Written by: Sam Hall, Joe Caldwell, Ralph Ellis, Gordon Russell, Ron Sproat, Francis Swann, Art Wallace and Violet Welles
Directed by: Dan Curtis, Pennberry Jones, Dennis Kane, Henry Kaplan, John Sedwick, Jack Sullivan, Sean Dhu Sullivan, Lela Swift, and John Weaver
Starring: Jonathan Kidd, Joan Bennett, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Louis Edmonds, Nancy Barrett, David Henesy, Lara Parker, Clarice Blackburn, Anthony George, Grayson Hall, Joel Crothers, and David Ford.
- Cast and crew interviews
Released by: MPI Home Video
Rating: NR, safe for 12+
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format
My Advice: Get it NOW, along with the previous sets
[ad#longpost]Everyone’s favorite gothic soap opera is back with a new collection of fantastically creepy episodes. When last we met, David (Henesy) had found a new friend in the ghost of Sarah (Sharon Smyth), Barnabas’ (Frid) younger sister in life. As this season opens, she and David begin to investigate the truth about Barnabas, leading David to find Barnabas’ coffin. Barnabas is able to head off this danger, but with Burke (George) and Dr. Woodward getting suspicious, Barnabas’ end might be closer than he would like to think. He demands that Julia (Hall) step up his treatments to make him human again, but the experiment goes drastically wrong. Meanwhile, Victoria drifts ever closer to marrying Burke, much to Barnabas’ fury and frustration. He hatches a new plan to keep Victoria for himself, but with everything in Collinwood unraveling around him, his plans may not stand the light of day. Finally, at the end of this season, the much-loved time travel episodes begin, as Victoria is sent back in time to the year 1795, when Barnabas was still human, and a witch named Angelique (Audrey Larkins) is scheming to win his heart from the beautiful Josette.
There are a few foibles and issues with this show, the type of thing that appears in all soap operas. For example, Julia’s very important notebook wherein she records her experiments on Barnabas looks to be a five dollar girl’s diary, complete with tiny gold key. Also, one of the schticks of the show is that nobody will use the word “vampire.” They refer to “loathsome thing” or “perhaps undying,” and things like that. At first it adds to the overall mystique of the show, but this far in it’s just silly. We all know Barnabas sprouts fangs, won’t die naturally, and drinks blood. He’s a bloody vampire, okay? There is also a larger than usual number of stupid people and around Collinwood, but again, that’s a common feature in soap operas.
The audio and video quality are about what you expect from thirty-five-year-old film stock. A very few of the episodes are particularly scratchy as they were recovered from the original kinescope copies–and not even the videotape masters, which were lost. However, I feel that it’s better to have a few especially dark episodes than to have the producers choose to skip them because they aren’t perfect, leaving holes in the story. Story is more important to this show than just about anything else, and the darkness and shadowy character of the color and black-and-white episodes alike lends character and fun to the viewing experience.
The features on these boxed sets have been fantastic and this set is no exception. We have interviews with the series producer, the writer, the make-up artist, and actress Lara Parker, making this set truly rich with background detail, behind-the-scenes information, and just a general appreciation for what this show means to people and how hard it was to create, produce, and keep on the air in a time that didn’t exactly embrace things that were different…and Dark Shadows, for those of you who hate TV, is definitely something different and special.
Overall, if you love vampire tales but don’t want the mere gross-out tendency that’s so popular in Hollywood today, then you’ll adore this series: it’s creepy, mysterious, well-plotted and acted, and even deliciously cheesy at times. Just get into the spirit of things and you will come to absolutely love it. Turn out all the lights in the house, get yourself some popcorn and a loved one, and watch this great show with your eyes wide.