Episode 1150: The Strange Goings-On

“Nothing seems more important to me at the moment than the strange goings-on in this house.”

And so the afternoons wear on, Monday through Friday, and day by day, everyone’s getting a little bit older and a little bit wiser. That’s the usual arrangement, of course, and it generally works out okay, but it’s something of a problem for a television show like Dark Shadows, whose market share is determined by the audience’s appetite for the deeply unwise.

There’s been a steady drumbeat of cultural warning signs over the last year, signaling that the space that Dark Shadows occupies in the American consciousness is destined to be rezoned. There was that push for non-toxic children’s television, which resulted in the fall 1969 debuts of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and Sesame Street. There was the disaster at the Altamont free music festival in December ’69, when everyone discovered, to the surprise of an entire generation, that an enormous crowd of drug-addled young people is not innately loving and peaceful. There was the embarrassing string of House of Dark Shadows ads over the summer promising a “bizarre act of unnatural love,” and the shift in public opinion around April 1970 that made people start to classify Dark Shadows viewers as perverts, dabblers and scag freaks.

And then there’s another case study to consider, as we tumble towards 1971: the fall of Aurora’s Monster Scenes.

We haven’t really talked about the “monster craze” of the late 50s and 60s in this blog, which is probably my fault. I came into this project knowing a lot about soap operas, science fiction and lit crit, and hardly anything about horror films. So I didn’t really know there was such a thing as a monster craze, and nobody ever mentioned it, and here we are in late 1970, at the hind end of a fifteen-year pop culture trend that actually explains a lot about Dark Shadows’ appeal to the young set, and what’s going to happen to it over the next 19 weeks or so.

The story starts with television, as so many stories do. In 1957, Screen Gems put together a 52-film package of classic Universal Pictures horror films, and offered them for weekly TV syndication under the name Shock! The package included the great Universal Monsters films from the 1930s and 40s — Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man — as well as some of the not-great films, like The Invisible Ray, Horror Island and Pillow of Death. It was a bit of an odd assortment, actually, leaving out some obvious favorites like Bride of Frankenstein and House of Frankenstein, and including some crime films like Chinatown Squad and Sealed Lips.

But it had a big impact, bringing the classic monsters to television for the first time, and terrifying children nationwide. It was a huge success, and the next year they released 20 more films as Son of Shock, including all the Frankenstein, Dracula and Mummy movies they had left, plus The Boogie Man Will Get You and Captive Wild Woman.

Best of all, Shock Theater was presented by local “horror hosts”, stylized characters who would introduce the film from a set dressed to look like a crypt, or a mad science laboratory. The best-known of the original hosts was John Zacherle, the Philadelphia host who pioneered the technique of inserting himself into the film — cutting away from the movie for a shot of the host, as if he were participating in the scene. Zacherle’s character was called Roland in Philadelphia and then Zacherley, when he moved to a New York City station. Before and after commercial breaks, Zacherle would perform skits, talking to his wife My Dear — who was only seen as a hand coming out of a coffin — or scolding his assistant Igor, who was housed in an off-screen cage.

There were horror hosts in every city — Marvin in Chicago, Dr. Lucifer in Baltimore, Gorgon in Fort Worth, Ghoulardi in Cleveland — and they created a campy frame for the movies that reassured kids that it was all for fun. If the movie wasn’t very good, the host would liven things up by mocking its flaws, and the viewers quickly became horror aficionados, able to discuss the good points and bad points of all the classic films.

In 1958, a new magazine was published for the growing audience of young monster movie fans — Famous Monsters of Filmland, a fan magazine initially in the style of Hollywood mags like Photoplay and Modern Screen. The magazine offered a wealth of photos and information on the classic horror movies, as well as the actors and filmmakers. The intended audience was middle school and high school kids, and the writing style was playful, with a dose of campy, self-deprecating humor along with the terror and chills.

That turned out to be an important element of the new monster craze — exploring the dark areas of the imagination with tongue in cheek, always semi-aware that the scares were make-believe. Kids loved it, and the parents were comfortable with letting their kids read about murder and grave robbing, because it was clear that it was all for fun. That’s why Zacherley had a family in his horror-host crypt — with a wife in the coffin and a servant/son in a cage, he offered a safe, domestic space to contain the madness and mayhem.

So the kids who were fascinated by cowboys and spacemen in the early to mid 50s started shifting allegiances, turning to monsters for playtime inspiration. There was a rush of monster merchandise in the early 60s aimed at kids, eagerly promoted by Famous Monsters of Filmland.

There was a series of 8 mm home movie reels produced by Castle Films, which offered silent versions of the Universal Monsters movies edited down to 15 minutes…

Famous Monsters record album, called Famous Monsters Speak

a line of monster bubble bath containers…

a collection of board games including The Frankenstein Mystery Game, The Mummy Mystery Game, The Munsters Drag Race Game, Boris Karloff’s Monster Game and Monster Old Maid…

And then there was this popular series of plastic model kits from Aurora Plastics Co, which allowed kids to assemble and paint their own 1/8 scale Universal Monsters.

Aurora started making monster kits in 1962 with a Frankenstein kit, and continued releasing new kits for five years — Dracula and the Wolf Man in 1962; the Phantom of the Opera, the Mummy and the Creature from the Black Lagoon in 1963; the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, King Kong and Godzilla in 1964; the Bride of Frankenstein and the Witch in 1965; and a Famous Monsters original character, the Forgotten Prisoner of Castel-Maré, bringing the total to an even 13 in 1966.

And yes, Famous Monsters was part of this too, obviously; they have their skeletal hands all over this trend. The magazine was a major promoter of the Aurora monsters line, and in 1964, they collaborated on a Master Monster Maker Contest, which asked model makers to produce original dioramas using Aurora model kits and their own custom-built materials. There was a three-round competition, from local hobby store to state-wide to national winner, and the winners were announced in a Famous Monsters cover story. They ended up selling 40 million monster model kits in less than a decade.

So kids really liked monsters in the 1960s is what I’m saying, and maybe adding a vampire to Dark Shadows in 1967 wasn’t as much of a shot in the dark as DS lore would have you believe. It came with a built-in fan base that was home in the afternoon. With monsters on primetime TV with The Munsters and The Addams Family, and on late nights and weekends with Shock Theater, maybe it was only a matter of time until they invaded daytime programming.

Unsurprisingly, Famous Monsters embraced Dark Shadows, and Barnabas appeared on the cover three times: once in October 1968, the second in November 1969, and then a House of Dark Shadows feature in February 1971, followed by a Night of Dark Shadows feature in January 1972.

Barnabas and the (Chris Jennings) Werewolf even got their own 1/8 scale model kits in 1968 — although these were produced by MPC, a rival to Aurora.

By 1970, the interest in Aurora’s monster kits was declining — they’d been out for eight years at that point, and a set of glow-in-the-dark “Frightening Lightning” versions in 1969 didn’t attract a lot of new business. So they decided to try something different, inspired by the excitement of the 1964 Master Monster Maker Contest — a new set of fully customizable monster model kits called Monster Scenes.

Monster Scenes would allow young model makers to create a full monster movie set — a cast of characters, and kits with scenery and props that all fit together into a complete environment. If the idea caught on, Aurora could keep expanding the line with more characters and more scenery, providing more opportunities for creativity and imaginative play. This was a really cool idea which did not pan out well at all.

They needed a monster movie-type setting for model makers to construct, with a lot of individual pieces that could come together to form a coherent scene. Inspired by the 1939 Universal pic Son of Frankenstein, they decided on a mad science laboratory, which would include a big operating table that you could strap a monster to, as well as electrical equipment, control panels, a hanging skeleton, and tables strewn with beakers and test tubes and what-all.

They also decided, for reasons that are still not clear to me even after reading a whole book on the subject, that the set should also include some medieval-dungeon torture devices. It kind of makes sense, because your traditional Frankenstein lab is located in the spooky basement of an old castle, with stone floors and big arches and staircases and so on, which is also a prime location for some Spanish Inquisition-style iron maidens and thumbscrews.

Aurora had dipped their toes into the torture-toy biz back in 1964, when they produced a Madame Tussaud’s Chamber of Horrors Guillotine model that actually worked, and cut off the 1/15 scale prisoner’s plastic head. They had plans for a whole line of these models, including a Rack, a Gallows, an Electric Chair and a Hanging Tree, but they scrapped these plans when parents objected that the Guillotine model kit was gruesome and inappropriate for kids. Still, that was seven years earlier, and in the bright new dawn of the early 70s, it was probably totally fine.

So the original plan for Monster Scenes was to have eight kits, with five characters and three sets. Obviously, the laboratory setting called for a Frankenstein and a Mad Scientist, and they’d also include Dracula for another classic tentpole monster. These nasties needed somebody to terrorize, so the set would also feature a female Victim, who could be carried around by Frankenstein and menaced by Dracula, as well as a male Hero, who could save the day or be operated on, subject to the model assembler’s taste.

The second set would be the Hanging Cage, inspired by Roger Corman’s 1963 Edgar Allen Poe horror-comedy The Raven, which you’ve never heard of before and good for you. This kit had a cage suspended from a scaffold, and you could fit one of the characters inside it. The kit also included a brazier with tongs and hot coals, for extra torture fun.

The final set would be the Pendulum, inspired by another Roger Corman film which was inspired by another Edgar Allen Poe story, because hurting people is such a staple of monster movie fun-time adventure. I seriously do not understand the purpose of including the torture devices.

Then they made some more bad choices. James Warren, publisher of Famous Monsters of Filmland, introduced a new comic book in late 1969 called Vampirella, about a busty and nearly-nude vampire vixen created by Famous Monsters editor Forrest J. Ackerman. Warren wanted Aurora to produce a Vampirella model kit, which would be cross-promoted in both magazines.

Aurora had reservations about including what is essentially a naked bondage-fantasy character in their new toy line, but Famous Monsters was an important vehicle for Aurora to reach their target market, and they didn’t want to lose Warren’s support. They’d already lost the Dark Shadows characters to MPC, and they didn’t want another horror-themed license to go to another model company. So they agreed to take Dracula out of the Monster Scenes lineup, and swap in Vampirella.

There were various reshuffles as Aurora developed the kits — at one point, they thought they’d need to cut the initial line down from eight kits to six, which meant they had to cut two characters. They couldn’t lose the monsters, so they dropped the Mad Scientist and the Hero, leaving Frankenstein, Vampirella and the Victim as the new cast. Later, they expanded back to eight kits, but by that time it was too late to sculpt the Hero figure, so they split the Lab set into two kits — the Pain Parlor and Gruesome Goodies — and left the Victim to fend for herself.

So these are the four characters they had at launch, which they released in early 1971 — Frankenstein, Dr. Deadly, Vampirella and the Victim. That’s two grotesque guys, and two partly-clothed sexualized females, which is super appropriate and fun for the whole family.

Unfortunately, the marketing department got a little over-enthusiastic, and added this thrilling pitch line to all of the boxes: “Mix ‘Em and Match ‘Em Monster Scenes — Get all 8! Rated X… for Excitement”!

With no Hero in sight, the three monsters have pretty much nothing to do but torture the Victim, so that’s what kids made with these model kits. The girl could be strapped to the lab table, hung in the cage, cut in half by the pendulum, carried off by Frankenstein, or involved in girl-on-girl bondage play with Vampirella. It’s the kind of plan where you can see what they were going for, but what they ultimately made was a do-it-yourself sadism kit, rated X for excitement.

Then they ran this insane full-page ad in comic books, which introduced “The Weird World of Aurora”. The ad suggests a somewhat coherent story for the characters — Dr. Deadly wants a subject for his mad science experiments, so he enlists Frankenstein and Vampirella to capture and subdue the Victim — although it doesn’t account for the Hanging Cage and Pendulum sets, which just kind of sit there and make everything worse.

There’s also a super-dark reference to the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese in the middle panel: Dr. Deadly tells Frankenstein to keep the girl quiet, and Vampirella pipes up, “Don’t worry, this is New York. No one will help her.”

So you know how we’ve been looking at some of the more outré moments on Dark Shadows and asking, how did they get away with this? Well, 1971 is the point where people stopped getting away with this.

Edward M. Swartz, a lawyer who specialized in product liability law, wrote a book in 1971 called Toys That Don’t Care about the toy industry’s wanton disregard for the safety and well-being of their consumers. And he had a lot to write about — toys with sharp edges and hard points, toys with small parts that kids could swallow, plastic model-maker toys that were basically exposed metal hot plates. The government wasn’t doing enough to regulate the industry, and the industry figured that they could just blame the parents for not watching their kids.

Monster Scenes weren’t physically dangerous to kids, but Swartz was paying attention to potential psychological harm as well, and the toy pictured in the July 1971 New York Times article was Aurora’s Pendulum kit, described as an “assemble-it-yourself guillotine”.

By November 1971, the company was getting picketed by the National Organization of Women, who carried signs that said “Sick Toys for Children Make a Sick Society!” And the picketers didn’t show up at Aurora — they went to the headquarters of Nabisco Inc, the cookie company that had just acquired Aurora in May.

There was another New York Times article in December 1971, reporting: “After Six Years, Drive to Ban ‘Torture Toys’ in California Is Successful”. The article says:

“Gov. Ronald Reagan last week signed into law a bill that will prohibit, after July 1, the manufacture or sale in California of sadistic “torture toys”, as well as toy bombs and hand grenades.”

Now, if that effort really took six years, then obviously it couldn’t have involved Aurora’s Monster Scenes, which were released in spring 1971. But once again, Monster Scenes were used as the perfect example:

“However, there are holdout stores that still offer either a few or a full assortment of the plastic Frankensteins, vampires, Dr. Deadlies, mad scientists and “victim dolls”, torture chambers, guillotines, and battlefields wth dead and dying soldiers.”

There are eight items listed in that sentence, and seven of them are directly related to Monster Scenes. Aurora had released the wrong toy kits for the times.

So they tried cleaning things up a bit, to see if it would help. They renamed “the Victim” as “Dr. Deadly’s Daughter” and took the “Rated X for Excitement” slogan off the box. The Pendulum was getting a lot of negative attention, so that kit was discontinued.

Some critics were complaining about Vampirella and the Victim being “naked” because they were molded in pink flesh-colored plastic, and their clothes needed to be painted on. To make it clear that the clothes were already molded onto the figures, Aurora changed the Vampirella molds to red, and Dr. Deadly’s Daughter was molded in hot pink.

But that wasn’t enough to quell the protests, and Nabisco wanted to stop hearing about it, so Aurora pulled all the existing Monster Scenes product, and sold it in Canada, where nobody cared.

So the implications for Dark Shadows are pretty obvious here. 1971 was the year that parents were pushed too far, and they started wondering if they really wanted their kids to enjoy a steady diet of witchcraft, murder, suicide and generalized blasphemy. Dark Shadows never stripped their governesses down to their short-shorts before trying to twist their heads off — in fact, they did the opposite, moving the show back in time to the 1840s and covering the ladies from neck to shoelace in long gowns.

But Aurora calculated that the guillotine toys that were unacceptable in 1964 would be perfectly fine in 1971 because it was seven years later and everybody was less uptight, and the mothers and product liability lawyers showed up to inform them that this was not actually the case. For better and for worse, the pop culture environment of 1971 was tightening back up, and children’s television was getting a whole lot less murdery.

Monday: Wherever You Will Be.


There are a couple great books that served as source material for today’s post, and I’d recommend them both.

Monster Mash: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze in America, 1957-1972 is a fun, colorful deep dive into the monster craze in all of its forms — movies, TV, toys, magazines, comic books, Halloween costumes, records, model kits, and lots more. It includes 16 pages on Dark Shadows, with some nice cast interviews and cool photos, and that’s just a small part of what Monster Mash has to offer. Every page of the book is a joy.

Aurora Monster Scenes: The Most Controversial Toys of a Generation tells the story that I’m covering in this blog post, but in way more detail, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s written by a super-fan who was a kid when the models came out, and contacted all of the players at Aurora to find out exactly what happened, and how it all developed. It turns out there’s a lot to say about this weird little pop culture curiosity, and this book has it all.

Want to be part of the Night of Dark Shadows post?

The Night of Dark Shadows post is coming up on the next pre-emption day, and you’re invited! The comments have become a really important part of the blog, so I’d like to do a crowdsourced commentary on Dan Curtis’ 1971 feature film. All you have to do is watch the movie, write down your observations and send them to me at: Dannyhornmail at gmail dot com. Please don’t write a structured review, just brief thoughts as the movie goes on, and then I’ll stitch them together into a bizarre Frankenstein blog post that I’m excited to put together. Thanks to the folks who have sent comments already, and for everyone else: there’s still time to send yours in!

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

They must have been low on set space today. When Julia wakes up in the middle of act 1, her bed is just in front of a black painted flat.

Trask growls, “May the poor child rest in peace now — and may we discover the heretic that caused her to be that way!” He pronounces heretic with a stress on the second syllable, where it doesn’t belong.

In act 3, after Julia says, “Besides, if Barnabas is back, I’d like to talk to him,” you can see yellow marking tape on the floor behind her.

Randall tells Julia, “Barnabas knows more about the knowledge of vampires than he is willing to let on.”

Behind the Scenes:

The silhouette who appears at the end of the show is Barbara Tracey, a stand-in who appears in three episodes — today and tomorrow as Joanna Mills’ ghost, and as a stand-in for Samantha in December.

Monday: Wherever You Will Be.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

86 thoughts on “Episode 1150: The Strange Goings-On

  1. Interesting post. I had no idea there was such a monster craze. I don’t think my mom’s family even had a TV and they never went to movies – so my connection to the crazes of the 1960s is pretty minimal.

  2. I’m pretty sure that this is about the same time that Count Chocula and Frankenberry cereals were introduced.

  3. September 2018 will mark the centennial of John Zacherle’s birth date. Zacherle made it to 98 years of age – still with us on this mortal coil just two years ago! The man clearly did SOMETHING right.

    Appropriate picture to conclude the post. Like Jonathan Frid, he too appreciated his fans for decades, they appreciated him right back. “Zacherley” (his stage “spelling”, so folks could pronounce it right) was appearing at conventions well into his nineties.

    Nice write-up on the man and his career. Going by the few “Disc-O-Teen” videos available, STILL practically convinced this is the same Christine Domaniecki:

    Click to access Zach%20articles%20Star-Ledger.pdf

    1. Yes, that’s the same lady who was the regional Miss American Vampire, and played a petulant barmaid in an 1840 episode. I had t realized she was a Zacherley Disco-Teen regular!

  4. Re: horror hosts – we had a great one in the 80s when I was a child in the Washington DC television market. Count Gore DeVol was his persona. He still does events, I think.

    1. We had the mad scientist Morgus the Magnificent, aided by his silent, hooded henchman, Chopsley. Morgus was an institution in New Orleans, with Shock Theater in the late 1950s, followed by Morgus Presents in the 1960s and then returning in the 1980s so that generations knew and loved this character. At some point we tuned in for Morgus, not the movies.
      The only thing that I recall ever frightened me was the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz when I was a very young child. Once I got over that, I could watch Twilight Zone and Outer Limits with no problem! I loved the Universal Horror movies and later all of the Godzilla, etc. movies. My parents were fans of the Twilight Zone (who wasn’t?) so there was never any problem with us kids watching, too. My mother watched Dark Shadows, too, and would fill me in when I was late getting home.

  5. The 15-year window from 1957 to 1972 is around the same as the original Universal Monsters run beginning with Bela Lugosi’s Dracula in 1931. By the late 1940s, Lugosi was playing Dracula in an Abbott and Costello movie. Earlier in that decade, the novelty was already wearing off and individual monsters were getting to be a hard sell; so along came the “monster mash” movies like Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943). The same idea was prevailing toward the end of the 57-72 wave, with Dracula vs. Frankenstein in 1971 (Lon Chaney Jr.’s final film role).

    My formal introduction to the Universal Monsters came in the fall of 1971, around a month or so after my fifth birthday. My father grew up as a fan and wanted to hand this down to me. We were living in New Hampshire at the time in the Concord area, and one of the local UHF channels was featuring a weekly series of the classic Universal Monsters films each Friday night at 11:30. Naturally, my bedtime was several hours earlier, but my father got my mother to agree to let me watch these movies. I would go to bed at my usual time, and then they’d wake me up in time for the movie. My memories of these Friday night viewings are very vivid; Lugosi’s hypnotic performance as he crept across the room toward Renfield after he’d cut his finger at the dinner table. I dozed off toward the end, but woke again just in time for the (off camera) staking. The next week was Frankenstein – I jolted upward in my seat when the lightning bolt hit him in the neck. The following week was The Mummy, The Wolf Man, etc., and I was on my way.

    I had the monster models and the glow in the dark stuff, too. They used to sell little “vampire kits” with plastic fangs and fake blood.

    Evidently those protestors never had a peek between the covers at what those horror magazines were publishing at the time. There were frames in those horror comics stories where occasionally a woman would be shown with full nudity.

    Great to see a write-up on Monsters of Filmland, which brings back fond memories of childhood days. I remember an issue that showed Jonathan Frid in the makeup chair with Vincent Loscalzo – his bangs were glued down with spirit gum to keep them in place. I’ve just ordered a copy online of the February 1971 House of Dark Shadows issue and I’ve got a bid in for the 1968 Dark Shadows/Barnabas Collins cover story. So thanks for that reminder, Danny! 🙂

    Along with the View Master reels, those horror magazines like Monsters of Filmland were important in preserving the memory of Dark Shadows and keeping those images ever present during that long, desolate winter between cancellation and syndication. They could take Dark Shadows off the air, we would grow up to be older and wiser, the Monster Craze would come and go, but the memories of being a Dark Shadows fan would remain, with an affection deep enough to last a lifetime.

    Can the same be said of Password?

  6. You’ve made me realize how lucky I was; I hit the crest of the wave and enjoyed the ride for my childhood into my teens. Here in the Detroit area, we had ‘Sir Graves Ghastly’, who presented the Universal horrors on the local CBS affiliate; over on the ABC station we got ‘The 4:30 Movie’, which aired “Monster Week” every few months, so I was able to see all the Godzilla, Gamera, and the rest of the kaiju films from Japan; and our indie channel, showing ‘The Ghoul’ on Saturday night, who regaled us with everything in the Z-Grade category, from “The Hypnotic Eye” to “Cape Canaveral Monsters”. My parents were surprisingly lenient about letting me watch such psyche-destroying television, and staying up so late to do so. I remember having the pigweasel scared out of me by “Gargoyles” (which featured Grayson Hall) and “Phase 4” (I became quite cautious about anthills after that one), and all the laughs my siblings and I got from those rubber-suited monsters stomping through models of Tokyo and environs.

    Had most of the monster model kits, too – right there next to my AMC Star Trek model kits, and my Moonbase Alpha and Eagle 1 from ‘Space:1999’. Trying to remember where I saw the advert for the Aurora Monster Scenes, but by that time my interest in gluing and painting pieces of plastic was waning. And it seemed to me that the Monster Scenes, with only one ‘REAL’ monster, was just trying to rip off the genre. Guess some others had the same idea – and isn’t it great that the government stepped in to stem this tide of repellent merchandising, and

                                THIS HAS NEVER BEEN A PROBLEM AGAIN.
  7. I collected the entire set of Aurora monster models, and I still have them all in a glass cabinet in my home, protected from dust and the elements. They were and are a treasured part of my childhood. I’m debating, however, whether I want to try to sell them in a year or two when I move off to our “retirement home.” I also subscribed to Famous Monsters of Filmland for a year or two. Great stuff!

  8. So, it’s some time in 1971. Dark Shadows slumbered in my heart, but I had mostly mentally left it behind with my prior two lives. I’m in first, then second grade that year. I ride a school bus and get home too late to accidentally see Dark Shadows in its final months.

    My current foster parents (my 3rd set) were fundamentalist, evangelicals … we never went to movies. We went to church a lot and people spoke in tongues and sometimes rolled on the floor. And although my foster dad (a great guy) said he’d had cracked ribs healed by a laying on of hands. However, prayer had not been enough to heal the girl about my age who had what I now think had cerebral palsy. The preacher told a story of a lapsed parishioner who fell ill, and as she slipped into death, screamed in pain to her parents saying she felt the flames of hell licking at her feet, then her legs, then her torso. And it was all good, because her pleading and shrieking as she slid into damnation so frightened the rest of the family that every member was saved!! (I’m a little kid so I think this is a first-person account from an unimpeachable source until many years later I realize such stories are actually packaged and sold to church leaders so they can spice up their services. The cruel gleefulness of the preacher’s delivery still bothers me.)

    My foster mom would eye my Old Maid and Go Fish cards with suspicion as any cards could be the slippery slope to gambling, yet for some reason, I was allowed to watch Night Gallery and Twilight Zone. My foster parents also put on one heck of a Halloween haunted house for the church in the unused 1/3rd of the early 1900’s country school house we lived in.

    When the chickens were slaughtered, my friend and I headed outside and around the house with a few sets of severed chicken feet and some of the ovaries filled with developing eggs like a factory wheel with tiny yolks at one place and near finished eggs at the opposite end. I guess that it was okay for little girls to watch the mass slaughter of three or four dozen living creatures then play with their dead body parts. Yet, when their adopted daughter brought home bikini underwear at age 16, she was told those were unsuitable for a decent young lady to wear.

    I suppose the contradictions of the time were just not visible to us when we lived it.

    …but onto the subject of unsafe toys.

    There was a big advertising blitz during the Saturday cartoons for these plastic finger puppets that glowed an eerie green. Unlike most glow-in-the-dark toys, these would glow all the time. They were several different ones, each with their own name. There was even a haunted house you could buy and set each ghost into its own window. I had daydreams of setting up the haunted house in a corner and filling every window with glowing ghosts, but these toys were fairly expensive so I knew it wasn’t going to happen.

    Much to my surprise, I got one ghost…. probably for my birthday as kids didn’t get random stuff all the time back them. I’d place it on the nightstand near my bed, and then put it back in its box during the day.

    I was still excited by it when I came home from school mid-week and went to go get it first thing. The ghost and its box were gone! My foster dad gently explained to me that they all had to go back to the store because they were made of something bad that made people sick.

    Can you guess?

    RADIUM!!! 🙂 omg 🙂 🙂

    To think that some company spent a lot of advertising dollars pushing radioactive toys that were supposed to be worn on the fingers and were just the right size for a younger sibling to pop into a mouth!

    ( That, however, was not my most unsafe toy for that year. In the summer of ’71, I also got a green-broke, 2-year-old pony. Radioactive ghosts were way less hazardous.)

  9. I had no idea of the backstory to “Shock Theater.”

    I still remember the first time I saw a “Shock Theater,” at a friend’s house during a Saturday night sleepover. It was a Godzilla film, and between being awake so late (after midnight), away from home and my first monster film, my mind was in feverish, horrified overload. I was pretty sure I would not survive the night!

    1. William, how long until the initial fear wore off? Did your parental units notice something had happened?

      I took my little sister (barely 8) to see Jaws when it came out; it was our first non-G rated movie for both of us. I think we slept on our dad’s bedroom floor for at least two nights and one of the main reasons for going back to my own bed was that being so close to the dark underneath his bed was starting to be worse than the shark movie trauma.

      A few years later and we were back in the home of the people where I had first watched Dark Shadows. I’d watch Creature Feature (I think it was) and Shock Theater by myself. I can still feel the stillness after I clicked off the TV and the sense of something waiting, watching as I turned off the lights before I went upstairs. (The creep factor was partially helped along because most of the rooms in the home could have stood in for a DS set and the basement was especially disturbing.) …nostalgia is going to do me in.

      1. Ratfeather, I can remember the initial fear of seeing something scary on television: The Outer Limits episode titled, “The Man with the Power.” Donald Pleasence played a fellow who generated a cloud above anyone who angered him. Streaks of lightning would zap the person to death. Now, growing up in an area where there were lots of electrical storms, this episode really freaked me out because it featured small electrical storms inside people’s homes or offices.

        I wouldn’t watch Outer Limits again (or the ABC promos for the show) until a couple of years later. I was so proud that I’d grown a pair and didn’t let the show scare me. Unfortunately, it was the last episode as ABC had just cancelled the series! I was really upset.

        The only thing that scared me on Dark Shadows was when Barnabas first bared his fangs. At the time, I was 10 years old (1967). I lived a sheltered life, and I didn’t even know what a vampire was until then. The whole time Barnabas was terrorizing Maggie made it hard for me to sleep at night. I literally made crosses and put them in the windows in my bedroom. We lived on a farm on the edge of the woods. It was spooky at night.

        Because of Dark Shadows, I was drawn to the horror genre. One of our local TV stations showed horror/sci-fi movies late on Saturday afternoons under the title, The Unknown. Years later, another station started showing Creature Features. Ironically, one of the movies shown was “Secret Beyond the Door,” which was just a mystery movie inspired by “Rebecca.” It starred our very own Joan Bennett!

        1. Robert, I know those dark country nights well. Except now they are my preference.

          It’s funny how we all somehow decide that being able to manage fear is a rite of passage. (Of course, my theory is that people who don’t like horror fiction do their managing by way of simple avoidance.)

          Dark Shadows, especially Barnabas, did scare me, but the Star Trek episode Devil in the Dark held a moment of terror deeper than I ever got from DS. (When McCoy was scanning the carbon smear left by one of the recently deceased redshirts he says something about the scan showing carbon, some other elements, and bits of bone and teeth. It was the bits of teeth comment that just about stopped my heart.)

          At some point in my early teens, I was watching one of the Dan Curtis post-DS movies. (I’m not sure which and am too lazy to look it up right now.). . I recognized some of the actors, some of the music, and the DS look of the movie so I was holding out a tiny, forlorn hope as I watched that eventually, a vampire would appear.

          It was daylight, on a weekend and the adults were home. The movie got to the point where a woman is being hauled into a fireplace and up the chimney. My eyes moved from the TV screen, making a tiny shift to the left where I focused on our fireplace — which looked remarkably like one on the TV.

          I shrieked out loud!!

          Adults came running. Someone turned off the TV and it was suggested I go have a snack in the kitchen and then find something else to do. Me screaming was awkward, but not making it through to the credits — unforgivable!

          1. Ratfeather, interestingly enough, I found myself feeling safer in the city (Los Angeles) rather than in the country. I guess it’s the safety in numbers thing.

            One Dan Curtis TV-movie that did make me uncomfortable was Trilogy of Terror. The Zuni hunting fetish doll was scary, as was the final shot of Karen Black who had been possessed by the spirit in the doll. Dan Curtis had progressed to an entirely new level with this production.

            The horror films over the past decades brought in the technique of having creepy beings jump out after a quiet moment. This persists today and I still don’t like it because it scares me. Ironically, “Paranormal Activity” did not have things jumping out – quite the opposite – and it was terrifying to me because it was too quiet and really made the tension mount.

            I cannot stand watching videos showing certain medical procedures being done. I don’t mind shots or having blood drawn, but seeing such things as spinal taps freak me out.

            But here’s one thing that terrified me more than anything else on television: The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, back in 1972. A report aired about a fire that had broken out in a New Orleans high rise building. Five women were trapped in a beauty salon on the 15th floor and were forced to jump. There was no blood nor gore, only the camera focused on the window as each woman jumped and the sound of screams from the crowd below.

            I was 15 years old at the time of watching this, and I very well knew this was all too real. Obviously I never forgot it. I’ve never felt comfortable visiting New Orleans ever since. (That’s not fair to the city, but tell that to my psyche.) News reports were filmed with 16 mm. cameras back then and this didn’t change until the late 70s when (very) portable video cameras replaced film cameras. We’d already seen many disturbing images from the Vietnam War on 16 mm. film. To this day, I still get a little anxious when I watch grainy-looking filmed news reports from that era – I keep waiting for a disturbing image to appear.

        2. I remember getting really scared by the first episode of Outer Limits. I was 9 yrs. Old and in fourth grade. I never watched it again until I was in college, when a local station played reruns of it right after Star Trek every weeknight. Even then, I never saw all the episodes. I watched it again last summer on Hulu. These days, kids wouldn’t think it’s scary at all. I finally caught how a lot of the actors and crew wound up on Star Trek a few years later.
          I do remember all the monster models. Being a girl, I wasn’t interested. I saw them in the Sears Christmas catalog. I was more interested in spaceship models like the Enterprise and real ones like Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. Do kids even make models these days? My kids never did.

          As far as my parents worrying about what we watched on TV, they didn’t. They’d grown up with the classic horror movies, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Lon Chaney were household names. My father would talk about the classic horror stories, all the monsters, including stories like Picture of Dorian Gray and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. By the time Dark Shadows came along, I already knew the stories. My mother liked Edgar Allan Poe and like to quote from The Raven. When she was in school, they made you memorize poetry.

          The monster craze in the 60’s wasn’t just limited to the U.S. The British were into it too. Who can forget the Hammer horror movies with the likes of Christopher Lee and Vincent Price?

          Boy, those were the days!

        3. The first episode of Outer Limits scared me so much, I never saw it again until college. I was 9 years old. Kids these days wouldn’t think it was scary.

  10. Growing up in the 1960s in Philly I was a big DS fan, had all the Aurora models, got Famous Monsters whenever I could, and watched “Shock Theater” with our local host Dr. Shock every Saturday night. My best friend collected monster stuff, too. Then the Aurora Monster Scenes set came out. I got them all, not thinking a thing about their implications. My friend was not so lucky. He got the models and when his mom got a look at them, she had enough: “It’ll warp your mind,” she told him. Out in the trash they went. I guess it really was a moment of cultural divide. Luckily Aurora came out with another model set just after — Prehistoric Scenes! There was a wooly mammoth, a saber-tooth tiger, a tar pit, various dinos — and a very hunky Neanderthal Man and even hunkier Cro-Magnon Man. (I wasn’t too interested in the Cro-Magnon Woman, for some reason!) I guess another cultural divide had been crossed but those implications wouldn’t become evident for another 10 years or so.

  11. Examining the Weird World of Aurora –

    Panel 1:
    The doctor states the need for a ‘girl victim’. I presume this is because Aurora has packaged the model as ‘Girl Victim’, and the doctor doesn’t want his cohorts kidnapping the wrong ‘Girl Victim’?
    Vampirella (who only seems capable of raising and lowering her left arm – which is as well, since a deep breath would probably cause a wardrobe malfunction) can’t be bothered to use full titles like ‘doctor’, only contractions like ‘dr’. Guess that IS kind of a timesaver…
    This exchange looks to be set in a cave with a flagstone floor. And just in case we don’t know what that table behind the ‘dr’ is with all the lab equipment on it, it is thoughtfully labelled ‘lab table’.

    Panel 2:
    Frankenstein concurs with Vampirella, using several ellipses – and two ‘heh’. That’s how Evil People laugh (see Panel 5). Is this panel really even neccessary? I mean they don’t even have a guillotine there to label and have an arrow point to.

    Panel 3:
    The disturbing reference to NYC aside, why does this kidnapping require ALL 3 OF THEM? Why does Girl Victim seem completely immobile, more so than even Vampirella? And why (since it was established in Panel 1) do we need another arrow labeling her as Girl Victim? Why is she barefoot, wearing hot pants and a hooter hammock? What does Girl do when she’s not being a Victim?
    Panel 4:
    Back in Dr. Deadly’s dungeon.
    Experiment starts.
    (Please. This storyline is hard enough to follow without MORE exposition!)
    Panel 5:
    Girl Victim is still paralyzed, but has at least shut up. Perhaps she’s realized she’s in New York. And if there were any lingering questions about what she’s strapped to, there’s another well-placed arrow indicating that it’s a table. The dr now reveals her possible future with another pair of ‘heh’. (Look, I know Mad Science has its own logic, but this seems like an awful lot of effort to produce a…fly. Couldn’t the dr just leave some ghoulash out in the dungeon and attract a fly? (But where’s the fun in THAT?))
    Panel 6:
    Vampirella gives her opinion on the proceedings as more product placement goes on nearby. One more chance to get a peek at some side boob…while we ponder the ramifications of “sold separately” and “assembly required”. At least we needn’t invest in glue – which may or may not be an advantage, dependent upon your feelings about toluene.
    Panel 7:
    Just see how much delight this boy is deriving from these Aurora products! See the joy in his beady little eyes, assembling Girl Victim (or possibly dismembering her, hard to tell – there seem to be an awful lot of arms and legs lying on the floor nearby.) This is GOOD CLEAN FUN, dammit!

  12. Thank you, Danny- You just explained my childhood, and the reason for my lifelong fascination with Universal Horror films. Who knew?!

  13. I’ve FINALLY caught up with you, and we are nearing the end 😦 My family and I are enjoying the blog, and want to contribute to night of DS! Is there a deadline for submissions?

  14. Hey, THE INVISIBLE RAY was a good film!
    I remember when I built my own Pendulum machine. Slipped a long branch cutter through a snow shovel, placed it above (via ladders) my wagon with chains fixed around it. I NEVER actually used it for any sadistic purposes.

  15. To put a different context on a few things.

    Why were old monster movies infiltrating the 50’s and 60’s? I think it was because the people in charge of programming had grown up with those Universal horror movies. The monsters were just viewed as good thrills and clean fun. After all, most of them had been with us in book form since the 1800’s so the grandparents and great grandparents knew these monsters. The old movies were just a smart, and convenient source of programming that a lot of kids would like and adults would recognize, tolerate, and maybe enjoying watching again.

    My various sets of parents were mostly born in the 1920’s (the religious ones were even older). They had no problems with the now classic imagery of the universal monsters. It was just fiction and mostly viewed as ‘kid stuff’ or Halloween stuff for everyone to play with a few days of the year.

    Horror stories then, and even now, tend to be morality plays. Good wins. Godliness, faith, loyalty, courage, the moral expectations of the time triumph. You can get away showing some evil and depravity if the perpetrators get punished for it.

    Dark Shadows pushed it sometimes, but it was only when you watched it in context that you realized Dark Shadow had traded the clear-cut morality play for soap opera. People not watching the show wouldn’t know that.

    If you are younger or just don’t remember how the rest of the country viewed New York City in the 70’s and early 80’s, there is a reason a toy box would have said, “Don’t worry, this is New York. No one will help her.”

    New York City had a lot of problems which the rest of the country had noticed. SNL made jokes of it, but the heartland was disgusted. Society was disgusted enough to make it okay to print disparaging remarks on toy boxes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_New_York_City_(1946%E2%80%9377)

    The whole torture toy thing. I remember some of the featured news stories, as a girl, I was in agreement that pink girl dolls looked nude and that boys didn’t need guillotines –because they all had pocket knives. (So did I from age 7 onward.) The hanging cage …. to this day I see it as something a go-go dancer belongs in, thank you Laugh-In.

    Just keep in mind mothers of the era didn’t want their boys to grow up to be baby killing soldiers. The woman’s movement was challenging gender stereotypes. Why wouldn’t women speak up and try to get some control over what was being marketed to their kids? As far as social change goes, toy design is pretty low hanging fruit. Of course, most little boys and some little girls figure out how to torture their toys no matter what. (I still don’t know why my sister poked multiple pin holes into the breasts of her barbie doll knock-offs. She didn’t do it to the more expensive branded dolls.)

  16. My sister scraped off the breasts of her Crissy doll on our concrete walkway, feeling that the toy was too well endowed. Then she cut off its hair (though, if you remember the Crissy doll, the selling point WAS that you could pull or retract her hair.) I think she just didn’t like the doll because it was showing its teeth, like that doll in the Night Gallery episode. Guess that was my brother’s fault; after we watched the episode, he ran upstairs and put Crissy at the top of the staircase. He still laughs at her about the scream she let out.

    Just your average normal American family…

    1. Our poodle Fifi chewed off my Barbie and Skipper dolls’ hands and feet. I never could figure out why she didn’t chew up both dolls from top to bottom.
      Strangely enough, she left my Ken doll intact.

      1. Did you still play with them? Did any adult ask about them? Or was mutilation without a guillotine a non-issue? 🤔

        1. By then, I’d passed my Barbies on to my little sister who wasn’t as careful about packing them away in their carrying case as I had been. She usually kept her toys strewn all over her bedroom floor. Guess that’s how that bad girl Fifi got her teeth into Barbie & Skipper. I don’t remember her chewing up any other toys though.
          And no – I don’t think my sister still played with them after that. They had become official chew toys although Fifi lost interest in them after the initial chew down.

      2. Perhaps it’s to do with the breed of dog – our mutt only had a taste for Christmas decorations. We had a set of elves we trimmed the staircase with, and one by one the dog slaughtered them all over the front hall. Never touched Santa Claus, though…I must ask my sisters whether their Barbies were ever molested.

        1. I’ve never been too keen on elves, either. You know how they say dogs can sense evil – maybe they were evil elves and your dog was just takin’ care of his family!

            1. Dark Shadows should have done an evil doll story arc. I’ve never liked dolls and Talky Tina permanently confirmed my suspicions of them.

              Maybe if DS hasn’t been cancelled Curtis would have had something like the one in Trilogy of Terror show up.

              Or Stokes could have shown up with a set of native American Zuni dolls, taking the show into the era of Spanish colonialism. ..too bad some of the people behind the camera didn’t take a nice vacation to the Southwest and returned rejuvenated and inspired.

              They could have written a backstory on Beth Chavez, maybe even brought Alexandra Moltke back as some sort of tempestuous Spanish lady.

              1. David finds a ventriloquist’s dummy down in the basement.

                Amy finds an old Victorian doll (the creepy kind with the eyes that follow you).

                Carolyn becomes infatuated with a certain statue in the cemetery, a life-size male figure in repose on a stone bench.

              2. A forgotten toy of Roger’s, Woggie, the Doggie, begins reappearing around the house, but only Roger seems to be finding him (when nobody else is near.)

                1. And… Barnabas and Julia become alarmed when Mrs. Johnson starts complaining thatRoger’s invisible dog is going on the carpet.
                  Time for another séance.

                  1. Mrs. Johnson becomes suspicious when Roger insists that it was just some brandy on the carpet;

                    SJ: “That’s why I came to see you, Doctor Hoffman.”
                    JH: “Please, call me Julia.”
                    SJ: “Mr. Collins might do a lot of things, but he’s never spilled alcohol, not ever!”

                    1. How true – Collins family members are well known down through the generations for taking special care in handling their alcoholic beverages. For instance, Quentin never threw a brandy glass into the fireplace til he’d drained every drop.
                      You don’t suppose Roger used to tell his teachers that Woggie the Doggie ate his homework?

  17. Wow! I never knew there was a monster craze, but it does explain the popularity of “creature feature” shows. Ours played on Saturday afternoons and was hosted by Doctor Paul Bearer, the best one I have ever seen.

  18. No doubt helping the monster craze along were the new movies being made in the late 1950s that made them seem scary again, like the ones put out by Hammer Films.

    Overshadowed by Christopher Lee’s Horror of Dracula was a U.S. film released a month earlier called The Return of Dracula.

    It’s about a vampire who travels from overseas to a small town to visit with a family there… posing as a cousin. Sound familiar?

    1. I enjoyed the movie starring Ray Stricklyn. I read his autobiography. There are two Dark Shadows connections: (1) A photo of Ray and Clarice Blackburn from a play, and (2) he was friends with Craig Slocom.

    2. This is a really striking discovery, Prisoner: so many little grace notes that Dark Shadows shares–the entrance to the community on a train, the introduction to the family through a little boy, the use of a picture to create a link between the returning ancestor and the ingenue (who has a jealous townie boyfriend); the emphasis on the old-world feel of the house; the presence of a scholar/doctor to bring in the occult; a Shakespearean actor as the vampire, even blood-draining animals until there’s a human host. You never know the sources of imagination . . .

  19. A wonderful overview of the time period. Dark Shadows fits in perfectly with its 1960s surroundings; from the Universal horror films. I don’t recall a time when they weren’t on TV when I was a child, appearing regularly on local New York stations such as WNEW-5, WPIX-11 and WOR-9. In addition there was plenty of other horror fare and shows such as Twilight Zone, Thriller, Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock. Living in an old house in Brooklyn fueled my imagination to greater heights (an older brother who loved horror fare didn’t hurt).

    In that period there was also the Hammer horror movies which were extremely popular. Monsters were a staple of movies, TV, advertising, comic books (The Hulk became a popular Marvel character in that period) even cartoons (Frankenstein Jr.). When I first discovered Dark Shadows it was around the 1795 period and Barnabas walling up Trask remains a vivid memory, but other moments scared me, including a dream sequence where Joe Haskell is attacked by the Werewolf in the Collinwood foyer.

    1. Barnabas walking up Trask is one of my favorite DS scenes. Of course, the idea came from Edgar Allan Poe’s Cask of Amontillado. I read this story in high school, and finally realized where the DS writers got it from.

  20. The attacks on this sort of stuff was part of a bigger wave in the early 1970s to neuter anything that was aimed at children. All adventure and any threat of violence was generally removed in favor of really bland content with heavy social messages. The toys suffered equally. Everyone was paranoid and kind of went off the deep end in terms of fears about child safety. As usual, the people involved used the excesses that existed to go after alot of other things things that were harmless.

    Things started to loosen up after the success of Star Wars. But there was a whole dark age in the early 1970s where most stuff was just garbage.

    1. “Oh, won’t someone please think of the children?”

      Helen Lovejoy, on ‘The Simpsons’

    2. The absolute worst manifestation of this paranoiac “protect the children” obsession of the 1970s was when they edited the old Warner Brothers cartoons — Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Road Runner, etc. — to eliminate the “violence.” As a result, many if not most of those cartoons became utterly nonsensical and unwatchable. Thank goodness the originals were preserved and can now be seen in unedited form.

      1. In 1971, Bugs Bunny barely survived on Saturday morning at all. They cut it to a half hour and buried it as the very first show of the morning. Probably hoping that it was too early in the day for the political people to notice.

        There was also “the new tom and jerry show” in 1975. Tom and Jerry became friends and were put into Laurel and Hardy type situations usually involving employment. There was no amount of editing that would have gotten classic Tom and Jerry on network television in the 1970s.

        There was also a “new” non-violent Popeye in the 1970s. Lifting and throwing people was acceptable while punches obviously were not.

        They also nearly killed off the classic Hanna-Barbara characters with “Yogi’s Gang” which featured all of the characters fighting moral/political concepts like “greed”, “littering”, being “wasteful” or getting angry in every episode. A memorable episode features Yogi’s friend, a homeless guy, who is seduced by greed into living a more normal life until Yogi brings him to his senses and he returns to being homeless.

        It always seemed like the early 1970s were dominated by 10000 shows that were just clones in one way or another of Scooby Doo,

        The attacks on Warner Brothers cartoons ended in 1977. CBS moved the show to the center of its saturday morning schedule and expanded it to 90 minutes. The censorship was never undone though. Around the same time, the ban on action-adventure also started to lift with Batman and Tarzan getting new shows minus the political/moral stories of things like the original “super friends”.

        1. They also nearly killed off the classic Hanna-Barbara characters with “Yogi’s Gang” which featured all of the characters fighting moral/political concepts like “greed”, “littering”, being “wasteful” or getting angry in every episode. A memorable episode features Yogi’s friend, a homeless guy, who is seduced by greed into living a more normal life until Yogi brings him to his senses and he returns to being homeless.

          Wow, I remember watching Yogi’s Ark as a child! I do not remember the ep with the bum, but I have strong memories of “sloth”.

    3. It’s amazing what public awareness of an issue does to the rest of the culture. In the 80′ s awareness of child abuse and abductions led to changes where kids aren’t allowed to go anywhere without adult supervision. Even walking home from school is taboo these days. Kids get less exercise than ever, and obesity is rampant. It’s not really more dangerous these days, it’s just that perspectives have changed.

      The people who campaigned against violence on TV lost. It’s more violent than ever.

  21. Wayne posted, “The absolute worst manifestation of this paranoiac “protect the children” obsession of the 1970s was when they edited the old Warner Brothers cartoons — Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Road Runner, etc. — to eliminate the “violence.”

    Yes, sadly these cartoons from my youth have been censored and/or banned.

    Yet Hollywood has enjoyed carte blanche — for many decades now — to produce excessively violent films. Quentin Tarantino movies and similarly gratuitously violent films come to mind. Movies in which a dozen or so characters can be brutally, sadistically murdered in the course of a movie.

    But that violence is somehow acceptable, as Hollywood will readily preach at us, because these films no matter how sadistic are “art.”

    Well, then the banned Road Runner and Daffy Duck cartoons are also clearly “art.”

    And, frankly, I find the old cartoons and the old classic movies much more enjoyable than any of the ultra violent films Hollywood has pitched in theaters in recent years. Give me “Citizen Kane,” “All About Eve,” “North By Northwest,” “Mildred Pierce,” etc., anytime … and Bugs Bunny, too!

    1. Totally correct. At the same time in the 1970s that they were fighting to exterminate Bugs Bunny and Road Runner, the film industry was putting out films like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre or films with heroic pimps or criminals. It was also the brief age of porno films trying to be mainstream theatrical entertainment.

      The irony of Quentin Tarantino is that most of the films he does are just big-budget knock-offs of the bad films were produced in the early 1970s. I don’t think he has ever had an original idea in his life.

      1. Ah, I remember school year 1978 to 1979, I was 12. Dark Shadows, the 1795 period, was in syndication by this time. Was living in Concord, New Hampshire, and one of the local UHF stations from 3:00 to 4:00 pm would have on when I came home from school the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour – those must have been the undoctored episodes. The coyote would blow himself up again and again, fall off a cliff and land with an audible wet splat below. No big deal. For me, it was better than homework – in fact, that’s the reason I’d have to make an excuse to the teachers the next day for why I didn’t do my homework. I didn’t tell them I was chilling out to afternoon TV, of course. But it didn’t turn me violent – just made me want to watch more of those Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour shows and forget about my homework. If anything, it made me into a B student rather than an A student.

        As for Crappin Turpentine-o, I went to the movie cinema to see one of his films, Polyp Friction in the 1990s, and he’s just about the worst film-maker ever! If a worthwhile idea ever confronted him face to face, he’d probably run and hide from it.

        As for childhood safety, I never rode my 10-speed Schwinn bike with a helmet. I remember cycling at the edge of the road right beside my house; there was the paved road, and then there was gravel because there was no sidewalk. I was doing a quarter of a mile an hour and I fell to my right flat into the dirt. My father was nearby. He may have laughed or taunted me for being so uncoordinated to make such a silly fall, I don’t remember. Later, he took me out on his Yamaha 650 motorcycle, riding at one point a hundred miles an hour on the highway. It was a clear afternoon in summer, the sun was shining, I had a helmet on, but just a tee shirt and jeans, just sitting behind my dad holding on – I’ve rarely felt such a rush of freedom in my life.

        Parents who are afraid of cartoons shouldn’t be allowed to be parents.

        1. The censored stuff tended to be broadcast as network programming by CBS.

          But in the 1970s there were also uncensored syndication packages of cartoons that were picked up and broadcast by individual stations. Those syndication packages often had a much deeper selection of cartoons available. You could see cartoons coming from anywhere from the 1930s to late 1960s just show up and be broadcast.
          It was almost totally random.

          This stuff was still going on in the early 1990s on independent stations. But eventually it was finally killed off by the rise of cartoon network on cable and the rise of the infomericial on the independent tv stations.

      2. The irony of Quentin Tarantino is that most of the films he does are just big-budget knock-offs of the bad films were produced in the early 1970s. I don’t think he has ever had an original idea in his life.

        If memory serves, he once claimed he made that type of movies so he could get laid at Hollywood parties.

  22. Does anyone want to discuss the episode 1150?

    I will say that I had tears form in my eyes as Roxanne called out for Barnabas as she was facing the light.

    (I tend to get weepy over a lot of things that have sentiment and pathos –Disney animated movies, certain insurance commercials, watching Ripley kill the alien x human hybrid baby.)

    I like to think that Roxanne did as was done in Fred Saberhagen’s retelling of Dracula. In Saberhagen’s books, the Count turned to mist as the stake was driven toward his heart, making it look like he had died and turned to dust. I’d like to think Roxanne also just managed to escape to a darker location and then went off to a safer, saner part of the world. (The whole vampires must return to a coffin thing strikes me as a psychological lie that some vampires get locked into.) Of course, if she did fake out her brother and survived, then Roxanne’s parting “gift” to Barnabas was to partially expose him. That sounds like a nice bit of justified passive-aggressive payback for his abandonment of her. Some guys are just bad baby daddies and won’t own up to their involvement.

    1. Yes, that was a great performance by Donna Wandrey.

      That daylight destruction scene really brought it home, the torture of the vampire in its dying moment, but also the compulsion of the creature in not being able to resist its hunger. You thought for a second that Randall might weaken, given the familial connection, and then when at one point he might she shows her evil, willing to destroy even her own brother for the sake of sanctuary.

      It recalls the scene in Nicholas Blair’s front room when Barnabas destroyed Tom Jennings in the same way; the vampire begs for mercy, but Barnabas is unrelenting because he knows what it means if he does show the creature mercy. It’s more agonizing because in that scene with Barnabas and Jennings it was just foe against foe, but in this scene here in 1150 it’s brother and sister.

      It shows the vampire in a moment of desperation, at once fiend and blood relation when once human.

      Remember also how Barnabas was willing to destroy Abigail in 1795 for the secret she’d stumbled onto. Was Barnabas a “sympathetic” vampire in that moment?

      Roxanne should be a sympathetic vampire, because like Barnabas she didn’t choose to be made that way. She was also the victim of Angelique’s curse.

      But then, Roxanne is not the protagonist of Dark Shadows the way Barnabas is.

      1. I look forward to making it to the episodes with the Jennings brothers and actually seeing it instead of reading about it.

        It was funny with this episode, so even though I knew how it would go, the actors did make it seem like it could have gone differently. (I almost alalways want the vampire to win, but until recently most shows didn’t have room for a lot of them,
        which I put down to an appalling lack of imagination.)

        So while watching DS, I’ve noticed Amazon Prime has a boatload of vampire movies of varying degrees of quality. My husband and I watched Therapy for a Vampire last weekend. It’s in German and features a vampire male (implied to be Dracula), his half-crazy wife, and their troubled marriage. He is funding a project by Sigmund Freud and ends up on the couch talking about how the only true love of his life died but promised to reincarnate. Sure enough, there is an old truck containing her portrait and her clothes and look-alike love interest.

        Even the original Fright Night had a moment when the writers implied Amy was the reincarnation of some long lost love whose past life portrait was on the wall.

        Dark Shadows has apparently cemented the lost love reincarnation subplot into modern vampire mythos. I don’t recall it turning up in earlier movies and books, not that I’ve got 100% coverage of the older stuff.

        1. Lost lives from previous lives were a big part of ‘The Mummy’ genre of films, though.
          I’m not familiar enough with Gothic romance to know if it’s a theme there, though I imagine it crops up.

  23. A very interesting post. Actually, it never occurred to me that everyone was not seeing Dark Shadows through the lens of the Monster Craze. I didn’t know the Monster Craze as such. I just saw the Friday night frights as a part of life.

  24. This is a fun episode. I laughed out loud at Randall finding that Barnabas locked Trask up and apparently forgot about him. It gets funnier when Randall has gone back to the great house to find someone with a key and evidently stays in the drawing room for an hour or so, bringing Quentin up to date, before he and Julia get around to walking back to the old house to let him out. Not only is it hilarious that no one is the least bit eager to let Trask out, but Jerry Lacy milks the part for all the laughs he can get.

    Grayson Hall is also funny in that drawing room scene. “You didn’t tell him?” Randall asks, incredulous that she didn’t report about Roxanne. The way she delivers her line about wanting to let Randall decide what to tell Quentin about his sister is so bland, the lie she’s telling is so glaringly obvious to the audience and so well-hidden from the other characters, that I laughed out loud.

  25. I’ll miss Donna Wandrey even if no one else does. And poor Donna is such an outcast here that she doesn’t even get the traditional “career recap send-off” that Danny offers to almost everyone else in their last episode! sigh

  26. That Vampirella costume looks like it came straight out of a D&D manual.

    My brother had a bunch of really creepy toys. One was a puppet–not a monster, but something about him seemed like he came out of a horror movie. One was a Frankenstein head, mounted on the wall, which my brother painted. Then there was the poster….I think it had a vampire on it and was for the Krofft Horror Hotel….. Gee, I wonder how Gen-X got so twisted….

    1. The original AD&D books, so many memories…

      I wonder if Vampira was a traditional “vamp” or based of the predecessor to Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, who was hoooge in the 1940’s in LA and later appeared in Plan Nine From Outer Space? She had lines but wisely refused to speak them b/c she didn’t want to mar her image.

  27. Let’s not forget Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt Kickers’ 1962 Billboard #1 hit “Monster Mash,” released just before Halloween. Every kid in my 6th grade class in New Jersey sang it incessantly (despite Sister Mary Bernadette’s dire warnings about Satanism) and local DJ’s blasted it through the air waves. For the rest of the 1960s, it was a Halloween staple. https://youtu.be/-tHyRQOdqf0

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