Some forty odd years ago a soap opera began its run, which would eventually take it to 1245 episodes by the time it went off the air in 1971. But this was no garden variety soap opera. This was "Dark Shadows"
Did you think Joss Whedon
was awarded the patent for the vampire with a soul tormented by its own nature by virtue of his television shows "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
? No, of course not. You'll slam that Anne Rice
tome on the table with a smirk worthy of a US president. But before there was a Louis
or a Lestat
, there was Barnabas Collins
To quote an earlier in depth article
on the show:
Jonathan Frid as It wasn't until episode 210 that the show really took off and racked up increasingly better ratings. That's when the petty criminal Willy Loomis, indulging in a spot of grave robbing to augment his pinched finances, released the vampire Barnabas Collins, played by the Canadian Shakespearean stage actor Jonathan Frid, from the Collins family mausoleum, where he had been imprisoned since the late 18th century.
Originally the character was only meant to be one in a series of villainous protagonists over a hundred or so episodes. But when ratings skyrocketed and fan-mail started pouring in from smitten viewers plans were hastily redrawn. Looking older than his 43 years at the time, and hardly what you'd call conventionally handsome, aside from playing what was still a rather clearly evil character, Frid was an unlikely candidate for romantic heartthrob. But viewers had obviously caught on to the undertone of tragedy which he had brought to his portrayal of Barnabas Collins.
The character created by Frid and Curtis, the angst ridden vampire anti-hero with genuinely tragic dimensions, doomed to forever struggle with his own nature and seeking redemption, would become the model without which such later works as Anne Rice's vampire novels and Joss Whedon's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" might never have been.
(Click for larger image)
Besides vampires, the show, on a budget you could fit in a smallish piggy-bank, ran through the gamut of Gothic plots, creatures and things that go bump in the night and knocks over the cardboard sets. It was laughable, it was over the top, it was fun, and surprisingly often it was heart-wrenchingly moving.
It managed the feat of being self-consciously goofy and dead serious at the same time. And it introduced house-fraus, and geeky kids like Tim Burton
, to the heady brew of undiluted grade A Gothic Absinthe
Two subsequent attempts were made to revive the show, with less than stellar results. And with the death of original producer Dan Curtis
last year, it looked like the the crypt door had finally slammed shut on "Dark Shadows".
But according to trade magazine Variety
, via Filmstalker
, Johnny Depp
's production company Infinitum-Nihil, GK Films, and Warner Bros. have signed a deal with the estate of the late Dan Curtis, and secured the rights to develop a feature film based on the show. Depp and Graham King will produce with David Kennedy, who ran Dan Curtis Prods. until Curtis' death. There's no word on who would direct, and indeed no word on whether Mr Depp would take on the signature role of Barnabas Collins himself. But it would seem the obvious choice, especially considering his personal attachment to the character:
Depp has said in interviews that he has always been obsessed with "Dark Shadows" and had, as a child, wanted to be Barnabas Collins, the vampire patriarch of the series.
Promo for the feature film spin-off "House of Dark Shadows" (1970)