MPI // 1969 // 840 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // February 23rd, 2005
Petofi? Let's all give him a hand...
Dark Shadows: DVD Collection 16 contains episodes 817 through 857. It's about two-thirds of the way through the 1897 plot line, wherein Barnabas has traveled back in time using the I-Ching wands to help Quentin. This set opens with the vampire trapped inside a chained coffin with Quentin and Beth trying to free him. Charles Delaware Tate finishes the portrait of Quentin and realizes he is the werewolf. Petofi makes Charity Trask believe she is Pansy Faye (one of the most amusing plots, featuring Nancy Barrett, who gets to play this one out for almost sixty episodes). Gypsy king Johnny Romano shows up in Collinsport looking for the hand of Petofi. Tate realizes that Amanda Harris is the woman he painted. Angelique appears and agrees to try and help out against Petofi. The portrait of Quentin prevents him from turning into a werewolf. Julia Hoffman (in 1969) is visited by Beth's ghost, and learns how Quentin is supposed to die. Julia uses the I-Ching wands and travels back in time to help out (episode 837). Lady Kitty Soames arrives on the scene, and Barnabas recognizes her as his long lost love Josette (episode 844). Charity Trask stakes who she thinks is Barnabas Collins while possessed by Pansy Faye (episode 845). Quentin falls in love with Amanda and asks her to marry him. Petofi discovers he will need a body to travel through time, and decides Quentin would be the perfect vehicle. By the close of these forty episodes, Quentin is under Petofi's power (episode 856), Kitty has become Josette, and Petofi prepares to use the I-Ching wands to travel forward in time.
Dark Shadows: DVD Collection 16 continues with MPI's commitment to bringing you these shows in the best condition they can muster from the old videotape masters from ABC. These shows were originally broadcast from August to early October of 1969. They come from a time when Dark Shadows was pulling in its highest ratings ever, and the actors seem to be having a blast with this 1897 storyline. Gypsies, werewolves, and a creepy wizard who is after a magical hand -- it's quite a smorgasbord of supernatural Gothic turn-of-the-century fun. The best news about this particular set is that there are no kinescopes to be found in this collection, so all the episodes are complete and in color. I'm constantly amazed at how good the shows look even though they were shot almost forty years ago. First time viewers could never pick up this set without feeling hopelessly lost (you'd need to start with the first set), but fans will marvel at the clarity of the fullscreen transfers here. Once again, the Collins crypt theme is used on all the menus.
The extras consist mainly of discussions with the original actors and members of the crew. This set features four really strong interviews that might be worth the purchase on their own. David Selby can be found on Disc One talking about his experience having his own theme song on the show, "Quentin's Theme" (which was a pretty big hit in its day). Then we have Nancy Barrett (Carolyn Stoddard and Charity Trask in these episodes), who talks about fame and how hard it was for her to handle. Dan Curtis talks about the show he created on Disc Three, and he's quite candid about what led to the show's demise. His assistant and associate producer George Dicenzo rounds off the last disc, letting you in on some choice gossip on Curtis and what it was like to work with him.
This batch of shows made me remember a rather interesting tidbit about the entire "hand of Petofi" plot. If you look closely at the box the hand comes in, you will realize it has always been on the show (since episode 4) on the table in the upstairs hall. If you go back to episode 339, you will see the box being dusted by Mrs. Johnson while Dave Woodard searches Julia Hoffman's room. The box moves around during the 1795 plot period, appearing both in the house on a table in a drawing room, and then later in the Old House as Barnabas recovers from his bat bite. Magda describes the box in great detail in episode 778, talking about how each carving has meaning and symbolism. If you hang on to the end of the show you will catch another glimpse of the box in an 1840 episode inside Rose Cottage (episode 1171). And finally the box is last glimpsed during a show set in 1680 Parallel Time (episode 1231). Seems the box that contains the hand of Petofi has always been around Collinswood, and always will be.
A lot of people found this storyline on Dark Shadows a little trying, because it seems to go on and on. The 1897 plot lasts for 183 episodes, and features a period without any mini-skirts or chest hair (no eye candy for either sex). I personally like the period, because it seems to have the most potential for the company to stretch out and do some rather wild and fun characterizations. Grayson Hall as Magda is a scream, and so is Nancy Barrett playing Pansy Faye. Petofi allowed Thayer David the chance to really chew on everything (fake facial hair included). It's loopy good fun, and really one of the better Dark Shadows periods. A lot of people think the show is clunky and not scary -- unfortunately, they're missing the point. The show was never really scary; it was more creepy than anything else, and it's a daytime soap opera. Why was it on during the day? Actually, they could get away with a lot more during the afternoon than they could on prime time television (believe it or not). Part of the charm is watching the show trying to stay on track when it was all shot in one take on videotape. They don't ever fix any bloopers -- in this set I believe you get to see Charles Tate fight with, and lose to, a window shade. How many times does that happen these days?
MPI does a great job with these sets, and this is no exception. Dark Shadows: DVD Collection 16 is another great addition to your collection. I'm looking forward to the next batch of episodes, which will finally find us heading towards the infamous Leviathan episodes, where all hell broke loose. Seems our vampire, Barnabas, is destined to play an important role in the coming Armageddon. Hmmm! Wonder if anyone ever stole that plot point? Cough...Angel, I'm looking at you...
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 840 Minutes
Release Year: 1969
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Interviews with Actors David Selby and Nancy Barrett, Creator Dan Curtis and Associate Producer George Dicenzo
* Dark Shadows Fan Site
* Boo Cat's Dark Shadows Site (with Quentin's Theme)
* A Top Ten Site about Dark Shadows