Friday, August 31, 2018

Dark Shadows: The Beginning ... in 3D!

I've been threatening you with this for a few weeks now, so here it is: A collection of 3D images from the first year of DARK SHADOWS. For those of you just joining us, this is part of a broader homage to the View-Master reels of yesterday, an attempt to plug a massive hole in Dark Shadows merchandise and have a little fun along the way. I've got a lot of irons in the fire right now (including a nifty installment in this 3D series) so you might want to invest in a pair of blue/red 3D glasses. (I happened to have a couple of pairs of glasses on-hand because they came with a four-pack collection of FRIDAY THE 13th movies, for example.) But Amazon has a snazzy pair with plastic frames and lenses on sale right now for $1.25, which is your best, cheapest bet.

Is 1966 the most visually exciting era of the series? Probably not. But fans of 1966 are a cult-within-a-cult, and for us there's nothing more exciting that gothic melodrama in three dimensions. Below you'll find two "reels" of 18 images which have been shared on the CHS Tumblr feed, "Blood Drive."

REEL 1       REEL 2

The Dark Shadows Daybook: AUGUST 31


Taped on this day in 1970: Episode 1093

When David and Hallie prepare a new, sinister resident for the dollhouse, Sebastian confronts disturbing news about Maggie. Sebastian Shaw: Christopher Pennock. (Repeat; 30 min.)

There are stories that original audience members for the Universal FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA occasionally had to be carried out on stretchers. While I’m sure that some of It Came from the Universal Publicity Office, I’m just as sure that other people were that authentically frightened by what they saw. It seems like an alien concept, now. To modern eyes, FRANKENSTEIN is more of a sad movie than a frightening one. DRACULA faces the same struggle, another film cursed by quaint. It happens. DARK SHADOWS is a similar victim to our evolving sense of horror.

Even as a kid, DARK SHADOWS was never scary to me. Maybe if I’d been younger -- six or seven. But I was eleven, and it was no KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS. I loved it, though. If it wasn’t horror, it was its own genre, and whatever that genre was, I preferred it to anything not involving Klingons, barbarian women, or Jerry Reed driving at excessive velocities. Still, I always wondered what it would have been like to have been scared by DARK SHADOWS. In 2012, in broad daylight, I got the chance.

It’s the end of the prior episode, meaning it’s also at the beginning of this one, as David and Hallie look into the dollhouse of Rose Cottage. Their giant eyes loom over a vision of themselves sitting in the dollhouse in which Gerard intends to trap them forever. The juxtaposition was a disturbing, unexpected image. It has a strange, inexplicable logic which more closely approximates a dream than anything else I’ve seen on TV. That kind of citation is usually a cop-out, but there’s no other term for it. It’s a seemingly benign image with deeply, uncontrollably sinister implications. I know vampires don’t exist and I know that werewolves don’t exist. But dollhouses exist -- I used to build them. And what are dollhouses but an attempt to control a little world? That desire comes from somewhere. Thus, to see yourself -- not a doll of yourself, but yourself, hypnotically imprisoned in one as a willing victim? That’s a nightmare composed of elements all too familiar. It ties into why the pre-1840, Ragnarok sequence is so disturbing. It reeks of an inevitable doom knit partly out of the characters’ complicity in their own decay and partly out of their total inability to stop it. A vampire, you can stop. An invading ghost, you can stop. But a corruption like this to which you’re a willing participant? This is more quietly gothic than anything prowling around a graveyard in a cape and fangs by moonlight. This, for lack of a better term, is real.

Part of the almost repellant sadness in this sequence is the sense of very believable surrender by the characters. David and Hallie (and even the future dollhouse resident, Carolyn) are abandoned children. This is underlined by the frequent absence of Roger and Liz, who were, even at their best, dysfunctional parents who only occasionally made up for it with sentimental speeches and half-hearted hugs. Worst of all is Maggie, also decaying and dissolute. After seeing her successfully fight the man for so long, she, also, just seems to be giving up. This is the closest to the actual world as the show got. Real people can’t be expected to thrive for years under such relentless indifference and abandonment, not to mention constant threats to life and limb. This sequence is an ugly wake-up call to the fact that living in a spook house isn’t glamor and cool lighting. Perhaps that’s why many who love the show have such a tough time with it. I have a tough time with it. At the same time, I know that there is a deeper reality being exposed. It’s a memo that DARK SHADOWS isn’t fun and games. Childhood ends, even as we descend deeper and deeper into the dollhouse. The sixties would end. Camelot would end. Thus, we are perfectly staged for the necessity of the 1840 sequence. We have to examine our pasts. We have to forgive. We have to ask more of ourselves and each other if we are ever to rebuild and return. We have to be the Barnabas, absolving Angelique. We have to be Angelique, looking past the smoke and mirrors of our shortcut parlor tricks to take responsibility for who we must become. If all good things come to an end, so do all bad things. Moments like these give the real dark shadows meaning, and we must fight to earn them.

This episode was broadcast Sept. 2, 1970.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 29


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 836

When Julia explores a haunted Collinwood, will the ghosts of Quentin and Beth make her join them as a permanent guest? Beth: Terry Crawford. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Julia encounters the ghost of Beth, who leads her on a flashback to see how Quentin was denied Jamison’s love and then shot by Beth as a result of choosing Angelique as his fiancee. In the present, the ghost of Quentin kills David before the very eyes of Julia and Stokes.

There are corners that we readers turn as we’re learning to get the most out of a book or a play. For me, one of the most interesting and significant is when I learned that a narrator -- that great, infallible, surrogate God/Parent of the page -- may be a liar… motivated by madness or an agenda. It’s a truth I usually forget about because they usually aren’t liars. However, there are moments when it just makes more sense than accepting what’s being sold as truth. In 836, we meet one of those moments. We can explain it away if we want to. Things I might say under other circumstances. You know, “Don’t nitpick” being chief among them. Because nitpicking usually spoils the party. In this case, it possibly makes it.

What if Beth is a liar? She was never mentally stable and her story omits several crucial truths and conceits of common sense. According to her story, Quentin dismissed a distraught Jamison (in a way that seems a bit too condescending based on what we’ve seen previously), suffering his contempt as a result. Then, Beth shoots him and kills herself. This is all a result of Quentin’s (forced) choice of Angelique over Beth. Quentin’s ghost then allegedly roams the halls of Collinwood, desperate for Jamison’s forgiveness.

Which he gets, you know, by trying to kill the boy’s identical grandson.

You can talk about the Leviathan storyline having holes, but this is an earlier case where all of DARK SHADOWS begins groaning under the weighty goodwill we extend to it. We want it to work out. We want it to make sense. So often on the show, it’s easy to look at plot events and say that they seem logical because we want them to seem logical. But Beth’s story fails under the most casual scrutiny because we know things that Julia does not.

File the rest of this under, “Unless I’m forgetting something….”

Beyond the behavioral wackiness of the ghosts from 1897, Beth’s story really falls apart in the light of Quentin’s portrait from Delaware-Tate. At no point do we get the impression that it’s vulnerable to bullets. That means that Beth’s gun might have caused pain, but not death. We get the idea of a prophecy regarding Quentin’s death, with three events, etc, etc, but this is all predicated on the idea that Quentin died.

But one of the three signs heralding his death is the silver bullet. Another is Julianka’s death. Which means that Quentin becoming a werewolf was always destined and not a tangential result of Barnabas’ meddling. If Quentin became a werewolf, then it was always likely that Petofi would show up, get his hand, and hire Delaware-Tate. And again, unless I’m forgetting something, that means that Quentin was always destined to be immortal. If that’s the case, maybe he never died. Maybe that’s always been Trask in Quentin’s room. Maybe there’s not another timeline. Because killing David to gain Jamison’s forgiveness makes no sense at all.

This only makes sense if the ghost of Quentin is not the ghost of Quentin. So, another ghost. One who wants to discredit Quentin before “Grant Douglas” reappears. One who wants to shuttle Barnabas back in time where he can be more readily hunted. One who wants to get rid of Julia Hoffman, too, because she’s too much help. One with no compunction for murder. Ultimately, one who wants the house for himself as the strange, grand master.

I’m easily trampling literary analysis with Fan Theorizing, but a girl has needs. Is it not possible that the ghosts of Quentin and Beth are just dress-up by ghosts who love dress-up? In other words, Gerard and Daphne. And by that, I mean Judah Zachary. Specifically, manipulating images of the ghosts the way he manipulates images of the ghosts of Gerard and Daphne a year or so later. How much of the series can be seen as him eating away at the efficacy of the most powerful family members? Get rid of Barnabas. Get rid of Quentin. Get rid of Julia. Be it 1897. Parallel Time. 1840. Maintaining the house as a ghost wasn’t enough. The family came back. By 1970, he did a quadruple gainer. Barnabas, Stokes, and Julia are back in time, the family is out, Quentin is insane, and Collinwood is no more. Take that!

All of this is predicated on one choice, and that’s how to “read” the show. Although it was written piecemeal, with no five-year master plan, there is a finished series called DARK SHADOWS. It does operate as a single text with a prologue, beginning, middle, end, and epilogue. No one was supposed to approach it as we do, with a semi-intimate knowledge of the production. And if you don’t have that, you have no way of knowing that Gerard wasn’t in the writers’ minds all along. Story interpretation can be like a great pair of glasses. If you put on the right pair, amazing patterns can emerge… and you can always take them off. In grad school, we’d constantly refer to Freud when talking about Shakespeare. I’d often joke that this made sense, since Shakespeare was reading a lot of Freud when he was writing in the 1590’s. Nonsense, but it’s interesting that there was something universal into which they were both tapping.

With DARK SHADOWS, the story that Art Wallace began had its own universality that gathered momentum and swept along Hall & Russell and company. If you reverse engineer the program with a little imagination, patterns, themes and story consistencies become remarkably evident, as if some larger or more catholic story were being both created and then responded to with even more creativity. That kind of engagement with a series is unique.

It’s a gift in a rare way that most shows are not.

This episode was broadcast Sept. 8, 1969.

Friday, August 24, 2018

What a minute ... when did HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS open?

People like anniversaries. A solid date gives us something on which to hang our history and heritage, but neither of those concepts lend themselves well to fixed schedules. The milestones we love to recognize are often, in the words of Charlotte Brontë, "categorical horseshit."

Such is the case with the release date of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. Yesterday, I marked the 45th anniversary of the film's release, using Sept. 9, 1970, as the date of its officially sanction debut. This is the date that IMDB prefers, citing a "premiere" that day in Detroit, Michigan, of all places. It specifies a broader roll out closer to Halloween.

While I don't know when (or even "if") HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS received a formal premiere, movies operated much differently in 1970 than they do today. Back then, little emphasis was placed on opening weekend grosses ... because there was rarely ever anything resembling an opening weekend. Movies were rolled out slowly, sometimes taking months to gain a proper toehold in theaters. Today, a motion picture will make as much as 50 percent of its total gross during the first three days of release. During the 1970s, though, you could expect a film to stay in theaters for months at a time. For example, John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN officially opened Oct. 25, 1978 in Kansas City, Missouri ... but didn't arrive in theaters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, until the end of the following November.

Aug. 28, 1970.
So, the Sept. 9, 1970 "debut" of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS? It's absolutely wrong. In fact HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS started screening to audiences as early as August of that year.

On Aug. 28, 1970, the film opened at the Diane Drive-In in Gastonia, North Carolina. It was paired with Hammer's HORROR OF DRACULA from 1958 as the B-picture. To give you an idea of what kind of movies generally played at the Diane in 1970, the movies playing on these screens during the previous week were THE CHRISTINE JORGENSEN STORY and the 1968 Frank Sinatra thriller, THE DETECTIVE.

From there, HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS trickled out to theaters around the country. While it got a boost from the Halloween holiday that year (which probably led to the myth of its October 28 release date) the film was in wide release by the end of September.

If you're looking for a date to recognize as the "official" opening for HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, Sept. 9, 1970, is as good as any. As with most anniversaries, though, the truth is a lot more complicated.

UPDATE: Film archivist and DARK SHADOWS fan Darren Gross found an even earlier showing of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. He sent me a scan of a newspaper ad (which you can see above) for a preview of the film that took place Aug. 24, 1970, at The DeMille Theater in Manhattan. He says the October 28 date often referenced is when HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS opened in New York City and Los Angeles.

Note: The DeMille, following a few name changes, closed in 2007. The building was remodeled and served at the site of Famous Dave’s BBQ Restaurant, which closed in 2013. The building was demolished earlier this year.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 23


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 570

The Old House becomes a full house! When Barnabas tries to hide a suicidal Liz from Roger and a hypno-crazed Julia from Tom, can he find the time to stake the town’s newest vampire? Barnabas: Jonathan Frid. (Repeat. 30 min.)

When an insane Liz arrives at the Old House, Barnabas deduces the location of both Julia and Tom Jennings. After rescuing the doctor, Barnabas returns and engages Tom in deadly combat.

What to do with Julia?

It had to be a constant question in the writers’ room, both helped and made impossible by the fact that one of your best writers was married to her… and got the job through her. She’s not a love interest, but she is. She’s not an heroic protagonist, but she is. She even starts out trying to kill the most popular character. Julia is a mess of contradictions and not someone traditionally destined to be kept around. But she is. And as a result, she is one of the most unique characters in the history of television. Julia defies any label you might wish to put on her, and yet so many labels also apply.

Willie plays Jiminy Cricket so hard in this episode, I’m surprised he doesn’t turn green and sprout antenna. Rather than the usual haranguing, he takes the opportunity to give Barnabas a hard time about his feelings for Julia. Barnabas is loathe to admit it, but of course he cares about her. It’s actually a very human moment. As he says, she has become a part of his life. A strange part. Barnabas is too polite and under too much pressure to go further. If he were to be honest, Barnabas would probably add that he would more readily admit feelings of warmth for her if she were not also a colossal pain in the ass. She lectures him. She’s scolds him. She debates with him incessantly. And given the time from which Barnabas has come, he is perhaps the most liberal, advanced, forward thinking man on the planet for putting up with it. Because that is not how they rolled in the 1790s. It’s only because he had Naomi for a mother that I think he does. 

Freud said that behind every fear is a wish and behind every wish is a fear. As much as Julia wanted to cure Barnabas she was simultaneously fascinated with the concept of vampirism. It was the twilight between the world of the living and the world of the dead, and control over that meant control over life itself. Although it was one in a chain of thousands of wrongheaded moves, I think the 2012 movie was responding to something that rumbles under the text of the TV series. Only in one moment, though, when they had Julia turn herself into a vampire. And as much as she seems to hate it from Tom, Julia is also getting a lot of what she seems to want. Above it all, she is finally desired by a handsome, feral neck-biting man. And she hates it, but she keeps showing up. She keeps getting in the way of Barnabas’ gun. She keeps tying sheets together and sneaking out of the Old House after curfew.

Which is not easy in this episode. In real life, the Collinwood set had been accidentally destroyed when it was supposed to simply be cleaned. (You can imagine what it was like to be working with Dan Curtis around the time of that news.) Unfortunately, they also had to deal with Joan Bennett’s return, so the Old House was used constantly — here, it turns into a hotel for neurotic, morbid women, making Barnabas like the unwitting hero of the Pedro Almodóvar movie. No wonder he keeps going out to try and kill Tom Jennings. It’s a relatively peaceful task compared to what he’s dealing with at home. Liz wants to die. Roger wants Barnabas to get Juliet to pull strings at Windcliff. Julia wants to run so far away from Tom Jennings that she circumnavigate the globe and runs into him again “by accident.“ Victoria is still missing. Adam is at large. God only knows what’s going on with Angelique. He’s got Marie Wallace’s body decomposing in the basement. Nicholas is having fondue with Maggie. In the middle of all this, Willie stands there and has the nerve to call Barnabas insensitive!  I’m amazed that Barnabas doesn’t take the hammer and stake to him, first. Just as a warm-up.

No, a little bit of time spent staking the walking representation of everything you hate about yourself is just what the doctor ordered. And it’s just with Barnabas gets.

Dealing with Julia Hoffman is a complex matter. You’ve got to work out that stress somewhere.

This episode was broadcast Aug. 30, 1968.

10 images from the new Suspiria trailer that will make you ask "What the f*k did I just watch?"

Luca Guadagnino’s upcoming remake occupies two very different spaces in my mind. It's both something I don't need in my life (a remake of Dario Argento's 1977 classic) but also made by people whose work had quickly become essential viewing. I've decided to allow myself to be excited about this film.

And the fact that we still don't know much about a movie only two months away from release troubles me not at all. If you've ever seen the original SUSPIRIA you already know its story is nonsense. Argento is a bit like artist Will Eisner in that his work is its own raison d'être. SUSPIRIA doesn't need to justify its own existance with such trivial details as "plot" and "character" because it's not about any of those things. SUSPIRIA is about Dario Argento. And I'm ready and willing to hear what Guadagnino has to say about Argento in his remake.

SUSPIRIA comes out October 26. Below are a collection of images from the new trailer, which you can watch for yourself at the bottom of this post.

Tim Burton's Dark Shadows ... in 3D

Don't look at me like that. No, the Collinsport Historical Society has not been a cheerleader for Tim Burton's 2012 riff on DARK SHADOWS. It's kind of been an office punching bag for the last few years, an attitude encouraged in no small part by the automatic boost in traffic we get whenever the film is mentioned. But as every vampire knows, there's a difference between good attention and bad attention, and the level of hostility this movie provokes in fans of the original series is usually pretty icky. Mention Johnny Depp around "real fans" and things will quickly take a turn for the gross. (Historical curioisty: Many of these "real fans" turned out in droves for Jonathan Frid's spoken word tours during the 1980s. Some of them didn't pay to see his show, though, opting instead to wait until after to ambush him outside and ask him to sign their Dark Shadows items. Make of that what you will.) I've taken avoiding any mentions of the film because it brings out the worst in some people.

So no, I didn't like Burton's film in 2012 and I don't like it today. But gosh, it sure is pretty. It's a glorified Monster High doll, an empty plastic shell tarted up in goth drag. After converting a batch of images into 3D for a series of "Lost Viewmaster Reels" for the original television show, HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, it felt important to close the cinematic circle with Burton's movie. It has it's fans, after all.

Below are links to five faux Viewmaster "reels" representing about 45 3D images from the film. You'll need a pair of red/blue anaglyph 3D glasses to view them.

REEL 1         REEL 2         REEL 3
REEL 4          REEL 5

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 22


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 311

When the hunt for Sarah leads Barnabas, Willie, and David all to trap themselves in the secret room of the mausoleum, who gets dibs on the coffin? Willie: John Karlen. (Repeat; 30min.)

David, searching for Sarah, locks himself in the secret vault of the mausoleum. When Barnabas and Willie also look for Sarah, David hides in Barnabas’ coffin. From within, he hears Barnabas abuse Willie and wax on Sarah. Later, Vicki seeks consolation over David’s disappearance. Barnabas, giving his shoulder to cry on, rears back to bite her.

It’s a little too slow and a little too sweet, right… up… until… okay, there it is. At the end. Because he spends so much of the series as the troubled hero, it can be jarring to go back and see Barnabas not only as a villain, but one who enjoys being such. Under what circumstances would someone do that? Yes, DARK SHADOWS is fiction, and so none of these characters have an obligation to be plausible -- but it’s good fiction, and that demands more scrutiny. Of course, these authors had no idea where they were going when they wrote the show. There was no master plan running up through April of 1971. That doesn’t change the fact that this is a complete text that begins, expands, and ends. The fact that Barnabas does evolve -- and even contradicts himself -- makes him all the more human and dynamic. I’m not sure that a pre-planned series could have captured human complexities quite as well; we’re too complicated for that.

At this point in Barnabas’ journey, every institution in the 1795 world has failed him. Marriage. Law. Science. Friendship. Even family… with Joshua’s inability to stake him, Barnabas learns that his fate is a product of Existentialism more than Enlightenment. Trapped in a coffin for nearly two hundred years. Reduced to living in the rat trap echo of his beloved home with a thieving redneck as his only tie to reality. What did he have to live for? The dead ringer for his fiancee turns out to be a mentally fragile serving girl. Yes, Barnabas likes serving girls, but Angelique set a certain standard. No, not mentally stable, but a damn fine conversationalist, I imagine. Not so much for what he met of Maggie. So, that effort fails and plunges him into guilt, regret, and eventually white-hot paranoia. The next person to find his secret -- Julia Hoffman -- is playing the ultimate game of FMK with him, and the only thing unclear is the order. As far as he knows, with each injection, he’s an undead dead man walking.

In the depths of his alienation comes the one thing that never failed him in 1795 -- his sister. As the memory of 1795 continues to rot into vinegar, and as the reality of 1967 is even more disheartening, it’s natural that Barnabas would respond to the only unalloyed happiness in his memory. Is she there to comfort him or chastise him? He knows it’s the latter. But people crave limits, and he respects the source. If he is evil, it’s a despondent shopping spree of choice. And it’s not that his choices don’t ring with consequence, the rub is in the truth that all his choices ring with consequence. He can’t pick up a newspaper without it leading to the most terrifying night of his life. Listen to the opening narrations to the show. How often are these people plunged into terrors they never knew possible? Constantly. Every night. So, yes, Vicki is despondent over a missing David? Sure, why not use this as an opportunity to console her at the end? As he tells her to cling to him and let it all out, his line delivery is as deliberately facetious and half-hearted as Otter Stratton on Sadie Hawkins Day. As Barnabas lunges in to bite her, my concern and sympathy is challenged as I ponder her almost athletic lack of awareness. Of course, I’ll inevitably side with the person getting her throat ripped out… but it won’t stop me from wondering why she’s practically painting a landing strip on her neck. Vicki? You have a generation of young people idolizing you.

Today, the discussion isn’t even a metaphor. No, she’s not asking for it. No one is. So, what is the message that we’re supposed to take away from a dangerous conversation like this? For a person constantly asking questions about everything -- and never understanding what she hears -- Vicki is the picture of unawareness. Evil is evil. An attack is an attack. And awareness is power. Ironic that her would-be attacker, Barnabas, is frequently even more unaware than is she. However, if anyone on a soap paid attention at all, the stories would last ten minutes. But that’s the point. The more the characters lack focus, the more we learn its value. David is the most aware character on the show, and in this episode, he learns the most he ever will in one night. Pity it’s from inside a coffin.

That part of the discussion is too much metaphor to ignore.

This episode was broadcast Sept. 4, 1967.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 20


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1089

When David discovers the power to raise a crew of undead pirates, what can stop him from using it? David: David Henesy. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Gerard increases his hold on Collinwood by claiming Elizabeth, who sets up the bust on the rail that will fall on Julia in 1995. The children alternately escape from and to Gerard. Having found that there was a real Java Queen, David reenacts a spell to resurrect its crew.

1089 is what late stage DARK SHADOWS is all about. Suspicion. Paranoia. Bowing and scraping to sneering ghosts. And bad fashion. What’s not to love? In this case, the flaw of the show’s final months is also its strength -- pace. This is a rough & tumble, Edwardian, Young Man’s Big Book of Manly Adventure episode, but since the kids are serving pure evil, it also has the subversive delight of being a meditation on “What If the Hardy Boys Went Bad?” In creating it, the writers make the program a carnival spook show ride that seems very slightly broken… in an amusing way. This is complete with pirate lore, now with zombies! Can anyone walk away from that moment? Exactly.

Had this episode been done a year and a half earlier, with Quentin pulling these shenanigans, it would have scared the hell out of the daytime world. But James Storm had a very different quality than David Selby. Gerard’s Ghost was never allowed to charm nor maintain the mask of allusive neutrality. Even his smile was sarcastic. Storm would have made one of the show’s great heroes had they cast him as such, somewhere between Pennock, Selby, and Crothers. However, Gerard is just a tiringly unpleasant spirit… if you compare him to Quentin. If you take him as he is, Gerard is a nasty and cravenly spirit on an unambiguous mission to torture the residents of Collinwood and level their home. Quentin’s haunting created questions that demanded an answer. Gerard’s had far less mystery and far more evil. We were destined to love Quentin. The only thing we are destined to do with Gerard is await his death scene. And I say that as a fan.

Gerard seems to have a very odd take on being a ghost, and even worse luck. His highlight in 1089 might be his attempt to lunge at people who just slowly saunter out of his way. His arms remain outstretched in empty air, and we wonder if he has the power to chase them or rematerialize in their new path. Clearly not, so he just sneers some more. It’s an oddly humanizing moment for the specter, if unintended by the authors. There is a winningly lunkheaded quality to all of the proceedings. For instance, Gerard’s main punishment appears sartorial in nature. Each possessed person seems to be trying to outdo the others for Worst Outfit. Liz is in a hot pink, silk, overinflated whirlwind of cotton candy, bearing a cape. Hallie seems to be in a shifting paisley chameleon uniform that changes patterns and hue depending on which eyesore of a curtain she’s standing near. But David takes the nuclear-azure urinal cake in an astounding, blue, belted, scoop-neck sweater/vest that could not have been made nor meant for a man under any circumstances. Since when is Gerard raiding Eve Plumb’s wardrobe? That makes the best dressed person in the episode… Julia Hoffman. Not just Julia Hoffman, but Julia Hoffman in a plain, brown dress. It empowers her to warn Liz not to put the Greek bust on the narrow handrail by the stairs. (You’d have to be possessed to do it!) It’ll bean her on the head in The Future. But Liz is too hypnotized to do anything but scoff, and so it stays on the mantle, somehow keeping its precarious place as zombies pull the roof around it down from within. If I were Julia, that’s a sticky-tack secret I’d crave.

David rounds out the episode by wondering if Gerard will punish them further, so he waves the green flag to summon zombies who will destroy Collinwood. How would Gerard have punished the family if David hadn’t? Maybe by making them dress off-the-rack from Orbach’s. 

This episode was broadcast Aug. 27, 1970.

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 17


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 309

Barnabas notes that his dosages are increasing and becomes violent when he hears that Burke is becoming suspicious about him. His mood sours further when Julia announces that he’s missed another appearance by Sarah. Later, Vicki cajoles Burke into apologizing to Barnabas. Julia reports more activity that she attributes to Sarah’s ghost. Barnabas convinces himself that he will be visited next.

The show is three months out from the (literally) history-making 1795 flashback. Given how far in advance the plot was mapped out, the finer points of the transition are all falling into place, and they rest on the shoulders of a young woman less than twelve years old. Barnabas is, as he has been since his introduction, obsessed with the past, but that obsession is less and less on Josette and instead centered on his actual true love (although not a romantic one): Sarah. Because of her age and the resume that (doesn’t) come with it, Sharon Smyth’s acting abilities were understandably limited. However, this didn’t slow down the program; the writers are too clever for that. Sometimes in drama, it can be more powerful to be talked about than seen. Sarah’s charm and influence profoundly affect her immediate community of adults, and seeing that in how they behave and reflect is the proper measure of her reach. Jonathan Frid shows us that with increasing frequency, and this episode solidly reintroduces the anguish that makes him the restrained vampire that he is, strangling Julia notwithstanding.

In Barnabas, we appreciate the monster created by Josette and Angelique, but who was he before that? It could be argued that this, in 309, is the real Barnabas. It’s astounding to think that the man we see played by Frid is only supposed to be twenty-five. That means that Sarah was in his life for almost half of it. Yes, he’s close to his uncle and Ben Stokes, but beyond that, the Barnabas we meet in 1795 is arguably isolated from the world of swagger. Other than the time he spent swingin’ in Martinique, Barnabas seems to have grown up isolated in Maine, diligently toiling in his father’s shadow and mold... although somewhat undercooked compared to the turgid, copralithic pater noster. When we first meet Young Collins in Vicki’s flashback, he seems like an angelic cross between Buster Brown and Eddie Haskell. Pretty naive.

Pretty, pretty naive.

In this episode, in the present, Barnabas reacts with shock and deep pain to the fact that Sarah appears to everyone but him. He knows it’s a punishment -- maybe the cruelest. He also knows why. He loved Sarah more than any other because, as the snare that catches so many others, she was someone who needed him. And up until Angelique, he was able to be there for her. It can be an enslaving thing, but there is something magnetic to knowing that you are both needed by someone and can make them truly happy. Beyond Jeremiah -- a man just as busy out on the town -- and Ben -- whose friendship (and maybe the law) was forbidden thanks to social class -- we know of no other companions for Barnabas. Although we don’t see it, we can infer that his connection with Sarah came from an intensely bonded relationship, somewhere between siblings and parent/child. He could protect Josette only to a certain extent, and the limit of his responsibility came from respect; she’s a responsible adult, after all. However, Sarah’s youth and naivete demanded his protection. And not just in danger. If Barnabas felt isolated, imagine how Sarah must have felt? No fleeting moments with Jeremiah. No Ben Stokes at her side. A remote father simply looking for a human prop, and a mother ten years too old to be dealing with yet another child. Sarah’s only company? Just the insanity of Abigail.

And Barnabas. Human compassion alone explains his fealty to her. She had been let down by fate and the birth order. She wasn’t going to be let down by him. Jonathan Frid explores the truth of Barnabas’ failure with mournful sensitivity, and along with his early monologue of Josette’s death by the sea, the character’s memories have wound the propeller for 1795 to take off and soar.

309 is also delightful. Burke explores his future as a hectored husband when Vicki nags him into apologizing to Barnabas for suspecting him of nogoodnikness, and Barnabas earns the right to ask one of the paranoid’s favorite questions -- about the innocence (or lack thereof) of Vicki’s suspicions towards him. He even gets a believably honest acquittal from her. Then, the curl up with the family history.

Even Barnabas gets a good day now and then. Part of one, anyway.

This episode was broadcast Aug. 31, 1967.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Night of Dark Shadows ... in 3D!

The sprawling collection of 3D images from HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS went over well this week. Not as well as the fake View-master "reels" made from images of the original television series, mind you, but the traffic was still good enough to encourage me to follow through with a sequel. Despite being a wonderfully shot film in its own right, NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS isn't as visually lush as its precedecessor, which limited the number of shots that made for compelling 3D conversions. I was able to squeeze out enough images for three "reels," which lean (unsurprisingly) on Lara Parker's ghostly witch "Angelique." David Selby and Grayson Hall might have gottten most of the film's dialogue, but cinematographer Richard Shore (who would shoot only one other film, 1973's BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY) knew who the real star of the show was.

As with the previous View-master reels, I've uploaded the images to the Collinsport Historical Society's Tumblr feed, "Blood Drive." Click on the images below to view the images. Red and blue 3D glasses are required.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

House of Dark Shadows ... in 3D!

Consider this a do-over, of sorts. A few weeks back I posted some faux sterographic images of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, animated gifs consisting of screenshots designed to create the illusion of depth. Since then, I've been tinkering with red and blue anaglyph 3D images based on the original television series. Given the "soft" nature of the videotape used by the series, it's been a real challenge to make those 3D images look like anything other than a hot mess. For every image you've seen there were 3-4 others that didn't work on any level. HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, shot with film and recently remastered by MGM, has none of those image problems. The film's hit-to-miss ratio has been much better, giving me a significantly bigger haul. Rather than dole these out over the course of several weeks, I'm sharing the entire batch in a single post. Once again, you'll need a pair of red/blue 3D glasses to make these images work. Below are links to all six (!) reels I created collecting 48 3D images, posted over at "Blood Drive," the CHS Tumblr feed. I've waived the usual View-master framing on these images because I couldn't stand the idea of cropping them.

REEL 1    REEL 2    REEL 3

REEL 4    REEL 5    REEL 6

Monday, August 13, 2018

The "lost" Dark Shadows View-Master reels

DARK SHADOWS peaked in popularity in 1969, reaching approximately 8.4 million homes every day. Unsurprisingly, it was also the year the series produced the most merchandise. The companies that invested in licenses for the series in 1968 finally started to get their wares to the shelves, with surprisingly mixed results. Gold Key released just a single issue of its DARK SHADOWS comic in 1968, with more than a year passing before a second was published. More trading cards, posters, records and anything else that could bear a trademark stamp was produced, among them a set of 3D View-Master reels from General Aniline & Film Corporation. The images in the series were captured the year before during "The Dream Curse" storyline and did not feature 1969's breakout star David Selby.

For reasons that GAF probably doesn't even remember, a second series of View-Master reels was never produced, robbing us of the chance to see Quentin Collins in 3D. The Collinsport Historical Society is doing its part to fill that void ... to a certain extent. View-Master reels traditionally feature seven stereoscopic images per reel, with three reels packaged in each set. Below are seven 3D images representing a second "lost" reel from DARK SHADOWS. You'll need a pair of red/blue anaglyph 3D glasses to view them, but I suspect DARK SHADOWS fans are the sort to have those kinds of things laying around the house. I've struggled a bit with how best to present these images ... splitting them up between different posts feels messy, while dumping all 21 images under a single header doesn't feel like a solution, either. So, here's what I've done: All three "reels" have been shared to the CHS Tumblr account. Click on the reels below to view them!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Spend Christmas at Collinwood

Lyndhurst Mansion, the Tarrytown, N.Y. property that served as the fictional "Collinwood" in both HOUSE and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, will summon a few ghosts on the estate this Christmas. "Mr. Dickens Tells a Christmas Carol" recreates Charles Dickens’ own performances of the classic tale that brings the travails of Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim to life. Actor Mikel Von Brodbeck plays Charles Dickens, who uses the author's original script as he takes guests on a tour of the main floor of Lyndhurst where you will meet various spirits and characters that haunt the grounds.

The event takes place Dec. 14-30. Visit Showclix to purchase tickets to the event.

Now, if we can only convince them to host a live reading of the Big Finish audio "The Christmas Presance."

H/T to @willmckinley.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 8


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 300

At the Old House, Barnabas awakens and asks for Willie. Barnabas orders Willie to spy on Vicki and Burke as closely as possible. Is Barnabas afraid of losing her to Burke. Later, Julia reports to Barnabas that his cure is coming along. She accuses him of being in Vicki’s room. Barnabas admits to temptation, but nothing happened. Julia emphasizes that there must be no next time. He chafes at taking orders. Neither Julia nor he can afford the questions. He agrees to stay away from Vicki. Later in the garden, Burke reveals that he’s buying Seaview for Vicki, and then asks her to marry him. She loves him but is torn. She’d have to leave the Collins family. She needs time to think. Meanwhile, Willie sees all. He and Barnabas meet at the Old House, and he reports the proposal. Barnabas vows there will be no marriage. Devlin must die!

When we think of social issues on fantasy TV of the sixties, the conversation begins (excluding a few months of 1959) with TWILIGHT ZONE and ends with STAR TREK. DARK SHADOWS addresses political circumstances, too, but in the case of episode 300, it is with fear and the shackles of baffling tradition. In STAR TREK, differences are celebrated. In DARK SHADOWS, they are often (initially) seen as challenges to be hidden and overcome. If you examine DARK SHADOWS politically, it has moments that are shockingly conservative for genre television. However, DARK SHADOWS was not really genre television. I mean it. It was a soap opera aired in the late afternoon for housewives, designed to sell canned hams and pantyhose. That makes the subversive moments enjoyed by the show even craftier. Number 300 is not subversive, but it is sadly revealing of the era. There is a lot we take for granted now. Even I am bewildered by the 60’s attitude regarding Vicki and Burke. Really? Vicki’s marriage would necessitate her leaving her job at Collinwood? The assumption is that she’s immediately supposed to become a baby factory for Burke. For a show filled with strong women, is it all smoke and mirrors under this core ethos? Because it’s taken for granted. I’m sure women from the time would affirm that it’s an accurate portrait, and that makes the decision by several of the show’s actresses to remain child-free even more remarkable.

Just as significant is the conversation that Barnabas and Julia have about what life will be like when he’s a “normal” man with no secrets… someone who can “love like a normal man.” Okay. New York. The Sixties. The theatrical arts. Haven for confirmed bachelors. Wallace and I have written about homosexuality in and around DARK SHADOWS before in separate essays. Secret identities. Living in various closets. The family can never know. Tortured yet compulsed. If you see their real self, you’re horrified. Vampirism is a razor-pointed metaphor for the pitfalls and power of closeted gay life in the 1960’s. Metaphorically, the secret of the Collinses isn’t that some of them are monsters….

On this day in 1967, the Association of South East Asian Nations was formed.

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 3


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1076

During the lunar eclipse, the children find the playroom, and Hallie seems possessed by a woman from an earlier time. She doesn’t remember this later, but Daphne’s ghost reappears to tempt her with a Regency-era dress. Meanwhile, a loveless Quentin spots Daphne’s grave, and a dream appearance by her becomes reality when lilacs mysteriously appear in the drawing room.

On the podcast in which Wallace, Will McKinley, and I discussed NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, we agreed that the film was more of an art film than a horror movie. If that motif has a beginning for the franchise, it’s right around here. It’s tough to write about the Ragnaraok sequence without meditating on both its difference from the rest of the franchise and its representation of it. In fact, it’s becoming an annual tradition at the Daybook. It needs advocates, and those are tough to find. The reasons? As 1076 shows us, it’s not fun. It’s vaguely piebald when it comes to characters who’ve been with the program from the beginning. Barnabas and Julia seem more desperate and less certain than ever. Quentin is joyless and joylessly untrustworthy. Visually, the fashions and hair make it stand out wildly from what we’re used to from most of the show. Most importantly, it’s a downer. Other storylines are about averting probable doom. In this, it’s about witnessing a protracted inevitability. The minute we see characters in period costumes and know that at least two time portals exist within the house, it’s clear this is headed to 1840. Do we really have to see Maggie become diseased and insane and bedridden to make that happen?  Soaps thrive on cliffhangers. Ragnaraok is a checklist of bad things we know will happen.

The trick to this sequence is adjusting expectations. This is not Lyndon Johnson’s DARK SHADOWS; it’s Richard Nixon’s. And that’s okay. Before, the series was about who and what. Who was behind the door? What is Barnabas going to do next? Now, it’s more a show about when and how. Gerard is a prime sadist, and like a moodier Petofi, attacks his opponents’ weaknesses with Seraut-like precision. Hallie is shuffled between homes, and his approach is to show her an era in which she has meaning waiting for her. David, growing up too suddenly and too fast, enjoys a playroom and alternate identity that literally turns back -- way back -- the clock. And Quentin gets a terrible, manipulative girlfriend. There’s a reason that Commander Riker turned away Q’s powers on TNG and Dr. Chidi Anagonye rejected Michael’s “opposite tortures” on THE GOOD PLACE. As anyone who falls into the gifting reciprocity trap can tell you, it’s never good.

Yes, there is some mystery and suspense, if fatalistic. This sequence is as much a chance to actually “be” with the characters, and the combative David/Hallie sequences are offset by the ones with Quentin and Julia. Where do the latter go to think? Of course, Quentin would go to a cemetery, and what’s that like for him, even under normal circumstances? He remembers so many of the years on both ends of these lives. And, of course he would flirt with Julia. For Quentin, she’s an unthinkably younger woman. When Quentin muses about needing a woman, Julia says he wants a drinking partner. Perhaps she’s missing a drinking partner and hinting for one, and he’s hinting as well. Of course, he puts down his glass, she drops the subject, and everyone remains good, sober friends. No wonder this doesn’t feel like traditional DARK SHADOWS.

Is this padding? You bet. Is it padding with great characters and touching, revealing moments? Right again, and it’s worth it for that.

This episode hit the airwaves Aug.10 , 1970.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

First look at David Selby in CASTLE ROCK

I"ve been waiting for this for a while, but Hulu has finally released a trailer for its Stephen King series CASTLE ROCK featuring David Selby. It was announced many, many months ago that Selby, already a vteeran of Maine's horror landscape courtesy of DARK SHADOWS, would be appearing on the show. Thanks to producer J.J. Abrams' tendancy to "mystery box" pretty much everything, little more was known ... in fact, we still don't know who Selby is playing, but this trailer suggests his character is not a happy camper. You can catch him in the trailer below at around the 35 seconds mark.

The fourth episode of CASTLE ROCK, titled "The Box," is set to air today on Hulu. Here's the official series summary for those of you just tuning in:
"A psychological-horror series set in the Stephen King multiverse, Castle Rock combines the mythological scale and intimate character storytelling of King’s best-loved works, weaving an epic saga of darkness and light, played out on a few square miles of Maine woodland. The fictional Maine town of Castle Rock has figured prominently in King’s literary career: Cujo, The Dark Half, IT and Needful Things, as well as novella The Body and numerous short stories such as Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption are either set there or contain references to Castle Rock. Castle Rock is an original suspense/thriller — a first-of-its-kind reimagining that explores the themes and worlds uniting the entire King canon, while brushing up against some of his most iconic and beloved stories."

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