Tuesday, October 31, 2017

MPI Media Group launches Dark Shadows TV

Watching DARK SHADOWS just got easier -- and cheaper -- than ever.

MPI Media Group has launched www.darkshadows.tv, a streaming service devoted to all things DARK SHADOWS. While we're all going to need a little time to browse through it's initial offerings, it appears that all 1,225 episodes of the series, the "Fan Favorites" and "Best of Barnabas" collections, as well as a number of "exclusive" bonus videos are streaming. MPI is asking for $7.99 a month to subscribe to the service, a fee that includes a 14-day free trial. An annual membership is also available for $79.99, which includes two months free.

Also: Customers who subscribe before Nov. 22, 2017, will be entered in a contest to win a free lifetime subscription to the series.

The streaming service, available through the Vimeo subsidiary VHX, will also offer curated playlists of select episodes grouped by theme - e.g., episodes set in 1897 or 1795, the "parallel time" arc, werewolves, etc. - to give viewers a different way to experience the series.

It's fitting that news of www.darkshadows.tv dropped on Halloween, but it's uncertain if the website is fully functional yet. There's been no formal announcement about the website from any of the usual sources, but regardless ... this is great news.

Lara Parker reviews Kathryn Leigh Scott's new book

Kathryn Leigh Scott has a new memoir available today. Word of the book has been circulating for a while now, but I think DARK SHADOWS fans have been avoiding the subject. It's a tough issue to grapple with, regardless of the grace and maturity with which Scott has managed her grief. "Now With You, Now Without: My Journey Through Life and Loss" is about the 2011 death her husband Geoff Miller and the changes in life and perspective that accompanied her loss. Those of us who spend our days mired in escapism prefer to look away from sadness, almost always to our own detriment. I've reached the age where these facts of life are more difficult to ignore, and hope to find a little guidance from Scott's experiences. I wouldn't say I'm "excited" to read it ... but I feel ready. I hope more fans can pull themselves away from Collinwood long enough to give it a chance.

Meanwhile, our own Lara Parker has a review of the book at Twitlonger. It's not a site that's easy to share on social media, so I'll plug it here, along with a sample.
"The surprise in Scott’s book is in the second half when she is left alone and the main source of her energies and efforts has been removed. After Geoff’s death, which she relates in sympathetic detail, and after a wrenching period of mourning, she finds the strength to become her own caregiver, employing all the skills she has mastered and showing the same compassion to herself she showed to Geoff. She discovers the resilience she never thought she would possess to go on with her own life."
You can read Parker's full review HERE.

"Now With You, Now Without: My Journey Through Life and Loss" is available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon.

Monday, October 30, 2017

From the Vaults: Rare photos of Jonathan Frid

Believe it or not, the creators of DARK SHADOWS were never motivated to archive the show's promotional materials in any meaningful way. These days, businesses like Lucasfilm will keep professional librarians on staff to ensure the legacy of their work is maintained, but for DARK SHADOWS? Because of the perpetual flow of talent into the ABC studios, new marketing materials had relatively short shelf lives. Stories and actors changed so often that photos taken yesterday were rarely of any use tomorrow. Consequently, there was little reason to archive these photos, even during the show's prime.

After it's cancellation in 1971, those motivations disappeared entirely. DARK SHADOWS became a bullet point on the resumes of those involved, and the onus of maintaining the show's legacy fell to fans. Among those folks was Jim Pierson, a fan of the series who worked his way up to essentially become the chief archivist and marketing director for the DARK SHADOWS brand. Part of that job has been to formally locate misplaced marketing materials, such as the thousands of photos taken of the cast members over the years. This has been no small task. Many of the images that appeared in magazines and newspapers were taken by private photographers who weren't always inclined to hold onto every negative, slide or print. Many are photos were lost, others misplaced or labelled incorrectly. All you need to do is look at the strained packaging of the old DARK SHADOWS VHS collection to see how difficult it has been to find interesting, usable images from the series ... near the end, MPI Home Video was relying on such oddities as Conard Fowkes' headshot for the cover art for one tape. The well has a tendency to run dry.

But the search continues! Pierson has recently unearthed an interesting selection of photos of actor Jonathan Frid, images that span his entire career. He's shared with me headshots of Frid as an aspiring young actor, a few from his later year's as a performance artist, and these two shots taken from his days playing vampire Barnabas Collins. Seeing as how Halloween will be arriving in a few short hours, it felt right to share these images first. They were taken during the controversial "Leviathans" storyline, which places the photo's date at sometime during the end of 1969/early 1970. I suspect that some eagle-eyed DARK SHADOWS fan will recognize the tie he's wearing in the photos and be able to pinpoint a specific date for when the photos were taken. If you, feel free to share your speculation in the comments section below.

I have more rare photos of Frid, courtesy of Jim Pierson, that I'll be passing along in upcoming weeks. Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Let Jimmy Psycho score your next Halloween party

Robert Cobert's original music for DARK SHADOWS has proven to be a remarkably flexible. It's been repurposed for everything from reggae to hip hop, and even managed to crack the top 40 on at least one occasion. Below is another interpretation of the show's main theme, this time by The Jimmy Psycho Experiment. It's from the album "Mad Monster Cocktail Party," which sees the Psycho Charger frontman interpreting some of horror's greatest melodies as lounge standards. (Just to prove that he's got impeccable taste, "Grim Grinning Ghosts" and the theme to PHANTASM also made the cut for the album.)

"Mad Monster Cocktail Party" is available from Amazon on compact disc and MP3 download HERE.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Check out this Dark Shadows Halloween "advent calendar"

Politely put, the "dream curse" story line of DARK SHADOWS is not among my favorites of the show. It was a neat idea, to be sure. Angelique casts a kind of "viral spell" at Barnabas Collins, one that leaps from dreamer to dreamer as it inches ever-so-slowly toward its intended victim. But the novelty (for me, anyway) wore off pretty fast. You can only watch actors feign terror at medical school skeletons for so long before things get tedious.

My disdain for the dream curse makes this bit of art all the more special, really. Artist @lunettarose has boiled down the curse's many elements into a Halloween "advent calendar" that's so charming that it has me reconsidering my anti-dream curse position. I seriously love this.

You can check our the exterior and interior of the art on her tweet below.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Stop stealing Dark Shadows, goddammit

There's an old theory among STAR TREK fans about how the show's transporters work.

STAR TREK fans have theories about everything, from the origins of the Kobayashi Maru training exercise to whether or not Spock was joking when he implied that he's a descendant of Sherlock Holmes. Among the grimmest of fan speculations is that the transporters are murder machines, devices that permanently disintegrate its users, converting them to a series of "1s" and "0s" and using their raw matter to create "new" versions of people at the destination point. This would mean that Kirk, Spock and anyone else dumb enough to step into a transporter essentially ceased to exist a long, long time ago ... possibly even before the start of the series.

This theory might feel at home in a series as relentlessly nihilistic as RICK AND MORTY, but has never found a steady perch in STAR TREK fandom. We're just too optimistic. What's the point in following the adventures of replicants, characters with no past and no future, devoid of soul, agency or even the most casual definition of "identity"? Is everything in the universe up for grabs?

If you spend enough time on the Internet, the answer to that question increasingly becomes "Yes." The very meaning of "identity" has mutated in recent years to take more sinister shapes. Not too long ago, people mostly worried about having personal information leak online because a theft of your identity would hurt your credit standing or bank account. Today, we have to worry about the disgusting new practice of "digital kidnapping," a phenomenon where people will steal the images of children from online to "role-play" parenting. It's even creepier than it sounds.

So yes, it appears that morals disappear into a void whenever something is converted to binary code. Books. Movies. Financial information. A parent's love. If it can be broken down, transmitted digitally and delivered to a computer, that's enough to strip anything of provenance. If it's on your computer or smartphone, it now belongs to you. After all, it's just a copy of a thing, and not the thing itself ... right?

The Internet has turned into a large-scale psychological experiment, but one without restrictions or controls. If the old saying "You are who you are in the dark" is true, the Internet has turned off the lights worldwide, leaving us all to rise to our better selves. A lot of people are failing this test spectacularly.

A few weeks ago, a DARK SHADOWS "fan" shared an interesting link on Facebook to the Internet Archive, a website devoted notionally to the idea of preserving public domain media. Naturally, when the door is opened to share anything, someone is going to take advantage of the situation. Among the transcriptions of such work as Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" and the complete works of William Shakespeare are all 1,225 episodes of DARK SHADOWS. I don't need to tell you that DARK SHADOWS is not in the public domain.

At least, I shouldn't need to tell you that. But the data attached to these episodes show that thousands of people have viewed these files. People that would probably tell you they "love" DARK SHADOWS. And love, for them, apparently equals entitlement. They're fans, so why should they have to pay?

Archiving and preserving a massive show like DARK SHADOWS has taken decades to accomplish.  For context, STAR TREK, a series with about 67 total hours of original content, went into syndication quickly because it was compact and appealed to the right demographics. DARK SHADOWS was not so easy to program after its demise in 1971. With more than 400 hours of episodes, the rights holders had to fight for decades to keep the series in the public consciousness, and their successes have been measured in increments. When the New Jersey Network began airing DARK SHADOWS in 1983, it had just 510 episodes available in its catalog. “New” episodes were added as the series progressed: By the time it was cancelled in 1986, it had bulked up its catalog to include the first appearance of Barnabas Collins until the start of the “Parallel Time” storyline.

DARK SHADOWS would not appear on television again in its entirety until it arrived on The Sci-Fi Channel in 1992, more than 20 years after it was cancelled by ABC. Hundreds of these episodes had not been seen since their original broadcast.

Regardless of what you might think about it, the 2012 Tim Burton movie adaption provided a marvelous opportunity for fans of the original series. MPI Home Video had been slowly bringing DARK SHADOWS to video since 1989, first on VHS and then DVD. Because if the cultish nature of the show, it took years for the entire series to find its way to video. This work culminated in 2012 (thanks to the visibility of Burton's movie) with the ostentatious "coffin box," a complete collection of DARK SHADOWS episodes, interviews and bonus features in one package. In 2012, it was easier than ever to see DARK SHADOWS. A variety of video products were available to fit just about any level of interest.

Those barriers fell even further in 2017 when Amazon and Hulu added hundreds of episodes of the show to their streaming services. A series that was once completely inaccessible to viewers is now available everywhere, from your Roku to the neighborhood public library. If you use the Hoopla app, you can even check out episodes from the library without leaving your home.

And still, that's not enough for some people. The Internet Archive site is far from the only example of people giving DARK SHADOWS away to "fans." A few years ago someone created their own website for "classic television" and posted streaming versions of every episode of SHADOWS, along with other copyrighted programs ... and then had the balls to include a "tip jar" link so that you could reward them for their efforts. There's another website now online that's repeating this effort, right down to including a Paypal link so that fans can contribute to the website's "upkeep." Sigh.

Look, we've all spent too much time on the Internet in recent years. When you spend your days arguing politics with strangers, watching videos of cats breaking shit, and defending yourself from phishing scams, reality has a way of becoming whatever you need it to be. If you've lost your way, let me remind you that stealing DARK SHADOWS episodes is only hurting the cause. It's never been a series with a massive marketing budget, and its cultural presence has largely been kept aloft by devoted fans. But some of those fans have decided they've invested so much time and money into DARK SHADOWS  that they now have an entitlement to it ... as if fandom is one, big utility cooperative. They've become resentful, even combative, because they're beginning to realize they've been making payments on something they're never going to own. It's like an origin story for the world's most pathetic supervillain.

The mental calisthenics it takes to equate these two paths is as astounding as it is obtuse. It took decades for MPI to make DARK SHADOWS available to the masses. It takes a "fan" only a few hours to upload the entire series to the Internet for "sharing." The people sharing these files have reached the astounding conclusion that these efforts are analogous. That the folks who have spent the last 40 years trying to get people to watch DARK SHADOWS are also somehow responsible for erecting the "insurmountable" obstacle of expecting audiences to pay for their product. It's like standing outside a chocolate factory and giving away chocolate to make a point about how much you love candy. Before long, the factory will close its doors and there will be no candy for anybody.

And that's the real problem, isn't it? DARK SHADOWS isn't being pirated by people who hate the show. It's being pirated by people who love it. And how do you protect a product when you're in direct competition with your most passionate fans? This is a problem that's going to resolve itself in one of two ways. Fandom will have to correct its own course. Or, when there ceases to be a financial motivation for the property's actual owners to take an interest in it, DARK SHADOWS will go away forever.

Choose wisely.

Ghoul House Rock: Zacherle's Monster Gallery


Rewind to 1984. A tape of DAWN OF THE DEAD is quietly spooling in my Betamax as age-inappropriate gore splatters across the screen. It's a beautiful sunny day, and I should be outside instead of sitting on the couch, eating chili dogs and watching blue-faced Pittsburgians pretend to kill each other. As one zombie with a conspicuously large cranium walks into the blades of a helicopter, I look down at the sloppy plate of food in my lap and wonder why I don't feel any revulsion at what just happened.

I was 12 years old at the time.

It was a fleeting concern. Years later, Quentin Tarantino would explain away this seeming lack of empathy by rightfully pointing out that violence, like singing and dancing, is just something you expect from movies. It's not real and we instinctively know this, which is why it takes great filmmakers to make us feel anything during a movie. Happiness. Fear. Sadness. Humor. Sure, you might be surprised by a character's sudden death in a film, but it's not like you actively go into mourning for them. Your subconscious keeps your emotional response in check no matter how sincere those feelings might seem.

So, yeah. When the "flattop zombie" was scalped in DAWN OF THE DEAD, I knew it wasn't real violence. It was more in line with a magic trick than anything else. I even knew the name of the magicians responsible: George Romero and Tom Savini. While somebody who never read an issue of Fangoria might have found the sequence disturbing, horror fans knew better. It was all part of the show. If you're going to be offended by something as innocuous as a horror movie, you're probably going to have a goddamn exhausting life.

Skip ahead to last night. After spending almost an hour flipping through my many, many options on Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, Midnight Pulp and Shout, I realized my tastes in horror movies had re-calibrated themselves. My wife was at work, my kid was in bed and I could watch anything I wanted. But everything just seemed too extreme, for lack of a better word.

Me watching horror movies as an adult.
Life has a way of accumulating taboos, whether you want them or not. In retrospect, it seems impossible to expect anyone to go through life without that "gore and chili dogs" perspective gradually eroding. There's a reason horror movies are designed primarily for young people. Unless they've had a particularly unfortunate life, the void between life and death seems so vast that the other side appears forever distant. For me, that gulf has not only diminished ... their edges are even beginning to rub against each other like badly aligned teeth. (For the record: Chili dogs are also 1000% more terrifying to me as an adult.)

Some of this can be partly blamed on the three-year-old child living in my house. When you spend your days worrying if your kid's next stumble will lead to stitches, the kinds of traumas inflicted in horror movies will put your empathy into overload. For me, a movie like HALLOWEEN now plays out like a Greek tragedy of parental failure. It's just not that much fun anymore to watch teenagers get dismembered by faceless maniacs. (I'll have "Things a Psychopath Says" for $200, Alex.)

Which leaves me with a bit of a problem in this, the season of my people: How the hell do you celebrate Halloween without bingeing on horror movies? It's too important a holiday to fake my way though, like Christmas. But last night's channel surfing left me a little worried that adulthood – that jowled, many headed beast – had taken one more thing away from me.

And then I remembered Zacherle, the late horror television host. I fell in love with Zacherle at age 6 when my parents gave me a copy of Ronco's "Funny Bone Favorites." Buried on that collection of novelty songs was Zacherle's "Dinner with Drac" from 1958. (Zacherle died last year at the ripe old age of 98, and had only recently retired from making festival appearances.)

Zacherle, sometimes billed as "Roland" or "Zacherley," hosted "Shock Theater" in Philadelphia from 1957-58 before moving to New York City to host "Zacherley at Large" for a year. He was a guest host for "American Bandstand" during the 1960s when Dick Clark was absent, made appearances in everything from CAPTAIN KANGAROO to Rob Zombie records, and was an all-around swell guy. While the competition is stiff, I'd argue that he's the best horror host in television history.

For some, myself included, Zacherle is pure, undiluted Halloween. And you can take a hit off that spooky bong whenever you like, thanks to his recordings. In my opinion, his first album remains his best. Released in 1960, "Spook Along With Zacherley" is a darkly hilarious album that features a lot of clever wordplay:

I'll send a small box of small pox
A large tub of hubbub
Your own noose for home use
A crate full of hateful

For some strange reason, "Spook Along" managed to omit "Dinner with Drac," which shows up on Zacherle's second album, "Monster Mash." (That album became a bone of contention for Bobby "Boris" Pickett, whose label took so long to get his own "Monster Mash" LP in stories that Zacherle's beat him to the punch by a few months.) But "Spook Along" is more consistent in both its choice of songs and its sketches. The radio spot for "Ghoul View Cemetery" is the best Rankin-Bass cartoon that never happened, while "Zacherley For President" feels like a better idea than ever. "Put a vampire in the White House just for fun!" Sign me right the fuck up.

The album also straddles a lot of musical conventions, both new and old. Because of his work on radio and television, Zacherle and his producers were in touch with the youth market, which allowed him to inject a little rock and roll and teenage vernacular into his songs. But the tracks also keep one foot in the kinds of playful ballads of the 1940s, creating a hybrid that was hip ... but not too hip. Revisiting Zacherle's music is more like revisiting Universal's best monster movies than it is the music of its time. "Spook Along" often feels older than its years, but in a good way. Much like Dracula, Zacherle is a ghoul eager to catch up with the changing times. Luckily for his fans, the big Z was more successful in achieving his goals.

In 1963, Elektra re-released "Spook Along With Zacherley" on its Crestview Records subsidiary and gave it a makeover. While the track list was unchanged, Crestview drafted none other than Jack Davis to create the art for the newly re-christened "Zacherle's Monster Gallery." For whatever reason, the "Spook Along" edition became the one that's lingered in popular culture, even getting a CD release in 2001. In August, though, Real Gone Music put the album back into circulation, this time with the Davis art and the "Monster Gallery" title. Pressed on orange and green "pumpkin" vinyl, the release is limited to 1,000 copies.

I ordered a copy of the pumpkin vinyl a few weeks ago, which was probably the first sign than my ambiguous feelings about Halloween were drifting to more innocent times. Although my respect for THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE is undiminished, these days I'd rather spend the holiday with the likes of Zacherle. It's the perfect sort of escapism I need this time of year. After all ... life sucks and we're all gonna die, so you might as well have a little fun before the bouncers toss us out.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Dark Shadows Halloween Gift Guide

The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries
She’s a witch. He’s a private detective. And when they get together, it’s magic … Lara Parker and Jerry Lacy team up for this anthology of tales about Collinsport's most unlikely detective team. This one features an appearance by actress Julia Duffy! Via Big Finish.

Mani-Yack Barnabas

Artist Jeff Carlson brings back one of the coolest oddities from the Golden Age of Monster Kids. Barnabas Collins never had a Mani-Yack t-shirt transfer, a regrettable oversight that Carlson corrects here. Via Redbubble.

Mani-Yack Monster Skirt
Another from Jeff Carlson, this skirt is decorated with the likenesses of classic monsters, and complements the Mani-Yack Barnabas perfectly. Via Ebay.

Dark Shadows or Slayer?
Why not both?  Via Zazzle.

Vampire Cabernet Sauvignon

It's got a cape. And maybe an aversion to sunlight. Via Amazon.

Dark Shadows Chiffon Top
This is a surprisingly terrific piece of art for a Redbubble product, which are often just "borrowed" photos carelessly slapped onto products like cell phone cases. Nice job, mystery artist! Via Redbubble.

Brach's Vampire Teeth Candy Corn
To be more specific, 3.8 pounds of candy corn. Don't judge me.

A Dark Shadows Blacklight Poster
I've shared the work of this artist before, and it went over extremely well. Since then, the artist has created a few more DARK SHADOWS pieces, including this character portrait showing Barnabas, Josette and Angelique. Via Ebay.

Dark Shadows: The Complete Newspaper Strips
Sadly, this item is going to be published a little too late for Halloween. I have it on good authority that the production of the book is going well, and is targeted for release at the start of the new year. You can pre-order the book online. Via Amazon.

A big-ass box of wax fangs
Does this product need a description? No. It does not. Via Amazon.

A really expensive pumpkin
Say what you will about Tim Burton's 2012 DARK SHADOWS movie ... but visually, it was amazing. If you're willing to splurge on yourself (or a loved one) you can own one of the prop pumpkins used in the film. Remember how it was set at Halloween? A plot point that served no purpose at all? Sigh. Via Propstore.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The weird, wild world of Dark Shadows beauty pageants

Atlas Obscura, an online magazine that describes itself as the "definitive guide to the world's hidden wonders," has a story today on the beauty pageants used by MGM to promote HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS in the early 1970s. These pageants certainly represent weird moments in a saga already littered with weird moments, and the feature's author, Eric Grundhauser, asked my for my perspective on them.

You can read the story HERE.

Binge on Dark Shadows with Decades this Halloween

Marathons of DARK SHADOWS have become a holiday tradition for Decades, a network that specializes in classic television. As a lead-up to its "official" launch in 2014, Decades broadcast 68 straight hours of the classic soap during the summer, followed later that fall with a weekend marathon at Halloween called "The Binge." This is the third year running that the channel has celebrated Halloween with a DARK SHADOWS marathon, which features a block of episodes pulled from the earliest appearances of vampire Barnabas Collins in 1967.

The festivities kick off 1 p.m. EST on Saturday, Oct. 28 with episode 257, at which point Maggie Evans is already a prisoner of Barnabas Collins. The marathon comes to a close at 6:30 a.m., Oct. 30, with episode 340, an episode from early in the show's color transition. If my math is correct, the Binge represents 83 consecutive episodes of DARK SHADOWS, during which TCM will also be broadcasting the feature films HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS (4:15 p.m. EST) and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS (6 p.m. EST).

On Oct. 31, Decades will also be airing a special episode of "Through the Decades" devoted to Halloween. The episode will include a profile on Harry Houdini, a look back at "some of the media's favorite monsters," and will showcase the debut of DARK SHADOWS. This episode of "Through the Decades" airs 7 a.m., 1 p.m., 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., EST.

Some readers are going to take issue with Decades repeating this block of programming, a modest episode pool that appears to make up the entirety of Decades DARK SHADOWS offerings. Sure, this narrow range omits a lot of the show's best cast members and characters, who are introduced a little further down the line. But it's difficult to argue that the early episodes of Barnabas Collins, with their cobwebby sturm and drang, represent DARK SHADOWS at its absolute Halloween-iest. If you were to ask a dozen fans of the series to select 100 consecutive episodes to air specifically for Halloween, there's a good chance most of them would draw from the same collection at Decades.

Click HERE to see if you receive Decades in your hometown.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: OCTOBER 16

Burke Devlin's fate was sealed on episode 345 of DARK SHADOWS, taped on this day in 1968.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Ghoul House Rock: Monster University Pajama Party


Once upon a time, Halloween's greatest anthems had an unforgiving, inflexible life cycle. Each year around Oct. 1, the likes of "Monster Mash" and "Purple People Eater" would begin trickling to local radio stations, allowed to run free for a few weeks before being promptly stuffed back into their cages by program managers on Nov. 1. That's the cultural tradition, anyhow.

But something interesting started happening during the 1970s. During one of the scheduled, unsupervised releases, music that was thought to be nothing more than a seasonal holiday began breeding with rock and roll. Thanks to acts such as Alice CooperRamones, The Damned, Blue Oyster Cult, Misfits and The Cramps, "horror rock" began to expand its tentacles outward from October, eventually mutating once-seasonal music into a perennial orgy of the damned. Yay!

Case in point: The Von Hoffman Orchestra's 2010 release, "Monster University Pajama Party." While mainstream acts have created their own distinct monster mashes, the Von Hoffman Orchestra crafted a near-flawless love letter to the kinds of Halloween novelty songs of the 1960s. The "orchestra" is actually the work of artist/writer/musician Mike Hoffman, who also created the cover art. If you visit his website you'll see the guy is supertalented.

There are a number of releases in his "Monster University" series, but "Pajama Party" is easily my favorite. From the slinky seriousness of "Island of Dr. Moreau," to the adorable creepiness of "Icky Feelings," the album isn't so much a pastiche of '60s Halloween  novelties as it is a distillation of them. The album has such an irreverent sweetness to it that it could also double as a children's album, though those children would have to be especially smart to understand its many references.

Speaking of references, "Pajama Party" has not one, but two tracks dedicated to DARK SHADOWS. The first is the chipper "The Ballad of Barnabas Collins," which deals with the problematic nature of our vampire anti-hero and his troubled relationships with Willie Loomis and Julia Hoffman. The second, "Dark Shadows," takes a broader view of the series and reaches the optimistic conclusion that we'll all be watching it "until the sun explodes." Both tunes take jabs at the show's inconsistencies, but it's done with love.

Also among my favorite songs on the album is its closing track, "Alma Mater." This is the literal anthem of Monster University, performed with Hoffman's terrific baritone as he encourages all the young monsters marching into "science, commerce and law" to do their best in life ... even if that "best" might result in a lot of terror for everybody else. The song actually makes me nostalgic for my own college years, which were comparatively boring and monster free.

Even though there's a rich tradition of Halloween-related parodies, those represent the only duds on "Pajama Party." Featured on the album is a somber parody of "California Dreaming," which somehow manages to be even more maudlin that the version by the Mamas and the Papas. It pauses once more to cover Rick Derringer's "Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo," re-titled here as "Halloween Hootchie Koo." I tend to skip these tracks when listening to the album, but the rest of the songs are so good that it doesn't really matter.

"Monster U, we love you."

The Dark Shadows Daybook: OCTOBER 13


Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 872

Petofi reviews his trip to the future with his blonde assistant, Miss Teschmacher, er, I mean, Beth. She’s to bury jewels and a magical painting to await them in 1969. Meanwhile, Pansy Faye is convinced that all are up to no good as she tries to suss out the new Barnabas Collins. Barnabas, in the meantime, is foiled by Count Petofi as he tries to follow Beth to the spot where she’s burying the Count’s treasure. Having thoroughly flummoxed everyone, Petofi uses the I Ching to escape to 1969.

There are two things in infinite supply at Collinwood… love and possibility. True, it’s usually a frustrated or perverse love, and true, it’s often the possibility for the worst to eclipse the best.  But there are moments when it’s the finest of those two things, as well. For me, 872 may contain my favorite “cliffhanger” of the entire series. As much as we recognize Petofi as a villain, he’s one of relentless optimism. The eyeglasses are poetic touches for a character driven by aspirational vision. It’s a singular vision. For all of his talk of evil, that may be shorthand for something else. Perhaps a necessary disregard for others -- one that enables him to move ahead at best possible speed. Others may be crushed if they get in the way, but then again, he may help them, also. Dammit, Jim, I’m an eccentric visionary, not a social services desk. Despite a name that ends in a vowel, he is the very picture of Victorian imperialism, now extending, Crowleyesque, into the forbidden world of the occult. Why does he do it? Is anyone fitter to rule? Exactly. And this effect is one of collaboration. We must remember that David Selby plays the part for weeks, and that both actors contribute to the part. Thayer David brings a charming sense of natural and unapologetic superiority, expressed with wit.  Selby delivers an athletic ruthlessness to the character. Together, they create a man who could only come about through teamwork with fabulous writers. Angelique’s workings were grounded in revenge. Nicholas? Power. Petofi? Sheer exploration. So, when he arrives in 1969 in triumph, I can’t help but to cheer him on. “Who Dares Wins,” and all that, don’t you know? Is he a rotten guy other times? Well, I mean, yeah. But let’s give him this moment in the sun of 1969.

This installment is also notable as being the closest DARK SHADOWS would come to farce. (I had to check that it wasn’t directed by Blake Edwards.) Schemes involving buried treasure? Check. Done by precariously trusted servants? Check. Wacky misdirection… with champagne... so that people can sneak around behind each other’s backs? Is our hero caught tip-toeing not far behind? Check. A stolen painting, right out of ANIMAL CRACKERS? Check. Oh, and a treasure map indicating pilfered jewels… and you just know it’ll get screwed up. All in all, a delight.

A treasure trove of promo photos from House of Dark Shadows

Despite its claims to the contrary, Ebay has never been more than a glorified flea market. Ebay vendors provide the same assortment of garbage, bootlegs, used books, over-priced comics, technological anachronisms and "vintage" porno mags you'll find at any flea market in America. And I mean that as a compliment.

Among that trash, though, you'll find an occasional treasure ... it just depends on how you define the term. While nobody is going to get rich selling photos from the 1970 feature film HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, I've come to the conclusion that this sizable batch of promotional photos (many of them fairly rare) from the film qualifies as "treasure." A few of these are common images you've seen before, in such far-reaching places as contemporary lobby cards to Kathryn Leigh Scott's many books about DARK SHADOWS. You've seen them. I've seen them. And they remain great.

There are a few in this collection, though, that I suspect even hardcore fans have never before seen. Some of these photos are so candid as to be baffling ... and there's one featuring Scott and actor Roger Davis that showcases some absolutely spectacular body language. You might already know that Davis and Scott weren't the best of buds during the making of the movie. If you did not, well ... this photo pretty much tells that story. (There are also two shots from the film's notorious deleted scene.)

If you're interested in purchasing copies of these photos, wander over the Ebay and you'll quickly find them. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy browsing though these images. Happy Halloween!

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