To Collinsport, With Love

Vicki Doudera here.

Last weekend, I gave my mother what some might consider a strange mother’s day gift: a trip to the Flagship Cinema in Thomaston to see the newly released movie Dark Shadows.

It’s not that Mom is a huge Johnny Depp fan (although what woman doesn’t find him sexy?) or that she especially enjoys campy horror movies, but Dark Shadows – I’m talking of course about the original show – was a big part of our early years together, and I thought commemorating that time could be fun.

Although I was only five when the series started, I was no stranger to scary TV programs. Mom and I watched “The Outer Limits,” “Twilight Zone,” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” and I loved them all. She’d let me stay up past my bedtime (if I even had a bedtime in those days) to watch them and keep her company, and because my father was in art school and frequently busy, it was often just the two of us.

Dark Shadows didn’t require my staying up late because it came on right after school. I remember racing home from kindergarten, my sneakers pounding the pavement so I wouldn’t miss one morbid moment. Mom and I were terrified by the creepy Collins family – the vampires, werewolves, and witches – and mesmerized by the foreboding castle with its terrifyingly dark rooms, eerie secret passages, and super sinister basement where Barnabas Collins stayed out of the sun. Who knew that years later we would both live in Maine, site of the fictional Collinsport? Or that I would still remember the haunting music of Quentin’s Theme?

The original series ran from 1966 to 1971, and we watched it fairly faithfully for most of those years. Mom recalls a visit from my Wisconsin grandmother and her reaction to the program.  “How can you let Vicki see that?” she chastised Mom. The show rattled Grandma Rose, so much so that she vowed never to watch it again. And yet, the next day she was perched on the tweed easy chair, ready to watch Dark Shadows. Like us, she was hooked.

My brother’s birth, shortly after the show debuted, didn’t alter our ritual of watching afternoon horror. Thinking back, I suppose it was somewhat unusual, even in the lax parenting days of the 1960’s.  I was, after all, a youngster and those were my formative years. And yet, it wasn’t like my mother just parked me in front of the TV — she was sitting there with me. We were enjoying an activity together, just like our hours of cookie baking or trips to the beach. Did Mom worry whether watching vampires suck blood from innocent young women would give me bad dreams? I don’t think so.  It was all pretend, after all, just like the fairy tales she read to me each night. Unlike some modern parents who fret over such things, Mom’s attitude was simple: scary was fun.

And so I grew up to be a girl who read Daphne du Maurier’s novels and watched Bela Lugosi’s films, played “Clue” and Hide & Seek. Little wonder that I love mystery and suspense, that I write crime fiction and still enjoy a good scare.

It all started back then, and taking my mom to the movie was one way to say “Thanks.”

P.S. The film itself is mediocre, filmed in Devon instead of Maine. Better to rent some of the original episodes.

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5 Responses to To Collinsport, With Love

  1. Joan Emerson says:

    What a wonderful remembrance! Like you, Vicki, I have warm memories of sharing daytime serial-watching with my mom. [However, I’ve no plans to see the DARK SHADOWS film as the “never trust the new version to be what it should be” lesson was learned when the big screen remake of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE made Jim Phelps the bad guy . . . . It is a HUGE disappointment when the writers fail to remain true to the characters viewers knew and loved from the original series.]

  2. Vicki Doudera says:

    Agreed, Joan! This remake was not great but I understand the original episodes are now on Netflix, which will be fun.

  3. Rosemary Webb says:

    However, I enjoyed the movie quite a bit – but I viewed it not as a remake, but as a new movie that contrasted the trite _Twilight_ series with both the original themes of _Dark Shadows_ and the real horrors of the ’70s.

    • Hmmm, Rosemary, that’s an interesting way to look at it. Still, I thought it moved very slowly in a few places. It was fun to see Hollywood’s depiction of 1970’s Maine, however.

  4. Mary Sutton says:

    Hi Vicky! I have similar memories although mine are of my dad & I watching Hockey Night in Canada. 🙂 But my siblings & I (there are 4 of us) all had our jobs to prepare.

    Thanks for the tip on the movie. Never saw the tv show so no point of reference but my daughter is a huge Johnny Depp/Tim Burton fan. Maybe we’ll wait for Netflix.

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