Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 29


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 250

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

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

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

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

Would you be as patient?

This episode hit the airwaves June 9, 1967.

That other John Karlen vampire movie is on Amazon Prime

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

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

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

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 28


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 516

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

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

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

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

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

This episode hit the airwaves June 18, 1968.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 17


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 240

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

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

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

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

This episode hit the airwaves May 26, 1967.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 16


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 760

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

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

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

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

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

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

This episode hit the airwaves May 23, 1969.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 15


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 239

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

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

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

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

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

This episode hit the airwaves May 25, 1967.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 11


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 233

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

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

Thanks to the invaluable folks at http://darkshadows.wikia.com for transcribing this!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 10


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 494

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May the Schwartz be with you. Always.

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

I think they went like this…

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

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

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

This episode hit the airwaves May 16, 1968.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 9


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 234

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

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

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

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

This episode hit the airwaves May 18, 1967.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 8


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This episode hit the airwaves May 15, 1970.

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 7


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 491

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

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

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

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

This episode hit the airwaves May 13, 1968.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Graverobbers! Gorillas! Jerry Lacy!

Earlier today, I shared an essay about DARK SHADOWS by renaissance madman Donald F. Glut that was originally published a 1974 issue of Monsters of the Movies. (You can read it HERE.) I tried to be dilligent in illustrating Glut's mondo career, but a very important detail was overlooked: Glut has drafted DARK SHADOWS alumnus Jerry Lacy for his latest movie, TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN.

Glut himself pointed out on Facebook that Lacy is part of the neato cast of TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN, which also includes Beverly Washburn of SPIDER BABY, Ann Robinson of the 1953 WAR OF THE WORLDS and perennial martial arts movie badguy Mel Novak. Here's the official summary:
Celebrating the 200th anniversary of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly’s classic novel FRANKENSTEIN; OR, THE MODERN PROMETHEUS, Pecosborn Productions unleashesTALES OF FRANKENSTEIN – a feature-length movie comprising four gruesome stories spanning a century and four continents, each adapted from an original story published in the book collection also entitled TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN, and filmed in classic “Frankenstein style.”
You can see a trailer for the film below, and visit the movie's website at http://pecosborn.com/

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 4


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1011

Yaeger stumbles upon Barnabas’ coffin, but is knocked out before he can open it. After Yaeger escapes Loomis House, Will decides that it’s time to move the coffin to the secret room upstairs, and wakes Barnabas to help. Along the way, Barnabas rhapsodizes about Josette, lulling Will into a note taking frenzy. This provides the opportunity he needs to knock Will out and regain his freedom.

A year ago, the show was capturing the attention of the nation. A soundtrack LP and Viewmaster set were taking their places alongside Batmobiles, stacks of Tiger Beat, and Major Matt Mason figures in bedrooms across the country. A movie -- did you hear that, a frickin’ MOVIE -- was coming soon to a uniplex near you. It was about to be summer vacation for the first time since 1897 (and that’s what it felt like, too). No more running home from school. Now, the day could be centered on DARK SHADOWS with its proper place AS school. It was a tough winter. It was raining Leviathans and Brunos. They tried making Barnabas a bad guy again, but it didn’t take. But summer was coming. The show had to do something worthy of the season or vanish into whatever was on the two other channels. Barnabas had been in the coffin for too long. Change was in the air.

My friends, we’ve come home.

St. John of Yaeger, I call thee liberator. Thanks, you monobrowed freak. I say that as a high compliment.

I hate to label anything led by Lara Parker and David Selby as the product of the B-team, and it must be understood that I mean it only chronologically (in terms of casting dates). They are a B-team better than any A-team not led by Colonel John H. Smith. But the B-team had two disadvantages for too long; a thumb-twiddling storyline, designed to be unrelated to the prime universe, and no Barnabas to tie us to continuity. He is our surrogate in PT, and without him, what we’ve been watching is right on the cusp of questionable relevance. In the end, PT without Barnabas is a story we politely indulge the way we watch a boring-but-stately movie at the bedside of an elderly relative who later reveals they had mistaken it for something else, and that they actually had never seen it, and they agreed it was boring, but by then, it’s too late.

1011 is designed for two audiences. For patient viewers who have waited for Barnabas to return, it rewards them with a returning vampire who’s alternately vulnerable, fearsome, and still has time to give us one more Josette monologue for the road. Viewers who stayed away until Jonathan Frid returned are the other demographic, and they’re brought into the show with a bang. Look, it’s Will Loomis at his most desperate, reminding us why Barnabas has been chained!  Look, it’s John Yaeger repeating his basic motivations before retreating into Cyrus Longworth, bringing us up to speed on THAT. More interesting than what’s going on at Collinwood? Yes, but we can face that truth more easily once we’ve seen Will get the tables turned, Barnabas rise, and Chris Pennock meeting Christopher Pennock.

Elvis may have left the building, but Barnabas has returned, and no one TCB’s better.

This episode hit the airwaves May 11, 1970.

Donald F. Glut ♥'s Dark Shadows

In 1974, DARK SHADOWS might have been dead, but it was hardly forgotten. Both HOUSE and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS remained Halloween favorites at local theaters for the rest of the decade, while writers who had grown up with the series could hardly wait to tell young readers about about the "soap opera about a vampire." Magazines such as Famous Monsters of Filmland, Fangoria and Cinefantastique would rouintely to trot out features on the original television show, sometimes prompted by a syndicated revival of DARK SHADOWS, but sometimes just because professional fans felt like talking about something they love.

Below would be an example of the latter. Had the byline on this story been different, I might not even be sharing it. "Barnabas: Dark Shadows in the Afternoon," published in 1974 by Marvel's Monsters of the Movies magazine, is a love letter to DARK SHADOWS but otherwise has little new to offer readers. It's a pretty thorough summary of the DS phenomenon up to 1974, granted, but if you make a habit of visiting this website, well ... there's not much in the way in "new" information.

Donald F. Glut
But there's that byline: Donald F. Glut. He's got one of those biographies so amazing and absurd that I don't even know where to begin with it. Because he's got his name attached to a STAR WARS property, you can probably expect his novelization of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK to make an appearance in his obituary one day, but he's also got dozens of screenwriting credits for television (G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO, MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS), comics ("Captain America," "Savage Sword of Conan"), and a series of "Frankenstein" novels that are must-reads for true monster kids.

But before any of that, Glut made dozens of amateur films featuring unauthorized adaptions of such characters as Superman and The Spirit, convinved Glenn Strange to return to the role of the Frankenstein monster for one of his movies, and shot the first live-action (though unauthorized) Spider-Man film. I've embedded that show here to give you an idea of who you're dealing with.

Now, on with the show!

Barnabas: Dark Shadows in Bright Afternoon
Monsters of the Movies #3, October 1974

Was Barnabas Collins a fiendish blood-sucking vampire? Or was he merely the victim of a cruel
fate? Don Glut will tell all about DARK SHADOWS, the show that became the afternoon compulsion for a generation, just as earlier groups of young people faithfully followed SPACE PATROL and, earlier still, CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT

By Don Glut

Willie Loomis was a neurotic with a particular interest in the history of the Collins family, the
wealthy founders of the town of Collinsport, Maine. It was known that Willie was especially curious about one Barnabas Collins, an enigmatic member of the family who had lived — and presumably died — in the late 18th century. What people didn’t know was that Willie believed that, in earlier days, deceased members of the Collins family were entombed with their jewels, much like Egyptian pharoahs of old. And the thought of all those beautiful gems and all that lovely gold just lying around in some corpse's tomb, gathering dust and mold and benefiting absolutely no one at all, was just too much for Willie to resist.

So, late one dark night, under a new moon and a starless, cloud-swept sky, Willie slipped onto the grounds of the Collins estate and went tomb-robbing.

The crypt he chose was that of Barnabas Collins. Willie moved quickly and silently through the dank
chamber, finding nothing at ail until his questing fingers accidently tripped the latch of a secret door. The crypt had another room'. Where better to hide the family jewels, Willie thought excitedly. And in he went.

Willie Loomis found no jewels inside the secret room.

Instead, he found a coffin. Barnabas’ coffin. A coffin sealed with wax and heavy chains. A coffin seemingly designed expressly to keep grave robbers out. Believing the coffin to be the treasure chest that he'd been searching for all the night, Willie smashed the chains and levered the lid off the ornate casket. And screamed as the perfectly preserved corpse lying inside the coffin reached , up and grabbed him, holding him with a frightning, preternatural strength.

Poor Willie had never realized — never dreamed — that the chains on the coffin had been designed — not to keep robbers out — but to keep something far more horrible in!

Presently, a sharp knock sounded on the majestic oak door of the “big house" at Collinwood. Elizabeth Collins — the widowed matron of the estate — opened the door and found herself face-to-face with a tall, roughly handsome, oddly-formal gentleman, “Hello," the man said, smiling cordially, “I am Barnabas Collins."

Thus ended perhaps the most important episode of DARK SHADOWS, television's original gothic horror soap opera, which premiered in the late 1960's, as part of ABC-TV’s weekday afternoon schedule. The episode is important because it introduced to television viewers the most popular vampire ever to haunt the video waves, a character who — only a short while after his debut — had became one of the biggest stars on the air.

Barnabas Collins.

DARK SHADOWS was the artistic brain-child of producer, Dan Curtis, the show designed as a replacement for a short-lived soap opera called, NEVER TOO YOUNG. Originally, DARK SHADOWS followed the formula of the standard gothic mystery novel that has become so popular in recent years. (You know the type of novels — the ones with virtually the same cover repeated ad infinitum, depicting a young woman fleeing from a dark and ominous mansion, in which only one
window has a light).

The first episode of DARK SHADOWS brought young, innocent and naive Victoria Winters (the typical gothic novel heroine, right down to the “Victorian” name), played by Alexandra Moltke, to Collins mansion in Maine, where she was to work as a governess. These early installments centered upon the standard gothic conventions — secret panels, leering “red herrings” and brooding members of the Collins family. Supernatural elements, except for an occasional ghost, were often explained as hoaxes, or misinterpretations of perfectly natural phenomena. In short, the show was dull and, as a
result, bombed in the ratings.

As an experiment, Curtis told his writer, Sam Hall, to introduce an element of true horror into the series — a supernatural vampire that would, it was hoped, also attract an audience of monster movie fans who might otherwise scorn a soap opera ostensibly intended for the housewife audience in those pre-Lib days. The vampire would be called Barnabas Collins and he would be portrayed by a fine Shakespearean actor named Jonathan Frid. Barnabas was to continue on the show for a few
months, after which he would be destroyed and written out of the script. If all went well, his introduction would boost the ratings of DARK SHADOWS to a level of at least some respectability. No one involved with the program, least of all Frid himself, could have predicted just how high those coveted ratings would soar!

Jonathan Frid had been a relatively unknown actor until his debut on DARK SHADOWS, and the original characterization of Barnabas was anything but sympathetic as the 170 year-old vampire went about his fiendish ways. Yet, surprisingly, the viewing audience — particularly the women — took an immediate liking to this fascinating character. Frid began to receive fan mail by the bundle. And the more villainous his character became on the small home screen, the more adulatory letters he received, most of Frid’s fan mail coming from frustrated females who squealed delightly at his ignominious actions.

At first, Barnabas’ vampiric condition was merely hinted at — references to his never being seen during the day, the lack of mirrors in the “Old House” where he lived on the Collins estate — as was the revelation that he was really “dead." But when Barnabas finally bared his fangs and bit pretty young Carolyn Stoddard (Nancy Barrett) on the neck, the ratings skyrocketed higher than
ever. Frid received apparently serious letters from women begging him to bite them on the neck. The sexual aspects of vampirism were always present for anyone caring to probe beneath the glaring red eyes and flowing cloaks, and with Jonathan Frid's sudden birth as a star and “sex symbol," those implications were as apparent as ever,

DARK SHADOWS, a show which had been in danger of cancellation because of poor ratings, was almost instantaneously the most popular offering on daytime television. The storyline of the initial Barnabas Collins plot continued as planned, somehow always avoiding the term “vampire.” With one difference: the popular Barnabas could not be so abruptly dispatched by a wooden stake or silver bullet as originally planned. The fans simply wouldn't allow it! Barnabas, who had been introduced as a temporary character, was now the star of the show.

Instead of destroying Barnabas, Sam Hall decided to show his previously untold origin. During a seance, Victoria Winters was transported back in time to the Collinwood of 1795. Confused, believing herself still to be in the world of the Sixties, Vickie approached the Collinwood house to meet a very human Barnabas, dressed as an 18th Century gentleman and standing in the brilliant rays of the sun.

This first of DARK SHADOWS’ time travel stories showed that Barnabas Collins was in love with the beautiful Josette (Kathryn Leigh Scott). But when Barnabas spurned the love of a comely blonde witch named Angelique (Lara Parker), the latter placed a curse on him — warning him that tragedy would strike his family, that he would never know true love and that he would never know the peace of death.

The last part of Angelique’s curse was realized when Barnabas was attacked by a vampire bat. Dying from the creature’s bite, Barnabas was laid to rest in the tomb. However, Angelique decided it better to destroy Barnabas before he could rise from his coffin. It was during this episode — wherein Angelique and her seedy lackey Ben (Thayer David) went to drive a stake into Barnabas’ heart — that the word “vampire” was first used on DARK SHADOWS. (From that point onward, the
term was used without reserve.) Angelique never drove home that stake. Barnabas killed her before she had the chance.

When Barnabas' father Joshua (Louis Edmonds) confronted the son he believed to be dead in the tower room of the Collins mansion, the pompous skeptic was totally perplexed. His face torn by anguish, Barnabas looked into his father’s eyes and confessed, “I'm a vampire!”

Barnabas eventually implored his father to end his torment. But Joshua, unable to fire the silver bullets into his own flesh and blood, went to his casket, placed a silver crucifix upon his chest, then chained the coffin shut in the hopes that no one would ever find the secret room of the crypt.

All of a sudden, Barnabas had become a sympathetic character, a tragic figure doomed to roam the dark corridors of the night and drink the blood of the living. When angered, Barnabas could still become as ruthless as Count Dracula himself, but it was this “victim of a cruel fate” interpretation of the role that his fans seemed to like the most. This characterization of Barnabas (as opposed to the original unscrupulous fiend) returned, along with the storyline, to the time of the 1960s.

Barnabas Collins' fame was only beginning to realize itself. Before long his image became affixed to model kits, games, a series of paperback books and a still-running series of comic books; fan clubs, posters, records, bubblegum cards, even a syndicated newspaper strip. Barnabas and his alter ego, Jonathan Frid, had become a nation-wide sensation. The country had suddenly become vampire conscious.

Now, producer Dan Curtis realized the direction that DARK SHADOWS must take. If one vampire would boost the ratings, then surely DARK SHADOWS would be unparalled in the competition game if even more monsters were added to the cast of characters.

Barnabas then proceeded to become involved with a mad scientist — who was stitching together his own version of the Frankenstein Monster, a giant named Adam (Robert Rodan). Barnabas' life force was transferred to Adam — which had the double effect of bringing the monster to life amid crackling electrical apparatus, and also providing the first of the vampire’s many “cures” of his undead condition.

After the introduction of Adam, Sam Hall heaped a deluge of new versions of classic horrors on the DARK SHADOWS audiences. There were werewolves, warlocks, demons, Jekylls-and-Hydes, Lovecraft monsters, crawling hands, Dorian Grays, zombies, you name it! — not to mention more excursions into the past, into parallel worlds (with the same actors playing different parts), and the introduction of a parade of countless new vampires. It was still Barnabas, however, who remained
most popular, with Frid eventually receiving star billing along with the regular star of the series, Joan Bennett. Despite all the different time and parallel world stories presented on DARK SHADOWS. Jonathan Frid never played any other character except Barnabas — that is, until the last season of the program in 1970-71. Among other plots being adapted simultaneously, the show was doing a version of WUTHERING HEIGHTS. Frid portrayed Bramwell, a character patterned after Heathcliffe, of the original novel by Emily Bronte. It was February of 1971 on a portentious afternoon for DARK
SHADOWS. With the conclusion ofthe WUTHERING HEIGHTS episode, a girl was found in the woods, apparently the victim of a vampire. Bramwell looked selfconsciously at the portrait of his ancestor, Barnabas, hanging on the wall. A new vampire episode was seemingly about to begin. But no, as Thayer David explained in his voice-over narration of the scene, this time the animal-like marks on the victim's throat really were made by an animal. There were no more vampires on the series. No more witches or even sliding panels. This was the last episode of DARK SHADOWS.

Shortly before the series met its final end, Dan Curtis created a fine and lasting tribute for the program’s fans in an amply-budgeted MGM feature-length film entitled HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. The movie retained the soap opera's cast and basic story line of the original Barnabas Collins television story. Barnabas is freed by Willie Loomis (John Karlen), then proceeds to the Collinswood mansion, identifying himself as a cousin from England and a descendant of the "original” Barnabas Collins. Willie becomes to Barnabas what Renfield was to Dracula, as the vampire tries to make a bride of lovely Maggie Evans (Ms. Scott, again), a reincarnation of his lost Josette. During the events that follow, ‘cousin" Carolyn Stoddard becomes a fetching vam-
pire who is eventually trapped in her tomb by the police and staked through the heart. Barnabas himself is temporarily cured by the frustrated Dr. Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall, wife of the film and TV show’s writer). But when Barnabas rejects her love and goes after young Maggie, the vengeful doctor reverses the experiment, causing him to revert to his true age (thanks to an incredible make-up job by Dick Smith). By the end of the film, almost everyone is either dead, a vampire or a dead
vampire. Barnabas prepares to make his "Josette" his vampire bride until Willie — in love with her himself — impales him through the back with an arrow.

HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS not only preserved the elements of the television show in a handsomely-mounted film, but also established Dan Curtis as an important director in the horror genre. Curtis kept HOUSE moving without taking away from the gothic atmosphere. The trapping and staking of Carolyn is superb, as is the final sequence, showing a black-cloaked Barnabas meet-
ing an extremely graphic death amid the fog and shadows of his island retreat. Despite what the squeamish may say, gore is a part of the horror film. Dan Curtis elevated the gore in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS to the status of art.

The DARK SHADOWS television series is often condemned by “purists” as being a mish-mash of old Universal horror films cliches, stretched out over several years. Granted, the show suffered from any number of faults. But DARK SHADOWS also provided we monster afficionados with a half-hour-a-day, five-day-a-week excursion into realms we’ve grown to love. Characters like Barnabas Collins were mourned by thousands of viewers when the series was finally canceled. Since the
series was videotaped, Curtis had considered rerunning it. But apparently not enough interest was generated on the part of the network executives.

Want to see DARK SHADOWS back on the air? Perhaps if enough fans follow the example set by the "Trekkies,” flooding Dan Curtis Productions or the networks with mail, everyone’s favorite afternoon vampire will again be attacking the various members of the Collins family Monday-through-Friday. This writer for one, would be glad to see a return of the original series.

I miss Dark Shadows.

And I miss a vampire by the name of Barnabas.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 3


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 489

What's five feet tall, wears a Nehru jacket and witnesses things that could destroy Angeliwue's plans to rule Collinwood? David Collins is back in town! David: David Henesy. (Repeat; 30 min.)

David returns to Collinwood to find that his father has married Cassandra. His reaction is predictably disturbed. Later, he sees her kissing Tony Peterson, over whom she’s exercising her control. When he tells her that he’ll reveal the truth, she renders him mute.

As I often am heard shouting to both no one and everyone in my fruitless exercise of helpless rage known as sleep, “I do not want to be David Collins’ wife.” Between a stepmother who wants to kill you, a mother who wants to kill you, a father who often wants to kill you, a governess who goes insane and then back in time, and a governess who goes insane and then to Windcliff, you might wind up being a little needy, too. Not to mention having some trust issues with women. And men. And primordial snake god avatars. Come to think of it, if you don't look like Nancy Barrett or Joan Bennett, forget it. He's not going to trust you. Just pack it in. Maybe Robbie Rist needs a companion.

Even though they seem unevenly matched, David meeting with Angelique allows the show to explore some exciting possibilities for conflict. Angelique relies on imposing fear, and David is relatively fearless, especially when it comes to things that could actually cause him harm.  Roger’s new wife’s greatest vulnerability is the truth. Yes, her rituals are private, but how private is private from a snoop like David? And most of her workings are social. She bends the minds, souls, and everything elses of her victims usually in person, wielding influence more than an uthame. Again, a practice reliant on controlling who knows what about whom. Well, David knows more than Mati Hari, the National Enquirer, and Dr. Manhattan rolled into one. Of course he would return in time to see his hated new stepmom making out with Tony Peterson. Of course. It’s Cosmic Inevitability.

David, however, receives his comeuppance in a way he could have never anticipated when Angelique takes his voice from him. It’s an old trick of hers, but especially miserable for “Mr. I-Saw-What-You-Did,” himself. It’s a juicy moment. While this sequence has Angelique at her most unforgivably toxic, as Lang can attest, that doesn’t stop us from giving a sincere golf clap to the woman who let David see all he wanted to, but took away his power to do anything about it. Again, an instance where Willie is no longer another mask of the Cosmic Gilligan because David has taken His place. It’s a humanizing moment for him, and continues to mature the character.

Both men and women with experience in dysfunctional relationships, and by that, I mean all men and women, can probably identify with either Angelique or Roger as he tries to shuttle her off on the honeymoon. How convenient that they wait for weeks for David, and then the moment he arrives, the situation is so dire that they can’t possibly leave? Life is full of convenient excuses. Roger refuses to see significance in them because if he did, what else would become suspect? If you answered, “all of it,” you win a miniature Digging Man statue.

On this day in 1968, the Kentucky Derby resolved into weeks of controversy when winning horse Dancer’s Image was disqualified for being on an anti-inflammatory.

This episode hit the airwaves May 9, 1968.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Tour the picture gallery of "Collinwood" from your phone

Earlier this week, the Facebook page of the Lyndurst Mansion, the location that served as Collinwood in both HOUSE and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, posted an interesting image: a 360° panoramic image of its picture gallery. This is the room of the estate that was most famously used in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, in the scene where Barnabas Collins presents matriarch Elizabeth Stoddard with "lost" family jewels while weaving an ellaborate fiction about his background. You can interact with the image below, either with your smartphone or your mouse. Go! Explore!

Special thanks to Will McKinley for the tip! Follow him on Twitter @willmckinley.

Take a whirl around the Picture Gallery at Lyndhurst. Which is your favorite painting?
Posted by Lyndhurst Mansion on Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Barnabas Collins mask rises from the grave

Thanks to the loosey-goosey nature of DARK SHADOWS merchandise, there have been a few items over the years that have managed to survive changes in licensing agreements. The most obvious is the "Barnabas Vampire Van," a model kit produced by MPC that later got re-branded as the more generic "Vampire Van," free of all references to Barnabas Collins, Dark Shadows and other registered trademarks of Dan Curtis Productions. (It was even repurposed for a Hot Wheels-sized toy during the 1990s as part of a series that also included the ECTO 1 from GHOSTBUSTERS.)

In 1975, Don Post Studios skipped the line and released the generic "Old Vampire Mask." At this point, DARK SHADOWS had been cancelled, no new movies were planned and everybody involved (except for the fans) had moved on with their lives. Nobody seemed to much mind that the mask was clearly based on Dick Smith's work on HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. Since then the mask has had a certain persistence of strength, appearing occasionally for sale from boutique companies. If this mask has still managed to elude you over the years, then fear not: This fall, Trick or Treat Studios will begin selling a shockingly inexpensive replica of the mask.

In fact, the "Don Post Old Vampire Youth Mask" is already available for pre-order from the company for $19.99. You can find it online HERE, and get a peak at the product above. As a treat, I've embeded a video below of Paul Williams performing "Hell of It" on THE HARDY BOYS & NANCY DREW MEET DRACULA in 1978. Keep your eyes open and you'll spot the "Old Vampire" Barnabas Collins mask in the audience.

Special thanks to Will McKinley for the tip! Follow him on Twitter @willmckinley.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...