Sunday, November 14, 2021



When it comes to the American TV Gothic soap opera DARK SHADOWS, I have to admit that I am not a major expert on it. I own a Blu-ray of the first theatrical film based on the series, HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS (which is very good), and I know the basics behind it, and its impact on popular culture. But I have seen very few episodes of the original series, and I really don't have the time (or the inclination) to watch hundreds and hundreds more. 

Nevertheless, DARK SHADOWS AND BEYOND: THE JONATHAN FRID STORY is a fine and engaging documentary on the actor who portrayed the series' breakout character--the complex vampire Barnabas Collins. I watched this on AppleTV, and it is available on home video from MPI.

Jonathan Frid (1924-2012) was born in Ontario, Canada, and he got the acting bug as a youngster in school. He had a long and distinguished stage career before he joined the cast of DARK SHADOWS in 1967. This erudite gentleman, with a talent for interpreting Shakespeare, soon became an unlikely pop icon, with plenty of young and enthusiastic fans. Frid's run as Barnabas came and went rather quickly, but he never let the role define him or his career. 

This documentary gives extensive coverage to Frid's entire life (it runs a little over 100 minutes). Obviously DARK SHADOWS is a main element here, but the film truly does go beyond that, showing an actor who was committed to his craft rather than fame or money. 

After DARK SHADOWS, Frid never developed much of a TV or film career, but that didn't seem particularly important to him. His main love was the stage, and performing the classics before a live audience. Frid's striking looks and mesmerizing voice were perfect for the theater, which this documentary makes very clear. 

The film also makes clear that Frid was a hard-working professional who didn't have ego trips or temper tantrums. Several of Frid's friends, co-workers, relatives, and associates are interviewed, and they paint a portrait of a man who was kindly, cultured, and decent. Despite the fact that Frid spent several years in America, he never lost his understated Canadian sensibility (he moved back to his native country during the latter part of his life). 

There's plenty of footage here of Frid in various interviews (and audio as well). He comes off as thoughtful and articulate, with a dry sense of humor. Unfortunately the documentary cannot present how Frid was while acting on stage night after night, but it does gives a sense of how charismatic a performer he was. There's also footage from the various one-man shows that Frid (with the help of some friends and fans) put together later in his life. 

DARK SHADOWS AND BEYOND: THE JONATHAN FRID STORY was produced and directed by Mary O'Leary, who knew the actor personally. The pace never sags, and there's no tabloid aspects to this film--I found that quite refreshing. 

I assume that most rabid DARK SHADOWS fans have seen this documentary already, but you don't have to love the show to enjoy this film. I believe that, for those with an interest in acting and performing, DARK SHADOWS AND BEYOND might even be inspirational. It defines Jonathan Frid as more than just a daytime TV vampire--he was a serious artist who lived his life the way he wanted to, and he made a positive impression on many people during it. 

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review, excellent documentary. I do believe Mr. Frid will continue to inspire people in many walks of life for a long time to come, and this wonderful film will help that happen. Truly he was one of a kind and is greatly missed.