Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dark Shadows

Last weekend I was in the public library looking through the movie section when I found a DVD that I hadn't seen there before. It contained nine episodes of the original Dark Shadows serial, which showed most weekday afternoons from June 1966 until April 1971. As I looked over the cover, I saw that these original broadcasts were not listed in exact chronological order but rather, were carefully selected because of their uniqueness and significance to the overall story line. What a treat! I thought to myself, and I quickly checked out my exciting find and headed out the door with it. 

That evening I turned off the lights (something I like to do anyway) and jumped into the first episode, during which the vampire Barnabas Collins, recently released from the mausoleum by accident, shows up at Collinwood in order to introduce himself to the Collins family as a relative from England. From that point on, each subsequent episode provided me with some amazing insight into the nature of the program. I say amazing insight because although I've seen my share of the original broadcasts, I never fully grasped the beauty and complexity of the program's overall narrative. Maybe that's because I was younger at the time and didn't look into things as deeply as I do now. Also, I never did get to see most of the program's offerings. 

As I spread out my viewing of the nine episodes over the course of three or four nights, I came to realize just how totally Gothic the program truly was, and how many concepts were introduced throughout the serial's lifespan. Of course, Barnabas was likely the first vampire to stir the viewer's sympathy; a first in and of itself. Equally important however, is the fact the Dark Shadows also touched on such things as ghosts, possession, werewolves, time travel and even alternative realities. The Collins family, even when depicted in the so-called present, had a certain Victorian feel to it. Then again, when Barnabas and Doctor Hoffman, the one person who knows of his vampiric nature, travel back through time to the 1890's, the story actually transports the viewer to that time period. 

Not surprisingly, by the time that I had finished with the DVD I realized that I wanted to see more of this classic TV series; and I wanted to watch it in the right sequence. So, I've added several of the discs to my Netflix queue. I plan on starting with episode one and taking it from there. Since well over 1,000 episodes were produced, I can't say just how far I'm going to go with this, but it's going to be a lot of fun anyway.  




  1. I remember watching that series as a little kid (well, I should say I have an impression of watching it, since I really can't say I remember the episodes clearly, being that it was some years ago), and a couple of years back I bought the first set of dvd's in the series. I was excited to watch them, but when I finally did so, I was actually really rather bored. I would have to say it's really just because it is such a long and drawn out story, at least in the beginning...I didn't get too far because I just could not maintain any interest. I was pretty disappointed, because I really was looking forward to it.

    That being said and done, I would actually like to give it another try, if I could find the dvd with the nine episodes that you found. It sounds like they get down to business, so to speak and give the overall feeling of what the series represents. I wish you luck with trying to get through the series from the first show and onward, lol...maybe I just don't have the patience, and it will be a better experience for you. Anyways, If I do find the condensed version that you found, I will check that out. thanks for the post! :)

  2. I have to agree with you that the episodes moved slowly. Dark Shadows was, after all, a soap opera. They're designed to be slow in order to bring the viewer back again and again. Still, Dark Shadows was definitely Gothic and the writers really seemed to have a keen understanding of what that entailed.

  3. Oh yes of course they can't give you everything at once, since yes it is a soap opera and needs to be played out over time...but I found there just wasn't enough happening to make me want to come back to it. Mind you, as I said, those were just the first shows in the series, and perhaps the pace picked up, or more happened later in the series to keep it interesting. I believe part of the *problem* was how dated it was, as well, but yes,it definitely seems to exude a Gothic feel.

    Regardless of how I feel about the show, in terms of what I saw, I still love the original Barnabas Collins...divine!