Friday, September 21, 2012

Scott Returns To The Real Collinwood

Dark Shadows: Return To Collinwood
As children, my brother and I would sneak out of bed in the middle of the night to watch syndicated reruns of the Gothic soap Dark Shadows (1966-1971). We were fascinated, intrigued and terrified of vampire Barnabas Collins.

Several decades later, I have the entire series on DVD and love it today even more than I did back then. Being a Dark Shadows purist, I naturally had mixed feelings about Johnny Depp and Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows movie.

The trailer bears little resemblance to the Collinwood or Barnabas Collins that I love. And for anyone who had reservations like I did, there is a book that makes the connection between present and past.

Dark Shadows: Return To Collinwood puts everything into perspective. 

Written by actress Kathryn Leigh Scott with Jim Pierson, the book is a loving look back through five decades. It pinpoints why this Gothic drama has become a cultural phenomenon. The book was even partly inspired by Scott’s invitation to make a cameo in the Depp/Burton film.

Scott devotes an interesting chapter about her journey to the film’s set in England. She wasn't alone, but accompanied by fellow actors David Selby, who played brooding werewolf Quentin Collins in the original Dark Shadows; Lara Parker, who originated the role of the vengeful witch Angelique; and Jonathan Frid, who played the infamous vampire Barnabas Collins.

Scott recalls the trip, cast and set in vivid detail, giving readers a real sense of what it was like to be there too. She also mentions her concerns about Frid, who, at age 87, was in poor health and feeling a bit cantankerous after traveling from his home in Canada. Scott and the others even worried that their cameos would be scrapped because Frid was insistent upon returning home as soon as he arrived.

That didn’t happen. Frid passed away in April 2012 before the movie premiered.

Before his passing, though, Frid wrote the foreword to Dark Shadows: Return To Collinwood, fondly reflecting on his involvement with the original series. Parker contributes a chapter too, covering her impressions of the trip back to England, including meeting rocker Alice Cooper and actress Eva Green, who portrayed Parker’s character Angelique in the film.

The book also includes chapters devoted to: a Dark Shadows timeline spanning 50 years; information about the Depp/Burton movie and its cast; Dark Shadows in prime time with the 1991 revival series starring Ben Cross; insight into a potential second prime time series that never aired; a poem by Selby (who has also authored several books of his own); and Dark Shadows on the silver screen with the theatrical films House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows. It's a collection of memories.

Collinwood by Kim Becker
One of the most enjoyable chapters of all is Scott’s return visit to Seaview Terrace (a.k.a. Carey Mansion) in Newport, Rhode Island. It's there, not the fictional Collinsport, Maine, that the actual Collinwood mansion is located. Scott provides a brief history of the property. There are also some great interior photos.

Even more memorable is the chapter called Backstage Memories. Scott tells of her journey as a Minnesota farm girl who turned into a soap opera star. She doesn't just tell her own story, but gives many behind the scenes anecdotes and recollections from her days with Dark Shadows.

A bit about author Kathryn Leigh Scott.

Kathryn Leigh Scott
Actress/writer/publisher Kathryn Leigh Scott originally worked as a model and a Playboy bunny while trying to break into acting. She graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and almost immediately landed the role of coffee shop waitress/governess Maggie Evans on the half-hour soap Dark Shadows.

She played three other characters on the show: gold digger Lady Kitty Hampshire; teacher Rachel Drummond; and wealthy Josette Du Pres, doomed fiancee of Barnabas Collins. Later, Scott became a talented writer too. She has written several books and collaborated on five with Pierson, who works for Dan Curtis Productions. (Curtis is the late creator of Dark Shadows.)

I own most of the books Scott has written, edited and published through her own Pomegranate Press, including the Dark Shadows Almanac, My Scrapbook: Memories of Dark Shadows, and The Dark Shadows Companion. And of them all, this is the best.

Dark Shadows: Return To Collinwood Raises 9.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Not only is the book packed with truly fantastic photos, but it isn't weak on editing as readers have long complained about some of Scott's other books. I did catch just a few typos, but nothing to detract from the book. It does maintain her always warm and friendly writing style. She knows Dark Shadows fans and it shows, making this a classic.

Dark Shadows: Return To Collinwood by Kathryn Leigh Scott is available from Barnes & Noble. You can also find Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood on Amazon. The book is also available from iBooks. Incidentally, so are some of the original movies.

Scott is a classy lady with a genuine appreciation for her fans. You can learn more about her latest projects on her website. It's worth checking out, especially if you're a new (or long time) Dark Shadows fan.
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