Thursday, December 14, 2017

Let these podcasts get you through the holidays



The editorial pace of The Collinsport Historical Society has always been a little confounding for all involved. There are few human beings on earth who can match our enthusiasm for DARK SHADOWS, a television show that went off the air before most of the contributors to this website were even born. Not all that long ago we were sometimes updating the website multiple times a day, which is kind of staggering in retrospect. Where did we get all of that energy? And what's up with those stupid haircuts we used to have? (Spoiler: I have an all-new stupid haircut.)

I look upon the CHS's current editorial schedule with equal parts regret and relief. It's certainly a more rational structure than the previous model, which was to run a niche website as if it was The AV Club. But I also miss the days of rattling off at the keyboard every time DARK SHADOWS did something to excite me. But time is a rarer commodity that it once was, which brings me (finally!) to the point ... I have fallen behind on some of my favorite podcasts.

I've been kicking around the idea for several months of occasionally using this space to discuss some interesting podcasts. Unfortunately, I've fallen behind on everything that I'm currently listening to ... which makes "discussion" a challenge. So, instead of kicking that can even further down the road, here are a few shows that I intend to catch up on this weekend.



Cheap Chills is a new podcast by Amanda and Ben Walker Storey, and they really like horror movies. The first episode is in two parts and focuses on ... plant monsters! They argue that the concept is scarier than it sounds. You can find them online at www.cheapchillsfanclub.com and listen to the first part of their podcast streaming below.


I don't even know how to introduce Dana Gould. The guy's got a list of professional credits that are more far fetched than Julia Hoffman's divergent medical degrees. Seriously ... LOOK AT THIS. I've been a fan of his since there was only one BATMAN movie (my preferred units of historical measurement are BATMAN movies) and should probably stop now because this is getting weird. The latest episode of The Dana Gould Show is titled "Aging Disgracefully" and features John Hodgman and Rich Koz, aka Svengoolie. I couldn't figure out how to embed the podcast here, but you can find the show pretty much every place that delivers podcasts, and online at www.danagould.com/aging-disgracefully.

For most of us, Halloween only comes once a year. Howie Pyro has torn the "October" page from his calendar, nailed it to the wall and then blacked out the other 30 days of the month. It might be Christmas right now ... but when the egg nog, consumer hysteria and Whamageddon references become a little too much, Howie always has a kick-ass mix of spooky music waiting for you at Intoxica Radio. You can listen to the latest episode below.


Holy shit ... it's been how long since I've listened to Welcome to Night Vale? Um ... I've really got no excuse. This is embarrassing. Here's the latest episode below.

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.



Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The late night, double feature picture show



For the last few weeks, I've been building short videos for the Collinsport Historical Society's social media pages. These videos tend to contrast a behind-the-scenes image with a short clip of the related episode or movie. It takes a bit of work to connect the dots from the original photo to determine with which episode they're connected, and it's been a fun to solve these mysteries.

Facebook and Instagram have been the primary targets (sorry Twitter, but you make video too challenging) and they've been popular. I try to make these experiences unique to readers so that the people reading Twitter aren't seeing the same content as Facebook, Instagram or even the primary website. The overall goal, or course, is to get you to visit us here, but some people are satisfied simply seeing the occasional photo from DARK SHADOWS in their Facebook feeds and leave it at that. Others just read the website and ignore Twitter, while some on Instagram don't appear to know there's even a website attached to the account. So I like to post occasional reminders here at the main hub about some of the things we're doing on social media.

Below is an example of the short videos we've prepared. The video is taken from Episode 331 of DARK SHADOWS, taped Sept. 21, 1967, a busy day on the set. A photographer was present at ABC Studios in New York City and captured dozens of images of the show's production process. While he didn't need them in the episode taped that day, actor Jonathan Frid donned the fangs to illustrate how they were applied, and posed with co-star David Henesy on the set of the "Old House" in an image that would later appear on the cover of issue #6 of the Dark Shadows Gold Key comic. The video below composites all of those images into a handy 30-second file. If you enjoy it, you can find more on the CHS's Facebook page and Instagram account.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 12



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1966: Episode 126

David reveals Vicki’s location to Roger and Burke. Meanwhile, Matthew sharpens his axe, ready to kill Vicki. Josette’s ghost appears to Vicki to reassure her, and as Matthew begins his attack, the ghosts of Bill Malloy and the Widows (which sounds like a band name) arrive and frighten him to death, as he swings his weapon wildly. Roger and Burke burst into the Old House to find Matthew dead and Vicki in need of rescue. 

Josette’s ghost first appeared in full form in 102, and Bill Malloy appeared yesterday in 125... but those were appetizers compared to the main course in 126. Really, until Quentin took over Collinwood and the show in early 1969, this episode might have been the high point for spectral apparitions on DS. It takes 125 episodes of getting it kinda right, but 126 is one of the most red letter installments in the series. The program might have gone on the air on June 13, but it was on December 12 that cameras captured the first real episode of DARK SHADOWS.  Not only do we get Matthew Morgan at his most blitheringly insane… not only do we get him casually grinding axes… not only do we get a damseled Vicki awaiting execution… not only do we get multiple ghosts attacking and killing a psychopath… but we also get Frank Schofield performing a seaweed-drenched musical number. Oh, and David’s father runs around the estate with a loaded shotgun… and Roger even tags along. I kid, I kid.



Early appearances of the supernatural were always sure signs of dipping ratings. “Daddy,” Dan Curtis’ kids wisely inquired, “why don’t you make it scary?” This was almost exactly six months into the run, shortly before the year’s end, with Christmas break rolling out across the nation. Accounting time at a network. Decisions getting made. Dan Curtis took the first of many risks and it payed off in what may be the most pivotal installment of the series. After this, there would be a dearth of non-supernatural plot elements. In fact, only one of significance: Jason McGuire. Unlike issues of pens and bleeder valves, that story (kinda) solved the mystery that had dominated the show from the beginning -- and did it with immediate, good, old-fashioned blackmail, executed by one of the series’ most engaging actors. But starting here, that’s blip. 126 is an exciting, tight, dense, fast-moving episode. Chronologically, it’s the first one that I show to people when I want to say, “That’s DARK SHADOWS.”

On this day in 1966, the film version of Robert Bolt’s play, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, premiered. I prefer the later version with Charlton Heston, but few can fault the original, Academy Award-winning interpretation or the virile turn by Robert Shaw as the king it depicts.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 11



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 385

Reverend Trask arrives to seek out the witch. Nathan Forbes, showing a broad streak of common sense, tries to get Vicki away, but to no avail. Similarly, Barnabas, fails in his attempts to exorcise the estate of the unordained clergyman. Trask kidnaps Vicki and ties her to a tree in a strange ritual he is convinced will prove her allegiance with Satan.

In 1967, DARK SHADOWS could afford to be progressive. Had this been written a few years later, maybe not so much. What changed? What set the clock back? A work of genius, unfortunately; ROSEMARY’S BABY, released the year after this episode aired.

The witch trial storyline lets the show have it both ways. Most importantly, the Collinses stand as voices of reason in the face of obvious fanaticism. On a horror show, a healthy dose of intellectual, anti-superstitious skepticism is bracing. Along with STAR TREK, DARK SHADOWS was a one-two punch of secular common sense in the genre. With, you know, vampires and werewolves and ghosts. But does it need a witch to facilitate Trask’s mission to play on the buried and forgotten fears of Collinsport, or are we all too vulnerable to hysteria? The scariest part of the show is to see the panic of the family as groupthink sweeps away common sense at the dawn of the 19th century. And there’s a witch in there anyway. Note how Angelique’s motives are all driven by love and desire, though. She’s not claiming Another Child for Satan. She may use dark powers, but she’s the only one at spiritual risk. She is a selfish sorcerer, not a dark missionary. Perfectly postmodern.

ROSEMARY’S BABY would change that. For decades, the devil had been a properly comical figure of cartoonish ridicule. He was Hot Stuff. He hung around on cans of potted ham and turpentine. He was a school mascot, for Pete’s sake. But he lurked in the deepest recesses of our instinctive mythology, anyway, and Roman Polanski released that fear and that side of him. A “Satanic Panic” resulted in pop culture, and despite the fact that the nation was at its most guardedly secular, the devil was back. But this was before all of that. Before the dark times. Before the Empire. Seeing Abigail and Trask as the new, threatening villains of the show dates it, and dates it in the best way. Never before has supernaturalism been so aligned with bullying. DARK SHADOWS is making a very strong statement here, and a subtle one. How many benevolent religious figures do we get on the show as significant characters? Exactly. None. But those Trasks just keep coming. This is DARK SHADOWS at its most subversive, and it’s a credit to the strength, creativity, and dedication of actors Jerry Lacy and Clarice Blackburn that we see it with its strangely fevered integrity. Yes, they are motivated by a communitarian ethos. No issue there. And they still seem like bullies beyond that.  All angles and obsidian, Jerry Lacy is the ideal counterpoint against Lara Parker, a French vanilla elision of aristocratic curves and indulgently refined contours. Even her voice has a gracefully playful mellifluousness that dips and rises like a Billy May arrangement, much too marvelous when set against the jagged ice of Lacy’s feral, slam-bang treatment of the language. She’s not in this episode, but since she has star-powered the storyline both as a character and as actress, we feel the confrontation coming.

Welcome, Reverend Trask.

Satanically speaking, the original BEDAZZLED had that very effect on delighted audiences right around this time in 1967. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 8


By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 384

Everyone at Collinwood attempts to talk Barnabas out of the duel with his uncle, but he refuses to back down. Knowing that death is certain, Angelique equips Barnabas with a special charm to wear. In the duel, Barnabas kills his uncle, and Josette swears enmity to her former lover.

I never liked the 1795 sequence. There, I said it. I always remembered it to be stilted, slow, and falling short -- emotionally -- of the subject matter it was designed to cover. Notice how few of those episodes I cover? Yeah, well, that explains it.

But DARK SHADOWS does one thing better than anything else: smash assumptions. For many writers, crafting dialogue with a 1790’s flavor would be a burden that would take them away from relevance. For Sam Hall? It releases him to depict sharp, eloquent men and women facing difficult truths with their educated and aware eyes open and informed. Charlton Heston once said that once you understood what Shakespeare was saying, there was no other way to say it. Rather than muddy things up, the right language clarifies, no matter how many contractions are denied. Yes, some actors struggle with it a bit. Not everyone can be Gwyneth Paltrow and believably play characters far smarter than they are. But then you have Jonathan Frid and David Ford, and you see actors at ultimate ease with the show at last. Just as Heston was born to wear a toga, Frid was born for breeches and neckcloths. In that era and garb, Barnabas at last has a simple, direct honesty. Rather than gain affectations, it’s as if he loses them and finally gets to tell the truth as he tells the story. There is such a clarity and elegance in his performance here. It’s both beautiful and sad, because we finally see one of Canada’s finest actors at full gallop. Had he not chosen early retirement? Had he been paired with a powerful agent? To me, Jonathan Frid would have landed parts that would have demonstrated a cross-section of William Holden, Albert Finney, and Hal Holbrook. Like Grayson Hall, there is a vaguely silly quality that he accidentally displays when snarling and shouting and fretting over gremlins and ghoulies. You try it and see how well YOU do. But here, working in seamless tandem with the marvelous Lara Parker, you see such easy confidence. Frid finally gets to do what eludes so many actors; he speaks simple, hard truths that are changing that character’s life against all better judgment. This duel is a terrible idea. But I really accept that he believes he has no choice. That’s far tougher to authentically sell than the hunger to drink blood. To see his sad, strangely self-assured acknowledgement that, yes, he’s going to duel and no, he’s never been in one, and no, Angelique, he’s never even seen one, but there you have it. Because-this-is-the-life-we-life-and-what-other-option-have-I?

In this one episode, I understand Barnabas on a deeper level than I have before. He makes really terrible decisions utterly rationally, and I guess in his case, I might do the same thing. This is revealed in both his scene with Parker and his scene with George. He owns up to his self-pity with open eyes, admitting to his delusion that he is capable of dealing with any problem. Lara Parker’s Angelique experiences a strange horror, too. It’s a sorcerer’s apprentice moment. He’d rather fight for a woman who will never have him than be with anyone else. Who’s fault is that? Oh, and it will probably kill him. Great. Angelique has such humanity, here. It was just a scheme gone awry at the end of the day. Has she triggered a death wish in lieu of the love she believed she was conjuring? And does this suggest that her seeming hate for others was really self-hatred?

Back to Frid, is his heartbreak over losing Josette or over losing Jeremiah? Love comes and goes, but friendship, I argue, can be much deeper. When Barnabas concludes that his uncle hated him all along, I think we see the central loss, betrayal, and heartbreak that not only leads to his greatest mistake, but powers the engine of pain that pushes him through all of his subsequent relationships. Is his fealty to Julia and Quentin an attempt at penance? Or is it a simple statement that he will never put someone else through the kind of betrayal that he experienced? If Angelique had known any of this, I think she would have had Josette run off with the stable boy. She does love the guy, after all.

It’s Anthony George’s last episode. I’ve read that George was uncomfortable with the parts he played on DARK SHADOWS, and pushing Burke to become a normative presence is a bit time-to-make-the-donuts for an actor. I can sense a shade of relief and freedom in his turn here. He’s moving on.

On this day in 1967, Otis Redding records "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay," thus providing the soundtrack for endlessly cloying commercials aimed at pinot grigio swilling yuppies, convincing them it’s about not having a care in the world. Have these people listened to the lyrics? That’s all I’m asking.

Dark Shadows Gift Guide: Black Light Shadows



I mentioned the work of artist Dean Monahan back in September, specifically his series of black light posters featuring the characters of DARK SHADOWS. It was pretty clear at the time that I not only liked his work, but his attention to some of the show's minor arcana, as well. There are even some hardcore fans of the series who have never seen the original appearance of actress Diana Millay as "The Phoenix," but BLAM! Monahan created a kick-your-eyes-in poster of the villain. My favorite is the "American Gothic" of Barnabas and Josette somberly staring through the front window of the old house ... but I love the beautiful contrast of the melancholy content of Josette/Maggie walking along the shoreline in garish neon color. Monahan has dozens of pieces for sale on Ebay. You can find his store online HERE.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 7



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1167

Lamar and Gerard dedicate themselves to proving that a vampire is loose at Collinwood, even if it means exposing the truth about Roxanne. Flora Collins helps them with the family history, tying in the “1797“ vampire attacks with the disappearance of Lamar‘s father. While investigating the Old House, Lamar and Gerard find incriminating letters related to Reverend Trask‘s death.  Meanwhile, the dashing young son of Mordecai Grimes begins to court Carrie Stokes.

I’m not entirely certain when Dan Curtis got the news that the show was in trouble. At this point, we are about six months away from the show leaving the air. I don’t think the writing was on the wall, however fate might have been shaking its spray paint in anticipation, standing by the bricks, whistling innocently. It’s fun to speculate what Curtis and company were thinking and planning for the future, anyway. Having plundered the applicable classics, I’m sure it was clear that they needed new sources of inspiration, and while that might have been an uncertain prospect, there is a sense of confidence that the series would continue. I see that when I look at Kate Jackson, Kathy Cody, and Tom Happer. Happer only appears in four episodes, but he’s the tall, dark, “Curtis type,“ and when I see him on screen with Cody, I get the sense that the next generation Carolyn and Joe are being conjured. We already have Victoria Winters 3.0 in Kate Jackson.

As for the show’s OG, Joan Bennett? Yet another afternoon with Flora Collins, the most bizarre character she ever got to play. Flora is at her best in this. Certainly, she gets deadly serious when she discusses the strange history of the 1790s, but before that, her flightiness is quintessentially creepy. There is a strange, baby doll quality to her performance that has weird touches of Norman Desmond-as-ingenue. In some ways, it’s the most decadent character on the show since Pansy Faye, and the only thing missing is an over-the-top southern accent to complete it. This is by no means a criticism. If anything, I celebrate it.

It feels like has been a long time since the needle on the continuity-porn-o-mometer has gone into the red, but 1167 sends it spinning.  Why they keep referring to 1795 as 1797 is beyond me. I can understand weariness and confusion from an overtaxed writing staff, but didn’t anyone else notice? In my desire to rationalize everything, I just take it as poor research on the part of the characters. It’s not like they had Bing.

On this day in 1970, Germany and Poland decided to get along much better. And good for them.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Let Kathryn Leigh Scott stock your Dark Shadows library



Few celebrities give back to fans like DARK SHADOWS' own Maggie Evans, Kathryn Leigh Scott. A prolific author and publisher as well as an actress, Kathryn shares Christmas with fans by offering numerous special collections of mystery novels, autobiographical books, behind-the-scenes histories of the entertainment industry, and photos -- all bearing her personalized signature. 2017 might set a record for Kathryn, with six different gift bundles, all including her personal holiday card, and all offering -- honestly -- outstanding savings. A visit to her website finds various packages, and three are of special interest to DARK SHADOWS fans.

Her Hollywood Holiday package features two, rare, lavish coffee table books of classic cinema lobby cards, the first of which features a foreword by Joan Bennett. (I own both of the books, and in the age of Kindle uber Alles, they are increasingly rare and beautiful.) Both are available for only $39, which is astounding considering that, together, they’d be worth at least $90. Her Collinsport Collection, also for $39, is another opportunity to save. It contains DARK SHADOWS: THE COMIC STRIP BOOK, DARK SHADOWS: RETURN TO COLLINWOOD, a color photo, and her holiday card, all signed. The most amazing value, however, is the Barnabas Bundle, containing her novel, DARK PASSAGES (not necessarily backstage at the show, but a credible look at the making of a fictitious show that’s a lot like DS), the 35th anniversary edition of the DARK SHADOWS ALMANAC, a signed “mystery gift,” and four autographed photos. This is over $100 in merchandise for only $39! Kathryn reports that her home looks like Santa’s workshop, so it’s a great time to benefit. Everything is going fast at kathrynleighscott.com.

- Patrick McCray

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 5



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 644

Amy and David continue their quest through the east wing, finding antique clothes exactly their size while led by an old tune emerging from an unseen gramophone. Is Quentin summoning them? Perhaps he can’t leave. Meanwhile, Roger, Liz, and Carolyn, propelled by a dream from Magda and Jamison’s phantom signature on a mirror, begin searching for the children. In the east wing, David finds a hollow wall. Pushing beyond it, he is stunned at what he sees.

I’ve talked about repetition in soap operas before. Yes, it’s necessary for a number of reasons, but in the same episode? David repeats his reasoning about the hollow wall almost verbatim, two scenes in a row. Meanwhile, the search party discusses searching for David and Amy in the east wing over and over again and then talk themselves out of it. Despite this, 644 is a marvelous study in atmosphere that adores the scenic possibilities of their tiny studio, it feels as if it were written by Sy Tomashoff. I enjoy seeing the core family play Scooby Doo throughout their own home, with Roger coming off as surprisingly alpha in the quest. One of the subtle gems of the series is the evolving relationship between Roger and David. Two years before, Roger would have been burying David’s body in the east wing, personally.  A year later, Roger would have warmed toward David, merely praying that the boy were never found. But now? He’s leading the charge. From Carolyn’s nightmare to the redrummian writing of Jamison’s name in the mirror, the sense of dread extending from the past into the present is electric, and anticipates Quentin’s none-too-soon arrival. Compared with a new, tall, dark Collins, it’s easy to see why Adam/Angelique/Nicholas fell short of grabbing the golden muttonchops of public excitement. It’s easy to see why the ratings were skyrocketing. Today, Quentin’s theme was heard, at last. Portending an oncoming stranger from the past boded well for Barnabas. As with so many things involving Quentin and 1897, this is a both a reboot of Barnabas and 1795… and the opportunity to put the same wine in a new bottle after it’s fermented to a more powerful and confident brew. And by having Liz and Roger acknowledge Jamison as their father, the mythos grows with a relevance that the series has lacked since the days when Jason grew misty-eyed reminiscing about Paul’s love for Carolyn. This feels less like an episode and more like an easter egg, taking us through Collinwood’s hidden rooms on a private tour. And that’s a good thing.

On this date in 1968, holiday audiences “delighted” to Otto Preminger’s unwatchable acid epic, SKIDOO, featuring Groucho Marx as God in his last role. Meaning, Groucho’s last role.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Spend the holidays (and then some) with Tony & Cassandra



Santa Claus tends to avoid Collinsport. It's his loss, really. The place is like Halloween Town, but with more booze, shallow graves, werewolves and polyester. Who needs Santa Claus when you've got denominationally vague witchcraft?

If you're looking to binge on DARK SHADOWS beyond the holidays, Big Finish has just the gift for you. Dating back to the earliest days of their Dark Shadows audio line, the company has been plotting the international misadventures of Collinsport attorney Tony Peterson and practicing witch Cassandra Blair, aka Angelique Bouchard, aka Miranda DuVal, aka ... well, we could go on all day with Angelique's many aliases. But here, she's still posing as the sister of warlock Nicholas Blair, travelling the world with Peterson in a series that pays homage to classic mysteries such as "The Thin Man." These stories have a cult following all their own. All together, the entire series spans about nine hours, which ought to keep you busy for a while.

Big Finish has two boxed collections available. The first includes the original adventures, as written by Mark Thomas Passmore and David Llewellyn. The second is an anthology released just a few months ago of all new material. Here's what you get ... as well as some links as to where you can get it:

The Tony & Cassandra Collection
"The Death Mask," by Mark Thomas Passmore

“One of you is a murderer! None of you are above suspicion. You all had something to lose.” 

Moments after welcoming his guests to a party, millionaire Harrison Pierce is murdered. But his death is only the first of many as, trapped on an isolated island, his guests start to die in increasingly bizarre ways.  Attorney Tony Peterson must join forces with a woman who destroyed his life years before, the beautiful but deadly Cassandra Collins. But can she be trusted? And what really is the secret of the mysterious Death Mask?


"The Voodoo Amulet," by Mark Thomas Passmore

"We're surrounded by the living dead and you're worried about breaking the law?"

Supernatural investigator Tony Peterson is summoned by the devious witch Cassandra Collins to the bustling city of New Orleans.  On the trail of the mysterious Voodoo Amulet, they're hunted through bars, hotels, train stations and graveyards by the police, criminals, black magicians and zombies.
 Can Tony and Cassandra escape with their lives... and their souls?


"The Last Stop," by David Llewellyn

"Every man's a gambling man, don't you think?”

Tony Peterson is a lucky man. He's just caught the last train back to Collinsport. It's been a good day - he's renewed an old friendship and been offered a job he cannot refuse. His life is about to change.
 But Tony Peterson's luck has just run out. The last train home will turn out to be a very long journey. Will Tony be able to trust the only other survivor? And what decision will Tony make when he's presented with another offer he cannot refuse?


"The Phantom Bride," by Mark Thomas Passmore

“I'm Tony Peterson and this is my wife, Cassandra.”

A liner sailing across the ocean to London. Happy couples enjoying a relaxing few days of fine food, fine wine and the fresh sea air.  Until they start dying. Because also on board is a ghost seeking vengeance. A ghost of a woman who died in 1929.  Private detective Tony Peterson and the witch Cassandra find themselves embroiled in yet another mystery. Can they solve the dead bride's murder before they, themselves, become her latest victims?


"The Devil Cat," by Mark Thomas Passmore

"Only we could get lost in the English countryside and find ourselves trapped in The Wicker Man!"

While on vacation in England, detective Tony Peterson and the witch Cassandra visit Tony's estranged cousin Lord Trent Malkin and his wife Ruby. The two couples team up to investigate the disappearance of a maid from the manor and a series of murders by an ancient cat cult. Complicating things are hostile villagers, an unfriendly vicar and amateur sleuth, Miss Emma Simon.
Who can be trusted in the village of Little Bascombe? And if the legend of a Devil Cat wandering the countryside in search of souls to devour is true, are Tony and Cassandra about to face the greatest threat of their lives?

Get "The Tony & Cassandra Collection" HERE.

The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries

"The Mystery at Crucifix Heights" by Philip Meeks

“We need someone who doesn’t, shall we say, 'scare' easily.

When private investigator Tony Peterson goes undercover to Chicago with his no-nonsense secretary Rita Channing, he has no idea the formidable witch Cassandra Collins is about to make a suitably dramatic entrance back into his life. At a rambling mansion called Crucifix Heights and cut off by a ferocious snowstorm Tony and Cassandra have been hired by separate clients to attend an auction of deadly arcane objects and artefacts.

The pair at first struggle to reconcile their differences but then people around them start dying horribly, one by one. They have to try to work together, because the killer at large is ingenious and seemingly unstoppable. Everyone stranded at Crucifix Heights is in peril. Including themselves.

"The Mystery of La Danse Macabre" by Zara Symes

“I don’t take kindly to almost being killed. One attempt, maybe two; well, fair’s fair. But I won’t stand for three.”

Tony and Cassandra knew when they took their first case together that there would be a few bumps in the road but when the supernatural detective duo arrive at Busby Hall in downtown Boston, a dilapidated music hall that's rumoured to be haunted, they'll find that there's more danger afoot than just things that go bump in the night. Battling against curses, bargains with the dark side, and more than one attempt on their lives, will Tony and Cassandra be able to overcome their differences and work as a team? Or will this be their last waltz?

"The Mystery of Flight 493" by Alan Flanagan

“Nobody move! There's a man standing in the doorway of the cockpit…"

When Tony and Cassandra board a flight bound for home they think that their latest case is behind them, until a terrifying creature begins to murder their fellow passengers. Something is hunting the people on Flight 493, and Tony and Cassandra must deduce what connects it with a story about a little boy who's terrified of what might be under his bed… before it's all far too late...

"The Mystery of Karmina Sonata" by Aaron Lamont

"So just for clarity’s sake. You think you’ve accidentally unleashed a demon from the Spirit World during a bogus seance which is... potentially... killing your wealthy clients. And you want us to stop it before it gets to you. Have I missed anything...?"

When Karmina Sonata arrives in their office, Tony and Cassandra think it’s just another case. A séance gone wrong, a few violent deaths... Par for the course, if you specialize in the unusual. But what if this is not just another case? What if something else is going on? And what if, just if, their sins are about to find them out? Because for Tony and Cassandra, things will never be the same again...

Get "The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries" HERE.

Friday, December 1, 2017

World Aids Day 2017



I don't know that we will ever fully appreciate the toll that the AIDS crisis took on the world during the 1980s. For starters, the statistics are notoriously inaccurate because many of the people afflicted didn't want to spend the last years of their lives shunned by a supposedly civilized world. But even the reported numbers are staggering: By the end of the decade, the number of AIDS cases in the U.S. had reached 100,000 people.

By the end of 1990, more 307,000 AIDS cases had been officially reported, but even those numbers are likely conservative. Some projections speculate that the number is closer to one million. Between 8 and 10 million people were thought to be living with HIV worldwide that year.

The disease took a disproportionate toll on the cast of DARK SHADOWS. At least three actors from the series died from HIV-related illnesses: Joel Crothers, Kieth Prentice and Christopher Bernau. It's difficult not to get angry when thinking about the cultural apathy that met the so-called "gay plague." For far too many people, the word "gay" cancelled whatever initiative and/or terror the word "plague" should otherwise have inspired. Holocausts can only happen when people allow them to, and America absolutely allowed one to happen during the 1980s.

While the battle has since taken a more noble turn, the war has not been won. Below are two notable HIV/AIDS organizations that would benefit from any giving you do around the holidays. (Or any other time of year, for that.)

amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research
amfAR is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, education and the advocacy of AIDS-related public policy. The nonprofit is an industry leader in finding a permanent cure. Donate HEREYour tax-deductible contribution to amfAR will support the lifesaving research that is key to finding new treatments, better prevention methods, and eventually, a cure for HIV/AIDS. www.amfar.org

Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation
EGPAF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing pediatric HIV infection and eliminating pediatric AIDS through research, advocacy and prevention, care, and treatment programs. EGPAF works in 15 countries around the world. Donate HERE. www.pedaids.org

We wish you a scary Christmas (And a haunted New Year)



Usually, our Dark Shadows holiday gift guide is a shotgun blast of merchandise, a massive roundup of products for that special ghoul in your life. I'm going to try something a little different this year and create individual posts for these products as we get closer to the new year. First up is a statue of Barnabas Collins made by @wolfman138, who unveiled a groovy collection of vampire statuettes on his Instagram page not too long ago. Joining Jonathan Frid as Barnabas was William Marshall as Blacula, Bela Lugosi and Frank Langella as "Dracula" and Klaus Kinski from "Nosferatu." (Note: At the moment, only Barnabas and Blacula are available.)

You can find the wolfman138's online Etsy store HERE. Supplies are limited. Tell him Cousin Barnabas sent you!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 29



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 640

Amy and David continue trying to communicate with a temperamental Quentin, now via seance. Chris visits, and leaves Amy heartbroken with his reluctance to move her into his home. That night, after a date with Carolyn, Chris chains himself up and transforms into a werewolf, whereupon he returns to the Blue Whale and attacks the waitress upon whose forehead he saw a pentagram some time earlier. 

The Quentin and werewolf arc begins in earnest now that the Adam/Nicholas/Jeff material is out of the way. What follows is a set of storylines so tight and disciplined that they underline how lost-at-sea the show has felt since Dr. Lang’s death. Enjoyable? Of course. Well-characterized? Naturally. Confidently structured? Not so much. In this case, everything is geared toward highlighting the threat of the werewolf, tying him into Quentin, introducing that new character, and crafting a crisis so vast that it triggers a flashback which will last nearly a year. You can tell this early on, just by the way in which Amy and David’s experience with the ghost unfold. This is going someplace. Each visit to and from Quentin builds on the last. After just one episode, Quentin’s spectral wrath is mentioned, upping the stakes. On his introduction and origin, Barnabas was a victim, making the best out of a chain of catastrophes and coincidences. Quentin has had nearly a century to plan and wait. It reflects the writers, as well. With the Barnabas storyline, they were trying to capture the wild horse they’d accidentally loosed, keeping up with something that never should have worked. By this arc, they’ve built a colosseum. It is with a supreme confidence and command of the medium that this cocksure team of writers truly brings the show into its own.

So much of the sprawling tale to come will center back on a bachelor’s responsibility for children he can’t save. How appropriate that it begins in the smallest, warmest, most intimate way possible, with a bachelor unable to comfort the child in his life. Strange, poignant personal bookends on a rollicking story. Don Briscoe is a perfect choice to humanize this beginning. He and Denise Nickerson have a marvelous chemistry, and he adds a sincerity and heart to the show that no male lead on the show matches between the departure of Mitch Ryan and the arrival of David Selby. For a child performer, Nickerson plays existential pain like a Bergman regular, and her indecision and loneliness propel the other characters brilliantly.

The real star of 640 is the werewolf, making his DARK SHADOWS debut. A Byronic-looking take on Jack Pierce’s original makeup for Universal, this design combines the anthropomorphic relatability of Lawrence Talbot with a newer athleticism. Thank stunt coordinator, Alex Stevens, for that. It’s an impressive debut, complete with floating pentagrams and on-screen transformations, rounded out by a smashing entrance through the window of the Blue Whale. Stevens, who was Frank Sinatra’s body double, had to arrive at work at 4 a.m. to begin the transformation in Vincent Loscalzo’s chair. It was a lasting partnership throughout 1968, ‘69, and (18)97.

On this day in 1968, U.N.C.L.E. agent Mark Slate was unable to stop THRUSH from releasing John and Yoko’s album, TWO VIRGINS. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 28



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 908

Alex insinuates himself at Collinwood, giving new orders to Liz and keeping everyone well on task. Meanwhile, new guest, Paul Stoddard, knows he’s up to no good, and tries to recruit Maggie to help him. Roger arrives, shocked that Paul is being allowed to stay. Paul, thinking he’s chasing Alex out of his bedroom, instead encounters the breathing sound of a fully revealed Leviathan.

It’s impossible to watch this episode and not think of THE OMEN. Somewhere, Harvey Bernhard was taking notes. He just had to be. At the center is Alex, the new incarnation of the Jebspawn, played here by eight year-old, David Jay. Jay had a moderately active career as a child actor, but went on to other things as an adult. Because I remembered his performance in a troubling light, he was the chief reason I was dreading the episode. Well, either memory failed me or my tastes have changed. (And it’s a little too tempting to pick on child actors, as poor Jake Lloyd can attest.) Is his Carnegie Deli cheesecake-thick regional accent arguably unbecoming for the anti-Christ? Maybe, but when Marie Wallace is your foster mom, you’re going to pick up an accent. In retrospect, while it can be seen as absurd, it also gives him a cold-hearted toughness that a Tennessee twang couldn’t match. Maybe we were better off. Jay pulls off his main challenge, and that’s shifting from little boy to a strange, intimidating man in the space of a breath. When he gets down to the business of castigating Liz and demanding radios and portrait albums, he projects a confidence that rises above his years. Goofy-looking? Yes. Icy and disturbing? Yes. Especially in that way kids can be. I have always found young children to be disquieting and unpredictable. This episode captures the spirit of why. As a counterbalance, we see David and Roger at their warmest, and the presentation of that evolved relationship has made the past three years worthwhile and gives the heroes one more thing to fuel their fight. Another champ in this one is Kathryn Leigh Scott, who has to believe Paul even as he’s in a paranoid frenzy. She plays kindness and honest doubt with a wonderfully subtle mix that should not go unpraised.

On this day in 1969, Time Magazine unrolled an issue with an abstract statue of Raquel Welch to promote MYRA BRECKINRIDGE. I, however, have no issue with a statue of Raquel Welch.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 23



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1160

Gabriel rises from his wheelchair to stop Daniel from altering the will. He has been able to walk for years, but feigned disability to give his father a reason to love and care for him. Daniel dies, and Gabriel begins to plot the new age of Collinwood. Edith swears satanic allegiance to Gerard, and afterwards, she and Gerard witness the impromptu reading of Daniel’s will. Desmond is shocked speechless by what he sees in it.

This is one of those episodes that, when we began the Daybook, I savored writing about. When the day came last year, I was terribly ill and the whole thing went kaput. Well, honey, I’m home. We talk a lot about Gordon Russell here at Daybook Command. Sam Hall, his dark twin and live-in, love-in maid of a writing partner, is tougher to capture. Russell is Noel Coward. He’s the bubbles in champagne. Witty, deft with wordplay, and poignant. On the other hand, Sam is known for his edgy, angsty gravitas. That sells him a tad short, though, and this episode is prime Sam Hall. The white hot core of it is the monologue that Gabriel gives to Daniel as the patriarch is in his death throes. It’s the reason I wanted to write about this episode, and it provides the opportunity for Chris Pennock to have what may be his finest moment on the series. It’s a monologue full of pettiness, weakness, and a vulnerable jealousy. At the same time, it is a cry for love that can be heard all the way over in Logansport. The audacity of the piece is singular. With Pennock, the energetic, insightful, risk-taker of the cast, it becomes perhaps one of the most unforgettably human moments in all 450 hours of programming that makes DARK SHADOWS. 

Is there more to say? Always. But that is so important, that it deserves to stand on its own.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 22



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 373

Joshua places increasing pressure on Jeremiah to marry the insipid but wealthy cousin, Millicent. Meanwhile, Angelique prepares a spell, delivered to Jeremiah by the lovely and talented Ben Stokes. It’s purpose? To make him fall in love with Josette to vex Barnabas.

Lara Parker, for a woman born to more advantage than some, plays a tsunami of class envy that could level UBS headquarters. Much of the episode is spent with her plotting and planning and sending Ben Stokes out for spiderwebs, allegedly for a gown, which Stokes lustfully hopes she’ll wear. She brings such incredible strength to the show that it genuinely begins to come to life in an entirely new way, as if the program’s phantom limb were finally reattached. Before, the strength of women on the show came from situational panic or raw obstinance. In this case, this is a strength that exists in every dimension of this character’s mind and life. To call it refreshing would be an understatement. Sam Hall clearly adores strong women -- look who he married. When it comes to writing them, he does so adoringly and sincerely. He also satirizes weak ones. The introduction of Millicent allows Nancy Barrett to inhabit the Ultimate Flake, and that pushes 1795 to the realm of Molière. Vicki, also, shows new backbone. In the realm of ultimate “I don’t understand,” she makes connections and conclusions with a confidence and speed that reinvents the character.

It’s the Hulk’s birthday!  On this day in 1967, Mark Ruffalo came into the world. Happy birthday, big guy!  Smash! Smash!

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 20



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 633/634

Nicholas conducts a black rite that bonds Maggie to him. He takes her to become the life force for Eve. Barnabas, who is already horrified, is made even more so by Maggie’s lovestruck loyalty to Nicholas. As the experiment begins, Maggie’s pain becomes unbearable to watch. Knowing that this is his only chance to end Nicholas once and for all, Barnabas smashes the electrical equipment, killing Eve at last and sending a terrified and powerless Nicholas running. Barnabas gives pursuit with every intent to kill him, but Diabolos claims Nicholas first, as Barnabas laughs at the spectacle. Meanwhile, Maggie revives with Julia, but seems to be in a haze that is connected to her time as a prisoner in the Old House. Will she remember at last? Adam escapes and charges into Collinwood, furious that his mate is no more.

This is the One Where Barnabas Smiles. I mean, really, really smiles. I won’t say he goes all Whoopi Goldberg (in this episode), but he looks robustly happy when Nicholas explodes. I think it happens again in 1897 when he snookers Laura into a trap with the help of Angelique. Normally, Barnabas just looks deeply moved with sincere gratitude at those points when happiness might afflict others.

This is one of my all-time favorite DARK SHADOWS episodes because of how much progress it shows. Not only does the plot leap with true irreversibility, but the characters change irreversibly as well. Barnabas has two great moments of moral awakening on the show. One is at the beginning of the Adam storyline, while this one is at the end, in this episode. The arc begins when Barnabas is left alone with Jeff Clark, who is about to be mutilated to soften Adam’s appearance. He frees him, although he knows it will probably squash his chances with Vicki. His moral compass is recognized for the first time since Angelique began her campaign. Yes, he continues to help evil enterprises, but a bit like Julia at that point, it is under duress or to serve a larger end. It is in this episode that this stops. He has already selected to choose good over evil, personally. But here, he goes beyond selecting good actions for himself to preventing evil being visited upon others. All told, this is a helluva journey to go on in what, for Barnabas, is about a year (not counting suspended animation) or less from when Angelique cursed him.

The cast is having a disciplined blast in this one, and the writers give them plenty of TNT. Humbert Allen Astredo must have been well loved. His last episode begins with a satanic wedding ceremony and ends with him being consumed by hellfire. In between, he induces coronaries, gloats, wins, loses, and finds that his powers have been sapped. He does almost everything an actor can do in a four hour play yet pulls it off in 23 minutes. Meanwhile, Kathryn Leigh Scott plays both an icy, occult loyalist and a spell-struck Josette as the whammy leaves her. She looks like she’s having a ball as well, and she works in two kinds of menace. Her Kool-Aid drunken loyalty to Nicholas motivates Barnabas by making him equally jealous and mortified.

The man of the hour, however, is Jonathan Frid. Barnabas has spent months in hesitant apprehension. He wrung his hands so much, I’m amazed he graduated from the show with any fingerprints left. However, here he gets to indulge in inner conflict that turns into passionate action. Months of a story finally explodes into seconds of resolution, and Frid seems more refreshed and energetic than he has in months. 

The production is wrapping up sweeps and approaching final exams and Christmas break, making it a perfect time to introduce a more family-oriented story (with Amy and Chris) and lay the grounds for the next big thing… Quentin Collins.

On this day in 1968, Glen Campbell and Tammy Wynette were the big winners at the 2nd Country Music Association Awards. I need to say something about that. Hmmm. Okay. I’d like to see Jonathan Frid dressed up like Charles Napier of The Good Ol’ Boys country band in THE BLUES BROTHERS. But that’s all I got.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Jonathan Frid and the crown of King Richard



A few weeks back, DARK SHADOWS guru Jim Pierson sent me a batch of recently unearthed photos of the late Jonathan Frid. Some of these photos (which will make an appearance here sooner or later) date back to his days before DARK SHADOWS, while others were taken during his later years as a public speaker. Among these images was this proof, above, probably taken at his home in New York City.

The thumbnail images on the left show Frid holding his crown from a production of "Richard III," which was among his favorite roles. Frid played the monstrous king in 1965 to rave reviews. "Frid's performance captures a Richard who is human because he is greedy, ambitious and evil," wrote one critic. "A Richard who is admirable because he is loathsome; a facile cripple, most cruel in power, winning of speech and unhesitating of the most foul murders in his climb to the English throne."

Frid held onto the crown for the remainder of his life. His family inherited it after his 2012 passing, and allowed it to be auctioned off for charity during last year's Dark Shadows Festival in Tarrytown, N.Y. Julie Gates, of Missouri, won the crown in the auction. You can see her wearing it in the image at the right.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Trilogy of Terror coming to blu-ray in 2018


The Dan Curtis 1975 TV movie TRILOGY OF TERROR has never had the chance to completely disappear from popular culture. This is mostly due to the strength of the tale's final act, "Amelia," which unleashed the so-called "zuni fetish warrior" onto the world. The movie was an anthology showcase for actress Karen Black, but nobody much remembers the other two stories (which feature DARK SHADOWS alumni James Storm and a misspelled John Karlen.) For better or worse, the zuni fetish warrior upstaged them all.

We're all a little confused, John.
Since 1975, TRILOGY OF TERROR has floated around cable and syndicated television, VHS, DVD and just about every major online media provider (you can watch it right now on Amazon Prime.) The zuni fetish warrior was even revived in the 1996 sequel TRILOGY OF TERROR II, which put the angriest little muppet in battle against  Lysette Anthony, "Angelique" from 1991's DARK SHADOWS. The ZFW has had a least one official action figure likeness, cameos in VENTURE BROS (above), the Stephen King series NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES and Full Moon's PUPPET MASTER series ... the little dude's a superstar.

So, where does TRILOGY OF TERROR go from here? If you've read the headline, you already know: Kino Lorber Studio Classics has announced a blu-ray edition is coming to home video in 2018. While an announcement about special features is pending (as is a firm release date, cover art, etc.) the disc will include an all-new HD transfer. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 9


By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1145

Gerard hypnotizes Lamar into having a “psychic dream” where he finds further proof that Quentin is a warlock. Meanwhile, Quentin completes his Time Staircase and shows it to Gerard, not knowing that he will use it as further evidence against him. Although Samantha is initially sympathetic toward Quentin when she learns that Joanna has died, his coldness cancels that. She is further antagonized as she receives more and more evidence that he is an alleged warlock. She speaks to Daniel about altering the will, and although Daniel is noncommittal, he is willing to also listen to Gerard on the matter of Quentin. Gerard takes him to Quentin’s occult lab where he gives Daniel a vision of Quentin attacking the late Lorna Bell. How does 1840 cram so much storytelling into twenty-two minutes? It’s as if they know the show is headed for the gallows and they are dancing as fast as they can. And dance, they do. I always enjoyed the Time Staircase, and felt that it was a sharp, economical idea they happened upon a bit too late. Had the show continued, I suspect it would have been a fixture, allowing stories to be told in multiple time periods at once… and why not? At one point, I tried to convince Wallace to make a makeshift Mego-style Collinwood Drawing Room playset, which would just be the Enterprise bridge redressed. Of course, the transporter would have become the Time Staircase. 1840 feels more mature than most storylines because it hinges on uneasy truces between adults who either can’t stand each other or are seething with disappointment. It feels like a different type of storytelling for the show. It’s almost anti-romance, and I can see how that frustrated audiences. Of course, after years of other flavors, I think it’s a welcomed relief. And against those unions, the relationships between Barnabas and Julia and Angelique seem like bedrocks of sanity. On this day in 1970, the Soviets launched Luna 17 to the moon and the US Supreme Court said that it was a-okay for Massachusetts residents to not fight in undeclared wars. Good to be in Massachusetts. Meanwhile, in 1966, the cast keeps filming on location.  

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 7



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 889

Barnabas emerges from the Leviathan altar and gives a relieved Julia a chilly greeting, zealously protecting the Naga Box. However, she knows he’s lying about using the I Ching to return, and now she’s on the scent. That enticed nose leads her right to Eliot Stokes, whose meaty musk relaxes her into asking him to track down Charles Delaware-Tate, whose painting she now possesses. Secretly, she thinks it might help Chris Jennings, whose former lover, Sabrina, is now a patient of Stokes’. Stokes, naturally, is having success where all have failed. He is coaxing speech from her formerly frozen lips as easily as he could a passionate kiss. But Sabrina knows that Chris is the werewolf, and if that secret is revealed, his life will be in dire jeopardy.

For a storyline that arguably spelled the (temporary) creative decline of the series, the Leviathan sequence gets off to a cracking start. Starting with Barnabas’ return to Collinwood, you can feel the burst of creativity and risk that was surging through the production. From that stupid pen, three years earlier, to Barnabas stepping out of a pagan altar and reciting an apocalyptic incantation: DARK SHADOWS, we hardly knew ye. I think if the show had jumped over the interminable, embryonic stages and simply brought us to Jeb Hawkes, unfettered and in full career, perhaps things might have fared better. But that’s unfair. As I said, this story starts more dynamically than any other in the series. If you want a cruel and cold Barnabas, here you are. Whether he’s doing it to save Josette or not, to see him in the service of a larger evil is to see the writers giving both Jonathan Frid and the character license to not give a damn. When a relationship is tenuous, there is always that fear that a long journey will somehow change a friend or lover, and Julia contends with a bit of both, here.  Instead of seeing her heartbroken, we see her galvanized into action. How refreshing and appropriate. But the entire episode is propulsive, and instead of each sequence being about fitting three minutes of story progression into ten minutes of dialogue, the moments here advance the plot and characters at a rate that matches any nighttime program. Chris Jennings has had it with the padded room and Stokes’ mojo takes Sabrina Stuart where no Hoffman has gone before. Speaking of which, how long are they going to keep Eliot in the dark? Why don’t Julia and Barnabas just bring him in on secrets like Chris Jennings? Clearly, he’s not going to run for the silver bullets. 

On this day in 1969, authorities were unable to stop Yoko Ono and John Lennon from releasing their second album in the UK. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 6



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this day in 1968: Episode 623

In exchange for distracting Nicholas, Angelique sends Eve back in time to 1795. There, she visits her old lover Peter Bradford, who awaits execution for killin’ some guy. But he’s innocent. Because he’s Peter Bradford. She offers to help him escape, but he refuses. Her plan is to gather evidence to convince Jeff Clark that he’s really Peter Bradford. Meanwhile, Joshua orders Ben Stokes to destroy Vicki’s book of Collins history. Eve gets wind of this, and hoodwinks Ben into giving it up. Ultimately, she is unsuccessful in rescuing Peter, but she does get a note that he writes minutes before his execution, and she proclaims it to be exactly what she needs.

This is the kind of thing you could only get away with while the boss is in Tahiti. And yet, I have no evidence that Dan was in Tahiti. In fact, I could just as easily see him giggling like a demented toddler at the audacity of what the show was doing. Less than a year before, when 1795 began, I’m sure there was a mixture of excitement and “we’re doomed” at the ABC offices. Now, what the hell?  Let’s throw a 1960’s soap back to 1795 for a day. Why not? Better yet, why? The answer was simple. Sweeps. It’s when the Neilsen ratings really examine the books. Look at November, February, and May, and you’ll find shows doing things at their wackiest. In fact, around this time, 1795 was beginning for the 1967 year, they were doing another 1795 flashback in 1968… with another one coming in December, 1969 was introducing the Leviathans, and in 1970, the events leading to Quentin’s witchcraft trial are coming to a (severed) head (in a box). 

The episode itself is the kind of nutty, absurdist fun upon which Gordon Russell could always be relied. So often, his scripts feel like parodies of DARK SHADOWS that won’t quite come out and admit it. First, the patent lunacy of Peter Bradford being the end-all-be-all for both Vicki and, bafflingly, the most evil woman on earth, Danielle Roget, in Collinsport from France by way of the Yancy Street Gang. What was the attraction? Who throws a shoe? Honestly? If he has a shot, I do, too, and my dance card’s open. (Ahem, ahem, female DARK SHADOWS fans.) Then, Joshua gets so upset over his inability to avert Peter’s death that he orders a valuable book from the future to be burned. I guess it was cathartic. Danielle even tries to seduce the elderly gaol guard, who just seems weirded out by the whole thing, as if she has an unwholesome fetish with which he wants no part. It’s a lot of fun and an unofficial sequel to 1795 that makes me wish they’d checked back more frequently. Of course, Jeb Hawkes would also be anchored back here, making 1795 the Queen Mother of all jonbar hinges.

On this day in 1968, Richard Nixon defeated Washington beefcake and teen heartthrob, Hubert Humphrey, to become the 37th president of the United States. In many ways, his administrations would satisfy a conspicuous number of left-wing initiatives for a republican. If you want a smoking conspiracy gun, it’s that.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 3



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this day in 1967: Episode 357

The arrival of harassing attorney, Anthony Peterson, gives Julia the opportunity to liberate and relocate the journal -- now in Peterson’s office. Carolyn follows up with a bid to retrieve the manuscript, but Peterson, while intrigued, has the strength to stand up to her. For now.

Although Gordon Russell is credited as the author of this episode, this marks Sam Hall’s debut on the show as writer. Hall, a Yale-trained, seasoned playwright, would go on to become DARK SHADOWS' most prolific scribe. When teamed with the urbane wit, Gordon Russell, he helped to give the show its eventual and most definitive voice. He has a punchy, immediate, high-stakes sense of intensity and literate, dramatic grit that gives the show a sense of lofty purpose mixed with realistic and human urgency. His authorship would run through the last episode, two films, and the 1991 revival. Beyond creating Angelique, he penned a follow-up article for TV Guide after the show had been canceled, detailing what happened to the characters beyond the program’s end. Is it canon? Strong arguments can be made on both sides.

Coincidentally, it’s Jerry Lacy’s first episode as attorney, Anthony Peterson. Peterson takes up where Burke left off… another once-impoverished Collinsporter/self-made man with a desire to see Roger knocked down a peg. Peterson has a greater dash of realism to him, however. He’s less Ayn Rand and more Arthur Miller. We can see him wanting greater things and -- compared with Burke -- just falling short of the ring. There’s a humanity to that with more nuance than was found in the lantern-jawed Olympian played by Mitch Ryan and Anthony George. Burke is DC. Anthony Peterson is Marvel. And that’s the Sam Hall touch. Just as tough, but with a slightly more fragile sense of humanity. That would also be the balance Barnabas would demonstrate on his roads to redemption, rise, fall, and rise.

Hall’s theatrical chops are especially on display in the two hander he has for his wife, Grayson, and Jerry Lacy in Tony’s office. We get exposition that flows naturally, as well as  strength, vulnerability, adjustments, surprises, and astounding emotional range, all within terse, captivating dialogue. And Grayson really goes for that range. Perhaps too much so. It’s a scene worthy of the stage, and her laughter and tears are of a size that may be too grand for the small screen. Nevertheless, she knew this was Sam’s audition, and thus, really went to town.

On this day in 1967, the Battle of Dak To begins, becoming one of the bloodiest of the Vietnam War. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 2


By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this day in 1967: Episode 356

Julia secrets her notebook from Carolyn and Barnabas. It’s location? The foyer’s grandfather clock. Barnabas tells Julia that she’s a dead woman as soon as it’s found, but Julia counters by saying it will be released to the outside world if it’s found. She and Carolyn come to a stalemate over it… until the Collinwood clock refuses to chime.

In this orgy of suspicion and insinuation, if feminine eyebrows were arched any higher, they’d be cracking through the floor of David’s bedroom. More than any episode of SEINFELD, this is truly an episode about nothing... but posturing, going from icy standoff to icy standoff that you just know is going to go nowhere. The stakes are high enough to make people cranky, but compared with Quentin’s ghost forcing the family out of Collinwood or Laura trying to burn David alive, things are clearly not at a “to the batpoles” level of emergency. I can’t imagine this didn’t bore the writers. And yet, there are things to consider. Barnabas must know that Julia is stubborn enough to not surrender the notebook. Why doesn’t he just bite her and extract the information? Perhaps, on some level, he knows that it would be wrong. Or simply a pain to deal with. And if the notebook were found, so what? They would appear to be the ravings of a pathological liar who’d been scamming the family for months, pretending to be a biographer. Good riddance. However, he needs Julia for one thing: reverse whatever whammy she has on Vicki. And that’s a noble purpose, indeed. At least he has Carolyn. I’ve always enjoyed the perverse Barnabas-Carolyn relationship. She’s the one agent for Barnabas who seems to take pride in her work. She may be ineffectual, but that doesn’t mean she’s not trying. Overall, however, Barnabas truly faces the Curse of the Metrosexual. He’s surrounded himself with women who spend all of their time either making him miserable or trying to tear each other apart. I’m not saying that he needs to become an MRA and spend all of his time watching soccer in his man cave, but he’s clearly in need of a Quentin to hang out with.

There are other reasons, related to production, as to why this section of the series is so stagnant. Burke is dead, and with him, the last of the pre-Barnabas tension is forever gone. Barnabas can’t remain a villain, and Julia is too interesting a Jiminy Cricket to do away with. Besides, Grayson Hall's husband, Sam, was about to see his first script for the show filmed the very next day! Yep, on November 3, episode 357 was Sam’s debut on the show. It wouldn’t be long before his punchy gravitas vitalized the show. I think what we’re seeing are the last gasps of Barnabas-as-villain winding down. We are just less than two weeks from the 1795 flashback, a storyline that would humanize Barnabas, bring in two real villains, and wind up back in a future where Barnabas would be cured quickly before he and Julia would team up against years of truly malevolent foes. I’m sure that the staff had figured out this general tonal shift. At the same time, they were stuck with two more weeks of programming. No storyline could be so vast as to be unsolvable in two weeks… nor could it be so innocuous that viewer tension would drain away before the great experiment of the 1795 origin story.

In the top 10 charts at this time was the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense and Peppermints,” a song that is an immediate ambassador to the era, used for great effect in BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS and AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY. 
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