Saturday, March 30, 2013

JOAN BENNETT IN ... Suspiria, 1977


SUSPIRIA isn't so much a movie as it is cinematic alchemy. There's nothing about this movie that ought to work, from the lurching, deranged performances to the use of Technicolor film process to highlight the STAR TREK-like cinematography. The score sounds like the kind of stuff you'd find in the $1 bins of your local used record store*, the story makes no sense and the dialogue exists only because audiences have grown accustomed to hearing it since the release of THE JAZZ SINGER.

If "magic" is the art of causing change to occur in conformity to human will, then director DARIO ARGENTO is a sorcerer to be reckoned with. Because SUSPIRIA works, even when logic and reason tell you it shouldn't. The movie is a candy colored nightmare brought to life, a film so hypnotic that it's managed to stay vibrant and vital no matter how much audience tastes have changed over the years.

For much of its life, it was a movie that film fans could only hear about. My first experience with the 1977 film came from the pages of Fangoria about a decade later in a feature story that did nothing but add to the movie's legend. "Here's a great film you can't see," was the gist of the story, which was all the more galling because of the flood of miserable horror movies that were littering the shelves of video stores in those days.


The first time I saw the film, I was both impressed and disappointed. Nothing could live up to the years of ominous chatter about SUSPIRIA, and I was even a little saddened to have survived the experience with my mind intact. This was my generation's THE KING IN YELLOW, after all. Was a little madness too much to expect from a work of cinematic genius?

I also realized that, for all the rabid fervor for which fans had praised the film, nobody had said much about its story. There's a reason for that: The story doesn't make sense. An American woman enrolls in a European ballet academy and comes to the slow realization that it's run by a bunch of witches. The end.

But story is hardly the point of SUSPIRIA. Like his American soulmate George Romero, Argento couldn't care less about character development. Argento used to be such a deft filmmaker that traditional storytelling elements simply weren't necessary.


With SUSPIRIA, Argento takes audiences through such a tangled, wild path that it should have ended in disaster. Originally planned to be set in a dance school for children, Argento reportedly revised the concept in order to use older and more reliable actors. For reasons that are anybody's guess, he kept the script's original childish (and dumb) dialogue intact.

And that's just the beginning of the bizarre creative decisions on display in SUSPIRIA. Characters are killed for no other reason that to populate the movie's running time with as much gore as possible. The coven behaves so insanely stupid that it's amazing it could have survived into the 20th century. In one scene, the witches use a demon to kill a student, while in another they provoke a seeing eye dog to kill its master. The movie is so front-loaded with action that little is left over for the movie's climax, which limps to a grinding, confusing halt.

And then there's film's title, which doesn't mean a goddamn thing.

And none of this matters. I'm not sure anybody's even been able to adequately explain why the movie works, but the film's got a stunning 95 percent at Rotten Tomatoes and is universally beloved by critics. It's a wet, stormy fever dream that has survived the years better than more pretentious counterparts like ERASERHEAD and CARNIVAL OF SOULS.

It's difficult to evaluate the movie's cast because of their incongruent presentation. Many of the actors are dubbed regardless of what language they're speaking, while JOAN BENNETT, who is clearly American, is given dialogue that suggests she's not. Early in the film she tells newly arrived JESSICA HARPER that lodging in town will cost "50 of your American dollars," a line delivered with her upper class East Coast accent.


Cult icon UDO KIER makes a quick appearance, but is not only dubbed by another actor, but photographed in such a way as to mask his good looks. It's a role that could have been played by anybody, and don't be surprised if you forget he's even in the movie. Meanwhile, Harper's role is so vapidly written that it took a decent actress to do anything with it. While her performance didn't win any awards, Harper's inherent charm keeps  focused on her character. The script certainly didn't give a shit about her. (Note: SUSPIRIA is Harper's second stop in her trifecta of cult classics, landing between 1974's PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE and 1981's SHOCK TREATMENT. In recent years she's written a number of children's books. If there's a canonization process of cult icons, it's high time Harper made the list.)



And then there's JOAN BENNETT. By 1977, the woman who was almost Scarlet O'Hara found herself delivering amazingly absurd dialogue in an Italian giallo film. Her career progression didn't happen all at once, to be sure. You don't go from being Fritz Lang's favorite leading lady to taking a supporting role in a movie like SUSPIRIA in a single bound. A combination of age and scandal (as well as a very public feud with HEDDA HOPPER) closed a lot of doors for her as the '60s began. Her appearance in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, a film that might accurately be called an "American giallo," probably made her decision to appear in SUSPIRIA less difficult.

None of this is to suggest that Bennett should have been ashamed or embarrassed by her appearance in SUSPIRIA. But, the 1970s introduced a new world of cinema, most of which probably looked alien to her, if not utterly offensive. I've never read any interviews with Bennett where she discussed this movie, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear she'd never seen it. Her role in the 1945 film SCARLET STREET was shocking for its time (and led to at least one city banning it) but that film is tame when compared to the blood that splattered across the screen in SUSPIRIA.

If you've never seen the movie, you might want to tread carefully. I'm no expert on audio/video presentation, but there are a number of wildly different versions of the movie out there. Some look and sound better than others. Here's one opinion on the subject.

(*Within context of the film, I actually quite like Goblin's score. Hopefully, this little note will spare me some angry e-mails.)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Dark Shadows Diary, Episode 75


Episode 75, "Premature Ejaculations"
Oct. 7, 1966

Widow's Hill is as good a place as any to celebrate the end of a murder investigation.

Our story (such as it is today, but we'll get to that momentarily) begins with the unlikely pairing of Roger Collins and Matthew Morgan, who stumble upon each other at Widow's Hill. Ordinarily, it would be a seriously awkward moment, but this is one of the rare times when neither men are in the throes of shenanigans.

Roger isn't misbehaving, at least. It's not explained why Matthew is strolling around Collinsport's most popular suicide attraction, unless he's habitually returning to the scene of a crime. Which he was definitely doing, now that I think about it, but mostly he's in this episode to remind us he's still hanging around. Not much is done with him today besides re-introducing him to audiences as we build toward the resolution of this story arc.

Roger, though, is drunk on smug. He's at Widow's Hill simply to enjoy the view as the focus of a murder investigation appears to have moved elsewhere. He's absoltuely giddy with the news that he won't be charged with killing Bill Malloy and seems more surprised that anybody about the turn of events.

Not to be outdone, Carolyn is also beaming with the news. It might seem like she's setting the bar kinda low, but keep in mind that the low-hanging fruit in her family tree (i.e., Laura, Gabriel, Barnabas, etc.) has done some pretty heinous shit. Remember that time Quentin tried to strangle his own grandmother? Good times.

Carolyn seems to have forgiven and forgotten her own bad behavior in the previous episode, much to the consternation of Victoria. Like Roger, she's prematurely celebrating the end of Bill Malloy's murder investigation with a double shot of Fuck It. It doesn't occur to her that she owes apologies to lots of people, and thinks spreading around a few empty compliments will suffice. Which is does, I guess, because nobody puts up a fuss.

Meanwhile, Roger has a curious solution to the Devlin problem, suggesting Matthew bump off the family rival by pushing him off a cliff or "twisting" his neck. Matthew isn't amused and suggests Roger might have more to worry about than it seems, even suggesting that he might have lied to Sheriff Patterson during the course of the investigation. Roger is in such good spirits that he's not offended by the idea. He's not even put out by having a family slave servant speak to him in such a manner.

Carolyn gets her chance to get all Creepy Niece on Roger once he finishes his victory lap and returns to Collinwood. She tells him he's responsible for "The theft of an extremely valuable piece of property belonging to another man." Just when you think Carolyn is going to say something grotesquely inappropriate (which seems like the safe bet) she mentions the missing fountain pen. For reasons I can't imagine, she's come to the conclusion that Roger stole it from Burke. Even though Roger more-or-less called Carolyn a whore for accepting the pen from Burke in the first place, he doesn't immediately remember what she's talking about. He also doesn't rule out having stolen it, but aczdv sdcscc  sdcsdc sdcsdc  ccsdbfhnyjmhebrdde nthbrnfgcgcnnydh...............................................

Sorry. I fell asleep on my keyboard for a few minutes. Where was I? Oh, yes ... the PEN.

Dan Curtis was a smart businessman, but there's a moment in this episode that makes me think he could sometimes be HEAVEN'S GATE* stupid with money. This episode includes a number of scenes shot on location, the kind of filmed footage ordinarily used in these early episodes as segues for characters moving between locations outside of Collinwood. The filmed scenes in this episode are curiously specific, though, even featuring distinct costume components to create scene-to-scene continuity.

The filmed scenes in this episode don't appear to be essential to the story ... until we see filmed footage of Victoria finding Roger's/Carolyn's/Burke's missing fountain pen as she walks the beach.
To summarize, DAN CURTIS SENT A FILM CREW TO SHOOT ALEXANDRE MOLTKE FINDING A PEN ON THE BEACH. Yeah, it's a significant plot point, but not one that demands a serious capital outlay.

Anyway, Victoria finds the pen, just as the shadow of fate falls upon the door of Collinwood, presumably in the shape of Sheriff Patterson. Cue dramatic music.

(* I also would have accepted HOWARD THE DUCK or WATERWORLD.)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Classic DARK SHADOWS credits ... '90s style!



I know, I know ... the words "Dark Shadows" and "Youtube" don't often make for great entertainment. At one time or another, anyone who loves DARK SHADOWS and has access to desktop movie editing software has knocked together some lame bit of video and posted it to Youtube. Wading into those waters is as awkward (and occasionally creepy) as reading your next-door neighbor's love letters. Unless you lived next door to William S. Burroughs, which would be awkward, creepy and incredibly awesome.

CHAD MOORE has created something pretty cool, though, with this video combining the original cast of the DARK SHADOWS with the opening credits of the 1991 "revival" series. A thousand fanmade videos had conditioned me to start yawning before I even pressed "play," but that yawn turned to a smile within seconds.

How "Barnabas" are you?


Samantha Lienhard is conducting a survey about "audience attitudes towards fictional villains," and the first on the list is none other than BARNABAS COLLINS. Linehard is interested in finding out how audiences feel about a very specific moment in the character's history: The time he kidnapped MAGGIE EVANS and kept her lock in his basement for several months, eventually driving her mad.

Now, this isn't one of those Facebook quizzes that will spit out a funny "badge" for you to share with your friends. This is an empathy test, of sorts. Think of it as an online version of the Voight-Kampff test from BLADE RUNNER, only there are no right or wrong answers (and nobody much cares if you're a Replicant.)

Also part of the survey are questions about Raistlin Majere from the DRAGONLANCE series, Lord Voldemort and a few others. The survey is constructed to allow you to skip the characters you're not familiar with.

What are you waiting for? GO TAKE THE SURVEY!

LINK: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FictionalVillains

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

PODCAST: Sharon Lentz's CHILDHOOD AT COLLINWOOD



SHARON LENTZ was introduced to the world of DARK SHADOWS in 1967 when she was cast as Sarah Collins, the ghostly sister of vampire Barnabas Collins. While Sarah wasn’t the show’s first apparition, she was the first to stick around for more than a few episodes, providing both a playmate to David Collins and functioning as a conscience for her undead brother.

This week, Sharon talks about working as a child in a grown-up environment, returning to Dark Shadows fandom years later as an adult and the recent launch of her own website. You can find Sharon online at her Facebook page, as well as at her official website, www.sharonsmyth.net, where she's got signed photos, t-shirts and other merchandise available.

You can download this episode as an MP3 by clicking here, and subscribe to it for free via iTunes.

DARK SHADOWS cosplay with Chad & Cassidy


Cosplayer/costume designer Chad Edward Evett is back as BARNABAS COLLINS, joined by Cassidy Kahler as JOSETTE DuPRES. Chad has become a mascot of sorts for this website (and I mean that in the best possible sense) and even won the Warner Bros DARK SHADOWS give away hosted here late last year. Chad and Cassidy created the costumes they're wearing in these photos, which were taken Paul Arellano.)

The agents of DOCTOR MABUSE confess in FANGORIA #322

Fangoria #322 hit the stands this week, and features interviews with the cast and creators of DOCTOR MABUSE by writer (and CHS contributor) DAVID-ELIJAH NAHMOD.

Inspired by the character created by Norbert Jacques and made famous by director Fritz Lang;  Dr. Mabuse is returning to the silver screen in a brand new incarnation - directed by Ansel Faraj, from his original screenplay. The latest issue of Fangoria includes interviews with Faraj, as well as cast members JERRY LACY, KATHRYN LEIGH SCOTT and LARA PARKER.

DOCTOR MABUSE will have its world premiere at the Dark Shadows Island Weekend on Saturday April 27th , 2013 - followed by a Limited Theatrical Run beginning May 3, 2013, in Los Angeles.

Look for more about DOCTOR MABUSE in our archives.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Vote for DARK SHADOWS in the Rondo Awards!


The 11th annual RONDO HATTON CLASSIC HORROR AWARDS voting is going on until April 7th. Please consider voting for some of the DARK SHADOWS related nominations listed below. This is our chance to put DARK SHADOWS fandom on the map for this year's Rondo awards! Also, the COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY is nominated for Best Blog of 2012 and I'd appreciate your vote. I promise not to go all "Otter" from ANIMAL HOUSE, though.

1. BEST MOVIE OF 2012
-- DARK SHADOWS

3. BEST CLASSIC DVD
-- HOUSE/NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS (separate releases)

4. BEST CLASSIC DVD COLLECTION
-- DARK SHADOWS: The Complete Original Series. All 1,225 episodes on 131 DVDs.

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

14. BEST INTERVIEW
-- Michael Culhane: Interview with five cast members of classic Dark Shadows, including Jonathan Frid. FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND #261.


 
OR

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


16. BEST THEMED ISSUE OF 2012
-- VIDEO WATCHDOG #169 (Dark Shadows remembrances)


19. BEST BLOG OF 2012

-- Collinsport Historical Society

27. CLASSIC MOST IN NEED OF RESTORATION
-- Night of Dark Shadows (write-in)


In all, there are 35 different categories to vote for, but you DO NOT have to vote for each one in order for your vote to count. Visit the Rondo Hatton Awards site for the full list of candidates, or copy and paste the entries above and e-mail them to David Colton at taraco@aol.com by SUNDAY NIGHT at midnight, April 7, 2013.

One vote is allowed per person. Every e-mail must include your name to be counted. All votes are kept strictly confidential. No e-mail addresses or any personal information will be shared.

Again, you do not have to vote in every category. NOTE: There are TWO features about DARK SHADOWS nominated for BEST INTERVIEW. Please pick one of them.


COLLINWOOD COCKTAILS: The Stokes Cup


It's safe to say that Prof. T.E. Stokes was a private man. This isn't surprising when you consider how often Stokes was brought into the confidence of Collinsport's most powerful families during times of need. After all, nobody wants to hire an exorcist who has a Twitter account.

While Stokes kept a low profile for much of his life, the extensive collection of oddities found among his personal effects after his death were more than a little eye raising. You expect to find books bound in human skin and the occasional animal skull in the archives of an exorcist. A complete collection of Asterix the Gaul graphic novels, a closet full of Jet Magazines and dozens of Don Ho 45s? Not so much.

Also among his personal effects was an extensive collection correspondence letters. Below is the scan of a letter written to someone simply named "Adam."

Here's the transcript:


Dear Adam,

Have left on a jaunt to Boston to help Burt and Neil with second act trouble for their musical comedy of THE APARTMENT.  (I seem to recall that you enjoyed Fred MacMurray's contribution to the original with considerable relish before one of our more arduous hygiene experiments.)  In the meantime, you may want to practice the many ways of the urbane sophisticate.  Since the Pimms Cup experience proved to be a disaster (my sock garters now forever in the possession of Nicholas Blair as a result), I am retooling my recipe into what I call the 'Stokes Cup.'  In my rugby days, before I found the more sublime love of curling, a 'Stokes Cup' would have been an ample vessel indeed, but a standard tumbler will suffice for our needs.  

You''l need: 

Three ounces of cranberry-infused vodka, often found ready made in The Future.  
One ounce of Rose's Lime Juice
Ice of some sort.  Crushed, I imagine.  

Mix this and serve with a shotglass of ginger ale as a relief for the more delicate palates.  

I think you'll find the results to be most refreshing.  Remember, Adam, how I've always taught you about responsibility and right versus wrong?  Well, you'll never learn self-restraint until you start making mixed drinks for your various guests and prisoners.  

Regards,
Professor "Professor" Stokes

PS -- Please stay off my penny-farthing.  Also, mail the Zuni Doll ASAP!


NOTE: Recipe and accompanying letter written by Patrick McCray, of The Collins Foundation.

JOHNNY DEPP wins Kid's Choice Award for DARK SHADOWS


Say what you will about Tim Burton's DARK SHADOWS (and we've said a hell of a lot) but Johnny Depp's performance was among the film's high points. Given a better script and the dialogue surrounding the film would a lot more positive, but we're left with a handful of fun performances, some terrific production design and enough missed opportunities to fill a baseball season for the Chicago Cubs.

So, it's kind of bittersweet to see Depp named "Favorite Movie Actor" for DARK SHADOWS, even one as vapid as the Nickleodeon Kids' Choice Awards. You can see video highlights of the awards "ceremony" below. Hopefully, this news won't open too many wounds for those of you still recovering from last year's Burton/Depp debacle.


(Special thanks to David-Elijah Nahmod for the heads up about this award.)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Barnabas Collins among TV Guide's best of the worst


The March 26, 2013, issue of TV GUIDE has a look at "The 60 Nastiest Villains of All Time." Our own BARNABAS COLLINS comes in at #8 on the list: "The Dracula of daytime TV was a spooky and tragically romantic 200-year-old vampire (Jonathan Frid) who haunted Collinsport and pursued the local female population fangs first."

Special thanks to Nancy Eron, who brought this item to my attention at the CHS Facebook site!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

An interview with DARK SHADOWS writer Joseph Caldwell


Tor.com has an interesting interview with DARK SHADOWS writer JOSEPH CALDWELL, who is credited with writing about 60 episodes of the original series. Caldwell joined the show during the duel between Barnabas Collins in 1967, and stuck with the program until it's final year in 1970.

The TOR interview makes a serious mistake of getting caught up in the "Who Created Barnabas Collins?" controversy by naming Caldwell as the character's sole inventor. The line of people seeking credit for creating the vampire is not a short one, and the truth is that Barnabas Collins was not the product of any one mind. That's not how television works. Even though Caldwell is credited with writing dozens of episodes of DARK SHADOWS, it's likely that he assisted in the writing of many more episodes, just as other writers worked on the episodes he's credited with. And it would be foolish to discount the role that JONATHAN FRID played in developing the character, though he's not credited with ever having penned a DARK SHADOWS screenplay.

That's not to take away from Caldwell's work. He was an important figure on the development of the series, and had this to say in the interview about the show's approach to character:

“We never wanted to play to the metaphor, but instead, play the vampire straight. We felt the audience wouldn’t connect with Barnabas if he didn’t seem like a real person, with real problems…we were always trying to figure out a way to make the stories better, more engaging, more ordinary. In a way, we almost wanted to make you forget he was a vampire sometimes…or as we used to say; ‘stop me before I suck more!’”
Read the entire interview HERE.

Dark Shadows Diary, Episode 74


Episode 74, "Devlin Shrugged"
Oct. 6, 1966

Burke Devlin has had better days.

Someone should remind him of Humphrey Bogart's old saying, "Things are never so bad that they can't be made worse." Burke spent a few years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, and that kind of thing ought to give a man perspective. I have to wonder if he was always a bad loser, though. His consistent outrage over life's ambiguities makes it unlikely that his prison stretch was a peaceful one.

In this episode, he finds his hotel room infested with Collinses. He returns "home" to find David skulking around, only to have Carolyn bring a super-sized bucket of Daddy Issues to his front door minutes later. Both conversations are awkward, to say the least. Here's a sample of his dialogue with David:


DAVID: "Nothing's against the law, unless you get caught."
BURKE: "Who told you that?"
DAVID: "You did."


And things get much worse from there. David tells Burke the "voices" that visit his room at night told him Roger killed Bill Malloy. It puts Burke in the difficult situation of defending Roger, while also ignoring David's obvious signs of mental illness. Carolyn's angry arrival is almost a breath of fresh air, and saves us from further disturbing admissions from her cousin.

Carolyn is still angry that Burke was making time with Victoria Winters, which only makes sense if you're willing to overlook several Thayer David-sized logical fallacies.But, the drama rings false, and only serves to re-introduce us to a player in the story not seen for quite a while: the Mysterious Silver Pen, played by ingenue Inky McGuffin. It's been 20 years since I've seen this story arc, and what I remember best about it was the bizarro use of this silver pen as a major plot device.

The pen was given to Carolyn as a gift by Burke, but was taken by Roger Collins with the intent of giving it back to Burke. The pen has since disappeared, but I have a sneaking feeling that it will be making a return appearance in the next few episodes.

Carolyn calls home to ask about the pen and learns Bill Malloy's death has been classified an "accident" by Sheriff Patterson. Roger is way too happy about this bit of news and is mincing around Collinwood without a care in the world. No, really ... he's abandoned all pretenses of responsibility for anything, saying at one point "On this day, neither David nor Burke exist for me." He's also skipping out on work, but that's just gravy at this point.


While Roger is gloating, Burke is fuming. He tosses the Collins kids out of his room and heads straight for the sheriff's office, where he learns Malloy's death received its dubious "accident" rating from the county coroner.  Suffice to say, Burke's not happy about the change of events.



kids in the hall - my pen! by Gekko23

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Trailer Premiere: DOCTOR MABUSE (2013)



Director ANSEL FARAJ has generously allowed me to debut the final trailer and poster for his upcoming film, DOCTOR MABUSE. The movie stars JERRY LACY in the title role, and NATHAN WILSON as the film's protagonist, Inspector Lohmann. In addition to Lacy, DOCTOR MABUSE includes fellow DARK SHADOWS alumni LARA PARKER and KATHRYN LEIGH SCOTT.

Faraj and Wilson spoke with us about the film in one of the first Collinsport Historical Society podcasts, and look for a feature on the film in the next issue of FANGORIA.

DOCTOR MABUSE will debut during DARK SHADOWS ISLAND WEEKEND, which takes place April 27-28 in Coronado, Calif. Click HERE for more details.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Podcast: THE HOUSE OF MYSTERY


This week, The Collinsport Historical Society podcast takes a trip back to the days of DARK SHADOWS before the arrival of a certain cane-carrying vampire. CHS proprietor WALLACE McBRIDE and PATRICK McCRAY are joined this week by RUSS and CHRISSY CHAPPELL, the creators of the Dark Shadows podcast, THE DRAWING ROOM. We talk about the tone of those early episodes, the frequently absurd mysteries that drove the pre-Barnabas narrative, and which character was the program's REAL villain.

Download the podcast as an MP3 HERE, and don't forget to subscribe to the series for free via iTunes.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

KATHRYN LEIGH SCOTT on "DOWN & OUT IN BEVERLY HEELS"



KATHRYN LEIGH SCOTT has a new book coming out March 26. Down and Out in Beverly Heels tells the story of Meg Barnes, a beloved actress who has it all and loses everything—and ends up living on the streets of tinsel town in her Ritz-Volvo—thanks to her newlywed con-man husband. The novel is a fun, light-hearted romance, taking us into the Hollywood social swirl, but also delves into the gritty truth of what it is to be “homeless and hiding it” in one of the most glittering, fashionable cities in the world. It’s also a story of redemption as Meg tracks down her fugitive husband and struggles to regain her reputation, career and friendships.

Scott is offering a gift of a signed bookmark with proof of purchase. Send the PoP to Kathryn Leigh Scott, PO Box 17217, Beverly Hills, CA 90209 or email to pompressweb@gmail.com


Down and Out in Beverly Heels  will be available from Amazon in both a print and Kindle edition. At the moment, the pre-order prices are crazy cheap, with the print edition selling for $7.77 and the Kindle book for $3.99. These prices are subject to change.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Dark Shadows Diary, Episode 73



Episode 73, "Scuttlebutt Around Town"
Oct. 5, 1966

The contest to find the Worst Liar in Collinsport ended in a draw this episode. The likely victor, Sam Evans, put in a strong last-minute showing, appearing at Sheriff Patterson's office to present his patented hemming and hawing, but wasn't able to get a significant edge over rival Roger Collins.

There's a lot of talk about guilt in this episode, but none of it has any weight. Sam momentarily suggests to his daughter that waiting tables doesn't offer much a future, but has no ideas of his own on how to provide anything for her. I guess it's sad that he's realized he's withdrawn from society do deeply that even his own daughter's fortunes are no longer tied to his, but the idea is fleeting. For the time being, all he wants to know is if the sheriff is going to rule Bill Malloy's death an accident or a murder. Except he really doesn't want to know that, either, and treats his cup of coffee at the diner as though it's his last.

It doesn't help that there's a lot of misinformation going around town concerning Malloy's death. Maggie says the town gossip is that Malloy's death will be investigated by law enforcement as a murder, which makes Sam feel even worse. Patterson arrives at Collinwood in the final minutes of the show to cryptically ask Liz, "If Bill was murdered, you would want the guilty person punished no matter who he was?" It's an example of Pro-Level Trolling, because he follows THAT question with the revelation that Malloy's death was an accident "due to drowning." At this point I didn't know WHO to believe.

Things at Collinwood seem to have calmed down since the last episode, relatively speaking. While Liz, Victoria and Carolyn returned to the buffet last episode for extra helpings of Bitch Pudding, the two young women are unaccounted for today. Liz, meanwhile, is forced to deal with David's chemical imbalance as the little creep decides (again) to present his one-man show "Everybody Hates Burke Devlin But Me." The performance ends with David darting out of Collinwood, eluding both Liz and the wheels of Sheriff Patterson's car. He makes directly for Burke Devlin at the Collinsport Inn, where he declines a free bowl of ice cream from Maggie before wandering off to parts unknown.

Sam isn't sold on the idea that this mystery can have a happy ending, and warns that Burke will go on a "rampage" regardless of Patterson's findings. "And he won't stop until there's nothing left," he says, "including the boy."

(Note: The episode begins with location footage of David Ford entering the  "Collinsport Police Department," which is now the post office in Essex, Conn. Get a closer look at the building using Google Street Views HERE.)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

COLLINWOOD COCKTAILS: The Crazy Jenny


 INSANITY. n. mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior.


Are those voices in your head getting annoying? Looking for a reason to set something on fire that won't end in your immediate arrest? Looking for an exotic mixed drink that doesn't include many elements found in nature? Well, you're in luck! I've got a drink that will help you with all three of those problems!

Introducing THE CRAZY JENNY, a mixed drink loaded with tasty, tasty symbols of Collinwood's favorite pyromaniac, Jenny Collins. Much like committing murder, THE CRAZY JENNY is remarkably easy, but you'd better be prepared to live with the long-term consequences of your actions. Because Jenny will kick your ass so hard that your great-great-grandchildren will feel it.

Here are the ingredients:
  • A 50 ml "mini" bottle = 1.7 oz EARLY TIMES "FIRE EATER" cinnamon-flavored whiskey
  • A 50 ml "mini" bottle = 1.7 oz 99 BANANAS liquor
  • A 50 ml "mini" bottle = 1.7 oz WHALER'S "KILLER" COCONUT rum
  • Seltzer water
  • 2 sugar cubes
  • FIRE!!!!
Balance an absinthe spook over the mouth of a glass and place two cubes of sugar on the cradle. Slowly pour all three bottles of booze over the sugar cubes, wetting them. Once you've emptied the bottles, carefully set the cubes on fire. Keep a bottle of seltzer water on hand, and use it to slowly extinguish the flame as the sugar cubes melt. Stir the contents, using the seltzer to water the drink down (and I'd recommend using a LOT of seltzer.) Next, clear your schedule for at least three days and hang on to your proverbial nuts.
 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dark Shadows Diary, Episode 72


Episode 72, "Crazy on You"
Oct. 4, 1966

Carolyn is back, big as life and twice as crazy.

I've been willing to give her the benefit of the doubt until this episode. It can't have been easy growing up in a place like Collinwood, even though Carolyn has a lot of actual "growing up" to do. I've seen her as the Marilyn Munster of the family, the relatively normal beauty in a house full of monsters. She's got both nature and nurture working against her, so it's understandable when she behaves badly.


After this episode, though, I've decided she's just a crazy as the rest of them. She kicks off today's "story" (and there's precious little actual story in this episode) by barging into Victoria's room and acting like her cousin David on a Redbull bender. She hurls a lot of veiled insults Victoria's way, belittling her status as an orphan and insinuating that the governess is a woman of loose morals. When she finally gets to the point, she reveals she's angry because she believes Victoria went on a date with Burke Devlin. "What did you talk about? The price of sardines?" she asks Victoria, an interrogation technique that would probably impress Popeye Doyle.

She doesn't let Victoria get a word in edgewise, and neither does Liz. Carolyn leaves Victoria's room and makes a quick pitstop in the foyer on the way our the door, where she rats out Victoria to her the elder Stoddard. Granted, none of her facts are correct, with the exception that Victoria did, indeed, leave the house earlier that day.

Liz acts just as irrationally toward Victoria, threatening at one point to fire the governess for her imaginary transgression. Her with a stream of criticism doesn't allow for Victoria to mount a defense for herself. Meanwhile, Carolyn smugly makes a telephone call to Burke's hotel room before heading to town.

Mrs. Johnson is haunting the diner at the Collinsport Inn, giving Maggie a hard time and generally making everyone uncomfortable. Between singing the praises of her late employer, she orders a tuna sandwich but demands a do-over from Maggie, this time with "fresh" mayonnaise. Despite being only 45 years old, the former housekeeper refers to herself as "an old woman" and makes a lot of gross comments about the late Bill Malloy that suggest she's got a ton of unresolved issues. Also, she mentions having a daughter, which presumably means she's for TWO children (the loathsome Harry Johnson being the other.)

All of this leads to one of the show's two best character moments. Carolyn wanders into the diner (presumably to on her way to score some kind of touchdown/field goal/homerun or whatever in the non-existent contest for Burke's affections) and interrupts Maggie's awkward moment. Carolyn stops to explain to her who Mrs. Johnson is, which spurs the waitress to momentarily drop her perky work voice to respond "I know who she is." For a split second you can practically see that line of dialogue dripping off the screen.

The other moment is a lot more colorful. Victoria's finally been pushed too far by her troubled employers and gets her back up during her final argument (this episode) with Liz. She tells her, in no uncertain terms, that's she tired of their shit and will quit on the spot if they don't get their collective acts together. This is in the middle of an apology delivered by Liz for doubting Victoria's earlier story, an apology Vicky throws back in her face. Liz's change of heart was inspired not by Victoria's character, but by Roger's validating her explanation for leaving the house.

"There comes a limit, even for me," Victoria says. "Fire me if you want to. Either that, or begin trusting me." I like to pretend she delivered that line with a snap of her fingers.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Return of VICTORIA WINTERS?


In January, BIG FINISH slipped a major announcement into listing about their upcoming releases for 2013. In addition to revealing the names and titles of most of this year's episodes, the press release also had this to say:
"The Wicked and the Dead, returns to the range for The Lucifer Gambit, a story that also sees the return to Dark Shadows of an actor - and character - yet to have featured in the audio series..."
Now, the roster of original actors from DARK SHADOWS yet to appear in a Big Finish release is relatively small. Fans have been speculating about the identity of this actor and character. Is it HUMBERT ALLEN ASTREDO? The actor hasn't made an appearance in a Big Finish audio drama, but his most famous character played a major role in a recent release. Is it DAVID HENESY? Pffft. Don't hold your breath. I get the impression HENESY has about as much interest in revisiting DARK SHADOWS as most people do in repeating the third grade.

As you can see, the list is pretty short. So here's my guess: VICTORIA WINTERS.

While ALEXANDRA MOLTKE hasn't had much interest in acting since stepping away from DARK SHADOWS in the 1960s, it's entirely possible Big Finish was able to convince her that recording dialogue for one of their audio adventures would be a fun way to spend the afternoon. Also, it would go a long way toward appeasing fans.

Still, there are a number of other actors (and characters) with dangling plot points that are worth re-visiting. Victoria Winters poses her own storytelling problems because her "mystery" was entwined with so many other characters, not to mention that they killed the character off screen. My hope might be misplaced, but hell ... Big Finish was able to coax JONATHAN FRID out of retirement to reprise Barnabas Collins one last time, so anything's possible.

Still, the return of Victoria Winters is a long shot. The safe money is the return of Robert Rodan as ADAM, which has some amazing possibilities. In fact, it would probably make for a much more interesting story than tacking on a happy ending to the unresolved tale of Victoria Winters.

Monday, March 11, 2013

PODCAST: Kathryn Leigh Scott discusses her new novel


Actress/writer KATHRYN LEIGH SCOTT speaks with PATRICK McCRAY this week about her new novel, DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HEELS, as well as her participation in the upcoming film DOCTOR MABUSE with fellow DARK SHADOWS alumni JERRY LACY and LARA PARKER. Scott also dishes a bit on her favorite writers, the grueling (yet productive) working conditions of DARK SHADOWS and JONATHAN FRID's dedication to the job at hand.

Download the podcast as an MP3 by clicking HERE.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
Down and Out in Beverly Heels tells the story of Meg Barnes, a beloved actress who has it all and loses everything—and ends up living on the streets of tinsel town in her Ritz-Volvo—thanks to her newlywed con-man husband. The novel is a fun, light-hearted romance, taking us into the Hollywood social swirl, but also delves into the gritty truth of what it is to be “homeless and hiding it” in one of the most glittering, fashionable cities in the world. It’s also a story of redemption as Meg tracks down her fugitive husband and struggles to regain her reputation, career and friendships.

Preorder now! Bonus Gift of signed bookmark with proof of purchase from Amazon!Mail to Kathryn Leigh Scott, PO Box 17217, Beverly Hills, CA 90209 or email to pompressweb@gmail.com

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Dark Shadows Diary, Episode 71


Episode 71, "Something Fishy"
Oct. 3, 1966

Ever wondered how commercial fishermen get their sardines out of their boat? Victoria Winters does, and Roger's answer (which involves a large, sucking hose) is predictably gross, though for once it's unintentional. Her question kicks off a half-marathon of fishing trivia, revealing along the way that the Collins family used to butcher whales before moving on to harvesting significantly less intelligent sea creatures.

Fucking sardines. THIS is what we get after last episode's ghostly bombshell. The conversation takes place inside the diner at the Collinsport Inn during a quick field trip to the Collins Cannery. We've seen a lot of different faces of Roger, and in today's installment we get Smooth Roger, the ladies man and all-around charmer. He's invited Victoria to take a day off from educating his son so that she can get a closer look at the family business. Sounds legit.

Naturally, Roger's got ulterior motives. While gallivanting around town, the duo just happen to wander into the sheriff's office (marked outside with a sign that reads "police") so that Victoria can provide Roger with an alibi for the time of Bill Malloy's death. Roger's kindly deception contrasts sharply with Burke's rage in this episode, which masks nothing. Burke scrapes together a few kind words for only Victoria in this episode, but stops jut short of calling her a whore after learning she vouched for Roger with Sheriff Paterson. "You certainly do get around," he shouts at her across the diner.

This is Burke Devlin at his most unlikeable, and points to a sharp change in tone from the series from recent episodes. While we still spend the episode trapped in the quagmire that is Bill Malloy's maybe-murder, everything else has been exaggerated. Roger's deception is not deceiving anybody, and his continuing claims of innocence in Malloy's death are just making him look more guilty. Unlike his predecessor, the ham sandwich-loving Constable Carter, Sheriff Patterson makes it known that his services aren't for sale to the Collins family. And, on paper, it looks like Victoria is being duped by everyone around her, but Alexandra Moltke's body language tells a very different story.

Meanwhile, Burke's antagonism has been ratcheted up to a hilarious degree. After leaning Roger took Victoria on a tour of the cannery, his first response is "Did he show you where they cut the heads off they fish?" It's delivered with the glee of an especially cruel child. The episode ends with a scene outside the front door of Collinwood that underlines Burke's ambivalent role as series villain. After escorting Victoria home, he makes it clear he plans to barge into Collinwood and (again) make an ass out of himself. He balks at the last minute in unspoken deference to Victoria's feelings, but departs with a threat: "I'll be seeing you again. And maybe when the world does crash, I'll be able to save a small piece for you to stand on."

Friday, March 8, 2013

Help get JONATHAN FRID into Canada's Walk of Fame

Canada's Walk of Fame is a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization that recognizes Canadians who have excelled in music, sports, film, television, as well as the literary, visual, performing arts, science and innovation. Naturally, there are more than a few people who think Canadian actor JONATHAN FRID is a natural choice for such an honor.

Elena, Valerie and Jonathan Frid and the McMaster shirts.
"I feel that if anyone exemplifies what Canada's Walk of Fame is, it is Jonathan Frid," said Elena Nacanther, who has launched an effort to get Frid elected. "His legacy as an actor, his love of country and his loyalty to friends and family makes him perfect for this honor."

Nacanther met Frid when she was 16 years old, an event that she said changed her life.


"It was the first time that I was treated like a grown up, and the first time I had friends who I could depend on implicitly," she said. "Jonathan asked Valerie and I if we would help answer his fan mail, and we became known as his girls. He even used to introduce us as such."

Frid was very proud of his Canadian heritage, she said.

"As time passed, Jonathan would tell us stories about his childhood, his time at Hillfield, being in the Canadian Navy and going to McMaster. We couldn't help but notice how much he appreciated his Canadian heritage, and decided to surprise him by getting McMaster sweatshirts and wearing them to the Dark Shadows Studio. Jonathan was stunned!


"We also got copies of the Hamilton Spectator for him which made him proclaim, as he would many times afterward, that we were the craziest people he ever met," she said. "Such was our relationship with Jonathan, and such was my relationship with him till the day he left us."

This year, Cathy Robbins, Kathy Colby (another original Studio Kid) and Nacanther decided to not only nominate Frid every day, but also to call his former schools, foundations he donated to and businesses he frequented in Canada to get them to support his nomination. They designed flyers (pictured at the top) for these businesses and offices to display, and have created a Facebook page for the effort, as well.

Visit Nominate Jonathan Frid to Canada's Walk of Fame for the latest updates on the effort, and to find out how you can help.

Dark Shadows Diary, Episode 70


Episode 70, "Years of Brooding Existence"
Sept. 30, 1966

Goodbye, ambiguity! It was nice knowing you, but it's time for us both to see other people. We've had a swell time along the way. I especially enjoyed how you teased us with the idea that Collinwood might be haunted, only to have a character come along and dismiss the whole notion as asinine. After 70 episodes together, though, it's clear we've simply grown apart. As this episode drew to a close, we got our first genuine look at the ghost of Josette Collins, and there's no goddamn way you're going to tell me it was a figment of my imagination, an LSD flashback, a bit of undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato or whatever the hell else Roger might suggest.

Because nobody else on the show saw this ghost. It was a moment purely for the audience.

But I"m getting ahead of myself.

As any DARK SHADOWS fan will tell you, patience is a virtue. I've made no real secret that the last few episodes were a slog to get through. For a time, the show even lost track of the "Who Killed Bill Malloy" plot and seemed to have lost its way. DARK SHADOWS falls into a unique pattern of scene and sequel. Writers will typically give you a scene with some kind of conflict, something relevant to not only the plot, but the nature of the characters involved. The "sequel" will be a scene that follows to illustrate how the characters deal with the conflict. In DARK SHADOWS, though, we get scene and sequel and sequel and sequel, etc.

But that's OK, because the endless pageantry of consequences is what DARK SHADOWS is all about. It's just a matter of making sure the initial scene is strong enough to support it's offspring. So far, "Who Killed  Bill Malloy" is a bit of a deadbeat dad. Sure, it means well ... but it never seems to be there whenever the bills are due.

This episode might be the strongest since the pilot. It not only expands on the show's mythology, but it's geography, as well. In addition to our first no-shit ghost, we get our first look at the Old House, the "original" Collinwood located elsewhere on the grounds. It's the second most important location for the series and arrives fully realized. It might get tidied up a little when Barnabas Collins eventually moves in, but it looks the same here as it will in the show's final episodes.

Matthew Morgan is also back in this episode to provide his own unique form of menace. There's something about Morgan that's just not right. Perhaps it's his violent temper, secretive nature or the way he casually tosses dead bodies into the surf, but he's not someone to be trusted. As the episode begins, he catches David eavesdropping at the door of the drawing room as Liz and Victoria talk about Burke Devlin's tangled opinions of the Collins family. Morgan gets a little grabby with the boy, but Liz intervenes before he does the sensible thing and strangles the little sociopath.

David later shows Victoria a drawing of one of his ghost friends, an image that looks a great deal like that of a drawing of Josette Collins in the family history. He says Josette, who he sees from time to time, is condemned to wander Collinwood until a third woman falls to her death from Widow's Hill (and charmingly suggests Victoria might be Lucky #3.) He then leads the governess on a ghost tour of the Old House, telling Carolyn on the way out, "I'll take care of her, don't worry." It wouldn't sound so threatening coming from anyone other than David, but he stays true to his word.

The B-plot gets a limited (and appropriate) amount of attention in this episode. Carolyn suggests Liz take on Mrs. Johnson as a housekeeper/companion, unknowingly inviting a spy into their home. Like Josette, Mrs. Johnson turns out to be another big piece of the DARK SHADOWS puzzle, not so much because of the character, but because of the presence that actress Clarice Blackburn will have on the show during the next few years. As I said at the start, this episode was a doozey, not only for writing, but for the way it expands the show's mythology.

Victoria and David arrive at the Old House to see it in shambles. The place is a wreck ... windows are broken, what little furniture remains is damaged, etc. The building looks like it's on the verge of falling down around them. Victoria sees the portrait of Josette hanging over the fireplace and, understandably, accuses David of copying it for his drawing. Matthew barges in on them, lantern in hand, and politely escorts them away. He's fairly understanding to David, even forced to kowtow to the little brat out of a misplace sense of status. I mean, shouldn't any grown-up automatically have a position of authority over a child, especially one putting himself in significant danger by traipsing through a dilapidated building at night?

Once the trio leaves, though, we get a look at the Old House's real tenant. The ghost of Josette steps out of her painting and walks through the living room. The episode ends with a bit of filmed footage outside Spratt Mansion, the building used for exterior shots of the Old House, as Josette pirouettes around the property like the ghost of Isadora Duncan. No matter what happens next, this scene confirms two significant facts: Collinwood is really haunted, and David is a lot less crazy than we've been led to believe.
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