Friday, September 10, 2010

A Different Kind of Twilight: Dark Shadows

Before the Twilight Trilogy, before Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, there was Dark Shadows. Dark Shadows was a gothic soap opera that aired late on weekday afternoons on Biloxi's ABC affiliate, WLOX .

If you were a kid in the late 1960s, Dark Shadows was your reason for living.

During summer break, we planned our play schedules around it. During the school year, we raced home before the haunting strains of the opening theme and the eerie silhouette of Collinwood mansion faded from the TV screen.

Dark Shadows was the saga of the fabulously wealthy, tragically cursed Collins clan. Its protagonist was the unwilling vampire Barnabas Collins played by Jonathan Frid. Veteran Hollywood film actress Joan Bennett played the Collins family matriarch. The villianess, Angelique, played by Lara Parker, was the witch who had made Barnabas a vampire and placed the curse on all those unhappy Collinses.

There were also assorted ghosts, zombies, monsters and several generations of Collinses. It was campy and confusing as all hell, especially since the members of the repertory cast often played multiple roles and travelled between centuries and generations and, oh yeah, a parallel universe.

Believe me, Lost had nothing on this show when it came to convoluted plot twists.

And my cousins and I just loved it. So did our Nona who faithfully watched every episode and filled us in on the parts we missed. "Vrag!" she'd hiss affectionately whenever the lovely, but conniving, Angelique graced the screen. Vrag is the Croatian word for imp or little devil. Nona called us that a lot, too.

The series spawned two feature films, House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows, but I never got to see those, at least not in a theater. For some reason, my mother, who had no problem with me watching the TV series, thought the movie versions might be too scary and intense.

In 1991, a much more lavish prime-time remake, starring Ben Cross, aired on NBC. That and a pint of Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia became my guilty Friday night pleasure until the show was cancelled after 12 episodes.

I re-watched some episodes of the original Dark Shadows TV series a few years ago on the Sci-Fi channel. And I had to laugh -- that really was some over-the-top, melodramatic acting. The show, which was taped in one take, was full of bloopers. Cast members were always flubbing their lines and the production crew often inadvertently wound up stumbling into the frame.

And now it looks like them Shadows is gonna rise (er, fall) again. In 2007 Johnny Depp acquired the rights to the series and announced his plans to star as Barnabas in a movie remake directed by Tim Burton. This past July, they finally got a screen writer for the project, and filming is supposed to begin in January 2011.

Johnny Depp. Tim Burton. Sexy vampires and witches. I think it will work. I know I'll go see it-- and so will Nona in spirit. And if you can't wait that long, you can always watch the original on DVD.

And if you're a real Dark Shadows freak, you'll want to visit this page
Take that Twilight.

Homemade Fiddle Faddle

Dark Shadows was nothing if not a truly great trash wallow. Junk food just completes the entire experience. If a pint of B&J doesn't do it for you, try this homemade version of Fiddle Faddle, one of my favorite after school snacks.

1 c. butter

2 c. brown sugar, packed

1/2 c. light or dark syrup

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. vanilla

5 qt. popped corn.

Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in brown sugar, syrup and salt. Bring to boil stirring constantly. Boil 5 minutes stirring to prevent burning. Remove from heat. Stir in baking soda and vanilla. Peanuts can be added. Gradually pour over popped corn mixing well. Put in large roaster. Bake at 250 degrees for 60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.