke the Hallmark Movie Channel's weekly program, Planet 360, about her writing, acting and the introduction of Barnabas Collins on DARK SHADOWS. You can watch that interview in the video above.

In case you missed it: Scott is also offering a holiday gift package at her official website. It includes books, photos and all sorts of other goodies. Check it out!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Halloween in Collinsport
 A handful of DARK SHADOWS-themed Halloween costumes popped up in my various feeds late last week, some of them incredibly offbeat. When I dressed as Barnabas Collins a few years back (the costume was the traditional Frid-era vampire) I got recognized by a total of two people. I wonder how these folks fared with the public? Especially our own Marie Maginity as "Buzz Hackett," a character so obscure that the costume would probably stump most DARK SHADOWS fans. My favorite of the bunch, though, is Brennan Harke as "vampire victim" Maggie Evans, top.


Kathryn Leigh Scott just posted a photo of herself dressed as Maggie Evans during the recent DARK SHADOWS cruise that took place during Halloween. WIN!

VAMPIRE PAPER DOLLS (or "Flat Stanley Goes to Hell')

Published way back in 2010 (did they even have electricity back then?) VAMPIRE PAPER DOLLS is a softback book containing two "paper dolls" and 29 character costumes designed to illustrate the history of vampires. Because I'm mentioning this book on a site called THE COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY (or maybe because you saw those photos at the top of the page) you've already figured out that Barnabas Collins makes an appearance. The original Jonathan Frid portrayal of the character is featured alongside other such figures as Dracula, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Count Mamuwalde, Varney the Vampire, Bill Compton from TRUE BLOOD and (sigh) Edward from TWILIGHT.

All I'm saying is: FLAT STANLEY better watch his ass.

You can get VAMPIRE PAPER DOLLS on Amazon for $8.99, or significantly cheaper from some of their affiliate vendors.)

Friday, November 1, 2013


A few years back, I convinced one of my nieces that I'd bought a pet snake. It wasn't one of those snakes that needed a special habitat to survive, I told her, and it was entirely tame. Friendly, even. It was allowed to roam free around the house, and was probably sleeping under the couch in the living room. For dramatic impact, I made sure she was sitting on this same couch as I spun this entirely fictional tale of Charlie the Snake.

Her feet immediately left the floor as she climbed fully onto the couch. She was 90 percent sure I was full of crap, but wasn't willing to bet the farm on it. I laughed, told her the snake wouldn't hurt her, and encouraged her to go looking for it. While she was doing so, I said "Boo!" (or some other ooga-booga sort of noise) and scared her. If you ever need a babysitter, feel free to give me a call.

I share this less-than-flattering story as a set-up for another. When I was three years old, my father gave me a glass of tomato juice, but told me it was strawberry Kool-Aid. I liked tomatoes just fine, and always have ... but you can imagine my surprise when the drink tasted nothing like strawberries. My schizoid relationship with tomato juice continues to this day. Tomatoes are still A-OK, but give me a glass of V-8 and I'll punch you in the throat.

There are two points to these stories. The first is that I wanted to lead with the V-8 anecdote, but was afraid of painting my father to be an asshole. (The misadventures of Charlie the Snake makes be the clear villain of this piece.) And the second is that it's never wise to underestimate the power of suggestion.

Last night, I had the house to myself. It was Halloween, but I was ill-prepared to deal with trick-or-treaters, unless they wanted handfuls of crushed walnuts, dog food or a glass of boxed wine. Rather than hand out disappointment and rejection to the neighborhood children all night, I turned out the lights, hid in the back of the house and listened to the new DARK SHADOWS audio drama from Big Finish, BEYOND THE GRAVE.

About 45 minutes into the episode's 55 minute running time, though, those lights came back on. I was a little freaked out by the episode's creepy soundscape, which was turned up to 11 in the story's climax. I think the sound design will be unnerving to a lot of people, thanks to the aforementioned power of suggestion. Luckily, some asshole kids were drawn to the dim light from my windows like moths to a flame, providing me with something else to worry about for a few minutes. By the time I returned to the story, the willies had been properly exorcised.

The lights, though, remained on.

Kathryn Leigh Scott
BEYOND THE GRAVE is a complex production with a simple story. In the tradition of "found footage" movies like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, the story is told in real-time through salvaged recordings from a live TV broadcast that took place 40-odd years ago. British producers travel to Collinsport in search of the truth behind the legend of Mad Jack, a fisherman who murdered his family and committed suicide at Eagle Hill Cemetery at the start of the century. Along they way they meet some familiar faces, my favorite of which is a hilarious/creepy cameo by DARK SHADOWS veteran Marie Wallace. Also in small roles are Nancy Barrett, Jerry Lacy and Kathryn Leigh Scott. (It's  worth mentioning that Stephanie Ellyne as Amy Jennings is beginning to feel like a part of the traditional cast. The role has the potential to be obnoxious, but Ellyne is very easy to like.)

Despite the sizeable cast, this episode belongs to Scott, who carries most of the dramatic weight of the story. It's a terrific performance, and writer Aaron Lamont (who I spoke with in our previous podcast) makes the canny decision to explore some of Maggie Evans' public tribulations in this episode. Even though Maggie was confined to a sanitarium on more than one occasion in the original TV series, there were never any social consequences for her illness. In BEYOND THE GRAVE we find out that Maggie's credibility has suffered greatly in the community, which is one more crime that Barnabas Collins has yet to answer for.

I'm not sure that anyone can fully appreciate the juggling act needed to create a story like this. The depth of detail in this episode didn't happen accidentally, and required a great deal of coordination at all levels of production. Had Big Finish tackled this on an episode-by-episode basis, I'm sure the stories would have been fine. But, by planning ahead, they were able to create a few narrative threads that were loose enough to let the episodes have distinct voices, while also contributing to the multi-episode arc that makes this year's series so special.



As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Luckily, we found ourselves with a shitload of bricks in October, and the determination to pave the best damn road we possibly could.

MONSTER SERIAL came to a violent end yesterday. Our 31-day experiment -- to write about one horror movie a day throughout October -- probably should have failed. At best, I was expecting readers to simply reject the feature. Trends in traffic to this site suggest DARK SHADOWS is your first love, with the other features showing inconsistent peaks and valleys. I know you people love Jonathan Frid, but what about Stephen King? Tobe Hooper? Rob Zombie? I had no intentions of placing all things Collinsport on hold for a month, but the demands of MONSTER SERIAL would definitely put them temporarily on the backburner.

Long story short: I've got an open-minded bunch of readers. While there was neither rhyme nor reason to last month's traffic (the numbers for CREEPSHOW were through the roof, while my piece on 1978's HALLOWEEN went relatively ignored) the event was an unqualified success.

It's a cliche to say "I couldn't have done it alone," but in this case it's the absolute truth. The original plan was to split the series in half between myself and Patrick McCray. Patrick proved to be an overachiever and lived up to his end of the bargain with flying colors. Me? Not so much. Fortunately, the cavalry arrived in the form of David-Elijah Nahmod, Will McKinley, Ansel Faraj, Jonathan M. Chaffin and my wife, Sara Shiver McBride. In the end, the scheduled 31 films turned out to be 36 films, making Halloween week much more interesting than expected when I first spitballed this idea two months earlier.

We also got support from some unlikely places. THE CHURCH OF SATAN gave MONSTER SERIAL a shout out on their blog three weeks ago, and we later joined forces Voltron-style the weekend of Oct. 25 with The Nitrate Diva's VINCENT PRICE BLOGATHON. And DREADIT, the horror board at REDDIT, was sporadically supportive of the series, as well. My thanks to you all.

Please take a moment to visit the websites of our contributors. You won't be disappointed.

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