Although I am neither an expert on nor a particular fan of Dark Shadows, I would be beyond remiss if I did not note the passing at 87 of its star, Jonathan Frid; after all, creator Dan Curtis soon afterward became Richard Matheson’s most frequent collaborator. I was going to say that I was unfamiliar with Frid’s oeuvre outside the genre when I discovered that, aside from his prestigious stage career, he didn’t have one: of his five IMDb entries, three are manifestations of Dark Shadows (the original 1967-71 ABC serial; the slam-bang 1970 theatrical compression, House of Dark Shadows, which I heartily enjoyed; and a cameo in Tim Burton‘s imminent travesty). The others are The Devil’s Daughter, a 1973 TV-movie from Somewhere in Time director Jeannot Szwarc that I have yet to see, and Seizure, Oliver Stone’s indescribably bizarre 1974 feature-film directorial debut, in which Frid co-starred with Martine Beswick and Hervé Villechaize (’nuff said).
Be that as it may, my experience with Dark Shadows was restricted mainly to catching occasional episodes when what was then the Sci-Fi Channel showed two every weekday morning in the early ’90s, at which time–to be blunt–I finally gave up because, no matter how many monsters it featured, it was still a soap opera, with all of the glacial pacing that entailed. But I saw enough to know that no matter how shaky the sets, silly the scripts or amateurish some of the acting may have been, Frid was always a class act, investing his character of Barnabas Collins with a complexity rare in screen vampires. As Curtis himself once said, “In most of my horror [stories], I try to find an additional dimension to the monster. Sometimes you actually end up feeling sorry for him. We certainly did that with Barnabas,” and that he was able to so successfully is, in many ways, a tribute to Jonathan Frid.