In our library of DVD's we have fifteen four-disc DVD sets of the ABC network's 1960s vampire soap opera, Dark Shadows. This series follows the fascinatingly drawn out, intermittently terrifying adventures of tortured bloodsucker Barnabas Collins, played by actor Jonathon Frid with a charisma that accounts for the Dark Shadows fan weekend which will take place at a Hollywood hotel here next weekend, thirty four years since the show went off the air. The show premiered on ABC on June 27th, 1966 and aired 1225 episodes until April 2, 1971.
It's my theory that at five times a week in half hour installments, the show echoes the pace of Freudian psychoanalysis. In an analysis, as the patient speaks, hints of the unconscious sources of current difficulties gradually begin to appear - in certain repetitive patterns of behavior, in the subjects which the patient finds hard to talk about, in the ways the patient relates to the analyst.
When Dark Shadows first introduces us to Barnabas Collins at Collinwood, his ancestral home in Maine, he thinks he has no choice but to be a vampire. He believes himself doomed, an eternal monster. He would like to change but he does not know how. He feels obsessively compelled to repeat the past, and kidnaps local women in order to neurotically recreate and somehow "correct" the suicide of his beloved bride Josette.
On first returning to Collinwood, Barnabas kidnaps cute local waitress Maggie Evans, the daughter of a local artist. As is usually the case with neurotic compulsion, this urge to correct the past ends in disaster for Barnabas and his new "love" interest. Finally many episodes and local cuties into the series, Barnabas meets a doctor in Collinwood who tells him she can help him end his compulsion, his craving for blood, and live like a normal man. In the show, this "cure" often involves the literal travel into the past, into dreams, or into alternate worlds to confront the people and events that led to his becoming a vampire.
In the years that an analysis takes place, the patient wrestles with insights about him or herself, going over these insights about his life and past behavior again and again with the analyst and experiencing them in daily life, in fantasies, and in dreams. Patient and analyst join in efforts not only to modify crippling life patterns and remove incapacitating symptoms, but also to expand the freedom to work and to love. Eventually the patient's life - his or her behavior, relationships, sense of self - changes in deep and abiding ways.
Does Barnabas throw off his compulsion, achieve happiness and change his life in these "deep and abiding" ways? We have watched the fifteen box sets, but there are eighteen currently published, and more to come...only the shadows know.