Monday, September 30, 2013

It's a DARK SHADOWS Fiasco!

FIASCO is a game that's been getting a lot of heat in recent months. Generally, RPGs are a strange balance of left-brain/right-brain sensibilities, the kind of activity that needs both an active imagination and a solid set of mathematical skills. It's not enough to know how strong you character is, you've got be be able to factor in things like agility, armor class and weapon benefits. And, since it's a social activity, you sometimes have to do this while a little drunk.

I've always loved the idea of RPGs, but not so much the mechanics. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons always felt like a protracted SAT test to me ... I liked the idea of it, but didn't feel like I should need an RPG legal library in order to have a good time. Along comes FIASCO to save the day! Here's how the publishers describe it:
"FIASCO is an award-winning, GM-less game for 3-5 players, designed to be played in a few hours with six-sided dice and no preparation. During a game you will engineer and play out stupid, disastrous situations, usually at the intersection of greed, fear, and lust."
Does that sound like DARK SHADOWS to you? Because it does to me. It's an role playing game that actually feels like a game, and one that won't have you turning to the rule book every 30 seconds to settle an argument. If that doesn't make any sense, Tor Books has an interesting look at the game, as well as some video of the game in action (including none other that Wil Wheaton of STAND BY ME and STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION among the players.)

It was just a matter of time before someone created a DARK SHADOWS module for FIASCO. I'd given it some thought, myself, and mentioned to idea to PATRICK McCRAY. Being an overachiever, he had the first draft of the module written in a few days. I designed the package, made a few tweaks and viola! Here it is, in all it's gloomy and doomy glory.

You can download the module as a PDF file by clicking THIS LINK.

If you're looking for the rule book (and the module won't make much sense without it) you can find it on AMAZON.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Podcast: ERIC WALLACE discusses THE LUCIFER GAMBIT


ERIC WALLACE is no stranger to Collinwood. In addition to writing TITANS and MISTER TERRIFIC for DC Comics (and a bunch of episode of the television show EUREKA,) he also wrote the DARK SHADOWS audio dramas THE WICKED AND THE DEAD and THE KINGDOM OF THE DEAD.

In THE LUCIFER GAMBIT, he re-introduces Amy Jennings to Collinsport. In this week's podcast, Wallace talks about the "analog" days of Dark Shadows fandom that existed before the Internet, his favorite characters and story arcs from the series, and where the Big Finish series might be headed next.

You can listen to the interview streaming above, or download it as an MP3 by clicking HERE.


Also, subscribe to the podcast for free on iTunes by clicking HERE!

Julia Louis Dreyfus Vs. Barnabas Collins



DARK SHADOWS got a shout Sept. 22 on the red carpet during this year's Emmy Awards. I usually find award shows to be asinine, but it's amazing how quickly I'll revise my opinion when the words "dark" and "shadows" get mentioned during an event.

Sunday night, it was actress JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS who used those words on television, as well as dropping the name of one Collinsport vampire. JEN GARCIA from People Magazine was asking the folks attending this year's Emmy ceremonies about the shows they weren't allowed to watch as children.  "There was a show when I was really little called Dark Shadows, which was about a vampire named Barnabas Collins," Louis-Dreyfus said. "I wasn't allowed to watch it, and I snuck it." To your right is a photo of the actress from her days on SEINFELD, holding a familiar cane.

Louis-Dreyfus won her second Emmy this week for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on VEEP. (And yes, the preview image for the video above is both awesome and ridiculous.)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: DARK SHADOWS, THE FLIP SIDE

(Warning: mild spoilers follow.)

THE FLIP SIDE is not a story as concerned with monsters and maniacs as it is a tale focused on the paralyzing nature of regret. The latest DARK SHADOWS audio drama from Big Finish almost serves as a love letter to anyone who has made a bad decision, which means it should have a broad appeal.

To be honest, I didn't approach THE FLIP SIDE with much enthusiasm. Carolyn Stoddard has never been among my favorite characters on DARK SHADOWS. She seems almost genetically engineered to make the wrong decision, usually for no other reason than to push a story forward. While there's something to be said about the dramatic possibilities of this kind of character, it can also make her a little predictable. Boring, even. Writer CODY QUIJANO-SCHELL isn't unaware of these problems. In fact, the plot and themes of THE FLIP SIDE  make surprisingly good use of them. It's a smart tale that even manages to blur the lines between metatext and subtext.

Here's the official episode summary from BIG FINISH:
"Carolyn Stoddard is lost. Widowed at an early age, she's the lonely rich girl, drinking her life away as her friends grow up and move on. But Carolyn's life is about to change. Because Carolyn is about to be given a set of choices. And those choices will determine whether she is allowed to live or die. It's closing time at the Blue Whale but for Carolyn Stoddard the night is far from over. It's time to face the music ..."
When the story begins, Carolyn is having a few drinks with some familiar friends at The Blue Whale. It soon becomes clear that Carolyn has lingered too long in her childhood, trapped by habit and routine. She eventually finds herself alone in the bar with Jonah Rooney, the grown ward of Bartender Bob, whose attentions become increasingly hostile.

Naturally, Jonah isn't all he appears to be. While Carolyn is a character who's become immobilized by her fear of making yet another tragic decision, Jonah is a man who has surrendered all pretenses of free will. He reveals himself to be from one of Collinsport's many parallel timelines, one in which Carolyn made the decision to help her late husband, Jeb Hawkes, and the Leviathans bring about the end of the world. Like Billy Pilgrim in SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE, he's unstuck in time, traveling to alternate histories to exact futile revenge on the Collins family.

THE FLIP SIDE is pretty good, and not just in a "better than I was expecting" kind of way. I was anticipating a filler episode, a little something to tide us over until reaching the inevitable conclusion to this year's on-going storyline. There are some good ideas on display in THE FLIP SIDE, as well as a little subversive commentary on Tim Burton's recent DARK SHADOWS feature. Jonah taunts Carolyn about her many bad decisions, at one point saying they've led her to become a vampire and a werewolf in other realities. These are, of course, references to HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and the Burton film. Carolyn's response? "You're talking rubbish."

This isn't just snark. With a few words of dialogue, QUIJANO-SCHELL ties together the many incarnations of DARK SHADOWS into a single storyline. And, despite Carolyn's dismissive response, I think the story functions as a plea for acceptance from fans about the show's many incarnations ... not only for what's come before, but for those yet to come. This is a story about the fertile nature of possibility, after all.

And, after more than 40 years, The Blue Whale finally gets a new song on its jukebox. THE FLIP SIDE features a new song by singer-songwriter SEAN McGHEE – one half of the band ARTMAGIC, with RICHARD OAKES from SUEDE. This isn't a publicity stunt or some half-assed attempt to create  peripheral merchandise for Big Finish. The song is used for subtle purpose here, and the episode's producers are content to let its curious existence support the story's theme. From a distance, it certainly feels like the kind of pop song that might have wandered onto a jukebox in the early 1970s. As a bonus, the song is packaged with the episode as an independent track.

Monday, September 23, 2013

VIDEO VIVISECTION: The tragic end of Joe Haskell

(Note: THE DARK SHADOWS DIARY project has put an uncomfortable distance between me and the best moments of the series. I've spent so much time in 1966 that the color episodes have come to look a little strange. For someone running a DARK SHADOWS blog, this isn't an especially good place to be ... so, I thought I'd invite some friends to join me in a look at a single episode from later in the show. - WALLACE McBRIDE)

 
Episode 613, Oct. 23, 1968
“The hour of dawn lingers far out at sea beyond cliffs of Collinwood, as though reluctant to bring the light of day to the land around the ancient house, sensing perhaps that an endless dark is more suited to the evil deeds that could be done this day, when two men trapped by the same unearthly force become tangled in a plot that could mean the destruction of one or the other.”
WALLACE McBRIDE: For me, this episode has always felt like a turning point of sorts. Joe Haskell certainly isn’t the first character written out of DARK SHADOWS, but his exit is among the most brutal in the show’s 1,125-episode run. In a matter of weeks, Joe went from being one of the show’s few incorruptible points of light (Maggie being the other) to a tormented, violent maniac. Has any other character on the show ever been brought this low?

There’s a lot going on in this storyline, but we get only a small glimpse of it in this episode. Under the guidance of Angelique, Barnabas Collins kicks off the episode by trying to give poisoned medication to Joe, who has fallen under the thrall of the vampire/witch. At this point in the storyline almost everyone has become a pawn in someone else’s game: Barnabas and Joe are being manipulated by Angelique, who is the unwilling servant of warlock Nicholas Blair. Adam and Eve are running games of their own, as is Harry Johnson (and probably a few others I’m forgetting.)

Surprisingly, almost none of these characters play a direct role in this episode.  There are a few oblique references to them sprinkled throughout, but the story focuses intently on the ebbing credibility of Barnabas Collins and the madness of Joe Haskell. If this was your first episode of DARK SHADOWS, you probably had no idea why these people were trying to murder each other. To actor Jonathan Frid’s credit, though, it should be obvious to any viewer that his character is a liar.


MARK THOMAS PASSMORE: My first thought viewing this episode was that Barnabas is a terrible liar. His nose practically grew with each line he spoke. Julia must be blind as a bat!

It would be easy for me to dismiss this as part of the “larger than life theatrical acting” the series was sometimes known for. Except that Jonathan Frid showed a subtler performance underneath his deepening lies - that of Barnabas’ conflict, knowing right from wrong and having no choice but to obey Angelique’s order to kill Joe Haskell. To me, this was a classic moment for viewers to see what made Barnabas Collins a different kind of vampire and the idol of thousands in the 1960s and beyond – that “special angst.”

Then again – Jonathan may have just been terrified that day. Either way, the “mojo” of “Frid/Barnabas” works in this episode.

The other thing that struck me was the difference in acting styles between the seasoned stage performers such as Jonathan, Grayson Hall and Clarice Blackman and the younger Kathryn Leigh Scott and Joel Crothers. Both sides give competent performances, but KLS and Joel’s felt natural – as if there were no camera in the room while they exposed their inner most feelings. The other three, while not overacting, did make everything clear so the audience wouldn’t have to work hard to “get” their meaning. Heck, they were called soap operas for a reason, and in that era the average viewer of soaps were housewives usually busy doing other things. Try to watch a modern soap opera this way and you’d be lost. What a contrast of performances this series had between the vets and newbies! Maybe that was part of the magic and another key to the program’s success.

Kudos to KLS in this episode, who conveys so well that she still loves Joe and always will, despite all that has happened to their relationship. 


PATRICK McCRAY: There are moments when the writers and actors had to know that a scene would be -- with just a tweak -- total farce, and the opener, when Julia catches Barnabas, is a great example.  Yes, Barnabas is a wonderfully bad liar, and we're lucky that Julia is an equally poor judge of character.  If this strikes us now, it had to strike the actors and writers, too.  I still contend that they did their work seriously, but every now and then (but not as frequently as the show's critics might suggest), they allowed themselves to so explicitly have it both ways.  It only gets compounded by Julia then trusting Barnabas completely to care for Joe through the night.  Even if he's not murderous, he certainly has depicted himself as  incompetent, tired, and confused as to the time of day.  When she tells him not to fall asleep, all I could think of was, "Those tiki torches must remain lit, Gilligan."

It's interesting to compare the two acting styles.  The episode really puts that on parade.  It would be interesting to see the actors (adjusting for age) switch parts.  How would Frid have handled playing a character with all of Joe's given circumstances?  I think we can all predict it, but it would still be an interesting experiment. 

I love this sequence of the story because it gives Crothers another chance to show off his chops.  For me, he steals 1795, and I'm glad they took his character here because after Nathan Forbes, he's a total waste as a normative character.  But I wish he'd stuck around and become reincarnated into other characters.  As an actor, he is somewhere between David Selby and Christopher Pennock.  He's got their virility, as well as the strategic playfulness of Selby and the feral energy of Pennock.

Most Dark Shadows episodes aren't really self-contained, and the same is true for most soaps.  They kinda start and kinda stop rather than dramatically begin, peak, and end, if you know what I mean.  For me, this defies that structure a bit.  Look at the palindromic nature of the storytelling... both men, wrestling with curses and inner-demons, trying to murder the other in sleep.  I really liked that symmetry.

____________________________________________________________________________

* WALLACE McBRIDE is the editor of The Collinsport Historical Society.  

* MARK THOMAS PASSMORE is the writer behind a number of DARK SHADOWS audiodramas published by BIG FINISH. 

* PATRICK McCRAY is the mastermind behind THE COLLINS FOUNDATION.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Collinsport News Bulletins

(Note: Damn, things have been busy behind the scenes here at THE COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY. Unfortunately, you're going to have to wait a little longer to enjoy the fruits of our efforts. There's a TON (we've weighed it) of cool stuff headed your way, including two new podcasts, a Halloween-themed series and more. So hang in there ... we'll be back soon enough.)




* The DARK SHADOWS bobblehead toys are now on sale from MPI for $9.98 each.

* DAVID SELBY's online store was temporarily closed, but has re-opened. Here's how to order signed, personalized copies of his books.

* SHARON SMYTH LENTZ, who played Sarah Collins on DARK SHADOWS, will be appearing on  Cloverleaf Radio tonight, Sept. 20, at 6 p.m. EST.

* UNLEASH THE FANBOY has an interview with NACHO TENORIO, the artist on Dynamite's DARK SHADOWS comicbook series.

* CHLOE GRACE MORETZ, who played Carolyn Stoddard in Tim Burton's DARK SHADOWS film, opens up about her gay brothers. (She has two.)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Terror Bytes: Horror news from around the web


* An original "werewolf head" prop from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is up for sale on Amazon. I think this is from the early design for Oz, before they made him look like Chaka from LAND OF THE LOST.

* CHILLER TV ranks the FRIDAY THE 13th films from best to worst.

* RIFFTRAX will be doing a live performance of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD on Oct. 24. Get your tickets now!


* The 1979 Lucio Fulci movie ZOMBIE features a scene involving a zombie fighting a live shark. But don't take my word for it ... watch it for FREE at Fear.net.

Happy birthday GRAYSON HALL! (Probably)


Today would have been the 91st birthday of actress GRAYSON HALL. Most likely.

Born SHIRLEY H. GROSSMAN in Philadelphia, Hall was notoriously evasive about her age. The Academy-award nominated actress was probably born Sept. 18, 1922, but paperwork filed on her admittance to Cornell University lists a birthday of 1923, according to R.J. JAMESON's biography, GRAYSON HALL: A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW. To make things more interesting, her marriage license gives a birth year of 1925. The actress was even rumored to have altered her driver's license in an attempt to knock a few years off her age.

Sept. 18 is the day recognized as her birthday, though, which feels more like an educated guess than anything else ... but that's Grayson Hall for you.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Review: THE WICKED AND THE DEAD

As a concept, THE WICKED AND THE DEAD is one of the more unappealing DARK SHADOWS stories from Big Finish. The Rev. Gregory Trask has been walled-up an isolated room of Collinwood, left to die by Judith Collins as punishment for his many infidelities. It's a story first told on the original series more than 40 years ago, which makes the outcome of this episode inevitable.

Even though it's been sitting on my shelf for a few years, I've never found the time to listen to it. What purpose did it serve? If the story played out in a way different from how it was presented on the television show, wouldn't that be cheating?

A few weeks back I found myself taking a long drive to Atlanta, Ga., and decided to catch up on some of the DARK SHADOWS audio dramas I'd missed. At the top of the drive's playlist was THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF TRASK, an episode that re-introduces a character important to this year's Big Finish storyline.

Twenty minutes into the trip, though, I realized I'd been listening to THE WICKED AND THE DEAD by mistake.

It was the happiest of accidents. No, THE WICKED AND THE DEAD doesn't offer many opportunities for writer ERIC WALLACE to alter Trask's fate. It might not fit well with established events from 1897, but Wallace does a great job of giving actors JERRY LACY and JOHN KARLEN material they can really sink their teeth into. Both men have always had phenomenal range, and THE WICKED AND THE DEAD lets them both go a little bit crazy with their deliveries. The performances here are amazing, and Wallace draws out the tension between the two actors throughout it's running time.

Lacy is great, but he's one of those actors who is so consistently good that it's easy to take him for granted (see also TOM HANKS.) Here, he plays Bud Abbott to Karlen's sinister Lou Costello, and carries the dramatic weight of the story: Trask is slowly deconstructed as a character as he's tormented by a phantom that may or may not be the ghost of Carl Collins.

It might be Lacy's story, but it's Karlen's show. His performance here has the kind of energy I hadn't seen from the actor since ... well, since his days on DARK SHADOWS. He gets to play both fool and monster here, and the transitions are perfect. Karlen has been stuck playing domesticated characters for so long that it was refreshing to see him go a little Jack Nicholson.

While the story never gives its players the chance to leave Trask's improvised prison cell, their back and forth lets them explore the extensive history of the Trask family. Wallace plays around with notions of memory in this episode, creating the illusion that the story moves around more than it really does. THE WICKED AND THE DEAD travels from Collinsport, Maine, to Kansas and Massachusetts, as we learn about Trask's questionable upbringing.

And here's where my early concerns about the story began to fall apart. Is THE WICKED AND THE DEAD a little stagebound? Sure. Physically, it really doesn't go anywhere. It's just two men sitting in a darkened room in Collinwood, talking about past experiences.

Only it's not that, either, is it? It's just two actors reading lines in a California recording studio. The performances and writing in this episode are so evocative that you probably won't realize that it's made up of nothing more substantial than words spoken into a microphone. While the idea for the story is less than compelling, the execution more than justifies its existence. I say check it out.

Terror Bytes: Horror news from around the web



* AMAZON is selling the complete BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER box set today for just $59.99. The complete ANGEL collection is just $54.99.
 
 * People have been afraid of clowns for as long as there have been clowns. Today, as much as two percent of adults are afraid of clowns, according to a recent story from THE SMITHSONIAN.
"Adult clown phobics are unsettled by the clown’s face-paint and the inability to read genuine emotion on a clown’s face, as well as the perception that clowns are able to engage in manic behavior, often without consequences." MORE.


* A Sideshow Collectibles retailer is auctioning a rare 
BELA LUGOSI AS SANTA CLAUS doll. Via eBay.



* The first season of Stephen King's UNDER THE DOME is coming to home video in November. The Blu-ray release has a pretty neat package.


* Speaking of Stephen King, Mondo's poster for CREEPSHOW is pretty OK.
 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Preview: DARK SHADOWS #20

"Barnabas Collins faces off against the darkest parts of his soul, in a war to change the dire fate of everyone in Collinwood. Will his allies stand beside him or will they be forced to sacrifice Barnabas in order to save themselves?"
Comic Book Resources has shared preview pages from  DARK SHADOWS #20, which is slated for a Sept. 18 release. The series is coming to an end with issue #23, though I'm hearing rumors that it might be back after a little retooling. In the meantime, here's a look at the book's current storyline, which is written by Mike Raicht and illustrated by Nacho Tenorio.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Screening: TWIN PEAKS, FIRE WALK WITH ME


DAVID LYNCH is among the few directors to take a direct role in creating the soundscape of his movies. His name appears deep in the credits of many of his films as sound designer, which suggests he thinks the sounds an audience hears are at least as important as the images they see.

None of his audio work was on display during last night's screening of his movie FIRE WALK WITH ME at Conundrum Music Hall, though. Billed as "an experimental blend of icy electronica and darkly gothic rave-pop," the film was "re-soundtracked" by artists Ghost Cop and a place both wonderful and strange (the small caps are intentional, I presume.) Strip away the pretension and what you had were two people creating a new soundscape to replace the one used in the film. Gone were not only the film's music and sound effects, but the spoken dialogue, as well.

To preserve the film's story, the subtitles were left on for the duration of the film, but there were additional bits of dialogue and vocals added live by Ghost Cop. As the DJ kept an eye on the laptop streaming the film's surrogate soundtrack, GC read from THE SECRET DIARY OF LAURA PALMER and provided live vocals for many of the songs selected for last night's engagement. Her voice was so sharp and clear that some of those in the audience might not have been aware they were being performed live, under cover of the darkened venue.

The songs provided breaks from the often atonal noise of the "new" soundtrack, even if the selections were sometimes bizarre. "Wicked Game" was performed over top of the scene featuring the song's original performer, CHRIS ISAAC, as was a re-mix of DAVID BOWIE's "Hallo Spaceboy" during his cameo. There were tracks from Screaming Jay Hawkins, a cover of Iron and Wine's "Such Great Heights" and a pitch-shifted version of "As I Lay Me Down" by SOPHIE B. HAWKINS that sounded like it was being performed through a Valium haze. Some of these selections were a little obvious, but they still managed to work within the context of the presentation. The score was haunting, beautiful, repetitive and occasionally obnoxious, which could also be criticisms leveled at FIRE WALK WITH ME.


Was it fair to rip away the soundtrack to another artist's work without their consent? Probably not. I've also got my doubts about the legality of last night's presentation, which used a DVD of FIRE WALK WITH ME probably rescued from the $5 bin a Wal-Mart. Lynch's moribund attitude toward commentary tracks, deleted scenes and the other ephemera associated with post-theatrical releases makes me think he'd be unhappy with someone tinkering with his work ... especially in public.

Those are all valid concerns for the rights holders. As a fan, I saw last night's performance as a love letter to an under-appreciated movie. The Dionysian nature of the show makes it something to be enjoyed momentarily, creating the rare opportunity to experience a film from someone else's perspective.

I was especially interested to watch how the event tested the audience's patience. A few people left the venue, which could have been a rejection of the "re-soundtracking" concept, or just a negative reaction to the ass-punishing folding chairs provided to us. Most people stayed for the duration, though, even hesitating to leave after the musicians halted their performance mid-way though the credits. Ghost Cop and a place both wonderful and strange (yes, it feels ridiculous to refer to them that way) had nothing to say to the audience afterward. After watching the two-hour degradation of Laura Palmer, most of us wanted nothing more than a few moments of peace before heading out, so the silence wasn't unwelcome.

The duo next takes their FIRE WALK WITH ME experiment to Atlanta, Ga., appearing tonight at the Highland Inn Ballroom and Lounge.
- WALLACE McBRIDE

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Terror Bytes: Horror news from around the web

 
 * THE WICKER MAN: FINAL CUT gets a release poster.

 
* General Mills has brought back the entire line of MONSTER CEREALS for Halloween.  


* Live in the U.K.? Take a guided tour of Pluckley, England's "most haunted village." The area has 12 reported ghosts, which is almost a WILLIAM CASTLE-level haunting.



* This is what happens when you get your Christmas too close to our Halloween. 

* There was an estimated 41.1 million trick-or-treaters in America last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That adds up to a whole lot of uneaten candy corn.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

7 reasons you should own HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS

HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS is out on DVD and Blu-ray. In fact, it's been available since last October, but I've been at a loss to explain how great the film's presentation really is. I was one of those who saw it on television and VHS, so I was accustomed to seeing it in less-than-perfect presentation. It was so familiar that I just assumed the original just film just looked kinda crummy ... which turned out not to be the case.

I've also been stymied by language. Besides my usual, "OMG, guys! HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS looks amazing!" I was left with few ways to express myself. I'm not a home video expert and, most likely, neither are you. So talking about color depth, compression and all that other technical bullshit would have been no use to anybody.

Then, through a stream of connections on Tumblr, I came across screencaps from an early home video release of the film on Sara Monster's WILLIE LOOMIS SAVES COLLINSPORT. Suddenly, words were no longer necessary. Taking seven screencaps from the digital version of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, I combined them with Sara's stills from the matted home video version of the film. The difference in presentation is quite startling.








Still here? Despite my predictions to the contrary, HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS was not a video release designed to fill the $5 bin at Wal Mart. In fact, both HOUSE and it's not-quite-a-sequel NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS appear to be holding onto their retail value. It's been almost a year, and neither the DVD nor the Blu-ray editions have been given close-out prices. Read into that whatever you will.

UPDATE: This post prompted a discussion last night on Facebook about the faithfulness of the new digital transfers. FRANK JAY GRUBER voiced concerns that the new home video releases were cropped to create an artificial widescreen presentation. WILL McKINLEY was of the mind that the VHS editions we're familiar with were "open matte" 4:3 TV transfers, while the new versions of the films are properly matted.

While it's a odious practice, forced widescreen happens occasionally. Thanks to variations in earlier home video releases, it was difficult for us to say what was or wasn't intended by director DAN CURTIS. So, rather than let speculation rule the day, I asked film archivist DARREN GROSS to address the new transfers for both HOUSE and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS.

"Both films were shot and composed for 1.85," Gross said. "Any of the additional top and bottom image that shows up on old TV broadcasts and certain VHS releases was never meant to be shown. The laserdiscs were presented at 1.33, but kind of half-way between a full open-matte presentation and a proper 1.33 crop of the 1.85 image, so it's neither fish nor fowl."

Curtis intended both films to be presented in a 1.85 film frame, and did not "protect" the outlying areas of the photography.

"So, if you were to present it fully open matte, there would be non-stop boom mics, floor mics, camera tracks and tape marks," he said. "ON THE WATERFRONT was protected for the full frame, so presentable in that way. To present HODS or NODS in full aperture 1.33 would do the films and the filmmakers a disservice, as it would only serve to present the film as a sloppy, blooper-ridden, mess to a mainstream audience that would not understand that most of the goofs aren't goofs at all. Now the camera crew reflections, THOSE are goofs!"
Gross also discussed the unusually sharp opening credits on HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. It's a topic McKinley introduced during our very first podcast back in December.  

"For this film, what are called 'textless' main and end titles do exist - they do for most features, typically, for use in creating foreign title sequences from the original release, but they don't appear recreated to me," Gross said. "It's just a case of using a transfer element with better color, smaller grain and all the more tools available in color timing in the HD/digital realm."

Brightness and color were often boosted to make them within 'legal' parameters for broadcast back in the '80s, he said, and those standards have since changed.

"HODS also is a very, very dark film in parts, somewhat underexposed in others," he said. "Warners also have done a grain removal pass or two on both films, which would affect most of the optical dissolves and things like main titles. It can create problems as well, but on the HODS front, it's done pretty well. The pores on faces seem a little absent and soft to me, but it's really really fine."


(NOTE: The photos at the top of the page might be a little misleading. The images showing the early presentation of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS have gone through a few generations as it was passed from the original media (either VHS or laserdisc) to whatever format was used to "capture" the images. Saving them as JPEG files further degraded them. But the images showing the new digital transfers are also of a lesser quality, and suffer similar degradation as JPEG files. These images are meant only as loose examples of the evolution in picture quality for HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS.)

DARK SHADOWS blips from the Twittersphere





Tuesday, September 10, 2013

SPIDORA sweetens the pot



LACY
Filmmaker FRED OLEN RAY has "revamped" the rewards offered to contributors to his next film, SPIDORA. Ray is seeking $15,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to fund the short film, and is now offering a signed photo from star JERRY LACY to donors of $35 and up. The campaign has 17 days left to go, and has already collected more than half its campaign goal.

SPIDORA tells the story of Dr. Graves' Palace of Illusions, a Museum of Human Oddities where mysterious creatures like Electra, Spidora, and Mora the Lobster Girl command the stage. Lacy, who played a variety of roles in DARK SHADOWS, is set to appear as Dr. Graves.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Terror Bytes: Horror news from around the web

* The limited edition vinyl release of FRANKENWEENIE UNLEASHED features songs by Karen O, Robert Smith, Winona Ryder and Neon Trees. Because why the hell not?

* SHARON SMYTH LENTZ, who played Sarah Collins on the original DARK SHADOWS, will be a guest on Cloverleaf Radio at 6 p.m. EST on Sept. 20.

* MARC ANDREYKO, the writer of DARK SHADOWS YEAR ONE (and lots of other stuff) is the new writer of BATWOMAN for DC Comics. For those of you joining us late, this is a much more complicated situation than you might think.


* Halloween recipe: "Cake Ball Brains Oozing Cherry Blood," via HUNGRY HAPPENINGS.

* CLIVE BARKER has finished writing THE SCARLET GOSPELS. The novel will pit the hero of THE LAST ILLUSION against the villain of THE HELLBOUND HEART. Barker had this to say on his Facebook page:
"I thought you might like to know that THE SCARLET GOSPELS, a large novel which sets Harry D’Amour against the Hell Priest Pinhead, is finished, and has been delivered to my agent. I don’t yet have a publication date for it, but as soon as I do you’ll be the first to know. I won’t say anything about the narrative except this: it’s a HORROR NOVEL with the graphic violence and perverse eroticism of the most intense tales from the Books Of Blood. Please feel free to share this news with any friends who might have been wondering about the book: THE SCARLET GOSPELS ARE FINISHED."


* Speaking of long-awated novels, DOCTOR SLEEP, STEPHEN KING's sequel to THE SHINING, is available for pre-order on Amazon. It will hit stores Sept. 24.

* The soundtrack to WES CRAVEN's 1972 film THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is coming out on vinyl ... and cassette?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Podcast: LISA BLAKE RICHARDS



LISA BLAKE RICHARDS recently spent some time speaking with PATRICK McCRAY about her career, a discussion which spans a lot of interesting topics. Naturally, DARK SHADOWS features prominently in the dialogue, as does her work with TOMMY LEE JONES, director HENRY JAGLOM and how her pregnancy with son ALEX EBERT almost got her kicked off an episode of FANTASY ISLAND.

You can listen to the interview streaming above, or download it as an MP3 by clicking HERE.


Also, subscribe to the podcast for free on iTunes by clicking HERE!

(Note: The recording of this episode was a technical comedy of (t)errors, so expect to hear the occasional sound error. Patrick, who lives in Tennessee, was asking questions of Lisa, who lives in California. Meanwhile, I was recording the interview from my home in South Carolina. This is how we do things at the Collinsport Historical Society, and it usually works pretty well. But, this time, we briefly lost our connection to Patrick thanks to an overheated iPad. When he was able to reconnect, he finished the interview while leaning over the device as it cooled in his refrigerator. Meanwhile, here in the Palmetto State, we had one of our regularly scheduled thunderstorms. It was so violent that the sound of the storm momentarily intrudes on the interview, which is why you'll hear me chime in during the episode's final minutes. The thunder you hear was very real, and not a kooky sound effect.)

Video: LARA PARKER discusses WOLF MOON RISING

 
From WREG in Memphis, Tenn.

Terror Bytes: Horror news from around the web


* This 18" x 24" acrylic on wood portrait of Prince "Blacula" Mamuwalde by Jason Edmiston recently sold for $4,500 at Mondo. The original black and white sketch is still available from the artist for $500, though.

* ZOMBIE SURVIVAL SCHOOL? AMC has partnered with University of California, Irvine to offer a  class called SOCIETY, SCIENCE, SURVIVAL: LESSONS FROM AMC’S THE WALKING DEAD. It sounds like the class will touch on some genuinely interesting subjects related to disaster relief ... only tarted up for Halloween.

* The ridiculously amazing UNIVERSAL CLASSIC MONSTERS Blu-ray set is currently selling for only $58.56 from one Amazon vendor. That's just $7.25 per movie.

* SOLVED: The mystery of BELA LUGOSI's nude painting of CLARA BOW.



* This recipe for "Witchy Fingers" cookies should properly impress your friends and terrify the neighborhood children (pictured above.)

* BLADE, WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, DOCTOR STRANGE, and MORBIUS THE LIVING VAMPIRE will be getting the Marvel Mini-Mates treatment in September.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Podcast: JOHN KARLEN



MARIE MAGINITY recently visited actor JOHN KARLEN during his recent stay in a Los Angeles hospital. The Emmy winning actor, known for his work on CAGNEY AND LACEY, as well as the 1971 cult horror film DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS, speaks about his childhood, acting and his experience as henchman/hero Willie Loomis on DARK SHADOWS.

You can listen to the interview streaming above, or download it as an MP3 by clicking HERE.

Terror Bytes: Horror news from around the web


* These custom H.P. SAUCE bottles by Andrew Yayzus Hunter are an unspeakable, indescribable treat.




*SHAWN STUTLER, of Fair Lawn, N.J., has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary titled ROCKY HORROR SAVED MY LIFE. There's been a lot said over the years about the cult phenomenon of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, but I don't think we've really scratched the surface. The audience participation element of the film has a tendency to fade, only to spring back to life as the next generation discovers the movie. And Stutler is looking for your input in the film:
"Write to us at rockyhorrordoc@gmail.com, and tell us how Rocky Horror has helped to shape your life, define your identity, or save you from the tedious conformity of mainstream culture, even if it was just for one night. Your contribution will help us not only bring these stories to light, but also preserve them for the next generation of Rocky Horror fans."
The video pitch for the documentary is above, and is "slightly NSFW."

* The 35th Anniversary Edition of John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN is coming to Blu-ray later this month. It's loaded with features, and even includes a new audio commentary with Carpenter and star JAMIE LEE CURTIS. It ought to be interesting to see if either of them have anything new to say about the film.

WOLF MOON RISING over Orlando


LARA PARKER was in Orlanda, Fla., last night, visiting a local book store to talk about her new DARK SHADOWS novel, WOLF MOON RISING. The Central Florida Dark Shadows Fan Club was there and shared these photos of last night's event, which appears to have been a success. Parker will be in her home town of Memphis, Tenn., tonight, appearing at The Booksellers at Laurelwood at 6 p.m.

On Monday, Sept. 9, Parker will be in New York City, at what is expected to be a "Mini-Dark Shadows Festival" at the Barnes & Noble location on 86th Street And Lex beginning at 7 p.m.

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