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…

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.