Friday, May 25, 2012

A look at the Dark Shadows phenomenon by someone who's not a total idiot, 1970

Here's a piece from The Bakersfield Californian published not long before the release of House of Dark Shadows in 1970. It's surprisingly authoritative, and does more than merely pay lip service to the Dark Shadows phenomenon the way most mainstream press coverage did during the show's first life. The story features historical trivia about the locations used in the film, references old-school cosplay, and even shows a reasonable understanding of the show's complicated characters. Expecting a writer to know what the hell they're writing about is a fairly low standard for journalism, but it's surprising how often this is not the case. I've included a small scan of the page below, as well as a typeset version of the story. Enjoy!


The Lively Arts
By Judy Clausen
 The Bakersfield Californian, Sunday, Aug. 30, 1970

The first real nightmare I can recall suffering through followed seeing Bela Lugosi in the first Count Dracula movie —A VAMPIRE!

Vampires don't seem to give anyone nightmares these days. They are, rather, objects of great admiration and the cause of much heart fluttering.

To whit – Barnabas Collins of the ABC afternoon soaper-suspense series, "Dark Shadows." There is even a Barnabas Collins fan club in Bakersfield.  I ought to know, my daughter is one of the instigators of same. Six girls, with Cathy in the forefront, have banded together and gone so far as to stitch and sew Barnabas "outfits" which consist of Jong black maxi-skirts, white longsleeve blouses, and black "vampire" capes lined in, red. They made quite a stir at a local restaurant not long ago ... fully costumed.

They keep the fan mags chalking up profits by purchasing every one hitting the stands with anything to do with Barnabas or Dark Shadows. And now, all six are quivering with anticipation waiting for the full-length color motion picture "The House of Dark Shadows" due at movie houses any time.

I can see them now—dressed to the teeth (you should excuse the expression) standing in line for the first showing! Then they can find the answers to such startling questions as:
Who let Barnabas out of his coffin?
What were the mysterious wounds in Daphne's neck?
What did David Collins see in the swimming pool?
Will Julia Hoffman, M.D., win Barnabas by curing him?
Will Barnabas win Maggie in marriage by an unholy ceremony?
Will Carolyn win Barnabas as a vampire where she failed as a mortal?
Will Jeff rescue Maggie?
Who locked Maggie in the abandoned room?
Whose body was that in the closet?
Who was the evil old man with blood on his mouth?
What will come of the mysterious resemblance of Maggie to Josette?
Who knows?
The vampire does.

Poor old Barnabas (as beautifully done by Jonathan Frid), trapped by his circumstantial vampirism, the 175-year-old but still youthful blood drinker, who manages to be completely sympathetic in his role. Most of the characters in the MGM movie are the same as seen in the daytime television shows. Joan Bennet, the female star, has dominated Dark Shadows in present time as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, matriarch of the ill-fated Collins clan. Always a grande dame, she was Naomi Collins in the 18th century and Judith Collins in the 19th.

Oh, yes, I forgot to mention, everyone plays somebody else in the family or household in other centuries. Reincarnation, and all that jazz. In television, Grayson Hall plays Julia Hoffman, plus a French countess, a flamboyant gypsy and an oh-so-sinister housekeeper. In the film she is the lady doctor romantically taken with Barnabas.
Newcomers to the Collins' story are three mansions used in filming the movie. Lyndhurst is "Collinwood" and is located in Tarrytown, New York. It was built by an ex-mayor of New York City in 1834 and bought near the turn of the century by financier Jay Gould. Now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, its priceless collection of antiques, statuary, Tiffany glass and china were used for every movie scene taking place in Collinwood, the residence of the doom-ridden Collins family. In picturesque decay — the 400-foot-long greenhouse and the swimming pool building also figure prominently in the spine-tingling plot.

Beechwood, near Scarborough, N.Y., is "The Old House" in which vampire Barnabas lived and which lie restores when he "returns from the tomb." Though still a private residence, Beechwood
has innumerable deserted wings and its own ghost, result of a grisly multiple murder in the 1850s. Current residents say the ghost is for real!

The Lockwood-Mathew mansion is "The Abandoned Monastery" where Barnabas flees to make Maggie his bride. It's located near Norwalk, Connecticut, and is unrestored. It is modeled on St. Peter's in Rome, though on a slightly smaller scale. Its two-story rotunda is the site for the climax of House of Dark Shadows, and its cellars are used for the crypt and coffin scenes.

Naturally, or is that unnaturally, the movie starts on — A Dark and Stormy Night — the handyman enters the Collins' crypt while searching for the lost family jewels, and in a secret vault he finds a chained coffin — which he opens! You can take it from there.

After all this, how can you stand the suspense of waiting for the film to appear?


Barbara said...

Many thanks for all the wonderful Dark Shadows articles you find, post and also transcribe in readable text! Your hard work is very much appreciated!!

Anonymous said...

Beechwood is no longer a private residence but a country club

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...