Why we need Barnabas Collins again.

Why the world needs Barnabas Collins to rise again

by Jessica Dwyer

I felt a need to write this, so bear with me.  In a world where people e-mail angry letters to sites saying how dare Universal Studios rip off Stephanie Meyer by making a film called The Wolfman (true story) I can only imagine what’s going to happen when this film hits the screens next year.  But there’s more to it than just Twi-headache’s.

Vampires of late have been taking a staking to what, at least to me, has made them great.

We’ve had two sets of the creatures of the night really be in the spotlight (or moonlight if you will.)  The toothless ones who have gone vegetarian and the super sexual, super stylish ones who bang more than they fang.  And while I’m a fan of the monster and will watch most anything that has to do with the bloodsuckers no matter how bad because I’m Dracula’s whore (I’m looking at you Night Hunter) even I am getting to my limit with it.

I miss my vampire.

That probably sounds strange doesn’t it?  But it’s true.  I miss class in the world of the vampire.  Now I know what you are going to say “But Edward Cullen is a gentleman!”  Stop right there.

Barnabas Collins (played by the awesome Jonathan Frid) was a gentleman, he was courtly, he was old school and old world.  He was also unashamedly a villain at the beginning.  Barnabas was an anti-hero, with emphasis on the anti.  He spent his first arc of episodes trying to drive a young woman by the name of Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott) crazy to the point she took on the personality of the woman he’d loved when he was turned into a vampire (who killed herself rather than stay with him forever as a bloodsucker.)  Locking her in a coffin, biting her and draining her blood, all sorts of bad things that we never actually saw on camera too.

Barnabas had an interesting take on how to woo the ladies.

Barnabas was an angry vampire with a grudge who attacked women throughout the town of Collinsport (stalked a couple of them).  But he was a smooth operator, he had a sense of charm about him that was old fashioned because he was out of place in time.  And that allowed him to get away with it.  He carried a sense of  tragedy about him, but he wasn’t whiney.  He was attractive but not in the “look at my abs ladies, I’m a hottie” way.   It was in that Bela Lugosi style that you couldn’t place you finger on, but made you gravitate towards him.  And that’s when you let your guard down.

Smitten yet?  It’s all in the bangs.

Barnabas slept in a coffin too.  He also turned into a (very rubbery) bat.   The supernatural was a big part of what made him a vampire.  He’d been cursed with the condition by a witch who he’d spurned by the name of Angelique (she’d come back as a vampire herself.)  There wasn’t a lot of overt explanation for how it happened (a magical vampire bat bit him.)  It was a curse.  He wasn’t allowed to love anyone else and he lost nearly everyone he cared about.  It caused him to become hard and cruel.

But as we followed him Barnabas grew as a character and became the hero over many, many episodes.  Once or twice he became human again as science tried to cure him (he had a female doctor named Julia Hoffman, played by Grayson Hall, who tried to cure him of the condition.)

But the curse would return and take him back to the dark side.   The vampire would use that supernatural strength to fight even worse supernatural forces throughout the show along with his knowledge of that world in an attempt to make amends for the suffering he’d caused.  He wasn’t always completely good, but he tried to fight his nature.   He was a lonely soul that kept searching for the love he’d lost.

Just admit it.

If much of this sounds familiar it’s because it is.  But Barnabas was first (Dark Shadows began in the late 60’s.)  He was the heroic vampire who came to modern times and fought against evil forces (see Lestat, Blood Ties, Forever Knight, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and god knows how many others.)  He tried to use science to cure his affliction (see Forever Knight big time for this one in the guise of Doctor Natalie Lambert…side note on this one she was originally a man in the original telefilm.)  Barnabas was the first in many of what is now cannon for vampires on the small and large screen.

And now in this day and age of soft core True Blood (there’s nothing wrong with having sex mixed with vampires…but nearly the entire second season was dedicated to orgies that were simply there for the sake of orgies) and teen vamp angst morality tales we’ve lost something I think.  Good old fashioned gothic has been lost to the modern world.  People forget what came before Edward and Eric.  And sadly they don’t know what they are missing.

The super is gone from the supernatural.  I want my vampire to be a vampire again.  I want the man out of time who is at once sinister and sympathetic.   We get glimpses of him here and there, but not like we used to.  The stories and tales of vampires today seem to be a study in extremes.  And while some of them are well written and well done, there’s just something about the gothic vampire that Barnabas Collins was and what was brought to life in Dark Shadows that was very special to not only me, but many other fans of the series.  Some just seem like “pale” imitations of him.

And that’s why I’m supportive and very excited about the film version of Dark Shadows that’s coming to big screens next year.  Depp and Burton are fans of that surreal, gothic world that Dan Curtis and company created all those years ago.  And that world still endures and haunts the memories of fans both young and old.

Here is represented love. 

We need to be reminded of that world, of that weary hearted stranger in the caped coat that carried a silver handled cane.  We need a vampire that is old school to school the new ones.  And I have faith that Depp and Burton are going to do just that.

Not only are they fans of the original series, but they brought the original series into the new film by having the cast IN the new film.  In interviews Johnny Depp speaks about how he doesn’t want to stray far from what Jonathan Frid created with Baranabas…because why mess with something that worked so well?


These are the same duo of director and actor who brought the feel of a Hammer horror movie to the big screen with Sleepy Hollow (and a long history with Christopher Lee) and made Bela Lugosi come to life again (with Martin Landau as the conduit) with Ed Wood.  They know their horror and they know their history.  Johnny even owns Bela’s old house in Hollywood.  I think he’s a fan…

So it is with this that I say we need Barnabas Collins to rise again.  We need this and it couldn’t be in better hands.  Support your local vampire and don’t worry…Barnabas still bites.


Wanna Learn More about Dark Shadows and the people behind it? Check out these links:

http://www.jonathanfrid.com/  – The original Barnabas

http://darkshadowsnews.blogspot.com/  – The new movie news

http://www.collinwood.net/  – all around news

http://www.darkshadowsfestival.com/  – The convention

http://www.hulu.com/dark-shadows   -the 1990’s series on Hulu

9 thoughts on “Why we need Barnabas Collins again.

  1. Fantastic article! I have to agree with you. As much as I love True Blood (for its over-the-topness and nekkid Eric) and loathe Twilight, I miss the vampires who were so good at being evil and could still charm your socks off. Eric has a smidge of that, but not enough to be on Barnabas’ level. There’s a lot of effort to completely humanize vampires, to make them people with fangs, when they’re capable of being SO MUCH MORE.

    I’m so excited for this movie. Johnny Depp will make an amazing Barnabas.

  2. Great article and sooooo true! Barnabas Collins, as portrayed by Jonathan Frid, was the first reluctant vampire — fans like Ann Rice and Depp/Burton understand that and on Rice’s part, influenced her writing. I am excited about the Depp/Burton version of Dark Shadows and the fact that the boys brought JF, David Selby, Lara Parker and Kathryn Leigh Scott to England for cameo appearances in the film. I can hardly wait until next May!

  3. Thank you for your insightful article. “Old School” wins. Mr. Frid’s Barnabas Collins had CHARISMA by the spade full. His first ever appearance, in which he wowed both Elizabeth Collins Stoddard and Victoria Winters, is evidence of this. Another great incidence of his fatal charm was when, in 1840 PT, he appeared in Roxanne Drew’s bedroom to tell her that he would “love her” as no one else had; that he could not help himself. Oh, my, that was a most romantic moment; they shared “something”, then with regret on his shoulders, Roxanne soothed him and let him kiss her. It was not unlike a similar scene shared between vampiric Barnabas and his Josette–a night of love that was barely hinted at but left the mind open to a myriad of possibilities. It took a show like “Dark Shadows” and its wonderful creative staff, including gifted actors, to allow us to use our imaginations. Otherwise, we might not be discussing all this some forty-plus years later.

    When not in vampire mode, Barnabas could be just as sincere..and, to Mr. Frid’s credit, believable. For example, when he told Victoria that he would go to his grave before he saw her hurt because he loved her that much, could you have not felt his anguish any stronger? In pre-vamp 1795, he told Josette many times how much he wanted to marry her. Of course, his charming ways were also his mortal undoing, ala Angelique, and that was the source of his immortal sorrow. After what she did to him, we began to pity him. It was Barnabas Collins’ passionate, emotional roller-coaster ride of undeath that was honed so cleverly out of mere words on paper by the talented and imaginative Mr. Frid, who brought the script to daily life.

    Oh yes, the bangs were a must…as well as the tailored suits, capes, cane, ring, posture, elegant walk and mannerisms. Above all else, and key to his tale of woe, was that rich, melancholy voice that could either lull you into sympathy or frighten you into submission, Last, but not least, were the multitude of facial expressions, and those killer eyes–precious as a puppy’s one moment, haunted and soul-hurt when cornered or tormented, the next–narrowed and focused when on the prowl. His face could be both handsome and hideous in the same scene–such were his remarkable features. These elements were what made Barnabas Collins a most loveable vampire for all seasons.

    • Thank you for understanding why I feel the way I do. Dark Shadows was far and ahead of its time. He was first on many levels. I only wish the more recent vampire fans knew this as fact.

    • I liked it but it could have been so much more. I blame the script and the fact that writer Seth Graham Smith had never watched the series and marathoned a 100 or so eps before writing it. If you notice it’s glazed with only the basic veneer of the show. The performances like Depp’s (which I thought was great even if the dialog and storyline was lacking…he channeled Frid) and Michelle Pfeiffer’s were showing their knowledge of the original series.

      So yes I’ll take the Burton/Depp movie and enjoy it but would I have LOVED a story that followed the Baranabas/Josette storyline first with the same cast and focusing on a more serious take with someone writing it that KNEW the show? God yes.

  4. Hey, are you still around? I seem to have Mr. B down for fanwork better than most, or so I am told. Still working with a couple people to perform his voice better. It’s been a tough numbers of years, hasn’t it? Well, he’s still a’throttlin’ and the dame he finally got to is me. Ahhhh! hee hee hee!

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