Monday, October 14, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: October 14


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 873

When Petofi enters Quentin’s body to journey into the future, will the sight of Beth Chavez force him to withdraw? Petofi: David Selby. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Petofi successfully visits the Collinwood of 1969 before the ubiquitous wet blanket, Beth Chavez, drags him back to tell him his painting’s missing. Great. Thanks. He’s convinced that either Charity Trask or Barnabas stole it, and his confrontation with Barnabas ends in Quentin finding he has the power of the Hand. Meanwhile, Kitty realizes she is Josette, Barnabas and Quentin come clean about who they really are, and Charity has a dream sequence that either degenerates or elevates (your call) into a music video twelve or so years before the birth of MTV.

Fifty years has passed since this episode hit the airwaves, but when 873 was shot, the medium of TV had only existed for less than half that time. 3-4 choices (we miss you, Dumont). Only sixteen hours a day or so. Pretty, pretty vanilla. Other than a few science fiction and horror digests at newsstands and the occasional Ace Double, we were hardly living in the genretopia of today. The Dark Shadows stories become a lot bolder when you realize the whole cloth with which they’re tailored. Some of these story elements are not just Dark Shadows’ spin on them. They are some of the very first spins on them. To appreciate television of the era, remember that they lived in modern, rather than postmodern, times. We are used to everything being a “newer” version of something else that’s been done. In episodes like these, we get what feel like firsts.

In 873, Dark Shadows continues to explore time travel in the form of astral projection. In this case, it’s with a body that exists in two places at once. By using creative focusing and tight, controlled camera work, the producers ignore spectacle for storytelling. They end up depicting time travel in a palpably subjective sense that I buy far more than other types of presentations. Other attempts may capture the flash, but fail to capture the feeling. Here, that’s precisely what we get.

And that’s just in the first five minutes. After that, the episode gets really insane. I watched it over a hookah this morning with my father, who is not a seasoned Dark Shadows viewer. Perfect. Explaining it to him as it went really underlined the gutsy weirdness of the show and how marvelously they pulled it off.

The characters in this episode are Barnabas’ human “twin,” Kitty, Petofi, Quentin, Charity, and Beth. Or is that Original Barnabas, Josette, Quentin, Petofi, Pansy Faye, and Beth? Of that ensemble, Beth is the only one who actually “is” who they were initially cast to play. Someone call a Ph.D. candidate, because there’s a dissertation waiting to happen. Recasting the ensemble for 1795 was a risk that required Dan Curtis to defy conservative wisdom. But this sequence takes it to insane lengths. We have “contemporary” characters recast as new characters in 1897, and each is possessed by yet another character. It’s a tribute to long-form storytelling that they’ve made it somehow feel like the most natural thing in the world. More than that. It’s a tribute to the giddy joy of storytelling and the Russian doll nature of creating characters for others to play. How many layers do we really have? Is there a “real” side or is the real side all of them? The entire sequence begins when a vampire pretending to be a human becomes another generation’s vampire-pretending-to-be-human to reintroduce himself to a man he initially met as a ghost, but who will die for reasons that may relate to him secretly being a werewolf. In 1897, Barnabas goes from holding a near-monopoly on secret identities to being just one of the gang.

In an episode devoted to escape from a projected “self” and into the actual self, the strangest moment is, of course, the reason I watched it: the music video.

There is only one character on Dark Shadows more determined than a love struck Barnabas -- that’s Dan Curtis, determined to mine a second hit out of 1897 with “I Wanna Dance with You.” At this point, we’ve been assaulted by the song with a constancy that makes me think it’s some sort of supernatural aid designed to ward off evil spirits. Dan finally lays the I Ching wands on the table and almost-inexplicably introduces a psychedelic dream sequence where Nancy Barrett and David Selby are forced, good naturedly, to appear in what may be the first not-made-by-fans fan video. They not only sing the song, but lay some spoken word action on us as well. The soundtrack for the show had been a hit, and Dan was not running a charity. If the soundtrack were smoke, welcome to the fire.

And, all cattiness aside, it’s actually marvelous. It’s a strange and unapologetic confection that ends, reliably, on a note of terror, making the whole thing a shaggy dog that allows horror fans to not feel terribly exploited by a moment that goes gloriously too far.

873 is supported by unusually strong writing and acting as well. We’ve grown so used to David Selby-as-Petofi that we’ve forgotten the easy informality of Quentin. In this episode, he gets to play both characters, and the difference is clear. Kathryn Leigh Scott likewise plays both Maggie and Kitty, clear and truthful as always in both. And maybe there’s a bit of Josette who shows up. Jonathan Frid, however, steals his own show in his confrontation with Petofi, disguising his fear and playing his confrontation with a chessmaster’s confidence. Watch the scene and try to figure out when Barnabas decides to reveal and conceal what information. It’s a constantly shifting process, and Frid nails it in a word duel that stands as one of Barnabas’ finest and most self-assured scenes.

If someone thinks they know Dark Shadows, this should shake them up. It’s the show at its best and most ludicrous and liberated. Mid-to-late 1960’s television has yet to be topped for sheer imagination. Even though it was toiling away in daytime, isolated from evening audiences, Dark Shadows wasn’t just part of the fantasy revolution of the era… it was among its boldest innovators.

This episode was broadcast Oct. 29, 1969.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Documentary in the works about the life, career of Jonathan Frid

Previously unpublished photos of Jonathan Frid as Tullus Aufidius in Coriolanus (1955) and Barnabas Collins in House of Dark Shadows (1970).

Dark Shadows & Shakespeare: The Jonathan Frid Story

Upcoming Documentary Pays Tribute to 
Legendary TV Vampire & Stage Actor

MPI Media Group announces that production has commenced on the first-ever feature-length documentary devoted to Canadian born actor Jonathan Frid who became a pop culture icon with his portrayal of guilt-ridden vampire Barnabas Collins on the original 1966-1971 ABC-TV daytime drama Dark Shadows. The spooky gothic serial attracted not only housewives and college students but millions of school kids who ran home each afternoon, turning the classically trained forty-something Frid into an unlikely teen idol.

Dark Shadows & Shakespeare: The Jonathan Frid Story will reveal the man beneath the vampire’s cloak. The in-depth documentary explores Frid’s struggles, joys, artistic triumphs and rise to fame through the personal reminiscences of family, friends and colleagues Marion Ross, Dick Cavett, Christina Pickles, Anthony Zerbe, David Selby, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Marie Wallace and others.  The documentary also includes rare clips, photographs and audio from Frid’s career in addition to previously unseen video interview footage.

Dark Shadows & Shakespeare: The Jonathan Frid Story is produced and directed by soap opera veteran Mary O’Leary, who has garnered seven Daytime Emmy Awards as producer of five daily dramas. She also produced the one-man shows that brought Frid out of retirement in the mid-1980s and back into the spotlight.  Executive Producer Jim Pierson has overseen and worked on Dark Shadows projects for three decades, including the 1991 primetime series and the 2012 film version.  He was also a producer of the 2019 documentary Master of Dark Shadows.

Dark Shadows & Shakespeare: The Jonathan Frid Story will be released by MPI Media Group in 2020.  For updates and further information, please visit the documentary’s Facebook page.

Friday, October 11, 2019

See House of Dark Shadows on the big screen tomorrow!

The first annual Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival is hosting a special screening of House of Dark Shadows Oct. 12 (that's tomorrow!) 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. You can read more about it HERE.

I was fortunate enough to be asked to design the poster for Dark Shadows: Behind the Screams. I think they'll have prints of it available at the event, but if you can't attend you can purchase a print in a variety of sizes directly from me. There are canvas, photographic and art board prints available, plus a few other odds and ends. You can order online from my Redbubble store at

Thursday, October 3, 2019

New editions of classic Dark Shadows novels coming in 2020

Hermes Press is done a tremeondous job of restoring much of the vintage anxilliary media associated with Dark Shadows. In addition to publishing hardcover collections of the entire Gold Key comics series that ran from 1969 to 1976,  they also brought us amazing restorations of the complete newspaper comic strip (with the Sunday editions in color) and the 1970 Dark Shadows Story Digest.

In 2020, Hermes Press will be adding reprints of the Marilyn Ross novels to their catalog. The first of 32-book series, simply titled "Dark Shadows," will be available in February and feature the novel's original cover art. After that, the series will be published bi-monthly in pairs until 2021.

It appears that the novelization of House of Dark Shadows will not be among the series, though, perhaps due to rights issues. Perhaps Hermes Press will eventually work those issues out during the coming year.

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.

You can pre-order the first book in the Dark Shadows series from Heremes Press HERE.

Below is the full anouncement regarding the Dark Shadows reprint series

Hermes Press to Reprint Full 32 Volumes of Vintage “Dark Shadows” Novels 

Dark Shadows: The Complete Paperback Library Reprint #1, “Dark Shadows,”; ISBN 978-1- 61345-190-8; $14.99; written by Marilyn Ross; paperback; 6 x 8 inches; printed text; archival edition; first in a series of 32 novels; available in Feb, 2020.

The classic Dark Shadows novels, originally published by Paperback Library in the 1960s and 1970s, return with Hermes Press' archival reprint of all 32 titles in the series. The reprint seriesʼ namesake debut book, “Dark Shadows,” which first saw print in December, 1966, will feature the original painted artwork on the cover.

Each of the 32 novels will present the complete text re-proofed and error free along with the faithfully reprinted cover art. The Hermes Press reprints will present the titles in an enlarged 6 inch by 8 inch format, printed on archival paper and permanently bound for reading enjoyment without cracking or loose pages. Each book in the series is based on the Dark Shadows television serial created by Dan Curtis and was written by prolific fiction author William Edward Daniel Ross under the pen name of Marilyn Ross. The forerunner to today's immensely popular vampire and supernatural themed television programs and theatrical films, Dark Shadows still garners serious attention as an iconic TV show with a devoted cult following and a new primetime series planned for 2020.

Initially focusing on young governess Victoria Winters and the mysterious happenings at the isolated New England estate Collinwood, the stories gradually shift to emphasize tormented vampire Barnabas Collins. Hermes Press' complete reprint of the 1966-72 series of Dark Shadows novels makes the entire collection of these classic books available once again to fans of gothic romance, suspense and alluring tales and compelling characters of Dark Shadows.

Subsequent reprints of books #2-32 will follow in pairs on a bi- monthly basis throughout 2020-21. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Cinematic Collinwood featured on Saturday Night Live

The cast and crew of Saturday Night Live set up shop at Lyndhurst Mansion for last weekend's parody of the Downton Abbey feature film. While the fake trailer's establishing shot was of Highclere Castle, the stand-in for the show's fictional country estate, the rest of the clip was shot in and around Lyndhurst ... the Tarrytown, New York, mansion transformed into Collinwood for both House of Dark Shadows (1970) and Night of Dark Shadows (1971). Below is a screencap of SNL castmember Beck Bennett standing outside Lyndhurst, as well as a shot from House of Dark Shadows of Kathryn Leigh Scott, John Karlen and David Henesy in more-or-less the same spot.

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