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Dark Shadows, Johnny Depp and a Fake Orgasm

Before Happy Meals and methamphetamines became the norm, children of the late 1960s raced home after school to get their daily afternoon fix of a black and white soap opera. A soap opera!

Parents were either just as hooked or they forbade their kids to watch it. And not because it was empty trash rendering children into TV zombies.

Dark Shadows, dark shadows tv show, Title CardDark Shadows was the Harry Potter of its day, filled with magic and witches. It was the Twilight of its day filled with vampires and werewolves.

It was campy. It was cheesy. It was melodramatic.

It was awesome.

My only excuse for not being an addict to this gothic soap opera and the vampire Barnabas Collins is that I was three years old at the time. I also managed to miss hearing about it when they reran it in the 1980s.

Did you catch that? They re-ran an afternoon soap opera in the 1980s. A soap opera!

joan bennett, dark shadows

Joan Bennett as the matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard on Dark Shadows

I had never heard of Dark Shadows until last year while trolling the internet for information on the classic actress Joan Bennett, where I discovered she was on some soap opera called Dark Shadows, and where I discovered that a remake of the show was aired many years later, and where I discovered that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp were doing a movie and the next thing you know I’m adding it to my Netflix queue and watching it and thinking, Gawd, this show stinks. It’s awful. It’s horrible. It’s laughable. My husband pretty much thought the same thing.

That was five months ago.

Now we’re on episode 702.

When Netflix DVDs stopped after “Collection 8” (300 something episodes), we began buying the DVDs.

dark shadows DVD

40 episodes per collection. We're on Collection 13 of 26. You do the math.

Yes, Dark Shadows is melodramatic. Yes, the production quality is bad. Yes, the actors flub their lines. Yes, the special effects are hysterical. But dude! That’s just it.

Soap operas back then were filmed live to tape, so they shot everything in one take. And based on that alone, this show is incredible. What those guys pulled off was nothing short of amazing. The actors, true professionals with theater backgrounds, didn’t have the luxury of cracking up in front of the camera when they messed up. If someone forgot their line, or a set piece fell over, or a crew member’s arm was seen in the background closing a door, they kept going no matter what.

And the live special effects of this show! Like a rubber bat jiggling on a string, warily swooping in on their screaming victims to bite them on the neck! And the way a character will leave the “old house” at Collinwood and suddenly show up at Eagle Hill Cemetery in the next scene without tripping over camera cables or appearing out of breath from running between sets. And the plastic trees in the woods that wobble if anyone touches them. And the way Joan Bennett delivers her lines the same way, as if she’s reading off a list of grocery items.

And Nicholas Blair. Moustache-twirling, tie-the-girl-to-the-railroad-tracks Nicholas Blair.

dark shadows, nicholas blair

jonathan frid, barnabas collins, dark shadows

Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows

The characters are either extremely irritating or ultimately charming. Or both. Barnabas Collins, the brooding Bela Lugosi-like vampire seemed so evil in the beginning, hell-bent on destroying his family and killing everyone in the quaint seaside town of Collinsport.

He also has this creepy obsession with Maggie Evans, a wholesome cheerful girl who he psychologically messes with to become his lover from the past.

And what. Is up. With those bangs?

But then you’re taken back in time (200 years) and you find out why he’s so evil and how he became a vampire and then you feel sorry for him. Poor Barnabas.

And then you’re on episode 702.

We watch it nearly every day and have managed to cram about two years worth of shows into five months. And then this weekend, for the first time, we saw the trailer for the Tim Burton / Johnny Depp version and I can’t tell if I’m going to like it or not. For one thing, it looks like a comedy.

johnny depp, barnabas collins

Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins

You know how trailers always blow it by showing you the best lines so it’s a let down when you watch the movie because the trailer is as funny as it was going to get? The lines in this trailer are kind of hit and miss and the ones that are “hit” won’t be funny in the movie now because I already heard them and jokes are most often only funny once.

The classic example of this happened for me in the movie, When Harry Met Sally, when Meg Ryan faked an orgasm in the middle of a restaurant across the table from Billy Crystal. I saw that trailer a million times and when I finally saw the movie, I was perturbed by everyone else in the theatre when they laughed uproariously after the woman said, “I’ll have what she’s having.” It wasn’t funny after the 30th time hearing it. Why was everyone else laughing? IT WAS IN THE FREAKIN’ TRAILER, PEOPLE. IT’S NOT FUNNY ANY MORE. STOP LAUGHING, YOU FOOLS!

They’re called “spoilers” for a reason because it ruins the enjoyment and I think it’s wrong for people to laugh anyway just because they paid money and feel they deserve to have a good time.

Anyway, where the hell was I?…

Oh yes! Barnabas Collins. Dark Shadows. The original.

One thing I’ve noticed: nobody ever eats on this show, but boy, do they drink. And smoke. And take drugs. It’s like Mad Men over there. You’d think THAT would be the reason for parents to forbid their children from watching it, but no. It was the vampires.

I think there should be a drinking game for Dark Shadows because certain predictable themes appear so frequently. The rules are that whenever any one of the following occurs, you have to take a drink:

  1. Someone (usually having just poured themselves a brandy in the drawing room) says, “What’s wrong?” and the other person says, “Nothing.” (Both characters must be facing the camera when these lines are delivered.)
  2. The fog from the upcoming outdoor graveyard scene seeps into the current indoor scene.
  3. One character calls another character by his or her wrong name.
  4. Somebody slowly opens a coffin. A creaky coffin. Two drinks if a hand juts out to grab that someone’s throat.
  5. The cameraman can’t focus on his subject. Or stay on his subject. Or find his subject.
  6. Someone knocks on the door in the middle of the night.
  7. Someone says, “I can’t” and the other person declares, “You must!”
  8. Dr. Julia Hoffman gives someone a sedative, or someone says that Dr. Julia Hoffman has given someone a sedative.
  9. Someone goes missing in the woods on the Collins estate and they send out a search party.

I would advise limiting the number of episodes you watch in one night should you choose to play this game. Remember, friends don’t let friends watch too much Dark Shadows.


The Dark Shadows movie comes out May 11. According to my sources, the actors who played Barnabas Collins and Maggie Evans will appear in it, along with Christopher Lee and Alice Cooper. Fun stuff!

Link to YouTube video for Dark Shadows


By the way…

If you’re not doing anything right now, I’m currently groveling for votes to go for my 2nd win in the KCRA A-List Contest. Click the Vote button below to poke your chad for me and Nanny Goats in Panties.

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  1. […] right now it’s that old 1960s gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows, so I’d want that tall, dark and handsome rogue Quentin Collins somewhere on my […]

  2. janicepoopa says:

    OMG OMG I have to watch this now me and my  hubby will love this movie 
    ps we have the same graer bought it when saw it on the blog!!!!
    Love your biggests fan Janice Poopa

  3. Diane says:

    Excuse me. I thought Barnabus Collins was the living breathing end. I was fascinated with the evilness that was Angelique and thought it was endlessly exciting when someone was lost in the woods. I don’t know how I’ll feel about a funny Dark Shadows, but I’m willing to give it a try.

    1.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be checking it out myself as I’m quite the Johnny Depp fan.

  4. Joanna Jenkins says:

    The only reason I wanted to watch “Dark Shadows” as a kid is because I wasn’t allowed too (I was in elementary school).  When I would sneak and actually see the show, I had absolutely no idea what was going on and Barnabas gave me the creeps, but when I heard Johnny Depp was taking on the role in a film I was excited.  I’ll be there!

    And I can’t believe you’re watching the old series.  You crack me up!

    xo jj

    1.  I can’t believe it either. And I don’t know what we’re going to do when we finally run out of shows to watch. My husband has threatened to start the whole thing over again because we probably forgot a lot of it already. I mean, SO MUCH has happened already!

  5. Sparky says:

    I grew up with Dark Shadows. It was campy. The new one looks like Dark Shadows Meets Young Frankenstein. Now I need a drink and a sedative. 🙂

  6. I just saw the trailer for Dark Shadows this weekend (when I took my daughter to see Hunger Games). It looked totally dorky and strange — i.e., the perfect Johnny Depp vehicle. After your enthusiastic review, it looks like it might be a winner.

  7. Shieldmaiden1196 says:

    I remember my grandmother forbidding me to watch Dark Shadows as a kid. Maybe she thought I would have nightmares. My sister, five years my senior, found it hilarious. 

  8. I have never heard of Dark Shadows. And now I am intrigued!

  9. bobbinlalaland says:

    I’ve never heard of Dark Shadows the soap opera but I did see the movie trailer this weekend and it looked great!

    1.  Well, I’m glad I’m not the only one who hadn’t heard about it before!

  10. Susanbrownuncorked says:

    You made me laugh, again!

    1. Yay! That’s my favorite thing. thank you for saying so, Susan.

  11. Enjoyed being edu-makated (had no clue about the soap opera, only grew up with Days of Our Lives) and I just voted for you! You’re getting closer to first!

    1. Thank you so much for the vote, Steph.

  12. Venom says:

    Surprise surprise, you totally sucked me with Johnny Depp & the orgasm, completely missing the ‘fake’ part… I feel this says a lot about me. Sadly.


    1. Ha!

      Also? Nice Freudian slip there, venom.

  13. Jayne says:

    That looks great.  Was that Anne Hathaway playing the witch?  I couldn’t tell, but the cast looks amazing.  Like many things of the original Dark Shadows era, I can’t recall if I watched it or not, but I do love that you and your hubby are obsessed with it together.  That says a lot about a marriage.  And I mean that in a good way.   

    1. You know, I thought that looked like Anne Hathaway too, but I don’t actually know for sure.

  14. Cheryl P. says:

    I was around in the 60’s but I was one of the few, I guess, that just thought it was stupid…at that time I was probably too busy hanging on the phone with boyfriend/now husband.  I would catch an episode every now and again but didn’t get the appeal.  Maybe if I watched it from the beginning it would hook me.  I didn’t realize a movie was coming out. 

    1. First of all, congratulations on your long lasting marriage! Secondly, somebody had to dislike it, why not you? 🙂

  15. HumorSmith says:

    Dammit! A comedy? I am extremely disappointed. I had really been looking forward to the movie.

    1. Me too. I was expecting dark and creepy. Especially from Tim Burton.

  16. Barbara says:

    I was one of those school kids who ran home every day to see “Dark Shadows”! So I must be about 5 years older than you. I even dressed up as a television one year for Halloween and had a picture of Quentin the werewolf with a knife sticking out of his chest for my screen. I, too, have been recently watching the old series from Netflix. Everything you say is so true–it’s so cheesy and cheap, but even as I’m laughing, I’m addicted. Bad production values, but good story telling! I’m also feeling ambivalent about the movie–of course I’ll have to see it, but I half expect to come away as angry as after that first “Mission Impossible” movie when that stupid Tom Cruise made Jim (from the original TV series) be a traitor…

    1. What??? Quentin turns out to be a werewolf? I didn’t know that — oh noes!

      1. Barbara says:

         Oops! Sorry! I thought they revealed that way before 720 episodes! No, really, it just didn’t occur to me that anybody wouldn’t already know about Quentin!

        1.  FYI: An update…Quentin Collins has been a werewolf for a good 2 weeks now. 🙂

    2. What??? Quentin turns out to be a werewolf? I didn’t know that — oh noes!

  17. Annie says:

    I remember Dark Shadows and Barbabas Collins! Even though it was ridiculously cheesy, it beat watching a test pattern and I’d spent a few years sitting in front of the screen staring at those too. Maybe that’s why I’m so messed up! 

    1. Yeah, remember when tv stations went off the air at night? Good times.

    2. Yeah, remember when tv stations went off the air at night? Good times.

  18. Pricilla says:

    The publicist used to come home from school and sit and watch this with her mom. It makes her smile. Her mom loved this show. Remember there was not much choice in TV in the olden days. 4 channels if you were lucky; ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS. The publicist remembers when she got her first color TV.

    Sheesh the publicist is old. She says she is going to go lie down now. 

    1.  Ah yes, the days of 4 channels. I think I was right at the cusp of getting a 5th channel and color TVs. And no remote controls, of course. You had to get your ass off the couch to watch something else.

  19. I do faintly remember the name “Dark Shadows”  but never watched it.

    I have to say your a master at gettin’ our attention though!  Heeehehehe!

    Have yourself an excellent week sweetie!!! :o)

    1. Thank you, Nezzie! You have yourself a faboo week too!

  20. Terra says:

    Wow, this take on Dark Shadows was fascinating. I haven’t seen the soap opera but you make it sound intriguing. I imagine my dh and I will rent the Depp version when it is available. Now, when do you write the book on Dark Shadows? (giggle)

    1.  If I made it sound intriguing, then I’m taking that as a compliment. 🙂 Thanks, Terra!   And I’ll bet many people have already beaten me to the punch on writing any book on Dark Shadows.

  21. Susan Herman says:

    I heard of Dark Shadows only recently because of This American Life’s story, Conventions, in which a guy goes to a Dark Shadows convention. Listen online…if you dare.

    1.  I think I heard about those conventions too. I saw some pics of Jonathan Frid and there was mention of him still appearing at fan-related things. He’s still kicking at 87.