MPI Home Video presents
Dark Shadows DVD Collection 13 (1969)
"You were never to be let out...We have failed! We have failed! I know what you are!"- Edith Collins (Isabella Hoopes)
Stars: Jonathan Frid, David Selby, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Louis Edmonds, Grayson Hall
Other Stars: John Karlen, Denise Nickerson, David Henesy, Don Briscoe, Roger Davis, Thayer David, Terry Crawford, Humbert Allen Astredo, Lara Parker, Marie Wallace, Diana Millay, Jerry Lacy, Joan Bennett
Director: Lela Swift, Henry Kaplan
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (vampirison, lycanthropy, violence, ethnic slurs)
Run Time: 14h:34m:09s
Release Date: 2004-07-27
DVD ReviewFew television programs have the sheer staying power of Dark Shadows. A favorite from 1967-1971, the daytime series long ago passed into cult status, if not cultural icon status. Thirty-five years after the fact, one of the most popular sequences in the entire series, the 1897 flashback, begins in this set of 40 episodes that originally aired from February 24 through April 18, 1969 (episodes nos. 696-735 for the truly obsessive).
In the present day, the ghost of Quentin Collins (David Selby) has possessed young David Collins (David Henesy). In an effort to communicate with Quentin's spirit, cured vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) uses the I Ching divination wands to reach Quentin's spirit. But something goes wrong and Barnabas finds himself back in Quentin's time, 1897, and not only is Barnabas once again a vampire, but he's chained in his coffin! The remainder of the volume takes a look at the schemes and machinations amongst the Collins family in the late 19th century, with stolen wills, arcane curses, long-dead witches, murder, madness, mayhem and other assorted nastiness in the brew.
Although the series had visited the past once before, in the extended 1795 flashback, that was essential to exploring Barnabas' tortured history and how he became a vampire at the hands of Angelique (Lara Parker), who makes a reappearance in this set. But here the cast really develops into something of a repertory company, with all except Frid assuming different parts from those they play in the modern day. This is particularly entertaining for the usually stuffy Grayson Hall and Thayer David, who take a turn for the hammy as the gypsies Magda and Sandor. This time-travel/parallel-time device would get seriously overused in the last year of the program, eventually leading to its demise, but here it's still fresh and interesting. It's quite clear that the storyline also energized the writers and producers. The possession storyline just keeps dragging on and not going anywhere, until Barnabas goes back in time. Then, suddenly, there's an eruption of events just in this volume: Quentin is killed twice, reviving as a zombie once, Angelique extorts a promise from Barnabas to marry her, and there's more than the usual quantum of demonic summoning, voodoo dolls and general black magic.
It doesn't hurt in the least that Barnabas is back as a vampire, restoring the edginess that had been lacking from the character post-cure. Frid has an amazing presence on the screen, even though he's clearly having terrible trouble remembering his lines. Frequently he will have a thoughtful air, looking off in the distance, but careful inspection finds that he's looking desperately for a cue card. It makes no difference though. He's the heart and soul of the program and his intensity makes up for any other flaws in his performance. Selby had been mute on the show for over a month, portraying the malignant spirit who communicates only through the haunting tune (which was a huge hit in 1969) played on his trusty gramophone. But when he finds his voice in this volume, he really makes an impression with his gleeful malevolence as he plots the death and destruction of just about everyone in the family and everyone else who crosses his path. Lara Parker, with her amazingly cold blue eyes and imperious manner, also is a welcome presence as the obsessive Angelique, and her unrequited love for Barnabas is often poignant, when it's not terrifying. Jerry Lacy returns as a descendant of the 1795 Rev. Trask, himself the head of a Dickensian boarding school that combines religious frenzy with vicious punishments.
This storyline also nicely weaves a number of past themes into the tale, including the tale of Josette and her reincarnations in modern day Maggie Evans and the 1897 governess Rachel Drummond (all Kathryn Leigh Scott), and the Phoenix story line appropriately enough rises from the ashes as well. The literary antecedents of this group of episodes are interesting, from The Turn of the Screw to Jane Eyre to Hard Times to The Tell-Tale Heart. These recognizable and esteemed sources helped lend some depth and an illusion of quality to the often silly proceedings. But the cheesiness is a sizable portion of the program's charm, which still comes through clearly today, flubbed lines and all. Although some earlier volumes edited out errors, they seem to be intact here, including the classic moment in episode 703 when Frid, thinking the cameras were off, wandered back into the end titles carrying his street clothes. For the millions who raced home from school to see Dark Shadows, this volume would be a great place to start to revisit the classic series.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The original full-frame picture looks acceptable, considering it's derived from 35-year-old videotape. It's a shame this show wasn't shot on film, but it is what it is. For the most part the source material is in good shape, though the first couple episodes have some noticeable dropouts. The picture is soft, but it's much clearer than the old MPI videotapes. Indeed, there's a good deal more detail than the producers ever really intended to be visible on 1969 televisions: for instance, Quentin's muttonchops are clearly glued on and the glue is usually quite visible. Color is decent, though the accuracy is hard to judge due to the number of color filters used in shooting. Quite decent overall, and unlikely to look much better.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono track has significant hiss and background noise, again a side effect of taping in the late 1960s. But the dialogue is clear and Robert Cobert's classic score sounds very good. Even the dullest conversations can be given a highly ominous significance with these cues, helping keep things on a more-or-less-credible basis.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 10 cues and remote access
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Extras Review: Each of the four discs contains an interview featurette. The interviewees on this set are David Selby, Lara Parker, Marie Wallace (the demented Jenny Collins), and scenic designer Sy Tomashoff. These run from five to eight minutes, and include a few tidbits, including Selby's start in show business and getting onto the show, while Parker waxes philosophical about love and death. Wallace clearly was having fun playing crazy, and Tomashoff gives some insight into just how crowded together all the various sets were. A pleasant and well-edited grouping of interviews. The discs don't have a Play All button marked as such, but if one episode is selected you automatically continue on into the next one, which is a nice. Viewing a huge chunk of these episodes at a time makes them more cohesive than the way they were originally aired, since one episode being shown per day tended to disguise just how rapidly events transpire in this sequence.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsThe horror soap opera breathes new life into its undead veins by traveling into the past. The picture looks and sounds as good as can be expected. The short interviews are worthwhile.
Mark Zimmer 2004-09-16