1 9 6 6 – 1 9 7 1 (USA)
1225 x 30 minute episodes
1 9 9 1 (USA)
Daytime television’s most unconventional serial, Dark Shadows premiered on 27 June 1966 on the ABC network, airing an impressive total of 1225 episodes until its final broadcast on 2 April 1971.
The original script told the story of a secretive, reclusive woman whose husband had been missing for many years. The recluse was the rich, matriarchal Elizabeth Collins Stoddard and her luxurious home was the haunted, cursed manor house called Collinwood.
Initially, the series was envisioned as a straight gothic romance in the style of Daphne Du Maurier’s classic novel Rebecca , and for its opening months the series centred around orphan Victoria Winters and her arrival at the small fishing port of Collinstown (situated somewhere on the coast of Maine) to take up the post of governess to Elizabeth’s young nephew David.
Early reaction to the new show was lukewarm. The introduction into the storyline in quick succession of first one ghost, then another, followed almost immediately by a mythical Phoenix creature, proved to be the unique angle which set the series apart from anything else being produced in the unimaginative field of daytime drama.
Realising that tapping into the previously unexplored area of the supernatural was the road for the series to take, a character was introduced who arguably embodied the most potent appeal of the horror genre – a vampire.
With the arrival of the tortured, romantic antihero character of vampire Barnabas Collins the series became a sensation and swiftly gained a loyal, hardcore audience.
There were all sorts of sexy, cleavage-heaving women fainting in tight-bodiced dresses and lots of carnal love-bites to the neck, flashing capes, people getting bricked up into walls, evil laughter . . . and always a cliffhanger on Fridays.
In keeping with the traditional daytime soaps of the time, Dark Shadows was videotaped live on small sets in ABC’s New York studios, and over the course of its run, the series would embrace storylines which involved all manner of supernatural events and creatures, as well as time travel, alternate worlds and the reworking of the basic plots borrowed liberally from the great classics of horror literature.
The show quickly developed an in-house repertory company of seasoned actors who, despite the occasional fluffed line caused by the pressure of too little rehearsal time, rose to the challenge of playing multiple roles with a conviction and professionalism that enhanced even the most unlikely of scenarios.
Such was the popularity of the show that in 1970 the first motion picture spin-off, House of Dark Shadows, was released, followed in 1971 by the inferior sequel, Night of Dark Shadows.
The series also spawned a vast array of merchandise, which continues to this day, including novels, comic books, video compilations and model kits.
The series was resurrected in 1975 and aired in syndication on various local TV stations and PBS across the USA until 1990 when the Sci-Fi Channel purchased exclusive rights to broadcast the show, which afforded UK viewers their first exposure to what had, until then, been an often mentioned, but unseen series.
1991 saw the show revived briefly for the NBC network (running from 13 January to 22 March 1991) in an expensive, but ill-fated remake featuring an all-new cast. The series lasted less than three months.
Imaginative, unique and ground-breaking in its daring and successful use of horror motifs, Dark Shadows even to this day commands an affection and respect from its fans which is perhaps second only in terms of popularity to Star Trek.
Carolyn Stoddard Hawkes
Elizabeth Collins Stoddard
Joe Haskell/Nathan Forbes
Dr Julia Hoffman
Kathryn Leigh Scott