Monday, October 15, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: October 15


Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 874

Petofi must go on the run from gypsies as the power of the hand returns to Quentin, who uses it to restore minds. Meanwhile, Kitty begins to realize that she is Josette.

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly." — Ernest Hemingway, THE SUN ALSO RISES

Endings in DARK SHADOWS frequently feel like they happen in the same fashion: quickly. It’s jarring for a show where everything else is, to be polite, in no particular hurry. In the case of Jason McGuire, characters like Carolyn and Barnabas have simply had enough and they end his shenanigans unceremoniously. (Literally, since the wedding doesn’t take place.) Adam wanders away. In the case of Petofi, it’s a controlled implosion with a variety of calamities all happening around the same time. A disturbed jolt back from 1969. A rebounding Barnabas. Garth Blackwood. King Johnny’s widow. Beth’s cooking. Whatever Aristede brought back from Cabo. (Okay, I’m conjecturing the last part.) Still, for a character who’s been around for months, it’s a shock to see him undermined and petard-hoisted so quickly.

Putting almost all of the end in David Selby’s hands (or hand, in this case) is a master stroke. Petofi’s wit and strange gentility always seemed like a function of his ungainly physique. It was a source of humility beyond the deniable. In Quentin’s body, he becomes understandably and insufferably smug. And then far crueler with far less nuance to his approach. As far as games go, he’s moved from an elegant and Puckish game of go to football, with a brutal playbook, at that. By the same token, Quentin has yet another lesson in humility to learn, and he’s graduating with honors. I’m not surprised that the character is so boring when we meet him again. If I were Quentin, I’d be too terrified of life to do anything but wash my hands, walk old ladies to the grocery, and turn the pages for the chorus pianist. I don’t think Gerard drives him crazy; whatever happens to him on the Night of the Green Flag is the final chunk in the mosaic of All of the Things in Life that Can Go Horribly Wrong.

Not that it’s a miserable ride for the rest of us. Not here. Watching Petofi lose the power of his hand is like seeing Khan getting caught with his shields down. Although it would be fun to see Thayer David find a new way to chew the scenery, Selby’s eyes register shocked umbridge with olympian powers. It’s a bit of full circle. We met him as a petulant ghost, eyes blazing with disapproval and reproach. As human and humane as Quentin becomes, this is a nice reminder of why the man and actor were so captivating when we were first introduced.

As Petofi falls and Quentin learns his last lessons in responsibility, Barnabas is also on the ascendant, and it’s our warmest time with him. Watching him actually, really, I-swear-to-God get Josette back has a sweetness that even the show can’t yet believe. It metes it out as if we’re a deserving dog, they’re out of treats, and all that’s left is the fois gras. On our end, we’ll take what we can get, and yes, it’s fois gras. In the same fashion, it won’t last. It can’t. Happy characters don’t belong on soap operas, and it still feels like Barnabas has lessons to learn. Who knew they’d be so ugly? And it’s not like the fois gras is being served up by the shovelful. Kathryn Leigh Scott is charged with serving it in tiny bites at frustrating intervals. I have no idea if she ever got to play Nina in THE SEAGULL, but she gives the audition of her life, here. Seagull/Actress/Kitty/Josette, it becomes a blur that she navigates nimbly, and it’s her best acting on the show since the depths of her first of many kidnappings. Kitty’s transformation into Josette could have easily degenerated into a Carol Burnett skit, and if you’ve seen KLS on the inaugural POLICE SQUAD!, you know she’s an astoundingly underrated comedienne. The fact that she keeps it on just this side of credible (without degenerating into the dull) is a tribute to her sense of taste and discipline.

She plays one more character who’s not what she appears. As 1897 ends, almost no one is. Kitty is Josette. Quentin is Petofi. Petofi is Quentin. Barnabas is a human Doppelganger. Amanda’s a painting. Charity is Pansy Faye. And a sketch of Garth Blackwood is about to kill the Count. The deceptiveness of appearances is a bedrock of soap operatic writing, but DARK SHADOWS, epitomized by 1897, will never be content with only the basics. Curtis and the writers top themselves with no concept of ceiling. If appearances are deceptive, then they’ll deceive like they’re doing a daredevil stunt. Is it a stunt? Does it feel like it? No. It’s intrinsic to the story. Like Petofi’s end, it’s been so gradually cultivated, we don’t realize it’s upon us. So much of DARK SHADOWS could feel like a gimmick. From concept to credits, the show seems like it would be television’s greatest engine for gimmicks until you watch it.  The writers are too good for that, though, and so are the performers.

This episode was broadcast Oct. 30, 1969.

10 things I learned from Barnabas Collins

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Review: Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, Episode 5


These are the SPOILERS. They are AHEAD. Drink full and descend.

“I forgot what normal was like a long time ago…”

Remember last column when I was moaning about how nothing happened during that episode and I kinda didn’t love it? Well, serve up the holiest of crows, fellow creeps, because holy smokes, does Episode 5 really come back with a vengeance. While everyone was poised juuuuust on the cusp of stories last time, THIS time writers Joseph Lidster, Alan Flanagan, and Will Howells fling every character off the narrative Widows’ Hill they have positioned them on, much to the show’s benefit and my immense enjoyment. Every plot thread hanging at this point is drawn taut, some are even broken, as the serial starts to kick into a higher gear and delves into the in canon pasts of some of our leading ladies. But enough of my preamble-ing, let’s get into it.

Click HERE to get the episode.
So fresh off the truly bugnuts crazy cliffhanger of Amy’s infant son Tommy, who has skirted around the fringes of this story because...ya know...he’s a baby, being dramatically aged up by Angelique, Episode 5 drops us right in the thick of the craziness. Amy Jennings, played with a brand new steel and resolve by Stephanie Ellyne, really takes center stage this episode and it is a delight to behold. After a long incoming confrontation with the philandering Andrew, who seems to have a PHD in gaslighting, she then takes it upon herself to clean up the mess he made down Widows’ Hill. By confronting the immensely powerful woman that wove this magick.

This scene between Lara Parker and Ellyne is the highest point of an episode that is pretty much all high points. The writers give both women a very clear position as Amy appeals to the immortal witch simply as a woman while Angelique is baiting the hook for Amy’s return to witchcraft, dangling the spell to turn Tommy back into a baby in front of her, but only explaining it should Amy agree to perform it herself. It is a classic Dark Shadows stalemate and the production staff and the actresses themselves really get the most they can out of it. Hearing Parker and Ellyne palaver just as women and, more than that, women who have undergone immense trauma and come out the other side is a really powerful turn for the serial. This also builds on the natural rapport with Maggie Evans that Amy has been forming. Kathryn Leigh Scott is still kind of a utility player in this saga as of now, but her warm, resolute energy is a real boon for the story and a testament to the power of Scott’s presence on the show that she basically just be nice to everyone and barely do anything and I still love her.

Hearing Andrew also get his just desserts is also particularly satisfying to hear. The writer’s use this fight to drop a bit of exposition about Amy’s origins before this story as well. As a newcomer to the Big Finishverse, I really appreciate the deft handling of this info dump. It never really drags the scene down, which is great because all the actors involved (Ellyne, Matthew Waterhouse, and Scott Haran) are really giving it their all. Better still, it gives listeners like me a nice slice of context that doesn’t clutter the flow and intensity of the scene. The writers even double down on this move in regards to Kate Ripperton. Speaking of which…

Kate really shines in this episode, which is great because I feared she was starting to move more toward the background of the story in previous episodes. While I have been enjoying her and Frankie (a charming, but kind of bland Roger Carvalho) basically being the romantic leads of the story, I was wondering when they would really get some time in the spotlight and Episode 5 more than delivered on my wish.

Lidster, Flanagan, and Howells give both characters a meaty section of the episode as Kate starts reveal her darker side to Frankie, basically revealing that she lives for all the murder and mayhem that has followed her since seeing her friend possessed on live television. That is why she moved back to Collinsport, not to get answers like she said, but to immerse herself in the darkness that is Collinsport. Asta Perry really kills it during this sequence, dropping Kate’s boozy, flirtatious walls to show a vulnerable hunger for understanding and addict-like attraction to monsters and the supernatural. She ALSO discovered that her boyfriend has been enchanted to never explicitly talk about what is happening at the Collins mine which FINALLY makes some headway in the Mystery of the Mine, which was my second favorite Hardy Boys book. The first, obviously, being The Witchmaster’s Key.

Meanwhile, back at the Blue Whale, Ed is telling every damn body who will listen about his dead wife, much to the terror of his mother, Jessica. This section of the episode is kind of the weakest bits but I am glad to to see that the writer’s aren’t going to drag out the plot for too terribly long. I really like the dynamic between actors Marie Wallace and Jamison Selby (who I have been informed is the son of the famed David! Which is kind of mind-blowing to a newbie like me). They actually feel like mother and son, which makes Jessica’s apparent death this episode all the tougher to process. Yes, the killer stalking Collinsport strike again this episode, claiming her life and it sounds like the life of Andrew as well, though his ganking isn’t any real loss.

But no moment of the episode made my heart soar as much as the cliffhanger did. A cliffhanger that finds one Quentin Collins, DAVID EFFING SELBY HIMSELF, returning to Collinsport. He only gets one line, but I will be damned if it isn’t a great one. And all the sudden I am back in in a big, big way. I will admit that last episode left me pretty cold, but cheese and rice, guys, this one really picked my spirits up. And to think, all it took was some genuine conflict, a gaggle of intensely talented women, and the appearance of yet another Dark Shadows heavy hitter. Things are only going to get better from here and the wise and powerful Wallace McBride has personally promised me that my mind will be blown. I sincerely cannot wait.

NEXT TIME! Episode 6! Who cares what happens?! DAVID SELBY! I even knew it was happening and it was still a delight. Like, I audibly yelped in glee. I named my son after this character, how could I not?! Anyways, be seeing you.

Justin Partridge has always loved monsters and he thinks that explains a lot about him. When he isn’t over analyzing comics at Newsarama or ranting about Tom Clancy over at Rogues Portal, he is building Call of Cthulhu games, spreading the good word of Anti-Life, or rewatching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace for the dozenth time. He can be reached at the gasping Lovecraftian void that is Twitter @j_partridgeIII or via e-mail at Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Review: Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, Episode 4


Click HERE to get the episode.
Abandon All Hope of Avoiding SPOILERS Ye Who Enter Here.

Welcome back, ghoulies! Reporting live from my cramped vestibule of an office here at the CHS, I bring you yet another report on Bloodlust, Big Finish’s first major ongoing serial with the property after numerous “expanded universe” one-off stories and anthologies. Today we are going to talk Episode 4, the story’s first table setting episode and arguably the first low point for the story (at least it was for me, as a listener). Now before you gather your pitchforks and make like Transylvanians (though DID a mob ever come for Dracula? I will have to look in the archives later), that is NOT to say that this episode is outright bad. It totally isn’t! The production staff still make great use of the moody atmosphere they have cultivated so far, they give the cast plenty to do at least laterally, and deliver a truly stunningly weird cliffhanger to send us into the next episode. But all that still doesn’t make this installment’s arrangement of elements and characters any less than just that; arrangements. Again, not bad per se, but just not to the dizzyingly entertaining heights that the previous installments have reached. Let’s talk about it.

Okay, so, yeah, I didn’t love Episode 4. But that doesn’t mean I am phoning this thing in! I don’t even really have a phone. Well, I do, but every time I try to dial out, I hear was can only be described as a “yawning void of white noise” so I mainly just send a lot of memos around here. BUT my Lovecraftian tech support issues aside, there is still a lot of good to be found in this episode.

Mainly Lara Goddamn Parker. This episode gives us another ill-fated meeting between Andrew Cunningham (Matthew Waterhouse, who is really dialing up the sleeze of his character) and the witch Angelique and Parker finds a whole new gear for the character. In the last episode she is bombastic and showy, telegraphing her presence and power through her booming vocal turn and eerie effects backing from directors David Darlington and Ursula Burton. But in this episode, the pair start to talk specifics of their “deal” and Parker really plays it intimately, lowering her voice to a menacing coo, still backed by the ambient noise of the ocean outside of her cave and the ever present whispers of the widows. It really works wonders for the scene and displays Parker’s fantastic range. While it was neat to hear her go “full witch” in the previous episode, I feel like Episode 4 gets some better, creepier things out of Angelique.

There is also the matter of The Collinsport Teens, a group of characters that I find myself increasingly loving. After brushing up against the supernatural side of Collinsport, young Harry has to find someone to confide in. Does he go to the cops? Of course not, because what can the cops do? Does he go to his parents? Piss up a rope with that because what teen wants to talk to their parents? NO, he goes to his friends! The plucky Jackie and the rakish Cody! They don’t really do too terribly much during this episode, save for hear him out and believe him (them being born and raised in God’s Own Spooky Country and all), but I really like this turn from the serial. It gives it a real jolt of youthful energy and really nails the generational make up of the property’s past casts, which gives it all the more “fandom cred”.

Other minor, but nicely deployed reveals are centered around Amy Cunningham and the regulars over at the Blue Whale. You see while Andrew is tom catting around town and meddling in stuff he shouldn’t, Amy is finally looking into his reasons for moving them to Collinsport and what she finds is that, in the immortal words of Phil Collins, it’s all been’a pack’a LIES. The script confirms a suspicion that I had last time, that Andrew has looked into Amy’s packed away magick materials and learned about the hidden face of Collinsport. But it ALSO reveals that he has basically lied the whole way there, uprooting his family in order to track down ill gotten fortune and power, using his “recommendation” to the Star as a cover. Classic soapy stuff and one that will hopefully lead to Andrew getting some kind of bloody comeuppance, either at the hands of Amy or Angelique. I vote keelhauling.

This episode also takes a much more Stephen King-ian turn back the Blue Whale between Frankie and Ed. Ed, who has been slowly cracking thanks to Sheriff Tate’s questioning and his interactions with his ghostly wife, finally decides to give up the ghost (I am so sorry) and tell someone about his returned wife. This thread doesn’t really go beyond that, but it is a really nice way to finally get Frankie in on the action of the narrative, aside from just him providing an alibi for everyone that discovered Melody’s body. It is also a nice bit of grounded creepiness for the serial, supporting all the witchy action happening back at the base of Widows’ Hill.

I think a lot of this episode is really hung up on trying to get certain characters to certain places in order to really start to move forward, but the rub is, they don’t REALLY follow through on it. That’s where my use of the phrase “table setting episode” comes from. I once read a book that said act breaks should be marked by the characters making a decision that they can’t come back from. By that metric, this episode gets the characters riiiiiight up until the moment they will decide to do something but then stops cold. I know that that is kind of the nature of serialized storytelling and it was only a matter of time before Bloodlust took a bit of a dip, but if this is their version of a dip in quality, then we are still in pretty good shape.

NEXT TIME! Episode 5! The youngest Cunningham is now big, thanks to Angelique, but what does that mean for the Cunninghams? Will Andrew gaslight Amy some more? And seriously, WHAT THE HELL IS IN THAT MINE?! All these answers and more (hopefully) next time.   

Justin Partridge has always loved monsters and he thinks that explains a lot about him. When he isn’t over analyzing comics at Newsarama or ranting about Tom Clancy over at Rogues Portal, he is building Call of Cthulhu games, spreading the good word of Anti-Life, or rewatching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace for the dozenth time. He can be reached at the gasping Lovecraftian void that is Twitter @j_partridgeIII or via e-mail at Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: October 11


Taped on this day in 1968: Episode 605

Stokes reunites his old crew to conduct one, last caper to rob Eve… of oxygen! Can they pull it off or does Nicholas Blair have the upper hand? Stokes: Thayer David. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Julia dreams that Barnabas’ mission to Blair House will end in death. He’s incredulous at this news, but they recruit Stokes anyway. Stokes visits Blair to gather intelligence and make a schematic, having located Eve’s room by its aroma. Back at the Old House, he schemes to invite Nicholas for dinner and bore him with stories as Barnabas sneaks over and drugs Eve. Unfortunately, Nicholas has seen the entire plan be sketched via his scrying mirror. The plan works until Barnabas discovers the blanket stuffed with pillows and Angelique waiting in the wings.

The most unwise assumption about Dark Shadows episodes is that they’re all alike. After all, out of the Fightin’ 1225, how many can be that different? The answer is, quite a few. Yes, there’s a lot of filler. Yes, Sturgeon’s Law dictates that only 10 percent of the episodes are any good. That’s 125.  Not much? If we apply that measure uniformly, it means that there are only two good episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer per year. Fourteen in all. Sixty-four The Simpsons episodes, which is not bad by any means. But you have to be 60 Minutes to beat DS, and how many 60 Minutes festivals have you been to? Exactly.

When I think of the very best of the best of Dark Shadows, there is surprising variety, and nested within, this particularly luminous gem. And, of all things, it’s a caper story. There are two types of these stories out there -- all plot or all style. Thanks to the urbane wit of Gordon Russell, we get a beautiful blend of both with a classic DS punchline.

I love it when a plan comes together, and before it does, the episode appropriately assumes the form of the Barnabas/Julia Dark Shadows sitcom where the only thing missing is a laugh track. Barnabas is on his way to Nicholas’ when Julia stops him. She does nothing for weeks but harangue him to get off his caboose and be a man, and now that he does it, she stops him. Before you can say, “That’s Our Julia,” she gives her reasoning… a scary dream. Jonathan Frid nails his you-gotta-be-kidding-me mug, and I completely expect him to look at the camera and proclaim, “As always, the doctor is OUT!” You may think I’m exaggerating. Watch the episode and get back to me. The show was finding a real rhythm between these newer characters, and rather than lose steam upon declaring peace, the duo departs off like a rocket.

When fans reminisce about the overabundant, cheerful self-appreciation of Professor Stokes, 605 is what we’re talking about. After we’ve gotten used to Barnabas and Julia being polar opposites on this battle, Stokes comes in and unites them with a plan while making them look utterly rational. Characters on Dark Shadows spend most of their time bewildered, frightened, or in denial, setting Stokes up as the show’s most memorable hero as he revels in a carnival of confidence. Whether it’s pulling out the hand sketched schematics of Blair House, identifying rooms by their owners’ scents, finding Nicholas’ boudoir ‘depressingly overdecorated,’ or torturing him with Collins minutiae rather than Willie’s cooking, Stokes makes the scene. There’s even a subtle homage to Ocean's 11,  the camera hovering unusually high in the air, as Team This Old House plans their wacky assassination attempt around a fancy card table that Willie, I’m sure, set up in the drawing room. It’s nothing but endearing joy, and if the scene ended with Stokes, then Julia, then Barnabas (with ring) putting their hands down in a stack on the table, I would have been satisfied on a disturbingly cosmic level.


The only thing better than the planning is the execution. Julia is petrified, Stokes is reveling in the scheme, and Barnabas is only barely keeping the dishonesty cogent. Now, of all times, he becomes a troubled bluffer. Well, if you’re used to having the luxury of 171 years of claustrophobic imprisonment to cook up a good whopper, it might sting to suddenly have but a few hours to get your lines down. Of course, the layered joke is that Nicholas is completely aware of the scene since he has Amazon Prime, too, streaming the show on his mirror at home. As smart as they are, Nicholas is just indulging them, making him a gamesman on par with the professor. It’s just a shame he doesn’t know it. Think how much faster Dark Shadows would go by if everyone on it watched Dark Shadows. Nicholas clearly does. Given how far ahead he is, Nicholas could have stopped the Stokespack at any point. Letting Barnabas wander into a ridiculous trap consisting of pillows piled up under a sheet and Angelique hiding in the corner? That’s not just winning. That’s an editorial. Take that, professor!

This episode was broadcast Oct. 18, 1968.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

John Karlen, Robert Rodan added to Dark Shadows cast reunion

OK, so David Selby won't be attending the Dark Shadows cast reunion set for the weekend of Oct. 20 in Los Angeles. That one really stings. But to help ease that pain, organizers will be adding original cast members John Karlen and Robert Rodan to the lineup of guests that weekend.

Attending the Hollywood Show at various times are cast members Mitchell Ryan, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Roger Davis, and Lara Parker, Nancy Barrett, Jerry Lacy, James Storm and Christopher Pennock, as well as Dark Shadows composer Robert Cobert. That's a line-up that rivals the guest list for the 50th anniversary Dark Shadows Festival in Tarrytown, New York, back in 2016.

It's going to be a busy weekend, for sure. You can get additional details about this month's Hollywood Show in our original announcement HERE.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: October 9


Taped on this day in 1970: Episode 1125

When Gabriel and Desmond team up to find hidden treasure, will a darker destiny find them? Desmond: John Karlen. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Desmond ponders Otis Green’s final words as the head of Judah Zachary moves him to find even more artifacts under Collinsport. Thanks to Gabriel, who’s been managing the angst of Collinwood’s jittery residents, he locates a hidden vault in a graveyard. Within? A coffin trapped under a giant cross. From a secret panel, Desmond finds a golden mask, encrusted with gems.

1840 is a storyline beset with ambiguity. It’s one of the show’s darkest, most occult entries and also the real culmination of the series. Why it should also have so many unwatchable elements is flummoxing, and it think it’s due to the long struggle the sequence has to connect us to the characters. 1795 can be seen through Vicki’s eyes if need be, but if not, we already know Barnabas and kinda-sorta know Josette. The central mystery -- about how Barnabas became a vampire -- has been talked about and pondered for nearly a year. Everything revolves around that or the agent of that change, Angelique. 1897 strives to take greater autonomy, but the puzzle of Quentin Collins is at least about a Collins. We follow Barnabas as he is introduced to the family on a clear mission to save David, and the initial foray into telling the story apart from him is about one, central point of suspense -- the matter of the will. It also has some of Barnabas’ fingerprints involved since he’s the Family Secret that may be divulged as part of the inheritance.

1840 is a largely independent story that moves without Barnabas or even Julia, and without those surrogates, it’s easy to lose us. Quentin isn’t Quentin, and we don’t see that much of him in the beginning. Who is Desmond? Who cares? He’s got a head and he’s ranting at Letitia, who is sort of Pansy, but not Pansy in any way. Finally, we meet Gerard, and he’s not even entirely Gerard. He’s some guy named Ivan Miller who’s loafing at Collinwood… why? To take it over from characters we don’t know nor care about. He’s a frenemy of strangers, and then when he gets around to real evil, he’s not even Gerard. He’s possessed by the head. Wait. Okay. He’s Ivan Miller claiming to be Gerard Stiles, who is actually the puppet of a disembodied, silent head of a man from Bedford named Judah Zachary. The guy who influenced Angelique back when she was… what? Who is Miranda Duval? Did I miss a staff meeting? Is Nicholas Blair involved with this? Was this in an email attachment? Because I never read those.

Well, when you put it that way, it reminds me of why I like it.

Do you see my dilemma? Fascinating and yet strangely not. Then in an episode like this, you get lots of arguing about Samantha, and I only care about that because the story tells me to. Will anyone here who gives a rat’s patoot about Samantha Collins raise their hand? What? Not a single hand. Didn’t you people hit the Mitchum after your showered? No one? Yeah, no wonder Virginia Vestoff left Collinwood to marry John Adams. 

In 1966, Victoria gets dropped into a story that’s been well underway for twenty years or so. Why do we care? Because Vicki is stuck there. Her past is a blank, but she (and we) know that her only real and new home is one in trouble. Whatever affects these people will affect her because it will affect David, and he’s her job. Oh, and where else is she going to go? Vicki is firmly planted in the eye of that storm. We are all new to Collinwood, and by stranding her in the midst of it all, we explore those pertinent mysteries together. 1840 has no Vicki Winters, and Barnabas is too tangential to the storytelling. So is Julia. 1840’s challenge is not that it’s too slow or too fast or too complicated or too simple. It’s that it is too distant to why we really care.

Thank goodness that a severed head is involved. The occult aspects remain compelling, and their exoticism is of a grotesquerie and size that we have to learn more -- if only to see what it does. Any episode involving a severed head leading a man to a cemetery’s hidden vault containing a casket pinned shut by a giant cross can’t be all bad. And that it has a secret compartment containing a jewelled mask? Thank you, Dan. Those are the cherries in the fruit cocktail that we were fishing for. What else kept us afloat? We may not care what James Storm and Chris Pennock are talking about, but I’d watch them read a Denny’s menu and find it compelling. As much as anything, the pleasure they take in their acting is a delight, and that kind of dramatic sportsmanship may be the real secret to Dark Shadows after all.

This episode was broadcast Oct. 16, 1970.

Jonathan Frid spotted on the set of new Tarantino film

Quentin Tarantino gave portions of Hollywood Boulevard a retro-makeover during the production of his latest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Set during 1969 during the lead-up to the Tate-LaBianca murders, Tarantino turned back the clocks on a one-block stretch of Hollywood Boulevard located between Las Palmas and Cherokee avenues. The results, as you'll see in the video below, are rather startling.

While everybody with a camera was trying to get photos of stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, one person was kind enough to snap a pic of a bus bench advertisement for Dark Shadows. At this point in 1969, audiences would have been a few months away from the end of the 1897 storyline, the show's peak.

Tarantino has long been one of the more famous fans of Dark Shadows, but I'll be damned if I've every heard him actually discuss the show. Maybe Once Upon a Time in Hollywood's time period will jar something loose once he begins making the press rounds for the film.

Review: Dark Shadows: Bloodlust- Episode 3


The SPOILERS are coming from inside the house!

“I am the Witch Angelique Bouchard! I will string pieces of his SOUL across the UNIVERSE!”

Lara Parker and her legendary counterpart make a thunderous debut in episode three of Dark Shadows: Bloodlust. While the impact of the murder of Melody Devereux has started to creep through the town like a Twin Peaks-ian story fog, this episode really takes a hard right turn into the supernatural, amplifying the already pulpy elements of the story’s opening.

Click HERE to get the episode.
But that’s not all the production team gifts us this episode! We are also treated to the proper introduction of David Collins, played with a sly gusto by Alec Newman, star of the criminally underrated SyFy (back when it was proper Sci-Fi Channel) Dune miniseries and Big Finish’s Star Trek: Prometheus. Oh, and like...nine billion other Dark Shadows stories. If you’ll indulge me a bit of geeking out, Newman seriously knocked my socks off as Paul back in high school when I saw that miniseries and was ob-bloody-sessed with the "Dune" books. So it is extra cool as a newcomer to these ranges and seeing that he has basically found a whole second career, all thanks to this weird vampire show. Fandom rules. My thirsty woolgathering aside, Bloodlust Episode 3 is a real treat and gives the serial its first “can’t miss” episode.

A new day has dawned in Collinsport, but still the uneasiness remains. While writers Joseph Lidster, Will Howells, and Alan Flanagan are still introducing new characters into the story, they never lose sight of their core cast. For the Cunninghams, today is the first day of the rest of their lives, but little do we know just how much of the supernatural has crept into their reality. But the script quickly goes there as otherworldly forces start to juice up this story of already unnatural murder and everybody, in one way or another, is tangled up in it. It was only a matter of time, I suppose. Forget it, Jake, it’s Collinsport and it really gives this serial a grand charge in energy.

For Amy it is the paranoia and loss that life on the dark side brought her back at Salem U. That paranoia compels her to basically stalk a grieving Michael Devereux, who finally gets a proper showing of his range as a character thanks to Jeff Harding’s harried, but relatable performance. I am really glad the story doesn’t waste much time on revealing his and Amy’s relationship, introduced by last episode’s cliffhanger. I somewhat expected for them to pick up directly after that reveal this episode (because that’s what the show would have done), but giving the story a day in narrative to breathe and for the characters to meet on a somewhat more even playing field, though Amy kinda taunts Mike for a bit which gets some great stuff out of Stephanie Ellyne, gives their interactions a lot more weight.

But while this story continues to represent the show’s more soapier elements, it also doubles down hard on the eldritch elements of Collinsport lore thanks to the heap of shit Andrew and Harry Cunningham find themselves stepping in. You see while Mike is still maintaining that his and Melody’s honeymoon to Collinsport was by mere chance, the episode reveals that Andrew’s dragging his family here wasn’t and he seeks the power that can sometimes be found in the town. Matthew Waterhouse’s performance of Andrew is really bullish and, what the kids would call “extra”, but it works for the character, especially after the arrogant move he goes and pulls this episode.

Which is invoking the booming, deliciously evil presence of Angelique Bouchard (a commanding return from Lara Parker). This episode really goes for the gusto when it comes to spooky stuff and Angelique is hell’s own avatar for that. Though we still don’t know how Andrew knows about Angelique, the two inevitable start talking deals, which totally won’t get someone horrifically killed. Parker’s return is played like the big moment it is just on the surface level, but better still the script and the oppressively creepy stagey directions from directors David Darlington and Ursula Burton really elevate the scene to a real high point for Bloodlust thus far, both in regards to the plot and as a “Dark Shadows water cooler moment”.

Presumably, Andrew learned of Collinsport’s Head Witch in Charge from Amy’s studies in Salem, but with the way he’s been presented, I feel like it might be a bit more nefarious than that. Approaching her in her cave at the bottom of Widow’s Hill, where her minion Trask keeps watch, Andrew instantly asks for money, which doesn’t get me thinking he is altogether altruistic. The story also presents a super neat and creepy idea that while she is trapped in the cave, she is drawing power from the dozens of women who have met their end at the base of the Hill, which, if you don’t think that’s the dopest shit ever, I don’t know what to tell you.

Lara Parker is clearly relishing going full bore evil with Angelique and it is a joy to listen to. However this episode also starts to plant the seed for a face turn in her chance encounter with young Harry Cunningham. While the adults are busy adulting, Harry and his new friends, Jackie and Eagle (aka Cody), decide to take a little jaunt through the woods. The trio spy Henry’s da coming from the Collins Mine and then Henry takes to trying to track his father down as he goes about his witchy business. This leads to some real growth for Harry’s characterization as well as a chance for Scott Haran’s befuddled, but sincere performance of the teen to really shine. He basically becomes Collinsport’s Peter Parker after he and the Star’s Kate Ripperton get to talking and he shows her his pictures. He ALSO might end up being Angelique’s connection back to humanity after the pair have a chance meeting in her Cave of Whispers and the boy shows her a kindness. I am really loving all the new Collinsport Teens, to be frank. They are all really charming and fun and it is nice to see one of them get such active involvement in the plot against one of the show’s heaviest hitting characters.

I have already talked for SO LONG, GUYS, but I still feel like I have barely scratched the surface of this episode! I haven’t even mentioned the classic alibi shuffle Ed, Kate, and Frankie play once Sheriff Tate comes sniffing around the Blue Whale. Which is further complicated by Ed constantly talking to his dead wife, who is getting more and more bold with her manifestations. Also, David Collins! He’s got a plan for Collinsport and he bringing jobs with him, but what is really going on in that mine? Also how does Alec Newman SOUND handsome? It’s confounding, BUT intriguing. ANNNDDDDD, Melody’s full autopsy came back and she not only has puncture wounds on her neck! But also has older, smaller ones on her ARMS! Kate has a potential pill problem! GAAH! I am still marveling at how these episodes can jam pack so much story and mood into a single listen and I don’t think I will ever grow bored of it. Take a listen for yourself and you will see what I mean.

NEXT TIME! Episode 4! Witchy deals have been struck, now we just have to see who pays once the bill comes due. And fingers crossed for some vampires next go. Be seeing you.

Justin Partridge has always loved monsters and he thinks that explains a lot about him. When he isn’t over analyzing comics at Newsarama or ranting about Tom Clancy over at Rogues Portal, he is building Call of Cthulhu games, spreading the good word of Anti-Life, or rewatching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace for the dozenth time. He can be reached at the gasping Lovecraftian void that is Twitter @j_partridgeIII or via e-mail at Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: October 8


Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 868

It’s Barnabas versus Barnabas when Edward and Petofi encounter the twin of the dead vampire… but what will the coffin reveal? Barnabas: Jonathan Frid. (Repeat; 30 min.)

A delirious Barnabas, human, startles Aristede and winds up in an infirmary. Petofi (as Quentin) and Edward rush to the scene, convinced he is still the vampire. This Barnabas, surviving the sunrise, claims to have been duped and duplicated by the creature who menaced Collinsport in the past months. They take him to the coffin where the vampiric Barnabas is found staked and re-dead within. The “new” Barnabas faints at the sight.

It’s one of the most metaphysical moments in the series, and Barnabas needs to enjoy it while it lasts. As much, if not more, than any character in popular literature, Barnabas Collins has been granted the cursed opportunity to experience, explore, confront, and simply be with his own potentials for good and evil. In 868, the dance becomes wonderfully, horrifically, and strangely literal on a level that can only be matched with the logic of a dream. Imagine the terrible liberation of seeing the worst of yourself as dead and staked, knowing that you now have the second (or maybe third) chance to to be the best. Angelique’s brilliant cure is more than just a method to throw his enemies off the scent. She doesn’t only cure his vampirism -- she perhaps cures the moral decay that accompanied Barnabas as a result of the curses. He is now, in a very real sense, a new man. It is an opportunity as bountiful as the initial curse was detrimental. He’s already been a newer form of the beast upon emerging from his coffin in the 1890’s. Before leaving for 1897, Barnabas had been cured for some time. Nonetheless, he had to live with the guilt of his vampiric life as well as constant fear of exposure and concomitant retribution. As moments of humanity go, his first was profoundly lacking in the Zen department. In 1897, he gains a second chance at both the evil and good dimensions of his life. First, can he once again be his worst as the vampire he was and would be... and yet do the best? Yes. Unlike his previous immersions into vampirism (1795 and 1967), he controls and channels his dark energies for a larger mission, often employing his abilities to gain the advantage. He doesn’t even indulge in endless kvetching about a cure. His dark nature has become his last, best hope. He has realized that inner mastery. Now, the remaining mystery asks if he can retain that courage and will to act if he’s transformed once more by the blue eyed fairy of Angelique from a wooden puppet of the occult and into a real little boy, once more. In 1795, the human Barnabas was a naive, proud, impulsive of perpetual victimhood. The powers of the Nosferatu changed that. Becoming the worst in yourself is a helluva way to grow up, but how can you really be your better self until you have harnessed and tamed the monster within?

These are normally issues of simple metaphor, but what is art’s task if not to alchemize the metaphorical into the real so that we can actually see it rise, fall, and still talk about it the next day? Similarly, Barnabas has lived a metaphor twice, with an intermission of humanity in between. Just as we see it in the story, he experiences it in his life. And of course, Josette should show up again. The One who started it all. How will he respond? How will she? It looks like the final exam, and the cruelty of DARK SHADOWS is that it shreds the blue book before he even gets to see the grade. Because it’s not really the exam. This taste is all he’s given before the Leviathans will attempt to rend his humanity again, Parallel Time will give him a reason to seize it, and Judah Zachary will force him to cling to it under the worst circumstances. Yes, Barnabas faints at this glimpse of himself in the coffin, but he now has no greater lesson in why he fights.

It’s a vital moment in the arc of the man and the story, and it goes by in a blink. It’s yet another way that DARK SHADOWS is the most poetically realistic program on television. Humans ponder the worst for days, weeks, months, and years only to be confronted by profound epiphanies that flash by before you can appreciate them. Barnabas is all of us in that sense, but luckily for us, he lives in the realm of art. Ultimately, it’s not his job to appreciate those moments; it’s ours.

This episode was broadcast Oct. 22, 1969.

Review: Dark Shadows: Bloodlust- Episode 2


Warning! Spoilers Ahead!

“Where is she taking us?” “To the bottom of Widow’s Hill.” “The fact that you can’t hear how threatening that sounds tells me a lot about this town…”

Welcome back to our coverage of Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, creeps. Poor Melody Devereaux is yet another innocent lost on the streets of Collinsport, but Sheriff Rhonda Tate is on the case as writers Will Howells, Alan Flanagan, and Joseph Lidster double down on their stocked cast with even MORE wonderful actors, mingling them well with the already established cast. Because you see, Amy Jennings has come back to Collinsport, but she isn’t alone. And it just gets better from there, y’all. Let’s get into it.

Click HERE to get the episode.
Though the murder of Melody has shaken the town, life moves forward and that is precisely what Amy Jennings, now Cunningham, wants to do. With her new husband Andrew (played with a snooty glee by Adric himself Matthew Waterhouse), his son from a previous marriage Harry (Scott Haran, making a moody teen somehow not grating), and toddler in tow, Amy is looking for a fresh start in Collinsport. We should all take bets on how that turns out. BUT, my snark aside, Stephanie Ellyne’s Amy is a wonderful new addition to the cast and continues the series’ commitment to giving characters a new EU like life in the Big Finishverse (is that a thing? It should be a thing.). 

Better still, this episode also does a fantastic job of folding the new additions into our established company. This episode is essentially trisected into three narratives, given vibrant sonic life by directors Ursula Burton and David Darlington (whose new theme tune I just love to bloody pieces), all branching out from the opening scene of Amy and her family coming across the crime scene of Melody’s murder. From there the writers get everyone interacting and then fan out from there, Amy having catching up with Kate and Maggie Evans (who thankfully gets a ton more spotlight this episode), all of the teenage characters engaging in some fun and creepy hijinks down Widow’s Hill, and Andrew quite literally mixing it up down at the Blue Whale. With none other than Isiah Trask!

One thing that has really struck me as I start to dig into these audio adventures; their economy in storytelling. Meaning that they really know now to make great use of the limited runtime of each episode. I might be thinking too much into it, but if I was to look at this episode’s story on a macro level, it wouldn’t look like much. Really it's just another introduction to another section of the cast and they all just meet the previous people introduced…minus, ya know the dead ones like Victor. BUT the production and performances of the episode really make it immensely listenable and engaging.

I have a couple of theories as to why these stories work so well. One is that the creative team really knows how to use its cast and returning characters in a smart way. Nobody has been stagnant since their last television appearance or in canon audio feature. Maggie has started what Kate calls “a vigilante group” for Dagon’s sake! Amy got married to Adric! Isiah Trask is a rummy! It is seriously all so fun and starts off this serial in a really interesting way that isn’t just rehashing certain other plots or directions. Another is the gravitas the cast brings to the proceedings. It would be one thing to tackle this big of a story with a whole new group of actors. But it quite another to bring the likes of Jerry Lacy and Kathryn Leigh Scott into the fold. It adds an air of legitimacy to the proceedings. My final one, for now, is just that these are damn good stories, well told, with a bunch of characters I legitimately love hanging out with now. Collinsport has its own Riverdale Gang now with Henry, Jackie, and the supremely adorable Cody, I mean Eagle, are hanging out and pestering a ghost that sounds an AWFUL lot like the one who Victor Frost heard before he bit it. How could I resist, honestly?

My boorish Millennial ravings aside, episode two of Bloodlust  really capitalizes on the promise of the debut episode by introducing a whole new gaggle of characters, bouncing them off of everyone else established and dishing out some more juicy details about the latest creepiness to whammy the creepiest town in New England. Again! That bloody wonderful story economy! While each plot branches out, they all start to flower really beautifully on their own heading into the episode’s cliffhanger. A couple of big things come from these story flowers, if I am committing to this metaphor.

First off is the revelation that Amy and the grieving Michael Devereaux know each other! This is the beat that sends the episode off so clearly the creative team are letting us know it is important. It comes at the end of a really dishy drunken gossip session between the powerful coven of Amy, Maggie, and Kate which really allows the older women of the cast shine and flesh out their characters (Amy is decidedly anti-monster and it's a fun bit of character work). But for my money, the most interesting ones are the ones happening with the Tate ladies and creepy ass cave at the base of Widow’s Hill. Recruiting the newly moved in Henry to an exploration, Jackie (a increasingly charming Alexandra Donnachie) and Walles Hamonde’s Cody- who I THINK may be the first in canon gay man in Dark Shadows? I will have to check that with the head office - take him to the beach where Cody swears he has heard whispering. The very same whispering we heard back in Snowflake.

But that isn’t all! Melody’s autopsy has come back. And she has been completely drained of blood! Who doesn’t love and Ghost/Vampire double feature! This reveal is interwoven with Andrew’s story climax which is his fight with Trask, who says something ultra creepy about a “Mistress”. HMMMMMMM. Kind of small potatoes when it comes to the episode’s other turns, but I still had fun with it. And I can’t lie and tell you all that I didn’t get excited once the episode confirmed my suspicions about Trask lurking around this story. I am only human, of flesh and blood I’m made like the Human League said.

In closing, another fantastic episode of Bloodlust, one that brings back all the supernatural charm and high dramatics of the property in an economically constructed, fun, and, best of all, accessible package. It is still early days in this story, but episode two really builds on the solid foundation of the debut episode and prequel, setting the stage for major turns and all sorts of other twists in the wings.

NEXT TIME! Episode 3! Who drained Melody? What are the whispers in the cave? And perhaps the most pressing question of all, when the fresh hell does Alec “Bae of the Bene Gesserit” Newman show up?! Be seeing you. 

Justin Partridge has always loved monsters and he thinks that explains a lot about him. When he isn’t over analyzing comics at Newsarama or ranting about Tom Clancy over at Rogues Portal, he is building Call of Cthulhu games, spreading the good word of Anti-Life, or rewatching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace for the dozenth time. He can be reached at the gasping Lovecraftian void that is Twitter @j_partridgeIII or via e-mail at Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.  

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Podcast Alert: Bodice Tipplers

If you're a subscriber to The Collinsport Historical Society podcast, you'll find something unexpected in your download queue at iTunes: a new podcast titled Bodice Tipplers. While I'm still struggling to resurrect the CHS podcast, my wife Sara and her friend Courtney have launched a new booze-fueled look at trashy romance novels. If the cover art for their first title is any indication (Victoria Holt's "The Pride of the Peacock") Dark Shadows fans will find a lot to enjoy in this podcast.

You can download the episode as an MP3 file by clicking HERE, or stream it below.

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: October 5


Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 863

Who dresses like a rake, worships Satan, and is about to dig his own grave? Evan Hanley is about to find out! Humbert Allen Astredo guest stars. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Petofi bluffs his way through surviving Quentin and Evan’s assassination attempt.  As a result, Petofi forces Evan to dig his own grave. At Collinwood, Trask and Judith are reunited, and he is disturbed to find her far more autonomous than before.

863 is bookended by fantastic sequences of supernatural skullduggery and diabolical derring-do. In the middle? You know, a soap opera. What do you expect? Somehow, it’s still candy, and we can thank Jerry Lacy and Louis Edmonds for cooking it up. Edmonds, especially, is taking delight in finding newer and newer depths and dimensions to Edward’s gamesmanship. He reveals fondness for his siblings while never letting them forget where they stand. Of course, it’s easy for an Edwardian prig to grow sentimental about his family when 1/3rd of them have been possessed by a foppish, aristocratic sorcerer. But I don’t need to tell you these things.

1897 is wrapping up, and you can feel it both flagging and heading toward the inevitable semi-climax. It’s impossible to say that they have used every trick in the trunk, but the writers have been here for spring and summer of 1969, made huge choices, completely transformed Quentin into a reformed, if boring, immortal, and gone through two entirely new characters for Kathryn Leigh Scott, Thayer David, and Roger Davis. The show is on its last fumes of really top notch ideas, and the fact that 1897 ends neither with a bang nor whimper is quietly indicative of the mixed bag DARK SHADOWS will become.

As fumes, go, though, pass the bag. These are actually good for you. Humbert Allen Astredo plays a powerless drone with disturbing precision, and David Selby excavates deeper and deeper levels of malicious delight as Petofi revels in Quentin’s body and life. Any article mentioning Selby hovers on the edge of being a fan letter replete with hearts in the margins. But dammit, the man simply owns a set like few others. Ultimately, it’s his mind that makes this so. Active, observant, poetic. Maybe a PhD does make you a better actor. I’m not certain. But it was one of the two best casting choices that Dan Curtis ever made, and although I can read about the hysteria for the show at this point, I can only imagine what it was actually like. I wonder if the writers had planned on Quentin becoming Petofi before this sequence began. If they didn’t, it’s a further testament to Selby’s acting that they made a risky commitment like that.

If this episode exists to do anything, it is to squarely position Gregory Trask to, um, take up permanent residence in Quentin’s room. Trask is an interesting pest in the 1897 sequence, although he ultimately doesn’t seem to do a lot. In the most macroscopic sense, I think his ultimate purpose is to make Edward appear witty, warm, and likable by comparison. If that’s the case, it’s a job well done. And after his ancestor’s turns in 1795 and 1968, it’s satisfying to see the DSU take another chance to knock him around. In ways that have yet to be explored, the Trask dynasty is just as vital as the Collins’ to this story, and perhaps that will eventually be explored. Just bring a mason or a metaphysician. They have a habit of getting stuck behind walls, in bricked up rooms, or parallel dimensions. 

This episode was broadcast Oct. 15, 1969

Review: Dark Shadows: Bloodlust- Episode 1


Warning! Spoilers Ahead!

“Tell me, my children, do you believe in...MONSTERS?!”

Click HERE to get the episode.
Big Finish’s massive 13-part new saga following the Collins family and the cursed town that bares their name begins in Bloodlust Episode 1! In celebration of Big Finish’s rerelease of this sweeping story, in which this first episode is available now for FREE on their website, with the remaining episodes being released on a bi-weekly schedule at a reduced rate, we here at the CHS, led by yours truly, will be taking you through the whole story, episode by episode. All from my Bob Cratchet roll top I have set up in a forgotten corner of the Society's hall. Should I make my bones on this, who knows? I may move up in the world! Get that electric lamp I’ve been coveting so I don’t have to keep schelping up to Bangor for lamp oil. By reviewing each episode semi-regularly along with the releases, we can really dig into and discuss the unfolding events while also getting ourselves good and ready for the looming sequel, which is sure to be yet another big hit for the publisher. And so, welcome to Bloodlust. I hope you enjoy and survive the experience.

Right from the jump, Alan Flanagan, Joseph Lidster, and Will Howells’ script, brought to life by the dread filled direction of Ursula Burton and David Darlington, instantly captures the mystery and charm of DARK SHADOWS. A young newlywed couple, Melody and Michael Devereux, have found themselves honeymooning in Collinsport. Their choice seemingly made by the universe as Melody randomly chose the place from a map. But as the episode clips along, the couple find a town that takes none too kindly to strangers, one gripped by a sort of dread. This episode’s story is mainly focused on the newlyweds but the writing staff still do a lot with just a little.

After arriving at the train station, checking in at the Inn, and meeting its kindly owner, Maggie Evans (actual ray of human sunshine Kathryn Leigh Scott), the pair then start to take in the sights of Collinsport and the story gets down to the good work of introducing us to our cast. A lot of these people we got passing mentions from thanks to Victor Frost’s dying confession back in Snowflake, but this episode finally puts some faces with names. At least as much as audio can do that.

First up we have Ed and Jessica Griffin, played by Jamison Selby and Marie Wallace. This mother and son team now own the Blue Whale and treat Melody and Michael to a nice honeymoon meal, complete with free champagne. But there is something vaguely sinister about the questions Jessica keeps asking the couple as she really taps into that pervasive paranoia that citizens of Collinsport inherently have when it comes to newcomers off the train. They are a bit like Westworld hosts in that regard. Then there is Ed, a recent window. Ed has a secret and that secret is the ding-dang g-g-g-GHOST of his dead wife that he talks to in the store room, even though unsuspecting newlyweds like Michael might hear.

We are also treated to a quick, but charming introduction to Jackie Tate (a bubbly Alexandra Donnachie), the only person who showed poor, doomed Victor Frost any kindness. Jackie is a good time gal, who is seemingly involved with Maggie, who is now running a sort of “Anti-Supernatural Club” and holding meetings in the Blue Whale. There is also a wild-eyed priest who also accosts the couple, providing the deliciously creepy quote that I opened this piece with. Victor makes brief mention of this nuisance in Snowflake and, even though we don’t get his name (YET), I will be damned if he doesn’t sound a lot like Jerry Lacy! Surely, we won’t be hearing from HIM again, he typed sarcastically.

Finally the pair meet one Kate Ripperton, editor of the Collinsport Star, played with a sort of Catherine Tate like spunk by Asta Perry. Ripperton is one of the standouts of the episode due to her boisterous energy and her, admittedly, over expository dialogue with the couple. She casually mentions that the Collins family is no longer in canning (which explains MY canning from said Cannery) and have now sunk their fortunes into mining, as they dig deeply into the town’s crust looking for...something. Also, the only occupant of the infamous Collinwood is now David Collins, having taken up the mantle of the “Collins’ Most Reclusive Member” from his grandmother Elizabeth.

So there is obviously a lot going on now, but Episode 1 still has a neatly fun anchor thanks to Melody and Michael. Though the actor who plays Michael, Jeff Harding, plays him very close to the chest, amplifying the character’s baked in squareness, he plays an excellent straight man to his new wife, Melody (Daisy Tormé exhibiting a level of charm to rival GRAVITY FALLS’ Mabel Pines). The pair, of course, meet an unfortunate fate, one that will serve as the inciting incident of Bloodlust but honestly, what did you expect from strangers that just HAPPENED to show up in Collinsport, a burg with a high per capita murder rate than any city from a Grand Theft Auto game? That said though, the time we spend with them as they take in the sights and meet the citizenry of Collinsport really feels worthwhile and offers up a few more tantalizing clues as to how they will fit into the overall narrative. I mean, I don’t think it's a coincidence that they picked this particular town to visit and couple that “happenstance” with Melody being an orphan, just like another charming young woman that was summoned to the town decades ago, and you have a whole lot of intrigue introduced in very little time.

One down, 12 more to go, but if Episode 1 is any indication, then we are in for one helluva ride talking through this thing, fellow ghouls and scholars. I am not entirely sure what kind of game this serial is laying out just yet, but I am very much interested in it, after hearing this opening episode and taking in its grim delights. I also can’t really articulate how cool it is to be hearing new stories in Collinsport, complete with a brand new, majorly awesome revamp of the classic theme tune. Big things have small beginnings and Bloodlust Episode 1 starts this story off with charm, vibrant performances, and plenty of dread sure to please fans of any stripe.

NEXT TIME we take a look at Bloodlust Episode 2, in which a murder is investigated and the town starts to reveal it’s true face. Be seeing you. 

Justin Partridge has always loved monsters and he thinks that explains a lot about him. When he isn’t over analyzing comics at Newsarama or ranting about Tom Clancy over at Rogues Portal, he is building Call of Cthulhu games, spreading the good word of Anti-Life, or rewatching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace for the dozenth time. He can be reached at the gasping Lovecraftian void that is Twitter @j_partridgeIII or via e-mail at Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.  

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Dark Shadows: Snowflake — A Ghost Story for Hallowe’en


Spooky Season is upon us now and Big Finish sought to give us a gift. All throughout the month of October, they are re-releasing their mammoth 13-part DARK SHADOWS miniseries Bloodlust. Even better, the first episode and it’s prequel are available for nary a red cent RIGHT NOW! Every few days, with the use of the code DARKSHADOWS2018, listeners can enjoy the rest of the series at a vastly reduced rate. This release schedule is designed to emulate the show’s serialized life on television, giving new rubes like me a real ground floor opportunity to experience the miniseries in its entirety before the sequel, Bloodline, drops in April 2019.

Also, to be frank, I am new to the CHS. We haven’t gotten the chance to really bond as of yet. So the benevolent Wallace McBride sent word from the Old House and assigned me this macabre beat. I am happy for the work. You all know how it is with all the murders at the Cannery and just the lack of small business in and around Collinsport. Anywhoozlebee, yours truly will be covering the whole mcgillicutty as episodes release. Delving deeply into Big Finish’s first big swing with the property, one that brought back fan favorites and introduced new ones in a sweeping opening saga.

But let’s start at the beginning, shall we? I have read it is a very good place to start. The prequel to Bloodlust is an intimate, goth-as-hell creepshow called Snowflake - A Ghost Story for Hallowe’en. Released as a free teaser of the incoming series in October of 2014, the one track tale might not seem like much at first, but really portends of some proper creepiness to come. A posh P.I. by the name of Victor Frost (played with intensity by Daniel Collard) has been summoned to Collinsport by a mysterious client known only as Mr. Snowflake. The client has an odd request. Frost is to poll the citizens and ascertain whether or not the people of the town believe in ghosts.

Joseph Lidster’s script, presented as Victor’s final recording to an unseen Alex, really lays the groundwork for the incoming series well. “Have you ever been in a school at night? THAT’s Collinsport.” intones Victor into this recorder. Collinsport and horrific lore surrounding it take center stage in this story. Victor comes to town looking for answers, like any other yokel we have seen in the past. He visits various landmarks of the town like the Collinsport Inn (which Maggie Evans now owns), the Blue Whale, and the infamous Widow’s Hill. Lidster really keeps the story contained and focus on the grimness of Collinsport and it instantly invokes the lingering gothic charm of the town and property overall.

Director David Darlinton also gives this opening story a richly eerie production value throughout its running time. Starting with a startling pop of an old tape recorder and armed with the lashing of rain against Victor’s hotel window throughout the tale, Darlington really closes the sound in the listener, highlighting the text and Collard’s performance. When I first listened I thought that the constant rain effect would grate on me through the headphones or distract from the story, but by the time I had taken it in, I realized that the effects and various other highlighted sounds (Victor drinking a glass of wine and the shuffling of papers) were mixed really nicely into the track, giving it a extra layer of performative horror perfect for the Season of the Spooky Sound FX Records.

As Victor continues his survey he meets a new character, Jackie Tate. Presumably Jackie factors in heavily in Bloodlust, I think at one point Victor identifies the town sheriff as “Jackie’s Mum”. She fits a neat Carolyn Stoddard like mold in this story as Victor interviews her about the town. He finds her a restless, youthful type of character. Jackie also points Victor to his doom at the base of Widow’s Hill, where a mournful spirit lies in wait, driving him insane and exacerbating a sort of creeping dread that Victor has discovered has infected the town. Lidster’s script only has a short fifteen minutes to ostensibly tee up the incoming saga but the story found in Snowflake is a really eerie standalone experience all on its own. It will be interesting to see how this whole tale factors into the serial especially after its dramatic black magick infused ending, but if you’ve ever wanted just a clear, creepy entry point into Big Finish’s bigger works then it doesn’t get much better than Snowflake

If I was to choose the best way to get me excited to take on a massive 13-episode serial, I would choose “Moody, Dread Filled Prequel Story” and that is precisely what Snowflake - A Ghost Story for Hallowe’en is. Tautly written by Joseph Lidster, given sonically pleasing gothic atmosphere by the direction of David Darlington, and performed by a leveled intensity by Daniel Collard, this prequel story really gets me excited for what Big Finish has in store for me and the other jabronis that didn’t listen to this thing the first time around. Dark Shadows: Snowflake is available on the Big Finish website as a free download. It’s worth every penny.

NEXT TIME! We will be looking at Bloodlust Episode 1, which is also available on the Big Finish website for free! It’s Halloween, y’all. Let’s act accordingly. Be seeing you. 

Justin Partridge has always loved monsters and he thinks that explains a lot about him. When he isn’t over analyzing comics at Newsarama or ranting about Tom Clancy over at Rogues Portal, he is building Call of Cthulhu games, spreading the good word of Anti-Life, or rewatching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace for the dozenth time. He can be reached at the gasping Lovecraftian void that is Twitter @j_partridgeIII or via e-mail at Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.  

The Dark Shadows Daybook: October 4


Taped on this day in 1968: Episode 600

Barnabas learns that the unknown tastes of garlic and ennui when he allows a dead Frenchman to enter his body. Eve: Marie Wallace. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Eve grows restless, and her attempt to seduce Nicholas fails when he instructs her to stay with Adam or be destroyed. Meanwhile, Stokes deduces that the ghost haunting the area is Phillippe Cordier, a man who chronicled the French Revolution. Cordier confirms this by possessing Barnabas at a seance. He was the former lover of Marie Roget and intends to punish those who took him. Elsewhere, spectral hands choke Adam, and Barnabas suffers as well. 

The Gold Key comics are bizarre, European supernatural stories that have something vaguely to do with DARK SHADOWS. Episode 600 is the Gold Key comics version come to life. I keep looking for the mummy, the electricity dragon, and the Revolutionary soldier. And that fact that it’s episode 600 is a big deal. The writers are too busy, with too much story to tell, to get mired in sentiment. Still, episode 600 is no small accomplishment, and if it just so happens to have some extra trills and glissandos, well, it’s no surprise.

This is one of my fondest periods of the show, and 600 epitomizes why. Because the driving arcs and interconnected characters and storylines are what give DARK SHADOWS its dramatic heft, there’s something endearingly goofy about the latter part of the Adam/Nicholas/Eve/Angelique. It has no real relevance to the larger story, making it a  self-contained non-sequitur. Most of the other storylines connect with the past or future of Collinwood and reveal important elements of the family and key characters. But once Barnabas sits down at a seance to contact the destructive and departed French lover of the ghost of the woman whose life-force was used to spark the reconstructed body of a lady intended to be the mother of a new master race for the dark lord, the series is off the chain. This is a show where Barnabas solves new paranormal whodunnits every week. It’s no longer DARK SHADOWS, it’s Saturday morning’s THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BARNABAS & FRIENDS. I’m amazed that they don’t cut away to unrelated sequences where Barnabas, Julia, Stokes, and Willie have a rock band and sing songs about bike safety. 

They throw story continuity the occasional bone by referring to the fact that Nicholas must keep Barnabas alive to protect Adam, but that’s it. And the nutty part about that element is that it pretty thoroughly removes Barnabas from danger and nerfs a major element of the tension. Somehow, it’s a nerfing that happens in the best way. In monster-of-the-week shows, we want heroes to be inconvenienced more than threatened. And there are few things more inconvenient than being inhabited by a Frenchman’s ghost during a seance. 

Marie Wallace continues to let the DS universe know that she’s here to stay… at least for the next fifteen or sixteen months. Marie and Eve are both very different presences on DS. The idea of a physically imposing beauty is the most Dan Curtis idea that Uncle Dan had never deployed, and her grandly intense acting choices match his zesty sense of storytelling. Eve has every reason to be DS’ most openly sexy character. An alien from another dimension of life, she was literally created to mate. With Eve, DARK SHADOWS rationalized how to be openly erotic without apologies. Her most amusingly manipulative moment in 600 comes when she begins kvetching about women being the helpless puppets of men. Yeah, sure. But she believes it will work, and it’s a nice try. Eve may be one of DS’ most revolutionary character. The rest all follow vague molds; Eve is wholly original. There’s an agenda, and yet it’s a private one. Of course, she’s the Bride of Frankenstein, and she benefits from the fact that the Bride does nothing after coming to life but hissing, screaming and being blown up. And even a Gold Key comic would give the Bride a tad more to do… and probably black stockings to do it in.

This episode was broadcast Oct. 11, 1966.

Dark Shadows: The Dollar Box of Forbidden Mystery

Social media is a never-ending psychic nightmare of cruelty, ego, depression and anxiety. So, if you're going to engage with it at all, you might has well have some fun. I work hard to distinguish the various social media accounts of The Collinsport Historical Society so that you're not seeing the same content in every feed. These accounts have developed their own personalities and appetities over the years, and it's of utmost importance that they be fed daily. But it's unrealistic to expect everybody to follow them all. Which means, ultimately, that you're only getting part of the story if you omit any of these puzzle pieces.

The website is the hub for the entire experience, so it's important to occasionally redirect its many currents here. For example, you might have seen the faux cover art for a "Victoria Winters" spinoff comic online earlier this week ... but unless you've follow the CHS on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr you haven't seen them all. I'm not going to waste any time explaining the joke (you'll either get it or you won't) but below is the entire series of covers, complete with the off-model depictions of our heroines you'd expect from a 1960s cheapie comicbook. As a bonus is the cover for the short-lived spinoff of the spinoff, "Maggie Evans."

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