MPI // 1970 // 341 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // July 20th, 2005
Whipping werewolves, bat attacks, shadow spells, someone about to jump off a cliff, and a witch fighting for her life in a fire...must be time for another batch of episodes of Dark Shadows.
Dark Shadows Volume 19 concludes the Leviathan storyline, and introduces the next major story arc of the show, which is set in "Parallel Time." The first episode in this set, number 942, aired on February 3, 1970. Bruno warns Jeb Hawkes the one thing he must fear is the werewolf that is prowling through Collinsport. Throughout the next forty episodes loyalties are tested, truths revealed, and love is found in all the dark corners of the mythical Maine seaport town where nothing is what it seems. There are no kinescoped copies of the shows in this volume; all the episodes are in full color, with only the occasional trouble spot revealed by the age of the source material. MPI has done outstanding work with the first daytime soap opera to hit the DVD format, and Dark Shadows Volume 19 continues their tradition of presenting these shows in their best condition. It doesn't get much better than this -- despite some people's negative reactions to the Leviathan storyline, this is a thrilling installment of the series.
Dark Shadows began an unsettling trend of losing viewers when the Leviathan storyline aired back in 1970. The ratings began to slip as the show sought a way to tackle new themes and played with the idea of returning Barnabas Collins back to a villainous role in the series. Fans reacted strongly when Barnabas became the leader of the Leviathans, especially when he was squaring off with his long-time ally Dr. Julia Hoffman. The long-suffering vampire had been cured of his plight as a creature of the night, but he was now a pawn in a science fiction plot culled from the stories of H.P. Lovecraft that had intrigued series creator Dan Curtis. What we see in Dark Shadows Volume 19 is an effort to bring the show back to its former status quo, with all the characters we know and love finally brought back into their respective roles.
Important events that occur in the set include:
* Episode 950 -- Barnabas is "re-vamped" by a large bat Jeb sics
* Episode 953 -- Everyone's favorite warlock, Nicholas Blair, returns to help the Leviathans.
* Episode 960 -- Bruno has one of the most twisted moments in the series when he tortures his werewolf prisoner.
* Episode 964 -- Blooper Alert! Quentin pulls a sword off a wall, and you immediately hear the crash of breaking glass as the container holding the weapon breaks a nearby lamp.
* Episode 969 -- Visions of Parallel Time are seen in an abandoned room in the east wing of Collinwood.
* Episode 979 -- Nicholas Blair uses his "man witch" powers to create a shadow curse.
* Episode 980 -- Barnabas flees to Parallel Time to keep from hurting Maggie.
* Episode 981 -- Barnabas learns that Quentin is married to Maggie in Parallel Time.
The challenge of any soap opera is to lure in new viewers while still retaining the old ones. Dark Shadows had a hard time with this, because they shifted plots quickly, and it was daunting for new viewers to access the complicated relationships and backstories. It was more of a cult favorite. The Leviathan episodes moved at a strange pace for the show. They seemed to plod at some points, but vital information was given in each episode, making it impossible for viewers to skip even a single episode. Perhaps DVD is the best way to enjoy the storyline, since it allows for multiple episode viewing at your own pace. It's certainly easier than trying to frantically keep up with the show in syndicated viewings. (I'm shuddering recalling having to tape SciFi Channel episodes when I was out of town, and then trying to catch up.) Thank goodness for these MPI sets.
The quality remains high in the transfers. Included with the package this time around is a collector's card featuring Quentin and Carolyn in modern dress. Also continuing are the short interviews with cast and crew at the end of each disc. Included this time around are Nancy Barrett (Carolyn Stoddard), Christopher Pennock (Jebez Hawkes), Geoffery Scott (Skylar Rumson), and Michael Logan (a soap opera historian). There was a typo on the back of my box set, which listed an interview with Kathryn Leigh Scott (Maggie), but the insert booklet correctly listed the session with Nancy Barrett. The menus continue to use the Collins crypt theme. The keep case is the slim kind; thankfully, MPI has switched to these in an effort to help conserve shelf space.
The performances remain strong, even when they go slightly over the top. The man to watch in this set of episodes is Michael Stroka, playing the deviant Leviathan supporter Bruno. For some reason I found this character one of the actor's best in his many turns on the show. I think it's probably the way he gets to be a tough guy in a fur coat; a mob dandy who likes to tie up werewolves and whip them. He comes to represent a decadent form of the Gothic elements that seem to be largely missing in this science fiction-centered plot. Bruno is the man, and he's the most threatening character Stroka was ever allowed to play in his Dark Shadows tenure. He was inserted to pick up the action pace of the plot, and he does a great job. Also a treat in this set is the always spectacular turn by Lara Parker as Angelique. Watching her domestic bliss shatter as she learns of her husband's allegiance to the Leviathan cause is heartbreaking and thrilling all at once. Sad thing is Skylar seems to assume his wife will be an easy victim, but little does he know the power of Angelique. Hell hath no fury like Lara Parker playing a scorned woman.
Dark Shadows Volume 19 is another strong set from MPI, which has done a remarkable job with the first soap opera ever released on the DVD format. Fans will be snatching these volumes up off the shelves quickly, and they also make great rental fare to fill up that NetFlix wishlist. Dark Shadows still seems as potent and relevant today as it was nearly thirty-five years ago. These discs will insure a whole new generation of fans will have something spooky to watch every day when they get home from school.
Review content copyright © 2005 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 341 Minutes
Release Year: 1970
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Interviews With Actors Nancy Barrett, Geoffery Scott, and Chris Pennock, and Soap Journalist and Historian Michael Logan
* Dark Shadows Online
* Dark Shadows Journal