Posted: 06/08/2005


Dark Shadows DVD Collection – Volume 18

by Kristin Schrader

Available from MPI Home Video.

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“Jennifer. You can’t marry him, he belongs to another!” “Brent? Tell Madeline who her father really is.” “Caroline will never make it in this town. Never!” That’s the sort of stuff one expects from their daily soap opera, and Dark Shadows delivers drama of that variety, and so much more.

Dark Shadows is the story of a family in Collinsport, a fictional New England town, replete with crusty old sailors and shades of the Salem trials. It could be any soap opera town, and in fact any soap opera, but there’s a reason these shadows are so dark. The supernatural is front and center in this unabashedly unusual soap.

What makes Dark Shadows interesting besides the vampires and the time travel is where it arrived in the American television landscape. While viewers tuned in to Bonanza and The Wild, Wild West, a supernatural soap appeared to shake things up a little. Along with the typical lost fathers and missing husbands, an evil presence loomed. As the series progressed through a ghost or two the vampire was introduced, and then there was, well… time travel of course! Characters dip in and out of the present like nagging questions, unable to be stilled by anything as trivial as hundreds of years. They’ve got business to attend to! Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is a soap! No piddling affairs here. Actually that’s not true. There are affairs and all the traditional breast-heaving and fevered scheming, but with the trappings of other times and other places.

Dark Shadows started slow and became pretty darn popular. When you watch the DVDs its hard not to want the action to move faster. This set includes forty episodes and it hasn’t moved as far as my car in morning traffic. Don’t lose sight of the context, though. This was a show that was taped live, episode after daily episode, and it was well performed and utterly ambitious. Once you give into the story line, and it is a heck of a storyline, you’ll adapt to the pace. This DVD set includes interviews with the original actors, and it is really charming to hear how proud they are about their progressive and creative work. They have every right to be. A daily drama so complex and unusual was a real standout in its time, and it continues to satisfy today.

Kristin Schrader is a film critic living in the civilized part of Ann Arbor.

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