Directed by Lela Swift, John Sedwick, et al.
Screenplay by Ron Sproat, Malcolm Marmorstein, Art Wallace, et al.
Starring Joan Bennett, Jonathan Frid, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Louis Edmonds, Nancy Barrett, David Henesy, etc.
- Collector postcard
Released by: MPI
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: Get it if you like Gothic horror, vampires, or creepy soap operas.
[ad#longpost]From the moment Victoria’s chillingly innocent voice-over introduces you to Collinwood and the story, you know you’re in for something engrossing and different. It’s cheesy at times, moody, dark, thrilling, convoluted, and absolutely funâ€”it’s Dark Shadows, a daytime soap opera featuring vampires, werewolves, and witches that showed up on American TV sets from 1966-1971. Luckily, the fact that it’s unusual, while worthy enough in these days of “reality” shows and CSI clones, is not its only strength; Dark Shadows is also a fabulous example of the genre and a niche show that should please fans of such more modern shows as Kindred: the Embraced, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and similar Goth favorites.
The second volume has arrived with a bang as Barnabas (Frid) locks the (frankly annoying) Maggie (Scott) in a cell in the Old House’s basement. He hopes that her confinement will hasten her transformation into his deceased former beloved, Josette. Maggie in turn bribes Willie to make her imprisonment known, but as Barnabas’ creature, Willie isn’t sure how he could help. David (Henesy), the eternally nosy child (where is his governess?) meets the ghostly child Sarah, who in turn also visits Maggie in her cell and may have a way for Maggie to escape from Barnabas’ wicked plans. Meanwhile, Jason, Elizabeth, and Carolyn argue over the latter’s marriage plans. We also learn of Paul Stoddard, Elizabeth’s husband who has been missing for some time. And the mayhem and plot threads just expand outwards from there.
The visuals are of course showing their age, as is the soundtrack, but there was an obvious attempt to make the most of what they had. The result is quite watchable, and even the remaining shadows, smudges, and graininess add to the show’s gothic, moody feel. The master for episode 260 has been lost, and a kinescope copy was substituted, but one problematic episode out of forty is hardly to be complained about.
The special features continue the trend begun in the previous set: a collector postcard and a handful of interviews with cast. We get interviews with four members of cast and crew: Dan Curtis (producer), Nancy Barrett (role: Elizabeth Collins Stoddard), Dennis Patrick (role: Paul Stoddard), and Alexandra Moltke (role: Victoria Winters). While it’s especially nice to hear from the living actors of more “minor” roles who might not otherwise get to share their interesting stories, this set’s highlight is still Moltke, whose role was seminal in every season and who truly grew as an actress on this show. This set’s postcard features Barnabas Collins in full vamp mode. I suggest pinning it to your office door to ensure that students, bosses, and/or clients (as the case may be) do not bother you.
Dark Shadows continues to be a marvelous example of what can happen when TV executives take a chance on a show. It ran for five years, which is quite a respectable run. If only today’s execs would bring us something with this much sheer camp and entertainment value, instead of yet another trendoid clone of Fear Factor or some other “look how stupid I am” show. Alas, poor Barnabas. We hardly knew ye, and yet we miss you more than ever.