50 years ago, the vampire soap opera Dark Shadows conquered the cinema | Saturday night (2023)

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It's unusual, but not unheard of, for a TV series to hit theaters while the regular show continues to air on TV. It's a bit more common with animation (or puppetry), with examples likeThe Simpsons,South Park, miThe Muppet Showall pulling on him during their runs. In terms of live action, the list is much smaller, with an emphasis on the 1960s.bat Manmithe x-file, which marked a successful film between seasons five and six of the series. However,Dark shadowsmanaged to put a feature film on the big screen with several main cast members, while the series continued to air every day. It came as no surprise that the show defied tradition or expectations; after all, he had been doing it since his debut in 1966.

Dark shadowswas the brainchild of Dan Curtis, a writer-director-producer whose output had a seismic impact on the television horror genre. Over the years, Curtis jumped between television and film. Your 1975 TV moviehorror trilogy, based on three stories by Richard Matheson, is routinely listed among the best horror films ever made for the medium. He has adapted several classic horror novels to great success for television, including the 1973 version ofdraculawith Jack Palance at the helm. In the 1980s, she adapted Herman Wouk's World War II novels.the winds of warmiwar and memoryin a pair of miniseries that were nominated for a total of 19 Emmy Awards,memorywinning the award for Best Miniseries. he also drovethe night stalker, the film that introduced Jeff Rice's intrepid reporter character Carl Kolchak to a wider audience; The 1972 TV movie was the highest-rated TV movie of all time up to that point, with 48 percent of all viewers in the US tuning in to the movie the night it aired. That film led to a successful sequel,The night strangler, and the derived series,Kolchak: the night stalker.

Curtis had the idea ofDark shadowsabout a dream he had about a woman on a train. At the encouragement of his wife, he successfully pitched his gothic soap opera concept to ABC in 1965. He teamed up with Art Wallace, a seasoned writer with years of experience in genre television, to develop the general idea and biblical story for the new series. 🇧🇷 Wallace and Curtis wrote the first eight weeks of the series (40 episodes), and then Wallace dealt with writer/playwright Francis Swann for the next nine weeks.

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50 years ago, the vampire soap opera Dark Shadows conquered the cinema | Saturday night (1)

The series began by leaning into more traditional gothic romance tropes, with Curtis's "woman on the train" becoming Victoria Winters, who found herself embroiled in aJane Eyreinspired plot. Less than a year into the show, the reviews were less than excellent. In an effort to build interest, Curtis went for the horror angle by introducing vampire Barnabas Collins, played by Jonathan Frid. The show exploded in popularity, garnering three million viewers in one year. The daily time slot (usually 4pm, although it was 3:30pm) gave teens a chance to discover the show after school and became a strong component of the audience. Emboldened by their success with Barnabas, the creators have moved on with ghosts, witches, werewolves, and more. Time travel became a component, with entire weeks of the series spent in different time periods; of course, Barnabas (as a vampire) and others can come and go in the timeline, while some actors just play their ancestors or descendants as needed.

a scene fromHouse of Dark Shadows(Uploaded to YouTube by Warner Bros. Entertainment)

With the show, and Barnabas in particular, taking off, Curtis set about launching a film spin-off, and sold the idea to MGM. An early concept had the creative team re-edit the series' episodes into a film, but this was dropped in favor of a compact version of Barnabas' main story. Curtis and the writers and producers of the daily show coordinated to write the main cast members needed during the six weeks of filming. Some of the same sets and locations were used. However, the film medium obviously provided more leverage for the violence and scares, allowing things that were on TV to be shown (like blood dripping from neck wounds induced by vampire fangs). The film was released on August 25, 1970, and while not a huge success, it did double its budget, allowing MGM to greenlight a second film.

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odark shadow nighttrailer (uploaded to YouTube by Warner Bros. Entertainment)

Unfortunately, the ratings for the daily show began to decline. After peaking at seven to nine million viewers per day in mid-to-late 1969, ratings fell. There are several theories for this, from the 1970s recession that forced budget cuts to the loss of audience that caused local stations to drop the show and fueled a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. Whatever the ultimate reason,Dark shadowsaired its last episode on April 2, 1971. A few months later, the second film,dark shadow night, hits theaters. This time, due to the unavailability of Jonathan Frid, who had moved on to other projects after the series' cancellation, the film focused on Barnabas Collins' descendant Quentin and the witch Angelique. At the last minute, MGM forced Curtis to cut more than 35 minutes from the film to shorten the running time; everyone involved felt that it detracted from the film in many ways. When the movie was released, it made its budget back, but that was about it for the original TV and film incarnations ofDark shadows.

Over the years, the show has been the subject of several reboot attempts. NBC aired a remake in early 1991, starring Ben Cross as Barnabas. Initial ratings were huge, but the show was quickly clouded by preferences caused by continued coverage of the Gulf War. The show was canceled after just one season. A pilot was made for The WB in 2004, but did not receive a series order. Tim Burton directed anew big screen version in 2012, which stars frequent collaborator Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins; although the film made money, it was an overall flop. Jonathan Frid made a cameo appearance in the film, which was his last on-screen appearance before he passed away that year. As of fall 2019, Warner Bros. Television and The CW are developing a sequel to the original series, tentatively titledDark Shadows: Reincarnation🇧🇷 Dan Curtis passed away in 2006, but his daughters Tracy and Cathy own the rights to the series and are involved in the production of the possible remake.

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Dan Curtis's work in general andDark shadowsin particular, it continues to resonate in the media.the x-fileCreator Chris Carter has often spoken about the debt his show owes toKolchak🇧🇷 You can see its echoes in Joss Whedonbuffy the vampire slayermiÁngel, among others, and the number of daytime soap operas that covered supernatural plots, includingdays of our livesand the supernatural almost entirelyhospital Generalsplit off,puerto charles🇧🇷 Maybe a new version will jump out and capture the spirit of the times again; maybe even popular enough to produce new movies while the new series airs. YeahDark shadowstaught us something, is that nothing stays dead for long.

Main photo:Ironic/Shutterstock

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