Childhood, it seems to me, is where we define ourselves. In the days when life expectancy wasn’t terribly long and people generally lived only long enough to reproduce, there was not much of a need to revisit childhood. Now that we live several decades, however, childhood begins to loom large. We have time to revisit and reassess. This is one of the reasons I’ve been addressing Dark Shadows so much, and why my memories of it have been of such interest. I recently watched the second feature film based on the series, Night of Dark Shadows. This was aired after the original soap opera had been cancelled. It focuses on Quentin Collins rather than Barnabas and it again caused me to reassess.
The story is complex—the soap opera was quite literary and intelligent to begin with—and it involves several characters from the series. In my mind Quentin is a werewolf. In the movie he’s not. This made me realize that my image of Quentin is largely from the Marilyn Ross novels, not from memories of the television show. I never did see the original series through. Nor did I ever read all the novels. Like most people my childhood was a pastiche of this and that as I sampled the somewhat small set of offerings made available in a modest family in a small town. Fossil collecting and exploring within two or three blocks of home were about all the options. And then there was television. I watched a lot of it. When the rigors of homework started to really hit in high school, I stopped watching so much. I’d begun reading quite a bit by middle school, and many of those books are the ones I’ve been seeking out in recent years. Not that middle school was that great, but it was formative.
Night of Dark Shadows, although set in Maine, lacks the Collinwood I remembered. Yes, it’s a grand old house, but there’s no hint of being on the Atlantic coast. No crashing waves. No theremin. Quentin is instead haunted by the ghost of Angelique and is apparently a reincarnation of an ancient ancestor whom she loved. Angelique decides to kill off Quentin’s young bride so as to have him to herself. It wasn’t bad, but I guess I was expecting a werewolf movie. My view of Quentin was formed by the imagination of W. E. D. Ross, I’m coming to realize. Sam Hall wrote many of the original episodes. He also co-wrote this movie. My childhood, however, remembers all of this differently.