Friday, October 21, 2016
31 Days of Gothic Romance | Dark Shadows
In 1966, gothic romance moved to television. Dark Shadows was a daytime soap opera that started off like Jane Eyre and added supernatural elements as it went along. Initially, it followed a young woman named Victoria Winters as she's hired by the mysterious Collins family to be a governess. Victoria is an orphan and believes that the Collinses may have connections to her unknown past.
As the show progressed though, other Collins family members returned home with their own spooky and mysterious dramas of blackmail, revenge, and murder. Then in the spring of 1967, the show introduced the most famous of these, the vampire Barnabas Collins, and finally brought a supernatural aspect to the already gothic setting and tone of the series. Eventually, it would also add ghosts, werewolves, witches, and all sorts of other monsters, solidifying its spot as the coolest soap opera of all time. There was also time travel to Barnabas' past, letting the show have a period setting for extended runs of episodes.
By the time the show ended in 1971, it was a bona fide phenomenon with Dark Shadows comic books, a series of novels, joke books, board games, coloring books, View-Master reels, and a couple of feature films: House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows.
There have been three attempts at revivals since '71. In 1991, NBC tried to bring it back as a primetime series run by the show's original creator Dan Curtis. It premiered as a four-hour mini-series and did well in that format, but the ratings fell off when it was put into a Friday night time slot. It was cancelled after 12 episodes.
In 2004, the WB commissioned a pilot for a potential relaunch series, but the show wasn't picked up and the pilot never aired.
Most recently, there was the 2012 feature film directed by Tim Burton. By this time, everyone was pretty tired of Burton's casting cartoon versions of Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp in everything, but Dark Shadows is a fun movie. It's a silly, campy version of what should have been a cool, spooky story, but taken for what it is, I quite enjoy it. But it would still be another handful of years before we got a legitimate gothic romance revival at the movie theater.