The Dark Shadows Collection
Created and Produced by Dan Curtis
Written by Joe Caldwell, Malcolm Marmorstein & Ron Sproat
Directed by Lela Swift & John Sedwick
Barnabas Collins--Jonathan Frid
Elizabeth Collins--Joan Bennett
David Collins--David Henesy
Roger Collins--Louis Edmonds
Victoria Winters--Alexandra Moltke
Willie Loomis--John Karlen
Jason McGuire--Dennis Patrick
Sam Evans--David Ford
Maggie Evans--Kathryn Leigh Scott
Dark Shadows debuted on June 27th 1966, a half-hour black-and-white gothic soap opera. Although it found an immediate fan base among viewers who were tired of the same old daytime dramas, it never truly became a hit until the introduction of the vampire Barnabas Collins, nearly a full year after the show premiered in the 210th episode.
Since this was when the ball really got rolling, MPI's Dark Shadow Collection Volume 1 starts the series with that episode in their DVD box set, giving you an approximately 15-minute wrap-up of all the prior episodes. It proves to be sufficient, amazingly enough, and within a couple episodes you're up to speed.
Victoria Winters works for the wealthy Collins family, tutoring the curious young David. Elizabeth, the matriarch of the family, is an eccentric shut-in who has not left her estate since her husband “disappeared” many years ago. Carolyn is Elizabeth's beautiful daughter who is preoccupied with learning about her father. Roger is Elizabeth's aristocratic and Frasier-esque brother, the father of David. Jason and Willie are a pair of criminals who know Elizabeth's secret—that she murdered her husband—and blackmail her into letting them live off of the Collins family wealth.
It's Willie who accidentally releases Barnabas from his tomb and he quickly becomes his thrall, doing whatever evil bidding he is asked. Barnabas arrives at the Collins family home and introduces himself as a long lost cousin. Soon he moves into an old house rotting on the estate and fixes it up to its former glory.
Carolyn presses her mother for information about her father and Elizabeth's secret is almost revealed. Jason, fearing that the rest of the family will grow suspicious of their arrangement, proposes that he and Elizabeth should be married. Reluctantly she accepts and sends the family reeling.
Meanwhile, the townsfolk are growing uneasy about a number of violent attacks against citizens and multiple farm animals have been found drained of the blood and only Barnabas, Willie and the viewer are privy to the truth. When Barnabas sets his eyes upon Maggie Evans, a waitress at the local diner, he is stricken with her and devises a plan to incorporate her into his life. When he feeds from her neck, she disappears from her father's house and runs to be with Barnabas. He brainwashes her into thinking that she is no longer Maggie Evans but instead Josette, his long-lost love.
Sounds like a decent enough plot, right? Well, it would be for a 90 minute film, but for a television series that runs approximately 20 hours (TWENTY!!), it wears a bit thin. A vast majority of the time there's really nothing going on, just a lot of pointless dialogue about things that have already been sufficiently covered in the past. Each episode contains perhaps 5 minutes of usefulness and 25 of overkill.
Keeping this in mind, Dark Shadows is obviously not for everyone, myself included. While I was initially drawn in by the vamp camp value of the show, by the end of the first disc the novelty had worn off and I was bored practically to tears. Dedicated horror hipster that I am, I pressed on…and on…and on. Some days, I thought it would never end.
However, if you're a fan of cheap sets, corny dialogue, melodramatic performances, vampiric double entendres, bumbling deliveries, molasses speed plotlines, pipe organ scoring, and the three C's of gothic horror (castles, cobblestones and cobwebs), then by all means check this show out. But don't say I didn't warn you.
April 17th 1967-July 9th 1967
Black & White