Friday, January 31, 2014

Podcast: DAY DRINKING WITH SARA AND ALEXIS



Hey, remember when we used to have podcasts?

The Collinsport Historical Society's hardware wars are finally nearing their end. The restoration begins today, with the liberation of the first of several podcast episodes that have been stuck in electronic limbo during the past month.

Today brings us the latest installment of DAY DRINKING WITH SARA & ALEXIS, which was recorded not long after Christmas. This episode's topic is 1987's horror noir ANGEL HEART, in which Mickey Rourke plays a private investigator hired to find a reclusive entertainer rendered unrecognizable by plastic surgery. Irony!


Also: SPOILER ALERT on a 27-year-old movie.

This month's brews are B. Nektar Necromangocon, Goose Island 312, and Westbrook IPA.

Listen to the episode streaming above, or download it as an MP3 by clicking HERE. And subscribe to THE COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY podcasts on iTunes for free by clicking HERE!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chris Pennock reads FEAR AND LOATHING ON DARK SHADOWS



Last week, Chris Pennock appeared at the Record Parlour in Los Angeles, where he read from his graphic novel/comic/manifesto FEAR AND LOATHING ON DARK SHADOWS. Like all great art, it pretty much defies description ... in short, it involves his memories of auditioning for DARK SHADOWS, a few surprise police sirens, and some of the most spectacular use of profanity outside of THE WIRE. You should watch it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Collinsport News Bulletins




Argyle Goolsby, formerly of the horror punk band BLITZKID, has released a song (er ... it was released about six months ago, actually, but who's counting?) titled THE EAST WING. The tune is about DARK SHADOWS, and even closes with a sample of the show's signature theme. The song is available from Goolsby via Amazon, as part of the four-track EP, UNDER THE WITNESS STARS.


Lara Parker and Kathryn Leigh Scott have been added to the guest list for Charlotte, N.C., ConCarolinas event this year, joining George RR Martin, artist Tommy Lee Edwards, and my friends VALENTINE WOLFE. This year's convention is scheduled to take place May 30 - June 1. For more information, visit the event's official website.

UPDATE: A reader has informed me that both Kathryn and Lara will also be at MobiCon on May 23-25 in Mobile, Ala. Here's a link to the convention's website.


Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton in DOCTOR WHO.
Sarah Sutton will join Lara Parker and Jerry Lacy in the audiodrama, DARK SHADOWS: THE DEVIL CAT. Sutton is best known (at least, around MY house) as Nyssa, a "companion" on DOCTOR WHO in the '80s.  “Sarah's playing the role of Miss Emma Simon, an amateur detective with just a few similarities to Miss Marple,” says producer Joseph Lidster. “The character's great fun although you're never quite sure whether she's trying to help or hinder Tony and Cassandra. I thought David Darlington's suggestion of Sarah as Miss Simon was inspired. She's never really played anyone other than Nyssa for Big Finish so it was interesting to see what she'd bring to the part.”


Last week, Patrick Lynch published a piece at VOICES FROM KRYPTON titled, "NBC'S DRACULA: Is it the new DARK SHADOWS?" It's not an opinion I necessarily agree with (though I thought the show's star, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, made a compelling quasi-vampire in 1998's VELVET GOLDMINE.) Still, the piece generated quite a bit of discussion on our Facebook page, and I recommend you check it out. (Also: You might want to pay a visit to Lynch's Facebook page, which has some of his art, both DARK SHADOWS-related and otherwise, on display.)

Friday, January 24, 2014

THANK GOD IT'S FRID-DAY: Frid & Selby go pop, 1969


If it seems strange that two guys best known for playing vampires and werewolves would cut a record together, it's because you're not old enough to remember the '60s. Frankly, neither am I ... but that stuff continued to leak downstream throughout my childhood in the 1970s. If the idea of Jonathan Frid recording a hit single seems like a not-that-great idea, keep in mind that this culture also produced records from Adam West, Frank Gorshin and William Shatner. Also, Burt Ward cut a record with Frank Zappa. That actually happened.

In 1967, Charles Grean collaborated with Leonard Nimoy and the producers of STAR TREK to create MR. SPOCK'S MUSIC FROM OUTER SPACE, featuring such tracks as "Follow Your Star," "The Difference Between Us," and "Mission Impossible." There's a Tom Cruise joke here somewhere, but I'll be damned if I can find it.

A few years later, Grean would have a Top 40 hit with a recording of "Quentin's Theme" from DARK SHADOWS (the music was written the show's composer, Robert Cobert.) Above are photos from 16 MAGAZINE showing some of the recording sessions that went into producing THE ORIGINAL MUSIC FROM DARK SHADOWS, easily the most tasteful TV tie-in album to come out of the '60s. The album cracked the Top 20, and would go on to inspire three more collections of music from the series.

(NOTE: These clippings are courtesy of Elena Nacanther, who is part of an effort to get Jonathan Frid nominated to Canada's Walk of Fame, a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization that recognizes Canadians who have excelled in music, sports, film, television, and other artistic endeavors. You can find the NOMINATE JONATHAN FRID TO CANADA'S WALK OF FAME Facebook page by clicking here. Please pay them a visit. You can see more selections from Elena's scrapbook each Friday here at the Collinsport Historical Society.)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Clipping: Lara Parker in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, 1965

(NOTE: Prior to joining the cast of DARK SHADOWS, Lara Parker appeared on stage using her birth name, Lamar. Also, I couldn't find any online evidence that actress Marin Riley appeared in either of the films she's credited with in this story. Curiously, though, there is a "Marin Riley" listed on The Internet Movie Database who played a number of ghosts on DARK SHADOWS.)



LAMAR PARKER of the Millbrook Playhouse troupe takes the role in which Katherine Hepburn made her big hit as star of THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. The play opened last evening at the Millbrook stage, starting a week's run in the drama of the awakening of a rich man's daughter of love and life. The play, which ran on Broadway for a year with Miss Hepburn, Van Heflin and Shirley Booth, in the leading roles, was later filmed as a musical called HIGH SOCIETY with Grace Kelly. Marin Riley, special guest star, will appear as Tracy's mother. Miss Riley has appeared in four Broadway plays including THE ROSE TATTOO and in many movies including THE PAWNBROKER and THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT. She has also appeared in many television shows and commercials.

The Philadelphia Story Has Chance for Improvement
Lock Haven Express
Aug.9, 1967

A review by ROBERT S. BREVARD

Last night Millbrook Playhouse attempted to perform THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. By rights, Philadelphia may now be declared a disaster area and could apply for federal fund.

By now Philip Barry's play is something of a classic and, except for a number of archival references to the style of Time magazine in the early years, it wears its age we'll. There are good lines, a nearly structured plot, and a stageful of good roles.

Somehow few if any of these virtues came across last night. Most of the performers could only work at their roles. The number of dropped cues and missed lines, particularly in the first act, was for the first time this season, a serious problem. Perhaps an additional week of rehearsal would see the play reach some degree of polish.

Frank Davidson's direction at this stage seemed tentative and at all times the pace lagged. There was no sense of place and one could certainly question the accuracy of the picture of upper class behavior. Most of the characterizations seemed in the process of being worked out and at times even the blocking seemed uncertain.

Of course there were moments when the play snapped to life but the cast was unable to fan such tiny sparks into dramatic fire. There is a definite impression of a lot of talent simply failing to mesh, of a lot of very hard work falling short of an acceptable result.

Roger Faucette was Uncle Willie, a pleasantly lecherous old goat. Mr. Faucette stole most of the show simply by giving the impression that he was having a wacking good time on stage. He had his character well in hand and was continually amusing. The play moved when he was about and had a sort of sense of style.

Flavia Potenza as Liz Imbrie, the girl photographer, should give lessons in cattiness. She purrs out her lines with fine effect and she projects the sense of a patient love very well. Her facial expressions throughout act three are just fine.

Clyde Grigsiby portrays Mike Connor, the tough reporter who falls for the heiress. Mr. Grigsby literally and visibly falls in love before the audience's eyes and his iirst declaration of passion and the kiss are very well handled.

George Loros uses his bearing and his intelligence to good purpose as Dexter Haven. He grew stronger act by act and is very good in the demanding third act.

Lamar Parker as Tracy Lord manages a sort of brittle frostiness and her melting is almost convincing.

Matin Riley is a disappointment as Mrs. Lord. Amy Farrell shows the need of strong direction in the role of Dinah Lord. She overworks her coltish qualities and it is unfair to her to have her attempting the ballet steps.

Robert Litowchak is still working on his characterization of George. John Taylor was quite wooden as Seth Lord.

John Klein as Sandy Lord at least gave a clean line, unaffected performance. Marc Eliot gets off a good line as Marc, the night watchman. Doris Geringer, Augie Miller, and Steve Waltz are on view as the household staff.

Lane Halteman's set and Marc Eliot's properties are highly effective. Against Haltman's background of elegant impressionism, Eliot has provided some first rate Victorian furniture, some good wicker lawn furniture and a sampling of fine china. The women's costumes were all splendid, particularly Tracy's first act orange ensemble.

To this critic's ears the wedding march was the traditional recessional and not the processional. For a lot of theater fans THE PHILADELPHIA STORY is a happy memory but last night's Millbrook Playhouse production only provided a long, sad evening.

However, based on their past record, the current play is bound to improve. But also based on the record, Millbrook Playhouse is certainly capable of a lot better production in all aspects and this play deserves it.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Collinsport News Bulletins


Lara Parker, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Marie Wallace and Jerry Lacy are scheduled to appear at this year's MONSTER-MANIA CON. Are scheduled to appear are Robert Englund, Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, Dee Wallace, Ernie Hudson and lots more. The event takes place March 7-9 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill, N.J. For more information, visit the event's official website, www.monstermania.net.

Speaking of Kathryn Leigh Scott, she's interviewed about her novel DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HEELS in the latest episode of the Quotable Authors podcast.


Hollinsworth Productions "Theatre Fantastique" will release its first episode, THE MADNESS OF RODERICK USHER, on Feb. 7. Theatre Fantastique is an online anthology series revolving around tales of mystery, fantasy, and horror.  The premiere episode stars Christopher Pennock and is directed by Ansel Faraj. Pennock also is scheduled to return in the next two episodes of the series, A DESCENT INTO A MAELSTROM and THE HAPPY HOME OF THE MURDEROUS MAHONES, later in 2014. Look for these films on the official Youtube channel of Hollinsworth Productions.
 

A one-of-a-kind SEAVIEW TERRACE pillow is currently up for auction at Ebay. The auction comes to a close on Jan. 19, FYI.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

MONSTER SERIAL UPDATE


So, MONSTER SERIAL is out ... what could there possibly be to update?

Here's the short version: We've got a new edition of the book headed your way soon. The content will be the same, but it will have kooky new cover art. We're also plotting the sequel, which I'm not at liberty to discuss at the moment.

The long version? The Collinsport Historical Society's experiencing a few technical issues behind the scenes, specifically the demise of my laptop, THE TRANSMANIACON PC. It's made updating this site a bit tricky during the last few weeks. Trapped on an external hard drive are the page revisions for MONSTER SERIAL, a podcast interview with DARK SHADOWS fan extraordinaire Wally Wingert, the various programs needed to edit these files, and so on ... I'm also cutoff from iTunes, forcing me to listen to compact discs like some kind of barbarian. But that's not really your problem.

As you can imagine, all of this leaves the CHS momentarily trapped in limbo until I find a way to resurrect my computer, summon my files from the netherworld and continue upon my quest.

Meanwhile, I've got a mission for you: MONSTER SERIAL needs your support. Reviews are beginning to trickle in on both Amazon and Goodreads. If you bought a copy, please tell us what you thought about it in the "reviews" section of these two sites. Everybody involved with the project would love to hear what you think about it.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Clippings: Grayson Hall goes OUT OF THE SHADOWS, 1971

OUT OF THE SHADOWS:
A visit with the complicated Miss Grayson Hall
By Edith Efron,
TV Guide, Jan. 23, 1971

The freckle-faced, sharp-featured woman is lampooning Katharine Hepburn recklessly -- stretching her neck like a young giraffe and flinging her arms into the air in satiric anguish. The sedate waiters in a chic new York restaurant stare in astonishment. "Hepburn is an amateur!" she exclaims, amid a running fire of witticisms. "She's always been an amateur."

It is not every soap-opera actress who has the audacity to abuse Katharine Hepburn so roundly, but Grayson Hall, of ABC's Dark Shadows, expects to get away with it. She may be spending her own days as the mysterious Dr. Hoffman -- the one who suffers from unrequited love for a vampire -- but she has one of the classiest acting pasts to be found in the soaps.

Nominated for an Academy Award for her role in the movie version of "The Night of the Iguana," the Philadelphia-born, Cornell-educated actress has had a distinguished stage career as well. She starred in Tyrone Guthrie's "Six Characters in Search of an Author"; in Jess Gregg's "Shout from the Rooftops"; and Jose Quintero's production of Genet's "The Balcony." She's also done TV -- Chrysler Theatre, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., as well as Dark Shadows, on which she's been a staple for three years.

One of the directors of Dark Shadows, Henry Kaplan, says this about her acting: "Her talent is astounding. One of her most striking features as an actress is stillness. There's a kind of inner stillness when she's on. All the external stuff goes. She projects through this screen of inner stillness."

The externally wisecracking Grayson, with the "still" inner self, is both awe-inspiring and startling to the younger performers in Dark Shadows. Says Michael Stroka, the friendly neighborhood psychopathic killer in the series: "She's one of the biggest cutups on the set. She's forever clowning, making jokes, wandering around. If you were watching her, you'd never think she was taking anything seriously. And yet, by dress rehearsal somehow it's all there! I don't know how she does it."

All of which is very well ... but what is an Academy Award nominee and an "astounding talent" doing, laying Katharine Hepburn low at lunch, clowning around a soap-opera set, and killing off two years of her creative life by feigning passion for a vampire?

Grayson Hall explains: "I'm no longer ambitious. When you're young, 24, 25, you're committed to a kind of drive. When you get to the point where I am, and have a family ... well, I just love the work. That's all I care about.
 
Grayson Hall is unamused by Bill Murray Richard Burton in NIGHT OF THE IGUANA.
"I have the best of all possible worlds. I'm a wife, a mother, a housewife. And I work when I want to. So I'm fulfilled on all levels."

On level one, Grayson, wife, lives with writer Sam Hall in "a big, old funny apartment" in Manhattan, crammed to the gills with heavy conversation-piece antiques. Biedermeier chairs, a porcelain bidet, gigantic 15th-century Corsican cupids, and grotesque Ming dogs ornament the dark red living room.

Somewhere in the deeps of the apartment, there are roars of laughter. Grayson leads us to the roars -- to the kitchen, where a stout, bald, jovial man sits at a table covered with sheets of paper and scribbles. Husband Sam Hall is a writer of Dark Shadows -- which is written, daily, on Grayson's kitchen table -- and he's in conference with two other writers. Sam, too, has had an unusually distinguished career. He's written for the Theatre Guild, U.S. Steel Hour, Playhouse 90. Why is he churning out stuff about vampires? "If you want to stay in New York today," he says, "all there is is the soaps. Or move to California."

We visit the next level and give Grayson, mother, a whirl. We can't see her in action, because her child, Matthew, is not at home. But Grayson is full of funny talk about her precocious "12-year-old here." Matt, it seems, reprimands Grayson for her excessive comic exaggeration. He recently threatened to "curb her extravagance of language." "You come home from Bloomingdale's and say 'There were 8,000,000 people there.' You know there weren't 8,000,000 people there! You come home from the studio and say 'This was the worst day of my life You know it wasn't the worst day of your life!"


We move on the the last "level," that of Grayson, housewife. She's Domesticity Incarnate, it appears: "I'm a committed cook. Basically I'm a French cook. But I've also taken a course in Chinese cooking and in Mexican cooking. Most recently I've taken Yucatan cooking." Grayson labors three days to turn out an exotic meal for a few friends. Then they talk about it for weeks.

All "levels" have now been displayed and, after a parting flurry of jokes, the brief visit comes to an end.

Can this be the "best of all possible worlds"? Is this domesticated, wisecracking Academy Award nominee and lampooner of Katharine Hepburn "fulfilled," as she says? Unsurprisingly, many think not.

One Dark Shadows colleague says: "She's as neurotic as hell. Some kind of anxiety eats at her. She's a compulsive gossip. There's that compulsive need to be 'on' -- that constant barrage of jokes, and quips, and exaggeration. She's got the talent. She could have a far greater career. I think she knows she hasn't done with herself what she could have. I think frustration eats at her."

On the other hand, some believe it is not quite so "black and white" as all that. Director Henry Kaplan says:

"Actors are very strange people, and Grayson is a strange woman. I certainly think she'd like to be more successful. Even though part of her is fulfilled, she's still reaching out for that part that isn't. But Grayson's family is important and fulfilling to her. It's not a cop-out."

(NOTE: Thanks to Bill Branch for the scans!)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Collinsport News Bulletins


Dick Smith, right, adds a few hundred years to actor Jonathan Frid.

* Academy Award-winning make-up artist Dick Smith, the make-up artist for such films as THE GODFATHER, THE EXORCIST and HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, will be receiving a lifetime achievement award from the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild in February. Smith was also the make-up artist on the original DARK SHADOWS television series. Via The Hollywood Reporter

* DARK SHADOWS writer Sam Hall is suing for royalties involving his work on episodes of ONE LIFE TO LIVE distributed in 2013 through services such as iTunes and Hulu. Via We Love Soaps.

* THE COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY's first book, MONSTER SERIAL, received a nice mention by the BAY AREA REPORTER. The book is available from Amazon.

* Sharon Smyth Lentz ("Sarah Collins" from DARK SHADOWS) will be appearing in July at the MonsterCon in Greenville, S.C., alongside folks like Butch Patrick, Pat Priest and Ricou Browning (of THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.)

THANK GOD IT'S FRID-DAY: "Too much indulgence in blood," 1970



EYE TOO
Women's Wear Daily,
August 27, 1970

TV's VAMPIRE: Jonathan Frid just finished his first movie, "House of Dark Shadows," opening in New York Sept. 2. He plays Barnabas Collins, the same vampire he plays on the TV soap "Dark Shadows."

Frid doesn't consider his current career a sellout of his Shakespearean training. "I don't think soap opera is a putdown. I bring all my classical experience to it. All an actor needs is a situation. He doesn't need intellect. Barnabas is very much like Macbeth -- a killer with a guilt(y) conscience."

One thing that gets 45-year-old Frid down about his TV role is the teenage fans. "I always feel like an ass being a teenage idol in a teenybopper magazine," he says. "I've had my phone number changed, but there's a couple of brats that have it. It's not so much an affection for you as a game. They're little detectives."

Frid is also upset about his movie. "I object very strongly about the vulgarity of the picture. It dissipates the effect of horror. It's not horrible enough because there's too much indulgence in blood. I didn't mind doing the scenes, but I'm afraid the public will object. Our producer knows the lowest common demoninator. I also find the ads very offensive. And I will never do another horror picture without having script approval and guarantees."

In the meantime, Frid will continue toward his goals: to direct his own production of "Richard III" and eventually to become a producer-actor-director like Laurence Olivier.

(NOTE: These clippings are courtesy of Elena Nacanther, who is part of an effort to get Jonathan Frid nominated to Canada's Walk of Fame, a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization that recognizes Canadians who have excelled in music, sports, film, television, and other artistic endeavors. You can find the NOMINATE JONATHAN FRID TO CANADA'S WALK OF FAME Facebook page by clicking here. Please pay them a visit. You can see more selections from Elena's scrapbook each Friday here at the Collinsport Historical Society.)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Clipping: "Collinwood" profiled in TV GUIDE, 1966


Seaview Terrace, the location used for the fictional "Collinwood" of DARK SHADOWS, was profiled in the Dec. 3, 1966, issue of TV GUIDE. Victoria Winters was being menaced by handyman/lunatic Matthew Morgan the week this issue was published, though you won't find any mention of the show's various plot threads mentioned in this photo feature. Instead, the short story touches briefly on the location's history. The real highlight here is a rare color photo of actress Alexandra Moltke in Victoria's bedroom, an image that is contrasted with a photo of a Seaview Terrace window that serves as the set's "exterior."

(Thanks to Bill Branch for the scans!)


Friday, January 3, 2014

SHADOWS ON THE WALL: The DARK SHADOWS that almost was




It’s no secret that television shows live or die based on the production’s ability to think on its feet. A pilot episode is almost a notional thing, a rough draft that suggests story and character without ever having much of either. You don’t learn the strengths and weaknesses of your actors, writers and production team by shooting a single episode; you learn these things by spending an extended period of time with them in the creative trenches.

So, it’s not shocking that a look back at Art Wallace’s “bible” for DARK SHADOWS differs in a great many ways from the show it quickly became. Overall, the outline and character sketches presented in Wallace’s long-out-of-print SHADOWS ON THE WALL feel like the show’s first year. The central mysteries are the same, as are many of the character’s relationships and basic plot points. But the outline failed to anticipate a central piece of casting that would change the course of the show’s first year in unexpected ways:

LOUIS EDMONDS.

On the page, Roger Collins isn’t a role to get excited about. Wallace describes him (several times, actually) as a charmless, irresponsible layabout. The show’s first mystery doesn’t hinge on the death of Bill Malloy and the subsequent justice meted out to his killer by Collinwood’s ghosts. Instead, Roger takes an untimely dive off Widow’s Hill during a violent confrontation with Victoria regarding the conspiracy to send Burke Devlin to prison.


The difference, I’d speculate, was that Roger Collins proved himself to be a more interesting and useful character than first intended. Edmonds deserves a fair share of the credit here, as do the other writers who worked to create a character that played to the actor’s droll strengths. It should have been obvious to all involved that Collinsport would have been a much less interesting place without Edmonds around. Which is why the show spent so much time chasing the whereabouts of a silver fountain pen ... the writers were retooling the story to keep Roger Collins around.

SHADOWS ON THE WALL goes into a shocking level of detail about the show’s settings and characters, almost none of which was ever intended for audience consumption. For example, Collinsport is located in the very real Hancock County, Maine. A sizable chunk of the Collins family history is covered in the outline, but I won’t waste much of your time with it here. Suffice to say, almost all of it was heavily revised by the time Barnabas Collins is introduced, and most of the names were shuffled to other characters.

Curiously, the seeds for both Barnabas and Quentin Collins might even have been planted in the show’s bible long before they were introduced. The outline makes references to “Samuel Collins,” a man who mysteriously left the country around 1895 shortly after the east wing was destroyed by fire. His ghost can occasionally be seen from the windows of the re-built property, standing in a darkened window and holding a lit candle.

Also, Roger and Liz’s parents are identified in the bible by the names Joseph and Carolyn. Their mother died giving birth to Roger, and their father followed her to the grave a few years later of natural causes, leaving a very young Liz in charge of the family business. Liz’s daughter, Carolyn, was named for her grandmother.

While Laura Collins (referred to in the bible as “Laura Robin”) is mentioned throughout, she makes no on-screen appearance in the story’s original draft. She was conveniently shuffled off to a sanitarium not long after Burke Devlin was released from prison.
 

As for David Collins, the bible lets slip a fairly important detail: David was born seven months after Roger and Laura were married. Roger was not especially happy about the discrepancy, and didn’t buy Laura’s “It was an early birth!” defense. Wallace makes a note in the book to deal with that plot point later in the show, in a manner that best serves the developing storyline.

We also get small bits of character details for the show’s supporting cast. Joe Haskell’s father was also a fisherman, and died as sea when Joe was only 14. The younger Haskell was forced to drop out of school to help his family make ends meet. His mother worked as an occasional housekeeper at Collins House, which is how he first met Carolyn.

The version of Maggie Evans that’s presented in the series bible disappeared from the series after a few episodes. That brassy, sassy, and blonde Maggie we first meet on the show is the character outlines in SHADOWS ON THE WALL, which describes her as “the kind of gal that’s everybody’s pal … and nobody’s friend.” It's impressive how quickly the show corrected course to take advantage of Kathryn Leigh Scott's natural charm.

SHADOWS ON THE WALL is an embarrassment of riches in regards to character descriptions. Burke Devlin is described as “an angry, hungry man born 200 years too late.” Liz is “a ghost living in a house of ghosts.” Carolyn gets a lengthy character profile that, strangely, doesn’t do much to illustrate her as an actual character. What we get are a lot of ideas, mostly about her conflicting love and resentment for her shut-in mother, and the vague motives for her own bad behavior. The impression I was left with was of Carolyn as a 20th century Rapunzel: “As much as she longed to breathe the fresh air away from Collins House, the tormented girl was terrified of what that air might be like.”
 
There are a few notable omissions from the bible, as well as a surprising early appearance by one of DARK SHADOWS favorite rogues. The names Mrs. Johnson, “B. Hanscombe” and Matthew Morgan make a total of zero appearances in the DARK SHADOWS bible. But, a name that does make numerous appearances is that of “Walt Cummings,” described in the cast of characters as “a seaman who comes to live in Collins House.”

Don’t be alarmed if that description has you scratching your head. “Collins House” was the original name of Collinwood, and “Walt Cummings” came to be known later in the series as Jason McGuire. Willie Loomis was not invited to this version of the familiar story, which has “Walt Cummings” blackmailing Elizabeth Collins Stoddard for the usual reasons.


Originally, plans called for Jason/Walt to be introduced fairly early in the show. The Laura/Phoenix arc isn’t mentioned, instead allowing the various plot devises to revolve around the central mystery of Victoria’s lineage. And that mystery was actually intended to be solved during the first year … more or less.

As you already know, Victoria was dropped off at a “foundling home” as an infant, along with a note identifying her by name. She was given the last name “Winters” in honor of the season in which she was abandoned (though just barely, since the bible lists her date of abandonment as early March.) The show's plans called for her eventually find love letters from Paul Stoddard to Liz, with his handwriting matching that of her note. Walt/Jason admits to Victoria that Paul Stoddard claimed to be her father … and then provides the writers with an "out" by further elaborating that Paul was a known liar. The floor of the locked basement is excavated by local authorities in hopes of finding Paul’s corpse, but they find nothing but dirt. Walt/Jason further confesses that Paul survived Liz’s attack, but hasn't been seen for more than a decade.

These many differences aside, it’s hard to imagine where the show might have next gone had they stuck to the outline as presented in SHADOWS ON THE WALL. Sure, we still don’t know who Victoria’s mother is (and we’re not given much reason to care), and the bible leave us with the promise that Paul Stoddard will soon return to "Collins House" to generate more drama. But, without the show’s central mystery of Victoria’s parentage -- not to mention the absence of Barnabas Collins -- it seems to me that DARK SHADOWS was almost doomed to becoming another faceless daytime drama. Fortunately, the production team behind DARK SHADOWS knew how to tell their strengths from their weaknesses and was unafraid of trying new things.

NOTE: SHADOWS ON THE WALL is notoriously difficult to find (I dare you to see how much it’s selling for on Amazon) but it’s worth seeking out.

THANK GOD IT'S FRID-DAY: "The Lid’s Off Barnabas Collins," 1971



The Lid’s Off Barnabas Collins
By Chris Cushing, Startime, May, 1971

Jonathan Frid, who as super-star vampire Barnabas Collins on ABC’s “Dark Shadows,” may give us some of his victims a sharp pain in the next. Yet to his millions of disciples he’s the answer to their wild bat-tle cry. Off screen and on tour with his wolf’s head cane, black cape, fangs and weird ring, Frid draws bigger crowds that politicians making similar appearances. Teenagers rush up to kiss his ring, while others carry signs promoting him for the White House. He has already been there as a guest of the Nixons.

All over the country, fan clubs sprout up for him by and hundreds of letters a week flood his offices. Despite all of this adulation, Frid eschews things monstrous and macabre. Strange doings for an actor who so realistically delineates a toothsome terror whose malevolent magnetism attracts followers from ghost to ghost.

“I’m not putting the bite on Barnabas,” Jonathan hastens to explain. “I enjoy the role, but I’ve been afraid of starting a cycle which would type me as a horror actor. I don’t want to be put in the same casting registers with Lugosi or Christopher Lee who succeeded him as Dracula. My Barnabas is a being with human emotions, not a monster.”

“Some reporters ask if I began ‘Dark Shadows’ as a copy of Dracula,” Frid shows signs of a smile spreading over his good-matured, ruggedly handsome face. “Nothing could be further from the truth. You see, I’d never seen Lugosi’s characterization until the serial was well under way. I’ll admit I was fascinated by Bela’s performance. It was like a ballet. Yet his vampire was a bloodless,e vil, passionless monster. Death marked his white face and full, red lips.”

Warming up to his subject, Frid pointed out that his writers have given full life to Barnabas.

“He was a human being more like Mr. Hyde with a lust for blood,” he explained. “Lugosi played his character in a monotone, without range, just a cold-blooded neck biter.”
Some psychologist analyze women’s romantic Barnabas fixation with the thought that he is portrayed as a solitary, bedeviled man who seeks the next of young ladies only when his uncontrollable urge for blood drives him to it.

“Barnabas feels remorseful about it later,” Frid explains. “He has a wicked dilemma. He needs blood. Afterward, like an addict he’s ashamed but simply can’t help himself.

“Remember Lugosi’s Dracula wasn’t particular about where the blood came from. Barnabas leans toward women which makes him a romantic character.”

A character actor, not a horror actor, is the way Jonathan sees his portrayal.

“I don’t think of myself as the mad scientist type,” he says, peering over his spectacles.

Though the actor recently scored in the  movie version of “Dark Shadows” recreating his television role, he adds, “Please, oh please, don’t suggest me for ‘The Mummy’ of “Phantom of the Opera’ or not another ‘Frankenstein.’”

Frid in CORIOLANUS.
Playing villains is not altogether a new experience for the performer.

“Shakespearean theatre was my bag before television,” Frid explains. “I’ve been the heavy in so many Shakespeare supper festivals that even today I own my allegiance to the House of York.”

Jonathan’s anti-hero of all time is Richard the Third.

“He’s a study in hate,” Frid explains. “And I can exude all villainy required by this monster part in this monster-of-sorts role whose direction and thinking motivates hate.”

The ABC star, who shows great concern about being horror-cast, was heartened to learn that Boris Karloff had also appeared in other than weird movies.

“My only experience in viewing Karloff was the grotesque make-up or lunatic professor parts,” Frid recalled. “I was greatly encouraged that he also appear in such films as ‘House of Rothschild,’ ‘The Unconquered,’ ‘Tap Roots,’ ‘Devil’s Island’ and a variety of westerns, crime melodramas and oriental settings. He was also Capt. Hook in ‘Peter Pan’ on Broadway.

“I also think Lon Chaney’s best performance was not in any monster role, but in ‘Of Mice and Men.’”

Frid’s reading tastes are directed more to current news stories rather than fiction.

“I used to read Poe and the classics when I had more time,” he admits, “but now I stick to newspapers. Maybe I’m too much of a realist, but if you want to show me a ghost make it at noon on Times Square.”

Jonathan takes great pride at being an actor when such luminaries as Sir Laurence Olivier, Katharine Hepburn and Charles Laughton have all shared the same profession.

Frid and  Katharine Hepburn in Much Ado About Nothing.
“My favorites. Katharine Hepburn was the star and I had a featured rolein Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and ‘The Merchant of Venice.’ She’s bright, dynamic and conscientious.”

Jonathan cites Charles Laughton as the greatest interpreter of George Bernard Shaw.

“Laughton was a giant in such epics as ‘Major Barbara’ and ‘Cesar and Cleopatra,’” he says. “Laughton was unbeatable when he came to grips with Shaw’s climactic dialogue, playing cute in the beginning, then thundering with his lines at the end. Superb! He was also great in ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame.’”

Sir Laurence Olivier is another of Frid’s favorites. A fine actor in memorable roles such as “Richard II,” “Henry V” and “The Entertainer.”

Unlike his cinematic confreres in celluloid scariness, Jonathan’s likeness on trading cards, game boards and comic and paperback books as well as recordings have not be limited to sales in a specific market. Sales reports indicate that it’s more than just the horror fan who is buying the merchandise.

The wide attention Frid gets sometimes awes him. During one personal appearance out of town, people grabbed at him when he was handing out photos. He was embarrassed recently when on the show he inadvertently places his ring on a different finger and received a stack of mail asking why.

“I do wish that the viewers would distinguish between my on-screen and off-screen personalities.”

His private live seems unruffled next to his hectic life with the Collins’ family.

“I go home at night and work two or three hours on the script, and get up at six-thirty or seven and work for an hour over breakfast before going to the studio. At the studio I work on the script all day long when I’m not rehearsing. I’m so busy I barely have time to pick up my laundry.”

In almost four years, Jonathan Frid has established himself as one of the stalwart actors on the dramatic scene today.

And he has earned the reputation as the only actor who put so much new blood into daytime television.

(NOTE: These clippings are courtesy of Elena Nacanther, who is part of an effort to get Jonathan Frid nominated to Canada's Walk of Fame, a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization that recognizes Canadians who have excelled in music, sports, film, television, and other artistic endeavors. You can find the NOMINATE JONATHAN FRID TO CANADA'S WALK OF FAME Facebook page by clicking here. Please pay them a visit. You can see more selections from Elena's scrapbook each Friday here at the Collinsport Historical Society.)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Netflix to lose DARK SHADOWS in new year

UPDATE: As scheduled, DARK SHADOWS disappeared from Netflix's streaming service today. The uproar over this change seems a little disproportionate to the number of episodes that had been available. Gone from the streaming service are 160 episodes, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the entire 1,200+ run that comprise DARK SHADOWS. Hardcore fans of the series are probably shrugging their shoulders about the online controversy surrounding the change, especially for a series that's not exactly difficult to find through other avenues.

That's not to suggest there weren't benefits to having Barnabas Collins streaming on Netflix. The relatively small number of DARK SHADOWS episodes that had been available provided an easy hook for new viewers that might otherwise have been intimidated by the show's mammoth archive. It's presence on Netflix created one of the biggest and best avenues for attracting new viewers. There's been buzz around the web during the last few months about DARK SHADOWS re-runs surfacing on a boutique TV network that specializes in nostalgia programming, but that would be a huge step backwards in maintaining the show's cultural relevance. At least, in my opinion.

In the meantime, the first 200 episodes of DARK SHADOWS are still available on Hulu.

******************************


Pay careful attention to the details in Netflix's listing for DARK SHADOWS and you'll see the show is slated to drop out of rotation come Jan. 1, 2014.

What does this mean? Netflix will lose the four collection of episodes presently streaming online. While it's possible these collections, which contain 160 episodes lifted from the first four DVD sets, are being scuttled to make room for an expansion (or, heaven forbid, the complete box set), that's a pretty unlikely scenario. News stories are circulating about Netflix's changing roster in 2014, but none of them mention adding episodes.

Nobody involved with the negotiation has said a word about the program's status on Netflix, nor do I expect them to. There's probably not much to say: If Netflix loses DARK SHADOWS for the duration of 2014 or longer, it will be because the invested parties couldn't come to a mutually beneficial arrangement.

In the meantime, Hulu still has 200 episodes of DARK SHADOWS streaming online.  There's been no word whether THAT will change in 2014.

(Thanks to Will McKinley for the tip.)
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