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Barnabas’ Column #11: Why Doesn’t “DARK SHADOWS” Get More Respect?

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Since its release in May 2012, a sharply divided public has argued the merits, or lack thereof, of Tim Burton’s DARK SHADOWS. Some felt that Burton offered the perfect balance between homage and spoof of the classic TV series, while others stated they would have preferred a more serious work. Then, there were the naysayers who trashed the film simply because it was called DARK SHADOWS. This was nothing new, as any DARK SHADOWS fan can attest to.

In 1969, when I was in the 8th grade, I was called a ”faggot’.’  “Ha ha”, laughed my tormenters. ”He’s such a queer, he even watches DARK SHADOWS!” Three decades later, at a horror con I attended, I was branded a ”loser” by a number of fellow fans. Because I like—no, love—DARK SHADOWS.

DARK SHADOWS was, in 1967, my introduction to the Gothic horror genre. This odd, ambitious daytime soap opera, complete with alluring, non-soap tales of vampires, witches, werewolves and ghosts, inspired me to start attending screenings of the latest Hammer Films in Brooklyn, New York, where I grew up. Then I discovered Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine. Creature Features on channel 5 soon caught my eye, where I was enthralled by the Universal Monster Movies.

I would never have sought these things out had I not first seen Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) get out of his coffin and bite Josette (Kathryn Leigh Scott) on her neck. By the time I first saw James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN in 1968, I had already seen Dr. Julia Hoffman and Dr. Eric Lang (Grayson Hall, Addison Powell) create Adam (Robert Rodan) on DARK SHADOWS.

Among those who view DARK SHADOWS as an influence on their careers are Stephen King, Johnny Depp, Tim Burton, Joe Dante, and many others. Luminaries like Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, Whoopi Goldberg, and Oprah all admit to being fans, as does Ryan Murphy, creator of AMERICAN HORROR STORY. Kathryn Leigh Scott received fan mail from Hollywood legends Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. When Tim Burton announced his big screen adaptation, superstar Michelle Pfeiffer publicly campaigned for a role, freely admitting that she too was a lifetime fan. Back in the day, I remember reading no less than Jackie Kennedy Onassis admitted that she ”gave DARK SHADOWS a whirl’.’ The series was, at its peak, seen each day by 20 million mesmerized viewers.

Actress Kathryn Leigh Scott can attest to the show’s enduring popularity. She appeared on the TV version’s very first episode, and stayed with the show for four years. Post-DARK SHADOWS, she played dozens of roles on TV and in film. In 1986 she launched Pomegranate Press, an independent book publishing firm that has issued many titles relating to classic TV history, including at least a half dozen books that pertain to the series. It’s highly unlikely that Ms Scott would have published so many volumes about the series if no one was interested; the lady has in fact sold quite a few books, and continues to do so. Scott’s TV co-star Lara Parker has followed in her footsteps, penning three well received novels about Angelique, the evil, lovesick witch she portrayed on the series.

Meanwhile, UK-based Big Finish Productions is also part of the current DARK SHADOWS revival. A few years ago the company issued a DARK SHADOWS audio drama on CD, with original cast members verbally reprising their roles. Big Finish has since issued more than two dozen additional DARK SHADOWS audio dramas, and more are in the works.

Joseph Lidster of Big Finish offered this statement to FANGORIA: “The audios, which were already doing well, have increased their audience over the past year. We’ve not only kept old fans buying the audios, but have seen quite a few new listeners subscribing, and that was long before the film was released. With the audios, the comics, the books and the DVDs, I think DARK SHADOWS is clearly establishing itself as a series in which more and more people are interested, both in the old stories and the new.”

What was that about comics? Just ask Nick Barrucci, owner of New Jersey based Dynamite Entertainment. To date, Dynamite has issued three separate DARK SHADOWS titles. Though currently dormant, there have been unconfirmed rumors that Dynamite is planning on relaunching the series.

“DARK SHADOWS has endured the test of time and influenced pop culture since the show aired,” Barrucci tells Fango. “We’re proud to have released the DARK SHADOWS comics, released a crossover with VAMPIRELLA, and we have new and exciting plans yet to be announced.”

Furthermore, audio dramas co-producer Jim Pierson contacted us to point out that audio dramas on CD ”are not at the cutting edge of entertainment in the 21st century,” but that Big Finish “recouped their investment, paid the actors a reasonable talent fee, generated a modest profit, and above all else, given the fans an opportunity to enjoy new stories involving classic DARK SHADOWS characters voiced by many of the cast members of the original TV series, as well as several from the 1991 revival. It’s a very special and unusual circumstance that has allowed DARK SHADOWS to live on in this format and Big Finish has worked hard to pull together the creative elements as well as following business parameters to allow it to work.”

From our point of view, it’s hard to believe that all these people would put so much effort into producing new DARK SHADOWS material if no one was interested. And as far as the most recent film, which many mainstream critics described as no one wanting to see, Tim Burton’s DARK SHADOWS concluded its run with a worldwide gross of $245 million.

DARK SHADOWS is alive and doing great!

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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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