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For millions of American kids growing up in the late 1960s, it was a thrill to run home from school and flip on the TV in time to hear the creepy theremin music at the beginning of Dark Shadows. A soap opera with a vampire! There was something strangely subversive about it. As a headline writer for The New York Times recently put it, Barnabas Collins (the undead star of the show) was “The Vampire Who Came Out in the Afternoon.”
Tim Burton was one of those kids who ran home to watch the show. “I should probably have been doing homework or playing sports after school instead of watching ‘Dark Shadows,'” Burton told Terrence Rafferty for the Times article. “But seeing that show every afternoon, at home, in Burbank, it just doesn’t get much weirder than that.”
It might get just a little weirder tonight, with the American opening of Burton’s campy new film adaptation of Dark Shadows, starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins. The movie has been getting positive reviews. Manohla Dargis in The New York Times calls it “Mr. Burton’s most pleasurable film in years.” To help get you in the spirit, so to speak–and to add perspective–we’re taking you back to the very first episode of the original series (above) from June, 1966. Alas, Barnabas Collins didn’t make his appearance until episode number 211, a year later. The actor who played Collins, Jonathan Frid, died last month at the age of 87. He makes a cameo appearance in Burton’s movie. For a preview of the film, see below. You can purchase the complete Dark Shadows TV series on DVD here, which comes in a nice package of 131 discs.