TV Article

The Vampire Strikes Back

NBC's ''Dark Shadows'' -- Behind the scenes of the new vampire drama

Things look grim in the bowling alley beneath the abandoned 55-room Doheny mansion in Beverly Hills. The tomb-like room is painted black, hung with cobwebs, lit with flickering tapers, and filled with smoke. A woman with bloody hands is standing between an open coffin and a man sprawled face down with a knife in his back when in toddles a fellow carrying a lollipop. The woman snatches the knife from its inert sheath and stalks toward the baffled intruder, demonically muttering in French, ''Imbécile! Crétin!''

''Cut!'' barks director Dan Curtis. ''Give me more smoke.''

Dark Shadows, the supernatural soap of the '60s that brought vampires into the light of day, is back. Beginning with the four-hour, two-part miniseries that aired earlier this month, the gothic goings-on of the folks from Collinsport, Maine, have been resurrected from TV's programming great beyond to become a new weekly series. And NBC, which has bet an estimated $20 million that the program can thrive on Friday nights, is banking on the remarkably enduring appeal of a show that once had up to 20 million viewers every weekday afternoon, many of them teenagers. Although Dark Shadows has been off the air for 20 years (''We just ran out of stuff to do,'' says Curtis, who created and produced the original and is also executive producer of the new series), its devotees still circulate a newsletter and hold annual festivals. The show's 25th anniversary will be observed at a three-day gala this June in Los Angeles, with most of the original cast members — including Jonathan Frid, the cult favorites who played Barnabas Collins — in attendance. More significantly, vintage Dark Shadows videos sell — and rent — well. For people who prefer the printed version, Pomegranate Press recently published The Dark Shadows Companion, which includes plot summaries of all 1,225 episodes.

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