Monday, April 23, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 23



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 218

Barnabas asks for the Old House from Roger and Liz. The former seems enthusiastic, but the matriarch is undecided. Meanwhile, Jason threatens Liz to not ask too many questions about the missing Willie. He and Barnabas meet.

Roger inaugurates the episode by dismissing Jason and Willie as a “couple of sea tramps,” as if he were living in a 1930’s cartoon. Which is a pretty likely, apt description of Roger’s later world now that I ponder it. I wondered why Roger was so likable in this episode, and it made me realize the profound impact of Barnabas on this world. Roger is a consummate snob at the top of Collinsport’s food chain. It humanizes everyone else to have him as society’s unfair and out-of-touch judge and jury. But after the many hours that a soap opera forces you to spend with a character, either general affection or Stockholm Syndrome is bound to kick in. It's natural to develop a fondness for them, even if they start out open (and remain) something of a villain. This is certainly the case with Roger. To whom can he look to find a superior? Absolutely no one, and that's the point. (And I'm not counting his sister in this case.  Joan Bennett is more of a deity then a human.) In fact, Roger doesn't even really have an equal. In a world without that social Swiss army knife, Professor Stokes, Collinsport is a lonely place to be for the most important man in it. Until Barnabas. Not only does he become the main bad guy for a time, but he also tops Roger in the social savoir-faire department. Instead of having to implicitly or explicitly passed judgment on everyone else, Roger can simply relax, have a brandy, and get down to some old-fashioned banter with another confirmed Bachelor. No wonder he wants him in the Old House nearby. It's clear the writers enjoy it, and so does Louis Edmonds. Everyone gets to lighten up a little bit with the character who was destined to be lovable.

On DARK SHADOWS, the aristocracy may be in charge and they may pass judgment on everyone else, but all of that judgment goes both ways. We may dream of being (or at least having the wealth and maneuverability) of a Collins, but we also get to be one of the gang at the Blue Whale, makin’ fun ‘o those fat cats in the spooky joint on the hill. At least, until Barnabas comes along. Then, as the show shifts so that he is our focus, rather than being on Vicky or Burke, and it becomes less and less important to see the aristocracy as pitiful. They are neither pitiful nor laudable. They simply are.

If the characters on DARK SHADOWS speak any language, it is fluent implication. Usually, it's Roger, and it's usually when he's trying to weasel out of something. In this, the war of words is between Jason and Barnabas. Jason spends most of his time making veiled threats. He’s no match for Barnabas, and Barnabas knows it, and Jason knows that Barnabas knows it, and Barnabas knows that Jason knows that he knows it. The result is that Jonathan Frid smiled as Barnabas, an event so rare that, when he saw it, it meant six more weeks of Parallel Time.

Barnabas more-or-less gets the Old House. 1795 wasn’t even a glint in Dan’s eye, but he could not have set up the mythos more perfectly. Of course, Barnabas wouldn’t want Collinwood. The Old House was his home; Collinwood was the retirement village for mom and dad. What kind of show spends nearly a year setting up the location for a protagonist they don’t even mention for nine months or so? This one.

This episode hit the airwaves April 27, 1967.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 19



By PATRICK McCRAY

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



By PATRICK McCRAY

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



By PATRICK McCRAY

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



By PATRICK McCRAY

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



By PATRICK McCRAY

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 www.greateraustincomiccon.com.

And find Kathryn online at https://kathrynleighscott.com.

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 9



By PATRICK McCRAY

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


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.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 5



By PATRICK McCRAY

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



By PATRICK McCRAY

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



By PATRICK McCRAY

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?


By WALLACE McBRIDE

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




By PATRICK McCRAY

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.
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