Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Dark Shadows of Lyndhurst

Happy Birthday to actor Jonathan Frid, who turns 84-years-old today! Frid is primarily known for his role as the vampire Barnabas Collins on the popular 1960s Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. The show had suffered from weak ratings until it began to dabble with supernatural elements. The introduction of ghosts into the plot generated a little interest, but it was the introduction of the character Barnabas Collins in an episode aired on March 22, 1967 that caused the series to take off. The show quickly became a hit with teens and older kids who raced home from school to catch the latest episode. Wisely, producer Dan Curtis and others responsible for the show decided to keep Jonathan Frid on the show and introduced new monsters into the series, wildly wandering far from the show's original concept.

The popularity of the TV series led to the production of a Dark Shadows movie for release in theaters. The film House of Dark Shadows was filmed concurrently with the show, causing some of the major characters to be written out of the show temporarily so the actors could star in the film. This is why in 1970 the show had Frid's Barnabas get locked away in a coffin for weeks. It's because Frid was North of the studio in Manhattan, involved in a production at Lyndhurst Mansion.

Lyndhurst, a large Gothic mansion in Tarrytown, New York had once been considered for use as the fictional Collinwood mansion exterior shots on the show. While it lost out to a mansion in Newport, Rhode Island for that role, a number of other buildings on the Lyndhurst estate were used in the production of the soap opera. Lyndhurst Mansion also won out as the shooting location for both indoor and outdoor scenes depicting the Collinwood home in House of Dark Shadows. The movie varied from the show in that it displayed violence and blood that could never be shown on television in that era. Another big variance with House of Dark Shadows was the the character of Barnabas Collins not being turned into a sympathetic hero. Instead, he remained a villain throughout the film. House of Dark Shadows was a big success in theaters and led to a sequel, Night of Dark Shadows, the following year.

Sadly, in the interim, ABC made the silly mistake of cancelling the popular series despite its low production costs and high ratings. At that time, the youth market wasn't considered desirable to advertisers in that time slot. Night of Dark Shadows, was made without the character of Barnabas Collins in it. The sequel was still a moderate success, but didn't perform as well as the first film. These two events spelled the end of Dark Shadows for a time.

In celebration of the birthday of Jonathan Frid, today's Dark Destination is the Lyndhurst Estate. If you dare to pay a visit there, you'll learn that Barnabas wasn't the only vampire to dwell in Lyndhurst. You will also read about a creature of the night discovered at Lyndhurst by film crew and kept as a mascot during the production of House of Dark Shadows.

Enter Lyndhurst and see what other buildings on the estate were used in the production of Dark Shadows.

-Tom G


Johnny Ghoul said...

I love Dark Shadows!
I remember the show terrifying me as a kid, then more recently I caught the whole series rebroadcast on the SciFi Channel.
Admittedly bad acting, poor production values and sub-B-movie scripts added up to pure genius.
There's a movie version of the show in the works with Johnny Depp as Barnabus Collins, directed by Tim Burton.

seawitch13 said...

Back in the day...Dark Shadows...that was the only time of day I would actually sit down and watch TV. The only soap that was even worth my time. It's the only one I could really relate to. Still to this day, I watch it when-ever I can catch it showing. I know it's on DVD; but is it on Blue Ray yet? Can't wait to see the one with Johnny Depp.

Tom G said...

No Blu-Ray Dark Shadows yet as far as I can tell.

I was too young to watch Dark Shadows during its original run. I caught a few episodes in syndication later in the 70s. It wasn't until it ran on Sci-Fi Channel in the 90s that I got to really watch the show and fall in love with it. Meeting Lara Parker and Katherine Leigh Scott 8 years back was a real thrill for me. I have to get out to a Dark Shadows convention sometime.

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