Thursday, June 14, 2018

Now available: Maggie & Quentin - The Lovers' Refrain

A lot of new DARK SHADOWS dropped earlier this week, courtesy of the gang at Big Finish. The producers have fully embraced the new anthology format that has become the series standard since the release of "Echoes of the Past" in the summer of 2016. Rather that stagger individual tales throughout the year, the company is now giving us omnibus collections that feature multiple actors and creators.

Now available is "Maggie & Quentin - The Lovers' Refrain," a four-disc collection of stories starring, naturally, Kathryn Leigh Scott and David Selby. I'm still making my way through the collection (expect to read some reviews here next week) but so far it's been appropriately gothic.

You can listen to the trailer for "Maggie & Quentin - The Lovers' Refrain" below, or jump to the Big Finish podcast to listen to the first 15 minutes of it free HERE.

"Maggie & Quentin - The Lovers' Refrain" is available directly from Big Finish on compact disc or digital download HERE.

"The Girl Beneath the Water" by Lila Whelan

“If I don’t leave now something will try and stop me! Don’t you see what’s happening here? Something doesn’t want us to leave.”

As Maggie Collins welcomes her children home to Collinwood to celebrate her husband Quentin’s 65th birthday, she is blissfully unaware of the cruel magic at work underpinning the heartwarming scene. In a battle for reality, Maggie and Quentin must come together to protect their children against an ancient magical force that knows no mercy. But in doing so, they risk losing everything they love. For who can be trusted when you can’t trust yourself?

"The Sand That Speaks His Name" by Mark Thomas Passmore

"'Abandon all hope, ye who enter here…’ Just the standard disclaimer - nothing to worry about."

A mistake from Quentin’s past casts a dark shadow over his and Maggie’s weekend getaway in New York City. A Golem is loose, threatening innocents and only Quentin knows how to stop it. But first, he must learn how and why the creature has come back to life, a task which takes Maggie and Quentin on a quest through the hidden supernatural network of the Big Apple. Will Maggie’s foray into the perilous life Quentin used to live drive an irreparable wedge in their relationship? Will the rampaging Golem give them the chance to find out?

"The Hollow Winds That Beckon" by Cody Schell

“Ghosts. The seas are haunted. By the spirits of men – and women – who left land searching for something or other. A new land. Treasure. A new life. They keep searching.”

A sunny day of fishing is interrupted by dark clouds as Quentin and Maggie find themselves swept up in events beyond their understanding. They’ll do their best to escape a mysterious island, even if their failure means joining those who have failed before them - the ghosts on the waves.

"The Paper to the Flame" by Alan Flanagan

“Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet / She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet...”

When a group of Windcliff patients start chanting a centuries-old song, Maggie and Quentin investigate - and find themselves drawn to an abandoned town with haunted streets and a fire burning deep below. There they must face an enemy far stronger, and far more unhinged, than they could ever have imagined – one with a grudge that stretches into both their pasts, and will have a profound effect on both their futures...

Massive Universal Monsters collection coming to Blu-ray

Hot on the heels of Universal's announcement that "legacy collections" of its Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Invisible Man films were headed to Blu-ray in August , the studio let slip that a comprehensive Blu-ray box set of its iconic 1931-1956 films would be accompanying it. That's a whopping 30 FILMS that will available in HD as of Aug. 28.

The Gill-man and his invisible cohorts account for the lion's share of these new releases. The Creature set includes Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Revenge of the Creature (1955) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956). This time out, Revenge of the Creature has been given a 3-D restoration. This collection is available for pre-order from Amazon by clicking HERE.

The Invisible Man set includes The Invisible Man (1933), The Invisible Man Returns (1940), The Invisible Woman (1940), Invisible Agent (1942), The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944) and Abbot and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951). This collection is available for pre-order from Amazon by clicking HERE.

For those of you looking to break the bank with the comprehensive box set, here's a list of the films you can expect to find in the collection. You can take a look at the set's bonus features at Amazon HERE.

Dracula w/Bela Lugosi (1931)
Dracula w/Carlos Villarías (1931)
Frankenstein (1931)
The Mummy (1932)
The Invisible Man (1933)
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Werewolf of London (1935)
Dracula's Daughter (1936)
Son of Frankenstein (1939)
The Invisible Man Returns (1940)
The Invisible Woman (1940)
The Mummy's Hand (1940)
The Wolf Man (1941)
The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942)
The Mummy's Ghost (1942)
The Mummy's Tomb (1942)
Invisible Agent (1942)
Phantom of the Opera (1943)
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
Son of Dracula (1943)
House of Frankenstein (1944)
The Mummy's Curse (1944)
The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944)
House of Dracula (1945)
She-Wolf of London (1946)
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
Revenge of the Creature (1955)
The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)

Monday, June 11, 2018

A movie about werewolf/stuntman Alex Stevens? Yes, please


Sometimes the best ideas are hiding in plain sight.

Stacy Poulos, the niece of stuntman Alex Stevens, took to Facebook last night to pitch an idea to her audience: A documentary about the life and work of her late uncle. It's one of those concepts that seems like such an easy sell that I can't believe such a movie doesn't already exist, but sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands.

Poulos was discussing the awards recently won by her film BEHIND THE LIGHT, a "mashup documentary" about the making of the Sarah Smith music video "Into the Light." Naturally, the closing comments on her post caught my eye:
"Anyway, it makes me feel like the next documentary should be about him. But it will take a tremendous amount of money. Who knows what Frank Sinatra's people and Dark Shadows people would charge for footage of him working with them?"
Luckily, there are a lot of behind-the-scenes video and photos of Stevens at work on DARK SHADOWS, and many of the show's cast are still hale, hearty and willing to talk about the show. I mean, who wouldn't want to see this movie? And, while DARK SHADOWS might be big draw here for me, Stevens' credits have enough A-list material to keep any narrative about his life interesting.

16 Magazine editor Gloria Stavers and Alex Stevens, from the documentary DANNY SAYS.
A little background: Born Alex Poulos in Connecticut in 1936, Stevens got his start at Wild West City, a western theme park in Netcong, N.J. He performed stunts for Broadway shows while tending bar before landing his most famous role as the werewolf on DARK SHADOWS. Despite appearing in just 23 episodes of the series, Stevens managed to create one of the show's most iconic characters. (Well, two of its most iconic characters, since he played the werewolf incarnations of both Chris Jennings and Quentin Collins.) It was a popular enough gig to earn him a spot — in full werewolf drag — on the television game show WHAT'S MY LINE in 1970.

His other notable role was that of "The Baker" in the popular SESAME STREET feature "The Number Song."

Stevens would become the full-time stand in for Frank Sinatra, appearing in such movies as THE DETECTIVE and LADY IN CEMENT. He also appeared as a stuntman in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, SUPERFLY, THE FRENCH CONNECTION and SUPERMAN THE MOVIE. He passed away in 2015.

You can watch a 2015 testimony by Stacy Poulos about her uncle in the video below. And don't forget to visit the official Alex Stevens page on Facebook, Alex Stevens: East Coast Stuntmen's Association.

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 8


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 521

Roger is astounded that Barnabas knew to look for Liz in the tower room, and Julia reports that his sister will survive her suicide attempt. Her request that Liz be taken to Windcliff is refused. Barnabas and Julia wonder if Angelique is truly gone. After hearing breathy silence on the phone when they try to call Stokes, they go to his home. Stokes has been harboring/tutoring Adam, who answered the phone but said nothing. Hiding Adam, Stokes tells Barnabas and Julia that the state of the missing painting of Angelique may betray her current status. Barnabas rifles Roger’s bedroom with no luck, and as he comes downstairs, a knock at the door reveals a dapper, composed gentleman: Nicholas Blair -- Cassandra’s brother.

Want to see Roger bring up Barnabas’ most uncomfortable memory so incessantly that the ex-vampire looks like he’s ready to give up and confess everything? Want to see Barnabas and Julia responding to what seems like Professor Stokes picking up the phone with an outgoing obscene phone call? Want to see Stokes kvetch to Adam about academic politics as if he’s confiding in someone who knows what he’s talking about rather than a barely articulate side of meat? Want to see Barnabas sneaking around Roger’s bedroom, snooping for a forbidden portrait of Angelique as if he were Chico in need of a Harpo in ANIMAL CRACKERS? Finally, want it to end with a demon who sounds like Don Adams, claiming to be family?

Welcome to 521.

These are skilled writers, and skilled writers dealing with repetitive and deliberately slow storytelling will quickly become bored writers. If you look carefully, DARK SHADOWS has a surprising propensity to verge on farce when it’s not (and even when it is) resounding drama. The actors seem in on it. As Roger goes on and on about the legends of someone trapped in the tower room, and how curious it was the Barnabas just knew that Liz would be up there, the image stays fixed on the 1795 portrait. It’s as if the audience owes Dan Curtis money, and he paid the camera crew to assault them with irony until they pony up the scratch. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you want subtle, you’re watching the wrong show. Except….

Jonathan Frid nails it. After Roger innocently remarks about Barnabas’ curiously coincidental knowledge for the seventy-eighth time in the scene, the camera lingers on Frid. This is a man with more nervous and uneasy expressions than any other actor since Thespis, and he invents an entirely new one here. It’s a strange mixture of terror and an intense desire to confess. Holding in the truth, he looks like a vegan struggling not to tell everyone about his dietary ethos. Unlike with the vegan, Barnabas’ restraint wins out. But you can tell he’s closer to “I’ve had it” than at any other time in the series, so far.

Roger is beloved for his 70mm, Sensurround displays of aristocratic obliviousness, and the writers give him a moment so rich that I am amazed anyone kept a straight face. Julia gently suggests that Liz, who narrowly avoided suicide by nightshade while claiming to be the 18th century mother of an undead Barnabas Collins, might benefit from some professional consultation. His indignant response? “Are you suggesting my sister is mentally ill?” Well, Roger, um, exactly when do you begin to suspect that the meds are off? I ask that without judgement. I just want to know.

The wackiness continues as Barnabas and Julia suddenly remember that they know an occult expert and call Professor Stokes. When Adam answers with silence, Jonathan Frid and Grayson Hall make Olympian efforts not to smirk as they remark that all they can hear is heavy breathing. Cutting to Adam, we see that he’s holding the receiver upside down, indicating that the heavy breathing is coming from his ear. I would tell you to draw your own conclusions, but I have no conclusions to suggest. When they visit Stokes, he hides Adam like Jack Tripper hiding a girl from Mr. Roper, and even tries bribing Barnabas with cheese… a temptation the svelt Canadian nimbly avoids… to keep him from poking around in his bonus room. But Barnabas is determined to poke, but thankfully saves it for Roger’s bedroom. To find the painting. The painting of Angelique. That’s all. I swear. As Julia distracts Roger with board games. It kind of works until Nicholas Blair shows up, announcing himself as Cassandra’s brother.

The recent events have been such an avalanche of normalized absurdity that, although Nicholas is unexpected, he’s in no way out of step with the two episodes leading up to his grand entrance. Especially since, moments before, Roger was speaking about Cassandra’s lack of relatives with a conspicuous portentousness that made every word sound as if it were written in italics.

If I sound hard on the episode, I’m anything but. The writers and cast are clearly cutting a rug, and manage to upstage THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW (freshly on the air) while never straying from their own ground rules. DARK SHADOWS, quite intentionally, can be a very funny show. Intentionally and, yes, I swear it, subtly.

Fill in the sad observation about Tim Burton, here. As Don Adams -- who sounds a lot like Nicholas Blair -- might have said, “Missed it by that much.”

This episode hit the airwaves June 25, 1968.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Believe it or not, this is a model

Night over the great estate of Collinwood, a night different from all others, for Collinwood is deserted except for the evil spirits who freely roam the halls, still obsessed by the children who are a key to the ghost's mysterious actions. 

And all of it can be yours for $2,400!

The photo at the top of this post is a model created by John M. Stewart, based on the real-life Collinwood, Seaview Terrace in Newport, Rhode Island. It's an amazingly detailed model that stands 17" high, and provides the kind of thorough inspection of the grounds that DARK SHADOWS never allowed. I've included a few photos of the model below, but you can find a better assortment over at the artist's website, which will give some of the best views of the mansion you're ever going to get.

Plus, there's a lot more to see at both his website and his Facebook page. Completed late last year, Collinwood was followed in quick succession in his Facebook feed by models of Bates Motel from PSYCHO and the MacNeil home from THE EXORCIST. The range of subjects in Stewart's art is staggering, hitting such divergent films as HOWARD THE DUCK,  HALLOWEEN and FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH.

Stewart is offering commissions of his sprawling model of Collinwood for $2,400. Here's where you can find Stewart online:

Korova Art : Artwork by John M. Stewart:


The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 7


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 520

It’s morning at Collinwood, and Roger frets that Cassandra is gone. Julia reasons that if Trask’s skeleton is back in its shackles, which it is, his work is done. Liz brings down the room by insisting that she’s Naomi, and recreates the matriarch’s last hours. 

Julia is really getting the hang of this when she reasons that if Trask’s skeleton has returned, Barnabas will be free. Later, she rationalizes that it’s not a lie if they claim that Barnabas isn’t the same as he was in the 1790’s because the curse is gone. Sure. Why not?  She patiently instructs Barnabas that all he has to remember is one lie, as if she’s in the running to play Mrs. Iselin in the MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE sequel. With Angelique cooling off and Nicholas Blair warming up, it’s one of those transitional installments that exists to get you to the next episode, but it’s more than that. It’s a rich little gem of wacky behavior and pretty funny hand-wringing. You have to ignore the fact that it ends in an attempted suicide by a beloved lead character, and if you do, it’s a nutty ride. Any episode that begins with Roger so beside himself that he wears his alpine tweed with the attached belt along with a coordinating ascot is twenty-four minutes that commands our attention. This is a Liz Stoddard so crazy that, when she outs Barnabas as one of the undead, everyone just kind of nods and keeps going.

There are odd questions floating around, too. The primary one has to do with Liz’s fixation on being Naomi. The writers are still new to the business of having contemporary actors play characters from the past, so they continue to Oz it up by having Liz remain profoundly lost. And everyone’s getting used to it. Roger complains that Liz confused Joe for Lt. Forbes... as if he were deeply familiar with someone from over a century prior who was, despite the marriage to Millicent (that I suspect Joshua hushed up), just an annoying houseguest. Either that, or the Collins history is wildly thorough. Or maybe Roger just watched the 1795 sequence down at the Blue Whale during happy hour. Yes, we know that Louis played Joshua and Joan played Naomi, but the repeated connection really starts to sound strangely incestuous. 

But who is Liz Stoddard, anyway? It’s a question I murmur with disturbing regularity as my nightly sleep paralysis keeps me snugly entombed in the leaking sag of my round waterbed. What has Angelique done to her?  (Beyond give her something to do beyond telling Roger he’s being perfectly beastly.) There’s a weird Tao riddle going on here. Is it Liz who believes she’s Naomi or Naomi transported into Liz’s semi-beehive many decades into the future? I have no idea. My only suggestion is that, if you find yourself dealing with Angelique after playing your own ancestor in a flashback, as so often happens, be polite. And stay away from the desk in the drawing room. Antique boxes of Powdered Poison are standard issue next to the stamps and White Out.

Amidst the dark cloud that is party-pooping Naomi is a pooped party worth remembering. Barnabas goes to sleep with both Trask and Angelique running around and awakens in a world free of them. Soaps rarely take the time to celebrate these victories, and this episode does. So much so that Barnabas seems disoriented. It’s a good thing that a possessed Liz Stoddard is around to make him relive one of the great tragedies of his life and keep his boots six feet under the ground. 

Hold on. I think Nicholas Blair is about to knock. Bah, Humbert! But that’s tomorrow.

This episode hit the airwaves June 24, 1968.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 6


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 519

Liz slips further and further into Angelique’s spell of death obsession. Joe is equally upset as he comes to Collinwood to see Maggie, who’s been moved there. Meanwhile, as Angelique escalates her spells, the spirit of Trask strikes and ties her to a tree. After a fiery exorcism, she vanishes. 

A hallmark of soap operas is their ability to make you feel sympathy for terrible people. Yeah, yeah, everyone knows we need to feel Real Bad for Vicki when she’s in the post-colonial slammer, or for Maggie when she gets kidnapped for the upteenth time. That’s easy. You’re a creep if you don’t. But going right back to feeling nervous for Roger when he’s interrogated by Burke, finding a strange sadness in Matthew Morgan’s desire to appease the spirits, or even sometimes-kinda seeing Laura as a very strange mom who just wants her kid back, DARK SHADOWS plays odd sympathy games. We can attribute this to writing and acting, certainly, but more than anything, we can attribute it to time. With so much screen time devoted to each character, it’s easy for them to have their ‘moment in court.’ Even if we don’t lionize them, we get to appreciate the fact that each sees themselves as the hero of the show -- a fact that is true in life, as well. Moreover, we get a sense for the reasons why. And, when a reckoning comes, we don’t lose sight of the fact that they’ve asked for it, usually at length.

Lara Parker’s charm, awareness, and sense of mirth make Angelique immediately likable despite the many horrible things she routinely does before breakfast. But she really gets dragged over the rocks in this week of episodes, and it’s too early for us to shed very many tears over that. This may explain why she’s even nastier than normal just prior to Trask’s exorcism. She REALLY has it in for Liz, practically transporting her into a Chekhov play of death obsessions. The same with David -- she really wants him to know Sam’s last words and get him thinking about his own last words. I’m a morbid guy, and that’s a bit much even for me. This is Angelique at the height of her sadism; after all, Barnabas broke her heart. Her revenge on him is excessive, but we get it. Right now? She’s just a sadist.  

It’s triggered two things. First, it positions Stokes to go from a curious exposition machine to full-fledged hero when he invades the dream curse. Secondly, it allows Trask to be at his loopiest and for us to still kind of root for him. Angelique has become so toxic, she’s catching it from skeptics as well as fundamentalists. It’s hard to see how she can dig herself out of this moral hole and still be Angelique. The beauty of DARK SHADOWS? They pull it off. But it will be a long slog over various hot spots in two centuries as well as a failed marriage to get her there. It takes what it takes. 
As an extra, Joel Crothers delivers another reliably energetic and truthful performance as Joe reels from Sam’s death. This is material that would seem histrionic in the hands of another actor, but Crothers never fails to sell the honesty in the moment. Historically, it may also signal the beginning of Joe’s mental degradation as the most unlikely of Angelique victims. 

This episode hit the airwaves June 21, 1968.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 5


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 252

As Carolyn begins her nightly attempt to berate Liz about the impending nuptials, Liz ends the subject by claiming to love Jason. Seeking revenge, Carolyn drunkenly takes up with a biker gang led by a vaguely affected biker named Buzz. As they party at Collinwood, Liz objects, and Carolyn threatens to deepen her relationship with the gang lord.

DARK SHADOWS returns to its prime storyline of Jason McGuire and Liz Stoddard, and thanks to the sharp performance of Nancy Barrett, it doesn’t feel like a letdown after the explosively wacky time we’ve spent at the Old House. Quite a feat on top of vampirism, kidnapping, and ghosts. It just goes to show what you can accomplish with passive aggression and an alto-voiced biker in The Wig that Would Be Szandor’s. Just as Barnabas is quick to start eying Vicki when things with Maggie swipe left, a new love is just the “I’ll show you” that Carolyn is looking for. We are, too.

Buzz. Buzz, Buzz, Buzz. You are an inexplicable gem worth explicating.

With Barnabas and the kidnapping/courtship, storytelling on DARK SHADOWS leveled up to a point from which it could never return. He feels like a total alien is the DSU and, strangely, like someone we might have met in the early, Bill Malloy days. (Just imagine the clash of those two!) Michael Hadge somehow manages to merge Russ Tamblyn with Truman Capote, and over four episodes, creates one of the show’s most memorable slices of huggably insolent, beer-swilling class envy. If Buzz had been around during the Leviathan sequence, Bruno would have surrendered and gone to work for Werner Erhard. Which is a fate I wish on no one.

As appalling (to the family) as Buzz is and will become, I can’t help but sense that history is repeating itself. If Paul Stoddard was the kind of guy to have Jason McGuire as a best friend, I think it’s safe to see him as the Buzz Hackett of the 1930’s. Just imagine what Jamison must have made of THAT! Perhaps we underestimate the old coot. His favorite uncle was sort of the Buzz Hackett of the 1890’s. Fortuna’s Wheel may have STP stickers all over it, after all.

What if Buzz had stayed around? A love triangle with Liz and Julia would have been inevitable, but beyond that, he and Willie would have either become inseparable or great friends. I can see Roger paying the scamp a small fortune to keep Willie (and Jeb and Bruno and Harry) in check as his own preferred weapon. No? Well, I can dream it, anyway. He’s a much needed, surreal vacation from the nihilistic implosion of everyone’s emotional lives at the Old House, and a perfect ambassador to ease us back into the grownup world at Collinwood.

This episode hit the airwaves June 13, 1967.

A closer look at Dark Shadows: The Complete Newspaper Strips

It's not a hoax! It's not a dream! The hardcover, restored edition of "Dark Shadows: The Complete Newspaper Strips" is finally happening!

Hermes Press publisher Dan Herman has shared a video that takes us behind the scenes of the new book, which has been in development for several years. In the video, Herman touches on the "detective work" needed to track down the missing strips, discusses the steps taken to restore the color on the Sunday strips, and teases a "special" edition of the book ... which has already been printed! You can watch the video at the bottom of this post.

Hermes Press has been fighting to get this collection published for almost as long as The Collinsport Historical Society has been around. The company successfully reprinted the entire run of the Gold Key comics line (as well as the "story digest" novella from 1970) but production of this particular title have stalled on several occasions.

And the 224-page hardbound collection looks to be a keeper. While the various DARK SHADOWS comics that have appeared over the years have featured some terrific artwork, Ken Bald's linework on the newspaper strip might the best of the bunch. It's reportedly Bald's favorite work of his career, which is no small statement given that Guinness World Records has crowned him as the world's "oldest comic book artist." The man has worked on everything from "Doc Savage" and "Captain America" to "Dr. Kildare."

The edition coming from Hermes Press differs in some significant ways from the collection published by Pomegranate Press in 1996. First off, it includes the Sunday strips in color for the first time. More importantly, though, the landscape edition of the book allows for the individual strips to be printed 10-15 percent larger than they appeared in newspapers. The artwork in these strips is finally getting the showcase it deserves.

The release of "Dark Shadows: The Complete Newspaper Strips" is just a few short weeks away. You can pre-order it now on Amazon for 20% off at It is also available directly from the publisher HERE.

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 4


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 508

Within the dream curse, Professor Stokes defies the set pattern at every turn, forcing Angelique to investigate this saucy jack. Nearly overcome by womanly urges, she nonetheless attempts the impossible feat of bending him to her will. He scoffs at her attempts to intimidate him. If she calls him Ben, he shrugs it off. If she marks his hand with the brand of Satan, well, he must have a handkerchief around here somewhere. Stokes awakens and consoles Julia that he is still single and unaffected by the curse. It ends here. He has no reason to tell his guide, Sam Evans, what happened. This is proved when Sam conveniently knocks on the door. Later, when Sam is at home, a noise alerts him to a visitor. It’s Adam. Cut. Bloody. And brandishing a knife. 

Most shows redefine themselves as they find their voice and footing. DARK SHADOWS doesn't redefine itself so much as it expands constantly its own vision, mood, and mission statement. Few episodes do that as dramatically and excitingly as 508. For most shows involving the supernatural, protecting the mysterious indomitability Of magic is the primary duty of the writers. And as long as no one says that the emperor wears no tux, they can use the vast power of the occult to get their characters into and out of any story corner at will. With that ultimate rabbit waiting in the Hat, who would dare expose  anything else? Who would have the chutzpah to cry shenanigans on this supreme form of gatekeeping, and position mere Mortals above gods by looking at the man behind the curtain?

Especially for a show like DARK SHADOWS, an act like this should be storytelling suicide. Instead, it's the core of one of the most memorable episodes in the entire series. Professor Stokes becomes the ultimate surrogate and champion for the rest of us muggles, proving that magic often only works when a victim is gullible enough to allow it. If anything gives us a reason to keep watching, it's this… and if anything makes later, more successful feats of magic that much more terrifying, it's this, as well. But at least on this night, Angelique, and all that she represents, is sent packing -- not by greater sorcery, but by courage, clear thinking, and a refusal to be intimidated by suggestion.

It’s about time. We’ve spent two years seeing our protagonists bullied and victimized. Now, as the program moves further and further away from a traditional soap and into the realm of comic book psychedelia, a victory like this lends respectability to the heroes, puts the villains on red alert, and adds genuine suspense. The occult will no longer be an automatic win, and by knowing that Angelique and Nicholas could fail, we can now find surprising moments to sympathize with them.

Thayer David revels in Stokes’ arrogance, as do we. The Professor now knows the extent of his powers (his words), so grab him a sherry. Wisely, the actor balances this insouciance with genuine fear. At any point in the dream curse, this might not work, Angelique might succeed, and the audience is never allowed to get ahead of the action. Because, as always, getting one step ahead of the action is the job of one man.

You know his name.

Stokes. T. Eliot Stokes.

And Professor T. Eliot Stokes will return.

This episode hit the airwaves June 5, 1968.

Thanks, Patrick


I might have knocked up DARK SHADOWS, but Patrick McCray married her.

The Collinsport Historical Society was a glorified Craigslist ad when it launched in 2012. I had been a solitary fan of DARK SHADOWS for a while, but had recently discovered the show had a rich history of fandom that had managed eluded me. The only real goal I had with the blog was to meet other fans, using my exploration of old 'zines and newsletters as bait. If you browse the posts from the CHS's first year you'll see for yourself it was a modest endeavor. Things didn't really get "serious" until Kathryn Leigh Scott agreed to do an inteview near the end of that first year, which unexpectedly led to the website's first podcast ... a concept enabled by some of those new friends I'd made along the way.

Among the panel guests on that first episode was Patrick McCray, a guy who is always down to talk about DARK SHADOWS come rain, sleet or storm. I don't know that he's ever said "no" to one of my requests, no matter how great or terrible they might have been. He's even been on board for a few of my ideas that never went anywhere, never once complaining when these efforts failed to bear fruit. Frankly, the CHS probably would have died from neglect a year or so ago had it not been for Patrick. If you're reading this, it's because he's not only been able to hold onto your attention, but mine, as well.

A few months back we learned that Patrick had been named "Writer of the Year" by The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards, an award that he collected over the weekend during the annual WonderFest Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. He accomplished this by writing about a niche fandom via his regular feature "The Dark Shadows Daybook," which has already accumulated more than 300 entries. And he won out over such runners up as Kim Newman and Tim Lucas. I mean, holy shit, right?

I'm not holding my breath waiting for a congratulations from MPI Home Video or anyone else involved with the Dan Curtis estate about Patrick's achievement. But I want to publicly thank Patrick for all of his work here at the CHS, and to let him — and everybody else — know how proud I am to have his writing associated with my humble website. He's definitely made Collinsport a more interesting place to visit during the last few years.

- WM

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 29


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 250

The hypnosis on Maggie begins to wear off, and she plans her escape as Barnabas plans the wedding. Seeing the coffin he has had made for her, Maggie decides to kill Barnabas, but she is thwarted.

Jonathan Frid knew exactly what he was doing. I’m convinced of that. Maybe… just maybe… the appeal he saw in the character was a surprise. In the first four or five episodes. But by now, the character has been around for nearly a month and a half. Huge superstar. And despite his nervousness about lines and his reticence about being a sex symbol, it's kind of nice to have a modicum of success at what you have been trying to do for 20 years. Frid, himself, would say that he was not exactly living the life of a renowned Shakespearean actor.  So, when you look at an episode like this, it's very clear to see where he could have simply twirled his mustache and leered at Maggie maniacally. There are faint glimmers of that. Enough to please the more shallow members of the audience. But, if you exclude just a few line readings toward the end of scenes and focus on how he interacts with Maggie?  Barnabas shows a real optimism regarding his goals, finally achieving some kind of happiness. You're looking at a romantic lead in a romantic program. If there's anything that makes him unusual, it's the fact that this is a man who is pining away so sentimentally on the smallest details of a wedding. And yet, he doesn't lose his masculinity while doing so. This is endearing to watch and I think is a key, if not the key, to why Barnabas is such an attractive character for (not just) female viewers. I think that the actor knew that these choices were innately human. And they create reasons to be kept around. Certainly, in an episode that ends with your fiance attacking you while you sleep, brandishing a spike, you have an indication that the writers may very well be willing to “go there,” in terms of character reduction.

The elephant in the mausoleum comes down to whether or not Barnabas sees this as a kidnapping or a rescue mission. I think it's written as a kidnapping. I certainly know that Maggie feels that way about it. However, I believe that Barnabas casts himself as a deprogrammer. Somehow, this really is Josette. She really has been ripped into the 20th century, as has he. Unlike Barnabas, however, she's been stuffed into a new body and mentally conditioned to think of herself as someone else.  When looked upon this way, the episode changes tenor. I may not be the first to admit that a coffin is a vaguely morbid wedding present, but I will concede the fact eventually. However, I believe that Josette was open to becoming a vampire before; it was just Angelique's morbid sneak preview that dissuaded her. With that distraction gone, this seems to be an ideal time to try it again. And it just follows. If you're going to marry Barnabas, you're probably going to have to become a vampire, and if you're going to become a vampire, you're going to need a place to sleep. We were in that uncomfortable age between the Petries and the Bradys when it came to sitcom couples sleeping. It's not like she can climb into his coffin. So, yes, his and her eternal rest. It's a proper way to kick off a marriage.

250 is easily one of the most painful and beautiful episodes in the series if you tweak your expectations only about two degrees. It's about a lonely man, abused relentlessly over the one thing that so many other people take for granted: love. And he has one chance -- one, impossible chance -- after an endless journey that began with the death of his fiance and the suicide of his mother and ended in an age completely foreign to his own. To experience all of that, to keep an amazing monster of self in check, and then to find the love of your past life waiting for you at journey’s end? Given that, I think Barnabas shows the reserve of a saint. When people talk about his courtliness and restraint, this is what they mean. We don’t understand bloodlust, but we can understand the ultimate fantasy of winning back our Josettes, wherever they are.

Would you be as patient?

This episode hit the airwaves June 9, 1967.

That other John Karlen vampire movie is on Amazon Prime

DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS, the kinky/glam movie about decadent French vampires that John Karlen made in the wake of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

It's a strange movie that not enough people have seen, partly because of what was happening in the market place at the time of its release. During 1970-71 the cinematic Vampire Arms Race had escalated significantly, with everyone from Dan Curtis, Hammer Studios, AIP and Toho (?!) doing their best to make nosferatu relevant again. Audiences had so many traditional monsters to choose from in those years that many simply died on the vine. The arthouse sensibilities of DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS didn't exactly give it a competitive edge.

If you're unfamiliar with the film, here's the official log line:
"International screen icon Delphine Seyrig stars as Elizabeth Bathory, an ageless Countess with a beautiful young 'companion' (Andrea Rau) and a legendary legacy of perversion. But when the two women seduce a troubled newlywed couple, they unleash a frenzy of sudden violence and depraved desire that shocked both art house audiences and grindhouse crowds worldwide."
You can find DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS streaming on Amazon Prime by clicking HERE. For those of you who want to dive a little deeper, there's also a Blu-ray available that features a commentary track by John Karlen available at the same link.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 28


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 516

Led by the sobbing of Josette, Willie and Julia unearth the spot where Barnabas was entombed and free him. Meanwhile, Angelique curses Liz with the memories of Naomi and torments her at the mausoleum. Julia outs Cassandra as Angelique to the ghost of Trask, who hunts her down at the mausoleum and sets her ablaze.

Just when you think that Collinsport (as it says on the sign when you enter the town) is the seat of lies and mendacity for all of coastal Maine, along comes an episode like this. Suddenly, your faith in humanity is renewed. At long last, your reasons to trust the ghost of an insane, fundamentalist bigot are given strength once more. Oh, maybe he committed a little blackmail to expediently bring about the execution of an innocent woman for a crime that doesn't exist. Well, technically doesn't exist. But what does that matter? As Dr. Julia Hoffman proves, he was sincere in his belief. And once she drops a dime on Cassandra, he has no interest in harassing ersatz enchantresses or his own murderer. The man is, above all, a professional.

This is probably the most winning moment for the ghost of Reverend Trask. Yes, he holds his professionalism so dear that the ironic murder of his own assassin holds little interest compared to meeting out Justice against the Devil. I think I can get behind that. And, all kidding aside, this sets up a “Trask Baseline” against which we can judge other, similar characters and, most vitally, future Trasks.  With the introduction of Nicholas Blair, the tapestry of occult personalities on the show grows far richer. It's one thing to have a horrible human being, demonic or otherwise, as your nemesis. We accept that this is going to happen. What's important is whether or not they are a demonic nemesis of character and integrity. In an episode like this, we see that Trask is.  By implication and demonstration, we also see that Nicholas most certainly is not.  And we also get to see, later on, how insincere and shallow Gregory Trask and Lamar Trask are by comparison.

It also helps us to root for Trask, once an unthinkable act, because of how bizarrely sadistic Angelique is in this episode. Picking on Joan Bennett is a little excessive.  Notice how Angelique doesn't take her on in a penmanship duel or in a contest to identify the most obscure piece of flatware at a table setting. No, instead, it's the old shtick of haunting her with a more interesting character... from a storyline we have started to miss... because this one is getting a little stale... despite its spectacular set pieces.  I always wondered about this move.  The show has shifted so significantly away from the mystery of the reclusive Liz Stoddard that I'm not sure they really have anything for Joan Bennett to do other than Lend Respectability on the closing credits. This at least gives her a more interesting function than sitting around waiting to hear exposition.  It's also the right combination of the atmospheric and the aimless. This fits with the spirit of the show, can come and go as the writers need it, and allows Joan to take a vacation almost anytime she wants because, in the words of Mr. Wells, her secret lover, “We’ll always have Windcliff.”

Finally, John Karlen seems to be celebrating his birthday by playing up Willie’s cowardice to the hilt. He seems to be going for Lou Costello while Grayson Hall is the spitting image of a shrewish wife from a WC Fields domestic comedy. And if I were tied up behind a brick wall by an enchanted fundamentalist from hell, they're exactly the team I would want coming to my rescue.

This episode hit the airwaves June 18, 1968.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 17


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 240

David mistakes Maggie for Josette in the Old House. Barnabas questions him in her room before depositing him at Collinwood. Later, David sneaks back over, where he finds her playing with her music box.

The two generations of supernatural storytelling on DARK SHADOWS finally collide. Or least get confronted. Maybe just acknowledged. Respectfully nodded at? And the storytelling experience for people who have been watching the show from the beginning is starkly different from what's experienced by people who begin with the return of Barnabas. If you followed the series from the very beginning, you're used to the ghost of Josette as an actual character. This is a very literal quest that David has. If you just started the show, David may very well be a little boy with an overactive imagination and an unusual connection to this painting… but nothing more. The latter approach may actually tell a more intriguing story because of the irony; David both gets exactly what he's looking for and yet is dealing with something unbelievably literal. Little does he know that the kidnapped and brainwashed Maggie Evans is, in many ways, a more astounding event than a ghost.

Sy Tomashoff again establishes himself as the scene-stealing costar of the series, in this case with his "renovated" Old House set. The water-stained wallpaper and other decrepit details ensure we remember that, no matter how much Willie has done to clean up the house, it's still a corpse. All the more disturbing because it now has home improvement “makeup” on 60% of itself, begging the question of,"What's going to happen the other 40%?" I get the feeling that they don't care. The house has become like an exotic, carnivorous plant. Everyone except the victims see beyond the seductively colorful flowers, but we are unable to stop the credulous from going in anyway. The house remains a perfect backdrop for some of the show's most haunting imagery, specifically Maggie floating through the house enveloped in shadow and wedding attire. It's imagery that thrives in the realm of black-and-white. Although the production team will later have a blast with color, they will forever lose the textured simplicity of the chestnut haired woman in the white gown appearing to the brave boy from nowhere.

Jonathan Frid and David Henesy share some fantastic moments early in the episode, with Frid taking the opportunity to show Barnabas as alternately threatening and genuinely curious about the boy’s claims. No one else has such a significant and authentic relationship, if only in the imagination, with the love of his life. Barnabas is surrounded by one bizarre coincidence after another. He's awakened at the exact moment that his fiancé's doppelgänger is at precisely the right age. Then, his descendent has an eerily dedicated relationship with her painting, and one that seems to slip just beyond the edge of youthful imagination, into something with greater reality. Rather than leer menacingly at David, Barnabas has a more nuanced sense of curiosity, and it's that degree of complexity that elevates him over other vampires of the era.

This episode hit the airwaves May 26, 1967.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 16


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 760

Angelique hoodwinks Laura into thinking her dead by creating a doppelgänger. Thwarted at every turn, Laura takes ill, strategically denied fire by Barnabas. Edward, who doesn't believe in supernatural, takes it upon himself to light the fireplace, giving Laura the last power she needs to attempt to claim the children with a wall of flame. Barnabas persuades Angelique to try one, last gamble. The sorceress casts a spell on Laura that removes her illusion of youth, and the children refuse to go to her. She is immolated in the fire she worships. 

In Diana Millay’s last appearance on the show, Edward Collins comes of age and Angelique makes herself the Selina Kyle of DARK SHADOWS by officially switching sides -- kind of -- in episode 760. Between 759 and 760, she and Barnabas pull off not one, but rather two schemes to thwart Laura. Barnabas is at the top of his game here, and the fact that he finds himself in that position with the help of Angelique demonstrates that, yes, they belong together. Many viewers find his confession of love at the end of the 1840s to be a non sequitur. Episodes like this one provide ample evidence to the contrary. In the prior installment, when Barnabas confronts Laura with the news that he has destroyed her letter and eliminated her henchman, he smiles for the first time since Nicholas Blair went back to Hell. As much as he thinks he loves Josette, she never elicited a smile like that. Not that I saw, anyway. Seeing Barnabas and Angelique across these two episodes (and the one to follow) brings to mind Steed and Peel, forever the Ultimate Avengers around these parts.

I think this was a strategic choice on the part of the writers. This was their second summer with Barnabas, and the first since the commercialization of the show was beginning to saturate retail stores. With such a heavy, youth demographic, it was important to orient the program toward more of a prime time, escapist sensibility. Turning Barnabas into a ruthless, charming cock of the walk hero, finally a step ahead of the villain, was vital to that. Similarly, a vaguely reformed Angelique provided a surrogate heroine for young female viewers. Not that it became a kiddie show, but broadening the appeal and considering all aspects of the viewership didn't hurt. One of the head writers, Sam Hall, had a son who was smack dab in the middle of the younger demographic. If he wanted to consult a focus group, all he had to do was stroll into the living room and ask Matthew to take a break from his 12” GI Joes. In the same era that Batman was duking it out with King Tut and James Bond teamed up with ninjas to prevent rockets from stealing other rockets, there is nothing surprising about the antics of our protagonists in this arc. And Laura makes a suitably outlandish villain — again, aimed at the kids. In the course of three episodes, Barnabas eliminates Dirk Wilkins in a way to ensure maximum terror for Laura, Angelique creates a doppelgänger to hoodwink Laura into a botched assassination, then casts an aging spell on Laura to thwart her attempt to burn the kids alive, while Barnabas rescues Jamison and Nora by casually teleporting through walls and fire. When he's discovered by Edward inside a room that's impossible to access (in the next episode), he's practically buffing his nails on his lapel in a display of self-satisfied nonchalance.

Where was Dos Equis’ ad department when the most interesting man in the world was coming out of the coffin on ABC, five days a week?

Why would the show radically change directions yet again? The production timeline is helpful. In September, just in time for the kids to go back to school, Jonathan Frid takes a well deserved break. Quentin becomes your full-time protagonist, now with invulnerability that would do a Kryptonian proud. In planning the initial Leviathan storyline, it seems clear that Quentin would continue as hero, Barnabas could return to villainy and shore up brand recognition for a possible movie, and Jeb would provide an outsider for Quentin to fight without ruining the ratings by staking Barnabas.

It didn't work out that way for a number of reasons. Barnabas was a perfectly good hero and Quentin could only be threatened with mind control and live entombment so many times. The only real threat for him was existential, and Kafka can wait.

This episode hit the airwaves May 23, 1969.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 15


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 239

Maggie, now in Josette’s wedding dress, joins Barnabas for dinner in an hypnotic haze. This is interrupted by a visiting Sam and Joe, who are sent away with Sam’s paints. Maggie, breaking free of her programming in her upstairs room, tries to escape, and Barnabas threatens her to stay.

Sometimes, DARK SHADOWS’ reputation for romance can be hard to understand if all you catch is a random episode. It shows us that a lot of people on it are in love, but only certain images and lines can make us feel why. But when it makes us feel why, few shows do it better, and few if any episodes do it better than 239.

At the heart of the ‘why’ is that word, “Gothic.” No other sensibility appeals to life in quite the same way because it openly acknowledges, confronts, and coexists with death. It refutes death by insisting that life will thrive despite it; the quintessence of romance is to want and strive and hope against all reason. As Barnabas Collins watches Maggie descend the stairs in Josette’s dress, glide through the decaying remnants of the House that was not always Old, and sit for a dinner that has been almost two centuries in the making, there is nothing rational to any of it. It is, however, necessary for this man, and as uneasy as the circumstances are, the beauty and authenticity of his motives cannot be denied. In the hands of another actor, Barnabas would have seemed lustful and selfish. Jonathan Frid’s sad gentility makes it clear that this is unrelated to the carnal. This is about Josette, and releasing her from her reincarnated prison known as Maggie Evans. It’s a strange and desperate gamble to win after what seems to be the ultimate loss.

We were supposed to see this from Maggie’s perspective, also, and sickening as her Stockholm syndrome is, it’s just as disheartening to feel that it’s always on the verge of failure. Go one way or the other, but let’s have some resolution. But romance in art is about suspense more than fulfillment, and the knitting of suspense to desire is what DARK SHADOWS is all about. At the end of the episode, as Maggie’s personality threatens to eclipse what Barnabas has tried to instill, she panics. Barnabas lunges for her, and the image fades to the credits. Is he going to attack her or is he going to beg? It’s unclear, and if it were not, I don’t think the show would have been a success. If there’s a mystery to DARK SHADOWS, it’s there.

On this day in 1967, the US Supreme Court recognized that juveniles accused of adult crimes have adult rights, as well.

This episode hit the airwaves May 25, 1967.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 11


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 233

Vicki watches over an ailing Maggie at the Evans cottage.  In a storm, the thunder cracks and the French doors fly open to briefly reveal the silhouette of Barnabas. He vanishes and she says, “it’s all right now.” Later, Carolyn and Vicki are at Collinwood when the power dies. By candlelight, Vicki reports seeing the phantom silhouette. Barnabas enters to check on the young women. In the light of the flames, he then tells of ancient times, storms and eventually, the death of Josette. He learns that Willie is quite probably the person responsible for alerting others to Maggie’s danger. He returns to the Old House, bellowing Willie’s name.

This may be one of two or three “best episodes” for Jonathan Frid. It’s a Messenger Speech, really. And that’s not easy. In advanced actor training, a major assignments is one of these, but from Greek theatre. You probably can guess, it’s done by a messenger. The messenger has usually seen something awful, and arrives to describe it with poetry and pathos. And keeping that third-person narrative emotionally invested is tough. What’s the objective? Where do you get to make a discovery or change your mind? It seems like a limited range of choices. Frid comes into Collinwood and goes to town discussing the death of Josette… or discussing around the death of Josette. Is it old fashioned poetry? Does anyone really reminisce like this? No. And that works in the episode’s favor. Real life is boring; that’s why we have art.

Thanks to the invaluable folks at for transcribing this!

There was a night such as this. A night when a young, beautiful woman was pressed to the limits. She could no longer accept what the future held for her. She knew she had to destroy herself before she became something she did not want to be. She had quarreled with her lover. She tried to send him away, but he would not be put off. He tried to put his arms around her, but she broke away from him and ran out into the stormy night. Her white dress contrasted against the darkness. He ran after her as she headed for the one place on earth that seemed to be designed for the termination of life. Rain drenched her, the winds buffeted her, blowing her long hair wildly. Her clothing was torn by the low branches. Her small white feet were bruised and mud-stained with the stony cruel pathway to the summit of the cliff. The shouts of her lover were lost in the wind as he moved swiftly after her. Near the top, she stumbled over a large rock. Crying hysterically, she limped and crawled to the edge of the precipice. Her lover reached her, clutched at her, spinning her around to face him. Her eyes were wide with terror as the lover held her tightly, lips pressed against her throat. Soon she grew limp, and he released her. Suddenly, with a last surge of energy, she broke free and hurled herself off the cliff. Her scream, reacting and echoing, as she plunged downward. Her body... was impaled on the large craggy rocks below. Her lover descended to the bottom of Widows' Hill. He found her body broken, lifeless... bloodless. As violent as her death was, the expression on her face was one of serenity. As if this were the best possible ending to her life.

I can’t help but throw in my own version. This is, according to the semi-satirical Collins Chronicles, what actually happened that night from Barnabas’ point of view. (And is one of my favorite pieces.)

Blunder of blunders, tonight was one calamity after another. First, I went to comfort the ailing Miss Evans (soon,safely moving into my care).  Such was my enthusiasm that I took no time to scan the room and count the pulses before I barged in unannounced. I was certain she’d be thrilled by the salubrious sight of yours truly, and so I threw open the doors in the fashion befitting a Don Juan of my disposition.  No sooner did I see that she was conversing with Miss Winters when the sky cracked the deafening whip of thunder and lightning.  This scared the wits out of Miss Winters, Miss Evans, and yours truly, who beat a hasty escape. 

At the very least, the community was alleviated of the unnatural eyesore of electricity.  I thought it fitting to visit Collinwood and celebrate this ocular rarity with Miss Winters and Miss Stoddard, but the awkwardness of the eve was unabated. It aided things in no way that I waxed rhapsodically about the death of Josette. Midway through, I became aware of my soliloquy and thus veered more and more into the realm of sentiment, winning the hearts of the ladies and shoring up my side of the story in case Angelique should arrive to sway them with hers. I almost found myself in a deuce of a problem when I mentioned the bloodless body of my beloved, setting off alarms in the mind of Miss Winters, who tried to connect that to the recent population reduction. 

I gleaned more evidence that Young Loomis has been sending messages on the telephone horn to alert all about Miss Evans' "great danger."  This upsets me in every way. It distracts the youth from his opportunities for vocational advancement. He was supposed to be exploring the art of Flemish bond bricklaying, taught by me with instructions aimed at both the heart and the head. But the bricks were stacked as I had left them, untouched.  I readied my cane, for it finally seemed time to have a civil conversation with him about the matter, but I found the scamp nowhere outside. Eventually, I (and I appreciate how ludicrous this sounds) I had to let myself into MY OWN HOME with MY OWN HANDS! (Ungloved, at that!) This was after tripping into a birdbath he had misplaced — and was even lowered to raising my voice, all in an effort to pry his attention away from the Collinsport Clippers baseball match he was listening to on his radio box. 

I fear that one day, I may lose my temper.  Before such an unseemly event, I need a sherry and a long sleep. 

Philip Marlowe, but not Kathryn Leigh Scott, is on Amazon Prime

Every once in a while there are small signs that Amazon is growing at a speed it can't quite maintain. These are relatively small cracks in the corporate infrasture, but enough to give me pause. Because if I can spot these mistakes from the comfortable confines on my couch, what else am I not seeing? This is a company that took the baton from Walmart in regards to its role as America's coporate Alpha Parasite in local communities, decimating whatever is left of small businesses and replacing them with wage-slave jobs and psychotic working conditions. "In the West, we don't tend to ask workers to stick to a precise productivity rate," said author Jean-Baptiste Malet, who documented his experiences with the company in his book Inside Amazon: Inflitrating the 'Best of Both Worlds. "Yet every day Amazon asks them to go faster than the day before. They are also set against each other. For example, if someone talks during work hours, the rest are expected to shun them." This is a vision of Hell so cartoonish that it would make THE SIMPSONS blanch, but for an Amazon warehouse it's just a Tuesday.

So, whenever I see cracks in the fuselage it makes me wonder if the next "Too Big To Fail" monolith is about to fail, either requiring a massive bailout from taxpayers and/or creating black holes in small-town infrastucres around the world. During the last week I've seen Amazon Prime use imagery from the 2002 remake of ROLLERBALL as the key art for the 1975 original, photos from 1974's THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 with the 2002 remake, and the exciting/disappointing photo at the top of this post for the 1983-1986 HBO series PHILIP MARLOWE, PRIVATE EYE. Yes, that's Kathryn Leigh Scott standing with Powers Boothe in Amazon Prime's thumbnail art for the show. Scott appears in the first season of the series ... which is actually not available from Amazon Prime at the moment. All that's streaming is Season 2. Amazon's Alexa device is constantly scanning the audio in my living room, blankly awaiting the proper key words (some of which can only be heard in ranges inaudible to the human ear) so that it can satisfy my every consumer desire  ... but the company can't differentiate between Walter Matthau and Denzel Washington.

What do we do about this? The only solution I can offer is to plug into all 1,225 episodes of DARK SHADOWS on Amazon Prime and await the inevitable war with Skynet. Consider the show's time/dimensional hopping as training for the days when we'll be fighting terminators in 1984.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 10


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 494

When Willie distracts Adam with Josette’s jewelry, he thinks they may also make a good peace offering for Maggie. After delighting her -- and flummoxing Joe -- by sneaking them into her purse, he is scolded by Julia for leaving his post. To calm Adam, she leaves Lang’s tape of Mozart. After they leave, Adam hears Lang’s message about his link to Barnabas, whose name he repeats.

Just when you thought it was safe to put the Josette storyline to bed, 494 resurrects it. It’s helpful to casual viewers, however. So many new (or semi-new, like “Cassandra”) characters have been introduced since the return from 1795. By touching upon Josette again, we resolve some of Willie’s creepiness rather than ignore it, and we also tie the present into the past once again. DARK SHADOWS gives its viewers a lot of credit, calling back to characters we haven’t heard from in months, if not years. (Paul Stoddard? We hardly knew ye.)

It’s a strangely fetishistic episode, with everyone a little TOO into ostentatious jewelry for my tastes. I can only imagine Barnabas’ mixed feelings at storing Adam in the same room as the hidden jewelry vault.

“What could actually go wrong?” -- he must regret how often he said that to himself about every major decision. From the moment he first kidnapped Maggie through the point when he agreed to be Quentin’s extemporaneous advocate in 1840. Just imagine...

“It’s just one I Ching trance.”
“It’s just a female version of Adam.”
“It’s just keeping the kids in the house with lethal ghosts.”
“It’s just another witch trial led by a Trask.”
“It’s just a room with a parallel dimension from which escape seems impossible.”
“It’s just a matter of putting a reanimated hulk of a corpse in the care of a mentally unstable felon... who keeps stalking a woman we once held hostage… despite the five bullets he took in the back the last time he saw her.”

I mean, what could go wrong? And it’s not that Barnabas is unintelligent. He has an Enlightenment Gentleman’s optimism that grows to match his desperation. Still, could we not have found another cell for Adam? Because Adam loves jewelry. And Willie loves jewelry. And Maggie loves jewelry. Every once and a while, DARK SHADOWS goes full on sitcom. The TV Guide entry for this one writes itself. This is devoted to a wacky scheme of leaving sentimental evidence of a brainwashing in the victim’s purse… as a love gift! But when it comes to, “What could actually go wrong,” Willie has learned at the foot of the master. And it was apparently a good lesson because it kinda works! Joe is baffled, and for good reason. He exists in a place called reality, but he’s alone.

Julia really Larry Tates the situation to the hilt, ordering Willie into a cell with a homicidal madman and threatening lifelong incarceration, which they both know she probably can’t do, but Willie doesn’t press it. Few episodes cry out for a laugh track more. That it should end with our heroes barely missing the only relevant clue to Adam’s and Barnabas’ connection? Pure Sherwood Schwartz

May the Schwartz be with you. Always.

On this day in 1968, audiences in theaters were enjoying the film adaptation of Neil Simon’s THE ODD COUPLE. Given that it’s on TV yet again, it may be the most unstoppable property to come from straight Broadway theatre. The film was directed by Gene Saks, who, with Bea Arthur, was the parent of Daniel Saks, with whom I worked for a few weeks. Nice guy. I made him late to the airport once, so this is a name drop of strange shame. Sorry, Daniel. The freeway signs in LA to the airport were very unclear. You missed it, too. I mean, you didn’t give me a hard time about it, but I’ve had issues for a long time. Daniel could also sing the theme to THE ODD COUPLE TV series, the lyrics of which could be heard on an LP that had clips of dialogue from the show. He had it as a child.

I think they went like this…

No matter where they go 
They are known as the couple. 
They're never seen alone 
So they're known as the couple. 

But they're laugh provoking; 
Yet they really don't know they're joking. 
Don't you find 
When love is blind 
It's kind of odd.

Kind of like Willie’s obsession with Maggie. Really, just about every relationship on the show. And thus, we come full circle.

This episode hit the airwaves May 16, 1968.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 9


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 234

Barnabas chastises Willie at the end of a cane for potentially alerting others to Maggie’s danger. At the Evans cottage, Sam and Dave Woodard discuss Maggie’s waning condition, and Woodard implies that there may be something beyond the medical that is to blame. Vicki takes over from Sam when he goes to paint Barnabas by moonlight, and she also finds that Maggie swings from thankful for supervision to petulantly resistant. At the Old House, Barnabas becomes restless with posing, and as his attention drifts elsewhere, Vicki and Maggie find themselves besieged by the sound of howling dogs and the start from violently shaking doors. Vicki leaves the room to call for Burke and afterwards, finds Maggie’s door suddenly locked.

For many, this is what DARK SHADOWS really is, as Barnabas rises in villainy and Maggie descends into victimhood. In tone, this stretch of episodes creates the ultimate chicken and egg debate for fans of the show. This realpolitik Barnabas is nothing like the avuncular, cured version with whom Roger leaves the kids as Quentin’s haunting begins. The dissimilarity is jarring. But would we ever have gotten that hero if he had not established himself in such a memorably wicked way? I like both sides of the character, and an episode like this reminds me of why people get hooked. The civility of Barnabas Collins is not an act. He is not a bloodthirsty European soldier posing as a suave gentleman to get his way. He IS a suave gentleman… and one for whom calculated brutality and intimidation are often best practices on the frontier. Don’t forget the world from which Barnabas arrived. The constant threat of invasion. Lethal winters. And untrustworthy house staff who connived for wildly unreasonable things, like dignity and freedom. People like Willie and Ben were major home appliances as much as they were humans. The aftermath -- almost always, the aftermath -- of Barnabas’ savage management methods exists in another context, as well. As sorry as we feel for Willie, we also remember him as a sleazy, thieving, barfighting, leering, vaguely-potentially-rapey weasel. It’s not like Barnabas is knocking around Mr. Wells at the Inn. This is a thug who can go toe-to-toe with Burke Devlin, and even if he knows that defeat is inevitable, goes out swinging. Willie can cower all he likes. He already bought into a world where problems are addressed like this all the time. I’m pretty sure that maritime discipline is designed similarly. As much as Barnabas would probably prefer to have Willie keel hauled, he’ll have to make due with his cane.

Still, this doesn’t mitigate the horror. If anything, the deliberate sense of tactics makes this episode effectively disturbing. Sam Evans is a determined, sharp, resilient parent. If that man is no match for a would-be kidnapper, who is? Steady and sober Vicky is similarly impotent as doors shake and unseen dogs snarl outside. What does Barnabas hope to gain? I suppose his powers of hypnosis are limited. By wearing Maggie down sufficiently, the certainty of Barnabas’ strange ways will be a relief compared to a threatening unknown. Kudos to Kathryn Leigh Scott for her transitions between needy victim and dispassionate conspirator in her own torment. DARK SHADOWS often requires a strange Tao from its actors. Both Scott and Jonathan Frid put that magnificently on display here in 234. She’s the frightened subject of mind control and a willing collaborator who wants to get her way. He’s a gentleman and a general. Both antitheses have elements of the other. DARK SHADOWS may evolve into a comic book about regret and restitution, but it begins as a study in the moral contradictions within us. DARK SHADOWS is literally about those -- the unsavory implications seemingly ignored when the spotlight celebrates what we want the world to see.

On this day in 1967, audiences laughed along with comedy team Eastwood and van Cleef as they mugged their way through the old west and did anything for a buck in Sergio Leone’s zesty romp, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE.

This episode hit the airwaves May 18, 1967.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 8


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1015

Quentin, driven by a vision, attempts to hang himself to be with Maggie, but Angelique draws a tarot card that alerts her to this, and she stops him. Barnabas visits her in the Parallel Time room, and she reveals her true identity to Hoffman, who warns that her killer will return. Upset that Quentin is obsessed with Maggie, Angelique takes him to the brink of death with a voodoo doll.

Welcome to the thousandth episode of DARK SHADOWS; considering how much has changed, it’s amazing what looks and feels similar to the beginning. I’m not just talking about the house and the name of Collins. We have an emotionally remote, self-destructive head of the household… haunted by a dead spouse. The dead spouse isn’t really dead. In the middle of it, a raven-haired beauty from the real world, trying to sort it all out. Of course, in this case, the raven-haired beauty is Jonathan Frid, and at that point, the similarities begin to break down.

When I wrote “the real world” in the paragraph above, I struggled a bit. Do I use quotes? A better phrase? No. Compared with Parallel Time, it is the real world. I think the secret reason that Parallel Time lets us down so pointedly is that no other storyline is about DARK SHADOWS quite as resolutely, and what can live up to that? When the story begins, we see people from DARK SHADOWS looking into a square frame -- the door. They see familiar people with unfamiliar clothes, sometimes names, and relationships talking about the things people in soaps talk about, but with a uniquely daytime/gothic twist. Often, the observers stumble on the room, but ultimately, it’s just a room with an insurmountable barrier.

In other words, the room is a TV that turns off and on at random, but always in time for the characters we love to watch THEIR version of DARK SHADOWS on it. And they can’t stop. It spreads by word of mouth. “There,” Barnabas thinks, despite the misery he sees, “there, I’ll be happy.” When Barnabas enters it, the story becomes almost a Mary Sue adventure, taking the fantasy one step beyond what we could ever do. Dan’s Dream, four years ago, has birthed a dreamer wholly independent, and that dream features a dark haired man putting his head in a noose as a woman plays tarot cards nearby.

After 999 other episodes, DARK SHADOWS should be self-reflective. After the show sees how much worse it could be, and that Barnabas’ own problems are not solved by entering a might-as-well-be simulation, it seems logical that the show’s characters would be happy to go back to Kansas. In this episode, Barnabas contemplates a world without Angelique, and as seemingly grand as that would be, he’s eager to escape back to his own dimension.  Like anyone with problems knows, while entering a fantasy might give a therapeutic insight, home is still fraught with challenges. To solve them, Barnabas will have to go back to almost the beginning and forgive the unforgivable. Angelique will have to find power in reality rather than in the capacity to control and manipulate.

Her desire to control is universal. No matter the era or time band. In this episode, she finally emerges from “Alexis,” and sheds some light on those motivations. I had long wondered what drove her to obsess on Quentin, and it’s because she can’t control him. I wonder if the Barnabas of Main Time would have been as intriguing to her if he’d been openly in love in 1795? I doubt it. Issues of love and power haunt the series from the beginning, and they’ll continue to do so until Angelique and Barnabas stop them in 1840. To do that, they need the understanding that comes from watching DARK SHADOWS, which is precisely what Barnabas is doing in Parallel Time.

On this day in 1970, TV sex symbol, Frances Bavier, was furious to discover that she had misheard the title of the Beatles album that was released that day; it was not about her character in Mayberry. Nevertheless, "Let It Be" became a classic.

This episode hit the airwaves May 15, 1970.

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 7


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 491

Barnabas and Julia think the experiment is a failure, but just as she leaves to consult Lang’s notes, Adam comes to life. He and Barnabas bond as the creature indicates speaking and shows basic motor skills. As a reward, Julia stabs him with a tranquilizer. As they speak with Liz, Adam awakens and wrecks the lab after slicing his hand on a scalpel. Barnabas nervously encounters the sunrise and survives, but must help Julia contain the hysterical lug.

After weeks of waiting, he’s alive. Alive! It isn’t often that soap writers get to introduce a character from the basement floor-up, but Adam provided that chance. I’m not sure how much was planned, how much was an accident, or both, but Adam’s interactions in this episode with Barnabas and Julia will inform those relationships for months to come. The dynamic with Julia is wholly understandable; her voice is as sharp as the needle she brandishes. Adam’s reaction is predictably negative. His relationship with Barnabas is more complicated. It’s a wariness that always floats toward total mistrust -- guilt by association with the woman who stabbed him, no doubt. However, there’s that pause before he commits, indicating that he may be misreading the situation. That little glimmer of human ambiguity is where the actor lives, and Rodan handles it with great sensitivity.

The addition of a Frankenstein’s monster was inevitable. “Dracula and Frankenstein” go together so frequently, they might as well be one word. The inclusion of Adam was so much a part of the ritual that they even gave him the Frankensuit costume. The problem is that the character isn’t really that scary. He’s a passive villain for much of his tenure, dangerous in how he might react more than plan. Once he starts planning, he’s still a dupe to Nicholas. Audiences expecting another Barnabas or Angelique will be confused; I’m still uncertain how you make a big, childlike thug actually frightening. Intriguing? We’ll see.

491 is also Exhibit A on the sadism of the soap format. The idea that “nothing really happens on soaps” misses the obvious; proponents of that are blinded by the fact that things are ALWAYS happening on soaps. So much so that characters never get a show or two to rest their feet. That it ends with Barnabas and Julia desperately trying to contain a superpowered madman? No surprise. It’s hard to remember, amidst the action, that just seconds before, Barnabas was taking in the sun for the first time as a fully cured human. However, he’s a fully cured human in a relentless universe determined to make him earn his keep.

This episode hit the airwaves May 13, 1968.
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