Dark Shadows is an American soap opera from the 1960’s that dealt with the secrets of the mysterious Collinwood estate and its run-ins with curious members of the outside world. The Collinwood estate is owned by the Collins family, but is primarily populated by two people – Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard, a woman who murdered her husband Paul seventeen years ago and has not left the house since, and Victoria Winters, an orphan who has been hired as a nanny. A larger cast of characters filters through the grounds and round out the many stories that populate this moody, bleak universe.
The show was popular in the US but has been essentially ignored in this country, possibly due to its po-faced nature and its perceived competition with The Munsters – a show that is very different but, to the uninitiated, contains broadly similar themes and tropes. The show has been re-released to pre-empt Tim Burton’s retooling of the show into his latest glossy goth-fest, placing Johnny Depp front and centre as Barnabas Collins, a vampire inadvertently released while Willie Loomis, a thief, is raiding the family tomb in search of buried jewels. Barnabas Collins was introduced as a minor character to the show, but went on to become a starring character, much like the Fonz in Happy Days.
The show is a straight-forward soap opera with supernatural elements and in that way it is a real trailblazer, laying the groundwork for a myriad of shows, from The X-Files to Lost. As it stands it seems primitive to modern eyes but it is heavy on atmosphere and contains some genuinely spooky moments, thanks msotly to Robert Cobert’s incredible, theremin-heavy score. It’s a shame that the film looks to be turned into lightweight Burton-fodder, made even more so with the plain awful Seth Grahame-Smith on-board as screenwriter, but maybe if we all just close our eyes and hold hands we can get through this.
The original run of Dark Shadows featured a total of 1225 episodes. At thirty minutes an episode, with a five minute ad break, that adds up to a total of 510 hours of programming. Tim Burton’s film is not expected to run to anywhere near that length, thankfully.