Dark Shadows


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About

This enormously popular half-hour gothic soap opera aired on ABC-TV from 1966 until 1971, and showcased a panoply of supernatural characters including vampires, werewolves, warlocks, and witches. During its initial run, the series spawned two feature-length motion pictures, House Of Dark Shadows (1970) and Night Of Dark Shadows (1971), as well as thirty-two tie-in novels, comic books, records, Viewmasters, games, models, and trading cards. Fans of the show included both adults and children (it aired in a late afternoon time slot which allowed young people the opportunity to see it after school), and many of these fans began to organize clubs and produce fanzines not long after the show was canceled. These groups were directly instrumental in getting Dark Shadows re-run in syndication on local stations (often public broadcasting stations), throughout the 1970s and 1980s and in persuading series creator Dan Curtis to remake the show as a prime-time weekly drama on NBC-TV in 1991. Although the new show did not catch on with the public, the entire run of Dark Shadows, both the original series and the remake, are available on tape from MPI Home Video. Fans continue to hold yearly conventions, write their own Dark Shadows fanzines, collect memorabilia, and lobby the entertainment industry.

Set in Collinsport, Maine, the original series focused on the tangled lives and histories of the Collins family. Matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (well known classical Hollywood movie star Joan Bennett) presided over the ancestral estate, Collinwood, along with her brother Roger Collins (Louis Edmonds). The show was in danger of being canceled after its first few months on the air until the character of Barnabas Collins, a 172-year-old vampire, was introduced. As played by Jonathan Frid, Barnabas was less a monster and more a tortured gothic hero, and he quickly became the show's most popular character. Governess Victoria Winters (Alexandra Moltke), waitress Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott), and Elizabeth's daughter Carolyn (Nancy Barrett) became the first few women to fall sway to the vampire's charms. Dr. Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall) attempted to cure him of his affliction, although she too subsequently fell in love with him. Barnabas was protected during the day by his manservant Willie Loomis (John Karlen), although Roger's son David (David Henesy) almost discovered his secret.

One of the series' most innovative developments was its use of time travel and parallel universes as narrative tropes which constantly reshuffled storylines and characters, enabling many of the show's most popular actors to play different types of characters within different settings. The first of these shifts occurred when governess Victoria Winters traveled back in time (via a seance) to the year 1795, so the series could explore the origins of Barnabas's vampirism. The witch Angelique (Lara Parker) was introduced during these episodes, as was the witch-hunting Reverend Trask (Jerry Lacy). After the 1795 sequence, Angelique returned to present day Collinwood as Roger's new wife Cassandra; she continued to practice witchcraft under the direction of warlock Nicholas Blair (Humbert Allen Astredo). Soon other classic gothic narratives were pressed into service, and the 1968 episodes also featured a werewolf, a Frankenstein-type creation, and pair of ghosts a la Turn of the Screw.

Those ghosts proved to be the catalyst to another time shift, this time to 1897, wherein dashing playboy Quentin Collins (David Selby) was introduced. His dark good looks and brooding sensuality made him a hit with the fans, and his popularity soon began to rival that of Barnabas. The 1897 sequence marked the height of the show's popularity, and the writers created intricately interwoven stories about vampires, witches, gypsies, zombies, madwomen, and a magical Count Petofi (Thayer David). Quentin was turned into a werewolf only to have the curse controlled by a portrait as in The Picture of Dorian Gray. When the show returned to the present time once again, it began working a storyline liberally cribbed from H. P. Lovecraft's "Cthulu" mythos. Through various time shifts and parallel universes, the show continued to rework gothic classics (including Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Turn of the Screw [again], Rebecca, Wuthering Heights, and The Lottery) until its demise in 1971. Ingenues came and went, including pre-Charlie's Angels Kate Jackson as Daphne Harridge, and Donna (A Chorus Line) McKechnie as Amanda Harris.

The popularity of Dark Shadows must be set against the counter-cultural movements of the late 1960s: interest in alternative religions, altered states of consciousness, and paranormal phenomena such as witchcraft. Dark Shadows regularly explored those areas through its sympathetic supernatural creatures, while most of the true villains of the piece turned out to be stern patriarchs and hypocritical preachers. (The show did come under attack from some fundamentalist Christian groups who dubbed the series "Satan's favorite TV show.") Monstrous characters as heroic or likable figures were appearing elsewhere on TV at this time, in shows such as Bewitched, The Addams Family, and The Munsters. Many fans of those shows (and Dark Shadows) apparently looked to these figures as playful counter-cultural icons, existing in a twilight world somewhere outside the patriarchal hegemony. Furthermore, since the show was shot live on tape and mistakes were rarely edited out, the series had a bargain-basement charm which appealed both to spectators who took its storylines seriously and to those who appreciated the spooky goings-on as camp. The range of acting styles also facilitated a camp appreciation, as did the frequently outlandish situations, costumes, and make up. In spite of these technical shortcomings, the gothic romance of the show appears to be one of its most enduring charms. Fan publications most regularly try to recapture the tragic romantic flavor of the show rather than its campiness, although some fans faulted the latter day NBC remake for taking itself too seriously. Whatever their idiosyncratic reasons, Dark Shadows fans remain devoted to the property, and its characters remain popular icons in American culture.

-Harry M. Benshoff

CAST

Victoria Winters............................... Alexandra Moltke  

David Collins..................................... David Hennessy

Elizabeth Collins.................................... Joan Bennett

Barnabas Collins................................... Jonathan Frid  

Roger Collins .....................................Louis Edmonds  

Dr. Julia Hoffman................................... Grayson Hall

Maggie Evans ..............................Kathryn Leigh Scott  

Carolyn ................................................Nancy Barrett

Quentin Collins ........................................David Selby  

Daphne Harridge................................... Kate Jackson

Angelique................................................ Lara Parker  

Nicholas Blair.......................... Humbert Allen Astredo  

Reverend Trask......................................... Jerry Lacy

Count Petofi........................................... Thayer David  

Willie Loomis........................................... John Karlen

Joe Haskell/Nathan Forbes..................... Joel Crothers

PRODUCERS

Dan Curtis, Robert Costello

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

ABC

June 1966-April 1971   Non-Primetime

CAST (Primetime Series)

Barnabas Collins....................................... Ben Cross  

Victoria Winters/Josette........................ Joanna Going  

Elizabeth Collins Stoddard/Naomi .........Jean Simmons  

Roger Collins/Reverend Trask.................. Roy Thinnes

David Collins/Daniel (Age 8)......... Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Dr. Julia Hoffman/Natalie..................... Barbara Steele

Prof. Woodward/Joshua..................... Stefan Gierasch

Angelique .........................................Lysette Anthony

Willie Loomis/Ben......................................... Jim Fyfe

Mrs. Johnson/Abigail...................... Julianna McCarthy

Sheriff Patterson........................... Michael Cavanaugh

Joe Haskell/Peter................................ Michael Weiss

Sarah Collins.................................... Veronica Lauren

Carolyn Stoddard............................ Barbara Blackburn

PRODUCER

Dan Curtis

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

January 1991   Sunday 9:00-10:00

January 1991   Monday 9:00-10:00

January 1991   Friday 10:00-11:00

January 1991-March 1991   Friday 9:00-10:00

March 1991   Friday 10:00-11:00

FURTHER READING

Benshoff, Harry M. "Secrets, Closets, And Corridors Through Time: Negotiating Sexuality and Gender In Dark Shadows Fan Culture." In Alexander, A., and C. Harris, editors. Theorizing Fandom: Fans, Subcultures, and Identity. Hampton Press, 1996.

Pierson, Jim. Dark Shadows Resurrected. Los Angeles & London: Pomegranate, 1992.

Scott, Kathryn Leigh, editor. The Dark Shadows Companion. Los Angeles & London: Pomegranate, 1990.

Scott, Kathryn Leigh. My Scrapbook Memories of Dark Shadows. Los Angeles & London: Pomegranate, 1986.

Highlights
Bob Costello on producing Dark Shadows
16:28
Jonathan Frid on the logistics of taping Dark Shadows
02:41
Who talked about this show

Bob Costello

View Interview
Bob Costello on producing Dark Shadows
16:28

Jonathan Frid

View Interview
Jonathan Frid on the logistics of taping Dark Shadows
02:41
Jonathan Frid on getting cast as "Barnabas Collins" Dark Shadows
05:18
Jonathan Frid on the premise of Dark Shadows
01:48
Jonathan Frid on his Dark Shadows character "Barnabas Collins"
03:01
Jonathan Frid on his approach to playing "Barnabas Collins" on Dark Shadows
02:10
Jonathan Frid on on the directors of Dark Shadows
01:56
Jonathan Frid on performing Dark Shadows live on tape
02:10
Jonathan Frid on the look of his Dark Shadows character "Barnabas Collins," and on the show switching back and forth in time
06:26
Jonathan Frid on where Dark Shadows was shot, and on a typical tape day
03:28
Jonathan Frid on working with the cast of Dark Shadows
03:38
Jonathan Frid on working with Louis Edmonds and other cast members on Dark Shadows
05:35
Jonathan Frid on the popularity and fan base of Dark Shadows and of his character "Barnabas Collins"
07:03
Jonathan Frid on promoting Dark Shadows by making personal appearances, and on the appeal of "Barnabas Collins"
04:19
Jonathan Frid on not playing "Barnabas Collins" as a vampire on Dark Shadows
03:15
Jonathan Frid on playing "Bramwell Collins" on Dark Shadows, and on the cult following the series has developed
02:34
Jonathan Frid on being involved with the 40th anniversary of Dark Shadows
03:22

Leonard Goldberg

View Interview
Leonard Goldberg on the creation of Dark Shadows
03:00

Ellen Wheeler

View Interview
Ellen Wheeler on appearing on Dark Shadows
00:37

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