By now you may have seen the trailer for the feature film Dark Shadows. What you may not be aware of is the long history behind this property. Dark Shadows began as a gothic soap opera in 1966. Don't let the soap opera label fool you though. Dark Shadows has much more to offer than the usual melodramatic storylines. Some of the story arcs included time travel and parallel realities, not to mention a colorful cast of characters that included vampires, ghosts, witches, and werewolves. Viewers could tune in one week and see a version of Frankenstein or The Picture of Dorian Gray and next week they might see shades of Rebecca. Dark Shadows would go on to spawn merchandise ranging from trading cards and comic books, to coloring books and View Master reels.
Dark Shadows is also the only soap opera to spawn a feature film. No, I'm not referring to the coming Tim Burton film. In 1970 House of Dark Shadows arrived in theaters. A second film, Night of Dark Shadows, followed in 1971. 1971 also saw the cancellation of the tv series. There were many factors in the decision to cancel Dark Shadows, but in the end even the actors and writers will tell you they had simply ran out of material. The series had an impact on young viewers, two of whom were Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Bestselling author Anne Rice was clearly influenced. One story on Dark Shadows had the vampire Barnabas Collins locked in his coffin as a struggling author recorded the details of his life. Sound familiar?
Dark Shadows was gone but not forgotten. Through syndication and VHS tapes new fans were born. Much like Star Trek, Dark Shadows conventions began to spring up. In 1991 NBC brought the series back to life. The series ultimately ran for twelve episodes and though it was a hit the constant interruptions for Gulf War coverage and rescheduling of episodes finally led NBC to cancel the series. A few years later reruns of the original series began airing on the Sci-Fi channel, spawning a new generation of fans (myself included). If you are at all curious about the original series there are a few 'best of' dvd collections out there. This might be a good place to start as there are well over 1,000 episodes.