On the 51th Anniversary of Dark Shadows’ Final Episode, Sink Your Teeth Into a Photo Album Full of the Memories That Still Haunt Fangs… Er, *Fans*
It all started with a dream.
It’s mad, but it’s true. Legend has it that in 1965, Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis had a dream, one about an enigmatic young woman on a train. He pitched that vague idea to ABC and somehow got the OK to birth the network’s first super-popular soap opera.
Mind you, the moody show was anything but an insta-hit. When it debuted in 1965, it ranked 13th out of 18 daytime dramas. (Let that number sink in for a minute — 18 serials from which to choose!) And as one program after another was cancelled around it, Dark Shadows’ 13th-place standing put it at the bottom of the heap. “Shape up,” the network warned Curtis, “or you’ll be shipped out.”
So he threw a Hail Mary in 1967 — or should we say a Bloody Mary? — by tossing into the mix a vampire. Like, why not, right? Nothing was clicking. So what did Dark Shadows have to lose? Nada. And it had everything to gain.
Credit: Courtesy of the Everett Collection
And gain, it did, too. Long-in-the-tooth Barnabas Collins, as played by the late Jonathan Frid, fascinated the kiddies who were bored with more traditional soaps and had nothing better to do after school than tune in. By 1969, the show was a bona-fide sensation, one that boasted a monster mash of characters that included a witch (Lara Parker’s “enchanting” Angelique Bouchard) and a werewolf (future Falcon Crest star David Selby’s Quentin Collins).
Alas, from that lofty perch, there was no place for the show to go but down. After the wrap-up of a storyline that took our principals all the way back to 1897, a byzantine new plot was hatched that… well, nobody liked. (Say “The Leviathans” to a Dark Shadows fan, and wait for the groan.) After just five years on the air, the show was cancelled and aired its last episode on April 2, 1971 — 51 years ago.
Yet the supernatural sudser lives on, not only in our imaginations but in our memories. Click on the photo gallery below to return to Collinsport and the thrill ride that was Dark Shadows.
<p>The shocked reaction depicted was understandable: It was a big — make that <em>monumentally</em> big — deal that <em>Dark Shadows</em> was able to cast as the Collins family’s matriarch, Elizabeth, Joan Bennett, a well-regarded veteran of the big screen (as far back as silent pictures, for Pete’s sake).</p>
<p>Series creator Dan Curtis’ dream of a mystery woman on a train manifested itself in Alexandra Moltke as the original Victoria Winters, nanny to Collinwood kiddo David. Joining her in adding a grain of salt to whatever they were seeing were the aforementioned Bennett and Louis Edmonds (later Langley Wallingford on <em>All My Children</em>) as her brother, Roger Collins.</p>
<p>Never mind that he seemed to have no idea how a cane was actually used. Once Jonathan Frid emerged from the coffin of Barnabas Collins, he pumped new life’s blood into <em>Dark Shadows</em> — ironically, as his toothsome alter ego sucked it out of anyone foolhardy enough to stick their neck out.</p>
<p>Though Barnabas had an irritating habit of obsessing over women who reminded him of his late fiancée, Josette du Pres, the woman we’ll go to our graves believing was his destiny was the late Grayson Hall’s bonkers Dr. Julia Hoffman, who sought to cure the vampire of his bloodlust.</p>
<p>Whenever <em>Dark Shadows</em> hit a dull patch, it would simply resurrect once more Lara Parker‘s Angelique Bouchard, a sorceress so magical, she could make ordering breakfast sound like a hex. Sometimes there were wigs, fake identities… It didn’t matter. Angelique was gold, no matter how often she was mined.</p>
<p>So adored as werewolf Quentin Collins was David Selby (later the Machiavellian Richard Channing on <em>Falcon Crest</em>) that in 1969, a Robert Cobert instrumental called “Quentin’s Theme” hit No. 3 (!) on <em>Billboard</em> magazine’s adult-contemporary chart. In your face, Kenny G!</p>
<p>Between them, Quentin, Angelique and Barnabas drove so much story, they all but owned the highway. Along with the inimitable Julia, they became what <a href="https://darkshadowseveryday.com" target="_blank"><em>Dark Shadows</em> Every Day</a> called the kaiju, owing to their enormous presence and impact on the canvas.</p>
<p>In 1970, the soap was spun off into the big-screen <em>House of Dark Shadows</em>, with Nancy Barrett’s Carolyn Stoddard doing her best to attract new fangs. The following year, <em>Night of Dark Shadows</em> further diluted the brand (and must have made future <em>Charlie’s Angels</em> scripts seem <em>brilliant</em> by comparison to Kate Jackson, who played Tracy Collins).</p>
<p>In 1991, Curtis shed new light on <em>Dark Shadows</em> with a primetime reboot starring Ben Cross as Barnabas. But alas, that light was, erm, quickly shut off. The series was slower to get going than it was to get gone.</p>
<p><em>Dark Shadows</em>’ influence was keenly felt in 2000 when struggling <em>General Hospital</em> spinoff <em>Port Charles</em> unleashed vampire Caleb Morley on Livvie Locke, a dead — well, <em>live</em> — ringer for his late love. (How very Barnabas, no?) Though the twist gave viewers the best kind of chills, ABC still drove a stake into the soap’s heart just three years later, then gave new roles to Michael Easton and Kelly Monaco (who these days are Finn and Sam on <em>General Hospital</em>).</p>
<p>Fans of <em>Dark Shadows</em> rejoiced when they heard that Johnny Depp was turning the soap into a big-budget movie directed by his pal, Tim Burton. Then they saw it, and… ugh. The best anyone could say about it was that, even in a crapfest that stinky, future <em>Penny Dreadful</em> star Eva Green (who took on the role of Angelique) came out smelling like a rose.</p>
<p>Much like the immortal vampire that became its focus, <em>Dark Shadows</em> can’t be killed, not really. In 2004, The WB shot a pilot for a reboot. In 2019, The CW was said to have yet <em>another</em> one in the works. So it’s less a question of <em>whether</em> the beloved soap will find its way back to our screens someday… but <em>when</em>.</p>
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