Dark Shadows fans, I summon thee!
Barnabas Collins, the anti-heroic bloodsucker from ABC’s undyingly popular supernatural soap opera of the 1960s, has been selected as one of eight candidates for Best Vampire in the World Series of Monsters, an 11-category competition going on now on the HitFix website. But, with voting set to close today (October 26), TV’s “cool ghoul” is currently in last place.
This is an outrage of the first order. And one that must not stand.
As portrayed by Canadian actor Jonathan Frid, Barnabas became an international sensation when he was introduced to the viewers of the ratings-starved daytime soap in April of 1967. What was intended to be a 13-week ratings stunt turned into four years of witches, werewolves and zombies, with some of the most outlandish plotlines ever to grace TV screens at any hour of the day. And Barnabas was at the center of the madness, sometimes saving people, and sometimes killing them. Depending upon his mood.
Frid went on to become a teen magazine heartthrob, a Billboard-charting recording artist (whilst reciting verse on the TV show’s soundtrack) and, eventually, a movie star, with a lead role in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS (1970), series creator Dan Curtis’ hugely successful feature film adaptation.
Dark Shadows and its bloodsucking headliner broke content boundaries for television, and established an archetype – The Reluctant Vampire – that’s more popular today than ever before. Frid’s portrayal captivated millions of teens and tweens who “ran home from school” each day to watch his exploits, and the series inspired a generation of storytellers who continue to inject the show’s DNA into their work, nearly half a century later
Without Dark Shadows, there is no Twilight, no Sleepy Hollow, no Penny Dreadful. The extent to which Barnabas Collins and his exploits impacted contemporary genre storytelling is incalculable, and it needs to be acknowledged. Right now.
But at last tally, Barnabas had scored only a measly 3.57% in the competition, putting him at number 8 out of 8 candidates. Here’s the tally (as it stands of this writing):
1. 22.41% – Dracula (Gary Oldman) from Francis Ford Coppola’s BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA (1992)
2. 20.81% – David (Keifer Sutherland) from Joel Schumacher’s THE LOST BOYS (1987)
3. 15.74% – Count Orlock (Max Schrek) from F.W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU (1922)
4. 15.03% – Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek) from Robert Rodriguez’s FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996)
5. 9.86% – Dracula (Christopher Lee) from the Hammer Films series (1958-73)
6. 7.4% – Dracula (Bela Lugosi) from Tod Browning’s DRACULA (1931)
7. 5.19% – Kurt Barlow (Reggie Nalder) from Tobe Hooper’s SALEM’S LOT (1979)
8. 3.57% – Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) from Dark Shadows (1966-71, ABC)
There’s a lot wrong with this list, but that’s not the point of this post. (But seriously, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA is number one?) While I love Lugosi, Max Schrek and Christopher Lee, each of them has been duly acknowledged throughout the decades for their longstanding contributions to celluloid bloodsucking. Their films are readily available and frequently seen.
But, in terms of time served, Frid’s Barnabas blows the field away with more than 500 half-hour TV episodes shot live-on-tape in a tiny, New York City TV studio over four years. And while the entire series is available on DVD, and 240 episodes are streaming at Hulu, Dark Shadows has not been widely seen since it left the Sci-Fi Channel’s daytime schedule more than a decade ago. The only reference many contemporary viewers have to the show is Tim Burton’s creatively bankrupt 2012 reboot. And that is another tragedy.
But one tragedy at a time. Barnabas Collins must not lose this fight. As the vampire himself might say, I implore you to vote here and to share this post on your Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Friendster, CB Radio and whatever other form of social media you may employ. It takes just one click!
Barnabas Collins has summoned you to do his bidding. And you will obey!
Update 10/27/14 – Voting has closed, but Barnabas made a very respectable rise from the dead, jumping from 3.57% to 4.2%. If you voted, thanks. If you didn’t, may the curse of eternal darkness fall upon you, and all those you love.
Here is the final tally. (Gary Oldman? Really?):
1. 22.24% – Dracula (Gary Oldman)
2. 20.65% – David
3. 15.64% – Count Orlock
4. 14.89% – Santanico Pandemonium
5. 9.78% – Dracula (Christopher Lee)
6. 7.41% – Dracula (Bela Lugosi)
7. 5.16% – Kurt Barlow
8. 4.24% – Barnabas