|Jonathan Frid and Grayson Hakk|
This week we look at that venerable old Gothic,/horror soap opera, Dark Shadows (1966 - 1971), which kept many kids glued to their TV screens each weekday afternoon to watch the adventures of vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid), the witch Angelique (Lara Parker), the weird Dr. Hoffman (Grayson Hall), those good gals Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott) and Victoria Winters (Alexandra Moltke), the nice guys Joe Haskell (Joel Crothers) and Jeff Clark(Roger Davis), the ever-emotional Willie Loomis (John Karlen), Professor Stokes (Thayer David), the Frankenstein-like Adam (Robert Rodan), werewolf Quentin (David Selby), and a host of others.
Dark Shadows, to be charitable, was pretty low-brow, and even schlocky at times. The series borrowed from everything from Jane Eyre to Wuthering Heights to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to all the old Universal horror films starring Franky, Dracula, and the Wolfman. Not that there's anything wrong with that, for Dark Shadows often came up with intriguing variations on a theme, such as having a handsome Frankenstein monster instead of an ugly one. The 1790 storyline which told how Barnabas became a vampire certainly had fascinating elements, and there were other gripping adventures during the series' run.
And then there's the acting. With little rehearsal time, and difficultly memorizing lines, some actors relied too much on the TelePrompTer, with the result that all they could do was "indicate" a performance -- when you're too involved in just getting the right lines out, it's difficult to create convincing emotion in a character. Only when the cast really knew their lines was the acting more than adequate. Grayson Hall had her good moments, but she was more often awful on the show, splitting up her sentences ["there must -- be something -- we can do"] in ways that made little sense, or suggesting that she either was stalling to remember her lines or had breathing issues. Frid was quite effective when he clearly knew what the scene was about and what he was saying.
This week we look at one of the most interesting story arcs on the show, "The Creation of Adam and Eve;" as well as the 1990 revival of the show; the film Night of Dark Shadows; a book on the series; and some special extras, Last, but not least, we look at season two of the Showtime series Penny Dreadful, because if it wasn't at least partially influenced by Dark Shadows, I'll eat my hat.
You can also click here to read about House of Dark Shadows and Tim Burton's dreadful big-screen adaptation of Dark Shadows.