Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Who's A-Frid of the Big Bad Vampire?

DARK SHADOWS quickly became one of the most popular topics of conversation in Famous Monsters of Filmland. It was a "Match Made in Hades," as Forrest J. Ackerman might have said. DARK SHADOWS carried the banner of the magazine's "Monster Kid" aesthetic higher and prouder than any other television show of its day. The series would be featured numerous times in the magazine, not only in the feature pages but in the advertising section, as well. Many a monster kid purchased their favorite  DARK SHADOWS merch from the back pages of Famous Monsters.

Below is a popular feature from the magazine, published near the end of 1969. You've almost certainly seen it before ... I even shared scans of the issue, myself, back in 2012. This time, though, I decided to do something a little different. Rather than punish you by making you read B&W text on a muddy JPEG, I've transcribed the text of the story. Whenever possible, I've also replaced the hazy, moirĂ© patterned photos with crisper images, and retooled them for online viewing.


By Simon Laurie
Nov. 1, 1969

Jonathan Frid is the idol of millions as Barnabas the Vampire on ABC-TV's daytime serial "Dark Shadows" yet he remains the "reluctant dragon."

Don't expect him, though he is dedicated to his role, to eagerly anticipate being cast in “The Son of Barnabas" or “The Return Of Barnabas."

“I enjoy my part in 'Dark Shadows,” Frid explains, "but I am not a horror actor and I wouldn't want to be compared with a Lugosi or Christopher Lee in my characterization of the vampire. I play Barnabas as a being with human emotions. I'm not copying Lugosi because in fact I didn't know much about his characterization of the vampire until I caught the 'Dracula' movie on the late movie recently. I'll admit I was fascinated by Lugosi. His performance was like a ballet. Yet, his vampire was a bloodless, evil, passionless monster. With the white face and full, red lips, he gave the appearance of death.

Mr. Frid, with Mr. Lugosi in the background.
"I never took that tack. The 'Dark Shadows'  writers gave full life to Barnabas. He was a human being more like Mr. Hyde with a lust for blood.

"Lugosi played his character in a monotone. No range, no warmth. Just a cold-blooded vampire which actually is more legitimate in keeping with the legends.

"I suppose women see Barnabas as a romantic figure because I portray him as a lonely, tormented man who bites girls in the neck, but only when my uncontrollable need for blood drives me to it. And I always feel remorseful about it later. He has a nasty problem. He craves blood. Afterwards, like an alcoholic or addict, he's ashamed but simply can't control himself.

"Remember, too, Lugosi's 'Dracula' wasn't particular about where the blood came from. Renfield was a male, among his early victims. Barnabas is partial to women which makes him again a more romantic character."

Barnabas Collins lurks in the shadows, brandishing his wolf's head cane, as Dr. Julia Hoffman cringes in the background.
Frid, who considers himself a leading character actor rather than a horror actor, is not knocking the field. He just does not think of himself as the mad scientist type although physically he admits he could easily fall into that type of casting.

"In the past my forte has been appearing in villainous roles, a great many in Shakespeare dramas," he explains. "I've been the heavy in so many Shakespeare summer festivals that even today I owe my allegiance to the House of York."

Jonathan's acting arrow is aimed at one day playing Richard the Third.

"He's a study in hate," Jonathan explains, "and I can exude all the villainy called for in monster parts in this monster-of-sorts role whose direction and thinking motivates hate."

Frid, who maintains a near-phobia about being horror-type cast, was heartened recently when he learned Boris Karloff had also starred in other than supernatural roles.

The Werewolf of Collinsport.
"My only experience in seeing Karloff was with grotesque make-up or in lunatic professor parts," Frid notes, "so I was greatly encouraged by the fact that he was credited with non-horror performances, as well. In fact, when you mention Lon Chaney, Jr., I think immediately 'Of Mice and Men.’”

Frid's reading tastes are directed more to current news stories rather than fiction. "I used to read Poe and the classics when I had more time" he says, "but now I stick to the newspapers. I’m probably going to disappoint those fans who believe I do or should stock up on Lovecraft or Blackwood or Machen, but these are just names to me nothing more.

"Maybe I'm too realistic, but if you want to show me a ghost make it a 12 noon on Times Square."

Jonathan's acting idols include Katherine Hepburn with whom he appeared in Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" and "The Merchant of Venice."

"She's bright, dynamic and conscientious," he points out Charles Laughton, according to Frid, was the greatest interpreter of George Bernard Shaw.

Lara Parker "ages" slowly for her role in TV'S DARK SHADOWS.
"Laughton was a giant in such epics as 'Major Barbara' and "Caesar and Cleopatra," Frid explains. "He was unbeatable when he came to grips with Shaw's climactic dialogue, playing cute in the beginning then thundering with his lines at the end. Superb. Oh, yes, he gave a great performance in 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame.'"

Sir Laurence Olivier is another of Frid's favorites. A great actor in "Richard Il," "Henry V" and "The Entertainer."

Unlike his cinematic confreres in celluloid scariness, Frid is most accessible to his millions of fans. In recent months, he has visited major cities around the country drawing greater crowds than campaigning politicians and playing host to thousands of youngsters and young adults at airports, department stores and local TV interview shows.

Also unlike his acting colleagues in monster movies, there have been Barnabas trading cards, game boards, comic books, paperbacks, caption books, records and more.

Left, Frid in his familiar role as Barnabas. Right, Frid as a 172-year-old man.
One of the facets of playing a monster is the make-up and Frid is proud to tell of the four hours he put in at the hands of super make-up artist Dick Smith, responsible for the Mr. Hyde make-up for Jack Palance and Julie Harris as Queen Victoria on TV.

“Dr. Hoffman gave me a massive transfusion," he says, "which made me a normal human—of 172 years old.

"I came in at 4 a.m. for that call to be made up. Dick was great. Now I know how I'll look when I'm 172. It was only an hour to take off, but we did it up brown for the cameras."

In two short years, Jonathan Frid has gone from one Of show business' comparatively unsung performers to probably the most popular TV actor whose fans comprise both the young
and the young at heart.

"It's a case of a vampire finding fame as he bites his way to the blood bank," quips Frid.

Left, the cover for FAMOUS MONSTERS #59. Right, artist Basil Gogos' original art.

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