Dark Shadows: Review: Book: Return to Collinwood

By Kathryn Leigh Scott and Jim Pierson with a foreword by Jonathan Frid

Pomegranate Press, Ltd

In which Scott and Pierson – along with Lara Parker, David Selby, Darren Gross and Stuart Manning – celebrate over forty-five years of Dark Shadows on television, and the silver screen, audio dramas and now a big-budget feature film…

Scott’s eighth Dark Shadows-related book since 1986’s My Scrapbook Memories of Dark Shadows, this tome begins in the recent past (Summer 2011, to be precise), as Scott, Selby, Parker and Frid gather at Pinewood Studios to film their cameos in the imminent Tim Burton/Johnny Depp Dark Shadows movie. While many paragraphs are dedicated to their placating of tetchy 87-year-old Frid, his recent passing casts this section of the book in a poignant new light. And in any event, Scott evocatively conveys the actors’ excitement at being asked to participate.

This section leads to lengthy remembrances of her four years on Dark Shadows, which are by turns sweet, funny and touching. Lara Parker does much the same in her chapter, delivering her take on the new film, the original show and her experiences of writing Dark Shadows novels. From there, Scott shares memories of visiting Seaview Terrace – used as the exterior of Collinwood – in Newport, Rhode Island, and Jim Pierson reveals the many hurdles and logistical nightmares that the short-lived 1991 Dark Shadows revamp faced even before it ever aired.

This is followed by the most detailed information and photos divulged to date about the never-aired 2004 Warner Bros. Dark Shadows pilot starring Dune’s Alec Newman as Barnabas and Fringe’s Blair Brown as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. When veteran genre director Rob Bowman bailed at the eleventh hour, P.J. Hogan was brought in instead, with disastrous results that, in Pierson’s view, “resembled a send-up skit on [Saturday Night Live]….a disjointed reject buried in the Warner Brothers vaults with no feasible reason to exhume it, other than for morbid curiosity.” Unsurprisingly, series creator Dan Curtis walked away from the project in disgust.

Next, Scott offers up her journal from the filming of House of Dark Shadows, which recounts the grueling shoot with gallows humour: “Aren’t you Joan Bennet?” a plumber asks the star on location. “I used to be.” Darren Gross follows this with his exhaustive view on the filming of both House and Night of Dark Shadows, and the last-minute butchering of the latter that studio suits forced Dan Curtis to perform. But Gross ends this with the good news that the deleted footage was finally located in 1999 and should be incorporated into the movie’s long-overdue release on DVD. Finally, Stuart Manning brings things full circle with a surprisingly short entry on Big Finish Productions’ Dark Shadows audio dramas.

VERDICT: Although a couple parts of Return to Collinwood have appeared in previous Pomegranate Press books, this is still a laudable celebration of Dark Shadows in most of its incarnations (bar, oddly, the “Marilyn Ross” novels and the long-running Gold Key comic book) that fans will definitely sink their teeth into…  8/10

John S. Hall

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