Monday, August 31, 2015

Ghost conjures the spirit of Lucio Fulci for new video


I don't write much about music here, which stands in stark contrast to how I generally behave outside of the matrix. Remember that post about Grayson Hall's appearance in a radio spot for Blue Oyster Cult? Imagine that stretched out over 20 years as a piece of performance art and you'll get an idea of what it's like to be in my proximity.

Which brings me to the following: a new music video by Ghost. It's a tune titled "Cirice" from their latest album MELIORA. I'm a little bit on the fence about this band, which mixes treble-friendly '80s metal, '70s-era Goblin/John Carpenter and a heaping, helping serving of bullshit Satanism. It's got all the elements I need to fall in love, but there's something a little ... unfinished about their concept. While I dig the band, don't expect to see me sporting their logo as a tattoo.

"Cirice" is a pretty good representation of the band's sound. Even if it's not your cup o'tea, though, you'll probably still get a kick out of the video. It looks like the kind of think that might have resulted from a Lucio Fulci/Ozzy Osbourne collaboration. You can watch it below.

The lesson of Wes Craven

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, 1984.

Wes Craven was never as talented as his peers. It was rare that his name was ever uttered in the same breath as guys like John Carpenter, George Romero or David Cronenberg. During the years that those guys were making their best work, Craven was cranking out forgettable fare like SWAMP THING and DEADLY BLESSING. For a while, it was understood by horror fans that THE HILLS HAVE EYES was probably a fluke. It wasn't until 1984 that he'd make another film that captured the imagination of the public; A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.

And, even then, his winning streak would be abbreviated. He balked at the idea of returning to the misadventures of Freddy Krueger, instead bouncing between television fare (including the spectacular episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE revival, "Shatterday" and "Wordplay") and utter shit like DEADLY FRIEND. He never rested long between projects, always moving forward to either capitalize on his successes, or working to get a new film on the market to make us forget his most recent misstep.

But a funny think happened along the way: Craven's more-talented peers gradually lost their touch. Craven not only knew how to learn from his mistakes, but he was smart enough to recognize that you can't clone success with a sequel. His experience with THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART II is almost certainly the reason he shied away from directing an ELM STREET sequel for two decades ... and even then that film's sequel status is mostly honorary.

In 1996 Craven made his masterpiece, SCREAM. That same year his more-talented peers — at least, the ones who were still capable of getting a motion picture into production — were making some truly regrettable movies. Craven had managed to "reinvent" himself by the virtue of persistence. He was still making the kind of movies he'd always made, only they were more polished, professional and Wes Craven-y than ever. He'd found mainstream acceptance as a filmmaker at the age of 57.

For any other director, his next few creative choices would have been shocking. A guy who hated sequels made three more SCREAM movies (each a pointed criticism about the inherent lameness of sequels), the psychological thriller RED EYE and MUSIC OF THE HEART. A man who once paid the bills making pornography was now directing Meryl Steep.

It's no coincidence that Craven is remembered primarily for his successes. This was a guy who refused to let his image be painted by any one film, regardless of how great or terrible it might have been. He was a filmmaker who always put story ahead of anything else and knew how to experiment without being self indulgent. That's the lesson we should all take away from the life and career of Wes Craven.

WALLACE McBRIDE is the editor of The Collinsport Historical Society.  

Saturday, August 29, 2015

KANYE WEST: REANIMATOR is not the weirdest book on Amazon



It's been said that the Gutenberg Press democratized writing, and that print-on-demand technology has done the same for publishing. Keep in mind that democracy have given us Donald Trump as a presidential candidate, while the other holds some degree of accountability for FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. I'll let you decide which one is better.

For those of you who thought PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES was the pinnacle/nadir of western literature, it was quickly followed by LITTLE WOMEN AND WEREWOLVES, a book with even less reason to exist. But neither of them have a shot for the title of "Strangest Book on Amazon." I spent some a few minutes exploring the darkest corners of Kindle Direct Publishing and have returned with these gems. And also a weird rash.

KANYE WEST: REANIMATOR
Of Kanye West, who was my friend in college and after he dropped out, I can speak only with extreme sadness... So begins this epic cautionary tale of ambition and hubris. A bizarre mix of Lovecraft and hip-hop history, Kanye West—Reanimator reimagines the classic story "Herbert West—Reanimator" with everyone's favorite petulant genius cast in the titular role. In it, Kanye West attempts to reanimate a moribund hip-hop scene, only to come to the conclusion that his music is so powerful, it should be used to reanimate the dead. And who better to reanimate than those two legendary titans gone before their time—Biggie and Tupac? Hilarity and carnage ensue. LINK


TAKEN BY THE LIZARD MAN
The Lizard-Man is a legendary creature said to be found in the rural swamps of South Carolina. He's a cryptid who has scales, and he has claws, and he has... me! See what happens when a city girl ends up with a flat tire in the wrong part of the swamp! The Lizard-Man won't be satisfied with anything but my total capitulation and he won't take no for answer. And believe you me, I was surprised at what he had to offer! Will I submit to the beast? Read to find out! LINK




BOOTY CALL OF CTHULHU
Joanne Lagrasse is a newly graduated college student living the life. Well, if the life is sitting in your apartment all day trying to research monsters for a novel. The strange book her favorite professor gave her is full of ramblings by what must be a mad man, which makes for uneasy reading and a loner lifestyle. She pushes herself to go out to the beach, though she takes the tome with her. When she decides to ignore her professor's warning and reads a chant out loud, she finds herself faced with a giant monster and its lewd tentacles, each one eager to fill her holes. LINK



CORD'S FRANKENSTEIN LOVER 
Living next door to a “mad scientist” seems spooky enough till Cord discovers a “man-made man”—a Frankenstein-type creation—in Doctor Moroney’s basement while the doctor is out of town. Moroney has pre-programmed his creation to want sex and be well endowed for it…and the monster wants Cord as his mate! LINK

Friday, August 28, 2015

Speaking of werewolves ...


Phil Nichols had a question:
"Do you know off hand if any of the dramas deal with a werewolf plot line?"
My answer got into spoilery territory, but yes, several of the DARK SHADOWS audio dramas from Big Finish deal with the legacy of Quentin Collins' curse. And then our e-mail conversation took a turn for the amazing.

Known online as "The Fiendish Dr. Phil," Nichols is an artist who has worked with the legendary Dick Smith, who passed away earlier this year. Among Smith's many accomplishments are the "old vampire" make-up effects used in the DARK SHADOWS television series and feature film, HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. Nichols was also mentored by sculptor Henry Alvarez of Alvarez Wax Productions, who worked on such films as John Carpenter's THE THING, ROBOCOP and PREDATOR. The guy had some legendary teachers.

Nichols sent me a few photos of a mask he made of the "Collinsport Werewolf," as played by stuntman Alex Stevens on the television series.

The mask was so realistic that I wasn't entirely sure there wasn't a human being underneath it.


And Nichols has been super busy. With the upcoming 50th anniversary of both DARK SHADOWS and the classic BATMAN television series, he's been working on masks for many of those programs' leading characters. He plans to have the final pieces on display at Comicpalooza next year in Houston, Texas.

Here's his process:

"I sculpt in non sulfur plasticine," he said. "I use mainly Klean Klay which is the modeling clay we all had as kids in school in the 1960’s. Once the piece is sculpted and that takes about three to four weeks to get the likeness and detail right it is sealed with an acrylic spray and a spray wax."

After that, the sculpt is used to make a mold.

"I take the mold as a two-part mold using U.S. Gypsum Moulding Plaster," he said. "Once the mold is done it’s allowed to set undisturbed and dry out for a week to cure up really well. Once the mold is cured I strap it and seal the seam with water based clay then wrap it in plastic to prevent any leakage. Mask Making latex is poured in and allowed to sit over night for about 12 hours in the mold."


"This makes a very thick casting," Nichols said. "The the latex is drained out and the mold is allowed to dry out completely, usually taking four days or so to get dry enough to de-mold. When it’s dry enough I de-mold the piece then trim it and out out the eyes and mouth if it’s to have glass eyes and acrylic teeth."

He dries the mask the old-fashioned way: by hanging it on a clothesline ... which must freak out his neighbors.

"Once it is totally dry it is seamed using a moto tool," he said. "Once it’s seamed it’s based coated with latex paint in the appropriate color. I do at least 3 coats of base color."

Next, the glass eyes and teeth are inserted and sealed. Flexible polyurethane foam is used to fill the piece and  make it suitable for display.

"Once it’s all foamed up I finish the paint job with airbrush contours and layers of washes of color to make it look good," he said. "Then the hair goes on wigs for some hand laid hair for others. I usually hand mix the hair when I paste it on so it looks realistic."

You can find Phil Nichols online at www.fiendishdrphil.com.

See more photos at BLOOD DRIVE.

Phil Nichols and some of his creations.

Monster Serial: DAN CURTIS' DRACULA


By PATRICK McCRAY

"You know what keeps me coming back?  The air.  Smell that?  Just like lemons.  This is real air.  Nature’s air.”  

Those were not the words I was expecting to hear from the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the misunderstood title character from Jack Arnold’s smear campaign.  I resisted mentioning fish out of water. He was bitter about the film at one time.  But now...?

That smile of his says everything. It’s a real smile. Nature’s smile.

“Come in. Patrick, right?  Can I get you some tea?”

Herb Gillman, during his Hollywood years.
Herb Gillman, DDS (retired), extends a webbed hand and welcomes me to Tao House, Eugene O’Neill’s home in Danville, California, which he’s recently restored with the help of Roger Davis.

“I’ll open it back up to the public in a bit.  But for now?  It’s my little slice of Zen.”

The green tea is hot.  I know I’ll have to enjoy it while the air is still chill, before the California sun begins to slow roast all of us.  I’m intrigued by Herb’s remark about Zen.  Not exactly Tao.

“Zen, Tao, Scientology.  It’s all connected and connections.  But I don’t know from religions, kid.  I’m just a cranky old dentist who made it big.  I’d trade it all for beautiful sunset and a beautiful woman who flossed.”

“So, you’re not dating now?”

“Oh, I’m never not dating.  But a man reaches a certain age, and his priorities change.  It’s not like it was.  But it never was like it was.”

He hisses wistfully and glances at a painting of a beguiling woman with decadent, bee-stung lips and endless eyes.  He looks down at his cup.

“Pretty,” I remark.

“One of mine.”

“The model or the art?”

“Yes to both and no to both.”

A cat rubs its nose against the trousers of Herb’s white, linen suit.  He smiles.  I know that I can push the issue.

“Seriously, who was she?”

“Fiona Lewis.”

“Oh, the actress!  She’s great. I loved her in THE FURY and LISTZOMANIA and INNERSPACE.  She’s like Diana Rigg with fizz.”

“Fizz,” Herb chuckles. “I like that that.  I’ll tell her you said that.  Fiona, not Diana.”

Fizz!
“She’s English. Just friends?”

“Very much. There was a time when it was more and there was a time when it was a lot, lot less.”
“How’d you meet?”

“Golfing buddy of mine was shooting a movie of the week of DRACULA.  He asked me to come along as ‘technical advisor.’ That’s code for ‘Jack Palance’s dialect coach.’”

“This was the Dan Curtis version... 1974?”

“Well, it was supposed to be ‘73, but Nixon preempted the whole thing for Angew’s resignation. You know, if you rearrange the letters in Spiro Agnew’s name, you get ‘grow a penis’?  Emmis. Where was I?”

“I have no idea.”

Jack Palance as Dracula.
“DRACULA for Dan Curtis. Yeah, you know, Dracula was always the best out of all of us at Universal.”

“Really?”

“Look at the competition. I don’t even count.  This Creature is a victim of circumstance.”

He’d slipped into a dead on impression of Curley Howard for the last part.

“That was good.  Okay, the rest of your Universal rat pack?”

Herb counts off on his claws.

“What’s the Mummy’s story again? Who cares?  It’s basically Dracula’s. Frankenstein’s Monster is the Red Skelton of the lot ... a sad clown trawling for sympathy. I can do that myself.  And the Wolfman? Oatmeal north of the eyebrows. He’s just a weird animal or something.  When he’s a man, he just talks about wanting to be dead.  What kind of character is that?”

“Point taken,” I say.  Herb’s on a roll.

“So, that leaves Dracula.  He can think.  He can plan.  He knows what he’s doing.  Best character, and they have yet to give him a really good movie.”

“Those are bold words.”

“Yeah, well, I’m too old for anything else.  See, the book’s the problem.  All of these letters and things.  And Vlad’s totally unmotivated to move to Carfax Abbey.  The best stuff is in the beginning.  I could go on, but Vlad gets the shaft.  Dick Matheson did the best he could, adapting it for Dan Curtis.”

“So, how did it break down?”


“Well, you got Jack Palance as Dracula.  Inspired casting.  And they almost never let him talk after the first reel.  When he has a conversation with Nigel Davenport’s Van Helsing, it makes you realize what a sister act we all missed out on with those two.  Palance went Method.  Savage, feral performance.  He went there.  I mean, he wasn’t sleeping in a coffin, but he got into the part.  Very intense.  And if there was one guy who didn’t need to get more intense off-camera, it was Palance. That explains the walking.”

“The what?”  Herb’s got me.

“Walking.  Dracula’s always walking in the picture.  It’s like he spends half the movie walking.  I would have liked some more action, but it calmed Palance down. Between us, I think Dan was just filming it on a golf course. And then he did some day-for-night to disguise it all. But what do I know?”

“Does it follow the book?  Maybe Dracula walks a lot in the book....”

“What is he?  Dr. Detroit?  No, he walks in this version more than he does anything else.  Or he uses dogs.  Lotta dogs in the movie.  Scary as hell.  I hate dogs.  Dan?  Loved ‘em.  He’d yell, ‘It’s not spooky enough!  I want more dogs, goddammit!’ And he got them.

Jonathan Frid in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, 1970.
“As for the rest of the book, again, what’s to follow?  There’s no there, there.  So, Dan did what he does best: adapt! This time, from himself.  It’s just HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS all over again.  Babe — this time, Fiona Lewis instead of Nancy Barrett —in the catacombs.  Same camera angles for staking.  A music box.  And the whole maghilla with the vampire being motivated by a reincarnation of a lost love.”

“That was Dan Curtis?”

“Well, it sure as hell wasn’t Stoker.  Nah, Dan invented that with Barnabas Collins.  And every vampire story after it just ripped it off.  With his version of DRACULA, at least he’s refining his own source material.”

“So, it has highlights?”

“Tons.  The sets were all very modern.  You know, Dracula’s a regular guy.  Why would he be wandering around in a dump like we see him in every other movie when he could be in a palace.  And that’s what we found.  Great art design because it really was authentic, 1897 decadence.  And such great acting.  Simon Ward.  I thought he was great as Buckingham in Dick Lester’s MUSKETEERS movies....”

“Not to mention, Supergirl’s dad,” I say, jumping in.

“You beat me to the punch.  He’s great in SUPERGIRL.  Most authentic Kryptonian dialect ever. Better than Sarah Douglas’ accent, and she’s also in the movie as one of Dracula’s brides. Sheesh. Don’t leave home without her.  But back to Simon. In DRACULA, he nails it as Arthur Holmwood, who’s just a bunch of those suitors from the book rolled into one guy.

Sarah Douglas, kicking Superman's ass in 1980.
“And I gotta be fair, kid.  It’s as good as an adaptation of that book can get.  The source material is the classic glass ceiling, keeping the bat on the ground.  Dan’s work on DARK SHADOWS was the biggest favor that Dracula ever got.  He kinda went full circle with the whole vampire mythos jazz.  You know?”

I smile.  What else could you say?

“Paddy, me lad, I have no idea what we were supposed to talk about.  But,” he checks his watch and stands, “I am about to be late for rehearsal.”

“You’re back in the game?”

“Never left it. LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT. James Tyrone, at last!  God bless the Pasadena Playhouse for letting this cranky old fish stick on the boards.  We open in three weeks.  How do they expect me to remember all of those lines in that time?  Crazy.”

“It’s a crazy business.”

He laughs.

“Ain’t it, though?  But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

We part as warm friends.

It was only later that I remember.  LONG DAY’S JOURNEY was written by Eugene O’Neill.  In whose home we’d spent the morning.

“It’s all connected and connections,” Herb had said.

Emmis.

Patrick McCray is a comic book author residing in Knoxville, Tenn., where he's been a drama coach and general nuisance since 1997. He has a MFA in Directing and worked at Revolutionary Comics and on the early days of BABYLON 5, and is a frequent contributor to The Collinsport Historical Society. You can find him at The Collins Foundation.

THE X-FILES is crazy cheap today on Amazon


If I was a cynical man, I'd speculate that Amazon's "Deal of the Day" might be a herald that the entire run of THE X-FILES will be arriving soon on Blu-ray. All nine seasons of the series are now streaming on Netflix in 1080p, but so far the only way to purchase the series on home video is in standard-def DVD collections.

This episode is sadly not included.
I can guarantee you that Fox didn't invest in remastering THE X-FILES as a favor to Netflix. While I haven't heard about any release dates for Blu-ray versions of the series, it's just a matter of time before they hit stores ... probably around the time the new season arrives in early 2016.

Today, though, you can get all nine seasons (plus the two feature films) of THE X-FILES for just $74.99. Counting the movies, that breaks down to about 37 cents an episode. Which is ridiculous to think about, considering I just spent $2 on a bottle of diet soda at a gas station this morning.

Via: Amazon

Thursday, August 27, 2015

DARK SHADOWS: THE BEGINNING hits Amazon Instant Video


UPDATE: I'm bumping this back to the top because the first 208 episodes of DARK SHADOWS: THE BEGINNING are now available on Amazon Instant Video. Strangely, the first "season" of the DARK SHADOWS picks up with episode 210 ... meaning Episode 209 is missing in action.



MPI Home Video has always had an interesting perspective on the early episodes of DARK SHADOWS. The show was on the air almost a year before the introduction of vampire Barnabas Collins, but those early episodes were never repeated on television until the Sci-Fi Channel began to broadcast the show in the 1992. On home video, these episodes are almost marketed as a different series, sold as subset videotapes and DVDs titled DARK SHADOWS: THE BEGINNING. The company's disinterest in the early episodes is extended to how it handles online piracy: Complete episodes from the show's prime are usually taken down quickly from YouTube, yet the first 200 episodes have been streaming (illegally) there for years.

Now, it appears that DARK SHADOWS: THE BEGINNING has been added to Amazon Instant Video. Exactly when this happened is anybody's guess. Amazon has it slated as a "recent" release and, judging by the other products around it, these episodes look to have been added within the last few weeks.


So far, the pickings are slim. The "Beginning" catalog represents the first 35 episodes, none of which have received any customer reviews. I love these episodes and maintain that they're essential in understanding the rest of the series, but the business model for including DARK SHADOWS on Amazon Instant Video seems a little ... faulty. I'm delighted they're available, but at $1.99 multiplied 1,224* times, it's just cost prohibitive. The DARK SHADOWS: THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL SERIES DVD collection routinely sells for about $350, but buying the series on an episode-by-episode basis from Amazon will run you more than $2,400. Yes, there are "season" packages available, but those are still more expensive than any of the individual DVD sets.

(* The first episode is FREE.)

Via: Amazon

Was Vampira the model for Disney's Maleficent? Probably.

Maila Nurmi (aka Vampira) and her cat, Ratface, in 1956.
Back in 2014, R.H. Greene wrote a compelling argument in support of the rumor that Maila Nurmi (aka "Vampira") served as a model for the character of "Maleficent" in Disney's SLEEPING BEAUTY. It's one of those legends that we'd all love to believe, but always seemed too good to be true.

And Greene's evidence is pretty compelling. Nurmi's datebook suggests the actress knew something about the inner workings of Walt Disney Studios in 1956, specifically the name of SLEEPING BEAUTY's casting director. Sadly, Disney's secretive corporate habits mean that there's no records of Nurmi serving as a model for arguably its greatest villain.

And then there's the sticky problem of how Nurmi's datebook identifies another film she worked on that year: GRAVE ROBBERS FROM OUTER SPACE. The traditional history of that film, shot in Novemeber, 1956, says that the film was re-titled as PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE well after production ... but Nurmi mentions taking part in the production that month of a movie she slugs as "OUTER SPACE PLAN 9."


Green said there's a possibility that Nurmi, who had a habit of using a pencil to make revisions to her datebook, might have later altered the title of the film.

"I saw no evidence of erasures in any of the entries that were turned over to me but that doesn't mean a look at the physical documents might not reveal more about them," Greene said during a discussion about this discrepancy at the Classic Horror Film Board. "I mentioned erasures because it's a standard practice for datebook dedicatees to pencil in future events in case they have to be changed, and I saw evidence of this dual entry practice in Maila's entries (though nothing looked to have been erased as indeed all the bookings I saw came to pass)."

Just because this evidence might have been altered does not make it more credible, in my opinion. Greene said he shared photos of Nurmi's datebook with Salon as part of his 2014 story, but the magazine opted to publish a text transcript rather than scans of the pages. And what happened shortly after her work on PLAN 9 might lend more credibility to the SLEEPING BEAUTY legend, should those pages in her datebook ever be shared.

Maleficent in Disney's SLEEPING BEAUTY.
The Medford Mail Tribune: Dec. 23, 1956.
1956 was a not entirely pleasant year for Nurmi. In January that year she was the victim of sexual assault, something that newspapers at the time seemed to thing was funny. An asshole named Ellis Barber (aka "The Vamp") broke into her home and assaulted her for two hours, leading to "witty" headlines like "The Vamp Rips Off Clothes of Vampira." The year came to an end with a fire at her apartment near Christmas that caused superficial burns to her arms and hands.

You can see a photo at the top of this post of a bandaged Nurmi and her cat Ratface, who she credited with waking her during the fire. And here's where things get interesting.

The following week, a syndicated news account of the fire began to hit newspapers. These kinds of stories are generally considered filler by editors and are trimmed to fit "holes" on newspages. Some of these stories are trimmed more than others, but at least one version of the story mentioned that Nurmi was playing "a witch" in Disney's SLEEPING BEAUTY (see right). This information almost certainly came from Nurmi, whose datebook mentioned meetings with the studio the previous month.

Even better, SLEEPING BEAUTY wasn't released until three years later in 1959. If Nurmi was lying, why pick an unfinished, unreleased animated feature?

It appears that Nurmi was not among the fans of Maleficent's design, though. Her niece, Sandra Niemi, told Greene that she saw sketches made by her aunt that revised the character's iconic headdress.

“I was told Maila found work on a movie for Walt Disney,” Niemi said. “Then a letter came with a full sized sheet of drawings in pencil that Maila had made with what I know now to be Maleficent’s head, only Maila drew huge cat ears.”

Via: Salon 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Podcast: Creating this year's DARK SHADOWS tales



Will Howells chats with fellow Big Finish writers Roy Gill and Rob Morris about DARK SHADOWS, this year's audio dramas PANIC and THE CURSE OF SHURAFA, the late director Lela Swift, Dorian Gray, Edinburgh, the Dark Shadows Every Day blog and, of course, bacon. (You'll also get a teaser for the upcoming audio drama AND RED ALL OVER, which reunites Kathryn Leigh Scott and Mitchell Ryan!)

If you’re in Edinburgh this Wednesday you can see Roy Gill talking with Paul Magrs about writing as part of the Edinburgh Festival.

Listen to the episode streaming above, or download it as an MP3 by clicking HERE.

And subscribe to THE COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY podcast on iTunes for free by clicking HERE!   

Metallica guitarist loans monstrous collection to SFO Museum


By day, Kirk Hammett is the lead guitarist for Metallica. By night (or whenever the hell he feels like it, I guess) he's also a world class collector of horror memorabilia. Among the items in his collection are Bela Lugosi’s annotated screenplay for DRACULA, monster kid-era model kits from the 1960s, paintings by Basil Gogos and Frank Frazetta, screen-worn costumes from Universal's classic monster movies ... well, you get the idea. He owns a lot of cool shit.

In 2012, Hammett chronicled his life as a collector in the fully illustrated book TOO MUCH HORROR BUSINESS. If you're passing through San Francisco International Airport this year, though, you'll have the opportunity to view some of these rare collectibles yourself. Hammett has loaned dozens of items to the SFO Museum, which has them on display now at the Terminal 2 gallery. The collection went on display in May and will continue to frighten travelers until Dec. 6 this year.



Via: www.flysfo.com

Famous Monsters sounds the death knell for DARK SHADOWS


(Note: I've got mixed feelings about sharing this feature. The text of this article is not among Famous Monsters' best ... given the magazine's proud tradition of purple prose, that's saying a lot. A few years earlier, Famous Monsters showcased DARK SHADOWS with interviews and lengthy photo series, but NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS received a fairly mundane summary and a selection of badly cropped photos. After sharing the magazine's other features on DARK SHADOWS, I felt obliged to include this one, which only gets interesting during its final paragraphs. 

If this issue is evidence of anything, it's that the death knell of DARK SHADOWS had been heard by everyone by the time this magazine hit the racks in 1971. Even the ever cheery cheerleader that was Famous Monsters couldn't muster the enthusiasm to pretend another film or television was on the way. While the magazine's story about NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS is forgettable, the show's obituary at the end is heartfelt.)


GOTHIC GHOSTS STRIKE AGAIN IN 
NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS 

Wouldn't you be scared out of your skin if you came upon your own skeleton from a previous life? Well, that's the predicament that Quentin is in as he discovers the mortal remains of himself when, in a past existence, he was known as Charles Collins.

THE CURSE OF COLLINWOOD

Imagine a great old decaying dark house, a survivor from the 19th century, where you might expect to be served a meal by a butler resembling Boris Karloff.

Walk down the dimly-lit gallery, where the ghost of Ann Radcliffe might materialize from behind a great gray curtain.

You are there: in the macabre mansion known as — Collinwood.

And to Collinwood comes young artist Quentin Collins (David Selby), who has just inherited the vast estate. With him, his bride Tracy (Kate
Jackson).

The young pair are awestruck by the hugeness of the house and the lavishness of its furnishings.

On hand to acquaint the pair with their new home is Carlotta the housekeeper (Grayson Hall). Miss Drake has lived in Collinwood since childhood.

High in the upper reaches of the mansion is a tower room. The first night, Quentin is mesmerically drawn to the room. Inexplicably, the next morning he remembers nothing of his nocturnal adventure.
Tracy has her share of concern: at breakfast she is unnerved to observe sinister man staring at her from the grounds. Two large fierce dogs accompany the mysterious man. Carlotta calms her fears by explaining, “He’s Gerard (James Storm), my nephew. He's the caretaker of your estate."


Later,  when Quentin goes to inspect the stables, he meets the man Gerard. Gerard recommends a particular horse to Quentin as being a gentle beast but the recommendation turn out to be far from the truth; the animal proves to be quite wild.

While Quentin is mastering the horse, he suddenly has a strange vision of a funeral.
Stranger yet, the mourners are dressed in the style the early 19th century.

HAUNTING VISIONS
As Quentin’s queer vision fades, his horse bolts, almost galloping into a car driven by Claire Jenkins (Nancy Barrett), a woman who lives with her husband Alex (John Karlen) in a cottage on the estate. They are old friends Of the Collins family.

Quentin. undecided as to which room out of the many he should employ as his studio, asks the advice of Carlotta.

"Why not the tower?” she recommends.

"It's quiet, remote from activity, ideal for concentration.”

Everything Carlotta says is true, and yet … somehow the suggestion fills Quentin with a sense of sinister foreboding.

That night, almost like the somnambulist from Dr. Caligari’s cabinet, Quentin again ascends to the tower. It seems to exert some hypnotic influence over him. Yet the next morning he remembers nothing of the visit.

However, he has another vision. This time the hallucination takes to form of two brothers quarreling in the master bedroom of the estate: one brother if Charles, who resembles Quentin to a remarkable degree; the other, Gabriel (Christopher Pennock), Angelique’s husband.

As the days go by, Quentin is increasingly troubled by visions.

He discovers portraits of Angelique by Charles Collins — or is it imagination? — that he sees Angelique (Lara Parker) being dragged from the tower room by her angry husband.


WHEN DAYDREAMS TURN TO NIGHTMARES …
Quentin continues his nocturnal visits to the strange tower room, which draws him more & more like magnet, like a helpless fly to a spider’s net. And something new has been added: someone awaits him there — the ghost of Angelique! And Angelque is very amorous.

Gerard becomes mad with jealousy and one night attacks Quentin while he is in his trance-like state in the tower. Tracy awakens intervenes; her husband, still mentally in the past, still tries to kill her!

Quentin later remembers nothing of his savage attack on his own wife. He becomes more & more preoccupied with what he calls his “daydreams.”

HORROR HISTORY OF THE HOUSE OF MYSTERY 
Carlotta claims to be a reincarnation of the daughter the housekeeper who looked after Collinwood in previous life. From knowledge remembered from her past existence she tells Quentin a terrible truth:
“Angelique Collins was hanged as a witch!"

Anil more: "And you, Quentin Collins, are the reincarnation of Angelique's lover, Charles!”
"No, no! I can't believe it! I won't! cries Quentin.

But slowly, surely, insidiously, Charles’ personality takes over Quentin.

Next, Claire & Alex are attacked in their own cottage. Not by a human, flesh-&-blood prowler, but by — "A ghostly phenomenon!” They warn the young couple: “A upernatural danger threatens us all!”

And that same night Quentin tries to drown his own beloved wife when, under the influence of Angelique the witch, he is drawn to the old ruined swimming pool of the estate.

Terrified Tracy flees to the Jenkins’.

As usual Quentin remembers nothing of what happened during his hypnotic trance and is horrified when Carlotta tells him. She tells him something even more shocking: “Gerard has gone to kill your wife!”

Quentin arrives on the scene in time to see sudden death: his wife killing Gerard in self-defense.


HUMANS AGAINST HAUNTS 
Claire & Alex, Quentin & Tracy return to Collinwood. “It is clear what we must do now: exorcise the ghost of Angelique.”

But all evil spirits resist destruction and Tracy is trapped in cellar room and attacked by the wicked witch Angelique.

In the nick of time, Quentin & Alex save Tracy.

Then Angelique appear to Quentin. “I renounce you, evil spirit!” he cries. “You and the spirit of Charles. Begone!”

The spirit seems to fade (seems) and Carlotta, hysterical, jumps from the tower to her death.
Quentin his bride have had enough. They prepare to leave Collinwood with Claire & Alex Jenkins.
But — one last thing — Quentin returns to the room to get his paintings.

He should not have.


BEHIND THE DARK HOUSE
There’s the story behind this latest Dark Shadows film and this (can you take it?) is it:
June 1966.

The first episode of the first Gothic soap opera appears on ABC-TV.

It is called Dark Shadows and no one would then would have predicted how far these sinister shapes would creep.

The action (and there was plenty) took place in Collinwood, an ancient house in Maine. After several months of a plot featuring sinister, but natural, menace. A new element was added that really caused the ratings to soar:

The supernatural.

A vampire entered the corridors of Collinwood in the the darkly attractive form of Jonathan Frid.
And Dark Shadows settled into a supernatural groove that attracted a fantastically varied audience in the millions. Among the most faithful of the Dark Shadows fans (to this editor's certain knowledge): Fritz Lang. far-famed director of M. DR. MABUSE, THE WEARY DEATH, THE SECRET BEYOND THE DOOR and many other film classics.


THRU THE YEARS, INCREASING FEARS 
Character actress Grayson Han became the familiar figure of the lady doctor who a contracted a case of vampiritis— that is, she fell in love with Jonathan Frid.

Quentin Collins was a malevolent ghost from the past of the old house.

Lara Parker was the witch who brought men to their doom.

Chills & thrills were provided by the many plots of varying lengths, often (via "'parallel time") taking place in other centuries, Worlds of If where even more variations of the familiar characters were introduced.

For awhile there was a Frankensteinian element to the episodes; at another time, a, wolfman was featured.

Last year Dan Curtis produced the first full-length film version of the TV series and HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS was one of the big horror hits o the year. The 82nd issue of FM featured a 10-page filmbook on the movie.

Early in '71, Dark Shadows, after five frightening years, finally went the way of all flesh (?) and "died". Not since the discontinuance of Star Trek did fans set up such a howl of protest.


To satisfy frustrated D.S. fans holding their breath for more of their favorite phantoms, MGM (Macabre Ghost Movies) has now produced the sequel to the original. Production, appropriately enough, began with a funeral and a mausoleum. The Weatherman cooperated to produce cold & drizzly day so that the mourners had an authentically woebegone appearance.

The séance scene promises to be one of the most nearly authentic ever seen on the screen as it was supervised by a world-famous authority on psychic phenomenon. When the mediumistic sequence photographed in the dimly-lit gallery of Collinwood, several takes were spoiled by
raps.

Ghosts, rapping with one another?

Well, that about wraps it up,

What next — BENEATH THE PLANET OF SHADOWS?


Get JINXED for just 99 cents today!


The Kindle edition of Kathryn Leigh Scott's JINXED is available today from Amazon for just 99 cents. The book is a sequel to her 2013 novel, DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HEELS. Here's the official summary:
Back on the comeback trail, actress Meg Barnes, beloved for her role as amateur sleuth Jinx Fogarty in a renowned detective show, assumes she’ll star as Jinx in the revamped TV series, only to discover that a young ingénue has been cast instead. Meg swallows her pride for a paycheck to coach Chelsea Horne—until temperamental Chelsea goes missing before filming begins. Meg ignores the warnings from Jack, her FBI-agent boyfriend, not to do her “Jinx thing.” But when Jinx’s iconic top hat goes missing and someone from her past is murdered, it’s clear Meg’s life—and more—is in jeopardy.
Via: Amazon

Monday, August 24, 2015

Last call for THE VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION


You might have noticed something funny going on with the first volume of THE VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION. The Blu-ray collection, released less than a year ago by Scream! Factory, is no longer available from Amazon ... but is currently being sold by third party vendors for outrageous prices.

A few minutes ago, Scream! Factory announced the collection has been discontinued because of rights issues. "Unfortunately we have lost our rights to put the films included in that set in a multi-film collection. What this means is that our VP COLLECTION will soon be going into an out-of-print status," it was announced at the Facebook page for Scream Factory.

The films included in this collection are THE PIT & THE PENDULUM, THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, THE HAUNTED PALACE, THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES and WITCHFINDER GENERAL.

While the online prices for the collection are soaring, you can still get it directly from the distributor for the original sticker price of $59.99. If you snooze, you lose. UPDATE: THE VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION is now SOLD OUT.

Note: These rights issue apparently don't affect VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION VOLUME II.

Via: Facebook

Interview with the (Romantic) Vampire, 1970


(Here's that interview with Jonathan Frid that I mentioned last week. The story was published by a newspaper in Hartford, Conn., not far from some of the locations used in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. Included are a handful of photos that accompanied the story, plus a few images from HoDS to help break up the text. It's an interesting interview  not just because of Frid's frankness about his growing impatience with celebrity, but also because it of some rare commentary from his assistant, Nancy Brown.)

Romantic Vampire 
By Ruthanne Devlin, The Hartford Times
Aug. 9, 1970

Nine million jealous women would like to see Nancy Brown contract an incurable tropical disease, or be bitten by a death adder, or in some way simply disappear from the face of the earth.

Hard to believe?

Not when you know that Mrs. Brown, formerly of West Hartford, is personal secretary to Jonathan F rid, ABC television's famous romantic vampire and a bachelor whose fan mail and mash notes from teen-boppers and housewives once surpassed Steve McQueen's, and is still going strong.

In the two years since we last talked, Jonathan's acquired a measure of artistic stability, a new apartment on New York's East Side, and a new secretary, Nancy — who takes casually the whole madness of, her boss's fantastic popularity and his fans' envy of her.

Later, Jon would join us. For the moment, Nancy agreed to talk about him.

During the six months of her employ, she's had few reminders that Jonathan, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, endures the "curse of the undead" as Barnabas Collins on the daytime soaper "Dark Shadows" (telecast in Hartford at 4 p.m. Chs. 6, 7, 8 and 40).

"It’s odd, really. He's so normal! It's like he goes off to IBM every day," Nancy said. "He rarely talks shop and never acts like a vampire around here."

Occasionally, however, strange things happen.

Jonathan and secretary Nancy Brown go over fan mail.
"We were looking around in a store when this bunch of teen-age girls began pounding on the window and crying 'Barnabas, Barnabas!' They were so rowdy because of him, I forget when I'm with him how popular he is, because he isn't the egotistical, theatrical type."

Although born in Manchester, Nancy grew up in West Hartford where she lived until her exodus to New York City in 1962.

"I never had reason to go back to Manchester," she began, because my family had moved to Hartford and "Windsor, Now I've got a sister in West Hartford, a brother in Wethersfield, and my mother Mrs. Richard Kirschen and another sister living in Windsor.”

Neither "Dark Shadows" nor the name "Jonathan Frid" meant anything to her when a friend mentioned an actor-friend was looking for a secretary. Conveniently, Nancy was looking for a job. They went for a hamburger and she was introduced to Jonathan.

“In the beginning I actually gave the job away to a girl friend because the hours weren't right," Nancy recalled. "After a while, she took a cruise and I got the job back. Jon and I agreed on a one-month trial, things clicked, and I stayed. "


Operating out of his apartment, Nancy reads and clips articles about Jon, helps organize his phenomenal fan mail ("I pick it up in huge shopping bags"), plans and is hostess for his dinner parties, arranges interviews and prepares an occasional meal.

"I’m around simply to coordinate everybody else," she mused. "Jon's already got a lawyer, an accountant, a maid and an agent. But being at the studio all day, he doesn't have time for the other things. And," she added, “a man who isn't, married can get bogged down with all the trivia like grocery shopping."

Nancy considers Jon relatively unaffected and "terribly thoughtful." Ironically. She also sees these traits as his one great fault: He's too easygoing for his own good.

“I always had the idea from past experience that people get less nice as they get more famous, but not Jon, His acting to him is just a job.

“Maybe it's because he's been through a lot, but he often thinks about himself and what kind of person he is, Because of this, I don't think he demands enough of others, especially in this world where you get only what you really go after. Jon doesn't like to say 'no' or demand things, and someday that might hurt him professionally."

Jonathan Frid is mobbed by fans at Norwalk during the shooting of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS.

Maybe someday, but right now Jonathan couldn't be busier. He has one of the largest personal followings in television He shares top billing with veteran actress Joan Bennett on "Shadows." After a I0- to 12-hour day at the studio, he returns to his apartment for a quick meal and several hours' study on the next-day's script. Weekends are given to more script study or appearances as Barnabas at special events, like Tricia Nixon's Halloween party.

Recently he completed his first movie, a full-length film based on and titled after "Dark Shadows,” two weeks of which were shot on location at the Lockwood-Mathews mansion in Norwalk.

Visitors expecting the actor's apartment to be furnished like a "Dark Shadows" set are surprised when there isn't a Gothic chair, guttered candle, or cobwebby corner in sight.

"I'm not sure the Spanish over there is Jonathan, but everything here is much softer than I expected," Nancy admitted. "He's a big- man (over 6 feet tall) and I had imagined big, hunky furniture, very old. Of course, I was going more by his looks than his nature. Now I know he's really very gentle and has a soft nature and all of these soft things make sense.”

Jonathan emerged from his bedroom as Nancy described the incredible variety of presents bubble gum, food fans send crushers decked out in flashing lights and plastic flowers, full size oil paintings, “I'm not wild about all the portraits," he began, in a voice 10 years enriched by Shakespearean theater, "but there is a grotesque one I like. It's very pink (the colors are not to be believed) but it has a tortured look and I like to think I'm tortured.”

Unafraid of Barnabas/Jonathan, this little girl engages in animated conversation with the actor.

Jonathan's convincing performances as Barnabas Collins, a romantic gentleman cursed and tainted by vampirism, have brought headaches as well as satisfaction. He is most disturbed when people act as though they believe he's a real blood sucker!

"You expect that sort of thing from youngsters, but when adults I think, 'My God, they vote!’”

Softening, he agreed there was merit in fantasy.

"I suppose we go through life as children. But it's a kind of sloppiness of the mind when imagination wins out over reason. When an actor I see on stage does an especially fine job, I get very uptight when someone I'm with wants to go backstage. I’m so in awe, I don't want to meet him."

The actor wished some of that reluctance had rubbed off on his fans in Norwalk who crowded sets and threatened to disrupt the entire shooting schedule of the movie.

"I was never more unattractive to the public than at Norwalk," he said apologetically. "The film was having problems. I was in a vile mood and there were those kids (someone said 4,000) everywhere. Heaven knows how they found out we were there.

"It was impossible to keep them out of the house, too many doors,” he continued. “I didn’t dare encourage them by chatting and being nice, so I didn’t.”


The film won’t be released until early September, but several Norwalk teens know the ending. In fact, they witnessed the death of Barnabas Collins.

“We thought we had cleared the kids out, but several sneaked in again,” he related. “During the final scene, my 'death scene,' was alone on the floor waiting to begin when I saw a bunch kids hiding in a room just off the set, watching me.

"I figured, so long as they’re quiet, let them stay," He chuckled. "They might have caught my look, because they didn't make a sound. And, there was enough of the actor's ego left in me to  appreciate an audience, so I played the whole scene knowing 20 kids were watching. Afterwards, there were a few gasps and they scurried away like mice."

In the beginning Jonathan researched his role, but now he just plays his moments and leaves the intricacies up to the writers. Since that day three years when Barnabas Collins, clad in his caped coat and carrying this silver wolf’s head cane, glided onto the set, the actor has shaped his character until now the lines of are fuzzy.

“We’ve gotten closer over the years, and to a certain degree — I don't know where — I play myself. Or," he reflected abruptly, "maybe I'm getting more like him.”

Jonathan has serious feelings about vampires. First, he's certain they're around, although his definition is a little different from Bram Stoker's "Dracula."

"A vampire to me is someone who can't sustain a give-and-take relationship. These are one-way people, only taking.

"In that way, Bela Lugosi was a better vampire than I could hope to be. He was so cold-blooded and passionless; he would command and someone would obey. I do that sometimes when I'm being very evil, or putting the zap on somebody, but mostly I'm engaged in a passionate give-and-take. I'm always in love, which in a sense makes me a bastard vampire.

"If I played it properly," he reflected, "I'd be the most hideous thing on earth- Instead, I come off as a human being with a terrible affliction. It's the agony of knowing what I am that comes across. My awareness of myself is equal to the horror experienced by the audience."

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