Those of our avid readers following the @nerdodyssey Twitter feed in recent days may have noticed several tweets regarding Dark Shadows, a 1960s supernaturally-themed television soap opera about vampires, ghosts, werewolves, and witchcraft.
One might ask why a person born during the Reagan administration would bother streaming this show from Netflix in the first place, let alone multiple episodes, as I have done. Until I first viewed the show, I too would have wondered the same thing. However, after viewing the first 27 episodes out of 160 currently available on Netflix (of more than 1,000 episodes filmed over the life of the show), I now see the light. You see folks, the answer is simple:
In today’s age of film and television, sparkling vampires subject their food to unhealthy codependent relations that culminate in marriage; werewolves run around without shirts for no apparent reason, or play lacrosse while trying to keep their hormones in check to prevent their transformation. Children growing up in this age of Twilight and MTV’s version of Teen Wolf, which has more in common with The Hills than anything else, are being deprived of a long-held tenant: vampires and werewolves are supposed to be scary villains. Yes, vampires have long had a seductive quality to them, but lest we forget, their seduction techniques existed so they could FEED on people. Even Joss Whedon’s Buffy series acknowledges this, while inserting love stories into the plots. In that fictional universe, when “vampires with souls” fell in love, people end up dying.
What does this have to do with Dark Shadows?
Put simply, it melds the “evil vampire” and “simpering vampire” approaches to create a creepy, sometimes scary vampire, who is also completely incompetent. In Barnabas Collins, vampire predator preying on the distantly related Collins family, you have a creature of the night capable of terrifying stares, subtle threats disguised as charm, and cold-blooded, deadly violence.
However, as Dark Shadows was a soap opera, its serialized format, broken into 20 minutes of actual episode footage, coupled with it being filmed live with no room for error on the parts of cast or crew (and a need for romantic story arcs), created a unique comedic aspect to the show. Every episode began with a nonsensical narration that makes Jerry Springer’s “final thoughts” seem like Shakespeare by comparison. Not only would actors would screw up or forget lines entirely, but the crew would make mistakes, allowing everything from crew members to boom mics and even the cameras themselves to enter frame.
From a writing standpoint, Barnabas would often go on long soliloquies about architecture or the pleasantries of candlelight, which would annoy other characters and make him seem more nerdy and weird than scary. Due to the serialized nature of the show, it would take several episodes for the “evil” vampire to carry out any scheme, which made him seem about as cunning as one of Bravo’s Real Housewives.
Perhaps this was the first step toward the ridiculousness that would later allow for the Twilight scourge, but its level of unintentional “campness” can’t help but bring laughter.
At top of the post is a compilation of bloopers, which illustrate why this show is just downright funny. I recommend watching all 9 minutes 44 seconds. I especially like the clip of Barnabus referring to his cousin, “Uncle Jeremiah.”