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Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood Paperback – April 3, 2012
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About the Author
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 of Dark Shadows Resurrected.
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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!