Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 26


Taped on this day in 1966: Episode 72

While Vicki is accused of corporate espionage, a mysterious stranger tests the freshness of Maggie’s roast beef. Agent Johnson: Clarice Blackburn. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Carolyn attacks Victoria over her date with Burke, causing Victoria to contemplate quitting. Meanwhile, Bill Malloy’s former housekeeper, Mrs. Johnson, weasels her way into Carolyn‘s heart, winning a job at Collinwood. Victoria threatens to quit over the suspiciousness at Collinwood, causing Liz to confront her motives. Later, we learn that Mrs. Johnson is a mole for Burke Devlin.

DARK SHADOWS is known for its wildly eccentric characters, and Mrs. Johnson is introduced with such a flourish that she may top even Count Petofi... in a tightly controlled, antiseptic fashion. Kathryn Leigh Scott is always very careful to praise actress Clarice Blackburn, and her characters are so dowdy or unpleasant that this catches me off guard. Actually, that’s a testament to her acting. I instinctively respond to her characters on a very visceral level, forgetting that there is an actress inventing them. If the art is in concealing the art, then this reaction is more telling and authentic and affectionate than a standing ovation. 

Meeting Sarah Johnson is like doing a keg stand where the keg is filled with a strange mixture of Moxie pop and life’s bitterest disappointments. Deliciously so. An eccentric stick in the mud, to say the least, it makes sense that she is Bill Malloy‘s former housekeeper. The implication is that, although they never shared a bed, they might very well have been lovers... or something even more intense. Her reminiscence about Malloy comes in a strange, focused monologue, and it’s a reverberation of just what an influential character Malloy continues to be.

I appreciate the effort of the show to root its action and flavor so firmly in the great state of Maine, with all of its forbidding, down east eclecticism. Malloy had that quality, and he and Mrs. Johnson seem like the only characters we have met who can be imagined putting up with the other in a domestic circumstance. Her idea of a greeting is demanding to know whether Maggie’s roast beef is fresh. With a brazen obstinance somewhere between Large Marge and Frau Blücher, she manages to make a simple restaurant inquiry sound both strangely filthy and definitely insulting. She then begins grinding away on the subject of old mayonnaise as if she’s discussing the filthy outlaw who shot her kid brother, and it’s clear that Mrs. Johnson is here to stay.

With a vaguely well-adjusted (in a homicidal way) household, planting a spy for Burke Devlin is just the touch of espionage intrigue that Collinwood needs. Finally, someone can actually be the spy that Vicki is suddenly accused of working as. (In the same episode no less, with the irony and subtlety of an anvil landing in your lap.) That kind of duality — especially among the backstairs staff — is a concession to the dramatic thinking that DARK SHADOWS kinda lost over the years. The show gained plot, but it lost those opportunities for characters to reflect one another. As it reached a supernatural frenzy, this earlier, authorial delicacy was a necessary casualty. However, it’s vital to know that a sculpted duality like Mrs. Johnson and Vicki is an instinct buried in the program’s DNA.

Just before we find out that Mrs. Johnson is a spy for Burke, the show treats us to a marvelous confrontation between Victoria and Elizabeth. Tired of the paranoia and old money gatekeeping, Vicky tells Liz that she’s more than happy to quit as opposed to putting up with it further. We rarely think Vicky is having this kind of backbone, but it’s intrinsic to who she is. Little moments like that sustain the dignity of the show in its early days, and the actors take marvelous advantage of the opportunity. No, there may be no cursed hands and body switching, but the red meat drama of those early months are more than a match.

And by the way, I think it’s pretty clear that Bill Malloy is a candidate to be Harry Johnson‘s real father. Watch the episode and get back to me.

This episode was broadcast Oct. 4, 1966.

Dark Shadows joins Decades' evening lineup

"What the heck is happening with Dark Shadows over at Decades?"

It's a question I've been asking myself all week as conflicting news about the television series began to hit websites as diverse as Broadway World and Dread Central. I didn't help matters earlier in the month when we incorrectly announced DARK SHADOWS was returning to Decades as part of its weekend programming called "The Binge" for Halloween. This turned out to be absolutely wrong, but the press release that went out earlier this week didn't clarify things much.

As it reads, the announcement suggests that Decades would be airing 260 episodes of DARK SHADOWS as part of a Halloween event beginning Oct. 29 ... which is partially true. The channel will be airing an episode each night that week at midnight, after which it will remain on the schedule in that timeslot until 2019. I've been told the show will remain a regular part of the channel's programming until at least next Spring, but if you do the math 260 episodes is enough to let Decades show an episode every weeknight for an entire year. That will take audiences from the introduction of Barnabas Collins in #210 to #470, shortly before Adam is fully assembled by Dr. Eric Lang. That's a LOT of story.

To summarize, beginning Oct. 29 Decades will be airing an episode of DARK SHADOWS Monday-Friday at midnight until sometime in 2019.

Viewing numbers will probably play a role in how long DARK SHADOW/ Decades relationship lasts because that's how TV works. We'll have to wait and see what happens, but that doesn't mean we should sit on our hands. I expect The Collinsport Historical Society to organize online viewing parties for particular episodes so, if you don't already have a Twitter account, I suggest you sign up for one before Oct. 29. We need to show Decades that we want DARK SHADOWS to become a permanent part of its lineup and an active, passionate web presence will certainly not hurt our case.

To find out where to watch DECADES click

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Spend some time with Barnabas Collins this Halloween

Dark Shadows is taking over television this Halloween! With the exception of the 1991 revival series (which is currently streaming in its entirety on Hulu) the entire franchise is pretty well represented. Also, there's some misinformation circulating about what's happening with Decades in October. I've got a copy of the week's broadcast schedule and they are NOT showing 260 episodes of Dark Shadows. Instead, they're going to ring in the witching hour each night with a single classic episode of the series, beginning with #210.

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 26


Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 858

Can Quentin convince Julia to remove him from Petofi’s body before she returns to 1969? Beth: Terry Crawford. (Repeat. 30 min.)

Petofi continues to make plans with Angelique, all the while trying to balance his attentions with those he lavishes upon a suspicious Beth. Meanwhile, Quentin -- unsuccessful with Beth -- nevertheless persuades Julia that he is living inside Petofi’s body. Unfortunately, she is whisked back to the present before they can act on it.

It’s hard not to rant, rave, and wrap yourself up in an episode such as 858 like a cape on the Fourth of July. The characters have clear goals. They pursue them with a directness defiant of the soap opera dictum to fuddle and futz. There’s passion, surprise, elation, just desserts, and heartbreak. DARK SHADOWS usually mutes and dilutes these to stretch them over the maximum number of episodes possible, but there’s an unusual urgency here. And yet, it doesn’t feel harried. As much as I love 1840, I’ll freely admit that it has an occasionally desperate quality under its breakneck pace. This has that strangely easygoing intensity of a confident, high school quarterback sauntering onto the field in the September of his senior year.*

One of the great things about 1897’s assuredness is that it’s clearly self-reinforcing. The right risks led to storylines demanding further risks -- risks that were the correct choices, also. This led to more risks, etc. Note that I said “right risks.” The story decisions were both bold and wise. Part of the reason is that they were revamping a lot of what they had tinkered with before and/or going much deeper with possibilities that were previously only hinted at. In this episode, we cover tremendous ground in just a few minutes, with Grayson Hall at the heart of it. The sister act she’s formed with Angelique is the show’s most dynamic duo, and it’s a shame it doesn’t last. Their differences are clear. Their similarities delight -- two whip-smart experts in the manipulation of mind and body from vastly diverse ends of the spectrum. They are bound in their unrequited love for Barnabas and their inevitable knack for kicking ass. We don’t see enough of them together in this episode, but the fact that they innately trust each other, with so much blood under the bridge, is authentically inspiring. Then, to see Julia actually trust that Petofi is Quentin? We knew you had it in ya to see what Petofi had in him. Thayer David’s mile-long grin at the realization that Julia believes him is a rare moment of happiness on DARK SHADOWS, and it’s exactly the boost we need in the face of David Selby’s increasingly cruel Petofi.

Another highlight. Everytime I think I have seen all that Selby has in his hat for the Count, out comes another rabbit. He’s building something with the writers -- the increasing cruelty of the Count. It feels like some of Petofi’s most reprehensible actions and statements come when he’s in Quentin’s body. It is reminiscent of the kind of creepily cheerful indifference you sometimes get from friends who successfully diet or get beautiful significant others. It makes some people simply happy. It turns others into weird sociopaths. There is a compassionate humility that can soothe the bitterness of body issues and romantic failure. These are sad things, but they can root a person in their humanity. Petofi is a guy with an instant diet and two hot babes who’re already woo’d. Quentin (literally) did the heavy lifting. Look at the voracious way that Petofi is kissing these women. It goes beyond lustful and into the demented. He’s killed before, but always somewhat surgically. Now, people are so many leaves, and he’s perfectly happy if he denudes every tree in Maine. Petofi is full of such self-hatred and self-congratulation that he almost burns his old face with a cigarillo to celebrate and make his point. I’m not sure if the point is, “Stay single and eat more fudge,” but the wisdom of James Whale rings true, thirty years later.... “Very pretty people often do very ugly things.”

DARK SHADOWS is a world built partly on romantic frustration and mistrust. To see Petofi hijack a handsome body and make hay with it is adding insult to injury. And what happens when three lost characters connect, at least platonically? Julia -- the hub -- gets ripped back to the present. A painful twist that Thayer David sells with a sad desperation, somehow making Quentin into a pudgy little boy whose only friend moves away. Fits, since Petofi was no doubt a pudgy little boy and his sad tale began with the death of a pet unicorn. It’s a bit of backstory that should be ridiculous, but like so many things on the show, it lingers with a deliberately hazy poignance.

*Or so I imagine. I’ve never actually seen a football game, but I regularly read GIL THORPE. And I saw ROLLERBALL. So, I think I’m something of an authority.

This episode was broadcast Oct. 8, 1969.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 25


Taped on this day in 1968: Episode 593

It’s a series-ending move and a gesture that defines him: Barnabas is going to spill it. The whole maghilla. It’s a bold choice for both the character and the writers. I mean, where to from there? DARK SHADOWS returns again and again to the well of responsibility. Characters are either trying to take responsibility, like Liz bringing home Vicki, or they’re having responsibility cursed upon them, like Barnabas’ entire relationship with Angelique. But with so many secrets in the shadows, truth is almost always suicide -- literally with Angelique in 1840.

Of course, in the name of ratings, he can’t be allowed to do it. We know this, and when the allegedly-dead Carolyn answers door of Collinwood, the only one surprised is Barnabas. It’s a beautiful shot, and it gives nuance to our introduction to him from over a year before. When he steels himself at the door and then knocks, it’s incredibly reminiscent of the knock that introduces him to Mrs. Johnson. Now, we see the stakes. Now, we see his nervousness. It’s what we miss, thanks to selective camerawork, in the introductory episode. It made me wonder if he were on the cusp of simply confessing all back then, too. Is he always on that verge? The majority of DARK SHADOWS shows Barnabas as a deeply moral man. It just happens to be informed by a bizarre, realpolitik, anachronistic, and aristocratic compass. Taking responsibility for wrongdoings is a universal part of almost every ethos. Other things just get in the way. In his introduction, he can’t and won’t. He’s in survival mode, and it looks like his lost love (and the reason he wound up in this mess in the first place) is waiting for him. Then, he either acts to feed himself or acts against those who intend to harm him, like Dave Woodard. I’m not saying he’s a saint, but there’s a reason that they wrote in Angelique, Trask, and Nicholas Blair.

Barnabas, the son of a business tycoon and someone I easily surmise is a chess player, understands strategy and value. His truths are priceless commodities and also volatile ones. Yes, some sanctimonious simp -- like the eventual incarnation of Willie Loomis: Collinwood’s Most Jittery Hausfrau -- might want him to do it all the time, but under most circumstances, fessing up would do more harm than good. But you can only dodge the bill for so long, and the writers have created a magnificent vice from which the only escape, fantastic as it seems, is honesty. Yes, Liz and Roger would tell him he were barking mad, even with an incensed Maggie corroborating his confession… until a bulletproof, fireproof Adam burst in as a one-man wrecking crew capable of not just of killing them, but killing an entire house as well.

(I don’t quite know what Adam would do, only that everyone who looked at the semi-liquid remains of Collinwood afterwards would say it were dead. Only Professor Stokes knows of the powers and limits of Adam’s digestive track, but if it were employed in the field of architectural demolition, the possibilities are beyond the diabolical.)

The writers certainly have it (more than) both ways with Caroline’s reappearance. Barnabas -- spiritually -- gets to be the guy who tells the truth, and he gets spared the consequences of doing so. For the observant, Barnabas has rounded a corner. Honesty and consequences are not just idle options. He’s acted upon them. Now, one of his great struggles has gone from reasoning why he should be honest about his curse to why he should not. It’s a surprisingly dark question. Protecting others can be a nastier business than the guardians of goodness and honor sometimes admit. Sometimes, it takes a Barnabas to defend a Vicki. One of the dimly lit alleys that branches off of the Hero’s Journey suggests that this kind of truth would be the ultimate thing that Vicki would just not understand. Maybe Aaron Sorkin was right in A FEW GOOD MEN. But even if the Vickis of the world can’t handle the truth, it’s a giant step for a Barnabas to be willing to unleash it.

Sometimes, it’s even more heroic if he doesn’t. Good and evil isn’t always black and white, which is one more theme of DARK SHADOWS.

This episode was broadcast Oct. 2, 1968.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 24


Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 856

When Quentin awakens in Petofi’s body, will Magda think to pry him out in time? Quentin: Thayer David. (Repeat. 30 min.)

Petofi switches bodies with Quentin to travel through time, and Quentin is unable to convince Magda and Beth that he is not the Count.

We’ve seen it before… the old, Petofi body switcheroo. First Jamison, just for a laugh, and then Quentin, to travel in time. In at least two places -- the other being when Angelique makes a shadow decoy in the mirror to fool Laura -- the writers have the confidence and savvy (or maybe luck) to set up secondary payoffs to what seem like small story mechanics and surprise us. 1897 is such a generous storyline that we get these seeds planted not just weeks, but entire meteorological seasons in advance. In this case, it leads to two of the most interesting performances on the series, and sheds light on the pluses and minuses of the characterization of Quentin Collins.

As Ben Stokes, Thayer David blended strength and vulnerability with surprise and nuance. As Quentin Collins, trapped in Petofi’s body, David adds another layer to the alternating realizations of advantage and privation… intelligence. Quentin is a bright man, used to being in control of his immediate circumstances. If the 1897 storyline is about Quentin growing up (literally going from ghost to man), then to do so when deprived go his familiar talents, he’s got to rely on underdeveloped strengths. Is Quentin intelligent? Yes, quite so. He is perhaps not as academically advanced as Barnabas, but he excels at observation and processing, which are not always his vampiric cousin’s strengths. Do we see this? Up to now, not as much as we should. Quentin has height, looks, and limitless charm on which he can rely to get him out of most problems. Not only are these “muscles” stronger than his mind, they usually lead to results that are a lot more fun. Well, that fun is Petofi’s to be had as he kidnaps Quentin’s body and sticks our hero in the family truckster. As this storyline goes on, Quentin’s evolution is clear. The character is haunted by Petofi’s terrorist actions within his shape, learning of the privilege he took for granted and honing his humanity by relying on contemplativeness and compassion in the place of sex appeal. Never before or since has a character on DARK SHADOWS evolved so thoroughly, believably, and dramatically. He is cursed by the gods on a level that goes beyond the Shakespearean and into the amphitheaters of the Ancient Greeks. Quentin is a man who has everything, ignores that fact, and instead lusts for everything he doesn’t need. If his stint as the packless wolf began the lesson, this seals it.

Heightening this with both a wild theatricality and a strange subtlety is David Selby’s performance as Count Petofi. I was about to write that he makes a marvelous Bond villain, showing us who Quentin would have been if the writers hadn’t cared about making him anything other than a total, blackhearted bastard. As those guys go, this is one of the most charismatic portrayals I’ve seen on screens great or small. Then it struck me. I know what Selby’s doing, accidentally or not. He’s showing us the man Quentin would have been in middle age if he had learned none of the lessons forced on him by fate and the writers’ room. This Petofi’ized version of Quentin has everything he could have ever wanted, and is revoltingly smug about it. The sickening truth is that absolute power cannot corrupt the already-corrupted; it just serves as an admirable compliment.

In the moral balance, the “real” Quentin’s lesson is even more haunting. He is humbled. He learns. He becomes a better man. And perhaps as such, he is alone and empty for nearly a century. I say that passing no more judgement on it than does the show. It is simply a fact for him. Virtue is no guarantee of joy, and there is no ruder awakening for a man like Quentin Collins when vice has lost its luster as well. He becomes twice the moralist that his brother is, a fraction as happy, and unable to go back once he’s seen there’s a better way to treat the world. And we wonder why he goes mad.

This episode was broadcast Oct. 6, 1969.

Friday, September 21, 2018

1942 film offers rare color perspective of fictional "Collinwood"

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has an interesting feature story on Lyndhurst Mansion, the Tarrytown, N.Y., location that served as the location of the fictional "Collinwood" in both 1970's HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and its 1971 sequel NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS. It's a well-researched, well-written piece that tells you just about everything you need to know about the historic mansion without ever once mentioning DARK SHADOWS. But that's OK. That's my domain.

The feature has a particularly juicy piece of bait on its hook, though: a rare 1942 color movie showcasing the Lyndhurst gardens. The backstory features a bit of gothic melodrama that proves to be mostly fictional:
"The discovery of this film is significant because it offers, for the first time, a tangible look at the landscape during the period when Lyndhurst was owned by Anna Gould. It had previously been understood that all staff, save for Lyndhurst’s superintendent, Robert B. Allan, were let go when Helen Gould died and that the gardens had consequently languished while Anna occupied the property only part-time. The film proves that this wasn’t the case — that in 1942, the Lyndhurst landscape still very much reflected Helen’s careful stewardship."
You can read the entire piece HERE and it's well worth the time of any DARK SHADOWS fan. There are also a a few little-seen photos of the property dating back to the 19th century. If you've already decided you know all there is to know about Lyndhurst, though, you can skip directly to the movie below. (And don't forget: both HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS will be airing on TCM next month.)

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 17

I was away from the Historical Society HQ Monday-Wednesday assisting with a documentary. While I could write about something shot today, September 20, it looks like this past Monday is worthy of commemoration, so indulge me as I hit the Way Back machine for October 17.


Taped on this day in 1970: Episode 1108

When Maggie’s life hangs in the balance, Barnabas may be forced to make the ultimate sacrifice to find the missing Quentin. Maggie Evans: Kathryn Leigh Scott. (Repeat. 30 min.)

As Maggie’s condition worsens, Sebastian insists on relocating her. He agrees to use his powers to find Quentin if Barnabas will release her. Finding little conclusive, Sebastian is still allowed to take a shaken and wan Maggie to Windlcliff. Barnabas and Julia receive portents that the destruction of Collinwood will happen that night and discover an important clue when a heartbeat rings out from Quentin’s aging portrait.

1108 falls at a very awkward time for DARK SHADOWS, and it explains the formula of plot events within. First, it was broadcast on a Thursday. Fridays are often set aside for Big Plot Events, and so many Thursdays have a tough set of jobs. They have to tell the story, but not too much. They save Friday for the big cliffhangers by holding back. But they have to tease enough to make you want to get to the big cliffhanger. And the next episode, 1109, is perhaps the most dramatic and profound cliffhanger the series ever had as zombies invade and destroy Collinwood, the children are seemingly murdered, Barnabas is last seen being nearly torn apart by the living dead, and Julia -- yes, Julia -- is our last best hope, thrust 130 years into the past.


But we’re not there yet, and 1108 has one of the most important plot events to cover… and not cover… to justify and commemorate, but not necessarily condone.

We say goodbye to Maggie Evans and founding ensemble giant, Kathryn Leigh Scott. Holding out hope that the show would continue for many years and that she would return from Europe eager to rejoin the cast, the character’s life was spared. Come on, this is Maggie Evans, not Megan Todd. And yes, she is important to the plot -- after all, she proves the potency of Roxanne Drew’s powers of vampirism, draining Maggie’s life away just as she drains the character’s importance as a love interest away, infusing it in herself. There is an irony to that, but they didn’t really have the time to dress it up. The inclusion of Roxanne is one of the most underdeveloped aspects of this story, and Maggie’s sacrifice for it feels equally like a non-sequitur on the surface. What the story gains is an exercise in stakes. This arc takes no prisoners. If you want to show the strength of your villain, have him take out some of the most resilient characters early on. It hurts, but it reminds us that there are real consequences to their attacks. This isn’t a sitcom with a reset button at the end of every episode. Maggie is human, and humans have limits. Quentin was, vaguely, a gentleman. Roxanne? She has no such prejudices of courtly restraint, and in that way, her very feminine attack on what Barnabas values most is the kind of dirty pool we associate with women preemptively scorned. It’s a good thing Nicholas Blair isn’t around. I can barely fathom the reckoning.

Ms. Scott’s exit  is one of the show’s most mournful moments, and its quick-and-dirty near-senselessness mirrors the gruesome routine that Vietnam casualty reports had on the nightly news. But what were they to do? To make her exit a major plot element would have required either…
a) killing Maggie, and that was out of the question if a return were ever hoped for, or…
b) some kind of kidnapping, which would never be resolved unless a return were guaranteed.
Without those options, shuffling her off to Windcliff was one of the only resorts. The curt exit and scant sentimentality of the episode feels vaguely passive aggressive. This is not the kind of clip-show retrospective to which primetime would have treated us. But that’s not uncommon for soaps, especially one embroiled at the turning point of its darkest and most far-reaching storyline. And, reportedly, it was an inside joke by Dan Curtis, who reportedly told her she was crazy for leaving the show.

As Freud said, “There’s no such thing as a joke.”

And what exactly was she to do? After five years of alternating between victim and voice-of-reason, the options were growing slim. The movie was done, its structure pretty much guaranteeing that no franchise was in the offing to let her reprise the role. Parallel Time was a shrill exercise in victimhood, where her character was forced into the appearance of whiny neediness and again, serving as a the subject for a kidnapping. The only real plot advancement available would have been if Maggie had embraced the memory of Josette and become willingly romantic with Barnabas. It’s an interesting alternate path for the franchise, and without it, almost every other permutation had been exhausted.

Once she leaves and reasons, quite rightly, that she’ll never see these people again, the other characters miss no beats moving on. Is it a case of “Maggie, who?” or is it that the current crises -- threatened children and an entombed Quentin -- are so severe that there’s no time for sentiment. Both. And the lesson of very real casualties heightens stakes for the apocalyptic episode to come. The oncoming weekend was destined to be a long one for DARK SHADOWS and its fans. 

This episode was broadcast Sept. 23, 1970.

Every school kid needs this book

"Blending real-life history and evidence with age-old myths, this book invites young readers to think critically about vampire legends and how they influence society. Text describes the characteristics of vampires, highlights historical accounts around the world, and offers examples from books, television, and film. Table of contents, fun facts, critical thinking questions, glossary, and index included. Aligned to Common Core Standards and correlated to state standards."

Honestly, I'd rather kids learn about vampires in school than on the streets like I did.

Available on Amazon HERE.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 18


Taped on this day in 1970: Episode 1110

Julia Hoffman encounters the world of 1840, where an aged Ben Stokes becomes a new ally, Quentin’s ancestor is missing at sea with his son, Tad, and his paralyzed brother, Gabriel, is scheming to gain control of the family fortunes in the escaped and insane Daniel’s will. She disguises herself to fit in and is promptly assaulted by a mysterious, caped figure.

This is a tiny masterpiece of tone, both consistent and surprising. Following the darkest and most apocalyptic episode of the series, 1110 finds now-seasoned time traveler, Julia Hoffman, in the year 1840. Excluding 1995 (which was too brief for a honeymoon), the other time jaunts begin with deceptive sunniness. They’re playgrounds of innocence (or harmlessly naughty larceny at the worst) with evil lurking around the edges, hardly commensurate to the threats that will later emerge. Sure, Barnabas gets voodoo-choked pretty quickly, but it’s against a background of overwhelming optimism. 1897 has colorful and charming gypsies and a retinue of other cartoonish weirdos. Quentin, now talking, is an instantly beguiling rascal. But 1840? With a dark and sweaty color palette, hideously Jack Kirby-esque makeup on Ben Stokes, and intense, threatening, angry, mournful characters, we are thrown into a fire that would very likely produce the kind of ghost who would later order armageddon on Collinwood. There is no charm here, although Gabriel will eventually develop a marvelously mordant sense of humor, allowing the luminous Christopher Pennock to shine even brighter than ever. Overall, this is a Collinwood in a cycle of decay. As mentioned, Ben is a mass of age and tumors. Daniel is mad. Gabriel’s body is (seemingly) half-dead. The only capable members of the household we meet -- Samantha and Carrie -- are paralyzed themselves, only from within, with mourning. Julia arrives at an implosion of wildly unhappy people. Solving the mystery of Gerard will be difficult enough. Just making it through a day with these already-paranoid grouches, cretins, and lost souls will be just as difficult. It continues a storyline that spoon-feeds you nothing. Neither viewers nor time travelers can claim the cockiness of experience. It can be a challenge to watch because of its dark, unhappy intensity, and yet the benefit to the characters is proportionately positive. Grayson Hall, now the show’s heroine, takes on the mantle with a confidence that never lampoons itself into cockiness. If ‘humanity’ can be synonymous with something other than frailty, then she nails it.

Virginia Vestoff joins the cast as Quentin’s widow, Samantha, and is the last major female lead to round out the company. At this period, performing simultaneously in 1776 at night would not have been out of the question, and that alone is an impressive feat. I have mixed feelings about her, otherwise. To her credit, Vestoff has a furrowed sense of restlessness that adds to the wonky feel of the storyline. She would not reappear in the 1841PT sequence, and that may be for the best. What she adds in intensity, it could be argued she lacks in dimension. Although her Broadway pedigree is prestigious, it takes a tad more range and theatrical relish to mesh with the established, DS ensemble. I admire Vestoff a great deal, but as a DARK SHADOWS regular, she’s a wonderful Abigail Adams. No saltpeter required.

On this day in 1970, Grayson Hall celebrated her 48th birthday. Given that she leads this inaugural episode of a sequence celebrating heroism and mystery, it is an apt gift to her from its writer, husband Sam Hall

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: SEPTEMBER 14


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1107

When Gerard springs the ultimate trap for Quentin, Barnabas must stop him before his best friend buries himself alive. Gerard Stiles: James Storm. (Repeat. 30 min.)

Collinwood is going to hell. Gerard possesses Quentin, who is more than happy to dig his own grave. Carolyn develops second sight, but is unable to give Barnabas information about where Quentin is. As Quentin nears death, Daphne falls ill and is presented with her dress from the 1840’s. In the middle, Barnabas Collins has nowhere to turn for help.

Just because it doesn’t make immediate sense, doesn’t make it bad.

Containing what is easily (?) the show’s most challenging storyline, this is a sequence that’s impossible to watch on autopilot. A viewer either has to zone out completely or athletically participate in interpreting the action. Last night, I exhausted myself as I watched the episode with a friend who had never seen DARK SHADOWS; there’s a lot to explain. That’s fine. That’s expected. The tough part isn’t the plot, but how it involves characters who behave in atypical and mercurial ways. At a certain point, you simply have to wave the white flag… or green flag in this case.

And yet, it worked. As a piece of high-stakes, suspenseful drama, it held my friend’s attention and made her want to watch more. Within the context of the larger show, it’s a very real nightmare for Barnabas. In that sense, it’s a perfect creation to come from Judah Zachary… the Dream Curse is an amateurish carnival ride by comparison. This isn’t a literal dream, but like so much in the Ragnarok sequence, it echoes the language of dreams and the ways in which they reveal disturbing and profound truths. This is as opposed to surface level sources of fright -- wolves, skeletons, beheadings. Yes, yes, we get it, Angelique, these things are all Real Scary. And in a foggy hall of doors, we kind of see it all coming, Real nightmares don’t traffic in fantasy. They don’t leave you waking up, saying, “That was weird.” They leaving you waking up saying, “I think that was real.”

It’s especially clever because 1107 reveals and exploits Barnabas’ greatest fears: complete responsibility for disaster mixed with a complete inability to control -- or even understand -- the causes of it. This is clearest as he tries to understand what’s upsetting Daphne, why Quentin has escaped, and what psychic truths are held by his now death-obsessed niece, Carolyn. Roger, Liz, and Stokes are nowhere to be found as he dashes about for answers, and said dashing only leads to more confusion. He’s a man of the Enlightenment, which means that he prizes cause & effect, clear reasoning, and crisp, persuasive rhetoric to describe the universe. Here, there is no cause and effect. Gerard’s reasoning is clearly strategic, but since he won’t speak, there is no understanding it, much less negotiation. His communication is psychic. If you’re lucky, he’ll have an expression or extend a hand. But that’s it. His victims change their minds, leap to conclusions, and follow orders by innately understanding them without articulation. To Barnabas, there are no clues to follow… there is no trail to chase, merely a city on fire with nary a bucket in sight. Beyond the morbid niece, who is his only connection to Quentin, there is a one-time ghost, Daphne, who is in extreme pain because the same man, Quentin, is somewhere, controlled by Gerard and vaguely possessed by his own ancestor. Quentin is beset by dread and relief as he digs his own grave.

Quentin is DARK SHADOWS’ most depressed character. (Even Liz has the hope for Carolyn’s love.) Eternally lost, he has every reason for lonely despair -- as well as every reason to be the happiest man in town. In 1107, there is an horrific relatability to his quietly ecstatic sense of release as he skips suicide to simply dig his own grave and climb in. It is a moment of such dark truth that very few will ever want to admit to themselves or others that they understand it. What sells the impossibly black mirror is Selby. You see the relief of a century’s worth of manufactured happiness and released despair in his simple decisions and discoveries alongside his wordless new liberator and jailer.

We’ve heard his mournful, favorite song. Thought it was charming. We saw his endless romancing. Thought it was dashing. We saw his drinking. Thought it made him hard-edged and contemplative. And we witnessed everything else and said, “That’s Quentin,” and left it at that. The clues were there and no one took them seriously. This is a wildly irresponsible betrayal of caring for a deeply unhappy court jester desperate for belonging and help. We should have seen it, and instead we wrote it off. The horror in the scene is as much at ourselves for ignoring the obvious as it is at Quentin. Imagine what Barnabas must be thinking as his savior and surrogate custodian.

Not stopping that fate, and not knowing there was anything to be stopped? That’s a nightmare. That’s a dream curse. That’s what Gerard does.

This episode was broadcast Sept. 22, 1970.

Crack open a big box of monsters this Halloween

My reflex was to begin this post with an apology for straying off topic. It's Halloween, after all, and if you've been visiting this website for a while you already know we go a little crazy during this time of the year. Halloween is Christmas for introverts, a season when we allow our inner lives to go outside and play for a few weeks. How can I not indulge this urge?

But, as I was crafting my unnescessary apology, it occurred to me that the Universal Monsters series is alarmingly on topic for the CHS. For Barnabas Collins, alone, DARK SHADOWS pinched elements of Dracula, The Mummy and The Phantom of the Opera. The show later introduced its own Wolf-Men and, had DARK SHADOWS lasted another year or two, we almost certainly would have seen some variation of Invisible Collins. (The Gillman was probably never an option on the table.)

With that in mind, here's the ultimate Halloween treat: Universal Classic Monsters: The Complete 30-Film Collection. Universal has struggled to keep these films relevant during the last few decades, with mixed results. I've yet to see the Tom Cruise version of THE MUMMY but, if it gets someone to check out the original Universal Monsters films, it can't be all bad. Every time one of those CGI-heavy revamps gets unleased in theaters, we get new releases of the classic Universal Monsters films, collections which have steadily been accumululating the lesser films in the franchise into the various home video releases. This new collection represents about 20 years of labor on the part of Universal, a process that included significant remastering of the keystone films. They're available in two releases: the DVD box set for $65.99 (that's just $2.20 per movie) and the Blu-ray collection for $180.95 (that's $6 per movie.)

My advice? Lock your doors, bolt your windows, turn off your cell phones and binge the entire damn collection in one sitting.

Via: Amazon.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: SEPTEMBER 13


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 585

When Barnabas locks and loads, has Adam met his match or will Barnabas become the once and future vampire? Barnabas Collins: Jonathan Frid. (Repeat. 30 min.)

After Barnabas confronts Adam with a rifle, a rampage ensues, leading to an attack on Julia and Vicki’s midnight kidnapping.

For me, as maybe for all of us, the perfect DARK SHADOWS is broadcast in only one place: the mind. Because there’s so much of the show, it’s easy for a gap to form between what it actually is and what we imagine it was and might become. While that may be a minus if you’re one of the authors of the text, it is a bonus as a fan because it gives us a little bit of ownership of the show as we individually see it. Coming from a comic book background, the show that exists in my mind is a hazy compromise between the objective DARK SHADOWS and Marvel Team-Up, with a dash of BLACKADDER. 585 combines all of that beautifully. Is it another DS-as-sitcom episode? It has that, too.

As with a number of episodes, it begins with the end of the prior installment, which means a powerful and high note. Barnabas is unusually arch and mordant while batting away Julia’s endless cavils. Frid is having a blast with Gordon Russell’s opportunities to flex his darkly comedic chops. It’s a subtle performance, requiring you to look closely to catch the sly grins that flash across his face for an instant, but it gives you a good opportunity to see Barnabas at his most editorial. Adam represents raw force, and the only thing that can top such brutal vitality is irony. This is why victims of abuse often have such sharp (if dark) senses of humor. It’s refreshing to see Barnabas and Russell gravitate toward that choice after months and months of deadpan hand-wringing.

Julia and Barnabas have entered into an interesting phase of their relationship. When we first arrive back from 1795, she’s still a threat, but the creation of Adam quickly puts them on the same team and the appearance of Jeff Clark effectively removes the threat of Vicki to the pursuit of her man. Julia knows she may not get Barnabas, but it’s a nice consolation that Barnabas has no shot with Vicki, either. They settle into a comfortable pattern of constant bickering, uniting mostly when on vacation in 1897, Parallel Time, and 1840. Other than that, Barnabas remains the dreamer while Julia is the party-pooping literalist, often right but rarely fun. Having lived such a strange life, Barnabas is more than happy to shoot Adam, consequences be damned. Of course, Barnabas would be damned, also, as Julia reminds him. Can’t the guy just shoot a reanimated corpse and then revert to vampirism in peace? Is that so much to ask? Barnabas struts and preens like he’s auditioning for the part of John Adams in 1776 until Julia, of course, talks him out of it. This is DARK SHADOWS at its most HONEYMOONERS. When Barnabas bolts the rifle, there’s an unmistakable mix of bravado and veiled uncertainty. Now that he’s got the gun, he’s the man of the house, as long as he can convince everyone he knows what he’s doing. I half expect Julia to remind him that he has no idea how to work that thing, and he’ll probably get them both killed. Which is pretty much what happens. When Barnabas grabs the gun again, he’s so nervous, he can’t remember Julia’s name and calls her be a number of others. Yes, this was Jonathan Frid with the lines again, but it becomes actual humor if you just see it as Barnabas posing with a gun he has no idea how to use, obsessed with his own nervousness. I mean, really? Where did this come from? What does Willie expect him to do with it? The only reason Willie feels comfortable with it around the house is because he doubts Barnabas could even load it. A flintlock, yes. Deadly accurate. A bolt action rifle? Maybe not. When Adam grabs the gun and it disintegrates into pieces, barrel clattering to the floor, the scene becomes a weird precursor to Spike Milligan and Christopher Lee’s gun shtick in Dick Lester’s THREE MUSKETEERS. Depending on my mood, it’s either twice as funny or half.

The rest of the episode is pure action, too. Julia duking it out in the woods. Adam looking like he’s rushing a fraternity as he’s climbs in windows after a nightgown-clad Vicki, with Barnabas snooping around in the dark, downstairs. This is DARK SHADOWS at its purest. Even if the results are both comical and frightening, it’s good to see Barnabas large and in charge instead of twisting his hands in tortured indecision. As have the writers and audience, it looks like he’s tired of being paralyzed by indecision. There’s something satisfying to making a choice, even the wrong one. He’ll improve, and by 1897, at his most “John Steed,” the only joke will be on those who underestimate him. The name’s Collins. Barnabas Collins. Accept no substitutions.

This episode was broadcast Sept. 20, 1968.

Enjoy Monster Cereals whenever you damn well please

Boo Berry, Franken Berry and Count Chocula have been an essential part of monster kid breakfasts for more than 40 years. Sadly, General Mills keep these treats in the vault for much of the year, only releasing them to stores for a few months around Halloween.

Thanks to Amazon, though, you can have Monster Cereal any time you like. Amazon sells fresh boxes of Boo Berry, Franken Berry and Count Chocula, with several third party vendors selling some of the harder-to-find varieties. A three-pack of each cereal is selling for $24.50, with Prime shipping. Individual boxes of each cereal are also available.

If you're one of those types addicted to Frute Brute, though, I've got some bad news: It's going to cost you some serious scratch to reach that itch. Not too long ago a single box of Frute Brute sold for s $64.95 on Amazon. At the moment, it's listing has been updated to "Currently Unavailable."

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: SEPTEMBER 12


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 326

David dreams of Sarah, carefully guiding him to a coffin from which Barnabas springs erect. He awakens, and Victoria in unable to calm him. Is Sarah a ghost? Perhaps that was how she could communicate with him. Meanwhile, Julia reports to Barnabas that Willie still lives. Barnabas frets that he may speak upon waking and underlines this danger to the doctor. At Collinwood, she learns of David’s dream and holds a therapy session with him, intent on hypnotizing him as she did Maggie. Unfortunately, David’s dream included a dark woman and her hypnodisc. When David sees this in real life, he knows that Julia is up to no good. He dashes from the room and calls for Vicki.

What an interesting episode. David is set up marvelously from the beginning of the series, going from a bully to the bullied. To think that he begins as a master of information, wielding deceit, trickery, paranoia, and selective truths like the lovechild of Hedda Hopper and the editor of Pravda. He played adults for all he could, with a level of understanding far, far beyond what they thought he could possibly know. But none of us are beyond the reach of ignorance, especially when we’re at our smartest. It’s David’s intelligence and arguably dark heart that make him such a worthy victim. I don’t mean that he deserves it. He’s just an ironic target, perhaps because there is a frightening humbling that goes on with him. And yet, we root for him all the same. When Sarah gives him the vision of Julia and her hypnodisk, and he calls her on using it, cosmic justice is slathered on with with gusto, drowing Julia at the end in its wake. Just as he’s being out-smartypantsed by the supernatural, so is she… in his favor. At Collinwood, it raineth on the unjust and even-more-unjust alike. And Julia? She’s setting herself up for the fall for which she’ll spend the rest of the series in atonement. Ostensibly a healer, she’s out for her own ends, somewhere between power and dark romance, playing with the fire of Willie’s recovery while thinking she can best the cosmic force of Sarah’s conscience. She goes from bored psychiatrist, dreaming of being Ewan Cameron to actually trying her hand at it, only realizing that she’ll have responsibilities more vast than the forces of time and death.

Kudos also to the design team for making David’s dream vision like a Steve Ditko vision of Hell. Yeah, if you look at the strange, black beams near Barnabas’ coffin against a red backdrop, the Dread Dormammu can’t be far behind.  

One of the quietest days in history, perhaps it’s a welcomed rest. Just a few decades before, we were given Barry White, as well. Popular also at this time was Roger Corman’s THE TRIP. Corman dropped acid to get the details right, so enjoy:

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: SEPTEMBER 7


Taped on this day in 1970: Episode 1102

When vampires attack, ghosts live, and David draws a pentagram on the floor of a madhouse, Quentin discovers that spending the day as Master of Collinwood might not be for him. Quentin: David Selby. (Repeat; 30 min.) Julia sleeps through another attack on Maggie by the vampire as Quentin is drawn to Rose Cottage to discern purpose from the mysterious Daphne. Meanwhile, the possessed children attempt a ritual at Windcliff. The story goes that the writers were running out of ideas, and they created a story so convoluted that even they lost track of who was doing what to whom. They had about seven months left before they left the air, and there was probably some relief when those drums could be heard. I accept all of this as true; this is a sequence where it might help to take notes. Is that responsible storytelling? Well… it’s not traditional storytelling. But does that reflect badly on this sequence or does it reflect badly on everything that’s not this sequence? Two of the things that made the rest of the show so stately prior to that were the paucity of important plot points and the extravagant redundancy of exposition. For much of the series, it feels like vital new events happen about once a week, with the rest of the week devoted to either making sure everyone knows about the vital news or talking about what they’re going to do about the vital news. Now? You actually have to pay attention. It’s not moving at the pace of a 1966 episode. It’s happening at the pace of a 2006 episode, having more in common with the allusive and mysterious storytelling style of LOST or BATTLESTAR GALACTICA… sometimes even THE WIRE. If you began the entire series here, I think this episode would make more sense. Again, though, take notes. It ain’t the rest of the series. Nicholas Blair and Count Petofi can’t stop gabbing about their plans. They’ll explain them to the cat if they get a chance. But in this story arc -- highlighted by this episode -- characters make sudden, intuitive leaps (Quentin dashing to Rose Cottage) without explaining their process. That, or they say almost nothing at all (like Daphne). Compounding this is the fact that the characters who say nothing at all are easily understood by the characters who make intuitive leaps without explaining the process. Thus, unless you pay incredibly close attention, this sequence can feel like a Mad Lib with the blanks still empty. This is not inept storytelling, however. It puts the onus on the viewer-as-voyeur to be active, rather than passive. We’ve been spoonfed the program for long enough. It can be more exhausting to watch than other sequences, but it’s exhausting for the characters, as well, and that’s a rare type of emotional engagement in this era. Not every episode of STAR TREK can be “City on the Edge of Forever,” but for now, DARK SHADOWS approaches its equivalent of that. It also gives us another glimpse of DARK SHADOWS as a Quentin-driven program. If we think of TV in this era as a medium of shows driven by straight-reading, WASP men, DARK SHADOWS is an exception, rather than the rule. Quentin, post-Victorian/werewolf/SOB, anchors this episode as both problem solver and lover. It’s an interesting glimpse of a DS that conforms to the entertainment norms of the era, but just an interesting glimpse. The lion’s share of DARK SHADOWS presents a world of insinuation rather than direct attack. In this universe there’s something almost absurd about the square-jawed Quentin racing to the batmobile, and when we see how easily he gets run off the road by just a glimpse of Daphne, we see it in four-color process. It’s not a problem made for that kind of swagger; it's a trap for it. 

This episode was broadcast Sept. 15, 1970.

Monster Crunch: It's now OK to play with your food

Halloween is officially upon us and it's driving me a little bonkers. I deserve some credit for not showing up to work everyday wearing a Ben Cooper "Sleestak" costume, but so far my efforts have gone unacknowledged. The universe is a cold, indifferent place.

For once, though, the Halloween Gods have smiled favorably upon us. Big G Creative has produced a table-top game based on General Mills' always-classic "Monster Cereals" and they've brought the whole gang! Count Chocula, Franken Berry and Boo Berry make routine returns to the shelves every Halloween, Fruit Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy are spotted less often these days than Bigfoot. They are a welcome presence. Here's a summary of Monster Crunch! The Breakfast Battle Game:
In this fast-paced game of luck and strategy, players collect as many Cereal Cards in their Bowls as they can. Each Monster has special powers to give you an advantage and help you gobble up the most cereal. Use Milk Tokens to combine Cereal Cards and take bigger bites. The Monster Cereal character that munches the most wins the game!
You can get a closer look at the game's contents on Amazon, and watch watch video of a playthough of "Monster Crunch" courtesy of Board Game Geek's "Gamenight!" series.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: SEPTEMBER 6


Taped on this day in 1966: Episode 57

When Burke discovers that his mentor is dead, he goes on a one-man war… but against whom? Burke: Mitch Ryan. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Maggie tells Burke about Bill Malloy’s death, leading him to both remember Bill fondly and vow to get to the bottom of it. He later visits Sheriff Patterson, who warns him to leave law enforcement to the professionals.

Episode 57 is a focused study in how much the show would change in its first year. That’s not damning with faint praise nor stating the obvious about supernatural vs secular threats. It’s a compelling little episode that moves faster than many in the post-1897 run of the series. Within it is an entirely different approach to storytelling. Far more than other soaps, DARK SHADOWS was a show about action. Characters did things in the present rather than just talk about things done in the past. And when time, space, morality, and death are irrelevant to many of your main characters, it’s easy to present a Nietzschean amusement park of action and story twists. That’s not how the program began, though. It was only with the introduction of Laura Collins that DARK SHADOWS became a series about possibilities, not limits. But limits, and seeing attractive, interesting people struggle against them, is the bread and butter of terrestrial TV drama, and episode 57 is a beautifully executed cage.

That’s easy to build when your most active and least fearful character gets the news that one of his role models is dead. He’s going to shake the bars. Excluding a visit by Vicki to the diner, this is Burke’s episode, and Mitch Ryan delivers (and is given the chance to deliver) monologues and transitions that range from tightly controlled fury to poignantly fond nostalgia. It’s mid-century theatrical writing the likes of which O’Neill, Miller, and Williams made the norm. We’ve lost that in the 21st century, and DARK SHADOWS would lose it over the course of the series. Seeing a brainy and thoughtful actor like Ryan muse about the past and justify the present is a gift that evidences a DARK SHADOWS that was perhaps more leisurely, but no less intense than it would become. His character’s connection with Bill Malloy reminds us of what a special character that was. Losing this active, observant, no-nonsense man of action was a blow to Collinsport (and the show), but Malloy was such a marvelously fiery character that his death demanded and deserved months of subsequent action. Episode 57 is the call to the post. Malloy had to be built up and removed to propel all of this. Little did they know that they had to extract him before Barnabas could arrive, anyway. Malloy was too good at getting things done to coexist with incredibly vulnerable monsters whose only protection came from how unobservant everyone else was. Finally, Malloy has to leave so that Barnabas can become the twisted moral compass that Collinsport would need. Bill Malloy was the moral glue that held Collinsport together, driving scandals aside, between Paul’s death and his own, as Liz excused herself from active duty. 

In every way, it was a different time. It’s quaint and almost relaxing to visit a DARK SHADOWS where the only villain is Roger Collins. Once he has “framing you for murder” out of his system, what’s he going to do? Sneer at your tie? Similarly quaint is the structure of most of the scenes. 95% percent of the episode is exposition it feels like we’ve heard before. The show keeps it fresh by having it delivered to characters who haven’t heard it before. Is it a story or a wacky party dance, where the partners keep changing? Yes! This is a DARK SHADOWS that’s in no hurry, but in the hands of Mitch Ryan, standing in the shadow of Bill Malloy, why would it be?

This episode was broadcast Sept. 13, 1966.

The Haunting of Mary Shelley

If you live in the south and own a lot of black clothing, chances are you've bumped into Valentine Wolfe at some point during the last few years. The band has comecome a mainstay at genre and steampunk conventions, playing eveything from DragonCon to ConCarolinas to ... well, my wedding. (Although performing their original music based on "A Song of Ice and Fire" with George RR Martin in the audience was probably more memorable to them than my wedding.) I've known them for a while and even had to good fortune to share the stage with them back with I was still dabbling in music, and it was love at first sight. (Note: Valentine Wolfe has also contributed a new take on Robert Cobert's DARK SHADOWS theme to the CHS podcast, if I can ever get the damned thing finished.)

Valentine Wolfe has a new album set for release in October and it looks to be an abolute corker. It's a concept album celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of "Frankenstein" titled "The Haunting of Mary Shelley or, A Vindication of the Rights of the Departed." Frankenstein's monster and Valentine Wolfe's brand of "chamber metal" looks to be a match made in one of the more glorious corners of hell.

They've set up a Kickstarter campaign for "The Haunting of Mary Shelley" with a variety of stretch goals. You should absolutely check it out. You can find it HERE.

House Party of Dark Shadows

I'm feeling productive this week, but not especially chatty. In the past I've usually taken advantage of these playlists to blather on about the artists, how I selected and sequenced these songs, etc. Most of these tunes are obvious selections. A few are sure to raise a couple of eyebrows. Instead of pulling back the curtain and exposing my motives and naughty bits to the world, I'm going to embrace the twin spirits of brevity and modesty and allow the songs to speak for themselves. Drops mic.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Come see how the vampires do it on TCM

You might want to stay up past your bedtime on Oct. 27 this year becauseTCM has scheduled Dan Curtis' original DARK SHADOWS movies to air in the wee, wee hours of the morning. HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS kicks things off at 1:30 a.m., followed immediately after by NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS at 3:30 a.m. And, if you're some kind of pervert, switch over to Freeform at 7 a.m. to watch Tim Burton's 2012 DARK SHADOWS.

If you're into that kind of thing, you've got lots of chances to see Burton's cinematic take on the classic television series. Freeform is not only bringing DARK SHADOWS back this year as part of its 13 Nights of Halloween marathon, it's expanding the marathon to a full 31 days. Burton's costume porn is scheduled to air a staggering five times on Freeform during October, once for every horseman of the apocalypse (plus a bonus fifth viewing to put the humanity's last survivors out of their misery.) Here's a full schedule of broadcast dates for October. FYI: I'm still waiting to hear back from Decades, which could possibly air a marathon of the original DARK SHADOWS television series at some point during October. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: There's good news and even better news. Decades will be celebrating Halloween by broadcasting epsisodes DARK SHADOWS throughout the holiday week. Decades will air episodes weeknights at midnight EST beginning Monday, Oct. 29, with episode 210 and ending Friday with episode 214. Sometime next spring, though, Decades has plans to broadcast episodes new to the network. I'm sure we'll be hearing about those plans soon enough.

Click HERE to see if you receive Decades in your hometown.

Oct. 7
11:20 p.m. EST, DARK SHADOWS (Freeform)

Oct. 8
6:30 p.m. EST, DARK SHADOWS (Freeform)

Oct. 18
6:30 p.m. EST, DARK SHADOWS (Freeform)

Oct. 18
3:30 p.m. EST, DARK SHADOWS (Freeform)

Oct. 27
7 a.m. EST, DARK SHADOWS (Freeform)

Oct 27

The Dark Shadows Daybook: SEPTEMBER 5


Taped on this day in 1968: Episode 576

Liz finds out if dreams really do come true when she believes herself to be buried alive! Elizabeth Collins Stoddard: Joan Bennett. (Repeat. 30 min.)

Liz continues to fixate on death as Angelique bites Jeff and increases her hold on him. Jeff infuriates Vicki by rejecting Roger’s offer of a job. Liz has a nightmare of being buried alive.

DARK SHADOWS would die several times, but in 576, there’s an actual funeral. Can’t be all bad, because the eulogy is given by the next phase of the franchise.

I don’t think Joan Bennett was missing any meals. From what I can tell, DARK SHADOWS was a diversion, yes, but just that. In this section of the series, she’s skipping across episodes like a stone on a pond. It’s to the point that her appearances are reminders of what the show once was, and that would feel wistful were she not obsessed with death. I think we are supposed to feel as moved as Carolyn, but her conversation is so single-minded that I just want her to get it over with. She’s not dead yet. And it’s a writing decision of marvelous economy. With the Jason McGuire mystery resolved, there’s not a lot for Liz to do unless they invent some even worse scandal. Maybe she doesn’t floss. I don’t know. They never reveal it. Instead, they know that a depressed and gloomy Liz is a Liz in her element, so they just put her under a standard issue death obsession spell and call it a series. At least until Angelique goes away again. But it kind of happens once more with the Leviathans… another spell. And Gerard. Another spell. In looking it over, did they have any idea that Liz is a precariously hypnotizable matriarch who spends more time miserable than happy? Seeing her now provides a poignant reminder of what what the series was designed to be before Jonathan Frid. For some, that’s nostalgic. For others, it’s a cautionary warning of what the show was and could become again.

576 begins by pulling a fast one. Liz is back, in a good mood, and having a warm talk with Carolyn. Like speaking with any mentally unstable drama queen, it’s just a matter of time until things turn dour and Carolyn & the audience realize they’ve been suckered in. Her moodiness is an emblematic element of the show at an arguably stagnant time as it lurches from one program wholly to another. Roger’s business offer to Jeff -- similar to the one that will be given to Jeb, as well -- stands out as an odd reminder that Roger has a job… a weird reminder of the show’s prior focus. It’s appropriate that Jeff turns it down; he’s too busy with the show’s new tone to have time for the old one. There’s a dead woman waiting to be reanimated in the basement, Roger, and I just don’t have time for threatening pens, master brake cylinders, or your new director of public relations. Besides, I’m a slave to a vampire woman who works directly for Satan, so if you don’t mind, I’m kind of busy. Why don’t you offer the sales job to Vicki? Oh, I forgot, it’s 1968.

The episode features a nightmare funeral sequence so archetypal that it goes beyond the realm of cliche and strikes an authentically disturbing note. From the discordant music to the dramatic use of scenery and smoke, this is a death sequence both dramatic and strangely classy enough to be worthy of Liz Stoddard. It’s a nightmare done correctly, and if you’re going to have one, I can see the appeal of this approach. Even the lighting on Liz in the coffin is somewhere between Margaret Hamilton and the woman in the crystal ball of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. Finally, a payoff that drags the insinuation of a death obsession into the garishly wonderful world of color. Welcome, new DARK SHADOWS.

Liz getting it all over with or Vicki scolding Jeff is about the extent of agency for women on DARK SHADOWS when Julia Hoffman isn’t on screen. It is hard to entirely see Angelique as the villain when she shows agency with such moxie and passion. She does that like gangbusters in this episode, and it stands out in literal relief to the party pooping worrywarts of Liz, Carolyn, and Vicki. If you separate the what and the why from Angelique’s actions and just focus on the passion and confidence, you actually get a marvelous role model. It’s as if the series is saying that the well-behaved model for women is meant to worry, fret, and heart-to-heart its way into an early grave, while the more passionate agent of volition is literally an undying force, totally beyond the reach of death, supernatural in its power. I know that Angelique is no more a role model than Quentin if you look at most of her actions and their motives. Instead, look at her spirit and her belief that she is in charge of her destiny. Taken for granted now, yes, but then compare it to the norm for women on the show. Of course, the dynamic one is positioned as the villain, but metaphorically, to whom is she the baddie?

For a show from yesterday, DARK SHADOWS remains a show of the future.

This episode was broadcast Sept. 9, 1968.

Big Finish announces the future of Dark Shadows

I've got big news and a busy day ahead, so let's cut right to the point: Big Finish has just announced a massive roster of DARK SHADOWS aidio releases that will take us unto 2020. We've got details on the Bloodlust sequel Bloodline, two new collections of The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries, and the a new serial with the simple-yet--mysterious title of Dark Shadows: Windcliff. Here's the official anouncement straight from BF:

Dark Shadows - The Future of Collinsport is unveiled! 

A second and third series of the magical The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries is coming out soon. Plus Bloodline, the follow-up to the DARK SHADOWS release, Bloodlust, has been confirmed today where we’ll see the future history of the world of Collinsport…

Big Finish is delighted to announce a whole host of treats from the world of Dark Shadows, and they promise to be scarier than ever…

This November sees the return of the private detective, Tony Peterson, and the witch, Cassandra Collins in Series 2 of The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries.

Co-producer Joseph Lidster says: “People seemed to like the first series, so we spoke to Big Finish about producing more adventures for the detective duo. We didn’t want to do just more of the same, though, so Series 2 delves into their relationship a lot more. They get a new secretary, Alice Wilkes, who they previously encountered on the doomed Flight 493, and Cassandra is starting to try and settle down to life in the 1970s. She’s even rented an apartment!

“The second series features cartoon characters coming to life, a spooky sanitarium, a two-hander told in real-time and a mysterious lonely-hearts hotel where Tony and Cassandra have to go undercover because obviously they most definitely, absolutely, don’t have any romantic feelings for each other at all. Doing more of The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries has also allowed us to bring some new writers into the world of Dark Shadows – with Grace Knight, Joshua J Price and Tanja Milojevic joining returning writers Alan Flanagan and Philip Meeks.”

She’s a witch. He’s a private detective. And when they get together, it’s magic…

The private detective and the witch are back investigating four new exciting mysteries:

Could cartoon characters really be coming to life at Stone Heart Studios? What is happening to the children at West Vale Sanitarium? What terrifying entity is haunting Cassandra’s new apartment? And what is really happening to those seeking love at the Soulmates Hotel?

The series stars Jerry Lacy and Lara Parker with Sydney Aldridge returning as pregnant, Molotov-cocktail-maker, secretary Alice Wilkes. “We’ve also managed to bring together a fantastic set of actors to play the supporting cast including Tom Blyth, Abi Harris, Doireann May White and Jake Wardle,” continues Joseph Lidster. “I was especially thrilled that Jake agreed to record for us as he recently starred in TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN which was just the most amazing television experience I think I’ve ever seen. It was hard to stay professional in studio and not bombard him with questions about David Lynch!”

Co-producer David Darlington told us about reuniting these two iconic characters for their own series: “When I attended the Dark Shadows 50th anniversary festival in mid-2016 the feedback we started receiving – and then kept on receiving – was that more and more people wanted more and more of Tony and Cassandra. Jerry Lacy sat next to the Big Finish contingent for one of his many autograph sessions and clearly enjoyed getting to point over at me and say, ‘Hey, ask this guy’ every time someone brought the subject up!”

“What’s brilliant about Tony & Cassandra,” continues Joe, “is that I genuinely didn’t expect their stories to be so popular with the fans. They’re not set at Collinwood and they’re a bit funnier and more adventure-y than the usual Dark Shadows stories. I was so happy to be proved wrong – I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to bring them back.”
You can pre-order Series 2 and 3 of The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries at £30 on CD or £25 on download. Or they are available together in a bundle at £56 on CD and £48 on download.

And speaking of things returning… what about that far-too-long-awaited return to Collinsport itself? Dark Shadows – Bloodline now has an official release date of April 2019!

Bloodline, written by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells, Aaron Lamont and Rob Morris, features the return of the cursed Collins family – those that survived the events of Bloodlust.

As family and friends gather at the Collinwood estate for the wedding of David Collins and Amy Jennings, a new mystery starts to unfold…

“Bloodline is finally happening!” says co-producer David Darlington. “Joseph and the writers wanted the scripts to be in the best possible shape before we went in to studio so there have been rewrites going back and forth for about two years now.” More details about Bloodline will be announced soon but the 13-part serial will be released in April 2019. As well as many of the regular residents of Collinsport, the series will also introduce the mysterious Vivian Bell, played by Georgina Strawson.

“Georgina is one of the stars of a children’s television series, HETTY FEATHER, that I’m lucky to write for,” says Joe. “When I first saw some rushes of her playing Lady Rosamund Calendar, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. It’s a stunning performance, and I knew, as soon as I saw it, that we needed to get her into Dark Shadows. So, welcome to Collinsport, Vivian Bell…”

Bloodline is available in individual episodes on download at £2.99, released throughout April 2019. You can listen to the 25 minute episodes throughout the month, or you can pre-order them in individual releases on CD at £20 or download at £15 – or pre-order both together on £40 on CD or £30 on download.

The third and final series of The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries will be released in October 2019. Although not the end for these two iconic characters, this series wraps up their solo adventures.

“We always knew we wanted the series to be finite,” explains David. “We didn’t want to start repeating ideas, and we knew that the series had to eventually lead into The Phantom Bride.” Joe continues: “It’s been really great, working with Alan Flanagan, plotting out the character arcs across the two series and knowing that this has an actual ending. But it might not be the last we see of their characters, of course…!”

“Again, we’ve managed to assemble a fantastic guest cast,” continues David. “With Adam Hall, Sarah Pitard and DOCTOR WHO regular Dan Starkey joining the team. Plus Zehra Jane Naqvi co-stars as gypsy nightclub singer Mari, and Eva Pope – who Joe worked with on HETTY FEATHER– plays the mysterious Briar Stevenson.”

And that’s not all from Collinsport! April 2020 will see the release of a further 13-part-serial – Dark Shadows: Windcliff.

Written by Penelope Faith, Aaron Lamont, Rob Morris and Paul Phipps-Williams, Windcliff sees many of our regular characters making a night-time visit to Collinsport’s local sanitarium.

“All we’ll say for now is that we, again, wanted to do something we haven’t done before so Windcliff is very different to both Bloodlust and Bloodline,” explains Joe. “The writers are working on the scripts now and we’re looking forward to releasing more details in the future.”

More stories are scheduled for September 2020 and April 2021. “September 2020’s story is something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” continues Joe. “And the following April will see the release of a further 13-part-serial provisionally titled Thirteen. What will happen? Who knows...”

Make sure you keep an eye out for more information on these upcoming Dark Shadows titles, plus Dark Shadows special offers in the spookiest month of year, October.

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