Nearly a year ago, I posted here about my discovery of a DVD containing several episodes of the 60s Gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows. At the time, I pointed out that it was my intention to watch every episode--a tall order indeed!
Last night I watched episode 140. First of all, I've got to say that viewing the original soap opera suits me as I consider it the perfect ending to my day. The program doesn't require me to sit for 90 minutes or more, as most full-length films do, and I spend less time in front of the screen than I do when watching True Blood or the non Gothic Boardwalk Empire, which I also seem addicted to. Each episode is only about 23 minutes long. Perfect! It's not showing at my house every night and sometimes I let several evenings pass without watching; but like a good book, it helps put me into a comfortable frame of mind. Although there's little mention of the supernatural in the series' early episodes, the overall feel remains very Gothic; and I love it!
"My name is Victoria Winters. A strange, unexplainable terror has crept into the heart of someone at Collinwood. A feeling of love that should draw people together has driven one away--to the edge of the precipice!"
The opening scene of Episode 140 opens, as nearly all of the previous episodes have; with a view of the Collinwood Mansion standing alone in the darkness while the voice of Victoria Winters brings the viewer up to date. What was the terror that Ms. Winters was talking about? Well, please allow me to back up a little bit first.
The program's first airing began with the orphan, Victoria Winters, on a train headed for Collinsport, Maine where she has been offered a job, under somewhat mysterious circumstances, as a governess at Collinwood Mansion for a boy named David. Headed for the same destination is a man named Burke Devlin, who the viewer eventually learns is back in town to get revenge for his unjust manslaughter conviction--a conviction that cost him several years in prison.
As the series unfolds, Devland is hell bent on proving once and for all that Roger Collins was responsible for the accidental death that caused him years of his life. For the most part, the plot centers around this central theme; and although there has been the occasional mentioning of ghosts, they really don't manifest much until around episode 120, during which the family's former grounds keeper, a simpleton named Matthew, is holding Victoria Winters prisoner inside a secret room in the Old House. This is where the ghosts of Josette (more about her is revealed much further into the series), the murdered Bill Malloy and other discarnate spirits manifest themselves in order to keep Matthew from carrying out his threat to kill Victoria. After her rescue, the two apparitions and their accomplices are seen outside the Old House, perhaps rejoicing in their accomplishment.
After this first brush with the supernatural a strange woman shows up in town. Both the Collins family and Burke Devland learn that she is Laura Collins, Roger's wife who has returned for her son David, a child accused of having too vivid an imagination but who apparently, is sensitive to other worldly entities and events. She is the terror that has struck into the heart of young David. He really doesn't know why she frightens him but he knows that there's something odd about her. The adults in the family know however, that she's just been reported dead out in California. Hmm...things are getting interesting I'd say.
Over the course of the first 140 episodes, Dark Shadows has progressed from being a series concerned primarily with human conflict, to one where brushes with the macabre are becoming more common. I know that events leading to the resurrection of vampire Barnabas Collins are still some 60 or so more episodes away. Still, the program's main storyline continues to evolve and soap opera or not, it's great fun watching it all unfold. I'm l40 chapters in, and it just keeps getting better and better.