Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 18


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 328

After sending Julia to turn Willie into a stiff, Barnabas gets a rise out of the sheriff with the help of a carefully placed ring. Julia: Grayson Hall. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Barnabas frets over Willie’s potential recovery from being shot in the back five times. Because if anyone would have that kinda luck….  And Julia insists that she’s in no position to help kill the potential snitch. Barnabas prevails, and he lays a trap for the visiting sheriff to “accidentally find” Maggie’s ring under a candle in Willie’s room. All seems well when Barnabas learns that Willie is emerging from his coma, despite or because of Julia’s presence.

Barnabas has never been more of the aristocratic everyman and to-the-manor-born Joe Lunchbox than he is in 328, one of the show’s funniest episodes up to this point. If he ever wrote a biography, it would share a name with mine, “A Life Under Siege,” and if you can’t identify with that, well… I don’t trust you. If you have any doubt that Dark Shadows is often an intentional comedy, just imagine this one with a laugh track. But even without it, Jonathan Frid and Grayson Hall are clearly playing set-up-punchline-reverse with relish.

No one has less authority than the one in charge, as Barnabas learns. It should be so simple. He’s working with a doctor whose hands are getting dirtier by the episode. She has plenty to gain by killing Willie, and for Barnabas, it’s the only thing to do. He’s an 18th century dandy, and the home appliance called Loomis is beyond the repair stage. You can’t even donate him to Goodwill. No, the Loomis must go, and it should be obvious. But every time he sends Julia out to do the wrong thing, she comes back with the news that his health is improving. It’s a cacophony of counter-intuition. She claims he’s under too much supervision. He responds that she’s a doctor, and they kill people all the time “by accident,” with plenty of supervision. She nags him into planting even more evidence against Willie. He goes along with it, but surprises her by insisting that Willie still needs to die, no matter the evidence.

His insistence is not based entirely on fear of exposure. It’s based on simple, inhuman indecency. Why is he being questioned on something this simple? When will he be trusted instead of second-guessed? If he’s going to take the rap, he might as well have the authority to prevent it. Otherwise, like a community theater director, he has all of the responsibility and none of the power. Which is the repeated, comic lesson the show teaches him and the audience with a stinging regularity. It will take the appearance of Angelique, a dream curse, and a Noel Harrison hairdo to turn her around. In that sense, Julia’s hair is a good indicator of her stance on Barnabas. It’s like the Sisko Beard Rule. If Sisko has a beard, it’s a good episode of DS9. If Julia looks like she’s modeling John Hurt’s coif from I, Claudius, then the Great Man probably has a friend. But right now, she can endanger no one’s life but Barnabas’, and he’s the boss!

The episode, however, is a study in cosmic inevitability, proclaiming that Barnabas Collins is decidedly not the boss. In fact, he’s not even Tony Danza.

Of course, the art is in concealing the art, and Barnabas’ terrible line readings when he’s “guiding” the sheriff and Sam through Willie’s things make him a priceless popinjay. I said Barnabas’ terrible line readings, not Frid’s. The more gullible that his quarry becomes, the more Barnabas channels the Cosmic Eddie Haskell, “Gee, a candlestick toppled. Look. There is a ring inside. However did Maggie’s ring get there?”

“Oh, no. I’m falling over. Oh, I’m falling over again.”
-- A. Danger Powers, OBE

He’s loving how easily he led them straight to the evidence and how little cleverness he had to exercise in doing so. Can we blame the regal rascal? If he can’t get Loomis whacked, Barnabas can at least feel like a smartypants about something. And it looks like the episode is going to end on a note of quiet triumph for Our Hero, but Cosmic Inevitability still has more in store. Of course, a deputy comes running back to ruin Barnabas’ rebounding mood with the news that Willie is coming out of his coma.

And why shouldn’t he? He’s with Julia. As always, the good doctor’s Hippocratic Oath extends to everyone but the guy who needs it most: Barnabas!

If ever an episode of Dark Shadows needed to end with the theme from Curb Your Enthusiasm ...

This episode hit the airwaves Sept. 27, 1967.

Happy birthday GRAYSON HALL! (Probably!)

Today would have been the 97th birthday of actress Grayson Hall. Most likely.

Born Shirley H. Grossman in Philadelphia, Hall was notoriously evasive about her age. The Academy-award nominated actress was probably born Sept. 18, 1922, but paperwork filed on her admittance to Cornell University lists a birthday of 1923, according to R.J. Jameson's biography, GRAYSON HALL: A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW. To make things more interesting, her marriage license gives a birth year of 1925. The actress was even rumored to have altered her driver's license in an attempt to knock a few years off her age.

Sept. 18 is the day recognized as her birthday, though, which feels more like an educated guess than anything else ... but that's Grayson Hall for you.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Night of Dark Shadows returns to TCM for Halloween

Night of Dark Shadows, the second of Dan Curtis' two feature films based on the ABC daytime drama Dark Shadows, is part of Turner Classic Movies' Halloween lineup again this year. The 1971 film is set to air 2:45 a.m. Friday, Oct. 4, part of an incredible lineup of witchcraft-themed movies that begins 8 p.m. Oct. 3 with Bell Book and CandleHorror Hotel and Suspiria, wrapping with Night of Dark Shadows and Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages. All praise Black Phillip!

From there, TCM goes all kaiju with a bunch of Godzilla and Mothra movies. (Godzilla is the network's "Monster of the Month.") You might want to keep the coffee on.

TCM has scheduled a lot of "houses" during October —  HouseHouse on Haunted Hill, House of Wax — but sadly House of Dark Shadows did not make the cut. You can see the full line-up of TCM's Halloween programming over at Daily Dead.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Dark Shadows: Behind the Screams

The first annual Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival is hosting a special screening of House of Dark Shadows Oct. 12 as part of its Dark Shadows: Behind the Screams event. Set to begin 1 p.m. at Tarrytown Music Hall in Tarrytown, New York, the screening will be attended by Jim Pierson, longtime curator of the franchise and producer of the documentary Master of Dark Shadows, Kathryn Leigh Scott, who starred in the original ABC series and House of Dark Shadows, and Mary O'Leary, who managed late Dark Shadows star Jonathan Frid and produced his one-man shows. Pierson will dig deep into the private archives of Dan Curtis Productions to present a never-before-seen look at the filming of the television series and original feature films, both of which were shot on location at Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown.

Tickets will be available beginning Sept. 20 at

Below is the poster for Dark Shadows: Behind the Screams ... designed by me! Hope you like it! It's a shame I won't be able to attend the screening, so you're just going to have to share lots of photos in  my absence. Tag me on Twitter at @CousinBarnabas ... and keep your eyes peeled for a special announcement at Behind the Screams. Something big is coming!

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 16


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1105

When Barnabas realizes that Maggie is bonded to another vampire, it’s time for Willie to raise the stakes before she’s gone for good. Willie: John Karlen. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Julia and Barnabas are again unable to protect Maggie from the other vampire, and thanks to Carolyn’s mocking help, Willie finally finds her in the mausoleum, attacked again. They later track down the vampire’s daytime resting place, and he and Julia are shocked at what they find.

Unthinkable and existential crimes and affronts to Collinwood!

If it existed. But does it? A Collinwood without Louis Edmonds or Joan Bennett is not exactly Collinwood, but has anyone noticed? It just kind of happens. The series lulls us into a presumptuous nonchalance, and when we finally call roll, it’s far too late.

1105 brings us into the last five episodes of the prime and contemporary universe in which the series began. It was and is “home,” and excluding a brief glimpse in 1198, this represents the beginning of our last and most apocalyptic visit. There is no sweet to the bitter, and if you’re looking for sentiment or nostalgia look elsewhere. It’s not a home, it’s a house. Roger and Liz are gone, and we are a far cry from Roger’s declaration to an earlier ghost that, “We’ll be back!” Quentin comes and goes, primarily to betray everyone for a fellow, former phantom-out-of-time. Barnabas is compromised to strictly nocturnal operations. All three “residents” -- Carolyn, David, and Hallie -- are on the road to demonic corruption, with David and Hallie missing. What does that leave? Maggie? At last, even she lacks the wherewithal to defy the vampire’s summons, if death doesn’t claim her before undeath can. A surrogate guardian for the home, she’s unable to guard even herself. I haven’t seen Mrs. Johnson conscious lately. Willie, of course, is Willie. Stokes is busy fulfilling a prophecy that said he’d be nowhere near the joint when the chips were due. That leaves Julia as the last and only guardian of the house and what remains of the family. How did she get this assignment? And why should she be stuck with KP when there is not a single, sane, uncorrupted person in the house? When she escapes to 1840, it’s not just to save her own life. It’s an escape to life. Any life.

It’s such a strange and terminal predicament for the ensemble of both actors and characters that makes Gerard’s curse feel real. He’s been destroying the house for months. It’s only now, stepping back, that we actually notice how successful he’s been. His work is done. The zombies are merely a flourish.

This is a tough, sad, obstinate storyline, and it defies efforts to love it. Gothic literature knits a strange glamor into its sense of decay, but the Ragnarok sequence doesn’t. It’s a very real death, and it doesn’t even feel reversible with the mechanics the show has established. It’s just quietly malignant, and it mirthleslly mocks our heroes. Barnabas loses Maggie to vampirism, which is bad enough, but it’s not even HIS vampirism. He can’t find nor summon the other vampire nor even guess its gender. Willie is equally incapable of protecting Maggie, finding her near where he initially found Barnabas, years before. Quentin? Seduced by one ghost and about to be assassinated by another, taunted as a villain he never was from a timeline he never knew. But we did. As Willie is charged with killing the vampire at the end, we realize how unlikely this is… and that it’s just a salve. Like Iraq after 9/11, it’s not even the primary problem. When the vampire slowly murdering Maggie Evans is a mere distraction from the real crisis facing Collinwood, you are dealing with a helluva crisis. But what’s the real crisis? “Because Gerard” is the easiest answer, and that elusiveness is both the sequence’s strength and vulnerability.

This episode hit the airwaves Sept. 18, 1970.

The Dark Shadows giallo that almost was


Now that we’ve all heard the announcement of a Dark Shadows sequel series, I decided to take it upon myself to finally watch the 2004 WB attempt at rebooting the series. I was unable to find it until earlier this year with the help of a good friend. I felt the same as them, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch it knowing it would be the final piece of Dark Shadows visual media I’d ever be able to see. Now that that’s changed, it’s time to take a look at it!

This was the final Dark Shadows related piece of media that Dan Curtis worked on that I am aware of. I can’t remember where I heard it, but being in the Dark Shadows fandom for 22 years you hear so many rumors in all sorts of places while you’re talking with a variety of people. What I heard is that he was very, very unhappy with the final result. Based on that possibility, it could make sense that his input was a reason why it wasn’t picked up and not just some random suit at the WB. More than likely it was probably a mixture of both, it wouldn’t surprise me if that was the case.

That was certainly something, exposition the episode! I’m almost at a loss for words to describe the amount of information contained within the relatively short run time. Starting with David, they set up the Laura Collins Phoenix storyline. Angelique used Laura as a way to get David to go to the family graveyard and take a dagger out of her chest claiming that Laura would come back. Instead he is bringing up what they looked to be setting up as the big bad for that season. David is still doing his usual chasing away of governesses, and tries to get Vicky to run away using his typical stunts. He is under the care of Dr. Hoffman because he told Roger that a ghost, Sara Collins who he says is his best friend and that she’s real because of this he’s under the care of Dr. Hoffman. The amount of plotlines they have David involved in is insane! He’s recognizable if you’ve seen Weeds. He’s played by Alexander Gould.

Something about Victoria made her seem like she is a medical professional to David, not just governess. She has a file on David with a headshot and medical records to go along with it. She also has a talk with Elizabeth regarding David’s medical history. Victoria’s backstory is also briefly brought up in the beginning with her in the train on the way to Collinsport. She wants to know who her parents are, she doesn’t quite say it but that’s definitely where they were going. This looked like it was gonna be another straight up remake, streamlined like the 90’s reboot. Vicky also shows signs of PTSD and having self defense training. She’s extremely hyper vigilant. If you’re a fan of The Sandlot, or Pleasantville you may recognize the actor who is Marley Shelton, she also was recently in the video game movie, Rampage with The Rock.

Roger in this episode is played by Martin Donovan who is an extremely successful character actor who also happened to be on Weeds like Alexander Gould. He’s just the same alcoholic, absent father Roger. That’s it. They didn’t give him enough time. Or maybe enough sherry?

Are we done with the information dump on the setups placed in this episode? No! It’s time for Willie, who in this one is played by Matt Czuchery. He’s a former football star and not an alcoholic. A very different Willie but still not without his weirdness, he’s strange with a capital ‘S’. The performance is very interesting with his personality change at the bite of Barnabas. He goes from weirdo, to a somewhat normal acting person after he saves David from seeing Barnabas in the basement of the Old House. He even has his eyes fixed through Barnabas’ bite. No more glasses for him! Willie also now has a sister that works as a maid at Collinwood named Sophia Loomis. She is in a single scene and has like one or two lines. She reminded me of Wednesday Addams.

Jessica Chastain
It’s through Willie that we find out he is having a liaison with Professor Stokes TA, a new character named Kelly Vance who is stealing Professor Stokes' work and finds out about the Collins hidden fortune. They even use the lion looks at the dove thing. I’m pretty sure most of you know the story from here. She promptly dies and you see her body that reminded me so much of how they found Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks.

One thing of note, through the other characters I’ve already given you all of Carolyn Stoddard’s story in this episode. The interesting thing is that she’s played by Jessica Chastain. She’s barely in it.

Dr. Hoffman is played by Kelly Hu who played Lady Deathstrike in X2. You’ve read everything she’s done in this episode through other character info from the episode. She is somehow also a doctor working in the ER which is her only scene where she’s physically in the episode, and she is taking care of Carolyn after Barnabas attacked her. Maybe they were trying to set up her being the Collins family doctor?

Now, talking about Elizabeth Collins Stoddard! Wow is she ever different in this. She doesn’t act like herself. She’s not quite a powerful, stoic matriarch, but a broken, somewhat manic one. I couldn’t quite tell if she was the one in charge of the family or Roger. Roger seemed ill-equipped to do it during a scene where he’s unable to comfort David and walks away. So I guess she’s it. She’s definitely got her issues like Elizabeth usually does but SHE LEAVES COLLINWOOD TO VISIT CAROLYN IN THE HOSPITAL AFTER BARNABAS ATTACKS HER! SHE LEAVES COLLINWOOD IN THE FIRST EPISODE! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! I was in shock at the changes to her character and really, really wanted to see where they would have taken her. She was the most interesting of the bunch. She was played by Blair Brown who was seen recently in five seasons of Orange is the New Black.

It’s time to talk about the elephant in the room, Barnabas Collins himself. He’s played by Scottish actor Alec Newman doing one of the more regal sounding English accents. It gives more creedence to him being from the “UK branch” of the Collins family. He goes to Roger to ask to renovate The Old House and like usual in this story, Roger says yes and Barnabas moves in immediately with Willie switching jobs. The painting they used for Barnabas is terrible, I have no words. He looks like an arrogant jerk, and it’s full body instead of a bust. Very strange decision on their part. There’s no cane either. I feel that’s sorta important. That’s as important as Blade having his sword. He only has the ring, It’s shown in a sequence where he almost bites Vicki. He is very un-Jonathan Frid or Ben Cross, and gladly he’s not the Johnny Depp version. This Barnabas is very much a Dracula-like being. He makes people into ghouls and controls them like Carloyn, and Willie. Being a ghoul has benefits like I talked about with Willie’s glasses, but they’re under complete control of Barnabas. He’s also brought back to life and not awake in the coffin, as in the original. When Professor Stokes TA opens the secret door to the not so secret chamber in the Collins Family Mausoleum she cuts herself. She has Willie open the chains of the coffin and you just see a shriveled corpse. While looking for the Collins family fortune her blood drips onto/into Barnabas’ mouth and he immediately drains her. Then you get the classic choking of Wilie which was a really cool scene with the makeup. The whole mausoleum set was AMAZING! I’m talking overgrown, multiple level mausoleum with stairs, and multiple rooms kind of amazing. Very, very cool. Of course with the addition of Barnabas we have more plot being set up. Barnabas and Josette’s storyline with Victoria is introduced as is the music box, but it doesn’t even play Josette’s theme! It wasn’t even that good of a song, if you’re gonna replace the theme do it with something good. As another aside, the opening theme wasn’t even the Dark Shadows theme but it was still the water crashing on the rocks with a slightly DS looking font.

Ivana Miličević as Angelique
As for how it was shot, it looked BEAUTIFUL even though the version I watched was of very low quality, I could see what they were going for, very stark color combinations just like an Argento’s Suspiria. Many of the scenes were black and red, and black and blue. Sometimes you’d get color combinations making purples. It was colored so intensely when you saw scenes of natural lighting or daylight it was very startling. The CGI wasn’t that great, but the colors were awesome, and I was totally digging on it.

So I didn’t talk about every little thing that happens in this pilot, though it’s pretty close. It’s an interesting and fun entry to watch in Dark Shadows history. It's full of wasted potential. If given a chance and a decent writer’s room, you could have had some amazing performances and really played into the family drama. At its heart like I’ve said many times before and will again is that Dark Shadows is a family drama with supernatural elements. It’s perfect for that Buffy formula. Everything is connected. Every bit of it, exactly like the original. Overall I liked it and am disappointed that it wasn’t finished so I could see how they made the characters grow and make the cray amount of setup pay off. That was so much setup!.

The only issue I have is that they threw nearly every plotline they could fit in 39 minutes. How would they be able to pull this off. Even if they had 22 episodes and made every single one serialized with no stand-alones or side-stories maybe they could’ve done it. I feel they’d need a few seasons to make everything pay off satisfyingly and so it wouldn’t feel rushed. This is definitely a throw the kitchen sink maneuver kind of pilot. I’d have been ALL FOR IT then, and I’m all for it now. It’s beautifully shot, the actors are not bad and would have grown into their roles wonderfully. The stark contrast gialli color palette would have been a wonderful way to hide some of the more violent scenes needed to make a decent Dark Shadows visually interesting. It could have been very artfully done.

If you can find yourself a copy, check it out and see what could have been. It’s fun, there’s some really cool art design, they use the same mansion used in the 90s reboot for Collinwood. It’s not the worst way you could spend 39 minutes. I know I said it already, but I’m gonna say it again. I really wish this would’ve gotten a series order, it had the chance to be unique, and cool. Something the CW could have been proud of and pair with Supernatural in the line-up. The pilot was shot in 2004 which means it could have premiered in 2005 with Supernatural. Just think, what could have been?

Saturday, September 14, 2019

A few thoughts about Dark Shadows: Reincarnation

It seems like we're always 15 minutes away from another Dark Shadows revival. Cancelled by ABC in 1971, the gothic soap was back on the big screen a few months later in the form of its second feature film, Night of Dark Shadows. With a backlog of more than 1,200 episodes, fans held out hope that the series would find new life in syndication. While Star Trek was rejuvenated by the secondary market, it took a bit longer to breathe life into Dark Shadows. Fans were able to keep the pilot light on in Collinsport until producer Dan Curtis found a new home for it on NBC in 1991.

By that point a new Dark Shadows had been in the works since 1988, prompted by a strike that year by the Writers Guild of America. With no new scripts being created for the 1988 season, networks sought out old content to recycle. CBS brought back Mission: Impossible with "revised" versions of screenplays used for the original series. Dark Shadows was one of the new/old shows considered, but it took a little more time to get it back on the air.

We'll really never know why the 1991 incarnation of the series was cancelled. Constant preemption by news broadcasts of the first Gulf War is routinely blamed (the Dark Shadows revival frequently had better ratings than Twin Peaks) but the decision was reportedly lamented by the late NBC entertainment president Brandon Tartikoff. Just about everybody thinks the show should have been given a second season to find its footing.

Since then, there have been other attempts at reviving Dark Shadows. A pilot for The WB in 2004 was stillborn, while the 2012 feature film adaption by Tim Burton turned out to be one of the most controversial movies in his filmography ... even by people not familiar with the original series.

This is one of those rare situations where it feels OK to bury the lede. By this time you probably already know there's a new Dark Shadows television series in development. Called Dark Shadows: Reincarnation, The CW and Warner Bros Television are developing it as a continuation of the original series. You can read a few more details about the series at Deadline, but there are a lot of creative decisions left to be determined. (Also lost from the announcement is that Big Finish has been producing a "continuation" of the original Dark Shadows series as audio dramas since 2004, but whatever.)

If you've got any kind of social media account, you already know that fans have opinions about Dark Shadows: Reincarnation. The show hasn't even been cast and I'm already exhausted from putting out fires online. But that's OK. We've got opinions, too! I asked a few contributors to The Collinsport Historical Society to chime in on the news of Dark Shadows: Reincarnation. Here's what they had to say.

PATRICK McCRAY: The vital word is “sequel.”

Because that doesn’t imply that anything needs to be fixed, updated, polished, revised, reconsidered, retconned, enhanced, camped up, played down, or, God help us, deconstructed. We really need to knock it off with this deconstruction business.

DS66 (get ready to see that a lot, folks) was alchemy more than production, and I believe that’s why it’s never been successfully recreated. Hard to recreate the pace of 24 minutes a day. Or the camera style. Colors. Voice. Restrictions. If you extract the story without accompanying it with the production schedule and budget with which it was told, you get… an okay story, but it’s easy to realize that it’s just okay. Every individual element was in the neighborhood of “just okay.” It’s how all of those okay elements blended that matters. The production was too frenetic to allow for more. And that’s a strength, not a weakness. Dark Shadows was a show that turned disadvantages into opportunities, and that fusion is impossible to clone.

But it can be continued. A continuation can have a modern voice. Dark Shadows was, after all, an incredibly modern show for its time. For me, the measure of success will be how well it continues and explores the story threads created by the original show. Did Barnabas try to undo Lamar Trask’s murder of Angelique? Did Maggie get out of the asylum… or did she ever really go? How is Quentin aging? Did the Leviathans return? Does Parallel Time begin to infect Collinwood beyond the Room? What happened to Carolyn? And can we finally get David to come back from Panama?

The multimillion dollar questions are, “Would new audiences know or care, and shouldn’t we start them out with something more basic?”

My answers are, “I don’t care, and yes, if you’re a coward.”

For over a decade, television has been built on mysterious stories that force audiences to pay close attention, wait, and speculate. Even if you watch DS66 from the beginning, you’re already jumping into a story whose “midstream” started hundreds of years before.

Do this for the fans who’ve kept the passion for the franchise alive, and you will have a core whose loyalty is beyond measure. Do it well, and the people who demand great television will follow. Trust what Dark Shadows is. Because even the afterglow of alchemy is magic.

ALICE COLLINS: I am trying to temper my excitement, which at the moment is huge. I wish I knew more and could work on it, it'd be my dream job. It's a sequel series according to the news articles I've read, so they have to somehow involve at least have a few of the original cast members. Hopefully they'll get Lara Parker, Katherine Leigh Scott, and David Selby. (You could easily have some kind of throwaway line about the painting not being stored properly or the werewolf virus mutating to have him show his age.) They seem to be the three that have been most active in keeping the series alive through the years. As far as I know it's only in the pilot phase right now, so who knows if it's going to get a full series order.

I have some faith in Mark B. Perry to do a good job since he worked on The Wonder Years and the Ghost Whisperer, so he's got the ideas and chops to make a nostalgic horror-themed series, but he is seriously gonna need to have the right writers surrounding him. Dan Curtis' family has kept such a tight hold on the series for so long, especially after the 2012 movie debacle, so Perry has to have had A REALLY GOOD IDEA to get them to let him use the IP.

At its heart Dark Shadows is a family drama with historical set pieces, I feel the CW network is a good fit here, if they use the Buffy the Vampire Slayer formula which is basically what all CW shows are, I think it'll work out just fine. It's a great idea to help update the series to keep the soap opera aspect intact with the melodrama and on top of that Buffy was a huge inspiration for Buffy. Ever since Buffy went off the air, they've used that framework for their popular shows and it works, Supernatural has gone on for 15 years under that framework and that's been the CWs biggest hit show. As long as they stick to the family and few high school melodramatics I think we'll be just fine.

I've been talking about Dark Shadows at cons and to a bunch of different people over the years, writing about it, podcasting now, and hopefully this will be the thing that'll finally expand the fan base and give some new perspectives and takes to the series allowing for more discussion. There's only so much to talk about when the series has been dormant as long as it has unless you're a fan of audio dramas, which unfortunately can take an arm and a leg to get people to listen to. In short, I'm excited,  ... but a little apprehensive.

PHIL NOBILE JRDark Shadows fans are a lot of different things, but one thing we all are is enduring. Being a DS fan is a life sentence, and one filled with both hope and disappointment. I think many of us cannot help but be hopeful about this news, and at the same time bracing ourselves for deflation. If the result is not what we want, that means that right now - this second - is the best part. So my advice is to enjoy this feeling, and luxuriate in hope and anticipation that the new DARK SHADOWS will “get it right.” Whatever the outcome, this is an exciting feeling.

JUSTIN PARTRIDGE: Well, it was bound to happen eventually. Producers hinted at it, the Head Office here reported on rumors. But, now it's officially on. And I have to say, ghouls and ghoulettes (and the gender neutral ghoulies), I am pretty excited about it. Lemmie tell ya why.

First off, I think it landing at The CW is actually the right move. I have seen some grousing about it online, mainly centered around their YA focused fare and tendency to cast their shows young. Which I mean, I get it. But also, this is a network that turned Supernatural into a fandom juggernaut. A network that took one weird show that turned Famous Lefty Oliver Queen into a Wal-Mart Batman and spawned a whole MULTIVERSE of incredible DC shows, ones that stay true to the legacy of the source material AND translate them in all their flashy (heh) and pulpy glory across multiple shows. Culminating in a yearly crossover in the might legacy of the Crisis books of old. Can you imagine that kind of attention to fun and serialization turned toward The Leviathans arc? Or even ANYthing involving the I-Ching?

As much as I would have loved a huge, big budget take on the series. I feel it would have lost it's novelty on a streaming service. What makes it truly pop episode-to-episode. A Netlfix DS would have tried too hard. A CW Dark Shadows has to try JUST hard enough. I am excited for that.

And that's the other thing, the team behind this, seemingly full-throatedly backed by the Curtis Estate, seems to be genuine fans of the property. They aren't saying "spiritual sequel". They aren't saying "homage" or, Dark Lord forbid, "parody". They are saying "continuation". They are talking about the timelines with the same reverence as we do Star Trek (which, not for nothing, that was something me and Patrick McCray had touched on MONTHS ago down at the Blue Whale, but who's counting right..RIGHT?).

Do I have "wishes" for the show? Absolutely. I would love to see it more diverse, both racially and in terms of queer content. I also think it would behoove them to at least TALK to some of the Big Finish writers, who have been doing this "continuation" thing for a few years now to great success. And I would like to see some of the original surviving actors make appearances.

But honestly? I am just happy it's happening. Even if it's bad, fans will be drawn to the original series and audios and novels. AND this new revival doesn't negate all that either. It's just another timeline. You can't ever keep a good Collins down forever. 

NANCY KERSEY: I am thrilled at the prospect of another Dark Shadows reincarnation.  The franchise has seen several interesting takes on the show already.  They bring new fans into the existing fandom and they invariably get introduced to the original Dark Shadows, which will always be my favorite.  I am most curious about the casting of Barnabas.  That is the important casting consideration to launch any new series.  I know many fans think that somehow Jonathan Frid would be upset.  Whether the series succeeds or not, Frid said publicly in interviews and Dark Shadows Festivals that he believed every new Dark Shadows project deserved to be judged on its own merits and the people behind the project should put their own stamp on it.  He didn’t feel any competition when it came to the character of Barnabas.

WILL McKINLEY Reboots of Dark Shadows have treated the property like it's one story: vampire returns, seeks to reclaim bride. In fact, the series had a wealth of characters, stories, time periods, and genres over 1,225 episodes. Dark Shadows engaged in "worldbuilding" before we called it that.

I’m excited — and genuinely surprised — that this new version is planned as a sequel, and that the writers will be able to mine the show’s vast mythology. Jonathan Frid called DS a “dark ‘Brigadoon’” and I think he would love the idea of expanding upon that unique world and opening it up beyond Barnabas Collins.

I think he would also be pleased by the tone the new production team seems to be taking toward the franchise and the fans. The idea that a new version will not just acknowledge the characters and stories we love but treat them as canon is thrilling.

Dark Shadows has always been the “little show that could,” kept alive by the passion and creativity of a vocal fan base. Now it's time for the show to claim the position it deserves: as one of the true genre classics of TV.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Marilyn Ross renaissance is upon us

As long as there's loneliness, Marilyn Ross will never go out of style. Ross's books are made to be read alone in bed, preferably on cold, grey mornings. They're pure, undiluted escapism.

Ross was one of many pen names used by Dan Ross, a one-man gothic romance Gutenberg press. The sheer volume of his work was enough to land him in Guinness World Records. In about five years, Ross churned out 32 Dark Shadows novels, alone, before they ceased publication in 1972. (Among that number was the novelization of 1970's House of Dark Shadows.) That adds up to more than 5,100 pages.

Early in 2020, the Dark Shadows series will be going back into print. My source tells me the announcement is pending, but we can expect to see the classic Dark Shadows novels in print beginning in February. Hermes Press, the company that painstakingly restored the entire Dark Shadows comic series from Gold Key and the syndicated newspaper strip, is publishing them.

Earlier this year, the first round of audiobook adaptions of the Marilyn Ross novels went on sale. Read by Kathryn Leigh Scott, the first five books in the series -- Dark Shadows, Victoria WintersStrangers at Collins House, The Mystery of Collinwood, The Curse of Collinwood, and Barnabas Collins -- are now available on Amazon. The availability of the CD version of these books remains unpredictable, but the entire line is available instantly through Audible.

Stay tuned for more details.

Arsenic and Old Lace: Jonathan Frid did the ultimate actors’ job


There are just certain plays that you stay away from. Even as a kid, I was suspicious about Arsenic and Old Lace. It was an old comedy, so that meant that a Meet Wally Sparks-level of wit was probably not in the cards. It was one of those plays that you always heard older stars chat about on talk shows, along with citing their latest production of Under the Yum Yum Tree, and anything even vaguely related to Lawrence Roman is suspect to a middle schooler. And who has the time? Not when With Six You Get Eggroll is at Derby Dinner Playhouse. So, it was with very mixed feelings that I got the news that Jonathan Frid was coming to Louisville to be in it. I mean, of course I was really excited. In the days before the Internet documented every single new wrinkle and pound that graces each celebrity to traipse in front of a camera, there was simply the mystery of… what he looked like now. Generally, I thought that celebrities aged pretty well. They gained a kind of seasoning. Hal Holbrook comes to mind. So, what did Jonathan Frid look like? It’s not like he had a new police procedural to show off in on NBC that season. He wasn’t filling in for Carson, although that would have been the greatest thing ever. So, a trip to live theater was once again rearing its ugly head to take me away from its chief competition, largely watching paint dry.

Keep in mind, I was 15. I was still scarred by having to learn the lines of the lead in Harvey, which I got bullied into doing by the French teacher. Long story.

Without the benefit of YouTube or a VCR, the brief ad that ran on television was ultimately ephemeral.  But I thought I was hallucinating and I couldn’t rewind it. The last time I saw him, he was running around 1795 like a 44-year-old Blueboy come to life. Who was this kind of jowly old man? Where was Jonathan Frid? What do you mean that’s Jonathan Frid?

OK, I’m painting myself too xenophobically. But I was really hoping he would be in something like Equus. Because anything Richard Burton could do, Jonathan Frid could do better. Except Elizabeth Taylor, because Frid had too much common sense than to get in the middle of that. So, despite the fact that time had not chiseled him like the Peppard I’d hoped he’d be, I was determined to see the show. It was the national tour, and it was coming to the Kentucky Center for the Arts early in 1987.

My father was a staunch Star Trek man, and I believe in his eyes, you picked an unsavory genre fetish and stuck with it. After all, he wasn’t going to pack two lunches for bullies to steal. Dark Shadows had always been the kind of thing that was tolerated by him. Once the mini skirts were off screen, his interest noticeably dipped. However, I asked to see the show, and although I recall him initially grousing about live theatre costs, which is a rational conversation, he came through like a champ. I was still scarred by missing Andy Kaufman wrestling, especially since the next time he made headlines was with his death, and the last thing my father wanted me to experience was the further scarring that would result from missing Jonathan Frid wrestling Jerry King Lawler. Despite the fact that that never happened, he surprised me with tickets. And I mean, there are tickets and there are tickets. These were astounding. Seventh row center. When that man does something, he does it right.

And of course, I was being an ignorant fat head. The play was a riot. And, all kitch references aside, it was probably the best cast I will ever see in a show. Gary Sandy, an incredible man I later got to interview for a Jonathan Frid documentary. And let me tell you, any underrepresentation he had in Hollywood is because of the fact that he is one of the few truly nice guys in the business. I mean, that man was a saint. Jean Stapleton. Marion Ross. And Larry Storch. It was like a pantheon was right up there on stage in my eyes. And I truly mean this.

I know that there are actors who quit the business after touring in Peter Brook’s revolutionary Midsummer Nights Dream. Because what else was there? Well, if I never saw another live play again, the result might’ve been the same, because you’re not going to top that cast. I can’t really tell you how good the play was, because they were just a fantastic ensemble. Absolutely nothing like anything I had seen them in on television. These people were, you know, acting. For the first time, I really got to appreciate the beautiful mechanics of live comic timing on stage. Some of the stuff that went on with Sandy, Storch, and Frid was tighter than a Fosse number, and twice as unpredictable.

As for Jonathan Frid? Well, he looked like Boris Karloff. And at the time, that was fine, although a bit of a letdown because as far as I was concerned, Frid was infinitely beyond Karloff. Yeah, I said it. It was kind of like seeing William Shatner being forced to play Chris Pine. Why couldn’t Chris Pine play Boris Karloff, and Jonathan Frid could have play William Shatner? What does Diablolos need with a starship?

In my memory, Jonathan Frid did the ultimate actors’ job: he got out of the way of the play by immersing himself with a masterful combination of total believability and an impish sense of commentary on what he was playing and where. No one side won out. They just worked together beautifully, and it was a very specific level and brand of performance that I had never seen. I can only describe it as deadly serious irony under ludicrous circumstances. and the meta-aspects of Jonathan Frid playing a man accused of looking like Boris Karloff were not lost on me. I hope they checked his bags thoroughly at the airport, because the show was securely stolen by him, and his fellow actors were gracious and every bit his equal in the show stealing department. To this day, I have dreams of Jean Stapleton rising from Barnabas’ coffin in the name of equal time. Let’s see Grayson Hall top that.

Somehow, I think through the dark shadows club in Louisville, I got to go to a cocktail party upstairs at the theater after the show. I recall that Frid was at a table in the lounge, signing a book that I later learned was Kathryn Leigh Scott’s invaluably precious gift to Dark Shadows fans. My father kept urging me to go up and say hello, but what was I actually going to say? I had nothing. I’ve generally always had this experience with celebrities. I wasn’t gonna go all Annie Wilkes on him, so I kept to myself. I think I may have greeted him and told him I liked the show, but stopped at the point of asking him for help on my algebra test, which is probably why I flunked it.

I had one last job to do that night, and that was grow the hell up. I ran into a friend of mine in his mid-twenties, and I decided to play off my nerves and score hipster points by cracking wise to him about Jonathan Frid’s minor, post-Barnabas weight gain. My friend looked at me with a painfully educational derision and said, “So?”

There was nothing more to say. People do that. It was a humbling moment, and I loved Jonathan Frid, so I have no idea what I was thinking. But I went a lot easier on people from that point onward. I was lucky to have been there. Scared, yes, but unspeakably lucky.

Later that summer, I went with that friend to see Frid at a Dark Shadows convention at the Seelbach hotel, and I was not too cool for the room. Almost.

I got in line for an autograph, and when I got to him, I asked about Seizure, which we’d seen earlier that day. Wiseacre, I realized that Oliver Stone, its director, had just won the Oscar for his travelogue romp, Platoon. Thinking I’d get a big laugh and a knowing anecdote, I said, “Mr. Frid… when you made Seizure, did you have any idea that Oliver Stone….”

“No,” he said with a tone that was to flat what absolute zero is to cold.

I earned it. And grew up just a tad more. Still working on it.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Podcast: The Dark Shadows Daybook

Diabolical Daybook diarist Patrick McCray is joined by the Fabulous Alexis Latshaw to resurrect Barnabas Collins and argue that TV’s greatest villain is its greatest hero in a bizarre act of unnatural fan love.

You can download the episode HERE, stream it below or listen to it on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcheriHeartRadio and YouTube.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 27


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 834

When Count Petofi appropriates Charles’ studio for a clandestine rendezvous with Edward, Charles is puzzled to learn that a beautiful portrait of Amanda Harris might ruin the mood. Petofi: Thayer David. (Repeat. 30 min.)

Charles Tate discovers the secret of his own power just as Petofi monopolizes his home to meet Edward and expose his knowledge of Barnabas as the vampire. Barnabas ventures forward, via the I Ching, to interview Quentin’s ghost about how he died.

Nothing defines swagger like Jonathan Frid, Thayer David, Grayson Hall, and Louis Edmonds, and 834’s I Ching wands glisten with a palpable mist of their testosterone. I have no idea how a show like this, with an episode like this, could be called a soap opera. “Supernatural drama” is more like it.  Or maybe just, “Dark Shadows,” because at this point, it defines itself. The swagger begins, though, with Roger Davis. And a bit before. 

The writers swagger, having established Charles Delaware Tate as the most powerful being in the universe. I would say more powerful even than Petofi. If the Count were that powerful, he would have given the abilities to himself. Tate is the perfect man for the job, however, because he is one of the people in the dark shadows universe least likely to want it. If Petofi has to choose a vessel for the power, let it be Tate. Roger Davis responds to the task with his most cerebral performance on the show. Most Davis characters are situational pugilists, dealing with very direct conflicts with high stakes and little time. Tate, however, is a man saddled with the ultimate existential realization of his chosen profession, art. It’s safe to live by manifesting imagination if that manifestation is only two dimensional. But the responsibility that he realizes here is beyond the infinite. Can he change a math equation? Would that make buildings rise or fall? Can he change the shape of a continent? Or eliminate the stars with a splash of black paint? Is he experiencing the ultimate liberation of an artist or the ultimate prohibition? Roger Davis captures this complexity with the deliberate economy of a Go master. No small feat. 

Petofi, of course, is Living Swagger, forging names and appropriating art studios to trap Edward. Edward returns the swag by both embracing and dismissing bohemianism And then staying even after he realizes it’s a trap. It’s the perfect embodiment of mechanized, Victorian thinking and propriety. When his worst enemy, Count Petofi, drops a dime on Barnabas, Edward should suspect that something is up. But Edward thinks like a reptile, with only a few up and down switches that give him very limited modes of very binary thinking. That only enhances his confrontation with the former Fenn-Gibbon, because Petofi is nothing but operational contradictions.

Best of all in this is Barnabas. Because he doesn’t have the power cosmic. He’s not the living embodiment of Victorian ideology. Early in the episode, he realizes that he must figure out how Quentin is going to die and how to stop it. Frid’s own actor’s terror here comes to the rescue, as always. It gives him a marvelously petrified millisecond of indecisive horror. Unlike any other TV hero of the era, he’s not a master detective. Barnabas Collins is largely the master of finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, making him more akin to the heroes of Easy Rider and Little Big Man than Mannix. Nevertheless, he must summon the inner Mannix and solve the problem in the most ludicrous way possible, by projecting his soul temporarily through time to his awaiting body so that he can chat with a lethal ghost who never talked, get him to discuss his own death, and then return to 1897 with the news. It’s ridiculous anti-thinking, tantamount to solving a Rubik’s Cube by switching around the stickers. It smacks of desperation.

It works.

Desperation births a strange willpower, and Barnabas may not be a master detective, but he’s no slouch at risking everything on insane ventures. It’s one of the benefits of being a living corpse who’s suffered every conceivable tragedy. The schemes he executes, especially in this era, work because of sheer chutzpah and the bravery one can only achieve through abject terror. At this point, the audience isn’t tuning in to feel afraid, but rather to see what someone else can do when fear is all they know… and fear for the right reasons.

This episode hit the airwaves Sept. 4, 1969.

Monday, August 26, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 26


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1092

Julia’s plan to put Maggie into intentional danger results in Maggie being put into intentional danger. Maggie: Kathryn Leigh Scott. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Julia uses Maggie as bait to find her attacker, but the plan fails. As she and Barnabas continue to decode prophecy and study Rose Cottage, the children are drawn to the playroom by Carrie’s taunting voice. There, they see themselves as dolls in the dollhouse.

1970 is Collinwood but not Collinwood when Barnabas and Julia return from Parallel Time and 1995. Roger and Liz are gone, as are any outsiders who are not menacing weirdos like Roxanne and Sebastian. I didn’t know how much I would miss Sam and Burke and the Blue Whale, which is the Drawing Room for the Common Man, quite so much. The stories have been so exotic that we really haven’t had time to mourn them. But the bread and butter of so much of the show was playing off rich from not-rich, isolated from urban, sherry from Stroh’s, etc. This perhaps became irrelevant with the introduction of Quentin, a man of pretty common sensibilities with an aristocratic last name. Losing that chemistry is a shame because it grounded the show and the family. Take that away, and disorientation sets in. Never before has the Collins family felt more isolated and helpless. Are these things even going on? Don’t bother to look, the mirror was blinded a year ago. The Collinses always saw themselves as the saviors of the commoners, but it’s the other way around. The last of the townsfolk, Maggie, is finally being sacrificed. It’s the price she pays for climbing Mt. Olympus. She was right to warn Vicki and a chump for ignoring her own advice.

1092 begins with Maggie being allowed to wander the Collins estate so that Julia can track down her assailant. When that fails, she and Barnabas refuse to alert the authorities, which might have been a lifesaving move. It’s as if they and the series want her to die. Maggie has been astonishingly indestructible, and it takes a team effort of malice, hunger, and negligent friends to finally pour her into Sebastian’s car. But with sensible average folk around, there is no way that the Collinses would have stayed in that house. I mean, it’s Quentin, the kids, Barnabas, and Julia. Carolyn, too. That’s a double room at the Collinsport Inn and a couple of sleeping bags. It might be close quarters, but Gerard can have the house. Doesn’t happen. In a vacuum of pragmatism, this is what we’re left with, and it’s intentional. Horror may be the ultimate expression of art because both are about stripping down the essentials until the only remaining choice exists by default.

The children fight inevitability and are victimized by it all at the same time that they symbolically enact it. (Kathy Cody’s best acting on the show is her eerie voice work as the gloating voice of Carrie.) Another element that makes this Collinwood-not-Collinwood begins with David Henesy’s narration. He’s not supposed to be doing this, and his voice is not supposed to be that deep. He and Hallie even argue over whether or not she’s a guest, and David gives her the bad news that she’s become a lifer. So… is she the next Vicki or Carolyn? Yes, no, too young. All answers apply, ultimately making her another element that doesn’t quite fit, and doesn’t quite fit… on purpose. It keeps Collinwood alien to us. Because this upcoming trip is not about saving David or Collinwood. Whether he knows it or not, this trip will ultimately be about Barnabas saving himself.

Barnabas continues to wander through a liminal forest, and in the words of Michael Corleone, every time he thinks he’s out, they pull him back in. 1897 seemed to be the forest, and 1970, home. It was a specific place to which he could return after Parallel Time, but nothing’s the same when he does. The household is different. Even Julia’s hair is different. The forest has followed him into a present that may be more unfamiliar than Parallel Time. By the time he returns home to 1971, Collinwood is finally the familiar same, but he is not. That’s the irony, and it’s not a nice one.

Is he being manipulated? We all are. Viewers and our sympathies. Heroes and their supposed true loves. 1092 is talking about this is loud silences and a final image both chilling and satirical when we realize we are in the dollhouse with them.

This episode hit the airwaves Sept. 1, 1970.

Podcast: Penny Dreadful and the Vampire of Collinsport

Penny Dreadful's alter ego Danielle Gelehrter discusses her favorite vampire, Barnabas Collins, and her memories of growing up a "second generation" Dark Shadows fan. You can download the episode HERE, stream it below or listen to it on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcheriHeartRadio and YouTube.

Penny Dreadful ( the XIII, to be more specific) is a New England-based television horror host and two-time recipient of The Rondon Hatton Classic Horror Awards and a 2014 inductee of the Horror Host Hall of Fame. Follow her on Twitter at @Danielle13Penny and visit Shilling Shockers online at

Friday, August 23, 2019

Podcasts! Weclome to Collinsport and The House by the Sea

If you subscribe to The Collinsport Historical Society Podcast, you might have found another episode in your download queue yesterday. The last few weeks have been incrediblt stressful, what with getting a child ready for kindergarten and all. So my wife and I took the day off yesterday to play videogames and depressurize, so there was no announcement about the podcast here at the website. But yesterday Big Finish's Welcome to Collinsport, and features a chat by the producers of Big Finish's line of Dark Shadows audio dramas about why extending the show's storyline has always been about extending the Collins family.

You can download the episode HERE, stream it below or listen to it on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcheriHeartRadioYouTube where ever you find your podcasts.

Today's episode is The House by the Sea with Jessica Dwyer. Jessica explains why the sins of Collinsport's royal family aren't always as sinful as they appear. You can download the episode HERE, or stream it below. If you've been keeping count, Jessica's episode marks the end of this week's "single serving" series, meaning you've got new episodes coming your way Monday!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Podcast: The Dark Shadows Daybook

Another day, another Dark Shadows podcast! Patrick McCray and Justin Partridge have a drink at The Blue Whale and talk about the Master of Dark Shadows documentary, how the series speaks to the lonely, and why the 1897 storyline is essentially an episode of Fantasy Island for Barnabas Collins. Pull up a seat at the bar and give it a listen!

You can download the episode HERE, stream it below or listen to it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, YouTube where ever you find your podcasts.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Podcast: My Drawing Room

The first installment of the rejvenated Collinsport Historical Society podcast was a graveyard smash. But the kaiju-sized format has proven difficult to keep up with, so we're going back to formula. New episodes will be coming your way next week, but in the meantime enjoy these single-serving installements extracted from the first episode.

In the first episode of My Drawing Room, Alice Collins talks about discovering Dark Shadows on The Sci-Fi Channel while home sick from school at age 11, and seeing something familiar in the show's themes and characters.

You can download the episode HERE, stream it below or listen to it on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcheriHeartRadioYouTube where ever you find your podcasts.

Monday, August 19, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 19


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 566

Barnabas becomes suspicious of Julia when she begins sleeping all day, wearing high collared shirts, and longing for the embrace of the undead. Tom Jennings: Don Briscoe. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Julia is attacked and bitten by Tom, and later denies it to WIllie, who takes her to Collinwood to recover. She instructs Mrs. Johnson to leave her alone, and when the housekeeper brings her a letter from Barnabas, she tears it up. Later, Julia is summoned by Tom for the second meal of the day, and upon coming back to Collinwood, her bite marks are discovered by Barnabas.

I know that alcoholism isn’t funny. And drunks aren’t funny.

Having made that clear, Dark Shadows was produced before these modern opinions, and we’re swimming in its pool, so get that lampshade off your head and jump in. Once you’ve seen the episodes enough times, which could mean just once, it becomes pretty clear that the writers often had a good time by doing an episode in drag. I don’t mean that Sam Hall was wearing a dress, because I always saw him as more of a smart, designer pantsuit kinda guy, much like future tv hunk, Bea Arthur. No, I simply mean that the episodes are often about something else. Usually with no conclusion. Just an opportunity to explore a situation or human moment that was fun or challenging or necessary to write about. All you have to do is re-frame a little bit of the context.

I think the reason that drinking was kind of funny for so long was that the drinkers were often in on the joke, and the joke kind of changed before, during, and after the imbibing. “Morning after“ humor is a strange mix of regret, everyone agreeing to ignore the obvious after-effects, and the paradoxical pursuit of hair of the dog. In this case, the dog is Tom Jennings. Because if you look at this episode and kind of ignore the bite marks on its neck, it looks for all the world like Julia is sleeping off a hangover and everyone is either trying to deny what they know or find out what they fear. And it’s not just a minor hangover. This is, in the immortal words of Robert Urich, “a full, adult-size bangaroo.” It’s also perfect commedia dell’arte, where the hapless servants are trying to understand the decadence of one half of the household and then cover it up to the rest. What can Mrs. Johnson possibly be thinking? She worked for Burke Devlin, so whatever it is, it can’t be new.

In the midst, Barnabas is more of a fussbudget than ever. He had to put up with months of Nathan Forbes and, I’m sure, more than one night of Jeremiah in his cups, thumping around the almost-Old House while chasing maids or sneaking in doxies from the docks. In the 20th century, that level of wanton sherry consumption might pass at Collinwood, but this is his house, thank you, and Young Loomis and Dr. Hoffman were hand-picked because they didn’t go in for those sorts of shenanigans. Which is why he wants to get to the bottom of it, even more. And Willie does everything to keep him from knowing. And Julia, knowing exactly what Barnabas is up to, tears up Barnabas‘s note, because it probably said, “Lay off the sauce and get back to work, you lug.”

The scene where Willie and Barnabas have their confrontation in the lab is priceless, because someone has forgotten his lines, and I can’t wager which one it was. But Barnabas seems so appalled at what’s happened that awkward silence mixed with helpless astonishment are indistinguishable from a fully-voiced response. If anything, it’s more realistic. I mean, what do you say? This is an episode with no really progressive dialogue, just evasion and implication with Tom Jennings in the middle.

Tom is the bartender here, and he’s worse than the clientele. Actually, that’s stretching it all. Tom Jennings is a very peculiar vampire. Maybe one of the scariest, because he’s the most consistently feral. Via makeup and performance, Don Briscoe emphasizes the undead and driven quality of the monster, stripping away the velveteen refinement and leaving a working-class killer underneath… and perhaps the portrayal is a commentary on class paranoia by the writers. (It’s a reflection, anyway.) Barnabas can be trusted with the satanic powers of the undead; he’s been to university. But a guy like Tom Jennings? Lock up your Doctor Hoffmans! There’s a union man on the loose!

Episodes like 566 are situational popcorn. Even when monotonous, they are character-driven delights to watch. Like any good sitcom, I know exactly what’s coming and yet it always satisfies. Actually, it satisfies on a more metaphysical level even than that. Barnabas had his chance with Julia and he ignored it. Rather than see her victimized, I almost see her avenged, and the vaguely post-coital splay and daze in which she’s found by Willie and Barnabas after her two encounters say far more than what’s on the page. Is Barnabas horrified because she was claimed by a vampire or by a vampire other than he? 

This episode hit the airwaves Aug. 26, 1968.

Podcast: Jonathan Frid and the Clunes Reunion

We're chopping up the last podcast and spreading the remains all over the world. Every day this week we're disposing of another gory chunk of our massive episode "It Runs in the Family." We've already released the contributions from Dana Gould and Ella Minnope. Today's segment is The Clunes Reunion: On the seventh anniversary of Jonathan Frid's death this year, his production staff and creative collaborators reunited in New York City to remember the life and career of the man best known for playing Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows. There are a LOT of surprising details revealed here.

You can download the episode HERE, stream it below or listen to it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, YouTube whereever you find your podcasts.

The Dark Shadows theme is performed by Valentine Wolfe.

Dark Shadows: The Marilyn Ross Codex #1 - Dark Shadows


I suppose I owe you lovely readers an apology first and foremost.

It has been a good while since I have graced the hallowed halls of the CHS. So long in fact that my typewriter and paltry desk lamp have been moved BACK down to the Cupboard Under the Stairs, right back next to the mop and spare encyclopedias. It really is my bad.

Truth be told, some freelance work took me up to accursed Bangor and kept me there far, far too long. I got to talk about Swamp Thing over at Newsarama a bunch. I covered some horror film festivals AND wrote in a quite good zine (available now and with issue #2 on the way!) over at Dis/Member. I was even in a magazine! The Eisner winning PanelXPanel #25, all about the Sandman franchise, which was a trip and a half. It would have all been worth it had I not been in that festering cesspool of mediocrity that is Bangor. Schlepping down to what they pass off as a bar, filling pieces while choking down that weak freaking tea they call beer all while dodging mouth-breathing jabronis who haven't heard a goddamn Steely Dan song they didn’t love.

Anyone who tells you Bangor is a “decent enough town” is WRONG. Dead wrong. And probably selling you something.

But I’m back! And I have plenty of work ahead of me, work that will hopefully get me out of the broom closet and back into something at least resembling a workspace. Which brings us to this new column! The Marilyn Ross Codex! That’s right, after all these years, the Paperback Library’s’ Marilyn Ross books are finally receiving the audiobook treatment thanks to Oasis Audio. We here at the CHS have gotten a hold of some of these beauties and are going to be taking a listen to them. The immensely talented and far smarter than I am Alice Collins (@VampAly!) will also be joining us eventually along the way, and maybe a few other guests, if yer lucky! Welcome to The Marilyn Ross Codex!

So, I have a special relationship with the Marilyn Ross books, in that I DON’T have a relationship with them. Like my beloved Big Finishverse, I had only become aware of the cult classic tie-in novels here recently. Which is a bummer as I have heard they are quite insane. Like, fighting mummies and offering a completely separate prose universe alongside the TV canon insane. All of that sounds very much my jam. A lot of fans seem to really like these, and I have always meant to get around to them but a 32 book long series is daunting even for the most devout of fans. The closest I have come to really getting into these is listening to the fantastic Bodice Tipplers podcast episode about book #6 Barnabas Collins, by all rights, the horniest of the Marilyn Ross affairs.

Which is why I am excited to get to these reviews! I now have a pretty great in point for these and should I want to double-dip, buying both the old novels to display while keeping the audiobooks as my “reading copy” I totally can! It is nicely symmetrical for the obsessive collecting dork in me.

So how is the actual content itself, you may be asking now. And to that I say, pretty great! Though lacking the production values of the Big Finish audios and clocking in at a pretty decent chunk of time (which I will get into later), this first audio, carefully and lovingly read by Maggie Evans herself Kathryn Leigh Scott, is a fantastic entry point into this “Expanded Universe” of Dark Shadows.

Stop me if you have heard this before, but Victoria Winters has come to Collinwood. Lured by an offer to work at *checks notes* Collins House as governess to a child that lives there. Something, something beginning and the end of the world, you get it.  What follows is a pulpy, fairly loose adaptation of the first dozen or so episodes of the original TV series, stocked with all new characters and variants on the show’s opening dynamics. Characters like Ernest Collins, a seemingly famous concert violinist and suspected murderer who lives in Collins House (a canny anachronism that continues for the first few Ross books).   

As a fan of Expanded Universe, I sincerely love the idea of a semi-independent canon that stands alongside the TV canon, with it’s own cast and storylines. That said, the lack of production values is a bit of a bummer, especially when compared to the still ongoing Big Finish Dark Shadows line. Another bummer is the lack of any other cast members. Maybe the idea further down the line is to get other cast members in the booth and I DO love hearing Scott talk just in general as she has a smooth, caring tone that I find psychologically soothing. But part of the charm and drive of the Big Finishverse is hearing her play once again against other actors. I fear these might sound a bit stuffy after the full-cast efforts.

I also fear that the time commitment of this opener might be a turn off for casual fans. Clocking in at six hours, this thing really is a true blue audiobook (which, honestly, should have been something I anticipated going into this). Which means it's just bare bones reading for the whole time. Not helping matters is the fact that this first book is largely worldbuilding, setting up Vicki, Collins House, and the expanded cast of these novels. It has a pretty good hook, but anyone familiar with the TV canon won’t really be too surprised here. That said, I think die-hard Shadows people will find it a pretty great adaptation of this weird EU starter, but not having the frills of music or other cast members might be a tougher sell for me when I yell at people to get into the franchise. 

You might think that is a contradiction to what I said above, but I really, really did enjoy Dark Shadows. I think Scott continues to be really comfortable behind the microphone in any capacity and Ross’ odd, but engagingly written prose provides a spooky weekend listen for those still wondering what the hell this Dark Shadows thing is all about anyway. Those in the know too will find this fun as well as it brings the weirdness of tie-ins and the franchise overall into a wider market, hopefully snapping up more fans and devotees. To quote a great man, Joe Bob says, check it out.

NEXT TIME! Marilyn Ross #2! 1967’s Victoria Winters! To be honest, I’m just hoping we can get to the mummy fighting. Be seeing you!

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

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Podcast: Evolving in the Shadows

The first installment of the rejvenated Collinsport Historical Society podcast was a graveyard smash. But the kaiju-sized format has proven difficult to keep up with, so we're going back to formula. New episodes will be coming your way next week, but in the meantime enjoy these single-serving installements from the first episode. We're dissecting them into more manageable portions, posting an episode a day throughout the week. Yesterday, Dana Gould explained how Dark Shadows might have been gothic as all get out, it was still as American as apple pie. Today,  Ella Minnope talks about how the romantic aesthetic of the deep South compares to the dysfunctional Collins family in Evolving in the Shadows. You can download the episode HERE, stream it below or listen to it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio or whereever you find your podcasts.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Podcast: Dark Shadows is as American as apple pie

Mistakes were made.

The first podcast turned out better than I could have ever imagined, a two-hour sprawling epic with more contributors than I could count. The traffic on the episode was great, as well ... but trying to publish an omnibus podcast on a monthly basis proved to be beyond my abilities. I've got some good stuff already in the can for episode two, but trying to get everybody to manage their schedules at my whim is unrealistic. From now on I'll be releasing "single serving" episodes as they become available, collecting them into an anthology podcast at a later date.

Which means I have to break down the previous podcast into single serving installments ... beginning today. Each day throughout the week a complete segment from our first episode - "It Runs in the Family" - will be shared as an individual MP3 file. Hopefully this might also attract a few of you who blanched at the thought of a two-hour podcast.

First up: Night Rally by Dana Gould! Dana and Bobcat Goldthwait were injured Thursday in a car wreck in Atlanta, suggesting they might need to follow some sort of Air Force One protocol for future live appearances. Get well soon, guys.
You can download Night Rally by clicking HERE, or stream it below. The Dark Shadows theme is performed here by Valentine Wolfe.

Tomorrow: Evolving in the Shadows with Ella Minnope!
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