Tuesday, March 31, 2009

House of Dark Shadows on iTunes

While DVDs of the Dark Shadows films aren't due until 2010, House of Dark Shadows has recently been made available in digital download format via the iTunes Store. This new release makes use of a recent 16:9 widescreen transfer from the original materials, offering superior picture quality to the VHS version. The movie retails for $9.99.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Postcard from the Past

"Dear Julia,

How are you? Weather in 1897 is lovely, and I've bought a nice new furry collar for my cape. Am thinking that I maybe should have paid more attention to Stokes' warnings about dangerously altering established history. Might only be a hiccup, but this week I've managed to dispatch Laura Collins in a ball of flame, and then turned Dirk Wilkins into a vampire, resulting in a rampage across the Collins estate, ending in the murder of Rachel Drummond and Carl's girlfriend Pansy.

Oh yes... Carl. Ended up killing him as well, after he discovered my secret. And might have picked a bit of a fight with Reverend Trask... yes, he's here too. But otherwise, things are going quite well. I think the Collins family are very fortunate to have me here to look after them.

Anyway, must get back to it... hope all's well.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Amazon DVD Sale

For a limited time, Amazon.com are holding a special sale of Dark Shadows DVD Collections, with all 32 titles in MPI's complete episode box sets cut by at least 50 percent Here are ordering links for the discounted titles:

Dark Shadows: The Beginning (pre-Barnabas episodes):

Dark Shadows DVD Collections (episodes from Barnabas' arrival onwards):

Audio Dramas Distribution Update

As previously reported, Big Finish have succeeded in gaining wider distribution for their Dark Shadows CD audio dramas, which have been repackaged for the US market. The initial wave of DVD case reissues are now available, which can be read about here, and Amazon are now listing the next three titles, which are now available to order:

The Skin Walkers Starring David Selby and Lara Parker
The Path of Fate Starring Lara Parker and David Selby
The Wicked and the Dead Starring Jerry Lacy and John Karlen

As before, the new editions are only available for pre-order from Amazon directly; third party sellers will be offering the existing CD jewel case versions.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dark Shadows Movie "Active"

MTV's Movie Blog has posted an update on the proposed Warner Bros Dark Shadows movie, due to begin filming later this year, starring Johnny Depp. Sam Sakar, head of development at Depp's Infinitum-Nihil production company declined to comment on rumours of Tim Burton directing, but confirmed Depp's involvement and said that the project is "very active... The studio will be making some announcements regarding it pretty soon."

Sakar also talks about the pitfalls of adapting the show's mammoth episode count for the big screen, the producers' commitment to preserving the show's unique flavour, and the potential for Dark Shadows to form an ongoing film franchise. To read the complete feature, click here.

A Chat About Dan

The Television Horrors of Dan Curtis has just been released, a new book offering a scholarly overview of the Dark Shadows creator's work. Here are some words from its author, Jeff Thompson.

When did you first start watching Dark Shadows and what attracted you to the show?

I first saw Dark Shadows in September 1967. I ran across it by accident when I was home sick from elementary school. The first scene of that episode involved David, Sarah and Barnabas, so the sight of kids my own age encountering a vampire hooked me on the show instantly! I watched Dark Shadows until 1971.

How did you come to write The Television Horrors of Dan Curtis?

In 2005, I wrote entries about five of Dan Curtis' movies for a multi-author book about loss of identity in films. In 2006, Dan Curtis died, and the Scoop website asked me to write an obituary for him. At that moment, I was pondering what the subject of my Ph.D. dissertation should be – I was considering film noir – when I realised that I should write more about Dan Curtis and give him and his works some scholarly recognition. My 2007 doctoral dissertation about Dan Curtis turned in to my 2009 book about him for McFarland.

How would you define the Dan Curtis' unique approach to horror?

Curtis's films feature a unique blend of classic horror and modern horror. Curtis was making his horror productions in the 1960s and 1970s, as classic Gothic horror – in the styles of Universal and Hammer films – was giving way to more graphic, brutal horror – things like Night of the Living Dead and The Last House on the Left. Curtis used elements of both traditional, atmospheric horror and more visceral, explicit horror in his remarkable films.

What do you think is Dan Curtis's finest horror production – the one that sums up this entire approach to the genre?

Dr. Will Brantley, the director of my doctoral dissertation, asked me this same question. I feel that Burnt Offerings is Dan Curtis' greatest horror film because of its bigger budget, star power, fidelity to Robert Marasco's original novel, and its effective blend of scary haunted house atmosphere and deeply shocking moments. Curtis himself felt that making a successfully scary movie was difficult, but that he had mastered the skill – especially in the last 15 minutes of Burnt Offerings, of which he was very proud.

Finally, why should Dark Shadows fans read your book?

We Dark Shadows fans can never know enough about our beloved show and its prolific creator, so we are always eager for new and in-depth information. Although I have loved and studied Dark Shadows for more than four decades, I learned a great deal more as I conducted research for my book. I believe that my fellow fans will enjoy perusing my findings and making new connections among Dan Curtis' films and their literary antecedents. Also, the book's 69 unusual photographs are not to be missed!

To order The Television Horrors of Dan Curtis from Amazon, click here.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Television Horrors of Dan Curtis

Academic publishers McFarland have just released The Television Horrors of Dan Curtis, a detailed analysis of the work and career of creator of Dark Shadows. The 200-page hardcover book features photographs and a foreword by Jim Pierson of Dan Curtis Productions.

Author Jeff Thompson is a longtime Dark Shadows fan historian, who has contributed to this site, notably this feature on the Gold Key comic books.

To order The Television Horrors of Dan Curtis from Amazon at a discounted price, click here.

Bonnet Watch

That will be all.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Actor News

  • Ben Cross (1991 Barnabas) can be seen in trailers for J.J. Abrams forthcoming Star Trek movie. Ben plays Spock's father, Sarek.
  • Lysette Anthony (1991 Angelique) is a guest star in Dark Shadows audio producers Big Finish's latest series of Doctor Who dramas. Lysette guests in Hothouse, due out on CD and download in April. For more information, click here.
  • Ely Pouget (1991 Maggie) guested as a psychiatrist in the March 11 episode of CBS' The Young and the Restless. The episode is available to view for a limited time here.
  • Matt Czuchry (2004 Willie) has been cast in a new CBS pilot, The Good Wife. The show will also star ER actress Julia Margulies.

Monday, March 9, 2009

MIchael T. Weiss in Impressionism

Michael T. Weiss (1991 Joe) is appearing off-Broadway in the play Impressionism, alongside Jeremy Irons, Joan Allen, and Marsha Mason, who – for a bonus Dark Shadows connection – cameoed in the Leviathan storyline on the original series. 

The show is currently running previews ahead of beginning an 18-week run from March 12 at New York's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. To find out more about the production, visit its official website.

The Chiselers

Marie Wallace (Eve) writes in with this update on her new play The Chiselers, which concluded its run at the weekend. "Our show has been going great – sellouts almost every night and a number of Dark Shadows fans have attended." 

NYTheatre.com praises the production, describing it as a "clever gathering of puns, quips, repartee, and oh, murder... It's a good time, fun silly and entertaining." To read the full review, click hereBroadwayWorld has also published a review of the play, which can accessed here.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

News and Links

At last, some news! Here's what happening in the Dark Shadows world...
  • MGM have reissued their 1991 Dark Shadows revival series DVD with a new cover design. Unfortunately, the episodes are still presented in widescreen, rather than their native 4:3 picture format, but this remains the only official release available. To order the set from Amazon, click here.
  • Fans of the Dark Shadows movies have a wait ahead of them for a release on DVD. The current plan is to issue the films to tie in with the debut of the Johnny Depp Dark Shadows movie project, which is unlikely to happen before the end of 2010.
  • The ShadowGram newsletter has unveiled its official website, which will feature Dark Shadows news updates and actor information. To access it, click here.
  • As his new film Confessions of a Shopaholic hits cinemas, The Australian has published a profile of director PJ Hogan, who helmed the ill-fated 2004 Dark Shadows pilot. To read the article, click here.
  • And, finally, not exactly news, but here's a fascinating webpage from Dark Shadows fan and antique dealer Vince Garcia, detailing the history of Quentin's gramophone prop, with trivia and photographs. Pay a visit by clicking here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Adventures in 1897

Sadly, there is no actual news this week, so instead here are some thoughts on my current Dark Shadows viewing. I recently started re-watching the 1897 flashback – the first time I've seen a sustained run of Dark Shadows episodes in several years. I often dip in and out of isolated shows, but it's no match for proper sit-down storylines. So, like Barnabas, I set off on a quest to discover the mysteries and intrigue of 1897, though admittedly my trip involved deflowering fewer clerics' daughters. So, in no particular order, here are some initial observations:

Firstly, this is one of the most successful revamps of any soap opera ever. Consider the parade of classic characters on show – Quentin, Edward, Judith, Madga – then remember that they were all introduced in the space of two weeks. For all the ramshackle contrivance and bits of story that don't quite pay off, the Dark Shadows writers were geniuses. The early episodes are a brilliant mass of murky double-dealings over Edith Collins' will, as the grisly Collins siblings campaign for their inheritance and a chance to be told the mysterious family secret. The revelation of the secret itself is one of the best shock twists in the history of Dark Shadows – far too good for me to spoil here, so I'll leave it at that. If you haven't seen it, you should.

There's something about the twisted Victorian wonderland of 1897 that feels utterly right for Dark Shadows. Simply put, it's great seeing the show back in The Past, and all concerned clearly have a great time evoking the majesty and richness of The Past. As Edward Collins, Louis Edmonds literally bristles beneath a show-stopping moustache, while the ladies of Collinwood lurk beneath increasingly elaborate hairpieces and hats. Chambermaid Beth's hair seems to grow alarmingly with every passing visit, and her towering thatch of bonnet and barnet is an unchallenged winner until the arrival of Minerva Trask, who stoops to make it through the door of Collinwood, precariously balancing what looks like a dead crow on her head.

In the centre of all this splendor is Quentin Collins, with David Selby hitting the ground running from his very first scene. And what a brilliant creation he is – preening, charming and utterly without scruples, yet very likeable for it. Perhaps Quentin is so agreeable simply because he's funny and David Selby is clearly having the time of his life playing him. Credit to him, he knows his lines, looks great and nails the character so well that he's soon ruling the roost and impossibly makes the whole thing look effortless, even when archly calling Judith "my dear sister" for the 400th time. Quentin is also a brute to boot, and soon no scene of his seems complete without him grasping a relative by the shoulders for a half-hearted shake, before someone totters into frame to interrupt his villainy.

Usually doing that tottering is the delightful Judith Collins, with Joan Bennett giving her all the haughty gusto you'd expect from someone who had spent most of the last three years being agreeable in a succession of nice frocks. It's easy to forget that this snarky old spinster is the closest thing that this Collins family has to a sympathetic character, so it's difficult not to grin when she gloats to her siblings that: "I'm about to read you all your obituaries!" Suffice to say, the reading of the will that follows is every bit as hysterical and overwrought as one would hope.

Adding to the fun is cod gypsy Madga Rakosi, played beneath politically incorrect make-up and flowing black tresses by Grayson Hall. Freed from the exposition-heavy tracts of Dr. Julia Hoffman, Grayson seems to enjoy taking a back seat from the main action, trudging through her scenes with mild disdain, occasionally stepping forward to toss in a sneery one-liner. In a cast of duplicitous characters, Madga is refreshingly direct. Whether she's faux curtseying to "Meestahh Bahhnabasssss" or holding out an expectant hand for money, what you see is what you get.

Alas, what you see is all you get from governess Rachel Drummond, a heroine so heartbreakingly earnest that she probably has the word 'victim' crocheted onto her petticoats. It's not Kathryn Leigh Scott's fault, but compared to the all-guns-blazing personalities surrounding her, Rachel is just a bit wet. She's meant to be sympathetic and nice, but for all the dramatic rules that it might break, Collinwood doesn't need a whole lot of nice.

Her charges are thankfully rather more interesting. At first, Jamison is the only Collins child on show, with frequent references to the mysterious unseen Nora. Initially you might be forgiven for thinking perhaps you'd missed Nora until she finally shows up, with Denise Nickerson giving a performance so big that it was probably audible on rival soap operas. Now, I'll preface this by saying that Denise was a very capable young actress, often more word-perfect than her adult peers, but lordy, there's no chance of missing her in a crowd. "MY MOTHER'S COMING!" Nora wails casually at migraine-inducing volume, cannily turning to face the camera. "I KNOW IT!" she adds helpfully, lest anyone in Collinsport still hasn't heard her.

Back in the range of human hearing is Jamison Collins, played with perpetual wide-eyed fear by David Henesy. He's right to look scared, as Jamison seems to attract sinister adults with alarming regularity. Whether acting as the pawn in Quentin's black magic ceremonies (Quentin sinking to his lowest ever), being possessed by a vengeful spirit, or facing the wrath of Reverend Trask (a genuinely disturbing sequence of heavily-implied child abuse), Jamison is forever a victim adrift in a terrifying world, and one assumes that to the original young audience, he must have been a very affecting character. Alas Barnabas is far too busy to come to his aid, mooning around after Quentin like some time-travelling stalker and biting Charity Trask just because he doesn't like her dad. Priorities, Barnabas, priorities!

But there's still so much I haven't mentioned – brilliant, barking Crazy Jenny, Laura Collins, Worthington Hall! These episodes really have so much going for them, brimming throughout with fruity dialogue and gloriously arch performances. Do check them out if you get the chance.

Episodes 701-736 are part of Dark Shadows DVD Collection 13, available from Amazon.com.