Ultimate ‘Dark Shadows’ fan frets about upcoming movie
BY MIKE DANAHEY Sun-Times Media email@example.com May 4, 2012 2:47PM
Bob Issel shows off one of his collectibles at his home in Carpentersville. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 7, 2012 8:12AM
CARPENTERSVILLE — Tim Burton’s upcoming take on the 1960s TV supernatural soap opera “Dark Shadows” looks like another fish out of water comedy from the quirky director whose credits include “Edward Scissorhands,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” and “Alice in Wonderland.”
But a diehard “Dark Shadows” fan from Carpentersville says the film has stirred controversy among the show’s legion of faithful followers.
“A vast majority of these traditional fans who grew up with the show were hoping for a more dramatic and Gothic story, similar to what they watched when they ran home from school to watch more than 40 years ago,” claims Bob Issel, who runs a sports officiating business for a living.
“The theater trailer for the Tim Burton directed movie leads one to believe he went in a completely different direction, as the film appears to border on the comedic, or even satirical side. This has rubbed many an original fan the wrong way,” Issel says.
The Burton version stars Johnny Depp as vampire Barnabas Collins, who reawakens in the early 1970s, weird enough times even for those who were wide awake for them.
Issel says, “I was stunned the first time I viewed the trailer. This was not the ‘Dark Shadows’ I knew and loved. I really was at a loss for words, not fully comprehending what I’d just seen. But I like to look at the glass half full as opposed to empty, and am now looking forward to seeing the new movie. I’m hoping there is a bit less comedy then the theater trailer indicates, but by the same token, I’m looking forward to something fresh.”
Like any true fan of anything these days Issel has social media postings and a website (bobubas.topcities.com) devoted to his passion. And since 2009 Issel has been organizing annual Halloween and Memorial Day weekend parties at Seaview Terrace in Newport, Rhode Island, which served as Collinwood, the mansion used as the setting for the original “Dark Shadows” TV show from the 1960s.
“A group of us had befriended the Careys (owners of Seaview Terrace) on a 1993 trip to Newport, and I kept in touch with the family, organizing small groups to travel up and view the house and grounds over the next 16 years,” he says.
According to Issel, the house was being leased by a local college as a dormitory, so access to it was limited. That changed in the summer of 2009 when the Carey family did not renew the lease with the school.
At that time, talks began about fans having a sleepover at the house. Since then, the parties have become a way to raise money for the clan to repair the estate.
“After all, what ‘Dark Shadows’ fan wouldn’t want the opportunity to spend the night inside Collinwood?” Issel says.
The movie officially opens May 10 and Issel is flying out to Los Angeles for a viewing of the movie at the Vista Theatre there. Lara Parker and Kathryn Leigh Scott, who were in the soap and who have cameos in the movie, are set to be at that screening, Issel says.
And this July, Issel will be heading to the Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown, N.Y., which was a major shooting location for the 1970 and 1971 theatrical movies “House of Dark Shadows” and “Night of Dark Shadows.”
“It will be my 22nd consecutive festival dating back to 1991. The diehard fans, like myself continue to go year after year to rekindle the friendships we’ve made over the years with each other and with many of the actors,” Issel says.
To that end, Issel says he has met “just about every actor that had a major role on the show with the exception of Joan Bennett, who passed away a year before I started attending the annual events.”
That includes Jonathan Frid who played vampire Barnabas Collins and who passed away recently.
Issel has a photo taken with Frid after Frid’s one-man show at Hofstra University in New York in 1998 that is one of his favorites.
“Earlier that day I was honored to be Jonathan’s assistant backstage,” Issel says. “The lighting and sound technician from Hofstra saw us interacting and asked me if Jonathan was my father. I laughed and said no, and later related that story to Jonathan, who also got a chuckle out of it. So after the show Jonathan was signing autographs and taking photos with the fans, and I came over and said, ‘Hey Dad, can I get a photo with you?’ He laughed as I basically sat down on (a female fan’s) lap and leaned over in the photo.”