Friday, January 29, 2016


UPDATE: Amazon has "Dark Shadows: Heiress of Collinwood" scheduled for release Nov. 8, 2016, and has shared an early draft of the cover. At least, I hope it's an early draft, because this artwork is dull as dishwater.

Still, I'm pretty excited about this book.

It is now available for pre-order HERE.


Lara Parker's next novel, "Dark Shadows: Heiress of Collinwood," now has an official page at Macmillan Publishers. It also has a tentative release date of November, 2016. This is the first word we've heard about the book from the publisher since Parker announced the title in December.


Vintage DARK SHADOWS comic art up for auction

I've mentioned before how much I love the work of George Wilson, the artists that created many of the covers for Gold Key's DARK SHADOWS comics during the 1960s and '70s. (Seriously, LOOK AT THIS.) A few pieces of his original art are now available at Heritage Auctions, among them his painting for issue #20, first published in June, 1973. If I had to guess what's happening in the image, I'd say that Quentin Collins has invented a game called "Mad Science Tee Ball," and Barnabas is upset that he wasn't asked to play.

There's a metric ton (I've weighed it*) of Wilson's art currently available at Heritage Auctions, included cover art for issues of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, STAR TREK and BORIS KARLOFF: TALES OF MYSTERY. You can find them HERE.

(*No, I didn't.)

Via: Heritage Auctions

The 10 Scariest Episodes of Dark Shadows

Welcome to The Creep Factor, a feature designed to scientifically determine which episodes of DARK SHADOWS are the scariest. The results of this evaluation were arrived at through a process involving the I Ching, no fewer than three séances and several experimental blood transfusions. They are presented in no particular order. Also .... SPOILER ALERT!

Knife to Meet You

Episode 509, June 7, 1968

Adam, believed dead after leaping off Widows’ Hill, arrives at the home of Sam Evans. Collinsport’s version of the Frankenstein Monster is wounded, a little pissed off at the world and brandishing a kitchen knife. Evans, who lost his sight in a previous episode, has no idea how close he’s standing to a violent death. The image above is almost Hitchcockian in its composition, with the knife both masking and replacing Adam’s eyes.

I've got a certain fondness for Adam, a character I didn't much care for the first time I watched the series. When I gave it another viewing a few years ago I was really taken with Robert Rodan's performance and realized it was the cheesy, repetitive "Dream Curse" part of this storyline that I didn't like. Much of Adam's story is about a battle for his soul between the father figures of Nicholas Blair and Timothy Stokes, who have very differing ideas on what it means to be a man. In that regard DARK SHADOWS brought something quite new to the Frankenstein story.

It's hard work following in the footsteps of Boris Karloff (something Robert De Niro found out the hard way) but Rodan created an interesting, tortured character that was as dangerous as he was sympathetic. It’s a shame that he was hustled out of the original DARK SHADOWS television show without fanfare.

This episode benefits from being a Kinescope salvage, which stands in here for the lost color masters. Although DARK SHADOWS learned to use color in some beautiful ways, there's a spookiness to the Kinescope tapes that I love.

Apocalypse at Collinwood

Episode 1,109, Sept. 24, 1970

Few television shows ever pushed their characters harder than DARK SHADOWS. In episode 1,109 things take a turn for the apocalyptic when the ghost of Gerard Stiles murders David and Hallie. And the death of two children was just the beginning of the end of Collinwood.  By the end of the episode, the mansion has been demolished by a band of zombie pirates and the family exiled from its home. As the mob storms the crumbling, burning building Julia discovers the stairway through time has re-appeared ... but it arrives too late to save Barnabas Collins. Julia has to travel back to the past and attempt to change history by subverting the tragedies that lead to the 1970 (and 1995!) haunting of Collinwood.

Funhouse of Madness 

Episodes 919/921, Jan. 5, 1970

Charles Delaware Tate was not among anyone’s favorite DARK SHADOWS characters. While his storyline brought a fun Rod Serling/Jerome Bixby/Richard Matheson element to the 1897 arc, Roger Davis was more than a little miscast as the temperamental artist type.

But when DARK SHADOWS returned to the "present" Tate's character became a lot more interesting. Suspecting that the reclusive Harrison Monroe is really the elderly Tate, Chris Jennings seeks out his help. Almost a century before, Tate had created a painting of Quentin Collins, a portrait that absorbed all of Quentin's ailments and injuries (including his pesky werewolf curse). Hoping that Monroe is the reportedly deceased Charles Delaware Tate, he finds the artist living in a house that would frighten a James Bond villain.

Monroe, who looks to the audience exactly like Tate in 1897, keeps Chris and Quentin at a distance as he taunts them from behind a shadowed desk. Quentin eventually loses his temper and hurls a vase toward Monroe, whose head topples from his body and rolls to Jennings' feet.

Jennings picks up the head and discovers it's an absurdly lifelike mannequin head. Adding to the creep factor is a quick cut to Jenning's "discovery," which shows actor Roger Davis looking back at him with glassy, doll-like eyes.

I didn't much like Charles Delaware Tate's arrival to Collinwood, but I loved his exit. It was also the last role Roger Davis played on the series, which might have been for the best. Davis only appeared in 128 episodes of the series but played four (possibly even five) characters during his brief stint. The decision to re-cast him so frequently created a few tedious storytelling issues ("You look just like so-and-so!") It was time for a break.

The Lonesome Death of Dr. Woodard 

Episode 341, Oct. 16, 1967

While relatively bloodless, the murder of Dr. Woodard is the first genuinely cruel scene in DARK SHADOWS. It lacks the gore and violence seen in later episodes, but the static nature of the camerawork adds a certain “snuff film” panache to the events.

After learning that Dr. Woodard has discovered he is a vampire, Barnabas Collins begins planning to do away with his new enemy. Rather than bloody on his own hands, Barnabas gives Julia Hoffman two alternatives: she can murder her friend and ensure Woodard's death is relatively painless, or Barnabas can deal with the problem and make sure things resolve themselves in a particularly painful manner.

Hoffman arrives as Woodard's office with a hypodermic needle and a narcotic that will make it appear the doctor died of a heart attack. When it becomes obvious that she can’t follow through with the plan, Barnabas arrives and begins … aggressive negotiations.

They try to reason with Barnabas, but Woodard is unable to promise that he will stand aside and let the vampire continue to use the women of Collinsport like so much energy drink. He bolts for the door, but Barnabas stabs him with the needle before he can escape.

It's not the best written scene in the series, nor is it the most overtly scary. But its cavalier attitude toward life and death makes it one of the more unsettling moments in DARK SHADOWS. It also stands in stark contrast to the sympathetic, often heroic take on Barnabas Collins in later years.

The Head of Judah Zachary 

Episode 1,117, Oct. 6, 1970

In 1840 Desmond Collins returns from a trip to the Far East with a gift for his cousin Quentin ... a human head in a glass case! While it might seem like an odd idea for a gift, the origin of the head is even stranger: It belonged to Judah Zachary, a warlock and all-around nasty fellow executed in Maine during the 17th century. Like Rasputin, Zachary proved to be very difficult to kill. He was ultimately decapitated and his head shipped off to the farthest corners of the earth.

If having a prop of a severed head decorating the sets of a television show isn't unnerving enough, DARK SHADOWS revealed that Zachary's head was still sentient by having it open its eyes. While this storyline had its problems (such as revealing Angelique has been alive somehow since the 17th century?!) DARK SHADOWS took the opportunity to ramp up its horror elements with the invention of the Zachary character.

Adam's Ghosts

Episode 544, July 25, 1968

In an effort to find Adam, warlock/badass Nicholas Blair summons the ghosts of the different men used by Dr. Eric Lang to create the monster. Two of them appear outside Collinwood missing the parts unwillingly donated to Lang's experiment and direct Blair toward Adam's location.
It's one of the goriest scenes in DARK SHADOWS, which might have been an unavoidable hallmark of the Adam storyline.

It's not the blood and suggested violence that makes the scene disturbing. Instead, it raises a few unanswered questions about the nature of the show's latest ambiguous monster, chief among them "Did Adam have a soul?" Diabolos and has lackeys clearly believed he did not, which was a major factor in their plan to create a rival to humanity that had no ties to divinity. But the driving force behind this arc was the loss of Adam's own innocence, which was gradually eroded by Barnabas Collins, Nicholas Blair, Eve and just about everybody else he came into contact with. If he never had a soul, then this conflict was a little beside the point.

Reach Out and Touch Someone

Episode 639, Dec. 5, 1968

Not all of DARK SHADOWS' spookiest moments involved blood, fangs and murder. Many of them were unsupported by props, make-up or visual effects and were the product of pure acting. While episode 639 features an appearance by a werewolf, it’s actually best remembered for a scene involving nothing more than children playing with an antique telephone.

David and Amy are exploring the west wing of Collinwood when they discover an old telephone among the dusty items. Amy suggests they use the phone to pretend to call the people who used to live in the room, which isn’t creepy at all. She begins a conversation that is far too engaging to be the work of imagination and tells David a ghost is speaking to her through the ear piece. Probably worried that someone is horning in on his shtick, David scoffs at her claims. When he takes the receiver he finds the line dead but, after a few seconds of silence, he gets the surprise of his life.
The scene's structure is pure drama and relies almost entirely on the acting skills of its two young actors. We never hear the voices on the other end of the line and it makes the scene all the more eerie. In fact, the voice of the character on the other end, Quentin Collins, wasn't heard until several months later.

That’s Just Gross

Episodes 933/934, Jan. 21-22, 1970

Paul Stoddard was one of the most discussed characters of DARK SHADOWS. His mysterious disappearance played a role in several of the show’s early years and was the driving force in Elizabeth’s decision to become a home-bound recluse. When it was revealed that Stoddard was not dead and buried in the basement of Collinwood (as Elizabeth had long believed) it was just a matter of time before he was introduced to the contemporary storyline.

Stoddard, as it turns out, had become associated with the Leviathan cult, a secretive apocalypse cult looking to bring its own anti-messiah to life in Collinsport. When it looked like Stoddard was having a change of heart about the plan, the cult’s bastard creation — Jeb Hawkes  — took matters into his own hands and killed him.

Jeb’s  “true form” was never shown on screen. It’s easy to dismiss this decision as a budgetary issue, but the verbal descriptions of his real appearance suggest he was too disturbing to show on television. He/it leaves a trail of slime in its wake, as well as a foul stench. Anyone familiar with the work of H.P. Lovecraft (one of the inspirations for the story) pretty much knows what Hawkes looks like … and it ain’t pretty. It’s safe to say that any costume or special effect created for the show would have paled in comparison to the monster created in the imaginations of its audience.

Barnabas attacks Carolyn 

Episode 351, Oct. 30. 1967

Barnabas Collins started life on DARK SHADOWS as a petulant psychopath, a guy in the throes of some very serious problems that he’s often unwilling to confront. This episode really brings those flaws into focus: His roving eye has fallen on waitress Maggie Evans, a relationship he wants to pursue without his problematic vampire curse. He coerces Julia Hoffman into accelerating the treatments so that he can woo the Evans during the daylight hours, but things don’t go as he’d hoped. Instead of curing his condition, his body begins to show the full affects of his 200-years of age.
Believing that blood will return him to his “normal” state, he attacks his cousin, Carolyn Stoddard. As he attacks  her, he promises he’d never drink from “his own flesh and blood,” illustrating just how delusional he’d become. During this story arc Barnabas didn't exactly a strangle hold on reality, spending most of his nights playing dress up games with a brainwashed hostage. While it was unclear if he really believed Maggie was the reincarnation of Josette, his attack on Carolyn shows he was in deep, deep denial when it came to his own actions.

Joe Haskell Goes Crazy

Episode 613, Oct. 30, 1968

DARK SHADOWS was a television show about moral ambiguity, but there were a handful of characters that lacked any shades of gray. Among them was Joe Haskell, an all-around Good Guy who was probably captain of the Collinsport High School football team. He was the town’s answer to Captain America.

Until Angelique hit town, that is.

Turned into a vampire by the Nicholas Blair, Angelique had become one of the warlock’s unwilling lackeys. He used Angelique to split up Joe and Maggie, ordering the witch/vampire to introduce a little infidelity into their relationship. Things go much worse than planned: Joe is unable to process the many levels of betrayal around him and goes insane. The character’s last hurrah involves trying to strangle a sleeping Barnabas Collins with a length of curtain cord. The last we see of him, he’s being dragged to an asylum ... proof again that nice guys finish last in Collinsport.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Abe Vigoda: 1921-2016

ABC News is reporting that eternally geriatric actor Abe Vigoda has died at the age of 94.

I expect a lot of news outlets will be very cautious about reporting his death. People Magazine famously reported his demise back on 1982, an error that has since turned into one of the weirdest comedic touchstones in America. There's even a website devoted exclusively to reporting the actor's status: It's not the most tasteful gag in the world, but there it is.

Vigoda's big break came in 1972 when he landed the role of "Sal Tessio" in THE GODFATHER, later joining the cast of BARNEY MILLER as the cantankerous Det. Phil Fish (a role that carried over to a short-lived spinoff in 1977, simply titled FISH.)

DARK SHADOWS fans remember Vigoda from two brief roles on the series. In 1969, he appeared in two episodes as jeweler "Ezra Braithwaite." Vigoda returned to the show near the end of 1970 as "Otis Greene." Both characters met quick deaths at the hands of supernatural entities.

Source: ABC News

Ridiculous, amazing DARK SHADOWS book covers from Germany

DARK SHADOWS has had several lives outside of the original 1966-1971 television series. Even as the show was charting new (and frequently contradictory) timelines, its peripheral feature films, comic books, comic strips, novels and audio dramas adopted policies of charting their own unique narratives. It's possible to be a longtime fan of DARK SHADOWS without ever having seen the original television show.

For a lot of counties, watching the TV series was never an option. DARK SHADOWS has always been an unwieldy beast, and few markets were willing (or able) to make room in their schedules for 150 minutes of programming each week for the daily serial. But that didn't stop Barnabas Collins from eventually going globe hopping.

In Germany, DARK SHADOWS found a second life in pulp magazines. The Paperback Library published 32 DARK SHADOWS novels written by Marilyn Ross, some of which were later recycled as content for German horror- and gothic-themed pulp digests.

The first book to be published in Germany was Ross's first DARK SHADOWS novel from 1967, re-titled "Der Witwenhügel" (which refers to "Widows Hill" located near Collinwood). The novel was reprinted as part of the Gaslicht series in 1973.

The next books in the series, "Victoria Winters" (“Keine Gnade für Victoria”), "Strangers at Collins House" (“Die Fremde im Collins-Haus”), and "The Mystery of Collinwood" (“Das Haus über der Todesklippe”) would be published out-of-order in Gaslicht,

The misadventures of Barnabas Collins, though, would find their way to the Vampir: Horror Roman series in 1977 and 1978, usually featuring cover art that looked like something from Marvel's TOMB OF DRACULA comics. Below is a sampling of covers from that series. Look carefully and you'll spot Arnold Schwarzenegger on the back cover of the first photo.

The final image in this post is from the Dämonen-Land series, which published its first issue in 1989.

(Note: Many of these images made their first appearance on this site back in 2012. I was unable to learn much about their origins at the time, though.)

"Barnabas Collins and the Mysterious Ghost."
"The Secret of Barnabas Collins" and "Barnabas Collins and the Mysterious Ghost."
"Barnabas, Quentin and the Avenging Ghost" and "Barnabas, Quentin and the Haunted Cave"
"Barnabas, Quentin and the Nightmare Assassin"and "The Peril of Barnabas Collins"
"The Phantom and Barnabas Collins" and "The Demon of Barnabas Collins"
"Barnabas Collins" and "The Foe of Barnabas Collins"
"Barnabas Collins"
"Barnabas Collins"

Monday, January 25, 2016

"A far superior name for a vampire," 1969

DARK SHADOWS is one of those rare, demographic-busting phenomena that comes along once in a generation. How many television shows can claim housewives, college students and monster kids as their fan base? It was a show followed with equal gusto by magazines like Tiger Beat, TV Guide and Famous Monsters of Filmland, which probably presented both challenges and opportunities for ABC's marketing department.

Below are scans (and a transcript) from a 1969 issue of CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN detailing the make-up process that transformed actor Jonathan Frid into Barnabas Collins. The feature seems like a little bit of a rush job ... the overall package suggests that the editors weren't yet sure if DARK SHADOWS was fully in their wheelhouse.

Castle of Frankenstein, #13
Spring, 1969

That 175-year-old Victorian villain, Barnabas Collins, of the afternoon soaper “Dark Shadows,” has been playing a vampire for over a year now, and the ladies love it.

Conducted in a serious “high camp” fashion, “Dark Shadows” is turning into a shrine for Barnabas, a tall, gaunt, sad and soulful character.

It’s a puzzling success story for Yale actor Jonathan Frid who has found himself acting on afternoon TV with two fangs that he pops into place before striking.

The name, Jonathan Frid, is enough to turn the head. It’s a far superior name for a vampire than Barnabas Collins, and if Frid develops his macabre talents, he might make the world of Bela Lugosi and Boris  Karloff.

Time Good 

The time is ripe for a first-class villain in show business. Neville Brand’s powerful leathered face frightened folks as Al Capone, but few others are around to strike a little old-fashioned terror into hearts. Frid looks as if he could play a cultivated monster, giving a good scare. He’s developing his talent in the afternoon before stepping up in class.

“We take Barnabas very seriously,” Frid admits. “The idea was to jazz up the show When I came in.”

The way Frid plays Collins in a polished, witty Victorian style, the viewers develop sympathy for the poor, sick man, rather than turn away in horror. Barnabas’ hangup concerns an old love, Josette, and he’s forever hopeful of finding her. He keeps trying to recreate Josette’s image in a modern girl. The way things are going, Barnabas’s search for Josette seems endless and the fans will put up with the wildest versions. Even director Lela Swift refuses to worry about story inconsistencies knowing the audience will justify the gaps.

“I play Barnabas as a human,” says Frid. “Then, anything do is heightened as a vampire.”

Yaleman Frid has been playing villains since college, as training for the 175-year-old blood lover. Character acting takes seasoning, and Frid didn’t impress Broadway scouts right off the bat in college productions. He hit the road, working in San Diego’s Shakespeare Festival’ touring Ray Milland in “Hostile Witness,” summering at Stratford, Conn.

The part of Collins was experimental and was only supposed to last three weeks. Frid admits to shaky early footing.

“I improved eventually, but at first things were very tenuous.”

Mail has changed the entire situation. Admirers claim he has more sex appeal than Bela Lugosi, and fan clubs are almost, vociferous in ardent-letters. There are also fans who write of other-world contacts.

One remembers meeting Frid back in 1233.

Balmy days are ahead for  Frid, he can do no  wrong, other than lose a hold on his fangs.

“We generally leave time for me to run across the stage and slip my two teeth on,” says Frid. But, not long ago I came into the key shot with them rolling about in my mouth. I feverishly tried to fit them into, place. My victim was in hysterics at the clicking of dentures, but I had to dig in anyway for the coup de grace.”

Friday, January 22, 2016

Tin Shadows (or "Belaboring a Point")

It's hard to imagine a world without David Bowie, even though we've had to do without his company for almost two weeks now. When news of his death began to circulate, I came to the quick conclusion that any eulogies written for this site would ultimately be self serving. Sure, everything written here is self serving on one level or another ... the end goal for any website is to generate traffic, after all. But Bowie is so far afield from our regular content that it just felt exploitative to dogpile on his death.

My feelings on the subject haven't really changed, but my fascination with trivia refuses to let a few minor details pass. Bowie's influence on art was so far reaching that, yes, he even has a few tangential connections to DARK SHADOWS.

In 1977, Iggy Pop released "The Idiot," the first of his solo albums produced by Bowie. When Iggy went on tour to promote the record in March and April that year, Bowie tagged along as his keyboard player. Also part of the live band were Hunt and Tony Sales on drums and bass, respectively. The Sales brothers were the sons of television icon Soupy Sales and appeared on Iggy's next collaboration with Bowie, "Lust for Life."

(Note: "Sick of You," from Iggy Pop's 1975 demo album "Kill City," was featured in Tim Burton's DARK SHADOWS film. While the Sales brothers appeared on two tracks on the album, they actually don't perform on this song.)

A decade later, Bowie would feel the need to scratch a creative itch with the band Tin Machine. He recruited guitarist Reeves Gabrels and the Sales brothers for the controversial act, which continues to divide Bowie fans to this day (their first album is pretty great, in my opinion.) Gabrels would continue to work with Bowie after the dissolution of Tin Machine, eventually parting ways after the release of "Hours ..." in 1999.

In 2012, prompted by god only knows what, musician Jenna Vix released a song titled "In the House of Dark Shadows," featuring lyrics composed mostly of the great/goofy taglines used for 1970's HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. "Come see how the vampires do it" is actually a lyric in this song.

Gabrels (who is apparently now a member of The Cure) plays guitar on the track. You can buy the song directly from Amazon HERE, though I can't really recommend it.

This seems like an awfully long way to walk for a minor piece of Bowie trivia, doesn't it?

Let's step backward in time to March 20, 1969. DARK SHADOWS cast members Jonathan Frid and David Henesy were guests that day on the short-lived game show THE GENERATION GAP. Frid and Henesy were among the first celebrities created by the series (as opposed to Joan Bennett, who was already a star) and the two made frequent appearances in teen mags in the late 1960s.

Also on the episode were Soupy Sales and his son ... Tony.

You can watch the entire episode streaming below.

We're gonna need a bigger cake

"The haunting theme music plays as the lilting gothic graphic title floats across the crashing waves, and it all becomes poetic, romantic and terrific, with an emphasis on 'terror' – and yet not."

Mainstream media is beginning to realize that DARK SHADOWS is turning 50 this year. We've got a few months yet before the According to Hoyle anniversary (the show premiered on June 27, 1966) but a few websites have already begun to light the candles on the birthday cake.

If you're a fan of classic television, you're going to be eating a lot of cake this year. 1966 was a big milestone for television, with the first episodes of such shows as THE MONKEES, STAR TREK, BATMAN, and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE also making their debuts that year. Mark Dawidziak at The Plain Dealer recently touched on the pageantry of television anniversaries taking place in 2016.

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is also getting in on the action, with a feature devoted entirely to the Gold Anniversary of DARK SHADOWS. That quote at the top of this post was lifted from their story (written by Herbie J. Pilato) which also trots out original cast members to talk about the show's legacy. It's well worth reading. You can find it HERE.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Several DARK SHADOWS audio books are now on Audible

A handful of Big Finish's earliest DARK SHADOWS audio dramas are now available on Audible.

If Amazon's log lines are to be trusted, these releases have been slowly trickling to Audible's catalog (without fanfare) since last summer. Audible is essentially an audiobook service, so it makes sense that Big Finish would eventually integrate its products with this corporate behemoth company.

Subscriptions to Audible are $14.95 a month following a free 30-day trial. If you're interested in joining Audible just for its DARK SHADOWS selections, it's probably more cost effective to purchase these stories straight from Big Finish. But Audible also offers new editions of Lara Parker's first three DARK SHADOWS novels (read by the author!) which aren't available from Big Finish. So there's that.

Here are the DARK SHADOWS titles currently available from Audible:

If you're interested in getting started with Big Finish's many DARK SHADOWS titles, I've created this visual guide to help you along.

Dark Shadows: Into the Light, Episode 1 (Part 2)

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of DARK SHADOWS, Jim Romanovich recently launched an 8-part DARK SHADOWS retrospective titled "Into the Light" at The Collinsport Historical Society will be archiving these episodes as they become available; you'll be able to find the series in the tab above titled "Dark Shadows: Into the Light."

Above is the second part of his interview with Dan Curtis Productions major domo Jim Pierson. You can find part one of the interview HERE.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Dark Shadows: Into the Light, Episode 1

Editor's Note: This week, Jim Romanovich launched an 8-part DARK SHADOWS retrospective titled "Into the Light" at The Collinsport Historical Society will be archiving these episodes as they become available; you'll be able to find the series in the tab above titled "Dark Shadows: Into the Light." Romanovich generously agreed to write an introduction to both himself and new webseries, which you can read below.

The first episode's guest is Dan Curtis Productions major domo Jim Pierson. The second part of that interview is scheduled to go live 10 p.m. EST/7 P.M. PST on Jan. 19.


DARK SHADOWS is the kind of series everyone thinks they know inside and out whether they have seen the show or not. That, in and of itself, is the mark of an icon (and great branding). I was one of those people.

I was always drawn into the pop culture and retro lifestyles, hence Radio Retropolis, as there just seems to be something special about how key moments in our history shape who we are today. It's fun to go back and look at the pebble drop into the water in which we feel the ripples so many decades later. Barnabas Collins was fascinated with the past as well which is a nice plus!

I have made a pretty good career out of pop culture as a producer/narrator of many programs such as I LOVE LUCY's 50th Anniversary or taking THE BRADY BUNCH back to Hawaii 30 years later. THE MUNSTERS, ADDAMS FAMILY, BOB NEWHART, MARY TYLER MOORE, and so forth are all subjects I've documented for television. I produced The Daytime Emmy Awards for CBS which brought me in tightly to the soap world and allowed me to produce WHO SHOT THE DAYTIME SOAP for television. I was very much involved with trying to keep the daytime soaps relevant to broadcast television when all networks wanted to do was to cancel them (You can listen to my extended interviews from WHO SHOT THE DAYTIME SOAP at I also produced a couple of specials for TLC based on famous horror movie locations from the viewpoint of the director and why he or she chose the location and angles to propel their stories. In horror, location is the essence. What's the first real image we see in DARK SHADOWS? The waves crashing into the shores surrounding Collinwood! Collinwood (and to a degree Collinsport) is where everything happens.

I always knew what DARK SHADOWS was ever since I was a kid in the 70s. I even had the board game. But I couldn't tell you a single plot line or character name. Yet I knew the show. This continued through the 90s when I was working with Sci-Fi Channel on my series MYSTERIES, MAGIC AND MIRACLES hosted by Patrick Macnee when DARK SHADOWS was also airing on the network. I still had never seen an episode although if someone was to ask me if I had, I would emphatically say, "Of course!" It wasn't until 2012, when Tim Burton released DARK SHADOWS and Netflix brought us the episodes Barnabas the Vampire.

And I was hooked!

I can't pinpoint what exactly was the draw as to me it seemed the perfect storm of greatness, warts and all. I loved the stylish presentation and the immensely gifted actors who made each episode as exciting as could be. This was gothic fantasy. I bought the coffin box set and watched it. Twice. It did take a while even binging through it! But I knew then that I wanted to do as much as I could to honor and celebrate this cast and this show in a way that had not been done before now. At least, nothing that I had ever seen or heard. I knew there were thousands of DARK SHADOWS fans and great fan sites, such as this one you're on now that is the ultimate resource guide for the true fan. This is a series that after 50 years continues to touch the lives of thousands. MANY thousands.

I didn't want to do a typical emotionless brushstroke presentation. I really wanted to get in deep with each of my interviews and have a real conversation with them so that they are talking to their two best friends. Me and you the listener. The listener is the third friend sitting there with us. I didn't want a flurry of soundbites from old interview responses. I wanted passion, honesty, and great love to come from this as I am truly interested in each person and sharing what's important to them. I chose to do podcasts over webcasts because there is a greater intimacy when no cameras are around. They could just be themselves. I wanted these podcasts to be the ultimate audio document for the true DARK SHADOWS fan and for those that are just finding this show for the first time.

It has been my joy, which I started working on a year ago if you can believe that, to bring these to you now. Thank you.

Jim Romanovich is a veteran radio broadcaster, television host and accomplished producer. Since 1986, he has dedicated his life to revising our antiquated pop culture views into a relevance today we understand and not only appreciate, but truly enjoy. You can find Radio Retropilis on Twitter at @RadioRetropolis.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Dark Shadows: Ship of Ghouls, 1968

We all know why DARK SHADOWS became a cultural phenomenon. Jonathan Frid famously saved the series from itself when he joined the cast in the spring of 1967, creating one of America's strangest pop icons with vampire Barnabas Collins. The character was designed as a hail mary of sorts, the kind of creative decision rarely allowed by a healthy, thriving TV program (neither of which DARK SHADOWS was at the time.) And show runner Dan Curtis was acutely aware of the response the character provoked in his audience. By the end of the year, the ongoing storyline had been carefully tailored to fit not only its new leading man, but his foil Julia Hoffman, as well.

But when did the mass media begin to pick up on the popularity of DARK SHADOWS? Just about everybody, from the Saturday Evening Post to Famous Monsters of Filmland, didn't start to talk about the show until the fall of 1968 ... more than a year after Frid joined the cast. There are clues about this discovery littered throughout these early features. The episodes discussed in the original Saturday Evening Post story were taped in May, 1968, while Time Magazine's "Ship of Ghouls" hit stands at the end of August that same year.

The timeline here suggests that it took a solid year for DARK SHADOWS to catch the eye of press. Which essentially means that, when Victoria Winters returned from her trip to 1795, she found a small army of journalists camped out at Collinwood.

Below is the 1968 Time feature, which is among the first — and smartest — to address the newfound popularity of DARK SHADOWS.

Ship of Ghouls 
Time Magazine, Aug. 30, 1968

The old radio soap operas liked to pretend that Portia really faced Life.

But only since television has the soaper got right down to the nubby-grubby of everyday existence  —  suicide attempts (The Doctors), incestuous desires (Days of Our Lives) and various physical complaints, such as "uterine inertia" (Another World). The trouble with such contemporary traumas is that no one does much about them onscreen; the folks just sit around talking about their problems and drinking black coffee in the kitchen. The only time there is any live action in the typical soaper, it seems, is Friday. That's when the writers always slip in the "tease" that will lure the listeners back on Monday.

Only ABC's Dark Shadows tapes as if every day were Friday. The 30-minute show is TV's first gothic soaper (Monday through Friday, 4 p.m. E.D.T.) and the first to star a vampire. Explains one of the directors: "If the characters sat around and talked to each other about vampires, you would turn people off. It's the actual vampirizing that makes the show." No doubt about it. Dark Shadows has put the bite on a rapidly-rising audience that now aver ages 15 million viewers a week. When Barnabas the Vampire (actor Jonathan Frid) goes on personal appearance tours, he is apt to pull 25,000 people at a time. At a Fort Wayne shopping center, played by both Richard Nixon and Eugene McCarthy during the Indiana primary, Frid outdrew each of them  — or so claims his press agent.

That Certain Age.
The rest of the cast is a ship of ghouls: a warlock, a 175-year-old witch (played by a nubile blonde), lab-made monsters whose every part is a transplant, a ghost and an agent of the devil. One of the few near normal human beings is the matriarch of "Collinwood," the haunted manor that is the scene of the action. That role is filled by the show's top-billed star, former Film Actress Joan Bennett, 58, who says frankly: "You reach a certain age in Hollywood when there's a shortage of glamour roles."

Collinwood is located high above the Maine coast. The time is the present, though most of last winter was spent in a flashback to the 18th century when Barnabas first won his fangs. As for the plot, even Frid himself concedes, "There are times when I have absolutely no idea what's going on. I'm sure people get together to speculate on what the show is all about."

One of the more coherent of the multiple story lines concerns Barnabas' quest for a bride. Since he comes out of his coffin home only after dark, he prefers supper dates, and six times has mixed his fatal business with pleasure. "The whole essence of my character," says Frid earnestly, "is guilt over my hang-up — vampirism — and my bites suffer. I envy the bites of the two other vampires. They are positively erotic."

From left, Louis Edmonds, Joan Bennett and Jonathan Frid.
Plastic Bats.
The show is far more dramatic in production than any of its competitors. Producer Robert Costello splices in occasional exteriors filmed on location, employs more than 100 sets in the show's Manhattan studio, com pared with the 30 or so on most soap-ers. Instead of the customary organ stings to punctuate the drama, he uses bridges recorded by an orchestra of 23 pieces.

Dark Shadows also has a recorded repertory of 3,000 sound effects and a few tricks that go back to radio days. The werewolf calls are authentic lobo cries, but for the squeak of bats in the night, a technician rubs a cork on the side of a bottle. The bats themselves are plastic and wired for flight. Coffins, cakes of dry ice (for eerie ground fog) and quarts of stage blood litter the studio. To spook up the manor with cobwebs, the crew flings chunks of latex into an electric fan, which scatters them authentically over the walls.

The latex first hits the fan at 6 a.m. most days, earlier if there is to be an extra-special effect, say a burning at the stake. About two hours later, the actors arrive for rehearsals, and then go through a technical run-through to test the special effects. At that point, the vampires with lines prerecord the dialogue: actors can't speak clearly with false fangs in their mouths. Later the lines are put onto the video tape. In the afternoon come makeup sessions, the dress rehearsal, and then the actual taping of the show that will be aired the following week. Since editing the tape is expensive, most fluffs are left in. One exception: Joan Bennett referred to her ghoul-ridden home not as Collinwood but as Hollywood.

That slip was edited out — although it is not clear why. After all, Hollywood's not exactly ghoul-free either.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Hero (Prop) that Collinsport Deserves


That's the going rate for the "hero prop" bat used in the original DARK SHADOWS television seriues. The item is currently listed on eBay with a suggested six-figure price tag and is accompanied by a lengthy history. According to the seller, this is a prop used extensively on the show, in scenes ranging from episode 406 (where Barnabas Collins is first cursed to become a vampire) to the closing credits of the 1970 feature film, HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. It was created by puppeteer Bil Baird and, as you can see in the photo above, is unintentionally adorable.

Is it the real deal? I don't know! Seeing as how I don't have the scratch to even think about bidding on such an item, that's not really my problem. You can take a gander at the auction HERE.

An Interview with Kolchak's Vampire, 1975

It's difficult to overstate the success of THE NIGHT STALKER, which aired on this date in 1972. The movie reached a whopping 54 percent of all TV viewers upon its debut, which is stunning even without it's "horror movie" stigma. While star Darren McGavin did OK for himself, returning to battle the supernatural in the KOLCHAK sequel and weekly series, the film's iconic badguy was one-and-done. Played by Barry Atwater, vampire Janos Skorzeny was equal parts Jonathan Frid and Christopher Lee, a monster as savage as he was pathetic. Shortly before the official demise of THE NIGHT STALKER weekly series in 1975, the gang at CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN magazine tracked down Atwater to chat about his role in the original movie. Below is a transcript of the feature as it appeared in issue 25 on the magazine. I've preserved the magazine's unusual style choices and fixed a few typos.

(Note: A not-that-great comic published by Moonstone in 2009 attempted to create a direct connection between Barnabas Collins and Janos Skorzeny. You can get a taste of it HERE.)


An Interview with the star of the original NIGHT STALKER, Barry Atwater 

As a Veteran actor who had already racked up a considerable record in numerous films and TV dramas, Barry Atwater suddenly achieved overnight fame as The Vampire Who Threatened to Destroy Las Vegas in the first and original THE NIGHT STALKER. In this special COF Interview, created by Richard E. Werft, Jr., Barry Atwater ventures deep behind-the-scenes concerning the creation of STALKER — but, more importantly, he also reveals himself as a very articulate and highly aware individual with a very sensitive and sensible insight about filmmaking, acting as a career and about the world around him. 

COF: Do you remember the first big break that brought you into films? 

BA: Yes — I worked in a student film at UCLA. The film got an Academy Award and the right notoriety; the aura around the Award was enough to me an agent and some parts. I couldn't act my way out of a paper bag at the time, but it didn't matter.

COF: Did they approach you for THE NIGHT STALKER with you specifically in mind? 

BA: I'm not sure how that came about. Someone may have suggested me to Dan ("Dark Shadows") Curtis. I think he looked up my picture in the Academy directory. He was interested and called up my agent. I went to the studio. I brought some pictures with me and he looked at one shot I brought and he said, "That's it! That's the one!"

COF: How did you feel about doing NIGHT STALKER ? Was it hard for you to enter into the mood of playing a fiend, a vampire? 

BA: No, not at all. We all have all sorts of feelings inside us; everybody. All we have to do is simply let go and the feeling comes out. That's what acting's about — just letting go, not suppressing or repressing or criticizing or censoring ourselves.

COF: How did you go about preparing for your role as Janos Skorzeny the vampire? Didyou stand in front of the mirror and decide on which facial expressions would be suitable? 

BA: No, I cannot control that. I just let that happen.

COF: How did you feel about interpreting, about getting into the character? 

BA: I felt he was very lonely. He has no friends. He's all alone, so he doesn't talk to people. I'm sure he's not a happy man, but he's stuck. He's like a heroin addict; he's stuck.  And I took that attitude. I've never taken heroin and never intend to, but what I heard about it is that a guy has to have it. If Skorzeny didn't have blood, what would happen to him? it must be really hell not to have blood. So, I simply took the absolute necessity to have blood, and if I have to kill people, I'm "sorry." I don't want to kill anyone. I don't get kicks by killing people. I simply have to have it. And if people don't understand it, it's not my fault — and they chase me and they do awful to me and they shoot bullets at me and I'm furious with them.

COF: Do you regret not having any speaking lines? 

BA: No, I was very glad — very, very glad there were no speaking lines. Because I think as soon as the vampire opens his mouth and starts to talk, he becomes an ordinary human being; an actor saying silly lines. And I think that was a brilliant idea of theirs not to have the vampire say a word.

COF: Was all of the hissing and growling overdubbed. 

B A: No, this is what happened: Sometimes when they shoot they use an Arriflex camera which makes a lot of noise. It's a hand-held camera. In the end, where the sunlight comes in and I try to go up the stairs and the sunlight hits me and finally I fall, and Kolchak kills me with a stake — all that was shot with an Arriflex which made a terrible racket. So, all the noises had to be dubbed. We went into an adjacent sound stage and I tried to go through the business to make it as consistent as possible with the hissing and the growling and the snarling to cover that sequence where they were using the noisy Arriflex camera.

COF: You were the co-star of the most successful made-for-TV movie. To what do you attribute your personal effectiveness in THE NIGHT STALKER? 

BA: That's due to the way it was photographed and the way it was cut. I'm not trying to give false modesty. I think if you like films it’s important for you to know what it is in the film that makes you like it, so you can appreciate it all the more. There are a lot of things to watch in the film aside from the actors. You watch the way the shot's done — how it's cut, the camera angle. Those are the things in a film that can really be exciting as film. The way it was cut and edited together. In THE NIGHT STALKER you would be watching scene A and hearing the dialogue and sound from scene A. As you got to the end of that, we would suddenly hear the sound from scene B — then the visual would switch to scene B. This kind of overlapping — it would pull us through, rather than jerk, jerk, jerk like that. It would kind of ease us through into the next sequence and make the pacing very much faster. It's a neat technique and it's exciting to watch. It feels good to watch.

COF: Could you describe the general make-up they used on you? 

BA: The eyebrows — little bitty scissors were used to cut out all the hair underneath here and then a lot of goop was put on them and they were brought out and turned up on the ends. Full, complete contact lenses were used for the bloodshot part. There's a "mildly" bloodshot and a "heavily" blood- shot set, so there were two sets of contact lenses, and then the fangs and then a wig with black hair.

COF: How was that sequence filmed where you ran that man out the window on an upper floor?

BA: That was shot in the administration building of the Sam Goldwyn Studios and they replaced the window and used sugar for glass. They can make a pane out of sugar. It breaks, but it doesn't have very sharp, needle- like fractures. And they erected on the ground below a great big air pillow. It must have been maybe six feet high. It was inflated with blowers. And then the stuntman inside took a running jump, dived through the window and turned and tumbled and twisted as he fell three stories onto the cushion below. The window you saw from the inside of the building was on a set. The outside was another building altogether.

COF: Do you think it made a statement about society when the police forced Kolchak to get out of town? 

BA: Sure it did, and it's a statement that I think most of us believe as being certainly possible. It's a weird thing. I just read a book called "Centennial" about the year 1874 and about the big centennial exposition in Philadelphia. And it was the second term of Ulysses S. Grant, who was a very inept man — had no business ever being president. And the corruption was so thick throughout the whole government that it made me think, "Well... Watergate's really nothing new. Why should we be so really uptight about it? It's been going on for at least a hundred years, or probably before that." But we want to believe the best of ourselves and the best of our country—about George Washington and the cherry tree and all that sort of stuff. So, when it does happen we're always sort of shocked and horrified. And yet. in THE NIGHT STALKER, with that undercurrent of corruption, it really didn't surprise us a heck of a lot.

COF: I know THE NIGHT STALKER was a very serious drama, but between takes did you like to break the tension with some humor? 

BA: No, not especially. I don't horse around on the set. If it's a comedy picture I will, because it keeps up the fun ambiance. But if it's a serious film and I start to horse around or someone else starts to horse around, then this is bad, because it breaks the mood. You really have to keep that going, because it's very tenuous and it can slip away if you're not careful. You have to really concentrate; before you go into the set to take your place, you walk from the dressing room to the set. And I have to say to myself, where am I, what am I doing — because I've gotten out of it. So I have to walk back into it. What do I need, what do I want, what values do I have, what do I care about, what do I dislike, what do I admire, hate, respect, and so on. The whole inside has to go.

COF: If they re-made DRACULA and did it according to the book, do you have any ambition to portray the famous Count, the classic Vampire? 

BA: No way, no way. Look, DRACULA was written in 1898. That style of presentation of a story is old hat for us now. We really know it's a classic when we see it. In the recent version with Palance, we've had it—we've really had it. So, we cannot go and keep doing that over and over and over again. Here's what happened: take THE EXORCIST — you see, that is where we are now — where DRACULA was when it came out with Lugosi in the early 30's. It scared the heck out of us, and so did the first FRANKENSTEIN. Now, today in 1974, it's THE EXORCIST that's scaring people and making them sick. We cannot go back from the level of THE EXORCIST in terms of story, of treatment, of realism and honesty and candor. We're doing things, saying things and we're admitting things that we never did before. We are far more honest and candid a people than we ever were. I remember when sex movies started showing in theatres I couldn't believe it, because I was brought up in Denver, Colorado in a very square, Republican, Protestant society. And all this stuff Was where you wouldn't even think about it, much less talk about it. But we knew about it. Now we're all saying out loud what we're thinking in our heads. And I think this is marvelous. I think we're being honest and I think when we're honest we'll be healthy. When we start lying, then we get sick.

COF: What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an actor, and would you recommend the profession? 

BA : No. If you want to become an actor, nothing in God's will can keep you from becoming an actor. Nobody can recommend that you be or not be. If you want to be, you will be. You cannot help yourself. You will be, because you must be. You must be... or die. It occurred to me not long ago that acting is really an athletic activity and it wouldn't be far out to have acting as part of the Olympics because an actor really uses his body. You have to move. You have to feel. And I think one of the reasons athletes can make very good actors is because they already know how to move. They already know how to respond physically. If you can't do it physically you do it with words, but the words stand for a physical action. If I say, "Come here," what I'm really wanting to do is reach out and grab you and pull you here. So, I've simply used the words in place of an action; but I mean that action inside me when I say the words, and that's what turns it on — the meaning, the intention. I mean it... all of me means it.

COF: Do you ever feel the urge to write, direct and produce a film on your own? 

BA: Yes, I would like to do that. That's a very exciting medium. It's the most exciting for me. Kenneth Clark said in his CIVILIZATION that he felt that the most culturally representative aspect of this century would be the motion picture rather than architecture.

COF: Do you ever think of the degree of immortality you achieve by having yourself recorded on film? 

BA: What good does it do? When I'm dead, I'm dead.

THE NIGHT STALKER made the above statement in Los Angeles, a little over two years after the first unofficial documentary report of his death was made public. So, Kolchak... beware! 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Mitchell Ryan/Salome Jens/Eugene O'Neill

Those of you following us on Facebook have already figured out that actor Mitchell Ryan will be making an appearance on our podcast. What we haven't revealed is when you'll be able to hear the interview. A few scheduling conflicts have pushed production back a little later than I liked, but the good news is the episode will be available for download later today!

In the meantime, enjoy some photos of Ryan and actress Salome Jens onstage together in a pair of Eugene O'Neill plays. At the top is an image from "A Moon for the Misbegotten," which ran at the Circle In The Square Theater in New York City in 1968. Below is an image of the pair in "Long Day's Journey Into Night," a 1992 production in Garden Grove, California.

Check back later to hear the podcast!

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