Author Lorelei Bell, welcomes you! Vampires are my addiction, I assume they are yours as well. Come and journey with me to the darker shadows, where the vampires lurk, watching us, waiting for us weak humans...

The journey awaits, come!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dark Shadows: Fond Memories & Facts

The girl ran down the hill in the shadow of the red brick school building, taking her usual escape route along the grassy edge of her neighbor's field. When the last bell rang to end her day of drudgery, she couldn't wait to get home. She raced down the hill and crossed the busy street carefully, but at a gallop because the show would be on soon! Long brown hair flying, she pumped her skinny legs to get home and then turned on the TV to watch "Dark Shadows".

The haunting, ethereal music and moody black & white setting--usually in that 40-room mansion, with a few mysterious wings locked off to everyone--and a creepy old cemetery nearby had me mesmerized. The mansion was situated on the precipice of a cliff, over an ocean view. The show was dark, rife with the odd character or two... and one vampire. Unheard of in a soap opera, especially in 1967.

Dark Shadows aired in 1966, but did not introduce Barnabas Collins, the vampire, until April of 1967.

I was that brown-haired girl with skinny legs running home to catch the show. I don't know when exactly I began to watch it, but it had to have been some time after the vampire came into the plot, because I was hooked, as were we all! My mother was a fan of soaps and would do her ironing while watching them while I sat on the floor drawing. I'm sure that I became awared of these day-time dramas because of her. After she died (the year I turned 12), I was pretty much free to watch such impressionable shows like Dark Shadows.

It wasn't until recently when the Dark Shadows movie with Johnny Depp in the roll of Barnabas Collins, that I began to remember things about when I first began watching that show, and realized this how I had become so interested in vampires to begin with, and began searching for anything about vampires, whether it was a movie or an article, or a book. But, I knew very little about this show's history. So, I've been researching the show and certain facts best I can for this special tribute. For those of you who are already fans, you may remember certain things better than I. For those of you who are new to this, well, here are some interesting facts about the show.

In 1966, Dark Shadows came on the air with little fanfare. It lasted until 1971--a mere 6 years. Producer, Dan Curtis, had the idea for a dark Gothic style TV soap, after a dream he had about a dark-haired orphan girl riding on a train into a new England town, and she winds up gaining employment as a governess in the Collenwood mansion.

When low ratings threatened cancellation during that first year, they added supernatural elements to the plot. The first element was a ghost. But in April of 1967, they introduced Barnabas Collins, the vampire: Willie Loomis discovers a secret room in the family mausoleum and finds a chained up coffin. Naturally he opens it, and disturbs Barnabas from his eternal resting place (I don't believe we see who pops out of the coffin). Afterward, a grimly handsome man  with dark hair (Barnabas Collins), appears at the front door of the Collinwood mansion and introduces himself as a long-lost cousin from England. He moves into the abandoned old house on the estate and it doesn't take long before the community is plagued by a "mysterious illness".

A history was developed and we learn about his long lost love Jossette DuPres--and the resemblance between Maggie Evans (a waitress in the local diner), and Jossette was not lost on him, and his desire to turn her into a vampire to replace his long-lost Jossette in his life became part of the plot. As the story continued, Dr. Julia Hoffman (Grason Hall), was called in to treat Maggie (Kathryn Leigh Scott), for her mysterious illness.

Dan Curtis took a gamble on introducing the vampire, and good for him for Bringing in Canadian Shakespearean actor, Jonathan Frid. The shows were still broadcast during the summer of 1967, and suddenly the ratings not only jumped, but Jonathan Frid became an over-night star. His fan mail soared, and was overwhelmingly from women and teenagers. Crowds became a regular thing at the entrances to the ABC studio where the show was taped. Then, Dark Shadow paraphernalia began to appear.

Even after Dark Shadows went off  the air, there was a huge following. There were conventions, fanzines, festivals, books, and a game and miniatures. There were spin-off movies as well. Two full-length feature films were titled "House of Dark Shadows" (1970), and "Night of Dark Shadows" (1971). Both of which were available on video later on.

In 1991, they attempted to bring back "Dark Shadows" on TV, but it did not even last a season.

Actress Kathryn Leigh Scott edited "The Dark Shadows Companion/25th Anniversaryry Collection", with a foreword by Jonathan Frid.

Scott also has a very nice dedication to Frid on her website. I found that her website has a lot on it, so if you wish to explore further, I don't think you need go any further.


Anonymous said...

Wow! what a post that was!
Lorelei you out bloodied yourself, er I mean great post!
It was quite a show and so inspired us!

Lorelei said...

Thanks Carole, very kind of you. I just had something on the show and decided to go all out with it (^;

Anonymous said...

pleasure. what a thorough post that was!
I mean where'd you get all that info. fantastic, Lorelei.
really, really good.
It was so different. it dared to be different and we loved it.
they have it on dvd. i would so love to have it!
i can even get it in the UK!
if i can, i'll get it!

Lorelei said...

Oh, I hope you can. I really must try and find it in a local resale shop! I'll have to ask around!

My source for information was (oddly enough) "The Vampire Book, The Encyclopedia of the Undead"

We'll have to try this again sometime!

Anonymous said...

thanks. that's some book.
we will, love this duo blogo!
great post!