For those of us who were first mesmerized and charmed by the original "Dark Shadows" on ABC Television back in the late 1960's, this new book by Kathryn Leigh Scott (Maggie Evans/Josette) and Jim Pierson, who now deals with the property on the legal side, is a continuation of that fascination. DARK SHADOWS RETURN TO COLLINWOOD is a wonderful companion to Ms. Scott's long out of print book MY SCRAPBOOK MEMORIES OF DARK SHADOWS.
The beginning of the book is a profusely illustrated DARK SHADOWS timeline that is as fascinating as it is informative.
First things first, for those who are searching here because they are anticipating the new Tim Burton/Johnny Depp version of DARK SHADOWS that will be released in about six weeks (as I write in March, 2012), the book opens with a chapter by Pierson titled "Dark Shadows Reincarnated." This well written chapter sets the scene for what follows. Scott's experiences filming her cameo appearance in that movie, "Journey Back to Collinwood." Three other original cast members were along as well. It is a well written and intriguing narrative about just how such a thing came about - and was carried out. The other cast members include Lara Parker (Angelique), David Selby (Quentin Collins), and the master vampire of them all Jonathan Frid (Barnabas) - who also provided the Forward for the book.
I personally am glad that I read this part of the book before I saw the recent onslaught of previews and promos for the new movie. Scott's writing gave me some hope that the film was going to be an interesting take on my favorite story. After seeing those promos, I can only say Burton has made the material over in his own ridiculous way. I certainly do not feel that DARK SHADOWS is a great piece of literature that shouldn't be rethought by a talented director or star. But I am convinced that it should not be used as a springboard for a cartoon-like distortion of its original intent.
Now - about the book....
In the chapter titled "Backstage Memories of Dark Shadows", the beautiful writer gives us a bird's eye view of DARK SHADOWS. Some of Scott's remembrances were written about in more detail in SCRAPBOOK - but even those she retells are presented with a freshness that makes them new. She doesn't belabor points or rehash tales told out of school by others. She also treads on new territory when writing about the filming of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. What did Joan Bennett say to the plumber? Buy the book to find out.
Reading Scott's memories of how things were during her 4-year run on the original television show is....well...the next best thing to being there. Anyone working on television at the time will recognize the anxiety and angst that lived in the DARK SHADOWS studio (now the home of The Wendy Williams Show). It's funny and maddening all at the same time - and on tape for the world to see, even all of these decades later.
Lara Parker writes in a chapter titled "Angelique Looks Back". The still lovely actress gives us her take on her time at Collinwood, and it's fun to look back with her, too.
The book closes with sections by Pierson on the 1991 NBC reboot and the never completed or aired WB Network version of DARK SHADOWS. Complete with photos and cast lists for both of these projects. I found these chapters very informative about both the series themselves, and explaining just how the television business works. (Pierson writes about the Si Fi channel, now the SyFy channel, but as far as I know, it was the SciFi Channel).
And then there are the photos - from the set of Burton's film to the WB never aired pilot - here are images you have never seen. But once seen, some will become your favorites. The color reproduction of the images is photo quality OR better. The book is more than worth its price for the photographs alone. They are too numerous to be recounted here, but please know that the book is crammed from the first page with pictures that inform and illuminate DARK SHADOWS and all of those you remember.
Finally let me say - Helena Bonham-Carter notwithstanding - DARK SHADOWS was not a silly soap opera full of bad acting and shoddy production values. It was the STORY that was being told, and the superb actors, writers, and directors telling that story that made the show a classic. DARK SHADOWS is not remembered today because of mistakes the actors made or lackluster special effects - it is remembered and will continue to be remembered because those actors told a fantastic and human story that made its viewers believe in what they were seeing. There will never be another DARK SHADOWS with the power of the original because there was nothing like it when it first appeared, and there has been nothing like it since. We believed in what we saw because everyone involved was a professional doing a damned fine job.
Thanks to Kathryn Leigh Scott, Jim Pierson, Lara Parker, and Jonathan Frid - I will return to Collinwood anytime, if you will be my guides.