Dark Shadows 1
DVD | Box Set
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Woe unto young Victoria Winters, the new governess at Collinwood, the Collins family estate in (where else?) Collinsport, Maine. Her employers are a strange lot, and the arrival of cousin Barnabas from England, who just happens to be a guilt-ridden 175-year-old vampire, ratchets up the weirdness. These creepy, campy contrivances made this gothic mystery one of television's most popular daytime series from 1966 to 1971. DVD bonuses include new interviews with the actors and program creator, Dan Curtis. 14 hours on 8 cassettes or 4 DVDs; b&w.
From the Back Cover
With its alluring tales of Gothic mystery and supernatural intrigue, Dark Shadows became one of the most popular daytime series of all time. Since first airing on ABC-TV from 1966-71, Dark Shadows has earned the reputation of being one of the most unusual and enduring programs in television history. The character of Barnabas Collins, a guilt-ridden, 175-year-old vampire, brought the show tremendous success.
Released from his chained coffin after nearly 200 years, Barnabas Collins arrives at the Collinwood estate claiming to be a relative from England. Although noticing Barnabas's resemblance to his "ancestor" in the foyer portrait, the Collins family does not realize he is the same Barnabas who lived at Collinwood in the 18th century. As Barnabas moves into the Old House on the property, those around him are unaware of the horrors that will soon follow.
Contains: 40 complete, spine-tingling episodes. Bonuses: Special introductory Dark Shadows featurette and exclusive interviews with the actors. Starring: Joan Bennett, Jonathan Frid, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Louis Edmonds, Nancy Barrett, David Henesy, Clarice Blackburn, John Karlen, Mitchell Ryan, Dennis Patrick, Joel Crothers, David Ford, Dana Elcar, Robert Gerringer, and Alexandra Moltke. Black and white, approx. 15 hours.
- 40 complete, uncut episodes on four DVDs (beginning with the resurrection of Barnabas Collins)
- New bonus material including interviews with the actors and series creator Dan Curtis
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Dark Shadows Collection 1 contains the first 40 episodes of Barnabas's run on the show, a time when "Dark Shadows" severed its origin as a (mostly) non-supernatural gothic soap opera, becoming a show with both feet firmly planted in the graveyard, with running story lines involving ghosts, ghouls, vampires, witches, warlocks, monsters, and time travel. The focus in these episodes is on Barnabas, as he introduces himself to the Collins family as a "long lost cousin from England," which they accept at face value.
Town residents speak ominously of farm animals found killed, their blood drained away. Several of the sharper residents of Collingwood note the eerie similarity of Barnabas with the portrait of the original Barnabas Collins, painted nearly 200 years ago. As the waitress Maggie Evans begins having nightmares, Barnabas begins haunting her, in the belief f she is Josette, the tragic lost love of his earlier life. As the episodes go along you can see how the producers drew on a number of horror sources from Bram Stoker to Hammer Films, while developing their own shape, tone, and take on Barnabas and the horror genre, as evidenced, by exampled, in the complex relationship between Barnabas and Willie Loomis.
One of the most interesting dynamic in this early episodes is what is not in them. While he last walked the earth in the late 1700s, if Barnabas has any "cultural shock" in the world of the 1960s, with its airplanes, automobiles, electricity, and fashions, it is not shown. Barnabas Collins, that 18th century man, seems more at home in the 1960s than many people who were actually living in it. Maybe the show's producers felt such story lines would only detract from the main narrative they wanted to tell. Given the disaster that was the 2012 movie, which focused on Barnabas's clash with the modern world and its technology and mores, arguably the produces made the right call 46 years ago.
As with the other "Dark Shadows" collections in this MPI-released version, the picture quality can at times be less than perfect, reflecting the source material which is basically primitive by our technological standards today. Given the fact that networks in those days were in the habit of regularly taping over shows (including the first SuperBowl) fans should just consider it fortunate any versions of "Dark Shadows" exist at all. The package also comes with a brief synopsis for each episode, interviews with several stars, including Frid, and an "Introduction" segment, filling in viewers on what occurred on the show prior to Barnabas's arrival if they hadn't already watched the "Beginning" DVDs.
"Dark Shadows: Collection 1" is a must-have for "Dark Shdows" fans and completists, along with fans of the horror genre and collectors and connoisseurs of 1960s popular culture artifacts.
Barnabus meets the Collins family and tells them he is a long lost cousin from England. He also convinces Elizabeth and the rest of the Collins family to allow him to live in the old house and clean it up and restore it to its old glory with help from Willie, who is also his watchdog during the day. They agree to let Barnabus stay in the house which has no electricity and is very old and in shambles. He and Willie rely on candlelight to gaze upon the old picture of Josette who has a special place in the unbeating heart of Barnabus.
If you are not that interested in the beginning collection of which, I think there are 6 beginning collections - you could start here when Barnabus moves in. Things get very interesting and Barnabus always has an ulterior motive. There are a lot of interesting story lines in the Beginning Collection as well, but for me, I like Barnabus and enjoy this story line a lot, but as I get sections, I am going to go back and watch, but this part really intrigued me and it is a lot of fun to watch. This collection does have a recap of what has gone before to catch you up to this point.
The quality of these sets is also amazing as everything has been remastered so the clarity is greatly improved compared to the Dark Shadows on Netflix or TV.
By contrast, I began watching "Dark Shadows" on the Sci-Fi channel, seeing the last year of the series in all its campy glory (think about the 1970s, and how popular avocado-colored refrigerators were during that period - that gives you an idea of the color scheme). I had a hard time understanding the passion people had for Jonathon Frid or how any TV show could justify the position of "governess" in a modern drama.
But then I began watching the first year of "DS", compiled here on DVD for the first time, shining in its original black and white photography. Rather than taking away from the viewing experience, the B&W adds to the gloomy charm, and frames the story in a timeless place where ghost stories can come true. The stately manor of Collinswood and Eagle Hill cemetary don't look so much like stage sets here, but like something sketched out of a dream, with dark corners and cobwebs.
One of the other reviewers here compared DS to a theater play, which gives you an idea of what troopers these actors are. For some reason, ordinary people consider soap players to be the dregs of the acting world - when in reality, playing in a soap is possibly the hardest job an actor can take. There are daily shoots and rewrites, and on DS, actors often had to rely on a teleprompter to help them with their lines. (And this is not shameful - Marilyn Monroe supposedly had to have her lines pasted inside of a drawer she was using as a prop in a Billy Wilder flick. Even the President gets help from a prompter.)
Joan Bennett, that great classic film star, stumbles a few times with her lines, but never loses her cool or her grace. Disc 2 is a real standout here, as Maggie Collins, played wonderfully (without a hint of camp) by Katheryn Leigh Scott, is slowly seduced by Barnabas Collins, vagabond vampire. As handsome as Joel Crothers is (and that's a lot of handsome), as Maggie's boyfriend Joe -- middle-aged Jonathan Frid's turn as Barnabas is all charm, with only a gleam of menace. It's not hard to see *here* why so many women viewers became obsessed with Frid, fantasizing that he'd crawl into their bedroom window.
Anne Rice's Louis - not to mention Nick Knight of "Forever Knight", "Vampire: the Masquerade" RPGers, and Joss Whedon's creation "Angel" - should be paying royalties to Frid and series creator Dan Curtis. Frid turned a two-week stint (maybe) as a supernatural baddie into five years as daytime drama's unlikeliest hero, permanently changing the face of horror. Quite honestly, even froth like "Teen Wolf" could never have been made in a world without dear, angst-ridden, grieving Barnabas and the rest of the DS clan.
The intro/menu screen has dramatic, creepy animation drifting through tangled trees, with each selected episode "zooming" into a bright window at Collinwood. Extras include short interviews with John Karlen, Leigh Scott and Frid, and a recap on Disc 1 bringing the series "up to date", prior to Barnabas showing up. Several hours of TV are boiled down to just 25 minutes, although it is a very well edited 25 minutes! This is the collection's main flaw.
The first hundred and fifty episodes of "DS" were unpopular, more like a tepid gothic romance - lots of mood, no major payoff. However, the show turned around with the introduction of spectre Josette Collins (a saintly ghost who plays an even bigger role later in the series), and literal phoenix Laura Collins, and none of those episodes are on this DVD set.
Yes, Barnabas Collins is the primary reason behind the success of DS, along with the later introduction of Angelique, his tormentor... and yes, the seduction of Maggie Collins is really the first great storyline. But like all great daytime and continuing drama, it's the slow build-up and day to day details that create classic moments of tension and release. We don't see how dreadful Willie Loomis is before his run-in with Barnabas - those episodes aren't here - so his subsequent turnaround, into a tongue-tied good samaritan, is less special. Without seeing more about Laura Collins, it's hard to understand how little David Collins can fudge up a car in an attempt at homicide. He just seems like a really rotten kid from the 25 minute "recap", so why should we sympathize with him about Josette Collins' missing portrait? (Hilarious fan editor Graeme Cree refers to David simply as "Devil Tot".)
Still, I wish I'd had the pleasure of seeing the show for the first time through these episodes, and this set is a terrific introduction and/or gift for a fan of gothic romance, gothic horror, and supernatural drama. The Sci-Fi channel has cancelled "Dark Shadows," meaning it will not be airing somewhere on TV for the first time in over 30 years - so this is it (unless SoapNet picks it up). This group of DVDs, 20 episodes per DVD, is much more cost-effective than buying similar VHS episodes.