The show depicted the lives, loves, trials and tribulations of the wealthy Collins family of Collinsport, a fictitious community in Maine, where a number of supernatural occurrences take place.
Originally the show was set as a starring vehicle for veteran film actress Joan Bennett, who played matriarch, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, but someone else made the show a huge hit.
The series became hugely popular when Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid), who was revealed to have been a vampire, appeared ten months into its run.
At first, rather evil, Barnabas became more of a reluctant vampire, who would rather quit than bite. It was revealed that he had been turned into a vampire by a spurned witch named Angelique (Lara Parker).
In spite of his vampiric tendencies, Barnabas did have his family's best interests in mind, and would also be there to supportive and would help protect his family against outsiders. Much later, though, another Collins relative, Quentin Collins (David Selby), would make trouble for the family and Collinsport.
Besides Elizabeth and Barnabas, other members of the extended family included Elizabeth's emotionless and cold brother, Roger (Louis Edmunds); his troubled nine year old son, David (David Henesy); Elizabeth's rebellious eighteen-year old daughter, Carolyn (Nancy Barrett); and Victoria Winters (Alexandra Moltke), who had been recently hired on as David's governess. Other staff members included Mrs. Johnson (Clarice Blackburn), the family's long-time housekeeper.
Other characters included Burke Devlin (Mitchell Ryan; Anthony George), a Collinsport native who would fall for Victoria Winters when he met her at the train station; Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott); a woman who reminded Barnabas of his late fiancee, Josette Du Pres; and Dr. Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall), a woman who originally served as Maggie's psychiatrist and was chief of staff at nearby Windcliff sanitarium, but became one of Barnabas' allies (although they were leery of one another at first).
Working for Barnabas was Willie Loomis (John Karlen), a not-to-bright young man (and former Collinwood handyman) who was a friend of grifting schemer Jason McGuire (Dennis Patrick).
The story began with Elizabeth, having been locked in Collinwood, the Collins' estate, for over 18 years after the death of her husband, Paul (he was Carolyn's father). Things started to get very strange when Roger's dead wife, Laura (David's mother) showed up. It was revealed that she was a phoenix who wanted to burn up David with her. Vicki (as Victoria was called) helped save his life (which helped him become more at ease with her, as his governess).
The scheming Jason plotted to marry Elizabeth, punctuating his plotting with blackmail threats to both Carolyn and Elizabeth. However, upon revealing that Paul (Elizabeth's husband and Carolyn's father) hadn't died (Elizabeth hit him with a fireplace poker, but only stunned him), Jason tried to get away with his crimes (Elizabeth did not press charges, although Roger nearly did), but he would eventually meet his maker at the hands of Barnabas, who killed him.
Maggie, a waitress at the Collinsport Inn, was one of Victoria's best friends, who at first did not approve of the idea that she would work for the Collins family. She would be bedeviled by Barnabas continually, one situation of which would land her in a sanitarium called Windcliff. Maggie's boyfriend was Joe Haskell (Joel Crothers) and she lived with her father, Sam Evans (David Ford).
Meanwhile, Willie, in an attempt to rob graves of their precious jewelry, went to Eagle Hill Cemetery, and opened the Collins mausoleum. Opening a coffin, he awakens Barnabas, a now 175 year old vampire. He enslaves Willie (by biting him) and for the rest of the series, was his personal slave.
Victoria would be pursued by Barnabas but would prove to be her biggest protector when he would entomb the maniacal Reverend Trask into a wall for attempting to kill Victoria. She would later stay in 1795 and be happy with Peter Bradford. She would later die at the hands of a group of monsters called Leviathans led by one Jed Hawkes. Her role as David's governess would be taken over by her friend, Maggie Evans.
Dark Shadows also featured ghosts, werewolves, zombies, man-made monsters, witches, warlocks, time travel, and a parallel universe. A small company of actors each played many roles; indeed, as actors came and went, some characters were played by more than one actor.
Dark Shadows was distinguished by its vividly melodramatic performances, atmospheric interiors, memorable storylines, numerous dramatic plot twists, adventurous music score, broad cosmos of characters and heroic adventures. The original network run of the show lasted for nearly five years to amass 1,225 episodes.
Since 2006, the series has continued as a range of audio dramas produced by Big Finish Productions, featuring many of the original cast, including David Selby, Lara Parker, and Kathryn Leigh Scott.
Some years later, Dark Shadows would be brought back in 1991, starring Ben Cross as Barnabas and Jean Simmons as Elizabeth, but the show wouldn't last as its predecessor did. It ran a total of twelve episodes.
A movie, starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas, would bring the show back to the national consciousness, although it was a disappointment at the US box offices. It did well in foreign markets, however. Four members of the series cast, Lara Parker, David Selby, Kathryn Leigh Scott and Jonathan Frid made cameo appearances as party guests. It would be Frid's last ever appearance. He would die in April 2012.
The retro television network, Decades, would show various episodes of the original 1966-1971 series as one of its "Weekend binges" from October 28th through October 30th, for Halloween.
In a case of a real life soap opera, Alexandra Moltke (the original Victoria Winters) would be caught up in the Claus von Bulow trial. She was his mistress and had been called upon to testify in his defense. She would leave Dark Shadows in 1968 due to her pregnancy. She would be replaced by Betsy Durkins and Carolyn Groves until the role was written out entirely.
Many of the actors went on to bigger fame later on. Most notably, Joel Crothers (Joe Haskell), would later appear on Somerset and The Edge of Night; Louis Edmonds (Roger Collins) would later become best known as Langley Wallingford (ne Lenny Wlasuk) on the long-running All My Children.
Other alumni included John Karlen (Willie Loomis) who would later co-star with Tyne Daly as her on-screen husband on the long-running police drama, Cagney and Lacey (he played Harvey Lacey, the husband of Mary Beth Lacey); Abe Vigoda (Ezra Braithwaite) who would be known for the ruthless mob boss Tessio in The Godfather and much better known for his hilarious role of Phil Fish, a hypocondriac police officer, on the long-running comedy, Barney Miller and also on his own spin-off, Fish (he starred with veteran actress and comedienne Florence Stanley, who played his wife, Bernice on both series); Conrad Bain (Mr. Wells) would later be known for his roles of stuffy conservative, Dr. Arthur Harmon, Bea Arthur's frenemy on the comedy, Maude and later on as Philip Drummond, a wealthy businessman who adopted the sons of his late housekeeper (Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges) on the long-running situation comedy, Diff'rent Strokes; Kate Jackson (Daphne Harridge) would later be known for her roles in many dramas such as The Rookies; Charlie's Angels and Scarecrow and Mrs. King; Anthony George (Burke Devlin) would later join Search for Tomorrow as Joanne Tate's third husband, Tony Vincente; and Dennis Patrick (Jason McGuire) would play various roles over the years, most notably as scheming banker Vaughn Leland on Dallas and as wealthy Patrick Chapin on the syndicated soap, Rituals.
- JOAN BENNETT -- Elizabeth Collins Stoddard
- LOUIS EDMONDS -- Roger Collins
- DAVID HENESY -- David Collins
- NANCY BARRETT -- Carolyn Stoddard
- ALEXANDRA MOLTKE -- Victoria Winters
- JONATHAN FRID -- Barnabas Collins
- JOHN KARLEN -- Willie Loomis
- ANTHONY GEORGE -- Burke Devlin
- DENNIS PATRICK -- Jason McGuire
- CLARICE BLACKBURN -- Mrs. Johnson
- KATHRYN LEIGH SCOTT -- Maggie Evans
- JOEL CROTHERS -- Joe Haskell
- GRAYSON HALL -- Dr. Julia Hoffman
- ROBERT GERRINGER -- Dr. David Woodard
- DAVID SELBY -- Quentin Collins
- KATE JACKSON -- Daphne Harridge
- JERRY LACY -- Reverend Trask
- CONRAD BAIN -- Mr. Wells
- ABE VIGODA -- Ezra Braithwaite
- DAVID FORD -- Sam Evans
<ref>tags exist, but no
<references/>tag was found