The Throwback: A return to the world of 'Dark Shadows'
May 10th, 2012
12:32 PM ET

The Throwback: A return to the world of 'Dark Shadows'

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 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.

soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. the family appears successful

    they are the lemons.

    November 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. too us 5 days --

    November 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. t

    Im too young for the original, but I really liked the 1991 version... still mad about the cliff hanger and then cancelation!

    July 28, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mulderjohn

    I loved the original. The cast, the story, and the atmosphere that the show created. Like so many, I was also running home to watch it with, believe it or not, my parents. It was "The Young and the Restless" and "Dark Shadows" in our household. This new flick with Johnny Depp is a spoof and has a comic playful take on the serious addictive element that the original provided to all of it's fans!

    May 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DOLLY

    I was attending an all girls private school in virginia, and after saying "hail marys" all day, we would run to the activity hall and 4:00pm and that is where you found most us.We loved it, and it was the only show we all agreed on to watch.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Myrna Band/Siesta Key

    this is really a show.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jeffrey David Marmon

    Great Great show.

    May 14, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  8. isingopera

    Love Barnabus, Angelique and of course Quentin. Loved the show..the was so ahead of its time.

    May 14, 2012 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  9. duh

    well i think all you geezers are in for a huge disappointment, this ain't no soap opera, just another hackjob remake bleh

    May 14, 2012 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  10. Paula

    I too couldn't wait to get home from school, grab a glass of milk and the box of vanilla wafers and run downstairs to watch Dark Shadows. I loved that show then, and still do today. I was excited when I first heard the movie would be made and thought Johnny Depp would make a great Barnabas.....until I started seeing trailers for it. I have no desire to see the movie, it seems to be to be a mockery of the original show. If they had stayed truer to the show I might have considered the movie, but for me nothing will ever come close to the television show.

    May 14, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  11. luvthosevampires

    I remember running home 4 blocks after school, go and change, get a drink, and get my butt in front of the tv by 400PM for Dark Shadows. My mom and grandmother was into it too. My first big crush was Barnabas; I had a huge poster of him in my bedroom. Later it was Quentin- David Selby who made my heart race. Great and imaginative show for the time! As a kid it didn't appear campy to me..but the bloopers were unforgetable. Don't know how I'll feel about the Depp/Burton movie.

    May 14, 2012 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jack Clauss

    My very favorite show.

    May 14, 2012 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
  13. kellam

    I remeber running home after school to watch it, it was captivating because we had never seen anything like it on a daily bases. Vampires and horror in the afternoon. Looking at the re-runs now it's quite comical and exteremely campy! It was ahead of it's time. I loved the show and the cast and we did get scared.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. DLT

    I remember that my Mom loved "Dark Shadows," when I was growing up. Back then, we had three channels–NBC, ABC, and CBS, then PBS, and a local station that broadcast repeats of old sitcoms and even older movies. That was it! No cable, no satellite, no live streaming videos. (I know, younger generation–Horrors!!!). Seeing the same characters daily, they kinda became part of an extended family–granted, the weird, twisted family members you didn't talk about–but family, none the less. lol

    May 13, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. heyitsme

    I used to race home everyday after school to watch Dark Shadows. Was in grade school and it was the most intriguing show ever! Totally hooked. Saw it on TV land a few years ago and was just as enraptured, although, it had some pretty amusng moments that I did not grasp earlier. Went to see the Johnny Depp version and I loved it!!!!! It is not like the orginal, but it does respect its memory. It wa entertaining and the nostalgic element was what made it fun!! It is a campy version of the original. Pure entertainment - took my daughters - even the music was great and appropriate for the 70's. Brought back some fun memories

    May 13, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  16. finspec

    Quentin Collins was the uber hunk. I, too, was a senior in high school in 1967 and would tear home after school to see it. I still have the 45 of Quentin's Theme. He was my first serious TV star crush. I have most of the VHS tapes for the series and just love to go back in time, watching all the campy emoting, it makes me feel like a kid again. Don't know if I will watch the Johnny Depp version. While I do like him, no one can compare with Jonathan Frid. You can't improve on perfection.

    May 12, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
  17. leslieb

    I rembember it was on after school. it had me glued to m y seat. Going gothic at that time was bold. I wonder how many of he orig cast are still with us.

    May 12, 2012 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
  18. sylviascott

    I am part of the cult following since 1967 when I was a senior in high school-like everyday unless we had an athletic game right after school. 1969-1971 every afternoon in the TV room of our sorority house it was filled with devoted fans watching those great fashions and how scary Barnabus could be. My sister just got the entire series on DVD this week-she's promised to share with me.

    May 11, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
  19. sylviascott

    I am one of those cult followers from the very beginning. 1967 I was a senior in high school. My sister and I were glued to the show every day-by the way, the fashions for the women were great and yes oh so 60's and 70's. I did have a life after school however it had to wait until after Dark Shadows. In college in 1969 to 1971, literally the TV lounge in our sorority house was full each afternoon watching Dark Shadows. I am so excited, my sister just bought yes the entire series on DVD this week-she's promised to share with me.

    May 11, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  20. brad1001

    As kids, when summers got long and hot, we'd retire to the house for fun. One afternoon as my 14 yr old sister watched Dark Shadows, my buddy (we were 12) lured her to the stairs to my room that dad had added to the house (it was over the garage). I jumped out at the top of the stairs, grotesquely made up, and scared the hell out of her. She rolled down the stairs backward, and as boys, we howled in laughter. The laughter was short lived as she went to her room, picked up one of her "Beatle boots", remember those? .. and chased my down and clocked me on the noggin. It wasn't so funny then. Dark Shadows ruled our afternoons, that and rubber band gun fights, koolaid and playing with the party line telephone. Good times.

    May 11, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bruce

      So funny you mentioned the party lines. When our schoolbus let us off at our grandparents house who kept us until our parents got home, we raced into the livingroom to watch, as our grandmother called it "Black Shadours". After that was grandmas time to listen in on the party line at all the gossip around the small town. I can even remember grandma talking on the phone and one of them would hear a noise and she would shout "WELL THAT MUST BE ???? LISTENING IN"!!!! Those were the times when you were allowed to take your Brown? (the name escapes me) pocket knife to school that your grandfather gave to you to carve stuff out of wood. Good Times!

      May 12, 2012 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
  21. Lizzy10

    There are many reasons to love the original series, where else could you see vampires, werewolves, witches, druids and ghosts, but it was never a comedy. It was unintentionally funny at times, but it still managed to grab my attention and keep me watching. I do believe it was the catalyst for my love of horror stories/movies, which has been passed down to my own children. I think I'll be skipping the movie and instead get the original on DVD. Thank you Dan Curtis.

    May 11, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Mark

    Hello everyone look for" HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS" from 1970 or check it out Y-tube or Rent movie

    May 11, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  23. jwarino

    Watch it every night on net-flix. not sure a movie by Burton is gonna be a winner.

    May 11, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Carol

    I remember the original Dark Shadows quite well. I loved J. Frid in his roll as B. Collins.
    Though I like J. Depp as an actor, I'm not sure whether the T. Burton version Dark Shadows
    will hold up.

    May 11, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Ralphine

    I am watching the DVD's of the original as we speak! I love them. I watched them after school and loved David Selby when he came in, but nothing could overshadow Barnabas. I am not sure if I will watch the movie. I don't always enjoy the take-offs of shows that actually meant something. Too many of them are just mean or stupid. I will probably wait and see what others that I respect think.

    May 11, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  26. heycarrieann

    My friends and I would rush home from school to watch Dark Shadows. We just loved it because there was nothing else like it on tv at the time. We could't wait to see what kind of evil Angelique would come up. I also used to have to babysit my two young cousins, and to this day one of them will tell how I used to scare them in the afternoon with the show. I know the movie won't be like the show, but it will be fun to se the old characters again. I wonder if they will play "Angelique's Theme"

    May 11, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Yolanda

    I watched the show after school at my babysitter's house and hada crush on David! Seeing the movie tonight.

    May 11, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  28. poppy

    i remember it! my mother and i would watch it together!

    May 11, 2012 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
  29. Larry

    I was an avid fan of the series when I was young, I will be getting the series on dvd, don't know about the movie though.

    May 11, 2012 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
  30. surfs up

    Can't wait to see movie and getting the old series on dvd. ($mart move on their part) Liked that show a lot when I was a kid.

    May 10, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  31. songdude

    As a fan when I was a young child. I used to rush home from school to watch it with my mom. I was really caught up with all the darkness and character of barnbas. It was a great show of its day. Altho I am for remakes if its in good taste. I truly do not think that the characters were set up to be 'Funny" per say. it was not a comedy of its day, but a drama. Sometimes tim burton can be too far to the left with his projects. Sometimes I think they set around and do mushrooms and write scripts. I will wait until it comes to blu-ray, or better yet. Cable.

    May 10, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Momcatusa

    I only caught a few glimpses of "Dark Shadows" when it was first on tv, but when I ran across it being rerun on cable in the late 1980s, I immediately recalled the unearthly, eerie sensation of watching it – and fired up my vcr. I managed to watch the entire series, from first episode to last, and was utterly mesmerized. The sets were probably innovative at the time, but they were mere shadows behind the characters, which were like no others I'd ever seen on television. I felt so sorry for Barnabas, and yet I was sorry for Vicky, too, caught up in this strange family's weirdness. It was so personal – you came to really care about these maddening people! It was a unique experience, and I'm looking forward to Burton and Depp's take on the story.

    May 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |

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