Friday, January 18, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: JANUARY 18


Taped on this date in 1971: Episode 1197

Angelique, Barnabas, and Quentin unite to face their ultimate challenge. Barnabas: Jonathan Frid. (Repeat. 30 min.)

Angelique arrives at Quentin’s execution with the head of Judah Zachery, identifying it as coming from the home of Charles Dawson. Desmond uses the distraction to shoot Gerard, and he is finally released from Judah’s hold. When the head of the warlock dissolves into a skull, Angelique’s story has new resonance. She is held for questioning and Barnabas returns home to see his own son, Bramwell, attempt to win Catherine back in the Parallel Time room. Barnabas determines to express his feelings to Angelique. When he approaches her to do so, Trask bursts in and fires a pistol at her.

1197 is rife with some of the most profound moments in the series… some that are really there… some that play out in my mind’s eye based on implications and wishes. In classic, Dark Shadows tradition, it’s also bang-up entertainment. And it’s the start of goodbye.

I can’t ignore that when I watch it. The idea makes my chest tighten, and the execution has a strange, terminal excitement that exists in no other installment. It’s a resolution without a price -- until the very, very final seconds. Before that? It begins with a sequence so satisfying that I want to take up smoking just so I can have a cigarette afterwards. Appropriate salute for a show of the era.

It’s still hard to imagine that this is the penultimate installment in the whole thing. But it is. Keep that in mind. 1841PT is underrated, and it’s also an epilogue, existing outside the continuity we care about. Most viewers will be lost without thinking abstractly… or approaching it first, as the only Dark Shadows they know. But this… episode 1197? This is the real beginning of the end. It’s the series saying goodbye. It’s how nearly 1225 episodes of continuity depart without knowing it. And what was it like for viewers at the time? For the more aware, every day was alpha and omega. With no seasons and no full bundles dropping on Netflix at once, each  episode was the next, and the last, and a cliffhanger for more, and the final chance any of this might ever, ever, in any form, be seen.

Dark Shadows is a ruthless-yet-delicate show. For one with such a male-heavy cast, it is often effete. But not here. Not now. There are too many feelings at stake for the show to be obsessed with preserving them under glass. It may be a saga that begins with Louis Edmonds passive-aggressively sneering at Joan Bennett, but it ends with David Selby swaggering off the blindfold on an execution block. He’s got a backbone like the Rock of Gibraltar, but a Victorian scientist to the end, it’s never at the expense of his precision and dignity. Ending the show on a flashback gives us a sense progress and a point of departure against which we can measure the very first episode. On no other show can we reflect on how far we’ve come and how far we’ve strayed, all at once. 

The bravado of Desmond and Quentin -- and even poor, sad Gerard -- make wonderful counterpoints for Barnabas. Especially true as the great man commits to the most dangerous truth and choice of his life: true love. The pivot for him is the Parallel Time sequence. At this point, the PT sequences have become the Dark Shadows equivalents of lame musical guests on SNL -- time to hit the head, check text messages, and light some hookah coals.  But in 1197, the interlude is a beautiful metaphor, screened for Barnabas by a godlike Dan Curtis to spur him to take the chance he must. Seeing your own son and twin from the present and future at once is an Escheresque mirror without equal. Then to watch him struggle to overcome the loss of the duplicate of the love you’ve denied yourself because, for one reason, she’s not adequately respectable? A woman denying you for someone even more respectable than yourself?

That’ll get to a guy. For Barnabas, it’s a Marley’s Ghost moment. He’s completely transformed for the first of several times in just a few minutes. My favorite moment of potential energy is just after he’s seen off his shadow brother -- Quentin -- into his new and free future. Alone in the foyer, having seen someone leave him and Collinwood smiling for once, Barnabas turns toward the drawing room, where he knows Angelique awaits him. And for just a fraction of a second, you know he catches a glimpse of his portrait. Is he imagining his first moments in the Collinwood of 1967? How can it not? The entire journey allusively flashes by in an instant. It’s a moment of everything, abridged. Like the end of Cyrano, it has a genuinely terrible ending, and I mean that in the best way. Lara Parker gives it a bit of a melodramatic twist to her depiction of having been shot. Anything realistic would have been too much to watch. We need the cushion of art in a moment so incredibly cruel.

In episode 411, Barnabas discovers the nature of Angelique’s curse. He responds by executing her, and if that chain of moments forms the nadir of their relationship, 1197 is the summit. If we look at the 1795 flashback as the start of his story, then 411 and 1197 bookend his journey. In both episodes, only Barnabas survives.

Is it a ritual? To what end? Why does death await Angelique at either end of this spectrum? Miserable survival for Barnabas. Of what possible benefit is this? Especially twice. None. Because he’s not supposed to benefit. We are. The audience. We benefit by watching where his choices lead him. In both instances, Barnabas’ central sin is dishonesty with himself. It’s easy to understand why he’s initially blind to his love in the year 1840; he’s seen Angelique torment the inhabitants of three separate centuries. It’s harder in 1795 because his denial is more complicated. Maybe it’s a matter of social class and family pressure. Maybe it’s timing. He certainly loves Josette, and she provides none of the challenges posed by Angelique.

Love, especially in fiction, and even more especially in pop fiction, is so tempting to quantify. A bit like a character stat in a video game -- an achievement you unlock by revealing Judah. It’s far more complicated, and its unclarity leads to the inevitable fan cry of the true believer, “How could he love Angelique more than Josette… especially after all that she did?!”

I don’t think it’s an issue of more nor less. For one thing, Josette isn’t here. Hasn’t been, by Barnabas’ internal clock, for about 175 years or so. I mean, not really. Her ghost has given him the permission to move on. And it’s clear that Roxanne seemed like a good idea at the time, but, you know, um, yeah. Swipe left. That leaves Angelique by default, but how can he look past her misdeeds?

The only salient fact is that he does. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Baffling. Yet, it’s strangely, horribly, wonderfully, inexplicably, infuriatingly, and unfairly right.

That’s what makes it love.

This episode was broadcast Jan. 26, 1971.

Ian McShane narrates new Dark Shadows doc

Jonathan Frid gets a light from Dan Curtis
MPI Media Group today announced it has completed production on the highly anticipated
Master of Dark Shadows, a comprehensive celebration of the legendary Gothic daytime series Dark Shadows and its visionary creator, Dan Curtis. The feature documentary, which was shot in New York,  LA and London, includes interviews with key actors and filmmakers involved in the undyingly popular story of vampire Barnabas Collins and all the eerie goings-on at the gloomy Maine mansion Collinwood. The documentary was directed by David Gregory (Lost Soul, Godfathers of Mondo) and is set to be released this spring.

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 actors Whoopi Goldberg (Ghost), Barbara Steele (Black Sunday)and Ben Cross (Chariots of Fire), 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.

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 story lines 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 history, far-reaching impact and lasting appeal of Dark Shadows with a compelling blend of rare footage 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 miniseries The Winds of War and War and Remembrance.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Help send the Bodice Tipplers podcast to Collinsport

In March, the Bodice Tipplers podcast will be leaving the reservation to explore a few novels peripheral to their sphere of interest: trashy romance novels. They plan to do three books that month: the Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Imzadi by Peter David, Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews and ... well, the third is still up for discussion. Seeing as how I'm married to one of the two hosts (and am producer-by-default of the podcast) I've got a little influence over the title of the third book. It will absolutely be a Marilyn Ross book from the Dark Shadows line, but which one should it be?

I conducted a loose poll on social media last week and have narrowed it down to four possible books. (Note: I've nixed Barnabas, Quentin and the Body Snatchers because it's already been discussed at length on this website.)

Here are the candidates. You can vote using the Twitter poll below.

Dark Shadows, #1
Summary: "Despite warnings from the townspeople, Victoria Winters accepts the offer to come to the strange Collins House as governess. For some curious reason she feels the secret of her past may be uncovered in the bleak manor high on Widow's Hill. From the moment she arrives, Victoria becomes the target of someone in the house determined to destroy her. As the wind moans and the rain lashes around the isolated Collins House, Victoria, without friends in the manor, feels death close in on her, a choking, frightening death."

Barnabas Collins, #6
Summary: "America's Grooviest Ghoul Barnabas Collins, the 175-year-old vampire who has taken the country by storm comes alive in this new novel of gothic suspense. Your blood will grow cold as you read the never-before-told story of the foggy night in 1899 when Barnabas first arrived at Collinwood. You'll chill to the full horror of the real truth about Barnabas - a secret so terrible that it could not be revealed until now."

The Secret of Barnabas Collins, #7
Summary: "While searching for the woman who will replace his long-lost Josette, and thus end the terrible curse upon him, Barnabas meets lovely Clare Duncan. The story of their romance--and of the terror it brings to the beautiful young noblewoman--is a tale of Gothic suspense that will chill and delight the legions of Barnabas Collins fans."

Barnabas, Quentin and the Magic Potion, #25
Summary: "Barnabas predicts trouble for Collinwood when Nicholas Freeze, in whose antique shop Carolyn Stoddard works, discovers a centuries-old potion that promises eternal youth. Soon after, Mr. Freeze's daughter Hazel, tricked into taking the serum, dies. Carolyn is grief-stricken over her friend's death. Barnabas insists she stay on at the shop to watch Nicholas Freeze and his associates, one of whom Carolyn suspects is Quentin Collins, back at Collinwood in a disguise. Then Carolyn sees Hazel's ghost. She interprets this as a warning that Mr. Freeze has marked her for his next victim. Barnabas still refuses to let her quit. Has Barnabas made a fatal mistake by deliberately endangering Carolyn's life? Or will his plan avenge Hazel's murder and put her spirit to rest?"

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Barbara Crampton is a Dark Shadows fan, y'all

Confession: I typed the name "Barnabas Crampton" about 100 times while stitching this post together. It's pretty ingrained at this point. If I was in a coma you could put a pencil in my hand and it would still reflexively write "Barnabas." Some habits will die hard.

Which brings me to my point: Actress, horror ambassador and Fangoria columnist Barbara Crampton is a guest on the podcast Post Mortem with Mick Garris. She hits many of the expected bullet points (Re-Animator, From Beyond and Channel Zero are difficult subjects to avoid) but offers surprising sources of inspirations for her career choice. Among them: Dark Shadows.

OK, maybe it's not a huge surprise in this context (you're reading about this on a Dark Shadows blog, and there's that headline at the top of the page) but this feels like a win for our side. It also makes her recognition as Soap Opera Digest's "Villainess of the Year" in 1990 feel more poignant. I'm not going to steal Mick's thunder and post a transcript of the podcast, but here's a sample of what Barbara had to say:
"I really loved that particular show. I loved all the ladies in the show, but I really identified more with Barnabas Collins. I loved his character ... I wanted to be a vampir ejust watching him."
You can listen to the entire episode below. Thanks to Charlie Lonewolf for the tip!

And make sure to follow Barbara on Twitter @barbaracrampton

The Dark Shadows Daybook: JANUARY 16


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 411

As Barnabas returns from death, he learns that his resurrection comes at a price he can never repay. Barnabas: Jonathan Frid. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Barnabas awakens to find Angelique hovering over him with a stake. When he discovers that her curse rendered him neither alive nor dead, he kills her. As Barnabas discovers what he has become, Ben Stokes volunteers to help him, and while hiding Angelique’s body, must bluff Barnabas’ curious father. Barnabas returns, having found that his new life demands that he live off the blood of others.

This is it. I mean, IT.

There are those episodes that wind up in top ten lists. Huge turning points. But because of the strange structure of soap operas, the episodes of action sometimes differ from the more interesting moments of actual consequence. So, which do you pick? When looking at the whole reason we go to 1795, which is a front row seat for Barnabas Begins, when is “the moment”? It’s usually pegged as 405, the episode in which Barnabas shoots Angelique, she lays the curse, and he answers the door when the bat knocks. Yes, vital, crucial. All of that is true. However, it comes at the end of the episode, ripping the plate from us just as we’re reaching for the spork. Then we have five whole episodes as he tries to escape his curse and finally dies, distancing itch and scratch to a point that the dramatic impact is muffled. Are they necessary? Yes, for the development of Angelique’s rather Byzantine conscience. Arguably, the time gap heightens tension and creates more and more incentive to keep watching. Any more and they might have lost me, but 411 is so deeply satisfying to arrive at because the non-stop action and development make quintessential viewing. This episode, for me, is 1795 at its very best and one of the reasons that the flashback is so fondly remembered. Fewer things are better than good Dark Shadows, but this is so tight and intense that it ventures into the same realm as “City on the Edge of Forever,” coloring outside the lines of its own show’s standards to become not just an example of the program at its best, but of the medium at its best, as well.

Not to say that an episode has to be something beyond Dark Shadows to do that; it just has to be Dark Shadows at its best -- a core sample of why we care. This is it. And we care because we care about Barnabas, and we care about Barnabas because we care about what Jonathan Frid brings to the writing, and how that alchemizes with the work of Lara Parker. Maggie and Josette create frustration for Barnabas, and we feel for them both. Angelique brings threat, conflict, and desire on metaphysical, moral, mortal, and immortal levels. Maggie and Josette test greatness, but it is the transformation brought on by Angelique that makes him great. In 411, he realizes what he has become. Frid musters his full Shakespearean experience here, finding truth in the moment’s size. Barnabas surges with the panic and awe and woe that come with standing outside of life and outside of death. It’s so appropriate that they avoid the word “vampire” at this point, because the moment of his realization feels bigger than just becoming a folk tale-turned-penny dreadful baddie. By not using the v-word, we and he are focused on the more cosmic status of Barnabas and his alienation from both of the sides of existence. Not alive, not dead, but indifferent to both. Imbued with a passionate indifference to everything sacred in the natural order, he even overcomes -- if only for a moment -- all of Angelique’s powers. She’s not only a witch, she’s Dr. Frankenstein, desperately trying to undo her own creation and the only thing that can undo her. Angelique’s powers stem from nature… even the nature of the dark afterlife. By creating someone who stands outside of both life and what dark destiny lies beyond its gateway, she has an Oppenheimer moment. Barnabas demands to know why she was trying to destroy him before he rose. Yes, good question, and the answers are so myriad that the most powerful dramatic choice resides in not addressing them all. Because how can she?

As Barnabas sinks into the sad and terrified realization that his unwanted and Nietzschean state will require the loss of lives, he experiences the unique sadness of wanting the impossible end to an existence beyond what we can imagine. Fear drove Barnabas in life and fear drives him after. His dance with fear is as intense as his pursuit of love, and leads him into the paradox that drives him and the series. Just as love pushes him to do the hateful, fear will push him to be brave. We see this in his reflector, Ben Stokes, who recognizes his humanity as Barnabas loses his… and who quietly and hopelessly finds an impossible hope. As his master drifts from what it means to be human, Ben instinctively musters newfound will and compassion to help him, and by helping him create essential humanity for both of them. He stands at the opposite pole of Angelique, and somehow also shares a love for him that makes no sense, yet never rings as false. If Barnabas has to have his humanity ripped from him to eventually find it, Ben Stokes is his unwitting guide for that journey as he, himself, goes from murderer to conservator of life. As a final paradox, Ben can only take on the role of guardian of life by allowing the master in his charge to subsist by taking the life of others.
Does Ben do this because of social forces that define proletariat and working class? Put your pants on, Spartacus. He does it because of the Faustian spawn we call friendship. Impossible friendship.

But what friendship worth its grit isn’t?

Lives will be lost. There is no accounting for that. Literally. But the ultimate story of the show is how Barnabas pays a debt he can never afford. That’s a kind of pursuit with which everyone can identify, but might never admit. What is life, why do we love, and how to we justify being here? Through the best and worst of exploring both life and death, Barnabas searches alongside us.

This episode was broadcast Feb. 22, 1968.

Dark Shadows, The 1973 Tapes: The Happier Dead


The SPOILERS AHEAD are coming for you, Barbara! 

“These patients aren’t alive, Amy, they’re just...NOT DEAD!”

Hello and welcome back to The 1973 Tapes! How are you? Are you eating enough? Drinking enough water? You know, we worry about you. This is our penultimate entry into this column and today we are discussing 2014’s The Happier Dead! This might be the penultimate entry into the 1973 arc, but it is the SECOND part of the “Amy Jennings, Supernatural Avenger” canon that I totally in no way just made up. One of the great joys of listening to these audios has been the way that Amy Jennings has flourished as a character for me and I think The Happier Dead might just be the purest example of why she works in this universe and how much Stephanie Ellyne brings to the role behind the mic. Though I have to say this one wasn’t nearly as scary as y’all said it was, The Happier Dead was still a fine showcase of Ellyne’s talents and of Amy Jennings’ tragically powerful past.

One of the neater things about coming to these audios fairly blinds were the backstories that were hinted at throughout Bloodlust. And nobody seemed to have a richer backstory than Amy Jennings, who apparently had, as the kids say, been through it. A supernatural college career, a doomed romance, and more importantly, an actual life outside of Collinsport. We all know how all that turned out (and if not, take a gander at the Bloodlust Diaries, right here at The Collinsport Historical Society! Fuck yeah, integrated branding!), but thankfully, The 1973 Tapes have allowed me to finally experience a lot of that backstory and it has just made me love Amy all the more.

But while the first part of my “Supernatural Avenger” duology, The Lucifer Gambit, was basically just an episode of Supernatural with a higher production value, The Happier Dead felt much more substantial from the jump. In the middle of studying with her college beau, one Simon Turner, more on him in a bit, Amy is struck with stabbing pains in her side, the pain being so great it renders her unconcious. When she awakes, she finds that Simon has driven her back to Collinsport from Salem, a whopping three hour drive, in order to check her into the Collinsport Hospital. Amy, naturally, is horrified, but things take a sharp turn into weird when the pair discovery that nobody is dying there anymore. Instead, they are LIVING, some even rising from the dead, somehow “surviving” massive injuries in a short of limbo between living and dying.

As I was told that this one was super duper scary, I steeled myself for shocks, but to be quite honest, they never came. Sure the noises the victims made were truly haunting and the physical implications of the spell, which Amy voices throughout thanks to Adam Usden’s pointed scripting, are quite unpleasant to think about. But it didn’t really ever reach Beyond the Grave level spookiness for me and I have to admit it was kind of a let down. That isn’t to say that this one is bad or skippable by any stretch it is just...a special kind of frustrating to be told that a story is ultra scary only to find out that it isn’t.

What this story doesn’t have in terms of horror, it more than makes up for with tragedy, which is something I did expect after hearing the name “Simon Turner”. Yes, this story finally gave me the straight dope on his and Amy’s relationship and as I suspected, it weren’t great. At first though I have to say, I wasn’t really impressed with Simon. John Chancer certainly plays him with aplomb and he and Ellyne have a natural chemistry that the script makes good use of, but the character himself is kind of a lunk and seems like a real drag on Amy as she tries to suss out the mystery of the hospital even with fresh stitches.

However as this thing went on and the resolution barreled toward me, I was absolutely floored at the outcome and the heavy emotions the ending deployed. Of course the whole thing is centered around some madman trying to achieve immortality, but the way Usden brings it home is such a brilliant gut punch. One that haunts Amy still to this day and one that will probably stick with me for a long time coming. There was something so shockingly human about Simon’s sacrifice and the way he died for love; a recurring theme in Dark Shadows but one that hasn’t lost one ounce of power. Amy Jennings returned to Collinsport a different person and now after listening to The Happier Dead, I now know the full cost of that change and it has only made her a richer, fuller character to me as a result.

Horror and tragedy often goes hand in hand in the Dark Shadows universe and The Happier Dead brings that sensibility to the Big Finishverse in a big damn way. Amy might have been an early favorite of mine as a listener, but now, after this story, I finally feel like I have the full breadth of her character and of Ellyne’s full scope of performance. It may not have been super scary, but The Happier Dead was still a very important, and very satisfying entry.

NEXT TIME! The Finale! Carriage of the Damned! Sabrina Jennings vs…*checks notes* a bus? I think? This is going to be fun. Interesting stuff is in the hopper for y’all in 2019 after this wraps up. I hope you are ready. Until then, be seeing you.

The tapes so far ...

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

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: JANUARY 15


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 941

Jeb’s romantic evening with Carolyn is interrupted by the surprise appearance of Quentin’s fist. But will Maggie pay the price? Quentin: David Selby. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Quentin rescues Carolyn from Jeb with successful fisticuffs. Before Barnabas can whisk Carolyn away to seclusion and safety, Jeb kidnaps Maggie, suspecting that she is Barnabas’ weakness. As Barnabas threatens to summon Oberon, Jeb laughs, knowing that Maggie is laid out in a mausoleum.

There are a lot of audiences for the program, and between satisfying all of them, the show also has to be true to its own, unique mythology. Dark Shadows is both all continuity and flees from continuity whenever it can at this point. I don’t think there’s any greater corner into which they painted themselves than the one with muttonchops and a cool, grey coat called Quentin. It’s not just David who remembers him as a ghost; Liz does, too. I like how they acknowledge that in this episode, and I also understand why they dropped it pretty quickly -- or why the Collinses are a pretty forgiving, gullible family. The writers have to because it’s a conversation that goes nowhere. The characters have to because they’d have no relatives otherwise. Mrs. Johnson has leftovers, and if another “cousin from England” doesn’t show up pronto, that ambrosia salad will get to a point where even Willie wouldn’t eat it after a bender at the ‘Whale.

Quentin’s reluctance to re-engage Liz is a character moment that you might miss if you blink, but it’s enough to perform its function on the show. If it weren’t the Leviathan arc, they might be able to devote more screen time to Quentin’s Return by making it the sole story. But that might require bringing back a villain from 1897, like Petofi, and who wants to see that? (Except everyone.) However, that’s running in place, and to the show’s credit, they moved forward to book a third hottie on to the program. It not only kept the show fresh, it also -- and I’m just theorizing this -- kept Dan Curtis from being a victim to anyone’s success. There has to be a line for a producer between working for ratings and working for the source of your ratings. Just as no one suspected that Barnabas would be such a hit, no one suspected that Quentin would, either, and arguably to a greater merchandising degree. As much fun as 1969 was, 1970 would be about topping it, and retreading 1897 so soon was be a path they wisely avoided -- and at a cost. Barnabas and Quentin are kept around, because to not do so would have been suicide, but now often at the service of Chris Pennock and James Storm. The most strangely sexless arc is the one in between Jeb and Gerard -- 1970PT -- in which there was no hottie. Yes, Quentin is dashing in a Ron Burgundy sense, but he’s also a loudmouthed, clueless, overreacting bully. Cyrus may be sympathetic, but he’s hardly an alpha, and Yaeger? The mustache and wig don’t have the Goulet magic they might have hoped.

Before any of that, 941 presents a moment of 1897-style action that is always a cherry in the show’s fruit cocktail for me. The fight scene between Jeb and Quentin is a last hurrah that might as well have taken place on Cestus III so that the Metrons would release Collinwood from their grasp. Quentin introduces Jeb to his biscuithooks in his best and most Quentinesque modern costume, and the whole thing feels like a sly reassurance from Dan Curtis. The man can and will release the kraken when need be, so tune in. With enough patience, Dark Shadows is any show you need it to be. Soap opera? Of course. Character farce? When you least expect it. Musical? Oh, they go there. Horror? You bet. Science fiction? The time travel and dimensional leaps qualify. And prime-time action? That, too. It may even have a dash of Brady Bunch. 941 has a strangely and endearingly adolescent ending, as if they sensed what their prominent adolescent audience might do. Barnabas threatens to call Principal Oberon on Jeb and Jeb responds by making fun of Barnabas for having a crush on Maggie.

It’s a strangely sweet and innocent ending for an episode that begins with -- and let’s take the shmata off it -- Quentin preventing a rape. I don’t know if that is supposed to be mentioned or not, but Jeb slips Carolyn a mickey, and it’s not for a good night’s sleep. Now, Dan’s biggest problem is over how he redeems the guy. I’m not sure he worries too much about it or if he lets the story take care of it. That, and the culture of 1970. I’m not rushing to get out my hankie, but watching it in 2019, I wonder if they’d introduce that character choice at all or, if they did, if Jeb would be seen as eventually redeemable in any way. It also helps to humanize Joan Bennett after turn as a good, stoic, dedicated hostess to Leviathan functions. It would have been easy to turn her into Mrs. Johnny Iselin and fork her daughter over to the cult, but you don’t come back from that choice. The characters might get their memories erased, but the audience doesn’t. Wise to have her go along with Barnabas’ plan to take her to an island -- any island. There are a lot of audiences for Dark Shadows, but they all can agree on basic right and wrong.

This episode was broadcast Feb. 2, 1970.

The Bodice Tipplers Podcast needs you

West of Bangor the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut. There are horrors beyond life's edge that we do not suspect, and once in a while man's evil prying calls them just within our range.

Danielle Steel has arrived at The Collinsport Historical Society — just as the prophecies foretold.

Steel's 1991 novel Palomino is the focus of the latest Bodice Tipplers podcast. Since launching their own website I've had less reason in recent weeks to plug new episodes here, but the latest episode is accompanied by something special. Sara and Courtney are trying to raise $500 for RAINN — the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. If that's enough to motivate you to donate, click HERE to vget started. If you need a little more encouragement, please visit their website for additional information. Spoiler: If they meet their $500 goal, the two will release their 1990s Glamour Shots.

The latest Bodice Tipplers episode is streaming below and features the song "Carolina Peach Blossom" by The Dawn Key Shotguns. Give it a listen!


Friday, January 11, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: JANUARY 11


Taped on this date in 1971: Episode 1192

Samantha learns the terrifying secret of Joanna, but will it be enough to save her from becoming the next ghost of Widow’s Hill? Joanna Mills: Lee Beery. (Repeat. 30 min.)

After a startling imprisonment in Parallel Time, Quentin and Daphne escape to encounter Joanna Mills. After Samantha’s bullets pass through her, Joanna lures her onto Widow’s Hill, where she reveals herself to be a grotesque ghost, bent on revenge.

1840 continues to be the best-kept secret on Dark Shadows. It’s largely known for the surprising denouement of the Barnabas/Angelique storyline, and while the other arcs don’t have that kind of canonical weight, they can be tight, smart, and intriguing. Watching the Joanna Mills mystery conclude, we’re reminded of that. Like the beginning of the Leviathan story, 1840 seems to present both a main arc and an anthology running concurrently. In 1198, it wraps up a section of that anthology. The segment might be a challenge to get into (because of the ensemble of unfamiliar short-timers) but it pays off when you do. It’s one of those brief dimensions of the show like “The Stopping Off Place” story that ran a year before -- easily forgotten despite deserving of a mental dog-ear. I’m bending the page corner now.

If the episode has any message, it’s “don’t tick off a ghost.” Up until Joanna Mills, ghosts on the show reveled in their supernatural powers, and while they were incredibly powerful, there’s always the sense that they are limited to abilities like telekinesis and mind control. Joanna, though, successfully pulls off a hoax on a level that redefines what a ghost on the program can be. If Josette had possessed these powers, Angelique would have been the next unsuccessful cliff diver on Widow’s Hill. She’s intensely corporeal, fooling scads of people into believing she’s real and saving her big reveal for maximum impact. Actress Lee Beery brings a sense of placid control to the part, making her the perfect foil for the tightly wound, humorless Samantha as delivered by Virginia Vestoff. Her postmortem reveal is genuinely horrifying in a luridly Basil Gogos way, and in my book, that’s Louvreable. It’s another moment for parents of the age to have every reason to keep kids from watching, and even more reason for kids to go as Jim Phelps as possible to outwit household Standards & Practices. This kind of entertainment merits Ace bandage slings tied to bedframes, probably-lethally suspending kids upside down from the second floor, hovering like Spider-Man outside the family room where the forbidden images would spill forth. 

1192 even gives a goose to Parallel Time when Quentin and Daphne are briefly trapped there, sucked back to Main Time only because two Kate Jacksons in one place created a Crisis of Infinite Daphnes. For a moment, the story has intrigue and suspense beyond the typical Parallel Time voyeurism. We even learn who discovered Parallel Time -- Ernest Weisman of the University of Vienna. It’s a great nugget of trivia from Quentin I, worthy of Eliot Stokes, and it ties the seemingly random events at Collinwood to a larger mythology that longs to be explored by future writers. It pays to keep watching -- back to the beginning of the show -- after wrapping up the “present” of 1841 PT. Taking the larger context of the Dark Shadows mythos with us, what we lose in mystery and wonder, we gain in intrigue and detail.

As an aside, Joanna Mills was of course, the reason that the song, “Joanna,” was written. It’s one of the lovelier, if “Airport loungey” pieces of music from the show, but because it appears so late in the series and in the less-popular of the MGM films, the piece remains obscure. Even more obscure are the lyrics, which I wrote last spring.

Music by Robert Cobert. Lyrics by Patrick McCray.

I’m wearing pants...
They’re made of Lycra.
And they cling tight to me in oh so many ways.
They’re just pants, you see,
But pants for me,
To wear for all my days.

When I think of all the leather lederhosen
That People wear in far off Germany…
When I think of how they chafe, I guess I am supposing,
They’re proud we see that they are firm of knee.

I’m wearing pants...
They’re made of Lycra
And they cling tight to me in oh so many ways.
They’re just pants, you see,
But pants for me,
To wear for all my days.
To wear for all my days. 

This episode was broadcast Jan. 19, 1971.

Dark Shadows, The 1973 Tapes: The Harvest of Souls


Caution, Sailor. Here Be SPOILERS AHEAD.

“My name is Maggie Evans, and this is the end of my story…”

1973 goes Full Lovecraftian in the wooly, but entertaining The Harvest of Souls. Given novelty by the return of not one, but TWO major Dark Shadows baddies, but given heart by the wonderful leads of the story, this story exploring the aftermath of Beyond the Grave and the toll it has taken on Collinsport is a raw, introspective tale that relies more on emotions than shocks. After the blood curdling scares of the previous audio, it couldn’t have come at a better time if i’m being totally honest. Though the plot is a touch dense and gets a bit widdly toward the end, The Harvest of Souls is a wonderful resetting story for the arc, for the shellshocked town of Collinsport, and her citizens.

Collinsport is basically in ruins after the events of Beyond the Grave. Houses lie abandoned. Shops are still smashed up from the rioting. And the papers and the BBC are chalking it up to a “gas leak”. Because of course they are. But nobody is taking the aftermath harder than Maggie Evans, who we open on in the blackest of moods, chasing her antidepressants with liquor. It is hard stuff to listen to for sure, but James Goss’ empathetic and heartfelt script never plays this stuff as exploitive. There is a real empathy running throughout this story that I much appreciated and that starts and end with James Goss.

Of course it also doesn’t hurt that he and directors David Darlington and Darren Gross are working with two of the finest actors in this range, Kathryn Leigh Scott and Colin Baker. Yes, Gerald Conway...excuse me, NICHOLAS BLAIR makes his grand return to the franchise in the dead, but possessed body of Gerald, saving Maggie from her suicidal depression by...chucking her in the sea. It is a harrowing scene to open up the story with, but like I said, it is staged, written, and played beautifully by all involved.

And it only gets better from there as Maggie is drawn into vast magic weaved by a diabolical team up between Blair and The Leviathans! Gladdening my Shoggoth loving heart! “I can’t even KILL myself without some MONSTER butting in!” Maggie grouses in one of the story’s best lines. And where is the lie? Because while Collinsport was burning, Nicholas was striking a deal with the Leviathans from Seaview, aiming to clear the town of it’s human infestation for the Leviathans to rise again while the human populace of the town live “forever” in a dream state in wyrewood box, carved from the wood of Collinwood’s staircase, which apparently was ITSELF carved from “the first tree” of the Leviathans from a universe where they had ruled for thousands of years?

Like I said, this thing gets a bit...dense at the end, and I had some trouble following the whole “plan” once Blair started to walk Maggie through it all. I am big enough to admit that. BUT, my being a rube aside, the performances and interplay between Baker and Scott is really just wonderful and elevates this story from “fun diversion” to “essential listening”, ESPECIALLY for Maggie fans. Baker and Scott lean into the character’s history with one another and use that to inform their performances and interactions throughout, giving this whole story, even at its most insane (and trust me it does get insane), a real air of realism, at least on the emotional level.

I am sure there are those out there that will bemoan Colin Baker’s exit from the range, but I am pleased enough with his time in Collinsport. To allow him to stay around as Blair’s new avatar would really spoil the last minute turn to grace the character has AND would have had an ultra powerful loose end plot wise running around the town in future stories. Plus the man has Doctor Who stuff to do! What’s he gonna do, NOT be the Sixth Doctor in fantastic stories like Order of the Daleks or ...Ish?!  C’mon man, we know better than that.

I also have to point out the fantastic decision to make Maggie’s relationship with the late great Sheriff Hardy (played with affability through the ages by Jonathon Marx) another emotional focal point of the episode, but NOT in an expressly romantic way! I know Maggie Evans is often kind of pigeonholed into the role of female romantic lead but thankfully The Harvest of Souls neatly side steps that, establishing how Jim had basically been a presence in Maggie’s life for as long as WE have known her and their connection ran much deeper than just mere romance. It was a really mature direction for the story to take and I’m glad they did it. It made this one feel a lot more real than most even with actual Shoggoth like creatures showing up.

All in all, I was very impressed with The Harvest of Souls. It was exactly what I needed after having my sanity shattered by the previous adventure. Graced with tremendous performances backed by a stellar script and production values, The Harvest of Souls is a downshift in scares for sure, but a real winner all the same thanks to the story’s heart and emotion. When I look back on this arc I have a feeling I will thinking of this one pretty fondly. When Collinsport was pushed to the brink, love won the day. That is the kind of stuff I will always respond to.

NEXT TIME! The Happier Dead! The penultimate column of the 1973 Tapes! Are you as excited as I am?! Probably not! But that’s okay. Until then, be seeing you.
The tapes so far ...

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.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: JANUARY 8


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 406

Can Angelique cure Barnabas of the curse before he escapes to Josette and rises again? Angelique: Lara Parker. (Repeat. 30 min.)

After cursing Barnabas, Angelique immediately regrets her choice and tries to cure him, despite his desire to flee to Josette. Meanwhile, Josette’s neck bleeds exactly where Barnabas’ own bat bite wounds are. Angelique tries to restrain Barnabas, explaining to Ben that if he rises, he’ll become one of the living dead.

The threat of indentured servitude didn’t do much to dissuade Ben Stokes from murder, but at the time, he didn’t know he’d also have to referee for Barnabas and Angelique. Through serving as marriage counselor-by-default, he comes across as the real hero of the episode, and in a weird way, so does the witch, herself. There is a nuance in the Dark Shadows story that gets lost, and it’s in 406. Angelique really wants to undo her curse. Is it selfish? Well, in the words of Mother Theresa, isn’t everything? Your Honor, in defense of Angelique Collins, I submit that she had been shot at the time said curse was laid. Who among us does not have fairly strong feelings about a musket ball burning a hole through his chest and ruining his best neglige? She didn’t know she’d wake up and still be married to him. If she had known, she would have cursed him with the scent of bay rum and to always like her friends, no matter how late they stay over watching reruns of The Real Housewives of Logansport while drinking his Drambuie without replacing it. But she didn’t know, and that’s why he’s becoming a vampire.

Nothing on the show is as simple as it would seem, nor is it easy. Angelique continues to haunt Barnabas with the kind of searing hatred that can only be attributed to true love. I continue to wonder about her inability to remove the curse in 1796, but then kind of be able to in 1897, and totally be able to in 1840. My guess is that her powers increase and diminish depending on her standing with Diabolos and how much energy it takes her to travel. The Angelique that cures Barnabas without so much as a Samantha Stephens nose-twitch has the benefit of being on Diabolos’ good side over 45 years of wandering the countryside generally doing evil and staying out of church. Those batteries are full, as is the case for any magic user who hangs around Michael Stroka for long. But when we later meet her, the temporal journey has taken a lot out of her… and she has no interest in mercy. In that timeline, she skipped 1840 without Barnabas’ return. Warren Oddson speculated on Angelique’s timeline in a fantastic essay in the 1840 Concordance. In it (to my memory), he posits that Angelique’s timeline goes... 1795-1840, 1968, 1897, and finally 1970. This means that the 1840 Angelique is possibly the most powerful version -- not as experienced, but not as ravaged by time travel, stints in Hell, and diabolic deals for parole.

As their history continues, Barnabas only tries to kill her occasionally, kind of like an incredibly patient parent who nevertheless has a breaking point. For the most part, he puts up with her rather successfully when we know full well she’s only one tiki torch away from being a stain on the road. Her insistence on curing him in this episode, to the extent of trying to keep him from packing and leaving, must have influenced his indulgence, despite his statements to the contrary. I feel for Angelique. We’ve all had moments of overreaction followed by the inability to retract it. What follows (for the series) is not only continued anger at Barnabas, but anger at herself, as well. His survival is a constant reminder of her wrath, and the memory of her wrath is the memory of its inspiration. He won’t love her. But he also won’t have the decency to die and stop reminding her of the curse. Of course, she is the curse’s ultimate victim, and perhaps that is as much a motivation for the cure as anything. Say what you will, but she loves him.

This episode was broadcast Jan. 15, 1969.

Sad Monster House: The multimedia experience

It has been many, many years since The Collinsport Historical Society last dabbled in robotics. Our previous experiments were certainly unfortunate, but not nearly has tragic as the muckrackers at The Collinsport Star led readers to believe. Not every hit is a homerun, and not every death is a tragedy. To continue with our sportsball theme, an accumulation of hits also does not equate a homerun ... and numerous deaths, even in the respectable numbers were racked up during the 1959 Robotics Expo, don't necessarily make a "tragedy." Do you even remember who those people were? We don't.

Armed with potentially illegal technology and only the faintest regard for the safety of the community, we recently decided to revive our robotics program. If you're reading this, congratulations! You weren't among the first victims of iRobot.

Kidding! iRobot hasn't killed anybody yet. Not directly, anyway. We started the new year by forcing it to watch all 1,225 episodes of Dark Shadows in a single afternoon and then asked it to write an episode on its own. After reading the entire script, one of our interns ran screaming from our offices and directly into the path of an on-coming truck. This is hardly iRobot's fault (it's a documented fact that Collinsportians are terrible drivers) but it was decided that caution should be used until we can get a few more interns to glance at the script. Here are the first two pages.


Well, you wanted this. Since iRobot went online he's been the new hotness in the CHS offices. He's all anybody can talk about, thanks in no small part to the constant interrogations by the Collinsport sheriff. Since that idiot intern got himself run over last week, we've lost four more. They're not dead or anything. I mean, they're probably not ... we just can't find them. Which is fine by me, because that means four fewer people running their mouths about how awesome "iBobby" is. He's not even a real robot, you know. Real robots don't need quite so much human tissue to support their higher reasoning centers. Technically he's a cyborg. And you know who else is a cyborg? Pretty much anybody listening to that Cardi B bullshit while wearing ear pods. Not so impressive now, is he?

Anyhoo, some of you out there asked for a live reading of iRobot's Dark Shadows whatsit, Sad Monster House. I'm looking at you Richard Harland Smith, Justin Partridge and Kittie with a K. This is on you. Whatever metaphysical crisis you might suffer while listening to this is the fault of the absent deities you worship. Side effects may include hallucinations, memory loss, priapism, Eric Lang Disease, birth defects, night terrors and day terrors. Enjoy!

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