Friday, December 27, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: December 27


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 397

It’s wedding bells for Barnabas and Angelique, but will Barnabas’ dead uncle catch the garter? Reverend Bland: Paul Giles. (Repeat; min.)

Barnabas is predictably mordant in accepting the fact that his bride is missing on the wedding day. He explains this to the reverend while rationalizing away the various haunted events from Jeremiah that interfere with the pre-nuptial wait. Meanwhile, Angelique is nearly buried alive by the ghost of Jeremiah, before the presence of Ben Stokes grants a reprieve. At the wedding, more cursed events take place, and despite the wine turning to blood, they marry. The wedding night is disrupted by Josette’s music box and the sight of a mocking Jeremiah.

Predictably, the social event of the year is also one of the most hilarious as the Dark Shadows writers have their wedding cake and smear it over the faces of proper expectations at the same time. They’ve always excelled at mixing horror with the ridiculous and the sublime, depicting situations that are monstrous for the characters, frightening for most audiences, and blackly satirical for the cast and savvier viewers. Best of all, the characters in 397 are vastly aware of this — especially Barnabas and Ben. And with Paul Giles’ doddering Reverend Bland, it’s infinitely clear that Sam Hall does, as well. Grayson Hall is clearly a woman of deep wit, and a script like this could only have come from the guy she chose to keep up with her. Considering that, it’s not so much admirable that the show allowed itself these sardonic side quests, it’s more amazing that it reserved them for, you know, weddings.

In the midst of it all is Angelique getting a taste of her own gris gris with the twisted genie of Jeremiah refusing to go back into the bottle. (With this monkey’s paw, I thee wed….) Of course, it leads her to pledge to do only good, which is what one often does after nearly being buried alive. And, of course, all it takes is Barnabas clutching Josette’s music box like Darren McGavin with the Leg Lamp to lead her away from the pledge and back into fiery jealousy.

This is all after Jonathan Frid’s bone dry Canadian wit gets a thorough workout alongside Reverend Bland, who struggles to find anything good to say, including wildly inaccurate statements about the admirable loyalty shown between the Collinses. Barnabas keeps his straightest face ever, explaining away breezes coming from closed windows, etc, like a Benny Hill character on a date with a flatulently deflating love doll hidden in the closet. Jeremiah does his best to ruin the wedding, and it’s proper vengeance for a ghost who’s been through what he has. If anyone shares the hero spot of the episode, it’s the villain, which is par for the Collinsport course.

This is a wedding I used to forget about when I would see the entire show over the course of years. However, it’s perhaps one of the three or four most pivotal moments of the mythos. Setting up a payoff that no one knew would come in the 1840 storyline, it’s a wedding of two people who love each other despite every reason not to, and Lara Parker and Jonathan Frid pull off the ambiguity with humanity that transcends common sense. In other words, a wedding. And it’s not so horrible that it nukes their relationship in the long run. If anything, it strengthens it. It’s one of those shared disasters which bonds people rather than atomize them. And it’s exactly the disaster that (and you knew this was coming) would be my focus if I were King of Big Finish. They’ve taken the stories in another direction, and I can’t complain. However, an episode of after dinner tales… imagine it. Because these are the stories the grandkids finally hear when they come back from college and can have that cognac after the meal, pulling it off like they’ve always done so. Maggie and Quentin get misty eyed talking about their nude wedding at Club Med, laughing at the fact that the only attendees were Roger Collins (who insisted) and Willie Loomis (who was inexplicably there at the time). Then, of course, the kids ask about Barnabas and Angelique’s wedding. And they laugh. Protest. Roll their eyes. And tell the story. And it ends sentimentally. Which it should. Because it was all worth it.

And there are moments of warmth in the episode that ring with inevitability. Naomi, never the snob, accessorizing Angelique’s wedding dress. Ben Stokes, the first and last man standing now the best man, as well. Because, as Barnabas says, he is. In every sense in 1795, he truly is.

I’m 48 and unmarried. Episode 397 is a checklist of the good and bad that will need to happen before I am. Well, maybe not all of it. But you get the idea.

This episode hit the airwaves Jan. 2, 1968.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The CHS Holiday Gift Guide is finally here!

I'm here to make your holiday season spooky. 

If you’re shopping for a special someone or just want to treat yourself to something twisted, gothic and maybe even a little disturbing for Christmas, I've got you covered. We're enduring one of our perioidic dry spells when it comes to Dark Shadows, but that doesn't mean we've got to fast. Below is a list of all sorts of spooky gifts, ranging from magazines, print and audio books, and even a little original artwork by yours truely.

Just about anybody can give a Christmas gift at Christmas. But who among you has the courage to give a Christmas gift in February? How about March? If you're an iconoclast who walks to a beat of their own drummer, you can get that special someone one of the new editions of the Dark Shadows novels by Marilyn Ross scheduled for release early next year. Both are available for pre-order at Amazon HERE. Dare to be different!

While we're on the subject: It's hard to believe that the first audiobook adaption of the Marilyn Ross paperbacks by Marilyn Ross was released just six months ago. Since then 11 more have hit the market, all of them read by original cast member Kathryn Leigh Scott. Number 13 in the series, Barnabas Collins and the Mysterious Ghost, is scheduled for release Jan. 13. At this rate the entire 32-book series will be available by the end of 2020.

Here's a list of the audio books available now on Amazon:

#1 Dark Shadows
#2 Victoria Winters
#3 Strangers at Collins House
#4 The Mystery of Collinwood
#5 The Curse of Collinwood
#6 Barnabas Collins
#7 The Secret of Barnabas Collins
#8 The Demon of Barnabas Collins
#9 The Foe of Barnabas Collins
#10 The Phantom and Barnabas Collins
#11 Barnabas Collins Versus the Warlock
#12 The Peril of Barnabas Collins

Big Finish has been producing original Dark Shadows audiodramas since (checks notes) ... 2006?! The most recent, a third volume of the bonkers Tony & Cassandra Mysteries series, was released in October. If you're looking for something a little more traditional, though, I'd suggest Dark Shadows: Blood & Fire, a 50th anniversary special that dives deep into the mythology of The Phoenix, the television show's first supernatural villain. The double CD set will absolutely NOT arrive in time for Christmas, but a digital download is immediately available with the purchase. (Or you can just get someone the digital version and bypass the physical edition entirely.) You can find Blood & Fire at Big Finish HERE.

Patrick McCray has been writing The Dark Shadows Daybook feature for this website since 2016. While recently talking about the possibility of publishing some kind of print edition of the Daybook, the two of us crunched the numbers: in three years he's written 237,925 words for the Daybook. That's 586 pages of text at 11 pt. type ... without any kind of formatting. It's the equivalent of a novel, for which he's been paid a whopping zero dollars.

What does this have to do with anything? Lots and lots of people have become accustomed to getting written content for free. News, research, critical analysis, movie reviews ... the value of many forms of communication has plummted during the last decade. It's almost impossible to get anyone to leave their "free" Facebook bubble. Example: When I've suggested that folks subscribe to the new incarnation of Fangoria it's been met with complaints about the cost. "$80 for four issues? Good LAWD!" someone will reply, most likely a person that wouldn't subscribe even if the price was $20 a year. If this observation pisses you off, guess what? You might be that person!

If you're still reading this, I can't recommend Fangoria enough. It always feels like Christmas whenever a new issue arrives in my mailbox. Publishing in the 21st century treats its content with a scattershot sort of desperation -- trying to be everything to everyone in every medium -- but Fangoria holds its content sacred. You won't find the stories printed in its pages anywhere online. It's a pure experience.

You can pick up a subscription to Fangoria for a loved one at

Here's the official logline for the band Wolfmen of Mars: "Making music that combines the electronic analog sounds of the 70s-80s and mixing them with heavy grooves. A soundtrack for late night driving or space travel." What that summary leaves out is that the Wolfmen are very, very cool. I've been a fan for a while now and the lack of Dark Shadows merch currently available gives me the chance to finally brag about them here. You can find most of their catalog online at Bandcamp, and the rest of it on Amazon and Burning Witch Records.

Damn, I love Shudder. There are a lot of streaming services available but this is the only one that feels legitimately curated. Too many streaming channels just feel like a bunch of stuff that's just available, the product on the unstoppable ebb and flow of mass media releases. Shudder actually puts thought into their catalog, going so far as to invite people like Kirk Hammett of Metallica and Barbara Crampton as guest curators. You can get a week of Shudder for free, after which it's just $5.99 a month. Get started here:

Hey, look! It's me! (At least it's my work, anyway.) Earlier this year I had the honor of designing the poster for a special Dark Shadows event for the Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival. I've got two versions of the poster available: one version with typography and one that's just the art. You can get 11x17 prints of them both at I'll even sign them for you, if you like. (Warning: My handwriting is shockingly awful.)

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: December 9


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 646

When Collinwood’s newest and oldest guest reveals himself, will there still be room for Roger? Quentin: David Selby. (Repeat; 30 min.)

David and Amy encounter the ghosts of Quentin and Beth, who telepathically instruct them to bury Quentin’s bones and then set up a tripwire for Roger on the stairs, which works. Perhaps lethally.

It may be the most awaited day in Dark Shadows history. The build up had been going on for several weeks. Today, we meet Quentin Collins. And few men just kind of stand there and look sharp with the same kind of benevolent and sybaritic menace as David Selby.

As smartalec as that sounds, it’s also true. That’s all the man needs to do to establish his presence. And stand, he does.

It was clear that something was coming. It was clear that he was named Quentin. And it was clear that it was the next big direction for the story because, let’s face it, Don Briscoe is too nice of a guy. Unlike the arrival of Barnabas, Quentin was coming into a series where anything could happen. That did a lot of the work for David Selby, but it also raised expectations meteorically. Quentin’s first appearance is a masterpiece of performance focus, lighting, makeup, and costume design. The accompaniment of Beth, lit beautifully because she barely had to move, is even more powerful because it puts this mystery man into a context. He has followers. He has a team. Unlike the accident that was Barnabas, he exists as the result of a campaign. And every time David visits, he grows more powerful, thus reinforcing every warning that kids ever got about goin’ too near the white van driven by the guy with muttonchops.

The show has it both ways on several accounts. The more Quentin moves, the more he reveals potentials and limitations. So he plays it as motionlessly as possible. It’s an old stage trick. When blocking a play, the less a character moves, the more powerful they are. All of Selby’s work is with the eyes, and the muttonchops direct and intensify them magnificently. The production also satisfies twin agendas by allowing Quentin to remain a silent cypher and still communicate, by speaking through David. When David tries on the Victorian clothes, he speaks as if he were Quentin, but the line between Quentin and Beth and David and Amy is wildly questionable. Is it Quentin or David or David-through-Quentin or David-empowered-by-Quentin who says that he was bound to get revenge for how both of them had been treated?

It’s a fantastically allusive line of dialogue. Maybe Quentin is speaking about himself and Beth, and how they were treated by ancestors… perhaps he doesn’t know they are dead. Or perhaps Roger and Elizabeth enact some bizarre legacy of which David is ignorant. Maybe David and Quentin see themselves as marginalized members of the family, brothers-under-the-shroud, and are striking out. Maybe David is speaking for himself and Amy. maybe it’s all of the above, and that’s why they were chosen. David did not discover Quentin. Quentin simply waited for the right one.

Because the right ones were watching every day. And god help their parents if they didn’t have a release like Dark Shadows.

It’s a cliché among fans of a certain age that they “ran home from school to watch dark shadows.“ It’s a very true cliché however. 646 really twists that cliche by very authentically representing and addressing those fans. They are finally the heroes, investigating the unknown and taking charge of discovering what others had been too lackadaisical to discover. And they are also the villains, being moved by an entirely new figure who didn’t just deal with them as curious happenstances, but as the target of their interests.  It’s easy to forget the sense of constant pain and unfairness that sits with an aware child, and I don’t think it’s going very far to say that dark shadows fans are, if anything, aware. Both David and Amy are only children, growing up with adults who treated them — almost — as equals, because how else are they to address them? But they are inconvenient, unwise adults, and children like David and Amy are aware of this, also. Before, the show focused this kind of interest entirely on how dangerous and random a kid like this could be. David trying to kill his father is absolutely nothing new. But now, we see this from Davis’s point of view, also. If an adult is encouraging him to kill, there must suddenly, finally be a rational reason.

Yes? No. But David’s rage at Roger has been assuaged for some time. Or has it? It doesn’t take much for Quentin to inspire more of it. Roger complains about David to Liz throughout the episode, and that’s a chicken-and-egg passive aggression that a kid is going to notice. When Roger wonders if he made a mistake letting that child into the house, Liz asks if he means Amy. She wouldn’t ask if “David” were not a likely answer as well. The storyline has a very political message between parent and child, because the tension between Roger and David has improved, yes, but maybe not healed. Roger has yet to contemplate losing him, and David has yet to see whether Roger cares. Quentin was rejected by Jamison, who believed that he didn’t care, either. If he sees David as Jamison and Roger as the nearest adult in the lad’s life, somewhere between himself and Edward, then perhaps this is to prove to the Jamison spirit that an adult can care. Even Roger.

Ghosts have strange logic. But it’s clear there is a logic. How will it involve Barnabas? Or will Barnabas go away? The questions in the era were heady as the show revs up for 1969, its greatest year and when the downfall -- very quietly -- began.

This episode hit the airwaves Dec. 16, 1968.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Monster Serial is dead. Long live Unlovely Frankenstein!

Monster Serial, a leading international provider of digital art and critical writing about cinéma d'horreur, today announced the its rebrand to Unlovely Frankenstein. The comprehensive rebrand elevates the focus of recent efforts to shift away from publishing, and includes a new logo, positioning, and website.

Sounds official, doesn't it? I cribbed much of that text from a press release about a corporate  rebranding initiative. Somebody actually thinks people talk like that. But there's a method to my madness, so bear with me a moment. This is going someplace.

The moving parts that make up Unlovely Frankenstein have been sliding into place during the last four weeks and, for the most part, the transition has been a smooth one. The Etsy store now has its own dedicated domain -- -- and the branding of the Tumblr account now reflects the name change. (Unlovely Frankenstein even has it's own Spotify playlist!) Monster Serial hasn't been a vital part of this website for several years. Our last book was published in 2016, but I've continued to use Facebook and Tumblr pages for the brand to discuss horror movies and share the artwork I create that's unrelated to Dark Shadows.

But it's time to make that change formal. Monster Serial and The Collinsport Historical Society have had little to do with each other for a while now, so I'm taking out a hacksaw and separating these conjoined monsters. Because the recent focus of Monster Serial has been primarily on artwork instead of critical writing and publishing, a name change is necessary. I settled on Unlovely Frankenstein for a variety of reasons. The new name is in keeping with the tongue-in-cheek vibe of our established web presence so that our online followers know we aren't playing some elaborate shell game with them. The content will not be changing; if anything, the rebranding is going to revitalize our social media accounts. The new name is also unique and it should make finding the accounts relatively easy.

But why the monicker "Unlovely Frankenstein"? You can thank Jonathan Frid for that, at least indirectly. When being compared to classic horror actors, Frid was more often compared to Boris Karloff than Bela Lugosi. I've always wondered what Frid would have done with the part of Frankenstein's monster, the eloquent, violent philosopher as depicted in the Mary Shelley novel.

The rest of the name came from a rude comment made about Frid in a 1969 profile in the Canadian magazine McLean's, which referred to him as an "unlovely Canadian bachelor." I've always thought it was a weird thing to say about somebody, and I'm not sure I've ever heard the word elsewhere. It's somehow elegant and vulgar at the same time, the kind of word used by people who get punched in the face a lot. It seemed a perfect fit for my (sometimes obnoxious) artwork.

So there you have it. The Collinsport Historical Society isn't going anywhere, and this divorce will only help to increase our focus on Dark Shadows. In order to get all of our social media accounts in order, though, a formal announcement had to be drafted. If you're a Dark Shadows fanatic this might be the first time you're hearing about Unlovely Frankenstein. If so, head on over to our shop and look around! You can find us here:

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Dorothy Fontana (1939-2019)

She wrote a show about labels not mattering. And sometimes, labels matter, anyway. Hers did.

Symbolic of authority. Trustworthiness. The Final Word. But also complexity, choice, due process, and something essential to the apotheosis of the Enlightenment:


People called her Dorothy, but her voice was not that of a little girl lost and longing for Kansas. No, the voice belonged to DC, with all of the best that implies. Yes, yes, adopted because of industry sexism that said women had no place writing for television. (Unless you’re Violet Welles.) But it worked.

She wrote westerns. Medical programs. Martial arts stories. Period dramas and, of course, soaps. And even though she started off not being much on science fiction, her imagination, work ethic, and authorial prowess made her, arguably, the most valuable player on Gene Roddenberry’s team for the first two seasons of Star Trek (including the second episode), the inception of The Next Generation (co-writing or writing the first three hours of the show), and beyond to DS9 and Star Trek’s grumpy, beatnik neighbor, Babylon 5. (The latter of which is no more related to the Trek family as Ronan Farrow is to the Sinatras.) As consistently and doggedly as St. Gene Coon, she worked in the shadow of Roddenberry and others, actually delivering the final frontier and creating much of the core mythos. Not all of her episodes are standouts; some are timeclocking examples of filling airtime because RCA’s new color tv’s aren’t going to sell themselves. But they all are solid storytelling, solidly delivered, and help to give Star Trek the weekly substance to keep going. And that’s selling her short, so let’s not. As the author of “Journey to Babel,” she gave us the best parts of Spock and Sarek and the Vulcan culture not yet given to us by Gene Coon. Was responsible for popularizing the cloaking device. Helped to rescue “City on the Edge of Forever.” Fontana had an innate sense of dramatic stakes, pace, and gravitas while humanizing the characters with a uniquely sensitive and witty ear for dialogue. Many of Spock and Sarek’s exchanges in “Journey to Babel” cut terribly close.

Her best work for me is “This Side of Paradise.” Like “The Naked Time,” it uses the forced removal of inhibitions as a shortcut to learn about the characters. The nature of Kirk’s loss as he stands alone and helpless on the Enterprise, packed to reluctantly join the Spock and the crew, who’ve abandoned duty for happiness, is one of the show’s most quietly resonant images. Having established the Kirk/Spock dynamic, she twists it in the episode until we see that Kirk is the joyless adherent to order while Spock is the passionate and sybaritic half of the duo. Always have been. In the end, Kirk confronts his limited capacity for authentic joy while Spock must return to pretending he has none. There is too much truth here. It’s an episode of sweet joy, sad loss, and a solid meditation on the futility of drugs and easy escapes. If the characters are important to you, it’s mandatory viewing and poignant to a degree that eluded most TV shows of the era… and our own.

It’s also indicative of the kind of pop cultural nuttiness that Fontana would accidentally create… more than once. The episode became the basis for the Leonard Nimoy-written-and-sung song, “Once I Smiled,” which seems to be based on the episode. In it, you hear Nimoy say “monkey pup.” Thanks, Dorothy!

She was also at the center of a weird Catwoman crossover regarding Star Trek. In two separate episodes, she insinuates Catwomen into Kirk’s life. Julie Newmar appears in “Friday’s Child,” and Lee Meriwether appears in “That Which Survives.” Coincidence? We’re one Eartha Kitt away from a David Icke lecture. So, you tell me. Maybe it somehow connected to space hippies.   

In the “The Way to Eden,” she proved that she was totally not Herbert. You’re Herbert. She’s not Herbert. But you, you’re totally Herbert. In it, we got Charles Napier as the, yes, space hippie Adam who’s gonna crack his knuckles and jump for joy, because he got a clean bill of health from Dr. McCoy. This is writing. And I mean that. Sometimes you’re profound. Sometimes you’re paying the bills. Sometimes, in between, at the crossroads of deadlines and staying relevant, you make space hippies. She was a working writer, and there’s no apology for that. It’s what made her a spiritual kin to the writers of Star Trek’s “cousin show,” Dark Shadows, which explored many of the same themes of otherness and tolerance in the TV fantasy boom of the late Sixties.

She would have been right at home with the crossover between the shows. Kathryn Leigh Scott did it with TNG’s finest episode (yes, I said it), “Who Watches the Watchers.” Mitch Ryan did it with BMX armor on in “The Icarus Factor.” Art Wallace went so far as to sneak off to do a backdoor pilot in “Assignment: Earth.” And it goes both ways. Rob Bowman, a seasoned TNG director, slipped over to Greystone to direct two episodes of the 1991 Dark Shadows. That was before he helped to ruin the 2004 pilot of the WB Dark Shadows by abandoning it to direct Elektra.

You know who didn’t ruin the 2004 pilot to the WB Dark Shadows? You know who didn’t direct Elektra? Yep. Dorothy Fontana.

She was more than just that. Voice of reason. Consummate professional and storyteller, it would be easy to speculate that Star Trek would have perished (several times and far too soon) without her ability to dream on demand. Given Star Trek’s influence on the arts, humanities, and sciences, we owe her.

Dorothy is at rest. Long live DC.

- Patrick McCray

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 20


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 633/634

When Nicholas presents Maggie as his Satanic spouse and life force candidate, can Barnabas defeat him before his master race becomes a reality? Barnabas: Jonathan Frid. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Nicholas conducts a black rite that bonds Maggie to him. He takes her to become the life force for Eve. Barnabas, who is already horrified, is made even more so by Maggie’s lovestruck loyalty to Nicholas. As the experiment begins, Maggie’s pain becomes unbearable to watch. Knowing that this is his only chance to end Nicholas once and for all, Barnabas smashes the electrical equipment, killing Eve at last and sending a terrified and powerless Nicholas running. Barnabas gives pursuit with every intent to kill him, but Diabolos claims Nicholas first, as Barnabas laughs at the spectacle. Meanwhile, Maggie revives with Julia, but seems to be in a haze that is connected to her time as a prisoner in the Old House. Will she remember at last? Adam escapes and charges into Collinwood, furious that his mate is no more.

This is the One Where Barnabas Smiles. I mean, really, really smiles. I won’t say he goes all Whoopi Goldberg (in this episode), but he looks robustly happy when Nicholas explodes. I think it happens again in 1897 when he snookers Laura into a trap with the help of Angelique. Normally, Barnabas just looks deeply moved with sincere gratitude at those points when happiness might afflict others.

This is one of my all-time favorite Dark Shadows episodes because of how much progress it shows. Not only does the plot leap with true irreversibility, but the characters change irreversibly as well. Barnabas has two great moments of moral awakening on the show. One is at the beginning of the Adam storyline, while this one is at the end, in this episode. The arc begins when Barnabas is left alone with Jeff Clark, who is about to be mutilated to soften Adam’s appearance. He frees him, although he knows it will probably squash his chances with Vicki. His moral compass is recognized for the first time since Angelique began her campaign. Yes, he continues to help evil enterprises, but a bit like Julia at that point, it is under duress or to serve a larger end. It is in this episode that this stops. He has already selected to choose good over evil, personally. But here, he goes beyond selecting good actions for himself to preventing evil being visited upon others. All told, this is a helluva journey to go on in what, for Barnabas, is about a year (not counting suspended animation) or less from when Angelique cursed him.

The cast is having a disciplined blast in this one, and the writers give them plenty of TNT. Humbert Allen Astredo must have been well loved. His last episode begins with a satanic wedding ceremony and ends with him being consumed by hellfire. In between, he induces coronaries, gloats, wins, loses, and finds that his powers have been sapped. He does almost everything an actor can do in a four hour play yet pulls it off in 23 minutes. Meanwhile, Kathryn Leigh Scott plays both an icy, occult loyalist and a spell-struck Josette as the whammy leaves her. She looks like she’s having a ball as well, and she works in two kinds of menace. Her Kool-Aid drunken loyalty to Nicholas motivates Barnabas by making him equally jealous and mortified.

The man of the hour, however, is Jonathan Frid. Barnabas has spent months in hesitant apprehension. He wrung his hands so much, I’m amazed he graduated from the show with any fingerprints left. However, here he gets to indulge in inner conflict that turns into passionate action. Months of a story finally explodes into seconds of resolution, and Frid seems more refreshed and energetic than he has in months.

The production is wrapping up sweeps and approaching final exams and Christmas break, making it a perfect time to introduce a more family-oriented story (with Amy and Chris) and lay the grounds for the next big thing… Quentin Collins.

This episode was broadcast Nov. 27, 1968.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: November 18


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 631

Nicholas pulls out all the stops, and stakes, when he revives a vampire to ensure the resurrection of a demonic undead vixen to secure a master race for the prince of darkness. Harry Johnson: Craig Slocum. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Nicholas revives Tom as an agent to assist in the revival of Eve. After unsuccessfully attacking Victoria, and after being investigated by his own brother, Chris Jennings, Tom is hunted down by Barnabas who incinerates him in the sunrise.

Dark Shadows 631 could not be any manlier if it were written by Robert Bly and featured a drumming circle of Bill Malloy, Sam Evans, and Istvan. I guess I could like the episode more if you threw in Count Petofi being instructed in Zumba by the curvaceous Chuck Morgan to a tune by Jerry Reed, but other than that, this episode has reached the scientific limit for entertainment. If we experienced any more, it would have the side effects that top scientists warned pilots they would experience if they broke the sound barrier. Especially while wearing that, thank you very much. It’s after Labor Day. Have some decorum, General Yeager. Have some decorum.

It’s a laundry list of delight. (And just to check, has anyone here ever listed their laundry? I haven’t. It’s all I can do to get it into a bag.) first of all, we have not one, but two Don Briscoes, with the revival of Tom being followed hot on the hindpaws of his brother, Chris. What would’ve happened to Chris if Tom had attacked him? Would Chris become all the more powerful? Would the werewolf part neutralize the vampire part? If someone got bit, would they only become a werewolf if they had been bitten during the full moon, or at any point in the lunar cycle? Or does he stop craving blood when he becomes a werewolf? I’m sure they’ve solved this in the Bloodlines portion of Second Life, but who plays that? With our luck, that’s where David Henesy has been all along.

The beginning is terrific, because Nicolas Blair goes to revive Tom Jennings, which he does by pulling the stake out of his heart. And he’s perfectly preserved! He’s just like some kind of human pen and pencil set. Except he’s not human and that’s neither a Ticonderoga in his chest, nor is he just glad to see us. Nicholas warned him that if he should defy him in any way, Tom would be sentenced to eternal damnation. And I guess it’ll really be eternal this time. Not semi-eternal or temporarily-eternal like it was the last time. The inclusion of Tom and Chris in the same episode feels like a kind of stunt, but I admire it, and it’s the sort of muscle flexing that feels like a warm up to the hijinks that would become routine in 1897.

An attack on Victoria leads to Barnabas finally telling her that yes, there are vampires. Now, it’s not like I’m an expert on the series who has gone for long stints writing about it every day. But you know, I would be amazed if Victoria had not gotten the memo of at least a rumor of vampires somewhere along the line. Maybe in 1795 or something? I’m pretty sure she had Barnabas‘s number when she came back. At least, you know, the “cousin.“ Anyway, it’s a new actress in the part so I assume that Barnabas is filling her in as one of the most meta-acts of the series. Speaking of new actresses, it’s time for my annual crush on Betsy Durkin to return. There, I said it. She’s got brains and intensity and, honestly, looks like she has the capacity to understand pretty darn quickly. I’m not comparing her with anyone. Except that she looks a lot like Julia Louis Dreyfus, which is a good thing. But I’m not comparing her with anyone on the show. Or who was on the show. Wink wink. Her brief tenure is a welcome sight for me. And maybe it’s just because of novelty. Even if you have a great homeroom teacher, nothing beats a permissive substitute.

 After Barnabas and Nicholas have words, it feels as if Blake Edwards took over as director. First of all, Nicholas Blair officially becomes the frustrated mirror for Barnabas. Digging up bodies. Assisted by an ineffectual redneck with a phallic name. You can almost see Nicholas thinking, “I knew I signed up for the wrong team. He gets Willie Loomis. The best I get? Harry Johnson. And a useless one, at that.”

Eventually you have, within the same 8 feet of woods, Nicholas and Harry, secretly followed by Barnabas, secretly followed by Tom Jennings. At some point, it stops being a Dark Shadows episode and becomes a Jack Davis poster for the mid-70’s Buck Henry film adaptation.

Not to say that pathos doesn’t enter the picture. Barnabas goes full on Peter Cushing van Helsing when he destroys Tom Jennings, mit crossed candlesticks at daybreak. And Tom has one of the most logical lines ever spoken on Dark Shadows. Barnabas stands there telling Tom how painful the sunrise is going to be, as if Tom is supposed to do something other than suffer within it, and Tom simply says, “then don’t do it to me!” And you know, he has an excellent point. But unfortunately, Barnabas is too much in the moment to ask something like, “Do you have an alternative to suggest?“

The entire line between the dead and the undead has always been heavily blurred, at best, but there was a poignant and painful irony as Tom died, screaming “Let me live! Let me live!”

 At that moment, I didn’t know if he were asking to simply be allowed to continue surviving as a vampire, brought back from a second death only to be tortured back to death again in the space of a few hours, or if he were asking to legitimately live, meaning to never have been a vampire in the first place. How many vampires would ask the same thing? Because we see them speaking and displaying feelings and passions, we are never given a deep chance to contemplate the metaphysical significance of un-death. As much as they are known for drinking blood to survive, there is and must be a profoundly wrong and ultimately alienated essence to being a vampire. People long to be vampires. The hours are great. The wardrobe works. Rent is minimal. But I wonder if the real reason we identify with them is because we all, to some extent, feel separated from this concept of “living” that seems to be shared like an inside joke by everyone else.   The vampire wears otherness like a badge of, if not honor, at least honesty.

Ultimately, Tom Jennings’ final plea is the plea of all of us. It is a quest for Barnabas that only begins with Dr. Lang’s cure.

This episode was broadcast Nov. 25, 1968.

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: November 15


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 367

After a seance thrusts Victoria backwards in time, she must contend with a representative of morality who tries to burn her clothing. Abigail Collins: Clarice Blackburn. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Victoria awakens to a suspicious Abigail, who wastes no time in proclaiming her to be possessed by Satan. The governess then visits an unfinished Collinwood, where she meets the dashing Jeremiah. Later, after the family debates taking her on as Sarah’s tutor, Victoria wins the job.

367 is an episode that holds a strange magic. Victoria is back in 1795, and, instead of just fainting and being carted off to her room, actually takes action exploring the world and carving a little place in it. She even challenges Abigail on the insanity of her religious fanaticism. In the space of 22 minutes, Victoria shows more gumption, drive, and nerve than she's probably displayed in the entire series and finally earns legitimate recognition as the heroine of the show. Since Barnabas will spend months as someone tantamount to a hapless victim, if not simply a hapless victim, Victoria becomes the lead we've been hoping to see for the past sixteen months.

The prior episode, which introduces Victoria to 1795, is even more magical, but it is so surreal and intoxicating that it feels like the dream for which Vicki mistakes it. In 367, we awaken from the dream, as does Victoria, and we find that it's still real. Bracingly so. From the start of 367, the show is off to the races. 366 finds Jonathan Frid trying a bit too hard to be the Blue Boy come to life, playing a wide-eyed innocence which is incompatible with his mordant, Canadian wit. An episode or two in, and Frid will be in his element. The only one in 367 who seems as ill-at-ease is Anthony George, and it never seems to take for him. Contrast this with Clarice Blackburn, who finally has a part worthy of her pointy and acerbic talent. She's like the bitter, hypocritical wives in the domestic WC Fields movies, and she will find a way to keep that shtick fresh until Barnabas does her in, months from now. Of course, Joan Bennett is finally playing to her strengths and reads like she walked right off the set of Man in the Iron Mask. In all of this, lends a touch of MGM grandeur to the proceedings. Most of all, Louis Edmonds is completely transformed as Joshua. It's the toughest role in the storyline to play. It requires him to be a stiff, unyielding representative of the double standard while still having a compassionate heart buried deep somewhere. His take on the job interview with Victoria lacks a script as funny as the one that will be perfected for the 1990 series, but the strange mixture of fairness and frugality in it makes for great TV.

Likewise, Lela Swift is composing shots and using lighting with a creativity and sense of art far beyond what we usually expect from her and hurriedly-assembled daytime soap operas. There's a unique thrill for Dark Shadows fans in seeing Collinwood still under construction, and the early morning sun with which it is lit gives an old set a brand-spanking-new aura. Back at the not-yet-Old House, in the scene where the family is considering whether or not to take on Victoria, Swift paints one meaningful screen picture after another. She lines up the characters from most skeptical to least, often balancing the screen picture with them. These are small touches, completely unnecessary for the practical job, but they have a sense of art that is clearly inspired by the unique nature of the episode. An incredibly complicated set of given circumstances is communicated with economy and panache.

1795, as a storyline, is as much about the mixed-blessing necessity of compromises as it is about anything. Barnabas compromises with Angelique. The entire family compromises with Abigail until it’s too late. But we also see Victoria compromise with Joshua and her own sense of honor as she lies her way into survival. A new skill for the usually honorable governess. She’s spent a year and a half as the measure of purity against which we judge the dirty hands of her fellow characters. Now, seeing life in a true survival mode, she’ll finally gain the skills and make the choices to ultimately understand. And figure out how to play the clavichord.

This episode was broadcast Nov. 21, 1967.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: November 13


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 365

When Sarah begins appearing in David’s bedroom, Vicki travels back to 1795 to straighten her hash out. Vicki: Alexandra Moltke. (Repeat; 30 min.)

To address Sarah’s ubiquity, Barnabas reluctantly agrees to participate in a seance. Of course, a blackout results in Vicki changing places with the original governess, Phyllis Wick… from 1795. This is precisely where Vicki finds herself.

We are one episode away from 1795, which is when the future began.

Dark Shadows is taking a television show on vacation for the first time since Lucy. If Desi had jumped off the balcony of the Tropicana Club, Ethel had tried Harpo Marx for witchcraft, and Fred Mertz had posed around the set in Nathan Forbes’ first trousers (don’t claim you don’t know what I’m talking about), would I Love Lucy and the 1795 storyline be synonymous? My work is done.

It’s also a move more daring than the introduction of Barnabas, himself. We are sampling the core of Dark Shadows; everything else is watching Dan Curtis forge new alloys with the metal found in this mine. If this is the show’s first ultimate trip, 365 is like watching the main characters pack. Of course, none but one are going, and they are all going, in a certain sense. Curtis and his company are not just giving us a last glimpse before the trip, but he’s also getting ready for next spring and their return.

The return from 1795 is a reboot for the show.  Yes, it’s Dark Shadows, but it knows it’s Dark Shadows. It knows its bread and butter is Barnabas, and he’s evolved into a hero. Of course, villains make the best heroes because they have more choices in front of them, and thus, a greater capacity for action. At this point, the producers make a point of having him soft-pedal the evil in favor of seeing him reflect in 365 that this life is not one that he chose. Gee, Barnabas, what do you mean? And cue time travel. It almost makes me wonder if Sarah’s recent appearance were a cosmic preparation for the journey back. Not to prepare the characters so much as the audience. And why not a seance as the time machine? Dark Shadows never exactly ran on practicality. Here, more than anywhere, it runs on metaphor.

Here, we see a mix of who the characters have been and who they’ll become upon Vicki’s return.  Roger is fussy and particular, and yet he has a winning enthusiasm for the whimsy of a séance. Carolyn is merging debutante sophistication with a more sober kind of confidence that she gains after being chosen by Barnabas. She will need that increasing sense of backbone to deal with Adam. Barnabas and Julia are still at each other‘s throats, but the impression of stalemate has never been stronger. Fate has them both by the shorthairs, and they will eventually need each other there to survive. They are not friends. It will take threats like Angelique to forge that relationship, but the potential is finally there.

Sarah is again the catalyst for this major action. It’s appropriate that they exorcise her with this. Indeed, after 1795, I don’t recall her even being mentioned. It’s as if the pipe to the afterlife is clogged up, and all it takes is a seance-driven time trip to unplug it and let the kid through. Sarah is the quintessential Little Girl Lost, and that figure is the driving metaphor of the show until Willie opens the coffin. Liz, lost to guilt. Maggie, lost to an alcoholic father on the wrong side of the lobster boat dock. Carolyn, lost to being one of the only ones on the RIGHT side of the lobster boat dock. And Vicki, completing the Lilith Fair lineup that inaugurated the show, so lost she just doesn’t understand. It’s a central theme to the show and the ultimate ambassador to lonely women at home -- their prime demographic. Ultimately, it was a demographic that wanted a view (of Jonathan Frid) rather than a mirror. Why not burn it out completely by taking Vicki away in time as well as space?

The Collins family rarely met a problem that couldn’t be addressed via seance, and 365 runs with the notion so far and fast that it drops Vicki off in 1795… maybe just because. Perhaps she just wants a friend, and this is ultimately easier than constantly appearing as a ghost. We never see her again because she only has one charge left in the battery… just enough to get Vicki back to 1968. How does she know to do this? It could be that her first act as a ghost was to send Vicki back home after the 1795 trip. Sarah’s engineered time travel before… just kind of backwards.

Few, if any, shows discover themselves as this radically different than they were in their inception. But is it? For Dark Shadows, variety is the point. Where does Vicki go? Dark Shadows? From where has she come?


This episode was broadcast Nov. 17, 1967.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A tale of two Dark Shadows posters

One of the highlights of my year was being asked to design the poster for Dark Shadows: Behind the Screams, one of the events at the annual Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival. I wasn't abel to attend the event, which sucked ... but I'm deeply honored to have been asked to participate and hope to make the pilgrimage next year.

The poster you saw wasn't my first idea, though. At the time I'd been riffing on the great James Bama's 1966 promotional painting for Star Trek, which you can see here. I was having fun with that kind of macho-adventure collage, even applying it to Gregory Walcott's character in Plan 9 from Outer Space, promoting his buffoonish character to a level of heroism he doesn't really deserve. I mention all of this just to illustrate where my head was when the offer arrived from the kind people at Sleepy Hollow.

Here's how the first poster looked, seconds before I scrapped it.

There were two significant problems with this version. Sleepy Hollow's Dark Shadows: Behind the Screams featured a visual retrospective of the classic Dark Shadows television series, a Q&A with cast member Kathryn Leigh Scott, as well as a screening of 1970's House of Dark Shadows" Scott appears in both versions of the poster, but there remained a significant problem with the first draft. House of Dark Shadows was shot in Sleepy Hollow and nearby Tarrytown, which needed to feature predominantly in the marketing. I considered a version of this poster with the Lyndhurst Estate (the mansion that served as Collinwood in "House") in place of Seaview Terrace (Collinwood from the television series) but the overall concept of this poster was so inextricably tied to the second year of the series that it no longer made sense. Below is my second effort, and the poster that was ultimately used in the marketing. I'm very happy with how both of them turned out.

Prints of both posters are available from HereticTees Studios HERE.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: November 11


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1149

Barnabas is none too pleased when he discovers that Roxanne has put Trask under her vampiric spell, but will she get the point before daybreak? Randall Drew: Gene Lindsey. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Roxanne attacks Lamar Trask, putting him in her thrall, but Barnabas and Randall rescue him before contemplating Roxanne’s destruction.

As Tom Jennings learned, there’s nothing like being a vampire who is hunted by another vampire to really ruin your day, even if your day is at night. That Barnabas is on the hunt to undo Roxanne is both therapeutic and painful, like a holodeck psychodrama. Symbiotically so. Roxanne is the result of his actions of the past and the present. The act of discovering and hunting her is an exorcism as much as anything. She actually is the Josette who rose as a vampire and is yet another failed love interest, doomed more by bad luck and being in the wrong place at the wrong time than by conscious action. Of course, the fact that she gets to give Trask a little taste of life on the other side of the cemetery wall is a bonus that saves Barnabas the trouble of doing so himself. And of course, the situation is made further therapeutic by the fact that he simply gets to set up her death and leave it to Randall so his hands stay relatively clean. She stands as a sad reminder of his toxicity more than as a foe, tying the inexplicable loss of Parallel Time’s happiness to the mess in which he’s again found himself. Still, as Barnabas engineers her death, we know that 1840 is headed into its final act.

Of course, it’s easy to speculate that, had Roxanne remained necrotically alive and victimizing Trask, she might have taken the eventual blame for all of the bizarre activity at Collinwood, thus saving everyone the trouble of the trial and perhaps even preventing Trask from assassinating Angelique. But no. She may be therapeutic, but she’s no Dr. Sidney, just a bitter reminder both of what Barnabas is trying to escape and what he’ll never have. We once again learn the lesson Dark Shadows frequently extols, namely that taking responsibility for your actions is a good idea only in the abstract. Sometimes, it magnifies the consequences even as it vaguely delays them. In the 60’s, life was easy; when in doubt, blame Willie Loomis. To revert to the class structure so dear to the Weltanschauung of Barnabas? That is Willie’s proper role in life and the proud station into which he was born. But it’s 1840. In his absence, I guess he could blame Laszlo, but that fez brands him as even more ineffectual than Aristide. 

Gene Lindsay is headed towards his final performance, and his appearance as Randall Drew is one of the shows most curious anomalies on a strange checklist. An important character with vital ties to other characters, leading man appeal, and the stalwart, Dan Curtis look. Giving him copious screen time and opportunities to take story changing action only to dump him after five episodes? Rather than seem like a waste, this seems almost like a luxurious creative indulgence. The show is so awash in ideas that they can afford to use an actor and pivotal character like that in even a small part. He feels like someone destined for bigger things, and his quick departure is a marvelous portent of how lethal this storyline can get.

1840 returns several times to Dark Shadows’ most familiar theme -- “Strangers at Collinwood,” but unlike other storylines, I think the strangers outnumber the residents. They all create a sense that Collinwood exists in a context of a larger world, and the benevolent, bland Randall Drew is the storyline’s best attempt to suggest that not every visitor to Collinwood is a vampire, alluring witch, or severed head in a box. There are normal people out there, too, and they serve as a pleasant reminder of the peaceful life for which our characters strive. It may be boring, but as fans of Star Trek: The Motion Picture will tell you, sometimes boring can be nice.

This episode was broadcast Nov. 20, 1970.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Collinwood Mansion can be yours for a paltry $3.5M

Back in 2012, KDKA in Pittsburgh aired a story about a mysterious weirdo (yay weirdos!) who built a life-sized relica of Collinwood from Dark Shadows. The interview with the property's owner was shot in silhouette as if he was testifying against the mob, which was a strange decision because it's likely everyone living in the area knew who this guy was.

And now, so do we.

Allegheny County real estate records identify T.J. and Wendy Lubinsky as owners of the estate. Pine Creek Journal goes on to explain that T.J. Lubinsky is "a former WQED on-air fundraising director who for many years has produced music fundraising programs, most famously featuring doo-wop acts, for PBS."

The building, constructed in 2007, is now for sale at $3.5 million. The castle and manor house are connected by an underground passageway, because of course they are. Given that the home is only 12 years old you probably have to provide your own ghosts and re-stock the closet skeletons.

The 2012 KDKA story is still available online, though the video was taken down long ago. Luckily I took a few screenshots, which show that the Lubinskys re-created Collinwood both inside and out.

Pine Creek Journal has a few other bits of interesting trivia about the property. My favorite? Wedged into the Dark Shadows theme is a replica of Bruce Wayne's private study from the 1960s Batman television series ... complete with sliding bookcase and Batpoles!

Read the story HERE.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

There's a Vampire in the White House!

On Oct. 29, 1969, the Supreme Court ordered the immediate integration of public schools while, a few days later, President Richard Nixon went on television to explain his policy of  "Vietnamization," which seemed designed to provide the illusion of support to South Vietnam even as we began to withdraw our soldiers. If you notice a hint of bias in that prior sentence, it's not your imagination. I despise Nixon and shudder to think that he's going to appear on U.S. currency in a few short years.

Nixon wasn't the only bloodsucker on television that week, though only one of them appeared to be present in the White House on Halloween. On Oct. 31 that year, Jonathan Frid (who played the vampire "Barnabas Collins" on DARK SHADOWS) was a guest of Tricia Nixon at a party for underprivileged children at the White House. A Canadian citizen, it's unlikely that Frid had any serious opinions about the standing U.S. president. (At least any he was willing to share that day, anyway.) In a 1971 interview, he remarked, "I’ve been the heavy in so many Shakespeare supper festivals that even today I owe my allegiance to the House of York."

An estimated 1,200 cookies and 25 gallons of punch was served for the 250 "underprivileged" children. The north portico of the White House was decorated by a giant Jack O'Lantern that was guarded by a pair of witches and numerous Secret Service agents. Connie Stewart, Tricia Nixon's press secretary, wore a costume inspired by I AM CURIOUS (YELLOW), made up of a yellow leotard and yellow pages from the phone book. I'm guessing it was her first Halloween party.

The event garnered national coverage, with photos of Tricia Nixon and Frid appearing in magazines and newspapers across the country. The coverage was universally elitist, though. The "underprivileged" were only passingly mentioned; I wasn't able to find any notices that mentioned who these children were. Even Jet Magazine failed to tell us much about them, devoting much of its text to describing the party's decorations. Frid was absent from much of the coverage, as well, with newspaper notices often abbreviating wire stories down to a description of Nixon's dress.

"(Frid) said that the Nixon girl was just standing around and seemed hard pressed to engage the kids," said Nancy Kersey, a writer for Jonathan Frid's production company, Clunes Associates. "So he decided to step in and try and bite her, and that was captured on film. It made her smile"

Frid's costume was pretty much a given: Barnabas Collins. As was the standard practice for television in those days, most of Frid's public appearances were in character. While he was usually allowed to appear as himself on talk shows, even that wasn't something he could always take for granted.

"I'm afraid I've destroyed the illusion," Frid told a reporter for the Los Angeles Times about his costume fangs at the White House event. "I keep taking (them) out and showing the kids how they work and now they just don't believe anymore. It's just like grandpa's dental plate."

Frid was absent from both the ABC studio and the airwaves on Halloween that year. It was a strange week of transition for DARK SHADOWS, as the episode broadcast that day, #875, was near the end of the popular "1897" storyline and did not include Barnabas Collins. Meanwhile, the episode shot that day, #888 was one of the first in the ill-fated "Leviathan" arc. It was an important episode for a few reasons: It featured the first appearances of Marie Wallace and Christopher Bernau as Phillip and Megan Todd, as well as the return of actor Dennis Patrick to DARK SHADOWS after a 605-episode absence.

As usual, Dan Curtis allowed Frid only a short break from the production. He wasn't allowed much time for travel, leaving New York City after filming on Oct. 30 and returning to work the following Tuesday. If you're one of the people that thinks it's odd the cast members of DARK SHADOWS don't always remember specific storylines with great clarity, the week after Halloween should explain why they frequently had no idea what was happening on the series. Not only were episodes shot about two weeks prior to broadcast, they were sometimes filmed out of order.

The week after Halloween was especially crazy. Monday, Nov. 3, 1969, saw episode #893 being recorded; the next day the production shot episode #881, followed by episode #891, episode  #890 and ending the week with the production of episode  #889.

And here's where we've reached the limits of this website's design. When I built this sucker more than two years ago, I hadn't planned on having a lot of photo-intensive posts. This is one of those rare occasions where there is quite a bit of documentary evidence involved. There's not as much as I'd like (I'm curious as to what Frid's itinerary was for his day at the White House, as well as the president's whereabouts on Halloween) and it's all a bit overwhelming for this website's relatively simple design.

Below are more photos from the Halloween event ... my apologies if it all looks a bit scattershot.

UPDATE: Avid CHS reader Roy Isbell sent me a handful of newspaper clippings, many of which include photos I've never seen before. You can see them below.

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