by Marilyn Meredith
Victoria Winters comes to Collinwood, an isolated mansion in coastal Maine, to work as a governess, but soon finds herself drawn into a strange, Gothic world of vampires, ghosts and a family curse that dates back centuries. This is the official beginning to the immensely popular black and white soap opera soap opera. It opened in June of 1966, no doubt part of the reason so many kids got hooked on the story.
My own children would rush home from school in order to watch each cheesy segment. And cheesy they were. Despite the fact that Jonathan Frid was a well-known actor from the stage and played the starring role of Barnabas Collins, the reluctant vampire, every character was overblown, adding to the fun. (As an aside, though I don’t remember this, so many kids loved the show that it was moved to a later time so nothing would be missed.)
Every scene was played in near darkness or by candlelight. I don’t think the sun ever appeared in the beach town of Collinsport. To make things even more interesting, and sometimes confusing, the plot shifted through various time periods. Often, what was going on didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but because the actors played more than one part it didn’t seem to matter.
While Dark Shadows was at its height of popularity, my high school Camp Fire Girls put on a musical spoof of Dark Shadows. My oldest girl played Barnabas Collins, complete with black cape and fangs. She did such a good job, when she leaped from the stage into the audience, all the little kids screamed with fright.
At appropriate times during the play, my husband played a wonderful tape of loud thunder claps and switched the lights off and on giving the effect of lightning. Thunder and lightning always played an important part in the atmosphere of the TV show and also for our musical. I honestly don’t remember what our plot was about though it borrowed the fun parts of the TV show, or what songs we used except for the finale, when we turned the lights on all the way and the girls belted out, “Let the Sunshine In.”
When I heard that they were making a movie of Dark Shadows I was happy, but couldn’t imagine Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins. That is until I saw a trailer; he is going to be wonderful. It looks as though they’ve captured the essence of the not so scary but compelling and habit forming tale of a not too threatening vampire and a mansion full of eccentric people, some of whom might be ghosts.
My daughter, the one who donned the cape and fangs, has already given me orders not to watch it until we can see it together.
The Dark Shadows movie opens this weekend–watch for a review in KRL on Monday!