Another beautiful vampire: Johnny Depp becomes Barnabas Collins


More than 40 years ago the world was introduced to the enigmatic vampire Barnabas Collins. Between 1966 and 1971, the television series Dark Shadows captured the imagination of viewers throughout the world. Now Dark Shadows is being made into a movie, starring Johnny Depp, expected hit theaters in 2012, by Tim Burton and Warner Bros.

For a vampire, Barnabas has undergone some significant changes even though his story has remained essentially the same.

Jonathan Frid
Portrait of Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins

Barnabas was born in the 1740’s as near as he can recall. In 1752 he set sail from Liverpool, England for the New World in the company of his parents, Joshua and Naomi Collins. A couple of decades later Barnabas has the world, or at least Collinsport, Maine, at his feet, having become a rich, powerful and the master of Collinwood Manor.

Then he makes a mistake. A big one, as it turns out.

He breaks Angelique’s heart. Angelique isn’t just any woman scorned. She’s a true witch. And one who obviously believes in giving as good as she gets.

Angelique curse Barnabas, turning him into a vampire (which were fearful things in those days, not the sexy versions we know today). Adding insult to injury, she buries the poor guy alive, well, undead.

There poor Barnabas lies for 200 years.

As luck would have it, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb just in time for the ’70’s. The world is a much different place. Collinwood Manor, his pride and joy, has fallen into disrepair and ruin. The Collins family has not fared much better plagued by mysterious problems and dark secrets.

Jonathan Frid was the first to embody Barnabas Collins. His is still the face most likely to be recognized in association with the 200-year-old blood-sucker and Collins family secret. In the original Dark Shadows series, Barnabas introduced himself as a distant relative to the Collins family from England. It wasn’t until later that his secret was discovered.

Ben Cross as Barnabas Collins
Ben Cross as Barnabas Collins

Barnabas was laid to rest except for re-runs until 1990 when Ben Cross reprised the role in a made-for-television movie. The popularity of the Dark Shadows TV film led to another, brief, television appearance for Barnabas, this time as Ben Cross.

Another remake of the Dark Shadows series was attempted in 2004 starring Alec Newman.

Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp

Now, 44 years after Jonathan Frid emerged from his crypt, Johnny Depp is taking up the Dark Shadows mantle. No stills have been released yet, so it is an open question whether Depp will opt for look that is more Sleepy Hollow or more Libertine. Fans of the original Dark Shadows series, however, can take some comfort that they are unlikely to see the Mad Hatter or Captain Jack Sparrow in this central role.

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