Dark Shadows: The Revial Series, a 1991 12-episode primetime remake of the 1966-1971 classic daytime gothic soap opera of the same name, deserves this full DVD release and I applaude MPI for providing it.
Previously available from MPI on video only, it is a great move to provide it on DVD, as loyal Dark Shadows fans of both shows are eager for the release of all Dark Shadows material on DVD, as well as new fans just discovering the haunting original series or this revival.
I grew up on the original when it was in its first run and cherish it to this day, having snapped up every DVD release. I do not love the remake, but I like it, and believe that others, as one reviewer has already stated, may prefer its handling of the material.
Dark Shadows was created by Dan Curtis who also wrote and produced the revival series. Like the original, Curtis selected a stellar cast to bring his show “back to life” but with 1990 sensibilities.
The original cast is among my favorite for ANY TV series including the brilliant Jonathan Frid as the guilt-ridden, 175-year-old Barnabas Collins.
The original show aired more than 220 episodes and was on the verge of cancellation when the character of Barnabas was introduced. Originally written to be a transient villian only, Frid’s haunting portrayal of the sensistive and eventually compassionate and all too-human immortal, saved the show and kept Frid busy for the rest of the series.
While Barnabas was one key to the show, another was the ensemble nature of the series, which revolved around the Collins family and friends in the present, past and future. The classic movie actress Joan Bennett brought Elizabeth Collins Stoddard to life, and Louis Edmonds did the same for her character’s brother, Roger Collins.
Like the original series, the revival cast a great actor, Ben Cross (best known for his amazing performance in Chariots of Fire), to resurrect Barnabas, and another classic movie and TV actress, Jean Simmons, to portray Elizabeth. Noted soap opera and TV actor Roy Thinnes (star of the cult sensation The Invaders) is Roger in the revivial show.
Focusing on the newly hired governess of Collinwood, (located in Collinsport, Maine) Victoria Winters (portrayed flawlessly in the orginal series by Alexandra Moltke and in a good performance by Joanna Going in the revival), the revival series introduces the main characters through her eyes as well as the mysterious mansion, and the Old House, where Barnabas returns to live.
Ghosts, seances, vampires, witches, love, death, and the meaning of life are only a few of the unusual topics both series explored. Unfortunately, the revival series was put to rest after only 12 episodes. It would have been great to see how the cast explored their roles and if they were ever able to separate themselves from their better-known characters’ forerunners.
Like the original series, the secret of Barnabas Collins is unknown to the family, but is fiercely protected by Dr. Julia Hoffman, who finds out he is a creature of the night, then falls hopelessly in love with him. The original series was blessed with the unmatched acting talent of the magnificent Grayson Hall for this pivotal role, while the revival series relied on Barbara Steele to play the unrequited character, and who portrayed the character in a much darker fashion.
Simmons’ portrayal has a harder edge and is less sympathetic than the portrayal by Bennett, who brought an unmatched warmth and magnetism to Elizabeth, and for me, Cross overplays his role and is unable to bring the depth of feeling that Frid conveyed, and is therefore much less compelling.
Nonetheless, many of the elements that made Dark Shadows a soap opera classic remain making the revival series well worth revisiting.
Look for Michael T. Weiss who had just left the soap Days of Our Lives to play Joe Haskell. He would later become a cult star in his own right for his lead portrayal in The Pretender. Also look for a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt who reprises the role of David Collins, and would later become a household name as a regular on Third Rock From the Sun.
Now, if MPI would only understand that a huge audience remains for the first 220+ episodes of the original series that aired before Barnabas’ chained coffin was discovered that fateful night by Willie Loomis! Let’s hope they get the message and finally release those on DVD!
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With all due respect to Mr. Pregosin, I’d say that the revival series is definitely worth watching, and some fans, including myself, even prefer it to the original. I couldn’t be more thrilled that it’s finally being released on DVD!
I was 18 when the 1991 series began, and about 20 minutes into the 2-hour premiere episode, I was hooked. I recorded each episode, cut out every article and review I found in local newspapers, and started reading up on the original series. And when it looked like the 1991 version was near cancellation, I (as well as many others) sent letters to NBC asking for its renewal. Unfortunately, the letter writing campaign was unsuccessful, and the show was laid to rest far too soon.
The early death of the series didn’t kill my interest in Dark Shadows however, and I ate up every little morsel of DS:91 memorabilia, such as the Innovation comic books, Jim Pierson’s ‘Dark Shadows Resurrected’ book (which is still available through amazon.com, and would make a nice companion guide for anyone purchasing this DVD set), and various other items.
I’ve also since gone back and watched the two Dark Shadows theatrical films and many episodes of the 1960s daytime drama. I can easily see why the original version has sustained such a large cult following, and I enjoyed it immensely. However, I still prefer the revival series, which I realize turned off a number of the original fans, because it skipped over so many plot-points and consolidated several characters. In my opinion though, the faster pacing and more succinct storytelling was important in order to properly transition the stories to the once-weekly primetime format.
My mother had watched the original series and has told me how her and her sisters (and friends) would run home from school so they wouldn’t miss it. Even she loved the 1991 version (especially Ben Cross).
I’d venture to say that the revival series is the best way for interested new viewers to dip their toes into the Dark Shadows saga, and hopefully they’ll emerge with an interest in and appreciation for the original series, too, just as I did.
If you don’t like your TV shows cut/edited, you should read further before you buy
[...] the original square 4:3 image will be CROPPED (or matted) to a “fake” widescreen ratio! That means that those buying the DVD set will be seeing LESS image than on the original broadcasts, just like the botched-up first season set of “Kung Fu.”
MGM does not deserve our money if they’re going to monkey around with a TV show’s aspect ratio. This series was NOT shot “widescreen safe”: some production personnel on the series have confirmed that the series was shot in 4:3 and was intended ONLY for 4:3 and are NOT happy with MGM’s decision to use a cropped widescreen master for the DVD set.
Five stars for the episodes themselves, only one star for this DVD set due to the cropped aspect ratio and lack of extras.