When Dan Cashman was about 10 years old, his Dad brought home some videos from the rental store — eight episodes of the Maine-set, supernaturally themed “Dark Shadows” TV series that was on in the late 1960s and early ’70s. By the end of the tape, Cashman was a true “Dark Shadows” fan.
“I’m not sure exactly what hooked me into the show — it was probably a combination of the show taking place in Maine with many Maine references spread throughout the show; the unique premise, at the time, of a TV show that was well written with vampires, werewolves, and witches,” said Cashman, now 33 and known in the Bangor area as the host of “The Nite Show” on WABI-TV. “It was unlike anything else I had seen.”
On the eve of Tim Burton’s stylishly macabre big budget film adaptation of the show hitting theaters — starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, the famed vampire protagonist of the show, and Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, the family matriarch — “Dark Shadows” fans in Maine are revisiting the series and remembering how an odd, low-budget series from more than four decades ago became such a cult classic.
“I grew up in Columbia Falls, and I remember thinking that ‘Dark Shadows’ took place in my backyard,” said Ben Layman, a local actor and musician who is a self-proclaimed “Dark Shadows” nerd. “All the fog and rain, and the ocean and the trees made me think of the place I grew up. It seemed real to me. I would come home after school, and for almost two years, I’d watch it every single afternoon.”
Though “Dark Shadows” takes place in Maine, it’s not based on any specific place. The way certain locations are described, however, make it seem almost certain that Collinsport, the fictional town from the series, is a combination of several towns in Down East Maine — a little Bucksport, a little Milbridge, a little Bar Harbor, a little Winter Harbor.
“There are all kinds of places in the series that spring to mind as being based on real places,” said Layman. “Widow’s Peak, where Elizabeth tries to kill herself, always seems like Cadillac Mountain to me, or even something like Schoodic Point or Thunder Hole. The house they live in, Collinwood, is so much like all those big, gorgeous, kind of ramshackle Victorian houses in Washington County. And the Collins family comes from a sardine canning fortune, so that’s totally Winter Harbor.”
Cashman, who grew up in Bangor, recalls being excited about the frequent mentions of Bangor.
“On the show they would frequently mention going to Bangor for something,” said Cashman. “I could totally see Barnabas Collins taking Maggie to a show at the Bangor Opera House while trying to court her.”
Both Cashman and Layman intend to go see the movie as soon as their busy schedules allow. Naturally, however, they and the other “Dark Shadows” fans out there will approach it with a little trepidation — Burton is changing some of the things that made the show such a favorite.
“I am [excited] to see how they play with the story line,” said Cashman. “I liked the show for many reasons, but without a good storyline and good writing, the show never would have achieved the following and legacy it has today.”
“I’m glad they’re keeping it alive, so hopefully more people will watch the original,” said Layman. “I’m very curious to see how the comedic aspect that I’m seeing will work. The original took itself seriously but still achieved a kind of campiness, and that’s a really hard tone to strike. I love Tim Burton, but I was hoping this would take more of a ‘Sleepy Hollow’ vibe instead of a ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ vibe. But I’ll still see it. I’ll definitely still see it.”
There will be a midnight showing of “Dark Shadows” at Bangor Mall Cinemas on Friday. Regular showtimes are at 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 3:10 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 5:40 p.m., 7:20 p.m., 8:30 p.m. and 9:50 p.m. Showings at Spotlight Cinemas in Orono are set for 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m., 5:25 p.m., 7:40 p.m. and 9:55 p.m. Weekend screenings at the Colonial Theatre in Belfast are set for 2:15 p.m., 6:45 p.m. and 9 p.m. — in addition to a midnight showing on Friday.