MPI // 1969 // 840 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // March 16th, 2005
Let's all go and become Leviathans!
Dark Shadows: DVD Collection 17 spans episodes 858 through 898, which aired between October 8 and December 4, 1969. It's the last gasp of the exhausting eight-month Quentin-centric 1897 plot line and takes us straight into the beginning of the bewildering "Leviathans" episodes, all in one set. In a nutshell, Judith Collins is released from her sanitarium and returns home to Collinswood. Gregory Trask is planning her murder. Evan Hanley does a ceremony which drives Petofi out of Quentin's body. Barnabas shows up as another "relative," and seems to be cured of his vampirism (at least for now). Lady Kitty Hampshire becomes convinced she is indeed Josette. Barnabas follows her back in time to 1796 (episode 885). Along the way he is chosen to be the leader of the Leviathans -- a group that is another race from another world hell-bent on controlling Earth (episode 886). As we get back to 1969 (episode 889) we find a new couple in town, Meagan and Phillip Todd, who are running an antique shop. Barnabas gives them a mysterious box, and they become the center of Leviathan activity. The ghost of Jenny Collins warns Chris Jennings that only Quentin knows how to save him from the werewolf curse.
Dark Shadows: DVD Collection 17 is another of the usual remarkable sets MPI has been delivering all along. We still get the creepy Collins crypt opening, and there is a collector's card with 1897 Judith Collins (Joan Bennett) on it. The transfers remain quite good (almost too clear in some cases) with fine audio mixes for all the dialogue. All the episodes are in color, and we have no inferior kinescope copies for any of them. Plenty of blemishes though; and some unavoidable. In episode 858 in the opening still of Collinswood you can see someone's handwriting and the word "Shadows" in marker along the bottom. In episode 898 I noticed a major line right through the picture that alerted me to a deteriorating video master. To chronicle them all would be too numerous, but MPI has certainly done an amazing job presenting the episodes in better condition than even their SciFi airings not too long ago. And, of course, it wouldn't be Dark Shadows without the infamous actor bloopers. My favorite in this set occurs during episode 863, when Pansy visits Tate and a window shade goes crashing onto the floor as she enters. It distracts the hell out of both of them.
Interviews are the only special features offered on any of the sets, but they also prove interesting and create a much-needed oral history of the show. In this set we get more from David Selby, who reflects on the cast. There is J.J. Lupatkin who did the special effects, and who has some funny memories of trying to make them work on the fly. Jim Pierson is interviewed -- he seems to be a publicist and video producer for MPI. Finally, we get more from George DiCenzo, the associate producer and assistant to series creator Dan Curtis. He's a riot.
This may be the set where some Dark Shadows collectors decide to hop off the train, since now we go forward into the first science fiction plot -- the Leviathans. This plot is based on a Lovecraft story called The Cthulhu Mythos. I thought it was clever enough to be a good Dark Shadows plot, but fans went nuts as Barnabas returned to being evil (even though he wasn't a vampire for a spell here). I wanted to get someone else's take on the show, so I sought the advice of a friend of mine, who has stalked poor Jonathan Frid at certain times and attended many a Shadows festival. Here are some of her thoughts on the show:
DVD VERDICT: What made you like DARK SHADOWS in the first place?
Gretchen: Barnabas, Barnabas, Barnabas! Oh and then there was Barnabas. He was the villain who didn't really want to be a villain. He was a tortured soul -- deeply in love. I was a little goth girl and I thought he was so very handsome. I didn't know that those vacant stares were just Jonathan attempting to remember his lines. It didn't matter -- he looked good (even in 1967 flood water pants). And when he wore the smoking jacket -- oh yeah, baby! We used to joke that he was probably old enough to be my dad. And yes he was -- both he and my dad were born the same year! (That's a little sick -- no wonder I'm messed up!)
DVD VERDICT: Was there something specific in the Leviathans plot line that turned you off?
Gretchen: Boring -- with a capital ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ! I was very young -- I used to run home from 3rd grade to watch Dark Shadows. I was too young to appreciate the nuances of science fiction. But in hindsight, if they did sci-fi as well as they did every other genre, I didn't miss the subtleties -- it just sucked. I already had moments where I was getting painfully bored with the program: the disembodied hand, Frankenstein, and Magda's terrible accent (how did a great actress like Grayson Hall, who was nominated for an Academy award in 1964 for Night of the Iguana, get herself into such a role -- she must have loved husband and writer Sam Hall very, very much). Most of the plot lines went on too long -- even the good ones got old.
DVD VERDICT: What was your favorite plot of the whole series?
Gretchen: I loved the 1795 Victoria Winters time travel plot (except it wasn't quite as good when Alexandra Moltke left). The Barnabas/Angelique/Josette/Jeremiah issues were totally soap opera -- but with a DS twist. Yes, three ended up dead -- but one was a ghost, and another a vampire. I loved the period costumes -- and I loved Angelique's conjuring. (In later episodes, I also loved Nicholas' spells -- I seem to have something stuck in my head about "Amen Ra -- prince of light and radiance -- creator of all things when the earth took form in the beginning...") So very flamboyant! I actually bought a copy of the Book of the Dead.
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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 Actor David Selby (Quentin Collins), Technical Director J.J. Lupatkin, Associate Producer George DiCenzo, and Video Producer/Publicist Jim Pierson
* Fan Site with Episode Summaries