It's taken "Twilight" through four movies (five when "Breaking Dawn Part 2" is released in November), but the complicated love story between a reluctant vampire and the young woman who must make sacrifices (be sacrificed?) to be with him carried "Dark Shadows" through 1,225 TV episodes, and now, a 131-DVD box set.
"Dark Shadows: The Complete Original Series," is being released Tuesday to give viewers a glimpse back at the soap opera that had teens glued to its vampire love story long before "Twilight" or "The Vampire Diaries" drew fans to the big and small screens.
The show, which sparked director Tim Burton and star Johnny Depp's eighth movie collaboration with Friday's "Dark Shadows" movie, is collected in a massive, coffin-shaped box. In addition to the 1,225 episodes, the limited-edition set also includes a commemorative booklet with photos and episode summaries, a series documentary and cast reunion, bloopers (of which there were, famously, many), more than 100 interviews with the series cast and crew and a postcard autographed by the late Jonathan Frid.
"We were way ahead of the curve," says original "Dark Shadows" series star Kathryn Leigh Scott, who played Maggie Evans. "One of my favorite scenes in the television series is the first encounter between Barnabas Collins and Maggie Evans, when she's a waitress in a diner. He comes in, and it's closing time. She's reluctant to let this stranger in. But he comes in, and the two of them bond. He sees her as the embodiment of his long‑lost love, Josette DuPres, which is (another) role that I also played.
"The 'Twilight' saga is really nothing more than what we were playing 46 years ago, which was the longing of Maggie, who comes under the spell of Barnabas, and his realization. We always called him 'The Reluctant Vampire,' because he despised himself and the curse that made him rely on other people's blood for survival, and that, in order to realize the marriage with Josette, it meant that he was dooming Maggie Evans to the same eternal curse that he lived under. It's essentially 'Twilight.'"
The 1966-71 TV series, which aired as a half-hour drama in the afternoons, took off after creator Dan Curtis added the show's trademark supernatural elements and star Frid, who joined the show in its 211th episode, as 200-year-old vampire Barnabas Collins.
Witches, werewolves and ghosts were intertwined with traditional soap plots like romance and family drama, and attempts to pull off "special effects" — like "a prop man holding a fishing pole with a string with a bat hanging on the end and we'd shake the stick," Scott recalls — only grew a young audience's affection for and devotion to the show.
Both Burton and Depp have counted themselves among the kids who ran home to catch the show every day.
"The show came on at four o'clock, and that's when little kids were waking up from naps. It was when mothers already had the dinner in the oven, and they were welcoming the other kids home from school," Scott says. "It was a time to sit around the television set. Very often I get letters now … 'Thanks to "Dark Shadows." You saw me through a terrible, terrible childhood. My best memory is sitting with my grandmother watching "Dark Shadows" when I got home from school.' The show was pure escapism."
As for the "Dark Shadows" movie, the tone is decidedly a little more humorous than the TV series, or, as Scott says, a little more intentionally humorous.
"It's humiliating to watch (the bloopers) now, but it's part of the charm of that show," says Scott of the oopsies, like actors forgetting their lines, camera equipment visible in scenes and sets falling apart. Because the show was produced live with no retakes, the bloopers aired, and became another aspect that endeared the cult Gothic series to viewers.
The "Dark Shadows" movie, meanwhile, isn't the first attempt to revive the citizens of Collinsport, Maine. NBC attempted a 1991 series redo that featured a pre-"3rd Rock From the Sun" Joseph Gordon-Levitt among the cast, while the CW shot a 2004 pilot for another attempt at a series revival that starred Matt Czuchry ("The Good Wife"), Blair Brown and "Weeds" star Alexander Gould.
The Burton/Depp movie is the first "Dark Shadows" project that reunited the original series stars, as Scott, Frid — who died last month at age 87 — and co-stars David Selby and Lara Parker are featured in the movie's ball scene (along with rocker, and "Dark Shadows" series fan, Alice Cooper).
"The most poignant moment for me came when (Jonathan) saw Johnny Depp in character as Barnabas for the first time," says Scott, the author of the photo and anecdote-packed "Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood" book. "Jonathan just stood there gazing at Johnny Depp, just scrutinizing the makeup. Finally he said, 'I see you've done the hair with a few more spikes.' Johnny looked at him, and in perfect Barnabas character, just said, 'Well, we're doing things a little differently.'
"Tim Burton was standing right behind him and the two of them looked at Jonathan and said, 'We wouldn't be here without you,' which was a wonderfully gratifying thing for all of us to hear, but certainly Jonathan."