Dark Shadows (1966 franchise)

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Title screen for Dark Shadows (1966 franchise)...

Dark Shadows (1966 series), also known as Shadows on the Wall, would be followed up by films House of Dark Shadows AKA Dark Shadows (1970) and Night of Dark Shadows AKA Curse of Dark Shadows (1971), a 1991 reboot series Dark Shadows, and a Tim Burton/Johnny Depp re-reboot/parody film Dark Shadows (2012), in addition to a variety of other spin-off and expanded universe material such as books, comic books, audio plays, etc.

An unrelated TV Movie/Pilot for an unsold series, Dark Mansions (1986), covered similar Gothic Soap Opera territory, borrowing some plot points from the original Dark Shadows, and lending sets and shooting locations to later entries in the Dark Shadows franchise.


Summary

"Dark Shadows: a story of blood relations." "Death kept their love alive." A vampire returns to his cursed family mansion in Collinsport, Maine, where he is surrounded with a host of dark secrets, strange occurrences, and doomed monsters in the original Gothic soap-opera.

"Dark Mansions": In the unrelated "clone" pilot/TV-movie Dark Mansions, a young woman is hired to travel to Oregon to write the family history for the gloomy inhabitants of the Gothic titular Dark Mansion. This knock-off opted to downplay the supernatural elements (at least in the unsold pilot; these might have been planned to be added later.)


Details

  • Release Date: 1966-1971, 1991 (first reboot), 2012 (second reboot)
  • Country/Language: US, English
  • Genres/Technical: Horror (Gothic horror), Drama (soap opera), Fantasy, black-and-white (1966-1967); original series was taped in one take and pushed directly to air with little or no editing, with mistakes easily found in every episode
  • Setting: Colonial, Gaslight, and 1960s(?) Collinsport, Maine
  • Starring: Jonathan Frid, Grayson Hall, Alexandra Isles (original series and films); Ben Cross, Barbara Blackburn, Jim Fyfe (1991 reboot); Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green (2012 reboot)
  • Creator: Dan Curtis; Tim Burton (2012 reboot)
  • Producer/Production Co: Dan Curtis Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) (1966-1971); Dan Curtis Productions, MGM Television (1991); Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures, Infinitum Nihil (2012 reboot)
  • View Trailer: (1968-1971), (link), (link), (1991), (link)
  • Website describing Lovecraftian elements in detail: (link)
  • TVTropes: (link)
  • IMDB Page: (1966-1971), (House), (Night), (1991), (2012); (Dark Mansions)

Ratings

MPAA Ratings

  • Rated: PG (mild and typically off-screen Violence and Adult Content)

Generally PG, though much of the original series TV episodes could be quite mild by today's standards, the two original films (especially Night) had slightly more intense sexual and violent content, the 1991 series may have pushed the envelope a little further, and the 2012 film was rated PG-13....


Tentacle Ratings

A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:

  • S____ (One Tentacle: Debateably Lovecraftian; has almost no direct connection to Lovecraft's work)

The franchise as a whole was not especially Lovecraftian, being a Gothic soap opera melodrama which featured the occasional vampire or other monster. The original series did, however, introduce occasional Lovecraftian elements, with the "leviathan" story line being especially Lovecraftian: sanity-blasting immortal disembodied alien spirits resembling glowing serpents possess human bodies, and invade the dreams of tormented mortal dreamers to cause mischief.

Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.

Reviews

Review Links:

  • Dark Shadows:
    • (review needed)
  • Dark Mansions:
    • Dave Sindelar (link)
    • Wes Connors at IMDb (link)


Synopsis (SPOILERS)

 Spoiler Section (Highlight to Read)
The Leviathans are led in Collinsport by Oberon and Haza, Leviathan spirits conjured into this world through the Naga Box by cultist Reverand Strack, and who have, in the bodies of Strack's cultists, conceived a rapidly-growing demonic creepy kid, Jebes "Jeb" Hawkes. Jeb is raised by other cultists possessed by Leviathan spirits in preparation for his transformation into a half-Leviathan form in a special room constructed in the back room of a decrepit Collinsport workshop.

Upon his transformation, Jeb assumes a terrifying half-Leviathan form before killing a series of human victims, before attempting to take over Collinsport and then the world in a scheme involving mating with human women to produce a race of hybrid monsters, and unlocking the secrets contained in the ancient tome, Book of Leviathan.

The Leviathans manage to corrupt reluctant former vampire Barnabas Collins into another of their agents on Earth; only the werewolf Chris Jennings could effectively stop Jeb, allowing Barnabas Collins to rebel against the Leviathans, who in retaliation turn Barnabas back into a vampire.

The Leviathans would next turn to cultists Bruno Hess and Sky Rumson, witch Angelique Bouchard (Barnabas Collins' former lover and sometimes arch-enemy, responsible for the curse that turned him into a vampire), and warlock Nicholas Blair to work various new schemes for regaining a foothold in Collinsport.

A convoluted late revision in the Leviathan plot (typical for soap operas of the era) would turn Jeb Hawkes into a reincarnation of a man drowned in the 1790s, leaving Jeb a more heroic character carrying on an affair with an evil reincarnated lover while haunted by the ghosts of his victims from a previous life, and opening the door to a revelation from novels based on the series that Jeb is the reincarnation of sinister Pharaoh Nephren-Ka.

In the end, the Leviathan stories would be quickly wrapped up during filming of the two 1970s Dark Shadows movies by violently killing off most of the characters involved and introducing a separate cast in a 1790s timeline: Cultist Bruno would be mauled to death by werewolf Chris Jennings, warlock Nicholas Blair would be consumed by a shadow-demon conjured through the combined efforts of Angelique and Jeb, cultist Sky Rumsen would drown Jeb by throwing him off Widow's Hill only to himself be killed by Barnabas, who would then travel back in time to an alternate timeline, only to be chained within his casket until his re-release in the 1960s so that the character's actor could complete his part in the films.

The series would be canceled a year later without returning to the Leviathan storyline in its original television run, though spin-off and expanded-universe material would include numerous, more direct references to the Cthulhu Mythos.


Notes

Comments, Trivia, Dedication

Associated Mythos Elements


Keeper Notes