Master of Dark Shadows: Dan Stevens or Jonathan Frid?

DATELINE: Halos For All?

  Stars Jonathan Frid & Joan Bennett

 Perhaps it is more than amusing that the production company of Dan Stevens actually produced a documentary about Dan Stevens and his ground-breaking soap opera, the gothic Dark Shadows.

We expected that you’d have full participation of the original cast and crew—and the treat, or horror, is to see these young actors in their twilight years. Yet, it is fun too.

Many are gone of course: like Frid, Joan Bennett, and the marvelous Grayson Hall (barely mentioned).

Stevens himself was an ad-man who went to producing a golf show—and had a dream for a gothic serial. Never did he expect it to be a daytime hit for kids with sympathetic vampires, tormented governesses, and cross-time crossover storylines.

Who really made Dark Shadows a hit? Was it the producer with the classic hard edge or the gaunt actor who played the reluctant vampire? Well, you know who produced the show and produced the documentary. Frid did not join the cast until nearly a year had passed, but with him it zoomed to cult status.

There was recently a fiftieth anniversary shindig with survivors like David Selby, Lara Parker, John Karlen, Jerry Lacy, and so many other favorites. They all grew up as actors on that show as much as their audience grew up. The show had bad sets, primitive special effects, and sometimes awful plots badly acted. It was of no consequence to fans.

Frid and Stevens ultimately came to loggerheads, and Stevens was better able to move on to Winds of Warand other films. It is a trip down memory lane.







Move Over, Sam Spade; Liam Neeson is Here as a Private Eye



Astro & Neeson 

Lawrence Block’s Detective Scudder receives tough-guy treatment from director Scott Frank.

Liam Neeson seems to turn these out these film like sausages on an assembly line, but they are the kielbasa of sausages. A Walk Among the Tombstones is a dark and dangerous throwback to the Bogie detectives like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.

It turns the bad guys into psychopaths taking revenge on drug dealers, turning the usual formula upside down.

Besides Neeson’s usual performance as the best example of world-weary ennui since Richard Burton, the film is loaded with wonderful character actors on top of their game.

You won’t recognize Dan Stevens as client of Scudder. Formerly one of Downton Abbey’s pillars, Stevens seems to have lost weight and darkened his hair for this unflinching role. This isn’t Matthew Crawley.

Most of all, we recognized Astro, basically playing the same role he performed on Person of Interest a few seasons back, as a precocious sidekick to the hero. But, all the actors are impressive—from Boyd Holbrook to David Harbour.

Set in New York City in 1991, it takes upon it a rotten Big Apple flavor with body parts scattered about the boroughs. Neeson’s detective works in a society on the cusp of computers and cell phones, and he disdains both. Now that’s hard-boiled.

Since author Lawrence Block has more than a few novels in the Mickey Spillane style with this lead character, it would surely give Liam Neeson a franchise worthy of his talents.

Whether box office has suffused this to be a series, we will have to wait and see. We will, however, eagerly await Scott Frank’s future directorial efforts.