Monday, March 30, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 30


Taped on this day in 1970: Episode 994

When Quentin encounters the specter of Dameon Edwards, do Angelique’s former
lovers stand a ghost of a chance at keeping it together? Trask: Jerry Lacy. (Repeat; 30

Quentin is shocked when the ghost of Angelique’s former friend, Dameon Edwards,
begins dripping blood around Collinwood. Trask, the butler, and Bruno barely maintain
their composure when informed of the manifestation.

Four years ago, this was day two of the Daybook, and it was a significantly different
animal. It was a good call on Wallace’s part, several months later, to limit me to just one
episode a day. Over the years, I went from little to say about an episode to sometimes
an embarrassing abundance. I often wondered if I would run out of things to talk about
regarding the show, and the notion is absurd.

The real star of this one is Dameon Edward’s suit.

That may actually be true.

The remarkable thing about that is the fact that this tight, haunted episode does not
need a fantastic costume or two to eclipse it. With the exception of Amy’s appearance at
the end, it’s a masculine episode… as much as one can be when the costume
department raids Bea Arthur’s closet. Which, come to think of it, is pretty butch. And my
point is proved. All seriousness aside, it is about men dealing with the ghost of a man,
all in the shadow of a woman who drove everyone to the brink of distraction or worse.
After all, when you see a frosted glass on Dark Shadows, you know it’s getting broken.,
And when you see someone named Trask break it, you know that the worst is in the
offing. It’s a tight mystery, with David Selby showing what must have been refreshing
nuance for his bellicose character in PT. Especially with Michael Stroka’s Bruno, who
likewise puts in one of his subtler, most believable turns in the role, Selby plays his
notes subtly and close to the vest… but not so close that we, as invisible confidants,
don’t have an idea of what’s in his hand. He’s playing the most cuckolded character this
side of a Moliere play, and now that Angelique’s dead and Maggie is in a fit elsewhere,
he has the pleasure of slow-roasting his rivals. Even the horror of a bleeding ghost is
obscured by a delight at what that means for seventy or eighty other lovers. It’s about
time they shared in the paranoia. Come on in, fifth battalion, the water’s awful.

I always enjoyed Jerry Lacy’s too-brief turn as Trask, the butler. showing a kind of
nervous and tight professionalism that introduces a new type of domestic at Collinwood,
and one we never realized was sorely missing. Of course, he has confidence; he’s got
the only dignified coistime in the installment. The rest are sporting either Collinwood’s
most quietly outlandish or, in the case of Quentin’s brown-shirted nightmare, ugliest
ensembles on the show. I can only assume that Mostoller lost a bet with Denise
Nickerson and she got to pick out the duds with all of the restraint someone her age
would show at catering. Is it as glorious as a craft services table equipped by Farrell’s?
Dare I say, even moreso.

First, it’s clear that Michael Stroka, hair so high I imagine him inflating it by blowing into
his thumb like a cartoon character, appears like he’s wearing one of Maggie’s vest and
turtleneck numbers she sports as the governess in Primary Time. Which may be why he
never stands in the episode. I’m sure he has winning gams, but he’s no Kathryn Leigh
Scott. (Apologies for objectifying both, but when the latest from Junior Sophisticates fits,
wear it.)

Dameon Edwards’ outfit is truly the astounding star, here though. A futuristic jacket,
belted with two buttons on a sash, sans lapel makes him look like Alan Sues auditioning
to play a Bond villain. This is over a shirt with a collar wider than most major home
appliances of the age, accessorized by a scarf that would be the envy of even the great,
late Deforest Kelly. It’s an outfit that could only have come about by Roddy McDowell
costuming John Saxon in a failed Gene Roddenberry pilot, and that’s where I want to

Only a bachelor ghost could have the silent swagger commensurate to carrying off such
a suit, and it’s an amazing snapshot of fashions they were sure would take off and carry
us into a glorious future. It’s impossible to watch the episode and not be carried there,
also, and Dark Shadows’ penchant of showing us a past that never quite was is finally
matched by the suggestion of a present that should have been.

This episode hit the airwaves on April 16, 1970.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 28


Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 725

A lugubrious luau breaks out at Collinwood! When Quentin’s a zombie, Jamison is Quentin, and Trask is back, will Barnabas say aloha? Gregory Trask: Jerry Lacy. (Repeat; 30 min.)

As Quentin continues to both inhabit Jamison’s body and writhe around in a graveyard, Gregory Trask arrives to recruit Jamison. He sets about conducting an excruciating exorcism as Barnabas looks on, helpless to stop the craven clergyman.

Enter Gregory Trask.

This is where the 1897 storyline kind of runs off the rails... now and then. Like the 1795 storyline, 1897 contains more filler upon actual viewings than in memory. Yes, Trask's a great villain, and there are volumes to say about Clan Trask, but that's counterbalanced by long patches of episodes that take up so much time, it makes me wonder if the character had dirt on Dan Curtis.

But I'm obligated to like the Trasks in their steadfastness as Collins antagonists. I'm about a decade behind on my Big Finish listening, but have they done much with the Trask family per se? That's the parallel story to the Collins chronicles. It's interesting to ponder the DS story from their perspective. A Lovecraftian hotbed of aristocratic menace!

"Yeah, Greg, you gotta go see what's happening at that house they walled up your gramps in. You know, where your dad disappeared. Well, okay, the OTHER house on the estate. You know, they have a vampire up there. And a witch. That's fine, but around kids? Quentin's back. Carl's still dating showgirls. They're hiring all of your ex-employees. Oh, and Quentin's now in the kid's body. No, not like that. Well, after he had the boy almost desecrate the corpse of Gabriel's old widow, all bets were off. Where's Quentin? He's a zombie. Maybe it has to do with all the gypsies they're harboring. Yeah, it's a real normal house up there. You know, your dad built a mortuary out of nothing and did pro bono work as an attorney. Your granddad came to this godforsaken town when the Collins family was keeping occultists on the payroll. Maybe it was to help the syphilitic sailor they thought was a dandy marriage prospect. He was married, but did that matter to them? No. Hell, they were marrying off their sons to island girls that the uncle would sleep with on his own. Now Greg, you're an educator and a pastor. They have two kids up there, looked after by some trampy maid. Kids, Greg. Yeah, they're half gypsy, but let's let that go. Their mom? They locked her up in a tower because that's how they treat the sick. She's running around with a knife, and do they call the cops? Of course not. I say it's self-defense. You have to help that poor woman. Help the kids, too."

Inaccurate, but the truth usually is.

Meanwhile, back in reality, Barnabas is having a hell of a night. Judith, the voice of reason, has Jamison locked up in the drawing room and screaming. She thinks nothing odd about him being alone in the room with a grown man who keeps sticking his head out and saying, "Not yet. Give me just a few more minutes," before ducking back in for more terrified cries of fear and pain.

Fortunately, Barnabas comes from an age of advanced and sophisticated corporal child rearing. If any character in literature is capable of dealing with the middle ground between modern common sense and old school, birch branch pedagogy, it's the man who did wonders with Willie Loomis by way of his instructive cane.

This is what makes Quentin look civilized.

It's the fourth anniversary of the Daybook, written as my third week in corona captivity begins. I got into all of this eight years ago due to nearly two months of self-imposed isolation as I watched all of Dark Shadows in just a few weeks. If anything, this all feels strangely familiar. My only advice, since you insisted, is to keep Dark Shadows on at all times. I mean it. They are the much-needed set of extra voices, rooms, and locations desperately required right now.

They are home. And their home is ours. Be well.

This episode hit the airwaves on April 4, 1969.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 23


Taped on this day in 1971: Episode 1244

Series Finale. Part One: When Catherine is tricked into joining Bramwell in the haunted room, what will stop Morgan Collins? Catherine Collins: Lara Parker. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Catherine finds herself in the secret room, where Bramwell prevents her suicide by sharing the willpower to defy the possessing ghost of Brutus. When Morgan realizes they may still live, he loads his flintlock, determined to see that they don’t.

The second-to-last Dark Shadows episode. In some ways, it's a more powerful notion than the last. Because with this, there is still an opportunity for something else. One more twist, turn, revelation, development, etc. Viewers knew where it fell in the broadcast order. Watching it was not a process of seeing things for the last time, desperately scribbling mental notes in the diary we keep with us always, Cecily.

There is a rare privilege in second-to-last that way, and it courses through the episode. It has risk and bravado. It is not a resolution of declining actions. It is not the echo of Gordon Russell's typewriter gone cold. It is a 24 minute-long bang of an exclamation point hammering onto a page at 500 frames a second. Nothing is over until Sam Frickin' "God" Hall says it's over, and there is still a future to this.

From a maybe-spooky house filled with the failure of love to a violently haunted room endured by the truth of it, Dark Shadows tears down the freeway of storytelling, inverting Art Wallace's vision, and by exploring its antithesis, fulfills it. No more questions. No more things to not understand, Vicki. Morgan Collins is the ugliness of Liz's homicidal rage and Roger's sociopathic indifference stripped of the necessary glamor of having to star in tomorrow's episode. Ultimately, Liz and Roger are not forgivable. We've only been bullied into forgiving them by winning performances and unlikely changes of heart. Morgan Collins, as we learn, was not driven mad by Brutus nor given any other excused absence from morality. He's a terrible human, and as Dark Shadows slips from the airwaves, it's not going to vanish while giving a moral sanction to that cretin.

Let me qualify this, and follow me to the end of the paragraph. I don't give two hoots about women's issues. Absolutely none. I have plenty of issues of my own before I even contemplate another gender… if gender even exists and I get a headache this big contemplating it. But I am still a human, and I don’t like to see people ruin their lives for unchallenged reasons. So believe me when I say that even I am on fire in the best sense over the intoxicating politics in this episode. Much of the strength of this episode is as a reinforcement for female audience members, trapped at home at four o’-something in the afternoon, to say, "Absolutely not.”

It’s about damned time.

It’s practically drawing a map to escape the socially acceptable Morgans who have trapped them into powerless lives of reproductive obligation and ham cookin’. To me, Bramwell and Catherine are equally powerful allies in fighting the Room 1408 of Collinwood. The whole maghilla set into motion by Brutus' entitled ownership of Amanda is picked up by Morgan and then undone by Catherine and Bramwell. It may take the fear and pressure of a haunted room for them to insist on the other living, but they do so.

Breaking it down -- Bramwell, holding the fuzzy end of the economic lollipop, is not the apparently attractive suitor. But he's the right one. Catherine, subject to the pressures of the age, makes a sadly understandable choice, but she reverses it passionately. And Bramwell is there for her.

It has to be Jonathan Frid and Lara Parker. The argument about whether or not the series is about them is ended with this episode. Don’t look at the jury. They’re at the Blue Whale, job well done. Upon whom does the end of the DS saga rely? Yeah, the most important characters at the end, making the pivotal choices... and the character names don’t really matter.

The end of the Barnabas/Angelique story wasn't in 1840. It's here. Yes, okay, it kind of ended in 1840, but this is the test, in a spiritual sense. Follow me. Invert everything to see if you get the same results. Make Bramwell the poor one. Make Catherine the one who follows propriety. It's even Bramwell's fellow Collins who is the villain. But unlike Jeremiah, a victim of a love spell, Morgan is an agent of action, conducting himself with a perverse sense of deliberate clarity. By reversing the roles, we see if the lessons leading up to the 1840 resolution will stick in the most metaphysical sense.

They do.

That's why 1841PT is the proper end to the series. That's how it fits in. If the strength of love is strong enough, it will hold true. No matter the social expectations. No matter the century. No matter how parallel the band of time. No matter the names of the characters.

Never said it was easy.

Liz lacked it. Roger lacked it. Barnabas and Angelique earned it. Bramwell and Catherine made sure it was here to stay.

Gordon Russell ends his final script with proper disrespect for traditional expectations of marriage and social class. Not just for female audience members, but for the kids still watching, as well. Uncles Sam and Gordon could only provide a safe place for a half-hour a day. For many, there was a far more twisted vision of home unspooling the other twenty-three-point-five. Not for all of them, no. But the message was there for the right ones. And the rest got a damned good story.

And that's an issue even I can get behind.

This episode hit the airwaves on April 1, 1971.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Let's watch Dark Shadows together!

I'm not going to waste your time recapping the COVID-19 as if it was some television show you're joining "in progress." Things are changing so quickly that whatever I had to say might be obsolete by the time you read this, anyway, so let's just cut to the chase:

Let's watch Dark Shadows together.

Like, really together. The streaming availability of Dark Shadows right now is unprecedented. Not only is the entire series available with an Amazon Prime subscription, the whole megillah is also streaming for free on Tubi TV. A big chunk of it (the first seven DVD collections) are also streaming on Hulu, which ought to get you through the first week of our proposal. (If you're watching these episodes on DVD, the list below will get you from Collection 1 to about halfway through Collection 3.)

Here's the plan: Beginning every half hour on Saturday at noon, Eastern Standard Time, we're going to watch an episode of Dark Shadows ... beginning with episode 210. From there, it will be a block of 24 episodes ending at midnight. Join other fans on Twitter to talk about these episodes live, using the hashtag #DarkShadows. Here's a schedule of episodes for the first four days. You can follow me online at @CousinBarnabas and Patrick McCray at @TheRealMcCray. (This whole thing was his idea!) And don't forget the hashtag ... that's how other Dark Shadows fans will find you. The schedule below will allow you to drop in and out of the event as you please.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 18


Taped on this day in 1970: Episode 985

Maggie thinks she’s seeing double when Angelique’s twin sister arrives… but is she? Maggie Collins: Kathryn Leigh Scott. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Maggie is stunned to find someone she assumes to be Angelique in her home. She is told that it’s Angelique’s sister, Alexis, but no one at Collinwood seems to shake the feeling that the former mistress has returned. Maggie and Quentin row over the new guest, and Maggie leaves.

Best moment of acting on the show, apologies to everyone else. And by the show, I mean all 1225 episodes. Kathryn Leigh Scott and David Selby end the episode with a fiery argument about whether or not Angelique has returned or if it's really just her twin sister, Alexis.

There are moments in acting where everything but the actual moment of total communication completely vanishes. There's no planning. Seemingly no script. The actor is as completely absorbed in the given circumstances and connection with their scene partner as is the most transfixed audience member. You might have heard of the concept of "in the moment." Sounds pretentious? It isn't. It is a moment like this.

Scott is a highly intelligent person. Vastly culturally literate and perceptive about the nuances of human behavior. In her choices, she is also a hell of a chess player. She owns every moment when she is on screen. She is not one for accidents. The final scene in this episode combines that kind of creative ownership with total creative freedom that the rigors of the show’s precision usually deny the performers. It's normally about saying lines and hitting marks with an accuracy demanded by being live on tape with minimal preparation. It doesn't allow for that almost supernatural spontaneity. This moment does. It's not just about raised voices and Selby's bombast. This is about actually BEING.

It's often a mystery... how these moments come about. Olivier wept after certain performances because he had no idea how he achieved them. When Scott departs Collinwood, you hear a voice never before experienced on the series. There is an edge that is totally fresh, totally new, and totally about communicating with Selby at that moment. And she means it.

It goes by in a flash, but it's worth really appreciating.

Overall, Parallel Time is one of the show's least effective storylines because of its failure to live up to the concept. Where do the universes deviate? Where don't they? The writers hide behind, "This isn't science fiction," too much with this. Nowhere is this truer than the moment when Cyrus quotes Shakespeare. Why not attribute it to Marlowe, guys? Have a little fun with the PT concept. It's possible to have those Easter Eggs as flavoring without being a slave to science fiction. It's a general rule that if you play to the dumbest guy in the room, you'll have the dumbest show in town. Given that, if you play to the most average guy in the room, well, you get my point.

This episode focuses on the abstracts of good and evil more dedicatedly than most on the show. Of course, any Jekyll & Hyde story is apt to. I'm getting ahead of myself, but I'm not sure that Yaeger is as much evil as liberated from the yoke of consequences. Why need he be? He's a tourist in Longworth's body. He exhibits too much joy... Longworth, too little. I can see scenarios where he has a great weekend in New York, as long as no one gets in his way.

If there's a monster in the episode, and in all of PT, it's not Angelique. Nor Stokes. Nor Yaeger. Nor any of the ostensible suspects. On a primal level, it's Quentin, that most violent of good guy husbands. The only thing that strains my credulity in the episode is that he doesn't slap Maggie into next week.

Not that he should.

But with a temper that volcanic and self-assured, in an age where That's The Way Things Were, I feel like PT Quentin is cutting short of where he really seems to want to go. He's an unreasoning, privileged, overly confident bully with an anger management problem that is more readily found in kaiju. And THAT, my friends, is a monster. Because that monster is real. The most astonishing OTHER element in the episode is that Maggie actually leaves him.

That is the fantasy element of the series because too few victims of domestic abuse find Maggie's strength. Dark Shadows wasn't an engine of social change. But in this one instance, I can only hope that someone out there was inspired by her example. And what am I saying? Day ain't over yet. Perhaps someone is being inspired right now.

No Quentin is worth it.

This episode hit the airwaves April 3, 1970.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

18th Annual Rondo Award Noms – Vote for Dark Shadows!

The nominees for the 18th annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards have been announced, and you'll find the residents of Collinsport well represented among them this year.

The Collinsport Historical Society has been nominated for Best Website for the eighth year running. Meanwhile, a piece about the enduring appeal of Dark Shadows I wrote with Dana Gould for issue #4 of Fangoria has been nominated for Best Article.

As usual, winners will be determined by votes from the public. And that means you. Readers are asked to select winners from this year's nominees and e-mail your selections to David Colton at You can copy and paste the ballot and include an X next to your choices, or just type your ballot choices directly into the e-mail. (Note: You're allowed to vote for two candidates in the Best Article category.)

Rod Labbe's interview with Kathryn Leigh Scott from Scary Monsters #111 has been nominated for Best Interview.

You can see the entire ballot at

All voting is by e-mail only. One vote is allowed per person. Every e-mail must include your name to be counted. All votes are kept confidential. No e-mail addresses or personal information will be shared. Votes must be received by Sunday night at midnight, March 29, 2020.

Being nominated for the Rondos is a huge honor – it means The Collinsport Historical Society's work is among the ranks of the best writers and artists working in horror fandom today. Eventually they'll figure out I was mistakenly invited to this party, but not before I eat my weight in hot wings and make everyone regret the concept of an "open bar." Carpe diem!

When it comes to the Rondos we've been very fortunate. We took home the Best Website honor back in 2012 during the most recent epidemic of Dark Shadows Fever. In 2018 Patrick McCray was named Best Writer for his Dark Shadows Daybook feature.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: March 10


Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 711

What’s beautiful, brilliant, blonde, and set on Satanic revenge? Quentin Collins, meet your new girlfriend. Angelique: Lara Parker. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Quentin and Evan accidentally summon Angelique. After determining that she is in Collinsport, she finds that Barnabas is back in the arms of an avatar of Josette. She rolls up her sleeves and gets to work on brutal revenge for both of them.

We are ten episodes into 1897, and if you were not familiar with the series, you would swear I was making it up. Nothing that has come before can really prepare us for what just happened. It represents more than an arc of television. It represents a philosophy.

And it may be fan service, objections to which I do not understand, nor have I ever. From where I am standing, which is narrow and damp and smells like Wilford Brimley, fan service is just stuff someone doesn’t like in a thing they usually do. In ample supply, usually, and daring to please someone, thus triggering the following thought, “Somewhere, someone is having a good time, and I’ll put a stop to THAT!”

Dark Shadows has just run through ten days of the best fan service in horror. Which is saying something. Okay, what’s on the scoreboard? Barnabas: vampire. Time travel. Gypsies. A dead matriarch and her ghost. A child induced to rob a coffin. A Satanist attorney with a pointy beard. A tall blonde. John Karlen, shrieking with laughter and blasting away good taste with a “fib” flag. Swords wielded. Quentin speaks. Kids induced into devil ceremonies. Oh yeah, Josette is back, as is the music box, with Barnabas picking up like the past hundred years and 1960’s fever dream never happened. Louis Edmonds, a little more Louis Edmonds. Joan Bennett, even more imperious because she lacks the means to be. It’s more of everything you like and a healthy dollop of stuff you’re horrified you were being denied. I’m certain that someone out there can’t stand it, but let us revel at the philosophy that gave us this.

Specifically, that art can exist to delight us, even as it challenges. This is Dark Shadows gone mad with generosity, not always pushing the envelope, but stuffing it full of the things we love. If it is about mystery, that’s secondary. The main mission is to thank audiences for tuning in. And today, the mosaic became complete. Because Dark Shadows was missing only one thing to become the ultimate echo chamber of itself. Today, it got it.

There is a perfection to Angelique wandering into the frame that assures us that the writers are rock confident of what they have, and they disguise no qualms about sharing it. Quentin is as immediately smitten with her as is the audience. They are not wasting any time with her jumping through hoops of pretense in a black wig. She’s here. She’s choking Evan Hanley like a Sith badass, and she sizes Quentin up with more potential energy than Pavarotti on the high dive. Her mission is to Get Barnabas, and all it takes is once glance, like an erotically charged Gladys Kravitz, through a window to find that she’s arrived just in time to straighten out the unheavenly hash of that no good, two-timing, hemopathic husband of hers, running around with the reincarnated spirit of his dead fiance again, mere hours after he’s out of the coffin. She cannot let him out of her sight for a mere century, and he’s back at it again. The louse.

She really holds a grudge, but do you blame her? You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, and at the rate she went in 1795, she broke enough eggs to run an IHOP. She didn’t just pop out of her hammock one day in Martinique and decide that she was tired of kicking around the Islands, so she might as well disguise herself as a domestic, do back-breaking labor for a year or two, then kill almost everyone in a small, Maine coastal village. You know, if she could have accomplished her ends without all that bloodshed, I suspect she would have done so.

The poor demoness is not back for fifteen minutes before she sees that all of that work was for naught. Barnabas is back in the arms of that woman, but it hasn’t gone far enough that a good doll-stranglin’ won’t help. It’s kind of hard not to cheer her on... quietly.

There’s a payoff, too. I’m not sure that we can sense it’s coming, but it would be gratuitous, well, fan service,  to bring her back without a justification.

1897 is about transformation. A European society becoming an American one. One century becoming anothert. Quentin, not just becoming a werewolf, but becoming a man of the saddest maturity. Barnabas, finally mastering the game he was dealt into a century earlier. And Angelique?

This is her great maturing as well, going from declaring Barnabas a mutual enemy with Quentin to saving his life, turning him human, and aiding his fight with Laura. Not cleanly. Not without ambiguity. But with a firmness that will carry her well into 1970 and backwards to 1840. Unless it’s the other way around.

Quentin only meets her once before dubbing her a beautiful, blackhearted child of the angels. A contradictory description more apt than any other. With her landing, the show finally and truly gives itself permission to become Dark Shadows. Whether it’s Liz transforming from murderous to mother or Vicki finally understanding, Dark Shadows is about transformation more than anything else. After all, what is a shadow of the transformation of light to darkness and back again?  At this very moment, the show, itself, transforms.

69 years before the first episode even began.

This episode hit the airwaves March 17, 1969.
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