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Barnabas’ Column #1: PLEASANT NIGHTMARES

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“Consider it a dream, from which you will never awaken…..”
– Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows, 1967

DARK SHADOWS, the now legendary horror-themed daytime soap opera from the 1960s, was literally a dream that came true. The seeds for the serial were planted when creator/producer Dan Curtis dreamt about a young girl getting off of a train. That girl turned out to be Victoria Winters, the heroine of DARK SHADOWS. The original series, its 1991 prime time remake, and the recent Tim Burton/Johnny Depp big screen adaptation all began with Victoria, Curtis’ dream girl, getting off a train in dark, foggy Collinsport, Maine.

Forty seven years after the original series aired its first episode, DARK SHADOWS remains a vibrant franchise with an intensely loyal fan base. The Burton/Depp film grossed $245 million at the worldwide box office. New Jersey based Dynamite Entertainment continues to issue a variety of DARK SHADOWS comic book titles, featuring all new stories. Across the pond in London, Big Finish Productions has issued more than two dozen DARK SHADOWS audio dramas on CD, in which original cast members reprise their TV roles: the CD series remains ongoing. Lara Parker, who played the lovesick witch Angelique on the original series, is about to publish her third Dark Shadows novel. Parker’s TV co-star Kathryn Leigh Scott made a fortune by publishing numerous books on television and film history, including about a half dozen DARK SHADOWS titles.

DARK SHADOWS, Dan Curtis’ dream come true, is alive and well. In recent years, that dream has inspired others to pursue their own dreams. Like this writer.

My contributions to publications like FANGO are rooted in my running home from school to watch DARK SHADOWS during my 1960s childhood. The show’s decidedly non-soap opera tales of vampires, witches, werewolves and ghosts  enthralled me, and led me to seek out the Universal Monster movies, the Hammer Horrors, and whatever else I could find that related to classic and Gothic horror. Which in turn led to my writing career, and my cherished, recently-won Rondo award.

I’m not the only one. No less than Hollywood A-lister Johnny Depp, star of Tim Burton’s DARK SHADOWS movie, cited his obsession with the vampire Barnabas Collins, DARK SHADOWS’ primary bloodsucker, as one of the reasons he became an actor. Depp was determined to play Barnabas, and he did.

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Jonathan Frid & Kathryn Leigh Scott in House of Dark Shadows (MGM, 1970)

Recently, FANGO  reported on Ansel Faraj, the young filmmaker who revived the cinema of German Expressionism with his no-budget, albeit impressive supernatural/noir thriller DOCTOR MABUSE, in which he cast three stars of DARK SHADOWS (see previous web coverage HERE and HERE). Faraj cites DARK SHADOWS as among his filmmaking influences, and in fact has said that HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS (1970), the first DS movie, is one of the films which made him decide to become a director.

Faraj’s sentiments are shared by Wallace McBride, curator of The Collinsport Historical Society, this year’s Rondo Award winner for Best Blog.

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Jonathan Frid as Barnabas, TV publicity still

McBride has spent countless hours at his local public library, scouring through dozens of old newspaper clippings, out of print movie and TV magazines, and film clips. He documents the history of DARK SHADOWS, shining a light on a long forgotten interviews with cast members, TV Guide ads heralding DARK SHADOWS broadcasts, photos of the DS cast in film and stage roles, and anything else he can find which pertains to the show’s shadowed past. Most recently McBride posted a long unseen television commercial for Post Sugar Crisps starring an adorably cute Sharon Smyth (DS’ ghostly Sarah Collins) at age six, several years before she haunted the great halls of Collinwood. One can only imagine how much effort McBride puts into unearthing these treasures.

“All I hoped for was to get DARK SHADOWS mentioned somewhere in this year’s Rondo winners,” McBride said. “I never dreamed that my site had a chance of actually winning.”

Across the spectrum of DARK SHADOWS fandom, there are scores of people pursuing their dreams of being actors, writers, and artists. Many of them cite DARK SHADOWS as among their primary inspirations.

Unusual in the annals of fandom are the very real friendships that form between actors and fans: Sharon Smyth  now counts a number of fans  among her closest personal friends. And on June 8, 2013, several dozen fans joined actor Christopher Pennock (DS’ Jeb Hawkes) at his home for a celebration of his 70th birthday.

Haven’t we all dreamed of hanging out with our film and TV idols? For DARK SHADOWS fans, that dream is another that often comes true.

DARK SHADOWS has become all about dreams coming true. It is therefore with great pleasure that FANGO will present, around the 15th of each month, this new column dedicated to all things DARK SHADOWS.

‘Barnabas’ Column’ will run the gamut: it will keep fans updated on the latest news updates pertaining to the show, it’s various incarnations, it’s cast, and the fans who’ve kept it alive for all these years. We’ll also look back on the colorful history of this remarkable, and most unusual franchise.

If it pertains to DARK SHADOWS, you’ll find it here, each month at FANGORIA online.
Stay tuned…….

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About the author
David-Elijah Nahmod
David-Elijah Nahmod is an American-Israeli half breed who has lived in New York City and Tel Aviv. Currently in San Francisco, his eclectic writing career includes a variety of horror mags, LGBT publications, and SF Weekly. He was thrilled and honored to be named Best Reviewer of 2012 at the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards. You can find him on Facebook (David-Elijah Nahmod, Author) and Twitter (@DavidElijahN)
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