Friday, September 29, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: SEPTEMBER 29


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1117

In the Old House, Julia holds Barnabas at bay with a cross as he hovers over Roxanne, about to transform her. Suddenly, he asks her to drop the crucifix. 1970-era Barnabas has finally transferred his soul back to the 1840’s and is in control. Eager to investigate matters at Collinwood, Barnabas leaves Julia with Roxanne with instructions to wipe her memory of him. Unfortunately, she escapes. Meanwhile, Flora’s son, Desmond, returns from abroad with a strange gift for Quentin: a preserved, disembodied head in a glass box. Flora is repulsed, but her concern for that evaporates when she meets Barnabas. Julia arrives and reports to Barnabas that Roxanne is missing. Conveniently, Roxanne staggers in and begins to accuse Barnabas of something terrible when she passes out. Julia goes upstairs to tend to her and continue her hypnosis. As they wait, Desmond displays great doubt for Barnabas. Julia comes back downstairs with doubts about her success. Samantha reports that Roxanne is awake and that her memory ends before meeting Barnabas. Elsewhere at Rose Cottage, Desmond doubts the truth behind Barnabas’ cover story. Flora is more concerned with the evil she senses from that head. Desmond assures her that all is well, but as they leave, the head’s eyes snap open and burn with iniquity.

Let’s run this down. We have a nubile woman ready to become a vampire’s slave, but the vampire is possessed by his time-travelling soul from the future, and this saves her. The Future Vampire then teams up with another seasoned time-traveler to successfully mix an old con with hypnosis to insinuate himself back into the family and cover his earlier-self’s more impetuous tracks. Meanwhile, a disembodied head in a glass box is all too alive and clearly bent on some kind of evil.

Did you get all of that?

If you are not hooked by the episode… if you are not propelled to the next installment as if shot out of a canon… if you think this is anything but DARK SHADOWS at its most exciting… go back to GREY’S ANATOMY. We are way, way beyond the days of Josette-Josette-Josette. Nothing was wrong with that. In its way, that is as essential to creating this arc as anything else. But this is the last spurt of growth we’ll see that goes beyond that. It’s one thing to see Barnabas evolve through growing and suffering. But what does that evolved man do? He grew, got knocked down by the Leviathans, Parallel Time, and Ragnarok, and now has a mature mix of worldliness, confidence, and total humility. In other words, he’s in the perfect spot to make the risky choices and learn the impossible lessons always lurking in the Final Act.

I’m not sure we’ve been allowed to have this much unalloyed fun since the wild days of Count Petofi. And is that Angelique’s laughter I hear from a few episodes away? We also say hello to my favorite evolution of the John Karlen character, Desmond. If we look at all of the characters each actor plays as metaphorical sides of the same figure, then Desmond is both as far from Willie as possible, and as representative of all that’s best. He’s inquisitive, bold, observant, principled, and loyal. You know, all of the things we will see Willie call up from himself as the series’ events force him to. And lets say hello to Michael McGuire as the Biggest Bad the series would know, Judah Zachary. It’s a strange role, but when we see him acting -- at Miranda’s trial -- we know why he was cast. He went on to have a richly varied TV career, including appearances in both of Dan Curtis’ Wouk-WAR miniseries. He was no stranger to the stage, either, including an appearance in the prestigious AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY… in the Broadway run, no less.

On this day in 1970, it became legal for President Nixon to sell weapons to Israel, and just in time for the holidays. Also, the world said goodbye to Edward Everett Horton, character actor and the voice of Fractured Fairy Tales. I best know him for his sensitive and nuanced portrayal of the Native American when he essayed the role of Chief Screaming Chicken on ABC’s BATMAN. Horton was one of those grandly prissy actors, screamingly gay in a time when that was, what... fine? In a marginalized way. Very much of the Ernest Thesiger School of Bulgarian Acting. He would have fit right in on DARK SHADOWS, I suspect. (And yes, that’s a compliment -- front-handed, thank you!) My favorite Horton part? Go check him out in Busby Berkely most surreal film, ever, THE GANG’S ALL HERE. You’ll never pooh-pooh Paducah again!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Hugh M. Hefner: 1926-2017


“What sort of man reads Playboy?”

Barnabas read it to catch up on two centuries of culture -- not to mention the revival of the Edwardian suit. Quentin and Burke embodied it. Roger read it for the articles. No, really. David treasured it because there was no girl next door. Julia, because she was not about to be told she shouldn’t. And Stokes? He was waiting for Hef to catch up.

Hugh M. Hefner, founder and publisher of Playboy Magazine, died at 91 yesterday. His Dark Shadows connections are largely through one of the show’s female leads, Kathryn Leigh Scott, who worked as a “Bunny” waitress at the New York Playboy Club, the white hot epitome of 1960’s swank, even after the show went on the air. The Bunnies were both symbolic of a new kind of self-possessed fun that was everyone’s birthright as well as witnesses to a strange and marvelous cultural upheaval. Ms. Scott covers this in her book, A BUNNY’S TALE, one of her main projects of the 1990’s, where she became a noted Playboy historian.

As I jokingly hinted above, I think there’s another, subtler connection. If not connection, then sympathetic resonance. One of Playboy’s greatest triumphs was establishing the cultural legitimacy of a new model for manhood… and by implication, a congruent model for women as well. No longer were marriage, religion, crew cuts, kids, and Budweiser the cost of admission into adult culture. Playboy celebrated the possibilities of a fulfilling adult life where different choices were possible and justifiable. Choosing to be childfree. Embracing music, food, and literature from other eras and unfairly segregated segments of society. Enjoying fashion, art, technology, books, plays, and perspectives on life that were shocking to many, but which we take for granted, now.

Essentially, Playboy helped to invent the metrosexual. The intense, brainy, gentlemanly, passionate, erotic vampire, Barnabas Collins, is a fellow traveler from that new school of manhood. We think of Barnabas as a man from the past, but he’s just as much a man of the future. Balancing refinement and passion, at his best, Barnabas Collins is coincidentally an ideal embodiment of the Playboy. The intense appeal of Barnabas in the 1960’s demonstrates that his time had come. Considering that he’d been waiting since 1796, it was long overdue.

I will always remember Hugh Hefner's remarkable kindness and generosity when I was writing The Bunny Years about the...
Posted by Kathryn L Scott on Thursday, September 28, 2017

Jonathan Frid in THE GOLEM, 1959

There's not much to be said about "The Golem," an off-Broadway production featuring a young "John Frid." The two-act play had a brief run at St. Marks Theater in New York City, with Frid playing a presumably villainous role as an "inquisitor."

The play was adapted by Ruth Rehrer Wolff from the Yiddish of H. Leivick, with the 1959 production marking its first presentation in English. Most of the reviews for "The Golem" were unfavorable, including one by Francis Herridge in the New York Post who said: "Theo Goetz as the rabbi and Anna Appel as his wife do their best to make their characters credible, and John Frid at least  enunciates clearly as the inquisitor, but it's a losing battle from the first.”

While the play might have gone over like a lead balloon, it left us a few interesting photos. If you've ever wondered what it might have looked like had Jonathan Frid appeared in an early Universal Monsters movie, you should consider your curiosity satisfied.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: SEPTEMBER 27


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 595

Adam brings Leona Eltridge -- vessel for the spirit of Danielle Roget -- home to the Old House to be the life-force for Eve. They are not to speak of her connection to Nicholas. When Julia and Stokes arrive, they are astounded to find a ready volunteer. She agrees for Stokes to question her and explains her willingness to help; she was Lang’s lover. The story seems unbelievable, but there’s no going back. In the lab, she refuses the pain medication. The experiment begins, and Adam hovers over Eve until he has just cause to exclaim, “She is alive!”
Yes, it’s that episode. We now have Eve! More than that, we get the singularly whacky performance of Erica Fitz as Leona Eldrich. She manages to be completely disingenuous, with total transparency, and yet we just go along with her anyway. Why? It’s unusual to find such a deeply committed liar. Especially one who surfs on such a tsunami of sensuality. It’s bizarre, shameless, and otherworldly. Of course everyone falls for it, despite knowing better! What choice have they? That is such a rare combination, it sort of commands assent. Her refusal of an anesthetic is the cherry on the kink cake.

Even though she has no lines in the episode, we get our first glimpse of Marie Wallace, and it’s breathtaking. Wallace is really a lost glamour queen of TV, and had circumstances been different and had she gone to LA earlier, I think her career may have gone quite differently. But one listen to her indelible, New York accent tells us that she’s loyal to the East Coast. After DS, she went to act on the ANOTHER WORLD spinoff, SOMERSET, and after that, the death of her husband grounded her in Manhattan until 1980. She returned to it fairly quickly after going to Los Angeles and appearing on shows such as FAME.

However, this is Day 1 for Wallace, and her physique, athletic intensity, and yankee bravado will make her a standout presence among the other actresses on the show, making each a first among equals. Dan Curtis was initially not looking for “her type,” although it’s unclear what that means. (I kind of wonder if Erica Fitz was a runner-up.) When Wallace saw the straight hair and placid dignity of her competitors, she mussed up her own ginger locks and adopted a lioness’ energy in her audition. Curtis couldn’t resist. 
On this day, what was the Soviet Space program doing? Well, they sent an unmanned capsule -- the Zond 5 -- to the moon and back. I guess that showed us. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: SEPTEMBER 26


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 597

As Barnabas is about to come out of the coffin and confess his true nature to the family, Carolyn reappears, quite alive. She visits Adam, who asks to kiss her, knowing it’s her last night alive before the experiment. Sentimental, Adam goes to Barnabas and tells him she will not be the life force before issuing his last ultimatum of the day, declaring -- as he does every day -- that the experiment will be conducted that night! Nicholas, in search of a life force, conjures up the spirit of the most evil woman who ever walked… Danielle Roget! She assumes a contemporary form and dress and phases into the corporeal for only three hours. Will it be long enough? Barnabas is stunned to meet her.

Few on DARK SHADOWS convey sincere devotion like Carolyn. (Even if mind control is occasionally involved.) This is a big one for Carolyn in the selfless (and human) sacrifice department. She’s still down to be the life force. She’s finally giving a Thunderbirds Are Go to Adam for a full-on kiss! And she’s game to help conjure the demonic spirit of the most evil woman in history with surprisingly few questions asked. Without a doubt, Carolyn Stoddard is Collinsport’s go-to gal for a good time in the lab, on the slab, atop an ancient altar, in the ritual chamber, or at the Blue Whale juke box. Saucy as that sounds, it’s also true. But she’s a very nice girl for a shikse, and I think your mother will be very pleased.

All kidding aside, Nancy Barrett gets to show tremendous bravery, benevolence, and sensitivity in this episode. Her consummated kiss with Adam is an easily-forgotten highlight of that storyline. The fact that violins don’t go nuts and the lights don’t snap to red makes the whole thing more dignified and realistic. It’s a moment. It happens. It moves on. It transpires with the same casual brevity that you would expect from a kiss with a landlady who was once your prisoner when you were mute. We’re all adults, here. We’ve all been there. You know what I’m talking about.

Robert Rodan, as always, combines passion and nuance as he navigates between Carolyn and Nicholas. It’s fun to see Nicholas Blair continue to believe he’s running circles around the lug when it’s clear that the lug is catching up… especially in their chess game. Obviously, the most interesting performance in the episode belongs to Erica Fitz as Danielle Roget/Leona Eldrich. She works perfectly in the episode as a hellspawn hellcat, archer than the St. Louis skyline. Actors like this certainly get the soap vibe, yet fall short of the sincerity and elan seen in the core cast. Watching some day players, it’s easy to see the casting process at work. It’s clear why actors like Fitz remained in the rolodex, and it’s also clear why they stayed in the rolodex rather than the production office’s main contact sheet. And having her only around a for a short time makes the character more red-letter unique. The dreamy, Catwomanly turn as Leona is enough to both turn heads and arch eyebrows. It’s a wildly stylized performance that owes more to Russ Meyer than Sanford Meisner. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.

And she was later in “Hercules in New York” and earlier was seen on Broadway in “There’s a Girl in My Soup.” I believe she played the soup.

On this day in 1968, theatre censorship ended in Britain around the time of the loosening of prohibitions on homosexuality. The soon-to-be-written play, THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, would directly celebrate this. How directly? The lyric It Ain’t No Crime from "Sword of Damocles" is a lot more pertinent and political than you might think.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Open your third eye with these Dark Shadows blacklight posters

Artist Dean Monahan has a few pieces of interesting art currently available on Ebay. These 16'' X 20'' canvas paintings depict Lara Parker as "Angelique," Diana Millay as "Laura Collins" and Kathryn Leigh Scott as Maggie Evans. (There's also a fourth painting of Collinwood available.) These portraits were made using acrylic paint that reacts to black light, while they're eyes (and Angelique's fangs) are painted with phosphorescent paint that glows in the dark.

Monahan has a few other pieces of DARK SHADOWS-related art available, as well as work inspired by Brian DePalm's CARRIE, BLACK SUNDAY, THE HONEYMOONERS and THRILLER. You can find his vendor page HERE.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Louis Edmonds in "The Choice is Murder," 1964

Louis Edmonds would have been 94 years old today. At this point, I'm willing to accept that the well has been pumped dry in regards to his complex tenure on DARK SHADOWS. When I went spelunking for obscure media about the actor, it was with little anticipation of finding anything new related to the series. My goal was to find something interesting about his work on ALL MY CHILDREN, but the best piece -- a newspaper editorial slamming the show's producers for its failure to recognize Edmonds' death in 2001 -- seemed a bit dark for the occasion.

Instead, let's look back on something so ephemeral that its very existence is even dubious: 1964's "The Choice is Murder." The play had a two-week run in July that year at Bucks County Playhouse in Pennsylvania, with hopes that it would make the leap to Broadway later that year (though I could find no evidence this actually happened.)

"I had an idea for the perfect murder and originally planned to build the whole play around it," author Denis Heber told The Philadelphia Inquirer shortly before the play's debut. (Note: Copyright information on the play credits the author as Denis Heber Caslon.) "But the script has undergone such radical revisions since then that now my idea only occupies the first act."

The story suggests that Edmonds was already in danger of being typecast. The play's principals are once-wealthy married couple brought low by the husband's many gambling debts. "The wife wants to get rid of him before all the money runs out," Heber explained in 1964.

The play is set in Surrey, England, and had at least one honest-to-god British actor in the cast: Paddi Edwards played the sinister spouse. While the name might not sound familiar, you've absolutely heard her voice: She provided the voices of Flotsam and Jetsam in Disney's THE LITTLE MERMAID and Gozer in GHOSTBUSTERS. The play's third lead, Gerald S. O'Loughlin, was among the stars of William Blinn's THE ROOKIES from 1972-1976, and had a wildly varied theatrical career that includes IN COLD BLOOD, ENSIGN PULVER and THE VALACHI PAPERS.

Located in New Hope, Pennsylvania, Bucks County Playhouse opened its doors in 1939 and eventually became a jumping-off point for both actors and entire productions. Bela Lugosi starred in a production of "Arsenic and Old Lace" there in 1947 .Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park" had its premiere at the theater in 1963, starring Robert Redford and Elizabeth Ashley. In 1964, Rob Reiner completed an apprenticeship at the Bucks County Playhouse, not only working on "The Choice is Murder," but also "Sunday In New York" (starring Alan Alda), and "Broadway" (with Merv Griffin). At the moment, George Wendt is appearing there as J. Edgar Hoover in ROCK AND ROLL MAN: THE ALAN FREED STORY.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: SEPTEMBER 21


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1115

Barnabas appears in Roxanne’s room, and his remorse at feeding is met with her smitten rapture. Has he found love at last? Downstairs, Gabriel finds Samantha sitting in mournful contemplation over her lost son, Tad, and -- to a much lesser degree -- her estranged husband, Quentin. Gabriel pouts that the family fortune should be his, but instead, Daniel’s will states that it should go to Quentin and Samantha. With Quentin lost at sea, that means he had better be nice to Samantha. Later, Gerard Stiles tries to woo Samantha, but his plan is disrupted by Gabriel. In private, Gabriel reveals that he’s done research on Gerard, and has found his real name to be Ivan Miller. He changed it ten years prior in London, and is wanted globally for all manner of crimes including dabbling with the occult. With knowledge of this safely protected, Gerard is at his mercy. Gerard’s first task as Gabriel’s puppet? Poison Samantha. She, however, has conferred with her sister Roxanne, who has slept late and seems a tad frail in the daytime. Roxanne reveals that a new man is in her life, but cannot say more. Elsewhere, Barnabas writes to Ben, begging his forgiveness. In the garden of Collinwood, Roxanne gives herself to his thirst. Satiated, Barnabas leaves her to die… and rise?

Well, well, well. Ivan Miller. I guess I’d change it to “Gerard Stiles,” too. Was his middle name, “Hair”?  I jest.

In every respect, this is a DARK SHADOWS episode that makes a viewer go, “yes, that’s more like it." Every scene unfolds something new and dramatically important. Christopher Pennock is, as usual, a delight. Gabriel is the Roger Collins we met in 1966, dialed to 11. While Pennock’s choices are passionate and committed, they are never predictable, and he brings the same gleam in his eye that he brought to the wickedness of John Yaeger. Freed from the silence of the spectral, James Storm shows an intense charm and brooding smoothness that reveals, at last, the dramatic firepower of that fully armed and operational battle station. This is why he was cast! Their chemistry shows a marvelous range of gleeful naughtiness, making them the Chang and Eng of evil. The program, just when we think we’ve seen its top, tops itself in marvelously watchable, new ways. Chris and James, where have you been all my show?

The other scene stealers are Jonathan Frid and Donna Wandrey. This is a Barnabas reset to his 1795 ways, and in his approach to Roxanne we see a fantastically assured vampiric seducer; the sex appeal of the character is evident even to those who doubted it at first glance. The romance is there, but it is neither innocent nor entitled nor fearful. Why? Although he’s relatively fresh from Josette, Roxanne is a different animal for him to encounter. Does she know he’s a vampire? It doesn’t matter. She’s that rarest of dream girls for the Unusual Man: one who simply and deeply “gets him.” Without, I might add, the usual dash of crazy that so often goes with that territory. No struggle. No sales pitch. No power agenda. Saying the wrong thing is actually impossible. She simply is present with him in ways that even Angelique is not. Does that make her a simp? No, and that’s the heart of her magic. Angelique is looking for a sparring partner. Roxanne is just looking to celebrate an extraordinary man.

Only a week into 1840, and the times are rife with intrigue. Finally taking a cue from the audience and representing a very counter cultural sentiment, the writers give us Roxanne. Like most of the audience, she was all too happy to have eternal youth and beauty and superpowers in exchange for supping on the occasional extra. Come to think of it, there are vast stretches of Barnabas’ vampirism where he goes on a rather extreme diet. It’s not like they have to feed that often, apparently.

I often compare STAR TREK to DARK SHADOWS. One of the shared principles is the importance of compassion toward the other. (In DARK SHADOWS, the other usually wants to assimilate. But that’s an issue I dealt with in a different essay, on September 6.) For DARK SHADOWS, it was rooted in a fear of the unknown that would seem like an irony, but all that did was reflect public sentiment. We all feel like monsters -- the misunderstood kind -- at times, but at least at Collinwood, we have good hair and the latest off-the-rack from Orbach’s and Junior Sophisticate. They took our fear of being the other and glamorized the taboo possibilities. Of course she wants to be a vampire. Everyone does. Perhaps Maggie was symbolic of the last generation to not glamorize their sense of difference. She had to be carted off as insane rather than remain a voice in the new era.

I was always fascinated with how the relative pasts of Collinwood looked. Before we got to those time trippy storylines, I eagerly anticipated how the designers would create yet another new world. 1840 doesn’t disappoint, and just like the show’s story, the visual world of 1840 distinguishes itself in a heavy, thunderous manner. The colors are darker and the scenic elements feel weighty. 1795 was about shape, in design elementese. 1897 was an orgy of color. 1840? Texture, and that’s so appropriate for what may be the show’s most textured era.

On this day in 1970, the world gained Monday Night Football. Dan Curtis put golf on TV. There’s a connection for ya. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 19


Taped on this day in 1968: Episode 589

Back at Collinwood, Vicki is uncertain that her assailant was Adam, and Barnabas supports her ambiguity. Meanwhile, at the mausoleum with Willie, Maggie finally remembers what happened when she was kidnapped, and by whom. Finally, Carolyn visits Barnabas at the Old House and reveals that she wants to be the life force.

And then there are times when I have to call shenanigans on the whole thing, and 589 has it coming. Other episodes are shot live on tape, but I feel as if they filmed this one on a Moebius strip. Not only within the episode, but within the series. Maggie remembers… again, I think. She does this in the series for the very first time at least twice. How many times will Julia have to fix this? Can Barnabas get a mind wipe with a warranty? No wonder he wants to kill Julia. The whole thing was humiliating. He has his long lost love. Then, he doesn’t. Then, he thinks he’s killed her! Then, he lives in suspense over whether she’ll talk. Eventually, she’s seemingly happy again, and he turns his attentions to a fresh start with Vicki, only to be faced with her blabbing again. Oh, and everyone wants to be the life force except for the truly expendable. So, think about this when you see Barnabas louring. At least Jonathan Frid is having a good day. His handle on the action is smooth, committed, and confident. We can say the same for Nancy Barrett and an unusually (even for him) charming Louis Edmonds. Kathryn Leigh Scott is put in the unenviable position of playing a broken record very slowly and (successfully) trying to keep the song fresh. The performances of these actors all stand out because John Karlen’s take on Willie in this one is as outlandish as he can make it. No one can fault Karlen for lacking passion, however, in his attempt to summon up Willie’s panic for Maggie, his choices are sometimes so overwrought that the whole thing collapses into unintentional parody. Counter this with other choices, such as his quiet musing when it’s clear that he has no choice in Maggie’s treatment. I suppose he takes this from 4 to 11 as legitimate attempt at texture, but it makes it easy to forget the more surgical work Karlen does at other places. Orson Welles used to tell actors, “Deeper, not bigger.” When Karlen is at his best, few go as far to explore the truthful core of the deepest dilemmas.

On this day in 1968, American audiences were seeing Cliff Robertson elevate minds and break hearts in the groundbreaking film, CHARLY. Harlan Ellison considers it to be one of the best science fiction films ever made. As usual, Harlan’s right. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Tim Burton's DARK SHADOWS returns to 13 Nights of Halloween

Once upon a time, 13 Nights of Halloween was once called 13 Days of Halloween. The television movie festival began life on The Family Channel, which became Fox Family, ABC Family and is now called Freeform. If you were trying to duck creditors, it would look a lot like this.

I mention the convoluted history because it's a lot more interesting than the point of this post: 13 Nights of Halloween is bringing 2012's DARK SHADOWS movie back to the schedule this year. Because I'm a masochist, I was vaguely hopeful that The Family Channel Fox Family ABC Family Freeform would be airing DARK SHADOWS on Oct. 28, which is the same day that TCM is airing HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS back to back. It would have been nice to see the Collins family stake a claim to the airwaves for a day, even if that day would represent a gradual decline in movie quality.  The stars failed to align, though, with Tim Burton's 2012 feature showing up at 4:10 p.m. EST Oct. 23 as part of a Burton marathon, and again 8:20 p.m. Oct. 26, 7 a.m. Oct. 27, and 11:30 a.m. Oct. 30. You can read the full event schedule HERE.

Get Eldritch or Die Trying

The curious Dark Shadows/hip hop connection


DARK SHADOWS has a recent-but-proud relationship with punk rock. The series was originally broadcast when the movement began to ferment in New York City during the late 1960s, but it wasn't until after the show hit The Sci-Fi Channel during the 1990s that DARK SHADOWS began to have any influence on the anti-genre. How we managed to never get a Ramones song about the Collins family is one of life's great mysteries, but The Damned, Misfits and Argyle Goolsby were more than ready to step up and fill that void.

Because the fan base of DARK SHADOWS is painfully white, the show's influence on hip hop during the 1990s went mostly overlooked. It shouldn't be surprising that the fans who picketed the cancellation of the series on the New Jersey Network during the 1980s weren't listening to the likes of Gang Starr or Chino XL a decade later, but they missed some of the most delightfully weird crossovers ever heard in popular music. If you thought those reggae tributes to DARK SHADOWS were offbeat, you ain't heard nothing yet.

Chino XL, "Waiting to Exhale"
From 1996 album "Here to Save You All"
This is one of the more subtle uses of composer Robert Cobert's music from DARK SHADOWS ... which is odd, because it's also one of the most pervasive. The song samples the music used for the "Meditations" track on "The Original Music from Dark Shadows" album from 1969. Jonathan Frid's dialogue from the original version is gone (more on that later) and the music re-pitched, creating the kind of background track that's equal parts horror movie and crime thriller. Frid's matra on "the throbbing sound/of a one way path to eternity" is replaced by "I'm slick like Deon Sanders/jheri curl when I represent." So, there's that.

Metal Fingers, "Hyssop"
From the 2003 album "Special Herbs, Vol. 4"
If you're familiar with Metal Fingers/MF Doom, the use of the DARK SHADOWS theme won't come as much surprise. This is a guy who routinely samples things like the 1967 FANTASTIC FOUR cartoon, SCOOBY DOO and Godzilla movies. Dude's a straight-up nerd who makes mc chris look like Bender from THE BREAKFAST CLUB. While a few of the artists on this list are fairly obscure, Doom has had a huge impact on music .... and you really should check him out. His 2004 album "Madvillain" is as good a place to start as any. Get thee to Amazon!

Gang Starr (feat. Big Shug and Freddie Foxxx), "The Militia"
From  the 1998 album "Moment of Truth"
Hey, look! It's the DARK SHADOWS theme again! As with the Chino XL track, Cobert's music is used to make things a bit tense, if not downright unsettling. If you've got any doubt that his score to DARK SHADOWS isn't balls-out terrific, just listen to how it retains its power even when stomped on by hip hop beats, chopped up and matted with dissonant lyrics. I don't have much of an opinion of Gang Starr (the only track of theirs I'm familiar with is "1/2 & 1/2" from the BLADE soundtrack, which isn't my favorite song in the world) but they get extra credit for this tune. (But I might subtract that credit because of the cheesy "Jack the Rapper" lyric here.)

Third Sight, "I Will Never Leave You"
From the 1998 album "The Golden Shower Hour"
David Selby makes his first (and maybe only?) contribution to hip hop with this track, which begins with his spoken word "Shadows of the Night." I've got to admire the balls of an artist "sampling" almost an entire track before sliding directly into another piece written by the same composer. (Cobert's "Meditations" is used again.) Bela Lugosi gets a shout out here, but at this point the use of the same pieces of music in exactly the same way is getting a little tired. But hey, it ends with a short clip of more DARK SHADOWS music, this time some of the faux-rock used during scenes at The Blue Whale. The whole thing is a little ponderous, but I'm still chalking this up as a win.

King Geedorah,
"Take Me to Your Leader"
From the 2003 album "Take Me to Your Leader"
If you love MF Doom, you already know the name King Geedorah ... because they're the same guy. Doom's identity crisis is pretty well established, but if you're interested in catching up you can find a short outline of his many aliases HERE. In "Take Me to Your Leader" he throws everything and the kitchen sink at the beats, including dialogue from FIST OF THE NORTH STAR, "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" by Hall and Oates and Looney Tunes. Does it all add up to anything? I can't tell.

Hive, "A Chain of Prophecies"
and "One Way Path"
From the 1998 album "Devious Methods"
With these last two tracks we're leaving hip hop behind for the world of trip hop/drum & bass. Hive is a Los Angeles DJ who made the kind of music that would have sounded right at home played behind images of Wesley Snipes killing vampires. These two tracks are essentially the same, so I'm leading with "One Way Path." Once again, Cobert's "Meditations" is sampled, but this time with pitch-shifted vocals by Jonathan Frid. The title of this tune is taken from the original lyrics to "Meditation," which fit these dreamy beats like a glove.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 15


Taped on this day in 1970: Episode 1109

After finding that Quentin’s magical portrait is still breathing, Barnabas and Julia realize that they can rescue the missing Quentin. The children reveal where the prior Quentin Collins was buried, and on that spot they exhume Quentin, barely alive. There, they return to Collinwood where they find Daphne with the possessed children, ready to be taken by Gerard. Quentin insists that he and the children stay at Collinwood while Barnabas and Julia take Daphne and leave. Alone with the children, he attempts an exorcism, citing Tad and Carrie as the ‘astral twins’ of David and Hallie. When Gerard appears, Quentin’s victory is short-lived. Gerard incapacitates him with a touch. Later, the children flee to Daphne, but Gerard attacks all three, killing David and Hallie. He conducts his ritual to raise his long-dead crew, and at his command, they storm Collinwood, set on its utter destruction. Meanwhile, Barnabas and Julia discover the attack as well as a now-insane Quentin. As the zombie army grapples with Barnabas, Julia discovers a time staircase and flees. Barnabas is unable to join her when it vanishes from view, and the zombies begin to rend him savagely. At the end of the time staircase, Julia sees Hallie in an undisturbed Collinwood, dressed in clothes of the 1840’s.

It’s another quiet day in the news. In fact, the airing of this episode is news in itself. In episode 0001, Burke Devlin welcomes Vicki to the ‘beginning and the end of the world.’ End? What end? Where? Here. DARK SHADOWS spent a dense month-plus preparing audiences for an apocalypse, but I can’t imagine that daytime viewers were ready for the violent, unforgiving, nihilist spectacle of this episode. The so-called “charter member” stars of the show are now irrelevant to the point of invisibility. It’s up to the three outsiders to Collinwood 1970 to save it, and they fail. In fact, they fail in an inverted order of their ostensible success.  Julia, frail and easily paralyzed with fear, is the survivor. Barnabas, bound down by chivalry and zombies, is in second place. And Quentin? Motivated by pride and perhaps a need to atone for centuries of selfishness, he chooses to fight. The result? He suffers the one thing worse than death for a semi-immortal: cowardly madness. And in the face of the quick and senseless deaths of the children in his charge, what other choice has he?

The action is so dense as to be nearly incomprehensible. We are distanced spectators to this event. Who would have imagined that Collinwood’s destruction would be a George Romero spectacle as interpreted by Robert Altman? At the center is Gerard at his most remorseless. What’s he doing? Recreating a destruction? Punishing the dead? Pulling the wings off flies is more like it. The puppet of Judah Zachary, the desire is to simply see Collinwood burn and to punish those who’ve tried hardest to save the Collinses again and again.

Evil succeeds… almost. There’s one x-factor for which it can never prepare.

In any age, across any dimension, against any threat, there’s one name you can always count on:  Hoffman.

Dr. Julia Hoffman.

And Dr. Julia Hoffman will return in DARK SHADOWS: 1840.

(As for zombies, keep your eyes peeled for the ample and curvaceous Chuck Morgan as the lead zombie, still suspiciously plump despite decades of decay. Chuck is the Tor Johnson of DARK SHADOWS. He also zombies things up with spark and elan as Emory Pace, a zombie at Jeb’s command. My dream DARK SHADOWS involves Craig Slocum and Chuck Morgan going up against Geoffrey Scott. Who cares what they play?)

The Morbid Fancy of Basic Gogos


In 1914, authorities caved under pressure from the family of a woman murdered in Aurora, Ill., to try a dubious forensics technique called optography to identify her killer. The idea was floated by an "occultist" who went unidentified in news reports, who argued that photographs of the victim's retinas might show police the face of her killer. (Spoiler: They did not.)

But there was a morbid fancy to the proposal that captured the imagination of the public. Like any good superstition, optography is something that sounds like it ought to work ... at least, to those of us with an eighth-grade understanding of human anatomy. More to the point, wouldn't you really like to see those photos?

It was almost certainly this curiosity that swayed detectives to jeopardize their careers by resorting to tactics in the same ballpark as voodoo. It wasn't so much the mystery of her death they were trying to solve, but the mystery of death, itself. Common sense has no place in such a quest.

In that regard, I sympathize with the hapless detectives in this investigation. Once you realize your own fragile mortality, you spend the rest of your life coming to terms with it. Some dive into it with abandon by collecting crime scene photos, souvenirs from serial killers and other "true crime" garbage that makes pornography look like a Charlotte Brontë novel. I understand that repulsive fascination, even though I don't share it.

Then there are those who avoid the subject of death at almost any cost. Not to put too fine a point on things, but these folks are boring and don't deserve much attention. If they can't be bothered to analyze their own lives, why bother doing it for them?

Those of us who love horror movies – especially those of us who choose to occasionally write about them – occupy the middle lane. If you're visiting this website, you already know our morbid fancy is often difficult to justify. It's one thing to watch the occasional horror movie, goes the common wisdom. Who doesn't do that? But if you have shelves full of horror movies, books and/or comics, you must be some kind of weirdo.

These points were dueling in my head when I awoke this morning to news that artist Basil Gogos had died. Gogos' work was very much in the style of optography, the kinds of visions you might skim from the retinas of victims in a Universal Monsters movie. Monster Kids grew up with this imagery – seemingly captured in the glow of a lighting bolt – of Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and even Jonathan Frid leering at us as they prepared to strike. These are not comforting images, but there is an undeniable beauty to them. They're hypnotic, even, highlighting our awkward, electric romance with death. Instead of the the skeletons and horned devils that frequent classical art, Gogos relies on recognizable pop culture icons. I might stumble over my words (or even begin an essay with a probably inappropriate anecdote about a murder) when trying to express myself. But that was never a problem for Gogos, whose art screamed: When we watch horror movies, this is what we feel – and this is why we love them.

When I met him a few years ago in Charlotte, N.C., he was sitting alongside much younger, less established (and yes, less talented) artists at a comic convention. While I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have met him, my gut response was "What the fuck is Basil Gogos doing here?" No disrespect for you kids trying to get your web comic off the ground, but it seemed to me that we might have taken Gogos for granted. Matt Fraction's lines at the convention were impenetrable. There were no lines of any sort for Gogos, and it still pisses me off.

NOTE: Gogos appears to have left us with one final mystery: that of his birth date. Both his Facebook page and Wikipedia entry state a birthday of March 12, 1949. As news of his death made the rounds this morning, I was surprised to learn he was only 69 years old. (The man I met in Charlotte seemed much older.) But I was even more surprised to see that he would have been just 11 years old when his first Famous Monsters of Filmland cover was published in 1960. His bio also says his family immigrated to America from Egypt when he was 16 years old, which only makes things more confusing. It will be interesting to see how his formal obituary handles these discrepancies in his biography. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: AUGUST 13


Taped on this day in 1968: Episode 557

Barnabas believes Adam’s threat to kill Victoria, so he reasons with Julia about furthering the experiment to give the promethean a mate. Upon visiting an unusually cranky Professor Stokes, Barnabas learns that Stokes revealed Adam’s origin to him. Stokes then visits a usually cranky Adam, whose bitterness at being created shocks the professor. Adam vows, again, to kill Vicki if he is unsatisfied.

Poor Jonathan Frid. He must have had a rough night. I am usually oblivious to his infamous (and completely understandable) line trouble, but in this one, it is so palpable that I totally understand why he retired from TV after DARK SHADOWS left the air. In his early dialogue with Grayson Hall, you can see sheer terror in the eyes of both performers as Barnabas haltingly recalls a trip to the hospital. This is followed by the “Frid Surge,” where Barnabas becomes far more committed and energetic when he turns to face the teleprompter. Of course, this gives him that great sense of vulnerability that was the secret to Barnabas’ success. However, when you counter this with Thayer David’s turn in the episode, which brims with articulate assuredness and passionate integrity, it hurts. The pain doesn’t come from embarrassment. Rather, it comes from my confidence that Frid could have acted the doors off the collected ensemble had the poor guy just been given another frickin day to study his sides. He’s still truthful. But it makes you wonder.

I especially wonder with a marvelous Gordon Russell script like this. While it brought out the shrill in Roger Davis, Robert Rodan issues a highly cerebral, emotionally packed performance. Rodan never receives the credit he deserves. Much of Adam’s stint on the show finds him equipped with an eloquent, even sesquipedalian command of the language. His inner conflict is as existential as it gets. No one sets a standard for virtue like Stokes, his one-time advisor. And yet, none match Nicholas Blair for charm and warmth. Oh, and he’s been friendzoned by Carolyn and is going through puberty. Great. Just… great. Where do you turn? Rodan balances this absurd chimera of conflicts with effortless aplomb that makes Cirque du Soleil look as clumsy as a Matt Helm fight scene.

Jonathan never gets this shot in this episode. But… he has more lines.

On this day in 1999, a radioactive explosion on Moonbase Alpha tore the moon in half, sending hundreds of scientists and pilots hurling into the farthest reaches of space. From the entire staff at CHS, we wish them well.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 8


Taped on this day in 1967: Episode 323

Maggie’s trap works. As she “slumbers,” a man approaching her bedroom is shot five times. However, that man turns out to be Willie Loomis, who is quickly ushered to the hospital. While everyone is glad that the Strangler’s identity is known, the fact that it’s Willie seems to defy their expectations for how imposing he should be. Patterson visits Barnabas, forlorn over Sarah’s denial of affections, to seek information on Willie, and as the meeting continues, Barnabas learns that Willie fell into a trap. Barnabas visits Maggie to give his best wishes and finds that she still has no clear memory. He later worries what Willie might say if he emerges from his coma. Not only that, but David may also speak about what he has seen at the Old House. Barnabas has no shortage of anxieties.

A quiet day in Collinsport between the shots fired by Sheriff Patterson and his men. It is notable primarily for one of the most endearingly ludicrous moments from the show -- Willie’s ability to take five bullets to the back and only need a coma to sleep it off. It just goes to show that you can’t keep a good Willie down.

In real life, today is the birthday of Alan Feinstein, who played Mike in episode 2 of DARK SHADOWS, gettin’ hep at the Blue Whale while Carolyn dances before taking one in the breadbasket from Joel Crothers.

Alan Feinstein makes his entrance.
Feinstein may have been a day player only once on DARK SHADOWS, but he has enjoyed a solid career as an actor for fifty years. Familiar on soaps and in nighttime TV (including an appearance on FALCON CREST with David Selby as well as recent series such as NIP/TUCK), Feinstein is also a beloved stage actor, winning three Dramalogue awards and a Drama Desk award. On the big screen, look for him LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR with Diane Keaton. Alan also starred in New York in the first major play about the AIDS crisis, William M. Hoffman’s beautiful AS IS. In Los Angeles, he later reunited with DARK SHADOWS leading man, Mitchell Ryan, as son to his father in LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT for director Jules Aaron. Mitch is in the same scene as Alan in his DARK SHADOWS appearance, strangely enough. As a side note, Alan was one of my mentors in college, where I assisted him in a fantastic production of AMADEUS, where he (in my opinion, not that Alan would boast or maybe even agree) ate F. Murray’s lunch as Salieri. All while being an incredibly swell, regular guy. Just a mensch. When you hear about actors being selfish, egotistical jerks, someone like Alan Feinstein is the antidote to that idea. If you want to learn to act, you’re in luck. Find him at

DARK SHADOWS sister series, STAR TREK, debuted today in 1966. Not only would it share the talents of Art Wallace, Mitchell Ryan, and Kathryn Leigh Scott, but it shared a similar spirit. Both shows feature humans standing resolute in the face of the unknown. Both shows use creatures from fantasy to address contemporary concerns. Both shows celebrate the other, it’s just that with DARK SHADOWS, it’s up to the viewer to embrace it, because the characters don’t quite yet know how. In DARK SHADOWS, the oddities are usually obsessed with becoming normal, and the audience recognizes a larger irony that is decidedly Roddenberrian.  At Collinwood, the differences which define the “monsters” are more than controllable; they are what often save their friends and loved ones. DARK SHADOWS is a very dedicated meditation on otherness and loneliness, but a meditation that ultimately unifies the audience in the understanding and support of the monsters. They may never fully love themselves, and while that’s sad, it’s also okay. We love them. We understand them. And if we’re paying attention, we carry that forward away from the TV. 

Prime sinuendo: Dark Shadows in Confidential Magazine, 1968

"Patchett's what I call 'twilight': he ain't queer and he ain't red. He can't help me in my quest for prime sinuendo."

That bit of dialogue from 1997's L.A. CONFIDENTIAL summarizes the stunted mission statement of the scandal rag industry. "If it bleeds, it leads" just wasn't good enough for these publishers, who were happy to chum the waters themselves on slow news days. The film's title (taken from James Ellroy's source novel of the same name) was a nod to the notorious Confidential Magazine, though a fictionalized version of Hush-Hush was the publication used in both the novel and book.

Founded in 1952 by publisher Robert Harrison, Confidential was launched with the tagline "The Lid is Off!" and quickly became a painful fact of life for anyone in California with a public image to protect. With such headlines as "The REAL Reason for Marilyn Monroe's Divorce," "Gary Cooper's Lost Weekend With Anita Ekberg" and "Jack Warner Bought Me a Summer of Sex," Confidential demolished the old maxim that there is no such thing as bad news.

To their credit, Confidential appears to have picked up on the popularity of DARK SHADOWS faster than most. Time Magazine didn't formally acknowledge the phenomenon until  Aug. 30, 1968, more than a year after Jonathan Frid (and vampire Barnabas Collins) joined the cast. Famous Monsters of Filmland, who you'd think would have their pulse on this kind of thing, didn't jump on the bandwagon until Halloween that same year. Yet, here we have Confidential putting a photo of Frid in costume on its cover in January. (Given the flexible nature of magazine publication dates, it's possible this issue actually hit the racks in late 1967.)

Even more surprisingly, Confidential is one of the few magazines to mention the Phoenix storyline, a waypoint in the series that's almost always overlooked by writers.

I doubt either Frid or producer Dan Curtis were celebrating, though. The staff writers for Confidential went by handles better suited for the porno industry, and I can't imagine ABC inviting "journalists" Dan Feerce, Hamish MacKnackle and Frank Foxle to tour the DARK SHADOWS sets. But that lack of access didn't stop Confidential. They simply cribbed a number of quotes from a 1967 story about Frid and passed it off as their own. While the final product is pretty sleazy, Frid gets off easy ... there's the ubiquitous mention of his status as a "bachelor," but the writer spews most of his venom in a misogynist rant against the tyranny of the American housewife.

Below is a transcript of Confidential's exposé on the sordid appeal of DARK SHADOWS. It's not a great story ... hell, it's barely a story, at all. But if you've ever seen the cover online and wondered about the magazine's contents, allow me to satisfy your curiosity.

Also: Make sure to get a gander at the author's name. It's probably the best thing about the piece.

Jonathan Frid: Why 5 Million Women
Love that TV Bloodsucker

Confidential, Jan. 1968 

The hour is midnight. A full moon shines on a dark, brooding mansion atop Widow's Hill on the Storm-battered coast of Maine.

A tall, thin, black-clad figure hurries silently over the lawn. In the moonlight, his faces shines white as candle-wax/ It is a lean, hungry face, intelligent and incredibly evil.

Crossing the terrace, he enters the mansion through an unlocked door and quickly climbs the stairs to a second-floor bedroom where a lovely teenage girls lies asleep.

He slips into the room without a sound and stands beside the ornate, canopied bed. His fingers dart out and flick the blanket away from the girl's bare shoulders.
His eyes blow like coals in the dark as he stares at the firm young breasts rising and falling beneath her gauze-thin nightgown. her long blonde hair spreads over the pillow like a gold silk fan.

He leans forward until his face is close to hers. he seems about to kiss her. Then his lips part, revealing sharp. gleaming fangs.

But before he can sink his teeth in her throat, the girl moans softly in her sleep and turns away from the unseen intruder.
Well, maybe "unseen" isn't the best word to describe this blood-thirsty prowler. The sleeping beauty supposedly didn't see him. But millions of other females did.

They are the frightened-but-faithful fans of "Dark Shadows," TV's first spook opera, on which the above scene was played.
And they are simply mad about the show's villianish hero, a neurotic vampire named Barnabas Collins. The dolls all drool for that ghoul. Shades of Bela Lugosi! A vampire with sex appeal! So much sex appeal, in fact, that bloodthirsty Barnabas has become TV's hottest - or coldest - matinee idol.

Though he sports a youthful and mod haircut, this Adult Batman is supposed to be 175 years aol. That would make him only a century or two younger than his distant relative, Count Dracula.

Dracula, you may recall, once made it big in Hollywood. But he pulled up stakes and went home to Transylvania before television came along. So ti remained for cousin Barnabas to cure the midafternoon doldrums with a dose of supernatural excitement.

Barnabas really doesn't look his age. Probably because the actor who plays him on the boob tube is 43-year-old Jonathan Frid, a veteran villain of both stage and screen. A Shakespearean actor, Frid has played so many wicked kings, priests and prime ministers that he cant' remember them all. He learned at an early age that hero roles were reserved for men with handsome, pretty or at least friendly faces.

"There's undiluted villainy in this face of mine," he says, not without a trace of pride. "It is sort of cadaverous looking."

But he never dreamed it would make him a star, a matinee idol a Sex Symbol. All of these he has become as Barnabas, the vampire with a taste for Bloody Marys.

"Dark Shadows" started out as a more or less routine soap opera, competing with other afternoon serials consisting of equal quantities of blood, sex and tears. But the older shows had the ratings wrapped up and "Dark Shadows" seemed headed for the TV graveyard until the producer decided to deaden things up.
The writers introduced a little girl ghost, a Phoenix (the mythical bird that rose from its own ashes) and several other weird characters including the British-accented Barnabas.
Soon after the sexy vampire slink onto the scene, the ratings soared. And "Dark Shadows" suddenly became the dark horse winner of the Soap Opera Sweepstakes.

Barnabas now received more than 500 letters a week from females all over the country - and many of them are passionate enough to make even a coldblooded vampire blush.

The writers range from teenyboppers to grandmas, from working girls to socialites, from bachelorettes and housewives to divorcees and husband-hunting widows.

"Please don't get rid of Barnabas," a woman from Newark, Illinois, airmailed the show's producer.

"I wish he'd bite me on the neck. he gets me so excited, I could smoke a whole pack of cigarettes just watching him."
A 15-year-old schoolgirl from New York City penned Barnabas: "I looks forward to seeing you every day. I just sit there drooling over you."

And a lady from Manhattan Beach, California, gushed: "You are utterly fascinating. Bela Lugosi was marvelous and weird, but he didn't have sex appeal and you do."

Those two words - sex appeal - sum up the adult Batman's unearlthy power over his adoring fans.

As one reviewer noted, "his leering scowl is more Freudian than fiendish." And his bedroom manner is carefully calculated to give his watchers thrills, chills, shivers, shudders and goose pimples.

More than 6.5 million persona tune in and turn on with Barnabas every afternoon. At least 5 million of these are females, giving Jonathan Frid the largest audience of any current matinee idol. Though he's still unknown to most night-time tele-viewers, he already has so many fan clubs as most world-famous Hollywood stars. A high school fan club in Hazleton, Pa., inquired: "How can a man be so good looking, fangs and all?"

The fangs he gnashes on camera are not his own choppers. But the false fangs stuck on his even teeth seem to excite some women the way female falsies excite many men.

Without his vampire makeup, Frid is tall, dark and ruggedly handsome - with just a hint of villainy in his craggy features.

Born and reared in Canada, he has a master's degree from Yale University Drama School. But neither the degree nor his obvious acting talent were much help to him in Hollywood, where stardom seems reserved for pretty boys and bosomy girls.
When he was picked for the vampire part, he considered it sort of a campy comic interlude between Shakespearean heavies.

There were other villains on "Dark Shadows," but Barnabas quickly got rid of them. He bit Willie and strangled Jason. Then he took a nip out of Maggie's neck and the poor girl went stark, raving mad.
And when all this bloodletting made Barnabas a supernatural sex symbol, no one was more amazed or bewildered than Jonathan Frid.

"It just seems incredible," Frid told an interviewer who asked what he thought of his sudden success. "It makes you wonder about people and what attracts them."

He displayed a letter from a Barnabas bitten woman in New Westminster, British Columbia. "You're my favorite," she wrote. "You have great charm and dignity, but also you express the most evil, corrupt and forceful domination of your victims."

Well, there's no accounting for tastes. Psychiatrists who have peered into the Dark Shadows believe many American women who have successfully dominated their husbands and lovers, long for a strong, cruel, forceful type to dominate THEM. And if he happens to be a vampire, so much the better. After all, nobody's perfect.
Bachelor Frid gets almost as many phone calls as letters. Even though he has an unlisted number, the dolls somehow learn what it is.

Hardly a day goes but that he doesn't receive at least one call from a cutie offering to crawl into his coffin with him. Some girls send him their nude photos, with suggestions about the tender, fleshy parts of their anatomy that would make juicy tidbits for any hungry vampire.

One 21-year-old girl, who followed up a picture and a sizzling note with a phone call, told him she had hired a professional spirit medium to hold a seance and conjure up a ghostly vision of Barnabas.

"The girl was positive we had met before," Frid said. "She was sure she had first met me in 1223."

That made her a bit ancient for even a 175-year-old vampire, so Jonathan politely told her she must have him confused with the original Dracula.

"Dark Shadows" producer Dan Curtis originally planned to kill Barnabas with a silver bullet or by driving a garlic dipped wooden stake through his heard. As every ghoulish gourmet knows, there's nothing like a dash of garlic on your stake.

Bit the suave, sexy vampire gave new life to "Dark Shadows," so he will be allowed to live on, hopefully for another 175 years.

Frid isn't sure he wants to make a career of being either a monster or a star. "I'm not sure what I should do, if anything," he says. "I've always thought of myself as an actor. Being a star is moonlighting. Being a star is altogether another profession."

Especially being a star vampire.

When a shapely starlet invites him to her house for a bite, he never knows whether she's asking him to dinner - or whether she expects to get bitten.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 7


Taped on this day in 1970: Episode 1102

Julia collapses into a hypnotized daze as Maggie is lured to her sickroom window by a figure in a broad cape and slouch-brimmed hat. Before it can strike, Quentin enters and rallies Julia to stay awake. She contacts Windcliff, where she learns that the children are in increasingly dire condition. Barnabas takes the next shift with Maggie and ruminates deeply on his past culpability for her suffering. He divulges to Quentin that Rose Cottage is the old McGruder mansion, which leads the former werewolf to seek the living Daphne there. He’s successful, although she is of little help, preoccupied with Gerard. She tries to summon him to somehow aid the children, but to no avail. Later, she appears to Quentin at Collinwood, and against his better judgement, they proceed to Windcliff. David claims that his name is “Tad,” and raves about those from the past while drawing pentagrams on the floor. Is this Gerard’s revenge for their isolation from the house? Daphne attempts a summoning ceremony while Quentin stands guard. Julia bursts in, amazed by the sight.

It’s a tense little episode featuring a vampire at the beginning who looks like either of the pro/antagonists from SPY VS SPY. The characters get to do new things and speak new truths, and it’s a fitting send off for writer Joe Caldwell who, with Ron Sproat, created Barnabas Collins as we know him. Hall and Russell would become the Lennon and McCartney of the writer’s room, balancing each other marvelously, and perhaps Caldwell and Sproat get short shrift because of that. He was an enthusiastic author, clearly in love with the characters. Caldwell was also a novelist and winner of the Rome Prize, which apparently cut little ice with his students compared with his work on DARK SHADOWS.

What makes this DARK SHADOWS different from all others? This storyline centers on a plan so large, manipulative, and scorched-earth that it’s literally inconceivable to our heroes. It’s a truly Nihilistic threat put up against Romantic agents, like Doc Savage dealing with Christopher Nolan’s Joker as opposed to Fu Manchu. Barnabas works his tail off and we can see the panic when he doesn’t know where to turn. With Adam, he knew that all he needed to do was kill, isolate, or appease the lug to take care of business. Nicholas Blair? Send him back to Hell. You know. Simple enough. And Nicholas and Adam made their plans, strengths, and weaknesses pretty easily known. Heck, even the Leviathans, for all of their ancient mystery, had a team name and logo. But even they are far more complex than what Barnabas faced in the relatively simple days of 1795. As he stands over Maggie in 1102, he has one of his deep, dark nights of the soul. In the face of Gerard, who is a sphinx of evil without the courtesy of a riddle, Barnabas’ powerlessness forces him to turn inward and truly question the collateral damage of his life.

In 1795, his powers are thrust upon him, but they cost him dearly. By the time he is in 1897, Barnabas is wielding magic, teleporting, and confidently matching wits against Petofi with the smooth, clever confidence of Napoleon Solo. But is evil-smashing what his life is ultimately about? No. He’s compensating for loss. This final leg of the journey gives him a series of problems seemingly beyond his powers.

If we get some of Barnabas out of his element here, it is largely Quentin we see transformed. Serious, driven, but baffled by what’s going on, Quentin simply spins plates in the name of love. He is, as always, the wolf without a pack, and so love and belonging will always be his weakness and greatest source of need. Now, we take away the one-liners and braggadocio and even his reliance on the supernatural, which seems like a force he’s either beyond, bored with, or resigned to never truly understand. Unlike Barnabas, he is a figure of total indulgence, and now, when maturity is called for, his time to pay up has come.

It’s also the birthday of John Harkins, one of the most versatile members of DARK SHADOWS’ background ensemble. For a man with a distinctive face, he morphed into a variety of interesting and menacing roles brought to us with wit and commitment. John gave us Garth Blackwood, Mr. Strack, and Horace Gladstone among others. An Actor’s Studio vet, Harkins came to DARK SHADOWS with the solid stage chops that distinguished the company. A familiar character actor, he was a ubiquitous presence in film and television for several decades, specializing in humorlessness… which, oddly, must have been fun. Like every single human to ever walk the planet on the 1980’s, he joined John Karlen with a recurring role on, you guessed it, CAGNEY AND LACEY.

On this day in 1970, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacks 4 planes and forces them to land at Dawson's Field, Jordan. Meanwhile, the American people were punished by the airing of the first film version of DR. DOOLITTLE and the 5th Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. Jonathan Frid was actually a guest of the telethon, joining such guests as Diahann Carroll, Johnny Carson, Joan Crawford and Patty Duke. Frid's appearance took place shortly after midnight on Sept. 7. So keep in  mind while watching this episode that the man had little (if any) sleep that day.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 6


Taped on this day in 1968: Episode 579

Julia catches Jeff going through Lang’s notebooks down beside Eve’s dormant body. He says that he wants to know everything; Vicki’s life depends on the success of the experiment. Julia advises him that ignorance is bliss. Upstairs, Barnabas remains convinced that the vampire who turned Tom Jennings is still on the loose. Stokes arrives and tells the boys to quicken their pace in the Eve-making department. Adam is suffering from heartbreak over Carolyn’s rejection and will be particularly impatient. Jeff visits Collinwood. Vicki demands to know where he has been and what he’s been up to. Jeff, secretly trying to preserve Vicki’s sanity, refuses to talk. Vicki breaks their engagement.

Roger Davis. Allegedly a rascal on set, but an effective leading man. Maybe his characters are a tad overwrought, but so are the stories. To me, he seems like someone from the real world beamed into SoapVille… he realizes that he must play along, and yet, there are no actual consequences. So it becomes an odd amusement park. I enjoy him in any episode, but especially ones in which he’s a tortured hero. He’s not in the Curtis mold; Davis is modest of stature, with a tenor voice and brown hair as opposed to the towering, dark-coiffed gents usually favored. Somehow, that makes him seem like a secret agent from my side of the tracks. He shines in this one, and we genuinely feel for him as he has no choice but lie to Vicki. I keep wanting him to fess up, but where would that lead him. I’ve often seen that many women have an enthusiasm for that truth that would have saddened Oscar Wilde. Vicki, when he says it’s for your own good, well… sometimes it is.

Today we saw the Dawn of Mostoller! As if Ramse Mostoller isn’t dramatic enough in the moniker department, it’s as if she’s out to win a bet by finally, with this episode, becoming simply, Mostoller! I admire one-word named celebrities. Beyond DARK SHADOWS, she also designed costumes for RYAN’S HOPE, SESAME STREET, and SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS. (That means she worked with Pia Zadora, who seems like a joke until you listen to her album PIA AND PHIL, and realize that she has incredible talent, making the joke-like nature of her reputation really kind of undeserved.)

Significant to DARK SHADOWS on this day?  Well, a few years prior, in 1958, THE BETTY FREEZOR SHOW aired, marking the dawn of the first color videotaped program. Do you know that while episode 579 was taped, Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine was being born in 1968? What did the machine ever do to him? I know a guy who accidentally laminated his necktie, and he didn’t have any rage. More importantly, it’s Raquel Welch’s birthday. Pardon me while I don my white wetsuit and get small. But then I must needs grow up, because it’s the birthday of (and I have to word this carefully) the star of the best of the James Bond franchise, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, Mr. George Lazenby.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 5


Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 841

In a failed attempt to use the I Ching to travel through time, Petofi finds himself tortured by gypsy singers, a giant, sword wielding hand, the Giant Head of Barnabas Collins, and, upon waking, himself as he attempts self-strangulation. With Julia as hostage, he and Aristede lay a trap for the vampire involving a gun arranged to fire should he attempt a rescue. He does and it does. Barnabas vows revenge.

As storytelling goes, if looping time-travel is ahead of 1897’s time, then the events of 841 may be seen as tailored with exquisite precision. Rather than science fiction, this is Victorian melodrama, played with the kind of sincerity that makes that genre work. Julia? Tied to a chair with a Rube Goldberg’d gun ready to go off and thwart her rescue? Soap operas are the modern evolution of the melodrama, and its refreshingly honest to see one return to its roots. On the front end of the episode, Petofi’s surreal exploration of the I Chingverse, where Petofi is mentally tortured, expanding his character in rounding ways that other DS villains rarely merit. DARK SHADOWS again manages to tell an epic story -- the man faces a gypsy tribunal in another dimension -- without breaking the budget with a clever use of sound, writing, and atmosphere. Just as the show is frequently chided for its conservative budget and asphyxiatingly tight shooting schedule, those same limitations can lead to bold storytelling choices. If the budget were just a little larger, they’d try to shoot the tribunal and probably realize how chintzy it looked. Scrapping it? This way, all they have are sound effects, and they use them with great aplomb, creating atmosphere that allows us to focus on Petofi with the reality of his danger always in our minds. It’s both intimate and epic, and audiences will see the same strategy used masterfully in I, CLAUDIUS.

Thayer David, of course, relishes good storytelling, and his descriptions of Aristede allow him to revel in it. They would be outlandishly purple descriptions if Michael Stroka’s oily deployment of painstakingly smoked and glazed ham didn’t justify it. He is the Z-Man Barzell of 1897 and it freaks me out! Finally, Jonathan Frid steals two great moments with a swagger. His sense of gentle regret toward Beth, when she points out his propensity to force-rather-than-ask, is wholly authentic, as is his vow to avenge Julia, a moment that could have easily descended into camp. By the way, in my recent Fixation on Grayson Hall, I’ve spent a lot of time defending her stylized performance approach. Still, I look for The Moment when things go too far, and I found it. In moments of surprised silence, usually right before a commercial, she kills it until… the eyebrows go up. It’s not Grayson who goes too far. It’s her eyebrows. Watch and learn.

On this day in 1969, Dweezil Zappa came into the world and was promptly advised not to go where the huskies go. Wise wisdom. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 1


Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 837

Thanks to the I Ching trance, Julia hurls herself back in time to the year 1897, where she is in a wordless daze. Found by Edward and eventually Quentin, she rests at Collinwood where Quentin discovers Barnabas’ note in her pocket. (He left it for her in a bureau for her to find in 1969, which she did.) Quentin rescues Barnabas, who explains that Pansy Faye’s predictions around Quentin’s doom have come to pass, save his abandonment by Jamison. Edward is befuddled when he goes to kill Barnabas, only to find him missing. Meanwhile, Barnabas, Quentin, and Julia gather in a hidden location to prepare for September 10, prophesied as Quentin’s last day alive.

More than an episode of a soap opera, this installment of DARK SHADOWS is a tight time travel adventure that rivals the best work of Zemeckis and Gale or Nicholas Meyer. It is an ideal gem of a chapter, eons from the humble beginnings of Vicki’s arrival, the wacky excesses of its more psychedelic episodes, or the grim and portentous fatalism of the Ragnarok arc. Even with the handicap of lacking Count Petofi, who was probably too busy watching it to be bothered to appear, it’s an easy nominee for the best 1897 episode out there, and that’s some heavy competition. Are there episodes that do certain things better? Yes. But it’s a lot like CASABLANCA. There are films of that era that have better writing, acting, editing, etc. However, none put together as many solid elements in one place. 837 is a close cousin to CASABLANCA in that regard. Even Louis Edmond’s mistakenly repeated lines and the shaky camerawork outside the foyer on Julia’s collapse are easy to ignore.

One thing that works particularly well in this episode is something for which soaps are not known, and that’s shape. The story is vaguely self-contained, despite being a cliffhanger-ended part of a much larger arc. Barnabas is rescued from certain doom as Edward Collins: Vampire Hunter is temporarily foiled. It’s also an audaciously clever time travel story, where Barnabas is rescued by sending the means of his salvation into the future, only to have them circle back to the past. It’s a move we’d see echoed by BACK TO THE FUTURE II, TIME AFTER TIME, and STAR TREK IV. Quentin is reaching his full potential as Barnabas’ heroic ally, as well. David Selby and Jonathan Frid are especially convincing in the jail scene, as Quentin goes from laughing skepticism at Pansy Faye’s prophecy to driven credulity… while maintaining his cynic’s edge. Frid is also a standout in the episode. When Julia arrives back, there are so many places for an actor to indulge in sentimentality and ebullience. Instead, Frid keeps Barnabas’ aristocratic stoicism operating at full steam. That makes his joy all the more interesting to watch as it peeks around his mask of manly propriety.

In the grand scheme of the series, it is also a fantastic Julia Hoffman episode, although she’s more-or-less mute for its entirety. She’s gone from adversary to conscience to a cowardly voice of reason in the 1795 flashback-flashback of Christmas ‘68 to maybe the gutsiest character on the show. Julia’s bravery and loyalty make her a role model par excellence for either gender. I think the square coat and dress get in the way of this idea’s accessibility. If this were shot now, where fashion rarely betrays age, she’d be dressed to kick ass, and we’d never think of her as a fuddy duddy middle aged woman with too much makeup, out of her element. So, re-costume her in your mind if that helps. Either way, at least Barnabas has a body in the past. Julia’s force of will is so strong she simply projects her mind and body precisely to her destination with only a mild hangover. Tough character. Maybe the toughest on the show.

I am in constant search for the “ultimate DARK SHADOWS episode.” For me, this is a prime candidate thanks to its romance, imagination, supernatural mystery, vivid characters, sparkling acting, and high adventure. We’ve seen monsters a thousand times. Monsters who become heroes? Far more interesting. Monsters who inspire the loyalty of mortals? Even more so.

At this time in 1969, the fourth Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon was just beginning. It would still be a few years before he would end each one hopped up on painkillers, tie askew, bearing orange skin, bathed in a sweat that made him look like a walking sample from Krispy Kreme, telling people he didn’t care if they liked him, but they needed to give! And then he’d sing, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” forever unaware of the irony.
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