On 27 June, 1966, ABC introduced an American Gothic Soap Opera. It aired after school, targeting a teenage audience, and despite a slow beginning, the show garnered a following. It ran until 2 April, 1971, resulting in 1225 episodes exploring the angst-filled lives of the wealthy Collins family of Collinsport, Maine.
“Dark Shadows” leaned on inspiration from classic writers such as Poe, Bronte, Shelley, and Wilde. After a year, the series introduced its most popular character, Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid), a Vampire with an infatuation. Ghosts, werewolves, witches and warlocks, and man-made monsters joined the cast. Action began when Victoria Winters (Alexandra Moltke), an orphan with unknown ties to the Collins’ legacy, travelled by train to the Collins’ Manor to serve as governess for the reclusive Elizabeth Collins Stoddard’s (Nancy Barrett) two children, Carolyn (Nancy Barrett) and David (David Henesy).
The series made use of flashbacks, time travel, and a parallel universe. Actors often portrayed more than one character or returned as ghosts. A storyline set in the late 1890’s aired in 1969 and boosted ratings. The series next introduced the idea of unseen forces, Leviathan, controlling matters, which did not inspire as much enthusiasm from its viewership, and ABC cancelled “Dark Shadows” on 2 April, 1971. Its cancelation left several storylines unresolved, including disclosing Victoria’s parentage.
Creator Dan Curtis said he came up with the idea from a dream. Art Wallace wrote for the series and Sy Thomashoff designed the sets. Robert Cobert created the musical score which earned a Grammy nomination and reached the Billboard Hot 100 charts. “TV Guide” ranked the television show “Dark Shadows” among the Top Cult Shows Ever. It was released in syndication, and movies inspired by the series were released in 1970 (House of Dark Shadows) and 1971 (Night of Dark Shadows). NBC aired a remake of the series starring Joanna Going as Victoria and Ben Cross as the 200 year old vampire, Barnabas Collins, which ran from 13 January, 1991 until 22 March of the same year. Tim Burton directed a 2012 comical cinematic release of “Dark Shadows” starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas.
During the height of its television popularity, “Dark Shadows” also found its way to novelizations, features in magazines, and comics. Board games, coloring books, jigsaw puzzles, and a View-Master reel sported “Dark Shadows” images.
Episodes are available on Hulu and available for purchase through various media outlets. There is talk in Hollywood of a revival series.