Friday, December 14, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 14


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 388

Can threatening the life of an innocent child land a girl the man of her dreams? Angelique is about to find out! Angleique: Lara Parker. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Angelique revels when she cajoles Barnabas into admitting that he hates Josette. His animosity is short-lived, however, and as Trask tries to exorcise Vicki, Barnabas admits that he still loves his former fiancée. Angelique reacts by threatening Sarah’s life.

Is it any wonder that Barnabas is so obsessed with Josette? Actually, I’m not sure that he is. If he’s obsessed with anything, it’s feeling like more than a dope. The one who’s obsessed with Josette is Angelique. It’s all some bizarre inversion of #MeToo as Barnabas is a vaguely powerless employer at his harassing employee’s beck and call. Not satisfied with destroying Barnabas’ engagement and landing his insincere kisses, Angelique won’t rest until he literally says he hates Josette. The only thing that would have satisfied her more would be if he’d crossed his arms and stamped his feet while he did it. Inevitably, this just makes him morbidly curious about why she hates Josette so much. Nothing drives someone into the arms of a rival like talking about them constantly.

It’s a painful episode for everyone. Angelique is uniquely relentless in her quiveringly ecstatic campaign to force Barnabas to curse his “new aunt” to the rafters. Frid’s native, on-camera jitteriness sells Barnabas’ uncertain commitment, at times looking like he’d rather kiss the Collinsport Afghan than plant one on Angelique. Nevertheless, he later shows more compassion than most when having, I kid you not, a “let’s be friends” treaty with Angelique. As unspeakably cruel as she is this this episode, extending her envious rage even to Barnabas’ kid sister, I can’t fault Angelique for not accepting the demotion. It’s the extent of the refusal that is appropriately appalling. Angelique’s strength lies in her audacity. She is emotion given life, and as such, an anti-Spock… and the Klingon that Martok only thought he was. The character is eventually one of the show’s most admirable. She just has to kill a child, first.

Her threat is so horrific that Barnabas wouldn’t fathom anyone, even Angelique, carrying it out. That’s evil’s secret. It’s shockingly honest. They got it wrong when they stuck Satan with the title, “Prince of Lies.” Lies are small-time and timid. Lies are products of fear. Real evil is fearless, perhaps out of ignorance. Perhaps out of audacity. It not only makes its plans known… it serves them up under glass. It’s anticipation and delivery. Angelique delivers both.

On her part, she learns the eventual decency to make up for it. It’s under strange circumstances… immortality, where the memory of your misdeeds is probably a worse punishment than the agnosticism that accompanies death. Atonement becomes a lifestyle by necessity. Barnabas exists on both sides of the spectrum. He would live -- and not live -- to take her seriously. The guilt, anger, and ongoing memory of powerlessness explains the spectrum of his behavior. Evil used him, so he might as well use it. In for a penny, in for a pound. All of that. And then, like Angelique, a cycle of constant reconciliation. It’s a ruthless contrition for both of them, but contrition anyway. In a story of many breaking points, is this not just a one, but THE one? It can be hard to respect Barnabas as the endlessly complex, troubled hero that he is when you see his actions upon first arriving in the 20th century. He’s become old companions with death. The acquaintance costs him everyone he loves. We know what he goes through to see Sarah again. To have even one of the others back -- Josette, in this case? Yes, murdering strangers to feed, kidnapping to court, and brainwashing to propose? That’s nothing compared to what he feels he condemned Sarah to suffer. This is moral madness, and Angelique is both architect and minotaur. Maybe, his eventual navigator. Unforgivable? Yes, she is. But what else are you going to do? In a life of mortal length, unforgiveness is a luxury. Immortals haven’t the time.

This episode was broadcast Dec. 20, 1967.

Step back in time with The Collinsport Historical Society podcast

Where has the time gone? One minute you're having a perfectly innocent séance with some friends and family, the next you're standing on the gallows with a noose around your neck and weathering accusations of witchcraft. Time really flies when the laws of physics no longer apply.

Case in point: Today marks the sixth anniversary of The Collinsport Historical Society podcast. It feels like yesterday that I first tried my hand at adding a multi-media aspect to the website, when in fact it was 2,190 yesterdays. We've published more than 80 episodes since then and it's been a terrifying, rewarding experience. The series stalled not long after the birth of my child and has since been kept afloat but the folks at Big Finish and, more recently, Bodice Tipplers. During our presentation at the 2016 Dark Shadows Festival we had requests to bring back the podcast, which was incredibly flattering. The idea was to reboot it in earnest this year (I even have a cool new theme for the show!) but the production has since been rolled into a larger plan that will come to fruition during the first quarter of 2019. We've got big, big plans for the new year and I don't think you'll be disappointed.

None of this was a factor back in 2012, though. It's not a secret that the podcast happened almost by accident. Kathryn Leigh Scott had agreed to do an interview with the website and I was looking for an alternative to writing notes by hand while speaking with her on the phone. Recording the call was the easiest solution to that problem and, after that, it seemed more interesting to simply share the audio. I roped in Patrick McCray, Will McKinley and Jessica Dwyer to provide commentary on House of Dark Shadows and a single-episode experiment turned into a series. It remains our most-downloaded episode, even edging out interviews with Humbert Allen Astredo, John Karlen and our Remembering Jonathan Frid special.

If you haven't heard it, you can listen to the episode below. Click HERE if you want to go spelunking in our podcast archives.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Sexy Pirates Podcast Alert!

If you subscribe to The Collinsport Historical Society podcast you already know there's a new episode of Bodice Tipplers available. Feel free to go about your business. For the rest of you, the latest episode (the fifth!) is about the 1977 Fern Michaels novel "Captive Passions." I made the image at the top of this post because I find that kind of shit funny, but it's not far off from the tone of the actual book.

What does this have to do with Dark Shadows? Not a goddamn thing! But my wife is one of the podcast hosts, and I love her and want her to be successful in life. That should be a pretty easy concept to grasp.

You can listen to the "Captive Passions" podcast below. You might want to visit the Bodice Tipplers website first and review their content warnings before diving in. They've also got a cookie recipe and information about their musical guest Futtock Shrouds.

Also: Look for Bodice Tipplers on Twitter and (ugh) Facebook!

I'm beginning to think Facebook might be evil, y'all

If you're reading this, you probably didn't get here from Facebook.

About a month ago the increasingly sinister social network "adjusted" its analytics for the umpteenth time, contiuing to alter who sees what on Facebook using an opaque, draconian system of values that it refuses to disclose. This happens often, suggesting a great many things ... none of them especially good. In the past these changes were often followed by pleas from content creators asking you to adjust your own behavior to overcome these new obstacles put between us by Facebook. "Don't forget to 'follow' our page!" "If you like our page, don't forget to leave a comment!"

I see fewer of these requests than in the past, mostly because content creators have given up. Facebook makes its money by selling advertising, but the value of that product changes from week to week. Facebook will ask you to pay to promote your page to gain more followers, and then ask you to pay to "help" reach those new followers. And then it randomly (?) adjusts its analytics so that fewer of those new followers see your content. Wash, rinse, repeat.

And the system is only getting more obtuse. Facebook doesn't like its users to leave Facebook, so links to other pages receive less visibility. (They do such a good job at this that we frequently find people who think The Collinsport Historical Society is a just Facebook group.) If you use an image or photo with "too much text" (however that is being defined this week) those images can also be flagged as possible advertising and be hidden from timelines. Frequency is even a problem: Post too often during a single day and the bartenders at Facebook will cut you off.

About a month ago Facebook adjusted its analytics and the traffic to this website dropped precipitously overnight. I've never seen such a sudden change in traffic here. You can review some of these changes yourself on The Collinsport Historical Society's Facebook page by looking at the number of engagements on post take a steep dive ... we are reaching fewer people on Facebook  despite having the largest audience we've ever had. It doesn't make much sense to invest sweat equity into a platform that is so invested in self destructing. It feels a little too much like lending money to a junkie.

If you like what we do, I'm not going to ask that you dive into your Facebook settings and make a bunch of changes that benefit us. But you might consider skipping Facebook entirely and visiting this website directly.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 12


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 922

When Amanda Harris has a long delayed date with death, Julia learns that the best is yet to come! Werewolf: Alex Stevens. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Grant Douglas investigates the Tate house only to confront a werewolf and promptly punch him. The werewolf flees only to briefly encounter Amanda Harris, who confesses to Julia about her past. Spurned by Quentin in 1897 New York, on a really impressionistic bridge set, she tried to leap to her death after being greeted by an aging dandy named “Mr. Best.” Going unconscious, Amanda wakes up in a strange, otherworldly hotel lobby called “The Stopping-Off Place.” Mr. Best agrees to keep her young until a day on which she is destined to die. She needs to find Quentin, first. Decades later, she is still young. As she finishes telling all to Julia, a knock on the door reveals, you guessed it, Mr. Best.

There is so much going on in episode 922 that you would need the combined powers of all of Craigslist to unpack it. I mean it. And it has more Zen implications than a Kung Fu reunion movie. Right here.

This minor storyline? This old thing, you ask? Why are you making a big deal out of that? Aren't we just waiting for Christopher Pennock to show up?

Well, cosmically, we always are. But let's focus on Dark Shadows. Mr. Pennock will be glad that there will be actual, serious, Zen material later in the article, but I gotta talk about my vampire stories, first.

Because it doesn't really feel connected to anything as important as the Barnabas/Josette/Angelique core story, and because it all kind of loiterers at the beginning of a Leviathan storyline that will still be going on, bafflingly, months from now, this segment is easy to write-off. Or maybe it's easy to write it off because, while its story elements are more interesting than anything else going on, the show's treatment of them feels almost dismissive, at best. Yes, I realize that they are in a hurry to get Quentin back, but once they do, they don't seem to know what to do with him. Here. In the Stopping-Off Place. Because here, dueling with Mr. Best, he has a purpose. And his immortality gives him the unique sparring partner that only an anthropomorphised death could really be. Unfortunately, this is almost a case of, “what if someone gave a storyline and nobody showed up?” Like the prior episode, “Quentin, Chris, and the Foppish Android,” this is a great idea with so little airtime and arc impact that I have to remind myself that it happened. I need to consider this my permanent Post-It. 

There is a huge question lurking in and around this episode, and that’s “Who’s in charge?” In a little over a year, we have met three contenders for the Ultimate Boss of Evil in the DSU, and it can be debated who are the puppets and who is the hand….

Bachelor #1 runs an immense operation of punishment, demons, and Gothic office furniture. He likes the music of JS Bach, blonde women, and dominating the world through an army descended from the union of reanimated cadavers. Give a sunny Burbank welcome to “Diabolos.”

Bachelor #2 is a already hooked up, but looking for a third! He and his partner may be snakes in the grass, but that’s only because these nature lovers predate time, itself, and they wish to bring about the rebirth of an ageless serpent god to consume the planet. Heads of an immense, secret cult of powerful publishers and ludicrous, fur coat-wearing hipsters, get out the heat lamps for Oberon and Haza.

Bachelor #3 is the special guest star of this episode. A smooth-talking man-about-town, he loves fine suits, friendly wagers, and A View from the Bridge. Drop in at his saloon, The Stopping Off Place. And don’t be in a hurry when you say hello to the original ladykiller. Won’t you find out why they all call him “Mr. Best”?

I’d like to say that my money is on the Caretaker, but I think I can build a more solid case for Mr. Best. Why? It’s a process of elimination… and of limits. Oberon and Haza are much like Diabolos -- all three are obsessed with ruling the world. When you have an entire universe of planets to meddle with, wanting to rule these balding and squabbling apes seems a tad unambitious. I guess it’s to get back at a god who displaced them, but they must not be that great or they would never be bent on revenge. And who needs to rule existence, anyway? The upkeep and insurance are outrageous. And don’t even get me started on the utilities. As I shoulder all of that burden, does existence raise even a finger to help me? I think we both know the answer. All existence does is take perfectly good matter and turn it into energy, leaving me to spend half the morning turning it back into matter. And existence still doesn’t even have the decency to come by once a week or so and watch an episode with me for the Daybook.

Well, existence, you’ll get yours. You gotta sleep sometime, and when you do? Bang! Kobayashi Maru! That’s my friend, Mr. Best. You know… your other binary half. Did I say half? I meant more than half. Death is the transition between being and nothingness, and he is the Lord of Nothingness. Have you ever tried to take Nothing away from him? Nothing. Not just the absence of something. Nope. Nothing. Nothing in a form we can’t even conceive, because to do so would be to dignify it with a name, and once you describe it, it stops being Nothing and becomes a Thing. There you go, Mr. Best. Ruler of everything as it goes on to become something indescribable.

So, what does he do? Well, he’s the ruler of death, not time. He’s not psychic. Now that matter exists, he might as well do a tad of wagering. Amanda Harris. Wants to off-it by jumping off a bridge. Well, Tate created her, so who knows if she’ll die? But… wait. By creating matter from only imagination -- and from bending both matter and energy through paintings that transmute or bestow the effects of both matter and energy….

Oh, man. Mr. Best isn’t the most powerful being in the DSU anymore. I actually think it’s Charles Delaware Tate.

Roger Davis. Roger Davis. 

Yeah, Charles Delaware Tate.... and he still lost a babe to Quentin! 

Why? Because, as this episode demonstrates, Quentin can punch a werewolf right on the jaw. That’s the important part. He lands the ladies because he knows all of the werewolfian weaknesses.  We can pontificate all we want, but we tuned in for a man punching a werewolf. A man punching a werewolf we received.

And that’s how you get Capone.

This episode was broadcast Jan. 6, 1970.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 11


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1172

As Barnabas faces his ultimate reckoning, can Julia risk an alliance with Gerard? Lamar Trask: Jerry Lacy. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Trask walls his father’s murderer up in the basement of the Old House in a grand gesture of revenge. Julia smells foul play, and Quentin faces a trial without a key witness. Meanwhile, in trying to contact Joanna, Daphne finds herself in a trap.

It occured to me that he could have just slugged Trask.

But he doesn’t.

I keep waiting for an episode to come along where I can depict Barnabas with Falstaffian grandeur and call him “the great man.” Those come along sometimes, but he’s usually just a man. Yes, sometimes “the man,” but just as frequently, a man. With or without fangs. And therein lies what makes him so rich and compelling and fallible as a protagonist. A matinee idol like Quentin would have wrestled Trask for his gun when faced with the alternative of locking himself in shackles for a last taste of amontillado. Barnabas realizes that he has a better than average chance at being shot and dying very painfully on the spot. Does he imagine that Julia and Angelique will come to his rescue? I’d like to think so, but more than likely, he is just out of plans. Not that he was ever much of a planner. Only in times such as 1897, when facing off with Laura, does he really emerge as a chessmaster of note. For the most part, Barnabas, like all of us, is a lucky improviser. Sometimes, aided by his unique and inconsistent application of honor. Often bested by it.

At least he appreciates the irony of becoming definitively mortal just in time to die from it.

Chances are, Barnabas is a coward. And so what? Like Graves’ Claudius, it’s kept him alive. Yes, yes, he shows bravery many times. Usually out of immediate necessity. Sometimes out of love. Maybe even the right thing. But out of all of literature’s heroic protagonists, Barnabas consistently finds himself over his head and struggling to get by. For all of Quentin’s propensity for scrapping, where does it get him? Aristede, Jeb, and even the occasional werewolf may be slowed down a tad by his right hook, but just slowed down. Had he dematerialized like any self-respecting Collins, the most it would have cost him is a little pride. For all of his moments of impudence, Barnabas has far more episodes of being bullied at the core of his mantle of apparent strength.

Bless him for it.

I think this is the real secret of his appeal. He’s not Captain Kirk. Even one hour out of the week. That would be exhausting. Who can keep that going? He’s more like a vision that Q might show Picard of how he’ll end up if he doesn’t take a knife to the chest as a teachable moment. But Barnabas appears in and around 188 hours of Dark Shadows. Kirk? About 69 of his show. That leaves him 119 more hours than Kirk to dodge stakes, bullets, and hex-hurling wives. And he could really use a Spock, because Willie isn’t cutting it and Stokes has papers to grade. He has a McCoy, but only after she stops trying to blackmail and poison him for months and months. The guy is very often on his own. I don’t know about you, but it has a familiar ring for much of life. Not all, but much.

Sports and Lord of the Rings are for people with a steady flow of friends. It’s an ugly truth that sounds for all the world like mopey self-pity if I say that Dark Shadows is for the rest of us. And good for it. Sometimes, the friend stream goes dry because of bad choices. Sometimes, just bad luck. Sometimes, as with the Julias in life, we push them away because of incessant Goldilockism or because we think we don’t deserve them. And sometimes? We’re just, you know, vampires. This show is a bountiful companion, yes. 450 hours of it. But at its core, the program is that most dreaded of artforms; the teaching tool. And it exhorts us to persevere. Yes, Barnabas is often a stiff-necked coward and the most imperfect of heroes. But he endures. His plans often are incredibly sudden, ill-conceived, and born from compromise, but he has them. He tries to regain Josette. He goes to 1897. He returns to Parallel Time to save a Maggie he barely knows. These are his friends -- or the closest things he’ll concede. He may be a coward, but you’ll have to chase him the extra mile to call him that, because that’s where he begins. Most heroes are who we’ll never really be. But Barnabas? He’s who we are. Despite it all, he holds fast to survival, and he if can, so can we.

This episode was broadcast Dec. 22, 1970.

A Very Special Holiday Audio Review: A Collinwood Christmas



“Is there NO corner of this HOUSE without an imprint of DEATH?!”

Happy holidays from my cramped Dickensian office here at the Collinsport Historical Society! Ah, December! The snows! The sniffles! And the crushing panic that looms during Christmas! How better to alleviate said bad juju then by taking a look at one of the two audio stories with the word “Christmas” in it, A Collinwood Christmas! Taking place shortly after the 1897 storyline, Lizzie Hopley pulls triple duty here, writing a wonderfully twisted send up of A Christmas Carol and then delivering two powerful performances as gypsy wise-woman Ivanka Romano and Catherine Collins. The latter marking the first canon appearance of the character, Jamison Collins’ doomed wife, aside from passing mentions. If you have ever wanted to inject more of those ghosts stories that “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” is always yarping on about while also delivering a moving tale of holiday character rehabilitation then Dark Shadows: A Collinwood Christmas is the audio for you!

So, not even five minutes into this audio, Jamison Collins (played by David Selby’s son and the man named after the character Jamison Selby) thumps his butler but good in the midst of a feverish nightmare he is having. You see, things have pretty much gone to rot in Collinwood and Jamison doesn’t really seem to care. After knuckling his man Steadman (played by Big Finish staffer James Goss), the embattled butler buttles over to The Old House where gypsy sage and spellcaster Ivanka Romano is residing, telling her that Jamison is off his nut and his children, young Elizabeth and Roger, are now her responsibility.

Just to state the obvious, Lizzie Hopley’s performance of Ivanka is...a bit camp to say the least. Maybe even a touch stereotypical in some instances. But I really believe that Hopley’s impassioned and empathetic take on the character on the scripting level and when it comes to her interactions with Selby really keeps it from skewing too hard into high camp, or even worse, offensive. Hopley’s Ivanka is driven by a true altruism and desire to see the children of Collinwood taken care of. That in itself gives the story instant emotional stakes, but Hopley’s script carries it a bit further once it starts building the relationship between her and Jamison.

Anchored to the tried and true structure of A Christmas Carol, the wise woman takes him on a journey through his and his infamous house’s past in order to stake him from his grief and open his eyes to the crumbling life he is subjecting his children too. I won’t lie, I kind of got a little misty thinking of poor tiny Roger and Elizabeth basically having to live in squalor with a slowly going loony father, so if that was the intention, Hopley friggen nailed it. My oversensitivity aside, the structure has become legendary because it bloody well works and it really works for this story in particular.

Aside from the emotional implications of it, it also provides some truly harrowing scares throughout, funneled through directors Joe Lidster, Darren Gross, and Jim Pierson’s keen sound design and staging. As Romano works a spell to shake Jamison from his funk, she unwittingly gives rise to literally dozens of ghosts and a long dormant sorcerer who has fused with the shattered glass of the house’s closed off dance studio, James Unsworth’s Redmond Van Buren, who gives the story a truly horrifying, cleverly designed Big Bad. This is a tremendous hook for the story and lets the directors and Hopley kind of play around with the history of the house, opening the spectral door for all sorts of juicy cameos in the form of clips from previous episodes. I was a touch concerned early on that this would feel like an untethered compilation of a bunch of stories that I hadn’t heard before, but I was pleasantly proven wrong by the way the story weaved them into the narrative, allowing them to heighten the heart and shocks of the tale throughout.

In short, I think fans of the period Dark Shadows arcs or those looking for a spooky Yuletide diversion into hopeful horror will find a lot to love about A Collinwood Christmas. I am not sure how it stacks up against the other “Christmas” Big Finish story, The Christmas Presence, but I certainly had a lot of fun with this one. It is rooted in the star crossed bedrock of the show’s “The Collins Family Vs. Gypsys” narrative, features a boatload of cameos from Dark Shadows heavyweights like Jerry Lacy, Kathryn Leigh Scott, and more, and, just for a top off of the ol’ eggnog, it is pretty great story just on it’s own! So if you are looking for something to cut through the monotony of the all-day Christmas Story marathon and you’ve already watched Scrooged a few times, turn down the lights, fire up some candles, snuggle in with your loved ones, and get spooked the hell out by A Collinwood Christmas.

From all of us here at the CHS, Happy Christmas, and I’ll 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, December 10, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 10


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 919/920/921

When Chris and Grant match wits with a killer android, will they win… or will the werewolf? Chris Jennings: Don Briscoe. (Repeat; 30 min.)

At the home of Harrison Monroe, an eerily young Charles Delaware Tate taunts them from the dark until a hurled object decapitates him, revealing it to be a synthetic human. An aged Tate controls him from behind a curtain until Chris forces him to make a magic painting that doesn’t work to prevent his lycanthropy. Meanwhile, a new iteration of the Leviathan messiah, the teenage Michael, flexes his muscles against Philip.

The most notable thing to get out of the way is strictly mechanical -- what’s up with the numbering? The program had a numbering system that corresponded to the days on which they were shot and shown. With the interruptions of the Apollo missions, which were now three or more events (ignition, lunar excursions, and splashdown) longer than a few months before, they needed to force a realignment with certain days of the week to get their numbering pattern right.

The moon plays a significant role in the episode, of course, and it makes me wonder if Apollo mania had anything to do with the timing of the Quentin storyline. His first transformation was about a month and a half before the Apollo 11 launch. It’s a nutty reach to tie them too closely together, however, the world’s obsession with the moon certainly didn’t hurt at the time. It’s similar to the interest in vampires in 1967. The introduction of Barnabas Collins was shortly after Henry Kissinger confessed to being of the Nosferatu. You remember.

The Wild Wild West arc reaches its apex here. As tempted as I am to chide the show for letting a significant plot element go undeveloped, I also congratulate their discipline on not falling down that rabbit hole. While robots are a particular fascination for me, the show -- take note, for it may be news --  is not about robots. This may come as a shock to fans of Sky Rumson, but it's nevertheless true. Could they have fit them in? Yes. Clearly. Charles Delaware Tate builds one; Quentin destroys it. I am pleased enough that automata make a guest appearance in the DSU, and it's established that Robots Happen if you possess true genius, live long enough, can create cursed paintings and… wait!

That’s it!

Well, that explains it.

Clearly, Tate’s power resides in anything artistic.  This isn't a robot at all. It's more like a golem. A golem made to look like Roger Davis, because it's a sculpture of himself. I wonder if he even knew that it would come to life when he made it. If so, it must have been his prized creation and primary companion as he became Harrison Monroe. A narcissist’s dream of a RealDoll! To what extent did the sculpted RoboTate --brought to life by the second-hand Powers of Petofi -- appear to the world? Even more challenging and entertaining, did it also inherit the unique powers of its creator? Hey, Joe Lidster. I got it! The TateBot gets loose. Maybe it creates a secondary Amanda Harris? What if Nicholas finds out and enslaves it to finish what he tried with Adam? Petofi has to come back and stop him, thus pitting Petofi against Nicholas Blair. And they fight on the edge of a volcano. Yeah. I like the volcano part. And there's a car chase and an undersea lair and Petofi escapes in an aquapod with Jenilee Harrison. Not a character played by Jenilee Harrison. No. Jenilee Harrison. Then they drink champagne. 

Back to the drudgery of non-reality, let’s continue about Dark Shadows. The show was never about high-tech -- well, except for the high-tech used to bring Adam to life. Having robot duplicates running around would imply obligations to an entirely larger story. Perhaps a more interesting one. And who has time for that when there’s a remake of Magnum PI to actively oppose? But even if the RepliRoj is only a golem, it’s such an interesting new dimension of mythos that I wish the show had come back to it. At this point, the show is once again solidifying itself as a Jack Davis poster come to life, with an age-encrusted Roger as the Wizard behind the curtain as well as a young version skids to a halt by a taut extension cord.

Chris Jennings has come a long way from his entrance (kinda) a year ago where, despite being a werewolf, he scoffed at the supernatural chicanery of holding a seance. Now, he stands shoulder to shoulder with the actual Quentin Collins, facing down a golem and demanding a cure from a sorcerer-touched artist. Many Collinsporters just aren’t made for the supernatural. They go the way of madness and wind up like Joe Haskell. But Chris isn’t really from Collinsport. He’s a tortured swinger, and he’s learning to grab century-old men by the lapels and force them to paint, damn them paint! Why doesn’t it work? Lack of time? Lack of nuance? Maybe he’s old and it just turns a little werewolf. Whiskers. Maybe bad breath. You don't understand! Ngghh!  The pain!

Meanwhile, the Leviathan story loses some of its pervisity, but gains actual character depth as the bizarre tot despot, Alexander, evolves into Michael, a bright and aware teenage stage of the Jebolution -- a creature destined (like so many on DS) to be eventually undone by his capacity for love, and by that, I mean his libido. The power struggle puts viewers in a morally ambiguous spot, and that’s typical for the show and the medium… and maybe it’s the secret to its allure. In the words of Stan Lee, “Bring on the bad guys!”

Why do we watch stories? One of the reasons is to see the change that we experience all too rarely in life. Soap protagonists kind of match us because they experience a lot of struggle, but little true change. After all, soap heroes stick around, sometimes for decades. So, who changes? Short timers. Short timers destined to experience radical change. Other than victims, what other short timers experience radical change? Villians. If we want to see the change we rarely get in life, it’s hard not to quietly root for them. They’re the ones making things happen and shaking the barnacles off this one-lobster town. Villains have self-determination, and they revel in it. That's what makes them the secret heroes.

Even if golems.

This episode was broadcast Jan. 5, 1970.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 6


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 645

When David and Amy are trapped in Quentin’s room, will they become the next morbid relics in his collection? Amy: Denise Nickerson. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Finding a dead man in the sealed chamber, along with a working gramophone, David and Amy are sealed inside until they agree to do Quentin’s bidding. Their first morbid task involves moving a rocking cradle from the Old House. After charming Barnabas and Liz, the two return to see someone they call to as Quentin within the room.

The prelude to 1897 deliberately builds the mystery of Quentin Collins one purposeful layer at a time. This is a reminder of how the writers took advantage of the soap format to load, but not overload, the audience with a mosaic of details. Most recently, a voice on a long-dead phone, a hidden room, a gentleman’s skeleton in an office chair, a Victrola’s phantom melody (included in an episode for the first time today), and now -- we think -- Quentin, himself. The origin of Barnabas literally tells itself, mostly within a few episodes of the character’s introduction. Quentin’s makes us work for it and rewards us proportionately. Perhaps the most macabre detail is the infant’s crib that Quentin makes David shlep from the Old House to his chamber.

One of the fascinating things about Quentin is that he reverses -- or at least delays -- the typical pattern we see with specters. When I think of most haunted house stories, I think of people encountering spirits who try to get humans to go away. By contrast, Quentin recruits them. Of course, the fact that it’s David and Amy is a coincidence, but who else would have been as vulnerable? David has a father who is rarely around and Amy is missing both parents and two brothers. Well, one of the brothers, anyway, during Collinsport’s almost constant full moon. Quentin and Beth, like cult leaders, provide that family. They craft occult scavenger hunts and arts & crafts projects. They laugh a lot. They wave their hands menacingly. They bulge their eyes. What more could you want in an undead surrogate uncle? There’s a bizarre logic to it all, besides Quentin wanting to permanently “release” Chris from the curse, dominate Collinwood, and respond to Jamison’s abandonment by slowly killing his identical descendant. Quentin seems to need human attention and contact. The more he gets, the more powerful he becomes. Is this some last occult working he arranged in life? That’s another good reason to seal off the wing. Short of burning him, what other way is there to isolate this black magic landmine from being triggered in a cemetery and haunting THAT? Because someone might recognize that ghost, and the whole thing would be incredibly humiliating.

Quentin nudges David and Amy into subtly bizarre directions (beyond trying to kill Roger, which is business as usual for David). The possession is proceeding apace, and both are maturing at a strangely arresting pace. It’s in a strangely sentimental way, appropriate for Edwardians. David speaks very sentimentally toward Amy, and were they a few years older, it would read more differently than it does. Right now, it’s just a notch below ooky. Amy also masters counterfeit affection, in this case with David’s advice, and aims it at Barnabas. These are affirming forms of manipulation based purely on giving people what they want to hear. Can Quentin’s charm be any more infectious? And what other ghost would use such a signature? The masterstroke is reserved for Barnabas -- a pint-sized bear hug from Amy. For a man still in mourning for his young, dead sister, there is no better way to (try to) win him over.

It’s also emblematic of how his character has changed in response to public reception. He was now a hero to kids across the country. The sight of her hugging him must have made every kid running home after school a study in envy. Amy knew what she was doing because David knew, and David knew because Quentin knew. It makes me wonder how Maggie’s kidnapping would have gone if Josette had decided to possess her.

For the hell of it, I also wonder how things would have gone if Sarah had possessed Adam.

This episode was broadcast Dec. 13, 1968.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 5


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 912

Who’s blonde, diminutive, power hungry, and may be looking at a spanking from Barnabas? For once, it’s not Carolyn. But who? Chris Jennings: Don Briscoe. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Barnabas must exert increasing control on Alexander as Amy is pulled into the fold of the Leviathans. Julia tracks down Harrison Monroe, who tries to scare her off like an Oz potentate. An assertion that she has news from Charles Delaware-Tate grants her entry into Monroe’s house.

1897 rubs off on a guy. Well, guys like Sam and Gordon, those irrepressible upstarts in the writer’s room. That storyline had been the show’s most creatively dense endeavor, built around the core mystery of a ghost assassin and his motives. Surrounding that was a parade of other weird tales and eccentric wackos, making the sequence as elaborate and ornate as the era housing it. The program’s next core story -- Julia opposing a demonic messiah bent on world domination -- was even more ambitious. Even if their reach exceeded their grasp with the execution of that sequence, the writers told the myriad associated and coincidental stories with inventive brio. Paul Stoddard lives! Josette finally goes to haunt someone else for a change. There’s the last we see of Chris Jennings. An avenging Angelique. The return of Nicholas Blair. Heck, the return of Quentin and the mystery of Grant Douglas. They even find time to bring back Amanda Harris, square off with a personified version of death, and dramatize the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. I’m pretty certain that a giant spider is involved, and somewhere, the lost castaways of the Minnow feel safer. There’s even a flashback to the 1940’s. This is only in the space of about 3-4 months. Sounds like a long time, right? You’ve been spoiled.

In the first year or two of the program, it would have taken nine weeks just to show Liz buttering a piece of toast. But after 1897, this storyline density is the standard for the audience and maybe the writers, themselves. And they still have not exhausted themselves. So, while we’re at it, let’s briefly turn the show into The Wild Wild West. When it comes to the final days of Charles Delaware-Tate, not only do the writers turn it into yet another plot thread, they memorably resolve a character who didn’t really need a resolution. I suspect it answers the demands of no one, and it answers them with a generous panache that overcomes the most steadfast apathy. It’s an era of mini-mysteries -- little adventures and diversions whose only real problem is being more interesting than the Leviathan A plot they decorate. Notice that the B plots evaporate around the time that Jeb enters. They pad out just enough time for the Leviathan baby to grow up into a soap opera heartthrob. And Christopher Pennock certainly deserves the singular attention of the show. Unfortunately, the A plot doesn’t match nor enhance his talent. It’s a tall challenge to compete with the recent memory of the android duplicate of a 100 year-old Roger Davis. Trust me, I've tried.

The show has really entered a fascinating point in its transformation. Almost all of the mini-plots  resolve loose ends that tied the show to the past, earliest days. Who would have thought that, in so short a time, we would get the death of Paul Stoddard, emotionally wound Carolyn so severely that her man chasing days end, watch Josette tell Barnabas to get over it, already, say goodbye to Chris and Amy, deal with Amanda Harris -- for whatever that is worth, see Angelique get married and overcome, for her longest stretch, her obsession with Barnabas... and enjoy the security that Quentin, a little less than a year after meeting him, is now a threat to no one?

In the most macroscopic sense, the Leviathans are the least important thing going on. This segment of the show is like a KonMari exercise in clutter busting. Unless it gives joy to the audiences and writers, out it goes. Many of these plot elements have gone beyond motivating the characters. Instead of driving them to a destination, they are just, like Josette with Barnabas, driving them in circles.

This has an interesting effect on the next storyline. (And it almost makes me wonder if they were intending to stay in Parallel Time had the ratings been high enough.) Parallel Time is certainly enticing because our major concerns and questions have just been answered or eliminated in Primary Time. The other edge to that sword cuts out a lot of suspense and urgency to get back from Parallel Time. Once things get to that point in that dimension, the main reason to come home is to escape from, rather than escape to.

Because the Leviathan storyline kind of just ends, and then ends again with Jeb's subsequent death, it feels a little bit like a non sequitur for the Dark Shadows universe. I really strain to try and come up with things outside of Carolyn that are permanently changed, subtracted from, or added to by the Leviathan storyline. As far as the overall story of the series goes, these little subplots were not diversions, fillers, and misdirections as the Leviathan story developed. It's the other way around. The arguably disposable Leviathan storyline now feels like the MacGuffin while the real action of resolving many of the show’s mysteries is executed with surprising efficiency.

After Parallel Time, what's left? Literally, the apocalypse. From episode 1, the program was telling us that we were welcomed at both the beginning and the end of the world. The road is finally clear to deliver it.

This episode was broadcast Dec. 24, 1969.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 4


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 911

When Julia takes Quentin back to his old bedroom, will romantic music finally get a rise out of him or a could a surprise visit from David deflate her aspirations? Quentin Collins: David Selby. (Repeat; 30 min.)

David catches Quentin touring his old bedroom, still believing himself to be Grant Douglas. Thinking that Quentin’s ghost has returned, he uses this to menace Amy, and continues to investigate at the antique shop as the two actually meet. Meanwhile, Alexander exerts more and more control over David, who manipulates Amy into the strange room at the Todds’, where familiar and unearthly breathing is heard.

Long before Harlan Ellison, Nicholas Meyer, Robert Zemeckis, and other talented storytellers explored the more nuanced issues related to time travel, Dark Shadows had already shared a cigarette with the subject matter and asked what it was doing next Saturday. If we can take anything away from the program’s perspective, it’s that time travel is a big mess, and we all need a Tylenol and a long nap. But not nearly as long as the show’s primary writers. In actuality, the issue of What to Do with Quentin Collins was probably very well thought-out. It’s just that once they actually dropped him down in 1969, the Leviathans were already established. They were practically holding court in the drawing room, having raided the refrigerator and drunk all of Mrs. Johnson’s “Magic Sprite” before David could find out that it was only vodka spiked with seltzer.

I have every certainty that they more or less followed their plan. Trask would be killed and walled up in the room, Barnabas' intervention would eventually attract Count Petofi, who would attract Charles Delaware-Tate, who would paint the painting that would cure the curse and make Quentin Collins immortal. Did you get all of that? And now, the next event can be interpreted at least two ways, probably more. You could look at it from a production point of view or you could look at it from my point of view, primarily appreciating the finished story, where everything is intentional.

From a production perspective, although I doubt they had planned on it, the idea of having David remain aware of Quentin Collins as a one-time ghost is too good to pass up. Even if they don't do a lot with it, it creates a marvelous slice of suspense that is part of -- and adds to -- the general paranoia of Collinwood. Quentin, who is now a good guy, fosters just as much suspense for David (now on the side of the villains) as he did when he was a bad guy. While it's important for the villains to make the heroes paranoid, the prolonged soap format cries out for the villains to enjoy some paranoia, as well. There's a sense of curious fair play to that, not to mention some great opportunities for David Henesy to own the stage.

The challenge lies in the fact that, with history altered by Quentin’s survival, there would never have been a ghost to haunt Collinwood, and thus, nothing for David to remember. I can’t fathom that the writers didn’t think of this, and I believe they went ahead with it anyway, putting a juicy moment above reasonable temporal mechanics. And so what? There was never any real intention for Dark Shadows to be seen more than once. As such, it is a story that believes it’s ephemeral, and that the viewing experience of the past is subordinated to an eternal present. (Which is both convenient and ironic considering that it’s so often about dealing with a sometimes misremembered past.)

That all adds up to beans when watching the show on DVD or streaming, at any pace, in any order. As far as viewers are concerned now, this is a story, dammit, and must be seen as one. Because that’s what it is. If that seems like it’s going too far, keep in mind that the Earl of Oxford William Shakespeare -- who was no Gordon Russell -- never intended for his plays to be published, much less to have the Wikipedia entries studied in school. But here we are anyway, and we’re actually expected to have Timon of Athens read by Thursday for an in-class essay. No doubt for the sort of teacher who thinks that Chekhov is funny.

The upshot is that yes, there was a ghost, and yes, David remembers him. As I have stated before, I’m not sure it’s Quentin. We are led to believe it’s Quentin, but we later learn that ghosts can possess other ghosts and project illusions at will. If the body found in Quentin’s room was Trask all along, it explains more than it contradicts.

The other possibility is that altered pasts change the present by forcing us into new grooves of Parallel Time. When Vicki returns from 1795, Barnabas doesn’t suddenly forget Phyllis Wick. He seems to have two sets of memories at once. Yes, he recalls Wick, but now also recalls a timeline where Victoria was Sarah’s tutor. It’s no wonder that Collinwood is a nexus of alternate universes. And it’s no wonder why an ancient Leviathan altar can just kind of appear where it had never been recalled before. Or why a playroom can come and go to the consternation of a man who helped build the house, and who would have put a playroom there if he wanted one, but he didn’t, so knock it off, Gerard. In this sense, all of Collinwood is a massive Parallel Time room. Maybe the room, itself, is the heart of that… or the engine… or a someplace where the shift is so violent that anyone can see it. Other than the occasional I Ching trance in the Old House, where does most of the time travel take place? Collinwood. I don’t recall Joe going into the men’s room at the Blue Whale and mysteriously emerging in 1997 to an enormous bar tab hijacked by Willie Loomis twenty-five years prior. Nope. Starting with Vicki during the seance, these things are largely Collinwood-based. We think of the time staircase as a chaotic agent, but it may be the only stable piece of architecture in the house. Even the I Ching wands used in Barnabas’ cellar spent seven decades soaking up temporal weirdness in Quentin’s room.

It’s also funny when Quentin unconvincingly hides behind a curtain, like a cheating gigolo in a Playboy cartoon, and David freaks out. He’d recognize those pant cuffs anywhere!  Who else would wear wool trousers and Italian half-boots with such a sense of paranormal menace? That’s reason enough to tell temporal mechanics to get a job and stop trying to distract the writers with endless loops of continuity porn. Maybe they should go to 2002 and bother Rick Berman, instead. He was used to it.

And it’s tough for David to do either the hero or villain thing. Alexander is a patently ludicrous threat, and yet David jumps and asks how high when it comes to menacing Amy. There is a great lesson in acting encoded in this. Yes, your honor, top scientists concur that David Jay is a truly creepy kid, but intimidating only if you think he’s going to pick out your neckties. However, Henesy, as always, sells it. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a primordial snake god. As long as they treat you as if you were, you might as well be a primordial snake god.

And may Haza and Oberon bless us. Every one.

This episode was broadcast Dec. 23, 1969.

Dark Shadows, The 1973 Tapes: The Enemy Within


Just the SPOILERS AHEAD, ma’am

“You had an imaginary friend?” “ He is NOT imaginary and he is NOT my friend!”

What do you get when you cross The Omen with a particularly gimmicky Lifetime movie about star crossed lovers? The Enemy Within, that’s what! Welcome back dear friends to The 1973 Tapes as we cover The Enemy Within, Christopher Pennock’s comeback story and the devilish entertaining return of Cyrus Longworth, Actual Antichrist. Also returning is Lisa Richards as Sabrina Jennings, building up the Jennings clan during this arc in the ashes of Trask’s, setting up the return of Amy, making this a real family affair. Bloodily entertaining and armed with a real doozy of a twist, The Enemy Within is another wonderful entry into this arc, one that raises the stakes for the serial and introduces a few more dangerous pieces onto the board for the long game.

Click HERE to get the episode.
In what basically could be called a “post-credits sequence” in the story The Fall of the House of Trask, it is revealed that The Dark Lord’s methodical torture of Isaiah Trask was to produce and heir in the form of Cyrus Longworth. Growing up, Cyrus had a voice in his head that he called John. That voice would tell him to do things, vying for control of the boy’s body. Well, now that boy is all grown up and in control of his demonic passenger, attempting to live a normal life as a handyman for hire in Bangor. But the sudden arrival of a new neighbor in his cul-de-sac, a Sabrina Jennings from Collinsport, threatens to break apart his control of his dark other half. And then...the bodies start piling up.

I know that Pennock has a, shall we say, divisive reputation within the Dark Shadows community, but here he really shines as the good-natured, but haunted Cyrus. A lot of the story’s opening minutes are centered around establishing Cyrus and Sabrina’s rapport, which allows both Pennock and Richards’ ample time to connect just as actors and really find a new footing within the franchise. Will Howells’ script really leans into both actors’ warmth and natural down to earth personalities and it makes it dark, murderous turns that the plot takes hit all the more.

Pennock is also given another great foil in the form of James Unsworth’s John. John is a sardonic (he prefers that word to “sarcastic”), constantly mocking second lead to the story that is always piping in Mystery Science Theatre 3000 like commentary on Cyrus’ life or coaching him through awkward social interactions. Directors Darren Gross and David Darlington neatly fold Unsworth’s performance into the background of the story. I was kind of worried that his constantly running commentary on the story would grate on me after awhile but thankfully the script makes him genuinely funny and Unsworth and Pennock have an adversarial, but engrossing chemistry that stands as a sharply entertaining contrast to the romantic dynamic Pennock and Richards find early on.

But it wouldn’t be Dark Shadows without some supernatural murders and The Enemy Within’s got ‘em in spades! As soon as Sabrina moves in, people start dropping like flies, and shockingly enough, it isn’t because of the Antichrist! The end result miiiiight be too good to give away so I’ll just say it has to do with the Jennings family curse and leave it to you to experience for yourself this spookiest of holiday seasons. But trust me when I say, it is more than worth your time. Given a extra heft of pathos by Pennock and Richards’ heartfelt performances and their character’s tragic backstories.

Another Tape down, gentle creeps! Both a solid direct sequel to The Fall of the House of Trask and a portentous continuation of the “1973” arc, The Enemy Within brings all the romance and horror of Dark Shadows back to the forefront with it’s localized story and heartfelt script. Equal parts demonic drama and romantic New England interlude, The Enemy Within is another authentic slice of Dark Shadows drama from the fine folks at Big Finish Productions as they build the range into something more than just standalone creep shows.

NEXT TIME! The Lucifer Gambit! Amy Jennings! More murder (probably)! Part 4 of 9! Exclamation points! Be seeing you.

The tapes so far ...

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, December 3, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 3


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 642

Stokes prevents Victoria from perfecting a dead-on impression of Josette, but will it be a séance that pushes Chris Jennings over the edge? Victoria Winters: Betsy Durkin. (Repeat; 30min.)

Stokes pulls Victoria back from the edge of Widow’s Hill, where she believes death will reunite her with her new-yet-late husband. Despondent, she looks for clues in minor things and is convinced that his spirit is calling to her. Stokes conducts a séance, where Carolyn is possessed by a spirit named “Magda” who speaks of a curse.

It’s arguable that the first era of the show has been over for some time. With the arrival of Betsy Durkin as Victoria Winters, the character takes a fatalistic turn. In cases of terminal illness, there is that period where the sufferer doesn’t appear to be the same person, but rather a shell, going through the ritual of dying. The same with Vicki. Not only is she physically different, she’s despondent to a degree we’ve never seen. It doesn’t help the process of carrying Durkin’s flag. Visitors to the Daybook know that this time of year brings my annual and inarguably unsettling advocacy for her as an addition to the show. Alexandra Moltke is a sentimental favorite… after all, she is one of two characters (alongside Barnabas) who define the series. It’s hard to be the Lazenby in these cases. Poor Betsy gets stuck with sending off the character while denying the audience the cathartic satisfaction of seeing Moltke, herself, climb into the torpedo and blast off to the Genesis Planet. Maybe that’s a good thing. As with Maggie’s exit many years later, the mounting and near-irreversible unhappiness around Victoria makes her exit just as quietly devastating. Soaps thrive on making their characters miserable. Yet, they also have to keep them around as core ensemble members. Thus, we get a moderated and modulated misery. Real consequences are kept for short timers. So, when Vicki tries to jump off Widow’s Hill, herself now a kind of existential widow, and then hurls herself onto the bed at Collinwood in powerless misery, it cuts deeply. It’s clear they’re not going to keep the show going with Durkin as Victoria, and the lack of a B plot to distract the character into a new purpose on the program is just as clear.

More than any of this, seeing Moltke’s Victoria experiencing a sense of despair only slightly deeper than the Mariana Trench is an overwhelming prospect. In a move that would get them ample letters, today, Stokes accidentally advocates suicide as a guarantee that the lovers will be reunited. Bad idea, because to Vicki, that’s not just preferable to what she’s experiencing now, it’s preferable to anything she might ever experience. There is horror and then there is the unthinkable, and putting characters and audiences through the latter can be the definition of cruelty. Dark Shadows goes there at times, but it wisely stays on the audience’s side. With Durkin as Vicki, they have it both ways. 

This episode also finds Stokes emerging to his greatest extent, perhaps to warm up for the war on Quentin. As important as are his moments of expertise, this episode takes great care to show his shortcomings as well. It’s a canny balance, especially because he continues to win the audience by admitting when he misfires. There is a life lesson in this. Few boast more than Stokes, and this would be insufferable were it not the result of total honesty. When he boasts, notice that he never exaggerates; he reports. And he is just as straightforward when describing mistakes. As invested as he is in the occult, he’s refreshingly understanding about Chris’ skepticism. The evidence will take care of it, and prior to that, Chris is respectable for putting common sense and empiricism, first. Stokes is capable of massive (as Isaac Asimov put it) “cheerful self-appreciation.” At the same time, he has no ego to bruise. Yet more ways the Great Professor is our highest guru here at the CHS.

Perhaps the most arresting thing about this episode comes at the very end. Dark Shadows is as much a ritual as the séances, rites, and trials it depicts. Part of that ritual is The Cliffhanger. This episode ends on a far more contemplative note. After Carolyn introduces us to Magda via a very invasive possession, Chris stops the working and breaks the connection, much to Stokes’ consternation. She’s spent, he holds her, and there is no cliffhanger. Just a moment with the two characters seeking solace with one another as Collinwood’s autonomy reveals newfound powers and threats. It prepares us for the rich mythology of 1897, building on the hidden world with which they’ve coexisted for nearly 650 episodes.

This episode was broadcast Dec. 10, 1968.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

1961 "Dorian Gray" film has unusual Dark Shadows connections

Well, THIS is a pleasant surprise. The Museum of Broadcast Communications has a 1961 television adaption of The Picture of Dorian Gray that's going to be of great interest to Dark Shadows fans, and not for the reasons you might think.

The Breck Golden Showcase production stars George C. Scott and Susan Oliver star, with John Fraser playing the title role. Curiously, Fraser also appeared in 1960's The Trials of Oscar Wilde, a film about Gray's author. Closer to home, he was also in the Doctor Who story "Logopolis" opposite Matthew Waterhouse, who has since become a regular face around Collinsport thanks to the Dark Shadows audiodramas from Big Finish. It's a small world.

And it's smaller than you think, because The Picture of Dorian Gray also features Jonathan Frid in a bit part! Dick Smith (who helped add a few hundred years via latex appliance to Frid on Dark Shadows) was one of the make-up artists on the film and, while he's not credited on IMDb, Dark Shadows composer Robert Cobert provides some of the movie's music. You'll absolutely know it when you hear it.

For added weirdness, Frid plays an actor playing "Murcitio" in a stage production of Romeo and Juliet in this movie. It was a play he was appearing in for real just two months before joining the cast of Dark Shadows. The Museum of Broadcast Communications refers to his appearance in The Picture of Dorian Gray as a "blink or you'll miss it" role and they're not kidding. Keep an eye out around the 14 minute mark and you can spot Frid as one of the actors leaving the stage during a confrontation by Star Trek alumni Robert Walker Jr. and Susan Oliver.

Here's the catch: The movie is only available online until the end of November. No matter when you read this, that doesn't give you much time to act. Luckily, the Museum of Broadcast Communications is allowing visitors to download the film, which will let you watch the hour-long adaption (it includes all of the original commercials from the broadcast) at your leisure.

You can find the film HERE.

H/T to Darren Gross!

UPDATE: Aaaaaaaaand it's gone. Someone at the MBC jumped the gun and replaced all of November's downloads with December's ... even though today is Nov. 30.

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 28


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 908

Will a stolen radio help Paul recruit Maggie in his campaign against the Leviathans, or will Liz outwit him yet again? Paul: Dennis Patrick. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Paul is disturbed that Alexander is with David, but no one will listen to his warnings. Alexander subtly and unsubtly exerts control and coercion across the house, and Maggie finally believes Paul when she overhears the tot threaten David for a radio. It’s a gift from Roger, returned from out of town and incensed that Paul is back.

Paul Stoddard is easily the most deluded character on the show, but lovably so. He can no more escape the Leviathans than he can just kinda fly casual and drop back in at Collinwood to pick up like it’s the 1940’s. But he tries. In a show that fixates on the past, Paul Stoddard is no more guilty than many of the others. He’s one not-quite-murdered spouse above Elizabeth on that scale. Jason held her with threats. Paul doesn’t even need to do that. Perhaps of all of the DS repertory, I may feel sorriest for him. At a certain point, being financially dependent on Liz isn’t just emasculating, it’s dehumanizing. Yes, yes, I know, this is the position that almost all women were in back then, and we’re not talking Ward Cleaver money. We’re talking Jamison’s daughter money. The class differences must have been even more oppressive than the lack of autonomy. Collinwood’s been making people prisoners since Barnabas christened the tower room, and that Paul felt so desperate to hold his own that he made clearly unsavory bargains. He shows up at home despite the murder attempt he dodged last time because it’s the safest place he knows. If the safest place in the world is a bedroom across the hall from the woman who tried to bash your brains out the last time you saw her, life has not delivered a bouquet of Cuban cigars and vintage Playboys.

Before he gets to die, he becomes a WC Fields character -- mit shrewish wife, understanding daughter, and a marble-mouthed Baby Leroy of a bouncing baby Baal of a nemesis. You know, if that character were played by William Shatner’s frantic airline passenger in “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” It’s actually an eerie analogy. “I’m telling you, there’s a demonic kid with a thick, Bronx accent and he’s on the east wing of the mansion! You’ve gotta believe me!”

Who’s the stewardess? Maggie. Does she believe him? No. Until she does. All because the little satanic Sonny Jim wants a radio so he can rock out to some Roger Miller. And this, I can understand. But if there’s one thing he doesn’t count on, it’s the inconvenience of living on a set to a soap opera, loaded with crannies and landings and landed crannies designed for convenient eavesdropping. Let’s see if he gets his precious hamburger, now. Go back to yer stock cars, kid. Uncle Paul and your governess need a to take a meeting. He remembers Maggie from the New York Playboy Club, and he’s going to learn to do that Bunny Dip if it kills him. He’s friends with sailors like Jason McGuire, and survival is a dish best served with a Highball. At any point, Paul -- already established as a master of disguise -- may have to don the ears and tail to pass for one of the Club’s discipled, efficient, and charming servers. How many times did he evade Nicholas Blair that way? You tell me.

All seriousness aside, just like the arrival of Barnabas allowed Roger to lighten up and stop villaining around the joint, this latest turn for evil by Barnabas creates the opportunity for Roger to become the hero once again. Kind of. Paul’s flaky irresponsibility and gnawing regret make Roger seem like he deserves that “#1 Dad” mug that Liz pretended David picked out. So what if his secretary keeps thumbtacks in it? It’s not like David’s ever going to get a job at the cannery and catch him. Nevertheless, Roger is really earning it. He’s grown to love David, and that’s easier to do when your son stops trying to kill you by sabotaging your car. He brings him radios. Seems happy to see him. Roger gets mad, kind of on Liz’s behalf, that she’s letting her working class ex-husband smoke his Gauloises and wear his slippers without even the decency to sprinkle some Gold Bond in there. Of course, she’s a member of a cult, too, But even excluding those things, Roger is on a hero’s journey that would have even Joseph Campbell taking notes.

It’s heartening that Roger takes to being a dad far more easily than we ever thought. It’s equally heartbreaking that Paul tries to do the same thing, far, far too late.

This episode was broadcast Dec. 18, 1967.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Dark Shadows, The 1973 Tapes: Beneath the Veil


The holidays have stolen my will to be cheeky so I’ll just plainly say SPOILERS AHEAD.

“There is no Heaven. Or Hell. Just this. Now.”

Happy Ghoul-idays everyone and welcome back to The 1973 Tapes! One man’s trek through the moldy, but shockingly engaging unofficial history of the town we all love. I will admit that Thanksgiving did me in a bit. I feel like it is a more draining holiday than we all would like to admit. BUT THAT SAID, I have returned to you all with a doozy of a tale to talk about! 2013’s Beneath the Veil! A skin crawling tale of murder tourists, dead Windcliffe doctors, and malicious, wandering spirits looking to cut a bloody swath through the patriarchy. All that plus Marie Wallace! This arc may have gotten off on a bit of a slow, low-key start with The House by The Sea, but Beneath the Veil kicks it up several dozen notches with a twisty tale of murder and magick.

British vacationers Alfie and Emma are on a unconventional holiday. They have come to America and taken a pilgrimage to see the nation’s most notorious serial murder sights. A bit macabre, but who are we to judge? I mean, it IS us, after all. So naturally, their car breaks down in the sleepy, not at all cursed Collinsport and even more naturally, people then start dying by the bale full. But this is just the START of the dark delights that Kymberly Ashman’s script delivers for this second installment of the arc. We will get into those here in a second, but again I have to praise this range’s accessibility. This story delves pretty deeply into the deep bench of characters Collinsport has to offer, but even if a listener didn’t know any of that Ashman’s core story of two super self-absorbed and often tacky murder tourists, given a darkly funny life by actors Simon Kent and Brigid Lohrey, getting mixed up in a town that has legit supernatural junk happening on the regular is pretty friggen fun and would be something I would imagine would hook new listeners to the appeal of the franchise.

Even better though for nerds like me, as this story doubles down on the status quo set by The House by the Sea in order to slowly grow out the range’s scope and serialization. I had been told that this arc takes to weaving in threads of things early, but little by little as the threads were attached to larger narrative quilts that were happening in the foreground (how’re these blanket related metaphors working for everybody?). While the first audio was more concerned with building a foundation, Beneath the Veil builds upward on it, very well. We see the quick return of Stephanie Ellyne’s Amy Jennings, shepherded in by none other than Carolyn and Maggie Evans themselves (both Kathryn Leigh Scott and Nancy Barrett returning to the roles and lighting up my day with their fantastic voices). We also get a quick mention of old, super-possessed-by-Nicholas-Blair, Gerald Conway, who is holed up still at Seaview, surely NOT scheming to destroy the town or the Collins family nosiree. We even get the first explicit mention of Beyond the Grave as a known quantity in this world, which is super exciting for me, Kate Ripperton’s Number One Fan. This bit proves that the range has really started to commit to serialized storytelling, so it is is fun to see that from early stories like this, knowing what I know now as a listener and fan.

Marie Wallace
But this adventure’s biggest development is the return of Marie Wallace to Dark Shadows (at least from my perspective). Though the script cheekily never outright says she is Frankenstein woman Eve, it does heavily hint at it, as she is credited under the name and serves as a flesh vessel for the newly awakened Danielle Roget, who was reintroduced after Conway blundered into Seaview. Wallace’s cooing, icy performance is a constant boon to the audio as she latches onto the young couple, seeking to take over Emma’s body and leave Collinsport. It is a little disappointed that Brigid Lohrey gets to be the final voice actor of Danielle (even though she is truly stellar throughout the audio! Even before the possession!) as Wallace’s take is truly spine-tingling is a material, almost warm creepiness, but I will take what I can get really. Any time any original actor show up in the booth for these and gives it their all, I am going to be happy. Nobody has really phoned it it just yet, though I don’t expect any would. They are all class.

Anyway, woolgathering aside, I really, really dug Beneath the Veil. Not just for it’s endless twists as this thing has one of the crazier endings, The Tony and Cassandra Mysteries notwithstanding, I have heard yet. But for it’s being emblematic of this range really trying to build something, beyond just being good solid horror stories with a well known licence behind them (though it DOES do that pretty damn well on it’s own). Kymberly Ashman and directors Darren Gross, David Darlington and Jim Pierson really nail this sophomore effort, by keeping it simple and creepy while at the same time slowly building a weird corner of the Big Finishverse that fans both new and old could dig into. Prequels aren’t usually supposed to be this fun, but I will be damned if I’m not having a blast with these. And I still have a little over half a dozen left to go! It is a Collinsport Christmas come early! IA! IA! CTHTHULU FLAGTEHN! Erm, sorry, I just get excited.

NEXT TIME! The Enemy Within! The return of Cyrus Longworth, Action Demon Child! Some Jennings family intrigue! Christopher Freaking Pennock! It should be a fun time. Be seeing you. 

The Tapes so far ...

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.      

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 27


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 639

What deadly secrets will be revealed on a simple phone when David and Amy explore the hidden recesses of Collinwood?

Amy begins her first day as a permanent guest at Collinwood, and in the process ends of exploring a sealed off wing with David. There, they begin speaking on the telephone to a mystery is presence calling himself Quentin.

For better or worse, Amy is in da house, and the change implies everything we suspected about young Roger and Elizabeth and the Collins Way (before Victoria, anyway). It gives us a great vision of what it was like to grow up at Collinwood, too. May I unpack?

Down the rabbit hole! Who’s with me?

Really? That’s all? Well, um, fine. Wait here. Have a sandwich.

It’s vital to remember that in 1968, the year of 1897 was only 71 years prior to filming. Not that long before, cosmically speaking. For us, that’s like being haunted from 1947, a year my father remembers well. This episode was shot an astounding 50 years prior to now. (That’s right, this is the 50th anniversary of the first utterance of Quentin’s name.) It’s weird to look at what 50 years can mean. Since I have your attention and just to think out loud…  50 years prior to its taping, the year was 1918. From the other direction, that’s only 21 years after 1897, making it one year after Elizabeth Collins was born. (In real life, it’s also the birth year of Dennis Patrick, making him 8 years younger than Joan Bennett, who was born in 1910, just 13 years after 1897.) For the hell of it, Jamison Collins was only 33 years old when he became a father in 1918. Dark Shadows actors who were around the age of 33 when the series was shot were Jerry Lacy, John Karlen, and Diana Millay. At the age of 33, Jamison Collins is only 6 years older than was Quentin when we met him in 1897. For a reference point, Quentin, had he been “alive,” would have been only 48 in 1918, which is just one year older than Wallace and me. David Selby was born in 1941. He wouldn’t be at Quentin’s 1918 age of 48 until 1989. Here’s what actor David Selby looked like in 1989, when he appeared in the Falcon Crest episode, “Doctor Dollars.”

Because Dark Shadows and its cast have been with us for 52 years, and because the show itself (like American Bandstand) deals with time travel, arrested aging, and a mappable dynasty, I find these finer points of chronology to be inordinately fascinating. It’s especially arresting here because the essence of the program is knit up in dealing with the past, even if that past is in recent memory. When we meet Liz, she’s torturing herself for decisions she made 18 years prior. Unlike the 171 years Barnabas was in stasis, 18 years is a span of time that’s easy to manage… more so with every passing year. I can remember 18 years prior with disturbing ease. This makes 1897 just long enough in the past to be exotic and just close enough to actually be relevant to the characters. With the elaborate clothing, unusual props, and ornate hairdos, it’s easy to forget that we’re basically dealing with Roger and Liz’s dad when he was David’s age. If you’re an adult who can remember his grandfather, you’re Roger remembering Edward.

This all begins to give Dark Shadows an immediately dynastic continuity, and with that, a sense that we are seeing slices of one, epic story rather than zipping around from the distant 1790’s to the present. Working backwards, we now have a thread from David to Roger, Roger and Liz to Jamison, Jamison to Edward, Edward to Gabriel’s son, that son to Gabriel, and from Gabriel to Daniel. At this point, it gets weird, because we don’t really know the relationship that Daniel’s father had to Joshua’s father.

This is what makes sense, and it’s kinda cool. In episode 1169, when Barnabas is cured for the last and most important time, it’s mentioned that his great uncle, Amadeus, was the prosecutor in the Judah Zachary trial. Amadeus was the brother of Collinsport founder, Isaac Collins. That works out to Isaac being Joshua’s… grandfather? Isaac got to the colonies in 1690, and he was at least twenty. Joshua wouldn’t be born until 1730, 40 years later. Unless Isaac was a very old father, that makes him Joshua’s grandfather. So, it’s from his brother, Amadeus, that we get the line that takes over Collinsport when Barnabas “dies” without an heir. It also explains why Judah Zachary largely bugs this other line and leaves Joshua and Barnabas alone; they had nothing to do with the trial. Daniel, Gabriel, Son of Gabriel, Edward, Jamison, Roger/Liz, and David are the direct descendants of that beatnik lawyer who made a hash of things for Judah at his trial. Nice going, Angelique. By ending Isaac’s line, you inadvertently led to Collinwood being in the direct line of fire rather than some row of townhouses in upstate New York.

What this means is that there’s a lot of old stuff on the show.

Exploring the closed wings is a mighty payoff for the character of Collinwood, itself, finally confessing the extent of its neglect and emotional damage. Amy seems amazed that no one has explored the house, and I am both thankful and amazed that someone is bringing it up. It just underlines a truth that we often ignore on the show, and that is… well, they’re living in a haunted house. What do you expect? And it seems to get more haunted all the time, like a perpetual motion machine of the occult. The situation with the Widows is bad enough. Now, with Quentin finally working up the ecotoplasm to reach out, Diabolos only knows what’s going to happen.

It makes me appreciate what a strange household surrounded Roger and Liz as children. Look at their dad. What is life like if you grow up with what went on in the 1897 storyline? When you’ve been possessed by Count Petofi… when not meddling with the will hidden in your great grandmother’s room-temperature coffin, days ripe? And when you have seen entirely wings of your house shut down, isolated, boarded up, and cut off, along with a good share of the domestics in the process?

The story of Collinwood isolating itself is a story that reached its conclusion with Liz’s reaction to the murder of Paul Stoddard. But again, look at her father. He knew what it meant to see a house compartmentalized after a marriage was dissolved with extreme prejudice. Jamison was around for the ugly beginning of the end of the house that was inaugurated by its matriarch’s suicide. And he was even around when the house was briefly a home, lively, with Jenny and Laura and Quentin and Carl filling it with laughter and mischief and revels not yet ended. But they would end, and we witnessed that. Over and over. How can one house be perpetually falling over the cliffs on which it’s built, but never quite go over?  That’s the most supernatural occurrence of all. The toll for Collinwood is not on the structure. Nor the actual lives of the inhabitants. As English social critic, George Alan O'Dowd, might put it were he to address those visitors, “You come and go. You come and go.” No, Collinwood’s decay is one of its strange, wooden heart. More than anything else, Collinwood is haunted by the perpetual death of joy, and the funeral has been going on for nearly 200 years. At the heart of it? A sinner with a sideburn shaped halo.

In a house haunted by Quentin, once joy incarnate, it will be Quentin’s own descendant, Amy, who will be responsible for his rescue from death and time. She is simply looking to play. In his own way, so was Quentin. It was the quest to end boredom that was the source of his curse. It is a marvelous statement about the power of the human imagination and mischief that the quest to end boredom would also be his release.

This episode was broadcast Dec. 5, 1968.
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