Monday, February 6, 2023

"Unbound" a reminder of the possibilities of "Dark Shadows"

Imagine that you’re a college student in the late 1980s who vaguely recollected reading about a soap opera with a vampire in it. Your local mom-and-pop video store has reissues of that soap opera – on VHS! – Available for rental, $1.99 or 3 for $5. Of *course* you’re going to spend your hard-earned money on renting and watching ...

Because that college student was me, and that video store was my entry into Collinsport and Barnabas Collins, two DS Celebrations, and the writing of fan fiction. (Which is, thankfully, buried somewhere in the bowels of the internet) Flash forward a few years later, and I meet another second-generation Dark Shadows fan. One who shared my not-quite-that-serious love of the show and who was, remarkably, close to my age.  I was the Grayson Hall to his Thayer David...or was I the John Karlen to his David Selby? But several decades later, that friend wrote a collection of essays later published as THE DARK SHADOWS DAYBOOK.

Yes, I am talking about Patrick McCray, and he’s released the inevitable sequel, THE DARK SHADOWS DAYBOOK UNBOUND. But to call UNBOUND a sequel is misleading because it’s so much more than that.

Let me use an analogy: the first DARK SHADOWS DAYBOOK was a kind of “greatest hits” compilation. Put together some great essays about Dark Shadows highlights, throw in a few assorted “should-have-been-hits,” and you have a decent collection. Well worth your time, and your intellect, but a necessary reminder that Dark Shadows matters.

However, the new DARK SHADOWS DAYBOOK UNBOUND is like one of the multi-disc boxed sets you would get in the 90s. (You even get the equivalent of “liner notes” in the form of an excellent introduction by writer/producer Mark B. Perry, working to reincarnate Dark Shadows for the 21st century). After he kicks off the book, Patrick provides a collection of great essays highlighting some of the more intricate emotional beats of the show…

But he also takes time to provide context for those cast members who have left: reminisces about Christopher Pennock, Diana Millay, and Geoffrey Scott are sprinkled amongst the discussion of the work of other cast members like Jonathan Frid, John Karlen, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, David Selby, and Louis Edmonds. It’s a set up for the final set of essays at the end of the book. 

After discussing Episode 1198, DARK SHADOWS DAYBOOK UNBOUND starts its endgame with a moving tribute to Ben Cross, followed by several essays about the 1991 revival. (Yes, he works the same magic for the revival). But it’s the one two-three punch that follows which cements the emotional core of the book. A moving tribute to Mitch Ryan leads to a loving discussion of the 2021 DARK SHADOWS CHRISTMAS CAROL…

And UNBOUND’S endgame is the epilogue to the made-for-television docudrama about Dark Shadows which will never happen. It’s a series of vignettes which focus on the cast, producers, and writers after the show ends, and which solidifies the themes of UNBOUND. 

DARK SHADOWS DAYBOOK UNBOUND is a well-needed reminder that Dark Shadows is more than just “that show that everyone ran home to see” or “that show that I learned about via VHS” or “that soap opera with vampires, ghosts and werewolves.” Integrating gothic and horror concepts within the limits of the soap opera genre, DARK SHADOWS became a singular exploration around themes of remorse, redemption, and character growth. In DAYBOOK UNBOUND, Patrick McCray provides a great reminder that the show not only had an impact on viewers, but also the producers, writers, and cast. 

DARK SHADOWS DAYBOOK UNBOUND is a great reminder of why DARK SHADOWS matters. 

It’s available for purchase on Amazon. Buy it and read it and you’ll be motivated to head back to Tubi, Amazon, or your video collection to revisit the show. 

I know I will.

— Gordon Dymowski 

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