Gothic vampire soap operas just look better in black and white, period. Judge Brett Cullum will hear no arguments on this issue.
Our reviews of Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Three (published April 6th, 2005), Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Four (published November 24th, 2003), Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Five (published July 21st, 2004), Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Eleven (published July 15th, 2004), Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Twelve (published June 22nd, 2004), Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Thirteen (published August 26th, 2004), Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Fifteen (published February 23rd, 2005), Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Sixteen (published February 23rd, 2005), Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Seventeen (published March 16th, 2005), Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Eighteen (published May 4th, 2005), Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Twenty (published September 27th, 2005), Dark Shadows (Blu-ray) (published October 8th, 2012), Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Nineteen (published July 20th, 2005), Dark Shadows: Fan Favorites (published April 30th, 2012), Dark Shadows: The Beginning, Collection 1 (published August 22nd, 2007), Dark Shadows: The Beginning, Collection 3 (published March 19th, 2008), Dark Shadows: The Beginning, Collection 4 (published April 30th, 2008), Dark Shadows: The Beginning, Collection 6 (published February 13th, 2009), Dark Shadows: The Best Of Barnabas (published May 11th, 2012), and Dark Shadows The Revival: The Complete Series (published October 26th, 2005) are also available.
The second set of Dark Shadows, all in spooky black and white.
Collections 1 and 2 of Dark Shadows are the only sets that are completely in black and white, just as they aired back in 1967. Some people say they are the most effective presentation of the show, and they certainly set the mood well with their limited palette. MPI decided to begin its run with the arrival of vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid), who was originally intended to be on the show for a rather short run as a villain. Here, in Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Two, Barnabas is in full-on big bad mode.
The set opens as Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott) was about to stake Barnabas after he kidnapped her during the events shown in the first collection. He turns the table on the waitress, and locks her in the basement of the Old House, deciding to wait until she becomes his lost love Josette. A strange young girl begins appearing to Maggie; viewers are thereby introduced to Sarah Collins, the spectral sister of Barnabas (episode #255). Maggie eventually escapes, but finds herself sent to a sanitarium called Windcliff. Academy Award winner Grayson Hall joins the cast as Dr. Julia Hoffman, who treats Maggie—a role originally meant for a man (episode #265). We get to see the resolution of Elizabeth Stoddard's (Joan Bennett) storyline about her belief that she killed her husband, and see what happens to her blackmailing suitor Jason McGuire. Things get even more strange and troubling as Victoria Winters (Alexandra Moltke) begins to fear the past after participating in a seance. Dr. Hoffman comes to stay at Collinwood (episode 284) posing as a historian, and finds out Barnabas is indeed a vampire (episode 289). Barnabas decides she can not live, and the set closes with him about to strangle the good doctor.
Dark Shadows: DVD Collection Two includes episodes 251 through 290, which aired between June 12 and August 4, 1967. MPI offers the same loving treatment they have given to the series in the previous set. Transfers are as clear as they possibly can be, and often show flaws in the master videotapes used as the source for the set. An old kinescope copy had to be used for episode number 260, as it is one of the shows that is missing in the master collection. The shows look much clearer than the syndicated broadcasts, or even the recent airings the SciFi Channel now seems to have abandoned. Extras are simply copies of interviews with the cast and crew conducted ten years ago for the VHS release of the series. They serve as a nice oral history of the show, and fans will be happy to see them preserved (though not surprised at their content) if they own the tapes from the early '90s. The sound transfer is a nice clean mono track that is mostly free of any distortion (save for when the actors walk too far away from the microphones on the set). In these early editions of Dark Shadows the boxes are quite thick, as each of the four discs is housed in its own separate chamber of the Amray casing. Menus are striking and quite animated, showing the woods and then Collinswood appearing with a montage of photos of Barnabas playing with eerie music from the series. You also get a nifty collector's card featuring a picture of a fanged Jonathan Frid.
This particular set moves much quicker than the first, plot-wise. It seems at first Dan Curtis and his crew were unsure how to handle the Barnabas storyline, and he certainly proved more durable than anyone ever imagined. Jonathan Frid became an unlikely sex symbol, and the vampire he played saved the show from certain cancellation. How could they drive a stake in their cash cow? In the first set you can see them writing tentatively, trying to stretch out the story, and reaching for a decision of where this could go. Introduced in this set is actress Grayson Hall, who happened to be married to one of the writers. Coupled with Frid, it was discovered the good doctor and the creature of the night had a chemistry that would last for over a thousand episodes of their being friends and unrequited lovers. It is her arrival at Collinwood that really spun the story into giddy high gear. You could really start a serious collection of Dark Shadows with these episodes, and just claim you are a Grayson Hall completeist for the series. Or marry this one with Collection One, and you have all the black-and-white episodes. Mainly you'll want this one because the episodes are fresh and lively, and they possess the joy of watching a show discover itself.
Dennis Patrick, playing Jason McGuire, figures prominently in this collection of episodes as the story with him blackmailing Elizabeth comes to a head. Patrick only appeared in sixty-six episodes of Dark Shadows; his plot climaxes here, and then he disappears from the series after episode 276, until he returns in flashbacks to 1949 and then later as another character entirely. Ironically, he returns to the series as Paul Stoddard (Elizabeth's husband) in the Leviathan episodes that can be found starting in Dark Shadows: DVD Collection 17. He was a Dark Shadows natural with a charming personality that often hid his devious desires. And of course it didn't hurt that he fit with the rest of the cast, who all looked like they could be vampires anyway (how else could Barnabas fit in so easily?). Of course Patrick had an advantage to looking spooky, since he was actually television's first vampire when he appeared as one in an episode of Stage 13. He logged in over 1,800 guest roles on television, including a run on Dallas, before he retired from acting in the early '90s. Dennis unfortunately passed away in 2002 (in a house fire), but there is a great interview with him here in the bonus clips. Dark Shadows: Collection Two includes some of his best work in the series.
MPI does outstanding work in preserving this series, and Dark Shadows has the honor of being the first soap opera ever presented on DVD. Soaps are immediate, and run for years becoming disposable serials of their time. So why has Dark Shadows lasted so long on its cult status? Its shows are timeless since they deal with the spooky and supernatural, and the show basically invented the "serial thriller" formula that would spawn such illustrious titles as The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was one long episode of The Twilight Zone, captured the imaginations of its audience when it aired, and has held on to that to the current day. Like its anti-hero, vampire Barnabas Collins, it could never be put down for long. It's the stuff DVD dreams are made of.
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Scales of Justice
• Interviews with Creator Dan Curtis, Actress Nancy Barrett (Carolyn Stoddard), Actor Dennis Patrick (Jason McGuire), and Actress Alexandra Moltke (Victoria Winters)
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