Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: FEBRUARY 21



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 437

Trask extorts Forbes to take the stand and claim that Vicki bewitched him… a choice he would later regret. Afterwards, Victoria gives her final testimony where she reveals her origin, the origin of the book, and the fact that she traveled back via seance. Hearing this, the court sentences her to hang.

The trial of the century -- or at least, the ratings period -- comes to an end, and Trask plays suspiciously dirty for someone who has God on his side. Blackmailing Forbes? Is that necessary? Of course, he doesn’t know that Vicki is going to do something crazy, you know, like tell the truth under oath. Victoria and Trask transcend realism (and maybe humanity) to become walking, talking metaphors, and in this sense, DARK SHADOWS absolves religion of evil. Religion’s not the problem. If Trask and Vicki evolve into polar opposites, what is the thing that separates them? On one level, Trask lies and Victoria tells the truth. Of course, she does; she’s a teacher.

Why does Trask do what he does? This is the most fascinating incarnation of the reverend. All are impulsive bigots, but the Reverend T. is the most ideologically motivated. He is there to impose the truth he knows; Victoria is there to report the truth she discovers.  Close up, if 1795 is “about” something, it’s a study in jealousy. Take a few steps back and look at it in the context of the series’ end; it’s about truth. Barnabas refuses to acknowledge his true feelings. His mind is made up. Trask refuses to concede that the Enlightenment has transformed humanity’s interpretation of god. Vicki, hapless and professional victim that she is, stands as both an ambassador of the modern world and a counterpoint to the 1795 fad of willful ignorance. She is honest to a fault, even if it means confessing a story so lurid and fantastic that it will guarantee the noose. Vicki is compelled to tell the truth -- although she could win without it -- as much as Trask is compelled to twist facts -- although he could win without it.

It’s a compulsion that is driven by the need To Make a Point more than human realism, but this was the era defined by Chayefsky and Serling. These writers didn’t have time for realism; reality just got in the way of the truth.

Blood and thunder rule the actors today, with Davis, Moltke, and Lacy in a cutthroat race for Daytime Emmys. But what choice have they? The stakes are enormous for all, and the consequences, shattering. In between the Loud Noises is Joel Crothers. As an actor, Crothers is somewhere between Gregory Peck and Major “Q” Boothroyd from the Bond movies. No matter what has has done before, he always invents new ways to command the stage with quietly focused, intense humanity. In moments of almost no dialogue, we see Forbes grow and say more than other actors do with hundreds of lines. Any rewatch of the series reveals new heroes, but few champion the integrity of the storytelling as does Joel Crothers.

On this day in 1968, we said goodbye to Howard Florey, the man who won a 1945 Nobel prize for purifying penicillin.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Rondo Awards: CHS nominated for Best Blog/Website


By WALLACE McBRIDE

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 taraco@aol.com.

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.

2. BEST TELEVISION PRESENTATION OF 2017
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.’

3. BEST CLASSIC DVD/BLU-RAY
SUSPIRIA (Synapse)

5. BEST RESTORATION OR UPGRADE
SUSPIRIA (Synapse). Much awaited 4K restoration, color corrections from original negative.

11. BOOK OF THE YEAR
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.

17. BEST WEBSITE OR BLOG OF 2017
Graveyard Shift Sisters. www.graveyardshiftsisters.com

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

WRITE-IN CATEGORIES: 
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 benwalkerart.com.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: FEBRUARY 19



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 967

The ghost of Peter Bradford accuses Jeb of being responsible for the 1797 suicide of Victoria off Widow’s Hill. He says that Jeb is capable of drowning, and that’s how he intends to kill him… if vicariously. This heightens Jeb’s desire to run away with Carolyn, who agrees. Peter, however, puts Jeb into a deep sleep and resets the clock so that Jeb oversleeps, is unaware of the true time, and goes to Collinwood for Carolyn just as she goes to the cottage to find out why he’s late. Peter’s ghost tells Jeb to find her on Widow’s Hill. Instead, he finds a furious Philip, who has been bitten by Megan and released by Peter.

Okay, so apparently Jeb -- or should I say, Jebez -- existed back in 1797. The show doesn’t go into a lot of detail on this, and so I can speculate, but that’s it. If we ignore the “out of nowhere” quality this has, it communicates one of DARK SHADOWS’ chief strengths: the curse of history. From the very beginning of the show, there is a past of bitter consequences that never stops reverberating. Vicki doesn’t fully understand it. Even Carolyn is lost in it. And just when we think we know it all, a senseless, ugly thing like Victoria’s offstage suicide is reported as the bill comes due. Jeb, seemingly a new outside character, is emblematic of the fact that the past is never really over at Collinwood.

Was Dan Curtis happy to have Roger Davis back for one of his last appearances? The movie was soon to shoot, so perhaps he was hanging around for old times’ sake. Or perhaps this was fodder for a proposed flashback that never happened, taking Jeb and putting him back in time for a Vicki-return? It certainly makes 1795-97 a jonbar hinge of jonbar hinges. No matter how much is revealed, DARK SHADOWS’ history is more complex than it ever seems on the surface. It’s a story of atonement, and the price has horrible inflation.

Kudos to Philip Berneau and Marie Wallace. Both begin the process of sending off their characters with sincerity. Berneau pulls in his affectations to come across far more believably than usual, and seeing Wallace simplify, simplify, simplify is a real testament to her talent. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Amazon Prime ♥ Dan Curtis



McDonald's announced today that it will no longer be offering cheeseburgers in Happy Meals.

That's not to say that they won't still be available, mind you. If your kid has to have a goddamn cheeseburger, McDonald's is still a business and will kindly sell you one. But it won't be an item included in its posted menus.

I mention this to make a point: It's a weird, unfamiliar world in which we live. For example, MPI Home Video is now streaming a bunch of movies written and/or produced by DARK SHADOWS' creative architect Dan Curtis on Amazon Prime. These were movies that have rarely seen the light of day during the last 30 years, but are now available at your fingertips at any hour of the day, probably best viewed in the wee hours of the morning with a stiff drink in your hand. The available catalog include adaptions of many of the books that "inspired" storylines on DARK SHADOWS, ranging from his collaborations with Jack Palance (THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, DRACULA) to the cult classic TRILOGY OF TERROR.

Curtis was an incredibly prolific producer, so this list falls far short of capturing his entire catalog. But, save for the three theatrical releases he helmed, it represents most the horror-related movies Curtis was involved with. You'll also see a handful of DARK SHADOWS alumni appear in some of these flicks, including an uncredited Kathryn Leigh Scott as one of the ghosts in THE TURN OF THE SCREW and a misspelled John "Karlin" Karlen in TRILOGY OF TERROR. The list also includes the 1986 Biblical story ST. JOHN IN EXILE with Dean Jones of THE LOVE BUG (which is easily the most WTF?! sentence I'll write all day) and all 1,225 episodes of DARK SHADOWS.

Below you'll find a list of the Curtis' productions now streaming on Amazon Prime, as well as a link to help you upon your quest. A special "thanks" to @frid_barnabas for the tip. He's a fellow DARK SHADOWS fan and you should totally follow him on Twitter.

TRILOGY OF TERROR: link

DAN CURTIS' DRACULA : link

FRANKENSTEIN : link

THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE : link

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY: link

THE TURN OF THE SCREW: link

ST. JOHN IN EXILE: link

DARK SHADOWS: link

The Dark Shadows Daybook: FEBRUARY 15



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 695

Who are your characters when taken away from the comfort of home? According to Joseph Campbell, this is THE story, and it is a tale on which DARK SHADOWS centers again and again. If Vicki is the first protagonist, her story begins by leaving one home, albeit ersatz, to arrive at another. Once she’s comfortable there, she finds herself displaced to 1795. And after returning to the present, she only longs to go back. Eventually, Barnabas (and Julia and Stokes) chronoport away from “home” again and again. 1897. 1840. Parallel Time. Even Maggie’s greatest, darkest adventure and test of mettle comes from her imprisonment in the Old House. Nestled in the midst of all of that is 695, where the family transfers the flag (for the first of two times) to the Old House, is the beginning of Barnabas’ ultimate test. There, Maggie is ironically comfortable, solving mysteries with Barnabas and listening to David complain that the Old House is like a prison. If he only knew….

Barnabas is entering the third phase of his life and is ready for his own hero’s journey. Dealing with various forms of time travel is a specialty of his, and watching him doggedly search for clues to Quentin’s identity with a sense of grave responsibility is an outstanding wind-up for the adventure to come. There’s a marvelous moment when a relatively omniscient Barnabas realizes just how much went on during his suspended animation… past actions that reverberate nearly a century later. Even though he doesn’t know it, we see his trip as inevitable -- out of ego, yes, and even a sense of ownership. He chooses to live away from Collinwood because it’s not of his era. Noblesse oblige? Consider that Collinwood was designed in his lifetime to be his. At the very least, Joshua intended for him to be its third master, and perhaps the one who would live there the longest. Barnabas may never have taken up residence, but the intolerable fact is that his legacy has been defiled by Quentin’s invasion. Just as Quentin sees the modern Collinses as interlopers in his home, so Barnabas might very well perceive Quentin. To control Collinwood, Barnabas will have to “clean house” in two of the major time periods for which he was asleep.

It’s fascinating to watch the family now taking up in the Old House, and it’s poignant to see Maggie so comfortable there. No location on DARK SHADOWS has had so many lives. For a harbinger of death, Barnabas brings life and revitalization wherever he goes. What was once a desiccated, forbidding hulk is now a bright, cheery home. Collinwood and Collins Hall have switched significance. What was once the house of phantoms is once more by and for the living. And what was once a bastion of hope for the future is now the domain of the dead. The whole point of the hero’s journey is to return home with the skills to control it as the master of two worlds. Barnabas has finally mastered the Old House. To master Collinwood, he must cross the threshold. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: FEBRUARY 14



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 694

Having failed in his exorcism, Prof. Stokes asks for time to regroup. Meanwhile, David, assaulted with psychic brutality by Quentin, retreats to the Old House, refusing to return. A skeptical Roger investigates Collinwood only to suffer a similar attack, leading him to evacuate the house with his sister, vowing to return. Quentin’s ghost, now alone, holds illimitable dominion over the great estate.

DARK SHADOWS is replete with “I can’t believe they just did that on daytime television moments,” but this one may top ‘em all. These moments aren’t shocking in a topless way.  No blood. Just… as Henrik Ibsen wrote, “people just don’t do such things.”

TV shows, but especially soaps, are vicarious homes. They are often for the lonely. The characters become family. The limited stage sets become extensions of the living room, especially now in the age of the 65” norm. And yes, we expect to see these new, beloved family members punished on a regular basis. But Roger and David have something more profoundly disturbing happen to them. They both receive Quentin’s (mostly) off-camera wrath. They both earn the badge of Thousand Yard Stare. David Henesy always sells it, and Louis Edmonds really outdoes himself as Barnabas finds him after his attack. He goes from catatonic to quietly terrified to profoundly disturbed to despondent to quaking with vengeance all in the space from the drawing room to the front door. This is a man who’s dealt with Burke Devlin’s worst. We’ve seen him jittery and agitated but never numb. Now, with Roger shell-shocked, we see just how powerful Quentin is, and we wonder how long Quentin waited to render Edward’s grandson to such a state. Either way, Quentin finally emerges as the sole heir of Grandmamamama’s fortune -- the prize that brought him back to Collinwood for the last time. Back to face Jenny and fate and the bricked up wall that was once the door to his room. It was the trip that cost him Jameson, and brought out a petulance so vulgar that he would spend the next seventy years recorporating. He was compelled reach out to his doubled descendent… and love him… and punish him… and attempt to euthanize his own great-grandson while he was at it.

Just imagine what Gregory Trask’s ghost may still have in store from the very same room.

The most shocking element of the episode is its apocalyptic nature. These sets are second homes, and to see them hopelessly abandoned by the characters? It’s a revealing moment. It brings our attachment to Collinwood to the surface, a bit like the emotion felt when seeing the Enterprise destroyed or the 4077 decommissioned. We see what Quentin has and what we’ve lost as the camera lovingly glides through Sy Tomashoff’s haunted mansion to the roaring giant on the landing. Quentin is another viewer of DARK SHADOWS in a way, but a cruel one. We want to join the Collinses. To him, they are shoddy knock-offs. It’s Quentin’s home. They were just squatting there.

This episode was broadcast on a Friday. Few weekends must have felt longer to DARK SHADOWS fans.

On this day in 1969, mafia chieftain, Vito Genovese died.  

Freak people out with these DARK SHADOWS Valentine cards

The idea was to mash-up those old Frankenstein Valentine Stickers using images from DARK SHADOWS. Because of the show's love for classic horror tropes, the captions used on the Valentine's Day stickers didn't need any re-writing. The end result, though, is making my skin crawl a little. That's a sign that something went very right or very wrong. You can decide for yourself which direction it took.

I don't know if the disturbing product is a result of the source material, an accidental lack of chemistry between the original stickers and DARK SHADOWS, or my own fragile state of mind.

If you're interested in freaking people out, I've shared high-resolution versions of these cards on the Blood Drive Tumblr feed. These are print ready, but I take no responsibility for any restraining orders that might result from deploying them IRL.

LINK

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: FEBRUARY 13



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 958

A spectral, cloaked figure haunts Collinwood. (As usual.) Meanwhile, Roger and Quentin finally meet, and Roger readily accepts Quentin’s fabricated origin story. Amy does her best to out Quentin, but he is untarnished. Eventually, the oddly distanced behavior from his family forces Roger to confide his paranoia to Quentin, who rewards him by disclosing the truth of the Leviathans.

958 is a better world. It’s a world of small dramatic payoffs. Of villains with schemes. Of unlikely characters oozing strange menace. Of relationships forged. Most importantly, it’s a world where people actually talk to each other… and take chances built on trust. That last part doesn’t sound much like DARK SHADOWS, but there it is. Perhaps the characters are showing hard-earned instinct and a willingness to gamble. Perhaps the writers were just trying to wrap up the story. Doesn’t matter. When you’re looking for a DARK SHADOWS episode where the words, “To the Batmobile!” could be heard at any point, your search ends here.

"Get in! There's no time to explain!"
Quentin’s return is actually handled, rather than brushed aside, and he returns the favor of trust for Roger. David Selby has paid his dues, and rather than have each character endlessly squabbling with each other, lines are drawn and alliances are made, and it’s damned refreshing. They may also be fast-tracking Quentin to be the leading man and hero. Parallel Time had not yet begun, and yet the first movie was only a month or two away from beginning filming.

Elizabeth returns as something between a Bond villain and Aunt Bea. Joan Bennett’s arch sense of control and barely contained condescension make her an ideal heavy, and it’s a shame this was explored so infrequently on the show. Likewise, I’m not sure that Denise Nickerson ever really played anything other than a villain, and she really pours on the “good evening, Mrs. Cleaver” here. She was reportedly a precocious, salty character off camera, and so the vaguely insincere nature of Amy’s sweetness actually rings true. It has become a world of insincerity and paranoia. But this is no longer a soap opera, despite the longing glances and sentimental music stings. Somewhere along the run, it went from the comic book of 1897 to full-fledged anime.

On this day in 1970, a man-eating tiger is reported to have killed near New Delhi. Yes. A man-eating tiger. Also, it’s Terry Crawford’s birthday!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Synapse to release new edition of Suspiria restoration in March



The 40th anniversary restoration of Dario Argento's SUSPIRIA felt like it took forever to complete. In fact, it's arguable that its eventual "anniversary" release date was entirely coincidental. When Synapse Films first began teasing the restoration with screenshots showing off the work being done to the original print in 2015, the release date remained up in the air. Synapse founder Don May Jr. warned fans that the hi-def restoration would be released once his work had been completed, and that he had no intentions to rushing. I doubt anybody expected it would take an additional two years to complete, but reviews of the final product were glowing. The Digital Bits called it  "one of the most beautiful horror films ever made and this release is one of the most beautiful Blu-ray releases ever mounted by any distribution company, big or small."

Synapse released SUSPIRIA last fall in a steel-book edition limited to just 6,000 copies ... which quickly sold out. If you missed it, there's good news: Synapse has a mass-market edition of SUSPIRIA slated for release March 13 this year. You can pre-order it on Blu-ray and DVD at Amazon HERE.

Here's what the two-disc set includes:
  • A new 4K restoration of the original uncut, uncensored Italian 35mm camera negative exclusively done by Synapse Films, with color correction supervised and approved by SUSPIRIA Director of Photography, Luciano Tovoli.
  • Original 4.0 1977 English language LCRS sound mix not heard since the theatrical release in 1977, presented in high-resolution DTS-HD MA 96kHz/24-bit audio, with newly-translated removable English SDH subtitles.
  • Italian 5.1 surround mix, with removable English subtitle translation.
  • Two audio commentaries by authors and Argento scholars, Derek Botelho, David Del Valle and Troy Howarth.
  • Do You Know Anything About Witches? - 30 minute SUSPIRIA visual essay written, edited and narrated by Michael Mackenzie.
  • Suzy in Nazi Germany - Featurette on the German locations from SUSPIRIA.
  • A Sigh from the Depths: 40 Years of SUSPIRIA - All-new anniversary retrospective on the making of the film and its influence on cinema.
  • Olga s Story - Interview with star Barbara Magnolfi.
  • Original theatrical trailers, TV spots and radio spots.
  • "International Classics" English "Breathing Letters" opening credit sequence from U.S. release.
  • Alternate All-English opening and closing credits sequences, playable via seamless branching.
  • Reversible Cover Art created by Joel Robinson.

Friday, February 9, 2018

DARK SHADOWS VS. CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY


I was going snowblind this week from proofing BRIDE OF MONSTER SERIAL, the follow-up to last year's MONSTER SERIAL book. So, I thought I'd step away for a few days and create something fun: A Cards Against Humanity deck inspired by DARK SHADOWS.

It's an idea I've been kicking around for a while. After all, the game seems to be tailor-made for all things DARK SHADOWS. Here's the game description from the official website:
Cards Against Humanity is a party game for horrible people. Unlike most of the party games you've played before, Cards Against Humanity is as despicable and awkward as you and your friends.  The game is simple. Each round, one player asks a question from a black card, and everyone else answers with their funniest white card.
The publisher is selling professionally made Cards Against Humanity decks, but also provides a free PDF file of their cards so that you can print and make your own. That's what I've done with this COLLINSPORT AGAINST HUMANITY deck. Inside this PDF file you'll get:

* 96 Black Cards. These are the "question" cards."
* 96 White Cards. These are the "answer" cards.
* 2 pages of dark and light artwork to use on the reverse side of each card. These are totally unnecessary, but I've included this art if you want to make a deck of cards that looks interesting.
* Please visit the official CARD AGAINST HUMANITY website to find the rules of the game: http://cardsagainsthumanity.com/

After hitting a creative wall yesterday, I polled some of my readers on Tumblr, who kicked in a number of questions and answers for these cards. If not for them, you probably wouldn't be reading this.

That being said: Don't be surprised if you spot an occasional typo in the cards. There might be a number of "duds," as well ... you know, cards that look like they might work in game play, but actually don't? If you're finding cards that do nothing but cause problems, please let me know.

And, finally, a WARNING. While these cards are fairly tame when compared to other Cards Against Humanity decks, they can still be a little ... lewd. Do say I didn't warn you.

You can download the PDF by clicking HERE.

UPDATE

If you're going to play CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY with a group of people (and you really should) then a 96-card deck probably won't get you very far. With that in mind, I've created a PDF file containing all of these cards in a design that's compatible with the original deck. Just print them out, cut them up and shuffle them into whatever CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY deck you happen to be using. If you don't already have one, you can download the original deck from the game's website HERE.

HERE is the link for the basic deck of DARK SHADOWS game cards. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: FEBRUARY 8



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1971: Episode 1213

Gabriel goes on the run when his lottery number is up. Morgan and Julia eventually catch up with him in a drunken stupor, where he reveals that he was just enjoying his one day of grace before the inevitable night in the room. They return to Collinwood and he proceeds to his probable doom. Meanwhile, Bramwell begins to consider a romance with Daphne.

Curse you, Jonathan Frid. How dare you have perfectly sound, sober reasons to largely retire from acting to a dignified private life? With talent like this, he had a Cosmic Obligation to perform for us well beyond the point of misery. Deny us no riches, you Kooky Canuck!

Okay, I’m overreacting. But Frid’s time as Bramwell shows such dimension and range -- and is a preview for what we would have been missing. In this episode, he never stirs from beneath the Collinsport Afghan, yet he commands the set. Bramwell seethes with a contemptuous confidence, and Frid wisely drops his mid-Atlantic accent to a more subtly brutal American sound to match it. Vowels narrow. R’s take their places at the ends of words. Like a wacky, cartoon record producer might say, it’s a younger sound. It accompanies the longer hair, casual physicality, and openly leering bedroom eyes to make him as different from Barnabas as possible. I wondered if there were an additional purpose, other than breaking the monotony that Barnabas had become for him. He’s certainly showing youth, sex appeal, versatility, and all of the other qualities needed for a leading man in the early 70’s. And there was something familiar about it.  Then it hit me.
He’s doing Selby! He’s doing his best to do a Selby, but make it edgier and cockier, if that’s possible. I think he may have succeeded.

Many of the mainstays seem to be getting their post-DARK SHADOWS sizzle reels together with some fine performance choices. Christopher Pennock gives Gabriel a probably send off that’s sad, dignified, credibly schnockered and believably human. Pennock always scores with monologues, and his performance here is a rebuke to all of the casting agents who didn’t find worthy roles for him as one of the biggest stars of the Seventies.

On this day in 1971 it was the birthday of the Nasdaq Composite stock index. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: FEBRUARY 7



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 427

As the trial begins, Victoria learns that her allies in the Collins family will be of no help. When it seems as if Vicki was in two places at once, Trask’s victory seems assured. Upon investigation, Peter suspects that Ben knows more than he is saying.

Jerry Lacy further establishes himself as an instant star on the show, giving us a far more strategic Trask than we’ve seen of the ranting loon thus far. But there is an even more dramatic element to 427. Lighting. The star of 427 is lighting. The show had used gobos off and on from the beginning to project, yes, dark shadows on the actors. In the courtroom, they cast a rounded window’s mullions over the witness stand, casting Victoria in a perfect spider’s web. Unsubtle? Absolutely. But if you’re looking for subtle, this ain’t the show for you.

TV’s first (fictional) witch trial began on this day, and Sam Hall & crew are to be championed for rationalizing how that could possibly happen in 1795. The sluggish pace of the soap opera is often a whipping boy here at the Daybook, but this is an object lesson in the medium’s greatest strength. Thanks to the gift of time, storylines can be lacquered up, and the ridiculous becomes the norm. Not only does this allow them to credibly insinuate the incredible plot elements into a comparably normal world, it makes the show resemble real life, where exactly the same thing happens. Except not with witches and vampires.

Okay, not with vampires.

The second payoff is for longtime viewers. As the show progresses, so does the pace -- Parallel Time notwithstanding. By the time late 1968 rolls around, we accept the rules of Collinwood, and the storytelling picks up to match our familiarity with the bizarre… which has become the norm. 1840 may seem rambunctious for some, but for others who prize the chance to watch every day, it is laudibly rich with daily turnabouts and surprises. In some ways, that storyline takes even more time, although what has preceded it is so baroque that it works in even more. In 1795, it takes them only three months to get to the climactic witch trial; in 1840, they won’t reach it until the fourth.

On this day in 1968, Arthur Miller’s Tony-nominated play, THE PRICE, opened on Broadway. Like all plays by Miller, it was a searing indictment of, you know, prices. Miller loved him some searing indictments. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: FEBRUARY 6



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 689

After Barnabas catches David trying to get into the secret room where Chris has transformed, Maggie notes that David’s personality is changing for the worse. Chris discovers that Ned Stuart is looking for him, and explains that Ned’s sister was once Chris’ girlfriend until the sight of his transformation drove her to catatonia. He suspects that Ned may have tried to poison him. Later, David resists Quentin’s nefarious wishes and is rendered into pain and maybe death by the ghost.

The only secret about the “secret room” in the Collins Mausoleum is why they don’t just put up a neon sign and revolving door. If every character on the show who knew about the forbidden chamber went in there at once, it would look like the stateroom scene in A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. Which is just the way that Roger Collins likes it.

For a section of the series that doesn’t have a lot going on, 689 is packed with great stuff and is a fine example of the show firing on all cylinders as it nears its apex with 1897. Could they be cutting to the chase-to-Victoriana faster? Sure. But why spoil the ride? It may not have the blood and thunder of Maggie’s kidnapping or the urbane menace of Nicholas Blair, but this section of the series feels like the core of the show… Barnabas doing his part to protect the family and extended family from the mysteries of the unknown. The two highlights of the episode are character-oriented. First, it takes the time to have Maggie come to terms with the fact that, for better or maybe worse, she’s no Victoria Winters. Kathryn Leigh Scott handles the deliberation with contemplative depth, and it’s nice to see the program not just sweep the swap under the rug. I assumed that she was working as a diner waitress because there was simply a lack of work in Collinsport for a liberal arts-trained woman. No wonder she first thought Vicki was a j-e-r-k… she took her gig in ‘66. I also prefer Maggie because she conveys intelligence. Moltke was all about innocence. Maggie is about guts and guile.

The other bright spot is the opportunity given to Don Briscoe for a great monologue about Sabrina, and that crazy time she had a nervous breakdown during his transformation. This is not an example of the show just poking around and stretching things out. This genuinely enhances the character and our respect for the actor. Briscoe maintains his sense of woe while finding every bit of variety within that, and does so with truth, conviction, and subtlety.

Speaking of which, no one does hand-fu like David Selby. His gestures and poses put Mandrake to shame. As he wields them to torture David, I have no doubt that this is authentically what tormenting ghost hands look like.

On this day in 1969, Broadway superstar composer, Jerry Herman, opened his first real flop… DEAR WORLD. However, artistically, it was a rousing success. Various songs presage styles that will define the medium, ranging from Sondheim to, unfortunately, Lloyd Webber. However, it is with “Kiss Her Now” that Herman delivers as only he can. The show lasted less than 150 performances.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: FEBRUARY 5



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 425

The spirit of Angelique hectors Barnabas as he tries to oversee the completion of Josette’s coffin for her impending vampire transformation. She seems to do the same to Josette and Natalie as the Countess cites every event that’s happening -- lost rings and breaking glass -- as part of the prophecy of Josette’s doom. Josette is eventually led to Widow’s Hill where Angelique shows her a vision of how she will appear as a vampire. Barnabas arrives; Josette leaps to her death upon seeing him. 

The greatest tragedy of Barnabas’ life, and it could have been avoided if Angelique had just been more efficient. What does she want? Barnabas. Who’s in the way? Barnabas. Yeah, okay, but why? Josette. Maybe Angelique wasn’t that bright after all. In this episode, it’s just so simple. Show her she’s a vampire, and she jumps off a hill. But, like a third wave nightmare of a female cliche (created by men, we’d all be quickly reminded), she’s far more interested in punishing people because it’s fun. That either makes Angelique the dopiest person on the show or the most relatable.

You didn’t hear that.

I can only imagine that Angelique’s takeaway was, “That was it? Really? That’s all it took?”

In all seriousness, think of a linear map that splits off in dozens of directions. This is a piece about Josette’s death, so let’s talk about Parallel Time. That’s the actual timeline on DARK SHADOWS. The present is a constantly shifting sock hop of past circumstances informed by meddling time travelers profoundly altering the timeline. If Collinwood has consciousness, it must be sweating like Zero Mostel with a Tae Bo tape as it tries to rationalize events to keep the present timeline comprehensible. Think about this episode. Natalie keeps citing prophecies in the family history… lost rings, the sound of breaking glass. It makes you wonder who wrote it. Well, Josette dies, so the only surviving witness is Natalie, who must have written it in the future. But then Barnabas comes back in time to save Vicki in the 1796 flashback, and her death results. Unless she prolifically journaled, she wouldn’t have had the time to jot that down in the week or two in between Josette’s death and when she and Nathan attack Barnabas. By Barnabas coming back in that flashback, I’d wager that chapter of the history was never written. This mucking with the timeline because it could never go back with Vicki to be read.

And don’t even get me started with what any year with “18” in its name does to the 20th century.

But it’s not a mess… thanks, I think, to Parallel Time and the room through which it’s accessed. I have two theories. One is that the room evolved within Collinwood as a kind of purge valve for temporal interference. It may be where all of the strange, sideways implications of heroic interference somehow, using the logic of a dream, get filtered out. Or, and this is stranger, what if it were the first thing built at Collinwood? A Collins ancestor to Joshua designed an interdimensional hub -- or ordered one from a catalog -- and then built a house around it. The parallel universes are like cars on a merry go round, with more appearing each time someone makes a new choice. Perhaps the “prime” universe doesn’t even exist. Or it’s closer to the hub than the others, which is why there is such stability in that band of time.

As for other observations about this episode? We think of the warmth between Barnabas and Ben, but in actuality, Barnabas treats him with frequent brutality. In this episode, Barnabas “bangs on the home appliance,” which is how I think he sees it, to get Ben to finish Josette’s coffin, and does it to the tune of a death threat. That’s life in the big city, I suppose. Kathryn Leigh Scott delivers a marvelously determined Josette, seeking Barnabas with iconoclastic bravery. Seeing Scott’s mixture of optimistic loyalty and romantic grit is a reminder of why this character became so iconic. In this sense, jumping off Widow’s Hill is more a demonstration of self-ownership than fright.

Kathryn Leigh Scott gets into character.
Kathryn L Scott gets into character for episode 425 of Dark Shadows, taped Feb. 5, 1968. Because her turn as a vampire was expected to be brief, make-up artists opted to use press-on-nails instead of more expensive “stage fangs” for the actress. (Also: Thayer David’s response in the background is priceless.)
Posted by The Collinsport Historical Society on Tuesday, December 5, 2017

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