Monday, June 18, 2012

DARK SHADOWS ... a morning program?

NOTE: DARK SHADOWS is widely remembered as the afternoon television show that kids raced home from school to watch. In one Utah market during 1968, though, DARK SHADOWS ran at 8 a.m.

Vampire Sweetens Breakfast Serial
The Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 6, 1968

By Harold Schindler
Tribune Staff Writer

Believe it or not, one of the hottest television properties on the day time schedule has a cast which includes a 175-year-old vampire, a witch, a male monster, a female monster, and a warlock. (Has all the makings for a musical, don't you think?)

The program, Dark Shadows, is seen in late afternoon elsewhere in the nation, but in the Intermountain Region it comes over at the unlikely hour of 8 a.m., just the thing for breakfast. When it all began in June, 1966, this Gothic suspense series starring Joan Bennett almost perished of boredom until the writers scripted in a character called Barnabas Collins; he is the 175-year-old vampire.

Almost immediately the program showed signs of death, oops, make that life. Since then the whole thing has gotten somewhat out of hand, and weirdos dominated the storyline — apparently much to the delight of the nation's housewives who send Barnabas Collins known to Actor's Equity as Jonathan Frid, fan mail by the pound. (Five thousand letters a week). One of the better thespians on the show is a bad actor (excuse the colloquialism) named Humbert Allen Astredo Jr. (if you believe the name, you'll believe anything.) Humbert excellently portrays sinisterly handsome Nicholas Blair, the warlock.

The dictionary explains that a warlock is one who is given to black magic, a sorcerer, a conjurer, and the like. Nicholas Blair is all of those rotten tilings and more. He is so evil that sugar would turn to salt in his mouth. Driven by a desire to rule the world, Warlock Blair has during the past months in the manner of Dr. Frankenstein, created a monster named Adam, no less, and to keep the bumbling oaf from under foot set about manufacturing a female monster (named Eve) as Adam's helpmate.

Eve, however, has the life force (no one seems to know what that is) of the most evil woman in the world, a waspish creature guillotined during the French Revolution and couldn't cave less for Adam. She also sports the slickest set of fangs since Dracula was all the rage, and has decided penchant for necking.

If this whole plot sounds a bit off-beat, it can't be helped. In fact even the publicity about Dark Shadows is spooky (oops sorry). For instance, ABC, the program's very own network, proudly points out that-since the show turned flaky, six Dark Shadows books have been published, a Barnabas Vampire Joke Book is in the works, comic books and puzzles are ready for market and a record album is in the planning stage, along with Dark Shadows magazine.

As Bela Lugosi used to say, it gets you right in the jugular vein.

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