Governess Victoria Winters finds dysfunction and intrigue at the Collinwood estate; episodes 1-35.
Rating: (out of 43 reviews)
List Price: $ 59.98
Price: $ 31.99
Review by E. Hornaday for Dark Shadows: The Beginning, Collection 1
Dark Shadows-Beginning/Episodes 1-35
Old and new fans of the beloved Dark Shadows will finally be able to watch how it all began as MPI Home Video rolls out the first DVD Boxed Set of six of the series’ very first episodes. This first DVD boxed set includes the first 35 episodes of the series.
Special features include the original commericals from the first episode, and an interview with Alexandra Moltke Isles, who played Victoria Winters, and an original Dark Shadows promo.
Creator, the late Dan Curtis, literally dreamed the series. He dreamed about a young governess riding on a train en route to a dark, strange and brooding estate. Talking over his dream with his wife and family, Curtis decided to turn it into an incredible soap opera, and the rest is history.
Dark Shadows ran on ABC from 1966 to 1971 and enjoined an iconic fan following similar to Star Trek and Batman, which also both premeired in 1966. Dark Shadows fans continue to hold annual conventions, and many of the actors have formed real and enduring friendships with the fans they’ve seen each year.
On this DVD boxed set, the Collins Family of Collinsport, Maine, are introduced: Matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (portrayed by the legendary screen actress Joan Bennett), who hasn’t left her family’s great estate, Collinwood, in 18 years because of an enormoust secret; her brother, Roger Collins (played by the fantastic Louis Edmonds), who is vain, a snob and, like his sister, hiding a huge secret; Elizabeth’s daughter, Carolyn Stoddard (played wonderfully by Nancy Barrett), who is full of 1960s teen angst; Governess Victoria Winters (played by the aforementioned Alexandra Moltke Isles), a young woman who grew up in a New York foundly home and was unexpectedly and mysteriously offered her post as governess; and Roger’s son David Collins (played by David Henesey), who is BEYOND troubled.
Those who live in Collinsport are also introduced in this boxed set: Collinsport Inn Waitress Maggie Evans (played by Kathryn Leigh Scott), who is Vicki’s best friend; her artist father and troubled alcoholic, Sam Evans, (played by Mark Allen for seven episodes then the rest of the series by David Ford); successful businessman and Collins Family nemesis Burke Devlin (played to the hilt by Mitch Ryan), who was wrongly convicted to manslaughter and blames Roger Collins; and Collins Plant Manager Bill Malloy (played by Frank Schofield).
The series began as a gothic romance, which this first boxed set portends. But, ratings were poor and the series faced cancellation after only about six months. Dan Curtis has said that he was forced to do something drastic to try and save the show, and drastic he did: he made the series revolve around the supernatural, so he introduced a ghost.
Mr. Curtis said that every time he introduced another supernatural element he was surprized to find that ratings increased markedly, so he decided that he had nothing to lose, since the series was still facing cancellation, and went all the way — throwing a vampire into the mix in 1967!
The vampire, Barnabas Collins, was played to perfection by classically trained actor Jonathan Frid. The vampire was only to have been a temporary character that would be killed off following a reign of utter terror, but Frid’s compelling characterization of a “sensative” and remorseful Barnabas was a revelation. Ratings soared, the series was saved, and Frid became an international superstar virtually overnight.
While casual viewers are very familiar with Barnabas, many are unaware that there were wonderful episodes that preceded him. It is truly incredible to be able to watch the progression of the series in these early episodes.
The gothic elements depicted in the episodes in this boxed set remain very entertaining, long before the supernatural plots began.
The core brilliance of what has made this daytime series endure for more than 40 years (and be the only daytime drama to be released on VHS and DVD) is the real emotions and life themes it dealt with: Love, death, fear, longing, revenge, obsession, lies, secrets, loyalty and betrayal.
What made it unique among all daytime dramas is that those themes were played out against a compelling backdrop of Gothic sensibilities that eventually included the 175-year-old guilt-ridden and love-lorn vampire, seances, time travel, ghosts, mystery, murder, intrigue and a constant dose of the unexpected.
This “soap opera” managed to transcend its genre by bringing a taste of Gothic horror and science-fiction fantasy to the hum-drum world of the afternoon drama.
But, it was the stellar repertoire cast that made it all work, because they played it straight, and gave some of the most incredible performances ever captured in daytime, and did so under the pressure of the series being virtually produced live!
The series has too many memorable moments to mention. For me, I still remember the beginning voiceover by Alexandra Moltke Isles of the very first episode, released on this set for the first time on DVD:
“My name is Victoria Winters. My journey is just beginning. A journey that I hope will open the doors of life to me, and link my past with my future … A journey that will bring me to a strange and dark place, to the edge of the sea, high atop Widow’s Hill to a place called Collinwood … A world I’ve never known, with people I’ve never met. People who are still only shadows in my mind, but who will soon fill the days and nights of my tomorrows.”
Review by Music Fan-atic for Dark Shadows: The Beginning, Collection 1
The immortal words that began a legacy of fandom for one of the most bizarre, much-loved ground-breaking gothic soap operas ever made….it became most known for one of the first horror/fantasy series to introduce the idea of a guilt-ridden vampire, a tragic hero that broke ground for those who followed…like the popular Angel character in the Buffy series.
Herein lies the more maligned, first year of the soap which was only in its barest means, a gothic soap made in the image of Jane Eyre….volume one begins with the first 35 episodes or seven weeks of the show, beginning with the arrival of young orphan cum governess in Collinsport, a strange Maine coastal town headed by the bizarre, dysfunctional wealthy Collins family. She has been commissioned to work at the ancestral home, Collinwood, as governess to the emotionally troubled ten year old, David Collins(played by David Henesy) by matriarch, Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard (played by Hollywood veteran actress, Joan Bennett)to benefit her alcoholic brother, Roger (played wonderfully by over-the-top actor, Louis Edmonds) Victoria (Alexandra Moltke)is also to be companion to Elizabeth’s wild teenage daughter, Carolyn (Nancy Barrett)…..these people bring a whole new meaning to skeletons in the closet! Other noteworthy characters to the cast are coffee shop waitress, Maggie Evans (the beautiful Kathryn Leigh Scott), Carolyn’s boyfriend, Joe Haskell (Joel Crothers) and Sam Evans (David Ford) Subplots include the return of once falsely accused Burke Devlin (Mitch Ryan) who insists Roger Collins committed the manslaughter and the nearly psychotic episodes of the more than troubled young David Collins. Although many dismissed this early year as pointless drivel, many die-hard fans (I count myself as one!) were rabid for these early installments….there are strong character developments here and good acting….although production values are sometimes strained, lines forgotten, sets falling apart, this is an enduring classic of gothic suspense. The early episodes are a bit drawn out but I believe the stotylines that preceed the eventual addition of Dracula-like family member Barnabas Collins are a must have for all committed fans of the far-out fantasy soap…..with the fantasic prices Amazon has been shelling out on these, snatch them up now!!!
Review by Silence for Dark Shadows: The Beginning, Collection 1
. . . in which I love thee. I am enjoying the holy hell out of this 1st collection. The very concept of a gothic soap opera is too good to be believed, but this is indeed a very precious gift from TV land, even with all faults considered. Because it is a soap opera first, which means character development is less than subtle and the most banal concepts are often regurgitated. But you will learn to appreciate it for what it is, and please consider the way in which this material was originally delivered (5 days a week for the season), not the way I choose to view it (in marathon sessions). No doubt, these film and theater actors struggled on a daily basis with live taping of scripts for which there was minimal preparation or rehearsal. There are many acting and production gaffes, but that just adds to the charm. What keeps me so attached is the personal charisma of the principals. Long after you’ve grown weary of the big deal about Burke Devlin you’ll still get a kick out of Mitchell Ryan’s portrayal. You might also lose yourself madly in the brunette tresses and innocence that is Victoria Winters. The opening voiceovers range from dark campy goodness to the profound, and who can live without the crashing waves and eerie music that complement the title sequence? With almost 1200 episodes to go (this set covers 1 – 35), I can see this will be a moderately expensive but infinitely pleasurable love affair. I just wish they’d get around to releasing House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows on DVD.
Review by Paul Allen for Dark Shadows: The Beginning, Collection 1
In reference to the above review MPI could charge 100.00 for the series in each set and I would still buy it, it is simply an all time classic show and I remember running home from school, (screaming even at the top of my lungs) in to the living room, turning down the lights and throwing a blanket over my head when the show came on at 3 p.m. in Dallas. I have all 26 volumes and am buying what MPI is sending thru the mail on the pre Barnabas episoes. Before I become a ghost myself I am going up to Rhode Island and take a tour of Collinwood to see it for my self. Barnabas, (I felt so sorry for him despite what he did to Maggie Evans, keeping her as a prisoner in the basement of the Old House and trying to turn her into Josette Dupree) the evil witch Angelique who almost destroyed the entire Collins family in the year 1795, Elizabeth, Ben Stokes,the Evil “Rev” Trask who definatly deserved what he got in punishment and by the it way was so richly deserved, (It was not pretty in case you are wondering) Maggie Evans, David, Willie, Doctor Julia Hoffman, Jeff Clark who really is Peter Bradford, Roger, Carolyn, the ghosts of Jeremiah and Sarah Collins and Joset Dupre who threw her self off of Widows Hill, the Dream Curse and the secret room at Eagle Hill Cementary, time travel, the celler room in the Old house on the “great estate of Collinwood” where so much tradegy and grief took place ( I for one was glad to see Abigal Collins come to an “untimley” end there after what she put poor Victoria Winters thru, the Blue Whale in the town of Collinsport Doctor Eric Lang’s Lab where he was “working on something” in the basement and of course Quentin and the demonic Nicolas Blair, how can I ever forget them……….
Review by S. Shrader for Dark Shadows: The Beginning, Collection 1
I am so glad MPI finally came out with the first episodes of Dark Shadows. I started liking Dark Shadows when I was around 10 years old; mom and I used to watch it during the summer months when school was out.
Dark Shadows, The Beginning, contains episodes 1-35 (June 27, 1966 – August 12, 1966) on 4 discs. I agree with some of the other reviewers that the chapter menus are a little amateur but so what, I wouldn’t let that stop you from buying this box set. How much animation do you really need in selecting an episode? It was also a good bit cheaper than the previous box sets of Dark Shadows episodes that I have bought which was nice for a change.
These first episodes include Victoria’s arrival at Collinwood and her interactions with the odd family members (especially creepy and annoying little David) and locals, and Burke Devlin’s return to Collinsport (which stirs up old problems between Sam Evans, Roger Collins, and Burke).
It seems that MPI has done a nice job of cleaning up the old footage (although nothing can be done about the odd lighting choices and poor camera work…but that is part of the charm of Dark Shadows). It is also nice to see interviews with Alexandra Moltke (Victoria Winters) since she is the main focus of these first episodes. I also like the Dark Shadows promo and episode 1 with original commercials.
If you are a Dark Shadows fan this is a must have. Enjoy!