Thursday, June 28, 2018

Lara Parker signed Dark Shadows hardcover announced

Hermes Press will have a limited edition variant of its upcoming book "Dark Shadows: The Complete Newspaper Strips" available for sale at this year's Comic-Con in San Diego, Calif.

The 224-page hardcvover is set for release on July 10 and gathers the entire Ken Bald-illustrated newspaper strip that ran from 1971-1972. I was lucky enough to get an advance look at this book and it's gorgeous, but the edition that will be available at Comic-Con has a few key differences. Not only does it have a modified cover design, but it comes with a special tipped-in plate signed by Lara Parker. This edition is available for pre-order through the Hermes Press website HERE but can only be picked up or purchased directly at their Comic-Con booth July 19-22.

You can pre-order "Dark Shadows: The Complete Newspaper Strips" from Amazon at

Sidequest: "Black Heart" by Strange Eyes

Back in 1985, Marilyn Martin had a minor hit with the song "Night Moves." It was accompanied by a video that was a riff on Tony Scott's film THE HUNGER from a few years earlier, and casts Martin as a vampire that fills her larder with dumb guys throughout the track's 5:15 minute run time. The closing shots reveal a warehouse full of men hanging from hooks as police swarm the location. I can't imagine too many people remember either the song or the video, but you can check it out HERE.

A new video by dreampop band outfit Strange Eyes had me thinking about "Night Moves" quite a bit, if for no other reason than the black widow motif they share. But where "Night Moves" seemed content to channel Scott's MTV-ready vampires, "Black Heart" goes to much more ... ferocious places. It's the kind of video that might even give Glenn Danzig pause, and I've struggled a bit while settling on a screencap to head up this post. I don't want to ruin the impact of this wonderfully absurd hybrid of UNDER THE SKIN, THE NEON DEMON and (cough) THE ROOM. I am madly, deeply in love with this song. More please.

Watch it yourself below.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Welcome to the Beginning (and the End) of the World

A look back at the first week of Dark Shadows 


It’s hard not to love Victoria Winters, at least in the early days of DARK SHADOWS. Yeah, she’s not the sexiest character on the show, at least from an actor’s perspective. The writers maintained her fragile innocence by divvying the better dialogue and dramatic confrontations among the rest of the cast. This practice lasted long enough for actress Alexandra Moltke — and perhaps even the audience — to lose their patience with the character. After a while, Victoria stopped looking naïve and started looking kind of dim.

But that wasn’t the case when DARK SHADOWS launched on June 27, 1966. Winters was a blank slate by design and saw the world with a childlike, if reserved, sense of wonder. She was such a sweetheart that the writers discovered almost immediately that the easiest way to establish a villain on DARK SHADOWS is to have them act nasty to Victoria.

The “pilot” for DARK SHADOWS is one of the most complexly staged episodes of the entire series. Not coincidentally, it is also the only episode of the show's 1,225 episode run to be shot over multiple days. Beginning with the second episode, the unforgiving production demands of a "live on tape" series meant there would never be any second chances to get things right. But the first episode was given two (!) days for taping, both in the studio and around the locations in Connecticut and Rhode Island that served as the exteriors for various Collinsport landmarks. It's worth nothing that some details in the series had yet to be firmly nailed down when the cast first stepped in front of the cameras. Collinwood, for example, is referred to as "Collins House" throughout the first episode script. The name was changed so late in development that some of the promotional materials (not to mention the early tie-in novels my Marylin Ross) continued to use the "Collins House" moniker.

The number of scene changes in this short, 22-minute episode is staggering, especially when you consider the amount of exposition that had to be transported from script to screen in such a short amount of time. We see two locations for the “Foundling Home” in New York, a train car, a train station, the lobby and diner of the Collinsport hotel, Collinwood, the Blue Whale and a handful of pre-filmed location shots. We’re introduced in the opening shot to Moltke as heroine Victoria Winters, a woman with no clear past or future, her reflection looking back at the audience from the darkened window of a train as it speeds through the night. You’ll see Vicki’s reflection quite often in this episode, and it’s this “second” Victoria Winters that she’s come to Collinsport to find. It’s an idealized version of herself, one that has a material connection to the world through her absent family.

Winters hopes she’ll get these answers from her mysterious benefactor, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (fallen screen ingenue Joan Bennett), who has offered her the job of governess for her nephew. Victoria can’t imagine why a stranger from another state would offer her a job she hasn’t applied for, and rightfully assumes that the two mysteries in her life actually one mystery. Adding fuel to her suspicions: Stoddard’s home is a short drive from the place where Victoria was abandoned as a child.

The identity of Victoria’s parents is a plot point plot that has confounded DARK SHADOWS since the very beginning. Her background is never adequately explained in the original television series, and even became a dangling plot point in the Ross spin-off novels. When Victoria was added to the cast of the 1991 “revival” series and the 2012 movie, neither production seemed to know exactly what to do with the character, leaving their respective actresses to do most of the heavy lifting. While still considered an essential element of DARK SHADOWS, Victoria became a narrative loop of frustration for fans. In June, 1966, though, Victoria was still bae. But her mysterious past isn’t the only unanswered questions posed in the first episode.

Arriving on the same train as Victoria is Mitch Ryan as the show’s first anti-hero, Burke Devlin. Looking a little like the unholy offspring of Lloyd Bridges and Aaron Eckhart, Devlin has a dark mission in Collinsport that somehow involves the Collins family. Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s brother Roger (Louis Edmonds), really really doesn’t want Victoria in Collinwood. Introduced to the series while pouring his trademark glass of sherry, it’s strongly hinted that Roger’s motives for wanting Victoria to fuck off back to NYC have little to do with a singular love of privacy.

Along for the ride (and to provide ominous exposition) is Kathryn Leigh Scott as Maggie Evans, a brassy waitress that's distant from the vulnerable figure she'd later become. Scott, along with every other actress in the cast, had auditioned for the role of Victoria Winters, so there might have been some concern behind the scenes that she too closely resembled Moltke and confuse audiences. Luckily, the production quickly realized that was nonsense.

The first episode ends on an ominous note, as Victoria crosses the threshold into Collinwood, met by black widow Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. The final scene (hell, the entire episode) is Mythology 101 and one of the reasons why this series continues to resonate with fans all these years later. Collinwood isn’t meant to be a real place: It’s a symbol of the unconscious mind, a place of magic and monsters where Victoria has the chance to discover her “true self," whatever that might mean.

In the second episode we’re introduced to Elizabeth’s daughter Carolyn (Nancy Barrett), a character only hinted at in the series premiere. We meet Carolyn as she's party rocking at the Blue Whale, dancing with any guy in the bar who’s not her boyfriend. In her defense, Joe Haskell (Joel Crothers) is sitting only a few feet away from his girl and doesn’t have much interest in “dancing,” if you catch my drift. Joe is the series’ hero for the first few years, though the writers took sadistic glee at underlining his impotence at every turn. He’s powerless to protect Maggie from Barnabas Collins later in DARK SHADOWS, and here he picks a fistfight with some guys over Carolyn that Burke Devlin has to break up. DARK SHADOWS doesn’t have much use for heroes.

Speaking of introductions, we also get our first taste of the jukebox at the Blue Whale in the second episode, which boasts a few dozen tracks on its playlist but only seems to play the same three songs over and over. But that’s OK, because they’re pretty good tunes.

Carolyn isn’t the most likable person in the episode, finishing a distant last even behind Roger. After intentionally antagonizing the men at bar she goes home to whine to her mother about how she wants more from life than being rich and living in a mansion. I wouldn’t go so far to say she’s spoiled (because Collinwood isn’t the warmest, most nurturing place in the world) but she comes off as bratty.

It’s strongly hinted throughout the series that Victoria and Carolyn are sisters, and the two characters seem to be running parallel to each other at the start, though they’re moving in opposite directions. Carolyn needs to escape the shadow of her family to find out who she really is, while Victoria thinks she’ll find herself by getting closer to the Collins family.

Vicky’s answers won’t come easily, though. The more time Victoria spends at Collinwood in the first week, the more isolated she becomes. While strolling the grounds alone (wearing a trenchcoat and looking a little like Bjork cosplaying as Inspector Clouseau) she finally meets Roger, who lays on the charm as they chat at the edge of the (as yet unnamed) Widows Hill. He’s all “Please call me Roger!” until she makes the mistake of saying Burke Devlin’s name. After that, he gets grabby and runs away to parts unknown. Victoria returns to the mansion to find Elizabeth doing her best Robert Smith impersonation while playing piano in the dark.

(Aside: Elizabeth says the painting hanging over the fireplace in the drawing room is of her great-grandfather, Jeremiah — which is impossible, given that Barnabas Collins blew Jeremiah’s brains out before his uncle had chance to spawn. I’ll chalk this error up to Elizabeth’s own confusion. There was a great deal of intentional misinformation concerning the events of 1795, so it’s understandable if facts about that era of Collins history are a little murky.)

The established characters take some time to socialize in the third episode, but the script also adds a new one to the mix: Bill Malloy (Frank Schofield). The head of the Collins shipping fleet, Malloy has taken an interest in Devlin’s arrival, asking him to lay off his already troubled employers. His motives are uncertain (is “altruism” even a thing in Collinsport?) as is his knowledge about Devlin’s business in town.

Roger’s anxiety about Devlin’s arrival also prompts an opportunity for many of the characters to interact. In fact, most of the episode is conversational: Devlin talks to Joe, Roger talks to Maggie, Malloy talks to anybody who stands still for too long. It’s a busy, talky episode, and it’s a credit to the writers that the show has taken on an oppressive air of mystery without giving us the slightest clue as to what’s going on.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the unintentionally hilarious opening. The episode begins with some film of Roger driving up to the Evans home, with a careful cut to the “live” recording of him pounding on a door and shouting “Open up you drunken bum!” The door doesn’t open, Roger walks away and we get the DARK SHADOWS opening credits. Had this been your first episode, you would have been thoroughly baffled about what you were watching. It was a little surreal, but I’d watch an entire episode of Edmonds angrily knocking on random doors in Collinsport.

Carolyn and Victoria meets for the first time in a scene that begins awkwardly before exploring some creepy subject matter: Carolyn has a bit of a crush on her uncle Roger, and seems put out that she’s got to settle for a common fisherman like Joe. Victoria politely entertains this icky display of TMI before the scene mercifully segues into a tour of Collinwood. But strange things are afoot! A door mysteriously swings open behind the two as they discuss a painting of 17th century ancestor Isaac Collins. Carolyn rightfully refrains from calling the Ghostbusters but seems concerned when Vicky finds one of her letters discarded carelessly on her bed. David Collins has yet to make an appearance, but fret not. This might be the third episode, but 24 hours have yet pass since Victoria’s arrival in town.

With episode four, though, we finally get to move the calendar forward a day. Vicki is roused from her bedroom by the sounds of mysterious crying, which lead her downstairs to the drawing room. Collinwood has ghosts, which is hardly a surprise. It also has a sexual predator stalking the corridors in the form of Roger. He’s interrupted by his sister at the start of the episode as he’s letting himself into Victoria’s bedroom shortly before midnight, and Liz’s attitude implies this is a long-standing problem for the family. Insisting he was “merely trying to talk to the girl,” he still manages to bring Victoria downstairs to grill her about her association with Burke.

Roger is convinced Burke wants to kill and/or destroy him and doesn’t believe his arrival on Victoria’s train is a coincidence. He later gets Vicki alone (where he can better intimidate her) and offers her a drink. She declines, saying the drink “burns,” to which Roger answers “Pain sometimes precedes pleasure, Miss Winters. Or are you too young to have discovered that yet?”

If the rapey vibe of this episode wasn’t gross enough, Vicky’s answer is equally distressing. Instead of getting angry, shocked or offended, the writers use the moment to declare her virginal bonafides: “I’d rather avoid the pain for as long as possible,” she tells Roger as though they were bros.

Carolyn, in one of her many visits to Victoria’s bedroom this night, casually mentions that Roger’s wife (and David’s mother) is not as dead as the new governess was lead to believe. Carolynquickly changes the subject, but the absent wife’s status will become much more important later in the series.

The episode comes to a close with the reveal of Victoria’s charge, David (David Henesy). He’s been mentioned throughout the week but has yet to make an appearance, and his debut doesn’t disappoint. After following the ghostly sobbing to the drawing room, Vicki sees that David has followed her downstairs. His first words to the new governess are “I hate you!” Welcome to the show you loveable little sociopath.

Episode four gave us our first definite signs ghostly activity at Collinwood. As the week closes, one of them gets a name. Sam Evans discloses to Victoria that the mansion is haunted by the spirit of Josette, a French woman brought to Collinsport to marry the builder of Collinwood. The details of this story change a little over the years, but the bullet points remain the same: Shit goes bad, Josette throws herself of Widow’s Hill (formally named in this episode) and ghostly shenanigans ensue for the next few centuries.

The early version of Sam Evans looks and sounds little like the character we’ll get to know over the next year. Mark Allen plays Evans for only seven episodes in the series and is an imposing presence on screen, certainly moreso than David Ford, who will soon replace him. Sam makes a short appearance on this episode, stopping by to ask Victoria to deliver a mysterious non-message to Roger before lumbering off to wherever he came from. I don’t much like this version of Sam, who comes across like a pretentious thug.

Even for Victorias Winters, enough is enough. Five episodes (and 24 story hours) into the series and our heroine is begins packing her bags for home. As she has breakfast with Carolyn, David finishes packing for her, carelessly tossing her clothes into her suitcase while muttering something about his mother. To add injury to insult he defaces her luggage by scratching her initials off the casing.

While trying to talk Victoria out of leaving, Carolyn learns the new governess was raised in a foundling home and is (presumably) an orphan. This nugget of information is delivered to Carolyn as she’s whining about being young and rich, and uses Victoria’s disclosure as an invitation to compete in a “Whose Life Sucks Hardest” rap battle. Carolyn reveals that her mother is a shut-in who hasn’t left home for 18 years, and that her father has been absent her entire life. It’s like a gothic paperback version of 8 MILE.

During this scene we also learn that Victoria received $50 a month from a mysterious benefactor until she turned 16, after which she was expected to get a job or something. Carolyn notes those payments started to arrive around the same time her father vanished, but the plot point doesn’t lead anywhere. Not just in this episode, but ever.

Victoria discovers what David’s done in her room and finds him waiting for her, hiding behind a curtain. He plays a quick game of “keep away” with the note left with Victoria as a baby when she was abandoned at the foundling home. David crumples the only connection she’s got to her real family and throws it to the ground (about a foot away from a piece of tape on the floor identifying the actor’s “mark.”) He then begins an elaborate bit of performance art to illustrate how crazy he really is: Ghosts have told him to get rid of Victoria. Granted, we know there are ghosts at Collinwood, but David’s galloping mental illness and the haunting of Collinwood aren’t mutually exclusive concepts. The combination of David’s mommy issues and his proclivity for rummaging in Victoria’s drawers means the new governess could find herself participating in a reenactment of the shower scene from PSYCHO.

Having been confronted with a maniac for a student, a sexual predator for a housemate, a chronically depressed employer and the promise for unwanted drama in the future, Victoria is uncertain of her future at Collinwood. “I’d be a fool to keep on staying here,” Victoria says about 30 seconds before she decides to keep on staying here.

Welcome to Collinwood, Victoria Winters.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 25


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 273

Sheriff Patterson, resisting the urge to rip off his tear-a-way sheriff’s uniform and reveal the g-string beneath, joins Burke in the basement as they discover that the trunk allegedly carrying Paul Stoddard’s remains is empty. Eventually, after an agreement with Liz, Jason reveals that Paul was merely stunned by Liz’s blow many years ago. He escaped while Jason made it appear as if Paul’s body were buried in the basement. In exchange for the truth, Liz declines to press charges. Given a day to leave Collinwood, Jason scopes out the Old House.

It’s not too wild to state that one world ends and another world begins with episode 273. It has one very simple and very complex job: to forever close the door on the world of DARK SHADOWS as it began and graciously segue into the series it was meant to be. It casts aspersions on neither side of that narrative fence, but make no mistake, there are sides. Jason McGuire is the last “secular” villain of note on the series -- unconnected to the supernatural -- to be introduced before the arrival of Barnabas Collins, and he ably carries and resolves (despite himself) the primary mystery that has powered the show for an entire year. When first imagined, Jason had the luxury of being the sole villain at Collinwood and defining evil in its walls. Jason may have had Willie in tow, but this was never designed to be a sinister sister act. Nevertheless, with Barnabas shoehorned into the action, He and his threat had to ensure that viewers uncertain about this vampire business had a good, old fashioned bad guy to hiss. Had the Barnabas storyline sunk like a dockside victim, Jason had to be more than enough to keep the show afloat. And since the vampire storyline was, um, more than mildly successful, Jason and his arc had to be both charming and compelling enough to engage viewers when away from Barnabas. I mean, YOU compete with TV’s first continuing vampire anti-hero.

Yes, creating and sustaining a daytime drama featuring a pensive, undead, Standards and Practices-friendly, prostitute-slaying blood-cannibal could be seen as an artistic and commercial challenge. Sure. But Dan Curtis, the writers, Joan Bennett, and Dennis Patrick had a tougher one. A vampire kind of sells himself to viewers. It’s not a hard pitch. But the aforementioned team -- ably supported -- took a repetitive, glacially-developed, penny-ante blackmail potboiler and stole their episodes right out from Barnabas’ Inverness. No excess of praise can be enough for Patrick as he modulates from sincere lovability to Puckish gamesmanship to brutal, emotional sadism all within the space of a line. He’s a bizarre cross between Fagin and Harold Hill. He’ll make you love him and then hate yourself for doing so. As his counterpart, Bennett is marvelously sincere as a titanium strong woman with a weak spot only seen by one man. Is it guilt that motivates her? Not so much as the ghost of Jamison… himself living under the ghost of Edward. She’s willing to torment herself for eighteen years to protect the Collins name and the esteem with which Collinsport holds itself.

The emotional core of the early Barnabas episodes rests in sympathizing with a sad monster who has immense power that he tries (and usually fails) not to use. That, and the raw terror of hoping that Maggie, a victim of mistaken identity, can escape him. Alternately, this is a very mixed and melancholy journey with Barnabas and a simple, unambiguous survival story with Maggie. They can both be filed under “compelling downers.” In relief, the Jason McGuire story is like a flare on a moonless night. The two arcs are similar in that they both feature a dark-haired woman being trapped in a house they dislike by a courtly and violent man trying to bully and gaslight them into marriage motivated by events from the past.  They differ in tone. Barnabas has mystery. Liz and Jason have humor, warmth, an evenly-matched cattiness, and a sense of suspense lacking in the Barnabas story. Maggie is rarely on even or superior footing with Barnabas. Even Julia is one bad choice away from joining the undead. But Liz has the power we rally behind all blackmail and bullying victims to seize: the power to say no. Jason knows it. We know it. And yet we sympathize with her reticence just as we celebrate when she seizes sovereignty at last.

As part of the ritual, McGuire shows up at the Old House with his stolen time. To steal jewels? To nab Willie, and the two of them amscray? We don’t know, but we can guess that he won’t find as much lenience with the Master of the Old House as he did with Collinwood’s Mistress.

And it becomes another show.

Roll credits.

This episode hit the airwaves July 26, 1967.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 21


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 527

Nicholas’ gloating over the restoration of Cassandra’s painting is short lived when Jeff presents him with his lost coat button. He and Vicki go to visit Stokes, who masterfully tutors Adam in the fine art of being a witty, urbane man-about-town before hiding him from his visitors. To discover Jeff’s identity, he hypnotically regresses him, learning of Lang’s perverse plans, just short of the full truth of Julia and Barnabas’ involvement. Emboldened with what he learns, Stokes struts manfully into Collinwood where he meets and intimidates the comparably ineffectual Nicholas Blair, the man who sold the Cassandra painting to the antiques dealer. Stokes explains to Vicki that this is man stuff, and she should amscray from Collinwood  before becoming the next victim of the dream curse.

I have to hand it to Stokes. We forget that he gets brought into the deeper recesses of the DARK SHADOWS universe by finding out about Barnabas and Julia’s involvement with something nefarious, and he still becomes their staunchest ally. Talk about a spider sense! Perhaps he chooses his friends by their enemies. After all, his next move finds him meeting Nicholas Blair in the heart of Collinwood, and the Professor knows exactly what that means. What does he do? T. Eliot Stokes stares down the devil like the stone-cold badass he is and pretty much outs him in front of Vicki. He essentially says, “Hey, you know that portrait that’s driven everyone crazy? The one that looks like Roger’s new wife? The woman we’re glad is gone? You know, the one who looks like you-know-who-in-a-black-wig? Well, this is the guy who was involved with it when I first saw it! What a coincidence!”

Big. As. Churchbells.

Pass the cheese and sherry.

On this day in 1968, the number one song was “This Guy’s in Love with You,” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Alpert also sang it, and his straightforward style and limited vocal range actually gave the song its lovable authenticity. Although it’s easy to write off his sound as quintessential elevator music, he was one of the most successful musical artists of the 1960’s, a fact that is emblematic of the intense musical variety of that era.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 20


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 785

Quentin is introduced to the mute, baffled, and deformed Evan Hanley, whose identity Magda declines to reveal. Wigged out by the Hand’s handiwork, Quentin retreats to Collinwood, where he dives into the Deep Dish Schadenfreude of Judith’s news that she’s marrying Trask and putting the Reverend in charge. Edward fumes and Quentin savors the misery of his siblings, consoling them with the news that “happiness does not exist.” Later, Judith is haunted by the ghost of (perhaps) Minerva Trask, who torments her with juvenile art and will-ripping. Quentin begins to transform and demands the Hand, good or bad.

High weirdness at Collinwood, Grand Guignol style!

Appropriate, since the Grand Guignol theatrical productions began in 1897… the same year that DRACULA saw the light of day, making it an appropriately helluva year. But not for Evan Hanley. The spectacle of Humbert Allen Astredo in full makeup, face hideously warped and eye askew, is one of the most grotesque images on the show, and easily the most sustained. The fact that this made it to the airwaves is the greatest testament to DARK SHADOWS’ unstoppable popularity in 1969. The camera lingers for so long that the horror becomes normalized, giving its ugliness a strangely existential weight. That works on DARK SHADOWS, especially  in the context of 785. It’s an unusually philosophical episode, thanks to Sam Hall’s eloquent, melancholy, and incisive teleplay. It’s a platform for Quentin to become a bar side philosopher, waxing on everything from the ironic downfall of a dilettante who dabbles in the black arts to happiness. (It doesn’t exist, says Quentin, as more-or-less a wedding toast to Judith.) Barnabas Collins openly longs for the past that was. Quentin longs for the present that should be, but isn’t. DARK SHADOWS grows up in 1897, and Quentin’s dead-man-walking perspectives on family and fate betray that. When Barnabas acts, it’s to create a better world, if only for himself, and it’s modeled on yesterday. For Quentin, a better world is impossible. The most we can hope for is a distracted present before moonrise. Despite that, when pushed to the limits of terror, Quentin will try for an escape, as he does with the Hand in this episode. Optimism and blind fear weave and loop within him until they become indistinguishable. 

For only children, 785 is also a primer in why they need to stay that way. Liz and Roger may bicker, but they’re like something out of a VC Andrews novel compared with Judith and Edward. It’s another example of 1897 as DARK SHADOWS’ retelling of DARK SHADOWS. They’ve become such seasoned experts at revising and reconsidering the classics that it was inevitable they should turn that lens into a mirror. Louis and Joan are once more catty brother and sister, but because we’re short timers here, there’s no reason to return to civility as the uneasy baseline. Marvel’s WHAT IF? was criticized by publisher Todd Loren as an example of creative cowardice. He didn’t see why they shouldn’t just make the actual changes teased at by that comic. By using time travel to create exaggerated parallels, the DSU gets to sidestep the accusation of over-cautiousness and still explore alternate paths. In this case, What If Liz actually had gone through with the marriage to Jason as a hornswaggled party, jeopardizing David’s inheritance? Interesting storyline, but through whose eyes would we have seen it? Carolyn’s? Of course, but Carolyn might have been too close to the bride for irony and too unequal to the Roger character to engage in the detached-but-knowing banter that Quentin enjoys. Quentin’s used to losing. Carolyn rarely knows she’s in a game… at least a game that’s called DARK SHADOWS and not CAROLYN! -- A GAME FOR ONE. Situations like the Edward/Judith/Trask conundrum (made worse by the fact that Edward ostensibly admires Trask) demand a commentator, and if he’s wry and aloof, all the better.

David Selby plays a delightful and dire range of responses in this episode. When you’ve recently returned from a magical hand terrorizing a horribly deformed man in your vampire cousin’s gypsy-infested bonus room, your sister marrying a Trask is the best news of the day. No wonder he’s so hepcat about it. He’s been doing a lot of screaming and panicking over the Hand, the deformed weirdo, and whether or not it will cure him of his lycanthropy. The man needs a break, and Selby clearly relishes an episode that mixes histrionics with plentiful opportunities for his wry, southern wit to Joseph Cotton its way around stiffnecked siblings. Sam Hall and company have given up pretending that Quentin is a product of New England and capitulated to the truth; he’s a Tennessee Williams philosopher-cad who’s strolled into a more interesting genre.

Which scientifically proves my assertion that DARK SHADOWS needs Burl Ives, who is clearly a Brundlefly fusion of David Ford and Thayer David

This episode hit the airwaves June 27, 1969.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 19


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 525

Jeff awakens from a dream where Nathan Forbes berates him as Peter Bradford. Upon waking, “Jeff” realizes that this evidence ensures that he is Peter Bradford. At Collinwood, Nicholas connects Vicki to the painting and induces Roger to explain her convictions about 1795. He realizes that she knows the location of Trask’s execution tree, and uses her knowledge to locate it. There, Nicholas performs a ritual to summon Angelique. The sound of screaming indicates he may be a success.

DARK SHADOWS is a paranoid’s delight, and is sure to leave you with reflexes and impulses that will last a lifetime -- an eternal gift to make a neurotic out of anyone. Vicki shows amazing fortitude and professionalism. Here she is, at her job, and living there -- living at her home and work -- is someone who is clearly the witch responsible for her murder. But, you know, the witch says she isn’t and is married to your boss, so you have to play along. Then, a sleazy guy with a mustache shows up, kisses hands, and claims to be her brother, which may be worse. One night, you come downstairs for your nightly brandy & bullion and catch him making weird hand gestures at a painting that looks like said witch… then he asks to “borrow it” for reasons that seem uncomfortably Kentuckian. Who borrows a painting of someone who looks like their sister? Nicholas Blair, that’s who.

This kind of stuff goes on there all the time. People at Collinwood, in the name of lack of evidence, lack of witnesses, or just a desire to be darn nice, end up sleeping three doors down from all manner of apocalyptic ne’er-do-wells, and they just lump it. Can you trust anyone?  I’m always wary when life throws me a guest star. The Collinses. Spend enough hours watching a show about them, and you’re in serious danger of taking that home and to work. Word to the wise.

525 is a joyous little core sample of the good stuff on the program. It’s Jonathan Frid’s day off, and the writers are determined to keep the suspense and ratings high. A wacky dream sequence with Nathan Forbes laughing maniacally is a reliable way to start any episode, corporate event, or bris. Joe must be either really tired of being associated with this weirdo or strangely proud, because it’s happening with a constancy that must make him think that Forbes is doing two sets nightly at the Blue Whale. All’s well, however, because it knocks a big chunk of the Jeff Clark identity crisis out of consideration. Quickly, we move to Nicholas sleazing around Vicki and drinking it up with Roger, finally comforting him with the company of a fellow fop. You kind of wish Burke Devlin would show up and try to intimidate Roger NOW… now that his buddy Nicholas is there. They’d just laugh at his taste in shoes until Burke skulked away to pen an angry letter to Brewster’s department store in furious shame.

Roger, on cue, spills the beans about Vicki’s conviction that she’d traveled to 1795 and was harassed by a witch hunter named Trask, tipping Nicholas off to the location of the Sacrificial Tree. It’s easy to be a villain on DARK SHADOWS. It’s not a job so much as a vacation. Nicholas just sits around the drawing room and drinks and leers at babes until people deliver exactly the exposition he needs, on cue. What’s left? Hypnotize Vicki, go to the tree, and call back Angelique. All in a day’s work.

Let’s praise Humbert Allen Astredo for carrying the show so effortlessly that it feels like we’re watching a talented writer unselfconsciously improvise rather than some guy reciting lines and working through blocking. It’s to the show’s credit that they didn’t simply hand over the storyline to him in perpetuity. How do you not screw up a scene? Include Nicholas Blair. It would be enough to make the rest of the ensemble paranoid. And, I guess, they share the wealth with us.

This episode hit the airwaves July 1, 1968.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Blu-ray of "Night of Dark Shadows" costs HOW MUCH?!

It was a pretty big deal when HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and its less-popular sequel NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS received digital restorations back in 2012. We can dump on Tim Burton's misfire all we want, but it momentarily raised enough interest in DARK SHADOWS to make these kinds of home video releases possible. Even better, the new transfers were gorgeous, revealing depths of detail and color barely hinted at by their earlier VHS releases. I've said it before and will say it again: If you've never seen these versions of the movies, you've never really seen them.

There might be fewer opportunities to repeat myself in coming years, though. A friend brought it to my attention last night that the Blu-ray of NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS is currently selling for $179.34 on Amazon. (Used prices are as high as $94.99.) But it wasn't automatically time to panic, because sales programs on Amazon sometimes have bidding wars to prevent shoppers from ordering out-of-stock items. For example, if your online store runs out of NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS on Blu-ray, your price will be raised to a penny more than the most expensive version on Amazon.  When multiple stores run out of the same item it can sometimes prompt prices to jump (temporarily) to ludicrous levels.

Sadly, a quick scan of other online vendors suggests that's not what's happening here, with NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS.

Most of the big box stores still have NIGHT listed somewhere in the range of suggested retail prices. Walmart (boo!) has the blu for $16.45, while Target's price is $13.89. Unfortunately, this edition is out of stock at both companies. (Target goes a step further with the slightly sinister "out of stock in all stores.") And it only gets worse from there. The used Blu-ray edition NIGHT is available on Ebay with a starting price of $96.99, while whatever the hell Rakuten is has another used copy for $269.79.

For now, the DVD version of NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS is still available at prices us mere mortals can afford. Amazon is still offering DVD for $9.99. Amazon Prime and iTunes also have the film for $9.99. So all is not yet lost.

But, if you want to own this on physical media, you might want to hustle.

Via: Amazon

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 16


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 522

Angelique’s brother, Nicholas, charms his way quickly into Collinwood. Roger suspects nothing and invites the mysterious stranger into his bedroom to show him his art, but Barnabas and Julia decide to consult Professor Stokes. Nicholas learns that Cassandra’s trail begins at the Old House, and goes there. Although Willie is initially withdrawn, Nicholas pumps him for information until he is spent. The issue of Trask’s ghost is the result, and Nicholas heads to the cellar where he confronts the holy man’s long-dead skeleton.

Although he introduces himself in the prior installment, 522 is the first, full episode for Nicholas Blair. Given his introduction the day before as Cassandra’s brother, he is suddenly one of the most anticipated villains in DARK SHADOWS run although he arrives out of the blue. Astredo and the writers have a lot to deliver, and 522 fails no one. In the space of 22 minutes, he shmoozes Roger, intimidates Barnabas, successfully links minds with Angelique in Hell, mind controls Willie, and taunts a skeleton. Rarely have the creators of the show played so many hands at once. Characters are usually revealed at more than leisurely pace, but this kind of creative braggadocio and swagger implies that the producers have far more cards in the deck. The only person on the show with more to live up to is Humbert Allen Astredo, and he immediately displays a startling charisma and ferocity that will be unmatched until David Selby speaks as Quentin. Suddenly, DARK SHADOWS is Humbert’s world, and everyone else just lives in it. This new stroke by the writers is sorely needed. As a threat, Adam is earning more shrugs than screams, despite the dazzlingly introspective and nuanced performance by Robert Rodan. Stokes has a new, worthy opponent as well. Barnabas may be the once-undead heart of the show, but Stokes is its mind and Nicholas, quite startlingly, its obsidian soul.

NIcholas will remain a tantalizing mystery throughout his tenure on the series, opening up the gates of the underworld to grand speculation. His presence implies an organized netherworld rather than a vague place where Angelique may or may not be cleaning erasers. In executing it, the writing staff takes a strange and beautifully blasphemous chance in sixties television. Questions arise. What kind of life form are Nicholas and Angelique? Was he her brother in life? Or death? Were they ever human? What kind of bureaucracy exists in the underworld? Do they have a dental plan? And are there heavenly counterparts, refusing (unless they’re George Burns or Morgan Freeman) to intervene? Curses are one thing, but now, we’re looking at an entire system of cosmic organization. Unwittingly, the creators of the show are also crafting the payoff of Jeb Hawkes and the Leviathans, two years away.

The episode also treats us to a host of expected and surprising choices by John Karlen, who has a chance to show multiple facets of Willie’s evolving identity in the space of just a few minutes. A fretting mother hen. A gun-toting redneck. A surly and jealous Workin’ Joe, left out of the reindeer games by Barnabas, and not a little petulant about it. When Nicholas puts the data-draining whammy on him, does he recite exposition in a glazed-eyed monotone? No. His comical resentment pours out as Nicholas pulls other truths from him. Willie just lights a cigarette and turns into the barroom gossip, cockeyed grin and all. It’s just one more memorable and human display that only a demon could inspire, and few inspire like Nicholas Blair, esq.

This episode hit the airwaves June 26, 1968.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Now available: Maggie & Quentin - The Lovers' Refrain

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

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

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

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

"The Girl Beneath the Water" by Lila Whelan

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

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

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

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

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

"The Hollow Winds That Beckon" by Cody Schell

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

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

"The Paper to the Flame" by Alan Flanagan

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

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

Massive Universal Monsters collection coming to Blu-ray

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 11, 2018

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


Sometimes the best ideas are hiding in plain sight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 8


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 521

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

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

Welcome to 521.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This episode hit the airwaves June 25, 1968.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Believe it or not, this is a model

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

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

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

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

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

Korova Art : Artwork by John M. Stewart:


The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 7


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 520

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

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

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

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

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

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

This episode hit the airwaves June 24, 1968.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 6


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 519

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

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

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

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

This episode hit the airwaves June 21, 1968.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 5


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 252

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

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

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

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

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

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

This episode hit the airwaves June 13, 1967.

A closer look at Dark Shadows: The Complete Newspaper Strips

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: June 4


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 508

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

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

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

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

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

You know his name.

Stokes. T. Eliot Stokes.

And Professor T. Eliot Stokes will return.

This episode hit the airwaves June 5, 1968.

Thanks, Patrick


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

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

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

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

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

- WM
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