Commonwealth Journal

May 1, 2012

Long live Barnabas Collins

By JEFF NEAL, CJ News Editor
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly chasing that nostalgic feeling that goes along with fond memories from your childhood.
Lately, those have been coming at me in waves.
Last weekend, I sat down with my 3-year-old daughter and watched some old episodes of “Batman,” from the mid-60s. You know, the campy one with Adam West and Burt Ward as “the caped crusaders.”
Pow! Biff! Wop!
Surprisingly, Carly took to the old show like I did when I was 5 or 6, first watching them with my parents eons ago.
It made up for the bit of sadness I experienced last week when I learned that one of my childhood heroes had passed away.
Jonathan Frid, the Canadian actor who originated the role of vampire Barnabas Collins in the 60s gothic horror soap “Dark Shadows” died — on Friday the 13th, of course — at the age of 87.
Ironically, Frid’s death comes at a time when the popularity of “Dark Shadows” has come full circle. Old fans and newbies alike are eagerly anticipating the big budget “Dark Shadows” movie starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas and directed by Tim Burton. It hits theaters on May 11.
I’ve been looking forward to the new, fresh take on the spooky hit show that kept me mesmerized as a child.
Fortunately for all of us kids who used to rush home from school to tune in to “Dark Shadows,” Depp and Burton were just like us. They never missed an episode and it was such a memorable piece of their childhood that it stuck with them into adulthood. So much so that Depp bought the rights to do a movie version when creator Dan Curtis died in 2008.
One of the first things Depp and Burton did as they began filming the feature a little over a year ago was to invite Frid and three other cast members of the original, Lara Parker (the dastardly witch Angelique), Kathryn Leigh Scott (the tortured Josette Collins) and David Selby (the rogue werewolf Quentin) to have cameos in the film.
It will be grand to see my beloved show on the silver screen with such a tremendous cast breathing new life into the characters I followed as a child.
But it will be a little sad to see an elderly Frid, knowing it will be his final appearance in “Dark Shadows.”
I got to meet Frid back in 1990 and talk with him about the show and his unexpected popularity.
He didn’t get it. He just could not understand why a show that went off the air decades earlier could still have such a loyal following.
By pure accident, Frid and the “Dark Shadows” writers inadvertently changed the way vampires are portrayed in the media.
Frid’s Barnabas was a reluctant, self-loathing character and he ultimately became a hero.
Not that the “Dark Shadows” writing staff meant to change the image of bloodsuckers. They just wanted to extend a popular character who was generating ratings beyond the traditional 13 weeks of a soap contract.
But without Frid’s classic portrayal of Barnabas, we would have never had Angel, Spike, Edward Cullen, Bill from “True Blood” or the Salvatore brothers.
It’s a nice legacy for a little-known actor who simply wanted to make his TV monster a little “more human.”