The story of Dark Shadows begins with newly hired governess Victoria Winters arriving at Collinwood, the Collins' estate in Collinsport, Maine in search of her mysterious origins. She soon is caught up in the strange events and mysteries that seem to surround the Collins family. Eventually, the Collins' "cousin from England", Barnabas Collins, arrives and takes the show in a new direction; his vampire curse introduces a new history of the Collins family. Part of this revised history is the popular character of the witch Angelique whose jealously led to the tragic death of Barnabas' great love Josette and who placed the curse upon Barnabas. Written by
Warning: Soap operas are habit-forming, and this is about the most addictive one ever filmed. Dark Shadows, the daytime serial which ran in the 1960s broke new ground to say the least. A vampire (Barnabas Collins) is released after a 170 year imprisonment to wreak havoc on his old stomping grounds. There's witchcraft, ghosts, romance, unrequited love, bodies buried in the cellar, duels to the death, werewolves....Any one of these elements is enough to build a story on. Put them all together and you've started a new religion. No wonder DS had such a dedicated cult following. Now it's back, released on DVD and unless I'm badly mistaken a whole new generation is out there getting hooked on this crazy show. The old B&W episodes are fun to watch and the restored color programs look better than ever.
This show is well worth restoring. One reason; never before or since have so many gorgeous actresses been gathered together in one place. For us guys that alone makes it worth a look. Lara Parker is stunningly beautiful as Angelique. Kathryn Leigh Scott (Maggie Evans) came to the series from Hugh Hefner's Playboy Club. Need I say more? Nancy Barrett (Carolyn) is a blonde bombshell in her own right. And we certainly can't leave out Alexandra Moltke (Victoria Winters) who on a good day tops them all. No wonder the plain-looking Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall) couldn't score with Barnabas. She had no chance against competition like that. And like any soap there are plenty of handsome hunks for the ladies to admire. David Selby, Roger Davis, Joel Crothers, and of course Jonathan Frid (Barnabas) to name a few.
Dark Shadows is remembered as being campy with lots of bloopers. You see overhead microphones, malfunctioning props, actors flubbing their lines. But this just adds to the fun. It was more like a stage play than a TV series. As a daily show with so many special effects they were in uncharted waters. They did well considering the technology available at the time. On a limited budget they even had to borrow equipment from other sets on occasion. As the star, Jonathan Frid was carrying a tremendous workload. He rarely got enough sleep so he was bound to flub now and then. Some days even without makeup he probably looked like one of the undead.
For those of us over 40 seeing these shows again is like going to a reunion. The DVD set includes interviews with the surviving and now much older actors, a sad reminder of how much time has passed. But life goes on and vampire tales are hot stuff right now. Youngsters who are seeing all this for the first time will laugh at the bloopers. But they'll keep coming back for more. Some of the bloopers are not really bloopers at all. They're just life the way it really happens. We all flub our lines and drop things in our daily lives. And when Quentin yanks that sword off the wall, unintentionally sending a few other items crashing to the floor, well that could just as easily have been part of the script. Indeed, it might have made the scene more intense. Dark Shadows is the most far-fetched soap opera ever made. But at the same time it's the most believable because the characters stammer, stumble, and bang their heads on low hanging objects just like we do. That's why we love them. And that's why we'll always love this show.
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