Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Dark Shadows: Bloodline, Episodes 5-6


Klaatu Barata Nic-Spoilers Ahead

“Someone in this town is responsible for the deaths of 13 people and I’m going to make sure that they pay for what they’ve done!”

Welcome back, lovely cultists! I hope everyone’s weekend resurrection rituals and/or sacrifice offerings went great! I, myself hopped a bus to Bangor and holed up in their cinema for the weekend, topping that off with a riotous discussion down the Blue Whale with one Patrick McCray, he of The Dark Shadows Daybook! That boozy chinwag you should be hearing quite soon, BUT enough about my drinking habits, SOMEONE BLEW UP COLLINSPORT HOSPITAL! And we are here to get to the bloody bottom of it, aren’t we?

First up, we have the tense and claustrophobic episode 5 written by Alan Flanagan. When we last left our goth heroes, Collinsport Hospital has just suffered a massive explosion. With many of our central cast inside! What follows is this series’ first “bottle episode” with the action set mainly in the burning hospital as Barnabas, Julia, and Dr. Hill attempt to save the patients already admitted, plus the recently injured Cody and David Collins.

This thing seriously moves like a bullet, and Flanagan is constantly upping the stakes. Either by allowing another mainstay to leap into the fray, like Adam Hall’s Nu Burke, or by putting another “Towering Inferno-esque” obstacle in their way. This leads to some great tension between the two doctors Hill and Hoffman as well as a bit more sauce for the goose that is the “Vivian Bell Problem”. That’s right, in a canny opening gambit, Flanagan shows us the very seconds before the explosion for a certain set of characters and it’s revealed that Viv was ALSO in the hospital moments before the explosion. No doubt hoping to continue to put the squeeze on David, on the heels of a beating from Jamison Selby’s Ed Griffin.

It really is all around great stuff. Literally putting our cast through the fire makes for stellar listening and the sound design of David Darlington really amps of the terror and threat of the looming, rapidly spreading fire. We don’t get much headway toward a resolution (obviously) aside from some lampshading about how it had to have been a planned attack. Nor is this the most substantial episode on the Rosier front (if you’ll remember he was the Daniel Collard played demon who tried to end David and Amy’s relationship before it even started in Tainted Love). BUT it is a real belter of a listen with it’s constantly rising stakes, fantastic performances, and almost relentless pace.

And in the aftermath of this tragedy, the Big Day arrives for Amy and David in the Rob Morris scripted episode 6! Finishing on this first volume on a grand cliffhanger, one which finds the whole town FORGETTING David even existed, Morris, the cast, and the rest of the production staff rise admirably to the big occasion.

While the actual ceremony is the big headline here, this episode is surprisingly plot heavy for a volume “finale”. For one, we get plenty more headway into the Viv and Harry’s contentious relationship, beautifully acted by Georgina Strawson and Scott Haran. We also get some more insight into Barnabas’ lingering bloodlust and lack of viable food options which is driving him deeper into his monstrous side. I have spoken a lot here recently about my growing admiration for Andrew Collins’ portrayal of Barnabas and as this series goes on, I’m increasingly convinced this series might be his finest hour(s) as the character. Finally there is also the newly introduced thread of certain characters feeling a sense of unease rippling through their minds, all leading up to David literally ghosting on the altar. This is the kind of stuff that made us keep watching the next episode and Bloodline seems to be leaning into the more cruel cliffhangers of the show. In. To. It.

From a burning hospital to a disappearing groom, Dark Shadows: Bloodline episodes 5 and 6 have it all, ending this first volume on one hell of a mic drop. This series has been so, so fun so far because it seems that literally ANNNNYthing can happen. With Bloodlust it was just quaint little murders and witchcraft. But this thing? It’s on a whole other level. Until next time, goons, I’ll be seeing you.

(Editor's note: Episodes 5 and 6 of Bloodline are available HERE.)

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 justin@betweenthepanels.com Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.

Friday, April 19, 2019

So, where's my review of Master of Dark Shadows?

The Dan Curtis documentary Master of Dark Shadows was released on DVD and Blu-ray earlier this week. Even though I've spent the last few months promoting the release, there's been no review of the film here at the CHS. Why? MPI Home Video didn't offer me a screener. But that's OK ... the folks at That's My Entertainment still love me and sent an advance copy, so they got my review.

I enjoyed the special features more than the actual movie, and the way Jonathan Frid managed to upstage the movie's subject warmed the cold, cold cockles of my heart.

You can read my review HERE.

Also, if you're thinking about purchasing the movie be forewarned: The digital version does not include the bonus features. You can get the Blu-ray or DVD at Amazon HERE.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

In Dark Shadows, your reflection always tells the truth

This week marks 52 years since the first appearance of Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows. To celebrate the occasion, The Collinsport Historical Society is spending the week looking back at the "introductions" of the character in various media.


Barnabas Collins made his first appearance in any medium on April 6, 1967.

Even if you watched this episode, though, there’s a pretty good chance you missed him. During the closing scenes of the episode, Willie Loomis (played by James Hall in his second-to-last appearance on DARK SHADOWS) tries to assault Carolyn Stoddard, who pulls a gun on him and issues a stern warning ...

“If you don't leave me alone, I'll blow your head off,” she says. Fade to credits.

It was here that most people in 1967 — and probably many viewers since — probably stopped watching the episode. Those who stuck around, though, saw a significant piece of art had been added to Collinwood’s foyer.

In a bit of retroactive continuity, we later learn the portrait of Barnabas Collins has been hanging in full view for many, many years. After regenerating into John Karlen in episode 206, Willie takes an active interest in the portrait, eventually meeting Barnabas Collins face to face on April 10 during a bit of grave robbing. It’s not until the following episode that we get to see Barnabas for ourselves, when he makes his iconic arrival at Collinwood.

All of this makes it difficult to pinpoint the “first appearance” of Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows. Complicating matters is that the character's first physical appearance is in Episode 210 when Barnabas’ hand emerges from the coffin to choke Willie Loomis. On that episode, he was played by set extra Timothy Gordon. Meanwhile, the character’s “first appearance” is almost always credited to Jonathan Frid’s debut, which is fair … but that doesn’t make the milestone any easier to read. By the time we formally meet the character, we already know a lot about him.

Barnabas’ piecemeal introduction is in keeping with the dominant theme of Dark Shadows during much of its run, which is underscored in the final reveal of Jonathan Frid: In Dark Shadows, your reflection always tells the truth.

Duality was a series theme from the very first episode, which implemented a shocking amount of symbolism in its photography. As a daily series, it was never designed to withstand the scrutiny of re-runs, let alone the far-flung fantasy concept of "home video." The series was as disposable as a newspaper, something to be enjoyed for a few minutes and then forgotten. The writers and directors of Dark ShadowsS did not get that memo, though, and set about creating afternoon entertainment that was more psychologically complex than it had any right to be.

The first episode established this dynamic immediately. Victoria Winters is riding on a train through the night, her reflection in the glass beside her. We discover that she’s a “foundling,” anonymously abandoned to the state as an infant. She’s traveling to Collinsport, Maine, to take a job — and to learn the truth about her own mysterious past.

In other words, she’s looking for the real Victoria Winters — represented throughout this episode by her own reflection. We see Victoria reflected back in the window of the train carriage, the mirror in the restaurant of the Collinsport Inn, and in a mirror (in a flashback!) at her bedroom at the foundling home.

Most telling is the reveal in the episode’s final scene. When she arrives at her destination, the doors of Collinwood open to show Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard standing in the entrance, looking very much like Victoria’s reflection. (For me, this is all the evidence I’ve ever needed that Liz was Victoria’s mother.)

We get the same kind of imagery in the introduction of Barnabas Collins, though it’s less direct. Again, the “real” Barnabas is the character we see in the portrait — the ancestor who lived at Collinwood more than a century earlier. While it’s only a fraction of the truth, it’s much more reliable than the tales told by Barnabas, himself.

We see this over and over throughout the run the series, always to different effect. The portrait of Quentin Collins — a magical creation that spared him from harm — represents the real person, the Quentin that suffers the consequences of his own bad decisions. But this duality has a downside: Quentin will live forever, but he might as well not exist at all. Neither the world nor Quentin Collins had much effect on each other in the 20th century.They just drift through the years, body and soul detached.

Interestingly, Barnabas returned to the “portrait” well twice during the show’s first year. As a ruse to lure Sam Evans away from his daughter, Barnabas arranges to sit for the artist to have a new portrait done. The painting is meant to do something beyond keeping Sam occupied; it’s designed to transform Barnabas’ lie into something approximating the truth. The portrait would lend credibility to his tale of being “The Cousin from England,” enshrining his new likeness with those of the other Collins family ancestors at Collinwood. It makes his backstory legitimate.

It must have been handy for the writers to have characters like Sam Evans and Charles Delaware Tate in the cast. It made the symbolic use of portraits easy to justify without having to do logistical cartwheels to introduce each new prop. One of the first portrait devices used on Dark Shadows was an illustration by artist/alcohol enthusiast Sam Evans many years before the start of the series.  During a visit to his home, Victoria finds a portrait of a woman named Betty Hanscomb among his older works. Despite the obvious similarity (the portrait was unsurprisingly based on a photo of actress Alexandra Moltke) he claims he doesn’t see much of a resemblance. We eventually learn Hanscomb and her family are dead, and the plot point — like so many that involved Victoria — was left to dangle.

Another of Sam’s portraits would also reveal an ugly truth about Laura Collins. While under the influence of supernatural compulsions, Sam painted a portrait of Laura that shows her to be the demon that she truly is. By the time Barnabas Collins shows up — just a few weeks after the first incarnation of Laura Collins is dispatched — the writers had polished the old “Portrait as Id” trope to a high sheen. They’d go on to use it to different effect with Josette Du Pres, Angelique Bouchard, and several characters in the Night of Dark Shadows feature film.

Before the end of the series, Dark Shadows even introduced a character who was literally a portrait come to life. Amanda Harris, played by Donna McKechnie, was another of the magical creations of Charles Delaware Tate, who made a pact with Hungarian sorcerer Andreas Petofi for a boost to his "Talent" attribute. Once again, it was the portrait that was "real." Much like Victoria, Harris was unaware of her own origins. And what little she knew was fiction. Her romantic entanglement with Quentin Collins — a man whose soul was also linked to a magical portrait — was one of Dark Shadows' most appropriate relationships. Naturally, it was doomed to fail.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Dark Shadows: Bloodline, Episode 4


Grok it, Reader-Bots! Spoilers Ahead!

“You call him...Barney. Harry called him Uncle Barnabas. 

He wants to be ALL those things! He wants a family! He wants to live here, and see the sunlight again, but he’s CURSED! He’s a VAMPIRE! We must never forget that, Jackie!”

Click the image to get Dark Shadows: Bloodline!
Stag night in Collinsport comes to an explosive conclusion in Bloodline episode 4! Written by Aaron Lamont, he of Beyond the Grave and the recently Scribe Award nominated The Lover’s Refrain, this fourth episode just leans right the hell into some of the best soap opera narrative turns making them sing once again for Dark Shadows. But better than that, this episode really finds the serial as a whole picking up. Really working the resolutions of episode three’s cliffhangers and then doubling down on them in grand fashion with even BIGGER ones! While Bloodlust was more of a slow burn mystery, Bloodline, at least by this episode’s dynamic metric, is really looking to be more of an “event”. And why the hell shouldn’t it? It IS Amy and David’s wedding after all. Let’s get into it.

Addressing the absolute biggest cliffhanger first, Jackie is NOT DEAD! Which is great because I would have been gutted if the wonderful Alexandra Donnachie left us this soon. Though she WAS somewhat attacked by Barnabas (which mortified him, Julia’s words, not mine), she merely fainted. And who wouldn’t, being accosted by a hunger starved vampire?! This obviously leads to more sass from Jackie and a tense heart-to-heart with Julia that new Dr. Hoffman, Julie Newmar, digs into with aplomb. That pretty much rounds out Jackie’s involvement in this episode, but I am still really enjoying the continued focus on the “younger” cast members. Plus the extra bonus of the hungry Barnabas and Andrew Collins’ performance of such is a real dark treat of a plot simmering behind everything else.

Because the REAL affair of this episode is the dual bridal shower/bachelor party of Amy and David! Which goes about as wonky as you would assume it would! I spoke in my last review about how Bloodline has been a bit more conveniently “operatic”. Meaning that it’s kind of going back to the well when it comes to certain plots. Plots like Viv coming back to “reconnect” with Harry. Well, everything that happens during these scenes just continues to prove my point as Viv continues to seemingly undermine the incoming marriage of David and Amy, using Harry as a pawn to do it! Pretty tried and true stuff, right? But I really appreciate it here! It is really low-key, emotional stakes. A welcome change of pace after all the murder and mayhem of Bloodlust. I like that this serial so far is just about the hassle of planning a wedding and how awkward it is when your parents come to visit you. I can relate, Bloodline.

We even get a brand new Burke Devlin for our troubles! Voiced by noted voice actor and impressionist Adam Hall, Burke joins the festivities along with Kathryn Leigh Scott’s Maggie, having literally driven her out of ...And Red All Over just “days” before. Scott is always a welcome presence in the Big Finishverse as far as I’m concerned and hearing her instantly lock back into the role of “governess” to a completely drunk Amy Jennings and Rhonda Tate (Lachele Carl REALLY getting to let loose in this episode to great effect) warms my heart. Hall’s Burke is also wonderfully uncanny. Not only does he capture Mitchell Ryan’s swagger and booming cadence, but he also makes for a pretty damn good Burke! One who naturally commands a scene and charms in more intimate one-on-one interactions with other characters. I’m starting to think Big Finish has access to some kind of Time Lord science or has made some pact with the Dark One in regards to how well they can recreate the personas of certain characters.

My glib attempt at dork humor aside, Episode 4 really impressed me and I think you are all going to be further sucked into this tale. This serial continues to be everything you could want from a Dark Shadows “event” series. Even without the episode’s, shall we say, “explosive” cliffhanger. I will say no more, readers, but I WILL be back here to talk to you once the next episode rattles off the wires. Until then, how about you meet me in the CHS Drawing Room over on Facebook and we can talk theories over some healthy portions of the Good Brandy, if ya know what I mean? We can talk Barnabas’ hunger, why Viv Bell is out to ruin everything, and why is Ed Griffin such a friggen jerk?! It will be a fun time for all. Until then, be seeing you.

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

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 16


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 738

When Dirk Wilkins works in the Ra, Laura comes back for more. But Quentin is Set to douse her flame for good. Dirk: Roger Davis. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Dirk instinctively recites a magical incantation that brings Laura back from the brink of death. She confronts Quentin, who has to deal with the strong emotions of Jamison, who has become very dedicated to his mother. Barnabas does an hilarious double-take upon entering Collinwood and seeing his former aunt alive and well.

Technically, this is about Laura demonstrating her powers by returning from the brink of death -- thanks to Roger Davis and his mustache, the eternal reasons for the season. But that’s not what leaped out to me. Yes, it’s a fun episode, full of the arch moments, preening, and catty revelations that make 1897 great again. That’s why I chose it. That’s the experience I thought I would have, and it didn’t disappoint in those regards. But I didn’t realize I would tear up.

1795 is the story of how a boring man became an interesting one... but in an often boring way. 1897 is about how an interesting man became a boring one… but in an always interesting way. When does Quentin’s transformation -- his REAL transformation -- start? As well it should, it starts with Jamison. He’s the end of the journey, with a resonance that rings in Quentin’s ears long after death. He’s also a completely modern man-in-the-making. He’s the bridge between the world of gas lamps and gas guzzlers. The works of Lara Parker, author, notwithstanding, we know dashedly little about Jamison. But we can tell a lot about him by who loves him, teaches him, and sticks up for him.

Of course, it’s Quentin. And if Jamison is the Victorian era’s ambassador to the age of modernism, then Quentin is the ambassador to Jamison. You can see the culture buckling through the eyes of Quentin. In a world of rules and strictures, Quentin’s every breath is an act of defiance. It’s a shame that, when he arrives at the modern world, the man is too scarred to enjoy it. He was, perhaps, too much of the antithesis to Edward. But Jamison can be something more than either of the men alone, and I think Quentin knows that. Edward’s too far gone, and so is Quentin. Carl doesn’t count, and Judith (literally) doesn’t have a vote in the matter.

This comes into focus with the twinkle-eyed sincerity of his shameless manipulation of the boy. If Jamison came in from school, terrified over dreams, Edward would have sent him straight back with no sympathy. Quentin understands. And when Jamison has qualms over waking a servant to make him tea, Quentin has no stake in the hierarchy (except, perhaps, being in good with the boss when he finds himself in old age). He explains to Jamison that he’ll be at the top and needs to get used to the idea. Edward might have shamed him with the lesson; Quentin inspires. He does that out of expediency and love. David Selby’s miraculous range comes through once more, suggesting that Dark Shadows was a vehicle built for over two years just to accommodate his talent. Because he’s both totally serious and completely opportunistic. Maybe it’s one and the same for Quentin. Maybe he doesn’t need to lie to get what he wants. He just wants things he rarely has to lie about, because everyone knows he’s a bottom-feeding scoundrel with the tastes of a hedonist. It’s when Quentin wants something loftier that we have to wonder. In 738, there is a benevolent purity to the con. Like so many before and after him, Quentin knows he’s doomed, himself, and fights for a better Collins. That’s the transformation that’s been building in the show since the 1795 storyline. Barnabas is infected by the outside influence of foreign magic and rejects it. Quentin is saturated with it so far he’s forgotten who he was prior. It’s the threat of Laura that initiates his thoughts of the man he can be with it, however.

Appropriate that Barnabas enters to see her just as she’s really spreading her plume. If Quentin becomes his second brother-not-brother, it fits that the same catalyst for the alien and occult also infected his first brother-not-brother, Jeremiah. He escaped Laura twice. There is something patterned about dark haired, baritone, Collins men (and Roger) finding their downfall in blonde women (sometimes wearing wigs) with penchants for magic. Somebody write a dissertation already, I’d do it here, but I got two shows in Vegas tonight.

Laura has encountered the Barnabas bullet twice. She and he are almost as linked as he and Angelique, except here, he’s simply an adversary… and it’s a way for him to get a perspective on an “Angelique-type” from the outside. Ironic that they should miss each other in the 1960’s by only a few weeks. It’s the great issue of the Marvel Comics/Dark Shadows What If? that never happened.

This episode hit the airwaves April 23, 1969.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

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Podcast Flashback: Humbert Allen Astredo

We're preparing to put all 94 episodes of The Collinsport Historical Society podcast into the vaults later this week. It's a bittersweet moment in the website's history, but one that will make more sense once the new series is released into the wild. If you don't already have our previous episodes, you should download them as soon as possible. You can find the entire archive online at iTunes ... and pretty much everywhere else podcasts are available.

Here's one of the highlights from the series: In 2014, Patrick McCray scored an incredibly rare interview with actor Humbert Allen Astredo, who entered the world of Dark Shadows with a bang in 1968 as warlock Nicholas Blair. He'd later go on to play the satanic Evan Hanley and Charles Dawson on the show, and had a lengthy career on the stage after the program's cancellation.

Astredo spoke with McCray about using comedy to survive the Korean War, the different perspectives between east coast and west coast acting schools, and how he landed his first role on Dark Shadows. This is very likely the last interview Astredo ever granted; he passed away in 2016 at the age of 86.

"A white knuckled interview," McCray said. "A really nice guy convinced he had to keep an icy exterior. A very complex man. I really worked for the opportunity. Terrifying, and maybe one of the best experiences of my life. I miss him."

You can listen to the interview below.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Podcast Alert: Flowers in the Attic

The increasingly inaccurate "March Madness" series from the Bodice Tipplers podcast is back, with the first of a two-part episode devoted to V.C. Andrews' 1979 gothic trash-terpiece "Flowers in the Attic." Sara and Courtney decided to split the epsiode into two parts because the whole thing topped out at three hours long ... and only ended then when their digital recorder ran out of memory.

"Flowers in the Attic" marks the halfway point in the March Madness series, which began with Peter David's Trekkie romance "Imzadi" and ends with an upcoming episode dedicated to "Barnabas Collins" by Marilyn Ross.

If you haven't read "Flowers in the Attic" you can find various editions of it on Amazon, which makes for a fascinting -- if depressing -- tour. Book cover art has really gone downhill since "Flowers in the Attic" was first published. Later editions of the book are shamelessly generic. (And make sure to check out the godawful cover of the audiobook.) Anyhoo, you can find a lot of great and terrible editions of "Flowers in the Attic" at Amazon HERE.

Sara and Courtney have written a lengthy blogpost to accompany the podcast, which you can find over at their website. If you're the impatient type and just want to get started, you can begin listening to it below.

Jonathan Frid Lives

There was something elegiac about Jonathan Frid's momentary return from the grave this past weekend. Yesterday was the seventh anniversary of the actor's death, and the stars aligned over the weekend in ways that were both predictable and surprising. Saturday saw the premiere of Master of Dark Shadows at the Paley Center For Media in New York City. It not only screened to a sold-out audience, but an overflow room and an additional question and answer session had to be added to accomodate fans. It's a movie the life and carreer of Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis, but in a case of life imitating art Jonathan Frid upstages the movie's subject at every turn. He unintentionally hijacks the most important arc of the film (the rise of Dark Shadows as a cultural phenomenon) and lingers like a gentlemanly boogeyman over the rest of Curtis' career. When the closing credits roll, they do so over a drawing of Frid by the late Ken Bald, an image taken from the Dark Shadows syndicated newspaper strip.

Facebook was abuzz over the weekend with photos and stories of fans visiting some of Frid's favorite New York City haunts, as well as the apartment building where he lived while working on Dark Shadows. There was even a reunion of the Clunes Associates crew, the people who made up Frid's production company and produced his spoken word tours during the 1980s and '90s. Some of these people hadn't seen each other in decades.

And, as soon as it started, it was over: News began spreading online about Frid's death. Much of this was done to commemorate the anniversary, but links to news stories about the actor's death in 2012 were frequently shared without context. Before long, fans unaware that Frid passed away in Ontario seven years ago were mourning his death for the first time.

"I loved Dark Shadows," one person wrote. "I watched it as a child. Rest in peace, Jonathan Frid."

"RIP Mr Frid," wrote another. "I loved you as (Barnabas) Collins. You gave me great memories of spooky places."

"I was inconsolable when they killed  (Barnabas) on Dark Shadows," someone commented on Twitter. "He was a vampire w the soul of a poet."

Even author C. J. Cherryh was taken in. "One of the oddly sexiest vampires ever, not by looks, but by projecting a weird combination of power and vulnerability," she commented while sharing a link to a 2012 L.A. Times death notice. When someone pointed out the date on the story, she admitted the error with grace and wit: "But to me he was still alive til now ...which is kind of fitting, I suppose."

Dark Shadows: Bloodline episodes 1-3


Reader, Beware! Slight Spoilers Ahead!

Big Finish’s latest Dark Shadows epic gets an engagingly charming opening trio of episodes in the start of Bloodline! Full disclosure, the early(ish) start of this serial kind of caught us a bit flat-footed here at the CHS. Mainly because we have been planning something truly special to cover this newest series. Something a bit more specific and theatrical. Something that is still very much in the works for you all! BUT, me being the “audio correspondent” and currently lowest on staff intern (I actually WAS above one last week, but he took lunch down by the docks the other day and then never reported back, so either he got Levianthan’ed or quit), it fell to me to at least get something on record about the opening episodes.

And the record will show, IT IS FRIGGIN’ GREAT! Chock to the gills with some classic Dark Shadows set ups and wonderfully acted by a game cast, filled with returning favorites and new icons, these opening three really bait the trap well for the first “volume” of episodes. Bloodline might have been a long time coming, but if these opening episodes are any indication, this series will have been well worth the wait.

Firmly set after the events of Bloodlust and ...And Red All Over, Bloodline finds Collinwood a’buzz with excitement for the upcoming nuptials of David Collins (Alec Newman) and Amy Jennings (Stephanie Ellyne). But a new stranger has come into town, as strangers are the moth to Collinsport’s flame. One by the name of Vivian Bell, played with aplomb by series newcomer Georgina Strawson.

Click the image to get Dark Shadows: Bloodline!
Bell’s storyline is one of the many, many juicy plot setups these first few Bloodline episodes deliver. Along with beautiful stranger comes a whole other heap of story hooks that writers Alan Flanagan (ep. 1), Rob Morris (ep. 2), and Will Howells (ep. 3) lay out across all three episodes. Lovingly staged by the wonderful sound design and music of David Darlington, we have grounded family drama centered around Bell and her connection to Harry Cunningham (who again, with the rest of the younger cast members, gets some ample time in the spotlight). The writers sweeten the grounded plot pot with some choice romantic triangle action, consisting of the consistently lovely Newman and Ellyne, with the added charge of Strawson’s Viv Bell.

We also get plenty of supernatural aspects weaving in and out of the story. Elements like body switching, an unseen dark force stalking Cody and Harry (who have BROKEN UP, apologies, shippers, I mourn with you), and a voice that sounds awwwwwwfully like The Sixth Doctor’s coming out of the cave at the base of Widows’ Hill! And I hear you asking, “Justin, what about the Vampire Curse?”, well, buster, hang on to your hat! These first three episodes introduce a real meaty subplot centered around Barnabas’ feeding habits that I am very interested to discuss with you blood freaks out there. Let’s just say, it takes a village, and leave it at that.

Julie Newmar records her dialogue for Dark Shadows: Bloodline.
But let’s get to the Catwoman-sized elephant in the room. Julie Newmar is absolutely incredible as The Second Dr. Julia Hoffman. Cleverly “regenerated” not unlike Andrew Collins’ (who also impresses in these opening installments) new Barnabas, Newmar folds into the cast beautifully with an honorable, very specific performance. Newmar’s timbre and line delivery is slightly odd and purists might be a bit off-put by a new actor playing Hoffman, but for my money, she’s perfect. There was only one Grayson Hall and there is only one Julie Newmar. But both of them stand well aside each other at the moment. I mean, it would have to take a true disaster for Newmar to ever disappoint me, but I really think you all will love her. I can’t wait to see what else she does with the good doctor.

I know a lot of this sounds vague, and I will admit a certain reticence to talk about some of the best developments. Here is a quick contextless list of some further selling points of the story so far. The return of the Old House! Jackie’s hilarious dialogue! (she refers to Barnabas’ transforming powers as “The Bat Thing!”) David Selby! The return of a major antagonist! And to know any more, you are just going to have to listen to them for yourself. (And then maybe listen to me and the chief talk about THEM further on down the road).

But rest assured, fellow fans of the macabre, Bloodline Episodes 1-3 are well worth your money and time. Especially if you liked Bloodlust, or have invested the amount of time in the Big Finishverse that dorks like us have. It truly is great stuff. Another wonderful showing from a group of dedicated creatives and their cast, who bring it to life with fun, reverent performances. It is the best possible scenario for a follow up miniseries. Keep a weather eye peels for LOTS more coverage of this series as it continues. Until then, be seeing you.

(Editor's note: Episode 4 of Bloodline is now available HERE.)

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 justin@betweenthepanels.com Odds are he will want to talk about Hellblazer.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The podcast is dead ... long live the podcast!

All things must end: The Collinsport Historical Society podcast is officially dead.

After more than a year of trying to breathe life back into slowly cooling form, letting go seemed like the right thing to do. After a point my attempts at mercy had become a form of torture, not just for the podcast but for its listeners. "It's coming back!" I've promised more than once. "Soon!"

Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

We launched the podcast on Dec. 13, 2012 with an episode devoted to House of Dark Shadows and an interview with the always gracious Kathryn Leigh Scott. She's been a great friend to the website over the years and has never declined a request from us. That the podcast exists at all can be credited to the support of two people, Kathryn and Will McKinley, who got me into this whole podcast thing in the first place.

In the years following, The Collinsport Historical Society shared 93 additional episodes, adding contributions from the producers at Big Finish in the UK and, most recently, the Bodice Tipplers podcast. All told, these 94 episodes have racked up almost 50,000 downloads.

Now, a few of you are probably in a panic over this ... especially the folks who have kindly loaned me their time and talent in the last few weeks to help revive the podcast. And here's where things come into focus: The Collinsport Historical Society podcast is returning ... in one week!

So, why all the talk about death? When the podcast returns it's going to knock your socks off ... and I want to maximize that impact. In order to do that I'm going to have to take down the previous 94 episodes of the series. When things began, I didn't entirely know what I was doing and violated a few copyright laws by including pop songs. It seemed clever at the time to include "Abraham Lincoln" by Clutch in my interview with David Selby, but I'd like to be able to share the podcast with a wider audience ... and that means having to re-edit five years of work to extract those songs. Many of these episodes will come back at a later date sans copyright infringements, but for the time being they're going into the vault.

Which means: If you want our previous episodes, you'd better download them soon. (Note: Bodice Tipplers may or may not be moving to its own dedicated feed. It hasn't been decided yet.)

I'm going to spend the next week sharing daily highlights of the CHS podcast. It will be a time to reflect on where we've been, and to remind people to get these episodes before they're gone. After the vault doors close it's going to up to you good people to share these episodes with each other.

I'll have more to say about the new podcast on Monday ... if you're one of the people contributing to the new series, though, feel free to start telling people about it now.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 10


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 472

When Roger visits Lang on a hypnotized mission of murder, who will be Ahab and who will be the whale? Roger Collins: Louis Edmonds. (Repeat; 30 min.)

With the Angelique painting missing, Julia and Barnabas take the discovery of Lang’s head mirror in Roger’s bedroom as an indication that Roger is trying to kill the doctor. They show up in time to prevent Roger from stabbing Lang with a harpoon from the scientist’s collection. Lang, however, resists the notion that this is voodoo. After a Stokes encounter, Barnabas and Julia discover that the painting, theoretically with Roger, is back at Collinwood. Lang also suggests that Barnabas might have more luck with Vicki if he looked like someone she’s attracted to.

Is there a way to adequately address the strangeness of episode 472? Yes, but I won’t avail myself of it. Not when there are shallow and puerile double entendre to cite. Because I think it’s intentional. This episode was shot on April 8. A week prior was April Fools day, and there is a possibility that 472 was written then. Or revised. Or sketched out. Or vandalized. Let’s face it, some form of this text was on someone’s desk at that point. The show was just becoming comfortable with itself. They were now immune of the cancellation threat that loomed the prior year. The audience loved whatever the writers did. It was high time for Gordon Russell to have fun. And he did.

Jonathan Frid and Addison Powell have a comic chemistry that belongs in Noel Coward for half of the year and alongside Gallagher and Sheen for the other. Powell begins the episode as a white-haired Gomez Addams, enthusiastically selling Barnabas on his new key to love and survival -- just look like Roger Davis. As long as Barnabas will allow some kind of extreme Roger Davis makeover, Vicki will be his. The details of HOW to look like Roger Davis are just those -- pesky details. And now, Frid gets to do something completely different. His well-worn shtick with Julia and Willie is to suggest an extreme solution that forces them do bug-eyed doubletakes. (Well, takes, anyway.) Finally, the hand is on the other foot as Frid luxuriates in the pleasure of Powell doing the heavy lifting while he roils with deadpan incredulity. The show has finally gotten so implicitly outrageous that Barnabas, who was brought into the fold of conservative, daytime hundrummery to liven it up, gets to be the measure of realism. The recovering vampire from the 1790’s is now the most relatable character for entire episodes. Let that sink in. And it’s only taken about a week or so. When the show premiered, it took that long for characters to join a subject and a verb. Now, Roger is hypnotized, Vicki is obsessed with one man from the past while being the obsession of another man from the past, Barnabas is a (mostly) cured romantic lead, and Julia has gone from trying to kill our hero to being Monk & Ham, Spock & Bones, and very much a smoky voiced Jiminy Cricket to him. She and Barnabas have slipped into an effortless partnership, and as he explains “What’s an Angelique” and she doesn’t use it as a new reason to poison him, we see a series being born.

Then there’s Roger asking to hold Dr. Lang’s harpoon.

I’m not making this up. And there is no way on Diabolos’ red Earth that writer Gordon Russell wasn’t smirking at Standards and Practices’ inability to make effective objections. I won’t say “phallic frenzy,” because we’re in mixed company. But you and I are seasoned sophisticates of the world. We’re not bourgeois. Have the rubes and wet blankets left the room? Good. We’re alone. Between us, “phallic frenzy.”

Of all the props. I mean, of all the props. And Roger keeps asking about it... when he’s not insisting on preemptive care for a stroke. Fortunately, and I’m not making this up, while the whammified Roger is ostensibly there because a prophetic dream told him he would die that night, the dream also said that his death wasn’t for a few hours, so tell me about that harpoon. Let me hold it. You seem to be an expert on harpoons. I still have a few hours left to chat about harpoons before we have to talk about the unseen voice that foretold my doom. Right now, I want to know more about your hobby.

And the more they talk about harpoons, the more ridiculous the word becomes.

Say it.


It just sounds funny, and that’s on top of the weird connotations. Of course, we’ve already heard that Roger stole away with Angelique’s painting, whereupon he booked a room at the Collinsport Inn for himself and the amorous artwork, locking himself away with it for the afternoon. Um, okay. That’s not even subtext. That’s just text.

The actors admirably play it as straight as humanly possible. Powell later gets to swap the comic dynamic he had with Jonathan Frid, going from playing the nut to playing the norm as he attempts to take Roger seriously and look past the subtext. Somewhere, Leslie Nielson was taking notes. It won’t be long, however, that he’s once again rolling his eyes and proclaiming that he’s a man of science! This is as Barnabas is explaining how Angelique used black magic to torture the doctor. His evidence? Lang’s head mirror was found in Roger’s bedroom.

Only on Dark Shadows (and the TV of the age) would voodoo be the most reasonable explanation for finding a grown man’s personal articles in the bedroom of another grown man. I mean, yeah, it’s true. But it’s also a strange memo from another age. In some ways quaint. In some ways sad. Was Gordon Russell pointing all of this out, if only in code? If he were not a member of the family, he was most inevitably a friend.

This is how to handle political moments. Tuck them so deeply into plots that people tell you you’re seeing things, and it’s all in your fevered imagination, and you need to grow up. Yeah, whatever. It was a repressed and miserable time. This episode is a subtle and comical moment of the Venetian blinds being parted. On purpose. Not on purpose. Not sure. But there. Not literally. The truth is sometimes too important to state literally.

And let’s say that sometimes a harpoon is not a harpoon and that head mirrors get left in bedrooms for reasons other than voodoo. There’s a juvenile part of us that might giggle at the implications, but that chortling passes. When it does, there is a mature part within us that speaks up and wonders if this were code. Because there was a need and reason for code in 1968. That’s a vital history lesson, if only in my mind. That’s a tribute to yet another facet of Dark Shadows. Code is communication. Code is an act of resistance. Even seeing code where none might be is an act of resistance. And there was a lot to resist in 1968. And still, in 2019.


This episode hit the airwaves April 16, 1968.

Tainted Love at Collinwood

Dark Shadows went off the air 48 years ago, yet still manages to keep the website insanely busy. Case in point: "Taste for Blood," a brand-new parody of the 1964 Gloria Jones song "Tainted Love." (Though the 1982 cover by Soft Cell is perhaps better known.) "Taste for Blood" is by Jenn Vix featuring Sindy Skinless and the Decomposers and ... well, the image above probably explains why I'm sharing it.

Make sure to follow Jenn Vix on Twitter at @JennVix. Enjoy!


Come see the other way the vampires do it

I don't love much of the artwork that has accompanied the home video releases of House of Dark Shadows over the years. Going back to the days of VHS, the movie has always been given staid, lackluster packaging that feels almost designed to be invisible. I'd be stunned if the designers creating these boring, butt-ugly packages had even seen the movie.

So, I decided to make my own ... back in 2016. My first idea was to use some of the grindhouse-style artwork produced for the movie's bonkers 1970 marketing blitz, but I was distracted by something shiny and never finished it. Last week I returned to the idea and started from scratch, keeping two goals in mind. First, there needed to be a sense of joy to the artwork. House of Dark Shadows is about as pure a horror movie as you're ever going to find, and that needs to be celebrated. I also didn't want to hide the movie's age. New movies are being made every day, but they're not making any more movies from 1970 ... using a bullshit Photoshop collage to give a movie a superficial facelift is gross and embarassing. I'm looking in your direction, Star Wars.

The first design is a tribute to the classic cover stories about Dark Shadows from Famous Monsters of Filmland. I used the color scheme of the magazine's feature about House of Dark Shadows, while also trying to invoke the mighty Basil Gogos. The second design is a more traditional Criterion Collection riff, one that relies heavily on Nancy Barrett (just as movie's original marketing campaign did) while reminding people that House of Dark Shadows is a goddamn brutal movie.

But what to do with this art? My first idea was a bad one, but well intentioned. I've seen enough of my work show up on t-shirts and other websites to make me cautious about sharing high-resolution files. Posting them online almost gaurantees that the images would sooner or later make their way to Redbubble. My solution? "Pay for the shipping and the cost of printing and I'll mail you the covers!" Easy, right? But the messages I received asking for prints immediately got to the point where I felt uncomfortable about the volume of financial transations involved. I also didn't want to spend the rest of the month waiting in line at the post office. Realizing I'm an anarchist at heart (and a lazy one, at that) it felt best just to release these images into the wild and let you good people take care of the rest. All I ask is that, should you print and use these covers, please send me a photo when you're done. I'd love to see people actually using these things!

You can download high-resolution images below from Imgur. There are two versions of each: one for DVD, the other for Blu-ray. If you don't already own House of Dark Shadows on home video ... well, you bring shame upon your family. But you can restore that honor by picking up a copy at Amazon HERE.





Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Creating the cover art for Master of Dark Shadows

Artist Jesse Vital has shared a look at the process of creating the cover art for upcoming Master of Dark Shadows home video release. Two things leap out immediately: Lara Parker is absent from his rough sketch, and the Zuni Fetish Warrior from Trilogy of Terror is missing from a later, more complete version.

If you're just now finding out about Master of Dark Shadows, you can find out everything you need to know about the film and its many, many special features by clicking HERE. It's set for release April 16 and is available for pre-order from Amazon.

You can see Vital's art below.

I finally get to use "Monkees" and "Dark Shadows" in a headline

In the weeks leading up to the premiere of Dark Shadows in 1966, the show's cast made the usual promotional rounds to introduce the concept of the program to viewers. Louis Edmonds spoke about playing spies and Nazis, Joan Bennett braced reporters with her sardonic wit, while Alexandra Moltke was stuck chatting about her relative inexperience.

Nancy Barrett's promotional feature took a turn for the weird. The syndicated story featured headlines such as "Things Happen to Her," the interview reads like a David Lynch movie. Puppets make an expected appearance.

The story centers on the Broadway production of Pickwick starring Harry Secombe, in which Barrett had a small role. Barrett was part of the touring company, as well, but that's not why I've asked you here today. Also part of the Broadway production was future Monkee David Jones. This was in 1965, when both Jones and Barrett were a year away from joining the casts of two of the most iconic television series of the 1960s. If god made anything groovier, he kept it for himself.

Below is a Dark Shadows promotional interview with Barrett from 1966, as well as a few photos from the 1965 production of Pickwick.

Nancy Barrett was all wet in Broadway play "Pickwick"
Oct. 8, 1966

After sloshing around on theatre stages in six states, Nancy Barrett is now on dry, solid ground in ABC-TV's romantic-suspense series, “Dark Shadows" at 4 p.m. weekdays WFIL-TV, Channel 6.

She is blue-eyed and fragile, and if she is alluring as Carolyn Stoddard in the network's gothic-styled drama, she was all wet in the recent Broadway musical, "Pickwick."

"It was the ice rink,” said Nancy. “The thing was always melting, and before we came to the ice skating scene, the stage boards covering the rink got soaking wet. We slipped all over the place, and I figure that until we brought the show to New York, I was kicked in the shins 20 times. The dancers had it worst of all. When one fell, the rest went down like dominoes."

Things happen to Nancy Barrett, who is lovely but lacking — no red corpuscles. Maybe tired blood is the reason she couldn't catch the guy who robbed her of three suitcases.

"It was my first day in New York," she recalled, “and when I got back to my car I noticed that two suitcases were missing. I rushed off to get a cop, but I wasn't more than a few feet away when a man rushed to the car, grabbed the last piece of luggage and fled. Naturally, I never caught him."

This is a girl who met her husband under a puppet stage ("I crawled under the curtain and there he was"), choked her way through her first stage role ("I don't smoke, but in almost every scene I had to come on puffing like a chimney"), and who is currently portraying a character that is completely unlike her.

"Carolyn Stoddard is stubborn, impulsive, and a swinger," said Nancy. "My idea of a wild evening is having a quiet dinner and singing to a recording of La Boheme."

"Dark Shadows,” like all daytime serials, makes great demands on actors. The work is exhausting, requiring early cast calls and endless rehearsals until the day's show is finished. Then a run-through of following afternoon telecast with actors taking home the scripts for further study. In all, it is a 14-hour workday.

"Working in a serial, and meeting the same people day after day, is unlike anything in show business," said Nancy. "It is hard to step in and out of character because you begin to see them as friends, not actors. If the role I'm playing requires antagonism or even hate, I find it a very difficult thing to do."

Everyone in "Dark Shadows" reacts the same way, from the star, Joan Bennett, down to 10-year-old David Henesy. Recently, after a scene in which the youngster was tongue-lashed mercilessly, he walked ever to Nancy and said: "You know, you really yelled at me."

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Barnabas Collins makes the vampire wall of fame in Chile

Gabriela Ferrada, an artist who goes by the handle THORN, spent last summer decorating the walls Constituci├│n with images or her favorite vampires. Located in Chill├ín, the capital of Chile, the neighborhood now features the likenesses of Gary Oldman as Dracula, Sharon Tate from The Fearless Vampire KillersKiefer Sutherland from The Lost Boys, Brad Pitt from Interview with the Vampire and, of course, Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins.

Ferrada has been doing multilayer stencil since 2010 and, if her handle and website address are any indication, she's also a horror fan. Ferrada's website address is www.thornindustries.org, the name of international conglometrate eventually inherited by Damien Thorn in The Omen series. Lucky for us she devoted a little time to documenting the creation of her murals and shared a variety of images on her social media outlets. She dedicated Barnabas Collins to her mother, because "he scares her."

You can find Thorn on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ThornIndustries/
and Twitter at https://twitter.com/kontraky

Monday, April 8, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 8


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 732

When Laura uses the power of the Phoenix to torture Quentin, will Barnabas’ new bride-to-be throw a wet blanket on her plans? Angelique: Lara Parker. (Repeat; 30 min.) 

Laura reveals that she has returned from her death in Alexandria, and she seeks revenge on Quentin, who abandoned her to pagan priests and their altar. Angelique agrees to help Quentin if Barnabas will introduce her to his family as his fiance. This thrills Rachel Drummond, as you can imagine. Meanwhile, Quentin learns that Laura’s survival is contingent on a flame in a small pot remaining lit. he’s determined to snuff it.

Quentin dies a lot. Given what he deals with in the average week, I don’t blame him. But it’s not by (his) design. No, on top of everything else, crazy spouses and fire goddesses top off the day by killing him. Fate made the wrong guy into the family vampire, although he fits a little better into the coffin than Quentin. Not that he’s having a good week either, and of course, Angelique is at the heart of it. Only she could combine gifting Quentin with the spark of divine life and ruining date night for Barnabas. The moment when she reveals herself to Rachel as the next Mrs. Barnabas Collins is as deliciously sadistic as the series at its cattiest. The execution hovers right -- right -- on the edge of farce, and were the genre any closer to real life, it would be. The horror expressed by Jonathan Frid (mixed with all-around mortification at the whole thing) is perhaps the most honest moment of acting in the series. I say “perhaps the most,” because the most most goes to Kathryn Leigh Scott in the same scene as she gets the news.

Most Kathryn Leigh Scott characters live to suffer. Somehow, she can pull it all off with a strange strength and integrity. I never get the idea that she’s a victim because, as an actress, she thrives on the promise of action. In her reaction, there is confusion, pain, and then, just as the camera fades out, a hint of knowing umbrage blended with a tad of revenge. For most actors, it would be the first choice, and once you go there, what else is left? By reserving it for just a vanishing quantum of frames, Scott maintains the potential for the character to go anywhere. Lara Parker’s decadent cruelty, Jonathan Frid’s tightly disciplined displays of controlled humiliation, and Kathryn Leigh Scott’s subtly and deliberately controlled emotional gamut make for a master class, and it all takes place between that scene’s last line and the following fadeout.

And that’s why we watch Dark Shadows. One of the reasons, anyway.

Knowing Angelique’s purpose here, which is only understood after 1897 ends, her actions at the beginning are all the more intriguing. And it’s a long, long game. Potentially decades long and layers deep. As the storyline wraps up, we learn that Angelique is there On His Majesty’s Satanic Service under a special agreement that she land a man her using without her powers. Instead, she must rely on good, old-fashioned guilt and blackmail. At this point, her plot may or may not be many men deep, and perhaps repeated. It’s Barnabas, first, just to get rid of Rachel. Then, it’s Quentin, but just to remind Barnabas that Q’s face is on the record album cover, too. Then, she looks all the more selfless when she “works hard” to cure Barnabas of her curse, which, if you’ve seen the entire series, you know that she can do with nary a nose twitch. But she gets to be the martyr here by stretching it out. So, how long does Angelique’s plan go? At least the next seventy years, and then back another 130 or so. If we ignore the hints that 1840 Angelique is in direct continuity following 1795 Angelique. But just ignore that. Imagine.

Very occasionally, Dark Shadows boils itself down to something very simple. And if a Major Plot Event gets in the way of a convenient interpretation, fall back on the defense of “poetic truth.” This isn’t history and it’s not science and sometimes even the writers got confused. But there was a consistency of intent. That’s what shines through and matters as much as anything. The idea of Angelique’s Long Game of Redemption (and staying on Earth, where the hours are better than in Hell, and the English chefs stay in England) ties parts of the room together. And if we imagine that she’s only feigning unfamiliarity with the timeline in 1840, it explains the character and her evolving choices with an eerie sense of strategy. Now that we have the advantage of seeing the entire series before us at once in streaming and on dvd, we can look down on it as would a satellite. Small plot events and occasionally contradictory lines become the tiniest pieces of geography. They become invisible when seen beside sprawling continents and mighty oceans. It’s a stunning view, and Angelique’s machinations in this episode hint at that.

This episode hit the airwaves April 15, 1969.
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