Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jon Frid and Dan Curtis's dream

OK, now I've had a few days to think about losing a final chip of childhood. I don't know whether I can put it into adequate words, but here goes.

I've already told you about being obsessed with "Dark Shadows" as a kid. Throughout most of high school, I would immerse myself for one hour a day (30 minute episodes back-to-back) via re-runs in the saga of the crazy characters of Collinwood.

All those memories came flooding back last Thursday when his relatives announced Jonathan "Barnabas Collins" Frid had passed away, ironically enough on Friday the 13th. (Useless trivia: Frid starred in director Oliver Stone's first movie, a horror film called "Seizure.")

Part of the attraction of "Dark Shadows" for me was its story. Think about it. A Gothic mansion filled with ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and attractive young women in miniskirts...for what more could a teenage boy ask?!

Looking back on it, I think I identified with Frid's portrayal of Barnabas Collins, the self-loathing, reluctant vampire. If you suspend belief and take the character for who he was, Barnabas Collins was adrift in a strange world, struggling to find his way, hating the bad aspects of his nature and learning how to fit in. Well, doesn't every teenager do that? Especially one with nostalgic tendencies anyway?

And, of course, I would laugh with mirth at all the live-on-tape mistakes. "Gravestones" blowing in the wind. Cameras crossing cameras. Boom mics slipping down into the scenes. Grips wandering around on the side of the stage.

I collected all but two of the old Paperback Library books (my sweet mom has bought me the other two to complete my collection), several VHS videos and Kathryn Leigh Scott's "Dark Shadows Companion." I bought the 1969 soundtrack vinyl album from Mike and Maria at Lost and Found Records when it was located in West Knoxville. I joined the "Dark Shadows" fan club and subscribed to a few fanzines.

As the years passed, I left "Dark Shadows" behind. College and career took over. When Netflix arrived, I would rent the DVDs from time to time. I'd watch them usually on Saturday mornings, while eating cereal, for old times' sake. It never failed to bring a smile.

Last Thursday night, I toasted Frid, dug out my VHS copy of the 1970 film "House of Dark Shadows" (which did so well at the box office it single-handedly saved M-G-M from bankruptcy) and Jenn and I spent two hours with those crazy characters from Collinwood. I bought Mr. Frid's autograph on eBay and decided to splurge on the second-edition of the complete series DVD set, which comes out in July.

Dan Curtis's dream called "Dark Shadows" will forever hold a special place in my heart. Crazy camp and all, it was (and is) a heck of a lot of fun.

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