Remembering John Karlen, Our Willie 1933-2020

Well, 2020 is off to a bangin’ start when your own sister does not even bother to share the noteworthy, albeit sobering news that John Karlen, beloved actor of Dark Shadows, died peacefully of congestive heart failure on January 22. May this be a reminder to the Countess to always heed those promptings to watch Dark Shadows.

John Karlen brought Willie Loomis–con man turned slave of a vampire to eventual devoted friend and protector of Barnabas Collins–to life, for which I am grateful.

While the Countess hasn’t binged Dark Shadows in awhile, I’m resorting to my memory and YouTube to share some of my favorite Willie moments in memoriam. (I am going to refrain from posting the fan video set to music from Titanic…yes, really.) Here we go:

1. The coffin isn’t empty…surprise! 

Willie’s greed and lust for the legendary Collins jewels bit him in the butt–er, neck–when he went a-huntin’ in the Collins mausoleum. But of course. A new era begins.

2. “You’re a bad liar, Willie. You told them. You must have told them. You must have betrayed me. You shouldn’t have done that, Willie. That means I’m going to have to punish you. I must teach you your lesson, Willie. You’ll never betray me again!”

Classic. Unforgettable. Possibly nightmare-inducing.

3. You should have just done Uber Eats, Adam. 

Willie is charged with feeding Adam and cruelly taunts him with a chicken leg. Adam retaliates, and Barnabas is forced to intervene with his superb parenting skills: he raises his wolf-head cane and orders Adam to “LET WILLIE GO!” Adam whimpers like an abused dog, and Willie runs off like one–literally. Poor Adam. Poor Willie. Life at the Old House is rough.

4. Ooooh….pretty! 

Simpler, happier times when Adam and Willie got along and marveled at the beauty of Josette’s jewelry. They had so much more in common than they ever realized.

5. “Look at me. Look into my eyes!” “I don’t want to!” 

Angelique, operating under the alias Cassandra, extracts information from Willie about her number one obsession (pssst, Barnabas) the only way she knows how: witchcraft. Female empowerment, baby. No exposed butt cheeks required. Heck, she doesn’t even need a roaring fire in this scene.

And, my all-time favorite…. 

Willie and Julia have quarantined Barnabas for his own good, but Barnabas really wants some water — and Willie falls for it. Absolute classic.

Of course, John Karlen portrayed other characters on Dark Shadows–renowned Barnabas Collins biographer Willie Loomis (Parallel Time), practical joker Carl Collins (Quentin Collin’s loony brother), decapitated head collector Desmond Collins (1840), and nosy lawyer Kendrick Young (1840/1841 Parallel Time)–but it was the voice of Willie that a blind woman at the race track recognized, an occurrence that amazed John Karlen. Fellow Dark Shadows cast members Kathryn Leigh Scott (Maggie, Willie’s one true love) and David Selby (Quentin, tsssss) referred to Karlen as a “force of nature” who of course will be sorely missed. We love ya, Willie.

JFrid, KLS, & John Karlen

“There’s a lot of things we deserve but never get. And there’s things we get but don’t deserve.”
— Willie Loomis, S A G E
RIP 

When life gives you Leviathans, make some lemonade.

Where has the time gone? Been working on my New Years’ Resolutions for 2019, OBVIOUSLY:

1. Change my e-mail to get rid of my God-forsaken maiden name. (CHECK. DONEZO. FINI.)

2. Finally finish Moby Dick. (The struggle is real. 300 pages of exposition about whale classification and I am praying for an anvil to fall on my head.)

3. Say what I think more often instead of playing nice. But still be basically a nice person. Basically.

Maybe I should add a fourth and go back to updating this blog regularly. Ehhhhhh. (That was in my North Muskegon accent, Butts McGee.)

A year or so ago, I had begun a major Dark Shadows marathon, binging my way through most of the storylines that I cared to watch again. At that time, I joyfully skipped over the Leviathan storyline…but this past week, I had a need to watch some Dark Shadows and I picked up the Leviathan storyline with Barnabas wandering around in the woods (where else?) in 1796 (when else?). So obviously between watching Dark Shadows and listening to Roy Orbison 24/7, I have been pretty darn busy. (You’re watching that again? my husband asks, delighted to re-enter this sublimely strange world.) And, while the story of the Leviathans is still infuriating, it has brought me a great deal of joy this week. Here are some of my favorite gems so far:

1. Barnabas lets his TRUE feelings about Dr. Julia Hoffman be known:

Sure, the writers try to blame it on the fact that he is currently possessed by the Leviathans, but really, Barnabas speaks the truth. Julia is nosy! Annoying! Hysterical! Her cry is the worst. It’s so, so ugly. Ugh. I much prefer Barnabas bashing/hating Julia to their dumb friendship/alliance.

2. Elizabeth is actually married to Jason McGuire. 

Ha ha ha.

3. This show has the most bizarre dream sequences. 

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Like, so weird. But hey, it was the ’60s, so I guess no one really noticed/thought it was completely normal.

And David totally looks like Donald Duck in “Donald’s Snow Fight”:

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Right?

4. Mrs. Johnson brings Paul Stoddard “some freshly baked cookies” which are supposedly Carolyn’s favorite, but they look like they came straight out of a Nabisco package. 

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The budget was spent elsewhere that day.

5. Quentin enters the twentieth century and has no idea who he really is. He gets upset when people try to tell him he actually is…Quentin Collins. 

Speak for yourself, Selby. This world needs a little Quentin Collins with a whole lotta sideburns. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I would go to Windcliff for Quentin!

6. David has learned nothing about being possessed/controlled by evil beings. 

He goes straight from the trauma of being brought near death by the ghost of Quentin Collins to playing with the Leviathan book and doing whatever this dumb kid tells him to. Yet, when he sees Quentin, he cowers and is afraid. No character growth for this kid. David Henesy is a better actor than many of the adults on this show, though. 100% truth.

7. Barnabas at one point tells Carolyn he is doing some “electronic experiments” in the basement of the Old House. 

Really? In the Old House where telephones (a dang inconvenience on this show — how many times has someone had to run to the Old House to give Barnabas an important message because he has no telephone), electricity, and modern plumbing do not exist, you expect us to believe you are really delving in some “electronic experiments”? Get outta town (that’d be COLLINSPORT), Collins.

8. Barnabas has a power struggle with a…six year old? 

This kid is the worst. Barnabas sassing him is golden, though. Like who does this kid think he is? Barnabas is the star of this show, the best alibi you can have in Collinsport, the savior of the Collins family multiple times over (…except in the 18th century when he brought shame to his family for being, you know, a vampire). When Barnabas speaks, you listen. And obey. OR ELSE. (And usually “or else” looks like being bit or beaten to death by the wolf cane — just ask Willie. Poor guy.)

Part two:

PICK IT UP. Will he obey? I’d kind of like to see Barnabas sock this kid.

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What would Dark Shadows be without the dramatic music?

And there’s still more to come:

BURN, BABY, BURN!!!!!

I guess what I’m trying to say here is…even when life gives you the Leviathan storyline (the all-time worst storyline, right?), there is lemonade to be made. Sometimes you just have to put on your Count Petofi eyeglasses (free with most insurance plans) and chill to some Roy Orbison to be able to drink it.

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I mean, is he listening to “Blue Angel” or what?

The Countess sure is.

‘Til next time (eight months from now)….

Watching Dark Shadows with Subtitles: A New Obsession

…because, of course, I am in dire need of one of those.

My Dark Shadows binge-watching has been aided by the invent of streaming. Sure, I have the entire series on DVD, but there’s an added luxurious laziness to streaming. No need to get up and change the disc after 10 episodes! (I’m over burning calories, anyway–hey, I’m married now!)

But streaming also became a necessity when I needed to watch portions of the show that were currently on loan to a family member in need. (The crazy blood runs deep and is genetic.) So, I signed up for a free 14-day trial of MPI’s Dark Shadows streaming service, darkshadows.tv. The best part about this streaming service? Besides, you know, not having to get up and change the disc after 10 episodes…

Subtitles.

Yep. Subtitles.

In fact, the subtitles are so awesome, I’m becoming even more outraged that this service wasn’t completed for the DVDs. I’m not hard of hearing (yet), but the subtitles bring so much to the show. Let’s take a look!

First, there’s the description of the music (among the best, ROBERT COBERT = LEGEND!).

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50% of the show.

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The other 50%.

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Even in broad daylight, things are eerie at Collinwood.

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Mrs. Johnson doesn’t get around to cleaning this part of Collinwood too often.

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Things usually get tense when Barnabas has to deal with 20th century technology, i.e. use a telephone. He refuses to have such a modern convenience installed at The Old House, you know!

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So Josette’s Music Box is just a music box, but Quentin’s “music box” is EERIE. Fine, be that way.

Then, there’s the descriptions of things that happen frequently around Collinsport:

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Everyday occurrences, no lie.

Some things only happen when Barnabas and Julia are under duress, forced to help create a mate for one of the worst Dark Shadows characters of all-time, ADAM…

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Dance, monkey, dance!

Then, there’s things that happen occasionally and warrant a screen cap, obviously:

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Maniacal, charming, same thing.

Slight detour here, but while watching Quentin “maniacally” laugh as he has driven everyone out of Collinwood, I noticed something in the hallway…

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Have I lost my mind (98% chance) or is that the box that holds the hand of Count Petofi? Just lurking around in Collinwood, circa 1969? (By the way, check out this “Count Petofi style wood box” on eBay! The price has dropped dramatically!) Guess I’ll have to go back and watch even more episodes to find out. Oh, dirty darn…

Then, there’s just the ability to capture inspiring lines of dialogue:

Inspiring lols, that is. 

EVER AGAIN. (CLENCHED EYELIDS.)

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This line comes before one of the greatest moments (maybe THE greatest) in Dark Shadows history: Barnabas hits Willie over the head with a glass bottle in order to escape (the same way that Maggie escaped Barnabas when she was a prisoner in the Old House–remember when they used to build houses with secret passages and jail cells in the basement? Those were the days!!). This line reminds me of Chunk, speaking to Sloth, in The Goonies: “Sloth, you’re gonna live with me now. I’m gonna take care of ya…’cos I love ya.” Yeah, I’m a pretty balanced individual, really.

Pre-Wedding pep talk.

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Yeah, come on, Angelique, Barnabas has fooled how many generations of Collins that he’s his own great-great-great grandson? They’re not that bright.

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Oh my gosh, I can’t stop laughing. Adam + Charred Eve = OTP!

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Well, staring at the portrait of your long-lost love (your wedding present to her that didn’t arrive until after you had married Angelique) who has been DEAD for nearly 200 years will do that to you…

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Jason McGuire wishes you would have had that attitude when he came over for a visit a few episodes ago…

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Of course. And everyone will come dressed as a member of the Collins family. Guess who Barnabas will be?

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Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

(Legend has it these were Jonathan Frid’s exact words to Dan Curtis when he requested to play a character other than Barnabas–GASP!–hence the birth of Bramwell Collins.)

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And it won’t be an accident like the time I strangled my first crazy wife!

And, saving the best for last:

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Ooooh, BURN!

(Quentin will do that to ya. He’s H-O-T.)

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It may not have been high-budget television (had to allocate a good portion of the budget to all the candles for the Old House), but dang, if it isn’t just the most addictive and enjoyable television-watching experience of my life…

(Yet my husband claims you had to “grow up watching” this show to like it. “Is that guy Frankenstein?” he asks. “Why isn’t he a vampire anymore?” he wonders. “Why can he become a vampire again if Adam is still alive?” he muses. Sure sounds like someone’s trying to play catch up, if you ask me…)

How to Select and Attack a Vampire Victim by Barnabas Collins

In the spirit of Halloween, I’ve been revisiting Dark Shadows (circa 1897) and boy, is it awesome–and by it, I mean Quentin’s sideburns. I’ve been noticing a lot of things I didn’t notice before, and I’m prepared to share some of my knowledge. So to appease all you (hallo)weenies who whine about this blog’s lack of Dark Shadows content, here’s a brief tutorial on how to select and attack your vampire victims, as demonstrated by the master that is Barnabas Collins.

1. Go to the docks. 

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It’s the best place to find victims because, as you can see, the place is crawling with people–er, barrels. I think there’s a deleted subplot in On the Waterfront about this.

2. If you see something on the ground, (in)conspicuously pick it up.

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Especially if it’s a compact. Because you may need to glance at your reflection and–oh, wait, you don’t have a reflection…Pick it up anyway. It may be useful.

3. Eavesdrop, startle, and start a conversation about a lost item which you have…

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Eavesdrop on any conversations you may hear to pick up important details such as “I’m gonna go look for my compact.” Hover creepily so you can startle your victim. Then begin a conversation by asking if you can help her find something which you conveniently have…

4. Don’t mention your name. 

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Especially if you’re a Collins. Don’t want people to get the wrong idea–like that members of the Collins family actually leave Collinwood and interact with common, everyday folk who aren’t their servants.

5. Play “hard to get.” Pretend to get “cold feet.” In other words, act like you have to go to the bathroom REALLY BAD!! 

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“I don’t understand you. What’s the matter with you?” Haven’t you heard? Barnabas Collins has a really small BLADDER!! Also: you don’t look like Josette reincarnated, so you have negative one thousand percent of a chance with this guy.

6. When your cover is blown, remain calm. 

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Try not to look like you just crapped your pants when your victim asks why she can’t see your reflection. It just looks bad.

7. Just do it. 

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There’s no turning back now. Go in for the kill. Cue horrible scream. This show is never short of GREAT actors.

Good night and good luck and happy Halloween,

The Count(ess) Petofi

Dark Shadows (Tim Burton, 2012)

Note: This review contains no major spoilers. Discussion of the film, however, possibly containing spoilers, will appear in the comments.  

Wow. Remember when this was the only glimpse of Johnny Depp as Barnabas? Remember when the first trailer came out, filling some fans (me included) with serious doubts? Remember when I finally saw the film, after years of rumors and months of filming and even more months of zero promotion, and actually loved it?

That’s right. I saw Tim Burton’s film adaptation of Dark Shadows today and totally loved it. Loved it. That isn’t to say it is flawless film, but it is nonetheless a highly enjoyable and unique take on the original series that I (and so many others) know and love so dearly.

When I entered the movie theatre, I had mixed feelings. I was sorely discouraged and disheartened by the trailers, yet I was still hopeful that it wasn’t all that bad and excited to see how Burton would translate the beloved soap opera of his youth to a major motion picture. Reviews, too, had been mixed–some claimed it was the weakest Burton-Depp collaboration thusfar, while others were mystified, yet entertained, by the film’s odd mixture of humor and gothic romance. I left the theatre elated and thoroughly entertained.

Considering the mass of stories and characters Burton and co. had to work with, it’s amazing how much they cram into two hours–and how effectively and efficiently they do so. The story of Barnabas’ origin encompassed nearly 100 twenty-two minute episodes of the original series; it is condensed into twenty-two minutes, more or less, in the film’s prologue. I was instantly captivated, and I kept waiting for the tasteless, over-the-top-campiness to set in–but it never did. Aside from a single unnecessarily explicit scene (scantily clad Angelique and Barnabas rolling around, featured in several of the trailers), the film is fresh and engaging, dark and funny (and in the right proportions!), tasteful and entertaining. And the soundtrack is to die for.

I think the key to enjoying this film is keeping an open mind. Do not expect a strict adherence to the characters and stories of the original series, wonderful as they were. This is an interpretation of Dark Shadows, as filtered through the unique imagination of Tim Burton, just as the Adam and Eve storyline on the original show was a wild interpretation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. There are so many deviations, but they are easily forgiven because they are either insignificant or work well within the film’s plot. My favorite departure from the original series had to be that we actually see Angelique doing some work as a servant. Recently having re-watched the 1795 storyline of the original series, it amazes me how much time Angelique had for witchcraft. She literally never lifted a finger to do any work–was she really even worth bringing over from Martinique? Seriously.

Anyway.

The humor that outraged and polarized so many fans works surprisingly well in the context of the film. I laughed out loud multiple times (while other jokes weren’t that funny, perhaps because I had heard them so many times in the trailers). The angle of Barnabas as essentially a fish out of water in 1972 is legitimate. Yes, Jonathan Frid’s Barnabas Collins was much more glib and intelligent, and there were times when I thought Depp’s Barnabas (whom Carolyn appropriately addresses as “stupid” several times) should have demonstrated more sense, but it mostly works.

Johnny Depp inhabits the character of Barnabas Collins and makes him his own. (And each of the actors do this with their respective characters, really. I especially loved Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard.) Jonathan Frid’s Barnabas Collins was perfect. He was utterly conflicted by his uncontrollable need for blood and remorse for the destruction he caused; he was haunted by memories of the people he loved so dearly and the tragedy he brought to them through his existence as a vampire. Depp is not so much conflicted–although there are certainly hints of it–as he is awkward and old-fashioned, with a deep commitment to his family, old and new. But it works.

(I wish there had been some more character development–particularly between Barnabas and Victoria–but again it is a two-hour movie, and it’s kind of amazing how much they were able to accomplish! I can’t wait to see some of the deleted scenes on the DVD/Blu-ray release. Yup. Already planning on buying it.)

Now for my favorite part…

“Welcome to Collinwood.”
“Thank you for having us.”  

I let out a little squeal of joy and excitement when this happened. I knew it was coming, but it still filled my heart with joy–and my eyes with some trickling tear drops. I love this show (and by extension these actors) so much, and it makes me so happy to see some of the original actors taking part in this film. As Johnny Depp and Tim Burton told Jonathan Frid when he visited the set to film his cameo, “If it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t be here.”

Too true.

At the conclusion of the film’s credits, it read: “This film is dedicated to the memory of Dan Curtis.” (The film had already been locked, with the prints processed, by the time Frid died.) I let out another exclamation of joy and proclaimed, “That’s what it’s all about.”

“Did you say that loud enough?” my sister wanted to know.

No, I don’t think I did. THAT’S WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT. Thank you, Dan Curtis. We love you.

Critics with their heads too far up their own you-know-what to appreciate the film: you’re missing out. Stubborn and skeptical fans of the original show unwilling to see the film: you’re missing out. Give it a chance. Go see it. Have fun. You’ll see. In the meantime, I might even see it again, count down the days ’til the DVD/Blu-ray release, and obsessively scour the internet for confirmation of a sequel. ‘Cos I just enjoyed it that much.

More Tributes to Jonathan Frid

Since the news of Jonathan Frid’s death yesterday, there have been several tributes. Here’s some links to a few of my favorites:

  • Johnny Depp issued the following statement: “Jonathan Frid was the reason I used to run home from school to watch Dark Shadows. His elegance and grace was an inspiration then and will continue to remain one forever more. When I had the honour to finally meet him, as he so generously passed the torch of Barnabas to me, he was as elegant and magical as I had always imagined. My deepest condolences to his family and friends. The world has lost a true original.” Classy.
  • This article, from Jonathan’s hometown newspaper The Spec, is an excellent illustration of his everyday life. It also includes many great quotes and anecdotes from Frid’s nephews and friends.
  • Collinwood.net’s reflections on Jonathan’s passing and enduring legacy here.
  • Matthew Hall, son of Sam (original Dark Shadows writer) and Grayson (Dr. Julia Hoffman) and also a writer on the Dark Shadows revival series, recorded a few memories of Jonathan here.
  • Lara Parker recently launched a new website and blog. She posted her own moving tribute to Jonathan here.
  • David Selby’s poignant letter to Jonathan on his blog here. I think this is my favorite.
  • And as linked below in my post about Jonathan, Kathryn Leigh Scott paid tribute to her colleague and friend on her blog here.

I’m sure the tributes will keep coming–something that probably would have baffled and humbled Mr. Frid. I was saddened to find an envelope from Dark Shadows in the mail last night. It was full of advertisements, promoting various books and audio dramas about Dark Shadows, the Dark Shadows movie première party in Los Angeles in a few weeks (wish I could go!), and “A Day at Collinwood” event in July–with special appearances by Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, and Jonathan Frid. 

I’m still working through yet another rewatch of the 1795 storyline, and I reached the end of a disc, which always includes a bonus interview with one of the actors or crew members. This particular disc included an interview with Jonathan Frid in which he discusses his introduction to the show. He finished a production of The Tempest as Caliban and decided to further pursue his academic career when his agent informed him of the opportunity to audition for Dark ShadowsHow strange it is that I am finishing yet another study of that particular Shakespeare play. And how I would have loved to see Frid as Caliban! What an extraordinarily talented man he was. He will be missed.

Remembering Jonathan Frid: 1924-2012

Jonathan Frid died peacefully in his sleep last week on April 13, aged 87. The news was unleashed early this morning, led by Kathryn Leigh Scott’s tribute to Mr. Frid on her blog. As fate would have it, yesterday marked the 45th anniversary of a stranger, introducing himself as a cousin from England, arriving at the great house of Collinwood.

“Oh, madam–if you would, you may tell her that it’s Barnabas Collins.” 

Jonathan Frid will always be best remembered for his portrayal of the reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins, a role intended to last only a few weeks in a last-ditch attempt to boost the ratings of a failing show. Just as that hand–with its signature black onyx ring–grasped Willie Loomis by the throat, however, Frid too grasped us all and held us there for the duration of the show. He was the show’s undisputed star. He was the reason so many kids ran home to watch Dark Shadows. He was the reason so many people fell in love with the show through re-runs, VHS tapes, and finally DVD sets. He was the reason I wanted to hop on bus to New York as an 8-year-old to attend a Dark Shadows Festival at which he would be appearing. (Guess who didn’t let me go? That’s right. Mom and Dad thought I was a little young to be going to New York by myself. Oh well, we will meet on the flip side, Jonathan.)

Starring Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins, just as it should be. 

This is not to disregard all the other talented actors who appeared on the show (and there were many), but Barnabas Collins was the heart of the show. His cruelty and kindness drove the show’s storylines. And he was played to perfection by Jonathan Frid. There were, of course, technical mishaps, flubbed lines, and wandering flies, all of which endear rather than taint the show, yet the performances of the actors–most of all Frid–transcend those imperfections. The audience fears Barnabas, pities him, and ultimately loves him as if he were a member of their own family–all because of the great skill and conviction with which Frid portrayed him.

I started re-watching the 1795 storyline this week. It breaks my heart every time to see Barnabas robbed of happiness and mortality. Mr. Frid was, I think, blessed with both of those things. He leaves behind a remarkable, unforgettable body of work and legions of dedicated fans whose lives he indelibly touched. May he rest in peace.

Love ya, JFrid. Always.

Return to Collinwood

About a month ago, I posted about a life-changing event in my life: the arrival of Return to Collinwood, with an inscription from Kathryn Leigh Scott. OK, so it wasn’t really life-changing, but it was pretty darn cool. And exciting, especially at the time.

(OK, so Michael Jackson didn’t come over to my house to use the bathroom. But his sister did! Just had to get that out.)

I also promised to gush about this wonderful book as soon as I had a chance to read it. Well, I read it. Also about a month ago. In one sitting. Am I really that obsessed or was it just that compelling of a read? I’d like to think the answer is a healthy mixture of both. My love for Dark Shadows is never-ending, to the point that each time I feel the warmth of the fireplace I instantly think of Angelique exacting revenge or just ruining somebody’s life for pleasure by the fire, yet I learned so much from this insightful book.

Return to Collinwood is an engaging overview of five decades of Dark Shadows, from the original gothic soap opera (my one true luuuuurve) to the two feature films derived from the series to the 1991 revival to the failed 2004 re-reivival to the upcoming Burton-Depp film adaptation. While it is largely written by Kathryn Leigh Scott, it also features contributions from fellow original cast members Jonathan Frid, David Selby, and Lara Parker, all of whom filmed cameos for Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows film.

Scott and Parker both detail the filming of the cameo in the book. They write of how respectful the cast and crew were, how grand and awe-inspiring the set was, and what an overall wonderful experience it was. (There are also some really great pictures of David Selby getting his hair and makeup done. Love that guy.) Their recollections of their experience on the Depp-Burton film is what gives me the most hope for the movie. I actually finished reading the book before the trailer was released, and so I was ultra-surprised by its contents, as Leigh and Parker are so complimentary of the film. It’s hard to believe we’re now less than a month away from the film’s release date!

I just learned so much from this book. Let’s see…

David Selby is a beautiful man. Oh, wait I already knew that! Seriously, though, Dark Shadows garnered 20 million viewers in the summer of 1969. The storyline? The Victorian Nightmare of 1897 which also happens to be my favorite. I had no idea that many people watched the show, but I understand. I mean, David Selby? Sideburns? Come on.

(By the way, L.A. Times columnist Geoff Boucher wrote a column about Dark Shadows, claiming that if the show were airing today it would merely attract outsiders and youth goths. Huh? Read Kathryn Leigh Scott’s great retort here, which the L.A. Times also published. Go KLS!)

That same year, Original Music From Dark Shadows reached #18 on the Billboard album chart, with the instrumental “Quentin’s Theme” (you know, the song Quentin plays repeatedly on his gramophone while getting drunk) peaking at #13 on the singles chart. Wow! Did gramophone sales also skyrocket? Probably.

Bad things happen when you overrule/question the judgement of Dan Curtis. Please see the 1991 revival series. For further reference examine the failed Dark Shadows pilot for CW in 2004. B-A-D. Like, worse than being on Angelique’s bad side. Whoa.

Jonathan Frid is basically an old man diva. I just think that’s so awesome. It took a lot of convincing to get him to sign onto the Burton-Depp film, and once he endured the plane ride to England for filming he was so exhausted he wanted to go home immediately. And he demanded that he see a script! Love you, JFrid.

KLS & JFrid Filming House of Dark Shadows

Kathryn Leigh Scott shares relevant diary entries written during The House of Dark Shadows. I love how she talks about eating whatever she wanted just to fatten up to annoy Roger Davis. She really hated Roger Davis. Or, at least, he got on her nerves. A lot. It’s good to know that I’m not alone. Both in eating whatever I want and hating Roger Davis.

Speaking of eating whatever ya want, Kathryn Leigh Scott talks about one of her first days on the set, eating a pastry. Joan Bennett told her that in order for her (Bennett) to maintain the figure she had at 20 she had to be more careful about what she ate. KLS dropped the rest of that pastry in the trash. Joan Bennett brought a cup of homemade chicken noodle soup to the set everyday for lunch. Joan Bennett must have been so cool. I mean, she slapped Lieutenant Nathan Forbes ‘n’ all. Just sayin’.

KLS has snapshots like these lying around her house. Ummmm, can I come over sometime? This is so cool. Jonathan Frid, Kathryn Leigh Scott, and John Karlen just strolling like the cool cats that they are. While KLS wrote about how much she hated (more like annoyed–I doubt she really hated the guy, as she just seems too darn nice to really hate anyone and the entries were most likely inflamed by stress) Roger Davis during House of Dark Shadows, she also wrote about how much she loved Jonathan Frid and John Karlen, her two favorite actors to work with on the show. Awwwwwwwwwwwww. I wish John Karlen had a cameo in the new film. Actually, I wish John Karlen were reprising his role as Willie Loomis in the new film. The world always needs more John Karlen.

Ultimately, I learned so much from this book–I should have taken detailed notes so I could remember it all. But I just couldn’t stop reading long enough to get out a pen and paper. And I just wanted to enjoy it. I think the most poignant thing I learned–or, rather, realized– while reading the book, though, was just how much I love this show. I’m getting all teary-eyed just thinking about Willie letting Barnabas out of his coffin…

Dark Shadows Trailer Unveiled

Finally. 

After years of rumors of a film adaptation, false production dates, and month after month of a single film still leaking one by one, an official trailer for Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows premiered on Ellen yesterday.

Take a look:

I’m still scratching my head.

The first thirty seconds or so of the trailer align most closely with the tone and story of the original series (and the 1990s reboot), but thereafter it is promoted as a comedy, something the original series certainly never aspired to be–although there are times when the original series was unintentionally funny, mostly due to the production constraints, and I think it endears the show. This is, of course, only a very limited glimpse of the film, and it is unclear whether this comic tone is emphasized in the trailer to attract a mass audience or the filmmakers simply took a lot of liberty with the source material. I hope it is the former.

While I reserve final judgement until I see the full film (and I have faith that it isn’t all bad because Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, David Selby, and Jonathan Frid all participated in the project), I find this trailer very disheartening. Barnabas Collins, as portrayed by Jonathan Frid, was kind and caring, vicious and cruel; he was a reluctant vampire with a heart. These flashes of Depp’s portrayal show none of that. He is, quite simply, a weirdo. We’ll see, though.

Some additional thoughts:

  • Willie Loomis looks like he’s related to Peter Petigrew. I almost miss Jim Fyfe. Almost. Hey, John Karlen isn’t dead. WHY ISN’T HE IN THIS MOVIE?
  • “Tell me, future dweller, what year is this?” “You may strategically place your wonderful lips upon my posterior and kiss it repeatedly!” “What sorcery is this? Reveal yourself, tiny songstress!” Uhhhhh, who talks like that? Barnabas always enjoyed long poetic musings in the drawing room, but this dialogue is a bit much, even if it is slightly amusing.
  • “I am a vampire, madam.” WHOA. It appears that the Collins’ family secret isn’t such a secret after all. Okay…
  • Best character: Roger Collins. Woot woot! Let’s break out the brandy.
  • The portrayal of Angelique is over-sexualized with none of the venom, charm, and depth of Lara Parker’s portrayal. I recently finished reading Return to Collinwood (which I will gush about soooooooooon), and Lara Parker wrote that she discussed the character of Angelique with Eva Green, who also recognized the character’s multiple layers. I do not see that in this trailer, but I hope it transpires in the film.
  • Angelique threatens Barnabas if she cannot have him, she will destroy him and his family. And so it appears she is going to do that by destroying the Collins family business with a rival cannery. Hang on! Nobody ever worried about money or the family business on the original show (at least once Barnabas arrived), aside from the occasional mention of a business trip to Boston or Bangor from Roger.
  • I’m really excited for the disco party. ‘Cos it looks like fun. And I know some really cool people are gonna be there. And I mean really, really cool people. (Here’s a hint: one of them looks a lot like David Selby. A lot.)

Ultimately, I’m disappointed with the trailer, but I’m not completely losing hope. There will (hopefully) be other trailers. See ya on May 11! 

The Totally Coolest Thing Ever

I don’t exactly know how to say this…but the totally coolest thing ever happened to me–oh, about ninety minutes ago. I went to the mailbox, expecting nothing but a wad of junk, only to find that the totally coolest thing ever was stuffed in my mailbox (along with a wad of junk but that’s okay). What’s the totally coolest thing ever?

Maggie & Barnabas, House of Dark Shadows, signed by Kathryn Leigh Scott for yours truly

(Thank you, Molly, for helping her less artistic, more autistic sister transfer this beautiful image to her computer! She has a blog, too.)

This is the totally coolest thing ever. It’s a promotional still of Kathryn Leigh Scott (Maggie Evans/Josette du Pres) and Jonathan Frid (Barnabas Collins) for House of Dark Shadows, with the following inscription: “To Brittany, a fan who would never betray Barnabas and all those at Collinwood. — Kathryn Leigh Scott ‘Josette'”

(Remember when Barnabas viciously beat Willie with his cane, screaming, “You betrayed me, Willie!” I would never do that. Betray Barnabas? No. Freaking. Way. Beating Willie, especially when played by Jim Fyfe, is another thing.)

Yeah, I requested that she write that. But still. I think it’s really cool.

To coincide with the twentieth anniversary of Dark Shadows in 1986, Kathryn Leigh Scott wrote My Scrapbook Memories of Dark Shadows, founding her own publishing company, Pomegranate Press, in the process. Her company’s speciality is nonfiction books covering all aspects of the entertainment industry, which includes the latest addition to the company’s range of books about Dark Shadows, Return to Collinwood. The first 200 customers who pre-ordred this book through Pomegranate Press received the 8×10 promotional still of Maggie/Josette and Barnabas autographed by Kathryn Leigh Scott.

As if I would order it from anywhere else.

Return to Collinwood looks back on five decades of Dark Shadows, including the original series, the 1991 “revival” series, the failed attempt to re-launch the series again in 2004, and even the upcoming feature film starring Johnny Depp. It is filled with rare photographs and anecdotes from original cast members, including Jonathan Frid, David Selby, Lara Parker, and, of course, Kathryn Leigh Scott, all of whom also have cameos in the upcoming Burton-Depp film. I’m really looking forward to reading it and subsequently sharing my impressions of it with all of you.

Thank you, Kathryn Leigh Scott, for making my day. And thank you, Dark Shadows, for creating a world filled with wonderful characters and stories that has allowed me time and time again to suspend disbelief and completely disappear into another, utterly enchanting universe. I’ll never, ever betray you.