Written by Ron Sproat, Malcolm Marmorstein, Art Wallace, et al.
Directed by Lela Swift, John Sedwick, et al.
Starring Joan Bennett, Jonathan Frid, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Louis Edmonds, Nancy Barrett, David Henesy
- 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]It’s your average good old American soap opera, with all the fromage and melodrama you might expect, but with the added bonus of the paranormal. Yes, witches, werewolves and vampires–oh my–hit television from 1966-1971. There really hasn’t been anything else quite like it since, although soaps from time to time would dip their toe in the High Weirdness pool, but never to this extent.
In this third set, we get another forty episodes that begin with Julia’s enticing bombshell that ended last seasonâ€”that she might be able to cure Barnabas of his vampiric curse and give him a normal life. We also follow Victoria as she and Burke discover the enigmatic house, Seaview, while Maggie’s memory, and the dangers it holds for Barnabas, may be returning. Barnabas resolves not to lose Victoria to Burke, but Sarah’s reluctance to appear to Barnabas troubles him. David begins to feel an evil presence at Collinwood that may bring him dangerously close to discovering Barnabas’ secret. Willie wants to save Maggie from Barnabas’ nefarious plans for her, but when Barnabas sets Willie up for the crime, even the ghostly warnings of Sarah may not be enough to save either Maggie or Willieâ€¦ or David, when he prowls the basement of the Old House and encounters a coffin that should not be there. And the hijinks just roll on from there.
The visuals are about what you would expect from a show this old with the original film in relatively poor shape. The show is grainy and decidedly dark in places, but, perhaps not surprisingly, this just adds to the moodiness of the show. In addition, episode 295 is the series’ first color episode, which is almost too bad, as the shadows fall a bit and the show is overall a bit less otherworldly when it appears in color. The sound is also pretty good considering what the DVD producers had to work with; you won’t have any trouble making out the dialogue, special effects noises are clear enough, and the muted nature of the show was in part intentional. Just don’t expect too much and see the “faults” as features of Gothic Romance, and you should be plenty satisfied.
The special features are much like those of the previous set. We get an interview on each of the four discsâ€”three with the actors Jonathan Frid, Sharon Smyth, and Louis Edmonds, and the fourth with director Lela Swift. These interviews are fascinating and just delightful. Fans of the show will be thrilled. The insert is nice in that it includes a few choice images and short, but solid episode synopses. Another feature that continues in this set is the inclusion of a nifty collector’s postcard, this one featuring Barnabas Collins menacing the overly-nosy and precocious David Collins.
In short, Dark Shadows continues to be a fascinating, entertaining soap opera with a dark, Gothic feel. Something like this should never have made it on American TV and almost certainly wouldn’t today, but we should be grateful that it did and that we can now reap the amazingly fun, delightfully cheesy rewards.