May 10th, 2012
12:32 PM ET
It seems to go without saying that at this point, Johnny Depp and Tim Burton have a lot in common - not least of which being the eight movies they've worked on together.
Yet we can add another item to that list: Their affection for "Dark Shadows," the series they've turned into a movie arriving in theaters Friday.
It was actually Depp who brought the idea of a movie to Burton, as the actor's a noted fan of the original 1966-71 daytime TV series, and Burton shares his appreciation. They've also got plenty of company: for over 45 years, the show has had a fanbase that far outweighs other relatively short-lived soaps.
The character of Barnabas Collins, which Depp portrays on film, was first played by the late Jonathan Frid. Barnabas was introduced to "Dark Shadows" several months in as the first vampire to be a lead character on television. (The complete series, by the way, was released on DVD Tuesday.)
In Barnabas, Frid created a character that has been a cult figure for generations. There have even been two attempts at TV reboots of "Dark Shadows," one in 1991 that lasted a season on NBC, and an abandoned one for the WB in 2004.
Stuart Manning of Collinwood.net is one of Depp and Burton's fellow fans, and he called it "one of the most ambitious television shows ever attempted. It was so innovative to take the soap opera format and [add] fantasy elements like ghosts and vampires."
If that combination sounds familiar, it's because it's repeated on TV today, Manning said.
"The show pioneered the reluctant vampire character with Barnabas, which has been used since by everything from 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' to 'The Vampire Diaries,'" he said. "Up until that point, vampires on screen tended to be marauding presences, but Jonathan Frid's sensitive portrayal really struck a chord."
It didn't hurt that the show aired every weekday, keeping fans tuned in regularly.
"The first young audience of viewers lived with these characters, day in, day out, so they really became an important part of their lives. There's obviously nostalgia, but I think it goes beyond that – these characters were childhood friends for a lot of the fans."
There was something special about the show on the set too, according to CNN's own David Weber. Weber worked on the crew of the original "Dark Shadows" during its final season.
He called the sets "impressive for the late '60s and early '70s. A real sense of gothic horror wrapped in an unintentional comedic facade."
Weber recalled that fans gathered daily outside the studio entrance, and that the cast and crew gathered at the local pub after the show every day.
"Jonathan Frid," as Weber remembers him, "was [an] eccentric and somewhat frustrated Broadway actor, extremely kind, but enjoyed his celebrity status as a loner."
But what do fans think of the new movie?
"Opinion is divided. A lot of fans, including myself, are looking forward to a new take on the show and characters. Others, inevitably, are more skeptical," Manning said. "Once the film is released, we may see more of a consensus of opinion. With over 1,200 episodes, 'Dark Shadows' was many things to many people. The fans truly care about these characters, so a new version of something that feels so personal is a strange proposition for some."
Do you remember the original "Dark Shadows"? Tell us below.
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