Thursday, November 29, 2018

1961 "Dorian Gray" film has unusual Dark Shadows connections

Well, THIS is a pleasant surprise. The Museum of Broadcast Communications has a 1961 television adaption of The Picture of Dorian Gray that's going to be of great interest to Dark Shadows fans, and not for the reasons you might think.

The Breck Golden Showcase production stars George C. Scott and Susan Oliver star, with John Fraser playing the title role. Curiously, Fraser also appeared in 1960's The Trials of Oscar Wilde, a film about Gray's author. Closer to home, he was also in the Doctor Who story "Logopolis" opposite Matthew Waterhouse, who has since become a regular face around Collinsport thanks to the Dark Shadows audiodramas from Big Finish. It's a small world.

And it's smaller than you think, because The Picture of Dorian Gray also features Jonathan Frid in a bit part! Dick Smith (who helped add a few hundred years via latex appliance to Frid on Dark Shadows) was one of the make-up artists on the film and, while he's not credited on IMDb, Dark Shadows composer Robert Cobert provides some of the movie's music. You'll absolutely know it when you hear it.

For added weirdness, Frid plays an actor playing "Murcitio" in a stage production of Romeo and Juliet in this movie. It was a play he was appearing in for real just two months before joining the cast of Dark Shadows. The Museum of Broadcast Communications refers to his appearance in The Picture of Dorian Gray as a "blink or you'll miss it" role and they're not kidding. Keep an eye out around the 14 minute mark and you can spot Frid as one of the actors leaving the stage during a confrontation by Star Trek alumni Robert Walker Jr. and Susan Oliver.

Here's the catch: The movie is only available online until the end of November. No matter when you read this, that doesn't give you much time to act. Luckily, the Museum of Broadcast Communications is allowing visitors to download the film, which will let you watch the hour-long adaption (it includes all of the original commercials from the broadcast) at your leisure.

You can find the film HERE.

H/T to Darren Gross!

UPDATE: Aaaaaaaaand it's gone. Someone at the MBC jumped the gun and replaced all of November's downloads with December's ... even though today is Nov. 30.

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 28


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 908

Will a stolen radio help Paul recruit Maggie in his campaign against the Leviathans, or will Liz outwit him yet again? Paul: Dennis Patrick. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Paul is disturbed that Alexander is with David, but no one will listen to his warnings. Alexander subtly and unsubtly exerts control and coercion across the house, and Maggie finally believes Paul when she overhears the tot threaten David for a radio. It’s a gift from Roger, returned from out of town and incensed that Paul is back.

Paul Stoddard is easily the most deluded character on the show, but lovably so. He can no more escape the Leviathans than he can just kinda fly casual and drop back in at Collinwood to pick up like it’s the 1940’s. But he tries. In a show that fixates on the past, Paul Stoddard is no more guilty than many of the others. He’s one not-quite-murdered spouse above Elizabeth on that scale. Jason held her with threats. Paul doesn’t even need to do that. Perhaps of all of the DS repertory, I may feel sorriest for him. At a certain point, being financially dependent on Liz isn’t just emasculating, it’s dehumanizing. Yes, yes, I know, this is the position that almost all women were in back then, and we’re not talking Ward Cleaver money. We’re talking Jamison’s daughter money. The class differences must have been even more oppressive than the lack of autonomy. Collinwood’s been making people prisoners since Barnabas christened the tower room, and that Paul felt so desperate to hold his own that he made clearly unsavory bargains. He shows up at home despite the murder attempt he dodged last time because it’s the safest place he knows. If the safest place in the world is a bedroom across the hall from the woman who tried to bash your brains out the last time you saw her, life has not delivered a bouquet of Cuban cigars and vintage Playboys.

Before he gets to die, he becomes a WC Fields character -- mit shrewish wife, understanding daughter, and a marble-mouthed Baby Leroy of a bouncing baby Baal of a nemesis. You know, if that character were played by William Shatner’s frantic airline passenger in “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” It’s actually an eerie analogy. “I’m telling you, there’s a demonic kid with a thick, Bronx accent and he’s on the east wing of the mansion! You’ve gotta believe me!”

Who’s the stewardess? Maggie. Does she believe him? No. Until she does. All because the little satanic Sonny Jim wants a radio so he can rock out to some Roger Miller. And this, I can understand. But if there’s one thing he doesn’t count on, it’s the inconvenience of living on a set to a soap opera, loaded with crannies and landings and landed crannies designed for convenient eavesdropping. Let’s see if he gets his precious hamburger, now. Go back to yer stock cars, kid. Uncle Paul and your governess need a to take a meeting. He remembers Maggie from the New York Playboy Club, and he’s going to learn to do that Bunny Dip if it kills him. He’s friends with sailors like Jason McGuire, and survival is a dish best served with a Highball. At any point, Paul -- already established as a master of disguise -- may have to don the ears and tail to pass for one of the Club’s discipled, efficient, and charming servers. How many times did he evade Nicholas Blair that way? You tell me.

All seriousness aside, just like the arrival of Barnabas allowed Roger to lighten up and stop villaining around the joint, this latest turn for evil by Barnabas creates the opportunity for Roger to become the hero once again. Kind of. Paul’s flaky irresponsibility and gnawing regret make Roger seem like he deserves that “#1 Dad” mug that Liz pretended David picked out. So what if his secretary keeps thumbtacks in it? It’s not like David’s ever going to get a job at the cannery and catch him. Nevertheless, Roger is really earning it. He’s grown to love David, and that’s easier to do when your son stops trying to kill you by sabotaging your car. He brings him radios. Seems happy to see him. Roger gets mad, kind of on Liz’s behalf, that she’s letting her working class ex-husband smoke his Gauloises and wear his slippers without even the decency to sprinkle some Gold Bond in there. Of course, she’s a member of a cult, too, But even excluding those things, Roger is on a hero’s journey that would have even Joseph Campbell taking notes.

It’s heartening that Roger takes to being a dad far more easily than we ever thought. It’s equally heartbreaking that Paul tries to do the same thing, far, far too late.

This episode was broadcast Dec. 18, 1967.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Dark Shadows, The 1973 Tapes: Beneath the Veil


The holidays have stolen my will to be cheeky so I’ll just plainly say SPOILERS AHEAD.

“There is no Heaven. Or Hell. Just this. Now.”

Happy Ghoul-idays everyone and welcome back to The 1973 Tapes! One man’s trek through the moldy, but shockingly engaging unofficial history of the town we all love. I will admit that Thanksgiving did me in a bit. I feel like it is a more draining holiday than we all would like to admit. BUT THAT SAID, I have returned to you all with a doozy of a tale to talk about! 2013’s Beneath the Veil! A skin crawling tale of murder tourists, dead Windcliffe doctors, and malicious, wandering spirits looking to cut a bloody swath through the patriarchy. All that plus Marie Wallace! This arc may have gotten off on a bit of a slow, low-key start with The House by The Sea, but Beneath the Veil kicks it up several dozen notches with a twisty tale of murder and magick.

British vacationers Alfie and Emma are on a unconventional holiday. They have come to America and taken a pilgrimage to see the nation’s most notorious serial murder sights. A bit macabre, but who are we to judge? I mean, it IS us, after all. So naturally, their car breaks down in the sleepy, not at all cursed Collinsport and even more naturally, people then start dying by the bale full. But this is just the START of the dark delights that Kymberly Ashman’s script delivers for this second installment of the arc. We will get into those here in a second, but again I have to praise this range’s accessibility. This story delves pretty deeply into the deep bench of characters Collinsport has to offer, but even if a listener didn’t know any of that Ashman’s core story of two super self-absorbed and often tacky murder tourists, given a darkly funny life by actors Simon Kent and Brigid Lohrey, getting mixed up in a town that has legit supernatural junk happening on the regular is pretty friggen fun and would be something I would imagine would hook new listeners to the appeal of the franchise.

Even better though for nerds like me, as this story doubles down on the status quo set by The House by the Sea in order to slowly grow out the range’s scope and serialization. I had been told that this arc takes to weaving in threads of things early, but little by little as the threads were attached to larger narrative quilts that were happening in the foreground (how’re these blanket related metaphors working for everybody?). While the first audio was more concerned with building a foundation, Beneath the Veil builds upward on it, very well. We see the quick return of Stephanie Ellyne’s Amy Jennings, shepherded in by none other than Carolyn and Maggie Evans themselves (both Kathryn Leigh Scott and Nancy Barrett returning to the roles and lighting up my day with their fantastic voices). We also get a quick mention of old, super-possessed-by-Nicholas-Blair, Gerald Conway, who is holed up still at Seaview, surely NOT scheming to destroy the town or the Collins family nosiree. We even get the first explicit mention of Beyond the Grave as a known quantity in this world, which is super exciting for me, Kate Ripperton’s Number One Fan. This bit proves that the range has really started to commit to serialized storytelling, so it is is fun to see that from early stories like this, knowing what I know now as a listener and fan.

Marie Wallace
But this adventure’s biggest development is the return of Marie Wallace to Dark Shadows (at least from my perspective). Though the script cheekily never outright says she is Frankenstein woman Eve, it does heavily hint at it, as she is credited under the name and serves as a flesh vessel for the newly awakened Danielle Roget, who was reintroduced after Conway blundered into Seaview. Wallace’s cooing, icy performance is a constant boon to the audio as she latches onto the young couple, seeking to take over Emma’s body and leave Collinsport. It is a little disappointed that Brigid Lohrey gets to be the final voice actor of Danielle (even though she is truly stellar throughout the audio! Even before the possession!) as Wallace’s take is truly spine-tingling is a material, almost warm creepiness, but I will take what I can get really. Any time any original actor show up in the booth for these and gives it their all, I am going to be happy. Nobody has really phoned it it just yet, though I don’t expect any would. They are all class.

Anyway, woolgathering aside, I really, really dug Beneath the Veil. Not just for it’s endless twists as this thing has one of the crazier endings, The Tony and Cassandra Mysteries notwithstanding, I have heard yet. But for it’s being emblematic of this range really trying to build something, beyond just being good solid horror stories with a well known licence behind them (though it DOES do that pretty damn well on it’s own). Kymberly Ashman and directors Darren Gross, David Darlington and Jim Pierson really nail this sophomore effort, by keeping it simple and creepy while at the same time slowly building a weird corner of the Big Finishverse that fans both new and old could dig into. Prequels aren’t usually supposed to be this fun, but I will be damned if I’m not having a blast with these. And I still have a little over half a dozen left to go! It is a Collinsport Christmas come early! IA! IA! CTHTHULU FLAGTEHN! Erm, sorry, I just get excited.

NEXT TIME! The Enemy Within! The return of Cyrus Longworth, Action Demon Child! Some Jennings family intrigue! Christopher Freaking Pennock! It should be a fun time. Be seeing you. 

The complete 1973 saga:

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.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 27


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 639

What deadly secrets will be revealed on a simple phone when David and Amy explore the hidden recesses of Collinwood?

Amy begins her first day as a permanent guest at Collinwood, and in the process ends of exploring a sealed off wing with David. There, they begin speaking on the telephone to a mystery is presence calling himself Quentin.

For better or worse, Amy is in da house, and the change implies everything we suspected about young Roger and Elizabeth and the Collins Way (before Victoria, anyway). It gives us a great vision of what it was like to grow up at Collinwood, too. May I unpack?

Down the rabbit hole! Who’s with me?

Really? That’s all? Well, um, fine. Wait here. Have a sandwich.

It’s vital to remember that in 1968, the year of 1897 was only 71 years prior to filming. Not that long before, cosmically speaking. For us, that’s like being haunted from 1947, a year my father remembers well. This episode was shot an astounding 50 years prior to now. (That’s right, this is the 50th anniversary of the first utterance of Quentin’s name.) It’s weird to look at what 50 years can mean. Since I have your attention and just to think out loud…  50 years prior to its taping, the year was 1918. From the other direction, that’s only 21 years after 1897, making it one year after Elizabeth Collins was born. (In real life, it’s also the birth year of Dennis Patrick, making him 8 years younger than Joan Bennett, who was born in 1910, just 13 years after 1897.) For the hell of it, Jamison Collins was only 33 years old when he became a father in 1918. Dark Shadows actors who were around the age of 33 when the series was shot were Jerry Lacy, John Karlen, and Diana Millay. At the age of 33, Jamison Collins is only 6 years older than was Quentin when we met him in 1897. For a reference point, Quentin, had he been “alive,” would have been only 48 in 1918, which is just one year older than Wallace and me. David Selby was born in 1941. He wouldn’t be at Quentin’s 1918 age of 48 until 1989. Here’s what actor David Selby looked like in 1989, when he appeared in the Falcon Crest episode, “Doctor Dollars.”

Because Dark Shadows and its cast have been with us for 52 years, and because the show itself (like American Bandstand) deals with time travel, arrested aging, and a mappable dynasty, I find these finer points of chronology to be inordinately fascinating. It’s especially arresting here because the essence of the program is knit up in dealing with the past, even if that past is in recent memory. When we meet Liz, she’s torturing herself for decisions she made 18 years prior. Unlike the 171 years Barnabas was in stasis, 18 years is a span of time that’s easy to manage… more so with every passing year. I can remember 18 years prior with disturbing ease. This makes 1897 just long enough in the past to be exotic and just close enough to actually be relevant to the characters. With the elaborate clothing, unusual props, and ornate hairdos, it’s easy to forget that we’re basically dealing with Roger and Liz’s dad when he was David’s age. If you’re an adult who can remember his grandfather, you’re Roger remembering Edward.

This all begins to give Dark Shadows an immediately dynastic continuity, and with that, a sense that we are seeing slices of one, epic story rather than zipping around from the distant 1790’s to the present. Working backwards, we now have a thread from David to Roger, Roger and Liz to Jamison, Jamison to Edward, Edward to Gabriel’s son, that son to Gabriel, and from Gabriel to Daniel. At this point, it gets weird, because we don’t really know the relationship that Daniel’s father had to Joshua’s father.

This is what makes sense, and it’s kinda cool. In episode 1169, when Barnabas is cured for the last and most important time, it’s mentioned that his great uncle, Amadeus, was the prosecutor in the Judah Zachary trial. Amadeus was the brother of Collinsport founder, Isaac Collins. That works out to Isaac being Joshua’s… grandfather? Isaac got to the colonies in 1690, and he was at least twenty. Joshua wouldn’t be born until 1730, 40 years later. Unless Isaac was a very old father, that makes him Joshua’s grandfather. So, it’s from his brother, Amadeus, that we get the line that takes over Collinsport when Barnabas “dies” without an heir. It also explains why Judah Zachary largely bugs this other line and leaves Joshua and Barnabas alone; they had nothing to do with the trial. Daniel, Gabriel, Son of Gabriel, Edward, Jamison, Roger/Liz, and David are the direct descendants of that beatnik lawyer who made a hash of things for Judah at his trial. Nice going, Angelique. By ending Isaac’s line, you inadvertently led to Collinwood being in the direct line of fire rather than some row of townhouses in upstate New York.

What this means is that there’s a lot of old stuff on the show.

Exploring the closed wings is a mighty payoff for the character of Collinwood, itself, finally confessing the extent of its neglect and emotional damage. Amy seems amazed that no one has explored the house, and I am both thankful and amazed that someone is bringing it up. It just underlines a truth that we often ignore on the show, and that is… well, they’re living in a haunted house. What do you expect? And it seems to get more haunted all the time, like a perpetual motion machine of the occult. The situation with the Widows is bad enough. Now, with Quentin finally working up the ecotoplasm to reach out, Diabolos only knows what’s going to happen.

It makes me appreciate what a strange household surrounded Roger and Liz as children. Look at their dad. What is life like if you grow up with what went on in the 1897 storyline? When you’ve been possessed by Count Petofi… when not meddling with the will hidden in your great grandmother’s room-temperature coffin, days ripe? And when you have seen entirely wings of your house shut down, isolated, boarded up, and cut off, along with a good share of the domestics in the process?

The story of Collinwood isolating itself is a story that reached its conclusion with Liz’s reaction to the murder of Paul Stoddard. But again, look at her father. He knew what it meant to see a house compartmentalized after a marriage was dissolved with extreme prejudice. Jamison was around for the ugly beginning of the end of the house that was inaugurated by its matriarch’s suicide. And he was even around when the house was briefly a home, lively, with Jenny and Laura and Quentin and Carl filling it with laughter and mischief and revels not yet ended. But they would end, and we witnessed that. Over and over. How can one house be perpetually falling over the cliffs on which it’s built, but never quite go over?  That’s the most supernatural occurrence of all. The toll for Collinwood is not on the structure. Nor the actual lives of the inhabitants. As English social critic, George Alan O'Dowd, might put it were he to address those visitors, “You come and go. You come and go.” No, Collinwood’s decay is one of its strange, wooden heart. More than anything else, Collinwood is haunted by the perpetual death of joy, and the funeral has been going on for nearly 200 years. At the heart of it? A sinner with a sideburn shaped halo.

In a house haunted by Quentin, once joy incarnate, it will be Quentin’s own descendant, Amy, who will be responsible for his rescue from death and time. She is simply looking to play. In his own way, so was Quentin. It was the quest to end boredom that was the source of his curse. It is a marvelous statement about the power of the human imagination and mischief that the quest to end boredom would also be his release.

This episode was broadcast Dec. 5, 1968.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Dark Shadows complete series on sale at Amazon

Ordinarily, this wouldn't be news. Back in 2014, the Amazon sales price for the massive Dark Shadows: The Complete Original Series DVD collection fluctuated wildly throughout the year. For reasons I can only speculate about, that trend came to a screeching halt on Jan. 1, 2015. Since then, the price rarely dipped below $340 for the massive 131-disc set.

Today, that price has dropped to the lowest its been since 2016: $299.99.

That breaks down to an astonishing $2.29 per DVD (or 24 cents per episode, ignoring the copious bonus features). Now, before the peanut gallery on Facebook begins to "Well, actually ..." this post, let me say THIS IS NOT A BOOTLEG. This product is being sold directly by Amazon and not third party sellers. A few years ago bootlegs of this box set entered the market, but those inferior products made their way to customers via affiliate vendors and eBay, NOT by Amazon. If you decided to jump on this sale you can do so with confidence.

Note: If you purchase this item using our sales links, a small piece of the sale goes toward keeping the lights on at The Collinsport Historical Society.

You can find the Amazon sales listing at

Friday, November 23, 2018

Black Friday in Collinsport

Dawn has come to Collinwood, bringing with it the unresolved troubles of another day. All who wake at the great house are mildly annoyed by the obvious consumerism that will preoccupy their minds. They will spend much of the day conducting their dark bidding on the Internet, despising themselves for their weakness while totally enthralled with deals too seductive to resist. For it is Black Friday once again.

But who doesn't like a good deal? Amazon has a number of terrific sales on classic horror movies and collections staggered to hit throughout the day (with Prime members getting early access to many of these sales.) Zazzle is also offering deep discounts on products across its entire site, including 50% off select T-shirts. A small portion of the sales from these links goes toward keeping the lights on at The Collinsport Historical Society.

The CHS has a store on Zazzle stocked with stupid parodies that will delight/confuse many people.  If the normals don't get the joke, that's their problem, right? Use the code BLKFRIDAYZAZ at Zazzle to get big discounts today. You can find the CHS store here:

Amazon, of course, is trying to choke the world with bargains. There are so many sales going on at the monolithic, possibly evil online store that it's impossible to track them all. You can find the company's Black Friday sales page HERE, and below are a few highlights of the creepy items you'll find on sale throughout the day.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Series
Teen Wolf: The Complete Series:
Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection:
The Invisible Man: Complete Legacy Collection:
The Flintstones: The Complete Series*

While we're talking about Amazon, it appears that the Blu-ray edition of House of Dark Shadows is only available now from third-party vendors. This might not be cause for alarm, but keep in mind the Blu-ray of Night of Dark Shadows is no longer in print and now routinely sells for more than $70. If you don't already have House of Dark Shadows, you might want to move on it ASAP. You can find it HERE.

(*OK, not creepy, but still a classic. And the appearances by The Gruesomes make this one qualify for the list.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 21


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 636

Seeing the love of his live disintegrate on a lab table, Adam then raises eyebrows when he casually lets drop his intentions to brutally murder everyone at Collinwood. Victoria: Betsy Durkin. (Repeat, 30 min.)

Barnabas returns from the demise of Nicholas Blair to find that Adam is missing. At Collinwood, Adam overhears Carolyn speaking of past love and becomes consumed with jealousy. He breaks in, and Carolyn -- between blows -- chides him on his fall from tenderness. Adam, poor incel that he is, points out that Carolyn could have rewarded him with love, but chose not to. When Carolyn tries to call the cops, Adam swats her and kidnaps Victoria. Later, after speaking with Carolyn, Julia encounters Adam in the Old House. He has no reason for hostility now that Eve and Nicholas are gone, but he remains angry, and refuses her sedative. She hears a scream from the basement and runs to it. Later, she awakens to find Barnabas explaining that Adam has Victoria in the basement, strapped to a table by Eve’s skeleton, the experiment beginning again. They confront him with a gun, via a secret passage. Adam is lost in the litany of sins others have thrust upon him. Is he using Victoria or taking out his wrath on her? Adam reminds Barnabas of their life force link -- harm for one means harm for the other. Faced with Victoria’s imminent demise, Barnabas aims the pistol at Adam and pulls the trigger.

It was when I was watching this that I realized why Frankenstein stories aren’t scary. For me, the scariest stories involve events happening to me that I’d rather, um, avoid. Those things come about by a supernatural force beyond my control or by a physical force that really has it in for me. Now, look at Frankenstein’s Monster. Benevolent. He doesn’t want to be here. He can’t talk. People keep shoving torches at him and then congratulating themselves as if they’ve discovered kryptonite. He looks a mess. It’s cold and damp. He’s gotten the death shocked out of him. What else could go wrong for this guy? He has to use coercion and blackmail just to get a friend, and then she hates him. And it’s not his fault that the kid with the flowers can’t swim. It just goes on and on. So, what’s there to fear in this guy? Little more than there is in the average angry person. He’s like a pre-white liberal guilt Incredible Hulk. But we’re a post-white liberal guilt audience. So it’s okay to view him with a rational sympathy. So... he’s going to Be Mad at People Who Do Bad Things? Well, don’t Do Bad Things. Dr. Frankenstein’s kind of an hysterical jerk, so I don’t feel very sympathetic toward him. So are the townspeople. But I’ve made a special point not to be an angry villager in my life, so if Frankenstein’s Monster killed me, I’d at least have the comfort of knowing it wasn’t personal.

I think the boon and bane of horroresque stories like Frankenstein and its derivatives is the sympathy we’re supposed to feel for the creature. It’s cool that horror can contain seemingly contradictory moments of emotional repulsion and connection. Ultimately, though, the catharsis in horror either comes from seeing evil defeated or, to Hell with it all, consume us in an endgame, thus literally getting it over with. At that point, sympathizing with a misunderstood monster just gums up the works. It’s like these modern versions of Dracula, none of which are satisfying. If it’s horror, let him be a sumbitch I’m relieved to see staked. If it’s an oozy romance, let me see a genuinely misunderstood lover escape or die trying. But don’t start with him as a baby eating monster and end with him as a beast deserving a harpoon to the heart, but leave me a gooey center of hey-he’s-not-a-bad-guy. At least, don’t tell that story if you want me to be scared.

So, we come to the end of the Adam story. I for one am ready for this thing to be over. I have seen months of a violent manchild suffer from understandable impulse control and a constant flow of misinformation. There aren’t many places this story can go. The Zapping of Nicholas Blair is hard to top. If you’re like me, you find these denouement episodes especially whacky. I see my heroes suffer for months to overcome an enemy, and it never quite ends and some new threat arrives right on time. But please, give the Collinses at least one night off, huh?

At least we have Betsy Durkin. When it comes to the Durkin, it’s a casting choice that’s workin’. Is she Alexandra? No. But like George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton, we were never given a chance to grow solidly inured to her. The mental exercise I play involves imagining Durkin in the role from day one. Too close in look and style to Carolyn? Although that may have been a good thing. Hint hint. Her Victoria has a likable spunkiness to her, as well as a clear mind. And she looks like Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

On this day in 1968, you know, um… stuff happened.  Not a huge news day, though. I’ll be honest. The big news? Adam’s loose! Run for your lives! Etc.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Dark Shadows, The 1973 Tapes: The House by the Sea


This is my SPOILERS AHEAD. There are many like it but this one is mine.

“Every story has a beginning…”

A funny thing happened the other day here at the Collinsport Historical Society. I had just gotten off the phone with the Mayor of Innsmouth’s assistant. Since that God forsaken burg is our sister city, I have been trying to coordinate more civic events for both towns, in the spirit of macabre community. After both my ideas for a deep sea fishing festival and town genealogy survey were violently shouted down by the man, who sounded like he was talking through a bloody fishtank, one of our couriers dropped off a mysterious box. It had a note from Head Office pinned to the top and the number 1973 stamped on the side.

I looked at the note. It was written in Wallace’s frustratingly precise handwriting. “Sort this.”, it said simply. So, naturally, I opened the box and looked upon its contents; dozens and dozens of audio cassette tapes. After schlepping down to the local library and smooth talking an old player from old man Zarovich, I popped on of the tapes on to see what was on it. I was astonished to find a completely unrecorded swath of Collinsport’s history! Just sitting and waiting for some poor mug to document them all.

I am here to say that I AM THAT POOR MUG and these are the 1973 Tapes! My studious and hopefully fun foray into a previously unwritten about portion of Collinsport history for your reading pleasure, this being the first entry of a new nine part series here at the CHS. Today we are starting with The House by the Sea! Written by James Goss, directed by Joseph Lidster, and starring a personal favorite Doctor of mine (@ me all you want) Colin Baker! The goal of this new column is to not only keep me busy so I don’t keep prank calling Innsmouth pizza joints on the clock (they are weirdly defensive when you order anchovies on stuff) but to also fill in some much needed gaps in my own Dark Shadows knowledge. Hopefully this will provide some pre-Bloodlust context for me in the lead up to it’s sequel! Plus this series was the most requested arc from fans, listeners, and even some members of the Big Finish production staff so if I don’t cover it, I fear we may have a riot on our hands. Anywhoozlebee, let’s get started, shall we!? 

Meet Gerald Conway. He’s a mess. He has suffered a heart attack, lost his law practice, and was recently dumped by his wife. On top of all of that, for months he has been plagued with dreams. Dreams of a house by the ocean in a sleepy Maine town called Collinsport. On the urging of his therapist, Gerald has decided to go to Collinsport and engage in some good old fashioned immersion therapy, recording the whole trip so he can discuss it with his doctor afterward.

At first I was struck at the similarities between this story and Snowflake. Both featured doomed men recording their final days in Collinsport, having been summoned there by supernatural means. But as I found, this story is far nastier and far, far more entrenched in Dark Shadows lore than that prequel story was. It is that nastiness and the deep continuity that it makes great use do that sets this story apart. Lidster’s direction here also gets a lot more out of the concept than Snowflake did. Throughout the story, the sound design makes meal out of the idea, assaulting listeners with all manner of analog clicks and pops from Gerald’s recorder and microphone. The latter actually providing some low-fi realism to the tale as sometimes Gerald will futz and fiddle with the microphone, but instead of cutting around or even doing away with these sometimes harsh sounds, Lidster leans into it, heightening the eerieness of the script.

And speaking of script, Goss’ is a real belter. I was somewhat worried going into this one that it wouldn’t hold my attention as well as a full cast story would, but Goss delivers plenty for listeners to chew on even with its solo narrator and centralized setting. Given a dynamic life by Baker, Goss’ script delves into the richly creepy history of Seaview, the sad history of Tom Jennings, and the evil machinations of Nicolas Blair, culminating in a finale that seems ripped straight from a creepypasta forum. I am also guessing that Blair’s reintroduction sets up some more stuff that will hopefully be paid off in the rest of this arc and I for one am really excited. We don’t really get much mention of Seaview outside of the TV canon (at least not to my knowledge) so it is really refreshing for a layman like me to get to experience other landmarks of Collinsport instead of just the biggest “tourist” destinations like Collinwood and the Old House.

And there is also the matter of Colin Baker, who seriously impresses from start to finish. We get some vague hints of his doom during the production heavy opening, but Baker charms early on, even with that knowledge. Baker even goes a step further, branching out from his own performance into, for lack of a better term, impressions of some of Collinsport’s best known figures like Dr. Julia Hoffman, Elizabeth Stoddard, and even Barnabas Collins! That may sound a bit hammy on paper, but Baker sells it well, mimicking the original actor’s cadences and tones with uncanny accuracy. I didn’t know I needed to hear the Sixth Doctor talking like Grayson Hall before I heard The House by the Sea, but I am really, really glad I did.

And with that, I can safely declare The House by the Sea a rousing success. Accessible, but also drenched in that trademark Dark Shadows dread, this story really cuts to the horrifying heart of the property with a clever framing device, a canny script, and a powerhouse leading man. I wanted to cover this story based on the novelty of hearing Colin Baker playing around in the Dark Shadows sandbox, but I was delighted to find a genuinely creepy and well produced story. Pretty much the best case scenario when it comes to opening a new column.

One down, eight more to go, creeps! Covering Bloodlust was really fun, but I might be more excited about this arc than I was doing Bloodlust. Just from the tone of this one, I think these stories will bring that sweet, sweet pulp that I so crave, while also finally filling in all the gaps I had in my experience having gone into Bloodlust relatively cold. Here in a second I will post the whole list that I plan to cover, should you want to follow along with me! And if you do, don’t be a stranger! Shoot me an e-mail or @ me on Twitter to let me know how I’m doing or even to just say hello! Everybody loves getting mail. All these stories are available in both digital and physical formats on the Big Finish website. Wallace and I are also going to try and repost some older reviews of these stories with the new reviews as I think we are going to overlap just a touch during this new column. I sincerely cannot wait.

#34. Beneath the Veil (NEXT TIME!)
#35. The Enemy Within
#36. The Lucifer Gambit.
#37. The Flip Side
#38. Beyond the Grave (starring light of my life Kate Ripperton!)
#40. The Harvest of Souls
#41. The Happier Dead (which I have been told it super duper scary)
#42. Carriage of the Damned

The complete 1973 saga:

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, November 19, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: November 19


Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 902

It’s a potentially Elektra-fying holiday season when Carolyn’s father blows back through town! Paul Stoddard: Dennis Patrick. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Paul Stoddard spies on Collinwood and finally reappears to Liz, warning of great danger to Carolyn. Meanwhile, David is reading from occult tomes and making odd deliveries to the upper room at the antique shop.

In terms of the mythos, medium sized potatoes. In terms of the episode-by-episode show? The first, great mystery is finally (kind of) put to rest. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Paul Stoddard. Given the luxury of time, it was an easy pleasure for Dark Shadows to introduce a story element, move on, and then make it central for another plotline, years later. Seeing Paul Stoddard again for the first time is one of the great payoffs of such a use of time. For me, the mystery of Paul is key to the mystery of Liz, and the mystery of Liz is the first, great, human unknown in the show. In a society that is far more matriarchal than is faddish to admit, Liz holds a strange and mighty power over the series. Even as it moves on to Barnabas, one truth of the story is evident. Barnabas may be the eldest Collins, but Collinwood belongs to one person only. Nonsense is dispensed of, Buzzes buzz off, and bucks stop, here, and no foolishness from from David, Carolyn, or Roger or she’ll have all three sent to their rooms without so much as a saltine and a half-glass of flat Moxie, thank you very much. I may be uneasy at the sight of Gerard, but I am terrified of Liz Stoddard. Her arched eyebrow is enough to do any of us in, and she swings a mean fire poker to boot. And yet, she remains the center of compassion and ethics on the show as well. She may have (thought she) killed her husband, okay, fine, but Alcatraz couldn’t have kept her locked up more securely than she imprisoned herself.

Given Jason McGuire’s redolent oiliness, I just assumed that Paul would be even worse. Maybe he is. But in the hands (also) of Dennis Patrick, the role has a strangely defiant, if harried, dignity. Dashing, even. He may not have been the blue blood that Jamison hoped for, but he holds his head every bit as high. The marriage makes sense, and it’s easy to see this augustly mellowing firebrand as Carolyn’s father. She may not have had his company, but she has his iconoclastic defiance, certainly. I can see them as a couple, and there is a strange hopefulness that they’ll reunite, and he’ll take on the supernatural as the show’s new, cardigan-clad knight. Not to be, and it’s a tragedy that hangs on the story like a shroud. This is where the deconstruction of Carolyn really begins. Does a hasty marriage to Jeb seems so crazy, now? And does her descent into the dour seems like the result of inevitable shrapnel.

Family echoes strangely over the episode. David’s voice has dropped an octave, and the writers even make a point out of puberty, which must have humiliated David Henesy and delighted his fans. Still, he’s ostensibly pouring over the Christmas ads for his wish list, and it makes Roger’s absence all the more notable. Roger will be around less and less, and this vacuum initiates a lack of center that eats away at the Collins family from within, so that what Gerard inherits is a fringe without a center. As one father is absent, another hovers. And are either up to the job, or do they just make us appreciate Liz, all over again? Meanwhile, the Todds prepare for Schrodinger's infant, tended to by a seemingly fatherless child. If you want to hook an audience, especially a young one, play with vanishing and reappearing parents. That fear (and actuality) of loss is at the heart of the Disney animated feature empire, sadistically holding kids spellbound. The formula still works.

This episode was broadcast Dec. 10, 1969. 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Buy our stuff!

I hate to lead off this post with such a craven appeal for your cash, but this is a real bargain. Zazzle is having a sitewide sale today which means you can products from The Collinsport Historical Society at a fairly deep discount. The sale ranges from our earliest designs (our popular Batman/Barnabas Collins homage) to our most recent Feminist Superhero/Supervillain shirts, and the Coin-Operated Rock and Roll tribute to David Bowie. And don't forget: You can customize all of these products, so if you don't see a color, size or style to your like there are lots of other options available.

Use the promo code: ZSUNSTEAL254 to get 30% off t-shirts and at least 25% off all other products sitewide. You can find the CHS stgore at

(Also, if you're a fan of our new Bodice Tipplers podcast, we have a few BT items for sale HERE.)

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: November 15


Taped on this day in 1968: Episode 632

With Conrad Bain and Bobbi Ann Woronko, this much fun just can’t be legal. But will Maggie survive the wedding to Nicholas? Chris Jennings: Don Briscoe. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Nicholas and Maggie agree to marry that night and move to London. Chris attempts to reconcile with his sister, who throws gifts around Windcliff until he agrees to stay and enjoy more of this adorable behavior. As Nicholas performs his satanic wedding ceremony, Chris transforms into a werewolf and kills Mr. Wells, the innkeeper.

Comedies end in weddings and tragedies end in funerals. This does both. Several times over.

A little space guys?
The whole wedding business is not evidence of the Power of Love as much as the Power of Blind Panic. What is the plan, here? Does he think this will buy Satan’s sympathy. “I’m a married man, sir, with a bambino on the way…..”

“Oh, that changes everything.”

Maybe he hopes this will make him blend in. Satan will speak through the mouths of dozens of women, trying to page Nicholas, but he’ll never get to Maggie because he’s looking for a bachelorette, not a married lady. Fooled you, Diabolos! Ha-ha! Then, Nicholas will grab Maggie, untie the end of a chandelier, and go swinging across the balcony on a rope as Diabolos says, “Seize him you, fools! He’s getting away!” But by the time he does, Nicholas is already popping the champagne in his London flat as Maggie slips into either a teddy or a deep-sea, atmospheric diving suit.

I honestly think that’s Nicholas’ plan. And that’s partly because I can see Humbert Allen Astredo doing it. You can, too. Now, try to picture David Ford doing it. You can’t. Weird, huh? And what does Maggie have that’s so special, anyway? To tame a man from hell? It must be something. Everyone thinks that Carolyn gets all of the weird guys, but Maggie holds her own. Let’s compare…

CAROLYN                         MAGGIE
Buzz                         Barnabas
Tony                         Nicholas
Adam                         Probably Quentin
And, kind of, her own uncle.

Okay, I take it back. Carolyn does get more of the weird ones. But Maggie tests well in the all-important Male Vampire and Satanist (ages 35-197) demographic. But they weren’t counting those then, and that’s why Star Trek was canceled.

It’s a marvelous episode, and I now have the recording of Nicholas conducting his own wedding ceremony to use as the backdrop for my own, if I ever find that special lady. I don’t necessarily mean “special” in a Bailey Jay manner, although now that I read that, I realize that I just made myself sound like a bigot. Okay, Bailey Jay, too, I suppose. I’m just talking about someone who’d actually marry me. And after this column comes out, I think that’s going to be a very rarified circle. So what I’m saying is that if you want your own occult wedding to me, you need to send your top three reasons why and a SASE to I have the blood of the raven and the blood of the bat, but you’re going to have to swing by Top Hat Liquors to get some blood of the owl, because I ran through all of mine when I gave that Eagle scout speech for the heir to a urinal cake manufacturing empire. (Which is partially a true story.)

Bobbi Ann Woronko and Robert Rodan. 
Conrad Bain.
Beauty queen, former Miss Pennsylvania, and fan contest winner, Conrad Bain, returns to steam up the screen on Dark Shadows as Mr. Wells, despite being deemed by network censors as “too frank and erotic” for some viewers. Also, keep your eyes peeled for Nurse Pritchett, played by the heartwarming Canadian character actor, Bobbi Ann Woronko. Okay, the names are scrambled around. And I doubt the network censors said that about Nurse Pritchett, although she’s easy on the eyes. Maybe she’ll marry me. It could be that it’s not Conrad Bain at all, but his twin brother, Bonar. Research this and come back to me.

Exactly as petulant and demanding as you’d expect, Denise Nickerson makes her debut today as either Molly or Amy. They can’t seem to figure out which. Molly was probably related to Julius Hoffman, who was played by Bonar Bain. It all comes full circle in a Jeremy Bearimy kind of way.

Speaking of bears, Chris turns into a werewolf and kills Conrad Bain.

Only the good die young.

This episode was broadcast Nov. 26, 1968. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: November 14


Taped on this day in 1967: Episode 366

When a seance thrusts Vicki back in time to the year 1795, will she alter history or be its cause? Sarah Collins: Sharon Smyth. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Mid-seance, Vicki finds herself in front of the Old House in the year 1795, where she meets a youthful Barnabas and Sarah, all quite human. They mistake her for Sarah’s governess and bring her in despite her protests. She later meets a skirtchasing officer, Nathan Forbes, and Joshua Collins, who elects to hire her. 

1795. If you’re a real fan, you may not remember where you were when you heard that the show was headed there, but you might recall how you felt. 

For me, it was a unique kind of excitement, and it was when I knew that Dark Shadows offered something beyond a one-off, fluke experiment… that strangeness that was Barnabas Collins. Shows sometimes stumble onto something like that. This was a promise by Dan Curtis that for once, there was a program on which anything could happen. Legitimately. When learning about the strange series through Fangoria and oral tradition, the 1795 flashback was the first thing I discovered. In a world of endless franchise milking, this may be nothing special. But in 1967, just seven months after the appearance of Barnabas Collins, this was an insane thing to do. TV was largely devoid of costume dramas -- unless they involved chaps, leather vests, and masks. Oh, and they also did a lot of westerns. But Masterpiece Theater was still four years from TV. It’s one thing to do a costume party episode. It’s another to ask writers and audiences to abandon the narrative creature comforts of cars, phones, cigarettes, and hospital scenes. Fortunately, Dark Shadows kept these at a minimum, anyway. In planning this, I have a feeling that Dan’s main concern was if he’d have to hire a string quartet to play “#1 at the Blue Whale” at the Eagle. 

A study of the history of show business is a study in the word “no,” especially toward good ideas. The more familiar you are with this, the more extraordinary Dark Shadows becomes. It’s a net-free highwire act that defines itself by disregarding conventional wisdom. Every place that they could have played it safe, they didn’t. Even down to 1841 PT, where they threw out every known character, an act that mirrored the thinking behind Night of Dark Shadows. Did it kill the show? Maybe. But there would have been no show to kill without the very same thinking. A vampire on TV is incredibly bold. Taking that show to depict his origin, with an entirely new slate of characters in another time period? For months? That investment is programming suicide. Unless it isn’t. And it wasn’t.

The move makes the program crackle with novel possibility. Sy Tomashoff, as always, is to be congratulated. Sets designed to look ancient feel new… so new that the idea of Collinwood seems vaguely premature. They even sound new. It may be my imagination, but when Vicki enters Collinwood, it actually sounds like the door of an empty under-construction house nearing completion. If that’s just the power of suggestion, he deserves even more credit. The Old House seems spanking new, and heretofore unseen areas, such as Vicki’s bedroom, give the place a sense of new possibility and grandeur. At every turn, novelty. 366 gives us what we wanted for months, whether we knew it or not. Joel Crothers confirms our suspicions as he and the show take off the gloves and portray a (so-far) lovable cad with an aptitude for eyebrow-arching normally seen only by graduates from Starfleet Academy. At this point, he seems like a prime ally, if a little grabby, and that’s a solid set-up for a fall. Seeing Sarah alive and well is as unavoidably heartwarming as you’d imagine, and her vaguely psychic prognostication of Vicki is an eerie detail they vaguely avoid later on. I enjoy seeing a progressive take on Naomi and Joshua, in which she’s always encouraged to speak her mind, and Abigail is always present to accuse others of booziness and other shortcomings. 

The inevitable question is, “What about Barnabas?” 

Jonathan Frid goes into Buster Brown overdrive to sell his wide-eyed, naive, innocence. There are subtle notes of Eddie Haskell to his first exchange with Vicki… notes drowned out by his overall sincerity. Seeing Barnabas warmly lit and made-up, sans the empty and bitter loss that will define his future debut, is exciting and heartbreaking. Barnabas often has paranoid fears or prideful aspirations that seems out of touch with reality. And that’s after the change. Here, we see him with the same sense of baseless optimism. Like the audience of a Shakespeare tragedy, we know that this quality will lead to his downfall. Dark Shadows is rarely more bittersweet.

This episode was broadcast Nov. 20, 1967. 

Review: The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries Series 2, “The Mystery of the Soulmates Hotel”


It is the brain, the little grey SPOILERS AHEAD on which one must rely. One must seek the truth within-not without.

“A creature from an unknown Hell dimension breaks into our world to run a MATCHMAKING service?!” “Well, everyone’s got to have a hobby…”

Get the episode HERE.
Hello again, creeps! It is your old friend Justin. Back at it again in my cramped vestibule of an “office”, hunched over my roll top, typing into a void, and desperately seeking some kind of contact to the outside world. I mean, reviewing audio adventures set in my not at all haunted hometown! HA! HA! We have fun here. In all honesty, this weekend was tough for me and while I avoided a stint in Windcliffe (THIS time) I want to thank you all for your patience with me as the new guy and for all the kind words and suggestions the community has offered since I’ve come on. Fandom isn’t always the horrid sludge pits you read about online and the Dark Shadows (and Big Finish Productions staff and fans) fandoms is a sterling example of how fandom can be such a welcoming and rewarding thing. Or everyone is secretly talking about me behind my back WHO KNOWS?! But from the bottom of my heart, thanks for making a yokel like me feel welcome.

Anyway, enough of my millennial touchy-feely nonsense, because boy, oh boy, do we have a treat of an episode to talk about today. The closing story of The Tony & Cassandra Mysteries Series 2, “The Mystery of the Soulmates Hotel” by Grace Knight! A little bit ago, I wanna say like a week or so, one of the Big Finish staffers, I can’t quite remember which, said that they were honestly shocked at how crazy this series of Tony & Cassandra was. At the time, I took it in stride, thinking “Okay, well that sounds fun.”. And then, holy cats, they were bloody right. Not only does this finale story have genuine heart and a cracking central mystery, but Grace Knight’s script completely explodes the scale of the series, sending our heroes bounding across TIME ITSELF, like some sort of unholy Doctor Who spin-off. After last episode’s intimate, but truly clever concept, “The Mystery of the Soulmates Hotel” sends Series 2 off on what could be it’s strongest episodes to date.

So before we dive into the episode’s core conceit and bananas cliffhanger (which can only be described as “cruel”), I want to talk about this episode’s not-so-secret weapon; it’s heart. Turned onto the Bar Harbor singles resort by a concerned friend of a missing former client, Tony and Cassandra go undercover as lovelorn singles, desperate to find their soulmates. On paper it sounds very Moonlighting, but Knight’s script really delves into genuine emotions here, with the whole cast, providing genuine pathos to enrich the supernatural intrigue, which is already pretty freaking rich to begin with. But these stories in particular have really endeared me to Tony and Cassandra’s relationship, amplified by Lara Parker and Jerry Lacy’s tremendous chemistry. While this episode may have not provided quite the closure I want (JUST KISS ALREADY), Knight’s story felt like a proper emotional payoff for them.

May I also just say, I am sincerely astounded by the way these Big Finish stories have integrated queer characters and relationships into their folds? In a time where major television and film productions are clumsily fumbling around with or coyly sidestepping the issue altogether while at the same time queer-baiting the absolute bloody hell out of an audience, stories like this one and Bloodlust and probably a whole bunch of others I haven’t even heard yet are just casually, and organically weaving gay characters into their narratives and making it look EASY. There is a lot to love about these productions but this has to be one of the biggest things for me.

And I haven’t even gotten to the best bit! That Tony and Cassandra basically act out a Doctor Who episode! It turns out the big bag of this episode, the stoically psychotic Mrs. Hill (played with relish by Abi Harris) is extracting the attribute of a person’s personality that means the most to them in exchange for depositing them in TIME through enchanted rooms in her sprawling hotel. Oh, she also EATS the personality trait in the form of a flesh pearl. Friggen nuts, right?! I knew that time travel wasn’t exactly something that was off the table in the Dark Shadows universe, but seeing it deployed in the fairly grounded sandbox of this series was a real hoot. One that pretty much allows this show free reign when it comes to stories from now on. This episode ends with a particularly juicy cliffhanger that shows that they are at least planning to run with the craziness. Series 2 really sticks the landing but stands ready to hit the ground running once again once Series 3 comes round.

I really can’t wait, but for now I am happy with how “The Mystery of the Soulmates Hotel” ends the series. Even if I do have to wait another year until I find out just what the hell happens. I suppose for now we can just be happy with the stellar audio adventures. Being a Dark Shadows fan is such a hard lot in life, isn’t it? And that is another beat walked for your humble narrator! And I hope you had just as much fun walking it with me! If you didn’t, take it up with the head office. I just work here.

Until next time, please please please send along any suggestions you might have about what I should listen to or read or watch next! I actually have a TV in my room over at the Collinsport Inn so I can watch stuff! It even has TWO knobs! Can ya believe it?! I have also heard some chatter about me tackling more of the “1983” stories post-Bloodlust, which would be fun to hear before Bloodline comes out (but keep your eyes peeled for something special possibly happening for that particular serial, my good ghouls). Admittedly, I have had my eye on one or two of the “1973” series myself. Stories like Beyond the Grave, starring my beloved, doomed Kate Ripperton and The House by the Sea starring my favorite classic Doctor (don’t @ me) Colin Baker. It is an embarrassment of dark riches, friends, but I wanna hear what YOU think either by e-mail or Twitter, or Facebook, or even dark words on dark wings. I am pretty sure we have a rookery here.

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.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: November 13


Taped on this day in 1968: Episode 628

With Nicholas falling head over heels and Angelique getting a little too cozy, Diabolos finds that the water may be too hot even for him! Diabolos: Duane Morris. (Repeat; 30 min.)

In a shadowy underworld, Angelique rats on Nicholas to a cloaked figure named Diabolos. He puts her in charge of Nicholas’ punishment. Meanwhile, Julia reveals  Eve’s death to Nicholas. He relates this to Adam, and it seems as if they might need to leave town. Suddenly, a hypnotized Maggie appears and from her mouth, Diabolos tells him that his trial is imminent. 

And now, Diabolos. And by “Diabolos,” I mean Satan.

In an era when horror is chic, it can be hard to remember exactly how taboo the genre once was. Even in parts of the American south of 1997, it was far easier to find secular school teachers afraid to put up witch/ghost/skeleton Halloween decorations than it was to buy a devil costume. So, crank the WayBack Machine thirty years, and the rural reactions to Dark Shadows are sadly predictable. Parts of the country bullied TV stations into censoring the program and Jack Chick’s minions festooned windshields with tracts against the show. 

It’s an occasionally free country, so good for them. And good for Dan Curtis and ABC for doubling down. No one’s going to cite the appearance of “Diabolos” as a profound blow for civil liberties on the level of Captain Kirk kind of kissing Uhura, except....

You know, any time someone tells you not to do something, and they tell you not to do it because of reasons you can’t see, smell, or poke with a stick? It can be considered a cosmic obligation to do it. Even if they called him “Diabolos,” his appearance was a political statement. It was a rejection of the reasons that many people objected to the show. Normally, storytellers avoid pulling out their biggest guns. Doing so leaves them no other place to go. But not only was it a bold gesture of narrative, “going there” was about as eeevil as you could get. Once that went on the air and no one was fired, Curtis was pretty much safe to do anything else.

It doesn’t hurt that Diabolos is a ludicrous figure, dressed in a monk’s robe and seated behind a desk on a little dais, like the host of a Vatican game show. I know what they were going for -- a kind of ancient-yet-neutral officiousness. To either side of the desk in the smoky, wrought iron hellcave, little gargoyles adorn his workspace, making me wonder if he picked them out himself or if he had a decorator find them in the Infernal equivalent of Hobby Lobby. He’s a tall guy, and he doesn’t have much leg room under his desk. Does this bother him? Is it for his posture, because if so, it’s working.

Diabolos is also irritable at being disturbed, but takes appointments, anyway. He doesn’t get the latest news. He begins sentences with things like, “From what I know….” What? “From what I know?” What kind of underworld overlord is he? He can’t keep tabs on things better than that? He has no real idea what Nicholas is up to, staying ignorant of his ace agent having an affair behind his back. Then, he fumblingly trusts Angelique, despite her being on secret double probation, to punish him? For a guy who wants a master race to rule humanity, Diabolos seems like he’s just going through the motions nowadays. He even sounds bored.

Which is great. For all of the snarling, ranting, cursing, howling, and blood spurting that we could see the devil doing, instead, he’s just a guy at a desk, like any other network executive. If he had a putting set or a Newton’s cradle, with those four balls that rocked back and forth, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Later, when he contacts Nicholas, he has to go through Maggie’s mouth to do so, which is another piece of bureaucracy that must frustrate him. It turns the show into a supernatural Get Smart episode, which works, since Humbert Astredo sounds like Don Adams. At least he gets his own lighting, which is, predictably, red. Of course, why he gives Nicholas a day to prepare for judgment is beyond me. Not much to do in hell, I suppose, so he has to stretch it out.  I know I would.

This episode was broadcast Nov. 20, 1968. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: November 12


Taped on this day in 1968: Episode 627

WIll questions of life, death, Adam, and Eve send Angelique into the arms of Satan, himself? Victoria Winters: Alexandra Moltke. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Peter is seized by the police when Eve’s body is found outside his hotel room. Angelique assures Adam that it was for the best, and the blame will hang on others. Julia starts when Tom Jennings’ twin brother, Chris, arrives to investigate the happenings in Collinsport, but implies that he doesn’t stay in one place for long. Meanwhile, Angelique prepares for Nicholas’ departure by consulting the devil.

This is Alexandra Moltke’s last episode and Chris Jennings’ first. The show passes the baton very neatly and subtly in this episode. It is a great sport to split the program into two different parts, somewhat because there are dozens of “two different parts” in the series. Fewer divisions are more dramatic than what occurred during the exit of the leading actress, the woman who gave life to the character around whom your series is built. No, the character didn’t go away, but the fuse was certainly lit. At this point, chicken truly meets egg. Did the progression and evolution in tone edge out Victoria Winters, or was that tonal change allowed only by her eventual absence? I lean towards the latter. Even though the show had already ascended to the loftiest heights of daytime imagination, it seemed cosmically obligated to return to Vicki. Makes sense. She was kinda the main character, after all, intended to be a spunky problem solver and audience surrogate. While she certainly served as that very surrogate, there’s only so much that a naive orphan can do in the face of witches and vampires.  If you keep having to ground your story in the adventures and perspective of a character whose most famous and oft-repeated line insists that she doesn’t understand, your story can only do so much. She was great for observing the dual lives of Roger and Liz. But in a world where people negotiate business transactions with Diablos? She’s understandably lost. Yes, but perhaps she could be a constant victim? Always in peril? Maybe, but even in that case, a victim tests the victimizer. The more difficult someone is to manipulate and ensnare, the more we respect the captor.

This story arc is devoted to negotiating away those characters — the ones who either cannot accept the supernatural, like Joe, or the ones who simply have no business getting near it, like Victoria. It kills him, consumes her, and makes Barnabas feel right at home. The occasional ghost or psychotic groundskeeper is one thing. But now, characters with paranormal business are overrunning everyone else. Remember back when it was just Laura? Well, now it’s Barnabas, Julia, Angelique, Stokes, Nicholas, Adam, Eve, Jeff, Chris. and Diabolos. None of these characters were around when Vicki first arrived in Collinsport. With the exception of Chris, each is somehow tied to or triggered by the arrival of Barnabas. Dark Shadows began as a fish out of water story and remains such. It’s just that the biggest fish, furthest out of water, is becoming Barnabas. (When it isn’t Quentin, Jeb, or Julia.)

The first, great, post-Victoria story is the Haunting of Collinwood arc, heralding the arrival of Quentin Collins. There is only one episode to feature both Moltke and this storyline, and that’s here. Unfortunately, Moltke and Chris Jennings don’t meet. Chris Jennings belongs nowhere in her universe, nor she in his. He’s arrived to honor the upcoming passing of his cousin, Joe Haskell. Talk about torch passing! Both nice guys. Collinses-and-not-Collinses. Sort of on the sidelines. Both involved with Carolyn. But one is not equipped to deal with a supernatural world and one is a part of it. Even though they are cousins, Joe never earned the attention of Quentin’s ghost. Chris, however,  is a direct enough descendant to merit not only Quentin’s sympathetic murder attempts but also the lycanthropic legacy demanding it.

If the series began with a lost orphan from New York learning about herself as she discovers the intertwined truth of a family up north, it becomes the story of an orphan of time, the ultimate family secret, teaching future generations how to be the best versions of themselves. That begins in earnest with the Quentin storyline, and the Quentin storyline begins today.

This episode was broadcast Nov. 19, 1968.

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