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Dark Shadows

Harry M. Benshoff

Publication Year: 2011

Explores the cultural, industrial, formal, and generic contexts of the television soap opera Dark Shadows as a precursor to today’s popular gothic media franchises.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

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pp. vii-viii

Many people contributed to this project, first and foremost being the Dark Shadows fans who over the course of twenty years have shared their stories, fanzines, videos, and personal recollections with me. I would also like to thank the original cast and crew of Dark Shadows, many of whom have also shared ...

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Introduction: A Cult Television Show

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pp. 1-6

From June 1966 until April 1971, ABC-TV aired a daily thirty-minute soap opera titled Dark Shadows. The serial was unique in its subject matter, for Dark Shadows showcased a panoply of outright fantastic events enacted by supernatural characters such as vampires, werewolves, warlocks, and witches. Nonetheless, even within this eerie netherworld, many ...

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1. Production History

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pp. 7-14

As Elana Levine has noted in her study of General Hospital, the “production environment and its complicated tension of efficiency and creativity, hands-on labor and removed, hierarchical control demonstrate that struggles in soap opera production occur along cultural as well as economic lines, between duties and agendas distinguished and hierarchized by ...

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2. A Necessarily Brief Synopsis

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pp. 15-24

Although Dark Shadows reached the apex of its popularity as a soap opera when it was centered on a reluctant vampire named Barnabas Collins, at its inception the show did not feature supernatural characters at all. Instead it used its gothic atmosphere as a backdrop for more realist intrigues at Collinwood, the brooding ancestral estate of adult siblings Elizabeth ...

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3. Macronarrative: Adapting the Gothic Novel and the Horror Film

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pp. 25-36

As is hopefully apparent by this brief (and woefully incomplete) synopsis, Dark Shadows was a densely plotted and (compared to many of its contemporaries) quickly moving soap opera. Its dependence on story lines from classic gothic novels was perhaps its greatest strength as well as its biggest weakness. The show’s writers did indeed keep a listing of well-known...

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4. Micronarrative: Television Melodrama and Episodic Structure

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pp. 37-50

As theorists Jane Feuer and David Thorburn have previously argued, much televisual form is inherently melodramatic, but in ways often quite distinct from the melodrama of stage or screen. Classical and postclassical Hollywood melodramas (like those of Nicholas Ray or Douglas Sirk) are often associated with a formally excessive mise-en-sc

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5. Actor, Character, Narrative

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pp. 51-68

As many prominent theorists of television aesthetics have noted, “Personality is one of the primary selling points of television, the basis of its performers’ appeal” (Joyrich, “Television,” 138). Dorothy Hobson states simply that “actors in soap operas, and the characters they portray, are the main attractions that bring audiences to the genre” (Soap Opera, 67). Similarly, ...

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6. Cultural Context: Camp, Reception, and Secondary Texts

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pp. 69-92

As its immense popularity suggests, Dark Shadows may have been just the right show at just the right cultural moment. In its first years or so on the air, it was considered by some to be reminiscent of the work of Alfred Hitchcock, perhaps because of its suspense and the presence of 1940s Hollywood mystery icon Joan Bennett. Soon however, it was being decoded by...

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7. Legacy

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pp. 93-104

Dark Shadows’ legacy has been long lasting, both among dedicated fans as well as professional media producers. In addition to the comic books, novels, and sound track music discussed previously, this chapter considers several other industrially produced texts directly related to Dark Shadows, including the two films based on the original show (featuring the ...

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8. Fans and Fandom

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pp. 105-114

Since at least the 1970s, media scholars have used ethnographic research to study the ways that actual audience members make sense of televisual texts, especially soap operas. Following on the ideas and formulations of early cultural studies researchers such as Stuart Hall, ...

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Epilogue: Dark Shadows 2008

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pp. 115-118

Just as they had for some thirty-odd years, in July of 2008 thousands of Dark Shadows fans gathered for an annual convention held that year at the Marriott Hotel and Convention Center in Burbank, California. The hottest buzz of the year was the news that Johnny Depp had recently purchased the rights to Dark Shadows with the intention of adapting it for the big ...


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pp. 119-124


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pp. 125-130

E-ISBN-13: 9780814336328
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814334393

Page Count: 144
Illustrations: 20
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1
Volume Title: N/a