Dark Shadows

I despise soap operas.?? Though a fascination for many Brits, I find them to be highly stereotypical, poorly written and acted and brain numbingly dire.?? But there is one soap opera that I hold in high regard.?? It premiered in America on July 27 1966, a product of the ABC television network.?? Initially a gothic drama, influenced classic literature such as Wuthering Heights, Dark Shadows became braver over time as it attempted to increase ratings by adding supernatural entities such as ghosts, a Pheonix and, most famously, a vampire.?? Created by Dan Curtis, who became known for his predilection towards making television programmes with a supernatural slant, such as my personal favourite television series Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Dark Shadows became a daytime television phenomenon attracting a large viewing audience and leading to two spin-off films: House of the Dark Shadows (Dan Curtis, 1970) and Night of the Dark Shadows (Dan Curtis, 1971).?? It is quite surprising to find that the series is little known in the UK.?? But this will no doubt change as Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have announced that their next feature will be a 'reboot' (I do dislike this term) of the popular television series, with Depp, a fan of the show while growing up, taking on the role of the sympathetic vampire Barnabas Collins.

The show was aired in the UK on the Sci-Fi Channel in 1995, two episodes were shown each weekday.?? Having read about the show in fan publications purchased from comic book shops I was eager to see what the fuss was about.?? I was surprised to find that the early episodes had nothing to do with the vampire Barnabas Collins, as I had been led to believe, but still found the show compelling.?? I had to dip in and out of the episodes due to school and then college but anticipated the first appearance of Barnabas Collins.?? I recall purchasing the magazine Cult Times in order to keep up to date with the episodes aired, waiting for this episode to air.?? When it finally did, I was pleased to find that it was not an anti-climatic experience, the infamous shot of Barnabas' hand shooting out the coffin and wrapping round Willie Loomis' throat caught me by surprise.?? The ensuing storyline of Barnabas stalking the town of Collinsport and subsequent kidnapping of waitress Maggie Evans who resembles his long lost love Josette Du Pres is extremely engaging.?? Future storylines featured Governess Victoria Winters travelling back to 1775 and being accused of Witchcraft, a Werewolf, a Frankenstein inspired storyline and constant time shifting between future, past and parallel time.?? Fans of the HBO show True Blood will see many similarities between the two shows, True Blood appearing to be heavily inspired by Dark Shadows right down to the to the melodramatic acting performances.?? I stopped watching sometime in the late 1990s, for no apparent reason, just after the show moved from black and white to colour.

In the mid noughties I began to purchase DVD sets of the series released in the US by MPI.?? Disappointingly, MPI decided to start the collection with Barnabas' arrival in Collingwood but they thankfully corrected this by releasing the early episodes in 2007 as Dark Shadows – The Beginning.?? The sets are very expensive so completing the set of 32 is a costly exercise.?? I have attempted to purchase secondhand sets where possible or take advantage of occasionally discounted box sets.?? I currently have sets one to twelve and all of six of The Beginning sets.?? I had made my way to set seven but have decided to start from the beginning; they are an excellent background accompaniment when working on my PhD and also perfect bed time viewing.?? I am now on disc three of set two of The Beginning and engrossed in the 'who killed Bill Malloy' storyline.??

Before the promotion machine starts on the Burton and Depp remake I recommend seeking out the original first.?? Yes, some may find it dated, camp and will giggle at the unintentional bloopers (this show was recorded live) but you cannot deny it's unique atmosphere.??

For further details on Dark Shadows see the Wikipedia entry for the show.

You can find the American Region 1 DVD sets for sale on eBay and on Amazon.com where the sets are currently reduced.??

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