Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 29


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 640

Amy speaks on the antique phone to the ghost of Quentin Collins, but he refuses to talk to David, leading the boy to start a seance. Vicki interrupts it, and Chris soon enters. Amy implores him to stay with her in Collinsport. Bolstered by Carolyn’s flirtatiousness and eagerness to host Amy, he is sorely tempted. That night, Carolyn and Chris share a drink at the Blue Whale, but the evening is cut short when Chris realizes that the sun is setting, the full moon is rising, and the waitress has the shadow of the pentagram on her forehead. Despite chaining himself to a radiator, Chris is quickly free after he transforms into a walking wolf. He sprints to the Blue Whale where he bursts in and savages the waitress.

With Adam, Nicholas, and Cassandra finally out of the way, DARK SHADOWS inaugurates its first major post-Barnabas storyline with a confidence that would read like a swagger were it not executed with such dignity. Why break with your protagonist? Whether they knew it or not, the writers were playing the long game. Yes, Barnabas attempts to help Chris and solve the Quentin issue, but his actions are fungible until happenstance channels him from the I Ching trance into his awaiting body in 1897. He’s quite literally the only man for the mission, but he’s more than up for it. Barnabas even commands his vampiric powers with an insouciantly stalwart sense of control. Yes, he realigns his moral compass thanks to his experiences with Adam and Blair, acquitting himself admirably. But he has no choice. Adam shares his soul and Nicholas is his demonic brother-in-law. In 1897, everything is a choice, and though those choices, we see the ultimate mettle of his character.

Back in late November of 1968, Barnabas is nowhere to be seen, however. Instead, there are new faces mixed with the old. Don Briscoe brings an entirely different energy to DARK SHADOWS as its temporary, resident protagonist. Few actors can vacillate as believably between desperate compassion and an electric sense of anger. Again and again, he suckers us in with kindness, turns with ferocity, and then reassures us that the anger is directed situationally, not personally. That layered nuance makes him an idea choice for a tortured lycan. Denise Nickerson’s energy and assuredness are an ideal compliment, making the brother/sister pair one of the shows most convincing, if unsung, duos. In this episode, Betsy Durkin continues to redefine and arguably elevate the character of Victoria Winters. I really hate that them’s fightin’ words. It’s a shame that she should only be aboard for the (first part of the) character’s Viking funeral. Or un-Viking, considering that she doesn’t burn.

A special triumph in this episode is the debut of their first, genuine monster, the actual, no-we’re-not-kidding werewolf. It’s an update of the Jack Pierce design, with a strangely mellowing emphasis on the nose and eyes. It’s one of the most human werewolves, despite its shock of wild hair, but it never lacks for athletic savagery. Alex Stevens, the stuntman behind the makeup, was a consummate daredevil, executing leaps and dives around the sets that are genuinely breathtaking. The very fact that there is, you know, a werewolf on the show really delivers on the promise of DARK SHADOWS’ conceit. But to see him so nimbly take potentially leg-breaking chances off railings and through windows is something truly unexpected.

November 28, 1968 saw the release of the controversially (un)covered album by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, TWO VIRGINS. It, um, was, um. You know, um. Have you ever heard Yoko?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 28


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 115

David continues to bring food and supplies to Matthew, hiding in the Old House and speaking of something that will allow him to go undiscovered. Vicki plans a trip to Bangor, but is sidetracked by fetching David from the Old House. While there, she loses her wallet. David and Liz speak of loyalty, and it’s clear to viewers that his loyalty is to the nefarious Matthew over his father. While searching for her wallet, Vicki finds herself recaptured by Matthew.

Let’s have a hand for Malcolm Marmorstein and the completion of his first script for DARK SHADOWS. Author of 82 DARK SHADOWS episodes, Marmorstein arguably has the most illustrious writing career outside of DARK SHADOWS, including a screenplay credit for Disney.

DARK SHADOWS really had a thing about people being held prisoner. Liz is a self-imposed prisoner for eighteen years. Vicki is prisoner at least four times -- twice in 1966, and twice in 1795… the second time after her return there. Maggie is a prisoner in both main time and parallel time. Carolyn is a prisoner to Adam. I think the Old House hanging chains saw more action than Mr. Wells’ Inn. I’ve no doubt I’m forgetting multiple someones. In “Fall Out,” I’m amazed that Patrick McGoohan didn’t rip off that ape mask to reveal Dan Curtis as Number One. And maybe he did…

Thayer David is so marvelously convincing as Matthew Morgan that I am glad they allowed him to play other roles. A malevolent Lenny, his true menace comes from his capacity to encourage underestimation. In that sense, he’s a perfect opponent for Vicki. He challenges her innocence and always leaves open a strange sense of vulnerability… you never know. He might just turnaround. But probably not.

In the midst of the contemporaneous hubbub in several of our other parallel years -- 1970, I’m looking at you -- even I will admit that it’s nice to see the characters slow and converse revealingly about feelings, aspirations, and values. It’s a good day for Joan Bennett. She engages with both Alexandra Moltke and David Henesy, discussing self-discovery with one and the intricacies of loyalty with the other, and does so with honesty, but never a leaden hand. There’s a purity to those scenes that I really love because I believe them.

And that brings me to last week. I want to mention last Wednesday’s episode in 1970. It was 1160, and I am compelled to mention it since illness and the holidays prevented it on schedule. Do yourself a favor. Go back and watch it. Furious that Daniel is changing the will again, Gabriel shows his hand by rising from his wheelchair and killing his father. He has feigned being immobile for most of his life. As Daniel is in his death throes, his embittered son explains that it was the only way that he could ensure his father’s love and attention. Christopher Pennock knocks it so far out of the park that the ball could take out the Hollywood sign. No exaggeration. It is a monologue that is equally vivid, lurid, vulnerable, and sincere. I’m not sure any other actor on the show enjoyed such a dynamic and challenging slab of writing in a single episode… not since Barnabas recalled Josette on the night of the blackout. I got to interview Mr. Pennock several years ago, and I can’t help but allow two things he said to color my reading of his performance in the scene. I’m not saying that there is a 1:1 relationship with anything, however, I can see that certain personal elements could have provided fuel for inspiration. A distant father is involved. Feeling a sense of collegial competition with David Selby, for whom success and opportunity came seemingly as naturally as his height, likability, and integrity. Now, was Mr. Pennock joking? He always is a bit, but he’s always seems deadly sincere within it. Again, I’m not drawing direct parallels. At the most, I’m just noting… serendipity.

“Who’s the best actor?” is a strange question once a certain mastery is reached, and Selby and Pennock were equally honed performers. What does ‘best’ even mean? It’s not like an athlete, for whom objective, quantifiable abilities have objective, quantifiable measures. It’s all subjective. Only… maybe… with the double-blind of seeing both performers play the same roles against the same co-stars… only then, do I get an idea of ‘best.’ Even then, it’s an ooky question. So, Selby or Pennock? I can only cite the individual strengths I see. Ones that don’t seem to come as easily to the other. Selby characters excel at conveying a very sincere, gentle sense of humor. The Pennock wit is sharper and more political. One has a more open heart, one has a more open set of eyes. Pennock’s real ace is in his vulnerability. Not only are his characters open to visible, in-the-moment change, but we can always see how unexpected that is. Showing change can be tough enough for a performer, but to have a character aware enough of change’s ironies to comment on them? That requires a very unique understanding of life and its intricacies, often hard won.

Back to November 28, 1966. It was the birthday of John Hallow (b. 1924), a Broadway actor and assistant stage manager who stepped in for the role of the train station manager encountered by Quentin and Amanda as they attempt to escape to Manhattan in episode 850. He had a fascinating career, working on classics such as DON’T DRINK THE WATER, BEN FRANKLIN IN PARIS (with an added song by Jerry Herman that happens to be one of his best), DAD POOR DAD, and Gore Vidal’s all-too-timely A VISIT TO A SMALL PLANET. Elsewhere in 1966, America was in the throes of Brian Wilson’s “Good Vibrations.” I find it ironic. This period of the show looks and feels so archaic that it amazes me they were going home listening to “Good Vibrations” -- a song that still feels like it’s from the future -- on their car radios. If you don’t know anything about the song beyond the basic sound of it, do yourself a favor and look it up. It’s one of music’s great accomplishments, created by a genius who excels at mining joy from pain. The song was the most expensive pop piece ever produced at that time, and it’s unthinkable that something so inventive would be tried by someone so widely- beloved, today. It was created during the assembly of PET SOUNDS, and in many ways, encapsulates so much of that landmark album.

1966, a helluva year to be alive, was rounding out with this?

Helluva year.  

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Black Hero Lives to the End Horror Festival


I’m not exactly Kevin Williamson, and I’m the last to pick up on a trope. As recently as ten years ago, I was still unaware of one of cinema and horror’s most venerable cliches… if there’s an ensemble of heroes in a horror film, and one of them is black, that character will be among the first to die. Why this is a trend is utterly beyond me. I can theorize, but my general rule of thumb in life is to ascribe things to ignorance and sloppiness before I look at conspiracy and malice. Nevertheless, it’s a deeply entrenched trend, and when it gets violated, I feel as if there is a righteously aggressive sense of, “Take that!” Usually with a twinkle in the eye, too.

Because going to the mall is a nightmare, stay home this Friday with us. Rifle through your DVD’s and VHS and get your streaming options in order. Pop the corn, slice the turkey, fire up Twitter, follow our schedule and watch & tweet along.  This Friday, Dr. Monica Johnson and I will wisely observe and wisecrack our way through the highlights of the CHS Monster Serial THE BLACK HERO LIVES TO THE END HORROR FESTIVAL. We’ve done this in real life several times. Not only is it fun, but the past year’s events have made it pretty damned necessary. (Note: You can find Johnson on Twitter @DameODagon.)

Starting at noon, we’ll romp through four great movies. Sych up your own screening and tweet along. You can follow me @therealmccray and look for the hashtag #MonsterSerial. I’ll have a running commentary, and it wouldn’t be the same without you, so join in by tweeting your own observations. Finally, we’re throwing in a screening of DARK SHADOWS 2012 as our Thanksgiving turkey. Time to get it out of your system by helping me carve it up online.

The internet has no shortage of lists and articles about horror films where the black characters survive rather than serve as blithely dispatched tokens. There are far more than just these, but after much back and forth, these are what we’ll be watching.

12 p.m. (EST) THE THING (1982)
John Carpenter’s masterpiece of hijacked identity, paranoia, grotesquery, and suspense is far more timely than I ever expected, so let’s shake off the Thanksgiving hangover with Kurt Russell and Keith David. A team of scientists and their support crew stumble upon a hostile alien virus that erodes human hosts, leaving behind identical copies with an apocalyptic agenda. Soon, it becomes unclear who’s human, who’s a “thing,” and how long they have until no one is left. If you’ve seen it, you know that it’s never the same film twice. If you haven’t seen it, circle your calendar and silence your cell phone.

2 p.m. (EST) BLADE (1998)
Technically, this started the Marvel superhero cinema glut with a modernized, highly polished look at the once Shaftian hero of the 1970’s TOMB OF DRACULA. Long before Buffy, the half-vampire vampire hunter was one of horror’s first and only heroes to sustain a series. The 1998 film his a high tech modernization of that with a healthy injection of vampire lore and caste structure from the White Wolf universe. Wesley Snipes is an ideal fit the stoic soldier.

4 p.m. (EST) EVENT HORIZON (1997)
Laurence Fishburne and Richard T. Jones star (and one of them even survives) this highly underrated, supernatural, science fiction thriller. They accompany Sam Neill as he attempts to rescue a prototype faster-than-light ship that only travels from point to point by taking a detour through what may be Hell. But it’s not as goofy as that idea sounds as if it could be. Lovecraftian, atmospheric, and intense, it’s ripe with power brokers manipulating others hidden agendas and unthinkable secrets. You know, like the news. It’s also one of the most lush-looking, hard science fiction films of its kind since ALIEN.

6 p.m. (EST) DAWN OF THE DEAD (1979)
Among the first and best genre films starring a surviving, African American hero (Ken Foree as a contemplative SWAT officer) this George Romero follow-up to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD both defined the zombie genre and provided a model that has yet to be surpassed. In the midst of a zombie apocalypse, members of a news crew team up with the remainder of a SWAT division to clean and settle a zombie-infested mall. After, they fight boredom, jealousy, and the occasional biker gang. If this is not the CITIZEN KANE of horror, then it’s easily the VERTIGO.

And for dessert?  Something completely different, with the coldest, leftover turkey we could find…

8:30 p.m. (EST) DARK SHADOWS (2012)
Notoriously observant and subtle funnyman, Tim Burton, teams up with that master of witty understatement, Johnny Depp, to faithfully bring Dan Curtis’ vision to life. Ha! Hardly. If you’re still in a carving mood, get ready to have at it on Twitter. It’s the cheapest holiday therapy in the nation.

We hope to see you there!

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 18


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1154/1155 

Randall finds the Mask of Baal in Gerard’s room and is caught snooping by Edith. And what’s she doing going alone to Gerard’s room? Randall won’t tell if she won’t. Later, Gabriel speaks with his insane neighbor, cattle baron Mordecai Grimes, who accuses Quentin of killing his herd out of jealous spite. Quentin arrives and throws Gabriel out, followed shortly by Mordecai. Out in the woods, Mordecai shoots at a mysterious specter, but misses. Randall arrives and the two discover Quentin’s sigil on a piece of paper affixed to a tree with a blade. That afternoon, while having a clandestine necking session at Rose Cottage, Edith tells Gerard about Randall’s discovery of the mask. They split up to find Randall, and Gerard hides the mask someplace new. Edith asks Gabriel about Randall, and he jealously grabs her arm and asks why. Before she can answer, Randall arrives and heels cool. Sort of. Randall, Lamar, Gerard, and Gabriel all have decent reasons to want Quentin in jail. Realizing this, Quentin goes to stop them from alerting the police about the occult implications of his alleged bovicide. Meanwhile, Randall is killed by a hooded assailant in the woods. Randall recognizes his murderer as he strikes and leaves Quentin’s sigil on the body.

As much as I defend 1840, this is the kind of episode that fuels the antipathy many fans have for the storyline. It’s devoid of any of our “core characters” from the prime storyline. Angelique, Barnabas, and Julia are all absent. 1897 ran episodes and entire arcs without Barnabas, also, but it feels as if there were fewer characters with more thoroughly established storylines… with fewer moving pieces overall. All this means is that these episodes demand a little more of our attention. It also helps to prepare for Collinwood at its arguable darkest since the very, very earliest days of the series. The moral decay that is consuming Roger when we meet him infects far more family members in 1840. They are cutthroat, greedy, disrespectful, and compulsively romantic without finding any true connection. It is a time of joyless avarice. How can something so dark be watchable? It barely is, but it is because it creates the essential context of a Collinwood that must be rescued on every level. The story ends with our prime characters exchanging power for love, defeating not only the villains, but their own worst qualities that have undone them time and again. Through this, they chart a course for Collinwood to fulfill its destiny as a bastion of hope and possibility. By the end of 1840, Collinwood is again the home of Jeremiah, Barnabas, Naomi, Joshua, and Sarah. It is the home that Victoria first discovered when she journeyed back to 1795, before Angelique’s jealousy poisoned the future. Fitting that she should undo it. Heartbreaking that neither she nor Barnabas are allowed to enjoy the restoration her bravery ensures.

So, that’s why things have to be so screwed up.

Highlights of the episode? Some of the series best and, um, un-best acting. Thayer David, who ripped the lid off “the top” with Petofi and Szandor, manages to get even more furiously jowly as cattle-crazed Mordecai Grimes. James Storm coasts on an unassailably confident oil of obsequious urbanity as Gerard… a character who only comes into his own after being possessed by someone else. Likewise, Chris Pennock is having a ball as Gabriel, who’s emerging as the hilarious anti-hero of the series. His catty response to the death of Mordecai’s cows is one of the show’s all-time best laughs. And as for the not-so-hot performances? No names, please. But they’re there.

On this day in 1970, Linus Pauling convinced millions with colds to give their urine a fascinating aroma by megadosing with vitamin C to near toxic levels. And this man has a Nobel Prize. Two, I think. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 15


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 632

Nicholas is assailed on all fronts. Tom is late and Adam is missing. Well, at least he can marry Maggie -- he summons her just for that purpose. When Adam shambles in, Nicholas explains that she will provide the life force for the new Eve, but Adam has his reservations. Maggie later arrives and after much haggling, is persuaded to marry Nicholas. Meanwhile, Chris Jennings arrives at Windcliff to see his nearly abandoned little sister, Amy. She initially rejects his peace offering, but when he nervously proclaims that he will stay in Collinsport, she melts. He proceeds to the inn where he gets the most isolated room possible. Later, though, terrible crashing and moaning sounds in his quarters summon the innkeeper, Mr. Wells, who is attacked by something inside and killed. Meanwhile, Nicholas drugs Maggie and begins the black rites that will send Maggie to Hell and into his arms. 

Kathryn Leigh Scott and Bobbi Ann Woronko.
I probably left out the kitchen sink, because Diabolos knows, this one has everything else. I don’t even know where to begin, except to say that the team serves up another winner that will silence anyone who claims the show is boring or inert. Don Briscoe admirably commands the screen as Chris Jennings, exuding an authentic benevolence that counterbalances so much of the malevolence that traps the other characters. His kindness toward Amy provides one of the all-time warmest scenes on the show, and Denise Nickerson matches him with honesty and surprising steel for such a young performer making her debut on the show. Humbert Astredo also surprises in the episode by pushing Nicholas further and further beyond the cocky villain we first met many months ago. His humanity grows as his power wanes… or is it the other way around? Whereas once he could have commanded the dead with a mere gesture, he now has to slip Maggie a mickey just to get her to lie on a black altar. It’s a bad day overall for anyone associated with the Collinsport Inn, not just Maggie. Canadian hunk Conrad Bain is back to overwhelm the senses, and that much beefcake is just irresistible to a werewolf eager to sink his teeth into the beast called man. This also marks the debut of Chris as said werewolf, even though we don’t see him in lycan form. Finally, let’s give the clap -- the golf clap, thank you -- to beauty contest winner, Bobbi Ann Woronko, who appears in her contest prize role of Nurse Pritchett. It’s a performance so flat that it seems like real life. 632 is just one thing after another, including a surprising amount of blood on the late Mr. Wells. It’s his last appearance on the show, and such a wild episode reframes the show as something that is almost the total antithesis of episode 1, in which Bain also stole the show. Even though Bain probably only made scale, he’s so fine, there’s no telling where the money went. 

On this day in history, the Soviet Union shortage of potatoes and grain led to a need to import vodka from the US of A. I hope it was Burnett’s, which is the wise bartender’s secret, much the way that Old Crow can fool many bourbon snobs into thinking they’re drinking the good stuff. That’s how they roll at the Blue Whale, and that’s how we swing at the CHS. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Close Channel D.

Academy Award nominee and real-life champ for the little guy, Robert Vaughn, passed away three days ago at the age of 83.

His characters were villainous heroes and heroic villains, never without a sense of humor, literacy, and intelligence. Remember when actors could exude intelligence? Vaughn couldn't shut it off. It existed to such an extent that his only moments of inauthenticity were when Napoleon Solo had to pass as a rube or hayseed to outwit THRUSH agents. I'm amazed they fell for it. His eyes twinkled with an intensity visible from Europa. It was the hallmark of DARK SHADOWS actors as well. They and Vaughn truly occupied that last pantheon of performers and personalities for whom ties, heels, stockings, and sport coats were as natural and necessary as the collegiate banter they shared while wearing such. This wasn't a matter of snobbery or being effete. It was called being a member of civilization, and really, we all must try it some time. If Vaughn characters shared anything in common, it was their inability to suffer fools under any circumstances. 

Vaughn's inability to suffer fools, and to (not) do so with a glass of John Barleycorn in his hand and a cockeyed grin on his face extended deeply into politics. A true Yellow Dog Democrat, his political future was so pronounced that he even earned a William F. Buckley essay denouncing him. Like Leonard Nimoy and Lara Parker, he was of such cerebral integrity that his lifelong learning extended beyond his television success of the Sixties; all three pursued advanced degrees in decades that followed. Vaughn's Ph.D. culminated in a masterful survey of the McCarthyism fallout, ONLY VICTIMS. 

Although he knew his way around iambic pentameter, Vaughn largely occupied genre and thriller territory due to typecasting and the inability of Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson to get off their asses and seize the opportunity before it passed. No matter the project, he always brought the same commitment, truth, and intensity to it. And he always reflected on them with a sense of deep wit. Dark and mordant until his gargantuan smile erupted, his was always a smile that was earned. 

Just as some people find resonance with certain musical personalities, something about Vaughn always clicked with me, even from the first time I saw him. I was a kid, and he made STARSHIP INVASIONS watchable alongside Christopher Lee. Then, as Napoleon Solo, he epitomized the urbane, thinking-man's hero, always intense, but never morose. I once drove nine hours to shake his hand, and he was so happy to talk about ONLY VICTIMS that he took pity on the fact that I'd spent my cash on autographs from JM J Bullock and Cynthia Myers and gave me one for free. 

He was, in every sense, one of the good guys.

- Patrick McCray

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 14


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 366

Victoria finds herself outside of “Collinwood” (the pre-New House name for the Old House) in the year 1795. There, a young Barnabas and a living Sarah greet her, and explain that she must be the new governess, a recent survivor of an overturned carriage. Vicki, stunned, allows herself to go inside and change into period-appropriate clothing -- her only possessions save a family history book that has inexplicably accompanied her. She is grilled by a suspicious and superstitious Aunt Abigail but does not betray her true point of origin. Meanwhile, she learns that Barnabas’ bride, Josette, is on her way from Martinique. Vicki is delighted to see a man she thinks is Joe Haskell, but it turns out to be a skirt-chasing sailor, Nathan Forbes. And 1795 begins!

There was no other choice. Due to schedules and weekends and fate, the Daybook has missed out on a number of key episodes. But this one? What a moment. I had read about it for years, but when I finally saw it in my teens, the first glimpse of 1795 that it provided was just magic. The producers, I’m sure, had no idea what a significant storytelling move they were making by having the cast double up in other roles, but this is the moment that DARK SHADOWS moved into the country of metaphor as well as the literal. It is at this point that Louis Edmonds is playing something more than Roger or Joshua. Those are just two sides of a much more complex figure. Variations on American Aristocrat? Maybe. Both are fathers who connect with their sons only after the greatest difficulties. Both love power of the family name but lack the bravery and imagination of the ancestors who actually built the empire. Edward will add nuance to that. As will PT Roger, Daniel, and even Brutus. The player really missing in the equivalency game is John Karlen.

Yes, it must be noted that this timeline differs from what’s been described, but is that due to faulty memories, bad historicity, or fracturing timelines?

But rather than get bogged down in literary folderall, let’s just marvel at this moment. DARK SHADOWS is notoriously generous with its viewers, and actually stopping the show to take us on a multi-month origin story, rich with new characters, new cast members, and fantastic design is more than a ratings ploy… it’s a gift. Now, we can brag about the variety present in DARK SHADOWS, and back then I can only imagine that it was even more exciting. It was a statement that anything was possible, and that this was one soap that would not be bound to the literal and traditional. Sy Tomashoff is worthy of special congrats. With only a very small patch of brick and a door, he conveys a “Collinwood” that brims with such freshness that I wonder why they need a newer house. That says “time travel,” right there. And I also appreciate a small implication about the different sitting room furniture arrangement; it suggests that Barnabas truly makes it his own place when he finally has it completely to himself in 1967. And Barnabas? Jonathan Frid seems to have stepped right out of the Blue Boy with an Eddie Haskell demeanor that just demands a cheek-pinching.

And for once, Vicki has every reason to not understand. Just don’t look down at Nathan Forbes’ trousers too intently. Um. Just don’t. Clearly, they’d be making some revisions in costuming.

On this day in 1967, Theodore Maiman is granted a patent for the world’s first laser system. It was ruby-based. I wish I could say that he used it to hold the world hostage or something, and that Dean Martin had to defeat him with a freeze gun, but none of it would be true.

Dark Shadows collections vanish from Hulu

Well, this is perplexing: Hulu has dropped a number of "seasons" of DARK SHADOWS from its streaming service. Back in July, the company had expanded its roster of episodes to more than 500, providing the first 13 DVD collections of the series to subscribers. As of a few weeks ago, though, collections 3-8 are no longer available, bringing the number of streaming episodes down to a disjointed 280. When these episodes first disappeared, I chalked it up to technical error ... but it looks as if this haphazard compilation is sticking around for a while.

Via: Hulu

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 11


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 900

A near-blithering Paul Stoddard is besieged by phone calls telling him that his time is up. Carolyn finds him sitting in pentagrams and gives him her own amulet for protection. Of course, it vanishes. She tries to get him to see Dr. Hoffman, and when he finally does, threatening telephone messages follow him. Meanwhile, the doctor finds Barnabas to be more distant than ever, completely disinterested in the chance that Quentin and Amanda Harris may be alive. Barnabas meets Paul Stoddard at the Blue Whale to give meaning to the menace. He has him relive the night he left Collinwood in 1949. That evening, he met a Mr. Strak at the very same bar and makes a bet. Strak will give him success and wealth, and Paul will give him… his most valuable possession. The joke is that Paul has nothing of value. In hearing this, Barnabas smiles. Paul says that if it’s soul they want, they can take it. Barnabas replies that they are uninterested. Then what do they want? What is his most prized possession? When Carolyn enters the bar, Paul is horrified to realize that she is the answer.

Saki it to me, baby!

Another DARK SHADOWS episode that nearly works as a self-contained thriller/morality tale, 900 is a tiny gem that puts Paul Stoddard center stage. It also gives us one of our shortest flashbacks -- 1949. On the downside, the script asks Dennis Patrick to play the overwrought pedal sans relent. It’s not the first time, and it sure won’t be the last. At least we get a number of treats along the way. Carolyn’s magic charm is straight out of a Universal Monsters movie. (And the way it vanishes on Paul Stoddard is one of the series’ great, metaphysical jump scares. This is a huge and evil universe they stare down, indeed.) Jonathan Frid is having a ball perverting Barnabas into a grinning Iago worth every bit of his Shakespearean salt. Arctic with Julia over Quentin, obsequious with Paul Stoddard at the Blue Whale. He’s on vacation from the fraught and hapless goody-goody melody. That belongs to Julia, brilliantly emerging as the gritty heroine of what is, essentially, an adventure about an occult pandemic. Who better to face it down? And it ends on a helluva punchline.

Quiet day in 1969… unless you’re on a plane with Jim Morrison. In that case, you’re watching him be arrested for, well, being Jim Morrison. Guard your lizard. Meanwhile, in 1966, they’re still filming inserts in DARK SHADOWS country. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 10


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 364

The ghost of Sarah informs Barnabas that, although he taught her goodness, he has fallen away from it, and she must withhold affection until he discovers it once more. Meanwhile, Vicki learns that Burke died in a plane crash in Brazil. Finally, the ghost of Sarah informs David that ghosts from the past are observing, angry, and restless.

This episode always made a strong impression on me. When I watched the show for the first time, when I was eleven (or was it fourteen?), Burke was the closest thing to a hero I perceived on the show, and so the finality of his death was a strange bummer. Because I had no backstage knowledge, I had no idea why he was being written out. He seemed to be a fixture on the show, and so his death was that much more of a non-sequitur. I’m not sure I’d experienced a death up to that point. It actually gave me a hint of the associated feelings. Sobering, certainly. And nothing beats a sober eleven year-old. I was also struck by the concept that the dead were angry at the living… and capable of action. As someone perpetually in trouble with the living, I can think of nothing worse than having the transcendent dead angry at me, too. The first half of DARK SHADOWS does a marvelous job of painting Collinwood as an ancient battlefield. In its rooms and corridors, conflict upon conflict played out with such fury that their echoes can never be ignored. Warnings such as Sarah’s create that redolent atmosphere. At mythic moments like this, DARK SHADOWS creates a total immersion for the viewer… an immersion in mood, history, wonder, and portended doom.

On top of all of this, we have the resolution of Barnabas’ quest to see his sister. Be careful what you wish for. This is a vital glimpse into Barnabas’ humanity. It’s a tell on the writers’ part that they have an heroic evolution planned. Both Jonathan Frid and Sharon Smyth excel in this scene, and you know… you just know… that Barnabas will continue to do terrible things and he’s tortured by it. He is his own frog and his own scorpion. But now we know that there is an inner hero waiting to emerge. How did he become obscured? How will he overcome? With this episode, the key questions and possibilities for the rest of the series are laid. As such, it is -- in its own, quiet way -- one of the four or five most important episodes in all 1,225.

On this day in 1968, Tracy Morgan was born while TV Mail published this, “I always watch Dark Shadows and I would like to see it on for an hour, not a half-hour. What can I do about getting the change.”?

“Write to ABC, New York,” was the response.

It didn’t work. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 8


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 625

As Jeff awaits his wedding to Vicki, Eve appears to him with a letter he allegedly wrote as Peter Bradford. The letter was one to Danielle, explaining his love for Victoria and his hopes of seeing her in the afterlife, once the law has hanged him. Jeff puts a halt to the wedding plans until he can dig up Peter’s grave. If no body is found there, then he must be Peter Bradford. As Victoria succumbs to fatalism about the wedding, Jeff and Roger discover that Peter Bradford’s coffin is unoccupied.

I don’t care what might be going on in the other years of DARK SHADOWS on this day, the (almost) wedding of Victoria Winters is a milestone that demands attention. The episode is ripe with DARK SHADOWS logic, especially, “If the grave from 1795 is empty, then it follows that I am the deathless man who should have occupied it.”

Of course, as any school child could have explained.

It’s filled with DARK SHADOWS moments. Vicki doesn’t understand things… except for the sense of emotional entropy that is her birthright as a Collins. Roger keeps calling the groom, “Clark,” despite Liz’s disapproval. Great quotes abound. It’s terminal position in the storyline of the series’ first protagonist makes it essential viewing. I’m unsure how confident the writers were in the sense of cause and effect in the story. How did Jeff get there? Why is his identity as Peter Bradford such a dealmaker or dealbreaker? I would think Vicki would be delighted either way. More mysteries. There are times when this storyline feels like a project built with tools far more elaborate than necessary. “Well, we have all of this mythos stuff from 1795 hanging around. Renting a mythos is expensive, boys! Let’s use it for something!”

In 1966 on this day, you would have found the studios empty. The cast and crew were on another stock footage safari, shooting inserts on location. Less happily, this was a rotten day in 1989, as it marked the death of Robert Gerringer, the prime actor to play that bright, perceptive, brave agent of conscience, Dr. Dave Woodard. A fine actor who exuded integrity, Gerringer can also be seen in THE EXORCIST. He was only 63 when he died in 1989, meaning that he was barely out of his thirties when he appeared as Woodard. His sense of authority makes him read as much older. He truly comes off as an alien in Collinsport. A little too big city. A little too no-nonsense. A little too witty. But it’s an otherness that works, and his murder creates an even greater vacuum in Collinsport as a result. Robert Gerringer and Dave Woodard, you are both missed.

2017 will almost certainly be better than 2016

News about Big Finish's recent DARK SHADOWS anthologies has been flowing so freely lately that it's been a bit overwhelming. Thanks to the new format, fans will get 24 new DARK SHADOWS tales within a 16-month time frame ... and that's in addition to the upcoming BLOODLUST serial.

The first anthology, "Echoes of the Past," was released last summer and featured four original tales read by Jerry Lacy, Kathryn Leigh ScottLara Parker and David Selby. December sees the release of the second anthology, "Haunting Memories," with Lacy, Parker, Kathryn Leigh Scott and Marie Wallace.

The third collection, "Phantom Melodies," is expected in May, 2017, followed two months later by "Dreams of Long Ago." Details about the fourth collection are still firmly TBD, but Big Finish released a few details about "Phantom Melodies" earlier this morning.

Next generation DARK SHADOWS cast members Stephanie Ellyne and Matthew Waterhouse will be returning to Collinsport in volume three. Waterhouse appears in Rob Morris’s "Last Orders at the Blue Whale," a tale showcasing the odious Harry Johnson.

"Harry is a character who never really got developed on the show and then got unceremoniously bundled off it, so it’s nice to give him an exit story at last," Morris said in the Big Finish announcement.

Ellyne will reprise her role of an adult Amy Jennings in "In A Broken Dream," written by Penelope Faith. The collection also includes "Old Acquaintance" by Waterhouse, and a fourth as-yet unannounced story.

Big Finish will close out 2017 with two more anthologies, "Love Lives On" and "Shadows of the Night." The first will include Paul Phipps' "Behind Closed Doors" (with Marie Wallace), and Daniel Hinchliffe's "Retreat" (with Stephanie Ellyne). Hinchliffe's story sees Amy, Roger Collins and Elizabeth Stoddard dealing with a werewolf.

While we're still a year away from "Shadows of the Night," Big Finish has revealed that Cody Schell, who previously wrote "And Red All Over" and "The Flip Side," will be contributing a story titled "Tuesdays and Thursdays." It tells of the first meeting of demonologists Timothy Stokes and Janet Findley.

"I knew the I Ching would be involved in my story, so as an experiment I cast a Hexagram at random,"Schell said. "I researched it, and incorporated it into my story. I think Stokes would be proud."

Anyway, that's my assessment of what's coming out during the next year. You can visit Big Finish's newsroom HERE to read the full announcement, yourself, which features additional commentary from the writers and cast members.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 4


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 892

With an insistent Barnabas egging them on, the Todds open the box, releasing the spirit that will eventually be Jeb. Driven by that, and shared commands in dreams, they transform their bedroom into a lightless incubation chamber for him. When the hellspawn arrives, they hover over it obsessively. Meanwhile, Maggie arranges for Carolyn to meet a returning Paul Stoddard at the Blue Whale.

Gee, guys, thanks. Here I was, ready to kick off months of Leviathan-bashing, and you have to get me started with an episode fine enough to rank among the series best and most tightly-written. It’s like a little, open-ended NIGHT GALLERY episode with extras thrown in. Characters do what they are normally so averse to on soaps; take decisive action. The Todds open that box! They read that scroll! They heed that dream! They ready that bedroom! They keep that bassinet! They love that crazy mutant baby! This is all in 22 minutes, mind you. Barnabas is appropriately threatening (if depressingly backsliding since 1897). Maggie sports hot, new, Seventies-forward fashions that make her seem more squarely Sixties than ever. There are choices. There is a destiny. Suspicions. Odd behavior. A beginning, middle, and end. And… Paul Frickin’ Stoddard. At long last. Seeing Dennis Patrick in the role is one of the show’s most surreally palindromic moments. There was something stooped and serpentine about Jason McGuire. It’s astounding how costuming and basic movement work can make the same actor look like a giant. Paul Stoddard is every bit the character we’d want him to be. Handsome, commanding, and yet enough of “one of us” to make us sympathize with how bullied he must have felt by the Collins Class Structure up on the hill. Paul is a fascinating character, and it is a treat and a payoff to finally meet him. I really hesitate to criticize the authors too much. The text is a finished, closed system, and I either accept it or I don’t. But were I to do a remake (always a safe way to phrase it), I’d keep Paul around much longer. So, why didn’t they? In some ways, especially with his Leviathan knowledge, he’s too wise and virile. It’s Bill Malloy all over again. God forbid, with a sane Paul Stoddard around, things might get done in a timely manner. Also, this arc ends up creating a vacuum of deep pain in Carolyn. Another man -- Jeb -- is her only hope. Finding and losing a long-absent father, and one with class differences similar to Jeb, just makes the hunger to be Mrs. Hawkes all the more profound. And an even deeper blow when lost. Carolyn, brace for shrapnel. Nothing personal.

Nov. 4, 1969. Richard Nixon pledged a pullout from Vietnam. At a leisurely pace it would seem. Also, I’ll take off my shirt, oil myself up, and speak in a Texas accent -- for the upteenth time -- to celebrate the birthday of Matthew McConaughey. Maybe Wallace will post pictures this year.

Here's the 4K restoration trailer for Suspiria

A4K remaster of Dario Argnto's bonkers masterpiece SUSPIRIA has been in the works for several years now. The release date has long been in the air, with Synapse Films (essentially a mom and pop operation) taking the stance that "You'll get it when you get it."

It's been more than a year since the company had anything to say about their planned Blu-ray release, but a new trailer for the film has surfaced online. I'm a little unclear if this edition, coming to theaters in Italy by the Stardust theater chain and Videa, appears to be related. Could two separate restorations of this movie have been taking place simultaneously? That seems like a waste. But it's in keeping with the fractured history of SUSPIRIA's troubled home video releases, I guess.

You can watch the trailer below. I highly recommend cranking the picture resolution up to 1080p.

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 3


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1143

Randall Drew arrives to mourn his sister, and Barnabas must immediately moderate Lamar Trask’s insinuations that he is the harbinger of sorcery. Lamar is simply nutty with grief, Barnabas intones. Later, he instructs Julia to drive a stake through Roxanne’s heart before she can prove him wrong. Later, he and Angelique once again confront one another, and she is stunned at his sense of dark resolve, worrying that it suggests a bitterness authored by Julia. After a thorough snooping, she discovers Julia’s future-diary. When confronted, Julia brazenly confesses all, including that she and Barnabas are dear friends (so, there) and that Angelique will still exist in 1970. Angelique begins to scheme when she realizes that a mission failure will consign our heroes to the 1840’s forever. After the funeral for Roxanne (when the evil Gerard is identified), Angelique casts a spell on Julia, causing her to sleep past dusk. She goes to stake Roxanne, anyway, and is ambushed by Miss Drew, fully vampirized and ready to attack.

Yes, we’ve all had the “If I had only said X” fantasies about dealing with verbal bullies. Let’s take it a step further. Rather than the perfect comeback, what if you could attack them by ruining all of their passive aggressive surprises with bored disdain and shrugs and the truth. Not only could they not hurt you, your foes couldn’t even annoy you. Well, that’s the very strange brand of revenge that Barnabas and Julia serve up to Angelique. Of course, they’re from the future. They’ve seen her at her best and worst, and here, she is simply at her most annoyingly juvenile. She is not the 1795 hellspawn, ripe to be stopped for the ultimate, preemptive revenge. Nor is she the ally of 1970 or 1897. Instead, she is just smog enough to make a total ass out of herself as forthrightly as possible. Barnabas serves up world-weary disdain as a response. Julia does him one better by doing the most unusual thing for any character in all the series, she tells the truth! Angelique will find out, anyway. And she has the capacity to be good.

So, you might as well get it over with. Seeing someone say the hell with it and spilled the beans on the show is the most revolutionary act possible for those characters. Julia does it with guts, honesty, and a wonderful little twinkle in her eye. And it's a nice reminder of how much she has earned her friendship with Barnabas, and how much blood there is under that bridge.of course, it's the revolutionary choice to tell the truth that may be one of the catalytic steps that drives Angelique toward embracing the heroine within. Julia really displays the bravery that she has earned over the past few years, and does so with him on matter-of-fact straightforwardness. Yes, Roxanne needs to be staked. Yes, of course she's going to do it. They don't have time to fret. They don't have time to wallow in doubt. They are on a five-year mission to kick ass ... and the five years are almost up.   

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Watch the first episode of Stan Against Evil online!

"There’s a ton of Dan Curtis in the show! This show feels like HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. It was absolutely created to feel like it took place in New England in the early ’70s. They still have the internet, they still have cell phones but they have old cars, they have console televisions. HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS was the visual template for the show as well as the musical template. A huge Dan Curtis fan, huge DARK SHADOWS fan. There’s a lot of that in there and that’s also why the monsters are practical. I wanted it to feel tangible."

That's how Dana Gould described his new series STAN AGAINST EVIL during a recent interview with Coming Soon. I've been looking forward to the series since it was announced, and Gould's recent press rounds have only made me more excited to see it. Here's the official plot synopisis for the on-going series, which begins tonight at 10 p.m. EST on IFC:
Stan Against Evil follows Stan Miller (John C. McGinley), a perpetually disgruntled former sheriff of a small New England town who was forced into retirement. Stan has trouble relinquishing his authority to Evie Barret (Janet Varney), the tough and beautiful new sheriff in town, but they form an unlikely alliance when both begin to realize things are not quite right in their quaint New England town. Together, they valiantly fight a plague of unleashed demons that have been haunting the town, which just happens to be built on the site of a massive 17th century witch burning.
The show premieres tonight with back-to-back episodes, but IFC has done us a solid by putting the entire first episode online for free. It's currently streaming VOD and on Roku, as well as at IFC's website HERE.

Or, if you don't want to wait, you can also watch it below!

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 2


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1142

Gerard, thinking he’s rid himself of Judah’s head, is none too pleased to have a cultist named Charles Dawson present him with it. Gerard is unable to resist the seductive power of Judah’s head, and after donning the Mask of Baal, becomes completely possessed by the warlock. Delighted to be among the living once more, “Judard” counts the loyal descendants of his coven and plots revenge against Angelique (once known as Miranda) and the Collinses -- those responsible for his execution. A witch trial should be a perfect way to do so. Dawson admonishes him to be careful… he’s powerful, but the body of Gerard is not immortal. Later, “Gerard” takes the opportunity of the time in and around Roxanne’s visitation to encourage Trask to blame her death on the occult. Could it be Barnabas? Gerard and Dawson then seduce a classmate of Roxanne’s, Lorna Bell, into an occult ceremony. When her dead body is discovered with the “mark of the devil” (similar to the symbol on Quentin’s ring) on it, Trask concludes that Quentin is the guilty occultist.

Imagine, a DARK SHADOWS storyline with so much action and plot that it moves with the tight pace of a weekly series, only with the frequency of daily installments. I can see why this might have been disorienting to viewers of 1970, numbed by the glacial pace of the Leviathan and PT storylines. Ultimately, it’s a reason to celebrate. 1840 is reaching its fever pitch, layering the patterns of the past on top of one another with the bonding mortar of irony, this time with a witch trial wherein the Collinses are more than accusers or casual bystanders… now, they’re on trial, themselves. By this point in the series, the SHADOWS saga must be nearing its end. As DARK SHADOWS turns on itself, it doesn’t rehash past storylines; it refines and reconfigures them to reach the show’s grandest and darkest intensity. This is no longer wine; it’s grappa. Resurrected Masters of the Black Arts! Occult Ceremonies! Maidens Murdered by Cursed Daggers! Masks of Baal! A Trask Driven by Love and Regret! The Devil’s Ring! And Revenge! Revenge! REVENGE!!

Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale?

In theaters at this time, you would have had the opportunity to see what is arguably the best Sherlock Holmes movie ever made -- that you may have never seen -- THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. Written and directed by the man behind both SUNSET BOULEVARD and SOME LIKE IT HOT, this film fuses both of those works with an elan that is decidedly Sherlockian and proto-steampunk to boot. And let's not forget that it features Christopher Lee as Mycroft!  Originally intended as a stately, roadshow release, it was cut down at the eleventh hour and opened on October 29, 1970. Thanks to its episodic nature, it survives despite the cuts. Still, the film has a strangely epic sense of sweep, thanks in no small part to Miklós Rózsa’s score, by turns bombastic and poignant. The CHS says check it out.

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