MPI // 1967 // 840 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // April 6th, 2005
ABC Announcer's voice : Good news, this program Dark Shadows is now being presented in color.
Ah, the glory of another Dark Shadows set -- this time in spooky color. Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Three finds the supernatural soap in the middle of a story arc that introduced Dr. Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall, Night of the Iguana). Hall appeared in four hundred and seventy-four episodes of Dark Shadows, a record beaten only by fellow actor Jonathan Frid. Early on, in the first set of episodes on DVD, we heard her character referred to by Dr. Woodard as a man -- Julian Hoffman. Indeed, the role was originally conceived to be filled by a male performer, but creator Dan Curtis and his writing team (which eventually included Hall's husband Sam, though not at the time of her introduction) wisely cast the eccentric actress in the role. Her birth name was Shirley Grossman, which she altered to Shirley Grayson when she took to the Broadway stage. She then met and married Sam Hall, who took to calling her by her assumed last name, rather like an army buddy. The first use of "Grayson Hall" was actually a typo on a contract; the person drafting it assumed that was her real name, since that's all they had heard her husband call her. Like Barnabas Collins (Frid), the role of Julia Hoffman was originally a small side character who would only have a couple of weeks' run on the show. Really just a guest run, and then Hall could continue her outré Broadway performances and occasional stints in film. As Dark Shadows fans know, she came and stayed until the bitter end.
Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Three begins with Julia convincing Barnabas to let her try and treat him to cure his vampirism. Sarah Collins is still hanging around Collinswood, and begins to appear to David Collins and Victoria Winters more and more frequently. Burke Devlin and Barnabas Collins begin to compete for Victoria's attention. Maggie escapes from Windcliffe (with help from the spectral Sarah), and has to be hypnotized by Dr. Hoffman to forget all about her captivity and torture at the hands of Barnabas in the basement of the Old House. The rest of the plot ambles along, with Maggie and David threatened by Barnabas in many different ways, Victoria still being courted by Barnabas, who is convinced she could be Josette. Sarah is discovered to be a ghost, and all the while Hoffman continues to look for a cure for vampirism. It climaxes with David discovering the coffin, and being attacked by a giant bat.
This release compiles MPI's previous VHS collections 13-20 (along with many of the same interviews). The shows were originally televised from August through September of 1967. The color kicks in with episode 295; they alert you in the liner notes of the set. The transfers are as good as they can be, given the state of the video master tapes these were culled from. For some reason this stretch of Dark Shadows really took it hard when aging, and kinescope copies are required to assemble episodes 296, 300, 318, 320, 330, and 325 (which means these are seen in inferior black and white -- which I always argued added some mood to the show). Because of these problems and missing episodes, Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Three is scatter-shot in video and audio quality. MPI has always done an amazing job preserving the shows for home formats. They do what they can, and this ongoing preservation of the first soap opera to make it onto DVD is truly remarkable. Many people really enjoy the interviews that are presented on each disc as a special feature. They are collected from footage shot for the VHS releases, which is why we see people like Louis Edmonds, who passed away almost a decade ago. Fans that collected the original VHS releases from the early '90s will see them as mere repeats of footage they have seen, but its a nice touch to preserve the show's oral history.
I've gathered some trivia for you germane to Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Three: The very last exterior shot showing the Blue Whale and actors going to it can be seen in episode 295. From that episode on, no actors are seen in exterior shots, which remained on the show only to establish where the scene took place before they came to a shot of the indoor set. Joan Bennett was nominated for an Emmy for her work as Elizabeth in this 1968 year of Dark Shadows (see the second collection of DVDs for her strongest run, with Jason McGuire nipping at her heels). There are no major bloopers in this set, save for two notable instances: one episodes features Roger Collins saying "incestors" and then correcting himself with "ancestors," and the bat that attacks David Collins is a cheesy gaffe complete with pole in sight.
Dark Shadows was a ratings bonanza for the network; I always wondered why other shows never tried to ape its "serial thriller" formula. This run of shows had 4.2 million viewers watching every day when it first ran. Dark Shadows still works like gangbusters, even today when we are used to ongoing serial stories about vampires and people trying to help them. Barnabas Collins pre-dated Anne Rice's vampire novels by a few years, and one wonders if she wasn't influenced by the love between Dr. Hoffman and Barnabas that always kept the show afloat. Julia believed in Barnabas, even in this set of episodes when he appears as the villain of the piece. Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Three sets up the genesis of an arc that would last throughout the rest of the run -- their relationship which develops as patient, friend, and eventually more by the conclusion. Many people cite Angelique and Barnabas as their favorite couple, but they were always better matched as rivals. For an ally, he found the perfect partner in Dr. Julia Hoffman, and the cast was perfectly rounded out by her introduction. Grayson Hall was the bridge between Hollywood and Broadway, where all the actors on the show came from. She was part of the allure of Dark Shadows, and it's her presence that really kicks up Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Three a couple of notches.
These are great sets that are important to collectors of the show. MPI is a hero in my book for keeping the Dark Shadows torch burning brightly when no networks seem to be airing reruns. I've heard rumblings that the first batch of non-vampire episodes are going to see a release once MPI completes this run of the show. Now if only the movie adaptations of House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows could find their way onto DVD (uncut and with special features, please). Or is that too much to hope for? But in a world where a vampire can become a romantic leading man on a daytime soap opera, anything's possible.
Review content copyright © 2005 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 840 Minutes
Release Year: 1967
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Interviews with Actors Jonathan Frid (Barnabas), Louis Edmonds (Roger), and Sharon Smyth (Sarah Collins), and Director Lela Swift
* Unofficial Fan Site