Dark Shadows

All posts tagged Dark Shadows

In Remembrance: Christopher Bernau

Published October 30, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Christopher Bernau made me gay.

Well, he actually didn’t strap me down on some slick gurney and take me into some underground laboratory with lightening crackling overhead and test tubes exploding all around us… But I did come home one day from school — and there he was on Guiding Light, all shirtless and delivering his lines with a sadistic sneer as he ordered the distinctive and talented Sofia Landon Geier, the actress playing his employee-lover, around and…. Well – I got that special little tingle.

Years later, I discovered that some other handsome performer actually probably gave Bernau that exact same sensation when he was growing up. Living his life as openly gay as was possible in an era when that was frowned upon, he seemed like a hero to me. This isn’t surprising, though. He was definitely someone who made an impression on many folks – first as Phillip Todd on the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows and then, most famously, as the manipulative and occasionally cruel Alan Spaulding on the afore mentioned Guiding Light. There, the story of his illicit lover affair with the sweet Hope Bauer (the always honey-lit and eternally warm Elvera Roussel) raised many of the temperatures of the local ladies in my tiny neighborhood like few others did, before and after.

Nicely, in addition to his Dark Shadows experience, he also played a wildly seductive Count in the 1977 Off-Broadway production of The Passion of Dracula.

Unfortunately, Bernau, as with many of that era’s extraordinarily special creative types, was also stricken with AIDS. He ultimately died of the disease at the age of 49 on June 14th, 1989, leaving behind a legacy of amazing performances…and loads of stardust sprinkled inspiration for many a young small-town homosexual who dreamed of bigger and better (and, unfortunately, occasionally unfair) worlds.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan

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Sharkbait Retro Village: This House Possessed

Published March 17, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

THP4The essence of cool, conniving film noir, the legendary Joan Bennett definitely presented herself as a horse of a different color with her appearance as the Rag Lady in the 1981 television terror This House Possessed. Here, roaming far from the perfect iciness of her roles in films like Scarlet Street, the adventurous Bennett plays a shabby small town oddity, driven to isolated madness by the secret at the heart of the film.

THP3This mystery, of course, revolves around the titular mansion. Interestingly, taking its cues from other small screen genre projects that revolved around such possessed inanimate objects as bulldozers, taxidermy displays and hobby horses, the residence here is not haunted by ghosts or some hidden psychotic killer, but actually causes the movie’s mayhem through a monstrous will of its own. THP5

…and the body count here is fairly high. A librarian dies in an explosion. A veteran character actor is finished off with a jagged shard from a trembling mirror and Bennett, herself, is exposed to the bubbling depths of an overheated pool. Add in a bloody shower and a very aggressive water hose (or two) and you have a project that has lived on in the memories of those who caught it on its original broadcast at impressionable ages.

Nicely, the more outrageous circumstances here are grounded by the gentle and committed leading performances of Parker Stevenson, as a rock star whose emotional collapse brings him to the malevolent domicile, and Lisa Eilbacher, as the nurse who helps him recover and soon wins his heart. Stevenson radiates with a genuine kindness and the music he performs comes off more like a softer version of the balladic work of Justin Timberlake than the cheesy pop that one associates with multiple television stars of that era.THP2

Eagle eyed horror lovers will also delight to the presence of A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Amanda Wyss, billed here as Mandy, whose opening act frolicking with actor John Dukakis (Jaws 2) is wetly interrupted by the angry residence. She and Bennett, who became well known for her role on the beloved gothic soap opera Dark Shadows during the middle range of her career, also make this enjoyable oddity a happy exercise for lovers of the femme form in terror, as well.

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Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Sharkbait Retro Village: The Curse of the Black Widow (1977)

Published May 2, 2014 by biggayhorrorfan

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Those who have reluctantly sat on the sidelines will know how half of Hollywood felt upon the 1977 television debut of the Dan Curtis’ horror feast The Curse of the Black Widow. The cast, headlined by perennial television sweetheart Patty Duke and future Knots Landing vixen Donna Mills, featured many familiar faces both from the boob tube trenches and glamorous Hollywood films.

curse2Here, Duke and Mills, as sisters holding a dark and venomous secret, were supported by the likes of famed comedian Sid Caesar, the sassy Roz Kelly (of Happy Days and New Year’s Evil fame), tough guy Vic Morrow, Barney Miller’s Max Gail, Curtis’ old Dark Shadows favorite James Storm and such feminine silver screen royalty as June Allyson and June Lockhart. Now, that’s a party anyone would have wanted to been invited to!

The film that emerges isn’t as quite as fun as the cast would have you imagine – but still has plenty of old school charm and bold amounts of cheesiness. While other directors of television nail biters (like Curtis Harrington) tried to use Val Lewton subtleties for their over-the-top offerings, Curtis goes whole hog. In the final act, he not only showcases major cast members encased in very thick, fake looking webbing, but he also brings out a very clumsy, unnatural looking arachnid to cause tremulous amounts of doom and gloom. And, why not? If you are going do it – do it all the way, baby! Or should I say ‘Spider Baby’?Black_Widow1

Further distinctive pleasure can be gained by the continual comic antagonism provided by Kelly, as (private eye) Tony Franciosa’s secretary, and Caesar as her neighbor, a cold blooded lawyer. The sight of Duke in a dark wig sporting a truly mysterious European accent, as her character’s hungry alter-ego, provides a multitude of viewing joy, as well.

Most importantly, Curtis and writers Robert Blees and Earl W. Wallace give the piece a nod to golden suspense flicks such as The Dark Mirror (which starred Olivia de Havilland as siblings suspected of murder) and Dead Ringer (featuring a pair of vengeful twins enacted by Bette Davis). The slow uncovering of the sisters’ mysterious past, while slightly predictable, does ultimately result in a nice feeling of femme powered noir.

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Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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