Friday, June 23, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 23


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 786

Magda tries to use the Hand of Petofi to cure Quentin, but to no avail. He transforms, anyway. Meanwhile, Charity Trask moves into Collinwood as Judith’s stepdaughter. She is soon pursued by the wolf, causing Trask to break off his harassment of Magda to help set traps. Charity meets Magda, and after having her cards read, falls into a dream where Quentin recites the lyrics to his song, revealing them to be his secret. She associates the werewolf with him in sleep, as well, and Quentin warns of the capricious wheel of fortune. In the waking world, the wolf tussles with a policeman and gets its leg caught in the trap.

This is that one. The one where Quentin sings. And he’s no William Shatner. For once, I mean that as a compliment. I assume we were at the apex of celebrity albums. Lorne Greene warbled the theme to BONANZA. Sebastian Cabot was doing Dylan. Adam West sang us our “Miranda” waiver. Eddie Albert was blowin’ in the wind. We not only had celebrities (kind of) singing, we just had celebrities. In our post-ironic age today, I’m not so sure that we do. Not in the same way. But with the DARK SHADOWS soundtrack album getting out there, this was a perfect promotion. 1897 is noted for its dream sequences, and this was one of the biggies, no doubt catering to the new, true audience: teenagers enjoying the first weeks of summer’s surreal freedom. Selby seems forever fated to do everything with class and integrity, and he pulls this off, too. The Charity Trask romance is conveniently shoehorned in with little relationship to the plot, but she serves as an easy audience surrogate for swooning.

On this day in 1969, Warren Berger was sworn in as US Supreme Court Chief Justice. He was replacing George Lazenby who sat in on one case before his agent advised him to move on.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Update: Amazon adds more Dark Shadows to Prime Video

The ghost of Quentin Collins has taken shelter on Amazon Prime, bringing with him most of his troubled family. "Dark Shadows: The Haunting of Collinwood," a three-hour DVD edit from 2009, is now streaming in its entirety from Prime members. The movie compiles key moments from episodes 639-694 of DARK SHADOWS, the storyline that first introduced David Selby to the cast.

I don't have much else to say about "The Haunting of Collinwood," mostly because I've never seen it. This is one of those MPI Home Video releases designed to attract new viewers, so there's never been much need for me to revisit this arc in an abridged format. Still, I've always been a bit curious about what the final product looks like, so this might be all the excuse needed to give it a spin.

Meanwhile, Amazon has quietly two more DARK SHADOWS releases to his Prime service. In addition to "The Haunting of Collinwood," members can also watch DVD collections 7 and 11. That's 80 full episodes of the series, if you're keeping score.

UPDATE: "Dark Shadows: The Vampire Curse" is now streaming on Prime Video. As with "The Haunting of Collinwood," this is 210-minute movie made primarily of clips from original series. This package focuses on the popular  1795 "Origin of Barnabas Collins" storyline, which also introduced Lara Parker to the cast.

Via: Amazon

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 22


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 270

Liz and Jason’s wedding is at hand, and Carolyn has brought a revolver! Carolyn readies the gun as the judge asks if Liz will take Jason as her husband. She stumbles on the words, “I do.” Liz can’t. She breaks off. Looking at everyone in the room, she states, “I killed Paul Stoddard, and that man was my accomplice.”

Dennis Patrick. It all begins and ends with Dennis Patrick. He has only a few episodes left, and he makes them count, going from chilling Carolyn’s blood to tearing up over Liz’s beauty. This is the episode that I was waiting for when I was a kid. I knew the Barnabas arc was continuing, but either Liz and Jason were getting married or not. He was the real villain, and he’s warming up the big gun on his Death Star of Evil Love. And at a very special ceremony. Even Burke and Roger stand each other’s company. With nine cast members, this episode is DARK SHADOWS’ equivalent of INTOLERANCE. One of the largest casts they’d ever have, and for a truly auspicious event. There are a handful of episodes of DARK SHADOWS where Things Really Happen, and this may be the most anticipated one for me until Jeb helps to destroy the Leviathan altar or when Angelique reveals the truth of Judah Zachary.

On this day in 1967, British Home Secretary Roy Jenkins announced in London that the United Kingdom would adopt year-round "summer time", moving clocks forward one hour on Feb. 18, 1968, and keeping them at one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. In other words, Daylight Saving Time is stupid and we need to get rid of it. Or always stay on it. By the way, be a smartypants and stop with calling it “Savings” time. It’s “Saving,” singular. In equally pedantic news, be careful with how you use “hopefully.” We usually mean that we are hopeful that something will result from an action. As typically used, we’re actually saying that we will go about creating that change in a hopeful manner. In the past year, I’ve screwed up so much grammar here, I feel as if some redemption is necessary. “I am hopeful that Christopher Nolan will make a DARK SHADOWS movie,” is one thing. If you said, “Hopefully, Nolan will make a new DARK SHADOWS movie,” you’d be saying that Nolan will be hopeful whenever he makes the movie. Hopeful of what?

Stan Against Evil getting darker, more shadowy in season 2

There is an interesting detail buried in a recent IFC announcement about the second season of STAN AGAINST EVIL, which is now filming in Georgia. The press release rightfully focused on upcoming guest appearances by such folks as Jeffrey CombsDavid Koechner and Patty McCormack, but it was the name of a character played by Denise Boutte that caught my eye: "Lara Bouchard."

Yes, it's quite possible to get so wrapped up in something you love that you'll see patterns where there aren't any. It's probably just a coincidence that actress Lara Parker played a character named "Angelique Bouchard" on DARK SHADOWS. Not everything is a conspiracy. Sure, series creator/writer Dana Gould frequently describes STAN AGAINST EVIL as the "funny cousin" of our favorite gothic soap. He's even been seen wearing a "Blue Whale" t-shirt. And then there's that Barnabas Collins throw pillow.

But yeah. Probably a coincidence.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 21


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 527

Nicholas’ gloating over the restoration of Cassandra’s painting is short lived when Jeff presents him with his lost coat button. He and Vicki go to visit Stokes, who masterfully tutors Adam in the fine art of being a witty, urbane man-about-town before hiding him from his visitors. To discover Jeff’s identity, he hypnotically regresses him, learning of Lang’s perverse plans, just short of the full truth of Julia and Barnabas’ involvement. Emboldened with what he learns, Stokes struts manfully into Collinwood where he meets and intimidates the comparably ineffectual Nicholas Blair, the man who sold the Cassandra painting to the antiques dealer. Stokes explains to Vicki that this is man stuff, and she should amscray from Collinwood  before becoming the next victim of the dream curse.

I have to hand it to Stokes. We forget that he gets brought into the deeper recesses of the DARK SHADOWS universe by finding out about Barnabas and Julia’s involvement with something nefarious, and he still becomes their staunchest ally. Talk about a spider sense! Perhaps he chooses his friends by their enemies. After all, his next move finds him meeting Nicholas Blair in the heart of Collinwood, and the Professor knows exactly what that means. What does he do? T. Eliot Stokes stares down the devil like the stone-cold badass he is and pretty much outs him in front of Vicki. He essentially says, “Hey, you know that portrait that’s driven everyone crazy? The one that looks like Roger’s new wife? The woman we’re glad is gone? You know, the one who looks like you-know-who-in-a-black-wig? Well, this is the guy who was involved with it when I first saw it! What a coincidence!”

Big. As. Churchbells.

Pass the cheese and sherry.

On this day in 1968, the number one song was “This Guy’s in Love with You,” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Alpert also sang it, and his straightforward style and limited vocal range actually gave the song its lovable authenticity. Although it’s easy to write off his sound as quintessential elevator music, he was one of the most successful musical artists of the 1960’s, a fact that is emblematic of the intense musical variety of that era.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Alliterative Dark Shadows prop going up for auction

DARK SHADOWS was a weird television series. Consequently, it sometimes had some weird credits.

Exhibits A-C: The crew took precautions to mark off sets designated for use in the closing credits, but that didn't stop actors to making accidental cameo appearances during an episode's final moments. Ohrbach's, the department store that provided many of the contemporary costumes worn on the series, had it's name often misspelled in the credits. And, in one episode, a crew member can be seen walking casually by a second-story window.

Even when things went right, the credits were still pretty weird. For example is "Bat by Bil Baird," a simple piece of alliteration that credited a puppeteer used in several episodes. Along with wife Cora, Bil Baird was an innovator in puppetry for much of the 20th century. His work on DARK SHADOWS is little more than a footnote compared to some of the other achievements in his career, such as producing “The Lonely Goatherd” sequence in THE SOUND OF MUSIC and training Jim Henson.

Still, I suspect he enjoyed his days on the set of DARK SHADOWS, if for no other reason than the surrealist opportunity to attack actors with a wooden bat on a wire. More than a year ago, the prop went up for auction on Ebay with a "buy it now" price of $148,000. I have trouble visualizing dollar amounts in that range and can't speculate to the accuracy of that price tag.

But: The prop will be going up for auction again later this month with a starting bud of $30,000.

The bat is part of the second day of Hollywood Auction, which includes a lot of really interesting props, such as Nicholas Hammond's "Spider-Man" costume from the (mostly forgotten) 1970s TV series, an "Eagle" model from SPACE 1999, PLANET OF THE APES costumes and more. You can see the entire auction lot for Tuesday, June 27 HERE, of jump straight to the DARK SHADOWS bat HERE.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Who Said It: Roger Collins or Linus Van Pelt?

DARK SHADOWS' ne'er-do-well Roger Collins and Linus Van Pelt from PEANUTS are essentially the same person. Sure, Linus probably hasn't yet developed the Teflon liver of Roger Collins, but both characters deal with life's hardships with dry, often pessimistic senses of humor.

Both characters are also perpetually overshadowed by their older sisters, have rocky relationships with blondes and are pathological downers. I have no idea where the Great Pumpkin fits into the matrix, but the fact that we have to address bizarre superstitious beliefs just makes this bullshit comparison that much stronger, in my opinion.

The original idea for this week's installment was to compare Roger to Charlie Brown, but the more dialogue I read from Charles Shulz's comicstrips (and the subsequent animated adaptions,) the more parallels I saw between Roger and Linus. You can bet your ass that kid is going to eventually trade his security blanket for a decanter of brandy. And Charlie had better learn how to watch his back.

Below are some quotes from each character, five each from Roger and Linus. See if you can tell which is which. (I promise this one won't be as difficult as last week's Victoria Winters Vs Evanescence installment.)

1. "Is there any point in fighting if you know you're going to lose?"

2. "You'll either be the hero, or a goat."

3. "I love mankind! It's people I can't stand."

4. "When a boy tries to kill his own father there's no help for him, no help at all."

5. "Are there any openings in the lunatic fringe?"

6. "I have a rather personal fetish for accuracy."

7. "If you have an imaginary friend, why not bring her along?"

8. "Life is peculiar. Wouldn't you like to have your life to live over if you knew what you know now?"

9. "I don't like to face problems head on. I think the best way to solve problems is to avoid them."

10. "Well, maybe it's far better to be nine years old and know how ugly life can be."

Roger Collins: 1, 4, 6, 7, 10
Linus Van Pelt: 2, 3, 5, 8, 9

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Dark Shadows: The Missing Color Strips

Back in May, Hermes Press announced its intentions to publish a new edition of the DARK SHADOWS newspaper strips. The concept differs in two significant ways from the 1996 black and white Pomegranate Press edition. First, Hermes intends to reproduce Ken Bald's original strips in a landscape format in keeping with the dimensions of the original art. Second, the new edition will present the Sunday comic strips in full color.

The second point is presenting something of an obstacle, though. Hermes is missing a number of the color installments from the final months of the strips run. This is where YOU can help.

DARK SHADOWS fans are notoriously meticulous and have managed to hold onto even the most ephemeral aspects of the original series. Hell, when a single episode of the original series was discovered missing from the archives, a fan stepped up with an audio recording made in their living room back in 1971, helping MPI Home Video recreate it for VHS and DVD releases. STAR TREK fans ain't got nothing on us.

So this task ought to be super easy. Hermes Press needs color scans of just 17 strips to complete the book. Below is a list of the dates of the missing strips. If you have copies, contact the publisher at to see how you can help make this project happen. The publisher needs high-resolution scans of the original strips, so a minimum resolution of 300 dpi, please.

Contributors will also get a "thank you" in the finished book!

You can preorder Dark Shadows the Complete Newspaper Strips on Amazon HERE.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Who Said It: Victoria Winters or Evanescence?


I come here not to bury Evanescence, but to ... well, praise is too strong of a word. Like might actually be pushing it, as well. What's less than hate? Tolerance? Sure. I tolerate Evanescence.

If the overwrought nu-metal band from the Bush era is remembered for anything, it's as an example of style over substance. And while the band certainly had style, it's a little unfair to claim it had nothing to say. It's just that the band's mopey, goth-tinged lyrics sounded as though they were written by a high school freshman who just figured out that the world kind of sucked. They weren't especially smart lyrics, but I was willing to give Evanescence the benefit of the doubt because the music was coming from a place of relative honesty. Also skewing the curve was that their contemporaries were such shit acts as Papa Roach, Limp Bizkit, Alien Ant Farm and a dozen other acts you've already forgotten about. Even Nickelback managed to (briefly) look good while standing next to those hosers.

It doesn't hurt that singer Amy Lee's lyrics also sound remarkably like the kind of purple exposition routinely given to Victoria Winters on DARK SHADOWS. (My inner child is a goth girl, so I'm drawn to this kind of weirdness whether I like it or not.) To prove my point, here are 10 examples of lyrics by Evanescence and/or lines of dialogue spoken by Victoria Winters. See if you can tell which is which.

1. "Tragedy has almost come, and the hidden echoes of the past are moving closer and closer."

2. "I'm frightened by what I see. But somehow I know that there's much more to come."

3. "Moonlight on the soft brown earth, it leads me to where you lay. They took you away from me but now I'm taking you home."

4. "Time has seemed endless and all I can do is sit and wonder if anyone will ever come to my rescue."

5. "Make me understand the lesson, so I'll find myself. So I won't be lost again."

6. "I haven't heard any screams yet. I guess that's not funny."

7. "I still remember the world from the eyes of a child. Slowly, those feelings were clouded by what I know now."

8. "I can only hope for the day when the tension around me will no longer exist."

9. "I'm so sick of speaking words that no one understands. Is it clear enough that you can't live your whole life all alone?"

10. "The landscape of dreams is free of thunder and storms."

Victoria Winters: 1, 4, 6, 8, 10
Evanescence: 2, 3, 5, 7, 9

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 31


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 506

Willie and Barnabas search the rocks. Barnabas is certain that Adam lives. But where? The abandoned root cellar at the Taylor farm, where he once secreted Carolyn. All Willie wants to do is tell Carolyn the dream, but Barnabas orders him to return to the root cellar. In Carolyn’s room, she defends Adam to Liz. After she goes to bed, Willie sneaks into her room, desperate to tell her the dream but she bites his hand, screams, and forces him to jump out the window. Liz enters and hears what happened. Carolyn thinks he meant no harm. He was more terrified than by anything else in his life. Carolyn is afraid to sleep, especially of the dream. She’s afraid that if she has it, she’ll die.

In a show of evolving and complex characters, there is none more so than Willie Loomis. DARK SHADOWS is replete with characters whose golden hearts have been painted with lead. The joy of the show is watching them find the gold within. Usually, they are celebrated for it. But Willie is a man who can’t get a break. He is forced to learn compassion. The only problem is that his first impression is never forgotten… completely. This makes him the ultimate Everyman. Class issues bubble around the edges of DARK SHADOWS like the unacknowledged Chairman Mao in the room. Willie truly is Exhibit A.

This day also marked one year and a month of marriage between Elvis and Priscilla. As far as I know, Elvis never shot a TV showing DARK SHADOWS.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

DARK SHADOWS meets The Damned

Back in 2001, THE DAMNED released the album "Grave Disorder." From the very beginning the British band had been pulling in a lot of different directions, merging politics, horror, humor, social commentary and romanticism into a bizarre stew that still has people arguing about whether or not they're really "punk." (Judge's ruling: Yes, they are.)

"Grave Disorder" did nothing to mend that image and featured songs about horror movies, absinthe, John Lennon's dubious place in rock history, and the surreal bullshit surrounding Michael Jackson in his later years.

The album also features the gothic ballad "'Til the End of Time," a song that may or may not be about Barnabas Collins. Here's a sample:

I've woken from darkness with passion
You're surely to blame for it
This torture so wicked
You hurt me just for the hell of it

The lyrics certainly suggest the song is about a vampire, but there are two things that makes me think it might have been directly inspired by DARK SHADOWS. First, the TV series had been airing on The Sci-Fi Channel in the U.K. for several years when the album was released. (It would be a stretch to even call that evidence "circumstantial," though.) But, leading into the song is a proverbial smoking gun: "'Til the End of Time,"  kicks off with a sample of Lara Parker's dialogue from the original series.

Making that connection is a trifle difficult, though, thanks to how the album was edited. The tracks were chopped to allow the songs to begin at the start of each track listing, shuffling the seques (such as Parker's monologue from episode 561) to the end of the previous songs. So, if you want to hear the DARK SHADOWS sample, you actually have to listen to the the song "Neverland." Life can be complicated like that.

If you want to hear the sample for yourself, follow this link and skip to the 3:20 mark.

(Note: Yes, I know that magazine clipping below gets Dave Vanian's name wrong.)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 25


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1026

Maggie wanders into Angelique’s room to hear Angelique's voice taunting her, comparing them as common versus glamorous. Liz talks her down from jumping by insisting that jumping would ruin Quentin. In interviewing Hoffman, Barnabas asks why Angelique owned books on witchcraft and promised to return from the grave. Hoffman brushes them off as metaphors. In Angelique’s room, Barnabas stares into the eyes of the Angelique portrait, demanding the truth. Across the estate, Angelique (as Alexis) senses being observed. Her eyes are burning! Barnabas commands her to come closer and closer until she runs into the room, screaming. She knows. And he knows. And she knows that he knows. And he knows that she knows that he knows.

Today is the birthday of the memorably menacing Erica Fitz, who played Leona Eltrich and Danielle Roget. She put in a wicked, strong performance as the evil spirit of Eve. Her career wasn’t terribly long, but it wasn’t dull. Not only did she welcome Arnold Schwarzenegger to the USA by co-starring with him in HERCULES IN NEW YORK, but she also sexed up the Broadway farce, THERE’S A GIRL IN MY SOUP, co-starting the Third Doctor, himself, Jon Pertwee! Stuck on Earth in that incarnation, his Doctor used his wisdom to guide a world-protecting service and protect the planet. Hard to find, look up the episode “The Daemons” for DR. WHO at his very best.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 23


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 245

At the Old House, Woodard takes Willie’s sample as Barnabas plies him with liquor and rhapsodizes about the romance of sacrificing blood. Willie tries to explain what the true Barnabas asks to see the slide and swaps it out with a fake as they speak of the beauty of blood. Barnabas learns that Woodard is seeking every connection possible between Willie and Maggie. Barnabas warns him that the man who broke into his office is of dangerous strength. Woodard says it’s both a beast and a man. Barnabas mournfully describes the villain as more than a man and less than a man, and someone he loathes very deeply. Later, Barnabas reveals to Willie that he switched the slides. At the Blue Whale, Woodard reveals that Willie’s blood is normal, but Maggie’s was terrifying. There was a substance that should have been rejected. Instead, he saw and unholy union in her veins. It was as if Maggie were accepting into her blood something inhuman. The wolf continues to howl in the distance.

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

On this day in 1967, the painfully unfunny Neil Simon had a hit with the inexplicably popular film of his witless and predictable play, BAREFOOT IN THE PARK. Now considered a shorthand for the nadir of “classy” romantic comedy of the era, it remains terrible because I have still not been cast in a regional production of it.

Monday, May 22, 2017

David Selby joins JFK docudrama THE TUG OF WAR

L.A. Theatre Works' latest world premiere THE TUG OF WAR will begin May 25 at UCLA's James Bridges Theater.

Our own David Selby is among the cast of the production, which provides a snapshot of the presidency during a time of international crisis. Set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the play focuses on young President John F. Kennedy's decision-making process as he is provided with conflicting advice by his inner circle of advisers.

Selby plays Secretary of State Dean Rusk. The cast also includes Matthew Arkin as ambassador to the Soviet Union Llewellyn Thompson, Hugo Armstrong as Lyndon B. Johnson, Seamus Dever as Robert McNamara, James Morrison as CIA director John McCone, and John Vickery as Nikita Khruschev.

You can read an interview with the THE TUG OF WAR's author, David Rambo, at Broadway World.

THE TUG OF WAR is just the latest in a series of collaborations between Selby and the L.A. Theatre Works. Previously, he's appeared in their presentations of  DRACULAJUDGMENT AT NUREMBERGPACK OF LIES and ON THE WATERFRONT.

Performances of THE TUG OF WAR will be held May 25 through May 28. Purchase tickets for the event online HERE.

If you don't live in the Los Angeles area, fear not! L.A. Theatre Works' syndicated radio theater series broadcasts weekly on public radio stations across the U.S. (locally, in Southern California, on KPFK 90.7 FM); can be downloaded as a podcast via iTunes and; and can be streamed on demand at

Friday, May 19, 2017

Hermes Press still wants to publish the Dark Shadows strips

Hermes Press might still be interested in publishing a collected edition of Ken Bald's original DARK SHADOWS newspaper strips.

Syndicated during the waning years of the original television series, Hermes originally planned to collect these strips into a hardcover edition back in 2014. The plan was to not only collect these strips into a landscape format (to better display the art in its original dimensions), but to also publish the Sunday strips in color for the first time. Hermes did quite a bit of research into the original materials, going so far as to call on fans and collectors to help them match the colors of the original strip.

It was a wasted effort, though. DARK SHADOWS fans met the announcement with a collective shrug (which happens a lot these days.) Preorders for the book were so low that Hermes was forced to cancel it.

Ken Bald and his wife, Faye, served as models for the DARK SHADOWS comic strip.
But all may not be lost! While I'm still waiting on a confirmation from Hermes Press about their intentions for the book, it was recently solicited again on Amazon with a targeted release of Oct. 10 this year. This might be a meaningless date, though. Those of you who have been following the farce that is the second collected edition of Dynamite's DARK SHADOWS comic series already know that these dates can be meaningless. (Volume 2 has been consistently solicited on Amazon for several years now, with the goal post being moved farther down the line every few months.) Hermes might be doing nothing more than keeping their publishing options open.

This isn't Hermes' first foray into the world of DARK SHADOWS. The company successfully published hardback and softcover collections of the entire run of Gold Key's comics, including a "best of" collection and the 1970 "Dark Shadows Story Digest." I still hold out hope that they'll be able to publish Bald's newspaper strips. While the Pomegranate Press collection from 1996 gets an "E" for effort, a landscape edition of the original art is clearly a better format in which to present Bald's original art.

Here's where things get tricky. The first attempt to publish this book failed because the advance orders were low. If you wait too long to pull the trigger on ordering the book, you might find yourself reading yet another story here about its failure to launch. But if this new solicitation is nothing more than an opaque publishing strategy, you might be wasting your time. My advice? Wait for an official announcement from Hermes Press before placing your order. You can find the current listing at Amazon HERE.

Stay tuned!


Hermes Press has confirmed that they intend to publish the DARK SHADOWS newspaper strips in a hardcover collection this year. The company still needs access to some of the original color newspaper strips for reference, though. If you have copies of the original strips, contact the publisher at to see how you can help make this project happen.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dead Men Tell Tall Tales

"To me, horror is when I see somebody lying. I mean a person I know. A friend. And he's telling me something that I accept. And then suddenly, as he or she is telling it, there's something that gives them away. They're not telling me the truth.– Jonathan Frid, 2001
Jonathan Frid cemented his place in television history 50 years ago today.

At the time, he'd been a part of the cast of DARK SHADOWS for just a month, taping his twelfth appearance on May 11, 1967 (it would air the following week on May 17.) There's very little in the way of "action" in this episode. While the word vampire was more than a hundred episodes away from first being uttered on the show, the audience already knew who — and what — was responsible for the mysterious illness of Maggie Evans.

Unfortunately, the viewers at home weren't in a place where they could be of any use to the show's characters. When resident vampire Barnabas Collins decides to pay a visit to Collinwood in this episode (in the middle of a thunderstorm and power outage, no less) there's already a sense of tension in the air. He arrives to find Victoria Winters and Carolyn Stoddard alone in the drawing room, a lit candle as their only source of light.

And then the show really begins.

Barnabas decides to entertain the ladies with a tale from Collinwood's past. While her name isn't used, the tale clearly details the death of Josette Du Pres, Collinwood's most perky spirit. The pretense is that Barnabas' tale is a product of his fascination with history. The reality is that he's relating it from personal experience, omitting his own involvement (and culpability) from the narrative.

This is Barnabas Collins is full bloom, suddenly more awkward and vulnerable than Carolyn and Victoria.Throughout much of the tale Frid positions himself between both of his audiences. The performance is as much for Victoria and Carolyn as much as it is for us, and has to work on both levels. He positions himself throughout the scene to face his two audiences, turning away from the ladies when compelled to lie, revealing to us which elements have been altered. For a few minutes he plunges Collinwood into the past. Here's a sample of his dialogue:
"There was a night such as this. A night when a young, beautiful woman was pressed to the limits. She could no longer accept what the future held for her. She knew she had to destroy herself before she became something she did not want to be. She had quarreled with her lover. She tried to send him away, but he would not be put off. He tried to put his arms around her, but she broke away from him and ran out into the stormy night. Her white dress contrasted against the darkness. He ran after her as she headed for the one place on earth that seemed to be designed for the termination of life. Rain drenched her, the winds buffeted her, blowing her long hair wildly. Her clothing was torn by the low branches. Her small white feet were bruised and mud-stained with the stony cruel pathway to the summit of the cliff. The shouts of her lover were lost in the wind as he moved swiftly after her."
The script is credited to Malcolm Marmorstein. If you're thinking Barnabas' dialogue runs a little too purple, that's entirely the point. DARK SHADOWS was originally conceived as a modern gothic romance, the sort usually showing  on their covers dark haired women fleeing old mansions. Victoria was the pulp heroine of DARK SHADOWS, a thinly sketched analog for ABC's (presumed) audience of housewives in need of mystery and adventure in their lives.

What this episode also makes clear is that Barnabas was designed to be a suitor for Victoria. She was a blank slate, a character reaching into the past to find some clues to her real identity. Along comes Barnabas Collins, reaching out to Victoria from the past. And his use of language sounds if it was ripped from the very pulp novels that inspired both her character and DARK SHADOWS.

The threat is not that Barnabas is going to turn his unwanted attention toward Victoria; It's that she's going to invite this corruption into her life. Barnabas makes it clear in this scene that Josette's history will almost certainly repeat itself, if for no other reason than his own lack of self control.

''You're a clever girl" he tells Victoria at the close of the scene. "Just be careful that what happened to Miss Evans doesn't happen to you.''

Note: The quote at the top of the page appears in "Halloween Candy," a collection of interviews and essays by Thomas M. Sipos published in 2001.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Jonathan Frid: "I’ve rarely had the opportunity to play myself"

Jonathan Frid steps out of the dark shadows!
Flip, April 1969

Jonathan Frid visited FLIP on a winter’s day that was cold enough to freeze a vampire’s blood!

But there is certainly no vampire lurking inside of Jonathan. He’s a gentle man who’s spent his life perfecting his art — acting — and he still can’t understand why his portrayal of Barnabas Collins on “Dark Shadows” has created such excitement all across the country. Of course, he’s not fighting it, and he even seems to be enjoying his star status.

Without his stage makeup, he’s not at all ominous looking — he’s really quite handsome — and he moves his hands expressively when he talks. This is what he had to say.
—Valerie Berger 

FLIP: Even though your role in Dark Shadows is what first brought you national attention, you’ve been an actor all your life. How did you first get interested in acting and the theatre. 

JONATHAN: It was in prep school. Every year the six boys who were academically at the top of each class had to participate in the school play. I was never at the top academically, but I was interested and I volunteered to be in the play — which was an unheard of thing to do. The teacher in charge of dramatics was delighted to have a student interested in the play. I remember I played an old man. I was sixteen years old then, but all through my teens and twenties I found myself playing these character roles, people much older than myself. Now that I’m getting older, my parts have been getting younger, till we’ve just about met in the middle. Barnabas may be 175 years old, but I play him as a man my age.

FLIP: Then you got into this pretty much on your own, without encouragement from your family. 

JONATHAN: Yes, but they didn’t discourage me, either, which was important. Especially with their strict Presbyterian background. My father was a building contractor, and he really loved his work. He had three sons and he wanted them to go into what would make them happy, too.

FLIP: You’ve done a lot of Shakespeare over the years. What was your favorite role? 

JONATHAN: Richard III. There’s really a lot of humor in the part, which a lot Of people don’t realize. Except for the fact that he’s killing people, Richard does nothing but put people on the whole first part of the play. It was a challenge, because I feel there is still a lot of work to be done with Richard, when other actors play him. But I was lucky in having a director who Saw the character as I did. He helped me tremendously.

FLIP: You were an “unknown” actor for many years, that is, a working actor without a national following. Was there ever a time when you felt you almost got a part that would have made you a star, or you just missed recognition in some other way? 

JONATHAN: No. I suppose subconsciously every actor wants to be a star, but I never consciously worked at it. I got a lot of satisfaction out of many of my roles, but I never expected any of them to bring me stardom. I certainly never expected that Barnabas would.

FLIP: You’re usually working from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the Dark Shadows set. What’s happening in Collinwood this week to enable you to have this time off? 

JONATHAN: Actually, the writers just forgot to write me into the script! But we’re having Some trouble now with Barnabas and the series in general, and there’s been a lot Of rewriting, So I’m not on till the end of the week.

FLIP: What sort Of trouble are you having? 

JONATHAN: We need new ideas for the story lines. So far, Dan Curtis, the producer, has been coming up with all the ideas. It’s really funny to watch him with the show’s writers. Dan has this miniature golf course set up in his office, and he goes swinging around it, thinking, and all of a sudden he’ll stop short and say, “I’ve got a great idea!” And out will come the idea for the next story. He’s just like a little kid about it, he gets so excited. But lately he hasn’t been able to think as quickly, So instead of having scripts two or three weeks in advance of taping dates, sometimes we’re only three days ahead.

FLIP: But through all these problems, you’ve managed to give Barnabas a strong personality and even change his character from its early pure sinisterism to a more sympathetic interpretation. 

JONATHAN: On the contrary, Barnabas was much more sympathetic in the beginning, when I could portray his agony and remorse every time his need for blood compelled him to bite someone. He was “cured” of being a vampire six months ago, you know. So now he’s an ordinary mortal and not nearly so interesting or sympathetic a character as he was when he was a vampire. Now he just kind of hangs around. But in a sense, it’s interesting for me to play him as an ordinary man. I’ve done it before, too. In a flashback to the days before he was cursed, I played him as an 18th century gentleman! But, unlike most actors, I’ve rarely had the opportunity to play myself — to be a normal human being. I’ve usually played parts that were mysterious or vaguely sinister.

So it was fun for awhile, but now I wish they would decide what to do with Barnabas. Of course, Barnabas isn’t permanently cured. There’s a monster on the show, and if it dies, Barnabas will be forced to go back to being a vampire. And there are a couple of scenes each week in which the audience is given the uneasy feeling that he may be going back right then.

FLIP: But there’s no immediate danger that Barnabas will be killed off, just because they can’t think what else to do with him. 

JONATHAN: No, I don’t think so. They’re playing around with a couple of ideas. They may send Barnabas back into the past and then have the monster die. But then they’d have to send someone back after Barnabas to warn him not to come back! But nothing’s definite yet.

FLIP: What sort of research did you do for the part? Did you read up on witchcraft and the like? 

JONATHAN: No. I don’t play Barnabas as a vampire, per se. He’s a man with a hangup. He has all the human characteristics and passions but his uncontrollable need for blood, human blood, makes him a monster. He must have it or he’ll die. But I myself have no interest in the occult, and I haven’t tried to make Barnabas true to form. In fact, I’ve probably broken every rule in the book. Historically, vampires were supposed to be bloodless, passionless creatures with absolutely no interests except getting blood. Bela Lugosi played them to perfection — I saw him a couple of months ago on the late, late show at about 3 in the morning. A vampire would go after its victim with a perfectly bland expression on its face. It felt no emotion and had no conscience. That’s what made the thought of a vampire so terrifying.

FLIP: You’re evidently concerned about the show’s effect on teens, judging from the way you didn’t want FLIP’s last month’s cover, where you appeared, to be sadistic. 

JONATHAN: No, that’s not right — I thought the cover should be more sadistic. I’d have worn my
fangs, except that that’s been so overdone. I think Barnabas should be more evil—he’s a more interesting character then. And as far as kids being impressed with the evil things Barnabas does, I just don’t think that’s a problem. Kids are pretty smart. They can watch Barnabas without applying it to their lives. They know Barnabas isn’t human. He looks like a man and talks like a man and has courtly manners, but he’s really a monster. And just as you wouldn’t bring a lion in the jungle to trial for killing another animal, you can’t judge Barnabas’ actions in human terms. But it’s funny that all the magazine and newspaper publicity about Barnabas’ being a vampire has come out months after he stopped being one. And the fan mail peaked two months after he became normal.

FLIP: How much fan mail do you receive now? 

JONATHAN: About 1,500 to 2,000 letters a week.

FLIP: I know you try to answer as much as you can. How do you decide which letters require an answer? 

JONATHAN: A lot of the mail is sent to the West Coast for the fan club. Then my secretary sorts the
rest and I answer a random sampling, to ease my conscience. But I don’t mind if magazines print that
I don’t answer all the fan mail — the people who write me know that would be impossible. They’re just taking a chance that their letter will be one I do pick up.

FLIP: Do you get much chance to meet your fans? 

JONATHAN: Oh, yes. There’s always a crowd outside the studio, and when come out I spend a few minutes talking to them and signing autographs. Then when I have to leave, I say, “Okay, thank you," and I walk away quickly. But one night I was really in a hurry, so I sent one of the stagehands downstairs to ask the guard to let me out the back way. So I heard the guy say in a very loud voice, “Barnabas wants to leave through the back. Will you open the door?” I thought, oh, no, everyone outside heard! But then I thought, well, they’ll all go around to the back and I can get out the front. It would have worked, too, except there was one lady still standing there. Her daughter had gone
around to the back, and when she saw me, boy did she bawl me out. She and her daughter had come all the way from Pittsburgh, or something, to see me, and here I was sneaking out. She was right, too.

FLIP: Sometimes fame can be an inconvenience! 

JONATHAN: Yes, but I enjoy the recognition much more than I dislike the inconvenience. To give you an example: One afternoon when I wasn’t taping I was downtown doing some errands. I was due at the studio at 4 o’clock to block for the next day’s taping and I was late. So I grabbed a taxi and as we raced toward the studio I was thinking, here I am late, and I’ll still have to get through the crowd outside before I can get into the studio. Well, I arrived and there were only two girls standing outside and, boy, was I mad!

FLIP: When you talk to fans, what do they ask you about most? 

JONATHAN: Mostly questions about the story line, what’s going to happen next. And then, who’s still upstairs in the studio. And my birthday was last week, so I’ve been getting a lot of questions about that. I don’t mind people knowing how old I am, but I don’t tell my birthday. But somehow they find it out, and my unlisted telephone number, as well. Kids are great detectives. But it’s the questions on the story line that I’m not too good at. I don’t read the scripts the days I’m not on the show, and the only time I watch the show is when I’m on, to criticize my own perform, So I don’t always know what’s going on at a given moment. And I’m such a slow study—I learn my lines so slowly—that the first year I was on the show I spent every minute either memorizing or performing. I was once on a TV talk show, and the moderator was asking me about the relationships of the characters to each other. He had a blackboard and a piece of chalk and he was actually drawing the whole family tree of Collinsport. I could hardly help him at all, but the studio audience kept calling out all the answers. They knew all the characters perfectly.

FLIP: After Dark Shadows you’ve said you’d like to teach drama at a university out West. Will you then stop acting? 

JONATHAN: Lately the teaching idea isn’t as concrete as it once was. Mostly, it’s something I talk
about during interviews. But I do sometimes think about taking off two or three years from acting to
teach. I certainly have a reservoir of experience I could pass on. But in addition to acting courses, I’d
probably have to teach a textbook course on the history of drama, or something, and I was never a great student. And I’d have to teach about ten years before I was making as much money as I am right now. So that’s something to think about. But if I did teach, I wouldn’t act at the same time. Schools seem to like it if you do, but I had too many professors in school who wouldn’t show up for class half the time because they had a matinee, or something else to do.

FLIP: Is there anything else you might like to do in the future? 

JONATHAN: well, I had been thinking of a nighttime TV program. But I was once on a talk show with Barbara Parkins of PEYTON PLACE, and I found she didn’t have it much easier than I do. They shoot two or three shows a week, and because they’re in prime time, they have to be a lot more technically perfect than Dark Shadows. Then, I’ve never made a movie, and I’d like to try that. But for the time being, I just wish that Dark Shadows would settle down. It’s become such a ...

FLIP: A fad? 

JONATHAN: Yes, a fad. Some of these soap operas run for years with the same characters, but we’re so far “in” this year that by next year we could be way, way “out” of it! And I hope that doesn’t happen.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 11


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 233

Vicki watches over an ailing Maggie at the Evans cottage.  In a storm, the thunder cracks and the French doors fly open to briefly reveal the silhouette of Barnabas. He vanishes and she says, “it’s all right now.” Later, Carolyn and Vicki are at Collinwood when the power dies. By candlelight, Vicki reports seeing the phantom silhouette. Barnabas enters to check on the young women. In the light of the flames, he then tells of ancient times, storms and eventually, the death of Josette. He learns that Willie is quite probably the person responsible for alerting others to Maggie’s danger. He returns to the Old House, bellowing Willie’s name.

This may be one of two or three “best episodes” for Jonathan Frid. It’s a Messenger Speech, really. And that’s not easy. In advanced actor training, a major assignments is one of these, but from Greek theatre. You probably can guess, it’s done by a messenger. The messenger has usually seen something awful, and arrives to describe it with poetry and pathos. And keeping that third-person narrative emotionally invested is tough. What’s the objective? Where do you get to make a discovery or change your mind? It seems like a limited range of choices. Frid comes into Collinwood and goes to town discussing the death of Josette… or discussing around the death of Josette. Is it old fashioned poetry? Does anyone really reminisce like this? No. And that works in the episode’s favor. Real life is boring; that’s why we have art.

Thanks to the invaluable folks at for transcribing this!

There was a night such as this. A night when a young, beautiful woman was pressed to the limits. She could no longer accept what the future held for her. She knew she had to destroy herself before she became something she did not want to be. She had quarreled with her lover. She tried to send him away, but he would not be put off. He tried to put his arms around her, but she broke away from him and ran out into the stormy night. Her white dress contrasted against the darkness. He ran after her as she headed for the one place on earth that seemed to be designed for the termination of life. Rain drenched her, the winds buffeted her, blowing her long hair wildly. Her clothing was torn by the low branches. Her small white feet were bruised and mud-stained with the stony cruel pathway to the summit of the cliff. The shouts of her lover were lost in the wind as he moved swiftly after her. Near the top, she stumbled over a large rock. Crying hysterically, she limped and crawled to the edge of the precipice. Her lover reached her, clutched at her, spinning her around to face him. Her eyes were wide with terror as the lover held her tightly, lips pressed against her throat. Soon she grew limp, and he released her. Suddenly, with a last surge of energy, she broke free and hurled herself off the cliff. Her scream, reacting and echoing, as she plunged downward. Her body... was impaled on the large craggy rocks below. Her lover descended to the bottom of Widows' Hill. He found her body broken, lifeless... bloodless. As violent as her death was, the expression on her face was one of serenity. As if this were the best possible ending to her life.

I can’t help but throw in my own version. This is, according to the semi-satirical Collins Chronicles, what actually happened that night from Barnabas’ point of view. (And is one of my favorite pieces.)

Blunder of blunders, tonight was one calamity after another. First, I went to comfort the ailing Miss Evans (soon,safely moving into my care).  Such was my enthusiasm that I took no time to scan the room and count the pulses before I barged in unannounced. I was certain she’d be thrilled by the salubrious sight of yours truly, and so I threw open the doors in the fashion befitting a Don Juan of my disposition.  No sooner did I see that she was conversing with Miss Winters when the sky cracked the deafening whip of thunder and lightning.  This scared the wits out of Miss Winters, Miss Evans, and yours truly, who beat a hasty escape. 

At the very least, the community was alleviated of the unnatural eyesore of electricity.  I thought it fitting to visit Collinwood and celebrate this ocular rarity with Miss Winters and Miss Stoddard, but the awkwardness of the eve was unabated. It aided things in no way that I waxed rhapsodically about the death of Josette. Midway through, I became aware of my soliloquy and thus veered more and more into the realm of sentiment, winning the hearts of the ladies and shoring up my side of the story in case Angelique should arrive to sway them with hers. I almost found myself in a deuce of a problem when I mentioned the bloodless body of my beloved, setting off alarms in the mind of Miss Winters, who tried to connect that to the recent population reduction. 

I gleaned more evidence that Young Loomis has been sending messages on the telephone horn to alert all about Miss Evans' "great danger."  This upsets me in every way. It distracts the youth from his opportunities for vocational advancement. He was supposed to be exploring the art of Flemish bond bricklaying, taught by me with instructions aimed at both the heart and the head. But the bricks were stacked as I had left them, untouched.  I readied my cane, for it finally seemed time to have a civil conversation with him about the matter, but I found the scamp nowhere outside. Eventually, I (and I appreciate how ludicrous this sounds) I had to let myself into MY OWN HOME with MY OWN HANDS! (Ungloved, at that!) This was after tripping into a birdbath he had misplaced — and was even lowered to raising my voice, all in an effort to pry his attention away from the Collinsport Clippers baseball match he was listening to on his radio box. 

I fear that one day, I may lose my temper.  Before such an unseemly event, I need a sherry and a long sleep. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dark Shadows artist picks up second Guinness distinction

The artist of the classic DARK SHADOWS newspaper strip has been named the "oldest artist to illustrate a comic book cover" by Guinness World Records.

Ken Bald illustrated DARK SHADOWS in 1971 and 1972, while simultaneously drawing the DR. KILDARE syndicated strip. But it was his 2015 cover contribution to Marvel's CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS series that earned him his Guinness distinction. Bald, 96, illustrated a cover featuring many of Marvel's golden age heroes in battle with their 21st century counterparts.

This is Bald's second Guinness honor, having already been named "oldest comic book artist."

“At 96 years old, you’d never think you’d be setting any world records, let alone setting two," Bald said. "Both records have been a great thrill for me.”

Bald sought out the job of illustrating the DARK SHADOWS newspaper strip in 1971 after hearing that producer Dan Curtis was considering the concept.

"(Curtis) interviewed me, he saw my art and thought it would be a good idea," Bald told in 2012. "We presented the idea and some drawings to King Features — who were happy with me — but they didn't think the 'Bible Belt' or so many other Southern cities would go for the idea of 'Dark Shadows.'"

Bald had been a comics illustrator since the gold age, contributing to such books as CAPTAIN AMERICA as early as 1943. His DARK SHADOWS newspaper strips were collected into a single volume in 1996 by Pomegranate Press.

“It’s never too late to accomplish anything in life. Just look at me," Bald said. "I can’t believe at 96 years old, I’m still doing commissioned drawings for fans and still going to comic-cons!”


The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 10


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 494

Willie brings a sulking Adam food, but he throws the tray aside and Willie scrams. Later, Julia says that she must continue with the experiment, and Willie is left little choice but to return to Adam’s cell. Adam seizes shiny buttons off of a garment and delights in them. To entertain him further, Willie triggers the secret door in the cell that conceals a vault of various jewels of Josette’s. Willie keeps Josette’s earrings, and slips into Maggie’s home, placing them in her purse. Upon his return, Julia chides Willie, and threatens him with a return to Windcliff should he go absent again. Maggie finds the earrings and falls into a strange reverie. As night falls, Adam grows agitated. Julia plays Adam Dr. Lang’s tape of music, unknowingly with the message… that Adam begins to memorize. Hearing Lang’s voice, Adam says his first word: Barnabas!

You’re only going to get so trusting of Willie. Still, this episode is a marvelous audition reel for Karlen. What a demonstration of his range. Willie’s resentment leads him to suicidal risks. More, it allows us to have it both ways. We feel for Willie, and then we see him bully Adam, switching our affections. In classic Frankenstein tradition, both the Creature and the Igor/Fritz character are cast into new lives by the Doctor figure. Both can benefit from the biological and social steps up, but do either of them want them? Probably not. Repeatedly, DARK SHADOWS deals with the dangers of exploiting the underclass while making think they’re eating at the big kid’s table. Usually, the upper class gets its hat handed to it. Not everyone is Vicki. On the other side of that coin is Angelique. For every Ben Stokes, there’s a Willie Loomis. A Crazy Jenny. An unhinged Beth. A Dirk Wilkins. A Gerard Stiles. It never quite works. Well, as we see with Angelique, the ultimate triumph, it can work, but it takes time. It takes care, listening, compassion, and a mix of acceptance with encouragement to be more. Out of everyone at Collinwood, Barnabas and Carolyn are the most adept at sharing the wealth.

Today is the birthday of Philip Cusak, the actor who played Abraham Howell (the third) in the 1897 storyline. Episodes 819-821. Petofi digs up his body, steals his hand for another scheme, and then his ghost haunts Aristede (until banished by the Fearsome Fop). I really love this show.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 9


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 755

It’s nearly dawn, and Barnabas frets over Jamison. Beth says the attacking beast wore clothes or walked as a man. Laura enters, demanding to care for Jamison. With Beth gone, Laura tells Barnabas she will have her revenge. As Barnabas goes to his coffin, the Old House bursts into flames. A spying Dirk sees Barnabas dematerialize. Then, the flames abate. Dirk reports all of this to Laura, who sends him back to the Old House to investigate the secret room there. Dirk finds part of the diary of Ben Stokes, telling all. Meanwhile, Quentin learns from Beth that he is transforming into a wolf by moonlight. At Ben’s grave, Laura and Dirk find more of Ben’s diary. A storm brews. As she reads, Barnabas appears at the height of his power behind her.

Rollicking. At this point, that is one of the only words adequate enough to describe the show’s trajectory. Can swearing vengeance and mutual destruction be next? In two years, we have gone from Gothic soap to (almost) science fiction to a full-fledged Marvel comic. If we break down the tone of DARK SHADOWS’ stories on its timeline, we begin to get a sense of its representative identity as a show. Is it dark, quiet, tense, and subtle or is it a pop colored orgy of the unlikely and the bizarre? Yes! It can be tempting to count episodes and see which tone dominates the series. My money is on the bizarre, starting around spring of 1968 and going through to spring of 1971. That’s sixty percent of the series. Great. So what? Yes, the goofy dominates DARK SHADOWS just like it does LOST IN SPACE, but is a more grounded beginning necessary to get to the goofy? It’s a principle of great horror storytelling. Start us off in a very, very real place, and after we deal with the credibility of that universe, methodically move our emotional investment to a heightened world. Is there a consistent message that pervades this trip? I used to think it was about forgiveness and the past. It is, but if we look at the very beginning and the very end, there is another theme that resounds. Orphans and fractured families live in a citadel of family. No one has won the genetic lottery of the nuclear 2.5 in either 1966 or 1841PT. To grow and to get the most out of what Collinwood can offer, people who have no reason to trust anyone must learn to do so. From Burke to Bramwell, it is the willingness to trust themselves and to trust the hearts of others that wins the day.  

It’s the birthday of Richard Woods and Michael Stroka. Woods was the first Dave Woodard, and for only two episodes. No worries -- he went on to appear in two Coen Brothers movies (MILLER’S CROSSING and THE HUDSUCKER PROXY) as well as films such as IN & OUT and I.Q. Stroka was the first in the second-to-last-ish wave of DARK SHADOWS cast members, making his debut on June 30, 1969. He was exceptional at playing Obsequious Sleaze, and did so to the hilt. You could always count on a Stroka character to entertain, and they were pretty much all the same (and that’s just fine with me). They all shared great smiles, wild wardrobes, and hairdos so increasingly amazing that they could only be topped by a fez, and so they were. He allegedly appeared on an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, but I have yet to track it down. He absolutely appeared on BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY (alongside Mark Lenard and Felix Silla) and WONDER WOMAN (in “The Deadly Dolphin,” one of the notorious swimsuit episodes). Everyone dies too young, but especially Stroka. 1997. He was only 58 years old.  

The secret Dark Shadows/Vampirella crossover from 1972

Back in 2012, Barnabas Collins finally crossed paths with Vampirella. From a distance it might have seemed like a concept that couldn't fail. Both characters were horror icons from a simpler time, shamelessly flaunting their gothic polyester origins likes badges of honor. Sadly, the six-part mini-series was too little, too late. A meeting between Barnabas and Vampi might have soared 40 years ago, but their 2012 meeting was hobbled by the laziness that plagues too many comics these days. I kind of hated it.

Yesterday, a writer attached to the original VAMPIRELLA magazine revealed online that he conducted a secret crossover of sorts between the alien vampire from Drakulon and DARK SHADOWS back in 1972.

Among the issues of VAMPIRELLA penned by T. Casey Brennan are #19, "The Shadow of Dracula!" and #20 "When Wakes the Dead!", both illustrated by the great Jose "Pepe" Gonzalez. If a few of the characters looked and sounded familiar to DARK SHADOWS fans, it was not by accident. Both issues were direct homages to the series, Brennan said yesterday on Facebook.

"(I) asked the editor to send (Gonzalez) pictures of Lara Parker as Angelique," Brennan wrote. "I carefully re-crafted VAMPIRELLA's Dracula into the intermittently repentant Barnabas. I set the story in my favorite DARK SHADOWS era  – 1897. I used the standard DARK SHADOWS ploy of a look-alike relative for Dracula."

Among Gonzalez's obsessions was Marilyn Monroe, whose portraits by Gonzalez' rival his Vampirella work in popularity. Brennan said he had a different kind of blonde in mind for the role of Lucy Westenra, though.

"Lara Parker was clearly the anti-Marilyn," Brennan told me. "She was the blond sweet Marilyn, without Marilyn's frailty, re-imagined for a more rebellious age. At the time I wrote that story, every girl I knew idolized Angelique.  I'm certain one of the Warren bunch got a picture of her to Jose Gonzales."

By the time Brennan began work on the book, the likeness of Dracula had already been established. The writer said he would have liked for the character to have looked like actor Jonathan Frid, but settled for revising Bram Stoker's predatory monster into something that felt more like Barnabas Collins.

"I couldn't make him look like Frid; his look had already been established," he said. "But I made him SOUND like Barnabas  – poetic, sinister, repentant."

Gonzalez died in 2009 in Barcelona and is the subject of the new documentary series Love Strip. Brennan has a story in the latest issue of Warrant's horror anthology THE CREEPS. You can read a preview of the issues online HERE.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Dark Shadows: Blood & Fire nominated for a Scribe award

The DARK SHADOWS audiodrama, "Blood & Fire," has been nominated for Best Audio in this year's Scribe Awards.

The Scribe Awards are presented by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers to recognize licensed works that "tie in" with other media such as television, movies, gaming, or comic books. Unsurprisingly, Big Finish pretty much owns the audio category this year. "Blood & Fire," written by Roy Gill, is against a pair of TORCHWOOD audios, "Broken" (written by DARK SHADOWS line producer Joseph Lidster) and "Uncanny Valley" by David Llewelly,  and the DOCTOR WHO tale "Mouthless Dead" by John Pritchard.

The Scribe Award winners will be announced at ComicCon San Diego in July. You can read the CHS review of "Blood & Fire" HERE.


Friday, May 5, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 5


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 752

After Quentin’s first evening as the wolf, Beth finds him on the floor of the great hall, dazed, with no memory.  Quentin asks Evan Hanley to intervene on an occult level and he agrees. Evan’s price will be billed when the time comes. For now, Quentin hands Judith back the bribe for him to leave Collinwood and tears up the contract. In the Old House, Magda’s card reading is interrupted by Evan. Magda denies the power of the curse. When Evan wisely tries to buy her pentagram amulet, she demurs. Evan returns to Quentin’s, creating a pentagram on the floor for protection and leaves two black candles for the points. But even these may not help him. After Evan leaves, Quentin is wracked with pain as he transforms before Beth’s eyes!

Werewolves: arguably unique among monsters because they frighten on two levels, in two completely different ways. By night, we see them as monsters and fear for their victims. By day, we see them as frightened victims, themselves, searching desperately for a cure and letting us fear for them. Want to know why DARK SHADOWS only dealt with werewolves for short amounts of time? I would argue that it’s because they lack versatility. A vampire can talk about his condition as a vampire. But the werewolf is an amnesiac. For all he knows, moonlight brings along a painful transformation into the Comcast guy. Whining during the day. Inarticulate attacks at night. But for the relatively brief slice of this story where Quentin is infected, get ready to have fun. They show delights in his narrow escapes. And metaphorically, the curse of the werewolf is an ideal one for Quentin. He is forever alone in a crowd… a wolf without a pack.

May 5, 1969 was a helluva day in the world of DARK SHADOWS. David Selby became a dad; Jamison was born that day. Also, Humbert Allen Astredo returns to the show after an absence of nearly two months. And in the birthday department, we also wish a happy one for the memory of character actor Joe Della Sorte, who plays one of the ghosts in episode 826.  He would go on to work solidly in TV and film, including THE GODFATHER: PART II. Oh, and Norman Mailer won the first of his two Pulitzers. Dan “Marilyn” Ross was robbed again.

Get half-off Dark Shadows audios this weekend

Plus new Tony & Cassandra Mysteries!

Break out your wallets, everybody: Big Finish is having a 50-percent-off sale on most of its DARK SHADOWS titles this weekend.

Use the code DRKSH50 at checkout to save half off DARK SHADOWS audios ranging from 2007's "Angelique's Descent" through 2015's "And Red All Over," which is a huge selection of titles to choose from. If that wasn't enough, the code will also give you 50 percent off full-cast audio dramas from 2006's "The House of Despair" through last year's excellent "Blood & Fire," the sprawling serial "Bloodlust" and the recent anthologies "Echoes of the Past," "Haunting Memories" and "Phantom Melodies." That's enough DARK SHADOWS to keep you occupied for a long, long time.

The timezone of the U.K.-based Big Finish makes nailing down the sale's end a little difficult, but they're offering a "mid-day" cutoff for U.S. customers of Monday, May 8 ... which gives you plenty of time to act.

Read more about the sale HERE.

Also: It seems a waste to bury this news at the bottom of a sales notice, but Big Finish has also announced a new collection of  "The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries." These offbeat tales have been sprinkled throughout the DARK SHADOWS range since 2011's "The Death Mask." Starring Lara Parker and Jerry Lacy, these stories generally shrug off traditional continuity to follow the one-time Collinsport attorney Toney Peterson and still-a-witch Angelique, AKA Cassandra Blair, as they get into trouble on distant parts of the globe.

“When I attended the Dark Shadows 50th anniversary festival in mid-2016,” said DARK SHADOWS producer David Darlington, “the feedback we started receiving -- and then kept on receiving -- was that more and more people wanted more and more of Tony and Cassandra. Jerry Lacy sat next to the Big Finish contingent for one of his many autograph sessions, and clearly enjoyed getting to point over at me and say ‘Hey, ask this guy’ every time someone brought the subject up …”

Appearing in the new anthology (which features a cool retro cover that calls back to mystery programs like MURDER, SHE WROTE) are "The Mystery of La Danse Macabre" by Zara Symes, "The Mystery of Flight 493" by Alan Flanagan and "The Mystery of Karmina Sonata" by Aaron Lamont.

Curiously, Mark Passmore, the author of the previous Tony and Cassandra, doesn't appear to be attached to this collection. Over on Facebook, though, Passmore noted the timing of today's announcement marked the seventh anniversary of when he submitted his script for “The Death Mask.”

"What timing for this announcement!" he wrote. "It'll be a real thrill listening to other writers' approach to the characters."

You can read more about Vol. 1 of "The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries" at Big Finish HERE.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 4


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1011

In the cellar of Loomis House, Yaeger finds the chained coffin and opens it.  Will cold cocks him with a small pistol and drags him off, determined not to let him ruin his book.  In the caverns, an awakened Yeager meets Buffie, who gives him the stolen formula. Barnabas awakens and begs to be allowed to go back to the Parallel Time room.  Will coldly refuses.  Back to himself at the lab, Cyrus vows to prevent Yaeger from ever emerging again. Meanwhile, Will grills Barnabas about Josette’s story. Barnabas, however, gets the jump on Will.

Barnabas is back from getting staked and speaking with an unintelligible reverb in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, and it’s about damned time. Carolyn and Will return, also, which kind of officially reunites the cast. I was about to say that the show in the interim is a wonky warm-up for NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, except that this is better. Much better. So much so, in fact, that I’m a tad surprised this didn’t serve as the template. Perhaps it was an unsuccessful storyline in retrospect, but compared with NIGHT? Then again, you do have a newly-married Quentin returning to Collinwood only to grow distant as his obsession with a spectral (sorta) “lost love,” played by Lara Parker, works malevolently behind the scenes. By Jove, it is a remake, after all.  Another interesting aspect of this section of the show is Yaeger’s confession. In Quentin, Barnabas, Jeb, and even — to an extent — Adam, we deal with essentially good people fused with beasts they try to control. I think Yaeger is the most honest of all of these “villains.”  For once, the hero hides within the heavy, rather than the other way around. It’s curious experiment; try looking at any of the other antagonists that way.

Meanwhile, in 1967, the episodes were being shot wildly out of order. Scenic demands and actor availability seem like the most ready suspects. But it was a more frequent occurrence than one might think.

On this day in 1970, four Kent State University students were killed and nine injured when members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire during a demonstration protesting the Vietnam War.
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