on August 11, 2005
With all due respect to Mr. Pregosin, I'd say that the revival series is definitely worth watching, and some fans, including myself, even prefer it to the original. I couldn't be more thrilled that it's finally being released on DVD!
I was 18 when the 1991 series began, and about 20 minutes into the 2-hour premiere episode, I was hooked. I recorded each episode, cut out every article and review I found in local newspapers, and started reading up on the original series. And when it looked like the 1991 version was near cancellation, I (as well as many others) sent letters to NBC asking for its renewal. Unfortunately, the letter writing campaign was unsuccessful, and the show was laid to rest far too soon.
The early death of the series didn't kill my interest in Dark Shadows however, and I ate up every little morsel of DS:91 memorabilia, such as the Innovation comic books, Jim Pierson's 'Dark Shadows Resurrected' book (which is still available through amazon.com, and would make a nice companion guide for anyone purchasing this DVD set), and various other items.
I've also since gone back and watched the two Dark Shadows theatrical films and many episodes of the 1960s daytime drama. I can easily see why the original version has sustained such a large cult following, and I enjoyed it immensely. However, I still prefer the revival series, which I realize turned off a number of the original fans, because it skipped over so many plot-points and consolidated several characters. In my opinion though, the faster pacing and more succinct storytelling was important in order to properly transition the stories to the once-weekly primetime format.
My mother had watched the original series and has told me how her and her sisters (and friends) would run home from school so they wouldn't miss it. Even she loved the 1991 version (especially Ben Cross).
I'd venture to say that the revival series is the best way for interested new viewers to dip their toes into the Dark Shadows saga, and hopefully they'll emerge with an interest in and appreciation for the original series, too, just as I did.
on August 12, 2005
Dark Shadows: The Revial Series, a 1991 12-episode primetime remake of the 1966-1971 classic daytime gothic soap opera of the same name, deserves this full DVD release and I applaude MPI for providing it.
Previously available from MPI on video only, it is a great move to provide it on DVD, as loyal Dark Shadows fans of both shows are eager for the release of all Dark Shadows material on DVD, as well as new fans just discovering the haunting original series or this revival.
I grew up on the original when it was in its first run and cherish it to this day, having snapped up every DVD release. I do not love the remake, but I like it, and believe that others, as one reviewer has already stated, may prefer its handling of the material.
Dark Shadows was created by Dan Curtis who also wrote and produced the revival series. Like the original, Curtis selected a stellar cast to bring his show "back to life" but with 1990 sensibilities.
The original cast is among my favorite for ANY TV series including the brilliant Jonathan Frid as the guilt-ridden, 175-year-old Barnabas Collins.
The original show aired more than 220 episodes and was on the verge of cancellation when the character of Barnabas was introduced. Originally written to be a transient villian only, Frid's haunting portrayal of the sensistive and eventually compassionate and all too-human immortal, saved the show and kept Frid busy for the rest of the series.
While Barnabas was one key to the show, another was the ensemble nature of the series, which revolved around the Collins family and friends in the present, past and future. The classic movie actress Joan Bennett brought Elizabeth Collins Stoddard to life, and Louis Edmonds did the same for her character's brother, Roger Collins.
Like the original series, the revival cast a great actor, Ben Cross (best known for his amazing performance in Chariots of Fire), to resurrect Barnabas, and another classic movie and TV actress, Jean Simmons, to portray Elizabeth. Noted soap opera and TV actor Roy Thinnes (star of the cult sensation The Invaders) is Roger in the revivial show.
Focusing on the newly hired governess of Collinwood, (located in Collinsport, Maine) Victoria Winters (portrayed flawlessly in the orginal series by Alexandra Moltke and in a good performance by Joanna Going in the revival), the revival series introduces the main characters through her eyes as well as the mysterious mansion, and the Old House, where Barnabas returns to live.
Ghosts, seances, vampires, witches, love, death, and the meaning of life are only a few of the unusual topics both series explored. Unfortunately, the revival series was put to rest after only 12 episodes. It would have been great to see how the cast explored their roles and if they were ever able to separate themselves from their better-known characters' forerunners.
Like the original series, the secret of Barnabas Collins is unknown to the family, but is fiercely protected by Dr. Julia Hoffman, who finds out he is a creature of the night, then falls hopelessly in love with him. The original series was blessed with the unmatched acting talent of the magnificent Grayson Hall for this pivotal role, while the revival series relied on Barbara Steele to play the unrequited character, and who portrayed the character in a much darker fashion.
Simmons' portrayal has a harder edge and is less sympathetic than the portrayal by Bennett, who brought an unmatched warmth and magnetism to Elizabeth, and for me, Cross overplays his role and is unable to bring the depth of feeling that Frid conveyed, and is therefore much less compelling.
Nonetheless, many of the elements that made Dark Shadows a soap opera classic remain making the revival series well worth revisiting.
Look for Michael T. Weiss who had just left the soap Days of Our Lives to play Joe Haskell. He would later become a cult star in his own right for his lead portrayal in The Pretender. Also look for a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt who reprises the role of David Collins, and would later become a household name as a regular on Third Rock From the Sun.
Now, if MPI would only understand that a huge audience remains for the first 220+ episodes of the original series that aired before Barnabas' chained coffin was discovered that fateful night by Willie Loomis! Let's hope they get the message and finally release those on DVD!
on December 28, 2005
After reading all the comments about this DVD set, I was very curious to see for myself. I am a retired sound editor (I worked for years on M*A*S*H and over 65 feature films) and was intimately involved in post production for television for many years. I would like to add my own comments.
First of all, the letterbox anamorphic 16x9 transfer is a construct for this DVD release. The series was shot, in 1990-91, in the 4x3 aspect ratio. However, all framing was composed for "TV Safe" which is the safe title area. If you crop a TV Safe picture vertically, you get 16x9 almost exactly. What you get on this transfer is what was considered essential during prime photography. Uncropped vertical picture area is just icing on the cake. What you see is what Dan Curtis and MGM deemed absolutely essential. Credits are presented in the 4x3 aspect ration, but if you watch closely there are title and credit elements that push the far boundries of TV Safe, which is why they are presented that way rather can cut off any copyright notices, studio ownership warnings, etc.
In terms of the day for night photography, I double checked the DVD off of my off-the-air SVHS recordings, which I recorded during the original broadcast. They are very, very close.
One must bear in mind that the broadcast technology of the time requred the studios to turn over a 35mm low contrast positive composite print of the show, which was transferred to NTSC video standard. The dynamic range of the telecine and broadcast bandwidth was much more limited than they are now. Simply compare, say, current episodes of CSI and Dark Shadows....and Dark Shadows almost looks like high-key sitcom lighting! For example, the scene where Daphne Collins walks through Collinsport just before Barnabas' first attack is so brightly lit it's comical--but this was the norm for TELEVISION filming at the time, not theatrical. The excellent day-for-night filming on House of Dark Shadows would not transfer over to a broadcast without significant print re-timing for broadcast standards. Nowdays, with HDTV and digital broadcasting, the dynamic range is much larger and almost feature film latitude. But in the 90's the broadcast spectrum was limited and both sound and color dynamics had to be intensely limited. (If you want another comparison, look at an original episode of Bonanza...the colors are almost exclusively pastel (no bright reds, greens, blues) because color broadcast simply could not handle intense primary colors.)
Another thing to remember about the film grain, etc., is that the series was shot and designed for the average 25 to 30" television of the time period. Higher speed film (and dubious Metrocolor processing!) was used to speed production and cut costs. Day for night filming was used because 1) it was cheaper and 2) far less time consuming than filming endless "magic hour" shots at dusk. With a vampire series, it would be utterly impractical to do endless night shoots plus daytime soundstage work (when do the actors and crew sleep?) so shooting day-for-night and timing the print slightly dark blue was a necessary cheat.
Yes, MGM could have timed the print darker for the DVD...but that would have necessitated reprinting/retiming nearly 50,000 feet of 35mm film, probably off a faded, scratched negative that had not been archivally preserved. (Few TV shows ever are!)
And we must realize that Dark Shadows is a niche market...we're not talking Desperate Housewives here...in terms of thousands of DVD units sold.
So all things considered, I'm glad we've got a reasonably timed/fairly accurate color/fairly scratch-free answer print to watch--in all probability, the same physical film that was originally broadcast on NBC. I'm encouraged that any elements were preserved at all--especially the stereo soundtrack. You would be appalled at how many "classic" television shows exist now only in 16mm versions, their original 35mm elements long gone.
I will agree that some DVD extras would have been worthwhile, and perhaps that will come in time. But considering that this transfer is clear enough to see the dirt on the opticals I'm convinced that this is the best transfer we could hope for, barring a full-blown digital restoration.
on September 8, 2005
If you don't like your TV shows cut/edited, you should read further before you buy
[...] the original square 4:3 image will be CROPPED (or matted) to a "fake" widescreen ratio! That means that those buying the DVD set will be seeing LESS image than on the original broadcasts, just like the botched-up first season set of "Kung Fu."
MGM does not deserve our money if they're going to monkey around with a TV show's aspect ratio. This series was NOT shot "widescreen safe": some production personnel on the series have confirmed that the series was shot in 4:3 and was intended ONLY for 4:3 and are NOT happy with MGM's decision to use a cropped widescreen master for the DVD set.
Five stars for the episodes themselves, only one star for this DVD set due to the cropped aspect ratio and lack of extras.
on January 4, 2006
I cannot describe the incredible joy when I saw that Dark Shadows the Revival Series was coming to dvd! There is simply nothing quite like this series! "Reincarnated" (forgive me :)) in 1991 by Dan Curtis, the creater of the original Dark Shadows, the revival series brought this wonderous tale of tragic romance, gothic myth, and the unforgettable Collins family to a new audience rekindled it for the existing fans in a remarkable new scale of grandeur and excellence! It's amazing to think that Dan Curtis literally drempt up the idea for Dark Shadows because the story has an epic quality about it that is shared by very few other tales.
Dark Shadows is the story of an elegant family surrounded in tragedy throughout the centuries due in large part to the love of a servant girl named Angelique (Lysette Anthony) for the charming Barnabas Collins in the 1790s. Barnabas was engaged to and truly in love with Josette DuPres (Joanna Going), but had misled Angelique to believe he loved her. As a result, he now faces her wrath as a witch when, after her death, she curses him to be a vampire for all time. "All who love you shall die!" Remorsed with his terrible actions, Barnabas is soon chained in a coffin for 200 years and released again by accident in 1990. There, he meets Victoria Winters, the identical reincarnation of his love Josette and also a sensible Dr. Hoffman (Barbara Steele), who, after finding out his secret, has discovered a strange cell in his blood and is convinced she can cure him of his vampirism. But Angelique has plans of her own for all of them.
Ben Cross plays the reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins cursed into existence, in his own words, "..as melodramatically as the small screen would allow." His sense of this character is tremendous and he plays it brilliantly using the perfect combination of old-world charm, warmth, conflicted horror over his actions mixed with rage over his inability to completely control himself, romance, and even humor (The strong presence in his comic timing is delightful to watch). The surrounding cast is equally incredible and I still get so excited every time I see their individual successes today! I wish I could list each one, but I must press on.
The Dark Shadows Revival Series contained only 12 episodes and they're all showcased in this two-disc dvd set. The show premiered moments after the Gulf War had begun and never found a consistent time slot on NBC after that, so very few were able to see how well done the show was and the amazing potential that it had to be a phenomenal hit! At last, a gift to the fans has arrived in its Dvd release and it's a chance for those who never got to see Dark Shadows in the 90s to experience it.
The dvd is presented in Widescreen with wonderful clarity. There are no special features to speak of, sadly :(, but there is still a Behind the Scenes VHS available on Amazon that includes interviews with Dan Curtis and all of the cast members (minus the youngest actors. :) I would have adored an interview from little Joseph Gordon Levitt and Veronica Lauren!), plus lots of behind the scenes footage, and many hysterical bloopers that are all definitely worth seeing! (despite the older format)
Incase it's difficult to tell, I truly recommend this series! Buy it on dvd today! :)
on October 24, 2005
Okay, this is the DVD release of the 1991 Dark Shadows series. This was on when I was in high school, and in addition to the Gulf War happening, quite a few fans of the original series did not embrace this remake. The first 3 episodes were shown as a mini-series, and the fourth and fifth were shown back to back. Although shown at different time slots, all 12 episodes were aired.
MGM and not MPI released this DVD set, and for some reason decided the alter the picture from the original full screen to wide screen, cropping it. For this reason, many shots look exremely odd. Dan Curtis has a particular style in his productions, and that style is lost in many scenes. It's really regrettable, and takes quite a bit of the atmosphere of this series. Maybe someday MPI will release it, as they actually show Dark Shadows and Dan Curtis projects quite a lot of respect.
All of the orignal scenes that aired are contained, although when MPI released this on video some years ago, they included 10-15 minutes of extended and deleted scenes in the first episode and about 5 minutes in the final episode. Again, maybe MPI will release this at a future date (and make the packaging better-at a glance, the artwork on the box really goes astray of Dark Shadows video and DVD releases I've seen).
So, die hard fans of this show beware. This release is tolerable, but certainly a far cry even from the video releases. MGM probably would have been better off releasing the two theatrical features, then they could have done widescreen, and let MPI do the revival series. If you can't do something right the first time, leave it to someone who would.
on July 24, 2010
Another 1.33:1 tv show with the top and bottom "CUT OFF". When I was researching a widescreen tv to purchase, I went though what I believe to be every brand of tv. They all have to ability to zoom a 4x3 picture to full wide screen. essentialy cutting off the top and bottom "IF" the user so "chooses" to watch it that way. So why did mgm cut the top and bottom off? Also, the video is grainy with visual film artifacts. Rent it at the library. Don't buy it or pay any money for this horribly butchered tv show.
on October 17, 2005
As a 14-year-old I watched Dark Shadows fanatically. I taped every episode (that AIRED - heavy thunderstorms and news bulletins often pre-empted it).
I've had my eroding VHS tapes for 14 years and I was thrilled to have my hands on DVDs of Dark Shadows.
With the mystifying widescreen format, watching on a 4:3 television is truly bizarre. As other reviewers have pointed out, the original picture is cropped.
The strangest part is the opening credits, presented in 4:3, with a black box around the entire picture. Umm.
It's a definitely a new transfer. A REALLY BAD one. Shifting brightness, dust and scratches, like the negative was tossed in a bin full of old pennies and shaken around.
After five seconds I knew it was a hairy, scratchy, nasty transfer.
But it got worse:
On TV and in movies they do something called "day-for-night" shooting.
This means they shoot a nighttime scene in daylight and later
apply a dark filter to give the appearance of night. Still with me?
On these DVDs, the filter has been OMITTED in all the day-for-night footage.
This means almost ALL outdoor night scenes appear to be in BROAD DAYLIGHT!
It's a VAMPIRE story! Baranabas is walking around under a bright sunny sky!
It's the middle of the night... someone goes outside and it's noon.
People shine flashlights in brightly lit rooms.
Police cars have their headlights on in the middle of the day.
It's absolutely infuriating. Absolutely nobody at MGM must have looked at this.
The packaging seems to have been given similar attention. It's three discs in two slimline cases (???), and the printing on the two spines doesn't even line up. Not even close.
I'm sort of glad to own the DVDs, for the simple reason that it takes up a lot less space than 12 VHS tapes. I can't imagine owning all 12 of the MPI VHS releases.
Still, the MPI videotapes have Barnabas stalking in moonlight instead of sunlight.
Can we ever win?
on December 21, 2010
First off, as others have mentioned, the images have been cropped to create a "fake widescreen" effect. And the night time scenes appear as day time scenes because they didn't bother to fix the levels on the transfer. There are really no bonus features to speak of. No 5.1 mix. It doesn't get much worse than this. Save your money hope that they get this right some day.
on August 31, 2005
This excellent series never had a chance- the Gulf War coverage killed it before it even got started. At least the 12 episodes are finally on DVD in a boxed set, so you can get rid of all those videos. Ben Cross as Barnabas Collins and horror queen Barbara Steele as Dr. Julia Hoffman were amazing together. Ms Steele, famous for all her 1960's Italian horror films (Castle Of Blood, Black Sunday), came out of retirement after swearing off the horror genre. No wonder- great sets, costumes and Dan Curtis directing actually made the remake superior to the original (Well, we still love Jonathan Frid and Lara Parker). Add Adrian Paul (Highlander), Michael T. Weiss (The Pretender)and Jean Simmons to the supporting cast! Shame NBC cancelled the series- Mr Paul was going to play Quentin Collins in the second season and original series stars were going to make guest appearances. But thank you MPI for releasing this on DVD.