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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Dark Shadows and the Eyes of a Four Year Old

Dark Shadows and the Eyes of a Four Year Old

When I heard that Johnny Depp was starring in a modern satire of Dark Shadows, I was moved to look up the old episodes on Netflix and revisit the show I remembered from my childhood. The original Dark Shadows was a gothic soap opera that ran from 1966 to 1971.  My mother was a fan of the show, and so was I … secretly.
My mother put me down for a nap every afternoon while the show was on, but I rarely stayed in my room.  Whenever I could, I snuck out of bed and down the hall to peer around the corner and watch Dark Shadows.  My mother tells me now that she knew I was there.  She said I was so fascinated with the show, she let me stay unless something really scary was happening. (Then I got “caught” and sent back to bed.)
Ghosts, vampires, werewolves, witches, secret passageways, séances, and time travel – you name it; Dark Shadows had it.  I’ve always remembered the show fondly, but when I played the old episodes via Netflix last week, I was shocked at just how BAD they were!  The dialogue was stilted and awkward; the acting even more so!  The story was slow-moving, and historical accuracy was sadly lacking.
Nevertheless, every scene dredged up memories. I knew that house and those rooms, and I knew those characters!  If anyone had asked me before I looked up the show, I wouldn’t have been able to name any of them, but I recognized their names when I heard them: Victoria Winters, Angelique, Josette, Barnabas, Naomi Collins, Willie Loomis …
The thing is, I think I must have imprinted on this show when I was four years old! It has everything in it that I grew up loving, and throughout my childhood I continued to be fixated on gothic mysteries.  Once I could read, I quickly outgrew Nancy Drew and moved on to Mary Stewart and the even older works of Mary Roberts Rinehart. Governesses in brooding mansions, ghostly figures in hidden staircases, witchcraft, murder, and above all … dark family secrets! 
Now that I’ve refreshed my memory on the actual Dark Shadows dialogue (Yikes!), I won’t make the mistake of saying I hope I can write like that.  Let’s say instead that I hope someday to write a gothic mystery that meets the standard of Dark Shadows as seen through the eyes of a four-year-old!

17 Responses to Dark Shadows and the Eyes of a Four Year Old

  1. lol- well that does explain things!:) I’d never heard of this show! But I kind of had the same experience when I went back and watched ‘The Worst Witch’ made in the 80’s. I used to make my mother rewind the cassette tape and replay it over and over again. But when I put it on for my own kids last Halloween- I had to cringe at just how aweful the special effects were.

  2. I did like the show too. Part of my whole fascination with vampires and the whole gothic thing. I want to see the movie with Johnny Depp (not because I think he is super awesome. Okay, that’s part of it. I think Tim Burton is awesome too).
    Have a great weekend!

  3. My sister and I grew up watching reruns of this show. My mom watched it as a kid. We all loved it! I own all the episodes on DVD. (Yes, I’m a dork.) I have to admit, I was disappointed by the movie trailer. It’s not a comedy. Yes, it was funny but that was due to bad acting, poor sets, and lack of money at the time. I wish they would’ve held true to the show instead of making it a comedy. 🙁

  4. Linda G. says:

    LOL! I loved Dark Shadows, too. There was just something about it that transcended its utterly horrible production values. *grin*

  5. SA Larsenッ says:

    Hush up! Johnny Depp??? I hadn’t heard that.

    I remember watching Dark Shadows with my grandparents. Haha…I just read Linda’s comment. I will so ditto her.

  6. farawayeyes says:

    I always thought it was meant to be ‘camp’. Frankly, I think the Tim Burton ‘spoof’ looks hilarious, but then I have a pretty warped sense of humor.

  7. I watched a few episodes of the show, but was never a fan. Like farawyeyes said, I thought it was campy. And corny. And melodramatic. But it’s neat that the show had such an effect on you, and I hope your work has a similar effect on today’s children.

  8. Aw, Dianne, you just brought back so many memories…

    I think I was around 6 or 7 when we’d all gather in the living room in the afternoon to watch this show. I was so scared, especially when that hand rose up out of the grave at the beginning of the show!

    Thank you, Dianne, you just brightened my day. 🙂

    PS. A piece of trivia: Just like Twilight was written because of a dream Stephenie Meyer had, Dark Shadows was also based on a dream that the author had. 🙂

  9. Lydia Kang says:

    I’d love to write a Gothic mystery but I’m afraid I’d freak myself out, LOL

  10. mshatch says:

    Yep, I think that show influenced me more than I ever guessed (altho I was a little older than you when I was watching it – we won’t say how much) because I still love a good Gothic mystery – even better when there’s some real spookiness 🙂

  11. Hahaha yeah it’s always so fascinating how I adored certain series, only to watch them now and groan. 😀

  12. DL Hammons says:

    I watched Dark Shadows also, even reading some of the companion books that complimented the series. I’m like Kelly in lamenting the fact they went all campy for the remake. 🙁

  13. Angela Brown says:

    This is something I wasn’t aware of. I heard about JD playing a vamp in something but didn’t do my research. NOW, I must rectify this. Though this Dark Shadows sounds a bit…dated, it seems to be something worth visiting.

  14. I’d never heard of this show before I saw the Johnny Depp trailer, but I love the idea of 4-year-old you watching it in ‘secret’ 🙂

  15. Haha! I remember Dark Shadows but I wasn’t a big fan. Some of my friends were, though, which is why I watched it sometimes. I don’t remember it ending in 1971. I thought it ran longer than that. The only name I remembered before reading your post was Barnabas Collins, but those other names are so familiar now that I read them! How interesting that Johnny Depp is going to star in a new version. I hadn’t heard about that. Well, he’ll make a more handsome Barnabas, won’t he? What a fun post!

  16. My dad watched Star Trek every night, and although I had no idea what was going on as a child, I’d sit in his lap the whole time and watch it with him.

    I’m not a big Trekkie now, but I do have a geek side to me and I’m certain his TV shows had something to do with it.

  17. Haha, how awesome!!! I love that she didn’t send you back to your room 🙂

    I’ve never seen this show, but I heard about it growing up, and loved the idea enough to name most of my book characters Angelique (the girls, at least.)

    WOO, I love Johnny Depp!