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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bay of the Living Dead: Kathleen Cody Steps Back Into the Shadows

Posted By on Wed, Dec 30, 2015 at 12:00 PM

  • Big Finish Productions
Welcome to Bay of the Living Dead, a twice-a-month column about the horror genre.

When viewers of Dark Shadows last saw Hallie Stokes, she was lying dead in the tower room of the great house of Collinwood, one of many who fell victim to the malevolent ghost of Gerard Stiles—the ghost was himself possessed by the soul of the evil 17th century warlock Judah Zachary. Barnabas Collins and Julia Hoffman were about to travel back to the year 1840, where they hoped to prevent Gerard's death. which would in turn prevent the deaths of Hallie and all of the others who lived in the grand old mansion. It was the summer of 1970, and viewers were watching the horror-themed soap opera's final major storyline before it's cancellation in April 1971.

Hallie was played by Kathleen Cody, a stunningly beautiful young actress who had been working since she was a little girl. Soap operas, TV commercials, prime-time TV, theater, and modeling. Cody had done it all by the time she was cast as Hallie at age 15. The best was yet to come—Cody went on to become a contract player at the Walt Disney Company, starring in hit family films like Snowball Express and SuperdadThen, she disappeared.

Kathleen Cody gave it all up in the mid-1980s in order to play her greatest role: mom.

Now, Cody and Hallie are back. Kathleen Cody is the top billed star of Dark Shadows: Tainted Lovean audio drama produced on CD by UK based Big Finish Productions. It's the second such CD that Cody has starred in. She first revisited the Dark Shadows universe, and her character, in last year's Dark Shadows: Carriage of the Damnedan eerie chiller in which the now adult Hallie recalls having lived two lives—the life in which she died at the hands of Gerard Stiles, and the whole new life she leads after her friends Barnabas and Julia successfully changed the course of history during their sojourn to 1840. As I reported in Fangoria Magazine, Carriage of the Damned, served to tie up some pesky "loose ends", unresolved plot points from that 1840 journey. 

  • Big Finish Productions
In Tainted Love, Hallie is now evil. Determined to win the love of her childhood friend David Collins, she has turned to the Dark Arts, using witchcraft to lure her man into her spider's web. The relationship between the adult Hallie and David is not unlike that of the iconic Dark Shadows characters of Barnabas and Angelique, she being the witch who turned Barnabas into a vampire out of revenge for scorning her love back in 1795.

"It's fun playing the role of Hallie again after 45 years," Cody told SF Weekly, speaking from her home in Florida. "It's more fun than playing Hallie in the original role back in 1970 actually, and the reason for that is multi-layered. Number one: I'm older and my approach to Hallie is to try and understand why she acts the way she does, why she says what she says. Hallie is older too, although time goes slower in Hallie's world then mine!  Hallie at the time of Tainted Love is about 29 yrs old, so it was time to understand how life affected her. And that's where creating a backstory and character development summary came in handy. It gave me a chance to analyze the character of Hallie, who was virtually characterless in 1970 at 15 yrs old. It was time to create a character and a backstory to understand her. She's a troubled soul and with good reason."

click to enlarge Kathleen Cody, with David Henesy, on Dark Shadows in 1970. - DAN CURTIS PRODUCTIONS
  • Dan Curtis Productions
  • Kathleen Cody, with David Henesy, on Dark Shadows in 1970.
Some of the backstory which Cody refers to is revealed in Carriage of the Damned and Tainted Love. Cody worked closely with Big Finish writers and producers David Darlington and Joseph Lidster in developing Hallie's grown up persona—Cody was kind enough to share some of her own thoughts on how the character might develop over the years:

"Hallie Stokes had been a totally vulnerable, unprepared and powerless young girl going up against the paranormal forces that were waiting for her since she first stepped foot into Collinwood in 1970. What she went through back in 1970-1971 had changed her life forever and Hallie was determined never to be vulnerable, helpless or powerless again.

In her struggle to learn how to deal with the psychological trauma (PTSD?) she experienced all those years ago, Hallie Stokes took her first step over the line into the dark side. She was determined that no one would know what she was doing developing her skills in witchcraft and her understanding of the paranormal world. She would still act the sweet, innocent, responsible, dutiful and (in her eyes) boring young lady everyone had always viewed her as.

But Hallie knew she was so much more than that. As she delved deeper, her knowledge grew... and so did her passion and power. She hides her anger well, but inside she keeps track of each person, known or unknown, alive or dead, who has taken something from her, betrayed her or abandoned her. Determined to keep her power a secret until the right time comes, there is only one person Hallie feels she must make understand. Although David turned away from her as she tried to explain the path she was on once before, the man she fell in love with years ago would not betray her! She was sure of this. They would be together as they always had been, once he really understood.

The time had come. Hallie vowed she would never be helpless again. And with that vow, Hallie Stokes unwittingly began following in the footsteps of Angelique."

In a plot twist that my surprise original Dark Shadows viewers, Tainted Love includes a sexual liaison between Hallie and David Collins. It was a natural progression for the two characters, according to Cody.

"I've heard it said by so many Dark Shadows  fans that David and Hallie would have married," she said. "So, it's not a surprise that in Tainted Love we see a romantic attraction between the both of them! What might be a little bit shocking to the older generation of Dark Shadows fans is that they actually do consummate their attraction for each other, but without the ritual of marriage, as probably would have been done on the soap back in the 70's. And the dialogue between the two of them is a little more explicit to the act than what you would have heard on the original series also, but after all... It is 2015 now!"

These days, Kathleen Cody lives a life of quiet, happy retirement. Though she's enjoying her return to the house of Dark Shadows, she has no plans to resume a full time acting career. But she's certainly open to doing more audio dramas for Big 
click to enlarge Kathleen Cody today. - KATHLEEN CODY
  • Kathleen Cody
  • Kathleen Cody today.
Finish Productions, and now has a Facebook page where she connects with fans.

"I enjoy talking to all my fans on Facebook and Twitter, not just Dark Shadows fans but fans from all the work I did during my professional career," Cody said. "By now I have settled into a comfortable and friendly exchange with all, and I think my fans know that I care about them and that mostly I want my Facebook profile page and my fan group, Kathleen Cody Fan Groupto be a safe place for anyone to come and feel welcome and comfortable."

As we previously reported in this column, the Dark Shadows fan world has been invaded by a number of unsavory types, bullies who consider the show their personal property. Cody will have none of it in her corner of the Dark Shadows universe.

"Unfortunately, everyone must deal with bullies," she points out. "Words hurt, and sometimes those words are intentionally meant to hurt. Adult cyberbullying by small groups within Dark Shadows fandom is unacceptable and says more about the person or persons doing the bullying then the hurtful words being thrown out at their targets."

Cody hopes that Dark Shadows fans who want to enjoy the show in a relaxed, respectful and fun environment will seek membership in her fan group. "I've been fortunate to have met many wonderful people through my association with Dark Shadows over the years," she said. "I find it easier to focus on healthy personal and professional relationships. So many of the  Dark Shadows  fans have given a wonderful response to Tainted Love, and for that I am most grateful."     

Happy New Year!                                            

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