MPI // 1970 // 840 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // September 27th, 2005
She died at this time during a seance.
Dark Shadows reinvented soap operas when it turned into the story of a misunderstood vampire, a change which sucked in young viewers. The material it began to deal with seemed at odds with daytime norms, and ABC considered moving the series to its nighttime schedule. They never did, but its impact on television was felt for decades to come. Without this show. you'd never see things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Passions, which target the same demographic Dark Shadows captured in its time. It was designed to be fast, entertaining fun for half an hour after school. Dark Shadows: DVD Collection 20 shows the series on its last legs, when they had pretty much done everything wild and weird in the supernatural vein. These shows return the soap to more traditional romantic storytelling, but always with the twist of Gothic horror that was its trademark. The episodes move a little slower and involve fewer characters. But one thing can't be denied -- Dark Shadows weaves a peculiar spell that just can't be broken, even decades after its original broadcast.
The cast of Dark Shadows had traveled backwards and forwards through time, so is it any surprise that in Dark Shadows: DVD Collection 20 we find all of them heading sideways into "parallel time"? Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) finds a way to travel through an old abandoned room in Collinwood to a place where the same people live in the house, but lead entirely different lives. Quentin (David Selby) is the master of Collinwood; he has lost his first wife Angelique (Lara Parker). He remarries Maggie (Kathryn Leigh Scott), and all hell breaks loose. Writer William Loomis (John Karlen) discovers Barnabas is a time-traveling vampire, and promptly traps him in a chained coffin. Alexis Stokes (Parker), Angelique's twin sister, appears on the scene, and participates in a seance that reveals Angelique may have been murdered. The ghost of Dameon Edwards begins to haunt Collinwood. Scientist Cyrus Longworth (Christopher Pennock) carries out an experiment to isolate the good and bad sides of human nature, with horrific results.
Dark Shadows: DVD Collection 20 contains 40 episodes, starting with number 982 (originally aired on March 31, 1970) and continuing through number 1021 (May 25, 1970). Extras on the set include interviews with soap historian Michael Logan and writer Joe Caldwell, and two sessions with actress Paula Laurence (who played Hannah Stokes for seven episodes). The collector's card in the set shows Cyrus Longworth in the lab with Sabrina Stuart. Episodes 1006 and 1017 are not from the videotape masters, and rely on kinescope copies. MPI provides fans of Dark Shadows with the same high quality transfers that present the "first soap opera on DVD" in the best condition it has ever been in. The menus are the same crypt opening, and the packaging is the now-standard slimmer case with discs on plastic trays inside.
The big events in this volume include:
* Episode 982 -- William Loomis locks Barnabas in a coffin.
* Episode 988 -- Cyrus Longworth turns into John Yaeger for the first time.
* Episode 1001 -- Alexis Stokes is murdered by her twin sister.
The timing of these episodes was strange, because Dan Curtis was simultaneously working on the first Dark Shadows movie, House of Dark Shadows (a great movie, to date only available on VHS). Half the cast was in upstate New York filming the big screen treatment of the Barnabas story, which would feature the original idea to keep the vampire purely evil and kill him off quickly and violently. Because of this project, Jonathan Frid and much of the cast had to be written out of the story for a number of episodes. This makes Dark Shadows: DVD Collection 20 feel different than other collections. The soap had to concentrate on David Selby and Lara Parker, so fans of those two will revel in their tons of screen time. Christopher Pennock also gets to carry the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story line. Parallel time proves to be an interesting counterpoint to the present day Collinwood. It's nice to see everyone take a chance and redefine their characters to fit entirely different circumstances.
Dark Shadows: DVD Collection 20 is definitely one for fans who have ever-growing collections of these sets. MPI has done a remarkable job releasing these shows, and their commitment to quality is as high as ever. Dark Shadows is a show that you can watch in quick twenty-minute sessions, or you can gorge yourself for fourteen hours straight. The show remains a wonderful mix of campy and sublime writing, married with the same style of acting. Grab the set while you can, because these volumes often disappear after a certain time. Also look for MPI's release of the Dark Shadows Revival Series from the '90s in early October. Other future releases include the long-lost first run of episodes prior to Barnabas, which will be released soon after they finish this run of episodes. But where are House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows on DVD? Until then we have this satisfying set to curb our cravings for all the lovely Gothic horror Collinsport has to offer.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 840 Minutes
Release Year: 1970
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Interviews with Actress Paula Laurence, Writer Joe Caldwell, and Soap Opera Historian Michael Logan
* Collector's Card
* DVD Verdict Review of Collection 19
* Dark Shadows Online