It wasn’t a terribly exciting soap opera in the beginning.
Dark Shadows was promoted as a “gothic” program, which mostly meant darkened corners, blowing curtains, and thunder and lightning around the Collinwood mansion, where the Collins family and all the drama resided. It attempted to cater to a specific gender normative audience – the “housewife” – with the usual 1960s daytime television fare. Then producer Dan Curtis, always envisioning more, added a ghost to haunt one of the old empty homes near the Collinwood mansion. Plenty of viewers may have said, “What the hell am I watching?!” But the supernatural themes drove the ratings up (“We had to go all the way with the spook-o…” Curtis once said). However, that was nothing compared to what was about to happen, an unprecedented move that would change TV forever. His name: Barnabas Collins, cousin Barnabas from England, portrayed by classically-trained actor Jonathan Frid. The Collins family are stunned by the striking resemblance between their mysterious new relative and the portrait of Barnabas’ ancestor on the wall at Collinwood. Little did they know a vampire was now in their midst.
The skyrocketing popularity was unbelievable, and overwhelming for Frid, who honestly had no idea that he’d become a sex symbol. And from this madness came the film based on the series, House of Dark Shadows (1970), maintaining the basic storyline but with more gore and fangs. Don your best cape and head to Sagebrush for a special screening of this classic at 7 p.m. tonight, Monday Oct. 23, at the Gothic Gala. It’s followed by a performance by AMM goth/darkwave fave Haunt Me at 9 p.m.
Full disclosure: Your AMM host is also host of this specially curated evening. Fangs out, homie. The Collins’ are expecting us.