Classic Television Review: Dark Shadows
I’m currently in a long distance relationship and one of the things we like to do is watch movies and television together. We’ve even perfected doing this across five states and a time zone, thanks to Netflix Boyfriend who has not acted jealous at all. Obviously I know how to pick ‘em! (OK, so the other night he got up and left the room, but he’s been mostly understanding.) We’ve watched several classic movies such as Chinatown and The Invisible Man (review hopefully to come soon, once I finish listening to the audio version of the book), but mostly I cuddle into my couch and we will watch one or two episodes of Dark Shadows in the evenings. We both come at the television show a little differently. While I’ve seen (and reviewed) the movie starring Johnny Depp that came out in 2012, Chris has not, so I have a better general knowledge of the story line than he does. However, I joined watching the television series partway into season 2 (after the vampire arrives) and so I don’t have a lot of detailed knowledge of the background and Chris does. But if you think about this show as a soap opera (which it totally was) you know I didn’t miss much of anything even in an entire season (and Chris catches me up on events and people as they reappear).
Dark Shadows was a daytime soap opera on ABC-TV which aired weekdays during the afternoon. With vampires, witches, worlocks, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures, it became a surprising phenomenon, lasting for five years before it was cancelled.
Primarily, Dark Shadows concerns the machinations of the Collins family, of which Barnabas Collins, a vampire, is a distant ancestor. They all live at a gothic estate called Collinswood, which is located in the town of Collinsport, a fishing village located in Maine. (Collinsport is not a real place, though it may have been inspired by another town in Maine called Bucksport, which had a rumored history of witchcraft and other things that go bump in the night.) The first episode sees New York City gal Victoria Winters heading by train on a dark and stormy night to Collinsport, for a governess job at Collinwood. Right away, spooky things are going on, an entire wing of the estate is closed, and people are arguing constantly. BUT, no ghosts, ghouls or vampires for a while. . . .
. . . . Initially not meant to be a reoccurring character, Barnabas Collins was introduced in episode 211. That’s right, 211 episodes into the show, the person we consider to be the main character finally arrived. The previous episode, 210, foreshadows what is about to happen by having Willie Loomis very interested in the portrait of the long-dead Barnabas, hanging up in Collinwood. Willie is a con artist hanging around Collinsport initially to attempt to blackmail Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, the matriarch of the family. Willie eventually digs up the coffin containing Barnabas at the end of episode 210, and starting with episode 211, the show would never be the same. (Incidentally, James Hall played Willie through episode 205, but then by John Karlen from episode 206 all the way through episode 1106. Weird, when one considers how pivotal the character was!)
After Barnabas Collins, a good deal of the storylines deal with him and his friendship with Victoria Winters, who in some ways is the other main character of Dark Shadows. . . .
Considered a cult classic Dark Shadows is a lot of fun to watch if you don’t mind campy melodramatic goth soap operas. Which I don’t. The characters are almost caricatures of themselves. Perhaps this is because the show’s producers and writers never knew what the heck was going on. I mean they created the main character a season into the show! I understand when a guest star appears and does well and so the writers and producers keep that character on the show (Spike for (another vampire) example), but the main character! That is a little unusual. Plus they decided to add ghosts and other supernatural elements after pitching and beginning production the show. What? This lack of forward thinking is obvious in the chaotic story line, which seems like it is flying by the seat of its pants. But Oh My God it is an awesome ride! Everything is just so over the top that I laugh through most of the episodes. Chris and I make fun of the characters and their dramatic speeches. It’s a great show to watch while making commentary, because nothing happens and all the characters get upset about it.
The other really fun thing we do is try to catch all the mistakes. These people do not do retakes. Not even when a boom mic drops into the camera’s view, or the camera person’s shadow shows, or some crew member walks across the background! The actors flub their melodramatic lines all the time and it is gloriously hilarious and entertaining. Honestly, I don’t even know what is happening most of the time, but it is great fun to watch. Plus I really enjoy Barnabas, he is quite the creepy scary vampire!
If you enjoy campy cult classics, like to find hidden Easter Eggs of hilarity, and scary vampires, try a couple of episodes of Dark Shadows. Only 22 minutes long, even if it’s not your thing you haven’t wasted much time.