Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 19


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 215

Maggie congratulates Burke on his handling of Willie Loomis when Joe arrives and explains in shock that his uncle’s calf has been drained of blood. Willie comes in, despite Burke’s prior warning, and collapses at the bar. Jason and Burke discuss Willie’s condition, and Jason confronts his former lackey.

With his nervously indefatigable sense of tally-ho in the later portions of the show, it’s easy to forget the truly portentous, necrotic essence that Barnabas brought to the show. There is an ugly and unforgiving feeling to what’s happening to Collinsport that goes beyond Lucy or Mina simply becoming a little pale. Dead cattle and a battered, terrified street kid are just a prelude. It seems so antithetical to the nostalgic charm that he uses with Vicki and the family. He’s like a deadly, carnivorous insect that has chosen to camouflage itself as innocently as possible. I’d argue for this being a Jekyll and Hyde riff, but there’s no remorse. Barnabas has almost two centuries to think about what he wants and deserves and has been denied. When it comes to wanting to see the world burn, the Joker barely has a smouldering match compared to Barnabas.

This is the first real episode to go beyond a romantically rhapsodizing, anti heroic man of mystery and show the dead rot under the Inverness cloak. Ironic that he’s not even there for the episode. We can thank the honest and shaken turns by the reliably truthful Joel Crothers and John Karlen for making Barnabas truly scary. Awed reactions to an offstage force engage the imaginations of the viewers, and together they can create a character that few actors can top. Jonathan Frid is one of them, and that’s a high compliment. (The nauseated confusion shown by Joe will take a lot to justify.)

The other contributor is Mitch Ryan. It’s one thing for John Karlen to show Willie’s vulnerability, taking a 180 turn from who we first met. It’s something else for the strongest character on the show to come to a dead halt over it. Willie has a fear so authentically-yet-subtly conveyed that Burke goes from wanting to slug fellow ex-con, Jason McGuire, to avuncularly collaborating with him on Willie’s condition. Barnabas’ effect is so profound that it changes loyalties and unites former enemies in a matter of seconds. Our fears have been justified; it will be impossible to know what Barnabas is capable of in the future, but there is one thing he cannot be: underestimated.

On this day in 1967, film producers finally got back to Ian Fleming with CASINO ROYALE. All kidding aside, it’s a wild mess of a mish mash and, if you turn off expectations, pure fun.

This episode hit the airwaves April 24, 1967.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 17


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 476

Lang reveals his plan to elude Angelique’s curse by transferring Barnabas’ soul into a new body with a new face. Barnabas tries to confide in Julia, and when he sees Jeff and Victoria together, decides to go forward… if Lang can give him the head of Jeff Clark. Lang eagerly agrees.

There’s a little revolution in 476 when Barnabas goes to Julia, the cause of so much misery, for advice. Ever since the introduction of Eric Lang -- a perfect time to ditch Julia -- they’ve knit them closer and closer together. The writers used her tragic flaw of jealousy in an entirely new way. What was once the inspiration to punish Barnabas is now the inspiration to win him over. And maybe she just plain likes him… and “like” can be a much more powerful agent than love. Her transformation begins out of professional envy, when Lang cures him. It continues when Barnabas, who has no reason to trust her other than instinct, seeks her counsel in this episode. Of course, he never comes out with the truth of the plan because that would end the storyline, but the gesture is what matters.

How long could the show have lasted with Barnabas and Julia going at it as horror’s Tom and Jerry? Exactly. Nor could Willie have stayed completely disloyal. Angelique and Nicholas have to be brought in advance the relationships, and the relationships have to advance to cope with Angelique and Nicholas. Here is the spark that leads to show’s most interesting evolution. Why does Barnabas trust her? You can tell by his newfound human walk, he’s a loyal man, no time to balk. This will become his secret to staying alive.

The only way that either Lang or Barnabas can get away with years of vampirism and mad science is that DARK SHADOWS must take place in a universe where DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN were never written. I’m pretty confident that there are scant references to either, if any, in the course of the show. Other than being, you know, the show itself. Otherwise, the characters would have just looked ahead to see how the books ended and worked backwards. But since no one bought Adam a parka or advised Barnabas to avoid knife-wielding cowboys, I can assume that the library was closed for Passover.

Visually, take a moment to enjoy how lush the episode is. In an episode about new life, flowering friendships, and strange hybrid plans for human development, the verdant settings are ideal. A happy accident. The extended and deep graveyard set must have dominated much of the stage, so getting the most out of it was a clever maneuver.

On this day in 1968, the Carol Burnett musical, FADE OUT, FADE IN -- a kind of spiritual continuation of the satire in SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (by the same authors) closed on Broadway after 72 performances.

This episode hit the airwaves April 22, 1968.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 16


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 212

Elizabeth and Barnabas talk of his remarkable knowledge of the family history, although he politely declines her offer to stay at Collinwood. Later, after meeting Vicki, he encounters David at the Old House. When David leaves, he gazes at the portrait of Josette and explains that he’s back to stay.

It’s hard to watch 212 without very strong feelings, and few modern viewers will ever share them with those who saw the episode in 1967. Contemporary viewers see the opposite story, in fact. In a world without Barnabas Collins and “a soap opera about a vampire,” 1967 audiences saw a show where familiar Liz, Vicki, and David meet their English cousin. They’d started the show nearly a year before, and as viewers of that era, they saw the events through the family’s eyes. For us, Barnabas is our context. We start DARK SHADOWS with him, and we learn the family and related details as he does. Although it would be interesting to induce a temporary amnesia and see the show as they did on its first broadcast, the contemporary reading is much more intriguing.

If you’ve never seen the show before, everyone is a stranger. If you’ve been through at least once, as is the case with most viewers, you already know Barnabas as the “main character.” You know his unfortunate origin, and you know his sometimes-heroic future. Given that, 212 is an episode rife with fear and sadness, but those emotions belong to Barnabas. Although the bangs may not yet be there, Barnabas wrings his hands like a champ. Imagine this from Barnabas’ perspective. The evil aunt you killed -- from your perspective, a month or so ago -- answers the door and introduces your mother who committed suicide when she learned your secret. Is it any wonder that he accidentally talks about remembering Collinwood and its first inhabitants? He was supposed to be its master only a subjectively scant time before. Then, he goes over to the Old House where his kind-of nephew tells him that the OTHER woman who committed suicide over him is haunting her own painting. Jonathan Frid gives a vampire performance like no other prior to this. Yes, he’s obsequious, but it’s not just to win the loyalty of locals. He’s experiencing genuine sentiment, loss, regret, and longing. Just as Vicki is lost, without a family, in a house that both is hers and is not, so is Barnabas. The only difference is that he understands that he should.

In most vampire stories, he’d be something like Jerry in FRIGHT NIGHT, there to feed and revel in ee-vil. Maybe talk about a master race at some point. Barnabas is a man out of time, first, and a vampire, second. He’s not a comfort eater; food’s not on his mind 24/7. All he wants is for his father’s ghost to know he’s free to “live the life I never had. Whatever that may turn out to be.”

With a lesser actor, we’d be given the obvious choice on that last line. He’d probably gloat. Barnabas dreads his own potential, and in his delivery, Jonathan Frid communicates an awed uncertainty that sets up a character on a fearful quest. He’s no conqueror. Like any of us, he’s just out to rediscover the modest happiness he thought was everyone’s birthright.

Ron Sproat never intended for this episode to be from Barnabas’ perspective any more than he planned on creating a protagonist who would carry DS until its end. But that’s exactly what happened.

This episode hit the airwaves April 19, 1967.

MPI slashes prices on Dark Shadows merchandise

MPI Home Video currently has a ton of DARK SHADOWS merchandise on sale at deeply ridiculous prices. I don't know how long the sale will last, but among the discounted items are are all four DARK SHADOWS bobbleheads, the 50th anniversary lunchbox, the Barnabas Collins replica ring, scarves, gloves and T-shirts ... all for just $10 each. Also available are the 8-disc CD collection of Robert Cobert's music from the series, collector plates, watches and a slew of kooky stuff on sale at various prices. You can find the sales listing HERE.

h/t to Will McKinley

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 13


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 210

I think it was January 4, 1982 that I saw this. Given how slow the series could be, and given that I was only eleven, I have long wondered how that show captured me so firmly. In watching it again today, I think I understand why.

Malcolm Marmorstein.

He wrote this episode, and if he had been hired to write a pilot for DARK SHADOWS, he could not have done a better job. Of course, for most people, this IS the pilot for DARK SHADOWS since broadcasts and collections usually start on 210. Although subsequent episodes drag, this one cracks along surprisingly quickly. It introduces everything we need to get us hooked and eschews anything minor enough to be left for later. The strategy is apparent in hindsight, and some of it is a happy coincidence, but the intent matters less than the result in this case… somewhat the opposite of real life.

Breaking down the episode, the elegance of its construction becomes clear.

The teaser cruises through Eagle Hill cemetery as Victoria describes the depths to which some men will sink -- desecrating sacred ground, sinking to depths of corruption, and violating that which should remain sealed forever. We know a vampire is coming, but how? A second party is implied, and they’re not going to be very nice. The story and our expectations are immediately raised and we have yet to meet a single character… until we come inside, where Jason is harassing Willie. The big one is abusing the little one, demanding that he account for his whereabouts and doing so violently. David and Goliath. Shrill and meek. Had we started earlier, it would be tougher to be on Willie’s side. Starting here? Jason is the villain. He accuses the bruised kid of having a scheme, and the kid obviously lies to the Irish galoot, gazing at the portrait conspiratorially. It’s as if he and the man in the painting already have a relationship. Cut to opening credits.

A lovable weasel. A bully. A silent and stern third party, hanging on the wall like a watchful ally, holding his action. Only a few lines, but resonantly human to anyone who’s been victimized by a know-it-all lout. Somehow, we know this power dynamic is bound to change, and that, for once, the know-it-all knows zip.

As we return, Jason gets physical, grabbing the kid and roughing him up. As they bicker, we hear the name “Collins family.” Nice people. Long history. Money. The man in the painting… an incestor of them? Willie’s been doing research. He swears innocence, but Jason contends with mordant wit that there’s not a Bible written that Willie could swear to. Then, a payoff is mentioned. Willie is getting money through Jason from someone named Liz Stoddard, and he’s to start packing to go.

As it goes on, we see the other side of Jason as he slimes his way around an iron lady of a matriarch, oozing subtle threats and extracting bitter payoffs, later confiding in an impossibly beautiful girl who must be her daughter. We feel immediate respect and sympathy for both of them. They are as captivating as Jason and Willie were nefarious. These scenes alternate with Willie at the crypt, driven by a phantom heartbeat, Indiana Jonesing his way around the graves of other prominent Collinses from the 1700’s, including someone named Naomi Collins. He works out a rope and pulley system --  implying an ex-sailor… this is Maine, right? -- to pry off a vault lid. It’s a black sequence broken only by smokey grays and tentative strings. When the pulley excruciatingly unlocks the ring from the lion’s mouth, we’ve left any kind of Collinwood that Liz, Jason, and Victoria are a part of. They never ran it. This place belongs to what’s behind the secret slab that suddenly-then-slowly grinds open. To whatever’s under the chains the kid breaks. When the spectral heartbeat stops. In the coffin. A force within as ready as a feral animal, primed to strike strike when the lid is opened, With the hand, the frilly cuff, and the regal, dead eye of a black stoned ring.

Characters with potential. Characters to love despising. A grand house with a past deeper than anyone knows. And an undead x-factor that could go anywhere. All exquisitely structured to compel you to watch the next scene and the next episode. Rarely has this much potential energy been promised to an audience. It would take Dan Curtis four years, five days a week, to do it justice. 

This episode hit the airwaves April 17, 1967.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Rondos name Patrick McCray "Best Writer" of 2017

The winners of this year's Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards were announced online last night. When the dust had settled, DARK SHADOWS had done pretty well for itself. Our own Patrick McCray was named "Best Writer" of 2017 for his ongoing feature here, "The Dark Shadows Daybook." Here's what the Rondos had to say about him:
Patrick McCray
Few people know the secrets of Collinsport more than Patrick McCray, a Dark Shadows expert whose contributions to the Dark Shadows Daybook keep horror's enduring scare opera alive for new generations. A writer who viewed 1,225 episodes in 45 days, he shares his obsession with Collinsport fans daily.
There were some interesting runners-up, as well. The Collinsport Historical Society received an "honorable mention" for Best Website, while Rod Labbe's interview with DARK SHADOWS alumnus Marie Wallace from issue #104 of Scary Monsters was a runner-up for "Best Interview." You can see the full list of this year's winners at the official website of the Rondos HERE.

Now in its sixteenth year, the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards nominees are based on suggestions offered by fans and professionals at the Classic Horror Film Boarda 23-year old online community. The award itself was sculpted by artist Kerry Gammill ("Action Comics," "Power-Man and Iron Fist") and cast by modeler Tim Lindsey. The award is a miniature version of the bust of actor Rondo Hatton created for 1946's HOUSE OF HORRORS.

This year’s e-mail vote drew more than 3,700 ballots, which is reportedly a record for the Rondos.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 11


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 473

Roger enters with his new wife in tow, a dead ringer for Angelique named Cassandra. Brittle conversations ensue as Roger and Liz fume at one another and Cassandra pretends to have no idea who Barnabas is. The episode ends with Cassandra alone, tintinnabulating a familiar laugh.

I think everyone has at least one Angelique.

As she returns (for the first time) in 473, we get the feeling why. That’s a tribute to the script by Sam Hall and the everything else by Lara Parker.

Barnabas has been dreading it, but even with the bizarre stuff he’s seen in Martinique, 1795, and the Sixties, I don’t think he believes she will actually reappear. As he opines that witches never die, etc, I think he’s doing it so that he can turn around and say, “Well, guess I was wrong. Ding-dong and all that.”

It’s hard not to impose inner monologues while watching the show, perhaps because Angelique is a living Rorschach blot of a character, drawing out the true intentions from everyone she meets. Wonder Woman needs a lasso. Angelique just needs to stifle a judgy little laugh. Whether it’s lust, violence, respect, or jealousy, the veils come off of others in her presence. And that’s such a refreshing thing on the show. Everyone else is dedicated to keeping and/or inducing secrets. Yes, she’s awfully evil, but she’s evil in the name of love, and we all have impulses to go there once or twice in our lives. And each audience member secretly knows that as long as they weren’t in her way and kept up some lively chat, they’d be spared, right?

It’s her ultimately romantic intent that redeems her. Do any of us really dread that she’s back? No. Finally, a woman at Collinwood who knows the score. Heck, just SOMEone at Collinwood who knows the score.  She’s what we’ve been waiting for since Jason McGuire -- an agent of action, change, humor, awareness, and love. I just imagine, alone with Angelique for the first time in 473, Barnabas sitting down with her and catching up on “how crazy it’s all been” before remembering she’s a monster he’s obligated to hate.

Lara Parker really must be given ample credit for this effect. The good stuff, not the monster part. Holding multiple college degrees, beauty rarely seen this side of the Louvre, and a balance of genteel, southern refinement and canny, metropolitan wisdom, Parker enlivens the wickedest dialogue with equal parts pathos and play with unerring instincts.

Her arrival signals the last major tonal shift we’ve been awaiting in the show, and you saw it here, first. Up to now, it’s a story about 1960’s mortals interacting with gods. With Angelique joining Barnabas to form the dysfunctional, time trekking, immortal First Couple of Collinwood, the situation is now reversed. The story of DARK SHADOWS is finally one of gods weaving through fields of mortals. That’s an important factor to consider when passing moral judgment on Barnabas and Angelique. They may have impossible crimes, but they also have impossible spans of time to pay impossible prices. Us? Short timers.

On this day in 1968, Lyndon Johnson signed the 1968 Civil Rights Act.

This episode hit the airwaves April 17, 1968.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Kathryn Leigh Scott is headed to Austin this summer

Kathryn Leigh Scott will be representing Collinsport this summer at the Greater Austin Comic Con in Texas. Scott has just announced that she is among the guests scheduled to attend the event, which is set for June 16-17 at the H-E-B Center in Cedar Park, Texas. It's going to be a little hot for DARK SHADOWS cosplay, but I'll still be disappointed if I don't see Instagram photos of at least one person wearing an Inverness cape at the convention.

For more information about GACC, visit their website at

And find Kathryn online at

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 9


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 471

Barnabas leaves Lang’s shortly before Jeff Clark delivers an arm to the mad doctor. At Collinwood, there is concern over Roger staying the night out, and then Lang’s head mirror is discovered in his room. Vicki gets a start when Harry Johnson, the maid’s ex-con son, arrives and looks like Noah Gifford. Mrs. Johnson warns him not to steal anything, and he immediately follows this up by snooping through the drawing room desk, presumably to steal something. Barnabas gets the urge to bite Vicki. Fleeing to Lang, the doctor assures him that he can be permanently cured by taking the face of Vicki’s lover, Jeff Clark.

The soft reboot enters its third week. The show has transitioned from the pre-1795 era to preparing for Angelique and Adam -- voices both sinister and sympathetic. DARK SHADOWS is about vulnerabilities under the facade of Collinwood’s might, and the writers were obligated to maintain a certain equilibrium of dangers. With Barnabas more-or-less cured, Angelique needs to be on hand as a threat. But a weasel is necessary to the mix, also. With John Karlen not yet available, the unfortunately named Harry Johnson stands in, and the show wastes no time in identifying him as bad news. They never do quite enough with the character, but he is a statement that this universe has certain standards of creepdom consistency. Craig Slocum continues to be the quintessence of clammy hands in his whiny, Eddie Haskellesque characterizations, and it really makes you wonder what his father was like, because he didn’t get it from mom!

Barnabas’ transformation is more than physical. Less than a year after his introduction, he’s been cured, origin-ized, and now more closely resembles John Adams in 1776 than Dracula. He has gone from strangulation, kidnapping, and brainwashing to feeling profoundly uneasy with the the tip of Lang’s iceberg of madness. Imagine if he’d seen the arm in the box. His costume is transformed as well, and more than any other factor than dialogue, costume immediately defines character. He’s gone from the black, neo-Edwardian, double breasted fortress to a loose, layered, lighter tweed and vest. All he’s missing is a pipe and the PBS logo to his lower left. 

He now knows one thing; Lang is as mad as a March hare. Is a cure worth it if he’s somehow going to have to switch faces? I know that being a vampire is strange, but this is really going too far. Coming back to the theme of social compliance, Lang coaxes Barnabas in by having him make one small compromise -- and cover one small untruth -- at a time. It’s a strangely sad time for Barnabas because just when he has no more reason to lie to the world about himself, he has to lie on behalf of someone he doesn’t even like very much. It’s going to take the suicide missions of 1897, Parallel Time, and 1840 for him to even begin to atone, even when he’s a victim of circumstance.

Coming back to Mrs. Johnson, does she always scour Roger’s room for weird props to bring to Liz in the name of tattletaledom? In this case, it’s Lang’s head mirror. At first, it just looks like Roger’s got a simple medical fetish, but then it’s compounded by Lang’s name emblazoned within the band. Since Roger stayed out the night before, it looks to me like Roger’s dating Dr. Lang. It’s a tribute to the innocence of the era that this occurs to no one.

On this day in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was buried in Atlanta.

This episode hit the airwaves April 15, 1968.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Rondo Awards: CHS nominated for Best Blog/Website


You just think you love DARK SHADOWS.

And you probably do. It's not a television show that will meet you halfway ... if you're a fan of DARK SHADOWS, you've absolutely made a significant investment of your life to this sprawling, 1,225-episode program. Our fans make Trekkies look sedate by comparison.

Compared to Patrick McCray, though, you're a total piker.

Yes, that's a bold statement, given the broad spectrum of DARK SHADOWS fans that have interacted with this website over the years. Some of these folks were lucky enough to hang around the NYC studios where the series was taped between 1966-1971. Others were involved with organizing festivals and conventions years later, publishing fanzines or helping to produce audio dramas that extended the narrative of a series that loved decades after it was taken off the air. These are passionate, driven people who have been at the DARK SHADOWS game for a long, long time.

I've even managed to make a name for myself in recent years as one of the show's loudest, strangest cheerleaders. But: When I have a question about DARK SHADOWS, Patrick McCray is the guy I ask. He's seen the series from start to finish (and one time from finish to start) more times that I can count, and can address nuances of continuity, story, dramatic mechanics and theme in ways that are always illuminating. His B game is better than more people's A, and he's contributed to this website over the years with the kind of commitment and discipline that's usually only accompanied by a paycheck. There have been days since I launched this website in 2011 where I've contemplating shuttering the historical society's doors, but Patrick's dedication keeps me coming back.

In 2012, The Collinsport Historical Society was named "Best Blog" of the year by The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards. It feels ridiculous that we were even nominated, and downright surreal to have actually won. We've been nominated every year since in that same category, which somehow feels nicer to me than having actually won. Over the weekend the CHS was nominated again for "Best Website or Blog" of 2017, alongside such sites as birth.movies.death, Graveyard Shift SistersBloody DisgustingDread Central and Tim Lucas' Video Watchblog.

My instinct this year was to thank the Rondos for their continued recognition and move along with my life. Just seeing the CHS mentioned with those other people is scary. It seems best to keep my head down and hope nobody figures out that I was invited to this party in error. I mean, holy hell. You guys know I spend my free time making Muppet Show/Dark Shadows mashups right?

Which brings me back to Patrick. When we got our Rondo back way back when, it was a single award that's now sitting in a display case in the cluttered nest I refer to as my "office." And I think Patrick deserves to have one of these. So, instead of pushing you to vote for the CHS this year, I thought I'd share a sample of my ballot ... which includes Patrick McCray in the write-in category for "best writer" of 2017. There are 29 categories, and you don't have to vote for them all. But I'd love it if you voted for Patrick this year.

As usual, this year's winners will be determined by votes from the public. And that means you. Readers are asked to select winners from this year's nominees and e-mail your selections to awards

All voting is by e-mail only. One vote is allowed per person. Every e-mail must include your name to be counted. All votes are kept confidential. No e-mail addresses or personal information will be shared. Votes must be received by midnight, April 8, 2018.

You can read the full list HERE, and below you can find my personal ballot.

STAN AGAINST EVIL, ‘Girl’s Night,’ 11.8.17, IFC. Jeffrey Combs guest stars as Impish Man. ‘Answer the door. Then step outside and lock it, and everything will be great.’

SUSPIRIA (Synapse)

SUSPIRIA (Synapse). Much awaited 4K restoration, color corrections from original negative.

MONSTER SQUAD: Celebrating the Artists Behind Cinema’s Most Memorable Creatures, by Hearther A. Wixson (BearManor Media, softcover, 444 pages, $28). Biographies and interviews with master monster makers of the 70s-90s.

Graveyard Shift Sisters.

14. BEST INTERVIEW (award goes to interviewer)
Marie Wallace of Dark Shadows, by Rod Labbe. SCARY MONSTERS #104.

24. BEST WRITER OF 2017 
Patrick McCray, The Collinsport Historical Society.

25. BEST ARTIST OF 2017 
Ben Walker Story. Ben was my write-in vote last year, and he's my write-in vote this year, as well. You can see his work online at

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 5


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 469

Jeff, Julia, and Vicki open the coffin in the secret room after Jeff reveals that he somehow knew the latch was there. The coffin is empty. In the hospital, Barnabas has excruciating blood pangs, and Lang explains that he may have a permanent cure. Later, Julia visits Lang, who brags that he can care for Barnabas far better than she. As she leaves, Julia passes Jeff Clark. Lang is furious that he is being associated with Clark. Jeff explains that he saw Julia at Eagle Hill. Lang says the bodies there are far too old for his purposes. It’s clear that Jeff is being blackmailed to work for him.

With more than a week of revolutionary plot advancement under the show’s belt, the staff now settles back into a standard pace. In an interview with Violet Welles, I read that she, Sam Hall, and Gordon Russell would plot out the show months in advance, finally getting down to week by week, episode by episode, and scene by scene. The process was surprisingly meticulous. I think the formula breaks down a bit like this:

10% Last scene of the prior episode.
30% Covering prior plot points.
10% Review and advance secondary plot.
30% Revelation of one new plot point in prime storyline.
10% Foreshadowing future plot point.
5% Debate about prior decision or confession.
5% Major new decision or confession.

In this case, we spend a lot of time in the mausoleum as Vicki and Jeff sort of remember segments of 1795. The major new ground we cover is that Jeff is going to graveyards for Dr. Lang… and that the bodies in Eagle Hill are too old for the job. Hint hint. The discoveries, of course, are that the coffin is empty inside the secret room and that Lang may be able to permanently prevent Barnabas from having any relapses.

But is that really a revelation? No. Lang never said that Barnabas is permanently cured. This is the trick that DARK SHADOWS does. It doesn’t reliably deliver new information. Instead, it reiterates old information with slightly more context. The characters sometimes act like it’s the first time they’ve heard things, but in the case of Barnabas and his blood pangs, he has no reason to be surprised. Barnabas may have “seen” the recent episodes, but not all viewers have. And for more seasoned viewers, the show still entertains by covering old ground in new enough circumstances that it feels like the first time. Usually.

The hot scene in this one is the conversation that Julia has with Lang. This may be Julia’s real turning point. Up to this moment, Barnabas has been a thorn in her side that she’s niggled about to their mutual masochism. She’s poisoned him. Blackmailed him. Lang seems to sense this. He revels in pointing out the legitimate truth that he can care for Barnabas better than Julia. After all, he cured him in less than a day. It feels like two pimps arguing over an, um, employee. They both pretend to have his best interests at heart. They both pretend not to be engaged in vicious combat. One pretends not to be weaker. One pretends not to be gloating over it.

Julia’s loved Barnabas, but not exactly lost him. He was close enough for her to bully, torture, and be tortured by. He was a problem, yes, but he was all hers. Seeing her contemplate losing him to someone who can pull off what she only claims she MIGHT be able to do? Not only that, but someone who offers none of the minuses of romantic jealousy? She’s suddenly behind an eight ball the size of Collinwood. If she gets out from it, her relationship with Barnabas will never be the same. She’ll have to tap into her humanity, not her guile. They might even wind up equals.

On this day in 2063, Dr. Zephram Cochrane and the town of Bozeman, Montana will welcome the Vulcan surveyor T’Plana-Hath on what will be appreciated as First Contact Day. The T’Plana-Hath

This episode hit the airwaves April 11, 1968.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 4


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 468

Dr. Lang releases Vicki from the hospital after warning Jeff, on whom he seems to have dirt, to stay away. At Collinwood, Carolyn’s bite marks have vanished in sync with Barnabas’ cure. Vicki is determined to examine the mausoleum and, with Julia in tow, goes there only to discover Jeff Clark also there, compelled to see her. Together, they intuit the location of the locking mechanism. As the door swings wide, they see the coffin within the hidden chamber.

Victoria doesn’t understand.

To some, “I just don’t understand” is a cliche. To others, a theme. In either case, Vicki either does (or doesn’t do) a lot of it, and she does (or doesn’t do) it constantly for two years. But times are changing. At this point in the series, with both art and economics dictating the tonal shift to Barnabas, there is far less incentive to make the stories center on her, much less make her Liz’s daughter. After all, how does that connect to Barnabas or the supernatural? Exactly. It doesn’t.  Rather than crash the character, it opens up new possibilities. There can be real danger surrounding her because she’s no longer central to the storytelling. The writers flirted before with marrying her off, and unless she marries a Collins, that’s always a threat. But her prior suitors, Burke and Barnabas, would always have the upper hand in the relationship because they understand. It’s their job. Not only do they usually know what’s going on, often they ARE what’s going on. In this sense, can she ever find an equal, and if she can’t, can she really find romance?

Enter Jeff Clark. As 468 ends and they peer into the secret room in the mausoleum, we now have a team of outsiders peeling away the mysteries of Collinwood. It’s taken nearly two years, but it feels right.

Jeff is an ideal lover for Victoria because he’s more lost than she is (without having significant neurological trauma). Now, she gets to be the caretaker. She gets to collaborate on solutions rather than simply stumble or be led into them. They have more in common than confusion. Collinsport outsiders, both have found themselves beholden to eccentric wealth for pasts that are unclear to them. Vicki is lost twice -- not only are her parents a mystery to her, but since the trip to 1795, so does the very era. Jeff is unclear on his own past, with false memories of untrue guilt layered on top of the fact that he’s destiny’s forgetful time traveler. We won’t really know that until later in the year, so the fact that he’s being gaslit into thinking he’s a murderer so that Lang can steal his severed head will have to do.

This episode finishes a week of rebooting, down to taking Carolyn’s bite marks away, allowing Barnabas to be a human hero without lingering consequences of his past misdeeds. Having her as Barnabas’ agent just a few doors down from Cassandra’s bedroom would torture even DARK SHADOWS’ logic. It also resets the character to be available for Adam and Chris Jennings.

Happy days all around, and ending with the former heroine confronting the current hero’s darkest secret. Ironic in its timing. Nine months ago, it would have been the TV event of the week. With so much activity on DARK SHADOWS now, it’s just a cliffhanger. Vicki may not understand it, but at least she finally has company.

On this day in 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated.

This episode hit the airwaves April 10, 1968.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 2


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 466

Barnabas and Victoria wind up in a hospital beset by strange visitors. She meets a double for Peter Bradford named Jeff Clark. He meets a doctor, Eric Lang, who claims to have cured him of vampirism. As the curtains are torn apart, Barnabas screams in the flood of sunlight.

Television relies on stasis; DARK SHADOWS rebels against it. How many ways did fate keep Gilligan on the island? How many chances to get home were fumbled or rejected by the crew of the USS Voyager? If you have a successful hook, logic dictates, hold onto it. DARK SHADOWS has no need for that. It’s a five-year tightrope walk that keeps topping itself. Today, they take away the net. Today, someone just cures Barnabas.

Yeah, the vampire. The vampire who is so vampiric, they devoted an entire flashback sequence to his origin. This show is back for only a week and he’s cured already, and the story’s stakes actually heighten. Now he’ll have to STAY cured, and accomplishing that will catalyze one of the show’s most interesting and consistently entertaining years. It is the bridge between Barnabas’ introduction/origin and the 1897 storyline. Although both of those sequences are perhaps the most famous and memorable periods of the show, 1968 (which is short for Adam, Eve, NIcholas & Cassandra) is what I get when I look for a core sample of DARK SHADOWS. It was off to the races on a track that could go anywhere.

It’s nothing but endearing that the man leading the charge was Dr. Eric Lang as played by Addison Powell, the program’s Leslie Nielsen. To say that Powell is, um, theatrical is a wild understatement. This is what the Vikings would have done had they switched gigs but kept the attitude. Overacting is one thing. It’s coarse and lacks sincerity. Powell’s stunningly energetic, committed turns have a practiced smoothness and honesty that elevates them beyond acting and into a manifesto on passion and expression. And his confident  intelligence makes his histrionics all the more hilarious and strangely compelling. I love this guy.

Only he could cock an eyebrow and stare down Julia Hoffman when she tried to smuggle Barnabas out of the hospital before sunrise. Only he could swagger as he accused Barnabas of being a vampire in less than fifteen minutes of screen time. And only he would fearlessly peel away the curtain on a sunny afternoon to let Barnabas know that it wasn’t four o’clock in the morning, but rather FOUR O’CLOCK IN THE AFTERNOON! With exactly that panache. Between Stokes, Lang, and the upcoming Nicholas Blair, the show is introducing characters who could have sliced through the first two year’s problems like a katana. The upcoming conflicts will need to be commensurately challenging.

On this day in three years, ABC would air the final episode of DARK SHADOWS. 

Who killed Dark Shadows?


DARK SHADOWS was pronounced dead on this day in 1971. As with many of the characters from that television serial, though, it has refused to stay that way, periodically rising from the grave whenever the mood strikes.

What drove DARK SHADOWS to cancellation is a favorite topic of discussion among fans, who have blamed its demise on fatigue, the Leviathans, changing demographics, and the result of a production spreading itself too thin to include feature films. Like a good game of Clue, there’s an endless supply of suspects … but the truth is probably more like the conclusion of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. There are simply too many hands on the murder weapon to place the blame on any one individual.

In 1971, though, one man publicly confessed to pulling the plug on the cult television program. James Duffy — then president of ABC television — took credit for the cancellation of DARK SHADOWS … and a few peripheral crimes, as well. "I hated to do it," he said. "I cancelled Dark Shadows and my daughter won't speak to me. I cancelled Lawrence Welk and now my mother won't speak to me."

He said his wife also gave him the silent treatment for taking Tom Jones off the air.

Duffy served as president of ABC television for 15 years, succeeding Elton Rule as the network’s head in March, 1970 … right in the middle of the show’s first ratings slump during The Leviathans storyline. A few weeks later, much of the cast — including star Jonathan Frid — abandoned the television show for a month to shoot HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. It was probably not the best time for the stars, writers and show runner to leave post.

A few months later, local affiliates began to drop DARK SHADOWS from their schedules. Ohio’s WKRC was one of them, taking DARK SHADOWS off the airwaves in August, 1970, and again in February, 1971. Fans were, as you might imagine, outraged. In March, 1971, the channel’s programming director addressed the issue in a column published in The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Citing “hundreds of phone calls, petitions and letters,” the programming director announced that DARK SHADOWS would return — for the third time — to the channel's schedule. The announcement was accompanied by a warning for viewers not to get attached, though: “ABC-TV is expected to cancel it in late April for a revived Allen Ludden game show, ‘Password.’” That story was published March 3.

The passing of DARK SHADOWS was later noted in the press with the kind of brusqueness you’d expect from authoritarians — when it was noted at all. Lee Hamilton, the entertainment editor at North Carolina’s The Robesonian did not take the cancellation in stride, though, and vented his frustration in a lengthy editorial titled “Things look dark for ‘Dark Shadows.’”

“After five years of interesting — if not really top quality entertainment — this unusually creative program about the strange Collins family is being cancelled and will be replaced by another of those mindless game shows, this one called ‘Password’ with Allen Ludden as host,” he wrote March 26 that year. The violence and “complicated plot” were cited as reasons for the show’s cancellation, he said.

“As for the ‘complicated plot,’ this facet has always been one of the show’s endearing assets,” he wrote, “but then the simple-minded must be served.”

If anyone was interested in complaining directly to ABC, Hamilton provided contact information for his readers. Have I mentioned yet that I like Lee Hamilton?

As this stage, it’s probably safe to say the methods used by television networks of measuring their audiences in 1971 were faulty. At the heart of the problem was the tendency to measure bodies instead of demographics. At the time, networks liked to connect advertisers to the heads of American households who — theoretically — controlled the purse strings. That eventually changed when everyone figured out kids were stupid with their money.

In 1971, though, networks cared little for the opinions of children. A few weeks after the cancellation of DARK SHADOWS, Bettelou Peterson, a TV columnist with the Detroit Free Press, addressed a question from a reader about the show’s demise:

“Why did they take ‘Dark Shadows’ off the air and replace it with that dull game show ‘Password?’ ‘Dark Shadows’ was the only daytime serial my girl friends and I watched after school.”

“You’re part of the reason,” Peterson responded. “Daytime sponsors want housewives, not school girls. Then too, 'Password' is inexpensive to produce; 'Shadows' cost a fortune."

Perhaps not coincidentally, April 2, 1971, was also the day that news about the second DARK SHADOWS feature film began to hit the press. Then titled “Curse of Dark Shadows,” the film had a relatively late name change to NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS before its release later in the year. There’s never been any sign that producer Dan Curtis had any intention of shopping the television to another network but, for a few months in 1971, he probably still imagined porting DARK SHADOWS over to feature films. MGM’s handling of NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS ultimately made that impossible, though.

Meanwhile, writer Sam Hall did his best to resolve lingering plot threads from the series. There’s a last-minute moment of violence in the final episode that feels almost engineered to incite anger in the audience: Nancy Barrett’s character, Melanie, is brought into the foyer at Collinwood with marks on her neck that look like to be the work of a vampire. This story is set during a period where Barnabas Collins died young, but free of the vampire curse. If I was a more cynical person, I’d suspect it was a Hail Mary Pass on Curtis’ part to fire up the audience to fight for the show’s return … but the closing monologue by actor Thayer David de-fangs that problem seconds later:
“There was no vampire loose on the great estate. For the first time at Collinwood the marks on the neck were indeed those of an animal. Melanie soon recovered and went to live in Boston with her beloved Kendrick. There, they prospered and had three children. Bramwell and Catherine were soon married and, at Flora's insistence, stayed on at Collinwood where Bramwell assumed control of the Collins business interests. Their love became a living legend. And, for as long as they lived, the dark shadows at Collinwood were but a memory of the distant past.”
In October that year, Hall would address possible fates of the show’s central cast of characters, none of who factored into the show’s final story arc. You can read a transcript of that essay, published in TV Guide, HERE.

It’s rare for a daytime drama to become a cultural phenomenon, and even rarer for it to cross the kinds of demographic barriers that were shattered by DARK SHADOWS. Once a soap gains a toe hold in the market, they rarely ever let go. But DARK SHADOWS was a strange beast from the very beginning and was never designed to have the kind of open-ended narrative favored by soaps. At its heart, it had more in common with episodic programs like STAR TREK and THE PRISONER, only told in a serialized format.

Also unlike other soaps, DARK SHADOWS was forever going to be The Barnabas Collins Show. ALL MY CHILDREN could find a way to go one without Erica Kane, but Collinwood would always feel a little empty without Jonathan Frid’s presence. Lightning had struck with that character and no amount of reverse engineering would ever recapture that magic. But that’s a problem that should be celebrated, not mourned.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 1


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 465

Barnabas fears that Vicki will reveal him, and orders her to elope with him and flee Collinwood. Before she leaves, Vicki has a dream where she is in 1795, unable to convince Nathan Forbes to recant and unable to prove that she, not Peter, killed Noah Gifford. After seeing Peter die in the gallows, she awakens. When Barnabas comes to collect her, she insists on proving that the mausoleum has a secret room. She hid there in the 1790’s, and if there really is one, it will demonstrate that she actually traveled through time. On the drive with Barnabas, Vicki crashes to avoid a man who stepped into the road. The man is the modern day doppelganger for Peter Bradford.

DARK SHADOWS at its darkest and most riveting doesn’t necessarily mean kidnappings and curses. 465 centers on guilt, self-doubt, paranoia, and compulsions. Barnabas is doing something he desperately wants -- taking Vicki to marry him -- and he’s doing it for the worst reason: to silence someone who knows just enough of the truth to either ruin him or force him to kill her. Vicki’s knowledge is sufficient to drive her to find and prove the truth, but stops at WHY the truth unfolded as it did. When she’s driving Barnabas to the mausoleum, talking about the kindness of Ben Stokes and the pride she takes in his later happiness, Barnabas seems to be straining to agree and reminisce. She’s experienced so much of the fantastic, what does one more element matter? You know, “By the way, I was the vampire back then, but it’s not like you think. We both got the royal screw from Angelique and lost people we actually loved in the process. Let’s have a good cry, okay?”

Seeing Vicki this focused and this disinterested in the approval of others is a startling glimpse into the character she might have been, and it’s a shame that she enters her final act on the show with a strength we’ve been longing for in our protagonist. Like so many people trapped in small worlds, just when she gains the moxie to be interesting, it’s clear that she’s only going to use it to go away. Swell. We get to hear her not understand things for two years. Now that she does, Vicki becomes a short timer.

But she has to run over Peter Bradford, first. It’s a morbidly fatalistic ending for an episode dominated by a nightmare more disturbing than anything the dream curse could throw at us. A lover she can never save hangs as a result, his legs kicking impotently in the air until they stop. Nathan Forbes turning his back on his own conscience to gloat at her that, “Death is the best of all possible worlds!”

This is metaphysical helplessness, chased by an undefeatable monster of our own creation… and created for a damned good reason. Of course, it’s a reason we can’t prove and a creation that cannot be undone. This is deep and deeply troubling writing that takes two years of brewing to turn into the deep water dream Vicki inflicts on herself.

The slash-and-burn destruction of Barnabas and then herself is the only possible response to uncovering the untruths that tortured her sleep. The only thing that could reverse something like that is an impossible love appearing centuries out of place to wave you down with new hope. Which is precisely what happens in the worst and happiest ending of any episode in all 1225.

This episode hit the airwaves April 5, 1968.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 29


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 464

After Angelique’s painting causes Roger to refer to Julia as a frenchwoman named “Countess Natalie,” a knock at the door signals the arrival of the man who was supposed to buy the portrait: a fastidious occult expert named T. Eliot Stokes. Smelling salts are passed out for the women, all of whom must be gently informed by Julia that this is what a Real Man looks like. He has deep knowledge of the life of his ancestor, Ben, and Barnabas is shocked by his suspicion that Vicki has paranormal insight into the 1790’s. Barnabas later bites Victoria, and when Julia discovers this, she threatens him with exposure.

Upon returning from 1795, the show moves at a rare, brisk pace, piling on new choices, twists, and vital characters with zesty abandon. Nothing stimulates the imagination for writing like writing, itself. It’s as if the mythic level of 1795 gave them permission to think big, and the form-free liberty of 1968 gives them room to explore the results. In just four episodes, we have Carolyn rebelling against Barnabas, Victoria finally under the control of the vampire, portents of the return of Angelique, and now, the arrival of one of the show’s most memorable characters, the fabulous T. Eliot Stokes.

The domination of Victoria is the most profoundly symbolic shift for the show since the arrival of Barnabas. Maybe more than that. It’s one thing to quietly swap protagonists. It’s another to have the new one enslave the former protagonist and use her as walking juice box. Victoria started out as a raven haired Nancy Drew, and it’s sad to see her devolve into little more than a bewildered victim. In the face of characters who are built to be more interesting, the focal shift is inevitable. The fact that she is being consumed as literal fuel by and for the new lead is a beautiful, poignant irony. Barnabas, you truly do drink her milkshake.

Barnabas needs all of the blood Wheaties he can eat for this one. The shock of seeing Professor Stokes is either the best thing or the worst thing he’s encountered in this week from hell. The fun of the (re)union scene is watching him try to figure out which end of that spectrum it will be. Just as he needed a physical strongman in the 1790’s, now he needs a paranormal heavy lifter. But with that brilliance comes autonomy, and that’s the last thing he needs in his associates with Angelique in the offing. 

From his entrance, Thayer David establishes a clear, confident, and charming character in Professor Stokes. The existence of Stokes also creates profound change in the fabric of the DSU. Up to this point, you either had civilians, who had no idea what was going on or antagonists, who usually only had slightly more of an idea of what was going on. Stokes changes that, and does so with great wit and seasoned cockiness. No one other than T. Eliot Stokes delivers exposition with greater gravitas, and no one has better judgement about when to look evil in the eye and tell it to catch that one and paint it green.

On this day in 1968, Lucy Lawless was born. The connection? She played Xena: Warrior Princess. Maybe… just maybe… this is a character who could have landed Stokes and kept up with him.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 28


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 463

Vicki and Elizabeth find Peter’s grave, establishing that he died shortly after she left 1796. Later, they buy a painting that, to Barnabas’ horror, is Angelique! Under increased pressure, Barnabas summons Carolyn from a date with Tony, ruining it even further. Tony misinterprets Barnabas’ mouth on Carolyn and assumes they’re dating. Carolyn, humiliated, begs Barnabas for her freedom. He dismisses her and tries to burn the painting of Angelique. With the sound of her laughter ringing overhead, Angelique’s painting reassembles itself.

There are just some days when you can’t get rid of a portrait of Angelique. If I were Barnabas, I’d cover the doormat with the painting and watch it repel dirt, stains, and pet odors with its supernatural resilience. Just line a trash can with it. Anything you throw on it is going to vanish as it recycles itself. If Angelique had patented this, it would have been the marvel of the age. She would have had her pick of the gents.

463 is a marvelous place to start the series. Thus far, this has been all about ghosts (or their equivalents) recreating the past, culminating in 1795. Now, we enter a new frontier of nuttiness as agents of the past arrive and take action as new immigrants to the future. They’re building forward more than redressing yesterday. When Barnabas arrives 1967, he just wants his house and engagement back as they were. Now, this is no longer the case with ambassadors from the past. By 1968, not only does Angelique want Barnabas back (or to punish him… or both) but she wants to take over Collinwood and create a master race with Nicholas. This is what makes this phase of the series so unusually exciting. They’ve established the major players. We’ve seen the rituals that made them who they are. Now, free, they can and do anything. Because the Maggie kidnapping/Barnabas aging/1795 arc is at the front of the syndication package, I feel like that’s where DS starts and stops for most people. But for me? This is where the adventure begins.

Jonathan Frid really has painting-slashing fun in this one. He plays such an ideal hero because Barnabas’ bloody and thunderous ways are consistently applied for heroism as well as villainy. Heroes expect to be thwarted. Not heavies. When that happens, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Jerry Lacy and Nancy Barrett continue to show themselves as some of the show’s finest actors today. Close your eyes. Trask and Millicent should not come to mind. That, AND they show a delightful chemistry that will go nowhere because Tony is just an attorney and not a man-made man nor Lovecraftian snake god.

On this day in 2016, the first Dark Shadows Daybook hit the internet. Thanks for reading and sticking with it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 27


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 724

Zombie Quentin kidnaps Rachel Drummond, but a conscientious Szandor tussles with him enough in the graveyard that she escapes. Trapping the muttonchopped automaton in the Old House, Barnabas conducts a voodoo ceremony that should fuse Quentin’s body and spirit. When the body staggers away, our heroes have no idea that it has fallen in the graveyard and can’t get up.

The cork has been opened confidently on 1897, and the wine has just about breathed to perfection. This is the show’s new home, and there’s something about this world that feels like DARK SHADOWS, but even more so. If Roger is stiff, Edward is stiffer. If the streamlined contours of sixties fashions are severe, Victorian clothing makes them look dumpy. And if the sixties are fun, the great-grandparents defined cutting a supernatural rug. 724 is a tight adventure with no real subplot; it’s exactly what can fill an episode and is yet another mondo day in the life-slice for our long-suffering hero. We are still in the general spring break time of the year, and what a thrill for kids. Zombie Quentin Kidnaps Governess! No wonder the record and ViewMaster set were in the offing. If you make a show with these elements, the Geneva Convention requires you to make ViewMaster reels and a spoken word album. This was 1969, the show’s zenith and the time when DARK SHADOWS mania was unmatchable.

If there is a watchword for the overall feel of 1897, it’s “decadence.” The sets and costumes spring to mind, but so do the performances -- broad and freewheeling when not intentionally arch. The possibilities of the story are decadent -- we’re contending with a zombie in this one. Even the horror is decadent, with damsels being buried six inches under (in what appears to be the empty grave of Laura Stockbridge, so says the stone) in graveyards whose smoke wafts into the gypsified Old House, giving it an appropriately seraglio-like atmos.

Even the bloopers have appropriate lushness. Szandor and Magda begin the day by fighting over cold soup like a couple in an Odets play, and Szandor attempts to defend his dignity with said soup trickling from his outrageous mustache. In the words of William Blake, “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom,” and there is wisdom to be had in that mustache. Not only are these actors having the most fun they’d ever have on the show, the characters of Magda and Szandor are the most relatable, reminiscent of an Eastern European West and Fields. How close do you think Szandor and Magda are to Sam Hall and Grayson? This is one of the many, great 1897 episodes written by Sam Hall, and there is a sting of reality to the language -- and a twinkle in his wife, Grayson’s, eye -- that makes me think it’s an ethnicized transcript of whatever was happening the night before. It’s like the Roma touring production of WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, except there’s a dead, reanimated Quentin rather than a dead, imaginary son. Albee damned!

They also provide an entirely different world to which we can compare and reveal Barnabas. He’s an entitled aristocrat at his funniest when forced to fence with words and endure those whom, under other circumstances, he’d just as soon strangle. If he thought that Loomis and Hoffman tried his class privilege, they were the Alan Napier Alfred compared to the Rakosis. As much as Barnabas just… barely… puts up with them in true, sitcom style, he still mixes the exotic with the mundane. We think of him as so bland if we recall his polished innocence when he first appears to Vicki in 1795. Hogwash. He’s a hard-lovin’ scoundrel who was bedhopping ‘twixt the classes in the Islands when not attending voodoo ceremonies, as we learn here. No wonder Angelique loved him.

Did I mention decadence?

On this day in 1969, we sent the Mariner 7 probe to Mars. It found no life.

Officially, anyway.

This episode hit the airwaves April 3, 1969.

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 27


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 990

Sabrina Stuart, dazed from time with Cyrus, arrives at Collinwood insisting on a seance. As Quentin tries to make Alexis feel at home, they get drawn into recreating the spectral ceremony where Angelique allegedly died of a stroke. Sabrina, seemingly stuck at that point in time, eagerly participates in the ritual and screams “Murderer!” as it goes on.

If DARK SHADOWS had begun with this sequence, it may have been a more powerful, if less atmospheric, way to begin the show than what aired four years earlier. It’s a new beginning in so many ways, but still steeped in its own past. This episode is dominated by recreating a seance that happened before we joined the storyline -- one that took Angelique’s life. They spend a lot of time justifying recreating something so insane, but they ultimately go forward because, from what I can tell, they don’t have cable. Exposition runs heavier than normal, and the appearance of Angelique’s “twin” gives them plenty of reason to fill us and her in on what’s happened so far. She is a blonde Vicki Winters at this point: a stranger to Collinwood who is both foreign yet intrinsic to the home. By all means, bring her up to speed.

Parallel Time. Very rarely has DARK SHADOWS chased its own tail with such passion, but at least it’s for a reason. They were only a few months past one of their most memorable storylines and were shooting a movie. The franchise was riding high, but not so high that they were invulnerable. How do you protect your brand while keeping it moving?

The previous Leviathan sequence had been an experiment in formula-tampering by restoring Barnabas to his earlier villainy. Romance-driven skullduggery has a thrill to it. Barnabas grimly taking orders from Philip Todd just kind of... doesn’t. Following that, Parallel Time was a perfectly harmless place to drop off viewers with the Next Generation crew while the Original Ghouls went to shoot the film. It’s modern enough to be less expensive than a time travel sequence. But because everyone is a short timer, very little actually matters.

But PT does more than just serve as free parking for Dan’s top hat. It’s part of an annual ritual with the show, which is the oft-mentioned soft reboot, resetting the series in a way that allows new viewers to easily jump in. It also gives the writers a fresh slate. Appropriate for springtime, it happens around this time each year. In 1967, Barnabas is about to appear. In 1968, Vicki is back from 1795 and Angelique is arriving in the present -- with Adam, Stokes, Lang, and Nicholas along for the ride. At this time in 1969, the 1897 story is establishing itself. And in 1970, we begin an entire mirror universe.

As an introduction to a show called DARK SHADOWS, it’s a passionate, moody, evocative success. For a continuation of the DARK SHADOWS story? It’ll be good to get home.

This episode hit the airwaves April 10, 1970.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 26


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 461

Vicki is almost-hanged in 1796, immediately chronoporting back to 1968 and changing places with Phyllis Wick. Barnabas is terrified that she’ll remember who he really is and out him, and Julia seems delighted at the prospect.

Back from 1795… 461 has a lot of work to do. 1968 inherits a very different show than we “last saw” several months ago. They just spent months in the 1790’s, dealing with witches, time travel, and Louis Edmonds as a cat. The rules were always pretty wonky once Barnabas entered, but now the rule book is in the furnace. Literally, anything can happen. Dealing with a mindbender of the seance -- with Vicki’s cha-cha body swap with Phyllis Wick -- is an experience that transcends anything they’ve seen before. Ghosts? There’s a reason a ghost exists. Vampires? The same. A Phoenix? Maybe not, but she at least tries to explain herself. But to the Collinses of 1968, there is nothing causal about what happened at the seance. As nutty as seances are, they’re not time portals. And the Collinses react appropriately -- with a mix of frightened confusion and businesslike problem solving.

No one is more unsettled than Barnabas. Jonathan Frid unleashes an encyclopedia of frightened and baffled expressions and goes for a Guinness record for “most ways a man can look like he’s about to bolt from a room.” Let me see if I have this. Julia is sort of on the verge of blackmailing him. His blood doll, Carolyn, is too ambitious for her own good. He’s in love with Vicki, who is kind of Josette-but-not because things with Maggie, who is kind of not-Josette-but-is, didn’t, um, really work out. Okay, that’s his life walking INTO the seance. Now, his brain is split by two timelines that he’s suddenly remembering at once, REALLY complicating his relationship with Vicki. And you know, under other circumstances, the accusation of vampirism would be easy to write off. But this woman just vanished, was replaced by someone no one had ever seen, and then reappeared in period dress with an instant bullet wound and rope burns around her neck. If she accused someone of being a vampire, I’d be inclined to listen.

New viewers are efficiently introduced to 1968, and veteran viewers are tantalized by the possibilities of returning to the present. The agendas of Barnabas, Julia, and Carolyn are clear. Julia instantly outs herself as a doctor, thus ending one scam and opening a host of new story possibilities. Vicki represents new dangers based in what she knows of Barnabas, which increases the need for Barnabas to intensify his pursuit of her… in both timeline and means. Returning from his origin story, the show suddenly and definitely poses him firmly as the dark hero and Vicki as the unwitting antagonist with the threat she presents.

Few episodes are tighter or cover so much new ground. The cast seems revitalized, reinhabiting their characters with a newfound confidence, comfort, and enthusiasm. All three of the core Collinses -- Joan Bennett, Louis Edmonds, and Nancy Barrett -- jump into the action with a clarity and spark unseen since the show’s inception, and in many ways, it feels like a new premier. I’m not sure that any other point in the series is such a point of redefinition. The existence of a time travel mechanism that works with such mystery and yet individually-tuned purpose reveals a universe where the characters are just that -- characters. There to be manipulated for much larger and more mysterious reasons and with much more complex and unknowable mechanics than we ever thought possible. Sometimes, I think DARK SHADOWS fans write off mysterious time travel or universe-shifting mechanics to expedient writing. Let’s not do that. Let’s at least confront them as the show’s most vast and unknowable puzzles. Let’s take a moment to put them center stage and say that these are happening for a reason by a force with an agenda… even if the agenda is chaos or that chaos results as a side effect of its existence. Collinwood and the surrounding estate almost become a strange, rocky, Lovecraftian god. No, not that. Those gods had only contempt or disregard for humans. This is something else. This has a purpose. People are moved too specifically for this to be completely random.

Discussions like these are the dinner bells for hungry pontification. I’ll spare you, except for the fish course. One of philosophy’s great debates is free will versus determinism. Are people unpredictable or are all of their choices the inevitable result of what’s happened before? DARK SHADOWS’ answer is ‘yes.’ Everything up to now is the result of the past. But starting now? We are perpetually free.

Today is the birthday of actor Phillip R. Allen, who played a police detective in the Parallel Time storyline and is best know as the captain of the USS Grissom, J.T. Esteban, in STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK, which may be one of the most underrated sequels in all of cinema.

On this day in 1968, audiences were yukking it up with cinematic funny men, Heywood and HAL, in Stanley Kubrick’s zany adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s heartwarming short story, “The Sentinel,” 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.  

Friday, March 23, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 23


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 205

Liz discovers Carolyn’s gun and the reason for having it: an amorous Willie. The matriarch goes on to confront Jason, who then corners his protege, asking him to exercise some patience. Willie’s curiosity about Barnabas Collins is peaked by David’s tales of his wealth and the evocative painting in the foyer. The eyes of the painting glow as the episode ends.

Four years prior to the show filming its penultimate swan song, it filmed its overture. Episode 205 is notable for two things -- we say goodbye to James Hall’s Willie Loomis and hello to The Portrait. And it becomes a vastly different show. Although there have been plenty of loopy, larger-than-life characters on the program so far (the Caretaker, Matthew Morgan, Frank Garner), overall, the tone is gritty. Between Dennis Patrick and John Karlen, that will mellow considerably with charm and warmth. Karlen, especially, will give a nuanced turn by creating one of the most human characters in all of television -- a figure made human by dealing with humanity’s antithesis. Does that make him the Rick Deckard of horror? 

This is an episode typical of the storyline… a series of two-handers where characters either threaten or reassure each other. Sometimes at once. But once we get to David bragging about the fortunes of Josette’s husband, we get something else. There were hints of Collinwood’s past from almost the beginning. The Ghost of Josette is an exceptional example of that past reaching into the present. But with the very exact portrait of Barnabas, glowing eyes and all, Josette’s example is no longer exceptional. It’s the norm. The characters we thought were the protagonists are just the opening act. They are short timers, only temporarily occupying Olympus until the titans awaken.

Poor James Hall. His performance is properly scary, and as a reflector character, allows Jason McGuire to nearly become a candidate for sainthood. It was not to be. In a rush to praise John Karlen, let’s not be too hasty to use terms like ‘better’ or ‘worse.’ We have no idea how Hall’s take would have changed and evolved over time and under the thumb of Barnabas. This is an exhibition, not a competition. Please, no wagering. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 22


Taped on this date in 1971: Episode 1243

Bramwell explores the haunted room and discovers the bodies of James Forsythe and Amanda Collins. Julia explains that if he touches them, he’ll be possessed. Meanwhile, Morgan tells Catherine that he knows she’s carrying Bramwell’s child. She persuades him to let Bramwell out, but instead, he locks her in the haunted room with her lover.

Entering the last three episodes, reflection is inevitable. Although, yes, it was “just the ending” to “just a soap opera,” it’s also neither. It’s the first of Gordon Russell’s last two scripts, and so a fine writer with hundreds of pages of investment is going to have something to say in and about this sprawling adventure of monsters and metaphors.

The episode is rich with parallels. Bramwell is trapped in the forbidden room with the ageless corpses of Andrew Forsythe and Amanda Collins. The latter was the wife of Brutus Collins, the ghost who rules the haunted chamber. She cheated on him with Forsythe, thus explaining the specter’s grumpy mood. The episode ends when Morgan, cuckolded by Catherine, tricks his wife into trapping herself in the room with her lover (and his brother), Bramwell. Two jealous and obsessive men -- Brutus and Morgan -- trapping two sets of lovers in a toxic room.

Although DARK SHADOWS’ main story literally ends at the end of the 1840 story, 1841PT can’t be ignored... if you choose to enjoy the show as one, complete story. What function does the last chapter serve? 1841PT comments on the series and story in a number of ways, testing and rewarding the archetypes that have inhabited the series from the beginning. 1243 echoes back to 1795 with a strong ethos. The vampire and witch elements are so entertainingly lurid that the emotional pain of infidelity and the accompanying messages are eclipsed. If we make one stretch, it’s easy to consider 1795 to be the (out of sequence) “beginning” of the story, if not the series. At its heart is the pain of the romantic betrayal inflicted on Angelique. A jealous overreaction. Nearly two centuries of ensuing misery. And then a discovery at the end that Angelique and Barnabas were actually the lasting couple in defiance of convention and expectation. Barnabas was supposed to marry the proper Josette rather than the low born Angelique. This is just as Catherine married the highfalutin Morgan rather than the rough hewn Bramwell. In both cases, with a brutal ardor, romance persists despite socially sanctioned pairings. To an audience of housewives, this was an attractive and subversive message. Be the Angelique. Pursue the Bramwell. At the very least, it’s wish fulfillment. In both cases, as well, they are trapped in a haunted place that is only conquered by their brave fidelity. For Barnabas and Angelique, it is all of 1840. In 1841PT, it’s narrowed down to a single room, bafflingly older than Collinwood, itself. Barnabas wasn’t prepared for the aftershock of Lamar Trask. His son, however, was, and Morgan crafted his own end.

Well, two more chapters from now.

On this day in 1971, Merle Haggard was a big winner at the Academy of Country Music awards, beating out fellow PBS luminaries, Alistair Cooke and Louis Rukeyser

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Mansions of the Gilded Age Symposium returns to Collinwood

The Mansions of the Gilded Age Symposium is returning this year to the historic Lyndhurst Mansion, the location used as the fictional "Collinwood" in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and its sequel, NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS.

Lyndhurst is a Gothic Revival country house that sits in its own 67-acre park beside the Hudson River in Tarrytown, New York. Designed in 1838 by Alexander Jackson Davis, the house's last resident was railroad baron Jay Gould. In 1961, Gould's daughter Anna Gould donated it to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The National Historic Landmark is now open to the public.

On April 29, Mansions of the Gilded Age Symposium will present a day of lectures and activities at Lyndhurst. Five speakers and authors will discuss topics related to Gilded Age homes, society and art at the mansion. You can find a full schedule of lectures and tours for the day at the official Facebook event page HERE. Tickets are available at

(H/T to Will McKinley for the tip. Follow him on Twitter at @willmckinley.)

Monday, March 19, 2018

You can't see our faces, but we're blushing

Kathryn Leigh Scott gave the Collinsport Historical Society and Patrick McCray a shout out via Facebook over the weekend. The CHS has been nominated for Best Blog/Website of 2017 by the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards. I'm currently stumping for Patrick as a write-in candidate for "Best Writer," primarily for his work on the "Dark Shadows Daybook" series. You can read more about the nominations HERE. (And thanks again, Kathryn, for the vote of confidence!)
Attention Dark Shadows fans . . . The Collinsport Historical site is up for a Rondo award, which is like the Hugo of...
Posted by Kathryn L Scott on Saturday, March 17, 2018

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 17


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 985

Maggie is stunned to find that Angelique’s twin sister, Alexis, has arrived from Italy. As the house falls under her spell, few believe she’s not Angelique returned. Meanwhile, Cyrus Longworth tells Chris Collins about man’s duality. At Collinwood, Quentin is entranced by Alexis’ rendition of “Ode to Angelique,” and as they are about to kiss, Maggie stumbles in and storms out.

Riddle me this: when is a twin not a twin?

Cyrus Longworth quotes Shakespeare in this episode, and it begs the question of questions: just how parallel is Parallel Time? After all, there’s still Shakespeare, and there’s still a recognizable quote from the Cliff’s Notes to HAMLET. What’s really changed? At times, it feels as if the differences are too slight. When the show could have taken a massive risk in format and tone, instead it shifts just enough to ditch certain actors to go film HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS while not confusing the viewers… for instance, by having Harry Johnson attempt to take his mother’s job by assassinating her or Liz running around with a beard being told by Barnabas that, “Every revolution begins with just one spinster.”

But it’s not Mirror Time. It’s Parallel Time. Perhaps the differences should be slight. Protecting the brand is important, and they make hay with characters who largely won’t be in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. If they had made this a universe where vampires were the norm and Barnabas joined a human resistance or something, it would have set insane expectations for the movie.

It is a twin of DARK SHADOWS. Not identical. Not too deviant. And like any fictional twin, it gives us a chance to appreciate the counterpart. Most of them are simply more extreme versions of their Main Time equivalents. This episode drives home the importance of twins because it illuminates the fact that this story will focus on the impact of specific twins in a sea of them. With the arrival of Alexis, we have the establishment of one set. With Cyrus Longworth, we have the next, as he strives to give figurative birth to his own twin, John Yaeger -- his other side.

It seems confusing, these twins upon twins. But none of them really are. Alexis is Angelique. Longworth is Yaeger. Smoky is the Bandit. Following that, the larger question is whether or not this parallel universe is a twin or is it simply our own universe with the implications of more extremity (Longworth) or more deception (Alexis)? It’s up to Barnabas to navigate Parallel Time’s maze, and as a man given to outbursts of extremity and a life of deception, this universe may ultimately serve as a very personal mirror.

Today features the last SHADOWS script written by Violet Welles. A press agent for Broadway productions, she was also a ghost writer for Gordon Russell, specializing in characters and the emotional subtext of scripts when assisting him. Vaguely the DC Fontana of DARK SHADOWS, Dan Curtis insisted on hiring her, and she made solid contributions to the show, especially in the 1897 storyline, where she began by helping Evan Hanley and Quentin summon Angelique from Hell. 

Thanks, Violet!

This episode hit the airwaves April 3, 1970.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Sidequest: Rob Zombie announces "Devil's Rejects" sequel

2005's THE DEVIL'S REJECTS was a mission statement of sorts for Rob Zombie. The newly minted director had stumbled out of the gate with his first outing, HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, a primal scream of a film that Zombie had to compromise in order to secure any kind of theatrical release. Another director would have sought to remedy those sins with an expanded director's cut DVD and feature length commentary track/apology, but Zombie took a different approach: he gathered as much of the cast as he could and made a sequel. THE DEVIL'S REJECTS was raw, unsettling and uncompromising, right down the the film's climax that saw its anti-heroes gunned down in a blaze of glory. The heroes were villains, villains were heroes and everybody died. The end.

Since then, Zombie has taken a my way or the highway approach to filmmaking, alienating a lot of people in the process. He's as true an auteur as Hitchcock, for sure, but his obsessions don't always mesh well with audience expectations. His adaption of John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN is among the most controversial horror movies in recent memory, but response to that film was almost muted in comparison to his sequel, HALLOWEEN II. Since THE DEVIL'S REJECTS Zombie has done things his way, but it's a way that has lead increasingly to direct-to-video purgatory and crowdfunding initiatives. In 2003, Zombie made deep cuts to HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES to get it into theaters; today he only cares about completing a film on his own terms ... even of those films fail to find an audience (I don't know a single person who has seen his 2016 movie 31.)

Yesterday, he announced via Instagram that a follow-up to THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, titled 3 FROM HELL, had begun shooting. The response has been about what you might expect. Zombie's films are genetically engineered to be provocative, so it shouldn't be surprising that fans/haters immediately began to draw battle lines. I think this summarizes it in the most polite way possible:

There are a few ways to interpret Zombie's announcement, and none of them very helpful. The most pessimistic read is that the guy who directed the awful and/or gloriously bonkers HALLOWEEN II is making a sequel to THE DEVIL'S REJECTS. If you haven't enjoyed Zombie's recent output, then you're probably not all that excited about seeing his best work extended during the downward arc of his career.

On the other hand, THE DEVIL'S REJECTS was also made by the same guy who made HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, so anything is possible ... even in Zombie's misanthropic cinematic universe. Relationship Status: It's complicated.

Note: You can see RZ's original Instagram announcement below.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...