Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 25


Taped on this day in 1967: Episode 248

When Barnabas woos Maggie with a tour of Collinsport’s cozier hideaways, will Willie provide a rude awakening? Maggie Evans: Kathryn Leigh Scott. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Barnabas punishes Maggie with an overday stay in a coffin. When she returns to the Old House, her true personality seems to permanently reemerge.

We’ve been teased for long enough. Maggie Evans knows that she’s Maggie Evans, but how are we supposed to feel?

If the original viewers of the show were cheering her on, the character of Barnabas would have had no future. If those familiar with the show say they are cheering her on, they aren’t that familiar with it after all.

This is the crux of the show’s most morally challenging storyline, but it’s not morally challenging for the characters. The compass there is clear. The challenge is for you, the viewer. Do you side with the character you know is destined to save the future, motivated by love and desperation, despite knowing that he is wrong? Or do you side with the brave, tortured woman you know will be free in time? It’s an ugly choice. If I were you, I wouldn’t even dignify the question. The show is relentless in confronting us with it, anyway, even though we may equivocate with, “neither” or, “both” or, “Are you crazy?”

It’s borrowing a page from Vertigo, and in that, too, we tacitly approve of extreme behavior by men toward women because we know there is a larger purpose. The difference is that Judy is not only responsible for Scotty’s pain, but (through complicity) the murder of Madeline. And Jimmy Stewart is not an undead hemovore (in that movie, anyway). With Barnabas, it’s more complicated. Maybe. Both men are driven by love. Both men are forcibly improving class status. And both men suspect that the true object of their affections lurks within. You realize that it’s a dark Cinderella, right?

There are different and theoretically forbidden dimensions to this entire topic for both men and women. Yeah, it’s clear why it’s abhorrent. Now, let’s talk about why it’s appealing, anyway. Not okay, but strangely appealing.

For women, let’s talk about the appeal first from what’s not going on. There’s no rape, and I can’t emphasize the power of that. Despite everything that’s going on, sexual violation isn’t one of them. In fact, there’s not even the hint. This is a driven and insistent and personal desire that involves who Maggie/Josette truly is rather than what she can do. Sex is fungible. Josette is not. With that off the table, the idea of this crime is one of the most flattering in the arena of the totally reprehensible. An all-powerful uber-patriarch comes to life and has only one focus: to love. Unlike Laura, there is no sacrifice involved. Yes, yes, Maggie will become one of the living dead, but in a very attractive, powerful, immortal way and, well, you gotta die sometime.

The prime demographic here (at this point in the run) is women home at four in the afternoon every weekday. I don’t need a Betty Friedan on my shoulder to both dislocate it and tell me that there’s a good chance this viewer might feel marginalized and unfulfilled. As much as Maggie screams for pop-pop-pop, she kind of has to. The story would be over if she didn’t. No one wants their identity replaced, but from the objective view of the audience, there are worse trades given the Byronic pining of her “host.” Josette sounds pretty great, and Maggie is a character destined for exactly the fate of many viewers… the beleaguered housewife of a working-class barfly who comes home every night stinking of dead shellfish and Kools. Go to bed with Joe Haskell and wake up with Curly Joe DeRita.

It’s quite the briar patch over at the Old House, and other than forgetting the forgettable minutiae of her former life, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of privation here. Yes, lack of air conditioning, but it’s Maine, you know?

For male viewers? I’m not sure there were many back then. But it’s clear that, while Barnabas’ desperate methods are cruel, his motives are not. Jonathan Frid projected a pain, melancholy, and lingering, unresolved desire better than any other actor in the medium. We have been there. I’m not going to say “incel,” because of the terrible baggage that perfectly decent descriptor (coined as a self-reference by a woman, I am led to believe) immediately gave itself, but… he didn’t explicitly ask for this. If a grown man is sitting around watching Dark Shadows, I can tell you that either his dance card is empty or he certainly knows what an empty one looks like. And while no rational human would contemplate kidnapping and brainwashing, Barnabas is s’darn earnest that we know that his motives are pure and motivated by a sense of profound loss, one that even the mighty, 1795 storyline strains itself to justify.

The fact that Barnabas loses her repeatedly in this, concluding in the shattering realization that he has caused the (supposed) death of another innocent person, is the ultimate comeuppance. His crime? The desire to not be alone. Yes, a phallocentric quest for power, but power over what was lost. Power to undo a crime of jealousy. And not Barnabas’.

If it sounds like I’m defending the undefendable, I am. But so is the show, because this man transforms into its hero, and we all kept watching. The reasons run deep.

This episode hit the airwaves on June 7, 1967.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

It's World Dracula Day!

1897 is an important year 'round these parts. Not only was it the setting for Dark Shadows' popular and creative peak, it was the year Bram Stoker's Dracula first reached readers. It wasn't the first vampire novel, but it has stood the test of time and proven itself the most important of its kind. Every vampire story since has had to define itself against Stoker's novel ... no matter the author's intentions.

Dracula was released on this day in 1897, which has since been recognized as World Dracula Day. Even though I know there are objectively better books out there (such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein) it's been my favorite for as long as I can remember. As a character, Dracula has proven to be endlessly malleable, warping into various identities over the last 120+ years. Dracula has become the Jerry Cornelius of bloodsuckers since falling into public domain, taking on various names and faces as he's spread virally across media. Dracula has fought Billy the Kid, crossed wits with The X-Men, and adopted pseudonyms like Johnny AlucardVladislav the PokerJerry Dandrige and yes ... Barnabas Collins. There will be Dracula stories long after we're all gone.

To celebrate, all of the vampire-related listings at Unlovely Frankenstein are on sale today for 25% off. Featured are my prints inspired by Vampira, the 1931 Dracula feature and its 1936 sequel Dracula's Daughter, Fright Night, House of Dark Shadows and more. You can find the sales listings at

(Note: Episode 761 of Dark Shadows aired on this date in 1969. Set during durng the 1897 arc, the episode had Barnabas Collins engaging in some decidedly un-Dracula-like adventures, particularly the rescue of Nora and Jamison from a fire.)

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 23


Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 765

As Barnabas pumps Beth for information, will Magda pump Quentin full of silver bullets? She’s locked, loaded, and ready to say “I’m sorry” six times in a row. Alex Stevens: Quentin Collins. (Repeat; 30 min.)

With a wolf on the prowl, Barnabas knows that Beth holds the key to its secret. Barnabas bites her, and she informs him that the wolf is Quentin and that Quentin has a legacy he doesn’t even know about: two children. Magda, rife with remorse, hunts the wolf, as the wolf stalks the estate. Finally, Magda shoots the wolf, but fatally?

It would be inaccurate and hyperbolic of me to say this episode is “pure action,” so I will. For Dark Shadows, this is pure action. And if Dark Shadows action has a name (other than Thayer David), it’s Alex Stevens. We owe him a lot. He performs several spectacular falls in this one, on par with his astoundingly Marvel Comics explosion through the Evans Cottage window earlier in the series. His greatest stunt may have involved padding on the floor, but I didn’t see it, and the sudden reality of it is stunning. On the attack, the werewolf leaps over the railing on the second story landing in the foyer, lands, and keeps going. If you own an ankle, you realize what an impressive stunt this is, simply in its blunt relatability. It’s a straightforward moment, and it may be the most magical sight on the show.

Because special effects are clearly unreal, even at their most realistic, they are inherently devoid of wonder. The great Ray Harryhausen may be a magnificent artist and technician, but magician, he ain’t. Even when his work defined ‘state of the art,’ the herky-jerky movement and weirdness of scale immediately told you to start using euphemisms like “heightened” later on lest you be harassed by his devotees.

Magic is different. Magic shows the impossible as possible and leaves as the only conclusion: this happened. At that point, apologies to the makeup crew, Stevens could have gotten away with no appliances at all. Just a t-shirt that said, “werewolf,” and we’d be sold. It’s a moment of sudden wonder, and suddenly, from the floor up, Collinwood stops being symbolic of anything and becomes a real place.

It taped today, but it played on Friday, May 30, and I think that’s a symbolic day. It’s a good day to bring in a werewolf at his most exciting. And I hope the choice was strategic. This was, for many, the last day of school for three glorious months. In the past few days, Jonathan Frid and David Selby had recorded their contributions to the album, Original Music From Dark Shadows, which would become a massive hit in that year of massive hits. Viewmaster reels were steady sellers. It was the year of the Barnabas Collins Dark Shadows Board Game. And this one, action-packed, exposition packed installment slammed the locker door on school for the best part of the best year of the best show that millions of kids had ever seen. It was the last day they had to run home from anywhere to see it, and the writers ensured that the marathon mattered. It certainly feels as if there is more screentime for Stevens than on any other episode of the program.

Dark Shadows may have very well been at its zenith. Ratings and demographics were measured differently then, and so I can’t state anything definitively about who was watching. My instinct tells me that, given the items for sale and the significance of the day, this may be one of the most-enjoyed episodes of the entire series. It was certainly the most meaningful for a nation of kids. I don’t need anthropological data to back me up on that.

A great episode? Certainly. Mature? Thank goodness, no. You have bats. Beth, with a vampire’s dream of an endless neck, bitten and controlled. Barnabas learns of Quentin’s curse, the children, and finally, what he’s doing in 1897 at all. The last part is the vegetables of the episode, but at least there’s cheese sauce. The enlightenment of Barnabas Collins has been coming for months and months, and you know the writers are planning something big when they finally plug in the light bulb over his head. Now, equipped with as much of the truth as anyone knows, the adventure of 1897 should be concluding. Barnabas should be climbing into his coffin for the voyage home.

Of course, a certain Count is about to hear that a certain body part is waiting for him in Collinsport. And if stuntman Alex Stevens is magic, the Count is sorcery. 

This episode hit the airwaves on May 30, 1969.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 19


Taped on this day in 1969: Episode761

When Edward gains proof of the evil of the supernatural, will he become Collinsport’s last, best hope for victory? Edward Collins: Louis Edmonds. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Barnabas rescues the children by teleporting in, which causes the flames to die out. Edward, now having realized that Laura was a creature of the supernatural, vows to protect Collinwood from the occult. He’d better hurry, because Quentin and Evan have a Satan to summon!

With Laura dead, and that part of the series’ auto-remake out of the way, Mission: 1897 really flies off into new territory. Quentin’s transformation has begun. (So has Magda’s.) It’s a sobering transformation, so at least they keep him good and sauced, which is always entertaining. But equally entertaining and surprisingly mature is the evolution that goes largely unnoticed: Edward, played with comic exaggeration and human texture by the reliably underestimated Louis Edmonds. And he evolves in more ways than one. He’s one of my favorite characters in the series, the very picture of a Victorian straight-man. But let’s not limit him to that. In just this episode alone, he heals and matures in surprising ways and galvanizes into something beautifully ludicrous and completely understandable...

Edward Collins -- Monster Hunter.

It’s the evolution of Joshua, who lived for denial, and a rebuke toward Roger, who lived for willful ignorance. In between, with all of the insanity endured for a hundred years, you’d think that one Collins would grow a little backbone, believe what’s clearly going on, and grab the stake & hammer. In Edward, they do. And for a post-Dickensian cartoon, Edward is a surprisingly modern man. He’s a single father, now for reals, and his warmth toward his children is wholly authentic and heartwarming. Quentin, it seems, never robbed him of a wife because he never really had one. With that new perspective, of course, he must mend the family. Now that Judith has the wealth and Trask is amassing the power, all of the external sources of Edward’s anticipated identity vanished in months. What’s left but to be a genuine mensh? His relationships are all he has, and he’s no longer the forbidding iceberg. He’s Roger and Liz’s grandpa-in-waiting.

More than that, all of the forces he once saw as corrupting to that sense of John Harvey Kellogg propriety are, well, not that important. He’s now the Lovecraft hero who decides to strike back. That journey will take him to Barnabas. I think he has it in for Barnabas because Barnabas shames him by implication. He’s the guy who didn’t settle down. But he’s disciplined, unlike Quentin, concerned for others, unlike Carl, and warm, unlike Edward. He even macks on the KLS character with appropriately hygienic restraint. Barnabas is living the Edwardian bachelor dream, then proceeds to go full-on superhero. Did Edward save his kids? No, Barnabas did. Edward will have to kill Barnabas to become him. The fact that he’s a vampire is the berries in the sloe gin. This is secretly the story of Edward Collins becoming the best of the 20th century as Quentin retreats from being the worst of it.

And there’s the mustache, too.

This episode hit the airwaves on May 26, 1969

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 12


Taped on this day in 1967: Episode 236

When Barnabas has the chance to deprogram Josette from thinking herself to be a Twentieth Century diner waitress, will he be thwarted by Joe’s plan to keep her in rags? Maggie: Kathryn Leigh Scott. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Showing amazing and inevitable power, Barnabas kidnaps Maggie from her hospital room after she is on the brink of death. Joe, Sam, and Burke investigate at the Old House, but Maggie stays hidden. Afterward, Barnabas begins his hypnotic conversion of Maggie to Josette.

This is why we love Dark Shadows. This is also an exquisite example of a note that no one could sustain. It’s a poignant, black gem of fear. Not of the would-be victim’s fear of injury. No, it’s the would-be villain’s fear of loss. The question is, “Did this change horror and the genre’s moral compass forever?”

In its structure, it does the job of both horror and romance, which is to slide us out of the real world and into a realm of new rules but no rulebook. From hospital to cemetery to the Old House drawing room to the aspirational honesty in Josette’s bedroom, we progress from a medical bed of science and truth to a sumptuous memory palace of a bed-chamber where the truth is whatever we want more than anything… without hearing the dissent of reality that might break the spell.

Why does Dark Shadows work? This is why. It reorients the horror audience to openly value what they only secretly admired: the quest of monsters to become gods, retaining their resplendent anti-humanity while enjoying the richest fruits of emotional fulfillment. We don’t root for Maggie to escape as much as we hope that Barnabas succeeds. Maggie’s life is far blander than even our own, and what would we not give to be the prized gem of someone with the keys to Tiffany’s? It’s high time Maggie hung up the apron and donned the finery of a most elegant age. Why not be adored?

And what keeps Barnabas from being a kidnapping stalker? Or simply being a kidnapping stalker? There’s a lot, and those things are what cements the uniqueness of the show and explains its success. By introducing Laura and Barnabas and the ghost of Josette, the show establishes that mortality is not just a one-way, seventy-five year trip in Collinsport. It’s completely possible for something in the present to not just look like a thing from the past, but to be that thing from the past. Every time that Barnabas looks at himself in the sketch based on the mirror, he sees this.

So, could Maggie be some form of Josette? Given her exactish resemblance to the ghost of said, I would say yes. The show backs me up on this.

Once you have seen the 1795 flashback, you’re robbing yourself if you choose to ignore it when viewing these early episodes. It may not have been part of the production up to that point, but it does become a part of the overall story, and to subsequently avoid it is like chipping the chocolate off Raisinets. 

Barnabas may be right for other reasons. Whether or not we know about the persistent Collins physical DNA. Or Parallel Time. Or the nearly half-dozen methods the show establishes for time travel. Once we look back on this over the shoulders of Jeff Clark, the most amazing method is simply the act of loving enough and in the right way. And it is poetically correct.

Much has been said about Jonathan Frid’s performance… the courtliness, the lack of open eros, the performer’s own fear that bled into the scenes. Let us match or exceed those claims with praise for his professionalism. It is the supreme mandate to the actor to be truthful, moment to moment. Part of that is to forbid anticipating endings and telegraphing the message. Villains and heroes only exist through the eyes of audience members. A villain has often laudable goals… to the villain. Barnabas is on a search-and-rescue to take someone from the real world and convince her that she’s a princess. And not as a practical joke.

That’s what Frid is playing, sincerely, moment by moment. He just accompanies that with a ruthlessness that matches the stakes of his pursuit. He comes from an era when people burned cats in gunnysacks for amusement and saw nothing unusual in the practice. Putting Maggie in a gunnysack as a dress? That’s nothing.

As Barnabas announces his old world plan to Maggie, the new world Joe’s bewilderment, Sam’s desperation, and Burke’s hardheadedness loses a lot of luster. He offers something positive other than more-of-the-same with a hearty side of pregnancy-based body dysmorphia crowned with an unhealthy dollop of irreversible aging.

This was a decadently noir romance before Hot Topic and Torrid brought the concept into elegant respectability. Dan Curtis and Ron Sproat went to the heart of what their key demographic wanted, and they did so ten-to-forty years before Joss Whedon, Anne Rice, Stephanie Meyers, and other people whose names I’m glad to have forgotten. It’s not enough to be desired. You must be desired by the antithesis of the guy who should worship you, and yet he doesn’t. If Barnabas were any more antithetical to the Schlitz-swilling husbands of 1967 middle America, he’d be a woman. And in his own way, he comes awfully close.

Which may be the ultimate secret. Perhaps the first wave of fans did not want woman, but they wanted a man, for once, to treat them as they would treat the object of their affections. Barnabas dotes, but he does so in ways that provide him with no immediate, sensory gratification. He is giving her what she ostensibly values, not to advertise what he values on her. Millions of women have asked for that for centuries. One vampire listened.
This episode hit the airwaves on May 22, 1967

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 6


Taped on this day in 1970: Episode 1013

When a transporter accident finds Barnabas in Angelique’s bedroom, will it cause Daniel’s voice to drop two octaves? Daniel Collins: David Henesy. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Barnabas and Quentin chat about Parallel Time, and while loitering in the room alone, Barnabas is discovered by Daniel. Meanwhile, an ugly and inaccurate portrait of Maggie arrives from Italy, initiating Quentin’s knife-wielding psychotic break.

Solve a mystery. Get out of town. Become a flaming sword of art criticism. So many choices for a tourist. Barnabas Collins is a busy man in Parallel Time. As is the show, having near-slumbered in a pleasant irrelevance for weeks now with David Selby charged with making Quentin as evil as possible, Lara Parker exploring why playing anyone other than Angelique is boring, and Chris Pennock eviscerating a philosophically Byzantine meditation on good and evil from under profoundly bad hair.

Dark Shadows continues a comeback so powerful that it shakes up the view of the show as it’s recently been and accidentally sets a bar for imaginative entertainment that the upcoming movie will be hard-pressed to match. You can almost hear Joe Caldwell telling Sam Hall and Gordon Russell to hold his martini and stand back. He wrote half of the PT storyline, and now that he has the casting keys to the car, I hope it’s insured. It strikes me as a show he tended as well as he could while everyone was away, because he’s been planning exactly where he wants to go.

It’s a rich, teasingly absurd, and breakneck episode that begins with Quentin and Barnabas wasting no time talking about what they saw in Primary Time. Quentin suspects that Barnabas has crossed over, and his reason for concern is hilariously valid. Primary Time referred to him as ‘cursed,’ and that’s enough to count Quentin out. I’m glad that modern-day Parallel Time takes curses seriously. Maybe they watch Dark Shadows over there. Maybe that’s how Quentin knows that curses are bad luck. Hey, what a minute. If they make Dark Shadows in Primary Time and watch it in Parallel Time, does that make us… Parallel Time, too? I wonder who I am over there. Whatever he is, his hair is bigger.

It leads into a lovely scene where detente has been called and the two men, Jonathan Frid and David Selby, get to do something they’ve done very little of in a long time: act together. They more-or-less sit and chat. We see two generations of acting styles in a peculiar dance across the drawing room, and it might as well be across the Atlantic as well. Selby’s more relaxed, yet Frid seems like he’s working less and maybe having a tad more fun. He finally gets to openly admit that he finds Angelique attractive without it becoming the talk of the Collinsport High cafeteria.

Of course, all Barnabas wants to do is leave. So much so that he uses his rare power of teleportation to skip the front door and beam directly into the room. If he can do that, I wish he would just hide out in a closet there and wait for the changeover. But he would have to find an excuse. The only logical one would be transvestism, which would mean long hours trying on Angelique’s outfits. If he liked it, what then? And is he only a transvestite for her PT wardrobe? And then what’s he do when Daniel comes in? Am I the only one who notices that David Henesy’s voice has changed? The whole subject should make us all uncomfortable. Not because transvestism is wrong. But because they are not his clothes, and in no universe does Brewsters carry a merry widow in a 44 long. Daniel is going to inherit those clothes one day, and they don’t need to be all stretched out by Barnabas.

Back to teleportation, please. I mean, if you don’t mind. Stop accusing Barnabas of these things. He’s a Canadian for god’s sake.

So, he teleports very rarely. Is it when he’s just fed? Or is it because he’s in a mirror universe, and he’s a little showier because that’s what you do on vacation? Or did his powers sort of bottle up when he was in the coffin all those weeks? (And let me ask you this, in a mirror universe, should people only see his reflection? That’s creepy, and god forbid a vampire be that.) He has to let them out. Because, in the Barnabas superpower department, he’s really a showboat in this one, using all sorts of abilities that would have come in handy if only he hadn’t borrowed Sam Hall’s Neil Sedaka records and refused to give them back. That’s the real reason the writers were so stingy with the guy.

Players of RPG’s should especially sympathize with Barnabas since he’s like a character who has to roll dice to see if he can use an ability. But he rolls a natural 20 with hypnotizing Daniel, and you have almost see Barnabas snap his fingers of his left hand into the flattened palm of his right and muse, “Still got it, baby. Still got it.”

The real villain of this episode is the props department. Who doesn’t get a great portrait on the show? Barnabas gets two. Quentin gets two. Angelique gets two or three (if you count the movie). So, yes, it’s Maggie’s turn. The portrait that Quentin had commissioned in Italy is, um… it’s to portraiture what the Tower of Pisa is to perpendicularity. KLS deserves better, and I don’t think it’s out of order to send letters to MPI demanding a digital fix. On a show with very good props, this is embarrassingly bad. It’s not even symbolic of a prop. No wonder Quentin takes a knife to it.

It’s both the low and high point in an episode of high points, and it is one of the rare points that the forgivable theatricality of the show begins to buckle.

When Kramer gets a better portrait than Maggie Evans Collins, it’s time to sit down with the art department, tell them that you’re sorry for being away so long shooting the movie, and that you promise to take them with you next time.

Do the right thing.

This episode hit the airwaves on May 13, 1970.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Dark Shadows Daybook: May 4


Taped on this day in 1970: Episode 1012

Barnabas Collins turns Parallel Time upside down when he masquerades as the fiery fruit of his own loins… Latin Love style! Parallel Ghost of Joshua Collins: Louis Edmonds. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Barnabas turns the tables on Will and enslaves him. After meeting the PT Quentin with the Latin American version of his “English Branch” story, he visits Collinwood to help investigate the portal room to his own time band. There, he and Quentin see Dr. Julia Hoffman.

This show crackles with more energy than it has had since Vicki returned from 1795. House of Dark Shadows finally finished, the cast reunites with a satisfying symmetry that makes us realize exactly what we’ve been missing. Not only that but at long last, we learn the real secret of Barnabas Collins.

Captains Log: Barnabas is back in every sense. Vampire. Heroic protagonist. Confident and cruel towards those who earned it. He begins by savoring the power he has over his former captor, Will Loomis. The vampire’s new target could easily wind up in the coffin, himself, and would last for considerably less time. It’s the first time we’ve seen him with such bravado since before the Leviathan sequence. Perhaps he just takes to travel. He’s happier to use his powers when away “from home,” because this is all a rental, anyway. Not that he’s reckless. He runs crosswise to Lee’s Law of “with great power comes great responsibility.”  Barnabas is the embodiment of the Collins Corrolary, “With great power comes great skepticism.” Most people view a certain gentility as fey cowardice. Perhaps it’s just plain ol’ wisdom. The more extreme the action taken, the more information you’re obligated to have before taking it.

Run through the series once or twice, and the story seems to be “about” forgiveness. But let’s wind that backward one step. What are we forgiving? Taking action before all of the facts are in. Not looking before we leap off Widow’s Hill. Did Barnabas countenance that he might actually be in love with Angelique before teasing her with a tryst? Did Barnabas, an admittedly bad shot, consider that he might not kill Angelique when he fired his flintlock at her? How she might retaliate? What about trying to propel himself into parallel time with only a passing knowledge of that brave, newish world? Or there’s the whole kidnapping of Maggie thing. That one left a mark.

Not that it’s always a weakness. His willingness to take risks while terrified is also his great strength. I Ching trances. Smashing the equipment in the lab and sending Nicholas back Hell. Willing himself through time to 1796 despite Julia’s nagging. These are things he has to do, but he’s learning to know when those times are. Whether he’s rife with the exercise of 1790’s, aristocratic privilege, or the savage capacity for the vampire to capture, control, and consume, the Barnabas we know is rarely as powerless as he seems. He’s often caught between regretting drastic actions while fretting the mundane.

What’s changed? Nothing except for weeks of encapsulated captivity at the hands of Will Loomis. For the second time in his life, he’s thrust back into a necrotic womb. When he emerges in 1967, it’s with the madness that comes from facing the inescapable darkness alone. In Parallel Time, he’s not alone. He has Will’s incessant inquiries to give him purpose… and a reason to plan revenge. And he has the nature of Will’s questions. For the first time, he has the involuntary and blood-starved peace and quiet to examine the life he’s led. Will gives him no choice. He also gives Barnabas a sounding board that roots him in the real world whereas before, his coffin-time sent his mind funhousing inward. If anything, this is the final climb outward. Upon his escape from Will’s capture, his transformation is complete. Will asks if he thought of transforming Josette, and it’s as if that one question focuses the world for Barnabas Collins for the last time.

Barnabas secures Loomis in a cage of intimidation, shakes Quentin’s hand, stares down Parallel Angelique, and teams up with the head of the household to solve the mystery of the portal room, all within fifteen minutes. No wonder the show felt so jarringly fast from this point until it would leave the airwaves; it finally had a main character who could not only act but who knew when to do so.

Jonathan Frid’s return is desperately welcomed. Not just because we miss him, but because the ensemble feels right, at long last. Quentin does so little in the primary time present. Seeing him alongside Frid, flanked by Lara Parker and Grayson Hall, with Will Loomis just a set away, is what Dark Shadows is all about. The arguable failure of House of Dark Shadows becomes clear, here. Parker and Selby are phantom limbs we sense with a subconscious panic when they are missing. Without them, Barnabas must be his own foil and his film’s own villain. It was written precisely so that someone could mind the store while the rest filmed the movie. In that time, something was missing in the alchemy of both Shadows, whether on tv or in widescreen. It was the chemistry of the show -- not what was there when it started, but what they found from that point of departure.

They are reunited with a new Barnabas for the first time all over again. The show, at long last, will never be what it was. Revisiting established plot elements is not just an interesting option; it’s the only option. It’s the test. And it’s one that Barnabas Collins may actually finally pass.

This episode hit the airwaves on May 12, 1970.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

The Last Drive-In of Dark Shadows

I'll never get over hearing my name on television, even though I'm not sure I've ever heard my real name on television. That's the problem with working behind multiple pseudonyms and cutouts ... the Wizard of Oz gets all the press while Professor Marvel has to deal with the psychological fallout. I've had more personalities than a Batman villain, one of which was drummer in my band  (I was also a singer/guitarist in the group under a second pseudonym) who went on to win a state press award for "critical writing" about classic rock. I later killed this character off in an unsurprising motel fire. For those of you who want to argue that this guy was never real, I've got a plaque from the state press association that proves otherwise. RIP Lester Dented, fake drummer extraordinaire.

Last night two of my other identities got a shout out on The Last Drive-In With Joe Bob Briggs. Cousin Barnabas (which is both my Twitter handle and my Google ID for this website) and The Collinsport Historical Society received the Silver Bolo Award at the tail end of the live stream of 1988's Heathers. The award is "a weekly recognition of horror creators across the innerwebs" and it was immensely flattering. I have Diana “Darcy the Mail Girl” Prince, a fellow South Carolinian whose son happens to be a fan of all things Collinwood, to thank for this award.

And here's where that personality crisis finds its way back to the stage. While this website is my vision, it can't be argued by anyone that I've done it alone. I've benched myself for much of the last year, letting Patrick McCray keep the lights on while I take a sabbatical from Collinsport. (I've been pecking away at a story about Dark Shadows' migration from Amazon Prime to iMDB TV but have been stymied by a lack of online data related to both streaming services.) There are a LOT of other people who pitch in, but I'll refrain from naming names out of terror that someone will be forgotten. This website stands as a testimony to their passion for Dark Shadows, so feel free to poke around in our archives. They've done a lot of great work and would enjoy hearing from you.

JB & D
For those of you here primarily  for the Dark Shadows news, make sure you check out on The Last Drive-In With Joe Bob Briggs on Shudder. I've become an apostle for the channel during the last year or so, singing its praises every chance I get. The channel is the best argument I've seen for the value of a curated streaming service. And even without its generally excellent content, The Last Drive-In is worth the price of a subscription, alone. I've got a kindergartner in the house, so it's sometimes a challenge to watch horror movies without damaging him for life. There have been months where I've been able to watch nothing except The Last Drive-In ... and I still feel like I got my money's worth. Cousin Barnabas says check it out!

- Wallace McBride
(probably my real name)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...