MPI // 1967 // 880 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // July 21st, 2004
Not your ordinary soap opera
Once again, we revisit Collinwood, the site of strange supernatural goings-on. Dark Shadows was a huge hit on ABC-TV for five years straight, and MPI has been issuing most of the series' run on DVD. Featured here is the fifth collection.
When we left off in Collection Four...
Victoria Winters had traveled back in time to 1796 after taking part in a séance. She found herself face to face with a pre-vampiric Barnabas Collins. Mistaking Victoria for the new governess, he invited her into the Old House. Meanwhile, Barnabas's fiancée Josette arrived for the wedding. Tagging along was her maid, Angelique, who was revealed as a witch with romantic designs on Barnabas. She decided to punish him by casting a spell of asphyxiation but broke the curse when she realized he would die.
How I got into Dark Shadows is a question that is often posed to me. The answer is simple: As was the case with Elvis and professional wrestling, Dark Shadows was a program that both my parents enjoyed. My mother in particular adored the program. I caught a great many episodes when PBS began to run the program on week nights in the mid-1980s. Even at such a young age, I could see this was something special.
I have always been attracted to gothic horror. Among my favorite authors growing up were Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft, both experts at the genre. (Granted, Lovecraft leaned more toward sci-fi, but there are gothic elements in his work.) There's just something attractive about horror that delves deep within the soul rather than relying on gallons of gore, and Dark Shadows remembers that.
The forty episodes featured in this fifth DVD collection are among the very best of the show's entire run. By having Victoria return to the past, creator Dan Curtis and his creative team took the opportunity to really delve into the show's gothic roots so they could transcend the limitations of the soap opera genre. The writing is excellent; there are no duds in this group. The acting is even better than previous episodes; something about the time setting and atmosphere allowed the actors to soar to greater heights.
Despite not being a vampire for most of the featured episodes, Jonathan Frid still remains the foundation of the series. Trained as a Shakespearean actor, Frid relies on that training to give us a fully fleshed-out, three-dimensional tragic hero. Apart from Frid, the real standout in these episodes is Lara Parker, who plays Angelique. Introduced at the tail end of the previous collection, she is given a chance to act her heart out and proves she is more than simply a beauty. The remainder of the supporting cast is also memorable. Grayson Hall's bombastic acting style doesn't seem so out of place in the past setting. The late Thayer David underplays nicely as Ben Stokes. Kathryn Leigh Scott makes a plausible heroine, and Jerry Lacy goes into Snidely Whiplash mode as the crooked Reverend Trask.
* "Episode 372"
Angelique makes Ben Stokes her slave in order to carry out her evil plot.
* "Episode 373"
Angelique plots to have Josette fall in love with Jeremiah.
* "Episode 374"
Angelique's plot nearly falls to tatters when Jeremiah rebuffs a stricken Josette.
* "Episode 375"
Jeremiah attempts to tell Barnabas what happened but cannot bear to do so.
* "Episode 376"
Josette's father Andre approaches Jeremiah.
* "Episode 377"
Josette finds that the mark of the devil has suddenly appeared on her hand.
* "Episode 378"
Angelique turns Joshua into a cat.
* "Episode 379"
Victoria is suspected of being a witch.
* "Episode 380"
Josette disappears on the eve of her wedding to Barnabas.
* "Episode 381"
Jeremiah also goes missing, and his spirit comes to Barnabas.
* "Episode 382"
Joshua returns to human form as Abigail sends for Reverend Trask.
* "Episode 383"
Jeremiah and Josette decide to return to Collinwood.
* "Episode 384"
Jeremiah is wounded in a duel with Barnabas.
* "Episode 385"
Jeremiah hovers near death; Reverend Trask ties Victoria to a tree as a test.
* "Episode 386"
Barnabas and Nathan Forbes discover Victoria and free her.
* "Episode 387"
Angelique tells Reverend Trask where Victoria is hiding.
* "Episode 388"
Angelique threatens to injure Barnabas where it will hurt most: his sister Sarah.
* "Episode 389"
Barnabas makes Angelique an offer she can't refuse: marriage. The catch is that she must cure Sarah.
* "Episode 390/391"
Jeremiah dies and appears as a ghost to Josette.
* "Episode 392"
Joshua decides to move the entire family into the still-incomplete new house.
* "Episode 393"
Josette discovers Barnabas's plans to marry Angelique.
* "Episode 394"
Abigail believes Angelique may be a witch.
* "Episode 395"
Barnabas faces disinheritance if he marries Angelique.
* "Episode 396"
Angelique is buried alive by a resurrected Jeremiah.
* "Episode 397"
Barnabas and Angelique marry.
* "Episode 398"
Angelique once again finds where Victoria has been hiding.
* "Episode 399"
Angelique attempts to draw attention to Victoria, who is still in hiding, by having Sarah visit the Old House.
* "Episode 400"
Reverend Trask exorcises the Old House.
* "Episode 401"
Ben reveals to Barnabas that Angelique is indeed the witch.
* "Episode 402"
In order to save his family, Barnabas decides that Angelique must die.
* "Episode 403"
Angelique vows to kill Josette if Barnabas does not comply with her demands.
* "Episode 404"
Peter Bradford agrees to represent Victoria at her upcoming trial.
* "Episode 405"
Barnabas shoots Angelique but receives a wound of his own in the process.
* "Episode 406"
Barnabas hovers near death as a result of his wound.
* "Episode 407"
Angelique's attempts at curing Barnabas fail.
* "Episode 408"
Josette finds the Collins family history book and discovers her fate.
* "Episode 409"
Barnabas dies and is resurrected as a vampire.
* "Episode 410"
Angelique tries to plunge a wooden stake through Barnabas's heart.
* "Episode 411"
Barnabas strangles Angelique after discovering he needs blood to live.
* "Episode 412"
Peter Bradford allows Victoria to leave prison so she can find the Collins family history book.
As with other Dark Shadows collections, MPI offers this disclaimer: "Please note: Every possible effort has been made to produce the highest quality DVD release. Due to the age of the original elements, some audio and video imperfections may be experienced." Some of you may ask why I keep repeating the disclaimer in each Dark Shadows review I write, but I do it to emphasize one selling point with MPI: honesty. In an age when some studios will pass anything off to make a buck, I find it refreshing that MPI admits that their finished product is far from perfect. The work they have done for this fifth collection is impressive. There are no black-and-white kinescopes this time around; MPI managed to locate all original videotape masters. The tapes themselves are in fairly good condition. Oh, there are still some visible flaws, due to either the camerawork or poor storage. However, the colors all look sharp, and grain is minimal. The audio mix is slightly better in this collection. There are still some distracting pops, and tape hiss is ever present, but no serious audio defects are present, unlike both previous and subsequent collections. The dialogue is always easily comprehensible, and the music sounds fairly clean and crisp.
Keeping in tradition with other Dark Shadows collections, brief interviews appear on each disc. Among those participating here are composer Robert Cobert and actors Jonathan Frid, Kathryn Leigh Scott, and Jerry Lacy (Play it Again, Sam). All are informative and worth seeing. The only problem is that I often wanted to hear more, particularly from Frid, whose career took off to new heights as a result of this soap opera.
Retail price for this collection is $59.99. I have seen some stores sell this for up to twenty dollars more than the established price. If you come across such a store, I suggest you keep walking. $59.99 is the fairly reasonable price MPI has set for a four-DVD package, and anyone charging more is committing the equivalent of grand larceny.
For those who loved Dark Shadows in its original run, this collection will serve as a reminder of gothic horror at its best. If you have never seen Dark Shadows, a rental is in order. The deliberate pacing and measured storytelling may turn off some, but those who stick with it will discover a wonderful program.
MPI has done an incredible job of bringing Dark Shadows to DVD. Their honesty and promptness have not gone unnoticed.
As for the program itself, I acquit it of all charges, lest I be turned into a vampire.
Review content copyright © 2004 Bill Treadway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 880 Minutes
Release Year: 1967
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Interview with Composer Robert Cobert
* Interviews with Actors Jonathan Frid, Kathryn Leigh Scott, and Jerry Lacy
* Official Site
* Dark Shadows Online
* Jonathan Frid's Official Site
* Lara Parker's Official Site