By Mary Frost
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — From small villages and major cities they came — to reminisce, to rub shoulders with the stars, and to relive those glorious days of bloodsucking horror.
The 45th annual Dark Shadows convention swooped into town this past weekend and the Brooklyn Marriott was packed hundreds of rabid fans who follow the vampire-themed soap opera religiously even to this day, 45 years after the Gothic horror epic debuted on ABC.
Dark Shadows aired from 1966 – 1971, starring (among many others) Jonathan Frid as the conflicted vampire Barnabas Collins, David Selby as the malicious ghost of Quentin Collins, Joan Bennett as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, and Grayson Hall as Dr. Julia Hoffman.
The show followed Barnabas Collins, born in the 1700s and reawakened as a vampire in
1972 1966. Dark Shadows was distinguished, according to Wikipedia by “vividly melodramatic performances, atmospheric interiors, memorable storylines, numerous dramatic plot twists, an unusually adventurous music score, and an extremely broad and epic cosmos of characters and heroic adventures.”
The power Dark Shadows has over its followers cannot be overstated. Many were teens when the show ran, and they rushed home from high school to watch it at 4 p.m.
“I’ve been watching it since I was seven,” said Sharon Rotondo, who flew in for the convention from California. “It mesmerized me. I used to watch it after school. I watch every day even now, on DVD. After work I watch two or three episodes — I love it. ”
Carol Peck, a fan from Staten Island, has attended the convention every year for 26 years. When asked what continues to draw her she said, “It’s hard to describe. The actors were terrific; you’re not going to find a Joan Bennett anymore.” Ms. Peck said she would be attending the convention all weekend and was looking for a cane like the one used by Barnabas.
Dark Shadows Remake to Star Johnny Depp
This loyal cult following hasn’t been missed by Hollywood — Johnny Depp is presently collaborating with Tim Burton on a film adaptation of Dark Shadows. According to Variety, Depp has said in interviews that he has always been obsessed with Dark Shadows and had, as a child, wanted to be Barnabas Collins.
Warner Bros purchased the film rights from the estate of Dan Curtis (creator, producer and director of Dark Shadows). Several members of the original cast have cameos in the film, which is scheduled to be released in May, 2012.
Jonathan Frid himself, now in his 80s, was in attendance this year, as were cast members David Selby, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Nancy Barrett, Laura Parker, Jerry Lacy, Marie Wallace, Roger Davis, Christopher Pennock, Donna Wandrey, Kathleen Cody, Sharon Smyth, and Barbara Woronko, who appeared in one episode as Nurse Pritchett.
The actors kept up a grueling schedule of panel discussions, skits, book signings and dramatic performances. Dark Shadows episodes were aired, along with late-night horror movies. Fans dressed up as any number of characters for the Dark Shadows Costume Gala.
David Selby, who said that strangers still call out “Quentin!” when they see him on the street (Selby recently appeared in The Social Network), speculated that Dark Shadows was popular because of its time period. “That was the time of the Vietnam War, and New York City was going broke. In 1968 Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated. Dark Shadows was a place where the actors and fans alike could escape,” he said.
” I realized what a gift this was to me; I tended to partake of all that upheaval. When I walked into the studio I was in another world. That’s probably why the show was so successful — it created another world.”
The show was filmed in one take, he said, and there were plenty of bloopers. “Maybe all those mistakes had a charm of their own. I can’t help but smile when I see those goofups. God knows I made a lot of them.”
The show took on a life of its own, Selby said. “Dan Curtis never knew where his show was going. He tried but then something would pop up — a vampire or werewolf.
“If Dark Shadows were a painting, its price would have greatly appreciated. If something has managed to hang around for 50 years, it should be compensated,” he said. “Like a painting by Andy Warhol. If I had known then what I know now, I would have stuffed a couple of Warhols in my pocket.”