Friday, March 22, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 22


Taped on this date in 1971: Episode 1243

Morgan traps Bramwell in the haunted room, but can the family stop him from touching a corpse? Julia: Grayson Hall. (Repeat; 30 min.)

The family realizes that Bramwell is trapped in the room in Kendrick’s stead, but can do nothing. Morgan manipulates Catherine into being trapped within, also, and she and Bramwell receive instructions to refrain from touching the corpses of James and Amanda unless they, too, want to be possessed. Which they don’t.

Can we get to at least one happy marriage?

Even up to the end, Dark Shadows understands the luxury of abundant pacing. Which is not to say it’s slow. The functions here are to show Catherine thrown in the room, survival within, healing the ghost of Brutus, the rescue attempt of others, and the final confrontation with Morgan. As any Gilligan’s Island scholar can tell you, all of that can live within the real estate of 24 minutes with room for a gorilla (Keith Prentice -- har har) to spare. These writers get three episodes out of it, and none of it feels padded.

Given the cyclical nature of the series, is this the end or the beginning? Yes, no, and neither, given that it’s a parallel universe. Dealing with the punishment of betraying spouses starts the series with the long-brewing aftermath of Liz and Paul, and it ends the series with Morgan and Catherine. If we go from the premise that Liz is Victoria’s mother, then questionable (at best) fidelity is a factor of both couples, as well. Wouldn’t that be tidy? Unfortunately, Vicki was born in 1946 and Paul was “murdered” in 1949. Which, and this is an admitted tangent, makes me wonder about the father and what Paul thought about this, or where he was in the first place.

Or is it a tangent? I can’t imagine that he missed the pregnancy, and it was after the war, so it stands to reason that he was around. But then, he never mentions it during the leviathan storyline. And when discussing his own murder, you’d think that the subject of his wife’s mysterious pregnancy might come up in casual conversation.  It commonly does, according to marriage counselors.

The connection is that both storylines deal with unhappy marriages, thwarted desires to escape them, children of questionable parentage, and murder as a preferable choice over divorce. Of course, that was unthinkable in Morgan’s time and nearly as unthinkable in Liz’s. Perhaps one of the reasons the show has yet  to be successfully revived is because one of the course ends lying under the mantle is no longer a sin. An inconvenience, perhaps. Painful one. But not a sin.

Both storylines also celebrate, if you can call it that, female autonomy in these situations. Okay, it’s autonomy loosely defined and drawing outside the lines — in Liz’s case, with Paul’s brains. But both women feel trapped. Both take extreme measures to escape. Both stories equal dark fantasies for the intended audience of housewives. Liz gives Paul what-for when he tries to leave. Catherine? More complicated. She marries the Rich One, who goes mad(der) over her having her Bramwell and eating it, too. Then, we get to pity her because her husband is a lout. It’s a subtle shift of statement and fantasy that still lets both women be agents of agency and yet victims of male maleosity, anyway. Both are locked (almost) alone in haunted (sets of) rooms as a punishment, like housewives trapped at home alone. And, most importantly, they look great, doing it. Of course, once Barnabas enters the picture, the show somewhat shifts to depicting male protagonists of female wrath. It doesn’t begin that way, nor does it end in that fashion, either. But even that has the fantasy of, “Well, I wouldn’t treat Barnabas that way.”

And central to this is Lara Parker, going from taking out her anger on Barnabas to suffering the price of loyalty to him. (If we see Catherine and Bramwell as warped analogues.) She can’t help loving that man of hers. She flexes the muscles of jealousy, which wasn’t always an option for women at the time (in the late 60’s, wooden soldiers and scarves were in short supply)... and then suffers the fate of being on the business end of jealousy at the end of the run.

I say, lock Morgan and Angelique in the room together and call it a series.

This episode was broadcast March 31, 1971.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 21


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 458

Naomi faces the ultimate choice when she discovers her son is one of the living dead. Naomi: Joan Bennett. (Repeat; 30 min.)

After seeing Millicent with Barnabas, an increasingly agitated Naomi discovers that Joshua may have found a relief to the curse in Boston. She nonetheless responds with pessimism. After writing a note, she visits Vicki, who remains concerned about Peter’s freedom. Vicki feels as if her visit with Naomi is the last she shall have, at which point Nathan arrives to take her in a gunpoint, unmoved by her admission that she, not Peter, killed Noah. Naomi drinks a draught of poison and then visits Barnabas, who confesses all. Despite his pleas to the contrary, she persists in her love for him. Joshua enters and cradles her as her body grows cold.

And then, it got really dark.

Naomi is one of Dark Shadows’ stronger, more willful characters. Every bit the equal to Joshua, which is saying something, she is admirably strong, honest, and loyal. These are all qualities that make her suicide either a show a defiant self-determination or a betrayal of her essence. Forgive the politics, and apologies to those whose loved ones have made that terminal choice (I rank among you), I see it as the former. Romantic literature might not… or might. These are Barnabas’ last moments before being sealed into semi-suspended animation, so this event and example -- this disposition toward death -- heavily influences the man we see rise in 1967. Death is both an option and simply one more choice. When he murders, perhaps he is consigning others to what he sees as an inevitability that exists without shame. These are very existential questions, and when you look at  in little bits, without considering the big picture, they are easy to ignore. Just as heroes in real life don’t go about spouting their ontologies like characters out of Chayefsky or Rand, nor do those on this show. Still, we can and -- as responsible fans of the show -- should discern what we can about the philosophies of the characters from their actions. With Barnabas, that’s a sticky wicket. Not only does he evolve, appearing in more episodes than anyone, but his perspective changes depending on whether or not he’s under the influence of what I refer to as the Beast. Critics of Barnabas are quite right. He can be the master of the double standard, easily rationalizing like a machine. In the balance, his life, abilities, options, threats, and nature of existence change violently and frequently. The choices he has to make and the range of shifting tools and consequences tied to those choices are rarely the same. The consequences demand categorical thinking. Seeing that his own mother held death as a choice galvanized Barnabas’ thinking, I believe. If it were not a shameful destination for her, it is not a shameful destination for anyone. Of course, she chose it and Barnabas’ victims do not, but if it becomes a questionable destination, then his actions to consign others there become equally questionable. Thus, Barnabas must maintain a casual attitude toward the undiscovered country.

Kids, don’t try this at home.

This episode was broadcast March 27, 1968.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Dark Shadows, The Road to Bloodline: Tainted Love


“I became a witch, I consumed a demon, but I still can’t make you love me!”

It’s a Year in the Life in Collinsport in the supremely satisfying Tainted Love, the fifth installment in my Road to Bloodline nonsense. My obsession with branding aside, this audio truly is a thing of beauty. Centered around a hellish love triangle that develops between David Collins (a returning Alec Newman), Amy Jennings (Stephanie Ellyne), and Hallie Stokes (Kathleen Cody), who has newly returned to Collinsport, this Daniel Collard written tale delivers old school Dark Shadows operatics, emotion, and mysticism. Honestly, this one has arguably been the most “pure” Dark Shadows experience of this whole section of audios, leaning into the more soapy elements of the property with aplomb which provides a kneer edge to the trademark weirdness the show always made great use of. But enough of my yakkin’, let’s get into it.

Right off the bat, Collard’s script along with David Darlington’s masterful sound design lets on early that this is going to be an episodic experience. Picking up mere days after the event’s of Bloodlust (another fantastic narrative choice that I will get into a bit later), Collard, Darlington, and the episode’s director Joseph Lidster open on David and Amy sharing a rare quiet moment in the great house of Collinwood. But, this being Dark Shadows, their calm is interrupted by a screaming man outside on the grounds, raving about his lost wife and trying to cross into the house. Enter the returning Hallie Stokes, who quickly diagnosis the man as “possessed” and then promptly...distingegrates him, saying it was the only way to expel the demon she was chasing.

From there we are treated to a tightly constructed relationship drama, set against the backdrop of the major holidays. Each one broken into well produced little vignettes, with their own opening Victoria Winters-esque narration from each of our three leads, supported by the theme tune in the background. I really love this choice for two reasons. One, it really allows the journey these characters take throughout Tainted Love to shine and breathe as the action isn’t confined to a few days. Had it been, I feel I wouldn’t have been nearly as invested in David and Amy’s growing relationship, even with Newman and Ellyne’s wonderful chemistry. The same goes for Hallie’s descent into madness, which is also played beautifully by Cody. Both plots are pretty well entwined with one another, but stretching it out over a whole calendar year allowed it to feel more natural, thus making it that much more engaging. 

The second reason I love this choice so much is that we finally get, or at least I FINALLY get, as this has been something I’ve been harping on for a while now, some actual, real time fallout and growth for the characters post-Bloodlust. We start mere days after the events, and instead of having more flashbacks to other stories or another side story, we get an actual movement and progression for two major players, moving us through a tremendous set up for the incoming Bloodline. I know that you are probably tired of reading about my feverish love affair with serialization but I really appreciated the forward momentum Tainted Love provided for David and Amy, supported by some choice cameos from some of my other faves from Bloodlust that I don’t really want to spoil here, but trust me, they are a lot of fun.

And I think even if you aren’t a big continuity hound like I am, you’ll get a lot out of Tainted Love. It has the novelty of starring some returning favorites, along with a fun central story, and plenty of amorous, touchy-feely entanglements to satisfy the more relationship minded Dark Shadows fans. I definitely think this is essential listening for anyone curious about the genesis of David and Amy’s relationship so that’s just one selling point on top of a whole pile of other unrelated selling points. Plus, ya know, Alec Newman.

NEXT TIME! The penultimate Road to Bloodline, ...And Red All OverMitchell Ryan, you guys! Until then, 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.

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 18


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 717

Can Rachel Drummond recruit Barnabas to confront the danger of the tower room before it consumes her? Barnabas: Jonathan Frid. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Judith discovers that a madwoman named Jenny lives in the tower room. Rachel Drummond, sensing danger, goes to Barnabas for help. As their mutual attraction grows, he vows to investigate the strange happenings at Collinwood.

Da plane, da plane, and welcome to the briar patch.

Traditionally, this is the one where I am supposed to talk about Crazy Jenny and Marie Wallace’s Bold, Uninhibited Performance, because this episode really establishes the character... beautifully. Not only do we see her at her nearly-most-histrionic, but we see range in both Jenny and Wallace. Neither character nor actress is one-note, and for such an extreme character, kicking off with that means to establish the potential for suspense any time she is on screen. Indeed, Jenny is an authentic wild card, and we’re never allowed to get ahead of her. Not only that, she’s a poetic one. Her intelligence tells us scads about Quentin and his tastes, once we learn that she is his wife, and it makes her both a worthy opponent and a victim who’s fallen from the highest of mental towers. Oh, and she has a musical number, which reveals a predictably rich voice for Wallace, a stage vet who never did featured singing in musicals. It’s exactly the character debut you’d want, both quintessentially “Jenny” and teasingly unpredictable.

But I don’t want to talk about that, so you’ll find no mention of it here.

The secret rockstar of this episode is Barnabas and the side of him we see emerging. He even has swagger to his melancholy. For all of the high stakes and tension of Mission: 1897, he’s having the time of his life. How much of this seems real to him? We are still in the pilot stages for a Dark Shadows that is essentially its own spinoff. In 1897, the show distills and refines itself, and then reinvents the recipe with that clarified formula. It’s not just Dark Shadows, it’s Dark Shadows that knows it’s Dark Shadows… what that means, what that allows, and does so without a lazy sense of privilege. The star, Barnabas, is getting the same rebooted treatment. Barnabas is like a successful nighclub act that’s finally getting two shows nightly at Caesars, and isn’t wasting a moment. He has almost a giddy sense of confidence that redefines the character without erasing his essence.

1897 is the perfect place to bring out his best, and he has to be wondering why the hell he had to wake up in the day-glo cereal box of post-Camelot 1967 instead of here. 1897… the Future! Just enough advances from his native time to crackle with new wiring, which probably shocked Dirk Wilkins across the drawing room more than once when he installed it. And just enough proximity to his own era to still know how to dress for dinner and pen a decent thank-you letter. Everyone is kind of a variation on what he already knows, but with a bit more transparency, and wait, here comes Maggie, I mean Josette, I mean Rachel, and by Rachel, I mean eventually Kitty, and by that, I mean Josette. Ah to hell with it. It’s Kathryn Leigh Scott and we’re darned glad to see her, too. And this character seems to be open to dating. He’s got gypsies instead of Willie, and they’re twice as wise and on a familiar level of untrustworthy. Plus, they’re superstitious, requiring him to waste less time making threats. They know the score. I was going to say that the downside is no Julia, but after a week or so without her nagging, spying, moralizing, and guilting, I’ll just say, plus, there’s no Julia. She may be a friend, but, as I said, he’s on vacation. And instead of pretending he’s on a secret mission, he really is on a secret mission. The worst that happens is that he gets stuck there. Oh, don’t throw me in the briar patch. And maybe the timeline gets changed a little bit. So what? Big deal. He was a tourist there, too. He’s got the Old House. He’s got Maggie more than he ever had her before. He’s got lackeys. And everyone enjoys a good, poetic turn of  phrase rather than just staring at him like they’re going to beat him up in back of the Blue Whale and take his lunch money. But on what is basically his big date with Rachel, he is smoother than caramel cognac. And the old dog knows it. It’s like a Hammer production of James Bond. His scenes with Rachel have dialogue that’s practically musical.

“There’s nothing childish about attempted murder.”

“Here at Collinwood, old hates don’t die. They lie in wait for the innocent and the unsuspecting.”

“I’ve lived through danger before.”

“No one is quite what they seem… except me, of course.”

“Such a lovely hand. Why would anyone want to harm you?”

Cornier than Kansas on the 4th of July. And they work. Every syllable, sincere. That’s the secret. Rather than a nightmare of endless terror, it’s Barnabas’ ultimate dream, complete with kisses from The Josette Character for his evil-smashing bravado. It’s a beautiful moment, and it underlines what 1897 is, measuring his fall with the Leviathans and long struggle to rebuild. Which he does.

The only thing missing? Mr. Rorke and Tattoo greeting Barnabas as he departs from a seaplane next to Scatman Crothers, Steve Lawrence, and Marion Ross, and explaining for the audience the fantasy he and the island staff are about to fulfill.

Come to think of it, it may be my fantasy, too.

This episode was broadcast March 25, 1969.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Dark Shadows clearance sale!

(UPDATE: The prices listed in this original draft of this story were incorrect and have been revised.)


Remember the other day how I said I don't ever get to cover news? Well, it seems the Dark Lord heard my blasphemous prayer, because, boy, do I have a story for y'all today.

Big Finish announced that starting today and going until MARCH 21st, fans can pick up the first FIFTY Dark Shadows "audiobooks" for just $5.30.

But that's not all! Along with the stories, Dark Shadows: The Legend Reborn would be available at just $2.64 WEB SPECIAL PRICE!and both volumes of music from the audio dramas will be available at a paltry $1.31.

All you have to do is head to this link and enter the code BLUEWHALE to see everything they have to offer.

The only catch is, you can only buy them on CD, which honestly, isn't even that big of a catch. Plan on buying some stuff? Let us know in the comments below!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Barnabas Collins by Shawn Gaston

I heard you people like Barnabas Collins. Well, you're in luck! Artist Shawn Gaston has a snazzy new print of Collinwood's favorite son available for pre-order. This art is 12"x18" and printed on "sexy thick stock." He's advising that there might not be a second run of these prints. The original art done almost entirely in Pentel brush pen, with additional shading and minor clean up done in Photoshop. The prints are $20 plus $5 shipping, which you can send to Don't forget to include a shipping address with your message.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Dark Shadows, The Road to Bloodline: Deliver Us From Evil


“Don’t live in the dark too long. 
You don’t know what’s waiting in 
there for you.”

It’s Sabrina Jennings vs. the Son of Satan in the blisteringly entertaining Deliver Us from Evil! The latest stop on the Road to Bloodline! Rounding out a quadrilogy of narrative threads that started in Beneath the Veil, then weaved on through The Enemy Within, then most recently tieing through Carriage of the Damned, Deliver Us From Evil brings Sabrina Jennings’ and Cyrus Longworth’s story to a beautiful and terrifying close for now; proving once again this range could support longer serialized narratives, while also just delivering a damn fine single story. Sharply written by Aaron Lamont and given a wide array of impressive effects and transitions by sound designer David Darlington, Deliver Us From Evil is a must own for fans of the Jennings clan, Christopher Pennock people, and discerning audiophiles alike.

Once again, we open with a post-Bloodlust framing device. After having left Collinsport after the revelation that her own sister killed her husband in a lycanthropic rage, Amy Cunningham (the always luminous Stephanie Ellyne) is looking to forget her troubles in Bangor. But the fates have other plans for her as she has a chance meeting with her sister Sabrina (a powerful performance from Lisa Richards) and the two are forced to confront the growing rift between them, leading to Sabrina to tell Amy about the sad, strange fates of Cyrus Longworth and Alfie Chapman (a returning and positively unhinged Simon Kent).

I have gone long on record about these framing devices, but this time, I didn’t feel like it was very obtrusive to my enjoyment or the overall story. Once the sisters are basically trapped together, in a situation straight out of sitcom, it is pretty much all flashback as Darlington deftly transitions us from the “present” to the “past" allowing Lamont’s script to really take off. And don’t let the apparent density of this being a “payoff” episode throw you! Though this whole thing is steeped in Big Finishverse lore, the script takes the steps to get the audience up to speed on what is actually being paid off that way no one is lost.

But long-time listeners or beginners (like me) I think will get an extra little thrill out of seeing all these threads pay off along with all the returning characters. I mean, this single story is cool for people coming in cold, but y’all know how much I love serialization. Sabrina is one again the star of the show and Richards more than rises to the occasion. Pennock also really impresses here, playing up the wounded terror of Cyrus as well as leaning heavily into moustache twirling villainy once the Son of the Dark Lord fully takes over his corporal form. The triple threat of baddies here James Unsworth’s John, Simon Kent’s Alfie, and Brigid Lohrey’s Danielle Roget also add plenty of dark delights for this story as the representatives of the “dark side”. This thing is even graced with an extra bit of star power from our own WALLACE MCBRIDE! Playing all the hits as his returning DJ character, Edgar McBride, which will always delight me to no end.

But I really loved this one, guys! It had a lot of great things for long time listeners on top of just a goddamn entertaining story starring some Dark Shadows mainstays! Kind of a win-win for all us nerds, right? Though I will say, I think listening to the whole cycle would give you that much more enjoyment out of this one, BUUUT there is still a lot to love about Deliver Us From Evil even without all the backstory.

NEXT TIME! Tainted Love! The return of the Kwisatz Haderach of my Heart, Alec Newman as David Collins! And another co-starring role for the mysterious Hallie Stokes! Until then, 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, March 12, 2019

Here's your first look at Dark Shadows: Bloodline


I don't get a lot of news crossing my desk here at the CHS. Mainly because my "office" (AKA: converted second floor broom closet) doesn't have a mail in box. But all that changed yesterday when a runner from the Bangor division of Big Finish wandered up the stairs yesterday, cordially inviting me and providing more details on the upcoming wedding of Amy Jennings and David Collins.

That's right, fellow audio creeps! Big Finish yesterday revealed a brand new trailer for the upcoming serial as well as the cover to Volume 1, new cast announcements, and synopsis of the story! Not too shabby for my paltry little beat, huh?

I will post the trailer below, because it is well worth the listen, but what follows is the synopsis, which you'll see we have a lot to unpack with.
In the Great House of Collinwood Amy Jennings and David Collins are finally putting years of tragedy and loss behind them and committing to a life together. And, as the ceremony approaches, friends old and new are drawn to the town at the edge of the sea. Once again, the tortured vampire, Barnabas Collins, is amongst them. But this time he is not alone. After so many years away, Doctor Julia Hoffman has returned with him, finally convinced she has the means to cure his affliction. But joy and happiness never last long in Collinsport, for malevolent forces are never far away. Among those gathered for the celebration are some who would conspire to tear the family apart. In this town some wounds refuse to heal, some secrets demand to be heard, and some sins cry out to be punished 
Welcome back to Collinsport.
Until death do you part.
JULIA IS BACK! No word yet on who is playing her, but that alone is cause for celebration. The release also lets slip that Jerry Lacy is returning as new character Matthew Young and Kathryn Leigh Scott is rejoining the cast as Maggie Haskell. Alongside Scott and Lacy are the new ensemble of Nico Diodoro, Sarah Pitard, Kelly Burke and Tom Michael Blyth (which should excite fans of the Tony & Cassandra Mysteries), all playing new locals filling out the cast around the regulars.

So if you weren't excited before now, I'm not sure what to tell you. I am very glad Lacy is back, doubly so for Julia, and maybe even triply for Scott's return! We are almost there, guys, as the serial aims for a bi-weekly release in April. You better believe we are going to cover it.

Until then, enjoy the trailer, and I'll be seeing you.

Update: Master of Dark Shadows screening

By now you've probably already heard about the upcoming documentary about Dan Curtis titled Master of Dark Shadows. (If not, you can take a gander at the trailer, summary and list of special features HERE.) Set for release on Blu-ray on April 16, you've got a chance to catch the documentary on the big screen earlier that week in New York City ... with members of the Dark Shadows cast! There have been a few changes to the premiere sceening in recent weeks. The bad news first: the April 13 dinner reception event has sold out. The good news: A few more members of the original cast have been added to the guest list. Click on the image above to read the details.

You can pre-order Master of Dark Shadows from Amazon HERE.

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 12


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 979

When Jeb takes on Nicholas Blair, does he count on also fighting the demon’s ghost? Jeb: Christopher Pennock. (Repeat. 30 min.)

Jeb stuns Nicholas by turning the shadow curse on him, sending him back to Hell. However, Nicholas’ ghost sends Sky on a mission to kill Jeb, later manipulating dreams and voices in the minds of Carolyn and her new husband. In a dream sequence, Sky and Jeb are seen plunging in combat over the edge of Widow’s Hill.

You can smell the end on Jeb more powerfully than Bruno’s cologne. I always find these end moments to be especially exciting. Seeing something end on Dark Shadows makes me feel like I’m breaking the rules. The experience of the show is about enjoying journeys, not destinations, yes, yes. We know. Yet, a journey is defined by its destination, even if you’re not supposed to care about getting there. Well, I, for one, do. I watch to see how these characters triumph. And you can’t blink. Paying attention consistently is the key, and that’s in a medium designed to not be consistently attended. Like everything in life, the struggles last far beyond their expiration dates. The victories pass in an instant. Being able to say, “I was there at Jason and Liz’s almost-wedding” is a badge of extreme pride. It meant that you hung in there and made the show more than a convenience. It’s worth that.

Keep in mind, it’s a just a show. This is America. You can watch it however you want. And consider the dedication it took to produce it. The cramming of lines. The grueling hours. These things make the show an achievement beyond what we see between opening narration and closing sting. I think this resonates with the show’s most ardent audience. These messengers don’t tell of the Battle of Marathon after running from it. The story is the run. That’s what makes these endpoints so outstandingly satisfying.

This one, especially so, because Jeb is taking such action within it. Often, endings happen to characters. In fact, such an ending happens to Nicholas Blair in this very episode, and we feel a strange sympathy for Sky as he realizes the bittersweet mission of being the last Leviathan. He’s determined to help and knows full well he’s not up to the job. Sky, we’ve been there.

I think that by giving Jeb a victory early on in the episode, it masterfully misdirects our expectations. Next stop, his escape. Yes, yes? Um, no. But they even do that a bit circuitously, having it live in a prophetic dream. It’s a cliffhanger, literally, but not, and it’s also a strange tribute to Republic serials. They’d often change crucial facts between cliffhangers and resolutions. Then, they hoped you wouldn’t catch them trying to get away with anything. Here, the Dark Shadows writers hope you do.

And I wonder what would have happened had Jeb been a success.

Barnabas established the possibility that a villain, with enough popularity, could be kept around, perhaps becoming the story. Now, when I see a villain offed, I assume this didn’t happen, and I ask myself what they lacked. Was Jeb too hip? God knows, I’m not, and when I visit Collinsport, I feel safe because Collinsport is where hipsters go to have bad things happen to them. They don’t even
have a band in Collinsport. They have a jukebox with the half-dozen songs that Bob hates the least. Buzz? Jeb? Bruno? Your table is ready. Yes, the hairdos and medallions lure in certain viewers, but then Dark Shadows, itself, keeps them.

Why wasn’t Jeb a success? Turn the question around. What would they have done with him had he stayed around? Unless they explored his eleventh-hour relationship with the 1790’s and Peter Bradford, he had no real past. No intrinsic relationship with the Collinses except by marriage. Does he still have powers? I don’t know. But we can’t see him when he Hulks out, so what’s the point. Barnabas and Quentin take on a strange, if hirsute, sexiness when they monster it up. So, he’s an edgy human. Well, the show has moved past the point of that. It’s a new world of gods and monsters, and Jeb is ultimately too little of each to hold his own. The real tragedy is that he knows it.

This episode was broadcast March 26, 1970.

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 11


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 450

In 1795, there is one force that can stop Angelique, and it just arrived at Collinwood. Bathia Mapes: Anita Bolster. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Bathia Mapes arrives to determine the nature of the curse and its solution. Meanwhile, Joshua deals with a mad Millicent and Barnabas is drawn back to the tower room. There, Mapes begins a battle with the force cursing Barnabas.

When we first learn about the supernatural as kids, it is the quintessence of the mysterious. We’ve spent a years of awareness learning the rules, and here is a system of action that breaks them. To what is it connected?  What possibly explains it? When I first saw Dark Shadows, I was in a quiet awe of the vast mythology that explained how the house Got This Way. I was in equal awe of the cosmology that empowered those forces. Could it ever be explained? Of course not. And when you’re a kid, and everything is inexplicable, like magnets or the electoral college, this makes about as much sense as anything else.

Then, the paranormal all loses its sense of wonder because we pretend to understand it to death. It becomes like religion, systems of reincarnation, or D&D. We either discover or make up all manner of elaborate, insert-tab-a-into-slot-b instruction manuals for how a paranormal universe works. This crystal cures this. This orc can be killed only by that. This star cluster absolutely means you’re gluten intolerant. And so on. It’s just as true for monster media. Vampires have about as much written about them as do dogs and cats. But in the name of celebrating our sources of wonder, we accidentally kill them with comprehension.

Dark Shadows, perhaps due to hurried writing for a medium that no one’s going to see again, defies that. Yes, there’s a lot to understand and bicker about and make charts and graphs over. I do it a lot, myself. But at its best, the show is about the opposite. It makes all of us Victoria Winters out of confident Joshuas. We make fun of Vicki for not understanding, but that’s the point. She’s never meant to really understand what’s going on. We are never meant to understand what’s going on. Our job is not to understand what’s going on; it’s to connect through the experience of not being able to do so.

Bathia Mapes reminds us of that. Just when the show is at the outer end of strange, and Barnabas is summoning the voices of ghosts, and Joshua has lost all control of the Newtonian harness of causality, she shows up. The lighting is suddenly a dark and textured expression of the new dimension of Joshua’s world, plunging us into a Rembrandt painting. The dialogue has a sudden and Marlovian urgency and poetry. On a show accustomed to talking around problems, implicating with extreme prejudice, this episode speaks to the very heart of them. And yet, only one person knows what’s going on, a strange and confident sorcerer/precursor to Elise in INSIDIOUS.

In a show where the supernatural frequently bullies the Collinses around, it takes a formidable person to give it what for. Even Stokes would concede that there are none like Bathia, looking and acting for all the world like the EC Cryptkeeper prior to death. She gives DS mythology new depth and familiar resonance by again treating a curse like a curse. On most of the show, the curse is considered the causal agent for the real problem, vampirism, and the only cure is a stake to the heart. Mapes treats the curse as the ongoing crisis, itself. She warns the Countess against being loved by him, and suddenly we get why Julia survives for as long as she does. Masks drop with thunderous noise. In no other timeline do we go from sacred denial to profane truth as in 1795, where the Enlightenment smolders down to to a muted hell over four and a half months. As the characters go mad from the truth, and Barnabas roars with the voice of Angelique, we finally get one character who knows what’s going on. It is the greatest testament to Angelique’s awesome ability that she doesn’t last long.

But it’s jewelbox epic of a battle. These episodes won’t be matched for sheer pain until we learn of Quentin’s son’s death or the eventual death of Angelique. And even then, I’m not sure that this is a sustainable quality that the show can ever rival again.

This episode was broadcast March 15, 1968.

Once more, with feeling

The Collinsport Historical Society is up for another Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award this year for "Best Website," but we've decided not to campaign for ourselves. We're happy with the Rondos we've already received and thought we'd throw our meager weight behind Stan Against Evil and its creator Dana Gould. We announced this effort a week ago and things went predictably terrible from the start.

I say "predictably" because that's just how Facebook functions these days. It's a platform that rewards posts for their interactions, no matter how good or bad those interactions might be. If you have a post that gets dogpiled by Russian bots, all Facebook sees are the statistics and chalks that up as a "win." The human element operates at the opposite end of that spectrum to similarly disasterous results. When presented with an unending cascade of data, people will grab hold of the things that are easiest to process. If you're too clever or give people too much information to evaluate, they'll blink and keep scrolling. It's frustrating to watch this happen from my side of the screen, and that frustration is often difficult to hide.
"Posts that don’t include a photo of Jonathan Frid tend to get the cold shoulder here, but please take a moment to read this piece about Stan Against Evil at The Collinsport Historical Society."
This is how I chose to lure people into my Rondo campaign last week for Stan Against Evil. It was a bit passive aggressive, but also true. Plus, it never hurts to be provocative and that's probably the only reason anyone took the time to comment. Unfortunately, the majority of those comments only served to underline my point.

"Not interested," one person took the time to comment before I hid his post. He later came back to add "There must be other places one can deal with this sort of thing..." Nobody saw this, either.

"Not because (Frid's) picture isn't involved, because it isn't about DS," someone else ejaculated into the void.

Too many people have decided that the only relationship they want with websites today is through a social media buffer, which is why there aren't many sites like The Collinsport Historical Society around anymore. The internet was lousy with blogs when this site kicked off back in 2012. Today, there are so few that the Rondos have merged their "Best Blog" and "Best Website" into one category, pitting my tiny corner of the Internet against Bloody DisgustingDread Central and Birth. Movies. Death. (One of the early models for my website, Stacey Ponder's Final Girl, hasn't been updated since June 11, 2018.)

Is that what the future holds for us? Because, getting back to my original point, I've mentioned the ways Dan Curtis has influenced Stan Against Evil on this website many, many times. From how Collinsport helped inform the show's setting, to the House of Dark Shadows homage in Janet Varney's costume design in the episode "Vampire Creek." And hey! There's a witch on the show named Lara Bouchard, and a doctor at a mental institutioned named "Dr. Edmonds." Speaking of Dan Curtis, Carl Kolchak also made a stealth appearance in the third season of Stan Against Evil.

The people who took the time out of their busy schedules to barf up comments about how the Rondo campaign is irrelvant? They don't have a relationship with this website. They have a relationship with Facebook. Consequently, it's incredibly unlikely they've seen any of those earlier posts about Stan Against Evil. It's doubtful they even know the names of the contributors here. Our posts just appear in their feeds as if by magic, cobbled together during the night by elves in the workshop.

But the fight goes on! If you want to cast a ballot for Stan Against Evil, here's how:

As usual, this year's winners will be determined by votes from the public. And that means you. You can copy and paste the ballot and include an X next to your choices, or just type your ballot choices directly into the e-mail. Readers are asked to select winners from this year's nominees and e-mail your selections to David Colton at You can find the entire ballot at

Note: "Best TV Presentation" is #3 on the ballot. While you're at it, please consider voting for Dana Gould for #29, "Monster Kid Hall of the Year." This is a write-in category.

All voting is by e-mail only. One vote is allowed per person. Every e-mail must include your name to be counted. All votes are kept confidential. No e-mail addresses or personal information will be shared. Votes must be received by April 20, 2019.

I'm not alone in my efforts: The Cheap Chills Show is also stumping for Dana and Stan Against Evil and you can read their pitch HERE. Also, all three seasons of Stan Against Evil are now streaming on Hulu!

Friday, March 8, 2019

"What happened to Barnabas?"

Dark Shadows had been off the air for a few short months when Jonathan Frid sat down with the television editor for The Houston Post to talk about the next phase of his life. He was gearing up for a stage production in Texas of Wait Until Dark, a play by Frederick Knott that debuted on Broadway about the same time Dark Shadows began airing on ABC in 1966. (Mitchell Ryan was among the play's original cast.)

Naturally, Frid was playing the villainous Harry Roat Jr., because who else would you want to see him play? Over the years, it's a role that's attracted such diverse talent as Robert DuvallQuentin TarantinoAlan Arkin and Stacy Keach. For Frid, Harry Roat Jr. was almost an inevitability.

But Frid has some interesting things to say about Dark Shadows in this interview, which comes to us courtesy of his friend Nancy Kersey. For example: Frid's efforts to negotiate his way out of the sequel to House of Dark Shadows almost led to his departure from the series. This is a good one.

"What happened to Barnabas?"

By Millie Budd
The Houston Post
July 20, 1971

What a kind of a day was April 14, 1967?  It was a day like all days . . . unless you happened to be watching a certain spook serial.

On that day, which must be recorded with some kind of notoriety in the annals of television, a 175-year old vampire named Barnabas Collins was introduced to the viewers of Dark Shadows.

Daytime television has not been quite the same since. Housewives and schoolgirls were particularly susceptible to Barnabas’ fatal charms.  There was much mourning and lamentation throughout the land by those housewives and schoolgirls when, four years later, ABC canceled the series.

Unlike most television series, Dark Shadows tied up all the loose storylines on the final episode.  Unfortunately, Houston fans did not see the happily ever after ending because Channel 13 had taken the show off the air some weeks before.

What happened to Barnabas?

“I honestly can’t remember,” says Jonathan Frid, who played the vampire for nearly four years.

Frid was weary and his brooding brown eyes were bleary early in the morning after opening night of “Wait Until Dark” at Houston’s Windmill Dinner Theater.

But he was game to talk about the series and the phenomenon that was Barnabas Collins.  And talk he did, in an actor’s richly resonant and carefully modulated voice, punctuated by expressive shrugs of his broad shoulders and graceful gestures of his large, long-fingered hands.

“The last story on Dark Shadows for the last four months of the show was ‘Wuthering Heights’ and I was playing Heathcliff although the character’s name was Bramwell.”

What happened is that Frid, while still playing Barnabas, went in to talk to the show’s producer, Dan Curtis, about the second movie spin-off from the serial.  Frid did not want to appear in that film, although he had starred in the first.

“I felt if I made the second one, I would make the third, the fourth, and the fifth and I would always be playing Barnabas,” Frid said.  This is tried to explain to Curtis. Curtis took it to mean that Frid wanted out of the series as well.

“Suddenly,” Frid said, “I found that I had fired myself.  I walked away from Dan’s office saying “Jonny, what had you done?”

But Frid and Curtis got together again and Frid returned to Dark Shadows as Bramwell nee Heathcliff.  “Bramwell found his own true love on that last episode,” Frid recalled.  But the rest of the plot endings are hazy in his mind.

How did Frid feel about the cancellation?

“No surprise,” was his instant reply.  “I saw the writing on the wall two years ago. Of course, we had a faithful core of fans who watched the show. But the casual viewers dropped away.”

Dark Shadows was not the kind of soap opera that can go on ad infinitum. Our show shot the wad as it were.”

“Actually, the writers ran out of material for me at the end of the first year.  They had to keep thinking up excuses to keep Barnabas out of the daylight.  Finally, they cured me for about a year and Barnabas became goodie two-shoes.”

Frid feels the dipping rating were not the only contributing factor to the demise of the series.

“Another thing, the producer watched the ratings and if they started to go down, he’d change the story. For instance, we got so much mailing wanting to know how Barnabas became a vampire, that Dan decided a good way to help the ratings would be to go back in time and explain it all.

“Well, we did those stories and if confused everybody. Viewers can identify with a character who suddenly becomes someone else.  Nobody, not even Einstein, could have followed the damn thing.”

Frid apparently has no regrets either for the time he served on Dark Shadows or for its end.

“I’ll always be grateful to the soap opera. People like to put them down, but I must say there wasn’t a day that went by that we didn’t have something – only a moment, maybe – that we could be proud of. We reached for the stars and many times we fell on our faces.”

Frid tried to analyze Barnabas’ instant popularity. The character originally was to be around only for a couple of weeks before he was killed off.  But mail and ratings, both of which took off like a rocket, changes the course of history.

“I had great respect for Barnabas as a character. The one thing unique about him is it was a role written for me and not many actors can say that.

“The man’s loneliness was the main thing that made it work.  I think women love lonely, vulnerable men.  I played on that.  In the theater, we play tricks on people’s emotions. We are con artists, really.

“And, let’s face it, Barnabas did have that extra attraction of the fangs. People like to see fangs.”

Like Barnabas, Frid does not know what happened to the fangs. One kookie friend in Washington, D.C., wanted to have them preserved in some kind of gold mounting.  Frid kiddingly suggested making them salt and pepper shakers. But they are undoubtedly gathering dust in some prop department vault at ABC.

“I’m not a souvenir collector,” Frid said. “ABC wanted to charge me $75 for the clothes I had worn for three years which didn’t cost more than $100 when they were new.  They finally came down to $25 but I said forget it.”

Where does an ex-vampire with classical Shakespeare training go when he is de-fanged?

Well, first, Frid goes to Houston for a six-week run in the mystery play at Windmill Dinner Theater.  He is playing a villain again and although he finds the play’s plot “rather thin,” he hopes to have fun in making his character as bizarre as possible.

“I can get as much fun – or maybe I’ve just talked myself into it – but I can enjoy playing a well-written Barnabas as well as I enjoy playing Macbeth or Richard III.

“I must tell you that I was very poor in Shakespeare in school.  I don’t enjoy reading poetry. But, instinctively, I would get up and do it.

“As for the future, I don’t know what I am going to be doing next.  I am a will-o’-the-wisp. There are two kinds of actors:  the laborer actor and the entrepreneur actor.  I am a laborer actor.

“But I think I would like to produce my own theater.

“I’ve got to start producing my own life.”

Celebrate World Women's Day with ... Dark Shadows?

"Josette DuPres Collins gambled her soul, and lost it, in an ill-conceived bid to destroy her rival Angelique. Now the Dark Lord has sent his emissary to bring Josette to her place in Hell."

The Lost Girl might seem like an odd choice to highlight for World Women's Day. From a narrative point of view, Dark Shadows offers a significant challenge in celebrating much of anything ... it is, after all, a television series about bad people making bad decisions. There aren't many role models in Collinsport.

But The Lost Girl is unique among the Dark Shadows line of audios. Unless I'm overlooking something, it appears to be the only installment starring women and written by a woman. Sure, Nigel Fairs is onhand to provide a little menace, but it's telling that the only male voice in the tale is basically playing the devil.

The Lost Girl sees Kathryn Leigh Scott return to the role of Josette, a character that continues to suffer even in the afterlife. Also appearing in the episode are Rebecca Staab ("Daphne Collins" from the 1991 Dark Shadows revival series) and Lara Parker as you-know-who.

The Lost Girl was written by Debbie Lynn Smith, who has a ton of television writing credits under her belt, but these days runs Kymera Press, a comic book publisher that produces comics by women and about women. It's slogan? "We're Not Asking For Permission." How badass is that?

You can get The Lost Girl directly from Big Finish and from Amazon.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Everything we know about Master of Dark Shadows

Jonathan Frid's "lost" appearance on the The Dick Cavett Show has been recreated for Master of Dark Shadows.
To be honest, I wasn't that excited about Master of Dark Shadows. That's not to say I wasn't grateful that it was happening ... a reconsideration of the works of Dan Curtis is long overdue. For a man who never intended to become a filmmaker he developed an incredibly distinctive, powerful style. It's not a coincidence that we're still talking about his work in the decades since his creative peak.

That being said, I wasn't sure what Master of Dark Shadows had to offer those of us who are graduates of his work. I expected the documentary to be 100-level stuff for the uninitiated ... which is perfectly fine. It's a wise choice, since it's difficult to engage new audiences if you talking over their heads. But I was sure this would be stuff I've all heard and seen before.

And then the list of bonus features arrived in my mailbox and OH. MY. GOD. While the documentary was probably going to be worth the cost of the disc alone, the bonus features are priceless. Some of this stuff I didn't even know existed, such as video of Jonathan Frid's 1969 visit to the White House. There's also the Art Wallace-penned episode from the CBS anthology series The Web which served as the template for Dark Shadows more than a decade later. This screened at the 2016 Dark Shadows Festival but I was only able to catch a few minutes of it ... so it's great to get a second chance to revisit this once-lost gem.

There's also ... well, see for yourself. Below is the official summary of Master of Dark Shadows, a list of guest stars, the final key art, the trailer and a list of the bonus featurs to be included with the DVD and Blu-ray editions of the documentary. Master of Dark Shadows is available for pre-order from Amazon HERE and is set for release April 16.

In 1966, a phenomenon was launched when Dark Shadows debuted on ABC-TV as a daily Gothic suspense series. Airing in the late afternoon, the show attracted a massive youth audience as it shifted to the supernatural with the introduction of vulnerable vampire Barnabas Collins. Witches, ghosts and scary storylines turned Dark Shadows into a TV classic that led to motion pictures, remakes, reunions and legions of devoted fans who have kept the legend alive for five decades.

The feature-length documentary MASTER OF DARK SHADOWS reveals the fascinating, far-reaching impact and appeal of Dark Shadows with a compelling blend of rare footage, historical images and behind-the-scenes stories while also exploring the dramatic talents of creator-producer-director Dan Curtis. Known as the "King of TV Horror," the Emmy-winning filmmaker followed Dark Shadows with other iconic genre favorites including The Night Stalker, Trilogy of Terror and Burnt Offerings before earning accolades for the epic mini-series The Winds of War and War & Remembrance.

Narrated by Ian McShane (Deadwood), MASTER OF DARK SHADOWS offers insights from Curtis himself in addition to Oscar-winning writer-producer Alan Ball (True Blood), screenwriter William F. Nolan (Trilogy of Terror), author Herman Wouk (The Winds Of War), veteran actresses Whoopi Goldberg (Ghost) and Barbara Steele (Black Sunday), actor Ben Cross (Chariots of Fire), original Dark Shadows stars Jonathan Frid, David Selby, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, John Karlen, Nancy Barrett, Jerry Lacy, Roger Davis, Marie Wallace, Chris Pennock and James Storm plus other colleagues and family members.

Kathryn Leigh Scott, David Selby and Lara Parker at the Lyndhurst Estate during the 2012 Dark Shadows Festival.

DVD and BluRay bonus features:
  • Jonathan Frid on "The Dick Cavett Show"recreation of Frid's second of three appearances on the longtime talk program host's ABC series in 1968 using surviving original audio master along with previously unseen production photos of Frid with Cavett, rare images of Frid on a promotional tour and other "Dark Shadows" related visuals.
  • David Selby - "Light & Shadows" offers a musical performance of one of the actor-writer'soriginal "Dark Shadows" themed songs shot at the 2012 cast reunion on Coronado Island in California.
  • "Dark Shadows In Hell's Kitchen" Kathryn Leigh Scott visits the former "Dark Shadows" ABC-TV Studio 16 in Manhattan a few months prior to its recent demolition. 
  • "The House" episode of "The Web" The 1954 CBS-TV anthology series installment written by Art Wallace which was a precursor to the story bible he put together for Dan Curtis as the foundation for the original "Dark Shadows" story.
  • Original 1966 ABC-TV "Dark Shadows" promos Four different commercials serving to preview and promote the series which include rare location footage and atmospheric voice-overs by famed vocal artist Paul Frees
  • "Dark Shadows In Print" Kathryn Leigh Scott & David Selby reminisce and talk about the Pomegranate Press book "Dark Shadows - Return To Collinwood."
  • "Master of Dark Shadows" Film Trailer 
  • "Dark Shadows" Big Finish Audio Drama Promo

BluRay only bonus features:
  • Barnabas At The White House (1969 color newsreel footage of Jonathan Frid in costume for a UNICEF Halloween party hosted by President Nixon's daughter Tricia)
  • Jonathan Frid: "Shakespeare & Poe In The Shadows" Originally broadcast on the New Jersey Network Public Television "Dark Shadows Special" in 1983, the actor performs "The Tell-Tale Heart" in full as well as an excerpt from "Richard III" 

Dark Shadows, The Road to Bloodline: In The Twinkling of an Eye


“I liked him.” “He was very likable.” “He wanted to kill you!” “He wanted me dead. Not the same thing.”

The Road to Bloodline starts to slow down a bit with 2015’s In The Twinkling of an Eye. Considerably less action heavy than last installment, this Penelope Faith penned tale downshifts nicely with a story of a returning Jessica Griffin (Marie Wallace) and Jackie Tate (Alexandra Donnachie) tangling with a sort of soul reaper named Nate (a icy, but cooly charming Ryan Wichert). Though the story itself is not quite as exciting as the pitch, Wallace, Donnachie, and Wichert’s performances really shine through, highlighting the range’s consistently solid roster of actors. Like, as a relative neophyte (I’m now on episode 75 of the original series, watching concurrently with my listening and soon to be reading), it is nice to know that even when I don’t love the story, the cast and the sound design of these audios will at least always be worth the listen. That may be where I’m landing with In The Twinkling of an Eye.

But please don’t let my semi-apathy toward this story dissuade you! There is plenty to love about this audio! Mainly, Marie Wallace and Alexandra Donnachie! Yes, after Jessica’s harrowing attack and recovery she is back behind the bar at the Blue Whale and Jackie is still trying to sneak drinks, and failing adorably. Both women return beautifully to the roles, giving us two women who have changed since the last time we saw them and attempting to readjust to a life post-Bloodlust. I have been kind of famously chippy in these reviews about how I haven’t felt like this arc has had any real text about how the characters have moved on after that epic serial, BUT Twinkling kind of gives me some juice in that regard! This is the first time it felt like a writer was expressly detailing how characters were moving on and while it doesn’t completely commit to it, the script at least, like Degrassi, goes there.

And the story actually isn’t half bad! Given a creeping, other worldly sound design by David Darlington, this script weaves another “Dark Shadows: What If?” tale, centered around the night Jessica was attacked. As both women get to know Nate, a new handsome, yet somewhat odd man hanging about the Blue Whale and in Jessica’s day dreams, they learn that it’s his job to escort souls to their final rest and he was suppose to escort Jessica’s soul to it’s reward that fateful night. But instead, he finds himself bonded (at least I think?) onto the soul of a cyclist who died in Jessica’s stead, due to Jackie not helping him in her rush to get to Jessica after her attack. It gets...a little squffy there for a bit, which is another ding against it, but the idea is a fun one and brings out some neat chemistry between our three leads. Couple that with the inch forward character wise for the women’s current state going into Bloodline and you have at least a passable good time.

I feel bad for sounding so down on this audio, but compared to the past ones so far, this one just seems like a filler episode, graced with some pretty good performances and half a great idea. There were plenty of filler episodes on TV and it was only a matter of time until I got to one here on the audio side of things. I still completely love Jackie Tate though. I am very glad she is still around and looking to keep causing trouble going into the next major serial. And what else can I say about Marie Wallace that hasn’t already been said around here? She’s a treasure! And we treat her as such. All in all, I think In The Twinkling of an Eye is a great “one and done” listen and nothing more. But am I wrong? Come tell me in the hottest new nightspot on Facebook, The CHS Drawing Room. Let’s pop open Roger’s GOOD sherry and talk some Big Finishverse, or whatever else Dark Shadows related you want!

NEXT TIME! Deliver us From Evil! The return of that ol’ rat fink Cyrus Longworth and murder tourist Alfie Chapman! Until then 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, March 5, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 5


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 446

When Barnabas reveals his nocturnal activities to Joshua, will the patriarch find the inspiration to shoot? Joshua: Louis Edmonds. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Joshua learns of Barnabas’ curse. He charges his son with killing himself when he must lead a confused Naomi back to Collinwood. After dealing with a subtle blackmail attempt from Nathan Forbes, Joshua returns to Collinwood where he shoots Barnabas.

Episode 446 goes to the heart of one of Dark Shadows’ real nightmares, and that’s the inevitable horror of worlds colliding. All horror deals with the dance between the sacred and the profane, but this show heightens the tension by casting the sacred with the epitome of American civilization. As Quentin tells Barnabas, “There is no English branch of the family.” The Collinses are wealthy, landed, sophisticated, and live in a castle forged from the hard-won fruits of capitalism. They may honor the dead, but their home is a monument to living. Confronting them with horror is to confront America with horror, and cloaking them in the sanctity of economic power makes them even more American than the Cleavers. Because, by god, they Made Something of Themselves.

But other than display Buckwheatean fright, what else is the sacred supposed to do when the profane decides to stretch out on the couch, grab the remote, and announce it’s there to stay? Exactly. And that’s the limit of horror. But not on Dark Shadows and not on episode 446. Call it turgid or call it intellectual, but in Collinsport, horror speaks and horror listens. Barnabas speaks and Joshua listens. And vice-versa. Perhaps we can thank the strictures of standards and practices or the lightyear-long format of soap opera storytelling. Either way, that chance for a dialogue is a chance to pause and think about what gives the profane its profanity. And by profanity, I simply mean otherness.

When Barnabas fesses up to Joshua, substitute anything uncomfortable between generations and sensibilities for “vampire” and you’ll see what I mean. In the words of John Wayne, homosexuality is the obvious choice, but the idea of otherness is hardly restricted to that. What’s amazing is that, while Joshua obviously rejects his son’s new diet, he doesn’t necessarily reject his son. It would be a poor choice as a human and as a prominent figure in a narrative. Inevitable? Maybe, but Joshua tries everything in between. And by “everything,” I largely mean encouraging his son to kill himself. Even when Joshua pulls the trigger, it’s as much to confirm Barnabas’ inhumanity as to end it.

Few suffer like Joshua, and with standards like his, he sets himself up for it. But these standards are tempered by a depth of reluctant compassion that few on the program share. These are traits that his son will inherit as he manages his own ad hoc family of Julia and Willie in the twentieth century. Like so much in Dark Shadows, the extremes he reaches in the attempt to rationalize Barnabas go to the farcical. For all of it’s drama, it’s a legitimately funny episode. Barnabas has some wonderful takes as he listens to Joshua’s suggestion that all will be made right by a fair trial. More, later, when he tries to coax Joshua into coming to the vampire conclusion without saying “the word,” a bit like an occult version of $20,000 Pyramid.

But the episode is hardly about only Joshua. Barnabas’ plight demands that viewers see events through his eyes, also. Because this isn’t a veiled metaphor for something like homosexuality. This is about a life that requires killing others. The choices have a cruel honesty to them. Barnabas is feeding off of the poor, and class differences have already dehumanized them in the eyes of his echelon. Yes, yes, it’s outrageous, his fellows might secretly opine, but that’s what they’re there for. The shocking message of Barnabas is that he’s just making the suggested into the literally, and doing so in the frankest way. Maybe that’s the secret reason Barnabas is, at once, so cold and yet so passionate about his crimes. He’s shocked that he doesn’t care more. Barnabas’ attacks correspond less with his biological needs and more with his emotional life. We see him as a vampire, off and on, all the time. He’s not always feeding, and it’s clear that he doesn’t really need to. In fact, he stops himself with little consequence all the time. He’s rationalizing his crimes with what may or may not be an impulsive thirst. Perhaps he’s ultimately looking for an end from Joshua or at least his understanding. If we look at what Barnabas does for the lion’s share of the series, it’s make up for this dark impulse. Barnabas gets labeled as a mere serial killer, “The Collinsport Strangler,” but evidence suggests that, because he doesn’t need to kill (as often) that may actually be what he is.

The thousand yard stare which Barnabas gets when contemplating his crimes may not be from the fact that he couldn’t help it, but that he could.

This episode was broadcast March 11, 1968.

Monday, March 4, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 4


Taped on this date in 1971: Episode 1231

The 1680 flashback arc begins with the dire betrayal of an unscrupulous occultist until an unforeseen twist brings the 1680 flashback to a stunning conclusion. Brutus Collins: Louis Edmonds. (Repeat; 30 min.)

In a flashback narrated by Morgan’s possessing ghost of James Forsythe, we venture back to 1680 where we see how the room was cursed. Dastardly Collins patriarch, Brutus, uses occult powers to punish and kill James Forsythe, one of his victims in business -- and the man who’s making him a cuckold with his wife, Amanda. The curse shall impact the future of the family, until a Collins has the strength to spend the night there. Having revealed this, Forsythe’s ghost is released.

It’s 1841PT and the show has 14 installments left. Moreover, everyone will be out of a job… at least in Collinsport… in twenty days. Given that Dark Shadows has a happy ending (unless you’re named Melanie), this Damoclean vacuum is more of an impending threat than anything Gordon and Sam could have devised. And once you know the production schedule’s destiny, it’s hard to watch these without that fate in mind. Although Dan Curtis admitted that he wasn’t much of a presence in the last months of the show, 1231 has a lavishness that reminds me of the spare-no-expenses showmanship behind his two, epic War miniseries. An on-set presence or not, Curtis was not a man to go out on a whimper. Even if (or because) it’s just one episode, the show is blowing as much scratch as possible, and it’s a tiny metaphor for the take-no-prisoners, gutsy, audience-first attitude that always guided the show. Imagine the hand-wringing that must have transpired about the 1795 storyline. I’m sure someone, somewhere needed convincing. Now, we do an entirely new flashback for just one episode. Nearly a century prior to that first one. In a parallel universe. Cancellation be damned, Curtis was not going to change to suit common sense nor artistic timidity. It was everyone else’s job to catch up with him.

1231 is one of the show’s boldest episodes. Because of its rarity and obscure, 1841PT address, it’s also one of the most easily overlooked. Watching the show at this point is to watch it obsessed with big pictures and goodbyes and last times. (Like this is the last time Louis Edmonds will narrate an episode.) In that chaos of nostalgia and fate, it’s vital to remember these gems as little highlights of the series, and ones that make the Mr. Best storyline seem longer than solving the murder of Bill Malloy. Packed into this episode, we get a flashback narrated by a man possessed by a ghost, and that’s enough right there. But add to it infidelity, a cruel and conniving Collins patriarch, a sycophantic spinster who turns on him, betrayal by a beautiful wife, and an occult serum that will create a vengeful ghost? You got a stew going. It is a core sample of the show’s essence, narrow to the point of laser-like. It’s not just part of Dark Shadows. It is Dark Shadows. It’s also kind of silly. To the point of simultaneously allowing us to see the show through the eyes of its critics. This may be what all of the show looks like to them -- wacky costumes, antiquated sets, hairpieces, and discussions about things other than contemporary humdrummery.

Why does it let us see it that way, too? It feels like 1795 is kind of the cosmic limit on Dark Shadows flashbacks because it is so rich with the essence of the mythos. It’s Ur-Shadows. There’s a quintessential Americanness to those post-Colonial times, and Dark Shadows works partially because it Americanizes story aesthetics we largely associate with England. By placing these events in America and putting the Founding Family in vaguely Georgian drag, the show in 1795 lives and breathes in the same visual atmos we associate with Washington and Adams. Going back earlier is to go back to an era prior to the United States. Prior, really, to Dark Shadows in the most cosmic sense. The costumes and spartan set appointments feel borrowed from another show.

In these flashbacks, my instinct is to go, “There, there, that’s how it all started. That’s how the family became cursed.”  Well, yeah, kind of. I guess. But like everything in 1841PT, it has to be seen metaphorically. Which is arguably impractical. Especially in this weather, and with these shoes. But why start thinking practically at this point? Art is a metaphor, so it’s too late to draw the line within story. The mirror is now layers and layers deep, but it still reflects something important. It’s a flashback within a flashback in a parallel universe first seen in yet another flashback, visited by characters from a present that’s 48 years old. If relatability ever existed in this chain, why draw the line now?

Brutus is both villain and hero in a small-c-crucible sense. Even though he says he’s unleashing the curse because of James Forsythe, his wife’s betrayal, and his sister’s streak of goodness, I think Brutus realizes that he’s the real cause. Why else would you curse future Collinses over the crimes of people who, by and large, were not, you know, Collinses? And why else would you make the ticket out of the curse be the mental wherewithal to survive a night haunted by the ghost of the man you killed? This is the act of a man who questions his own mental wherewithal. It’s, pardon the expression, a cry for help from someone who will be haunted by James Forsythe (and his guilt over Forsythe) far longer than just one night. Not only is he sharing the wealth, Brutus is also posting a want ad/warning so that a better Collins might emerge. It’s the heat and pressure needed to finally create a Collins worthy of the name.

I am always hectored by the question of, “What does it mean to be a Collins?” I used to want to come up with a noble list worthy of a Starfleet officer. It’s the other way around. We’re not born into greatness. We’re not noble savages. Money just perfumes the rot. The more apt question is, “What does it take to be better than a Collins?” Maybe that’s what Brutus is after, too.

If you’re going out on a note, grand-yet-specific, that’s a good one to play.

This episode was broadcast March 15, 1971.

Spooks haunt Tarrytown estate, 1970

The Collinsport Historical Society's new Facebook group The Drawing Room has really been a boon. Lots of readers have helped point the way toward trivia and newspaper clippings, so much so that I'm rushing just to keep up with them. This one comes courtesy of  reader J.R. Nichols, who is as much a clipping junkie as I am. It's an early newspaper account about the making of House of Dark Shadows, at this point still just titled "Dark Shadows." It's interesting for a number of reasons: It includes a rare photo of Kathryn Leigh Scott and Donald Briscoe on location, and it makes mention of many of the behind-the-scenes crew of the film. You can read a transcript of the story below.

Spooks haunt movie making on Tarrytown estate
By Blanche Feldstein
The Journal News (White Plains, New York)
April 4, 1970

If Washington Irving's ghost is wandering around Tarrytown, these days, he will be surprised to find at Lyndhurst some spooks who never haunted his tales of Sleepy Hollow.

Kathryn Leigh Scott and Donald Briscoe look over the script
 for "House of Dark Shadows" on location at Tarrytown, N.Y.
The vampires and ghouls occupying the imposing former Gould estate are part of a large cast and crew who are filming "Dark Shadows," MGM's new film based on the afternoon TV soap opera. Tarrytown is accommodating itself to the influx of celebrities, having already hosted two other films. "Lovers and Other Strangers," a Hollywood production, was shot at the Hilton Inn last fall, and the "Ceremony of innocence," an off-Broadway play for TV, used the Axe Castle as a set.

Lyndhurst, the charming gothic mansion, used as a country home by the Duchess of Talleyrand-Perigard, has taken on the eerie qualities of the movie plot. The gelled windows reflect the grim tale of lust and love played out by vampire Barnabas and those he gets his teeth into. The actors and actresses including Jonathan Frid, who plays Barnabas, and Joan Bennett, who is the elegant Elizabeth Stoddard Collins, in the movie, are imported daily by limousine from New York City.

Monday's bright sunlight after Easter Sunday's surprise snow kept the vampire Barnabas from appearing on the set. But Miss Bennett arrived late and told of the traffic problems which made the usual one-half hour commute to Lyndhurst into an hour and a half. The snow, wrong for the fall setting of the film, forced director Dan Curtis to call an unscheduled indoor rehearsal.

The stars, actors, sound crew, lighting crew, equipment and props moved into the mansion where the priceless collection of furniture, ''objects" and Tiffany glass will lend authenticity to the incredible story. As on the soap opera, the actors play the scenes straight, vampires and victims take their roles seriously.

Making a movie is grueling business. Director Curtis shouts to an actor, "If you don't step in, the whole scene will lay like a lox," as the scene is hot for the 25th time in a half-hour. Kathryn Leigh Scott, seductive young romantic lead who as Maggie Evans captures the vampire's affection, gets kissed about 300 times in one hour by Roger Davis, tall, blond and handsome, who plays Jeff Clark.

Kiss of Passion 
Each time, the kiss must portray passion, concern and tenderness. The director shouts for quiet in the hall. Filled with workers, photographers, makeup men who rush in every other minute to fix Kathryn's hair and powder her nose sound effects men and miscellaneous Lyndhurst personnel, total quiet is not easily accomplished.

Everyone tries, however, and stands frozen from the few minutes the shot is being taken. The actors and actresses with seeming infinite patience get new directions and start the scene all over again, until the director is finally satisfied.

Nancy Barrett, a wispy young actress with long blond hair, who plays Carolyn Stoddard, one of the vampire's victims, has the bad luck to become a vampire herself. Even as a vampire, her lot is not happy. After biting a few people, she is killed by a stake driven through her heart.

Last week, the scene where Carolyn tries to kill David Collins, is played by 14-year old David Henesy, was shot for three long hours in the freezing temperature and decaying atmosphere of what used to be the Lyndhurst swimming pool building. Offering a perfect setting for a murder, the gigantic former pool is surrounded by large pillars, partially eaten away by mold. The debris, mud and ice on the floor is caused by the leaking roof.

Shivers in Shroud 
Dressed only in a shroud over a body stocking, Nancy emerged shivering from the building and spoke of her role which she has played for four years on the soap opera. Biting has become a habit with her she explained and she finds no difficulty playing a vampire. Hot coffee was being sued on the grounds, but Nancy was afraid to have some since the only rest room was over a mile away from the pool building.

Bob Laden is the makeup man for the show. "Have blood, will travel," he says as he dashes around fixing faces and wounds with the proper gore. He also carries vampire bites, vampire teeth and lots of false eyelashes. Prop man is Michael Maloney, who weaves spider webs out of glue and creates fog out of carbon dioxide. He also has a wind machine to get the eerie effect' of the capes blowing in the wind.

Make believe Is very much in the mind of young Henesy, especially since the story calls for his being hanged. "Is that my hanging closet?" he asked the workmen as they carried a large wooden box gingerly through the front hall of the mansion. David explained that he really gets hung on a harness attached to a canvas vest he wears. "It's all fake," he says, "there's no way I can be hurt."

Never be the Same 
When the actors, directors, photographers, sound men, makeup artists and vampires pack up their gear and leave, will Lyndhurst ever be the same?

Hopefully no, says Gerald Fiedler, director of Lyndhurst. The guides and visitors feel the rooms come alive as they are used as settings for the film. An increase in visitors is excited.

Lori Watson, 20, of Yonkers, who works as a guide says, "Naturally it's much different because of the sets. The garden room is being used as a sheriff's office. People are shocked by the darkness but also are thrilled by being on a set."

Mr. Fiedler has some exciting long-range plans for Lyndhurst which includes creating a theater for stage productions and concerts out of the swimming pool building, restoring the greenhouse, the carriage house and barns and possibly creating a restaurant on the grounds. Although a 515 million project, Mr. Fiedler is optimistic about accomplishing much of the restoration, within the next five years. Meanwhile Tarrytown end Lyndhurst are getting known as a good place to make movies.
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