Monday, March 28, 2016

Podcast: Last Dance at the Savoy


By ROBERT DICK

When Kathryn Leigh Scott's husband Geoff Miller, founding editor of Los Angeles Magazine, was diagnosed with the neurological disease Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), Kathryn began to keep a journal of the impact PSP was having on their lives.

With the aid of that journal, Kathryn has now written her latest book "Last Dance at the Savoy: Life, Love and Caring for Someone with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy." In it she writes of the good times, the hard times, and the practicalities of becoming a care-giver. As she puts it, at the time she "yearned for someone to figuratively take my hand and walk with me through the difficult times I knew were ahead."

"Last Dance at the Savoy" hopes to provide that hand for other people affected by PSP, and also raise awareness of PSP and the CurePSP Foundation.

Kathryn recently joined me to discuss writing her book, and the events that inspired it. And kindly provided us with an excerpt from the audiobook.

We also discuss Kathryn's other non-fiction work, and her novels "Dark Passages," "Down and Out in Beverley Heels" and "Jinxed." Along the way, Kathryn talks of the forthcoming Dark Shadows 50th Anniversary Festival, and the memorabilia she'll be auctioning there in aid of the CurePSP Foundation.

"Last Dance at the Savoy" is published by Cumberland Press and is available from Amazon and book stores on all apps/devices. A percentage of the proceeds will go to the CurePSP Foundation.

You can listen to the interview below.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Jonathan Frid in DIAL M FOR MURDER, 1969



On Sept. 19, 1969, Barnabas Collins ran into some serious difficulties on DARK SHADOWS.

During his jaunt to 1897, the vampire wound up with a stake in his heart courtesy of Charity Trask. The explanation for how he got there — and how he survived — is complicated, which goes without saying with DARK SHADOWS. But it was also a huge shock to viewers at the time because it marked the first significant departure from the show for actor Jonathan Frid.

Frid had booked the leading role in an adaption of DIAL M FOR MURDER at the Little Theater on the Square in Sullivan, Illinois, necessitating the vampire’s temporary demise. The death scene was shot on Sept. 11 that year, with Frid returning to the set for taping on Oct 7. He wouldn’t again be absent for an extended period of time from DARK SHADOWS until the production of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS called him away.

In between, his presence in Sullivan brought the local theater the kind of attention it might not have been expecting. During his national publicity tours, he didn’t draw crowds so much as mobs, frequently needing law enforcement to protect him from fans. The headlines for his appearance in DIAL M FOR MURDER suggest he drew the same kind of attention from young people who probably had no interest in the Eileen Fulton production of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF that preceded it. “Vampire captivates youngsters” and “Teens Frid-der away evening” pretty much capture the Beatlemania vibe that traveled with the actor from New York City.



“As the thriller progressed … it was evident that Frid could do no wrong, as least as far as a large portion of the audience was concerned,” wrote a critic for The Decatur Daily Review. “However, those who attend ensuing performances might be wise to remain in their seats a few minutes after the performance to avoid being trampled in the crush of young people on their way to get Frid’s autograph.”

The rest of the cast got short shrift in the play’s coverage. When 16 Spec Magazine published photos from the production the following April, Frid was the only actor identified in the captions. For the record, Frid played “Tony Wendice” alongside Jerili Little as “Margot Wendice,” Dick Gjonola as “Max Halliday,” John Kelso as “Captain Lesgate,” Art Kassul as “Inspector Hubbard” and Guy Little as “Thompson.”

The play ran from Sept. 23 until Oct. 5. Two days later Frid was back in costume in New York City as Barnabas Collins.

Below are photos and assorted ephemera from the 1969 production of DIAL M FOR MURDER.

Signing autographs for young fans in Sullivan, Illinois.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Sam & Grayson Hall prop up Night of Dark Shadows, 1971

The troubled post-production of NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS has been well documented since its release in 1971. Unhappy with the sprawling, dour epic presented to them by director Dan Curtis, MGM demanded the film be drastically reduced in length. More than 30 minutes were excised during a marathon editing session, bringing the film down to a drive-in theater friendly 94 minutes. Not many people — least of all the creative minds behind NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS — were satisfied by what was eventually shown to audiences that year.

But the movie still had to be promoted. In 1971, screenwriter Sam Hall and actress Grayson Hall made the usual press rounds, desperately trying not to let the words "MGM can go fuck itself" come flying from their mouths. And the neutered version of NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS was not the only issue they had to address. The absence of Barnabas Collins was also an obstacle that needed to be cleared with grace and, in this interview with the St. Louis Dispatch that year, I think they presented the bravest possible front. They've also got some interesting things to say about DARK SHADOWS' reputation as violent camp, even if the reporter can't keep track of her facts.

You can read a transcript of the interview below.


Out of the Shadows for Friday The 13th 
By Mimi Teichman 
The Post-Dispatch Staff 

Aug. 13, 1971

HERE'S A BUMPY-NOSED, red-haired, bony-handed scary-type witch, slinking and cackling around in the middle of summer. Her high cheekbones threaten to break through the skin. Her enormous brown eyes struggle under an overdose of black eyeliner. No doubt about it. It's a witch, stranded in Missouri, where the forces of darkness wage a never-ending battle against the incorrigible goodness of Middle America.

Skeptics might say she's an actress who plays witches, and they might be right, since she travels under the name of Grayson Hall, an actressy name if there ever was one. Where's all the imagination in the Netherworld? If Grayson Hall is all they can come up with for an actresses name, no wonder hanging, drowning, jumping off towers, being pushed off railroad bridges and trampled by horses are the most exciting, inventive ways the spirits can think of to rid the earth of a few more souls. Not that they are bad murder methods — lots of good scream potential there — but they've all been done before.

The witch thinks horror is better than ever. People die in the above ways in "Night of Dark Shadows," a movie that opens in St. Louis, today, Friday, the thirteenth. The witch is in it and she thinks it's terrific. She plays a sinister housekeeper named Carlotta, who remembers the lives of all her prior selves.



IN PREVIOUS theatrical reincarnations, Grayson Hall was Dr. Julia Hoffman, a hematologist-psychiatrist-hypnotist hopelessly in love with Barnabas Collins, the reluctant vampire; Magda, a gypsy witch, and Mrs. Danvers, another 'housekeeper, also sinister. These characters, and actress Grayson Hall, have existed in the demi-monde of "Dark Shadows" for the last three years. "Dark Shadows" was the phenomenally successful television soap opera that added the supernatural to the usual round of pregnancies and auto accidents, thereby creating a following that has developed cult proportions.

When the program was cancelled by the network in March, its fans contented themselves with the knowledge that a second feature film was following the first, “House of Dark Shadows.”

With the serial doomed to the purgatory of cancelled television programs, “Night of Dark Shadows" is the only way the fans can keep track of how things are going with Barnabas, the vampire, Angelique, the mean but beautiful witch, and the others. Except that Barnabas isn't in the new movie.

"There's just so much you can do with a vampire," said Grayson's husband, Sam Hall, who wrote the screenplay and co-authored the daily episodes for the last two years of the series. "He bites. He needs blood. The only thing that made Barnabas interesting was that being a vampire to him was like an awful disease he couldn't control. He felt bad about it. He'd bite a girl whom he loved and then sulk about it for a week. “


SAM HALL has received help in plotting “Dark Shadows" from his 13-year-old son Matthew, who, like many others in his age group, is a devoted fan.

“He used to bring his friends to the studio and say, 'Let me show you where the coffins are,’” Grayson said. Children are ardent fans of horror because they respond well to fantasy, the Halls believe. And when the couple thinks about it, they admit that what they like about horror is the fantasy as well.

"Of course I have to take it deadly seriously when I write it," Hall said. "It may become camp later, but I can't approach it that way or it won't work.

Grayson Hall, who also takes the horror seriously while working, likes the scale of the macabre. "I worked with Tyrone Guthrie, the great British director, and he said something that I thought was very good. 'I don't understand you Americans,' he said. 'You're always trying so hard to recreate reality. If you really want reality go watch a street accident. This is the theater.’”

SAM HALL AGREES. "Somehow you get relief from seeing monsters that you know can't exist," he said. "Our gore is artificial, and not within your life experience. Removing it from the realm of possibility diminishes real fear. Our violence is fundamentally romantic violence. It's all based on oversized passion. Revenge or love or the supernatural motivates the violence, not the fact that someone needs heroin. I was mugged in New York. That's a real, scary experience. Seeing that on the screen would terrify me. The human being overcome by the mechanical, like when a car runs a man down, I find that scary."

But being hanged as a witch? Being trampled by horses? It's no big deal, sir.

"For a horror film to make an impact, it has to be more violent than the things around us. With all the killing and mugging around, that's pretty hard," Hall said.

“When the show was on the air," Grayson said, "people said it was bad for children. I think it was good because it denied death, one of the greatest fears children have. Characters would die and then come back later. I don't think there's anything wrong with postponing the reality of death for children.”

In the world of “Dark Shadows," characters die and return, sometimes in different reincarnations. The show (and the movies) were written using the literary device "parallel time," a kind of world of if, in which all an individual's possibilities are carrying on at one time. That is, if Carlotta hadn't become sinister house-keeper of Collinwood, she might have been a gypsy or a French doctor. All those possibilities are going on somewhere, as well as possibilities in other centuries, which lets the “Dark Shadows” plots travel in time.



IF GRAYSON HALL hadn't liked working on “Dark Shadows" with her husband, and if her husband and son hadn't cared about living in New York as much as they did, she might have moved to California after her performance as a lesbian schoolteacher in John Huston's movie of
Tennessee Williams' "Night of the Iguana" won an Oscar nomination. But she didn't. Not one to be typecast, she followed the part in the Richard Burton, Ava Gardner movie with a role in a Walt Disney feature.  She has also worked in the theater and been in numerous television dramas.

Sam Hall was born in Carrollton, (Ohio), attended Dartmouth and was studying playwriting at Yale Drama School when Grayson was a guest actress there. He has written novels and for other television programs, and was the chief plot strategist for the prime time "Peyton Place" series.

"Doing a movie that has an end is a relief,” Hall said.

“Don't tell the ending," Grayson said, fixing the defenseless mortal screenwriter with a compelling stare that might have been perfected 180 years ago.

Monday, March 21, 2016

In which Dark Shadows goes full camp


It’s often said that DARK SHADOWS is “camp,” an opinion to which I’ve never subscribed. Yeah, it can sometimes be awkward, frustrating or — god help us — unintentionally funny. But if you were to find a scientific method for measuring camp, I’d bet that STAR TREK would rank much higher. “Camp” implies that the creators of DARK SHADOWS were in on the joke, when there was no joke being made in the first place.

But I’m OK with camp. And this DARK SHADOWS fan film, titled BACK FROM THE GRAVE TO HAUNT ME, is about as campy as a film can get without an appearance by Devine. I usually hate fan films — at least, those made by adults who should know better — but there’s a charm to this one that’s undeniable. It’s a little rough around the edges (the story kind of wanders) but the performances will make it worth your time. Darryl Schaffer is the MVP here … he not only does the best Jonathan Frid impersonation you’re ever going to hear, but a spot-on Grayson Hall, as well. (His Louis Edmonds is a little wobbly, though.)

BACK FROM THE GRAVE TO HAUNT ME was shot during the summer in 2011, mostly at Seaview Terrace — the Rhode Island mansion used for the exterior shots of Collinwood in the original DARK SHADOWS series.

“The owner's daughter, Denise Carey, was kind enough to allow us to film there and she also plays the part of Carolyn Stoddard,” said Kimberlee Arnott-Weidman, who wrote and directed the movie. “It basically was filmed in one weekend.”

Arnott-Weidman said BACK FROM THE GRAVE TO HAUNT ME received a standing ovation after a screening at the 2011 Dark Shadows Festival, and that a sequel — CURSE OF THE FULL MOON — was shot the following year. The sequel features DARK SHADOWS cast members Sharon Smyth Lentz and Kathleen Cody, and spiritual medium Chip Coffey.

Just so you know what you’re getting yourself into, BACK FROM THE GRAVE TO HAUNT ME features a battle of wills between Barnabas Collins and a dog named Rodolfo, as well as an appearance by Pee-wee Herman. It goes to some strange places. You can watch the film below.

Friday, March 18, 2016

H.P. Lovecraft manuscript updates status from "lost" to "found"

Believe it or not, you have a new H.P. Lovecraft story to look forward to.

Well, new-ish. The recently discovered short story, "The Cancer of Superstition," was written by Lovecraft in 1926 as a commission for magician Harry Houdini. (It was a relationship that also produced the story "Imprisoned with the Pharaohs" in 1924.) So, while it's an exciting prospect that there could be any new Lovecraft story in print sometime in the future, don't be surprised if it's not his purest work.

The story was found among the effects of Houdini's wife and assistant, Bess, and her manager Edward Saint. Potter & Potter Auctions of Chicago will sell the story as part of an auction of Harry Houdini memorabilia on April 9. Hopefully, the manuscript's next owner will have the good taste to have the story published so that fans can spend the next decade bitching about it online enjoy it.

You can read more about "The Cancer of Superstition" at Mental Floss HERE.

DARK SHADOWS is on sale this weekend at Big Finish


Big Finish is celebrating the 50th anniversary of DARK SHADOWS this weekend with a massive sale at its website.

Big Finish is located in the U.K., so you'll have to be patient with the time zone and currency exchange when reading the company's write up of the sale. The press release has a lot of prices listed that will be (mostly) meaningless to American fans, but if you visit the pages for each title you'll find dollar signs attached to the listings.

Here's what it all boils down to: Throughout the weekend, most individual installments of the DARK SHADOWS audio series are just $7.25 on compact disc and $2.99 as a digital download.

Big Finish has also bundled some of these episodes together in interesting ways. You can read the company's full announcement HERE, but below are a few highlights from this weekend's sale:

THE ARTS BUNDLE delves into world of Collinsport's creatives. Remake a lost childhood in "The Doll House," discover a sanitarium's greatest artist in "The Blind Painter" (guest starring DOCTOR WHO's Nicola Bryant), marvel at a cursed jewel in "The Crimson Pearl" and take in a show from a sinister clown in "Speak No Evil."

THE COLLINWOOD BUNDLE collects five stories revealing the secrets of the family's ancestral home. "The Path of Fate" examines a stairway that traverses time while "Curse of the Pharaoh" uncovers a long buried secret. Original Barnabas Collins actor Jonathan Frid returns to Collinsport one last time in "The Night Whispers," and a dashing stranger provides an escape for young Judith Collins (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER's Amber Benson) in "Dress Me in Dark Dreams."

THE TRASK FAMILY BUNDLE sheds light on the dangerous witch-hunters who spent generations assaulting the Collins family. An imprisoned Gregory Trask (Jerry Lacey) is given an offer he can't refuse in "The Wicked and the Dead," which leads him to the battlefields of the American Civil War in "The Carrion Queen." Charity Trask (Nancy Barrett) finds her school under attack in "The Poisoned Soul." And "The Fall of the House of Trask" finds the family facing the wrath of The Dark Lord (Nigel Fairs).

THE WINDCLIFF BUNDLE delves into the most terrifying cases faced by the Windcliff Sanitarium. Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott) recovers from a terrifying assault in "Clothes of Sand" and encounters an enigmatic stranger in "The Ghost Watcher." Then it's Willie Loomis' (John Karlen) turn, forced to relive past adventures at the hands of a golden angel in " Echoes of Insanity."

THE TONY AND CASSANDRA BUNDLE sees supernatural investigator Tony Peterson (Jerry Lacey) is forced to team up with his former love Cassandra Collins (Lara Parker) for three investigations. There's a serial killer on a desert island in "The Death Mask," black magic in New Orleans in "The Voodoo Amulet" and a dangerous trip on the final train home in "The Last Stop."

If you're new to the DARK SHADOWS audio series, I compiled a visual guide last year that will help you get started. Click on the image below for a closer view.

For more information on this weekend's sale click HERE.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Typography of Dark Shadows


In regards to marketing, DARK SHADOWS has never put its best foot forward. This problem did not result from a want of limbs, but clarity of vision. Like a character in a Patricia Highsmith novel, DARK SHADOWS has been willing to be whatever people needed it to be. And every once in a while, people needed it to be kind of stupid. (Which is totally OK.)

This personality disorder is most flagrant in its marketing. Today, the folks tasked with promoting an intellectual property would shudder at the lackadaisical way that DARK SHADOWS was sold to the public. Modern marketing has a fascistic devotion to brand identity. Today, you’ll never — ever — see a toy, puzzle, t-shirt or other licensed property allowed to deviate from approved corporate branding. If a t-shirt company won the rights to produce STAR WARS clothing today, you can bet your ass they wouldn’t be allowed to design their own version of the movie’s iconic logo. Some crap still manages to slip through the filter (I have trouble believing Warner Bros. really approved the Batman logo to be used on camouflaged kid’s clothes) but the goal is to achieve maximum consistency.

But that was not the principle that guided the marketing of DARK SHADOWS. Just about every product released during the show’s extended lifespan was branded with a different logo. And how those designs differ is quite telling. (Note: This list is probably not complete.)




ABC
It’s surprising how durable the original logo has been, because it’s the simplest of the bunch. It’s essentially a bold Times font, flagged with (presumably) hand-drawn lettering to add a gothic touch. This design says a lot about the tone of the series when it began, with the gothic lettering essentially representing the low-key spooky elements of the otherwise traditional melodrama. DARK SHADOWS was a soap first, a gothic romance second and a ghost story whenever it was convenient.



GOLD KEY COMICS
Gold Key Comics clearly had no interest in selling the soap opera aspects of DARK SHADOWS to its readers. The logo was re-designed for the comic as a tool to fully sell the show’s horror aspects. Considering the comic outlasted the television show by several years, it’s hard to call this decision wrong … but I have to imagine the comic’s mission statement turned off some female readers. This principle was represented in the content of the books, as well. Gold Key’s DARK SHADOWS was a boys club, with its female cast of characters demoted to making cameo appearances in the on-going adventures of Barnabas Collins. This is not the best logo attached to DARK SHADOWS, but it’s not the worst, either. We’re getting to the worst in just a moment …



WHITMAN PUBLISHING
Whitman Publishing, which produced puzzles and games based on characters from DARK SHADOWS, took a look at the original logo and thought, “We can do better!” They were wrong. Oh god, were they wrong. This logo is a confusing mess and looks less like words than it does the kind of tattoo worn by the drummer of a Nü-metal band during the 1990s.


CENTSABLE TOYS
It’s new! It’s hip! It’s now! And how! (Translation: “We don’t know what the hell this is.”) Centsable Toys produced arguably the worst DARK SHADOWS merchandise ever — three pillows bearing the likeness of Barnabas Collins, the werewolf and some witch that absolutely wasn’t Angelique. The product was called “Horror Heads” to help mask the fact that it was profoundly stupid. See for yourself HERE.



MGM
Given MGM’s decision to market HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS as exploitation films, it’s a pleasant surprise that neither of them featured logos with dripping Rocky Horror letters. I actually kind like these, even though the designs show a lopsided attitude toward their perspective titles. The word “House” is downplayed in the first logo, possibly to emphasize that this was a DARK SHADOWS movie. The second logo is much better balanced, giving it its own identity. This is interesting because MGM had not only lost the benefit its celebrity vampire in this film, but the daily presence of the television show, as well. There might have been some discussion behind the scenes about distancing NIGHT from the cancelled series, leading to the bolder design.

SYNDICATION
This versions is mostly forgotten. It’s also the first step taken to retrofit DARK SHADOWS for a new era. If the 1966 logo announced the show’s identity as a soap first and supernatural tale whenever, this design essentially strips away what was left of the show’s melodramatic roots. When DARK SHADOWS went into syndication, it was without the first 200 non-Barnabas episodes, which were absent from the airwaves until the show’s debut on The Sci-Fi Channel in the early ‘90s. In syndication, DARK SHADOWS was “all vampire, all the time.” Even the woeful Bramwell Collins storyline that represented the show’s swansong remained in the vaults during this period.



NBC: THE 1991 REVIVAL
This design reigns in some of the more lurid aspects of the syndication logo. Yes, it’s now ALL GOTHIC, but gone is the drop of blood and hinky flourishes that uglied up the syndication version. I suspect a lot of fans didn’t even recognize the changes, either from the syndication logo or the one used from the original series. It probably helped that the original logo was used in advertising by NBC to promote the launch of the series.



WARNER BROS.
For the Tim Burton movie, Warner Bros. wanted a clean slate. To create an all-new logo for the film, anything resembling traditional gothic lettering was scrapped. This was a new DARK SHADOWS for a new audience, and needed something wholly original to help the film find its own identity.

And by “wholly original,” I mean they used the font from the poster of 2004’s A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS.  Thomas Edison said that genius is one percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration — but he failed to reckon with the role played by procrastination. Because the 2012 logo? It looks like something that was pieced together five minutes before deadline. Which is fair, because the script feels like it was written using the same kind of work ethic.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Monsters rally for CurePsP



Taste the Blood of Monster Serial probably marks the end of our MONSTER SERIAL feature. If so, it’s a good note to end on … while I had some misgivings about restricting writers to a single topic (“movies about vampires!”) it turned out to be my favorite in the series. The contributing writers did some of their best work here.

But there’s a small problem with the publishing side of the series: how to spend the money.

In the beginning, the idea was to donate MONSTER SERIAL's modest revenue to a charitable cause. Thanks to a lack of leadership on my part, this money wound up being used for promotional ads to help raise awareness of the series. By the end of 2015, the snake had fully swallowed its own tail: Mark Zuckerberg made a few more dollars without producing any noticeable uptick in sales of the book.

Enter: The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards.

In February, the Collinsport Historical Society was nominated for the fourth year in a row for Best Blog or Website by the Rondos. “Taste the Blood of Monster Serial” was also nominated for Best Book of 2015, which prompted the sale of a few copies of MONSTER SERIAL books. I didn’t know what to do with this money, but Zuckerberg was not going to get it this time.

As it happens, Kathryn Leigh Scott — who wrote the introduction to “Taste the Blood of Monster Serial” — has a new book coming out in April. “Last Dance at the Savoy: Life, Love and Caring for Someone With Progressive Supranuclear Palsy” tells the story of Kathryn’s marriage to Geoff Miller, who passed away after a long struggle with Progressive Supranuclear Palsey. PSP is a “Parkinson’s Plus” syndrome, a brain disorder that worsens over time and can lead to life-threatening complications. At the moment, it has no cure.

Kathryn is the volunteer national spokesperson for CurePsP Foundation, and the upcoming release of “Last Dance at the Savoy” seemed like a sign. At the very least, donating the revenue from the MONSTER SERIAL books to CurePsP is a way to show our appreciation to Kathryn for writing the introduction to  “Taste the Blood of Monster Serial."

To summarize: All the revenue from this year’s sales of MONSTER SERIAL books will be donated to CurePsP.

I’m not anticipating this will be a lot of money … DARK SHADOWS fans can be occasionally myopic and don’t want much more than to see the same old photos of Barnabas Collins in their Facebook feed every day. (I feel comfortable saying that because those people will absolutely not read this.) But the decision to donate the revenue to CurePSP should make everyone involved — from the writers to the reader — happy to know their money is not going to prop of Facebook.



For those of you coming in late, welcome aboard! There are three entries in the MONSTER SERIAL line: "Monster Serial," "Bride of Monster Serial" and "Taste the Blood of Monster Serial." All together, the books collect more than 600 pages of commentary about some of our favorite (and least favorite) horror movies. In addition to Kathryn's piece, the books also feature introductions by film historian Gregory William Mank and Peter H. Gilmore, high priest of the Church of Satan.

Note: “Last Dance at the Savoy” goes on sale April 16. Patrick McCray — a tough judge to impress if there ever was one — has told me glowing things about the book.

Jonathan Frid throws shade on Shakespeare, U.S. theater scene

Interviews with the cast of DARK SHADOWS conducted during the show's original broadcast can be a little same-y. These interviews were frequently a mismatched duel, with cast members often propping up journalists who knew next to nothing about the series. You can see some of that below, with the writer shrugging off his ignorance by calling Barnabas Collins a phenomenon of the "teenage set." If you read between the lines, the author is clearly telling the reader "I have absolutely not interest in this crap."

To his credit, though, the writer doesn't let this lack of engagement with the subject act as a barrier for either Jonathan Frid or the reader. The guy practically surrenders the entire interview to Frid, who leads us on a merry tour of his passion for theater, literature and the evolving nature of story. It's an interview that's better than it has any right to be.


"Barnabas Says Theater in U.S. Going Downhill”
July 4, 1968
The Ledger, Columbus, Ga.

By Harry Franklin

“The American theater is doing anything to be different," said Jonathan Frid, Canadian born star of the television series "Dark Shadows," in an interview at a local hotel Wednesday.

“Of course the British are much better at it. They know theater much better than the Americans. There's no getting around it, really. American theater is going down from an old standard, but then, of course, the British theater of the last 50 years has gone down tragically since Elizabeth. It has been going down steadily by some standards.

“All of us have been brought up to believe that the greatest literature in the world, the greatest writing in the English language was Shakespeare's, which automatically means that ever since Shakespeare we have been going downhill.

“The restoration writers were no good, but infinitely better than anything we have today. The 17th and 18th century writers even went down another peg, but still were far and above anything we now have.”

Frid is in Columbus to take part in Fourth of July activities today downtown and at Fort Benning. The television “vampire" has become one of the latest rages among the teenage set.

Jonathan Frid visits with nurses at an Augusta, Ga., hospital during a 1968 promotional tour.

Otherwise known as Barnabas, the 175-year-old vampire, he said that he despises the manner in which most people automatically accept every work of Shakespeare as a masterpiece. “I hate this blind acceptance of Shakespeare," he said. "He wrote some terrible stuff. I have been in lots of plays by Shakespeare. Some of his plays were written for Monday night, for deadlines he had to make. I hate to be called a Shakespearean actor for this reason: I have done a lot of Shakespeare, but some of the dullest roles I've ever played have been of Shakespeare.

"I think this blind adoration of Shakespeare drives me up the wall; this blind acceptance of this ‘god.’ He was a bloody good writer, but he's written some dreadful scenes, some awful garbage.

"Elizabethans were simply fascinated with language, and rightly so. His language was the most exciting thing about Shakespeare. But he, on the other hand, indulged in it sometimes.


“We have a very great difficulty in our day and age to really and truly accept Shakespeare. Where I have come from, we have been taught to come right to the point. A great thing about Americans is to come through with the simplest language, to speak what you have to say as briefly as possible. I was always taught that in school. Whenever a person can say something with the least amount of words, the more intelligent he is. This was not true with Elizabethans. Their whole world, their whole life was words. Shakespeare was uninhibited by this rule we have nowadays. He was never ashamed to say what we could say in three words in three pages. He was free to write anything as a result of this. He wrote some beautiful things that modern playwrights don't dare attempt.

“The reason that we don't need so many words today is because we have so much pictorial language: the motion picture, the photograph — a result of the invention of the still camera. We have become sophisticated viewers whereas in Elizabeth's time they were sophisticated listeners. We're no longer listeners, we're viewers. We see these things spelled out pictorially.

“Pictures have tended to take our attention, our values, our focus away from writing.”

Thursday, March 10, 2016

You should totally watch WACKY WALLY'S VINTAGE TOYS


If you own a pair of working ear drums, chances are you've heard Wally Wingert's voice. I could devote an separate blog to the guy's career, which has seen him lending his voice to such characters as Doctor Strange, The Riddler, Ant-Man, Jon Arbuckle, George Jetson ... well, you get the idea. Just take a look at his credits over at IMDB.

Wally is also a huge fan of DARK SHADOWS. He joined the CHS on our podcast to talk about the series in 2014, and even made an appearance on the Big Finish audio drama, "The Darkest Shadow." (I told you the guy was everywhere.)

He's also got a new website series called "Wacky Wally's Vintage Toys." The first episode is now live and dwells mostly on Iron-Man and the Avengers. If you keep your eyes peeled, though, you'll spot some of Wally's DARK SHADOWS collectibles on display in his home. Given that this year is also the 50th anniversary of the series, I'd be surprised if he doesn't devote a future installment to DARK SHADOWS toys.

You can watch the first episode below.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Your first look at the new DARK SHADOWS album


DARK SHADOWS collectors are likely to have a busy morning on April 16.

That the date of this year''s Record Store Day event, which brings with it a slew of limited edition releases ... among them a new edition of 1969's "The Original Music from Dark Shadows." When this year's roster of album leaked a few weeks back, the album — credited solely to composer Robert Cobert — was on the list. Was this a new collection of music? A re-release of one of the show's many soundtrack albums? Had somebody (gasp!) incorrectly attributed Cobert's name to Danny Elfman's 2012 soundtrack?

As it happens, the Record Store Day release is a recreation of the classic 1969 anthology, which features contributions not only from Cobert, but also Charles Randolph Grean, Jonathan Frid and David Selby. It's a thorough re-creation of the original release and even includes the double-side poster of Frid and Selby that accompanied the record back in 1969.

Varèse Sarabande — the label behind the new release — has pressed this version of the album on 180-gram purple vinyl. Below are some photos of the new release, as well as some behind-the-scenes looks at the production of the new album courtesy of DARK SHADOWS major domo Jim Pierson.

And don't forget: This edition of "The Original Music from Dark Shadows" is a Record Store Day exclusive. If you want it, you'd better move fast.

UPDATE: Record Store Day is an international event, but it appears that the DARK SHADOWS album is exclusive to the U.S. Also, the album summary at the RSD website is kinda sarcastic.



Varese Sarabande Art Director Bill Pitzonka shows off the album's new look.
The double-sided poster that accompanied the album's  1969 release will be included with the new edition.
The new edition of the Dark Shadows soundtrack being pressed. (Note the purple vinyl.)

Dark Shadows: Into the Light, Episode 3


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

The latest episode is an extended conversation with Kathryn Leigh Scott titled “A Leading Lady Through the Centuries.” This episode’s topics include:
Kathryn and Mitchell Ryan
  • The turning point where Maggie Evans became the obsession of one Barnabas Collins.
  • Maggie and Joe and the real life bond with Joel Crothers.
  • On working with David Ford and Grayson Hall, who both tried to  intimidate her.
  • Best advice Joan Bennett gave her.
  • Why Mitchell Ryan was missed after he was fired and her reunion with him as Burke Devlin 50 years later!
  • Why she quit and what Dan Curtis told her.
  • Becoming a popular author, publisher and discussing her newest  book that deals with the illness that took the life of her husband in 2011.
You can stream the episode below, or click on the arrow button to download it as an MP3.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

DARK SHADOWS: BLOOD & FIRE details



There's an interview over at the official Big Finish website that spills a bean or two about the company's upcoming DARK SHADOWS 50th anniversary special, BLOOD& FIRE. Lara Parker takes center stage in the two-hour special, which sends the witch Angelique back to the year 1767. Here's what producer Joseph Lidster has to say about the project:
"Blood & Fire is a standalone special that sees the witch Angelique travelling back in time to 1767. I don’t want to give too much away but she’s there on a mission. Long-term fans of the show will realize that the year is important as it features a wedding and the building of the Old House which will eventually become Barnabas’s home. For newer fans all you need to know is that it features two supernatural creatures fighting each other against a backdrop of weddings, deaths and very sexy pirates."
You can read the full interview with Lidster and producer David Darlington at Big Finish's news page HERE. (Note: BLOOD & FIRE is already available for pre-order.)
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