Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A third helping of MONSTER SERIAL is on the way!

Well, this project certainly took a lot longer to pull together than anticipated. Our third book was originally slated to be out in October, but should finally be available for sale within the next two weeks. As I write this, a proof of TASTE THE BLOOD OF MONSTER SERIAL is sitting on the desk by my keyboard. It's our biggest book yet: An all-vampire jam featuring a special introduction by Kathryn Leigh Scott!

This book features 30+ essays on some of the best (and worst) vampire movies of all time, brought to you by our regular contributors. Unlike our previous collections, though. TASTE THE BLOOD OF MONSTER SERIAL is tied together by a single subject: VAMPIRES! We cover all of the bases from DRACULA to BLACULA, with stops in between for films like GANJA AND HESS, SALEM'S LOT and even the TWILIGHT series.

TASTE THE BLOOD OF MONSTER SERIAL even has a corner carved out for essays on DARK SHADOWS. A variant cover is also planned for this collection, but I'll save those details for the announcement when the book is available for sale. Meanwhile, you can catch up on the series by clicking on the book covers below.

And have a happy new year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I ❤ Underwhelming Lovecraft Monsters

Artist Patrick Dean spent the latter part of 2014 working on an online project called "Underwhelming Lovecraft Monsters." It started off pretty small, with Dean creating the kind of kooky caricatures the Old Ones might get while visiting the state fair (see right). Before long, he'd expanded the idea into fun (and funny) multi-panel summaries of some of H.P. Lovecraft's better-known stories. It quickly became my favorite thing on the Internet, but it seems the series might be going on hiatus.

"This might be the last one of these I do for awhile; I’m going to focus all my drawing time on a big project that I hope goes somewhere," Dean announced yesterday on his Tumblr feed. "Wish me luck and I’ll update this page periodically, I promise."

I hope we see more of this stuff in the future. With luck, he'll get enough of these strips banked for a collected edition in the future. If not, let me offer a "thank you" to Dean for helping me waste time surfing the Internet at work in a quality fashion.

Below is a quick index to the multi-panel strips at "Underwhelming Lovecraft Monsters." If you like what you see, make sure to browse the rest of the Tumblr feed ... there's lots more that's not linked here.

(Note: If you want to see Dean's take on Barnabas Collins, click HERE.)

Herbert West: Re-Animator (all six chapters)

The Color Out of Space

The Picture in the House

What the Moon Brings

The Whisperer in the Darkness

The Unnameable



The Music of Erich Zann

The Outsider

Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family

The Statement of Randolph Carter

Monday, December 29, 2014

AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE is the best comic of 2014

Technically, AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE has a one-joke premise. Inspired by a variant cover created by the mighty Francesco Francavilla for the series LIFE WITH ARCHIE, this series seemed engineered to do nothing more than grab headlines and die a quick death.

Back in October, 2013, I reviewed the first issue and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Sure, it was difficult not to have doubts about the premise, especially after disposing of Jughead so quickly in the narrative. The world of Riverdale came to a bloody end with seemingly no place for our heroes (or the story) to go. And then a funny thing happened ...


Against all odds, the book has been the most consistently entertaining comic of 2014. What might be more amazing than the blunt-force trauma of the book's premise is that writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has not only found genuine humanity in the characters, he even managed to justify the Betty/Veronica/Archie love triangle in a way that isn't gross. He's created a compelling story that's absolutely worth more than the sum of its parts.

Meanwhile, Francavilla's art is essential to making AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE work. Pairing Francavilla with Aguirre-Sacasa might seem like an obligatory gesture (Francavilla's idea lead to the creation of the comic, after all) but his art is a constant reminder that you should be having fun here. Equal parts "Ghastly" Graham Ingles, Jack Kirby and Eduardo Barreto, Francavilla has become one of the most prolific artists working today. He does more with a few brush strokes than most artists can do with an entire bottle of India ink ... and he somehow makes it look easy.

What I'm trying to say is, "You should be reading this book."

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Donna McKechnie appearing at HEAR IT FROM THE PROS event

Donna McKechnie is scheduled to be among the guests participating in next month's Steps Beyond's Artists Talk: "Hear It From The Pros," a discussion on working in the business of Broadway.

McKechnie made her first appearance on DARK SHADOWS in 1969 as "Amanda Harris," the magical creation of artist Charles Delaware Tate. McKechnie would go on to later acclaim on Broadway, winning a Tony award for A CHORUS LINE in 1976. You can watch a video of her acceptance speech HERE.

Despite her short stint on DARK SHADOWS, McKechnie has never been far from Collinwood, and has taken part in various cast reunions over the years. She can be heard on Big Finish's most recent DARK SHADOWS audiodrama, "The Darkest Shadow."

Also part of the "Hear It From The Pros" event are actor/choreographer Grover Dale and director/choreographer Randy Skinner.

HEAR IT FROM THE PROS takes place 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24 at Steps on Broadway, 2121 Broadway, New York, NY. Tickets are $10 For reservations, call (212) 874-2410, ext.127. Click HERE to purchase a special event ticket online.

What do we know about DARK SHADOWS: BLOODLUST?

I've been covering the upcoming release of DARK SHADOWS: BLOODLUST pretty thoroughly since it was announced a few months back. If you're an avid reader of this site, you're already ahead of the curve. Still, there might have been tidbits you've missed along the way, so I thought I'd take advantage of the release of a new trailer for the series (which you can watch above) to create a quick FAQ about the upcoming series. 

13-part serial, Bloodlust sees a small American town ripped apart by a brutal murder. The series will be launched in January 2015 both as a series of downloads and in two CD boxsets. Altogether, the full BLOODLUST storyline will run almost six hours. 

The serial features a number of original cast members and new faces. Here’s an abbreviated list: Andrew Collins, Jerry Lacy, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, David Selby, Marie Wallace and Matthew Waterhouse.

You can hear the entire cast introduce themselves at the official Soundcloud page for the DARK SHADOWS line HERE.

There’s been a lot of secrecy surrounding BLOODLUST since it was first announced. While the full cast has been announced, the series producers are still keeping the major plot points to themselves. Here’s what writer/producer Joseph Lidster has to say about the story:
“Bloodlust, a supernatural murder mystery, is an all-new miniseries,” says co-producer Joseph Lidster. “Newlyweds Mike and Melody Devereux (Jeff Harding and Daisy Tormé) arrive in Collinsport for their honeymoon but soon find themselves caught up in a murder that has devastating repercussions for the whole town. Things only get worse when they discover that there are inhuman creatures waiting in the darkness…”
You can view a brand-new trailer for the series at the top of this post.

Lara Parker, Andrew Collins and Kathryn Leigh Scott.

Yes. Andrew Collins returns to the role for the first time since 2010.

In the 1980s, about six months after DARK SHADOWS: KINGDOM OF THE DEAD.

The short answer is HERE.

There are actually several ways to get the series, though. You can purchase the series on an episode-by-episode basis for $2. 99 each, or subscribe to the series for $25. BLOODLUST will also be available on CD sometime during the release. The plan is to release the first CD collection on the same day the 7th episode becomes available for download. The second CD collection should be released the day the 13th episode goes online.

The series is already available for pre-order in all formats.

SNOWFLAKE was a surprise (and free!) audiodrama released by Big Finish on Halloween, 2014. The episode was originally identified only by its title, but listeners quickly discovered this was a DARK SHADOWS story. It also serves as a prelude to BLOODLUST and will be included with the CD release of the series.

SNOWFLAKE is still available as a free download HERE.

Big Finish has its own dedicated message board for DARK SHADOWS as part of its homepage. You can go directly to the DARK SHADOWS page by clicking HERE.

Mitchell Ryan as Burke Devlin on DARK SHADOWS.

Nope.  Big Finish has already announced three new episodes to follow in the wake of BLOODLUST. The titles are PANIC, THE CURSE OF SHURAFA, AND RED ALL OVER. It’s already been disclosed that David Selby will be a part of those episodes, as will Susan Sullivan. Mitchell Ryan will also be making a return to DARK SHADOWS in one of those episodes after almost 50 years away.

Saturday Morning Cartoons: THE FONZ & THE HAPPY DAYS GANG

Saturday morning cartoons don't get any stranger than this: THE FONZ AND THE HAPPY DAYS GANG.
The series was produced as interest in HAPPY DAYS was waning, with both the audience and the cast. Henry Winkler, Ron Howard and Donny Most provided voices for this Saturday morning series, though Howard had already exited the live-action show by the time this cartoon debuted in the fall of 1980.

And THE FONZ AND THE HAPPY DAYS GANG is a little bit ... different from its primetime counterpart. The show followed the adventures of Ritchie, the Fonz, Ralph, a teen from the future named Cupcake and an anthropomorphic dog called "Mister Cool" as they traveled through time.

So, to kick off this new weekly feature, I thought I'd go big: THE VAMPIRE STRIKES BACK aired Dec. 20, 1980, and sees our time traveling heroes visiting Count Dracula in Transylvania. Here's a synopsis:
“Unknowingly aided by Count Dracula, the gang's time machine winds up back to their present time of 1957, but not in Milwaukee. They end up in Transylvania, where they meet the count at his castle and have to overcome various horrors in order to escape - one of which has a scared boy Ralph turning into a savage werewolf.”
Among the actors to provide "additional voices" for the series are Kathryn Leigh Scott, René Auberjonois and Kenneth Mars provided additional voices for the series, and Wolfman Jack narrates the opening credits. I'm 99% sure Scott isn't in this episode, though.

So, break out the Count Chocula and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The CHS continues its hostile takeover of the Internet

It’s no secret (I guess) that the Collinsport Historical Society is promiscuous, from a social media point of view. We maintain accounts on a lot of different platforms, some of which you might not know about it.

In addition to BLOOD DRIVE, there’s also MONSTER SERIAL, a feed dedicated to classic horror films in support of our series of books by the same title. I’ve kept a number of other bullshit Tumblr accounts, as well, almost always as a way of bookmarking photos and links that I like. These feeds weren’t really meant to be read by others, but they still managed to pick up a few followers here and there by accident.

As the CHS has grown over the last few years, I’ve found it more difficult to edit the content of BLOOD DRIVE and MONSTER SERIAL. These Tumblr feeds have a tendancy to flow directly to my Twitter feed, as well.

Here’s how to find THE COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY’s horrifying media empire:


Monday, December 22, 2014



Riddle me this: When is an adaption not an adaption?

The answer, it seems, is BATMAN '66: THE LOST EPISODE. While a wonderful book, it's not entirely the product that was advertised. Touted as an adaption for a lost treatment written for the classic BATMAN television series by Harlan Ellison, the end result is neither fish nor fowl thanks to a series of unavoidable creative decisions needed to make this book happen.

Fans of the BATMAN series have been hearing rumors for years of Ellison's screenplay, which has collected quite a bit of moss during the last few decades. My favorite version of the tale is that Clint Eastwood was attached to play the episode's villain, Two-Face, the disfigured (and disgraced) district attorney for Gotham City. Two-Face was the only major Batman villain never to appear on the series, and for obvious reasons. Thanks to the Comics Code enacted during the 1950s (which prohibited a great many subjects), Two-Face was even persona non grata in the Batman comics throughout the 1960s. It was unlikely that the comedy based television series could ever find a way to make Two-Face palatable to prime time audiences.

And, while it seems weird to fans that anyone would turn their nose up at a Harlan Ellison script, keep in mind that Ellison was still a working writer in Hollywood at the time and not nearly the literary legend he's since become. The guy was writing everything from THE FLYING NUN to BURKE'S LAW in those days, so his pitch probably wasn't seen as especially precious at the time.

Ellison's treatment for the episode is reprinted  in the pages of BATMAN '66: THE LOST EPISODE and it's a hoot. Ellison is a longtime comics fan and it shows here. His sense of tone in actually stunning, and finds a respectful balance between adventure and comedy that probably wouldn't have angered fans of the comics the way the television show did.

Still, there are some problems. As a story, it's difficult to envision the producers of BATMAN ponying up the dough needed to make Ellison's story happen. This is a sprawling tale that involves an imaginative car chase, a sword fight on a pirate ship, and the kinds of stunts that required more than just stuntmen dancing around a studio set. The television series was simply too small to contain this tale.

Adding to the problem is the presence of Two-Face. He's inherently a violent character, and there's a LOT more gunplay on display in this story than I ever remember seeing on the television series. Ellison also stops to recount the villain's origin, which is something the series avoided with pathological fervor. The show doesn't even provide a backstory for it's heroes, which makes it one of the only interpretations of Batman that doesn't offer up the obligatory human sacrifice of Thomas and Martha Wayne.

Get it on Amazon!
BATMAN '66: THE LOST EPISODE isn't hampered by the constraints of a '60s television budget, or the outdated regulations of the Comics Code Authority, and proceeds full steam ahead with maniacal glee. Which is where the book runs into a minor problem: This is hardly Ellison's story anymore. While it follows the plot points provided in his script treatment, he's provided very little dialogue. And, what dialogue he wrote back in 1966 is mostly abandoned here. Ellison's presence in the final comic book is mostly notional.

The end result is still quite spectacular, though. While it never fully feels like an episode of BATMAN, writer Len Wein and artist José Luis Garcia-López (legends in their own right) have created one of the single best BATMAN stories that I've read in years. It's fun, witty and beautifully drawn, and makes me wish DC Comics was producing more Batman books like this one. BATMAN '66: THE LOST EPISODE makes me really miss the character.


author of the Willie Loomis World Series and other DS fanfiction

One of the most prolific of contemporary Dark Shadows fan fiction writers is Osheen Nevoy, whose works are crammed with fascinating historical details, and are consistently produced with care and precision.

No, I did not mean to imply that other authors are comparable to drunken monkeys on keyboards who have no concept of Spellcheck, Grammar Check, finishing a sentence, developing a plot or engaging the services of a Beta. Uh…I never said that. However, it is refreshing to find a writer whose work is so painstakingly crafted. Seriously, in 142,000+ words, I can’t find one typo.

Fan fiction readers and writers alike have their preferred subject matter, whether it’s the eternal love of Barnabas and Julia (or Vicki, or Josette, or Roxanne, whoever), the caddish escapades of Quentin — or even, ahem, Willie Loomis. Ms. Nevoy is no exception, except her main squeeze appeared in only 15 episodes before being unceremoniously thrown off a cliff.

I’m speaking of Bill Malloy, the man who should have married Elizabeth if she hadn’t been such a low-life magnet and distracted by all the wrong people. But Bill missed his opportunity and ends tragically, sporting a seaweed suit.

Fashions courtesy of Ohrbach's.
No, wait! This is fan fiction! Bill is saved, gives old Jason the boot, and finally weds the woman of his dreams, whereupon they live happily ever after — until Chapter 2, anyway. Well, it just wouldn’t be Dark Shadows without a séance, and this time Bill Malloy, clutching a family history book, is popped back in time right in the middle of Barnabas’ love-triangle drama.

This affords our author an opportunity to share some of her encyclopedic knowledge of the 18th century by employing this clever twist in the storyline. You’re probably wondering, how’d she get to be so smart? So, I asked her.


I grew up in Bloomington, Indiana, born to Californian parents who relocated to attend graduate school at Indiana University.  When I was six years old, my mother became the founding director/curator of a fledgling local history museum and, as a result, I grew up surrounded by history.  I would hang out at the museum after school, making up names and characters for the display mannequins and creating stories about the unidentified people in vintage photographs.


From the time I was eight, my parents and I acted together in community theater productions, most frequently Gilbert & Sullivan and Shakespeare.

Another influence that developed early in my life is a fascination with finding other sides of the story for those frequently seen as villains.  Even on my first viewing of STAR WARS (which premiered when I was six), my favorite character in the film was Darth Vader.

I vividly remember seeing the comedy film LOVE AT FIRST BITE with my mom, and already being completely in tune with the idea of Dracula as hero rather than villain.  At age eight or nine, I first read Fred Saberhagen's "The Dracula Tape," a novel which fully develops the concept that Dracula is a misunderstood hero rather than the monster depicted by Bram Stoker.  Sympathy and love for such fictional anti-heroes in turn led me to fascination with (and support for) a number of historical figures who have traditionally been portrayed as villains, including King Richard III, Captain Bligh, and Grigori Rasputin.

In keeping with this love for hero-villains, my academic work focused on the Vikings.  I earned a Ph.D. in medieval studies from the University of York in England.  Returning to the states, I followed my mother's footsteps and found my way into the museums profession.  I've worked in local history museums in Wyoming, Virginia, Massachusetts, and now the redwoods country of far northern California.

I first encountered Dark Shadows in the form of the 1991 remake.  I was in my sophomore year at UCLA when the show aired, and I fell in love with it, particularly with the interactions of Ben Cross' Barnabas and Jim Fyfe's Willie.  As probably everyone who watched the revival’s original airing will remember, it was on during the Gulf War, and several episodes were pre-empted due to war coverage.  I don't want to admit to the pettiness of feeling that the war's biggest impact on my life was that it led me to miss Dark Shadows episodes, and I did attend several anti-war protest rallies at UCLA, but it's true that my sharpest memories of that conflict are of my outrage at the disruption to Dark Shadows.

Another protest I attended later that year was a "Save Our Dark Shadows" rally outside the studio when the revival series was cancelled.  I was thrilled when Lysette Anthony, the remake's Angelique, stopped to chat with me while I was waving a sign at that rally.  Despite continuing fondness for the remake DARK SHADOWS, I never watched much of the original show until after seeing the 2012 film.  At that point, I decided to watch the original so I could learn where the whole phenomenon originated.

Actually not Bill Malloy.
That summer I asked for selected original DS DVDs (the "introduction of Barnabas" storyline and the 1795 time travel sequence) as birthday presents.  My husband and I began watching a couple of episodes per night, and were immediately hooked.  We had assumed that we would be able to just delve into the show at will, watching a bit here and a bit there, but after a few episodes, were swiftly disabused of that notion.  We continued to buy the DVDs and eventually watched our way through the series. The rest, as they say, is history.


In a way, I suppose I’ve been writing or imagining fan fiction for most of my life.  As a very young child, the Robin Hood legend was my favorite story.  I remember playing Robin Hood scenario games with my mother (I was Robin to her Little John).  Among the relics of my childhood is a story-in-pictures I drew after seeing the original Star Wars, when I hadn’t yet learned to write.  The story shows Leia, recognizable by the Mickey-Mouse-ear-like protrusions which were her trademark hairdo, being revealed as Darth Vader’s daughter — years before George Lucas made that revelation.  In high school, my particular fandom was Star Trek, and I wrote a short story depicting each of the major characters’ thoughts after the death of Spock.

My first extended foray into fan fiction began in 1997, while in England studying for my Ph.D.  That year saw the release of the “special edition” version of the original Star Wars trilogy.  This inspired two fellow medievalists and me to begin Star Wars fan fiction projects which quickly took over our lives.  These included a novel starring Boba Fett, Darth Vader’s back story and a novella starring Admiral Piett. I wrote an AU novel titled "The Adventures of Darth Vader," in which Vader survives the events of Return of the Jedi and joins the Rebellion, where he faces the challenge of healing the emotional wounds that separate him from his children.  I originally intended to write only the first chapter.  Instead, the novel became a massive project that I completed four years and 20 chapters later.

The inspiration for my next project came from Peter Jackson’s first LORD OF THE RINGS film.  Sean Bean’s Boromir was my favorite character in The Fellowship of the Ring, and I just wasn’t willing to let him stay dead.  I suppose the largest amount of fan fiction that I’ve read is connected to Lord of the Rings, but I didn’t find much of it that took Boromir where I wanted to see him go.  In January of 2002 I began writing "Boromir’s Return," exploring what the events of The Two Towers and Return of the King might be like had he been alive to take part in them.

This project lasted even longer than the previous one; chapters were posted at from February 2002 until its completion June 2011. Real life events such as work ups-and-downs and the birth of our twins led to a multi-year gap in writing and posting.  But once Boromir’s tale was told, I intended to focus on writing original fiction.  However, in fall 2013, while halfway through the draft of a novel, I was lured back into the realm of fan fiction when fate struck in the form of an honest, ill-fated Maine fisherman by the name of Bill Malloy.


While watching the original series, Dark Shadows grew more and more ingrained our lives, but I suppressed the urge to write DS fan fiction.  I was tempted first by an idea involving Willie Loomis, then by one centering on the ghosts of Dr. Woodard and Burke Devlin. Another possibility focused on Quentin.  Still I resisted all temptation—until we backtracked to the beginning episodes and were introduced to Bill Malloy.

I was intrigued by Bill’s first appearance, in Episode 3.  By his second appearance, in Episode 9, I was hooked after Bill’s speech on why Liz Stoddard is “the greatest woman on the face of this earth.”  He tells her it is “Because you plant your feet firm on the deck when a gale blows.  Because you hold your head up high and damn the devil.  Because you don’t know how to run scared.”

Courtship rituals in Collinsport frequently involve words like "damn," devil" and "scared."
By the end of the credits, I knew I would be writing Bill Malloy fan fiction.  As we were soon to learn, Bill doesn’t run scared either, and that determined courage leads to his mysterious death around Episode 46.  I decided to restore Bill Malloy to his role as a pivotal DS character—more than just a murder victim and singing ghost.

When I first fell headlong into Bill Malloy fandom, I made several internet searches for fan fiction focusing on Bill and, to my surprise, found next to nothing.  Since championing the Bill Malloy fandom online, I’ve found that Bill does indeed have dedicated fans.  But, for whatever reason, I may be the first DS fan fiction writer to choose Bill Malloy as my hero. 
Each chapter of the story begins with “My name is Bill Malloy” instead of “My name is Victoria Winters.”  As the central character, Bill, not Vicki, time-travels to 1795.

In a series of flashbacks, we are given background on the marriage of Bill Malloy and Liz Stoddard and how our hero avoids being murdered by Mathew Morgan.  The majority of the novel focuses on Bill’s journey into 1795 and his adventures there as he seeks to solve the many Collins family mysteries—before it is too late for the Collinses both in 1795 and 1967.

I suppose I have two main purposes in writing Stand Fast and Damn the Devil.  The most obvious is to spotlight Bill Malloy, and to give him the romance that I feel should have happened.  Just as in my Darth Vader and Boromir novels, in Damn the Devil I take my favorite character, rescue him from death, and then have the fun of exploring what might happen next.

My other main purpose is to create a more accurate version of the 18th century than we see on the original show.  As a historian and a museum professional, the anachronisms and inaccuracies of DS’s 1795 drive me a bit up the wall.  They don’t stop me from enjoying the show, and I certainly know why they’re there.  As a soap opera on a limited budget—a show that no one expected would ever be watched again after its original air date—it stands to reason that the writers and production team never had the goal of creating a scrupulously accurate period piece.

But this story has become an intensely researched historical novel.  Online 18th century newspapers, ships’ manifests, a biography of an actual Maine ship-building family, books on Maine cemeteries and Maine slang, are combining with my work experience at a 17th-century historic house museum in Massachusetts to create what I hope is close to a realistic picture of what 1795 Collinsport might actually be like.  As Bill thinks sourly in one of my early chapters, “Anybody who talks about the romance of the past needs to give time travel a try.”

Of course that is impossible, but I suppose in each of my fan novels, I’ve been attempting the kind of time travel that Barnabas Collins specializes in—to fix something that has gone wrong, save Vicki Winters or repair the damage caused by Quentin or Gerard.  My fan novels, too, fix something I think has gone wrong: the deaths of my favorite characters.

In Dark Shadows Episode 43, Bill Malloy tells Joe Haskell, “It’d be simpler to sit on the sidelines and just watch life go by.  But you can’t.  Sometimes you have to become involved.”  I guess maybe that’s how fandom is for those of us who’ve been bitten by the fan fiction bug.  No matter how much we try to just stay on the sidelines and watch, sooner or later we have to get involved.  Like our favorite time-traveling vampire, we do what we can to change the past – the show itself – into the present and future that we want to see.


As for reading fan fiction these days, I don’t have much time to squeeze that in around writing, work, kids, theater, and all the other stuff described as “real life.”  I’m a follower of Mad Margaret’s Willie Loomis World Series, Magical Irish Dolphin’s "Ode to the Witch" (which features a fabulous cast of characters in the form of the many, many ghosts of Collinwood), and Daryl Wor’s radio show and fan novels.  Other than that, what reading time I find is more often spent with a variety of research sources for "Stand Fast and Damn the Devil."


Osheen Nevoy can also be found on Facebook as Alex Service, and is curator of the online shrine to her protagonist, The Bill Malloy (Dark Shadows) Fan Club, where there is no shortage of ponderings and pictures of her favorite guy, young Elizabeth (his true love) or recipes from Maine utilized by his faithful housekeeper, Mrs. Johnson. Osheen/Alex also designs fun images of Liz and Bill, and once created Malloy’s business card for a venture he could pursue after retiring.

The Collinsport Cannery retirement plan involves a lot of whiskey.

Marie Maginity is the author of the six-part Willie Loomis World Series, and writes under the names Mad Margaret and Lizzie Bathory. She has a BA in Theatre and works as a professional actor, director and drama teacher. She has had many “straight” jobs, including bartender, gas station jockey, graphic artist, website designer, facepainter and film projectionist. Once, she bullshitted her way into a newspaper job as a reporter and, over the next eight years, became a copy editor, feature writer and assistant editor. She lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with one husband, two daughters and two cats.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Monster Serial: PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1959)


Yeah, PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. I know, I know … it’s a wretched piece of film by anyone’s standards, and this is supposed to be a book dedicated to beloved horror and science fiction movies. I’m not here to sway you into believing it’s a better movie than it is, and I’ve got no authoritative insight into the movie’s troubled history, either.

Instead, this is a confession.

Despite my better instincts, I love PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. There are few films I’ve seen more than Edward D. Wood’s magnum opus, even though logic demands the hours I’ve wasted with this movie were probably better spent doing anything else. My love for PLAN 9 is my least malignant character flaw, so there’s been no sense of urgency to be rid of it. If we were talking about a methamphetamine addiction, there would be physical and social pressures on me to change my ways. A meth habit might even be preferable, because junkies are sometimes forced into social interaction with people of similar interests. For better or worse, a drug habit is a very real, very physical experience, while my love for PLAN 9 usually leaves me naval gazing in a darkened room.

But that’s not to discount the transcendental nature of watching a terrible movie. And by “terrible movie,” I don’t mean the slick, expensive commercial products made by guys like Michael Bay. Those kinds of films get put through so many corporate filters that it’s impossible for them to hit theaters without some semblance of competent storytelling, and it’s hard to think of them as “film” as much as feature-length commercials for tie-in products. They might suck, but the competence and craftsmanship on display are undeniably impressive.

The same can’t be said for an Ed Wood film. As much as I love the Tim Burton’s film about “the world’s worst filmmaker,” it’s almost entirely a work of fiction. Wood might have wanted to make movies, but he wasn’t some wide-eyed “Andy Hardy” character innocently pursuing his dream. Wood was a hustler that naturally gravitated to a level of filmmaking that tolerated his misguided sense of aesthetics. His distributors didn’t care about the quality of his films as long as they came in on budget and were edited to a manageable running time. They were B-movie filler and existed only to fool ticket buyers into thinking they were getting more for their money.

Because he was left more-or-less unattended, Wood’s movies feel like Id run wild (at least, as wild as budgets and prudish standards of the times would allow.) Wood’s movies are the children of his juvenile imagination, but this imagination charges his stories with the kind of energy that makes up for the nonsense he tried to pass off as “scripts.” Say what you want about Wood’s movies, but they’re not boring.

More to the point, his movies are terrible in a way that’s impossible to replicate. Any filmmaker is capable of making a great movie. The people who directed POINT BREAK, NATURAL BORN KILLERS and EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE have all made legitimately great movies at some point in their careers, and have even won Academy awards for their work. Making movies is hard, but talent will occasionally prevail.
But nobody can fake the kind of anti-genius of Ed Wood, though.  It’s a natural gift that is probably inversely aggravated by how much talent and money you throw at it. Give Ed Wood $100 million budget and you’ll still get something that feels like PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. The on-set chemistry that produces gloriously bad movies simply can’t be faked. When filmmakers have tried (DEATH PROOF, THE LOST SKELETON OF CADABRA, etc.) the final products have had a saccharine flavor to them.
All of this would be harmless fun if not for PLAN 9’s disgraceful pedigree. I think most of us would laugh comfortably at the film if not for the presence of Bela Lugosi.  Wood’s decision to exploit Lugosi’s corpse one final time is a cautionary tale of Hollywood’s unforgiving nature. Lugosi began his film career with DRACULA, a movie so popular that it’s still being discussed almost a century later. His career ended, though, with a 79-minute bit of celluloid filler with all the artistic merit of bubble wrap.

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Even though Wood’s films were made for no other reason than to pad out a double bill, there’s still something innocent about them. Bubbling under the surface of Wood’s movies is a very distinct imagination that tries to pair horror and science fiction in a way reminiscent of James Whale, but the ideas are half baked (to be generous.) The actors seem like they give a shit, and the whole product feels more like an actual movie to me than something like TRANSFORMERS 2 or Burton’s own DARK SHADOWS.

That’s why I frequently return to PLAN 9. For better or worse, it’s a genuine movie experience.

(Wallace McBride is the editor of THE COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY.)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tim Burton blames failure of DARK SHADOWS on DARK SHADOWS

Tim Burton is making the rounds, promoting his latest visually-beautiful-yet-soulless motion picture, BIG EYES. Naturally, journalists are picking at the scabs of his last film, DARK SHADOWS. In his efforts to assure people that his latest film will be better, he happily throws his previous movie under the bus.

But it's not his fault DARK SHADOWS wasn't more warmly received, he tells Indiewire: 
INDIEWIRE: The last movie was "Dark Shadows," which was seen as something of a failure. What was your experience on that?  

TIM BURTON: Well it was a weird tone. Because I grew up on that show and the weird thing about it is it had a cult following but it was actually pretty bad. It had the weirdest tone. I always found the tone, even though it was deadly serious, quite comedic. And your feelings always come out. So I always knew that it was dangerous territory because I tried to capture the tone and yet the tone is funny. 
I'm curious? Who's fault was PLANET OF THE APES? MARS ATTACKS? Tim Burton has never been able to tell the difference between a good script and a bad one, and that's the root of his inability to grow as a storyteller. His films have suffered from the same style-over-substance approach since BETTLEJUICE. If he'd spent less time trying to find a "tone" (whatever that means) and developing a coherent screenplay, he might have a bit more luck. Because of his knack for failing upwards, though, it's unlikely he'll ever learn his lesson. And you can't un-bake a cake.

If you want to read the entire interview for yourself, you can find it HERE. You might want to hold your nose first, though. I'm not sure if the author is trying to interview Burton or sleep with him.

America's theater chains endorse terrorism

Terrorism works!

Just ask Carmike Cinemas, who were the first to fold under the pressure of terror threats on Tuesday. When the so-called "Guardians of Peace" threatened September 11-style attacks on any theaters that dared to show THE INTERVIEW, Carmike traded freedom for safety, essentially endorsing the power of terrorism.

Regal Entertainment liked the idea of terrorism so much that they, too, decided not to show the movie. Within hours, America's top theater chains had come to the consensus that they'd rather have faceless hackers decide what they can show, and when they can show it. It was a chain of events that moved so quickly that even bloggers struggled to keep up: Before all of the dominoes had finished toppling, the besieged Sony Pictures decided to pull the movie entirely.

Here's the text of the threat:

We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places "The Interview" be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to.

Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made.

The world will be full of fear.

Remember the 11th of September 2001.

We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time.

(If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)

Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

All the world will denounce the SONY.
I don't especially care about the content of THE INTERVIEW. It's the kind of movie I might watch on Netflix on a lazy Sunday, and it wouldn't hurt my feelings if I never see it ... as long as its my choice. But that's not what's at issue here. As with "The Fappening," it seems that individuals are valuing the thrill of voyeurism over their own privacy. As with Carmike Cinemas (and I'm only singling them out for being the first to flinch) there's a sense that any battle involving Internet privacy has already been lost. Had armed burglars broken into the home of Jennifer Lawrence, stolen her property and posted her personal photos on the Internet, people would probably be a lot more enraged. The same goes for Sony, which has been the victim of a criminal raid more thorough than anything seen in the DIE HARD movies.

And nobody seems to care. "Forget it, Jake. It's the Internet."

The decision to kill the release on a movie is going to have consequences for years to come. We're about to find out what happens when we let anonymous sociopaths dictate the terms of our constitutional, freedoms. When Mitt Romney becomes the voice of reason in any crisis, we're truly through the looking glass.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

New arrivals at the CHS library

I love pulp art. From George Rozen to Glen Orbik, there's something about its inherent romanticism that really appeals to me. Because of its hybrid nature, DARK SHADOWS is a property that lends itself well to a lot of different genres, which makes it pretty easy to riff on.

In that spirit, here are a few paperback covers that show off the show's versatility. Above is a faux cover for the upcoming BLOODLUST serial. The "women running from houses" meme was something DARK SHADOWS consciously used in its first year, and I thought it would be a nice fit. Even better, most of those kinds of book covers were interchangeable, which meant there was little chance of intentionally making the artwork spoilery.

Below are a few more covers. The first is another gothic romance design for Big Finish's "Carriage of the Damned." The other two are a bit more obscure ... "The Curse of Collinwood" is a book referenced in the Big Finish audiodrama "The Darkest Shadow." The other is the title of the book mentioned in the closing scroll of NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, and is the novel being written by the characters played by John Karlen and Nancy Barrett.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dario Argento autobiography coming in January

Autobiographies are a lot lot "greatest hits" collections: They're almost always glorified obituaries that mark the end of an interesting, productive life. I tend to approach these kinds of projects with caution and doubt, because these books can also be examples of the worst kind of eye witness accounts. After all, the author has a strong bias for the subject matter.

For example is PAURA (or "FEAR"), director Dario Argento's upcoming autobiography. Argento has had a rich and varied career, with his name appearing in the credits of films such as ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE and the original DAWN OF THE DEAD. There's certainly a lot that can be said about the first act of his career, but I'm not sure the director of DRACULA 3D is the guy to speak on those films.

Argento has been in the throes of a downward spiral since at least the mid-1980s, which is not something we can necessarily blame him for. There's an element of fashion that connects pop artists with their audience, and that connection is so difficult to make that it's a wonder it happens at all. Some fans are still nurturing a grudge against Lou Reed for his changing tastes in the wake of his work with the Velvet Underground, as though he could simply keep riffing on "Heroin" for the rest of his life. Artists can occasionally change the world, but they're also subject to those same changes.

But, Argento's movies have become unwatchable in recent years. I've got a ghoulish curiosity about PAURA, which is due in January. How the hell does he justify movies like GIALLO when stacked against the actual giallo films in his credits?

Argento recently completed a successful Indiegogo campaign to finance his next film, THE SANDMAN. Iggy Pop is set to star in that film, a guy whose career arc looks more than a little like Argento's.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sharon Smyth Lentz joins the cast of NEVER CAN SAY GOODBYE

Sharon Smyth Lentz in ON A COUNTRY ROAD.
For a show that's been off the air for more than 40 years, DARK SHADOWS never stops giving me things to write about.

This weekend, it was announced that Sharon Smyth Lentz — who played the little sister of Barnabas Collins on the original DARK SHADOWS — had joined the cast of NEVER CAN SAY GOODBYE.

It's only surprising if you haven't been paying attention. Sharon has become very active in independent film, working on both sides of the camera on films such as ON A COUNTRY ROAD and POTENT MEDIA'S SUGAR SKULL GIRLS.

NEVER CAN SAY GOODBYE is scheduled to begin production in 2015. It's a supernatural thriller about ghosts, reincarnation and destiny that owes a small debt to a certain daytime drama.

"This movie has obviously been very influenced by DARK SHADOWS," Lentz said. "There are many elements to it that just feel like Collinwood all over again!"

Lentz and Jonathan Frid on DARK SHADOWS.
The film also features a "little ghost girl," she said.

"I can tell you that it is a very well written script, and there are some fantastic actors involved," Lentz said. "I feel truly blessed to have been able to audition for a part in this movie."

NEVER CAN SAY GOODBYE stars Lauren Holly (PICKET FENCES, DUMB AND DUMBER),Conrad Goodie (ONE TREE HILL), Kimberly Estrada and Academy Award nominee Sally Kirkland.

Follow the movie's production at its official Facebook page HERE. 

Via Horror Society.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Kathryn Leigh Scott in HARVEY, 1975

Kathryn Leigh Scott and James Stewart on stage at
I don't know that there's any such thing as a "typical" career for an actor. Unlike most jobs, the work is always temporary and transient, forcing actors to pursue job opportunities wherever they might appear. Even actors with the most dedicated representation will spend most of their professional careers unemployed. It's a job you genuinely have to love.

The cast of DARK SHADOWS had careers as varied as their personalities. Despite his more visible movie and TV roles, David Selby seems to love the theater more than any other medium. I fully expect him to die on the stage at age 147, performing JULIUS CAESAR while simultaneously proofreading his latest collection of poetry. Nancy Barrett enjoyed the work, but was distressed by the public ogling that acting brought with it. And I don't think anyone will every truly understand Jonathan Frid's tortured relationship with a craft he otherwise seemed to love.

Kathryn Leigh Scott has one of the most unusual careers of the entire cast. After DARK SHADOWS, she spent some time in Europe where she did everything from dubbing a Roman Polanski movie to reuniting with Dan Curtis on an adaption of THE TURN OF THE SCREW. She made an appearance on the UK-produced SPACE: 1999 and, in 1975, appeared opposite James Stewart in a production of HARVEY at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London. And those are just highlights of the '70s.

Scott admits she was starstruck at first, but had to immediately put those feelings aside and concentrate on the job.

"We became very close friends and we had lunch together twice a week on matinee days," Scott told Pop Culture Addict in 2010. "And he would come to my dressing room and pick me up and we would walk down to the restaurant and on Wednesdays he would pay and on Saturdays I would pay.  It was wonderful because he was like a companion.  We genuinely hit it off.  He was hard of hearing and he wore a hearing aide but there was one time when his hearing aide went out and I made sure he could see my lips."

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