Friday, April 28, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 28


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 746

Jenny, on the loose in the Old House, finds Barnabas in his coffin, mistakes him for dead, and goes even crazier. Magda tries to hide her from Quentin, who is intent on killing her. Magda warns him from this with a gypsy curse. Magda reveals that Jenny is her sister, making Jenny a very peculiar gypsy. Barnabas and Judith cross swords over Jenny’s fate. Judith wants to avoid scandal by isolating Jenny in a sanitarium. Barnabas, knowing that her children hold a vital key to the future of Collinwood, argues for Jenny to be nurtured back to health in the security of Collinwood. Barnabas’ case is not helped when Jenny bursts into the conversation, announcing that she most recently saw him dead.

For a show steeped in temporal dynamics and paradoxes, DARK SHADOWS doesn’t really have their characters talk much about them, but this is an exception. It’s refreshing, because it reminds us of how large a canvas they’re really dealing with. It’s one of the things that makes 1897 such a beautiful piece of storytelling. They occasionally bother to go back to 1969 in various ways, and it creates (or resuscitates) the stakes that exist there. It gives it a hint of an ancient Greek staging, where events on Earth could be felt in the heavens and vice versa. And, oddly, it gives us a little taste of ‘home,’ especially in a storyline that goes for so long it qualifies as its own spinoff. This is a lesson they forgot in 1840, although the (pre-Stokes) absence of 1970/71 action added to the apocalyptic nature of the story. Perhaps there were no 1970 left to check in on or care about. That not only added to the bleakness of the story, but enhanced the vitality of their mission.

For a show content to revel in wild stereotypes of gypsies, this episode goes for surprising pathos when considering issues of ethnic shame and the possibilities of escaping the past through deceit and social climbing. I wonder if there’s a tad of Social Darwinism tucked within it also. Is Jenny’s fiery, gypsy nature something beyond “taming”? Is the attempt what drives her mad? I know this is all incredibly ethnocentric (cheers!), so keep in mind that I’m just wondering about what the show is implying.

On this day in 1969, Charles de Gaulle resigned as president of France. He was one of the great heroes of the twentieth century, so much so that I am bereft of a Jerry Lewis joke. Well played, de Gaulle. Well played.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 27


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 222

Vicki is surprised to see a reformed Willie renovating the Old House when she comes to issue Barnabas a dinner invitation. When she leaves, Barnabas asks why Willie was so eager to see her go, mocking his considerateness. Barnabas later visits the Evans cottage, where Sam reports on another attack and Maggie swears she feels followed. Barnabas commissions a portrait from Sam, paying him a thousand dollars on the stipulation that they only work at night and at the Old House. After they begin, the sun starts to rise. Lost in a moment of distraction, Sam finds that Barnabas is missing.

If you want a truly emblematic episode of the first days of Barnabas, this is a marvelous choice.  It’s a disciplined, ascetic, tense slice of paranoia and menace. Is it a good representation of the overall series? No, but that doesn’t stop it from being cited as one. In many ways, I wish there were a DARK SHADOWS for which this was the poster child. But, and please don’t take this the wrong way, 222 is too good. On average, DARK SHADOWS is goofier. It has a Masterpiece-Theater-meets-Republic-Studios weirdness that cannot be denied. This belongs to a darker, subtler show. It’s both an eventful episode and one under an almost Hitchockianly tight control. The family is snowed. Barnabas is fully confident in a plan that he executes flawlessly. Willie fights to follow his conscience despite the torture he faces.  The best qualities of the well-meaning are turned against themselves. If Barnabas had remained as successful in all the episodes as he is in this one, he’d have become Mr. Maggie Evans in a month. The episode is shot with a bleak and noir atmosphere impossible in color by anyone save Gordon Willis. The writing is almost on a grim, BIG SLEEP level. It metes out only the information the audience absolutely needs, and then shorts that inventory by a sentence to keep them appropriately tantalized.

On this day in 1967, the US performed nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site. Someone probably became a superhero or something in the process.

This episode hit the airwaves May 3, 1967.

"Purple" Dark Shadows soundtrack discounted at Amazon

Heads up: If you're one of the people who missed out on the Record Store Day edition of the classic 1969 album "The Original Music From Dark Shadows," you're in luck! Even though the album was limited to just 3,000 copies, a number of vendors still have copies available ... at 50% off what they sold for upon release last year. I stood in line an hour before my local store opened, fought the crowds with a fussy baby on my shoulders and paid $20 for my copy. At the moment, the record is selling on Amazon for $9.34.

I'm not sure which is more ridiculous: the new price, or that there weren't 3,000 DARK SHADOWS fans in America who were interested in this album last year. If you'd like to add this to your collection, you can find it on Amazon HERE.

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 26


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 221

Barnabas arrives at the diner in time to meet Maggie over a cup of coffee. He intrigues her with his family name and the dark romance of the forbidding Old House. She’s enamored with his cane, and so he slyly leaves it behind to create an excuse to return. Unfortunately, it’s intercepted by Joe Haskell who returns it. As Joe and Maggie discuss whether or not the new owner of the Old House is of concern, Barnabas discharges a distracting Willie so that he may focus his powers on Maggie from across the expanse of Collinsport.

It’s only from the vantage of standing atop Mount 1,225 that we see this episode totally differently than at the relative beginning of the series. By the final installment of the show, we’ve walked with Barnabas through his innocence, curse, release, dark periods, heroic triumphs and excruciating downfalls. We know what Josette means to him… and what the pursuit of her has cost him. Seen with these truths in mind, this episode is like a strange, intoxicating, ironic fairy tale for Barnabas. Awakened from nearly two centuries of imprisonment, reunited with doppelgangers of his family, restoring his home to its former glory, no Angelique, no Trask… undead life isn’t all that bad. Cherry on the cake? The love of his life is waiting to be rescued by him from the dreary world of the common tavern wench. And, while supernatural curses tore his love from him, supernatural forces may now be used to reunite them. Top ‘o the world, Ma!  Top ‘o the world! Personally, I much prefer watching the show with this in mind. Why does he seem so sinister? I think cynical is more like it, because he knows it’s only a matter of time before the Mizzus’ll show up, supernatural rolling pin in hand. (And because it was a horror storyline they didn’t know would turn heroic, but still….)

On this day in 1967, the world was crazy about the song, “Somethin’ Stupid.” As a Kentuckian, I still advocate that it be made our state song, replacing “Radar Love.”

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 25


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 483

Barnabas strong arms Julia into releasing Willie from Windcliff while he still seems to have only a vague memory and sense of identity. When they take the doddering lad home, they instruct him to keep a low profile. Instead, he steals a gun and escapes as soon as possible, going to Maggie’s to explain what happened the night he was shot. Joe Haskell chases him off and later warns Barnabas that if Willie pops up anywhere, he’ll shoot.

When Barnabas is accused of having a tenuous grip on reality, this should be exhibit A. It’s not in a lunatic fashion. Just in a comically self-serving one. The result is a Barnabas/Julia/Willie episode that, like several others, plays as high comedy if tilted the right way. Although not in ready production, THE HONEYMOONERS set the standard for television domestic satire in this era, and once again, the writers for DARK SHADOWS seem determined to match them. Barnabas’ obliviousness to the dangers posed by Willie. Willie’s innocent act. Julia’s bug-eyed incredulity. Willie’s 180. And Joe, who’s had it up to here. Along the way, Barnabas -- in his desperation and maybe even delusion -- shamelessly gaslights Julia like a pro regarding her feelings for Willie and her culpability for his fate. The episode takes a turn, though, when Joe confronts Barnabas. Frid has Barnabas float between genuine guilt and subtly manipulative showmanship. Joel Crothers is as serious as a wrecking ball in the confrontation, and we can see him begin to slip from righteous indignation into obsessive madness by graceful inches. John Karlen shines, as well. As far as all-around acting goes, it’s an unsung hero in the series. Each character is forced to explore something new, and the stakes remain intensely high… but never melodramatically shrill. 483 is a tiny gem with a little of everything and has the comic touch that should have served as the 2012 movie’s inspiration.

On this day in 1968, rising gang violence in Chicago led President Johnson to call for national unity. I’m still waiting.

This episode hit the airwaves May 1, 1968.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 24


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1001

Angelique finally confronts Alexis and saps her of her life energy, returning to Collinwood as her own twin. Meanwhile, Quentin continues to sense the presence of Daemon Edwards’ ghost. Chris visits Cyrus, who assures the lawyer that he is freely choosing to establish a $5,000 bank account for a “John Yaeger.” Cyrus later joins Quentin to destroy the body of “Angelique” (actually Alexis). Afterwards, he asks a reluctant Cyrus to wait in the drawing room while he fetches Alexis to make introductions. As she demurs, Cyrus transforms into Yaeger without the aid of the formula.

You never would have guessed it. He’s cogent, relaxed, sharp with his cues. Nevertheless, he’s also in his last episode because of unchecked drug use. Who? Don Briscoe, and his exit from the show is perhaps its quietest, darkest moment. There were two DS actors notorious for substance abuse. The other was Mitch Ryan. But while Ryan was able to address and conquer his alcoholism within a few years, restoring his career with a vengeance, Don was not so lucky. His experimentation with harder drugs included, I believe, hallucinogens. Stories abound of him coming into work and sitting in one wastepaper basket too many, and that was it. I look at the bright, wry, ironic, tortured souls he would play. Then I read reports of how intellectual he was. I consider the age. Yeah, he was a sitting duck, much like Brian Wilson. You take a bright, sensitive, intellectual man in the fine arts in the late 1960’s, give him an opportunity to expand his mind with experimental chemicals, and things like this are going to happen. Other DARK SHADOWS actors, Chris Pennock and Michael Stroka, engaged in similar experimentation common for the period and were fine. (More-or-less-and-kids-don’t-do-this-at-home.) Their comparable survival might be attributed to a different or lesser cocktail… or the fact that Don may have had a delicate psyche in the first place. His was an incredible loss as he moved back in with his parents in a mentally precarious state and, like the aforementioned Brian Wilson, gained an impressive amount of weight over the years. Diehard fans of Don Briscoe (of which I am one) might bristle that his CV gets overshadowed by the way he went out, but it is a cautionary image. Cautionary not only in the obvious warnings of drug use, but in the implied and arguable implications that decriminalization and regulation might have saved his life and career. Who knows what might have happened had he experimented under the care of a doctor, as did Cary Grant?

On this day in 1970, the People’s Republic of China launched its first satellite. Good thing it wasn’t a hawkish, brutal dictatorship. Nope, nothing to be concerned about. Move along. Move along. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 21


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 741

As Szandor and Barnabas crack open the tomb of the original Laura from the 1700's, to find it empty. At Collinwood, Barnabas finds a telegram from Alexandria and then encounters Quentin. Barnabas questions him on Alexandria, brandishing the telegram as evidence that something happened there. Reading it, Quentin asks Magda if Laura has occult power. Magda disavows it. At the cottage, Quentin visits Laura, asking why she has returned. He threatens her with the telegram, revealing that it is from the police in Alexandria.  In it, they confirm that Laura died there in 1896 ... death certificate to follow.

A Ben Franklin T-chart, with plusses on one side and minuses on the other, would go on for about three feet in assessing Laura Collins. It’s a… um, challenge. Recounting the positive feels like apple polishing, gee, Mr. Curtis, sir. Listing the negative feels grouchy and critically parsimonious. A bit like kicking a cute puppy, albeit one on fire. She is the show’s first monster, and that’s important to note when Barnabas comes up in conversation as a huge and original risk for the show. In some ways, because her brand of monstrosity was wholly original, with no built-in market nor familiarity, she was a bigger risk than bringing in the vampire. Yes, I know that there is everything kinky and transgressive about a seductive night dweller, and that equals production risk a go-go. But this is a flame spirit who wants to set children on fire! Some would argue that this is equally uncouth. Why did they cook her up as a character, so to speak? A pretty blonde stealing your kids was a crazy cross-section of 1960’s, domestic threats. It actually gets even more disturbing. It’s one thing to mate and kill. It’s far darker to mate, and then kill the resulting progeny. The fact that she’s a “new monster” makes her difficult to label, and that means that two storylines lose copious airtime to just explaining the villain over and over. However, the cleverest part of Laura is that she is going after Louis Edmond’s kids. Few things would get him to show fatherly concern (and Roger only barely does). This is one of them.

Happy birthday to Broadway actress, Isabella Hoopes — the elderly Edith "Grandmamama" Collins from 1897! Born in 1893, Ms. Hoopes lived to 1987, a fact that astounds me.  It’s also the birthday of Blue Whale regular, Tom Gorman, who also played Mr. Prescott, Vicki’s gaoler in 1795. He did double duty in/from that era as Ezra Simpson, one of the ghosts who served at the trial of Barnabas when the spirit of Trask walled him up in 1968. Although Gorman was many years older than David Selby, but both hailed from Morgantown, WV. 

Hulu hemorrhaging more DARK SHADOWS episodes

Hulu, the once-mighty purveyor of DARK SHADOWS streaming media, will soon be losing almost all of the series. It's DS catalog has been slowly dwindling since November when it axed six "seasons" of the show, leaving behind an awkward mess. DVD collections 1 and 2 are currently available (and appear to be surviving the upcoming purge), as are collections 15-19. That's a gigantic hole in the catalog, a hole that will continue to erode in the as-yet unspecified future when 15-19 are dropped from the service.

I don't know how much longer these "seasons" will be available. Hulu's interface merely lists them as "expiring," and none of the mainstream news services that track Hulu's changing monthly catalog from have made any mention of DARK SHADOWS. But when you see the word "expiring" plaster across 200 episode listings on the app, it's probably not a good sign.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 19

Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 479

 As Lang is about to operate, Barnabas arrives, frightened that his vampirism is returning. Lang reveals his plan to transplant Jeff’s face onto the creature awaiting Barnabas' life force. Barnabas knows that with Jeff’s face, he will never be able to hide the monstrous choices made by the real man who wears it. Lang uses Barnabas’ sense of love for Victoria and fear of destroying her as a vampire to gain his assistance. Barnabas, tortured, begins to leave when Victoria arrives, looking for Jeff. Lang leaves to misdirect her. Alone with the bodies of Jeff and the creature, Barnabas hears her fear of losing Jeff. This is too much for him. Galvanized into heroism and moved by her right for love — even for Jeff Clark — Barnabas releases Jeff from his bonds. The time has come, he decides, "to say enough."

Lang returns to find Barnabas refusing to allow Clark to be Lang’s victim. Jeff overhears their debate. Barnabas suggests that they tell Jeff he is simply delusional. Jeff, actually awake, springs up with a scalpel. Lang claims that it could be another murder on his conscience, and that he will descend into madness. Jeff, confused, is again knocked unconscious by Lang, who says that he will be dead soon. Lang returns Jeff to the table. Barnabas suggests that Julia can hypnotize Jeff into forgetting the events in the lab. Julia can keep Lang’s secrets, and Barnabas knows that he can use Julia’s dark past as leverage to ensure her silence. As Jeff comes back to consciousness, he calls for Vicki. Barnabas calls for Julia only to find himself staring down the barrel of Lang's gun.

Show of hands. I think a fair number of us are here because we enjoy taking DARK SHADOWS too seriously. I know I do. Having said that... There are only five or six episodes of DARK SHADOWS that truly matter to the arc of the story at its most essential. Of those, this may be the most important. No kidding. To invert what's said in THE DARK KNIGHT, "You either die a villain, or you live long enough to see yourself become a hero." Sometimes that takes over 170 years. Just a single year after Willie staggered into the Blue Whale, bitten and humbled — and one year after Joe discovered the calf drained of blood — we find Barnabas saying “enough.” If you want the one episode in which Barnabas reclaims his true sense of self and discovers a sense of grit that he never knew in early 1795, it’s this. For me, this is where Barnabas changes and the series changes. Is it because he’s no longer a vampire? No. I don’t think so. And will he backslide? Many times. But if you’re looking for the true Barnabas Collins, episode 479 is where he lives. 1968 needed him. And so does 2016.

Barnabas Collins makes his four-color debut

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the first appearance of Barnabas Collins on DARK SHADOWS. To celebrate the occasion, The Collinsport Historical Society is spending the week looking back at the "introductions" of the character in various media.


By 1969, everybody wanted a piece of DARK SHADOWS. The television show was a pop culture phenomenon, with Jonathan Frid's likeness appearing on everything from Halloween costumes to the sleeves of Top 40 albums. With children of all ages going nuts for Barnabas Collins it seemed like a natural to translate DARK SHADOWS into a four-color comicbook. There was only one problem:

Formed in 1954, the Comics Code Authority was a blight on the comics industry and set the medium back decades. It was the end result of a congressional witch hunt, which alleged that comics were turning America's youth into a bunch of drug-crazed, homosexual criminals. In order to appease congress, the industry agreed to create the Comics Code Authority, a self-governing body that would make sure icky material no longer found its way into American comic books.

It was a pretty shitty deal.

The larger publishers began to abuse their power almost immediately, creating "rules" designed to muscle some publishers out of the industry. EC Comics is the most famous victim of the code, which brought an end to its lines of horror and crime comics. Among the subjects declared off limits by the CCA were zombies, werewolves and vampires.

So when DARK SHADOWS became a thing, Marvel and DC were unable to pick up the license for the series. Third-tier publisher Gold Key had no such problems because they were not members of the CCA. They were among the few publishers to opt out of the deal and continued publishing whatever the hell they wanted.

At the start of 1969, Gold Key added DARK SHADOWS to a roster that already included STAR TREK, TARZAN and BORIS KARLOFF: TALES OF MYSTERY. While I admire Gold Key's magnificent pair of brass balls, I wish I could say their bravado was worthwhile. Their comics kinda suck.

The first issue of DARK SHADOWS hits the ground running, summarizing Barnabas Collin' background in a single page. From there, the comic begins to introduce a cast that includes a red-headed Angelique, Willie Loomis and Dr. Julia Hoffman. The tale is a lot more elaborate than it needs to be and told with the manic aggression of a pathological liar: It feels as though the story is being made-up as it goes along, ending as soon as the creators hit their required page count.
Here's a thumbnail synopsis of the story, titled "The Vampire's Prey": Two college kids visit Collinsport to investigate the mysterious disappearance of one of their ancestors, one Reverend Trask. Barnabas is naturally concerned because he bricked up Trask in the walls of his home many years earlier and is concerned the kids might find him out. Angelique intervenes to make his life miserable and bad things happen. And these "bad things" are surprisingly boring.

The biggest problem with Gold Key's DARK SHADOWS comic is an utter absence of character. If you were to read the comic's dialogue out of context you'd have a difficult time trying to figure out who was supposed to be saying it. It's not only faceless, it's propped up by artificial drama: The characters spend the duration of the issue shouting at each other, no matter how relaxed the situation. Literally every line of dialogue in this issue ends with either an exclamation point or a question mark. Adding to the story's false sense of urgency is Barnabas' insistence on running everywhere he goes.

Still, the book sold well enough, even outlasting the original television series by several years. But you won't find a lot of "art" in the series, despite its healthy run. While other publishers hired writers and artists with a desire to lift the medium from its illegitimate status, Gold Key had other ideas. Their books were just "stuff" produced to satisfy market demand and are only interesting today as relics. I wish things were otherwise. Perhaps in a parallel time fans got to read a DARK SHADOWS book created by folks like Steve Ditko, Michael Fleisher, Gene Colan and Roy Thomas ... in their primes, no less.

Here's a photo of an adorable kitten to help offset whatever depression might result from that previous paragraph.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

You won't know the facts until you've read the fiction

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the first appearance of Barnabas Collins on DARK SHADOWS. To celebrate the occasion, The Collinsport Historical Society is spending the week looking back at the "introductions" of the character in various media.


It took a while for the DARK SHADOWS marketing machine to start generating Barnabas Collins merchandise. Dan Curtis Productions had an agreement in place with Paperback Library since the start of the series in 1966, which had produced a handful of short pulp novels focusing on governess Victoria Winters. But it wasn't until the end of 1968 until the publication schedule was able to add Barnabas Collins into the mix.

Cover for the 1968 U.S. edition.
Author Dan Ross (writing here under his wife's name, Marilyn) was one of the most prolific hack authors of the 20th century. Using more than two dozen pen names, he churned out hundreds of novels before his death in 1995. Unfortunately for readers, Ross lived in Canada — which didn't broadcast DARK SHADOWS during its original run on ABC. Consequently, Ross' DARK SHADOWS novels have little to do with the series beyond names and situations.

The pulp fiction version of Barnabas Collins is very different from his television counterpart. The character makes his debut in the appropriately titled installment "Barnabas Collins," a story that mostly ignores the continuity of the previous books. It begins with a hastily written wrap-around story that provides only the vaguest of links to the prior entry: On a dark and stormy night at Collinwood, governess Victoria Winters is reading a family history she discovered on a book shelf in the mansion. Matriarch Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard fills Victoria in on the missing gaps of the narrative, which involves her grandmother and a cousin from England named (ta-da!) Barnabas Collins. The story then leaps backward to the early part of the 20th century, where we meet ancestors Jonas and Margaret Collins, and their disabled daughter, Greta.

Barnabas maintains the usual cover story: He's the descendent of an American ancestor who migrated to England a century earlier and is interested in exploring his roots. This cover story masks his real intentions: Greta's bears an unfortunate resemblance to the lost Josette, and Barnabas hopes to woo her.

From there, things get really gross.

Cover for the 1976 German edition.
While TV Barnabas was content to kidnap and abuse Maggie Evans, Pulp Barnabas is setting up Josette Franchises all over Collinsport. His intentions on Greta are almost innocent when compared to his dealings with other women in the novel. Barnabas is slowly killing a young servant at Collinwood, who he has visiting the Old House each night for a little Josette cosplay and/or blood letting. Barnabas also has the owner of a private orphanage in town in his thrall, and has set his sights on a third Josette: An underage orphan who also looks a lot like his dead girlfriend. It seems that the gene pool in Collinsport is rather shallow.

After a few deaths in and around Collinwood, Margaret discovers Barnabas' secret: Her English cousin is a vampire who has been wandering the world since the end of the 18th century. They engage in a battle of wills, with Margaret taking temporary custody of Barnabas' child bride. (In his defense, Barnabas plans to wait until the child is of legal age before marrying her ... but that doesn't really make it better.)

By the end of the book most of its characters are dead — including young Greta. This presents a pretty significant continuity error in the novel's bookends: Elizabeth mentions that Margaret is her grandmother, whose only daughter dies during the course of the tale. It's a little unclear how Elizabeth entered the picture with such a significant pruning of the family tree.

I don't think fans have ever really embraced Ross' version of DARK SHADOWS. In 1966, he was the perfect choice to continue the storyline in print. Ross was a one-stop clearing house for gothic romance in the 1960s, the kind of "women running from houses" stories that Dan Curtis was trying to translate into a daytime drama. The introduction of Barnabas Collins eventually changed that dynamic, moving the series away from its pulp roots and into more traditional horror/science fiction. His pulp counterpart is a fairly traditional gothic anti-hero who has more in common with Jane Eyre than "Dracula." The DARK SHADOWS novels remain collectible (the books produced after the cancellation of the series remain some of the show's most sought-after merchandise), but fans have generally rejected their dry tone.

I'm a fan of his work, but will save my defense of Ross' writing for another time.

Up Next: Barnabas Collins makes his four-color debut!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Rondo Awards: CHS nominated for Best Blog/Website

It’s that time of the year once again, boils and ghouls. The nominees have been named for the 2016 Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards, which honors everything from best picture to best convention, to best book and best website.

The Collinsport Historical Society has been nominated for Best Blog/Website for the fifth year running. We actually took home that honor in 2012, back when the most recent epidemic of Dark Shadows Fever was sweeping the world. As usual, this year's winners will be determined by votes from the public. And that means you. Readers are asked to select winners from this year's nominees and e-mail your selections to awards

All voting is by e-mail only. One vote is allowed per person. Every e-mail must include your name to be counted. All votes are kept confidential. No e-mail addresses or personal information will be shared. Votes must be received by April 16, 2017.

If you want to vote in every category, you can find the entire ballot HERE. You DO NOT have to vote for each one in order for your vote to count. If you want to vote only for the DARK SHADOWS-related entries, copy and paste this bit of text below:

THEATRE FANTASTIQUE: THE JOB INTERVIEW, directed by Ansel Faraj. "Vampire seeks a new Caretaker in this Dark Shadows tribute." Starring John Karlen, Lara Parker, Christopher Pennock and Kathryn Leigh Scott.

NIGHTS OF DAN CURTIS: The Television Epics of the Dark Shadows Auteur, by Jeff Thompson

James Storm of Dark Shadows, by Rod Labbe, SCARY MONSTERS #100.



While browsing the other nominations this morning, I noticed the "Best Artist" category is a write-in ballot. My suggestion is Ben Walker Storey, a horror kid absolutely deserving of the recognition. You can see a sample of his work below, but feel free to wander over to his website and Threadless store to see more. A ballot amendment is listed below for you cut & paste pleasure.

25. BEST ARTIST OF 2016 (all formats, including paint, sculpt or design)
Ben Walker Story


NOTE: This year’s Rondos are dedicated to the the latem great horror host, Zacherley. I've adored that guy since first hearing his song "Dinner With Drac" on Ronco's 1977 anthology "Funky Favorites." Here's a (blurry) photo of the "cool ghoul" with our own Jonathan Frid from their 1980 appearance together at the Magique Disco in New York City.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 14


No other character on television is quite as iconic... in the same way... as Barnabas Collins. Human in his frailty. Mythic in the fate he will chart. At the very least, he was a figure designed to save a network television show and potentially the careers of everyone involved. April 14, 1967 was the most important day in a lot of lives, most specifically the life of Dan Curtis. He had already introduced the reality of the character prior, with the image of the hand from the chained coffin. When I first saw that shot, it felt like it had always been in my memory, even though I’d never seen it before. It’s simple, fierce, savage, and sudden.

How do you top that? Because we have to see all of him at some point. Director John Sedwick’s approach sustained the iconic resonance of the shot of Willie’s strangulation. Can’t top it for blood and thunder without sliding into parody or the unproducible. Barnabas is about dichotomy. We’ve seen the beast. But what else is Barnabas? What makes us want to solve him? Take his hand as a friend? Share in his secret?

Episode 211. Shot on April 14, 1967.

His introduction happens in just three images. In them, there is a knock at the door of Collinwood. When Mrs. Johnson answers, she encounters a man -- whose face we do not initially see -- introducing himself as a visiting cousin from England. He’s seeking the woman of the house. Mrs. Johnson, startled by something about him, shows the man in. They exchange pleasantries, and as she leaves, we finally see him next to the 1795 portrait of Barnabas Collins. The man is a twin for the painting’s subject. And his name? Also Barnabas Collins.

Two clear and subtly clever images with a bridge. His introduction comes from his own perspective, rather than Mrs. Johnson’s. It’s an exterior shot of the entrance, looking in.

The grid helps us divide the image. People in the west read from left to right, and tend to circle in our gaze back to the left. Sedwick uses this model of composition in all three shots.  In image 1, we see someone -- him? -- through the eyes of Mrs. Johnson as the camera hangs over his shoulder, minimizing her (1.1). Why is she so transfixed? We follow her gaze up to the towering figure (1.2). Following the slope of his collar, we come back to Mrs. Johnson… specifically, her throat (1.3). After that, we circle back up to her gaze, even more worried. For what reason?

Then he enters with purpose, and we next see him again from the back, divesting himself of his cane and hat, getting a glimpse of his strangely antique cloak. His voice is rich with a uniquely tentative sense of authority. We still don’t see his face, just bits of his profile. These moments tease us, and yet they put us in the position of a confidant of the vampire’s. The composition mirrors what we saw outside. Within, Mrs. Johnson (2.1) is minimized, and the turn in the figure shows him looming, ready to pounce. Again, we begin with her, following her gaze from left to right. The mystery of what bedevils her, bedevils us, as well. The man towers (2.2) in the right, blocking the exit. Instead of following a sloping collar, we follow its larger, expanding offspring in the cape, which takes us circling to the left again where we stop on the poor, miniscule shield of his hat and then, like a wolf pulling her away, his feral looking cane (2.3).

Situated so close to the predator, with his gaze elsewhere, we have a strange safety. We don’t see him from the eyes of his prey. Instead, we are a quietly unacknowledged friend. Finally, as Mrs. Johnson goes to summon Elizabeth, the figure turns to face the portrait, rotating upstage to let us see him from profile to profile. As she exits, and we are alone with him, the chiseled face comes into focus from the side. It is alien. It is familiar. We think we know why, but then we see why. They are only face to face for a moment before the camera takes us away from him and uncomfortably close to the painting from 1795, cold and haughty and haggard and sad. He then steps even uncomfortably closer to it and spins to give his inevitable name. We see the two men in mutual relief.

The painting of Barnabas is a prisoner in a four-sided frame on the wall, disapproving and distant as the first thing our eyes rest on (3.1). Is the painting gazing at the man? No. The more we look, the more the painting is gazing at us, as if we’ve been caught looking. It’s natural to avert our eyes from this, and by comparison, section 3.2 is practically benevolent. His impossible doppelganger is standing before it in three dimensions on our 2D screen. Liberated, he smiles, and there is something optimistic about it. He’s gazing upward to the landing, yes, but it’s also to the future. Gazing left, he’s anticipating the next image rather than look for one that has passed. Subtly, our eyes wander down to 3.3, his medal, a subtle reminder that, despite his strange warmth, he’s a soldier as well, and a force to be reckoned with. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Rare Dark Shadows "Horror Heads" pop up on Ebay

Arguably the weirdest (and possibly even the rarest) merchandise produced for DARK SHADOWS is now up for auction on Ebay.

Produced in 1969 by Centsable Toys, "Horror Heads" pillows feature the likeness of Barnabas Collins, a stoned-looking werewolf, and a generic witch that owes more to Margaret Hamilton than Lara Parker. These toys are, as the French would say, "shit."

But their crapulence has only made them all the more collectible. The popularity of Milton Bradley's "Barnabas Collins" board game means that it's still pretty easy to find almost 50 years later. While the not-exactly-groovy Horror Heads have never been very popular, they were produced in such low numbers that surviving units can fetch a pretty penny. If you're one of those people who likes throwing money away on garbage. (That's not a judgement; I'm one of those people.)

All three of the Horror Heads are currently up for auction on Ebay with starting bids of $100. You can find Barnabas Collins HERE, the witch HERE, and the werewolf HERE. Below is a vintage television commercial for Horror Heads, which probably won't do much to convince you of their alleged grooviness.

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 13


Taped on this date: Episode 996

 At Collinwood, Alexis meets Trask, startling him.  He is extremely evasive as to why Quentin took Any out of the house.  Trask insists that they must leave.  A knock at the door reveals a returning Quentin, who tells Trask to relax.  He’ll call Cyrus Longworth.  Yeager doesn’t pick up, instead checking on a formula in a safe… a formula emblazoned “Do Not Touch.”  He also takes a sword cane that Cyrus conveniently has at home.  At the Eagle bar, Cyrus interrupts two flirting lovers — Eagle barmaid, Buffie Harrington and her sometimes-boyfriend, Steve.  He attacks the latter and throws Steve out. Buffie says that his new attack is worse than the last time.  Cyrus says he’ll be back with a generous check.  In the drawing room of Collinwood, Quentin questions Mr. Trask as to why a locked drawer opened and its musical contents vanished.  He pushes Trask to associate Bruno or Angelique with Dameon Edwards’ murder.  Trask threatens to leave, and Quentin warns him not to as he goes to visit Cyrus.  True to his word, Yaeger brings a check to the Eagle, but it’s a check from Cyrus.  He threatens Buffie not to associate Cyrus with the payoff.  On the docks, Yaeger locates the Steve and begins to beat him.  Yeager flees when Quentin bursts onto the scene.  Steve pursues Yaeger while Quentin returns to the Eagle.  There, Buffie, also a former Collingwood employee, tells Quentin of Cyrus’ check.  After Quentin leaves, Yaeger appears and strangles her in retribution for telling Quentin the origin of the check.

These episodes have a dizzying amount of plot, especially given that so little feels like it’s going on.  An episode about a forged check takes me back to the dark days of 1966 when the show was about a pen.  But it was the first show to be filmed after a ten day hiatus used to film HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS.

Props must be given to guest star Elizabeth Eis, who played several parts throughout the show, starting out in the Leviathan storyline.  A stunning brunette, she was very much in the mold of the “Curtis Type,” but never quite found footing as a recurring character.  She was certainly good enough for Broadway.  She played four parts in the original Broadway production of ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD, as well as understudying Ophelia.  What could top that but an appearance in the Bon Jovi video for “Living in Sin.”  Steve was played by George Strus, who was not only in SHAFT, but also SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT, which is up there with 1776 for DARK SHADOWS alums.  Along for the ride in that film are the fabulous Lisa Richards and Alex Stevens!  

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 12


Taped on this date: Episode 209

Willie panics at the sight of the Barnabas portrait’s glowing eyes and the sound of its beating heart.  No one else can hear it, however.  Jason changes the subject by informing Willie that Liz has raised the $500 for him to leave, and that he’ll send Willie even more once he departs. Willie is hesitant to go, cagey as to his reasons.  Willie continues to study the history of the family, and Mrs. Johnson reveals that only Naomi Collins — and her pirate jewels, presumably — were buried in the Eagle Hill cemetery, unlike the rest of the family.  At the cemetery, Willie encounters the Caretaker, who reveals that she rests in a tomb, not the earth.  He tells legends of an evil force that exists there, according to Joshua Collins, who ordered the tomb sealed. Nevertheless, he shows Willie the way to the tomb, warning of monstrous evil.  Back at Collinwood, Mrs. Johnson kvetches to Jason about the history books that Willie’s reading, an act that stuns Jason.  Willie, despite warnings to avoid the tomb at night, goes there.  He hears the heartbeat again, although the Caretaker cannot.  Willie is chased away, but the heartbeat roars.

The Caretaker remains the eeriest guy in Collinsport.  He can only be described as a refugee from the EC Universe.  DARK SHADOWS is a show powered by the fact that no one sees the obvious.  Like real life. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 11


Taped on this date in1968: Episode 473

Roger’s luggage is in the foyer, but he is missing… and Angelique’s painting has returned.  Barnabas is equally mystified, but the return of the picture suggests that Roger is somewhere nearby.  Privately, Barnabas asks Vicki to destroy the portrait.  Roger’s change began when she brought the portrait into the house.  It’s a force that controls him.  Barnabas reveals that he and Julia saw Roger at Dr. Lang’s the previous night, and that he leapt from Julia’s car when she tried to drive him home. Roger enters ebulliently, introducing his new bride — Cassandra, clearly Angelique in a black wig. Roger insists on a honeymoon in Martinique, and suggests that they’ll be leaving immediately.  Cassandra is fascinated with Barnabas, especially the fact that he never married.  Barnabas finds it too incredible to believe. In the library, Liz demands an explanation from Roger.  Liz threatens to reveal the fact that Roger is technically married to Laura, still.  Then she finds out that Roger and Cassandra barely know one another, but he’s uncontrollably smitten.  Liz insists that Roger commit himself, but he forbids it, threatening to leave Collinwood, never to return.  Alone with Vicki, Cassandra confesses that she was Professor Stokes’ student, and that’s how she met Roger.  She sends Vicki to bring David to her and to hurry Roger along.  Finally alone with her painting, Angelique admires the change in her hair, laughing characteristically.

Lara Parker comes back to the series to the delight of viewers after an absence since episode 411, and she immediately steals the show. In a show of perfect moments, this may be the single episode where it establishes itself as one solely intended to throw out rules, probability, and anything else standing in the way of an audience having a grand time. Speaking of a grand time, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was also signed on this day.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Dark Shadows: Love Lives On moves up to July

Surprise! The next DARK SHADOWS anthology from Big Finish is arriving sooner than anticipated.

Originally slated for October, "Love Lives On" has been moved up for a July release. Meanwhile, "Dreams of Long Ago" is still on track for May, while "Shadows on the Night" is set for a December release. This leaves a huge, BLOODLINE-shaped hole in the schedule this fall ... will we finally see the release of the 13-part sequel to BLOODLUST in the interim? I don't know!

Rather than speculate further, let's talk about "Love Lives On." The two big takeaways from Big Finish's announcement for me are the return of writer Cody Schell and Matthew Waterhouse. Schell's "The Flip Side" remains one of the most pleasant surprises in the DARK SHADOWS range of audios. Meanwhile, Waterhouse is such a talented guy that he could keep an audience entertained by reading a phonebook.

The presence here of Marie Wallace and James Storm don't hurt, either. Storm is back as undead rogue Gerard Stiles (a character still very much in need of creative redemption) in "The Velvet Room," which probably won't be as smutty as it sounds. Wallace's character isn't quite so colorful, but if you heard BLOODLUST you already know how good she is in it. She's back again here as Jessica Griffin in "Behind Closed Doors." (See previous "smutty" joke.)

Below are a few highlights from the press release, which you can read in its entirety HERE. There's an audio trailer for "Love Lives On" at the bottom of this post; the episode is available for pre-order from Big Finish HERE.

"Tuesdays and Thursdays," written by Cody Schell,
performed by Matthew Waterhouse.

“The nice thing about Dark Shadows is that there is an unending supply of cobweb-filled corners in Collinsport in which to shine a flashlight.” said Cody Schell. “After putting two audio dramas under my belt ('The Flip Side' and '…And Red All Over'), I was really excited to have the opportunity to write something in an audio-book style. This meant I could use the magnificent Professor Stokes! I knew the I Ching would be involved in my story, so as an experiment I cast a Hexagram at random. I researched it, and incorporated it into my story. I think Stokes would be proud. I was able to show glimpses of his past… and that of another beloved character.”

"The Velvet Room" by  Antonio Rastelli,
performed by James Storm.

“I can’t express how honored I was when Joe asked me to pitch for Dark Shadows,” said Antonion Rastelli. “I have fond memories of throwing ideas at him a couple of years ago, thinking nothing would come of it. I’ve been a huge fan of the series for a long time and even had the privilege of appearing in one or two of the audios as an actor. I’ll admit that it was a daunting task. The series has 50 years of rich history and dedicated following of fans and I wanted to do it justice. Gerard Stiles and Hallie Stokes are both such complicated yet interesting characters that I jumped at the opportunity to write for them. Between you and me this is my first gig as a writer, so I do hope you all enjoy your visit to the Velvet Room.”

"Behind Closed Doors" by Paul Phipps,
performed by Marie Wallace.

“Marie Wallace is such a wonderful actor,” said Paul Phipps, “and the character of Jessica Griffin is now firmly established as one of the new shining stars of Dark Shadows. We’ve had hints about her life before she took over The Blue Whale, and I really wanted to explore the journey she’s been on over the last few years - and the future she’s now looking forward to after the events of 'Bloodline.' This is a woman with a past, and in true Dark Shadows style, everyone has to face their past one day. I’m thrilled that I’ve been given the chance to spend so much time with Jessica – even if it means I had to be the one to put her through her very worst nightmares. I thought my last story for Big Finish – 'Confession,' in 'Echoes of the Past' – was dark, but there are five words in 'Behind Closed Doors' which terrify me on a completely different level...”

"The Suitcase" by Alan Flanagan,
performed by Lisa Richards.

"My first story for Dark Shadows was 'Carriage Of The Damned,'” says Flanagan, “so I was chomping at the bit to return to telling a story about Sabrina, especially after all the great work building up her and Cyrus' relationship since then. She's another classic example of how Big Finish have taken a character whose arc felt unfinished on the show, and developed her into this strong, multi-faceted person. The Suitcase delves deep into Sabrina and Cyrus' relationship as they consider starting a family, but their plans are interrupted by a new arrival - a woman who has a gift for granting people their wishes in the worst possible way..."

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 4


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 469

In the secret room, Vicki recalls the circumstances under which she shot Noah Gifford in 1795.  Vicki, Jeff, and Julia open the coffin, finding it empty.  Barnabas springs up from his hospital bed, mad with the urge for blood.  Lang explains that it is only a relapse, but Barnabas demands more information.  Lang elaborates that the transfusion temporarily arrested his condition, but if Barnabas agrees to his treatments, the cure will be permanent.  Later, Julia visits Lang at the hospital.  He refuses to divulge his plans to Julia, explaining that Barnabas will remain his doctor after he leaves the hospital.  Julia offers a guarantee for Barnabas’ cooperation if Lang will let her participate.  If not, and if she senses danger, she vows to stop Lang.  Clark enters, cutting their meeting short.  Julia leaves and Clark explains that he saw her at Eagle Hill.  Lang is angry because Clark was supposed to go to Stanhope Cemetery, where there is plenty of fresh activity.  Clark wants to quit, but Lang insists that he cooperate or be sent back to the institution for the criminally insane.  Lang knows that Clark and Vicki are attracted to one another, but wants nothing to interfere with his plans.  If Clark defies Lang, the doctor threatens to tell her that Clark is a murderer.

Today, the Dark Shadows actors walked out of the studios to a world where Dr. Martin Luther King was minutes away from assassination.  It would not be until December 21 that astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders successfully broke the bonds of Earth to orbit our moon for the first time in human history.  According to history, one person wrote a letter to NASA in gratitude for that achievement, stating simply, “You saved 1968.”  It was still several months from the murder of Robert Kennedy, but it was very suddenly a world that needed DARK SHADOWS.  And over the next year, it delivered.  Not as a diversion.  Not as an escape. But as a model.

"Maybe we just needed it in the '60s," David Selby told DC Comics back in 2012. "They were shows that allowed you to escape … shows that made life a little easier to cope. I think about New York City at that time and all the things that were going on. The corruption, the racial conflicts, the unrest at Columbia University. There were protests everywhere. Then there was Chicago, and the election in 1968. The assassination of Martin Luther King, the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. Vietnam was raging. And then you had these shows. I’m sure some sociologist is examining all of this and working it out. But I think those two shows, Batman and Dark Shadows, they fit that expression, 'Whatever gets you through the night.'"

Barnabas, within one year of this episode, will make the most important changes of his life.  He will defy Eric Lang’s directive to murder Jeff Clark. He will destroy Nicholas Blair’s attempts to create a master race. And he will risk everything to venture to 1897 because it is the right thing to do. DARK SHADOWS couldn't save 1968. But it offered a lot more than just a diversion.

It’s also Humbert Allen Astredo’s birthday. And that’s a good thing, too.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 3


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 467

Barnabas awakens in a hospital to find that Dr. Eric Lang has kinda-sorta cured his vampirism. Meanwhile, Roger finds himself obsessed with the portrait of Angelique, intermittently thinking he is Joshua, and carrying out voodoo spells to kill Dr. Lang.

I stay away from gender issues on the show … unless they hit me in the face like a snow shovel. A woman curses Barnabas over issues regarding another woman. A woman tries to cure him, but screws it up because of yet other women. A man comes along and, yes, cures him. He just does it. No blinking. No errors. Dr. Lang is such a unique figure on the show, it’s a shame to make him a villain. (I think Stokes was brought on to appropriately represent.) In this episode, he’s a forthright, swift, brave man of science, loyal and clear-headed. He’s also quite mad, and his perverse collaboration with Barnabas is another case of what David Skal cites in THE MONSTER SHOW, which is the trouble created by men attempting to reproduce without feminine involvement.

If this is not one of the most innately satisfying episodes of DARK SHADOWS for you, check your fan club membership. Seeing Barnabas savor the daylight felt like something reserved for a final episode. Knowing that such a bold move was taken so early into the show made the sense of possibility on DARK SHADOWS infinitely rich.

In 1942 on this day, episode 915 vampire victim Marsha Mason was born. Also married to Neil Simon, she and he reportedly visited the set on the last days of the show, leading actors to ham it up in the hopes of catching the playwright’s eye. On this day in 1968, the US saw the premiere of PLANET OF THE APES, arguably the first, modern, s/f blockbuster and the world’s longest TWILIGHT ZONE episode.

This episode hit the airwaves April 9, 1968.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...