Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood Paperback – Apr 3 2012
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About the Author
Kathryn Leigh Scott starred as Maggie Evans and Josette DuPres, the doomed fiancee of vampire Barnabas Collins, in the original series ofDark Shadows, and starred in the 1971 MGM film,House of Dark Shadows. She also appears in a cameo role in the new Warner Bros. film,Dark Shadows, starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collis, directed by Tim Burton. She is the author of several books about the series, includingDark Shadows Memories.
Jim Pierson is an author and producer/director of many PBS documentaries. He is also official consultant on the Warner Bros. film,Dark Shadows, and the longtime archivist and literary executor of the Dan Curtis estate, producing compilations and releases of Dan Curtis productions. He is the author ofDark Shadows Resurrected.
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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.
Kathryn, who played vampire bride Josette de Pres in the original tv series, has teamed up with Jim Pierson to write this intimate, enlightening, humorous and touching account of the making of this much-loved cult show. Better still, Kathryn and other series regulars including Jonathan Frid, David Selby and Lara Parker were invited by Messrs Burton and Depp to appear in the new movie 'Dark Shadows' in cameo roles.
This is their loving account of an extraordinary experience with rare photographs from the 1960s and 1970s, to the 1990s tv revamp, coming full circle with the original cast standing alongside the new team: Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Chloe Moretz, Helena Bonham Carter, Johnny Lee Miller et al.
It's a feast.
Can't wait for the movie.
Kathryn devotes her first chapter detailing how four cast members, Jonathan Frid (Barnabas), Kathryn Lee Scott (Maggie Evans), David Selby (Quentin) and Lara Parker (Angelqiue) were invited to participate in the new movie by making cameo appearances. The way Kathryn wrote, I could really feel a comradeship between them that will always be there. I really felt like a fly on the wall when I read that chapter, and there were plenty of photos to accommodate the read. After reading that chapter, I'm now looking forward to the new Dark Shadows movie, Kathryn has a way, through words, to share her hopes for the success of the film, and that in itself has swayed me, thank you, Kathryn.
The rest of the book is very informative, and at times almost like having a private audience with the author. The additional new photos, many of which I've never seen before, and that says a lot, because I've been a fan since 1967.
I was very impressed with the good layout, design and typography of the book, it's well thought out, nicely done. It definitely wasn't hurried.
I highly recommend this book, if you are unfamiliar with Dark Shadows, you won't be afterwards.
Congratulations Kathryn on a book well done.
The book opens with a brief foreword by Jonathan Frid, who recently passed away. Immediately following is a timeline titled "Five Decades of Dark Shadows," which touches on the highlights of the franchise from its beginning to the present. In "Dark Shadows Reincarnated," Jim Pierson provides a brief overview of the upcoming Tim Burton DARK SHADOWS, including the characters, cast, and several photographs. Kathryn and Lara Parker follow up with intriguing personal chronicles of their journeys to England to appear in the film in cameo roles, along with fellow Dark Shadows series actors Jonathan Frid and David Selby. From these accounts, one can clearly see that, for Jonathan, this venture is a serious personal struggle, both physically and mentally. It's very sad that he will not have the chance to see the result of his final journey into the shadows, as it were. As for David, Kathryn, and Lara, one definitely gets a sense of their excitement on their journey, and I think they would agree it's a somewhat amusing irony for them to be the "outsiders" on the Dark Shadows set.
"Backstage Memories" offers a veritable catalog of Kathryn's personal reminiscences of her life as a DARK SHADOWS actress, illustrated with loads of photographs, some well-known stock pics, some from her personal collection. I enjoy the fact that, even though much of the actors' day-to-day experiences on the set are prosaic, her writing retains much of the youthful excitement in which she must have been caught up at the time. Lara provides an appropriate companion piece, "Angelique Looks Back," in which she reveals how deeply she delved into Angelique's character during the show's run and how, over time, through her own novels, she has developed a whole new understanding as well as literary portrayal of the character.
One of my favorite sections of the book, though brief, is "The Mansion on the Hill," which provides a more than tantalizing glimpse of Seaview Terrace, the mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, that stood in for Collinwood -- at least for exterior scenes. While I've visited Lyndhurst, the gothic mansion in Tarrytown, New York, which was used as Collinwood in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, many times and become quite familiar with its layout, grounds, and history, I've never had the opportunity to visit Seaview. To my chagrin, for several years during the 80s, I regularly attended Necon, in Bristol, RI, which is just a stone's throw from Newport. Had I known at the time I was so near the old "mansion on the hill," I would have buzzed down there in a heartbeat. Alas for me. I'm particularly fond of the photos of the house's interior in this section of the book, since very few interior shots ever found their way into the TV series.
Jim Pierson provides overviews of the 1991 NBC-TV DARK SHADOWS revival series (which is covered in far more detail in Pomegranate Press's DARK SHADOWS RESURRECTED) as well as WB's aborted 2004 attempt at bringing back the series. Despite it's myriad shortfalls, I've always had a great fondness for the 1991 series -- it wasn't the original, of course, but it wasn't intended to be -- but I've never seen the pilot for the 2004 version, which starred Alec Newman as Barnabas (who has now played Barnabas on Big Finish's audio drama series), Marley Shelton as Victoria Winters, and Ivana Milicevic as Angelique. By all accounts, I really didn't miss much, and the description of the pilot here certainly doesn't peak my interest much. For curiosity's sake, I wouldn't mind watching it, but it's hardly one of those burning desires I absolutely must fulfill before shuffling off this mortal coil.
Rounding out the volume is a wonderfully in-depth account of the making of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, both of which I quite adore to this day. To me personally, so much of what makes these movies memorable, apart from the characters themselves, is the excellent use of Lyndhurst as Collinwood -- though, I must admit, as a kid, it was disconcerting to see a "different" place playing home to the Collins family on the big screen. In more recent years, having spent a fair amount of time at the Lyndhurst estate, I've marveled at how expertly Dan Curtis and crew used it (as well as the other locations) to heighten the visual appeal of both films. It's a real treat to have the background story, along with plenty of on-site photographs, included in this book.
As a long-time DARK SHADOWS fan and occasional contributor to the series as a writer, I love finding gems like RETURN TO COLLINWOOD, which -- despite my more-than-passing familiarity with the series, its creators, and its cast members -- manages to shine new light on what many might consider well-trodden ground. I also appreciate the excellent production of the book itself: a sturdy softcover with perfectly sized typesetting and excellent photo reproduction. Easily one of my many favorites from Pomegranate.
The entire cast of this little horror troupe is theater at its best; they deserve credit for a remarkable achievement that proudly stands the test of time. Kathryn Leigh Scott's & Jim Pierson's intriguing book contains a short forward by the late Jonathan Frid, fascinating essays by Kathryn Leigh Scott and Lara Parker, visits to the set of the Burton/Depp movie, and wonderful contributions by Pierson, Darren Gross, Stuart Manning, and David Selby. They're all gifted raconteurs. I wish Nancy Barrett and Alexandra Moltke contributed stories too. The book is a must-have for fans of the classic show, wonderfully updated with a plethora of intriguing photographs from Dark Shadows past and present. I never saw "Dark Shadows" as a child (when I lived in a really haunted Victorian house). Photos of Burton's cast pay homage to the classic series. Acclaimed movie director Fritz Lang was an avid fan, who appreciated how Dark Shadows reflected director's Val Lewton's noir-ridden artistic sensibilities. Thank goodness for perpetually dark and stormy nights!
The mundane mixes with the extraordinary in the fully realized little world of Collinsport, Maine. In an ennui of smoke, ashes, and burning cigarettes, the citizens of Collinsport cope. Maggie's soda-fountain, with its delightful menus (notice the grilled cheese sandwiches, the ubiquitous hamburgers, and the vintage low prices) is as normal as apple pie, but not: an imminent darkness edges the diner's boundaries with gentle and creepy suspense. The glossy normalcy of Maggie's Collinsport Diner contains a brave cheeriness, a momentary reprieve from the dogs howling in the perpetual darkness beyond the diner's frilly curtains. I'm craving some of those 1960s era grilled cheese sandwiches Maggie efficiently made, with white bread and slices of American cheese, and a side of tomato soup. Be like Professor Stokes, an elegant large man, his portly rotundity robed in silk before a cracking fire, enjoying sherry and cheese.
"Dark Shadows" is an original gothic, its British sensibilities sepia-tinted with the coastal spooks of New England. The narrative envelopes and captivates viewers in a languorous spirit-fog. The lurking turmoil of "Dark Shadows" is inspired by the classics, not comic books. There is depth and excellent writing, the narrative carries the show, not special effects. There aren't too many ambiguous shades of grey here, bad usually enjoys its evilness, and good is good, unless you're Barnabas. Or Angelique, or Willie. Or the clueless and unfortunate Roger Collins, whose marriages flop to the lopsided end of the stick. Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins walks the line, balancing hunger, desperation, and dignity. The expressive Grayson Hall loyally caws at his side; we should all have such doctors on-call. Don Briscoe is one of the best vampires ever. Cobert's superb music adds richness and another layer to the story. As the epic saga unfolds, it's a treat to observe the details in Sy Tomashoff's amazing sets and Ramse Mostoller's costumes. And through it all, Joan Bennett emotes with aplomb and glamour, her dusky self beautiful and classy. Dan Curtis was clearly influenced by the story of the luscious Bennett in Fritz Lang's Secret Beyond the Door [VHS].
I've become a huge fan of Joan Bennett, and wish she could have been interviewed for this book, or that there was an essay about her, and how she inspired Dan Curtis. She just got better, with her maternal warmth and dry humor. What expressive wringing of hands, what a regal coiffure. And what courage on her part to commit to such an eccentric project as "Dark Shadows." A warning: after hours of viewing, you may go through withdrawal when you must stop watching. Read this book, hum the creepy soundtrack, draw the curtains, and find comfort in the fact that the Dark Shadows collection of DVDs is colossal; it need never be too sunny again. The cast of the little horror repertory company was/is simply amazing. Their acting holds up today; they are anything but afflicted with contemporary flat-affect shallowness. Though this original is inspired by gothic classics, it remains innovative, enlivened by the incredibly hard-working, talented cast. This classy theater troupe contributed the book with charm and humor. I don't understand why the actors didn't become more famous, but hope the appreciation of new fans, as well as loyal viewers from the past, helps. From the inordinately talented cast: beautiful Joan Bennet, Nancy Barrett, Lara Parker, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Alexandra Moltke, Marie Wallace, Kate Jackson, etc., to Jonathan Frid, the voluptuous Thayer David, David Selby, John Karlen, Christopher Pennock, David Henesy; every single actor contributes enormously, lending sincerity and gravitas. This repertory theater has Shakespearian depth, yet it seems like they were ostracized in Hollywood, until now. The entire cast deserves credit for the enduring quality of "Dark Shadows, and this excellent book celebrates their achievements!
You might want to check-out the new Dark Shadows: The Complete Original Series (Deluxe Edition), where fellow fans are practically blogging their excitement in their reviews and comments. Enjoy!