Jonathan Frid is Dead (Undead, Undead, Undead)

I know. This blog is beginning to look like the obituary section. I wasn’t going to write about the death of Jonathan Frid, but since it didn’t get much press, especially after the death of Dick Clark, I felt I had to write something.

For those who do not know who Jonathan Frid was, he played Barnabas Collins in the original Dark Shadows serial. In this day of an over-saturated vampire market, very few credit Jonathan’s Barnabas for being the godfather of the modern day vampire. He turned from evil creature to a sympathetic, yet tortured soul. Anne Rice was said to have him in mind when she created Lestat.

I can’t claim to be a Dark Shadows expert. I’ve watched a bunch of the box set DVDs, listened to a few of the Big Finish audios (sadly, not so good), and read Lara Parker’s The Salem Branch, which has some wonderful description of Salem, MA (I highly recommend it… except for the ending). But I am aware of the impact Frid’s Barnabas had on the genre.

Barnabas tried to regain his soul long before Angel and Spike were born (well, their actor’s births, not their characters). He knew how to seduce women rather than the Twilight vampire seducing little girls. And no offence to True Blood, but I like my vampires to have class and style. Barbanas was a true gentleman, thanks to Frid.

Ben Cross played Barnabas in the 80s revival. He was pretty good, but still did not capture the torment that Frid injected to the role. And as for Johnny Depp… no, I will not use this space to bash how terrible he looks as Barnabas. But I will say, to play it as a comedy is a disservice to Frid. Yes, Dark Shadows was a melodrama, but the elements of a great vampire story are there, yet Tim Burton seemed to ignore them. Don’t get me started!

Like Barnabas Collins, Frid is immortal. Dark Shadows will never die. What other soaps were released on DVD? People keep coming back to them for both their cheese and for their groundbreaking moments. It’s even more fun when they travel to the distant future: 1995.

RIP, Jonathan Frid. Long live Barnabas Collins.


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