Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A dollar a day keeps the vampire away

In 1967, The Morning News in Wilmington, Delaware, was boosting a charity drive for The Needy Family Fund. Readers were asked to give whatever they could, with the previous day's donations ranging from $1 to $100. The newspaper published the list of donors in no discernible order, kicking off with a $1 gift in the name of "Actor Jonathan Frid, alias Vampire Barnabas Collins." The paper published an explanation that the $1 was given by a child, who included a note that read "I am only a kid. I can't aford anymore (sic)." D'awwwww.

As a side note: it appears that The Needy Family Fund is still an ongoing concern. You can find them online at

The Dark Shadows Daybook: AUGUST 31


Taped on this day in 1970: Episode 1093.

Gazing within the dollhouse, Hallie and David see themselves. It is Gerard’s message that it will be their eventual and eternal home. Carolyn almost finds them outside the playroom, herself finally hearing the music, but David distracts her. Later, Hallie announces Gerard’s command that they make a third doll, this one a blonde female named Leticia. Meanwhile, Sebastian visits and tells an unusually unconcerned David that he can’t finish his horoscope. Later, Sebastian is told that Maggie’s condition is worsening. She is apparently the victim of an animal bite, which he finds significant. As the evening wears on, Carolyn finds herself humming the playroom carousel’s tune, and quickly discovers herself able to enter the playroom.

For me, there are three types of nightmares. One involves people who refuse to pronounce the final ‘i’ in ‘poinsettia.’ The second is reserved for those who feel that tomatoes are appropriate in jambalaya. The third, however, has to do with real nightmares. Nightmares ‘work’ because they involve one very real and dangerous thing completely unsupported by context or causality. That’s at the root of so much of the Ragnarok storyline. Characters are compelled toward doomed decisions with no real reason, and yet the inexplicable draw is there. It is similar to that strange pull which exists behind addictions and compulsive behaviors, and that’s deeply, deeply frightening. Because we have known them for so long, we give these people a lot of credibility, making their actions all the more disturbing. Ragnarok (1995-”Destruction of Collinwood”) is a woeful, sustained note, reflecting the entropy of the time. Gerard’s pull toward the children is like that of a cult leader’s -- a Manson in Collinsport. The overall inability of the adults to stop events that should be preventable, if not understandable, feels like a discussion of the Vietnam war. And you thought STAR TREK was about its time? It was… certainly, intellectually. DARK SHADOWS is about the era, emotionally. Together, they are a magnificent take on the Zeitgeist through the lens of their genres. This episode is a study in that, beginning with one of the series greatest, WTF scares in its history.

Quiet day in the news, but a great day for birthdays. We got some James CoburnWilliam SaroyanRichard Basehart, Edwin Moses, Buddy Hackett, Richard Gere, Jack Thompson, and your host, Caligula. THAT’S a party!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: AUGUST 30


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 578.

Tony visits Collinwood to revise Liz’s will as her new attorney. Carolyn takes advantage of his visit to explore her romantic feelings for him, but when Adam sees this, he later attacks Tony. This moves Carolyn to again explain to Adam that she only wants to be friends. Worried about Adam, she hires Harry Johnson to babysit Adam for $100 a day. The sight of Harry Johnson drives Adam into a slow-burning rage. He writes a goodbye note, breaks down the door, and escapes. Meanwhile, Roger reports that Liz will keep the family in her will only if they agree to support her new mausoleum. It’s equipped with a button that will allow her to escape if she should ever be buried alive. Roger feels that she should be sent back to Windcliff immediately.

Woody Allen and Diana Walker in PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM.
It’s Earth 2 Carolyn! Another actress plays Carolyn in this one, and it’s a little like having a substitute teacher. Refreshing, but it makes you appreciate the real deal, too. Louis Edmonds sounds thoroughly disgusted when he informs viewers in a voiceover that “the part of Carolyn will be played by Diana Walker.” So, Nancy took a sick day. So what, Louis? Not Diana’s fault. There’s an especially odd sequence where you have the substitute Carolyn speaking with Harry, who’s like the substitute Willie. If only Betsy Durkin had been in this one, I think we all would have been sucked into Parallel Time. Diana is, you know, fine. But she really makes you appreciate the talent of Nancy Barrett, whose acting is so marvelously honest and seemingly effortless. Walker was a capable soap actress, who also appeared on AS THE WORLD TURNS and WHERE THE HEART IS. On stage, her career was more interesting. She appeared with future nighttime TV hunk, Bea Arthur, in the original cast of MAME and also co-starred with Jerry Lacy (also in this episode) in PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM.

As for the episode? Whether it’s PC to invoke the phrase or not, one thing is true; don’t friendzone Adam.

On this day in history, we celebrate the one-year anniversary of Thurgood Marshall’s appointment to the Supreme Court as well as the birthday of, more-or-less, Adam creator, Mary Shelley. So, go watch GOTHIC!

"Much Ado About Nothing" tour takes a dark turn, 1958


By all accounts, the 1958 stage tour of "Much Ado About Nothing" was a success. It was a huge gamble, though, despite the presence of a bona fide superstar on the bill. Directors John Houseman and Jack Landau had re-imagined Shakespeare's romcom as a bit of a western, moving the story from its Sicilian locale to 19th-century Spanish-American Texas. It was also the first tour launched by the American Shakespeare Festival, which staged its first play in Stanford, Connecticut, in 1955.

While it was ultimately a financial success, "Much Ado About Nothing" took an unexpectedly dark turn during the tour's final weeks.

Having Katharine Hepburn on the marquee likely helped ease the doubts of the tour's investors. Hepburn was as big a movie star as has ever been produced by Hollywood, and her presence in the show had a curious impact on things. If you were to see ads for the travelling show in your local newspaper, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a movie. Hepburn and co-star Alfred Drake were treated like royalty by the press, although few other names in the cast were able to escape Hepburn's orbit. "Much Ado About Nothing" was a Big Deal.

The production debuted late in 1957 at the American Shakespeare Festival, part of a festival program that also included "Othello" and "The Merchant of Venice." All three shows shared a sprawling cast of more than two dozen actors. At the end of the festival, directors Houseman and Landau must have been pleased with the festival's comedic contribution, because they opted to take the "Much Ado About Nothing" on a short tour of America.

Alfred Drake and Katharine Hepburn in "Much Ado About Nothing," 1957.
Hepburn and Drake agreed to star in the nine-week tour. The roster of actors was trimmed to the meet play's essential roles. When the cast of "Much Ado About Nothing" hit the road in early 1958, Jonathan Frid was with them.

Frid, 32, had received a master's degree in directing in 1957 from the Yale University Drama School.

"I was a directing major there, but we all had to do parts anyway," Frid said during a 2012 interview with the Archive of American Television. "Everybody had to do acting at one time or another. I'd already gone through acting, all kinds of teachers, and I was a perpetual student. I was going to everybody in those days. I had to go through it again and they gave me all these huge roles to play at Yale and it led to getting into the American Shakespeare Festival where I worked with Katharine Hepburn, and John Houseman was the director at the time."

Frid played both "Friar Francis" and "Sexton" at different points during the 1958 tour. In later years, he remained characteristically modest about his importance to the production.

"I was in a small role," he told TV Picture Life in 1969. "I wasn’t important, but it gave me a chance to know (Hepburn). I was able to observe her. I was there, every day, watching her.”

Hepburn was "Beatrice," Drake played "Benedick" and the rest of the cast often traded roles based on the ever-shifting demands of the tour. And those demands took a tragic turn upon the show's arrival in Boston.

"Much Ado About Nothing" ran from Jan. 27 until Feb. 1 in 1958 at the American Theatre in St. Louis. The tour stopped next in Washington, during which the company found it impossible to hide actor Stanley Bell's worsening mental health problems. Appearing as "Don Pedro," Bell walked off stage -- and out of the theater -- in the middle of a scene with Hepburn on Feb. 14. An understudy filled in for the rest of the performance, but Bell was unaccounted for until the following day.

He appeared at Houseman's Manhattan apartment early the next morning to find the director was not at home. Bell told Joan Courtney, Houseman's wife, that he'd "blanked out" during the performance. By chance, Houseman called the apartment while Bell was present and the two spoke. Bell asked to return to the production but, when Courtney left the room to get a cup of tea for him, she found the actor had left the apartment.

On the morning of Feb. 17, Bell jumped from the eighth floor window of the Hotel Touraine. In the interim, he must have convinced Houseman to let him continue with the show. News reports of Bell's death mention that he was expected to take the stage when the play opened that night at the Shubert Theater.

Boston was in the grips of a snowstorm that claimed the lives of more than 30 people that week, and Bell's death was hardly noticed. In fact, the desk attendant who heard the actor's body strike the hotel's marquee initially thought it was more snow falling from the roof. The show went on as scheduled with a few temporary adjustments to the cast.

The Wikipedia page for Hotel Touraine weirdly lists Bell as one of the many celebrity guests to have stayed at the hotel, omitting the tragic way in which he checked out. Worse, Bell was actually registered a mile away at the Hotel Lenox at the time of his death. (Hepburn was staying at the Ritz Carlton.)

A native of Montreal, Bell claimed to be the 18th in a generation of actors dating back to the Globe Theater during Shakespeare's lifetime. His Broadway credits included "Candida" in 1942 (with Raymond Massey and Burgess Meredith), "Lady Windermere's Fan" in 1946, and "Affair of Honor" in 1956.

John Colicos (who would later appear in STAR TREK and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) replaced Drake in the role of "Benedick" in Boston. Ellis Raab (who Kelsey Grammer would later cite as the inspiration for the voice of "Sideshow Bob" on THE SIMPSONS) replaced Bell for the remainder of the tour.

Katharine Hepburn, Lois Nettleton and Jonathan Frid.
"Much Ado About Nothing" earned $300,000 during it's nine-week run (about $2.5 million today) and prompted the American Shakespeare Festival to investigate the possibility of hiring a full-time acting repertoire. Hepburn would return to the silver screen the following year in the ghastly adaption of Tennessee Williams' SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER. Drake would reprise his starring role in the TV movie adaption of KISS ME, KATE later in 1958. Colicos unsuccessfully tried to kill the crew of the Enterprise, Battlestar Galactica and the X-Men.

And you probably know what happened to Jonathan Frid.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Grayson Hall ain't no snitch, 1964

John Huston's THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA had not screened for the public when actress Grayson Hall sat down for an interview about the film in June, 1964. It had already garnered a certain level of notoriety, though, with rumors circulating that made the Mexican set sound like a tropical orgy. "It seems like a gossiper's dream: Richard Burton is on location with Lolita," one columnist wrote as the film was still in production in 1963.

In the interview below, Hall doesn't appear to be much interested in the whereabouts of Burton's penis during the production of the film. While I don't think she's being entirely honest about the crew's misadventures, it's also not her place to help feed the Gossip Monster that had cast its lewd eye upon her colleagues. When asked about the "scandalous goings-on" in Mexico, you can practically hear her tell the writer to "fuck off."

(Note: Hall would later receive an Academy award nomination for her performance in THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA. Watch footage of her at the 1965 ceremony HERE.)

Inside Story 
July 3, 1964

It’s like this. You’re a reporter, an entertainment writer, always on the lookout for interesting people with equally interesting stories for you to put into a thrice weekly column.

In an office a few flights up from the bright lights section of Broadway, there’s a press agent, who writes you a note about a client of his, an actress with the unlikely name of Grayson Hall. Would you like to interview her?

You’re ready to pass up his offer until you note that she has a featured role in “The Night of the Iguana,” film version of Tennessee Williams’ Broadway play of a few seasons back.

Well, you’ve heard all about the hankying and pankying that went on in Mismaloya, Mexico, while the movie was being made. You’ve read the gossip columnists’ reports and the magazine articles about what supposedly happened when John Huston. Ava Gardner, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor. Sue Lyon, Deborah Kerr, Peter Viertel, and Williams found themselves thrown together in a steamy, tropical village for several months.

Aha, you think, here’s your chance to get the inside story on what happened in Mismaloya from someone who was there. So you pick up your pencil and pad and head for Manhattan.

Hate to disappoint you, but about the only thing that happened in Mismaloya was that a movie was made, a movie which received generally good reviews when it premiered Tuesday. It will open in hundreds of theaters in New York and New Jersey on Aug. 6.

So they made a movie that got good notices. Great! But, what really happened? What about all the scandalous goings-on that were supposed to have gone on?

“There weren’t any,” Miss Hall tells you as you scratch the ears of her son’s dog, Thing, named after a character from a Dr. Seuss book.

“Well, there was one thing.” (Aha, you think, this is it, the bare truth.) “One of the reporters — and there seemed to be millions of them — who came down to cover the filming tried to interview Dick Burton over drinks. Well, Burton is one of those people who can drink for hours without showing it. The reporter, unfortunately, wasn’t, and by the time the interview was finished, Dick practically had to carry the poor man home.”

“You see, it was a work situation. We had come there to make a film, and that’s what we did. Of course, we had one of the longest cocktail hours ever. Work finished at about 5:30 and dinner wasn’t served until nine. We couldn’t go back to our rooms and write letters or anything like that because of the insects. The only thing we could do was drink, so we had a three hour plus cocktail hour.”

This was Miss Hall’s first big movie (she co-starred with Meg Myles in the low-budget “Satan in High Heels.”) Until now, Miss Hall’s career has centered around the legitimate stage, both on and off Broadway.

Among her credits are “The Balcony,” Six Characters in Search of an Author” (the Tyrone Guthrie production at the Phoenix), and “Subways Are For Sleeping.”

From the way New York film critics hailed Miss Hall’s performance, she’s virtually assured of a solid film career — if she wants one. The only hitch is she doesn’t. She’ll make movies alright as long as she can continue doing live roles onstage.

How she got her name is a story in itself. She was born Shirley Grossman, changed her name to Shirley Grayson, and married writer Sam Hall, making her Shirley Hall. Deciding that she wasn’t really a Shirley, Miss Hall made one more switch, this time to Grayson Hall. It may sound like a dormitory, but it’s a name few can forget.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: AUGUST 26


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 571

Although Tom chokes Barnabas into unconsciousness, the sun forces him to retreat into his coffin. When Barnabas comes to, he wastes little time in staking Tom, only briefly wondering if anyone had ever stood over him this way. Simultaneously, Julia is cured and comes to, the wounds gone from her neck. Meanwhile, Roger finds Liz cowering behind a chair in the Old House. She swears she’s seen a coffin, and agrees to go back to Windcliff if it can’t be found. Meanwhile, Nicholas Blair visits the convalescing Julia, arming himself with irony, a smart floral bouquet, and a smile. None of it takes. At the site of Tom’s coffin, Barnabas and Roger find nothing. Roger is ready to lock Liz away for good when Julia insists that she may be better cared for at home. Alone with Julia, Barnabas concludes that the staking of Tom was only the beginning; the person who turned him is still a threat.

This is one of those grand places where Barnabas gets to spiritually atone, exorcise the demons of his past, vicariously destroy the worst in himself, and yet show a strange sympathy to his quarry all at once in the moments before Tom’s (second) death. It yet another turning point for the Great Man, and sly Gordon Russell can’t let the gravitas be untrod upon for long. No sooner does he get back that we see the grand Joan Bennett hiding behind a wing-back chair like Jack Tripper evading Mr. Roper. In some cases, I’d wager the humor were accidental. With Russell? No way. Not in the same episode that Nicholas forces his way into the Old House with the only permutation of politeness that could make it possible, and under just the right circumstances for Barnabas to let him do it. With the house unguarded! The guy just can’t get a break. Then, rounding things out is the Eddie Haskellian plea by Julia for Roger to Let Liz Stay. If you’re looking for the ridiculous and the sublime, this episode swings. It may be one of the best selections to introduce newcomers to the wild range that is DARK SHADOWS at its most ebulliently eclectic.

On this day in 1987, the Fuller Brush company opened its first retail stores. Relevant only because Humbert Allen Astredo once sold Fuller brushes, and it was while doing so that his vocal talents were first noticed. It was a compliment that eventually propelled him into show business. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Who can turn the world on with her smile?

Many actresses include the word "modeling" in their biographies, even though the ephemeral nature of the industry makes it difficult to source. The Internet has turned the entire world into a planet of voyeurs detectives, though, and nothing stays hidden for very long anymore. Eventually, even the early modeling careers for such folks as Sharon StoneKeira Knightley and Whitney Houston were brought to light, despite the best intentions of their management.

Even though she was just 21 when she joined the cast of DARK SHADOWS in 1966, Alexandra Moltke's resume was centered on acting, citing stage productions of "The Reluctant Debutante," "I Remember Mama," and "Othello." With the exception of modeling for Vogue when she was four years old, Moltke essentially missed out on the "paying your dues" phase of her acting career.

Near the end of 1967, though, TV Guide offered her the opportunity to correct this professional oversight. In the Dec. 16-22 issue, Moltke was featured on a multi-page spread showing off seasonal fashions. Neal Barr, a contributing photographer for Harper's Bazaar, shot the session. You can see the PETA-unfriendly images below.

For context, this feature was part of an on-going series at TV Guide that (usually) involved up-and-coming actresses. Paula Prentiss was featured in a similar spread in the magazine's final October issue ...

... Claire Bloom modeled for the series in September that year ...

... and Lee Remick appeared in an August issue. That's not bad company.

The Dark Shadows Daybook: AUGUST 25


Taped on this date: Episode 1091

The evening begins with Maggie collapsing, showing clear signs of a vampire attack. Julia goes to the Old House and confronts Barnabas, who pleads innocent. Eventually, he convinces her to, at least, give him the benefit of the doubt. There must be another vampire loose in Collinsport. David is similarly concerned, and over Hallie’s wishes, goes to the playroom, where he implores Gerard for guidance. Instead, Carrie’s ghost appears, and David is delighted when she indicates that she will reveal his future to him. Julia and Maggie spar in her room. Maggie is on edge, and it’s clear that she is feeling the pull of her new master. When Barnabas sees her bedridden state, his own sins echo in his ears, and he vows that he will find the new vampire and drive the stake in, himself.

Did you read that? He will drive the stake in, himself. For me, that is Barnabas Collins. And that’s why HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS sits so uneasily with me. I was circumspect yesterday, but I’m feeling a tad more honest, now. We only got one shot at a Barnabas movie. It’s a shame that it went the easy route of reducing the great man to a cardboard villain. Barnabas was one of television’s most intriguing, nuanced, and thoroughly developed characters. This episode shows him at his Quixotic best. It is inevitable that must I paraphrase Dr. Clifford Scridlow, “For whenever intimidation and injustice vie with decency and honor, let the inner Barnabases arise, and arise they must. For within every one of us, there is a Barnabas. A dormant Barnabas. A supreme arbitrator who can be summoned to intervene when crises threaten the stabilities and wellbeings of our heartlands.”

If only Barnabas could have taken on a pimp named Mom.

We are nearing Kathryn Leigh Scott’s final episode. She was always one of the series finest actors. Her raw take as Barnabas’ prisoner gave the show a gravitas and immediacy. This was no longer romance. This was danger of the most visceral kind. Now at the end of her journey, she bravely allows Maggie an even darker edge. Perhaps she wants to become a vampire. Perhaps she wants to die. She is tired of fighting. She is tired of constantly living as Collinwood’s collateral damage. And more of ragnarok’s shrapnel goes about its bloody work. This is a terminal storyline. In Campbellian terms, it is a point of no return unlike any our heroes have faced, and few will survive to fight. This is happening to our big, warm, dysfunctional, surrogate family. This is apocalyptic storytelling.

That’s not to say it isn’t funny. When Julia confronts Barnabas, convinced he’s the vampire on the attack, it’s like a sitcom where the harridan housewife is convinced her husband is cheating, right down to, “Oh don’t try to deny it!”

It was one of my favorite Chronicles to write. This is the evening from Barnabas’ perspective…

I have never been a cuckolding husband, but if I were, and were I confronted by a long- suffering shrew of a spouse, and yet (as in a French farce) were genuinely innocent...?
Cast Julia Hoffman as the embittered wife and one Barnabas Collins as the blameless and bedeviled pater noster, and you have the scene that erupted in Collins Hall as I was just finishing a particularly juicy chapter of Tristram Shandy and attempting to relax before going to sleep. My formula was working marvelously, and then? Quick as boiled asparagus, Doctor Hoffman appeared in a blast of Chanel Number 5 and stale, cigarette smoke to accuse me of feeding upon Miss Margaret Evans. I most certainly did not, as the rumbling from my stomach and general, sour mood could easily attest. Miss Evans had been the victim of some other vampire. Thomas Jennings, Angelique, Dirk Wilkins, and Megan Todd clearly taught the community that I am not a single-sellership in the realm of the beast. Did Julia believe my declarations of innocence? It takes no Sebastian Shaw to penetrate the mystery of that inquiry. Regarding Julia's opinion? At this point, is there any person of reason who gives a tinker's damn?
I will sort this all out when the sun sets, but as for now, I simply lie here in an insomniac's helpless rage. I have no desire to cause violence to innocent humans. I merely want to parse fact from fiction, eradicate whatever vampire bit Miss Evans, and then try to move on with saving Collinwood from utter destruction. That was, as I recall, the entire point of our actions.
Does that strain the boundary of reasonable expectations? I think not.

Finally, in history, it was a quiet week in Lake Wobegon. But not without note. It’s the birthday of Sean Connery, Elvis Costello, and Monty Hall. And behind door #1? Elton John’s first live appearance in the US on this very day in 1970. Welcome, Elton!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: AUGUST 24


Taped on this date in 1966: Episode 53

The morning after Carolyn and Vicki found -- and then lost -- the body at Widow’s Hill, David is unusually contentious and morose. He once again blames Vicki for preventing his mother to return, and then goes on to say that she is marked for death and that he has no plans on attending her funeral. As the day wears on, he continues his assault on happiness, pronouncing doom for Joe and Carolyn’s love and insisting that last night’s body truly was Bill Malloy. Elizabeth visits Matthew, seeking answers. He confesses that the body was Malloy’s and that he pushed it back into the sea.

After demonstrating how risky, insightful, and nimble they could be as storytellers with episode 50, Team Curtis grounds itself with safe, predictable surprises, cliffhangers, and general foreboding. David once again harps about his mother with the nonsensical assertion that Vicki is preventing her return. I feel both envious of and sorry for Diana Millay. They are clearly building Laura up with a mythic stature befitting her abilities. It’s hard to give a bad performance when the audience has been told how to regard you for months and months. At the same time, it’s a lot to live up to. One reason that Laura is so disappointing as a villain is that no actress short of Agnes Moorhead could step out of a shadow like that. But it’s a step in the right direction. As for the current story?  For viewers in-the-know, the promise of Laura and her powers makes the humdrummery of a simple murder seem like last week’s mashed potatoes. They end the Matthew Morgan storyline with such splash and panache that it feels as if the writers know that the show must change.

It’s been a good week for Dana Elcar across the timeline. He’s like Chekhov’s Gun. They mention Sheriff Patterson today; they’ll be showing him tomorrow. However, they won’t be shooting him the day after that. Dana was, I think, invulnerable to bullets, anyway.

Today is the birthday of Stephen Fry, who played Professor Stokes in my fevered imagination’s version of the Tim Burton film. Speaking of DARK SHADOWS movies, today is also the anniversary of the release of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS at the DeMille Theater in 1970. My review of HODS has been hailed by me as a highlight of TASTE THE BLOOD OF MONSTER SERIAL, although it has yet to appear on the website. Another reason to buy that great book.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Video: Everything Wrong With Dark Shadows

Ugh. Tim Burton's DARK SHADOWS. I know a few of you out there like this film, to which I say peace. Don't take anything I say about this movie (no matter how profane or vulgar) personally. Also, try not to get your feelings hurt by the new video from CinemaSins, "Everything Wrong With Dark Shadows." It's a little bit superficial, but manages to hit on a lot of the movie's more significant problems.

And for those you who who hate it? "Everything Wrong With Dark Shadows" will absolutely rub salt in the wounds. So, pour yourself a stiff drink and watch the video below ...

The Dark Shadows Daybook: AUGUST 23


Taped on this date: Episode 312

As Victoria reveals her sensitivities, a seemingly sympathetic Barnabas tells her exactly what she wants to hear until she is lulled into inattention and he has the opportunity to strike. Inevitably, Carolyn interrupts. The search for David continues, and with that comes the discussion of Sarah -- David was looking for her when he went missing. Joe concludes that the Old House is the only place they haven’t searched. Over Willie’s objections, Barnabas encourages Joe and Sheriff Patterson to thoroughly case the joint. Barnabas’ reasoning? Willie has already made them suspicious; this is the only way to calm the waters. Barnabas maintains his cool until the search party demands to rifle through the basement. Thinking quickly, Barnabas claims to have lost the key, and just as Joe is offering to repair any damage done by kicking the door down, they find that David may be alive elsewhere on the estate.

Funny episode. The modern sitcom has all but eschewed the laugh track in swankier circles. Now, we have only the reassurance of a show’s genre to tell us it’s a comedy. If I told you that this were a wryly observational sitcom, and had you no other knowledge, you might agree. First, Barnabas does every condescending trick in the book to distract Vicki with the illusion of his sensitivity. He does everything but roll his eyes as he agrees with everything she says while plotting to get into her veins. Later, as Joe and Patterson come to search the Old House, he and Willie turn into the Honeymooners as they passive-aggressively bicker about whose fault it is that they’re being searched at all!  Finally, just when we think Barnabas has pulled it off, Willie gets the last, nervous, inner-laugh when Joe just happens to remember the basement, and Barnabas stammers for an excuse to bar him, sounding as flustered as a prom date trying to rationalize the presence of a box of condoms in the back seat to his date’s father. Barnabas and Willie have one of greatest and most uniquely subtle comic partnerships in the history of television. Why does he put up with him? Wait, who’s the “he,” and who’s the “him”? Exactly. It could go for either. They need each other and, despite their better judgement, they love each other. Like all great romances. Platonic or otherwise.  

Hey, welcome back, Dana Elcar. It’s been 38 episodes, and the overheated housefrau of 1968 America and I have been jonesing for our Pattersonian fix. I wonder what the show would have been like if Dana had remained a fixture, appearing in every timeline? Anyway, where was Dana in his absence? Maybe shooting THE BOSTON STRANGLER. It would come out in October. Perhaps that’s cutting it too close. 1968 was fertile year for Elcar. He appeared on six different TV series that year, two feature films, and two different movies of the week. Take that, Tab Hunter.

In history, it’s the birthday of Keith Moon and Barbara Eden. They never shot a film together. At least, publically. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: AUGUST 22


1897. Quentin chains himself up for the transformation ahead, while arming Magda with a gun containing six silver bullets in case he escapes. Trask bursts in and deduces the truth about the werewolf’s identity from the clues given. Unfortunately, his plan to take Quentin to the police is stymied when he is reminded that Quentin has a document fingering him as his late wife’s murderer. He locks Quentin in a tiny cell where he may safely watch the change to the wolf form, but a spell by Angelique forces a hypnotized Trask to write a suicide note/confession stating that he is the wolf. Meanwhile, Petofi arrives with a special painting of Quentin, and he’s very excited to watch it during moonrise. Trask escapes the spell and eagerly awaits Quentin’s transformation.

831 is a glorious example to doubters that yes, things happen in DARK SHADOWS. More and more as the series goes on, but yes, things happen. The episode follows through on the past, and sets up even more. Trask is always good for “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” moments with his outrageous pride, and we’ll tune in tomorrow not so much to see what happens to Quentin as to see what will happen to Trask… this time. Petofi, also, is lovably impish as he reveals the painting, thus setting up what may be the most important piece of prop-related mythos since, well, Barnabas’ portrait. Still, since the transforming portrait only shows what happens to QC2 from the waist up, what happens from the waist down? Does that age and turn into the lower part of a werewolf? Only Beth knows for sure. And Amanda Harris. And Daphne. And some chorus girls from Sioux City.  And….

Again, to realize how lucky we are to be in the glorious age of 1897, consider what the episode takes for granted… werewolves, guns with silver bullets, hypnotism, mind control, magical paintings, and the wig on Thayer David. 1897 was determined to send the kids of 1969 back to school miserable. What a fantastic summer break to have to end. Let’s hope the buses got them home in time to keep watching.

It was a quiet day in history, although Ray Bradbury would celebrate his 49th birthday today. Bradburian characters and sentiments would pop up throughout the series, but I suspect that Quentin, that wistful Edwardian, is the most steeped in them. That he would face off against the show’s other most Bradburian figure, the devilish Petofi, so much like a merrier Mr. Dark, is richly apropos. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Batman and Robin return in November

Believe it or not, the Collinsport Historical Society was the first website to break the news about the upcoming BATMAN animated film starring Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar. I happened to be in the audience during a panel featuring West and Ward at Mad Monster Party in Charlotte, N.C., back in March, 2015. Assuming fans of DARK SHADOWS were probably also fans of the classic BATMAN series, it seemed like a nice fit. By chance, we were also the first website to deliver the news to folks not attending the convention. (I usually don't care about the dubious distinction of being "first," but holy crap ... it's Batman!)

Since then, there's been little news about the feature (which, at one point, was even rumored to be splitting into two movies.) Entertainment Weekly has just shared a trailer for the film, BATMAN: RETURN OF THE CAPED CRUSADERS, which will hit DVD and Blu-ray on Nov. 1. You can read more about the film HERE, and watch the trailer below.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: AUGUST 15


Aug. 16, 1969
Taped on this date: Episode 826

Magda is bound and gagged by a large, mute gypsy soldier. King Johnny appears, savoring his victory of finding her. They take her to the cemetery, the place where the trouble started. The place where Barnabas was released. Johnny reveals that he tortured and killed Szandor, who spilled the beans, in return for Magda’s theft of the hand. They take her to the secret room in the crypt where she is to stand trial. It’s gypsy justice! They go inside and Johnny announces that her jury will be comprised of dead murderers, conjured by him in an elaborate ceremony. They are all she deserves. As he summons them, the gypsies appear out of thin air and take their places. He introduces her as the thief of Petofi’s hand… and to use on an outsider. The second charge? The murder of Julianka! The third charge? The death of the child (as the result of Julianka’s curse). Finally, the last charge. When he came looking for the hand, she defrauded him with a false hand. He tries to close the case, but she asks for a gypsy witness. He conjures the dead Szandor, in whom she entrusts her life. He appears, but she is forbidden from embracing him. They are only given the time of a burning candle. She tries to question him, but is constantly interrupted by King Johnny. Ultimately, as much as Magda was trying to help situations, she was always the cause of them. Johnny announces that her time is up as he blows out the candle. The case is closed, he intones. Szandor vanishes back to his grave, and the jury is asked if any believe she is innocent. They remain silent. The mute soldier, her judge, orders her to die. She asks how he will do it. Johnny announces that her method of death is a game called ‘hunt the weasel,’ and she is the weasel. He then frees her. If she hides effectively, she lives. When will it begin? She’ll have to learn. He tells her to run, and she does. He laughs maniacally after her. Inside the crypt, he orders the jury to play the game. The first to find her is sent away in a blaze of light with her gypsy power. She rejoices, but Johnny’s laughter cuts short her victory. But she can’t find the source of his voice. She runs once more. She finds herself back at the crypt. Two jurors appear, but because she doesn’t know how they died, she cannot banish them. They approach with arms outstretched. As they do, she commands both to return to death and they do. She begs Johnny to stop the game. He says the game ain’t over, and she runs once more. Once more Szandor appears to her. He wants to take her back with him. She says he belongs to the dead and tearfully banishes him from the earth. She is exhausted; Johnny approaches with his soldier and says that she has lost. The cliff of Widow’s Hill behind her, Johnny stalks Magda, forcing her toward the edge.

With a cast of nine, 826 is packed with both players and excitement. And yet, it has a strange intimacy; the only speaking parts are Johnny, Magada, and Szandor. Interesting to note that many of the gypsies should seem familiar. Henry Baker, who plays Istvan the mute soldier, can be seen as Jackal the Giant, towering over Jonathan Frid in Oliver Stone’s 1974 comedy, SEIZURE. Another, Joseph Della Sorte, was one of the “Buttons” that Joe Spinell witnesses about in THE GODFATHER PART II. (He was also on CAGNEY AND LACEY, a show with John Karlen.) Another gypsy, John LaMotta, also appeared on that show, as well as playing sweaty wife-beater model, Trevor Ochmonek, on NBC’s prequel to THE X-FILES. Of course, I’m referring to ALF. (Additionally, he was Jake LaMotta’s nephew.) Yet another gypsy, Victor Mohica, appeared in many of the same series as the others. I think they all appeared on that sophisticated comedy-of-manners, AIRWOLF. Norman Riggins, yet another gypsy, was a man of mystery. Know him by his subsequent appearance in THE ALIEN DEAD. As far as the final gypsy, Andreas, goes, we have feud on our hands. iMDB credits Joe Van Orden. But Craig Hamrick’s BARNABAS AND COMPANY, as well as THE DARK SHADOWS ALMANAC, cite the part as played by Ray Van Orden. Will any of us sleep? Joe only has one credit on iMDB, and it’s the episode. Nothing for a Ray van Orden. I can’t solve every mystery. I had a crush on Joan van Ark from KNOTS LANDING, if that helps.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: AUGUST 10

    Gentle Reader,
    Sometimes, a man has a long day. Like,“real long” to be scientific. And on those days, although Roger stays mad, and although Burke and Barnabas have the overrated conversation about squaring off with cards versus cutlasses (made wacky by the Herb Alpert-ian music in the background), you gotta say… “I’ll have a Big Montana, medium curly fries, and a Jamocha shake.”
    But you must also say,“If I chronicle but one episode of this, the greatest thing on TV not starring Benny Hill, which should it be? When we look at the vast expanse of Collins history, what moment is most crucial?”
    And you feel like a Kryptonian Elder in a mylar frock, and you… hey, what am I doing? I have to write about this or I’ll be up all night. 

Aug. 10, 1970
Taped on this date: Episode: 1079

Quentin, entranced by Daphne’s ghost beyond reason, follows her to her grave. Acting with all of the sad wisdom of a lovestruck teenager, he moves to embrace the ghost. Acting like an existential punchline from a Henny Youngman joke, she draws a blade to stab him in the back. When Quentin offers to put her spirit at peace, she puts the knife away and looks away. He’d do anything to put her at peace. After he says this, she vanishes. Quentin wants to help her, despite the blade she leaves behind on the ground. David visits Hallie and finds her in the antique dress she was to put into the attic. David is disturbed that he found clothes from the same period on his bed. She begs him to put them on, guilting him by saying he wants to make neither she nor Daphne happy. She storms off. Quentin enters Collinwood, and Julia reminds him that “the day of the picnic” was the second clue in Future Carolyn’s note. Quentin says that nothing happened, but Julia senses Gerard’s presence. Quentin says that they owe it to the spirits to try and perform an exorcism to put them at rest. Future Stokes almost lost his life in an exorcism of the house, but Quentin brims with braggadocio and insists on performing it that night. David and Hallie discuss the trouble she will be in. She claims to have walked to Gerard’s ship where she spied him kissing Daphne, both of whom grew angry at her voyeurism. David says it makes no sense. She now resists being called “Hallie.” When things grow shrill, the door squeals open and Daphne enters. Hallie apologizes to Daphne, offering to accept punishment.

But after a wordless communication, Hallie knows that Daphne forgives her. Hallie takes her hand and encourages David to take Daphne’s other. Downstairs, Julia paces. Quentin enters with divining rods. He says the ceremony is simple but may leave distress in the house when finished. He and Julia go outside, and Quentin begins his ceremony. Upstairs, David is reluctant to take Daphne’s hand, but Hallie tempts him that he will learn the truths of Gerard and his ship. Outside, Quentin continues a vaguely Christian-but-not-quite exorcism. The exorcism disturbs Daphne, who flees. Hallie is convinced that someone else is angry and will punish them. David insists that they are alone in the playroom. Hallie, however, screams and collapses. Outside, Quentin just keeps going. As he’s reaching a head, he suddenly stops, struggling with the phrase, “Cast thyselves back into the darkness from whence ye came.” He asks Julia to wait as he heads inside. In the foyer, he sees Daphne glaring at him with burning intent. Up in the playroom, Hallie comes to, and Hallie complains of her injured arm and wonders why she’s in the strange clothes. David is determined to learn who Gerad and Daphne are, and takes Hallie to find Julia. Before they can, Julia comes back in to ask Quentin what’s wrong. A semi-dazed Quentin says that he never thought there would be that reaction to the ceremony. He says that the spirits in the house mean no harm. Julia is incredulous, wondering why he stopped when he did. David and Hallie enter and report the injured arm. She sends them into the drawing room, telling Quentin that the spirits injured Hallie during the exorcism. Later, Hallie (with her arm in a sling) and David go to the playroom to hold a seance to answer their questions. David’s seen the grownups do it a lot of times. David prepares the table, lights a candle, and dims the lamp. David begins to summon the spirits. He asks for a sign and the strange, whirring drone of the spirits begins. He then hears his own voice repeat, “Let us live.”

As I wrote about in the MONSTER SERIAL essay on INSIDIOUS, horror exploits our paranoia of losing control. While some critics of this storyline may claim that the protagonists are behaving out-of-character, that is, of course, the point. Quentin, the most seasoned and cynical member of the ensemble is turned into a weak, lovestruck flunky for Gerard and Daphne. Think about that. We see this all through the eyes of Julia. Although she knows that one possible endpoint is in the midst of Quentin’s future madness, she (as do we) also know that Present Quentin is one of her toughest, most knowledgeable allies in the fight against Collinwood’s looming doom. Seeing him taken out and turned against her is disquieting enough. Seeing him so hopeless and languid in the process is even more disturbing because we know that he is rewarded by neither savage joy nor the release from fear. He’s doing it to please a woman we know will and can never truly be his. Gordon Russell, a stellar author, pushes our buttons and defies our expectations, all at once. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: AUGUST 8


Aug. 8, 1966
Taped on this date: Episode: 41

Sam contemplates his sketch of Burke when the phone rings. It’s Roger, asking if he’s alone.
Roger is worried about his drink with Bill Malloy… no letter will protect him. Sam hangs up on Roger and then tears up the sketch of Burke. Liz enters the drawing room and Roger brags about preventing Burke from meeting up with Carolyn by intervening with her ring gambit. They compare what they did with inheritances. Roger enjoyed his, but Liz used hers to maintain the company. And why didn’t Roger mention Ned’s call? She needed his advice, but is coy about why. She says she’s more concerned about Roger than Ned. Maggie arrives at the cottage and a tortured Sam asks why she wouldn’t let him run away. She assures him that they’ll lick ‘em, yet. Maggie tries to get him to talk, but he demurs, claiming he’s lost his touch at portrait painting. She says he’s more concerned with Burke. His return has changed everyone. Sam briefly hints that might be the case, but blames the liquor. Maggie asks if this has to do with the ten-year old car accident and Roger Collins. He leaves and she calls Collinwood. Vicki answers, and Maggie asks for Roger. He’s not at work and Maggie doesn’t know where he is. On cue, Roger strolls in. Roger takes the call… and hangs up. Later, Joe calls and Liz is surprised he’s not on a date with Carolyn. Could she be with Burke? Joe is contrite about his drunken confession, either way. At the cottage, Sam in incensed that Maggie called Roger. Later, a furious Roger pounds on the door. They agree on their mutual hate. Roger leaves, swearing that Sam’s boozy weakness won’t take him down. They both plot on each other’s destruction. At Collinwood, Vicki tells Liz she’s going to town and asks Liz to go. Liz, of course, refuses, and Vicki leaves. Liz once again has no success at reaching Ned, but the silence is broken by a drunken Sam, banging at the door.

Because we haven’t lived with these characters for months or years, it’s very difficult to grok an episode where they don’t do much. Later, the show can get away with that. After time and shared experiences, we don’t necessarily come for the story. We tune in to be with old friends. But not… quite… yet. Still, this is a vital episode because it is the first written by playwright Francis Swann. So what? After all, the name does not resonate like Sam’s or Gordon’s. Yes, yes, we know. Nevertheless, this is the first author of the show other than Art Wallace. With that, it may temporarily lose some edge (despite Sam’s booziness), but it will gain that rock band synergy of Hall, Russell, Sproat, and the rotating support team. Swann was a Broadway playwright (OUT OF THE FRYING PAN) and a prolific writer in the early days of television.

(Episode 31 airs on this date.)

Aug. 8, 1967
Taped on this date: Episode: 300

Julia enters as Vicki happily awaits Burke. Vicki asks her about her dream of the prior night; someone was in her room, she was in danger, but was unafraid. How odd. She thinks someone actually was in her room because the lid of the music box was open and it was playing. The suggested intrusion disturbs her. Julia suggests she did it half-asleep. Liz enters, remarking that Julia’s doing a lot of research at the Old House. Julia exits and Liz says that Burke’s made a firm offer on Seaview. Both are pleased. At the Old House, Barnabas awakens and asks for Willie. Barnabas orders Willie to spy on Vicki and Burke as closely as possible. Is Barnabas afraid of losing her to Burke. Willie says it’s inevitable, and Barnabas threatens him with his life for such opinions. Later, Julia reports to Barnabas that his cure is coming along. He now has a normal heartbeat. He is skeptical, but wonders what a normal man’s life would be like. He will be able to give and accept love. Julia must cure him, but Barnabas must cooperate. She accuses him of being in Vicki’s room. Barnabas admits to temptation, but nothing happened. Julia emphasizes that there must be no next time. He chafes at taking orders. Neither Julia nor he can afford the questions. He agrees to stay away from Vicki. The doctor and he must learn to trust each other. Later in the garden, Burke and Vicki end their date making out. Burke has much to say, and waited until they were alone. He reveals that he’s buying Seaview. For her. For them. He loves her and pops the question. She’s surprised. She loves him, but is torn. She’d have to leave the Collins family. She needs time to think. He’ll ask every day until she breaks down and says yes. She’s wanted an identity, and her search will be over as “Mrs. Burke Devlin.” Meanwhile, Willie sees all. In the drawing room, Liz and Barnabas speak of his future prospects in business. He asks about the sale of Seaview. It’s a shame to have it out of the family. Liz suspects it’s for Burke and Vicki. Liz supports the idea of marriage. Barnabas is uneasy, but denies it. Willie and Barnabas meet at the Old House, and he reports the proposal. She needs time to think, but Willie seems sure she’ll accept. Barnabas vows there will be no marriage. Devlin must die!

Three words: Feminist Field-day. I’m a terrified, Don Knotts-ish coward, hiding under my covers for fear that hooded, Third Wave Feminists will storm in with a giant syringe and extract my mojo, just like Dr. Evil did to Austin Powers in the second documentary… and even I am bewildered by the 60’s attitude that Vicki’s marriage would necessitate her leaving her job at Collinwood. The assumption is that she’s immediately supposed to become a baby factory for Burke. Very alien to today’s eyes and something that dates the show far more than the costumes. Just as significant is the conversation that Barnabas and Julia have about what life will be like when he’s a “normal” man with no secrets… someone who can “love like a normal man.” Okay. New York. The Sixties. The theatrical arts. Haven for confirmed bachelors. Wallace and I have written about this regarding the show before in separate essays. Secret identities. Living in various closets. The family can never know. Tortured yet compulsed. If you see their real self, you’re horrified. Etc, etc. So, yeah, there’s that.

(Episode 292 airs on this date.)

Aug. 8, 1969
Taped on this date: Episode: 820

1897. Petofi visits Charles Delaware Tate, who is again painting his ideal woman again and again… she exists to him, the only thing in the world that’s his. Petofi has a special commission for him. Hearing the details, Tate says it’s too grisly. Petofi says that no one will be hurt, and that he will be back at noon. Shaw comes back to his hotel room to find Amada packing. She can take no more of Trask. But Tim needs her. She feels used, but he reminds her that he pays her well. She says she’s changed since New York. All Tim needs is one more day and one more job. Amanda agrees. She is to meet a certain Count Petofi. At the mill, Magda seeks Petofi’s help. A note says, “Between life and death, there is no room for a flea to jump.” It is a gypsy warning she’s received. He knows the gypsies are coming and will do nothing. It will attract the gypsies to him. Magda cannot betray him; he casts a spell to make it impossible for her to speak or write his name. She leaves as Amanda leaves, saying that Tim has sent her. Petofi immediately sees that she is the woman Tate painted. But Tate’s name means nothing to her. She feigns a past in New York. She wants Petofi’s talisman so that he may have his revenge and they may leave, in love. He reveals that the “talisman” is his hand, and she may not have it. Petofi sends her away with a message. He has good taste in enemies and women, but no sense of strategy. Magda returns to a ransacked Old House. King Johnny of the Gypsies is in the house! If she returns the hand and does not deceive them, he will reduce her punishment. However, she will still stand trial for Julianka’s death. She says she cannot get the hand and he should kill her now. He encourages her to look. At the Inn, Amanda finds that Tim is motivated for revenge on Trask because of his responsibility for the death of a woman he loved. She agrees to stay, but she begs him to stay away from Petofi. His questions of her past frightened her; beyond two years back, she knows nothing. At the Old House, Petofi’s spell silences Magda, despite King Johnny’s blows. She is powerless. In the chaos, he finds the hand’s box. Somehow, the hand is within it!

Every episode at this stage of 1897 is a giddy gift, making the Petofi Days an embarrassment of riches. Gypsy kings and mythology! Roma justice! Women created out of thin air, and a hand that can be in two places at once. King Johnny Romano is played by Paul Michael, who also lends Jeff Clark the boat he uses to be all herotastic in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. He was from Providence, RI, which is H.P. Lovecraft country and pretty close to Newport, the home of Seaview Terrace… the photo model for the original Collinwood. His was a rich and interesting film career, including an appearance in the haunting PENNIES FROM HEAVEN and blows a huge puff of smoke at Jerry in the SEINFELD episode, “The Maestro,” where he plays Ciccio.

(Episode 815 airs on this date.)

Monday, August 8, 2016

Quiz: The Dark Shadows/Game Show Connections

Since it's launch in 1964, JEOPARDY! has produced almost 10,000 episodes.

Now, JEOPARDY! does not actually factor into the answers for this week's quiz. It's mentioned here only as an example of how many game shows have been produced over the last 50+ years. There's a fair chance that future archaeologists will reach the conclusion that 20th century Americans were lead by perfectly coiffed shaman who preserved our verbal cultural history, stories which were also shared nightly via the airwaves.

It would be hard to argue with that conclusion, especially when you add up the staggering number of hours occupied by game shows on television. Game shows touch just about every facet of our culture, from U.S. presidents (Ronald Reagan was on WHAT'S MY LINE?) to scientists (Neil deGrasse Tyson on JEOPARDY!) to serial killers (Rodney James Alcala.) Game shows are the cheese on the pizza that is America.

So, it stands to reason that even a show like DARK SHADOWS would have a few connections to game shows, right? Right! I've stitched together six challenging questions for this week's quiz, which will ask you to connect game show hosts with a series of DARK SHADOWS cast members.

You can play this week's quiz below. And don't forget to have your werewolves spayed or neutered.

Friday, August 5, 2016

An interview with Jerry Lacy


Although I missed getting together with Jerry Lacy at the 50th Anniversary festival (thanks to Doubletree Hotel’s wacky WiFi), he was nice enough to answer some questions via e-mail about his upcoming play, "A Reunion of Sorts."

Jerry Lacy (center) with the cast and crew of "A Reunion of Sorts."
Dark Shadows fans associate you most with the fledgling lawyer Tony Peterson and a good number of the male bloodline of the Trask family, but not everyone knows you have also had a successful career as a writer.  How did you get started and what are some of the works you've authored?
I actually started writing many years ago by writing several scripts for TV shows, NEWHART and PARENTHOOD. But I did not like the way my scripts were treated by the networks and producers of the show. They have complete freedom to change the writer's lines and ultimately the scripts did not reflect what I had intended them to. Sometimes minor, sometimes major changes were imposed on the script and it led me to abandon that form of writing. I then switched to writing screenplays and after a few years of being unable to get any of them produced, even with encouragement from a major Hollywood literary agent, I abandoned that form of writing as well. I then turned to playwriting as a more stable and much more gratifying form of writing. I have now completed five plays, two of which are garnering some awards, and a production.

Do you prefer writing to acting?
Writing is a creative outlet for me between acting jobs.  I suppose I would say that I prefer acting, perhaps only because I have been a performer much longer than I have been a writer.  Acting comes more naturally to me and is easier than writing.  Someone else has done all the work, and just allows me to concentrate on creating a character to go with the words.

Your new play, "A Reunion of Sorts," is scheduled to premiere at Town and Country Players in Buckingham, PA.  How did you come to choose a small community theater in Bucks County as your venue?
A chance meeting with Donna Nicolazzo, the director, and her previous association with the Town and Country Players led to the current production of the play there. I sent her the play and after reading it she expressed a strong interest in directing it.

What is the play about?
The play concerns two older men who dated the same girl 30 years ago. When she calls and asks for a reunion, the two men revert to their youthful rivalry almost instantly. Even though Ted is happily married, he cannot let himself give up the beautiful Jacqueline to Nick, who is alone and forlorn. They drink and discuss, and drink and argue, and drink.

It sounds like an insightful comedy. What inspired you to write it?
I realized that there were very few parts for older men in the theatre, especially in comedy. I had been looking for a play to perform with my friend John McCook ("The Bold and the Beautiful") and could not find one. Eventually I decided the best thing would be to write one.

Do you have any plans for the piece when this production closes?
Nothing specific yet.  I am working on getting another production and possibly get the play published. There has been some discussion about possibly doing a production of it with myself and another DARK SHADOWS alumnus, but nothing definite yet.

"A Reunion of Sorts" is scheduled to run Aug. 12-20 at the Town and Country Players' barn, located 4158 York Road, Buckingham, Pa. It is directed by Donna Nicolazzo and stars James Kirkwood, Kimberlee Arnot-Weidman, Joseph Perignat, John Fogarty and Sue Burke-McKay. You can find the production's Facebook page HERE.

The Dark Shadows Daybook: AUGUST 4


Aug. 4, 1966
Taped on this date: Episode: 39

At the Evans cottage, Roger visits. Burke has not arrived, and Sam says that controlling him is impossible. Burke knocks, and Roger hides. Yes, hides. Sam tries to weasel out with, literally, “not today, I have a headache.” Burke suspects Roger’s interference. m denies it. They begin. At Collinwood, Bill tells Liz of Burke’s inquiries on her business. Bill compares Burke with Ahab. Bill wants her permission to stop him, but Liz says she’s not afraid. Ned Caulder -- her old business manager -- calls. Liz wants him back. He says he’ll think about it. Bill sees this as signs of fear of Burke. Bill vows to stop Burke. While posing, Burke asks Sam about his thoughts on Collinwood. Sam bristles, which is appropriate, given that he’s holding a paint brush. When Burke leaves for the loo, Sam can barely keep him from discovering the spying Roger. Bill Malloy calls for Burke. Important news. Ten minutes at the hotel restaurant. Roger reemerges and witheringly “threatens” to kill Sam. Roger is convinced that Burke will eventually wear the truth out of Sam. He even bribes him with $6000. Sam remains adamant that he will say nothing to Burke. At the Inn, Bill orders Burke to sit. Burke asks how his face will look hanging in Collinwood. Bill offers to try to clear Burke’s name of the ten year-old crime if he will leave town and the Collinses alone. He can do what he wants to Roger. Bill just wants Liz, Carolyn, and David left alone. At Sam’s, Roger’s threats continue until Sam reveals the letter he wrote… the one that will expose everything. Bill Malloy enters en media res.

Burke is like an Ayn Rand hero set loose in real life. What am I saying? Compared to the worlds of Rand, DARK SHADOWS is real life. In sad news, this day also marks the death of actor John Baragrey. He played James Blair, the partner of Bronson, Burke’s business thug. Blair later loses a pen, and thus begins a storyline around it. One that suggests that Burke might have killed Bill Malloy. But it’s not that interesting. In fact, it is, in this author’s opinion, the single dullest storyline they ever cooked up. Just wait. Just wait. But John Baragrey, the actor, was an interesting man who appeared in GAMERA THE INVINCIBLE (1967) as his last film.

Aug. 4, 1967
Taped on this date: Episode: 299

As Victoria gazes longingly in the garden, Barnabas looks on. He almost bites her neck when she sees him. He apologizes for frightening her. Barnabas then rhapsodizes about the peace of a lifetime at night… a lifetime of moonlight. Vicki says it might appeal to her too. She’s a romantic. Barnabas says that he has more volumes of family histories, but she says that she can’t look at them for the next several nights. They will all be spent with Burke Devlin. Julia interrupts. Vicki goes to change for her date with Burke, asking to see the histories at another time. Julia reminds Barnabas that he was going to leave Vicki alone. A power struggle develops. She orders him to stay away from Vicki and he surrenders.

Upstairs, Vicki struggles to choose between two unflattering dresses of equally hideous colors and prints. Julia interrupts. Vicki asks her to choose. Julia chooses the ugly, unflattering blue one over the ugly, unflattering pink one. She then advises Vicki away from Barnabas because of the kind of man he is. Julia says that he’s a randy, single male, in little control of his outraged, bachelor’s glands. This dissuades Vicki. Later, she and Burke meet in the garden, and he comments on her quiet mood. They both say much in celebration of the virtue of not saying anything. Burke then points out that stars are in the sky, and then talks about how worthless his father was, beyond being an amateur planetarium guide who walked out on his family when Burke was nine. Vicki compares scars by citing her savior as an Irish nurse who gave her a doll she still strangely fetishizes. Burke and Vicki then proclaim love by not saying anything. No, I’m not making this up. They finally kiss. He says that it’s been almost a year since his return to Collinsport. A governess transformed his thoughts for revenge to ones of respectful and courtly lust. Burke pledges eternal love. A watching Barnabas makes other plans. Inside, as they leave, the inevitable Julia returns.

Okay, I was in a catty mood when I wrote this one. So sue me. Burke claims he’s been there almost a year. But according to the fine folk at the Dark Shadows wiki, it’s only day 110. If we presume that Day 1 was June 27, 1966, it would only be October 15. So, now I’m catty and pedantic. Yeesh.  The vital things in this episode are the confirmation of Burke and Vicki’s romance, as well as the ubiquity of Julia Hoffman. For a while, she’s a bit like Dr. Bellows, always popping up when least convenient. At one point in an episode around now, it’s as if she just stands at the doors to the Old House for hours, waiting for poor Barnabas to open them.

Aug. 4, 1969
Taped on this date: Episode: 816

1897. Barnabas is now the captive of Petofi, who chains his coffin. Petofi says their battle will continue until Barnabas gives up his mission to the past. He will use military strategy: increase the pressure until surrender is the only alternative. Petofi will attack those in 1897 and in 1969. Petofi may begin his attack with the use of a single name: David Collins. Petofi enters a trance, commanding Jamison Collins to meld minds with David Collins. Jamison awakens with David’s mind, calling Nora “Amy” and demanding she call Quentin’s ghost on the phone. He has no idea it’s 1897. The real Quentin enters and is baffled by Jamison’s behavior. He recognizes the name of David Collins, though. He sends Nora away, and David falls into a sleep before he can explain to Quentin what he thinks is going on. Tim Shaw arrives in Nora’s room and learns of Jamison’s strangeness. Tim asks for the package. She admits she unwrapped it but did not see the contents. She can’t give him the box because Jamison took it. Tim is enraged, but he becomes thoughtful when he begins to consider that Petofi may have possessed Jamison to meet his ends. Tim runs to the drawing room, but Quentin refuses to admit him to see Jamison. He then tells Tim that Jamison doesn’t have the hand. Quentin then presses for information on Amanda. Quentin’s on to Tim. Where is the hand? Quentin tells him to go to the abandoned mill. Aristede can lead him to the hand’s owner. Back in the drawing room, an awakening Jamison thinks he’s dead, and that they are both ghosts. It’s just as the ghost of Quentin promised. A confused Quentin is determined to seek Barnabas’ help. Quentin attempts to summon Barnabas via telepathy. At the mill, Tim accosts Aristede with a gun, threatening to kill him unless he gets the hand. Petofi intervenes. Tim has no idea who he is and threatens to kill them both. Petofi reveals he’s 150 years old, and that the hand is his. He holds it aloft in victory. But Tim won’t be happy unless he has revenge on Trask and Hanley. Petofi may help for a price, and one day Tim may have something he wants. Tim leaves, and Petofi encourages Aristede to enjoy the thrill of near death before dismissing him. He senses two visitors approaching. If Aristede is to see Amanda at the Blue Whale, he is to give her Petofi’s regards. Quentin enters with Jamison, imploring him for help. He explains the possession of Jamison by David. It was a name Jamison mentioned from a dream. Quentin reasons that Petofi owes Jamison a debt for serving as a vessel. Petofi impishly wonders if he will or will not help. Jamison murmurs for Quentin. But how is that possible from a boy from 1969?

This episode would air on the day the Manson murders were announced. Suddenly, I suspect that television horror seemed much safer to the parents of 1969. I wonder if this somehow, even unconsciously, shaped the next storyline. The Leviathans are, if anything, a family. The episode’s highlight for me is Petofi’s impish uncertainty over whether he will or will not help Jamison. Sloppy writing? On the contrary. It is marvelously controlled chaos. Petofi is one of TV’s true original characters, reflecting the ripe ingenuity of the show’s writers. He is like Kramer in his wondrous uniqueness. I envy audiences of 1969. This is no longer a soap opera; it is grand opera... with a libretto by Stan Lee.

Aug. 4, 1970
Taped on this date: Episode: 1077

Quentin begs for Daphne to reappear. She materializes before him. Quentin is smitten. She gives him the bouquet and touches his face tenderly. She turns away and vanishes into the darkness as all lights extinguish. Quentin lights a candle, but she is gone. Only the bouquet remains on the floor. Upstairs, Maggie asks David to not take his boat out in the dark. He becomes distracted by a model of a boat. He says that he found it in the attic. They agree on its beauty and value. Maggie leaves, and as David looks at the boat, Daphne appears. He asks if Daphne gave him the boat. She nods yes, but will answer no more. Quentin knocks and Daphne vanishes. He offers David his camera for the picnic, and then smells lilacs in the room. He wonders who was wearing such perfume. Quentin discloses that a scent like that can indicate a spirit was there. Would that frighten him? David says yes. Quentin apologizes and leaves. Alone, David admits that he noticed the scent also. In the drawing room, Maggie interrupts Carolyn calling on the phone. She says that she was trying to call Jeb. He’s alive! They both admit that Sebastian looks like Jeb, but Maggie reminds her that Jeb is dead. Carolyn insists that it may really be Jeb. Maggie tries to talk her out of it, but Carolyn’s love continues to compel her to keep looking. Alone, Quentin ponders if David saw Daphne. She again appears to him and he follows her to a bedroom. He lights a candle and sees a note. It is a note that says that nothing has terrified her more than the thought someone loved her. The note is unfinished. Quentin says that he will help her if she reappears. The note then vanishes. The next day at the picnic, David is photographing Maggie at the picnic. He then photographs Carolyn. Finally, as a storm brews, he hesitates before taking a photo of Maggie and Quentin. He feels a presence behind him, but takes the photo, anyway. Quentin senses a presence. Inside after the storm breaks, Carolyn admits to Maggie that she was wrong to confuse Sebastian and Jeb. Quentin enters and Caroline leaves. Maggie mentions the futility of loving the dead. This smarts Quentin, but he discloses that a family history reveals that he had a great-granduncle who shared his name in 1840. Caroline finds David developing the film. David points out that there is another presence in the photos. A smirking Gerard looks on in the background.

Jeb is Carolyn’s Josette, and DARK SHADOWS spins its sad cycle again and again. The show plays the theme of VERTIGO as much as the older classics.  It’s odd that Collinwood is such a repository for the echoes of the past when it was built to be a new beginning. Joe Caldwell is writing his heart out with these tightly plotted segments of the Ragnarok arc.  How many people are there captured by loves from the past? Is that a soap opera staple or simply one of the most important stories from life that we need to tell ourselves repeatedly? That might be what Joseph Campbell would have said. If so, what do we take from it? Move on? Maybe. Or perhaps we should simply accept that we are carved more by our wounds than caresses? For good or ill, they are a part of us. A central Buddhist teaching is that there is no permanence. Characters in DARK SHADOWS seem to find happiness when they reconcile that the past is what has made them, but the future is where they are bound. Does embracing the future mean betraying the past? I don’t think so. Barnabas moves on in the most complicated relationship with future and past possible. Quentin is a sadder subject. How many loves has he consigned to old age and death? Perhaps only a ghost, impervious to the threat of death, is the only romantic partner with possibility for him. One more woman to save, but a woman he can never lose.
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