Friday, January 24, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: January 23



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 416

In the wake of Sara‘s death, Barnabas Collins has one more life to eliminate: his own. Joshua: Louis Edmonds. (Repeat; 30 minutes)

Desperate for an answer to his daughters death, Joshua confronts Victoria, who admits to being from the future. Her statement falls on deaf ears. Barnabas, aware of the engine of suffering he has become, instructs Ben to destroy him.

I don’t think it’s any big secret that the Dark Shadows scripts didn’t really demand much of Louis Edmonds. You can’t say that he’s a lazy actor by any means. He has a bag of tricks that the writers clearly enjoy, because they largely restrict his choices to those. But there are times when it’s clear that they sit back and remember why he was hired. This is one of those times.

It’s an episode that defines the hope of death while immersed in the torment it creates for the living. The beauty of a show like Dark Shadows is that it’s luxurious and expansive running time allows it to focus on rituals like death with a length and depth that only real life can match. Not only is Sarah dead, but we feel as if we have spent several days morning for her.  And while Naomi slips into drinking and open acceptance, Joshua, stripped of control, seeks the very thing he has lost. At this point, the only control left is blame. It’s a painfully pathetic attempt. He attacks Vicki. Vicki comes out of the closet as a time traveler. And for just a flash you know that he believes her. It makes as much sense as anything, if not more. But believing her means blaming someone else. And his mind simply cannot brook another mystery.

Watching Edmonds in this episode is a bit like watching Zeus at his full wrath. From what I understand, Edmonds was a happy and ebullient man. Don’t trust it. The merriest among us, and I’m sure this won’t come as a shock, are the most rife with secret pain.  I don’t need a tell-all to reveal that. The power and truth and pain and fury that he displays in this episode is too controlled and too authentic to be reflective of the imagination. I don’t know what dark, inner horror Edmonds saw when he looked at the words of the script, but he summons something bordering on the alchemical. Far from histrionic, this is simply real. It’s even subtle and modulated, somewhere between a man performing an exorcism and winning a bet over whether or not he can act.

He can. He can act anyone off that soundstage.

There’s a lot in 1795 that just kind of sits there. It can be interminable. And at the same time, it contains the show at its rawest. This episode is its most painful study in survivors remorse. Barnabas, in death, finds himself more alive than ever. Reduced to the means of evil to survive, he discovers a depth of responsible morality that would shame a saint; the only thing that stops him from using his curse to hornswoggle the local yokels into assuming that he is also the occult source of their ills is his mother. Barnabas has lived out the fantasy of seeing his own funeral, and sees it for the nightmare it is. His mother is suffering it all over again, trapped in the unnatural fever dream of burying her second child in weeks. Were Barnabas to reveal himself and take the fall, it would force her to live that fate for a third time. 

As Louis Edmonds explores the peaks of the landscape of sorrow, Jonathan Frid and Thayer David plunge down to the blistering mantle of remorse. How many times must Barnabas hear that Ben is his friend before he believes it? And how many times does Ben need to hear his master beg for just one, single yes before he can let go?

As much as Barnabas is a hero for trying to eliminate himself from Collinsport’s suffering, the plight of Ben Stokes is even more profound.  He is incapable of seeing anything but the friend within. Every day brings a new truth and a new terror for him. But in the face of the questionable motives of so many others in 1795, his is pure. In many ways, he is one of the two greatest loves Barnabas Collins will ever know and never accept. And he could very well go to his grave knowing no other. 

In fact, I guarantee it.

This episode hit the airwaves Jan. 29, 1968.

Pdocast flashback: An interview with John Karlen



We lost John Karlen this week. As someone who runs a website that's supposed to be fun and engaging, it always feels a little ghoulish to use these kinds of losses to give my website traffic a bump. At the same time, I've got content that people want to see, so it's foolish -- maybe even selfish -- to keep it under lock and key. In this case it's a 2013 interview with Karlen counducted by Marie Maginity for The Collinsport Historical Society podcast. This is one of many episodes that were tossed into the vaults following the podcast's integration with Spotify. This episode hasn't been available to the public for a while now.

The episode is a little rough around the edges ... Karlen was recuperating in a hospital at the time, which didn't help is already cantankerous mood. But it's one of our most popular episodes, and features Karlen talking about his childhood, acting career and his experience as henchman/hero Willie Loomis on Dark Shadows.

You can listen to the interview streaming below, or download it as an MP3 by clicking HERE.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

In Memoriam: John Karlen (1933-2020)



Anyone familiar with show business, Dark Shadows, or the laws of physics knew this was coming. It had been coming for a long time. But it took so long, and John Karlen was so perpetually in medical trouble, it became shamefully unreal. Just painful details. It’s like he was refusing to go anywhere that didn't have good, hot, Polish food at the ready. From the outside, the situation became beyond fatalistic. He just became eternal, like one of the characters that he played.

I think this is a tougher death in the family to contend with because of that. We were always waiting for the other shoe to fall, and the other shoe was always falling, and yet nothing had hit our heads. It’s that strange and unique relationship and non-relationship that we have with celebrities who feel closer than family, and yet most of us have never met.

He was the greatest example of the Tao on Dark Shadows. Unspeakably brave and yet impossibly cowardly, to an extent that would shame the most cautious old biddy or fussiest mama's boy in the south. He was beyond an everyman. As Willie Loomis, he brought us the best and worst in all of us, and always with the most inconvenient timing. There comes a point that the hipster John Karlen fades away behind fabulous sunglasses, and all that is left is Willie Loomis. Maybe that’s because all that’s left of any of us is, ultimately, Willie Loomis.

On a show about death, he was the antithesis — fighting for life, fighting for a fair chance, fighting to be heard. Most of all, fighting himself and his own base impulses. Barnabas had no sidekicks with whom we would really want to identify. Instead, he had us, whether we liked it or not.

But beyond the character of Willie Loomis, there was a gladiatorial spirit in Karlen that represented the ultimate zest for living, cranky and tempestuous and impatient at the end, because that man still had a lot of living to do. As to his passing, there are details. And it is in the spirit of true irresponsible journalism that I write this in absolute dread of looking at them. The man died. Time and fate and reality are taking him from us. And I think that's bad enough for tonight.

The details are out there to be found. And if you want to gaze upon them, I understand why. Having written a number of obituaries for the Collinsport Historical Society, this one is different. I don’t want the details of his death. As someone who faces celebrity deaths with a fair degree of resigned, Buddhist inevitability, in this case, Buddha can take a powder. More than I imagined, I find myself just wanting him back. And I want him back as he was and as we were 30 or 40 years ago. He was the man who gave us Barnabas Collins, whether he liked it or not. And he was Quentin’s pal, proceeding to the chopping block like he was striding down Las Vegas Blvd. alongside Frank Sinatra. And he was also the guy who wasted no time shooting Fib and pining for Pansy Faye in a voice that truly made us want to punch Carl in the mouth, but with love. Always. And then there’s the chicken with Adam. And that tie that all good reformed hoods wore, because Willie Loomis was every neighborhood thug from Bridgeport that Dan Curtis could save through art. And he did.

Ultimately, Dark Shadows is about aristocracy. Of course, the Collins family. But beyond that, the actors. The stars are our aristocrats. But was he?  Perhaps he was beyond. He had a rude, strange, and crusty nobility. Ultimately, Falstaff to Frid’s Hamlet and Scott’s Miranda. But unlike the gracious luminaries, he was A Guy. He was OUR guy.

When one of the stars passes away, you can see the actors tighten up and close ranks, as well they should. And as well they will for John Karlen, because he was a guy... because he was their guy in a way we can never understand. Let us praise the bumbler he brought us, who, like us, had no business at Collinwood, and who had the misfortune of putting his throat in the way of the hand thrusting up from the coffin. We would’ve done the same thing. Yes, for the stars, he is their own. But he was also one of us. He is ours. This one is going to leave a mark. And we will wear it proudly. There are biographical articles. Read them. He deserves it.

Long live Willie Loomis, and you’ll forgive me if I just can’t write the words that should precede that sentiment. Long live the spirit of the man who brought Loomis and company into our lives.

Right now, he is the finest man whoever breathed.

- Patrick McCray

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

A little something for you perverts

Once part of The Collinsport Historical Society Podcast, Bodice Tipplers is alive and well and ...  doing much better than the CHS Podcast, truth be told. I might have more to say about THAT debacle at a later date (short version: it was all my fault) but the Bodice Tipplers have continued to truck along. They're cranking out two episodes a month, give or take, and have added a few bonues for subscribers to their Patreon. (And oh my god did I screw up the CHS Patreon with aplomb. 2019 was not my favorite year.) You can listen to a sample of their Patreon bonus Aural Sex, which features exclusive clips of other podcasters reading the dirty parts from romance novels.

You can find the Bodice Tipplers Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/bodicetipplers.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: January 21


By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 677

Chris survives his night in the house of the dead, but will he survive Julia’s offer to help his “condition”? Chris Jennings: Don Briscoe. (Repeat; 30 min.)

After returning from a night secure within the mausoleum, Chris arrives home to find Julia expressing her doubts about helping him. After bribing away a spying David with soda, Chris later ingests poison laced into his drink by an invisible hand.

Is this the most compassionate episode of Dark Shadows ever? Hell, even the homicidal ghost is acting out of love. Everyone is compassionate except for David, the little psychopath, and if he weren’t, it would ruin the episode with Cosmic Inconsistency. He inserts a much-needed moment of ghoulish voyeurism into the proceedings, and it’s darn right that Chris denies him a second soda as a consequence. Now, off with you, Davey. It’s not so bad. Don Briscoe called you “man,” and that’s about the highest honor I can think of… after hearing David Selby ask, “You wanna touch these? No. Higher. No, not those, either. The ones in the box. Yeah, glued them on every day for six months. Weird, huh? Reminds me of the fake muttonchops on Dark Shadows.”

The only semi-holdout in the episode’s kindness klub is Julia, again, keeping the universe in order. When was the last time Chris Jennings bought her a Rob Roy and a steak sandwich at the Blue Whale? Or even let her bum a Gauloises? Exactly. Next time, maybe you’ll think about that when you come to her with out-of-network complaints about lycanthropy. She thinks it’s all in your head and intimates as much to Barnabas before he reminds her that Dan Curtis is paying the light bill.


I’m not sure what Chris Jennings did to earn Julia’s casual sadism. Maybe she just assumes that he’ll reject her, too, and wants to get a head start. Julia and Barnabas parallel each other on the clock of morality, here, both equally humane, but on different sides. Barnabas, emerging more and more from his shell of evil and Julia seemingly retreating into hers. Very purposefully. They are classic reflectors in this sense. Each is a walking yin-yang, and each has either a bit more malice or benevolence, depending. Why are they such? Quantity of suffering and alienation. You would think that Julia would have more sympathy, but her suffering is not all it’s cracked up to be. Yes, yes, an unmarried woman in 1969 in a male-dominated profession, nearing fifty. However, that field is medicine, she’s still has the prestige to head Windcliff, her salary is such that she can take years off at a time, and she’s in the most advantaged demographic in the country. Most of all, she’s human. Barnabas, on the other hand, is only recently human. He’s sitting on nearly two hundred years of interred imprisonment and starvation, has been dragged centuries away from anything familiar, has taken at least a score of lives, and knows the ambiguity of trying to kill the people he’d normally join in a hunt against something like himself. So, yes, he perhaps knows a little bit more about compassion in this regard.

In a year, would Julia be as parsimonious with her affections? I don’t think so, and it’s this Julia that we remember. Or SHOULD remember. It’s the right of the wrong to live forever in 1967, but I’m a man of modern times, and aspire for the future awaiting me in 1970. There, Julia is a woman who’s traveled through time three times, killed her evil twin in a parallel universe, escaped zombies, survived multiple possessions, and did it all while growing her hair back out. That tends to mellow a person out.

But when it comes to being a mensch, no one fulfills the requirements like Don Briscoe. Dark Shadows has a number of civilians interact with the Collins family, but none project the package of likability, intelligence, and steadfastness like Chris Jennings. This matters. Barnabas has reclaimed his humanity in every sense. Normally, stories would have him test that mettle by helping someone of dubious intent… who would no doubt betray him. While it’s true that this happens far, far too frequently in real life, in art, it is empathy-shaming. Yes, yes, it builds conflict and an organic sense of drama, even if it allows the spiritually stingy a moment of self-congratulation. But Dark Shadows is a virtuoso at playing a long game it doesn’t even know is whirling around it. Barnabas must foster his newfound humanity by helping someone worthy of it. This justifies the act. By doing so, the series will forever give him the One Example of a Good Man that will challenge him when he wants to turn his back on a ne’er-do-well.

That’s the problem with cynics. They never met the One Example.

This episode hit the airwaves Jan. 28, 1968.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: January 14



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1971: Episode 1195

When Gerard claims a bride in a bizarre act of unnatural hypnosis, will Barnabas catch the garter? Judah Zachery: James Storm. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Gerard puts enough whammy on Daphne to marry him, and Quentin’s arrival comes too late. He is soon arrested again, and although Barnabas dedicates himself to ending the man he now knows to be Judah Zachery, he may not be able to. Angelique thinks it is hopeless. Her detached attitude about it is indicative of the Witch Privilege that Barnabas cites as the reason he cannot love her. Hearing this, she is determined to reform. Her voodoo attack on Gerard is cut short by the surprise arrival of her intended victim.

With this, we begin the final cycle of “this is it.” Not that it wants to make a big deal out of it. If it were any more modest and self-effacing, the episode would be mistaken for a Lutheran.

One of the things that makes 1840 so incredibly challenging for viewers is the fact that most other endings know that they’re endings. Most endings bellow the fact at you long before the climax and resolution… and, if the production caps off an epic story of British fantasy, it will still be ending hours later. But this doesn’t. It just happens. I hate to look at Dark Shadows as anything other than one, big interconnected story. The fact that it was not constructed with Straczynskian forethought is irrelevant to the finished product… except in certain idiosyncrasies of storytelling. Things ramble endlessly only to end abruptly. You know, like real life.

When a viewer abandons preconceived notions of structure and finally realizes that storytelling does not begin and end with the unholy conformist trinity of Syd Field, Robert McKee, and Joseph Campbell, endings like this one are stunningly truthful. Almost too much so. Real life doesn’t with cues for heartfelt conversations that sum up relationships. Real life has never provided me with my own montage so that I can get into shape, just like it’s never given me a clip reel of highlights so that I’ll know the show is over.

I wonder how the show would have treated these episodes if they’d really, honestly known that this was it. They are not devoid of summative sentiment. But they are summing up a storyline, not a series. Given that, they do so extremely well. If you look at the major “vacations” taken by the storyline, only 1795 is as self-consciously satisfying. Parallel time just mercifully ends, and does 1995 even count? 1897's ending is sort of the opposite of the rest of that story line. It's dour and melancholy and overstays it welcome. So that leaves 1840, and upon re-examination, I think it's the most satisfying ending that any storyline has on the program. Including the incredibly painful death that is just a few episodes away.

The most pivotal moments in the episode work in tandem, one after the other. Barnabas confronts Gerard and refers to him as Judah, which has to be a huge blow to Judah’s ego… and a great show of bravado for Barnabas, considering that Judah Zachery is the boogeyman for Barnabas’ generation; his offstage manipulations have slowly poisoned the family for hundreds of years, and we can thank him for what Barnabas finds when emerging in 1967. Of course, Zachery’s powers are potentially far more vulgar, and Barnabas’ risk in taunting him is all the more shocking when you consider that he very much knows the risk he’s taking.

In a Structured Ending, this would be the puffed-up moment where the hero gets a cosmic spanking for the sin of immodesty. But the up in question is not puffed enough for that. Nothing here is. Barnabas has just come off of telling Angelique the real reasons why he cannot love her. Yes, stop the presses. Important. Show. Moment.

And it kinda happens. That’s about the most you can say.

Yes, yes. It’s enough to make her risk everything to stop the wholesale slaughter she predicts. In that sense, Barnabas is a real value in the rhetoric department. Very casual about the whole thing. Reasonable to a predictably Canadian extent. So reasonable, I fear that he’ll transform into a Unitarian or Merkin Muffley on the Grey Phone with Dimitri.

He basically says, “Yeah, I mean, Angelique, you know… It’s just… You’ve got witch ways, you. You know? Witch, witchy, witch… you know… um, witchy ways. You’ll never stop using them. And that means you are not human. You know how it is. I mean, it’s not your fault, so don’t beat yourself up too much. But, you know. This is how… um, yeah. So, I’m going to make a cheese sandwich. Maybe change the litter box. Do you need anything?”

I’m not really exaggerating. And it’s perfect in its awkward straightforwardness. Even with all of the time travel and psychic premonitions on the show, they still don’t have DVDs, so they have no idea what’s coming. I’m sure if Barnabas knew this was one of the last times he’d be able to give The Speech, he would have really made it a humdinger.

For a viewer, it’s actually satisfying… enough. It passes a reality test that most shows are too teary eyed to par out of at this point. Jonathan Frid and Lara Parker could spellbind just by reading the iTunes terms and conditions aloud at this point. And Jerry Lacy, James Storm, and the Chairman of the Chops, himself, Mr. David Selby? They glide through the episode with an easy confidence the OED would brand Rat-Packian while hitting the notes of gravitas with utter respect for their significance. Storm is especially disciplined, transforming into the series’ Blofeld with a mid-Atlantic blend of Stanislavskian truth and Classical panache. Is this the evil that launched well over a thousand episodes?

Do not underestimate James Storm.

This episode hit the airwaves Jan. 22, 1971.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Podcast: Morbius the Living Vampire!



Have you seen the trailer for this year's Morbius yet? It's ... fine!? I'm too excited about the prospects of getting a movie adaption of "the living vampire" to nitpick at this point. And the release of the trailer feels like a good excuse to dig one of our podcasts out of the vault.

In the second episode of The Collinsport Historical Society Podcast, recorded way back in 2013, features an interview with comics legend Roy Thomas about creating Michael Morbius, Marvel's first vampire, in 1971. Also in this episode: Patrick McCray speaks with comics creator Joe Keatinge, who was writing a new Morbius series at the time.



What does this have to do with Dark Shadows? I'm glad you asked! Morbius was at the crossroads of several historic changes in comics. Not only was his introduction the first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man not written by Stan Lee, but he was also the first vampire character at Marvel following changes to Comics Code Authority's prohibition for supernatural characters. In our interview, Thomas speaks about the events that led to Morbius sparring with the web slinger in 1971, his script for the Marvel Comics Dark Shadows parody "Darn Shadows," and how the Marvel office was not allowed to disturb him when a television show featuring a certain cane-carrying vampire was on.

You can listen to the episode below.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: January 7



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1971: Episode 1190

When Quentin escapes from jail, will he and Daphne tie the knot before Gabriel ties her down forever? Daphne: Kate Jackson. (Repeat. 30 min.)

Gabriel’s attempt to kidnap Daphne is ineffectual, and the lass escapes. Meanwhile, Joanna stumbles upon Gabriel and Melanie in PT as she searches for Daphne. Nonetheless, Gabriel seizes Daphne from the shadows.

Of course, the 1840 storyline is contrived. Of course. It’s not the character study of 1795 nor the lusty, sprawling bacchanal of pure imagination of 1897. True to its industrial revolution-era setting, it’s a piece of clockwork, cleverly designed to include the apotheosis of Barnabas Collins among dozens of other storylines. The network of interlocking agendas becomes deeply impressive, three steps back, and yet I cannot accuse it of seeming contrived. It simply feels like the owner of the hand of destiny is showing his receipt and telling us all where we can get one. Quentin is out of the way for Trask and Gerard, leading to a witch trial where Barnabas takes up rhetorical arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, winds up with Angelique shot.

Which has its own clockwork beauty of dark and ironic inevitability.

Elements of 1190 are so emotionally mature that I wonder if the show is still Dark Shadows. Joanna Mills quickly concludes that Quentin just is not that into her, and she frees him. Good for you. In this case, she defies the jealous lover stereotype, and for all of her blandness, gets the Victoria Winters Award for intrepid house snooping, while Daphne is doing the same thing in hidden corridors that seem designed to store old paintings on the walls. Staying steady among the rampant Dutch angles (“Boff!” “Pow!” “Insinuate!”), Joanna even has a moment to stop by the ultimate secret passage, the Parallel Time room, where Christopher Pennock and Nancy Barrett star in the costume version of The Lost Weekend. The portrait of an alcoholic is convincing, and it will need to be. 1841PT is easily understandable as the show’s downfall when you consider that it gave them, realistically, nothing connected to the prior four years of world building. Yes, running dry on ideas, we’ve heard it. Running even drier on Frid-as-Barnabas? Clearly. It’s simply a shame that no one thought to extend a tendril of continuity between the universes again. Needn’t even be a big gun.

When the PT cutaway happened today, I found challenge in mustering extreme enthusiasm, even though the final result (1841PYT) is a gem of a storyline. The highlight of the episode, reliably, is Christopher Pennock, the James Cagney of the DS ensemble. Here, he plays two Gabriels, and neither gent is a prize… but in totally different ways, implosive vs. explosive. The difference is arrestingly subtle, down to movement (no, not the legs) and tempo-rhythm. This is the case where relentless training really pays off.

Meanwhile, away from the wistfully sad portrait of a charming alcoholic’s mastery of rationalization, the other Gabriel seems to appear in this episode as sponsored by Ronan Farrow’s most paranoid suspicions. Pantingly lustful, even a priapic Rev. Wilbur Glenworthy would try spiking Gabriel’s Ovaltine with saltpeter. And yet, there is such a goofy quality to Gabriel’s authentic melodrama — straight out of Love Rides the Rails, complete mit tied-up damsel — that any sense of transgressive violation just seems like… it ain’t gonna happen. He eventually rejects Daphne’s come-on in a disappointing burst of common sense. He makes up for it, however, by showing off his counterfeit good-guy badge while commiserating with Joanna. It’s an orgy of irrelevance. At this point, they’re both short timers for totally different reasons. But so are we all in the world of Dark Shadows. However, the show is a möbius strip, and the twist is coming up — some time after 1841PT and before the next episode, #1, in Main Time, so far behind us that it’s the next stop on the horizon.

This episode hit the airwaves Jan. 15, 1971.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Mark Gatiss stars in vampire prequel story, Dracula’s Guests


Greetings from the distant past! I'm writing this from the year 2020, 10:15 a.m. Jan. 3 EST. I fear nobody will ever read this letter, given the shitstorm the world is rapidly becoming. #WorldWarIII was actually trending on Twitter this morning, perhaps becoming the first international conflict begun on a social media platform. Donald Trump is so awful he makes me want to believe there is a god, because the thought of that amoral cretin spending eternity in a hellscape designed by Hieronymus Bosch warms the cockles of my cold little heart. Seriously, fuck that guy right in the ear.

I'm having to write this in advance because the announcement was embargoed until 4 p.m. GMT on Jan. 4. There hasn't been a lot of news lately on the Big Finish front about Dark Shadows, but here's something to tide you over until the series fires up later this year: Dracula's Guests, a prequel starring Mark Gatiss as the count. Here's the press release:
Hot on the heels of his spectacular BBC Studios/Netflix production, Mark Gatiss returns to the world of Bram Stoker’s vampire in a full cast audio production from Big Finish.

A prequel to the events of the original novel, Dracula’s Guests is adapted by Jonathan Barnes and forms the opening chapter in a trilogy of terrifying Dracula audio adventures.

Dracula's Guests will be released in February 2020 and is available now at the special pre-order price of $26.15 as a three-disc collector’s edition CD or  $16.99 as a download.

Transylvania, 1888. Sitting in his castle like a spider in its web, Count Dracula is setting his plans in motion. Soon he will travel to England, there to cut a bloody swathe through polite society and pit himself against a dedicated crew of vampire-slayers. Yet before then there is much to be done. A certain artist must be brought to him and a certain portrait painted. An old tale must be told, drawn from the darkest recesses of Transylvanian history. And in faraway London an honest police detective must be corrupted and set to work in the service of the Count. The vampire king is making preparations. And his survival will be assured – no matter the cost.

Dracula’s Guests stars Mark Gatiss as Count Dracula, David Bamber (Jeremiah Hart), Ian Hallard (RM Renfield) and Hannah Arterton (Sabine).

Actor Mark Gatiss said: “As a life-long horror fan, vampires – and Dracula in particular – were always my favourite of them all. Stoker very mysteriously never bothered to write a sequel, but I thought it would be quite an interesting thing to come back to. He's always coming back, isn't he? It's the point of Dracula.”

Writer Jonathan Barnes agreed: “There are so many loose strands, so many unfinished elements, so many things that are left unexplained in the original book, it seems almost to encourage us as writers to explore the world further. From that we've built up quite an elaborate story.”

Producer and director Scott Handcock added: “It was a thrill to bring Dracula back to life with our adaptation of the original novel in 2016, and an even bigger thrill when Mark Gatiss approached me a few months later asking whether we might be able to tell further tales of the Count. We’ve got some familiar faces returning, plus some fantastic new characters too, and of course, right at the heart, the ominous presence of Dracula himself, once more conjured into existence by Mark!”

Dracula's Guests will be released in February 2020 and is available now at the special pre-order price of £19.99 as a three-disc collector’s edition CD or £16.99 as a download.

Save money with the Dracula trilogy bundle (including the adaptation of the novel Dracula, and the sequel release due in September 2020, Dracula’s War) for just £53 as a collector’s edition CD box set or £45 as a download. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: January 1



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 400

Barnabas might have Trask in his crosshairs, but will Angelique’s fireworks throw off his aim? Barnabas: Jonathan Frid. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Barnabas allows Trask to perform a witch hunting ritual, confident that nothing will result but the proof of Trask’s idiocy. Unfortunately, a fire spell by Angelique sends Vicki running, seemingly proving the reverend’s case. Afterwards, Barnabas concludes that, like Darrens to follow, he may be married to a witch.

Can you believe these people had to work on New Year’s Day? Thanks, Dan. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. And we're not just talking about a regular New Year's Eve the night before. We're talking about a New York New Year's Eve. So, you can just imagine. Not only that, but they were on the hottest show on daytime television relatively speaking. One that had gone from a storyline one year prior that was not necessarily their best, involving the Phoenix, to an entire flashback time travel sequence build around the character no one had imagined a year prior, introduced to be a villain, and now the defender of reason, commonsense, and the character — Vicki — who, until recently, was the protagonist! So, there's that. The immediate game that I played while watching this episode was trying to determine who, among the cast, was the most hung over. There are some cast members, no names please, who always look somewhat hung over, and this creates a natural confusion. However, such a sport is a fruitless effort. Because in trying to determine it, you are left with two realities. The first is that these are actors, and that is a breed that exceeds the most stalwart of the Royal Navy when it comes to the capacity to operate with absolutely toxic levels of alcohol in their systems. But the second point is that these are actors, and not just actors, but good actors. These are pros. So if I found out that none of them were hung over, I would not be a bit surprised. Also, there was a lot of shouting and screaming in the episode. Especially by Jerry Lacy and Alexandra Moltke. And they simply would not be able to do it that schnockered. So that leaves as candidates Lara Parker and Jonathan Frid. They generally are performing rituals or are involved in some kind of deep introspection in the episode, which can be done fairly quietly. But I don't believe either one of them was reeking of the sauce because their performances are just too smart and too disciplined on this day. Which means they might've had a fairly dull evening the night before. And I think perhaps we should all have a moment of silence and recognition for their sacrifice.

I’ve long maintained that most of Clan Collins is secular, probably owing to the memory of the Bedford witch trials. They rarely invoke any kind of religion, leaving that to Quentin (who’ll worship anything), Julia (and I lay money on her being a lapsed Catholic), and Willie (who probably gets religion to the degree of the threat he faces or the woman on whom he’s macking). Barnabas seems to have no need for it, voicing sentiments that Joshua probably mutters only out of earshot of Aunt Abigail. If you want evidence, look at Barnabas’ disdain for Trask. Not only that, but look at his confidence that Trask’s bizarre ceremonies will assuredly humiliate the Reverend and be the end of it. Unfortunately, give a Trask enough rope, and he’ll use it to hang the governess. But this doesn’t occur to Barnabas, who has no lack for credulous imagination. It says something that he’ll believe Vicki’s story about time travel before 2,000 years of Scripture. I can only imagine that if Jesus showed up in 1795 as the governess from another time, they’d all be in a real quandary. Let’s see Trask deal with that.

Barnabas has a lovable overconfidence in common sense and the essential decency of human beings that reeks of the Enlightenment, and as the series goes on, this naiveté will lead to his constant downfall while also being his greatest asset. On Dark Shadows, the bad guys are destined to win, except when they don’t, and the good guys are destined to somehow survive, except when Matthew Morgan pushes them off a cliff. If the show has any emotional message, it is to revere perseverance. The victory of evil is statistically assured. The only bulwark against good’s eradication is its refusal to acknowledge it, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Did I mention this is an election year?

William Faulkner asserted that every great story written after Don Quixote is a retelling of it. The Many Quests of Barnabas Collins is all the evidence we need. Most poignant in the brotherhood Barnabas shows with the great knight are their similar trips on windmills. Cyclical, often downward, but never for so long until blessed ignorance lifts their spirits to fight another day. In 400, Barnabas experiences an entire cycle, unaware that Trask and Angelique are in a strange alliance. By the end, as he spins earthward, he contemplates the truth that his wife may very well be the seed of evil in Collinsport making Trask a fellow fool, if on the other side of the windmill. But wait. The stars will soon replace the rocks below as Fortuna spins the wheel of inevitability.

For the sake of auld lang syne, if only for one day.   

This episode hit the airwaves Jan. 5, 1968.
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