Dark Shadows Specials Feed your Need
By Kristin Battestella
It’s inevitable. Every Fall I get that hankering for a good old marathon of the classics sixties gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. Now mind you, I prefer the latter half of the series, and only have from the Quentin Collins introduction to the end of the series on tape. Even if that’s the case, this lingering Halloween temptation still gives me thirty-five VHS to watch! Who has that kind of time? Fortunately, a Dark Shadows fix can be quelled with several video specials: Dark Shadows Scariest Moments, Dark Shadows: The Special Edition, and The Dark Shadows Reunion.
Like Dark Shadows: Bloopers and Treasures, the Dark Shadows Special Edition serves up several wonderful documentaries, commercials, treats, and more. The hour-long Behind the Scenes segment contains rare early footage, photos, and outtakes to go along with the dozens of interviews from the cast and crew. It’s a little dated and very late eighties in style, but it’s great to hear the set anecdotes and see some of the actors who have since passed on. Tribute is also paid to the then departed as well; and I have to say, the subtitles are also glorious!
The next hour length documentary called ‘Nightmares and Dreams’ showcases all those bizarre dream scenes Dark Shadows fans know and love. Some of its old and looks slow and dated, but it’s so great to see these commercials and other rarities have survived on DVD-especially the very bizarre Spanish dubbed episode. The On location segment shares some very old footage; but is still intriguing, as is the Inside the Shadows feature about the casting of Jonathan Frid and the vampire mythos. Non-fans or viewers not interested in vintage gothic film making might find all this boring. The Dark Shadows enthusiast, however, is in for plenty of spooky delights. I mean, the Barnabas Collins Board Game-need I say more?
The Dark Shadows Reunion is a two-hour plus disc capturing a special cast reunion from 2000. Previously on tape as the ‘35th Anniversary Celebration’, creator Dan Curtis and most of the original cast reunite to share clips, memories, and the cultural impact of this spooky soap. Highlights include a segment from the very first episode among other early clips, a lengthy reel of key scenes from the series, and a Q&A from the audience. The format is a little long in the tooth (hehe, no pun intended!), but again it’s a treat to see some of the late cast sharing stories of the behind the scenes craziness and fun.
Of course, all this is very dry and flat to the non-fan, but old time Dark Shadows convention goers can cherish this fanfare. Bonus features on the set include interviews with the late Joan Bennett and the absent Jonathan Frid-in addition to more commercials and promos. However, there are no subtitles here, and not everyone is present at the reunion. Understandable, of course, but critical players like Frid and David Henesy would have been a hard-core fan’s delight.
The half hour Dark Shadows Scariest Moments is a quick, creepy fix highlighting some of the series’ most memorable moments, from the original Phoenix storyline line right up to the final 1841 Parallel time episodes. Though not all of the pro-offered material can be deemed truly scary, it’s fun to recall some of the show’s unique and iconic scenes. Where else on daytime television are people buried alive or plagued by a truly horrendous dream curse? The editing and pacing is a little slow and uneven, sometimes taking quiet a long time to get to the big scare, but that was the style of the show, too. Thankfully, the music goes a long way in the Dark Shadows mood and atmosphere. When we hear those familiar themes by Bob Cobert, we know what’s in store.
Dark Shadows Scariest Moments, however, is not an introduction piece. It jumps from character to storyline, the past and parallel time. You really have to know who is who and appreciate the series for this spooky, gothic video to have its full effect. I’ve always thought the later Gerard Stiles and Head of Judah Zachary storylines were freaky and frightful, but there’s pieces here of everything Dark Shadows has to offer. Of course, it’s also fun to look for some bloopers in these spookies, too.
Fortunately, I have Dark Shadows Scariest Moments on VHS, but it appears it’s never been available on DVD. In a new effort to appease audiences, MPI appears to be releasing several more compilation and highlight DVDS- including Dark Shadows: the Curse of the Vampire and Dark Shadows: The Haunting of Collinwood. These new sets look to be nice refreshers on Barnabas’ introduction and Quentin’s haunting, respectively. While these don’t appear on Netflix just yet, the season sets are all available for rent. The 1991 Revival series is viewable online as well. The feature film House of Dark Shadows is also available at Amazon’s video on demand for a quick fix. Dark Shadows Scariest Moments advertises The Best of Barnabas and the Best of Dark Shadows tapes, but who knows if these can still be found. Unfortunately, the second full-length film Night of Dark Shadows has also not seen the light of DVD’s day.
If you don’t have the time to invest in a full on Dark Shadows viewing devotion, or if you’re short on cash to buy the season sets, Dark Shadows Scariest Moments, The Dark Shadows Special Edition, and The Dark Shadows Reunion can curb your Collinwood urges-until next October, that is!