Friday, May 27, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: MAY 27


May 27, 1968
Taped on this date: Episode 514

Bad days at Collinwood. Barnabas is bricked behind a wall in the Old House, Liz is fixated on dying, and Maggie feels more and more drawn to the past. Joe and Maggie get ready for the evening. As Joe gets ready to pick up Sam from the Blue Whale, he wonders if Stokes is a thief. After he leaves, Maggie again dons the earrings and Josette’s theme plays. After she exits, we see Adam looking in through the window. Maggie enters the Old House in a strange reverie. Willie greets her, and she has no idea why she’s there. However she hears a noise. Little do they know it’s Barnabas trying to get their attention. Willie takes her appearances as a cue that she has romantic interest in him. Willie just warns her not to wear the earrings. Is he worried about Barnabas? The moment she takes the earrings off, the trance is broken and she must get to the Blue Whale. Without the earrings, she senses there is something off about the Old House. At Collinwood, Liz leaves, fixated on the man who jumped from Widow’s Hill, and goes to the Old House to see Barnabas. She tells Willie that the police called, reporting that a man matching Adam’s description has been seen vandalizing the neighborhood. Liz then falls into a dark meditation on death. She then hears the knocking from behind the cellar wall. She knows someone was buried alive. Liz runs out wishing that “she” would kill her and get it over with. In her absence, Willie observes that, “She ought to see a doctor.” At the Evans cottage, Joe returns reporting that Sam wants a search party to look for Adam -- he’s a friend in need. Joe further reports that Sam is hostile, and Maggie wonders if it’s frustration over his blindness. She sends Joe back to the Blue Whale. Outside, Joe sees Willie headed inward. Joe warns him away, not knowing that they’ve made peace. Willie says that Joe is just jealous, and Joe responds by beating Willie unconscious. Going back in, Joe reports to Maggie of his meeting with Willie. Maggie explains that Willie meant no harm; when he was shot there, he was trying to warn her from danger. And of her visits to the Old House? She doesn’t know. Joe grows more and more belligerent in his questioning. He angrily exits, giving an ultimatum that she has one day to give him the truth. Willie staggers in, beaten. Adam follows Willie in, reporting, “Willie bad!” He seizes Maggie and she screams for all she’s got.

Lemme tell you, it’s only going to get stranger. 1970 is shot wildly out of sequence, but that’s nothing compared to what’s coming up with 1967. Hoo boy. I feel like Billy Pilgrim. This episode seems to initiate the Fall of Joe Haskell. I have a theory about this sad, alien part of the mythology' they could only afford so many actors, and Quentin was being eyed as The Next Thing After Nicholas Blair. Law of Conservation of Money.  Just my theory. They knew that Quentin was coming, and there was only so much Hunk Money to go around. That’s just a pet theory. In any case, it gave them an opportunity to take a very kind character down an unexpectedly dark road, creating the precedent for what would happen to Maggie and Quentin. Maggie implodes because she is too inflexible to explore the occult. Quentin, because he relies on it too much. Barnabas, however, calls upon humanity whenever possible, and Angelique embraces it as her final act. Just my theories.

(Episode 501 airs on this date.)

May 27, 1969
Taped on this date: Episode 767

1897. Hearing of Jamison’s dream of David’s death, Barnabas is stunned. He must speak to Jamison. Judith brings him down. While waiting, Quentin enters and learns that Jamison is upset. Quentin feels that Barnabas is a strange observer with an odd plan. Barnabas explains that his conversation is deeply tied to Quentin’s good. Quentin wants to know more about Barnabas and the people who will allegedly shape his destiny. Judith orders Quentin out so that Jamison and Barnabas may speak alone. Jamison explains his dream. He was in the cellar of the Old House, seeing Barnabas in his 1969 I Ching trance. Upstairs, Carolyn and Roger plan David’s birthday. She taunts Roger with a puppet, saying that David will have to learn of his impending death. Liz shows David down to his birthday party. David won’t cut the cake without Barnabas and Quentin. No one will answer if Barnabas will be at his next birthday. And Quentin? Roger looks for him in a family record and can’t find a Quentin. They insinuate there’s a surprise. Quentin’s ghost appears, but only David sees him. Carolyn keeps suggesting that the birthday is David’s last. They light the candles, but the thirteenth candle -- the one to grow on -- is missing. David won’t blow out the candles, seized by fear. David makes a silent wish and blows out his candles. When he looks up, the family is missing. Quentin is still there, pledging to remain with him even after he dies. Quentin reports that David has the right to know he’s dying. The family couldn’t see Quentin because he’s dead, and David will soon be joining him. Quentin comforts David that his death will be painless. But he’ll never be alone; he’ll be with Quentin. Quentin didn’t want to die, but three things led to his death. Averting any of them could have saved him. 1. The discovery of a silver bullet. 2. The murder of the one person who could have kept him alive. 3. The only person he loved turned against him. Quentin cuts the cake, but David finds that it’s a prop cake. A make believe cake for a make believe birthday. Carolyn ends the dream by taunting him with “happy birthday.” And then David was dead. The only other thing Jamison remembers is that everyone was dressed strangely except for the dead Quentin. Jamison thinks that Barnabas knows the significance of the dream. Later, Charity speaks of the walking wolf and Judith offers a reward for his killing. Judith will also set up a scholarship for the late Dorcas. Quentin flies into a fury, saying that the animal is just that, and has no idea what he’s doing. Barnabas enters and reports that “David” is simply a way of Jamison dealing with his mother’s death. The funny clothes suggest that Jamison is putting a mask on reality. He’s simply upset. Edward enters, shaken: he discovered a silver bullet. Only two more things remain that will lead to Quentin’s death.

This may very well be DARK SHADOWS strangest episode. If the show is bizarre, anyway, a dream sequence in it is even more so. And unlike the dream curse, this actually feels like a nightmare. Strange conspiracies. People withholding information. Horrible truths uttered only when it’s too late. Nancy Barrett with a puppet.

Although he never appeared on DARK SHADOWS, today is the birthday of Vincent Price, a spiritual incestor to Clan Collins if ever there were one. So go watch one of his movies tonight!

(Episode 762 airs on this date.)

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: MAY 26


May 26, 1967
Taped on this date: Episode 246.

Family attorney Richard Garner visits and is pleased when Liz asks him to finally file for divorce from Paul. She denies that she’s planning on a future marriage when Jason barges in and introduces himself. When Garner leaves, it’s clear that Liz will be marrying Jason whether she likes it or not. Roger glides in later saying that they’re understaffed -- everyone is staying home due to the attacks. Roger relates that the law still has no lead on Maggie. Liz relates that she’s going through with the divorce. Roger is delighted until Jason enters, acting like one of the family and dropping insinuations that he’ll be her next husband. Carolyn asks Vicky to drive into  and town with her, lamenting the disappearance of Maggie. Who will be next? Roger enters the study and reports his suspicions about the upcoming prospective marriage. The three are outraged. Carolyn suspects blackmail. The room in the basement must be the connection. Roger reveals that Liz wears the only key around her neck. Carolyn is determined to get it. In the drawing room, Jason holds the threat of exposing Liz as a murderess over her head. Carolyn enters and asks for the key. Liz refuses. Carolyn will break the door down if need be. Jason tells Carolyn that he can get the key, and Carolyn says that she’ll have him thrown out before then. Jason responds that it may not be so easy.

It’s always a pleasure to see one of the Garners, voices of reason in the early part of the series. This would be his last appearance in that role after representing Roger against Burke and in the investigation of Bill Malloy’s death. Richard Garner (father of Frank, another lawyer) was played by Hugh Franklin, a fascinating man. Not only was he husband to Madeleine L’Engle, a fine speculative fiction writer herself. Franklin was an accomplished Broadway actor, having appeared in numerous plays, including THE DEVILS, although he did not play a bone-brandishing nun.  This is the kind of episode that reminds us how dull the competition was back then with similar potboilers. Thank goodness for the wit and craft of the cast, especially Dennis Patrick, who manages to be the most charming and most threatening character on the show.

(Episode 240 airs on this date.)

May 25, 1969
Taped on this date: Episode 766.

1897. The wolf has been shot! Barnabas attempts to exact revenge on Magda, but is held at bay by the threat of silver bullets. The wolf is only wounded, and they move him to the Old House. For the sake of the children, and the curse that is carried onward, she will do what she can to help. As the cock crows, Barnabas goes to sleep and exacts a promise from Magda that she will explain that they want to help. Barnabas asks for the gun and he finds that a silver bullet is missing. She must have dropped it. Barnabas remains suspicious, although she claims she dropped it while loading it. He assures her that if Quentin dies, Magda will as well. After he retires, the wolf revives and dashes out. Under the sun’s rays, Quentin reverts in the woods. He hears weeping and becomes distraught. The voice continues as Quentin realizes it is the ghost of Dorcas Trilling. He continues to hear her accusations of murder as she appears in his mirror. Quentin reports the appearance to Judith, but orders her out before providing more details. The sun sets and Barnabas rises. He learns that Quentin is still unaware, but Magda reports that she knows a gypsy, who turned Petofi into a wolf, may be able to help… or rather her daughter, Julianka, can help. She was part of the Romana family, and King Johnny is in Boston and would know. She’ll go to Boston, and senses that Barnabas knows the fates of Quentin’s children. Barnabas visits Quentin and explains that he knows the secret and is here to help. Quentin resists, suspecting that Barnabas means some kind of harm. Barnabas insists that his fealty is genuine because Quentin’s survival is key to the survival of his loved ones. He cites possible solutions, and that he is researching more. Barnabas will let him know more when Magda returns. Quentin asks that he kill him if no cure is available. As Barnabas leaves, Judith reports that Jamison is disturbed by a name -- “David Collins.” He awoke from a dream screaming, “David Collins is dead!”

Quentin and Barnabas are half of the way to trust and friendship. The other half will come when Barnabas exposes his own strengths and vulnerabilities. And this is the rug that ties the room together and where DS goes ape. Quentin and Barnabas are teaming up, Magda is contrite, we have the promise of the beautiful and inexplicable Julianka, and hints at King Johnny and Petofi. For viewers who thought that DARK SHADOWS had shown them the fantastic, they were in for a surprise.   Especially interesting was the link between Jamison and David. The point of all of this was to save to David. So, for Barnabas to discover that he’s already a goner? Truly, one of DARK SHADOWS’ most shocking and poignant moments. Those are moments of real horror.

(Episode 761 airs on this date.)

May 25, 1970
Taped on this date: Episode 1027.

1970PT. Angelique, outed, knows that Barnabas is not human. Barnabas demands that she stop her plans against Quentin and Maggie or be destroyed. She says she has powers, as well. He leaves and she calls her father, Stokes, who believes she’s Alexis. She says she has information about Angelique. Upon leaving, Quentin and Barnabas meet, and Quentin reveals he’d never met Alexis before her death. Stokes arrives, with no love for Alexis. She reveals that the experiment was a success. Alexis opened the coffin, and Angelique used her warmth to come back. She needs his help against Barnabas. She thinks he may be from Parallel Time. He expounds on the theory to her. Quentin returns to Maggie, explaining that she was in Angelique’s dress, and that Alexis gave it to her. Quentin wants to start over, but Maggie is unsure how. Stokes is searching Loomis house -- he and Stokes were friends -- and is found by Barnabas. They greet one another, and Stokes introduces himself as the stepfather of Alexis and Angelique. Meanwhile at the lab, Cyrus is distant from Sabrina and she asks if there is someone else. It’s Maggie. She wants advice from Cyrus who says that Quentin may always be stuck on Angelique, and she should look to other men. Cyrus begins to collapse. Maggie leaves and Cyrus transforms before Sabrina’s eyes. He rises as Yaeger. He dresses to go, and forces Sabrina to meet Maggie, who has come back to check on him. Sabrina lies and says that Cyrus is gone. Quentin also enters seeking Cyrus. Quentin insists on waiting. Maggie and Quentin eventually leave. Upon Quentin’s return to Collinwood, he laments to Barnabas about Maggie’s fixation with Angelique. Upstairs, Maggie sleeps, observed by Yaeger.

Finally! An episode where Things Really Happen and the Series is Not the Same Again! We meet a deliciously sleazy Stokes, learn that he’s the mad scientist behind Angelique’s resurrection and Alexis’ sacrifice, hear “Parallel Time” referred to on the other side of the mirror, witness Sabrina finally learning that Cyrus = Yaeger, and see another Angelique/Barnabas standoff with all cards on the table. When a justified Barnabas quietly gloats, it’s a thing of true beauty. Thayer David inaugurates his sixth character on the show, which is a stunning record. He had been gone for 54 days, thanks to HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, although at this time, he was also very busy as an actor in Hollywood, etc. He had just shot an episode of THE WILD WILD WEST and was gearing up to shoot LITTLE BIG MAN. A busy guy. His portly appearance made him seem older than he was. At the time, he was only 43.

(Episode 1022 airs on this date.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: MAY 25


May 25, 1967
Taped on this date: Episode 248.

Sam insists that he saw Maggie, and Burke believes him. Outside, as Maggie wanders through the fog, a hand grasps her neck. Later, Patterson interviews Sam, who reports that her dress was of another century. Patterson suspects he was drinking, but they’re searching anyway. At the mausoleum, Barnabas ushers Maggie into the secret room, despite her protests. She now shows terror and resistance, and he shows nothing but panicked force. Barnabas attempts to reprogram her. Sometimes it seems to take. Barnabas rescinds his threat to punish so they may return to their house. He sees her holding Sam’s pipe, and Barnabas flies into a rage. She passes out as he carries her into the secret room. She awakens in a coffin as he seals it on her. When Willie opens the coffin some time later, he tells her to do exactly as he says. He leads Maggie into the night and back to her room at the Old House. She thinks of her time in the coffin as a nightmare, but then realizes it was real and becomes inconsolable. Willie tells her to try to become Josette, for her own sake. He even plays the music box. It calms her, temporarily. At Sam’s, Patterson reports no progress. All Patterson found was a dog. Patterson says that it may be his imagination. Burke is inclined to agree. In her room, Maggie plays the music box and begins to repeat that she is Josette Collins. Her reflection, however, reawakens her knowledge that she is Maggie Evans. She tears about the room, stating that she is Maggie Evans.

Up to now, was it clear that Kathryn Leigh Scott was a capable actress? Yes. But this is the point in the show where Maggie is pushed to such extremes that she overwhelms the show in the best way. It’s a performance brimming with powerful authenticity, and decidedly not the kind of acting we expect from daytime drama. This moment has been coming, and it pushes everyone to new extremes. Frid responds with a feral fusion of genuine fury and an angrily broken heart. Most importantly, this was the final day for actor Mitch Ryan as Burke Devlin. Mr. Ryan’s alcoholism in that period was legendary and led to his departure from the show. The good news is that his recovery was relatively swift, and his career rebounded. The sad part, other than it marking a dark period for a good man, is that the show lost a virile, charming, polished, street-tough force that most reminds me of Dan Curtis, himself -- almost Curtis’ surrogate. (The two men shared a resemblance both physically and in force of presence.) Anthony George is a perfectly serviceable actor, but not the primal actor that was and is Mitch Ryan. The show would continue for nearly a thousand episodes after his departure, but the absence is always felt because his presence so firmly established the emotional and moral core of the program.

(Episode 239 airs on this date.)

May 25, 1970
Taped on this date: Episode 248

1970PT. Maggie wanders into Angelique’s room to hear Angelieque’s voice taunting her, comparing them as common versus glamorous. Quentin doesn’t love her, she says. The window flies open and Angelique’s voice enthuses her to jump. Liz tries to stop her, but all Maggie wants to do is die to escape Angelique. Liz talks her down by insisting that jumping would ruin Quentin. Hoffman reports to Angelique that it almost worked. Hoffman reports that Maggie will leave Quentin over his treatment. Angelique needs to realize she has won. Liz shows a shaken Maggie into the drawing room, and Barnabas enters. Maggie relates the events of the night, insisting that Angelique is still with them. Barnabas says she may be more right than she knows. Later, Liz calms her, despite her fatalism. Liz refuses to believe that Angelique has won. In interviewing Hoffman, Barnabas asks why she might own books on witchcraft and promise to return after her death. Hoffman says it was mere metaphor. “Alexis” enters and accuses him of being too much of a romantic. She taunts his thoughts of witchcraft. Barnabas said it would be of interest to her. Such as fire… the one by which she’s sitting. She had said she had an attraction to fire. Aesthetic or more? She says Barnabas is preposterous. Barnabas takes it in stride and excuses himself. Later, Angelique tells Hoffman that Barnabas is nothing to worry about. And they can take care of him if he becomes trouble. In Maggie’s room, Liz and Barnabas comfort her. In Angelique’s room, Barnabas stares into the eyes of the Angelique portrait, demanding the truth. Across the estate, Angelique senses being observed. Her eyes are burning! Barnabas commands her to come closer and closer until she runs into the room, screaming. She knows. And he knows. And she knows that he knows. And he knows that she knows that he knows.

Today is the birthday of the memorably menacing Erica Fitz, who played Leona Eltrich and Danielle Roget. She put in a wicked, strong performance as the evil spirit of Eve.  Her career wasn’t terribly long, but it wasn’t dull. Not only did she welcome Arnold Schwartzenegger to the USA by co-starring with him in HERCULES IN NEW YORK, but she also sexed up the Broadway farce, THERE’S A GIRL IN MY SOUP, co-starting the Third Doctor, himself, Jon Pertwee! There’s a joke about his UNIT in there, but I’ll leave it to you to complete it.

(Episode 1021 airs on this date.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: MAY 24


May 24, 1967
Taped on this day: Episode 247

Patterson arrives at Sam’s, but he has no news of progress. The official opinion is that Maggie might be dead. Burke arrives and remains optimistic. Sam can’t paint. Has no appetite. Burke needs him to take care of himself. Burke suggests he finish the portrait of Barnabas. At the Old House, Willie tries to dissuade Sam from entering. He does briefly, and leaves his pipe behind… found by Maggie, still hypnotized as Josette. She begins to question her identity with Josette. The brainwashing is wearing off. She fears the very mention of Barnabas’ name. After she flees upstairs, Willie descends into the cellar as Barnabas opens his coffin. Willie reports that Sam entered, and Barnabas grabs him by the throat and warns him that no one may enter. Maggie finds the pipe. Knowing that she is not Josette, she leaves to take the pipe to his owner. At Sam’s, Burke brings Sam a ham and swiss. At the Old House, they realize that Josette is missing. Outside Sam’s, Maggie appears. Sam runs after her, but she’s vanished.

David Ford left the show relatively early, giving us an incomplete appreciation for his acting, but he brought a gritty and intense authenticity to everything he did. To see his range and appreciate his strange charm, this is a great episode to study.  It’s also good for some firsts. Team Curtis keeps taking chances, this time in the form of actually showing Barnabas rising from his coffin in the new set of the cellar.

(Episode 238 airs on this date.)

May 24, 1968
Taped on this day: Episode 504

Carolyn comes to in the root cellar to find the door locked. At Collinwood, Vicky tries to bolster Liz’s optimism. The sheriff calls and explains that Adam’s been arrested. Liz and Vicky go to communicate with Adam, as Carolyn fears that she may starve to death, Adam has the same fears, but is unable to articulate them from his cell to Liz and Vicky. Back at Collinwood, Liz believes that Barnabas is connected… after all, he once left a note saying that they should welcome his nephew, Adam Collins. Cassandra enters and makes a plea for sympathy to Vicky. Later, Vicky tells Liz that she may have been wrong to associate her with Angelique. Liz admits that she has no trust for Cassandra at all. At the jail, the cruel jailer threatens Adam with a gun from within. Enjoying it, he enters the cell.  Adam strikes him down in self defense and flees.

In the realm of broad performances, the jailer may take the cake in all of DARK SHADOWS. If he were any crueler to Adam, he’d be firing a firehose at him, forcing Adam to finally say, “It’s a madhouse… a MADHOUSE!" He was played by Clifford Pellow. Pellow also appeared in THE HUSTLER alongside, Stefan Gierasch,  the needlessly wasted Dr. Woodard in the 1991 DARK SHADOWS revival. (Curtis and co. redeemed themselves by giving him Joshua to play.) He was a highlight of the show, mixing the stern with the satirical in wisely modulated measure.  He gave an authentic performance that really humanized the show. This is also the first and only episode directed by Jack Sullivan. Thereafter, he was credited as Sean Dhu Sullivan. Lastly, Alexandra Moltke returns after a 14 week break to continue not understanding things.

(Episode 500 airs on this date.)

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: MAY 23


May 23, 1967
Taped on this day: Episode 245

Barnabas is allowing Woodard to take a sample of Willie’s blood, but Willie is resistant and fearful. With Burke, Woodard voices his hope that Willie suffers from the same disease as Maggie, and that could lead to the perpetrator. Burke wonders if if could have been a rabid dog or wolf. But who stole a slide? Willie? Woodard doubts it. At the Old House, Woodard takes Willie’s sample as Barnabas plies him with liquor and rhapsodizes about the romance of sacrificing blood. Willie tries to explain what the true stakes are but is sent away. Barnabas asks to see the slide and swaps it out with a fake as they speak of the beauty of blood. Barnabas learns that Woodard is seeking every connection possible between Willie and Maggie. Barnabas warns him that the man who broke into his office is of dangerous strength. Woodard says it’s both a beast and a man. Barnabas mournfully describes the villain as more than a man and less than a man, and someone he loathes very deeply. At the Blue Whale, Vicky and Burke dance, but she grows uneasy as a wolf howls. At the Old House, Barnabas reveals to Willie that he switched the slides. At the Blue Whale, Woodard reveals that Willie’s blood is normal, but Maggie’s was terrifying. There was a substance that should have been rejected. Instead, he saw and unholy union in her veins. It was as if Maggie were accepting into her blood something inhuman. The wolf continues to howl in the distance.

Today marks the first solo piece for writer Joe Caldwell.  Joe had teamed up on prior scripts, but this was his solo debut. It shows, in the best way. The language is poetic and evocative. Barnabas has moments of self-loathing and ambiguity that are gorgeously, hauntingly phrased, and the same can be said for Woodard’s exploration of science and mystery. Caldwell, also a novelist, professor at Columbia University, and Rome Prize for literature winner, considered vampirism to be a metaphor for compulsive sex. “Stop me or I’ll suck more,” he said was a way of phrasing it.  In an interview with Open Road Media, he said that the secret to barnabas was to write him very straight with very real emotional challenges. In that sense, he’s picking up a cue used to great effect by writers like Shakespeare and Stan Lee when dealing with humanizing characters of tremendous abilities.

(Episode 237 airs on this date.)

May 23, 1968
Taped on this day: Episode 503

Willie, haunted by the dream, is awakened by Julia, who knows exactly what he feels like. He recounts the dream to her. Willie is compelled to find Carolyn to tell her the dream, but Julia explains that it will harm Barnabas. Julia hypnotizes him to forget, but instead it taps into a psychic connection he has with Carolyn. He sees her “under the ground,” which is exactly where Adam has taken her… an old root cellar. She’s frightened and confused, and despite himself, Adam uses excessive force to keep here there. Eventually, the hypnodisk works as expected, It erases his memory of the dream. Or so Julia believes. But it doesn’t work. The only clue is that she’s underground. Slowly, Carolyn realizes that he may not mean harm. She teaches him to say, “friend.” In the excitement, he accidentally knocks her unconscious and leaves the cellar, sealing her inside for safety. The police arrive at the Old House, looking for the maniac they once saw near the house. And he wants to know why the maniac can say, “Barnabas.” The officer suddenly sees Adam peering in the window. He chases him out, discharging his gun. Adam isn’t fatally wounded, but with the help of twenty men, the sheriff captured him. After the sheriff leaves, both Willie and Julia are seized by fear.

Hidden in this episode is an interesting twist to the role of hypnosis in the Collinsverse. Through the dream curse, Willie now has a bizarre connection to Carolyn. If the DS writers committed any sin, it was forgetting or ignoring these powers. But then again, they were in the odd position of spicing up events with cool abilities, but not having them be so ubiquitous that stories took ten minutes to solve.

With Dana Elcar gone, we now have another Sheriff Patterson, Vince O’Brien. O’Brien was a successful character actor, appearing in films like ANNIE HALL and QUIZ SHOW. O’Brien would leave DARK SHADOWS in several months to act on Broadway in Burt Bachrach’s musicalization of Billy Wilder’s THE APARTMENT: PROMISES, PROMISES.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Frid’s tour of the USA continued in Flint, Michigan. Photographed with the great clown, Bozo, it’s uncertain if he met with Flint’s other great clown, Michael Moore. I kid, I kid. There were 5,000 people at the airport to greet Mr. Frid and 12,000 at a supermarket in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Fort Wayne is also the birthplace of test pilot and ANSA legend, Col. George Taylor, lost in the mid-1970’s along with Stewart, Brent, and Landon on the ill-fated Liberty I mission.  It’s unclear if Mr. Frid and Col. Taylor ever met up.  

(Episode 499 airs on this date.)

May 23, 1969
Taped on this day: Episode 765

1897. Quentin prowls as the wolf. Barnabas phases into Beth’s room, asking about her order of the pentagram. Barnabas bites her for both sustenance and control. He asks her who the werewolf is. Beth explains about Magda’s curse on Quentin and all descendants. This includes a baby boy. It all adds up. Barnabas must protect him and his secret. Barnabas intuits that she loves Quentin. He knows how it will end but not when. Meanwhile, Magda stands outside Collinwood, loading a gun with silver bullets. She tells Judith she’s there for Beth, and will wake her. Judith sends her away, but Magda sneaks in, anyway. She overhears Beth and Barnabas, and is angry that he knows all. Her only way to end the curse is to shoot him. Magda also finds that Beth has been bitten. Disgusted, Magda leaves and continues loading the gun. Quentin approaches Collinwood as the wolf. Beth finds her room a shambles. Judith leaves the drawing room to find the werewolf leaping down from the upper railing. Beth enters and frightens it out with her pentagram. Outside, Barnabas hunts and Magda observes him, gun in hand.  On the phone, Beth asks the sheriff to send men to guard the house. Recovering, Judith wants to know how Beth got the wolf to run. What does she know? This was no ordinary animal. Outside, the beast prepares to leap onto Magda, but she shoots him and he collapses.  

A fine episode… and a pivotal one. Barnabas learns that Quentin was a father, suggesting the Chris Jennings connection (by extension, making Joe Haskell a Collins, too). Magda also becomes the NRA as Alex Stevens does a spectacular stunt, leaping down from the second level of the great hall only to be shot by her.

(Episode 760 airs on this date.)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Can you name that Dark Shadows tune?

There are few television programs that have been pored over by fans as much as DARK SHADOWS. Pound for pound, I'd speculate that this show has been studied, dissected, cataloged and fanfic'd by its fans with even more tenacity than the notoriously obsessive Trekkers. I mean, anybody can fixate on a paltry 79 episodes of a television show, which is all STAR TREK racked up during its initial run. But it takes a true maniac to lend that same passion to a series with more than 1,000 installments.

An the sheer volume of episodes here can be intimidating. There are many long-time (and extremely knowledgeable) DARK SHADOWS fans who have never even seen the entire series. Meanwhile, folks like our own Patrick McCray make it a point to scale fandom's Kilimanjaro as often as possible.

Nicholas Mooneyhan is another of these intrepid explorers. He's written episode guides for both DOCTOR WHO and DARK SHADOWS, proving he's not a man that believes in passing fancies. So it was flattering when he asked me a few weeks ago on Twitter if I could identify a piece of music in an early episode of DARK SHADOWS.

Unfortunately, I could not provide him with an answer.

The music can be heard during episode 266 during Liz Stoddard's nightmare. Mooneyhan says this piece of music isn't included in the sprawling 8-disc collection of composer Robert Cobert's score for DARK SHADOWS, which contains 490 tracks and runs for more than seven and a half hours. There are a few possible explanations:

1: It's a licensed track that wasn't written by Cobert
2: The recording has been lost
3: The selection was simply overlooked when compiling the soundtrack

You can watch the episode below, courtesy of Hulu. If you have any ideas about the origins of the music, feel free to chime in below or on Facebook.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: MAY 19


May 19, 1967 
Taped on this day: Episode 242

Burke asks Dave Woodard for help with the distraught Sam. Nothing. But Woodard is getting closer to a theory. He’s bringing in Hoffman -- one of the best men in his field -- to help. The blood slides show a skirmish between her red and white corpuscles. But something else is going on in there, too. Woodard thinks he might have found something beyond the rational, and hopes that Hoffman will clear it up. Burke drives at an explanation full of mystery. Woodard thinks the implication might be frightening… maybe impossible.”Impossible” is a concept that Woodard, an intensely scientific man, resists.  Science may be replete with unknowns, but not impossibilities. At Collinwood, Roger confronts Liz about Jason, implying blackmail. Liz begs him to leave her alone. She consults Jason, explaining that the money is running out. He has something else in mind as a reward. Liz later reports to Roger that Peterson straightened out the accounts. Woodard arrives back at his office with Burke. It’s been vandalized and the slides are gone. It’s clear that the perpetrator must be the same person who kidnapped Maggie. Woodard finally calls the case the one thing he dreaded it being: impossible.

Hello, Dr. Hoffman. Today marks the first mention of… “him."  Originally intended as a man, it’s not hard to figure out.... “Van Helsing… Hoffman… Van Helsing… oh, I get it!”  I always thought that it was Sam Hall pulling strings to get his wife a job, but it was the other way around.  Looking beyond the unintentional hilarity of calling Dr. Hoffman a man… over and over and over again… this episode verges on the near-Star Trekkian in its dogged devotion to the purity of science. No mysteries, Woodard explains to Burke. Just unknowns. This would have been a substantially different, arguably better (at least faster-paced) show if Burke and Dave had lived and stayed at the center of the mysteries.  I know that may be blasphemous, but I really enjoy the chemistry of these two actors and their characters.

(Episode 235 aired on this date.)

May 19, 1969
Taped on this day: Episode 761

1897. Nora and Jamison remain trapped in the fire. Barnabas teleports in and the fire dies out. Edward is baffled by the vanishing fire. Quentin drunkenly visits Evan, demanding a cure. Evan reluctantly agrees to try a third time. In the drawing room, Edward wants to know how Barnabas got into the room. Barnabas bluffs that he climbed around on a ledge and through the window. But what of Laura? It seems impossible that she burned to nothing, but Barnabas says that it’s true. The children must be convinced that their mother is gone. Later, Jamison waits up for Quentin, and asks to be his friend again. Why? Laura’s dead. Quentin calms him, telling him he’ll never leave. Evan has a solution; summon the devil! Quentin says that he’ll pay the devil anything to make it happen. Edward later finds Nora, grief stricken. He asks to to think of other things as Reverend Trask calls. He hangs up and calls in Quentin. Edward wants to reconcile, to battle the unnatural elements afoot. Quentin grows distant and bolts off. At Evan’s, Quentin boozes it up as Evan prepares to summon the devil. Over Evan’s objections, they begin the satanic ritual. French doors blow open. The wind howls. A figure appears in the window and Quentin passes out.

Although they still couldn’t bring themselves to say “Satan,” at least they have the guts to say, “the devil,” rather than “Diabolos.” I can only imagine how terrifying this must have been for conservative parents at home in those days. These are grown men conjuring the devil, for chrissakes. This is one of the more exciting episodes of the show, and I love the fact that fans of Eeeeevil Barnabas can bite it. The man is a teleporting superhero with a Mistress of the Black Arts for a semi-girlfriend, so deal. This is what 1897 is all about.

(Episode 756 aired on this date.)

May 19, 1970
Taped on this day: Episode 1022

1970PT. Maggie remains paranoid about Quentin thanks to the seance dream. In the drawing room, she finds “Alexis” by the table at which Angelique was killed, furthering her hysteria. “Alexis” tells her that a voice told Quentin that a voice told him about Angelique and Bruno, driving him mad with jealousy. But he didn’t kill his first wife. Later, Quentin finds that a costume ball is being held despite his wishes. He’s furious! Alone with Cyrus, Maggie is told that Angelique was not murdered. It’s clear that Cyrus is smitten, and Maggie accidentally encourages this. His kindness makes him Quentin’s opposite. She leaves her gloves, which he caresses longingly. Later in the lab, Buffie visits, telling Cyrus that she knows that Yaeger’s location is known to him. She attempts to woo Cyrus, and is jealous of Maggie’s gloves. She and Maggie were friends, but Maggie was the golden child. She got Quentin and Buffie got Yaeger. She gives the pearl necklace back to Cyrus to give to John. At Collinwood, Quentin sees that Maggie is reading an occult tome and demands she stop her research. Quentin exits as Cyrus drops the gloves back off. In his lab, Cyrus takes the drug so that Yaeger can seize the girl that Cyrus wants. As Yaeger, he calls Maggie. He says that his has information that he can give her at 6pm on the docks. Subsequently, Buffie walks by and is taken to task by Yaeger for returning the necklace. Maggie arrives and Yaeger suggests that Quentin strangled Angelique. What favor might she grant? Yaeger attacks!

Barnabas Collins in Atlanta, Ga.
In 1968 on this day, where was Barnabas? Don’t wait for the translation; answer me now! Exactly where you would expect: in Georgia doing publicity for the show. Somewhere inside of Jonathan Frid, there was a boy from Hamilton, Ontario who hadn’t the slightest notion what these strange, alien-sounding people were saying. And let it be made public that there is no record of him being offered a Klan uniform with an Inverness cape. (Watch amateur video from his visit below.)

Most importantly, May 19 is the birthday of Marie Wallace. Of the Major Babes of Dark Shadows, Marie had the least airtime, and she made up for it with an intensity that could have lit up Detroit. In her audition for Eve, she really ratted up her hair and went to town, and actors take note… that’s what directors want to see: actors who make bold choices and commit to them, 100 percent. Oddly enough, my favorite performance of hers was as Megan Todd, because it was her most subtle. It was great fun to see her go full-tilt at the outer edges of extreme characters, but it was also fascinating to see her pull back and show that much nuance. Megan also had an arc, and I think it offers us the performance with the greatest range. In any event, happy birthday!

(Episode 1017 aired on this date.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Get hammered with Barnabas Collins

Beetle House, a Tim Burton-themed restaurant, recently opened its doors to patrons in New York City. If it's anything like his movies, the food there will look interesting but taste like shit.

On the menu is a drink called "Barnabas Collins," made with Bulleit Rye whiskey, brown sugar, chocolate bitters and Peychaud's bitters. I heartily endorse anything made with Bulleit Rye, but would argue that the Collinsport Historical Society's own "Barnabas Collins" is the superior drink.


Friday, May 13, 2016

About that CHILD OF DARK SHADOWS post ...


For a few minutes last week, we got to imagine what it was like to have had a third DARK SHADOWS feature film from Dan Curtis.

It was equal parts hoax, practical joke and performance art, and required a level of commitment that bordered on mania. CHILD OF DARK SHADOWS wouldn't have been interesting if it was accompanied by an explanation, so it was published without one. People visited the website and were hit cold with a review of a 43-year-old movie that had no business existing.

If we did our jobs well, readers wouldn't be able to tell fantasy from fiction. Our phony review for CHILD OF DARK SHADOWS was accompanied by a feature story on the cover of Film Comment (a real magazine), as well as in a page from Monster-A-Go-Go (a fake magazine). To confuse matters even further, the Monster-A-Go-Go "review" was kind of a real thing, and was originally published on this website as part of a contest back in 2012.

And that faux review is where all of this began. Warner Bros. approached me that year about hosting a contest for the DVD releases of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS. I thought a blind raffle was pretty boring, so readers were required to submit "elevator pitches" for a proposed third film in the series. WB was skeptical that anyone would take the bait, but Melissa Snyder stunned me (and impressed the PR people at WB) with her idea of a SUSPIRIA/"Jane Eyre" homage. She supplied a full summary of the film (in the form of a DVD review) and a poster.

Her pitch for CHILD OF DARK SHADOWS has intrigued me ever since. The plot feels like a natural extension of the DARK SHADOWS brand and played to Curtis' bleak cinematic sensibilities. HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS has been called an "American Giallo," a Hollywood counterpart to the gory murder mysteries of directors like Dario Argento. Merging gothic melodrama with SUSPIRIA (a movie that also featured Joan Bennett!) is a concept that borders on a fever dream.

As a form of creative calisthenics, I began to tinker with the idea of promotional materials for CHILD OF DARK SHADOWS late last year. What would newspaper ads have looked like? Foreign release posters? The novelization? I took a stab at some of these concepts, none of it really sticking. Part of it was a lack of purpose. It's hard to get fired up about creating something that nobody's ever going to see, and from there the larger idea was born.

With Melissa's summary in hand (and with her blessing) I asked Patrick McCray to handle the next piece of writing. My art still needed to be completed at that point in the project. And, truth be told, my schedule these days is so cramped that things might never get finished if left to me. A third voice also added more depth to the illusion ... when Patrick asked if I wanted a Starlog or Monster Serial-style review, it was clear he fully understood the concept.

He was asked not to write anything that intentionally contradicted Melissa's outline, but he had free reign to craft the film's imaginary "cultural history." He embellished a bit on the plot, but I think it turned out well. Christopher Pennock's “Anton Castille" was a perfect fit for the post ROSEMARY'S BABY occult boom of the decade and I wanted to see more of him.

The art was a mishmash of promotional images from the original DARK SHADOWS television show, as well as photos from other movies featuring the cast members. Alexandra Moltke gave up acting after leaving the show, which provided a pretty steep challenge. Expressionism (and Victoria's timeless trench coat) turned out to be my allies. Movie marketing in the 1970s was often a shell game, with posters and ads frequently selling movies much smaller than advertised. Exhibit A: Mark Hamill's Herculean physique on the original STAR WARS poster.

In lieu of photos of Moltke, it seemed appropriate to give the impression of the actress in my fake marketing materials, which pulled heavily on art from other books, movies and comics. One reader spotted artwork from an edition of Graham Masterson's 1976 novel, "The Manitou," but failed to spot Jerry Lacy's face superimposed over the monster's. Look carefully and you'll also see a still from SUSPIRIA, a track on the soundtrack titled "I Don't Understand" and Melissa's original plot summary used as the text on the Monster-A-Go-Go page.

I also liked the idea of a fictional narrative implied by these random images. Gone from the series were both Marilyn Ross and the Paperback Library Gothic books. The intent here was to show that, by 1973, a DARK SHADOWS movie could at least get the same kind of licensing push as RABID or THE WICKER MAN. After all, the occult was big, big business in the 1970s. (If you browse the movie listings in the image at the top of this post, you'll see why David Selby was unavailable for the sequel.)

Some people got the joke. Others didn't. Adam West has said that the dialogue on BATMAN only works when delivered with the seriousness of dropping a bomb, and that was my approach here. It appears to have worked: For about 24 hours, Melissa's original 2012 contest results for CHILD OF DARK SHADOWS was one of the best-read pages on the website thanks to people Googling the movie's title in search of answers. It felt cruel to ignore questions from people on social media, but it felt equally lame to clear away the fog before it had time to fully settle in.

Tone was also a concern, because I didn't want to come across as either apologetic or vain in my responses. The first would be untrue (I regret nothing) and the second ... well, I am kinda proud of this technological terror we've constructed.

(Note: You can see the original post HERE.)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Punk Shadows: A playlist EP!


There's no shortage of songs inspired by DARK SHADOWS. Even omitting the tracks recorded by the cast members, there's a pretty weird compilation album to be made from the many, many songs about the original series. Those tracks range from proto-disco ("Barnabas" by Vampire State Building) to reggae ("Barnabas Collins" by the Lone Ranger) but somehow the first wave of punk in the 1970s seemed to miss out on the phenomenon. Ideally, these were the kids that grew up on DARK SHADOWS, but the show was apparently a distant memory once those kids grew up and discovered heroin, sex and guitars.

But DARK SHADOWS was nowhere to be found during the second big wave of punk during the 1980s, either. It wasn't until the show began to air on the Sci-Fi Channel in the early 1990s that DARK SHADOWS began to creep into the punk landscape. By this point "horror punk" was slowly becoming a thing, and was the obvious conduit for anyone wanting to loudly proclaim their love for vampires, werewolves, witches and fog machines. If you want an idea of the role the Sci-Fi Channel played in generating new fans on both sides of the Atlantic, look no further than these songs.

Note: Many of these tracks are by independent artists and aren't available on Amazon or iTunes. I've provided links with each summary to help you upon your quest.

Misfits: Dark Shadows
From the album "The Devil's Rain," 2011.
This is the most blatant cash grab on the playlist, one of many attempts by Misfits holdout Jerry Only to get a song on the soundtrack to a Tim Burton movie. His previous attempts with songs such as "Mars Attacks" and "Forbidden Zone" (inspired by PLANET OF THE APES) were fruitless, as was this tune. I want to hate it, but it's one of the few tracks from "The Devil's Rain" that's actually OK.


The Oval Portrait featuring Gerard Way: Barnabus Collins 
Has More Skeletons In His Closet Than Vincent Price
From the album "Life in Death," 2003.
Yep, BarnaBUS Collins. The actual song doesn't have anything to do with Vincent Price or Barnabas Collins, but it has the kind of reckless abandon that can transform depression into ... well, not joy, exactly. But it has spirit, if not spell check. Confusing, yes, but they earn an E for Effort.


Shadow Windhawk: House of Dark Shadows
From the album "Cremation Garden," 2016.
This is a new one, and the only track on the playlist that I haven't had the opportunity to hear. The band currently has a handful of tunes from this album streaming on their website, but HODS isn't one of them.  UPDATE: "House of Dark Shadows" is now streaming at the band's website.

As an added bonus, the song "The Curse of Thorn" features dialogue samples of DS alumnus Mitchell Ryan from the film HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS. You can listen to it HERE.


The Damned: 'Til the End of Time
From the album "Grave Disorder," 2001.
What does this song have to do with DARK SHADOWS? Possibly nothing. The lyrics might be nothing more than generic romance, the sort of gothed-up treacle so popular during the 1990s. Sure, "I've woken from darkness with passion/You're surely to blame for it" sounds exactly like its riffing on the Barnabas/Angelique dynamic, but that's a storyline that's been ripped off so many times that it might nothing more than a distant literary relative. But The Damned tip their hand in the final moments of the song, which closes on the lyrics "Alone now forever no sweeter pain/Than those memories."

These words are immediately followed by a dialogue sample of Lara Parker from an episode of DARK SHADOWS.


Argyle Goolsby: The East Wing
From the album "Saturnalia of the Accursed," 2016.
Argyle Goolsby, formerly of the band Blitzkid, wins the DARK SHADOWS arms race with this track, which dives the deepest into Collinsport lore. He steers clear of the obvious (no overt references to vampires here) to touch on the mystical misadventures in the closed-off section of Collinwood. Considering the East Wing was shuttered in 1840 (a storyline pretty far removed from the show's prime) this is easily the most obscure and loving tribute to DARK SHADOWS on this playlist.

Note: "The East Wing" first appeared on Goolsby's 2013 album "Under the Witness Stars" and has since been included (along with the kinda/maybe-DS inspired song "Shadows of Night") on "Saturnalia of the Accursed."


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Full cast, cover for Dark Shadows: Blood & Fire

Big Finish has released the cover art and full cast for this summer's DARK SHADOWS: BLOOD AND FIRE. Reading the list provoked a roller coaster of emotions, not the least of which is the realization that I've taken David Selby's presence in these things for granted. After the announcement that Joanna Going was joining the party, my greedy imagination kicked into overdrive, concocting a bizarre scenario that might allow for the return of Alexandra Moltke, David Henesy and Kate Jackson. While we're at it, why not raise Jonathan Frid from the dead? Or maybe harness the withering power of Twitter into shaming Johnny Depp into making an apologetic cameo? (Both are about as likely.)

It's that train of thought that lead me to read this cast list, see Selby's name and just shrug. Which is absurd, because Selby is a national treasure and the closest thing to a Frank Capra character that this world will ever see. Taking David Selby for granted is like not thanking Superman for rescuing you from a burning building: Just because he's supposed to do it doesn't mean he has to.

The same goes for the rest of the OG cast members, who are essentially doing these audio dramas as favors to the fans. There's certainly no crass motivation for Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, Nancy Barrett or anyone else to do these things, and lord knows they've had to put up with a lot of weirdness from fans over the years. Fifty of them, in fact.

And crikey*, this cast list is impressive. Back in 1991, I doubt any of us would have predicted a DARK SHADOWS program that included John Karlen, Joanna Going and Mitch Ryan ... yet here it is. And with Matthew Waterhouse, to boot.


Lara Parker (Angélique Bouchard)
Kathryn Leigh Scott (Patience Collins)
Mitchell Ryan (Caleb Collins)
Joanna Going (Laura Murdoch Stockbridge)
Andrew Collins (Joshua Collins)
Daisy Tormé (Abigail Collins)
James Storm (Abraham Harkaway)
Lisa Richards (Euphemia Spencer Stockbridge)
Christopher Pennock (Uriah Spencer Stockbridge)
Marie Wallace (Dorothea Summers)
Nancy Barrett (Isobel Collins)
David Selby (Theodore Collins)
Matthew Waterhouse (Reverend Samuel Cunningham)
Jerry Lacy (Malachi Sands)
John Karlen (Alfred Loomis)
Ursula Burton (Peggy Griffin)
Alexandra Donnachie (Sarah Filmore)
Scott Haran (Lamech Gifford)
Walles Hamonde (Roderick Haskell)
Daniel Collard (Robert Hanley)
Natalie Britton (Storm Elemental)

Dark Shadows: Blood & Fire is scheduled for release in June and is now available online for pre-order.

(Editor's Note: That "crikey" was intended for a reader who sent me a terse e-mail complaining about the use of profanity of this website. I believe the word that troubled him was "asshole.")

Barnabas Collins will return ... somehow

It was four years ago that decades of speculation, years of hope, months of confidence, and weeks of reticence all culminated in Tim Burton’s DARK SHADOWS. At its core, the DARK SHADOWS franchise demands a good remake every few decades. After all, the original program was a vehicle for modernizations. Now itself a classic, why should it be exempt from the same kind of reinvention? It shouldn’t. Just as Dan Curtis used the soap opera medium to share what he found captivating about the classics, we have the ability use the medium of cinema to share what is captivating about DARK SHADOWS. That’s why a bad remake is so infuriating. That’s why it matters. Ultimately, that’s why DARK SHADOWS will always be back.

- Patrick McCray

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

UPDATE: A new Dark Shadows DVD collection is headed your way

Well, new-ish.

MPI Home Video is packaging six of its "best of" DARK SHADOWS DVDs into a single collection this summer. The set features the previously released Haunting of Collinwood, The Vampire Curse, Best of Barnabas, Best of Quentin, Best of Angelique and Fan Favorites. That's 19 hours of DARK SHADOWS spread out over six discs, though I have trouble picturing the intended audience. Generally, these sampler DVDs have been sold at modest price points to help nurture new fans. "Curious about DARK SHADOWS? Here are a handful of episodes about Barnabas Collins to help get you off the fence!" It's a strategy that's worked well in small doses, but bundling this many random episodes seems a little ... strange to me.

Anyhoo, the collection is due June 14, a few short weeks before this year's Dark Shadows Festival in Tarrytown, N.Y. Best But currently has it available for pre-order for $14.99, which is almost certainly an error.   UPDATE: That price is NOT an error. In face, Amazon has this collection available for pre-order for just $11.60 as I type this. You can find it HERE.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

MONSTER SERIAL: Child of Dark Shadows, 1973


Was it just me, or did CBS used to show movies opposite Carson? Or maybe Letterman? That’s where I saw scads of vital films. THE OMEGA MAN (the second time). THE LAST OF SHEILA. And this. Before I had any idea what DARK SHADOWS was, CHILD OF DARK SHADOWS sounded like some kind of documentary about runaways or drug abuse or something similarly instructional, but Snyder was a rerun, and so during those lazy, insomniac-by-choice summers of my misspent middleschoolism, it was the only game on the three channels we called choice back in the wilds of the early Eighties.

When I ended up watching the show, the film was so different that it took two years and a fresh Fangoria to explain that, yes, Virginia, this was the third DARK SHADOWS film. Not that I was dissatisfied with it. Schoolgirls in panic! Haunted portraits. The I Ching. Occult heroes. It was all there. By Jove, I was a fool not to have put the pieces together myself. If anything, I kept waiting for the TV show to get like the movie. Where was Anton Castille when Collinsport needed him?

By 1973, Dan Curtis was in an odd position. The name DARK SHADOWS still had bankability, but you have to give the audience some, you know, DARK SHADOWS. If NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS taught what was left of Team Curtis anything, it was that. Unfortunately, with Jonathan Frid and David Selby gone, it was going to be an uphill battle. He was wise to very carefully sift through what was left to give the audience as much familiarity as he could. No, Julia Hoffman is dead, but there’s Joanna Hoffman. Sure. Just trade the tweed for a pantsuit. Check. Jerry Lacy as a failed televangelist Trask, desperately trying to start his own campus in Collinsport. The important question was, “Is he still an asshole? Yes? Then it’s DARK SHADOWS.”

Were Nancy Barrett and Alexandra Isles a bit, um, august to be playing high school girls? Yes, but who cares? We never see any classes other than those run by hottie hipster, Jason Kane (John Karlen), and that’s “figure modeling,” so maybe it’s a finishing school. I don’t know, and I’m not sure it matters. The crucial thing is that Curtis and Hall were doing what they did best — reconfiguring other works of horror into their own narrative.

Left, the 1984 home video release by MGM. Right, the novelization by David Gerrold.

By doing this, they gave the audiences of 1973 everything they wanted then. It was almost as if DARK SHADOWS, the television version, worked from the literature of the past. Now, we have the literature of the present, and Curtis was in the thick of 1970’s neo-pagan-christian-mysticism with several audacious twists. (Roger’s snarling, driverless Jaguar is a personal favorite.) The smartest thing that I think Curtis pulled off was to return to the familiar turn of time travel, but with a twist he’d never done, and with a strange moral inversion that caused bad behavior for years to come in junior highs across America.

Yes, hauntings and deaths and an old portrait. Got it. There were girls dropping like flies at the school and the word “poltergeist” was invoked in cinema for the first time to my knowledge without bothering to google it. It’s clear early on that Joanna Hoffman and Isiah Trask are in cahoots in their bizarre scheme to begin the End Times. This was a dash of Hal Lindsey that needed a send-up, and by having Grayson Hall and Lacy pair up over ceremonies based on the forbidden “Third Testament,” we not only get great storytelling/satire, but we also get to see what Spielberg totally ripped off for the climax of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

Front and back cover art for Robert Cobert's soundtrack.

Smarter still was the idea that, if DARK SHADOWS were to continue as a franchise, it would need a new, continuing central character. Enter Christopher Pennock, as the Avanti-driving, kickass, good-guy Satanist (!), “Anton Castille,” cousin to the late Tracy Collins (Kate Jackson), there to investigate her death. Thanks to his own set of I Ching wands (and a helpful trance or two), we learn that the Victoria from the painting found in the Old House is not an ancestor ...  it really is Victoria. The footage of her trip back to 1738 is still missing, but the film cuts around it nicely. I would have enjoyed seeing her go back to that era to burn the Third Testament when it’s fresh off the boat, but the way they handled it was just as clever. The seance and the monologue that Isles delivers in it finally justifies the faith I had that she really could understand things. That she would (so the stunning monologue tells us) go back to 1738, die at the hands of Bishop Trask, only to come back and haunt Collinwood to stop his descendant was maybe the only ghost gag that Hall and Curtis had not tried. When the sniveling Trask begs Castille to perform the exorcism and he refuses, knowing that the Right Reverend is the ultimate target of the spectral attacks? That gave me no end of ammo in religious debates with my mother for years to come.

Italian one-sheet poster for CHILD OF DARK SHADOWS, 1974.
Is it a mess of a movie? Yeah, but it’s never dull, and you can’t say that for NIGHT. It was banned in Little Rock, and you have to love that. Of course, MGM shit its pants at the idea of a continuing series of DARK SHADOWS films with Pennock as Castille, battling black magic with even blacker magic, so CHILD truly was the end of that phase of DARK SHADOWS. A shame, because Pennock shows genuine star power in the part, finally taking on the mantle of male lead with Barnabas and Quentin written out. Would audiences have supported the film more had the advertising made Dan Curtis’ new direction more evident? Of course. (I’m not so sure about DARK SHADOWS fans getting behind someone not a Collins… yet.) Thankfully, MGM had no real power over the novelization and the four successful print sequels, all of which focused on Castille, a man we eventually learn is, of course, a Collins.

Of course, he’s a Collins. It took three books to get there, but come on. This really is DARK SHADOWS.

Melissa Snyder's 2012 DVD review of CHILD OF DARK SHADOWS, from Monster-a-Go-Go Magazine.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Joanna Going returning to DARK SHADOWS this summer

Well, this is exciting news!

As you've probably noted in the headline, actress Joanna Going is returning to Collinsport in the upcoming DARK SHADOWS: BLOOD & FIRE. When the first round of casting was announced for the two-hour special a few weeks ago, I noted that there was no name attached to play Laura Murdoch Stockbridge. Diana Millay, who played both incarnations of the character on the original DARK SHADOWS, has been retired from acting for years, so her return could be confidently ruled out ... but I doubt many people were anticipating this.

The 1991 DARK SHADOWS "revival" made me a life-long fan of Going, who found a way to make the veritable "Mary Sue" that is Victoria Winters interesting. It was her turn as Josette Du Pres in the flashback, though, that fully sold me on her acting chops. With all due respect to Kathryn Leigh Scott and Bella Heathcote, that's the only time Josette has ever felt like a real character.

And this time she's presumably playing the villain. BLOOD & FIRE appears to be leaping off some comments made by Barnabas Collins during the 1897 storyline about having met the Laura when he was a child. (<---- Editor's note: Maybe not.) For those of you coming in late, Laura was a monster known as a Phoenix, a succubus of sorts with the nasty habit of marrying into the Collins family, dying by fire and then returning from the dead to murder her own children. She's easily the most disturbing character in the long run of DARK SHADOWS, which might explain why she was used so sparingly.

DARK SHADOWS: BLOOD & FIRE also stars David Selby, Lara Parker, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Mitchell Ryan, Andrew Collins, Daisy Tormé, James Storm, Jerry Lacy, John Karlen, Lisa Richards, Christopher Pennock, Matthew Waterhouse and ... damn, I'm getting winded just typing this.

Here's the official summary for BLOOD & FIRE, which is due out in June:
The year is 1767. Young widow Laura Murdoch Stockbridge is to marry Joshua Collins, heir to the Collins fortune. Meanwhile, Joshua’s sister Abigail is in love with disreputable sailor Abraham Harkaway. But the course of true love never did run smooth… especially when the witch Angélique Bouchard is around. For Angélique has been sent back in time. And she has one mission… To destroy the Collins family forever.
You can pre-order it HERE.
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