‘Dark Shadows’ Scribe Malcolm Marmorstein Passes Away

by Thomas Tuna

Malcolm Marmorstein–a major player in the success of the 1960s horror soap opera Dark Shadows–passed away this week at the age of 92.

Marmorstein–who also had big-screen success with screenplays for Pete’s Dragon and Return From Witch Mountain–passed away following a battle with cancer, according to his stepdaughter Romy Fleming. His career began, according to a report in Deadline, as a stagehand and stage manager for such Broadway blockbusters as A Streetcar Named Desire and Damn Yankees.

But it was in the 1960s that Marmorstein’s TV writing career took off. He was hired by Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis, and he and the small writing staff began to introduce supernatural elements into the show–foremost of which was the vampire Barnabas Collins in 1967.

Dark Shadows–with Jonathan Frid portraying the tragic vampire–quickly became a fan favorite, spawning two feature films and a 1990s TV reboot. Which writer was most responsible for the iconic vampire is a matter of some debate. Marmorstein, Joe Caldwell and Ron Sproat all worked on the series and the popular character.

In a 2012 interview, Marmorstein said he told Curtis that the writers needed to “pretend we’re doing a vampire for the very first time. Let’s get a young, blond guy–because our audiences are very young.” Frid, of course, was neither blond nor very young. But the concept caught on, and the rest is television horror history.

Marmorstein had strong feelings for his TV vampire. He even expressed his displeasure with the way Johnny Depp portrayed Collins in Tim Burton’s 2012 Dark Shadows film. “I was shocked to see–at the beginning of the movie–Barnabas killing innocent people,” he said. “Barnabas would never do that.”

Marmorstein added to his horror resume after leaving Dark Shadows. He wrote a 1971 episode of Night Gallery, scripted a 1986 TV adaptation of Frankenstein (starring Chris Sarandon and Carl Beck) and wrote and directed the 1993 horror/comedy Love Bites (starring Adam Ant and Kimberly Foster).

Marmorstein was predeceased by his first wife Martha, and is survived by his wife of 17 years, Barbara; his sons Larry, Wayne and Mitchell; his daughter Darragh; his stepdaughters Romy and Dema; his three grandchildren and his one great-grandchild.

The staff of Horror News Network extends its condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

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