Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Dark Shadows: The Horror Collection is now on sale

Big Finish has a rather amazing sale taking place today: a package deal of seven Dark Shadows audios for a paltry $25. The digital collection is so massive that the sale notice is actually accompanied by a warning against downloading this bundle while using cellular data.

The collection represents about eight hours of entertainment at about half off the list price. And what do you get for your $25? Dark Shadows: The Horror Collection features Final Judgement starring Lara Parker and Kathryn Leigh Scott; The Lost Girl starring Kathryn Leigh Scott; The Lucifer Gambit starring Sheila Steafel and Stephanie Ellyne; The Happier Dead starring Stephanie Ellyne and Murray Melvin; Carriage of the Damned starring Lisa Richards and Kathleen Cody; The Curse of Shurafa starring Andrew Collins and And Red All Over starring Kathryn Leigh Scott and Mitchell Ryan. (And before you send me a message pointing out the oversight: Yes, I know the image above only shows six of those stories. Creating a symmetrical image using an odd number of elements is a bitch.)

For more details, visit Big Finish HERE.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Review: Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, Episode 11


We just cut up our SPOILERS AHEAD with a chainsaw. Does that sound like “fine”?

“Maggie Evans must DIE! TONIGHT!”

Welcome back, dark sprites, to this our final week of Bloodlust coverage. When we last left everyone, things had gone positively pear shaped as the darkness that has been infesting Collinsport since Snowflake gathered and aimed itself toward our heroes. Episode 11 is another table setting episode for the serial, but this one moves at a much, much faster clip than the few before it. It also has the added novelty of gathering our cast up, both human and monster, all together and finding some really interesting dynamics in the process. On top of all that, you have another shocking death for the series, one that definitely proves no one in Bloodlust is safe, not completely. The darkness has a face now, dear readers, and nothing much a motley crew of monsters and mortals stands between him and Collinsport. Let’s see how they fare.

Click HERE to get the episode.
After last episode’s vampiric, magickally infused cliffhangers, this episode wastes little time capitalizing on last episode’s bloodletting. From the jump writer’s Will Howells, Joseph Lidster, and Alan Flanagan have done a really great job of keeping most everyone’s plots clearly defined and largely separated, aside from the few that crossed paths with one another like the Cunningham family drama and how the murders were contributing to the uneasiness of the town. But now that shit has well and truly hit the fan, they have to start gathering up the whole cast in order to get them fully working on the problem of the plot and working toward the finale.

This kind of spins the wheels of the main plot for a touch, aside from two major events that we will get into later. Though this episode doesn’t really have the same forward propulsion as some of the others did, the writers still really entertain by finally positioning all of our characters together in one large ensemble. The cast and crew really did a great job of making the whole thing feel pretty filled out just in the vignettes in earlier episodes, but hearing everyone gathered together and bouncing off one another is a real treat and makes the show feel all the more like a largish repertory company.

But hearing that company of actors comes at the cost of forward momentum. You can kind of see it all over the episode. A character or grouping heads off one direction or place, only to head somewhere else once the plot necessitates they do so. It isn’t altogether horrible and the show did this kinda stuff all the time for the purpose of stringing some tension along the serialized story. I also understand why the production staff takes this sort of two steps forward, one step back direction in this episode, but that doesn’t make it any less noticeable. At the very least it provides our wonderful cast some meaningful stage time with one another, resulting in some really showy acting and banter. I will forgive a lot of things thanks to a charming, talented cast and thankfully Bloodlust has one of the best.

But my structural nitpicking aside, this episode does drop two major bombshells on us heading into the show’s final episodes. One of which is the mercy killing of Kate Ripperton by the hands of Maggie Evans. This really is a gut wrenching sequence and both Asta Parry and Kathryn Leigh Scott lean into the tragedy and cold horror of the situation, making it feel and sound all the more real. The next is the naming of this serial’s big bad, none other than Count Petofi, who has been pulling the strings all along thanks to his surviving HAND! I should have expected such a big marquee villain for this piece, but I sincerely love how the staff have been pulling from the property’s deep bench of characters, from even beyond the grave.

My problems with the somewhat scattered construction of the episode’s narrative and slight breaking of its momentum aside, Episode 11 is still another richly produced and spookily entertaining entry from Bloodlust and Big Finish’s take on Dark Shadows. Now it feels like we are headed toward a proper huge ending and literally no one is safe. I know they are recording the sequel to this sprawling epic as I type, but for the life of me, I have no idea who could even be left in the cast for it! Time and the rest of these episodes will tell and I will be fine as long as I keep biting my nails and breathing into this paper bag.

NEXT TIME! Episode 12! The Penultimate Episode! A motley crew marches on Collinwood and I really hope my faves survive. Be seeing you.

Justin Partridge has always loved monsters and he thinks that explains a lot about him. When he isn’t over analyzing comics at Newsarama or ranting about Tom Clancy over at Rogues Portal, he is building Call of Cthulhu games, spreading the good word of Anti-Life, or rewatching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace for the dozenth time. He can be reached at the gasping Lovecraftian void that is Twitter @j_partridgeIII or via e-mail at Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.  

Monday, October 29, 2018

Speak of the devil

MPI Home Video has added a new Dark Shadows item to its store: A 9" talking Barnabas Collins statue. What does it say? I don't know! But the ad copy promises some variety of "soliloques," the nature of which will probably be revealed when someone buys one of these statues and posts a video to Facebook. MPI has made that process a little easier by offering a 20 percent of sale at their online store. Use the code TWENTY at checkout to shave a little off your bill.

Via: MPI

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: October 26


Taped on this day in 1967: Episode 351

Carolyn is bitten and smitten with Barnabas… but is she still Roger’s Kitten? Carolyn: Nancy Barrett. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Carolyn awakens from serving as Barnabas’ blood source and cure from Julia’s aging serum. He enlists her as an eager assistant, but her loyalties seem to be tested by his request that she persuade Vicki to seek his courtship.

The show spends most of its run promoting Barnabas as a troubled hero. That’s good, because they have a lot of mopping to do from his first year. If the perverse kidnapping of Maggie is a cleanup on aisle six, episode 351 does the same thing, worse-yet-better, in a fraction of the time. Like Gerard’s haunting, this storyline gets the most out of the victim’s complicity, making the crime all the more horrific and strangely lurid. Is Carolyn compliant because it’s part of Barnabas’ spell? Or -- far worse -- because she wants to be? A casual observer would say one thing. A fan, perhaps another. It’s telling that this brief storyline should come out as Dark Shadows fandom was really establishing itself. Maggie, a reluctant victim, was kidnapped as the show was being discovered. I wonder what would have happened if Maggie had been kidnapped after it gained a foothold in popular culture. Would she have been as unwilling? Certainly, Carolyn isn’t, and thus we have a massive and revealing shift in tone and morality.

Barnabas eventually acknowledges that he has to treat Carolyn differently because she’s a relative… and for a moment, it’s unclear if that means better or worse than Willie. Carolyn’s desire to assist Barnabas seems like more than the mere product of vampire mind mojo -- the opening dialogue of the show would be incredibly disturbing otherwise. But Barnabas is a phenomenally popular figure, and part of his popularity has to do with the peculiar and particular brand of sexulality. There is a deep focus, but an absence of real lust. It’s not effeminate nor anything else fatuously predictable. It’s something peculiar to him, but never lacking in intensity. Through that combination of interest and distance, I think he creates a sense of strange safety. It’s a compliment to be wanted, and to be wanted by someone capable of such an intense and ruthless desire. But without the predatory sexuality, it almost puts the subject of the obsession in the role of potential seducer. As these things go, it is a unique cocktail that explains the eerie attraction.

Carolyn’s brief stint as the object of his obsessions may be the most brazen and honest moment of potential sexual energy on the show. Taboo is on parade as Julia asks the awakening Carolyn a series of questions that sound unsettlingly like what I imagine an assault victim would encounter. She gives all of the wrong answers, but sounds like a love-woozy fan as she does so. This is no Josette. She doesn’t want to flee… she even says belongs there. She wants to stay to serve Barnabas’ needs. Carolyn says little with words, but chapters with her dreamy, vaguely post-coital purr. It’s a purr you can watch with your grandparents because it says nothing, technically. It just implies. Heavily. The hint of incest seems comfortingly distant until Barnabas mentions giving her some platinum-status attention based on her genetics, up to and including the eternal life package. Then it’s a plus! 

Of all of Barnabas’ assistants, Carolyn is the most realistic and, I think, reflective of how fans think they would behave if “cursed.” She’s smart, efficient, and loyal. It’s like, “finally!” The fact that she’s honest in her sense of desire for Barnabas makes the ensuing jealousy make sense, and it also makes her semi-decision to help him land Vicki all the more weirdly poignant. Now, Barnabas is a (very) distant cousin. Does that make the whole thing creepy? She’s already had her neck bitten and blood consumed, so I think we left the realm of the uncreepy when her cousin bared his fangs. This isn’t the first time that Carolyn has shown idiosyncratic tastes. The first weeks of the show are spent discussing that dreamy Uncle Roger who calls her “Kitten.” Is this a continuation of tastes we’ve seen since the series began? As a student of quotes that sound like they were said by someone who read an article on psychology once, I’ll say that no one longs for an absent father like Carolyn. What is it with “The Case of Dark Shadows and the Missing Parent”? Paul Stoddard. Laura Stockbridge. Then there’s 1970 Parallel Time Daniel sometimes is like Vicki, and has both parents gone. Oh, Vicki. Yeah, I forgot her. And where is Maggie’s mom? It’s dangerous to become a parent in Collinsport.

Stay single, Barnabas. For the sake of the kids.

This episode was broadcast Oct. 30, 1967.

Review: Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, Episode 10


1...2...SPOILERS AHEAD are comin’ for you. 3...4...better shut the door.

A Quick Mea Culpa Before We Start: So, last column I very dumbly misspelled Asta Parry’s name. Which is even more embarrassing as I was heaping praise onto her for about three paragraphs. So, my apologies to her and to you all.

“I was hungry…”

In so few words? Holy shit. Episode 10 of Bloodlust really aims for the throat. Literally. It has taken a while to get to this point in the narrative, but writers Joseph Lidster, Alan Flanagan, and Will Howells really go for the gusto in the series’ first double-digit episode. They and directors Ursula Burton and David Darlington deliver nothing but action this time around, sending certain characters spiraling toward doom and placing others in wildly precarious situations, ratcheting up the tension to an unbearable degree. I know I have been a bit hyperbolic in these reviews, but Episode 10 had me yelping in fear and delight throughout. And, yes, I mean yelping because that is the only accurate way I can describe the noises I was making.

Click HERE to get the episode.
So, okay. So much happens in this episode it is kind of hard to know where to start. Let’s start at the most interesting aspects, shall we? Aspects that concern my beloved Kate Ripperton. When we last saw her, she was on the receiving end of Barnabas’ fangs and her fate was unclear. But, thankfully, Episode 10 gives up that ghost early by opening the episode with Kate narrating. We then get a quick look at her trying to recover from her “hangover” which, of course, isn’t a hangover at all. Barnabas turned her and now she hungers for the sweet taste of blood!

This episode kind of takes it’s time really getting to this reveal, but whooooo, boy, once it finally comes out with it, it is a real bloodbath and adds another roving murder machine to the already panicked Collinsport. More on that in a bit. But before that, Burton and Darlington do a fantastic job telegraphing the reveal somewhat with eerie sound design based around the steady sound of a heartbeat. A sound that has established itself as an entertaining recurring motif throughout the serial. 

I have somewhat avoided discussing the pair’s directing at length in these reviews. Mainly because I don’t know the first thing about sound design. I was a theatre major and you all know what we are like. BUT Episode 10 is a wonderful showcase of the pair’s direction and design from the jump, even to a layman like me. There are several sequences, like the episode’s opening dream sequence centered around Tommy and the extra creepy reveal of just what kind of magick is happening in the walls of Collinwood, that really shine thanks to their effects and transitions.

But, back to the vampirism. All throughout this episode, the script keeps giving us minor check ins with Kate, who sleeps through most of the day and then awakes with a starling hunger. She then heads down to the Blue Whale in order to grab a meal and then try to talk with Frankie. And she grabs a meal alright. Two in fact, as she openly attacks Deputy Hanley AND Frankie, killing them both in full view of the patrons. Asta Parry really impresses again here in this episode. While before she was all snark and unexpected vulnerability, here she goes fully feral, showing only touches of her former humanity as Frankie tries to reason with her. It is a rollercoaster ride of a scene but Parry really sells the terror and confusion along with her newfound bloodlust (I said the thing!). RIP Frankie and Deputy Hanley. Y’all were...certainly characters.

The episodes other major set piece is a taut investigation in and around that great house up on the hill. Having gone through his first transformation, Tommy comes clean to his mother which prompts Quentin to finally spill his heritage beans to Amy. The trio then hook up with Angelique, who tells them of her discovery of Carolyn’s casting up in Collinwood. So, naturally they all want to go poke the mystery with a stick and see what happens. You can already assume that it doesn’t go great, but this grouping is really fun to listen to, thanks to David Selby’s impassioned performance and Stephanie Ellyne’s reluctant, but curious new emotional state. It also doesn’t hurt that Alec Newman’s David gets some more facetime in the story, reconnecting with Amy and providing a nice slice of backstory for us newbies to the Big Finishverse. His turn toward villany isn’t exactly shocking, but the way the episode’s script and Newman’s performance lulls listeners into a false sense of security, only to drop the magickal hammer on us is really, really fun.

The episode is rounded out with some movement on Maggie’s plot, but it is still kinda awful, just on an optics level. She goes forward this episode with her plan to blood test the town’s residents, which, of course, is a whole bowl of yikes. It only gets worse still when the script reveals that they already have people in custody for “anomalies”, one of which is merely a child. Though I expected a certain level of monster action in this story, I did not expect the uncomfortably timely and heart wrenching turn this plot took. Maggie Evans, the closest thing Collinsport has to a saint, is now a child detaining fascist and it kind of rules? I never in a million strange aeons would have thought that MAGGIE EVANS would be a villain, but Bloodlust Episode 10 really makes her a damn good one, even in the face of actual monsters committing murder and the town on the edge of destruction (which is one of my favorite Classic Doctor Who episodes).

Like I said, holy shit, right? And we still have three more of these bastards to go! My heart might not survive it.  But at the very least I will die having been thoroughly impressed and entertained by Episode 10 and the bloody, witchy, and goth as all hell climaxes this installment delivered. We are in the endgame now, fellow ghouls, and for the first time since I started these, I am genuinely nervous for our cast and the fracturing town. I cannot wait to see how this thing turns out.

NEXT TIME! Episode 11! It probably won’t have Matt Smith in it, but it will have some werewolves, a deliciously evil Alec Newman, and an alive(ish) Kate Ripperton. I am but a simple man with simple, monstrous tastes. Be seeing you.

Justin Partridge has always loved monsters and he thinks that explains a lot about him. When he isn’t over analyzing comics at Newsarama or ranting about Tom Clancy over at Rogues Portal, he is building Call of Cthulhu games, spreading the good word of Anti-Life, or rewatching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace for the dozenth time. He can be reached at the gasping Lovecraftian void that is Twitter @j_partridgeIII or via e-mail at Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.  

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: October 25


Taped on this day in 1967: Episode 354

When Barnabas learns that Julia is leading tours of his bedroom while he sleeps, will the doctor finally be out... for good? Julia: Grayson Hall. (Repeat; 30 min.)

As Barnabas firms up his alliance with his new assistant and spy, Carolyn, Julia uses her powers of hypnosis to reveal the truth of his dark side to Victoria. When Barnabas discovers this, predictably, he vows revenge.

One of the most satisfying things in watching Dark Shadows is seeing characters develop on an arc. Some of the arcs are fairly brief, like Quentin, Jeb, or Adam. Some of them are wildly macroscopic, like the one Barnabas follows. Usually, when a character finishes their arc, they’ve gone from bad to good. Barnabas is an exception to this. He goes from good, if naïve and a little selfish, to evil-in-the-name-of-self-preservation (with some extremely fuzzy lines in there), and then back to a good that is rigorously and heartbreakingly tested again and again. Helping him along that path is a character who has an arc of her own, Julia Hoffman. Her arc is neither endless nor brief, but it ends long, long before we say goodbye to her. 

Although I am a huge fan of both Grayson Hall and Julia Hoffman, I can also acknowledge that many people are not. They have issues with her acting style and they have issues with the character. In both cases, it’s arguably understandable, especially in the case of the character. In her own way, for the first leg of her journey on the show, Julia Hoffman may be its most interesting and insidious villain. She is quietly and single-mindedly determined, realistic in her humanity, and as carefree in the viciously destructive in the use of her abilities as Angelique. Diabolically, Julia manages to make herself indispensable to Barnabas despite all of this. And at the heart of the matter, the beauty of the character’s evil lies in her potential for good. Not only is she situationally vital, again and again, but she has the capability of being a far greater force for help than she is for harm. So you kind of have to keep her around.

If you watch the entire series, it becomes easy to forget how wicked she can be before she accepts that it’s better to have a distracted Barnabas, unable to reciprocate her affections than no Barnabas at all. In the early days, the other greatest threat to Barnabas is probably Barnabas, himself. (With a little help from Dave Woodard.) But once she is humbled by the fact that someone else cures him, and once the greater threats of Nicholas Blair and Angelique enter the 20th century, love takes over in an entirely different way, and she shapes up.

In the process, Julia mirrors Barnabas in the department of unrequited affection. In fact, because her maturity allows her to accept the fact that he is not a puppet to be manipulated into loving her, she surpasses Barnabas and Angelique, both of whom continue to chase lovers who are, by and large, never going to be interested in them. It is a painful, subtle, gradual, and quiet triumph for Julia, and by comparison, Barnabas and Angelique seem all the more melancholy and lost. We appreciate the severity of their challenge and feel deeply for their inability to “get over it“ because, by example, Julia could.

But when she’s bad, she is really bad, and whether it’s trying to poison Barnabas or poison Victoria’s  mind against him in the ugliest fashion, her ruthlessness is nearly boundless. For a character who is — somewhat thanks to the arguably unflattering haircut that she sports throughout most of the show — one of the most spiritually masculine on the series, her penchant for manipulation and character assassination makes her also one of the most feminine. By comparison, Angelique is actually extremely masculine. She thinks in terms of power structure, “king of the mountain,“ and gaining authority through direct attack and visceral revenge. It does not take Julia long to know that she never even stands a chance in the battle for Barnabas, so the best she can do is stick around and, if not just poison him, poison his entire social world. Long before (in the storytelling, at least) Angelique ever made his life miserable by revealing his secret to a lover, Julia begins infecting Victoria’s mind and heart with the ugly truth. But whereas Angelique used abilities that were patently naughty from the start, Julia destroys using powers designated for healing. In other words, she’s got a lot of ‘splaining to do, and she spends the next several years doing just that. We spend so much time watching Barnabas atone that it’s easy to ignore the fact the Julia has her fair share of atonement to accomplish, also.

In this episode, we get to see her at some of her delicious worst, partially driven by the fact that Barnabas now has a far more compliant and capable assistant. For now. In the world of  Barnabas Collins, it is frequently just “for now.” One of the show’s great and quiet ironies is that he will eventually go from being the man surrounded by untrustworthy assistants to being assisted by those who often mistrust him. But for now? Barnabas has to sleep sometime, and Julia knows it. and Barnabas knows that Julia knows it. And she knows that he knows that she knows it. And he knows that she knows that he knows…..

This episode was broadcast Nov. 2, 1967.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Review: Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, Episode 9


Suzy Banyon decided to perfect her SPOILERS AHEAD at the most famous school of dance in all of Europe…

Episode 9 of Bloodlust gives one of it’s best supporting characters some much appreciated time center stage...before possibly making her a meal of Barnabas Collins’. Yes, my beloved Kate Ripperton really goes through it this episode, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to listen to. Even beyond Kate, most of the supporting cast gets a really fun turn this installment. We get a bit more action regarding the warding of Collinwood, the thunderous return of David Collins, and some choice monster action surrounding our Trinity, who still lie plotting at the base of Widows’ Hill. Enough of the preamble, let’s get to the getting, shall we?

Click HERE to get the episode.
Death has once again come to Collinsport and this time it has claimed the life of Isaiah Trask. Now the monsters the town faced a few episodes ago have a real deal motive for revenge, especially the mercurial Angelique. Maggie Evans first week as sheriff has certainly gone swimmingly, right? I talked a bit last column that I think it is a really bold choice for writer’s Joseph Lidster, Alan Flanagan, and Will Howells to make Maggie the human antagonist for this series. But this episode they take a different approach, detailing how Maggie is dealing with the badge and how it is directly affecting her, just on an emotional level. As a listener, this really softens Maggie’s new position in the town and in the story overall. Kathryn Leigh Scott really sells this too, harkening back to the maternal, yet steely Maggie that we all fell in love with, even as she continues the office’s march toward condoning racism against monsters. Monsterism. Occultism? I dunno. We can workshop it.

But the real star of this episode is Asta Parry's Kate Ripperton, who gets a really great turn in the spotlight, before maybe (hopefully not) getting it in the neck thanks to a blood horny Barnabas in the episode’s cliffhanger. Parry is a presence that really popped for me in the early installments and Episode 9 starts to peel the layers of her character away in interesting ways. The episode’s script picks up directly after the last’s cliffhanger, which found Kate facing down some uncomfortable questions from Rhonda. Though the revelations this scene brings aren’t THAT big a deal (Kate’s absences throughout this serial have been due to her getting soused and wandering around Eagle Hill Cemetery), it reveals a dark vulnerability to Kate that has slowly been eroding away at her over time. Parry absolutely nails this scene, presenting Kate as a woman on the edge, haunted by her brush with the supernatural and driven nearly to ruin in her quest for answers.

Parry even gets to double down on her intriguing characterization when she goes a’snooping. First she investigates the crime scene of Trask’s death, but then heads up to the Collins mine in order to finally get the story Andrew was suppose to before his eventual ganking. This scene provides our first real clues as to what is happening at the mine. As Kate Nancy Drews, she finds that all the filing cabinets are empty and there is absolutely no paperwork detailing the nature of the work. This naturally brings about David Collins, who gives her the heave ho and fires poor Frankie just to spite her. This scene is filled with some choice verbal sparring from Parry and Alec Newman (who I don’t think has been in this story NEARLY enough. You don’t bench the Maud’dib) and finally starts to move the mystery of the Collins mine forward. I am less enthused about the personal developments for Kate and Frankie, mainly because I think Frankie is kind of a drip, but I am really glad that if this is to be Kate’s last episode that she at least got a really juicy one before shuffling off this mortal coil.

Episode 9 also finds our favorite monsters getting some great material as well. While Kate investigates, Angelique, Barnabas, and Quentin all get some forward momentum in their respective plots. Quentin having to leave Tom in the Collins Mausoleum as he transforms is downright harrowing thanks to David Selby’s brokenhearted performance and the excellent sound design from directors David Darlington and Ursula Burton. That design spreads it’s spooky resonance into Angelique’s plot which finds her attacking the wards that have been set up around Collinwood. What she finds behind them is truly shocking and, should it be proven true and followed up on, could shake the very foundations of the great house and give a major TV character a dark new direction. Barnabas gets the short straw this episode, mainly because most of his action is centered around a tense reunion with Maggie Evans. But that said, I am really warming to Andrew Collins portrayal of the vampire and I am excited to see him become much more of a presence in the serial’s back half.

To be honest, I am kind of running out of ways to say “Bloodlust is Good”, but Episode 9 was an unexpectedly emotional turn from the series. One that put some characters into focus that I wasn’t expecting and better still, did so in a way that put their emotions and mental states first, giving the supernatural elements of the story a rest (for the most part). I have really grown fond of this whole cast, beyond the major players of the universe, and it is nice to see that the show isn’t allowing it’s pathos to get lost in all the murder, monsters, and magicks.

NEXT TIME! Episode 10! Double digits, creeps! We are in the home stretch now. Please let Kate be okay. Be seeing you. 

Justin Partridge has always loved monsters and he thinks that explains a lot about him. When he isn’t over analyzing comics at Newsarama or ranting about Tom Clancy over at Rogues Portal, he is building Call of Cthulhu games, spreading the good word of Anti-Life, or rewatching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace for the dozenth time. He can be reached at the gasping Lovecraftian void that is Twitter @j_partridgeIII or via e-mail at Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.  

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Review: Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, Episode 8


When there is no more room in Hell, the SPOILERS AHEAD shall walk the Earth!

“FEED, my love!”

Oh, dip, you guys. What I thought would be a table setting episode to solidify Volume 2’s new status quo quickly devolves into a further shaking up OF said status quo in Bloodlust Episode 8. Maggie Evans is the new Sheriff of Collinsport and the anti-monster panic that she stoked with her meetings has now graduated to full blown violence. There is also the little matter of Tom Cunningham now being a ticking clock to werewolf time as he shares Quentin Collins’ cursed bloodline. Oh, and somebody friggen shot Trask?! I have a weak heart, you guys, I might not be able to take this.

Click HERE to get the episode.
But I honestly have to applaud and admire writers Alan Flanagan, Joseph Lidster, and Will Howells for not letting listeners, or their cast, rest on their laurels. After last episode’s civic bombshell, the fallout is instantly rolling through the streets of Collinsport. I also have to applaud this story’s slightly controversial choice to basically make Maggie Evans the antagonist of this serial. Though Kathryn Leigh Scott certainly imbues Maggie with enough warmth and compassion to at least make her a compelling one. It is funny, last episode as she laid out her concerns (backed with reactionist barking from Ed), I said that at least on paper the platform was sound. But Episode 8 quickly shows how her good intentions are a very slippery slope toward small town fascism as she levels a curfew on the town (which again, isn’t an altogether horrible idea) and then doubles down on it by floating the idea for the town to take a BLOOD TEST to determine their humanity (Oh, Maggie, what you doin’, girl?).

Meanwhile, Quentin Collins has his own problems to deal with. Mainly that his ancestor, Tommy, is going to turn into a werewolf and he needs to get him somewhere safe. I like this development because it really gets David Selby active in a B-story that is directly personal to him. Selby’s best work on Dark Shadows has always been more intimate, family driven stories and it is nice to see Bloodlust taking advantage of this. I also really dig this because it further ups the stakes beyond the central mystery. Collinsport doesn’t just have a serial killer on the loose, but it also is about to have a werewolf stalking through the streets and that is my kinda extra. I am all about gilding the lily when it comes to monsters.

Other big story feints this time around are happening around the edges of Collinsport. Harry and Amy Cunningham have a sweet heart-to-heart as he recovers in the hospital. The script also makes sure to make him and Cody’s relationship explicit, which I think is brilliantly refreshing for the hetero-heavy nature of the cast. Collinsport is woke, y’all. We also get check ins with Kate and Frankie, in which new convert to vigilantism Rhonda Tate, blows apart Kate’s alibi for the murder of Melody Deveraux. It is really nice to see that the writers aren’t letting that plot thread go loose amid all the other new ones that have been introduced. And did I mention that someone shot TRASK?!

This development might be the biggest one of them all this episode. For one, his random shooting really speaks to the paranoid, panicked town that the writers have made Collinsport into. There is another throwaway line early in the episode that a man was stabbed simply because someone said he didn’t have a reflection. It is a nice bit of world building from the trio and one that adds extra punch to this Dallas-like plugging of a lead character. But, perhaps most dangerous of all, it finally spurs Angelique back into full villain mode. After the apparent death of her servant, she swears vengeance on the town and allows Barnabas to freaking feed from her, driving them both into a mad sexy sounding Blood Union. God have mercy on Collinsport, but hey! Angelique/Barnabas Shippers rejoice!

So, obviously a lot to unpack here, but Bloodlust Episode 8 makes it look easy thanks to it’s consistently stellar production values and dynamic cast and story. I said above that this episode was shaking up the show’s status quo, but now that I think about it, this installment might be aiming to break it as it moves characters into situations that will create the most delicious tension. Couple that tension with a couple of truly juicy unsolved mysteries and some soapy drama and you have something really special. And that is exactly what Bloodlust is turning out to be; really special.

NEXT TIME! Episode 9! Angelique and Barnabas aim to paint the town red. Be seeing you. 

Justin Partridge has always loved monsters and he thinks that explains a lot about him. When he isn’t over analyzing comics at Newsarama or ranting about Tom Clancy over at Rogues Portal, he is building Call of Cthulhu games, spreading the good word of Anti-Life, or rewatching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace for the dozenth time. He can be reached at the gasping Lovecraftian void that is Twitter @j_partridgeIII or via e-mail at Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.  

Why aren't you following Singular Matilda on Instagram?

Singular Matilda is creating art that makes my Photoshop bullshit look like Photoshop bullshit. As I was reposting some of her work to my own Instagram account last night, though, I noticed she has a scant 103 followers ... which feels almost criminal.

Matilda has been creating a lot of interesting Dark Shadows-inspired artwork for a while and this theatre collage might be my favorite yet. It's available for sale at her Etsy shop right now, assuming I haven't bought it myself by the time you read this. You can follow her on Instagram HERE and view more of her work on Etsy at

Here's an explanation for how this particular piece was created, taken from her Instagram account:

"To make this little shadow box/miniature theatre I collaged a cardboard box with 19th century and vintage book pages and sponged black acrylic paint and shimmery gold Galena acrylic paint. It was then sealed with gloss Modge Podge."

"Some of the text has been left showing to create an interesting visual effect."

"The tomb stones have also been made from cardboard and vintage book pages and lightly sponged with black acrylic paint, with text left showing to create the effect of lettering. The tombstone in front of Barnabas has also had a little Galena gold applied to give it a shimmer. If you look closely it has some interesting text on it ;) Barnabas is a handmade figurine which I made from cardboard and 19th century book pages. I drew his shape onto cardboard, cut him out then collaged him with the book pages. His caped coat has been painted with black acrylic paint and given a coating of matte Modge Podge. His face was painted with Galena gold then shaded with a white pencil, over which I applied his facial details and hair with an HB pencil and a black ink pen. I added a piece of book text from a vintage novel on his stomach. It describes him well."

Friday, October 19, 2018

Satan is a just metaphor, Anton LaVey was just a man

Badness had nothing to do with it


In the most recent episode of American Horror Story, Church of Satan founder, Anton LaVey, is portrayed as one of the villains, literally worshiping the devil, consorting with the fictitious bad guys, and establishing himself as a force of evil in that supernatural universe.

None of this, of course, is accurate or even tangentially related to reality. LaVey was a lot of things, and there is still alleged controversy over the verisimilitude of his official biography, but the man was a solid atheist, and his books clearly posit Satan as a symbolic figure. One of the cornerstones of Satanism is that individuals are their own sources of salvation and judgment. Ritual is psychodrama meant to purge or focus emotions. Magic is a polite term for the ability to use diplomacy for interpersonal advantage. This is all documented and on the level.

Editor's Note: And then there's this bullshit

I have no interest in making you read a love letter to Anton LaVey. But ask more of your horror before letting this pass as acceptable.  Devil worshiping villains are classic go-to‘s in horror entertainment. From The Black Cat to Curse of the Demon, they make entertaining, compelling antagonists. But those are fictional characters, even if inspired by certain real life figures. You don’t have to like Anton LaVey to see that this kind of treatment is beneath the medium. If you have affection for the guy, this is bad enough. If you oppose him, it’s even worse. I like a good attack to be completely rooted in accuracy. If someone wants to depict Harvey Weinstein badly, I want to make sure that the audiences who walk away with negative impressions of him have those impressions based on the many horrible things he really did and said. Because you can and should get away with exposing people who do rotten things. It’s a job of journalism, and if done well, a job of art.

I suspect that some of the justification is a variation of “come on, a guy who puts on horns and a cape and stands in front of inverted pentagrams is not exactly portraying himself as a Boy Scout.”

In other words, because he dresses that way, he’s asking for it? Isn’t that the thinking that would really be behind that sort of attitude? Good luck with that in 2018.

You don’t see Stan Against Evil pulling that one. 

Review: Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, Episode 7


No, tears. They are a waste of good SPOILERS AHEAD.

“This town doesn’t need the Collins family!”

Volume 2 of Big Finish Productions’ Dark Shadows: Bloodlust opens with some John Grisham-meets-the-Universal Monsters like theatrics with the serial’s seventh installment. A mere day after Quentin Collins, Angelique Bouchard, and a newly summoned Barnabas Collins stood against an angry mob of townsfolk, Sheriff Tate calls a town meeting in the hopes that cooler heads will prevail. What happens is decidedly...not that, but therein lies the super entertaining crux of this volume’s opening story. Centralized and focused on the show’s nerve wracking commitment to raising its own stakes, Bloodlust Episode 7 is a towering opening gambit.

Click HERE to get the episode.
Some big time junk went down last episode. We got the debut of Barnabas, played with a righteously seductive fury by Andrew Collins. He was summoned by his on-again-off-again rival Quentin to back up him and Angelique as the mob swells. A Trinity of monsters stood against the angry hoi polloi of Collinsport. This episode, again, smartly takes a day and allows the cliffhanger to breathe just a bit. I have talked before about how Will Howells, Alan Flanagan, and Joseph Lidster really know how to stage these episodes and their layout across the season and this “taking a beat” approach to some of the larger cliffhangers are really a big part of why they succeed.

This way we get to relish the story as it unfolds instead of being overwhelmed with twists and turns, because, dear readers, this thing has got so goddamn more in store just in THIS episode. After a quick meeting of monstrous minds at the bottom of Widows’ Hill, we then turn to the town as it prepares for a town meeting about the recent killings and their possible connection to the supernatural. First off, can we all just appreciate just how Dark Shadows having a freaking town meeting about monsters is? I am consistently impressed on just how true to the wacky, yet grounded spirit of the original show these audios are and this might be the serial’s greatest example of it.

But my kitchy delight aside, this centralization of the episode’s plot really gets some great stuff from the story. For one it allows for one hell of a scare in the attacking of poor Harry Cunningham, who gets stabbed (we HOPE just stabbed) once the lights are cut during a particularly heated exchanged. For another, the citizens of Collinsport engage in some Arthur Miller-esque courtroom banter, one side standing up for Sheriff Tate and the other with Maggie Evans, who is demanding her acknowledge the existence of the supernatural.

I am of two minds about this. On one hand, Maggie’s group has the right IDEA. They want the local authorities, who have been turning a blind eye to the monsters for years, to finally start taking it seriously and take steps to defend the town. On the other, the way reactionaries like Ed Griffin, who put the boots to old man Trask last time, are framing the argument is that Tate is incompetent and are starting down the slippery slope of fascism in regards to Collinsport’s monster community, given a voice by Quentin. This sequence kind of makes Maggie look like a bully and her group look all the more dangerous, but you can at least see where the fear and anger comes from, thanks to the script’s presentation of the platforms. Plus, the more Kathryn Leigh Scott the better as far as I’m concerned

The town meeting also brings about the return of Nancy Barrett’s Carolyn Stoddard! A development, I must admit, made me a touch misty. And I don’t think it is because of the mold in my “office” here at the CHS. Hearing Carolyn passionately speak toward the town’s hold on people and the things that it is capable of puts real heart into Maggie’s side, when it really needs it. Plus’ Barrett is another one of those presences in the show that I will always hold a soft spot toward, no matter how they are included in the story so hearing her again was a real emotional charge for me just as a fan and listener.

BUT ALL OF THIS leads up to the episode’s two major developments. One being the discovery of a voodoo doll in Amy’s purse and Rhonda Tate being deposed as sheriff and replaced by Maggie Evans, who is pretty much the picture of a Not a Police Officer. The latter of which is the episode’s biggest and closing gambit, but the first one is really interesting. Is Amy fully turning back to witchcraft and did she attack her OWN (step)SON to cover it up? Only time and future episodes will tell, but the idea of Maggie Evans being the Marge Gunderson of Collinsport is just officially Too Good. It could only spell disaster for the town, just from a logistical standpoint, but holy crow, is it the perfect capper to this civically focused installment of Bloodlust. One sure to have major lapping story ripples throughout this back half of episodes.

There is a new Sheriff in town so monsters beware. You know, just when I think I hit a ceiling on the kind of entertaining Bloodlust can be, it goes and brings back Barnabas Collins (played by a truly class actors), large portions of the original TV cast, and then plunges me deep into a story worthy of all those actors and characters. Episode 7 is just another example of how the serial keeps upping the ante on itself. It hooks listeners deeply with a consistently engaging, well produced story that utilizes the best aspects of the property and its talented troupe of actors. Volume 1 of Bloodlust was good, but I’ll be damned if Volume 2 might be even better. I can’t wait to find out.

NEXT TIME! Episode 8! We Need To Talk About Harry. 

Justin Partridge has always loved monsters and he thinks that explains a lot about him. When he isn’t over analyzing comics at Newsarama or ranting about Tom Clancy over at Rogues Portal, he is building Call of Cthulhu games, spreading the good word of Anti-Life, or rewatching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace for the dozenth time. He can be reached at the gasping Lovecraftian void that is Twitter @j_partridgeIII or via e-mail at Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.  

Dan Curtis: Old School/New School

Dan Curtis on the set of The Strange
Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
, 1968.
I doubt that Dan Curtis even intended to become a horror auteur. He began his career in television in 1950 as a salesman for syndicated programs, later playing a vital role in bringing golf to television. Even his first foray into narrative drama, Dark Shadows, didn't begin explicitly has a horror series, dabbling for a year in gothic melodrama that only sometimes involved ghosts. When Barnabas Collins landed on the scene, though, Curtis discovered he had a flair for creeping people out and his career changed for ever. By the end of the 1970s he'd brought an entire menagarie of terrors to screens big and small, including vampires, haunted houses, zombies, aliens, devil dolls and a host of other creatures that oten defy description.

On Oct. 25, The Paley Centre for Media in New York City is hosting an event titled Dan Curtis: Old School/New School, described as an exploration of Curtis' "horror oeuvre." Produced by the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies, the event will be hosted by instructor David Bushman, a television curator at the Paley Center. Admission to Dan Curtis: Old School/New School is $12 in advance, $15 at the door.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, click HERE.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Dark Shadows returns to television Oct. 29

It's been a long, long time since Dark Shadows has been on television in any significant manner. Following its lengthy run on The Sci-Fi Channel during the 1990s, the show has made only fleeting appearances on television, usually around Halloween. That drought comes to an end Oct. 29 when Decades adds it to its weekday lineup, where it will appear every midnight like a ghostly wail \Monday through Friday.

The series will begins where it always does, with episode 210 and the arrival of Barnabas Collins. While I expect some of the old timers to gripe about this decision, it's as elegant introduction to the series as you could possibly ask. Those episodes from the spring and summer of 1967 represent Dark Shadows at its purest, when it was still a fairly traditional melodrama with a vampire lurking around the fringes. Decades plans to keep the show on its schedule until next spring, offering 260 episodes daily ... this will take viewers from Willie Loomis learning a hard lesson while graverobbing in #210, to #470, shortly before Adam is fully assembled by Dr. Eric Lang. That's a LOT of story.

If you don't get Decades in your area, don't sweat it right now. You can catch the first few dozen episodes streaming on Hulu and Amazon, and you're welcome to watch along with the rest of us every midnight. (I don't have Decades either, and this is my strategy.) If you don't already have a Twitter account, make sure to get one ... lively conversations during the broadcast will go a long way toward telling service providers what you want. If we can bring enough new fans into the fold we might even keep Dark Shadows on Decades long after #470.


To find out where to how DECADES visit

Stan Against Evil earns the coveted ❤ emoji from the CHS

I am a devoted fan of IFC's Stan Against Evil, a show that manages to scratch my constant cravings for EC Comics-style horror and Lynchian small-town weirdness. There's nothing else quite like it on television ... and perhaps there never has been, save for some of the more comedic episodes of The X-Files. Comedy and horror often make for troubled marriages and Stan Against Evil's almost obsessive devotion to making the show both a pure horror and pure comedy wobbles unpredictably between laughs and revulsion. It's a tone that won't work for some people, but you wouldn't want to hang out with them, anyway. They're buzz kills.

This is already running longer than I intended, so let me keep this brief with some random observations about Stan Against Evil: It's got some of the best monster designs to grace the small screen since The Outer Limits, it has as perfect an ensemble cast as you could ever hope for, John C. McGinley was in Platoon and therefore is allowed to do whatever he wants in perpetuity, Janet Varney is the moral and emotional anchor for Stan Against Evil (and a genuine revelation as an actress), Deborah Baker Jr. makes every scene she's in better, Nate Mooney needs his own spinoff Enos-style, and I want to be Dana Gould when I grow up. (I've been saying that last bit since 1991, but he doesn't show any signs of vacating the position.) Wow ... I'm out of breath now.

Anyhoo, it was my goal this summer to bring some of my love of Stan Against Evil to The Collinsport Historical Society but had concerns about diluting my mission. I've restricted my Standom to Twitter and Instagram, scattering my artwork to the digital winds. BUT: the series is returning for a third season on Oct. 31. It feels like a good time to pool some of these creations in one spot, a few of which are being seen for the first time. If you aren't familiar the show you might be a little confused by all of this ... the first two seasons of Stan Against Evil are streaming right now on Hulu, which should give you a chance to catch up. And you might want to, given that there's an homage to House of Dark Shadows planned for season 3.

If you're a Stan Fan, feel free to share anything you see here.

Review: Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, Episode 6


Ah! Listen! The SPOILERS AHEAD of the night! Vat music they make!

“We are The Trinity and we will protect ourselves.”

Volume 1 of Dark Shadows: Bloodlust comes to a thunderous conclusion in episode 6. The town of Collinsport is ready to boil in the wake of the newest attacks. Attacks that have taken the life of Andrew Cunningham and landed poor Jessica Griffin in a coma. And to complicate matters further Quentin Collins is back in town, his arrival unfortunately coinciding with the attacks. Everything is primed to explode and whether she meant to or not, Maggie Evans just might have lit the fuse. Episode 6 really feels like a real deal conclusion and though we still have a whole other volume to cover in the coming days, but this episode really sticks the landing for this first part rocking the very foundations of Collinsport and the fandom that loves it.

Click HERE to get the episode!
Before we proper start though, I must apologize for the lateness of this installment. We were hosting the annual sister city barbeque with delegates from Innsmouth, Mass. One of their aldermen, who smelled weirdly of cod, had a few too many Old Peculiers and accidentally knocked out wi-fi for the town overcooking a chicken on the Society’s lawn. It was a mess but the mayor of Innsmouth apologized profusely and left like a oppressive amount of crab dip so everything is comin’ up Justin!

But enough civil politics, BLOODLUST! So when we last talked, Quentin Collins had just swept back into Maggie Evans’ life and whoever (or whatever) is attacking citizens had struck again. Writers Joseph Lidster, Alan Flanagan, and Will Howells waste little time capitalizing on these developments. First up is David Selby’s naturally powerfully integration into the cast. The script does a nice job of contextualizing his inclusion, dropping hints about his relation to Amy and his standing among the town, pre-Bloodlust. This attention to context and continuity, especially around bigger characters, is really a key selling point for this serial for me. I was really worried going into this that I would be somewhat lost, being as how most of my Dark Shadows knowledge comes from the show and film entries. But Big Finish has really gone the extra mile to make these both accessible and entertaining and it really really encouraging to see.

But seriously, holy crow, David Selby rules. Each original actor has really shined throughout this serial, and Selby is no exception. Though he may be older, Selby’s newfound wizened timbre of his voice really hones the edges of menace and charm that he used so well back on TV screens. His inclusion also really amps up the tension in the town and finally, THANKFULLY, gives Maggie Evans some more time in the spotlight as his main foil. We all know how great Selby can be and he doesn’t disappoint here, but finally hearing Kathryn Leigh Scott get some meaty material to chew on was a real joy. Which makes her unfortunate positioning as the woman who may have doomed Collinsport all the more tragic.

Yes, after all this time of people warning Maggie that her meetings at the Blue Whale would lead to some sort of anti-monster mob...her meetings at the Blue Whale transforms into a full tilt mob. This is the major set piece of the episode and the production staff smartly build and build up to it making it hit all the harder. While I am not the biggest fan of poor Harry being pressured into revealing Angelique’s lair, mainly because he’s precious and I don’t want anything bad to happen to him, this turn toward violence led by a grieving Ed Griffin instantly raises the stakes even more than they already they already were, pitting all the normals of the town against the heaviest hitters of the franchise, including a certain vampiric and Bryonic nerd that we all love.

Big, deadly things are in store for Collinsport and I don’t think everyone can survive it. But that is seriously half the fun of this serial. Especially now that the whole monster gang is back together and such delicious plot threads have been introduced. For example, Harry might be a monster and Tommy is fur sure one, cursed by Quentin’s curse! The Trinity has once again gathered and God help Collinsport.

NEXT TIME! We begin Volume 2! Barnabas is back and he sounds proper pissed!   

Justin Partridge has always loved monsters and he thinks that explains a lot about him. When he isn’t over analyzing comics at Newsarama or ranting about Tom Clancy over at Rogues Portal, he is building Call of Cthulhu games, spreading the good word of Anti-Life, or rewatching Garth Marenghi's Darkplace for the dozenth time. He can be reached at the gasping Lovecraftian void that is Twitter @j_partridgeIII or via e-mail at Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.    

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: October 15


Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 874

Petofi must go on the run from gypsies as the power of the hand returns to Quentin, who uses it to restore minds. Meanwhile, Kitty begins to realize that she is Josette.

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly." — Ernest Hemingway, THE SUN ALSO RISES

Endings in DARK SHADOWS frequently feel like they happen in the same fashion: quickly. It’s jarring for a show where everything else is, to be polite, in no particular hurry. In the case of Jason McGuire, characters like Carolyn and Barnabas have simply had enough and they end his shenanigans unceremoniously. (Literally, since the wedding doesn’t take place.) Adam wanders away. In the case of Petofi, it’s a controlled implosion with a variety of calamities all happening around the same time. A disturbed jolt back from 1969. A rebounding Barnabas. Garth Blackwood. King Johnny’s widow. Beth’s cooking. Whatever Aristede brought back from Cabo. (Okay, I’m conjecturing the last part.) Still, for a character who’s been around for months, it’s a shock to see him undermined and petard-hoisted so quickly.

Putting almost all of the end in David Selby’s hands (or hand, in this case) is a master stroke. Petofi’s wit and strange gentility always seemed like a function of his ungainly physique. It was a source of humility beyond the deniable. In Quentin’s body, he becomes understandably and insufferably smug. And then far crueler with far less nuance to his approach. As far as games go, he’s moved from an elegant and Puckish game of go to football, with a brutal playbook, at that. By the same token, Quentin has yet another lesson in humility to learn, and he’s graduating with honors. I’m not surprised that the character is so boring when we meet him again. If I were Quentin, I’d be too terrified of life to do anything but wash my hands, walk old ladies to the grocery, and turn the pages for the chorus pianist. I don’t think Gerard drives him crazy; whatever happens to him on the Night of the Green Flag is the final chunk in the mosaic of All of the Things in Life that Can Go Horribly Wrong.

Not that it’s a miserable ride for the rest of us. Not here. Watching Petofi lose the power of his hand is like seeing Khan getting caught with his shields down. Although it would be fun to see Thayer David find a new way to chew the scenery, Selby’s eyes register shocked umbridge with olympian powers. It’s a bit of full circle. We met him as a petulant ghost, eyes blazing with disapproval and reproach. As human and humane as Quentin becomes, this is a nice reminder of why the man and actor were so captivating when we were first introduced.

As Petofi falls and Quentin learns his last lessons in responsibility, Barnabas is also on the ascendant, and it’s our warmest time with him. Watching him actually, really, I-swear-to-God get Josette back has a sweetness that even the show can’t yet believe. It metes it out as if we’re a deserving dog, they’re out of treats, and all that’s left is the fois gras. On our end, we’ll take what we can get, and yes, it’s fois gras. In the same fashion, it won’t last. It can’t. Happy characters don’t belong on soap operas, and it still feels like Barnabas has lessons to learn. Who knew they’d be so ugly? And it’s not like the fois gras is being served up by the shovelful. Kathryn Leigh Scott is charged with serving it in tiny bites at frustrating intervals. I have no idea if she ever got to play Nina in THE SEAGULL, but she gives the audition of her life, here. Seagull/Actress/Kitty/Josette, it becomes a blur that she navigates nimbly, and it’s her best acting on the show since the depths of her first of many kidnappings. Kitty’s transformation into Josette could have easily degenerated into a Carol Burnett skit, and if you’ve seen KLS on the inaugural POLICE SQUAD!, you know she’s an astoundingly underrated comedienne. The fact that she keeps it on just this side of credible (without degenerating into the dull) is a tribute to her sense of taste and discipline.

She plays one more character who’s not what she appears. As 1897 ends, almost no one is. Kitty is Josette. Quentin is Petofi. Petofi is Quentin. Barnabas is a human Doppelganger. Amanda’s a painting. Charity is Pansy Faye. And a sketch of Garth Blackwood is about to kill the Count. The deceptiveness of appearances is a bedrock of soap operatic writing, but DARK SHADOWS, epitomized by 1897, will never be content with only the basics. Curtis and the writers top themselves with no concept of ceiling. If appearances are deceptive, then they’ll deceive like they’re doing a daredevil stunt. Is it a stunt? Does it feel like it? No. It’s intrinsic to the story. Like Petofi’s end, it’s been so gradually cultivated, we don’t realize it’s upon us. So much of DARK SHADOWS could feel like a gimmick. From concept to credits, the show seems like it would be television’s greatest engine for gimmicks until you watch it.  The writers are too good for that, though, and so are the performers.

This episode was broadcast Oct. 30, 1969.

10 things I learned from Barnabas Collins

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