Monday, September 30, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 30


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1118

Will Gerard’s plans for dominion over Collinwood change when he meets its long-sleeping guardian? Barnabas: Jonathan Frid. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Barnabas establishes a relationship with Daniel as he challenges the story of Quentin’s drowning. Meanwhile, Judah Zachery attacks Ben Stokes.

It’s like the past two years or so never happened, and that’s a surprisingly good thing. It’s good because, for all of the expanded mythos and wonder brought by Nicholas, Quentin, and Count Petofi, we’ve spent the past couple of years expanding the mythos without always connecting it. It’s tough to realize until you see Daniel Collins and Ben Stokes ruminating about the doomed nature of the family as a primal force of nature, Mr. Beale. Even though Daniel is a different actor (and he really isn’t, in a cosmic sense) and Ben’s face is an unrecognizable topography of the malignant, we know we’re home. Beyond Liz and Roger seething over brandy and Things Unsaid, this is home. And when we hear them -- these heralds and descendants of Elder Gods like Joshua and Naomi -- speak of the Bedford Murders, we take it seriously. It’s akin to hearing parents talk about some heretofore-unmentioned childhood disease that almost got us before we could understand what it meant to be sick.

1840 is just close enough to home, and by that, I think we all know I mean 1795, that its tarnish hurts more than the strangeness of 1897. When Louis Edmonds’ Daniel shows lucidity, our hearts soar as profoundly as they crash when he descends into babble. In this episode, his embrace of Barnabas and his insistence that he take the Old House, both save time and ring with a rightness that make him one with the viewers. It’s about effin time, and it’s what we would do, too. After all, who is Daniel but the first of the first generation of kids to grow up watching Dark Shadows? That strange energy resonates through the character and right at the viewers. At last, Baranbas is not a stranger. Is Daniel crazed enough to see him as safe or sane enough not to listen to his inner child whispering murmurs of danger? Who cares? Barnabas is back in business with considerably less situational gunao to wade through.

Early in the episode, Ben correctly notes that Barnabas isn’t the same man that he was just scant moments before. The transformation from beleaguered baddie to decisive hero is a tribute, naturally, to Jonathan Frid and the writers. But it’s also a reason to reflect on the uniqueness and relative longevity of the show. These are vastly different characters and completely, understandably the same man. (Just like Daniel.)

Barnabas has ascended twice, now. If his seizure of the heroic mantle didn’t grab us the first time, in the choices he makes regarding Eric Lang and Nicholas Blair, then we cannot help but cheer him on now as he fully rebounds from his fall with the Leviathans and failures in Ragnarok. 1897 was a not a fluke, nor was it fantasy roleplay. You can be your Lindens that it was Barnabas’ training ground, and it was proof to him that just as no time is truly his, all times are truly his, as well. His comfort with command and decisive problem solving speak to the best that he will be -- all of who he was in 1897 with the mellowed knowledge of how rare and precious that status is.

Like Freder in Metropolis, Barnabas is a protagonist somewhere between the hands and the mind. Whenever either is the solution, he and we are quietly pleased, because we didn’t know he had it in him. He’s smart, but he’s no Nicholas Blair. And he’s strong, but few (save fireplace poker-bending Eliot Stokes) are stronger than Adam. It’s fitting that the Last Son of Collinwood appears in the same episode with his match, Judah Zachery, a being of -- literally -- pure mind. It’s a tribute to the alien intensity of actor Michael McGuire that Zachery is a character of such credible opposites. There’s blazing eyed malevolence mixed with a strange, fearful sense of being lost that I would imagine accompanies being a nearly omnipotent, disembodied head in a glass box. All kidding aside, after the foes Barnabas has bested, it’s appropriate that he stare down, not just one from the past, but of all pasts. All irony aside, he is the embodiment of the abstract. Defeating him will require not just Barnabas’ wit and physical prowess, but the exploration of the inhuman heart. He cannot solve Judah Zachery while being the kind of binary thinker that created Judah Zachery. Barnabas has reformed morally. 1840 will require him to go further. The first order of business is to force him to do so without Ben Stokes.

You can’t go home again. Home always changes. Yet it might be a place that forces you to change with it.

This episode was broadcast Oct. 7, 1970.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: SEPTEMBER 25


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 857

Edward suspects nothing unusual when Quentin and Petofi enter each other's bodies, but will a bewildered prostitue survivie coming between them? Petofi: David Selby. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Petofi, having switched bodies with Quentin, immediately ingratiates himself with Edward in the fight against Trask. Edward decides to defeat Trask by marrying Kitty. So, um, Edward, is defeating Trask the only reason you’re getting married? Huh. Well, okay. Petofi, in Quentin drag, uses a dockside sex worker as his Chuck Yeager, to see if the I Ching works. Unfortunately, she gets the wrong hexagram and dissolves into a skeleton.

Let’s talk terror. Today, it’s easy to look at one of the early episodes featuring Barnabas maybe-kinda-sorta thinking about biting someone... before deciding not to... and say, “What was the big deal? Why were parents so worried?”

Because they were. Swaths of the south banned the show altogether. Yeah, well, 857, for all of its Halloween store goofiness, ends with such sincere shrieking and flesh-rending that I get it. The I Ching doesn’t just send ‘em into the Cornfield, it shows us what happens when they get there. It’s an ending that is wildly campy and, once you stop judging it too harshly, very disturbing. The I Ching’s been our pal. We were like brothers. Best friends at the academy. Why would it treat us this way? What kind of a time bomb have we been juggling?

David Selby is having a ball and will continue to do so in this storyline. Once seen as a hero, handsome men rarely get to play the villains. It just goes to show you that limiting typecasting negatively impacts everyone in casting. Selby has a rare chance to dodge this bullet when playing Petofi, and employs every bit of the theatrical flourish as did Thayer David. For his part,  David plays a warm and vulnerable sympathy which is instantly winning. Ben Stokes has it, but with a redneck’s bluntness and the confidence of a brute. Here’s the turtle is out of the shell, and that makes Quentin’s bravery in the confrontational moments all the more amazing.

On this day in 1969, “Bad Moon Rising” by CCR was in the Top 5 in the UK and “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies was a chart topper here. Meanwhile, down the hall in Wales, Catherine Zeta-Jones was born.

A post shared by Wallace McBride (@collinsporthistory) on

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: September 23


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1111

Julia responds to the need to pass for normal in 1840 by unleashing a blood crazed monster to claim is her brother. Daniel: Louis Edmonds. (Repeat; 30 min.)

In 1840, Julia hatches a plan with Ben to pass as a Collins. She meets Daniel, the insane patriarch, and Gabriel, his disabled son. Gabriel may have evidence to her real identity via a stolen earring or he may choose to wear it to compliment his girlish bouffant. Julia goes to the mausoleum to unleash Barnabas, displaying the sound, evidence-based thinking that proceeded her in the field of medicine.

1111 is a breathlessly dense episode, introducing (or reintroducing) audiences to scads of characters. Welcome to 1840 proper. It’s a Dickensian time, and the coincidence of so many important characters being in a single Dark Shadows episode at once is, well, one worthy of Dickens. The writers have gotten almost too good at this by now. 1795 and 1897 felt as if they rationally meted out new casts of characters very few at a time. In this case, we meet or hear of nine or ten. It’s almost dizzying. But above all else, it’s brave. This is not an incipient universe, but one fully formed. They drop us off in the middle of it, send us a care package, and wish us the best.

It’s easy to admire the guts behind this. What’s not as easy is caring as much as we should. When you meet the characters just a few at a time, you have the luxury of building sympathies with each before the next round comes in. Well, by the time Flora and Gerard enter, I’m exhausted.  On the surface, it’s easy to conclude that the cast so far isn’t particularly likable. Ben looks more grotesquely malignant than aged. It would be easy to appreciate Daniel more if he didn’t introduce himself by confessing that he murdered his wife. The character of Gabriel is designed to be one of the villains of the series, and Christopher Pennock has yet to be given the opportunity to enhance him into a delightful one.  Not only is Flora a gullible dingbat, and she is executed with a voice that really drives the point home. (Note, Joan Bennett does a hell of a Tiny Tim impression.) We meet Gerard and hear him speak for the first time, but we already know where his character will wind up, so confirmation bias goes crazy as we look for him to slip up.

There’s an interesting storytelling lesson here. When Barnabas goes back to deal with Quentin, we already know that the solution to the problem resides in solving the mystery of who Quentin was and how/why he died. While Gerard certainly is responsible for what happened in 1970, he still feels somewhat secondary to all of this.

Of course, the sympathetic character in the midst of this is Julia. She hasn’t always been the easiest character to like, and her pluckiness here and strange optimism about releasing Barnabas lift her standing even more than seeing her battle zombies. Her first act in the episode is getting into a rumble with a walking, talking story theme. The aged and mentally bereft patriarch, Daniel, introduces himself by mistaking her for the wife he murdered, and tries to murder her all over again. As he does so, he begs to know how many times he will be confronted by this.

What a reflective statement by the franchise. Everything here has to do with sins of the past. Everything here deals with people sacrificed for reasons pertaining to love and convenience of love. How many times does the show take us back, with the optimism that, if we can just go back far enough, to the right enough place, we can prevent even the need to make amends? In his madness, there is wisdom, and it could very well be that Daniel, the show’s once and future child and patriarch is the ideal character to represent all of it. Played by both David Henesy and Louis Edmonds, Daniel is, at times, innocence, corruption, father, and son. He is both ends of the spectrum that we know too well, and he unites generations of both actors and characters under similar and disparate roofs.

Of course, we will learn that Gabriel is desperate for his approval. Even to the point of faking his own disability. And even to the point of murdering him to succeed him. Daniel is the ultimate Collins. In the fusion of generations and actors, he has no female equivalent. In a show with such a female heavy audience and female heavy ensemble, which begins with a female protagonist, the fact that the ultimate Collins is male is another quiet way that the show spreads focus and opportunities between the genders.

Appropriate that Julia, vaguely androgynous herself, is our surrogate here. It's high time that Barnabas, her other half, who also has a blend of the complimentary gender in his persona, arrives. They have a storyline to save.

This episode hit the airwaves Sept. 28, 1970.

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.

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