Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: November 13


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 365

When Sarah begins appearing in David’s bedroom, Vicki travels back to 1795 to straighten her hash out. Vicki: Alexandra Moltke. (Repeat; 30 min.)

To address Sarah’s ubiquity, Barnabas reluctantly agrees to participate in a seance. Of course, a blackout results in Vicki changing places with the original governess, Phyllis Wick… from 1795. This is precisely where Vicki finds herself.

We are one episode away from 1795, which is when the future began.

Dark Shadows is taking a television show on vacation for the first time since Lucy. If Desi had jumped off the balcony of the Tropicana Club, Ethel had tried Harpo Marx for witchcraft, and Fred Mertz had posed around the set in Nathan Forbes’ first trousers (don’t claim you don’t know what I’m talking about), would I Love Lucy and the 1795 storyline be synonymous? My work is done.

It’s also a move more daring than the introduction of Barnabas, himself. We are sampling the core of Dark Shadows; everything else is watching Dan Curtis forge new alloys with the metal found in this mine. If this is the show’s first ultimate trip, 365 is like watching the main characters pack. Of course, none but one are going, and they are all going, in a certain sense. Curtis and his company are not just giving us a last glimpse before the trip, but he’s also getting ready for next spring and their return.

The return from 1795 is a reboot for the show.  Yes, it’s Dark Shadows, but it knows it’s Dark Shadows. It knows its bread and butter is Barnabas, and he’s evolved into a hero. Of course, villains make the best heroes because they have more choices in front of them, and thus, a greater capacity for action. At this point, the producers make a point of having him soft-pedal the evil in favor of seeing him reflect in 365 that this life is not one that he chose. Gee, Barnabas, what do you mean? And cue time travel. It almost makes me wonder if Sarah’s recent appearance were a cosmic preparation for the journey back. Not to prepare the characters so much as the audience. And why not a seance as the time machine? Dark Shadows never exactly ran on practicality. Here, more than anywhere, it runs on metaphor.

Here, we see a mix of who the characters have been and who they’ll become upon Vicki’s return.  Roger is fussy and particular, and yet he has a winning enthusiasm for the whimsy of a séance. Carolyn is merging debutante sophistication with a more sober kind of confidence that she gains after being chosen by Barnabas. She will need that increasing sense of backbone to deal with Adam. Barnabas and Julia are still at each other‘s throats, but the impression of stalemate has never been stronger. Fate has them both by the shorthairs, and they will eventually need each other there to survive. They are not friends. It will take threats like Angelique to forge that relationship, but the potential is finally there.

Sarah is again the catalyst for this major action. It’s appropriate that they exorcise her with this. Indeed, after 1795, I don’t recall her even being mentioned. It’s as if the pipe to the afterlife is clogged up, and all it takes is a seance-driven time trip to unplug it and let the kid through. Sarah is the quintessential Little Girl Lost, and that figure is the driving metaphor of the show until Willie opens the coffin. Liz, lost to guilt. Maggie, lost to an alcoholic father on the wrong side of the lobster boat dock. Carolyn, lost to being one of the only ones on the RIGHT side of the lobster boat dock. And Vicki, completing the Lilith Fair lineup that inaugurated the show, so lost she just doesn’t understand. It’s a central theme to the show and the ultimate ambassador to lonely women at home -- their prime demographic. Ultimately, it was a demographic that wanted a view (of Jonathan Frid) rather than a mirror. Why not burn it out completely by taking Vicki away in time as well as space?

The Collins family rarely met a problem that couldn’t be addressed via seance, and 365 runs with the notion so far and fast that it drops Vicki off in 1795… maybe just because. Perhaps she just wants a friend, and this is ultimately easier than constantly appearing as a ghost. We never see her again because she only has one charge left in the battery… just enough to get Vicki back to 1968. How does she know to do this? It could be that her first act as a ghost was to send Vicki back home after the 1795 trip. Sarah’s engineered time travel before… just kind of backwards.

Few, if any, shows discover themselves as this radically different than they were in their inception. But is it? For Dark Shadows, variety is the point. Where does Vicki go? Dark Shadows? From where has she come?


This episode was broadcast Nov. 17, 1967.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A tale of two Dark Shadows posters

One of the highlights of my year was being asked to design the poster for Dark Shadows: Behind the Screams, one of the events at the annual Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival. I wasn't abel to attend the event, which sucked ... but I'm deeply honored to have been asked to participate and hope to make the pilgrimage next year.

The poster you saw wasn't my first idea, though. At the time I'd been riffing on the great James Bama's 1966 promotional painting for Star Trek, which you can see here. I was having fun with that kind of macho-adventure collage, even applying it to Gregory Walcott's character in Plan 9 from Outer Space, promoting his buffoonish character to a level of heroism he doesn't really deserve. I mention all of this just to illustrate where my head was when the offer arrived from the kind people at Sleepy Hollow.

Here's how the first poster looked, seconds before I scrapped it.

There were two significant problems with this version. Sleepy Hollow's Dark Shadows: Behind the Screams featured a visual retrospective of the classic Dark Shadows television series, a Q&A with cast member Kathryn Leigh Scott, as well as a screening of 1970's House of Dark Shadows" Scott appears in both versions of the poster, but there remained a significant problem with the first draft. House of Dark Shadows was shot in Sleepy Hollow and nearby Tarrytown, which needed to feature predominantly in the marketing. I considered a version of this poster with the Lyndhurst Estate (the mansion that served as Collinwood in "House") in place of Seaview Terrace (Collinwood from the television series) but the overall concept of this poster was so inextricably tied to the second year of the series that it no longer made sense. Below is my second effort, and the poster that was ultimately used in the marketing. I'm very happy with how both of them turned out.

Prints of both posters are available from HereticTees Studios HERE.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: November 11


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1149

Barnabas is none too pleased when he discovers that Roxanne has put Trask under her vampiric spell, but will she get the point before daybreak? Randall Drew: Gene Lindsey. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Roxanne attacks Lamar Trask, putting him in her thrall, but Barnabas and Randall rescue him before contemplating Roxanne’s destruction.

As Tom Jennings learned, there’s nothing like being a vampire who is hunted by another vampire to really ruin your day, even if your day is at night. That Barnabas is on the hunt to undo Roxanne is both therapeutic and painful, like a holodeck psychodrama. Symbiotically so. Roxanne is the result of his actions of the past and the present. The act of discovering and hunting her is an exorcism as much as anything. She actually is the Josette who rose as a vampire and is yet another failed love interest, doomed more by bad luck and being in the wrong place at the wrong time than by conscious action. Of course, the fact that she gets to give Trask a little taste of life on the other side of the cemetery wall is a bonus that saves Barnabas the trouble of doing so himself. And of course, the situation is made further therapeutic by the fact that he simply gets to set up her death and leave it to Randall so his hands stay relatively clean. She stands as a sad reminder of his toxicity more than as a foe, tying the inexplicable loss of Parallel Time’s happiness to the mess in which he’s again found himself. Still, as Barnabas engineers her death, we know that 1840 is headed into its final act.

Of course, it’s easy to speculate that, had Roxanne remained necrotically alive and victimizing Trask, she might have taken the eventual blame for all of the bizarre activity at Collinwood, thus saving everyone the trouble of the trial and perhaps even preventing Trask from assassinating Angelique. But no. She may be therapeutic, but she’s no Dr. Sidney, just a bitter reminder both of what Barnabas is trying to escape and what he’ll never have. We once again learn the lesson Dark Shadows frequently extols, namely that taking responsibility for your actions is a good idea only in the abstract. Sometimes, it magnifies the consequences even as it vaguely delays them. In the 60’s, life was easy; when in doubt, blame Willie Loomis. To revert to the class structure so dear to the Weltanschauung of Barnabas? That is Willie’s proper role in life and the proud station into which he was born. But it’s 1840. In his absence, I guess he could blame Laszlo, but that fez brands him as even more ineffectual than Aristide. 

Gene Lindsay is headed towards his final performance, and his appearance as Randall Drew is one of the shows most curious anomalies on a strange checklist. An important character with vital ties to other characters, leading man appeal, and the stalwart, Dan Curtis look. Giving him copious screen time and opportunities to take story changing action only to dump him after five episodes? Rather than seem like a waste, this seems almost like a luxurious creative indulgence. The show is so awash in ideas that they can afford to use an actor and pivotal character like that in even a small part. He feels like someone destined for bigger things, and his quick departure is a marvelous portent of how lethal this storyline can get.

1840 returns several times to Dark Shadows’ most familiar theme -- “Strangers at Collinwood,” but unlike other storylines, I think the strangers outnumber the residents. They all create a sense that Collinwood exists in a context of a larger world, and the benevolent, bland Randall Drew is the storyline’s best attempt to suggest that not every visitor to Collinwood is a vampire, alluring witch, or severed head in a box. There are normal people out there, too, and they serve as a pleasant reminder of the peaceful life for which our characters strive. It may be boring, but as fans of Star Trek: The Motion Picture will tell you, sometimes boring can be nice.

This episode was broadcast Nov. 20, 1970.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Collinwood Mansion can be yours for a paltry $3.5M

Back in 2012, KDKA in Pittsburgh aired a story about a mysterious weirdo (yay weirdos!) who built a life-sized relica of Collinwood from Dark Shadows. The interview with the property's owner was shot in silhouette as if he was testifying against the mob, which was a strange decision because it's likely everyone living in the area knew who this guy was.

And now, so do we.

Allegheny County real estate records identify T.J. and Wendy Lubinsky as owners of the estate. Pine Creek Journal goes on to explain that T.J. Lubinsky is "a former WQED on-air fundraising director who for many years has produced music fundraising programs, most famously featuring doo-wop acts, for PBS."

The building, constructed in 2007, is now for sale at $3.5 million. The castle and manor house are connected by an underground passageway, because of course they are. Given that the home is only 12 years old you probably have to provide your own ghosts and re-stock the closet skeletons.

The 2012 KDKA story is still available online, though the video was taken down long ago. Luckily I took a few screenshots, which show that the Lubinskys re-created Collinwood both inside and out.

Pine Creek Journal has a few other bits of interesting trivia about the property. My favorite? Wedged into the Dark Shadows theme is a replica of Bruce Wayne's private study from the 1960s Batman television series ... complete with sliding bookcase and Batpoles!

Read the story HERE.
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