Baldwin: Dark Shadows on the silver screen

Published 9:43 am Friday, June 29, 2018

I bid you welcome, children of the night of Winchester.

Over the past 100 years, vampires have become a popular staple in pop culture. There has always been an allure to this Eastern European being that longed for flesh, blood and eternal life.

Since the 1897 release of Bram Stoker’s gothic novel “Dracula,” the vampire came to life through every facet of the communications medium. Stoker’s legendary vampire was a ghoulish and foreboding creature which was adapted in its purest form in the frightening 1922 release “Nosferatu.”

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The film struck a chord with audiences and filmmakers that it birthed an honest remake in 1979 by Werner Herzog and the original production of the film was fictionalized in the dark comedy, “Shadow of a Vampire” (2000), starring John Malkovich and Willem Defoe.

The vampire image would morph into the sensuous, dark brooding character we have come to know after the blockbuster release of 1931’s release, “Dracula,” starring Bela Lugosi.

Upon the release of this pivotal film, Universal Studios became a horror factory for the next decade producing terror title after terror title and releasing multiple sequels featuring their nocturnal cash cow to bloodthirsty audiences.

The 1940s came and the appeal of horror, especially the vampire, started to fade and its creature’s frightful status was officially staked and left for dead when Lugosi in his cape played for laughs with Abbott and Costello.

The late 1950s saw a resurgence for the classic vamp from England in their racy and luxurious looking Hammer Films. This nostalgia for Drac and anything horror was endeared through the release of several film fright rags, comics, B-movies and ventured to TV.

Speaking of TV, this week back in 1966, TV owners were treated with the debut of the first gothic soap opera which featured a vampire in the cult classic “Dark Shadows.”

The series invited viewers into the wealthy and weird estate of the Collins family in Collinsport, Maine.

The family always had strange supernatural occurrences and dark elements surrounding their daily routines but was overshadowed by the eccentric and likeable 200-year-old vampire Barnabas Collins, portrayed by Jonathan Frid. Barnabas quickly became the star of the show and kept the series on the air until 1971.

Through the years, “Dark Shadows” birthed a devout following of fans, and a few made-for-TV movies, and a remake in 2012 by Tim Burton, starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas.

As much as I like Burton and Depp, they failed to capture the original essence and camp of the series.

If you are nocturnal by nature, have insomnia, or want to binge a weird, moody and funny series during the next rainstorm, try out the legendary “Dark Shadows.”

I guarantee you want to sink your teeth into it after the first bite, or episode. Hey, it beats soaps like “All My Creepy Children” or “General Horror Hospital!”

Have a fang-tastic day.

Rick Baldwin is a writer, filmmaker and film/music historian. He is president of the Winchester-Clark County Film Society ( Find more from Rick on Facebook at and online at He is on Twitter @rickbaldwin79 and can be reached by email at