Sunday, 1 February 2009

Dark Shadows Reborn!!!

As a visitor to Wotan's Musings you may have noticed that Wotan has rather eclectic favs - in the TV front there is one that surpasses all others and that is Wotan's love of the late 60's - early 70's TV Gothic series - Dark Shadows.

For those of you unfamiliar with Dark Shadows here is a bit of a sample -

It was the brain child of TV Director Dan Curtis who had a dream of a woman being invited to be a governess in a strange New England mansion - this was developed into a story called "Shadows on the Wall" and then a daily TV "soap opera" that was broadcast in America on ABC at 4pm (Wotan vaguely remembers coming home from school and watching the original last couple of seasons). From its start (and you can enjoy all 1200+ episodes on DVD) there was a Gothic Jane Eyre feel to it -- an orphaned woman named Victoria Winters comes is invited to be governess to a rich New England Family called - The Collinses - who live in a large mansion high a top a hill called Collinwood. The matriarch of the house - Elizabeth Collins Stoddard has not left the mansion for 18 years and there may be a connection between her and the new governess Victoria (although interestingly this plot line in never really resolved). In its first year there was intrigue, a gothic feel and even the hint of a ghost - but when daytime ratings began to dip Dan Curtis has a masterstroke - lets go for it on the supernatural front - and after introducing a creature called the Phoenix who is reborn from the flames every 100 years - he went all out and introduced probably one of the most famous vampires of all time (after that other big one and Angel and long before the current Twilight) - Barnabas Collins who is released from his 200 year imprisonment by the tomb robber - Willie Loomis.

This started a cycle of stories that cover every much horror genre including the reluctant vampire, the werewolf, HP Lovecraft, Frankenstein and even Shirley Jackson's The Lottery. To tell the complete tale of the Collins family - Curtis employed time travel (with the same actors playing different parts) and even parallel time (the same time but based on you making different choices) - the budget was small and the camera never was stopped - the special effects for their time were quite creative and up to 1973 Dark Shadows was a unique show that launched the careers of such actors as Kate Jackson, David Selby and Laura Parker (as well as having such notable talent as Grayson Hall, Joan Bennett and Jonathan Frid as the tortured Barnabas. Two films followed, a 1990 revival series which re-told the Barnabas story with Ben Cross as the Vampire and now we hear that Johnny Depp, a great fan of the show, is working with Tim Burton on a movie version!!

Like Barnabas and Quentin this show does not die and over the years it has spawned books by Marilyn Ross (with such inventive titles as Barnabas, Quentin and the Scorpio Curse) as well as another series by Laura Parker - who played the wicked witch of Dark Shadows - Angelique, merchandise (including several copies of Barnabas's silver heads wolfs cane - one of which Wotan has in his living room). Web resource abound and there is even a wiki about Dark Shadows -

And now probably one of the most exciting occurrences as series of audio dramas featuring the original cast members with new stories and dramatic readings. These are being produced by Big Finish and Wotan has just finished listening to the first year of the series and several of the dramatic recordings - and there is a promise of more to come. There is a great blog by Darren Gross who is developing these shows and also working on the restoration of the second Dark Shadows movie - Night of Dark Shadows - which was edited extensively when it was released in the cinema in the 70;s.

There has never been, and I fear never will be again, such an original story like Dark Shadows and luckily for us there is all group of people who grew up with the show that now want it to stay alive and grow - and Wotan enjoys his many hours sitting in drawing room of Collinwood and hearing the wind come across Widows Hill and this haunting theme........

1 comment:

greg said...

I was so excited to see your Dark Shadows post-- I LOVE that moody, magical soap and caught the first time travel arc in reruns. I recently read a wild romance novel called Twilight's Edge at Ravenous Romance about a fictional gothic soap of the same name, and it took me back there again -- the writer obviously loved DS, too! Hope Depp does it justice!

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