Monday, August 20, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 20


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1089

When David discovers the power to raise a crew of undead pirates, what can stop him from using it? David: David Henesy. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Gerard increases his hold on Collinwood by claiming Elizabeth, who sets up the bust on the rail that will fall on Julia in 1995. The children alternately escape from and to Gerard. Having found that there was a real Java Queen, David reenacts a spell to resurrect its crew.

1089 is what late stage DARK SHADOWS is all about. Suspicion. Paranoia. Bowing and scraping to sneering ghosts. And bad fashion. What’s not to love? In this case, the flaw of the show’s final months is also its strength -- pace. This is a rough & tumble, Edwardian, Young Man’s Big Book of Manly Adventure episode, but since the kids are serving pure evil, it also has the subversive delight of being a meditation on “What If the Hardy Boys Went Bad?” In creating it, the writers make the program a carnival spook show ride that seems very slightly broken… in an amusing way. This is complete with pirate lore, now with zombies! Can anyone walk away from that moment? Exactly.

Had this episode been done a year and a half earlier, with Quentin pulling these shenanigans, it would have scared the hell out of the daytime world. But James Storm had a very different quality than David Selby. Gerard’s Ghost was never allowed to charm nor maintain the mask of allusive neutrality. Even his smile was sarcastic. Storm would have made one of the show’s great heroes had they cast him as such, somewhere between Pennock, Selby, and Crothers. However, Gerard is just a tiringly unpleasant spirit… if you compare him to Quentin. If you take him as he is, Gerard is a nasty and cravenly spirit on an unambiguous mission to torture the residents of Collinwood and level their home. Quentin’s haunting created questions that demanded an answer. Gerard’s had far less mystery and far more evil. We were destined to love Quentin. The only thing we are destined to do with Gerard is await his death scene. And I say that as a fan.

Gerard seems to have a very odd take on being a ghost, and even worse luck. His highlight in 1089 might be his attempt to lunge at people who just slowly saunter out of his way. His arms remain outstretched in empty air, and we wonder if he has the power to chase them or rematerialize in their new path. Clearly not, so he just sneers some more. It’s an oddly humanizing moment for the specter, if unintended by the authors. There is a winningly lunkheaded quality to all of the proceedings. For instance, Gerard’s main punishment appears sartorial in nature. Each possessed person seems to be trying to outdo the others for Worst Outfit. Liz is in a hot pink, silk, overinflated whirlwind of cotton candy, bearing a cape. Hallie seems to be in a shifting paisley chameleon uniform that changes patterns and hue depending on which eyesore of a curtain she’s standing near. But David takes the nuclear-azure urinal cake in an astounding, blue, belted, scoop-neck sweater/vest that could not have been made nor meant for a man under any circumstances. Since when is Gerard raiding Eve Plumb’s wardrobe? That makes the best dressed person in the episode… Julia Hoffman. Not just Julia Hoffman, but Julia Hoffman in a plain, brown dress. It empowers her to warn Liz not to put the Greek bust on the narrow handrail by the stairs. (You’d have to be possessed to do it!) It’ll bean her on the head in The Future. But Liz is too hypnotized to do anything but scoff, and so it stays on the mantle, somehow keeping its precarious place as zombies pull the roof around it down from within. If I were Julia, that’s a sticky-tack secret I’d crave.

David rounds out the episode by wondering if Gerard will punish them further, so he waves the green flag to summon zombies who will destroy Collinwood. How would Gerard have punished the family if David hadn’t? Maybe by making them dress off-the-rack from Orbach’s. 

This episode was broadcast Aug. 27, 1970.

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 17


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 309

Barnabas notes that his dosages are increasing and becomes violent when he hears that Burke is becoming suspicious about him. His mood sours further when Julia announces that he’s missed another appearance by Sarah. Later, Vicki cajoles Burke into apologizing to Barnabas. Julia reports more activity that she attributes to Sarah’s ghost. Barnabas convinces himself that he will be visited next.

The show is three months out from the (literally) history-making 1795 flashback. Given how far in advance the plot was mapped out, the finer points of the transition are all falling into place, and they rest on the shoulders of a young woman less than twelve years old. Barnabas is, as he has been since his introduction, obsessed with the past, but that obsession is less and less on Josette and instead centered on his actual true love (although not a romantic one): Sarah. Because of her age and the resume that (doesn’t) come with it, Sharon Smyth’s acting abilities were understandably limited. However, this didn’t slow down the program; the writers are too clever for that. Sometimes in drama, it can be more powerful to be talked about than seen. Sarah’s charm and influence profoundly affect her immediate community of adults, and seeing that in how they behave and reflect is the proper measure of her reach. Jonathan Frid shows us that with increasing frequency, and this episode solidly reintroduces the anguish that makes him the restrained vampire that he is, strangling Julia notwithstanding.

In Barnabas, we appreciate the monster created by Josette and Angelique, but who was he before that? It could be argued that this, in 309, is the real Barnabas. It’s astounding to think that the man we see played by Frid is only supposed to be twenty-five. That means that Sarah was in his life for almost half of it. Yes, he’s close to his uncle and Ben Stokes, but beyond that, the Barnabas we meet in 1795 is arguably isolated from the world of swagger. Other than the time he spent swingin’ in Martinique, Barnabas seems to have grown up isolated in Maine, diligently toiling in his father’s shadow and mold... although somewhat undercooked compared to the turgid, copralithic pater noster. When we first meet Young Collins in Vicki’s flashback, he seems like an angelic cross between Buster Brown and Eddie Haskell. Pretty naive.

Pretty, pretty naive.

In this episode, in the present, Barnabas reacts with shock and deep pain to the fact that Sarah appears to everyone but him. He knows it’s a punishment -- maybe the cruelest. He also knows why. He loved Sarah more than any other because, as the snare that catches so many others, she was someone who needed him. And up until Angelique, he was able to be there for her. It can be an enslaving thing, but there is something magnetic to knowing that you are both needed by someone and can make them truly happy. Beyond Jeremiah -- a man just as busy out on the town -- and Ben -- whose friendship (and maybe the law) was forbidden thanks to social class -- we know of no other companions for Barnabas. Although we don’t see it, we can infer that his connection with Sarah came from an intensely bonded relationship, somewhere between siblings and parent/child. He could protect Josette only to a certain extent, and the limit of his responsibility came from respect; she’s a responsible adult, after all. However, Sarah’s youth and naivete demanded his protection. And not just in danger. If Barnabas felt isolated, imagine how Sarah must have felt? No fleeting moments with Jeremiah. No Ben Stokes at her side. A remote father simply looking for a human prop, and a mother ten years too old to be dealing with yet another child. Sarah’s only company? Just the insanity of Abigail.

And Barnabas. Human compassion alone explains his fealty to her. She had been let down by fate and the birth order. She wasn’t going to be let down by him. Jonathan Frid explores the truth of Barnabas’ failure with mournful sensitivity, and along with his early monologue of Josette’s death by the sea, the character’s memories have wound the propeller for 1795 to take off and soar.

309 is also delightful. Burke explores his future as a hectored husband when Vicki nags him into apologizing to Barnabas for suspecting him of nogoodnikness, and Barnabas earns the right to ask one of the paranoid’s favorite questions -- about the innocence (or lack thereof) of Vicki’s suspicions towards him. He even gets a believably honest acquittal from her. Then, the curl up with the family history.

Even Barnabas gets a good day now and then. Part of one, anyway.

This episode was broadcast Aug. 31, 1967.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Night of Dark Shadows ... in 3D!

The sprawling collection of 3D images from HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS went over well this week. Not as well as the fake View-master "reels" made from images of the original television series, mind you, but the traffic was still good enough to encourage me to follow through with a sequel. Despite being a wonderfully shot film in its own right, NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS isn't as visually lush as its precedecessor, which limited the number of shots that made for compelling 3D conversions. I was able to squeeze out enough images for three "reels," which lean (unsurprisingly) on Lara Parker's ghostly witch "Angelique." David Selby and Grayson Hall might have gottten most of the film's dialogue, but cinematographer Richard Shore (who would shoot only one other film, 1973's BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY) knew who the real star of the show was.

As with the previous View-master reels, I've uploaded the images to the Collinsport Historical Society's Tumblr feed, "Blood Drive." Click on the images below to view the images. Red and blue 3D glasses are required.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

House of Dark Shadows ... in 3D!

Consider this a do-over, of sorts. A few weeks back I posted some faux sterographic images of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, animated gifs consisting of screenshots designed to create the illusion of depth. Since then, I've been tinkering with red and blue anaglyph 3D images based on the original television series. Given the "soft" nature of the videotape used by the series, it's been a real challenge to make those 3D images look like anything other than a hot mess. For every image you've seen there were 3-4 others that didn't work on any level. HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, shot with film and recently remastered by MGM, has none of those image problems. The film's hit-to-miss ratio has been much better, giving me a significantly bigger haul. Rather than dole these out over the course of several weeks, I'm sharing the entire batch in a single post. Once again, you'll need a pair of red/blue 3D glasses to make these images work. Below are links to all six (!) reels I created collecting 48 3D images, posted over at "Blood Drive," the CHS Tumblr feed. I've waived the usual View-master framing on these images because I couldn't stand the idea of cropping them.

REEL 1    REEL 2    REEL 3

REEL 4    REEL 5    REEL 6

Monday, August 13, 2018

The "lost" Dark Shadows View-Master reels

DARK SHADOWS peaked in popularity in 1969, reaching approximately 8.4 million homes every day. Unsurprisingly, it was also the year the series produced the most merchandise. The companies that invested in licenses for the series in 1968 finally started to get their wares to the shelves, with surprisingly mixed results. Gold Key released just a single issue of its DARK SHADOWS comic in 1968, with more than a year passing before a second was published. More trading cards, posters, records and anything else that could bear a trademark stamp was produced, among them a set of 3D View-Master reels from General Aniline & Film Corporation. The images in the series were captured the year before during "The Dream Curse" storyline and did not feature 1969's breakout star David Selby.

For reasons that GAF probably doesn't even remember, a second series of View-Master reels was never produced, robbing us of the chance to see Quentin Collins in 3D. The Collinsport Historical Society is doing its part to fill that void ... to a certain extent. View-Master reels traditionally feature seven stereoscopic images per reel, with three reels packaged in each set. Below are seven 3D images representing a second "lost" reel from DARK SHADOWS. You'll need a pair of red/blue anaglyph 3D glasses to view them, but I suspect DARK SHADOWS fans are the sort to have those kinds of things laying around the house. I've struggled a bit with how best to present these images ... splitting them up between different posts feels messy, while dumping all 21 images under a single header doesn't feel like a solution, either. So, here's what I've done: All three "reels" have been shared to the CHS Tumblr account. Click on the reels below to view them!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Spend Christmas at Collinwood

Lyndhurst Mansion, the Tarrytown, N.Y. property that served as the fictional "Collinwood" in both HOUSE and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, will summon a few ghosts on the estate this Christmas. "Mr. Dickens Tells a Christmas Carol" recreates Charles Dickens’ own performances of the classic tale that brings the travails of Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim to life. Actor Mikel Von Brodbeck plays Charles Dickens, who uses the author's original script as he takes guests on a tour of the main floor of Lyndhurst where you will meet various spirits and characters that haunt the grounds.

The event takes place Dec. 14-30. Visit Showclix to purchase tickets to the event.

Now, if we can only convince them to host a live reading of the Big Finish audio "The Christmas Presance."

H/T to @willmckinley.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 8


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 300

At the Old House, Barnabas awakens and asks for Willie. Barnabas orders Willie to spy on Vicki and Burke as closely as possible. Is Barnabas afraid of losing her to Burke. Later, Julia reports to Barnabas that his cure is coming along. She accuses him of being in Vicki’s room. Barnabas admits to temptation, but nothing happened. Julia emphasizes that there must be no next time. He chafes at taking orders. Neither Julia nor he can afford the questions. He agrees to stay away from Vicki. Later in the garden, Burke reveals that he’s buying Seaview for Vicki, and then asks her to marry him. She loves him but is torn. She’d have to leave the Collins family. She needs time to think. Meanwhile, Willie sees all. He and Barnabas meet at the Old House, and he reports the proposal. Barnabas vows there will be no marriage. Devlin must die!

When we think of social issues on fantasy TV of the sixties, the conversation begins (excluding a few months of 1959) with TWILIGHT ZONE and ends with STAR TREK. DARK SHADOWS addresses political circumstances, too, but in the case of episode 300, it is with fear and the shackles of baffling tradition. In STAR TREK, differences are celebrated. In DARK SHADOWS, they are often (initially) seen as challenges to be hidden and overcome. If you examine DARK SHADOWS politically, it has moments that are shockingly conservative for genre television. However, DARK SHADOWS was not really genre television. I mean it. It was a soap opera aired in the late afternoon for housewives, designed to sell canned hams and pantyhose. That makes the subversive moments enjoyed by the show even craftier. Number 300 is not subversive, but it is sadly revealing of the era. There is a lot we take for granted now. Even I am bewildered by the 60’s attitude regarding Vicki and Burke. Really? Vicki’s marriage would necessitate her leaving her job at Collinwood? The assumption is that she’s immediately supposed to become a baby factory for Burke. For a show filled with strong women, is it all smoke and mirrors under this core ethos? Because it’s taken for granted. I’m sure women from the time would affirm that it’s an accurate portrait, and that makes the decision by several of the show’s actresses to remain child-free even more remarkable.

Just as significant is the conversation that Barnabas and Julia have about what life will be like when he’s a “normal” man with no secrets… someone who can “love like a normal man.” Okay. New York. The Sixties. The theatrical arts. Haven for confirmed bachelors. Wallace and I have written about homosexuality in and around DARK SHADOWS before in separate essays. Secret identities. Living in various closets. The family can never know. Tortured yet compulsed. If you see their real self, you’re horrified. Vampirism is a razor-pointed metaphor for the pitfalls and power of closeted gay life in the 1960’s. Metaphorically, the secret of the Collinses isn’t that some of them are monsters….

On this day in 1967, the Association of South East Asian Nations was formed.

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 3


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1076

During the lunar eclipse, the children find the playroom, and Hallie seems possessed by a woman from an earlier time. She doesn’t remember this later, but Daphne’s ghost reappears to tempt her with a Regency-era dress. Meanwhile, a loveless Quentin spots Daphne’s grave, and a dream appearance by her becomes reality when lilacs mysteriously appear in the drawing room.

On the podcast in which Wallace, Will McKinley, and I discussed NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, we agreed that the film was more of an art film than a horror movie. If that motif has a beginning for the franchise, it’s right around here. It’s tough to write about the Ragnaraok sequence without meditating on both its difference from the rest of the franchise and its representation of it. In fact, it’s becoming an annual tradition at the Daybook. It needs advocates, and those are tough to find. The reasons? As 1076 shows us, it’s not fun. It’s vaguely piebald when it comes to characters who’ve been with the program from the beginning. Barnabas and Julia seem more desperate and less certain than ever. Quentin is joyless and joylessly untrustworthy. Visually, the fashions and hair make it stand out wildly from what we’re used to from most of the show. Most importantly, it’s a downer. Other storylines are about averting probable doom. In this, it’s about witnessing a protracted inevitability. The minute we see characters in period costumes and know that at least two time portals exist within the house, it’s clear this is headed to 1840. Do we really have to see Maggie become diseased and insane and bedridden to make that happen?  Soaps thrive on cliffhangers. Ragnaraok is a checklist of bad things we know will happen.

The trick to this sequence is adjusting expectations. This is not Lyndon Johnson’s DARK SHADOWS; it’s Richard Nixon’s. And that’s okay. Before, the series was about who and what. Who was behind the door? What is Barnabas going to do next? Now, it’s more a show about when and how. Gerard is a prime sadist, and like a moodier Petofi, attacks his opponents’ weaknesses with Seraut-like precision. Hallie is shuffled between homes, and his approach is to show her an era in which she has meaning waiting for her. David, growing up too suddenly and too fast, enjoys a playroom and alternate identity that literally turns back -- way back -- the clock. And Quentin gets a terrible, manipulative girlfriend. There’s a reason that Commander Riker turned away Q’s powers on TNG and Dr. Chidi Anagonye rejected Michael’s “opposite tortures” on THE GOOD PLACE. As anyone who falls into the gifting reciprocity trap can tell you, it’s never good.

Yes, there is some mystery and suspense, if fatalistic. This sequence is as much a chance to actually “be” with the characters, and the combative David/Hallie sequences are offset by the ones with Quentin and Julia. Where do the latter go to think? Of course, Quentin would go to a cemetery, and what’s that like for him, even under normal circumstances? He remembers so many of the years on both ends of these lives. And, of course he would flirt with Julia. For Quentin, she’s an unthinkably younger woman. When Quentin muses about needing a woman, Julia says he wants a drinking partner. Perhaps she’s missing a drinking partner and hinting for one, and he’s hinting as well. Of course, he puts down his glass, she drops the subject, and everyone remains good, sober friends. No wonder this doesn’t feel like traditional DARK SHADOWS.

Is this padding? You bet. Is it padding with great characters and touching, revealing moments? Right again, and it’s worth it for that.

This episode hit the airwaves Aug.10 , 1970.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

First look at David Selby in CASTLE ROCK

I"ve been waiting for this for a while, but Hulu has finally released a trailer for its Stephen King series CASTLE ROCK featuring David Selby. It was announced many, many months ago that Selby, already a vteeran of Maine's horror landscape courtesy of DARK SHADOWS, would be appearing on the show. Thanks to producer J.J. Abrams' tendancy to "mystery box" pretty much everything, little more was known ... in fact, we still don't know who Selby is playing, but this trailer suggests his character is not a happy camper. You can catch him in the trailer below at around the 35 seconds mark.

The fourth episode of CASTLE ROCK, titled "The Box," is set to air today on Hulu. Here's the official series summary for those of you just tuning in:
"A psychological-horror series set in the Stephen King multiverse, Castle Rock combines the mythological scale and intimate character storytelling of King’s best-loved works, weaving an epic saga of darkness and light, played out on a few square miles of Maine woodland. The fictional Maine town of Castle Rock has figured prominently in King’s literary career: Cujo, The Dark Half, IT and Needful Things, as well as novella The Body and numerous short stories such as Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption are either set there or contain references to Castle Rock. Castle Rock is an original suspense/thriller — a first-of-its-kind reimagining that explores the themes and worlds uniting the entire King canon, while brushing up against some of his most iconic and beloved stories."

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: July 31


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 815

Petofi and his hand are reunited, and Barnabas’ demands that he help Quentin are met with ambiguous responses. Petofi removes Barnabas’ ability to teleport and then shows him what he thinks is the vampire’s impending death. Instead, he sees David die in 1969. Petofi learns that he cannot show a death he did not cause. Petofi then goes to Magda, who sees the Hand and follows his command to be shown Barnabas’ coffin. There, he lays on the Hand and has Aristede chain the coffin.

Absolute evil provides too much fun to be all that bad, all the time. Christopher Pennock, one of the heroes of this column, once remarked that John Yaeger was rooted in the joy and freedom of pure evil. And let’s draw the line between evil and meanness. For our purposes, evil is intense self-interest to the exclusion of the needs of others. Cruelty is about causing harm to others for the sake of pleasure. Of course, “pure” is probably a bad word to use. These things aren’t scientific absolutes. (Which is a polite way of telling people with counterexamples what they can do with them.) Count Petofi is an interesting case. Much is made of his evil, and St. Thayer David rolls his eyes and cackles like he’s trying to show Plato’s Ideal a thing or two about how you really play a heavy. However, his punishment of others only comes when they get in his way. Just because he’s theatrical about it doesn’t mean that he’s deviating from his purpose: to get them to stop getting in his way. Ultimately, his desires make sense. He wants his hand back. (You know, so he won’t die.) He wants to escape an organized manhunt via extremely thorough means. He wants to ensure that those who threaten him leave him alone. Permanently. Can’t fault him for that. Along the way, like a dark Dr. Lao, he usually imparts some kind of lesson or reveals some kind of profound or lasting truth. He’s at least 150 years old, and so he views wants, needs, and consequences differently. I’m not saying that I would mind crossing the guy, because I intensely would. But unlike Angelique, he’s not cruel. His techniques have a more pedagogical bent, “Here, I made my point by taking away your powers of teleporting. Imagine what else I could do? Now, sit down and have some champagne whilst we talk about what brought us together.”

From the teaser for the episode onward, Petofi owns 815, both displaying his powers on Barnabas with surgical relish and then being hoisted by his ample petard when Barnabas teaches him a thing or two about gazing into the future. As arguably the most powerful character on the show, short of Diabolos, Judah Zachary, and Lela Swift, he needs regular humblings. First, they keep the program from lasting ten minutes. Secondly, they get him good and steamed, which is when great things tend to happen. He has surprisingly little ego -- after a tantrum or two -- about learning new things, even his own limits. DARK SHADOWS has introduced its first real supervillain since Nicholas Blair, and he’s arguably more powerful because of his unallegiant nature. Barnabas is intermittent as a presence now, and his almost-guest appearance requires a great show. The teleportation shuffle is just that, and add to it the wonderfully ambiguous loss and victory of seeing David’s death mixed with the knowledge that Petofi’s powers to display tomorrow are extremely limited. Does Petofi have the last laugh? It started about a drama regarding a will and has become the pilot for a never-made DEADLANDS tv series. Of course he does. Magda gets knocked down a cribbage board worth of pegs and Barnabas has the Hand placed on him in his soon-to-be-chained coffin. We’re off to the races.

This episode hit the airwaves Aug. 8, 1969.

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: July 30


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 557

Adam refuses to divulge Vicki’s location to Barnabas, who is equally worried about Tom Jennings and the threat of multiple vampires in Collinsport. Jeff Clark then berates him for his inability to help, forcing Barnabas to follow a hunch and go to Stokes. The professor, under a deadline from Howard Hughes and Hugh Hefner, is none to pleased to have his business of correcting ancient Tibetan love making manuals interrupted, but receives Barnabas, anyway. Stokes is shocked at the kidnapping and agrees to help find Vicki, but refuses to reveal Adam’s location. Then Adam tells Stokes that he might just kill to teach ‘em all a lesson. So, there.

Professor Eliot Stokes gains fascinating dimension in 557. Normally, jovial and helpful, we see his protectiveness of Adam reveal an irascible and sternly just man within. Anton LaVey extolled “responsibility to the responsible,” and there are few other places where Barnabas gets both barrels of that. Stokes is perhaps the most inherently good man in Collinsport since his fellow freemason, Bill Malloy, took his last diving lesson. (Ironically, at the hands of Thayer David’s first character.) Stokes’ prime reason for siding with Adam and not Barnabas? The former vampire and Julia have withheld vital information for months. Yes, they have necessary trust issues, but this is Stokes we’re talking about. Adam may be a wildly unpredictable man-beast, capable of leveling Collinsport to sand before breakfast, but he’s also (until later in the episode) a prime graduate of Rousseau’s Finishing School for Noble Savages. He’s nursed greedily on the milk of morality that spurts abundantly from the ripe and straining teat of of Eliot Stokes’ moral tutelage. It takes a Nicholas Blair -- so often Stokes’ foil -- to teach him the less savory lessons in humanity. Stokes knows that there’s only so much danger in which Adam can find himself… Victoria Winters is another matter.

It’s one of the loudest episodes since episode 46, in which men with beards (of one kind or another) spend most of it shouting in Roger’s office. It may also be the shoutin’est until Keith Prentice joins the cast and acts as if he thinks the mic is broken, and thus he must raise his voice so that even viewers in Fresno can hear every word. It’s a tough day for Barnabas. He’s a man used to operational fiction and only wants some peace and quiet. Adam yells at him. Julia yells at him. Just when he’s ready to leave, Jeff Clark is hanging out at the door, waiting to yell at him. Then, Stokes yells at him. (Then, Adam yells at Stokes.) Geez, ma, stop givin’ me the business! No wonder he wants to visit Tom Jennings in the hospital. All Tom would do is hiss. And no wonder poor Jonathan Frid has unusually pointed trouble with his lines. He’s really lost at sea in 557, but as I always say, I’d forget my lines, too, under such circumstances. For me, those moments don’t rob the show of its realism, they heighten them. It’s especially bad for him because the only token he has of Vicki’s safety is that cheap ring Jeff probably got on sale from Wal-Mart (founded about five years before, thank you).

The Adam storyline gets a lot of guff, but it probably contains DARK SHADOWS’ most philosophical episodes. Barnabas, Jeb, and Quentin all deal with intense alienation, with Quentin’s starting before his curse. Jeb doesn’t care until the end of his storyline, but Adam is born with it. At least the other three can pass, but Adam’s scars send people running. And that was always a bit harsh of them. The makeup department had a responsibility that Jack Pierce dodged; they had to make Adam both a monster and a potential soap sex-symbol. It’s a clever trick of perception because the audience sees him as (very) ruggedly handsome while the characters view him as a patchwork golem. On a very realistic note, audiences of the time were used to Vietnam vets coming home in far worse condition, but that was a war that blessedly never reached Collinsport. Again, Robert Rodan is an unsung hero of an actor, delivering his existential angst with passion and truth. It’s a shame that his identification with an eventually unpopular character was probably a factor in Rodan not being recycled by Dan Curtis, despite being the dark-haired, blue-eyed “type” that typified the ruggedly handsome, DS norm (such as Selby, Lacy, Crothers, George, Ryan, Prentice, Storm, Bain, etc.)

Yes, 557 is loud, how can anyone contemplating the solitude of existence be heard without making some noise?

This episode hit the airwaves Aug. 13, 1968.

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: July 27


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1072

Barnabas and Julia make reintroductions to the family and consult Stokes about the impending doom. Meanwhile, Carolyn feels a ghostly presence, David has disturbing dreams, and a dress appears to Hallie.

We’ve had transitions within transitions within transitions. The Leviathans were a problem external to the Collinses, but they whisked Barnabas back to 1970 where we just had to get them out of the way. Since they don’t really result from anything done by a Collins (although Paul’s deal in the 40’s didn’t hurt), they are more of a means of time transport than a story development with a sense of meaning, with roots to the past for our characters. At least Parallel Time comes from a room at Collinwood, but what does it really do for the characters? It gives them a place not to be (or not to be at liberty) so they can star in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. But beyond that, not much. However… it gets Barnabas and Julia to 1995, and that gets what I call Ragnarok going. But even 1995 is a transition to that. And the first episode back in the present has so little interaction with our prime timeline family that it feels like, again, the last and smallest transitions in a sea of them. If you count the Leviathans as a long non-sequitur to the Story of the Collinses, then we haven’t had a non-transitional, core mythos installment since 884 on October 27 of the prior year. That’s the episode where Trask finally buys it in 1897 and Lady Hampshire basically trips and falls into 1795.

So the show takes nine months to get back around to being about the Collinses… in a way that really comes from the family, itself. With introductions (Hallie) and re-introductions being made, it feels like a season premier. Appropriate, since it’s only a month away from Labor Day, which at this time was the traditional beginning of the new TV season. 1072 brings the core cast into the entropic dread that Barnabas discovered, and with new fashion choices, manly new intonations (David Henesy is doing his best Barry White), and two, distinct tonal shifts, it’s a new show with a clearly defined sense of direction. (For now.)

What are the shifts? Even for DARK SHADOWS, this is dark. In past storylines, we had a sense of potential doom, and the mysteries were about what was going to happen and what was behind it. In this case, we know what’s going to happen. The question is if it can be stopped. Once Future Carolyn’s list begins getting ticked off, the question is answered. So, a dark, truly Gothic fatalism hangs over the events. With that, we have tighter episodes. At least, episodes with a more singular focus. In 1897, we had three or four stories going at once. Here, just one, ultimate DARK SHADOWS story. If you like it, you’re in luck. If you don’t, you may be like most people. I’m glad I gave it a second chance.

This episode hit the airwaves Aug. 4, 1970.

A Latin Tribute to Barnabas Collins, 1972

For a guy who didn't even own a radio, Barnabas Collins has had quite a successful career in music. He's appeared in hip hop, punk, pop and reggae songs. Thanks to a tip from a reader in Spain, we now know that Barnabas was also the star of a Latin pop song in 1972. Gonzalo J. explains:

"Hi, I'm a longtime follower of the Collinsport Historical Society. I'm Venezuelan but right now I live in Valencia, Spain.

The other day a Twitter follower sent me this link, redirecting me to a YouTube song by a famous venezuelan orchestra called Los Melódicos:

It's a song called 'Hasta cuándo Barnabás' (Until When Barnabas), you can hear it at 20:44. It says "Barnabás es un vampiro / que está metido en el guiro" and it even starts with compasses from the song 'London Bridge is Falling Down', heard in Dark Shadows.

'Dark Shadows' was a very popular show in Venezuela, where it was called 'Sombras tenebrosas'.

Los Melódicos was a band created by Renato Capriles. It played merengue, cumbia and many other latin rhythms.

This song is a complete rarity and a testament to Barnabas Collins' popularity in Venezuela."

You can listen to the entire album in the link provided above, or skip directly to a 60-second clip from "Hasta cuándo Barnabás" in the video below.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

October will be a big month for Dan Curtis fans

Back in January, Kino Lorber confirmed they were preparing Blu-ray releases of a trio of Dan Curtis television classics from the 1970s. The details and release dates for those titles have finally been released, and they're corkers. 4K restorations of THE NIGHT STALKER (1972) and THE NIGHT STRANGLER (1973) will be arriving on Blu-ray and DVD on Oct. 2, with 1975's TRILOGY OF TERROR getting similar treatment on Oct. 16. None of these titles are yet available for pre-order, but I imagine that will change soon. Here's what you can expect:

The Night Stalker (1972)

• Brand New 4K Restoration!
• NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historian Tim Lucas
• NEW Interview with Director John Llewellyn Moxey
• NEW Interview with Composer Bob Cobert
• "The Night Stalker: Dan Curtis Interview" featurette
• Limited Edition Booklet essay by Film critic and author Simon Abrams (Blu-ray only)
• Newly Commissioned Art by Sean Phillips
• Limited Edition O-Card Slipcase (Blu-ray only)

Color 74 Minutes 1.33:1 Not Rated

Release date: Oct. 2

The Night Strangler (1973)

• Brand New 4K Restoration!
• NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historian Tim Lucas
• NEW Interview with Composer Bob Cobert
• "Directing 'The Night Strangler'" Featurette
• Limited Edition Booklet essay by film critic and author Simon Abrams (Blu-ray only)
• Newly Commissioned Art by Sean Phillips
• Limited Edition O-Card Slipcase (Blu-ray only)

Color 90 Minutes 1.33:1 Not Rated

Release date: Oct. 2

Trilogy of Terror (1975)

• Brand New 4K Restoration
• NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historian Richard Harland Smith
• NEW Interview with Composer Bob Cobert
• Audio Commentary with Karen Black and writer William F. Nolan
• "Richard Matheson: Terror Scribe" Featurette
• "Three Colors Black" Featurette
• Limited Edition Booklet essay by Film critic and author Simon Abrams (Blu-ray only)
• Newly Commissioned Art by Jacob Phillips
• Limited Edition O-Card Slipcase (Blu-ray only)

Color 72 Minutes 1.33:1 Not Rated

Release date: Oct. 16

House of Dark Shadows in living stereo

In 1969, the DARK SHADOWS marketing machine was still going strong. Toys, trading cards, posters, pop music ... if you could slap a pair of fangs or sideburns on it, Dan Curtis would find a way to sell it.

A year later that machine appears to have come to a grinding halt. Even with the national boost provided by MGM's HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, the previous year's flood of merchandise had become a desert. While the Marilyn Ross novels and Gold Key comics continued to exist within their own little worlds, no new trading cards, ViewMaster reels or much of anything else were produced for either the television show or feature film. Robert Cobert's "Ode to Angelique" proved to be a flop on the charts, and it would be decades before his scores for HOUSE and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS would be released. DARK SHADOWS was a certified Cultural Phenomenon TM, but it was essentially a mom-and-pop operation. Dan Curtis Productions could only handle so much responsiblity, it seems, and the weight of simultaneously producing a daily television show and two feature films was probably too much for it to carry.

I've spent the last six years occasionally filling in those merchandising gaps. Way back in 2012 I envisioned series of trading cards for both HOUSE and NIGHT, going so far as to even design wax wrappers for these imaginary products. (I also made a digital set cards for the 1991 revival series.) But the absence of a set of ViewMaster reels for HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS has always bothered me. But merely designing a package for the reels seemed ... lazy? Was it possible to take this idea another step further?

Below, you'll see the end result. The idea was to create fake stereoscopic images, animated in a way to give them the illusion of depth you'd get from a ViewMaster reel. For a film shot in 1970 the photography in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS is surprisingly spry, giving me only a few scenes from which to pull. I've got some doubts that these really work, but a poll of my Twitter peeps seemed favorable. If this post gets a good response, I might take a shot at NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS ... or even some of the television episodes.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: July 25


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 807

Tate pressures Aristede to reveal Petofi, but instead hears that the Count is in suspended animation, and only has a few more weeks to find his hand before a curse consumes him. Jamison, possessed by the Count, bluffs his way into freedom, then has Magda take him to Barnabas.

Welcome to the Gordon Russell Fan Club. Be seated.

I think, of all the deceased DARK SHADOWS luminaries, Gordon Russell is the one I’d like to meet most. As fans of the show, we focus so much on the actors -- the collective face of the show -- that we forget the writers who gave them their sound. Dramatic writing is crushingly hard. Keeping individualized voices, especially when so many of them come from the same social world, is a difficult task on its own. But that’s not even the toughest part. DARK SHADOWS episodes are like telephone cords made of progressing Möbius strips. Most dramatic scenes are about economy. Nothing can be wasted. You have discoveries and resulting conflicts eliciting change. A chain of those creates the play. Badda boom, etc. No matter the medium, this never changes. But on DARK SHADOWS, you have to do that and also stretch the storytelling to the longest format possible… one that makes a Wagner opera look like a Bazooka Joe comic strip. But you can’t let it feel stagnant. Philip Glass luxuriates in the fact that his listeners know that he’ll take his time. Soap fans think they want action-action-action when what they actually want is to distract themselves for as long as possible with people they care about doing things that are vitally important. If a standard writer had been given the outline to 807, they would have written a script half as long and a tenth as interesting. Russell and the other writers fill the scenes with intense discoveries and purpose, fleshing it out with memorable characters, but with no linguistic flab. How they do it is simply the alchemy of their art. I wish I could replicate it, but in lieu of that, I have no recourse but to marvel at it.

Russell is helped by dropping one of 1897’s most easily-forgotten exposition bombs, courtesy of Aristede, the Smithers to Petofi’s Montgomery Burns. Petofi’s mission to find his hand has been going on for a century, placing him beginning it within a year of Barnabas’ initial entombment. If publishers realized there could be a DARK SHADOWS author whose name is not Lara Parker, we could enjoy a book of short stories looking at the adventures over that century. Just imagine Quentin and Desmond using the hand for dimensional travel. A young Nicholas Blair using it. And so on. Petofi is helped by how others refer to his legacy as much as what he does. In this, Tate calls him someone who enjoys only the suffering of those around him. This both clashes with Thayer David’s ebullient performance and gives it subliminal menace. That mix -- Petofi’s jovial appearance versus the fog of evil that others describe -- may be what makes him one of the richest and most watchable characters in all of DARK SHADOWS. He is their Falstaff and their Gloucester all at once. Helping this is the fact that he’s the only character on the show to be played to the hilt by three actors, all of whom are named David -- Thayer David (whose first name was actually David), David Henesy, and David Selby.


But where would Petofi be without the writing? Nowhere at all. It’s fitting that this episode should feature Charles Delaware Tate and his curse so prominently. That’s a strange story -- even beyond Barnabas and Josette, it’s the closest we come to pure fairy tale. Imagine writing characters who inflame the public imagination so ardently. Like Tate’s powers to craft paintings that spring to life, that’s what the DARK SHADOWS writers must have faced at this time. How much are they Tate and vice-versa? And does that make Dan Curtis their Count Petofi?

Come to think of it, he was an avid golfer who was often seen wearing a single glove….


This episode hit the airwaves July 29, 1969.
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