Tuesday, May 30, 2017

DARK SHADOWS meets The Damned


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 25



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1026

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

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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 23



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 245

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

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

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

David Selby joins JFK docudrama THE TUG OF WAR



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 19, 2017

Hermes Press still wants to publish the Dark Shadows strips



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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned!

UPDATED–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dead Men Tell Tall Tales



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

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

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

And then the show really begins.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

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



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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FLIP: What sort Of trouble are you having? 

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



FLIP: How much fan mail do you receive now? 

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

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

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

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

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

FLIP: Sometimes fame can be an inconvenience! 

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

FLIP: A fad? 

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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 11



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 233

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

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

Thanks to the invaluable folks at http://darkshadows.wikia.com for transcribing this!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dark Shadows artist picks up second Guinness distinction



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Via: guinnessworldrecords.com

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 10



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 494

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 9


By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 755

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

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

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

The secret Dark Shadows/Vampirella crossover from 1972



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

Dark Shadows: Blood & Fire nominated for a Scribe award

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

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

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

Viahttp://iamtw.org/the-scribe-awards/scribe-award-nominees/.

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 5




By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 752

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

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

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

Get half-off Dark Shadows audios this weekend




Plus new Tony & Cassandra Mysteries!

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

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

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

Read more about the sale HERE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 4



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1011

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

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

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

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

Hulu to receive Dark Shadows transfusion



My instinct was to spend 200 words wallowing in more blood-related puns here, but instead lets cut to the chase: More episodes of DARK SHADOWS are headed to Hulu later this year.

Late last month, Hulu viewers might have noticed that a great many episodes of DARK SHADOWS were labeled as "expiring," which is a tag given to episodes that will soon be leaving the streaming media service. These episodes would essentially clean out DARK SHADOWS larder, so to speak, leaving us with just the first two DVD "Barnabas Collins" collections available.

As it happens, this is part of a strategy by MPI Home Video to keep new episodes of DARK SHADOWS constantly available online.

"There isn't room to allocate all 1,225 episodes at all times on Hulu – no other show has that kind of inventory on Hulu," said Jim Pierson, the marketing director for Dan Curtis Production. "So, what we're doing is keeping the first one-two volumes of Barnabas introductory episodes on at all times as a foundation for new viewers, and then every couple of months the other four volumes change sequentially so that viewers can binge/watch 80 episodes ... and then the next batch appears."

"It's a compromise to keep things moving, as well as have a starting point for new viewers," Pierson said.

This means that the next batch of episodes should pick up at episode 982, during the "Parallel Time" storyline. But wait! There's more! Pierson said Hulu will be adding the first-year episodes of DARK SHADOWS to Hulu later this year, as well. A surprising number of fans haven't seen these first 200 episodes, which showcase some of the best writing and acting that DARK SHADOWS has to offer.

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 3


By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 225/226

After a terrified Maggie dreams of seeing herself in a coffin, Joe takes her to the Blue Whale for a drink to clear her head. Barnabas and Sam enter, celebrating a fine night of painting with a round of drinks for them, Maggie, and Joe. Barnabas and Sam speak of the uniqueness of night with a wistful romanticism. Alone, Barnabas goes on to sing Maggie’s praises to Sam, but tells him he has no desire to involve himself. Burke enters and eagerly meets Barnabas, who tells him that Willie apologizes and will give no one trouble again. Back at home, Sam tries to calm Maggie, but in bed, she hears the cry of the wolf. As Maggie sleeps uneasily, Barnabas enters her room, baring his teeth.

For the early days of the Barnabas storyline, this could make an excellent pilot for the series to come. Conflicts, suspicions, and agendas abound, and the class friction between the Collinses and The Rest is on full parade. When people ask why DARK SHADOWS became an overnight sensation, show them this episode. It begins with tension and atmosphere, moves on to the shared charm of Jonathan Frid and David Ford, and then returns to the underlying sense of doom that pervades the script. Frid plays Barnabas as the ultimate Eddie Haskell, but because we’re in on it, we get to cheer the con from the inside. By doing this, we see the show’s secret. We are Barnabas’ confidants, like it or not. And we like it. We’re also getting ever closer to the “V-word.”I know that Dan Curtis was dedicated to the vampire idea, but the slow reveal feels as if he’s taking tiny chances, getting into the pool one toe at a time. With Barnabas now in the bedroom, teeth on parade, Curtis is going in up to the waist.

On this day in 1967, the Black Panthers invade the California statehouse and call for increased gun rights. At the time, Governor Reagan was baffled by this. Nevertheless, the modern gun rights movement was born. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 2



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 228

Jason begins the day by successfully bullying and blackmailing Liz into giving him the job of Director of Public Relations for the Collins Cannery. Everyone is apoplectic with Liz, and away from her, the family and Vicki have a secret war council. Carolyn learns that the box in the secret room has Paul’s remaining effects inside, and it might be crucial to discovering the source of Jason’s hold. Liz becomes increasingly agitated when asked about it. Carolyn continues her search for clues among the papers in the office.

The raison d'etre of 228 is Jason’s marvelous, cock o’ the walk turn as he inexplicably asks for a job. And what a ludicrous position it is. That moment is matched only by Roger’s sputtering reaction, where he truly earns his stripes as a fussy, homosexual voice of reason in the apoplectic pantheon of Franklin Pangborn, Edward Everett Horton, and Hayden Rorke. Here’s a cherished memo-mento from Jason …

House of Dark Shadows: American Giallo



By WALLACE McBRIDE

Historically, HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS has proven to be an easy movie to dismiss. Roger Ebert's 1970 review suggests he paid little attention to the film, giving it two stars in a piece that seems weirdly obsessed with the dietary restrictions of vampires. Other critics (if they noted the film at all) wrote it off as as a run-of-the-mill "hearse opera," the kind of formulaic film that Hammer had been cranking out since the late '50s. In his 1981 book "Danse Macabre," Stephen King praises DARK SHADOWS the television series, but damns the two spinoff films with faint praise, calling them merely competent.

Decades later, even fans of the television series tolerate HOUSE for no other reason than the presence of actor Jonathan Frid, who gives one of his his most confident and assured performances in the film. This dissonance isn't without merit. The tone of the film calls back to the the early days of the series, retelling a story arc that had been resolved when Lyndon Johnson was still president. The violent melancholy of TV's Barnabas Collins had been replaced in the film with operatic sturm and drang that inverted audience expectations in some occasionally unpleasant ways. Where DARK SHADOWS was masochistic, wallowing indefinitely in the individual sufferings of its many characters, HOUSE has a decidedly sadistic streak. With just two hours to tell the tale, Barnabas Collins doesn't waste time with kidnapping and torture. His cinematic victims are dispatched urgently, violently and indiscriminately. Horror had always shared a cultural zip code with pornography, and both HOUSE and its marketing campaign, which urged audiences to "Come see how the vampires do it," intentionally blurred those lines. Frid thought the final product was grotesque and refused to appear in a sequel unless certain financial demands were met. (They were not.)

Today, the critical legacy of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS stands on rather spindly legs. Ebert's archived 1970 review, as disappointing as it might be, represents the apex of professional commentary attached to the film. And that's a shame, because there are some really interesting things going on in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS for anyone willing to take the time to look. And the movie becomes all the more interesting when stacked against the other horror movies released during the same year.

In fact, HOUSE has hardly anything in common with its American contemporaries in 1970, which were limited to such trash as THE DUNWICH HORROR, THE WIZARD OF GORE and EQUINOX. The closest counterparts you'll find are Hammer's SCARS OF DRACULA and TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA, both released in 1970 but bearing only superficial resemblance to HOUSE. You have to travel further east to find another movie that looks and feels like HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS ... in fact, you have to leap to another genre altogether.

Giallo.

BLOOD AND BLACK LACE, 1964.
Genres are difficult to define and giallo is among the most slippery. The term is shorthand for "yellow" pulp fiction, lurid stories that mixed crime, horror and various exploitation tropes. Mario Bava's 1963 film THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH is generally considered to be the first true giallo. The genre gradually grew meaner and uglier, cresting in 1970 with Dario Argento's THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE before evolving into full-bore horror movies by the end of the decade. In a way, HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS predicted the path giallo films would take.

Stylistically, the only thing that really separates HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS from Argento's early work is its particular brand of American sexual repression. Europe does not fear the nipple in quite the same way as Americans. And it's telling that director Dan Curtis had to keep his actresses fully clothed in order to secure a PG rating, but a "gang staking," arterial evisceration and multiple body penetrations were totally OK with the ratings board. (Welcome to America! We're fucking nuts!)

HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS also differs slightly from traditional giallo tropes in that there's no mystery at its core. But that doesn't stop Curtis from shooting the film as if there is one. The killers in gialli are often phantom limbs reaching into frame during acts of violence, their faces obscured to hide their identities for as long as possible. Anyone with a television set in 1970 already knew about Barnabas Collins, though, so there was no reason to keep his identity a secret. Still, for the first 19 minutes (!) of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, Barnabas is little more than a pair of hands and feet stalking people in the dark.  (Had the notorious deleted scene involving a child faking his own suicide remained in the film, Frid's face might have been seen even later than that.)

The role of Barnabas Collins will be played by Jonathan Frid's right hand.
Some of the film's giallo tendencies might have been unavoidable. The genre shared many of the same obsessions with American soap operas, particularly their joint fascinations with sex, booze, leisure, independent wealth and all of the consequences that accompany such lifestyles. DARK SHADOWS was also a horror tale, and the framework of a feature film gave Curtis the chance to fully thumb his nose at television censors. While he wasn't willing to make an R-rated movie (the television series had a huge following among children) he pushed every boundary in his path. Buckets of "Kensington Gore" were used in quantities never seen on TV, and Nancy Barrett's vampire shroud didn't qualify as nudity only because of careful editing. Also exaggerating the film's giallo tendencies were HOUSE's streaks of sadism, misogyny, paranoia and xenophobia (though the latter is likely a remnant of Bram Stoker's "Dracula," the inspiration for Barnabas Collins.)

Having been forced to push the "Now in COLOR!" aspect of American television for a few years, Curtis chose a more restrained color palette for his first feature. DARK SHADOWS the series often loved the rich reds, blues and sapphires seen in gialli, but Curtis wanted the cinematic counterpart to look more sophisticated. Pallid VHS and television broadcasts would present a coarse, drained (and cheap looking) movie to audiences since the mid 1970s, but this was not the picture seen by audiences upon its first theatrical release. In 2012, Warner Bros. released a restored version of the film on DVD and Blu-ray, showing that cinematographer Arthur J. Ornitz (SERPICO, DEATH WISH)  shot a movie of rich blues, blacks and crimsons. It's a gorgeous film, given its subject matter. While not the candy coated nightmare of films like SUSPIRIA, its still arguably falls somewhere on the giallo spectrum.


None of this is to suggest that Curtis was aping gialli, or that he was even aware of these movies. His first directing credit was an episode of DARK SHADOWS in 1968 at the age of 40, and there's nothing about his career prior to DARK SHADOWS that suggests Curtis was much of a film buff. He started in television as a salesman of syndicated shows before bringing golf to the airwaves in the early 1960s. By 1966, he'd had enough success to sell ABC on the idea of a gothic soap that was equal parts "Jane Eyre" and PEYTON PLACE. I doubt even he would have predicted seeing his name in the credits of a movie as violent as HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS a few years later. (His final directing credit on a feature film was in 1976's BURNT OFFERINGS, after which he'd return to work exclusively on television.)

So no, I don't believe Curtis set out to make an American giallo. It's more likely that HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS was the product of Curtis arriving at a similar conclusion by taking a different path. After all, the guiding light of gialli, Alfred Hitchcock, was hardly an obscure filmmaker. (Heck, he wasn't even Italian.) Curtis was tasked with the challenge of compressing DARK SHADOWS into a two-hour digest, using the vocabulary of cinema to not only prop up what he saw as shortcomings in the television version, while also evading some of the cliches that have haunted horror movies since Carl Laemmle brought THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA to theaters in 1925. What he created was a bit of an existential crisis: HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS is a mystery film without a mystery, a horror film that never fully sides with either its heroine or villain, and whose plot is eventually pushed forward by nothing more than a staccato of betrayal. Life sucks, and then you die. Maybe.

(Note: This is a very belated entry into the First Appearance(s) of Barnabas Collins series, this time dealing with his introduction to the silver screen. It's running so far behind the other entries in the series that I didn't feel the need to brand it in any serious fashion.)

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 1



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 487

Julia can barely contain herself. Driven by the compulsion of the dream curse, she knows that if she tells Mrs. Johnson, death will wind its way to Barnabas. Every time Angelique moves forward, Julia falls back. No more, she decides. The line must be drawn here. This far. No further. Finally, an urge deeper than fear overtakes her. It is the primal need first triggered when she heard the name, “Stokes.” After slyly wrangling his address from Victoria, perhaps another of the professor’s nubile conquests of the mind, Julia boldly goes where so many women, consumed by the flames of need, have gone before… to the professor’s most intimate chambers on the appropriately named “Arrowhead Road.” He welcomes her into his home. Can she welcome him into her heart? A dreamboat, himself, Stokes is well-versed in the most exotic and dangerous of nocturnal, bed-bound phenomena, and the dream curse is no exception. With a wistfully sad and familiar twinkle in his eye, Stokes knows that he may -- may -- one day have the ready promise of Julia’s body, but her heart belongs to the intended and ultimate victim of the curse. Meanwhile, Jeff and Barnabas lock horns for the hand of Vicki as Jeff, still struggling with amnesia, learns that the late Dr. Lang secretly felt Jeff had no homicidal tendencies. Barnabas pushes Julia to continue with her injections and the research into Lang’s work … research that may cure him forever.

A serviceable episode where we learn that Jeff is benign, Barnabas wears jealousy on his sleeve, and Stokes continues to be a writer’s darling. Acid-tongued and nobody’s fool, Stokes has all of the devil-may-care wit and know-it-all flippancy of a villain, but in the role of a hero. Heroes are rarely allowed to be this far ahead of the villains. That’s a cowardly trend of bad writing. Stokes defies this, and emerges as, perhaps, DARK SHADOWS’ most original, sharp, amusing, and memorable character. They show a Nicholas Blair-level confidence in his earliest days, and he and Blair will be well-matched. A shame they don’t have an actual showdown. Even better is Thayer David. After years of playing brutes and grunting, uncivilized Harvard men, his Stokes has the warrior heart of a true Whiffenpoof. Ironic, since David had been a Harvard student, and reportedly a handsome one. No surprise.

On this day in the year 1968, CHS spiritual advisor, the Church of Satan, was two years and a day old. Yesterday, April 30, is known as Walpurgisnacht, the witch’s night. For some, the wickedest night of the year, it’s also a high holiday for the secular church and the anniversary of its founding by Anton Szandor LaVey in 1966.   

Angelique, Samantha and Circe team-up in "Witchcraft"



My previous post on Walpurgisnacht got a little link heavy, so I didn't include this video for Book of Love's 1989 song, "Witchcraft." I was also a little concerned that people had grown tired of hearing about me ramble on about this song, which is a Who's Who of pop culture witchery. A quick search shows that I've never actually mentioned the song here at the website, which is surprising. But it' also offers the opportunity to talk about a fun little song from the '80s that I like.

The lyrics to "Witchcraft" include nods to everything from the television show BEWITCHED, Richard Wagner "Götterdämmerung" opera, Greek mythology and, as you've probably guessed, DARK SHADOWS. It won't change your life, but it might bring a smile to your face.

If you've never heard the song, I won't spoil the reference for you. (It's not subtle, though: three characters from DARK SHADOWS get mentioned by name.) I'd be curious to know about the band's relationship to the series, though. Book of Love hailed from New York, which has been the place to be for DARK SHADOWS fans since the show was originally on the air. It's possible they were fans of the show as children, but they might also have discovered it though syndication revivals during the 1980s ... which were struggling to hang on by the time "Witchcraft" was recorded.

You can listen to "Witchcraft" below. The 1989 single release was backed by a remix called "Enchantra," which grafts much of the song's lyrics into a fragmented structure that I don't love. If you like the original tune, consider buying it on Amazon HERE. These sales links go toward keeping the lights on at the CHS.

Walpurgisnacht: The Other Halloween



The Collinsport Historical Society loves our witches. Whether they're using a bastardized forms of black magic that have more to do with voodoo than witchcraft (Angelique, I'm looking at you) or casting "binding spells" on the Pussy Grabber in Chief, we like to stay on the good sides of these people, be they real or imaginary.

Currently taking place is this year's Walpurgisnacht, which kicked into gear last night and wraps later this evening. It's probably not a coincidence that Walpurgisnacht (or Walpurgis Night,  Hexennacht or "Witches Night") also marks the halfway mark on the calendar to Halloween. Like Halloween, Walpurgis traces its history to ancient pagan customs, and is a night reserved for witches and their cohorts to stir up trouble before Spring returns and spoils everybody's fun. Witches congregated on  the highest peak in the Harz Mountains, prompting the locals to burn bonfires, douse themselves in holy water and decorate their homes in the Hammer Horror Chic. These traditions have been around for centuries in one form or another, though the first written reference to Walpurgisnacht didn't make its appearance until the 19th century.

Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula" also begins in earnest on May 1. Jonathan Harker's first journal entry is dated May 3, but begins by chronicling his arrival in Vienna two days earlier. Tod Browning's 1931 feature film (possibly a revision from the Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston stage play) toys with the timeline a bit, showing Renfield arriving in Transylvania on Walpurgis Night.

In the spirit of that, below are a few links to some of our MONSTER SERIAL features from recent years, spotlighting movies that feature witches, vampires or other pagan shenanigans. Click on the images to travel directly to those posts.



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