Monday, January 23, 2012

A Word of Introduction
(or "Behold my Geek Cred!")


To say I took a roundabout way finding DARK SHADOWS would be polite.

Today, the collective history of popular entertainment is just a Torrent away. If you've ever been interested in a movie, TV show, song, novel, comicbook or whatever, you've got immediate (and possibly illegal) access to it on the Internet. And while I wouldn't encourage anyone to take an intentionally laborious route to discovering art (does Dark Shadows qualify as art?) it's hard to argue that the way we value art is negatively impacted by the instant gratification offered by the Internet. And yes, I am aware that the existence of this blog flies in the face of that idea. I'm a complicated person.

I discovered DARK SHADOWS is a dusty old book store in Penn, England. It didn't occur to me until recently that DARK SHADOWS never aired in the UK until the Sci-Fi Channel (or whatever the hell it's calling itself these days) began to broadcast the show in the 1990s. According to Stuart Manning, editor of the Dark Shadows News Page, the DARK SHADOWS series of books were remaindered not long after the show was first cancelled in 1971.  These books were sold in bulk to Woolworths in the UK, and I'd eventually later stumble over them in that used book store in Penn.

Getting me interested in a series about a vampire and his creepy family was like dynamiting fish in a barrel. It was a childhood obsession that could rival my love of STAR WARS, only that the world of Collinsport (at that time) existed entirely within my head. I was able to con a teacher into letting me do a book report on one of those books; You can see a bit of art I created to accompany it at the top of this page. I'm not entirely sure why Barnabas Collins is attacking a ghost with a knife, though. He usually seemed smarter than that.

I didn't get to see the television show until a few years later when it aired on PBS in America, and it took a serious effort to catch that wobbly UHF signal using the "rabbit ears" antenna on the small television set in my bedroom. I finally caught DARK SHADOWS in its entirety on the Sci-Fi Channel in the early 1990s and watched the show each morning (bundled with Tom Baker episodes of DOCTOR WHO!) beginning with the first episode. When I left home for college my family continued to record the show for me, sending me a videotape of the week's run each weekend.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I started watching Dark Shadows in 1966 (I was 14) and continued to watch almost to the end, but life interrupted me in mid 1970, I got married, had a set of twins in early 1971, so never go to see the end. I now own all 1225 episodes, plus interviews, movies, reunion shows, and bloopers. I watch them rather than waste my time on current tv trash. I look forward to going home each evening and watching an episode or 2 before bed, and my days off I watch several back to back. Love them!
Enjoy them, they are great.

Anonymous said...

I found Dark Shadows at 14 and had to fight my brother to watch it, as we
only had one TV. I even had the chance to meet Jonathan Frid which was a delight
for me. I remember the show and him with great fondness.

Anonymous said...

Dimly I recall the earliest TV promos for DS back in 1966. Actually it did not seem like something I would be interested in (at age 9) and later, when I did get to see the early episodes, I'm kinda glad I did NOT back then. It would have turned me off even before the Phoenix lady showed up, let alone the Vampire fella. Too much like "mom soaps" at that point! The REAL bat did not bite for almost 2 more years--- by then I had a friend who invited me over to her house one afternoon, and she HAD to share this show she was absolutely gaga over. DS was deep in the throes of the 1795 flashback at the time, and IIRC, it might well have been around the time Angelique was newlywed to Barnabas and already making more mischief. My friend starting explaining the whole Barn-Ange-Josie triangle thing and Victoria Winters, etc.
Suddenly, at age 11, the whole concept was utterly enchanting, and I HAD to continue, but around that time WABC was coming in quite crappy and our local affiliate with the better reception did not carry DS-- a problem my friend's family did not have, as they had the necessary TV equipment. Luckily, later that year, my mother decided it was time for a ginormous new color TV, with a ginormous roof antenna to go with it. So while I missed the conclusion of the 1795 storyline and Victoria Winters (in her 3 actress incarnations) was gone by then, I got in the ground floor with the Chris Jennings / Quentin thing.
Later I was told that one of my teachers had gone to college with David Selby, and if he and his family came to visit, a select group would get to meet him. But he became a huge celebrity overnight with obligations and security issues, and of course I did not see him in person until going to the conventions years later. Which is just as well.
Ditto the "studio kids" thing going on, which I saw in my trusty "16 Magazines". I asked my Dad if we could go to NYC sometime and do that and he said, no, he was sure that after working all day, the last thing the actors probably wanted was to deal with all those pesky kids pestering them. Evidently he equated all work with how he felt at the end of the day at the factory, and perhaps he had a point. What if the actors were tired and grouchy, and in any case, they certainly weren't the same people as the characters they played. Dad didn't want us to impose or be disappointed. Again, it's probably just as well, though a number of the actors passed away before I got to the conventions, whom I'm sorry not to have seen in person.
I am grateful for the ones I DID get to meet, for better or occasionally worse (though mishaps ARE memorable.) Grateful Jonathan Frid was in "Arsebuc abd Old Lace" which we saw, but we didn't try to meet him or anything--- that, like everything else, came later. Grateful for all the fellow fans I got to meet and now spend a few days every year with. Grateful I got to see Las Vegas and California, though flying is now over for me.
Not bad, considering that after April 1971, I honestly thought that would be the last of DARK SHADOWS, save for brief runs of repeats in the early 1980s (and cut off just as quickly.) I even avoided the 1991 new series, since none of the familiar people were included and as an adult and a parent, seemed weird to get all into that again. Just as well AGAIN as that didn't last too long. But I felt anew like the 11-year-old me when the old series came on SciFi/Syfy not so long afterward and then, found the community of fans and conventions I had no idea still existed. Everyone, it seems, except the friend who introduced me to DS so many years ago-- tracked her down on Facebook. Seems she's into Renaissance festivals now!

Cousin Barnabas said...

Interesting article. Who is the author?

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