Dark Shadows – the Barnabas Collins episodes

Metrodome have just released a DVD featuring twenty episodes of the cult daytime serials, Dark Shadows – the episodes in question are those featuring Barnabas Collins, the 175 year old guilt ridden vampire. This of course is to tie into Tim Burton’s latest movie which was based on this unusual series which is part soap opera, part horror story.

To be honest I was never aware of this gothic soap opera, but it had been massively popular in the US. Apparently the show started off as a run of the mill daytime serial and in fact there were no supernatural elements mentioned in the bible given to writers, but the show which was only a marginal success went supernova when ghosts were introduced into the storylines almost six months into its initial run. Barnabas Collins, the most famous character, didn’t come into the show until episode 2010 which was a full years into the show’s run – initially the character had been intended to have a brief run of 13 episodes but so popular did he become that he soon turned into the star of the show. When I say I wasn’t aware of the show that is not strictly true because I had heard of Barnabas Collins from reading the old monster magazines but I had never ever seen the show.

Watching the episodes here reminded me of Doctor Who from the same period – both shows share the shakey sets, and often bad acting but at the core there is some inventive storytelling, and of course this show was aired daily and produced at super sonic speed so some of the shakeyness both in acting and sets is to be expected. In fact working within the constraints of the live-to-tape format benefited the show as it resulted in  an unusually inventive use of costume, make-up and, in particular, special effects. The fact that  almost every scene done in one take actors often stumble over their lines and more than once a boom mike drifts into view.

Now this UK release featured only 20 episodes of a show that ran for more than a thousand episodes, but it does provide a great introduction to the show and although I’ve not seen any of the other episodes I am reliably informed that the episodes featured in this collection are among the best the series can offer. They are taken from the first introduction and storyline to feature the vampire with heart and because of this they are all in black and white.

The entire run of the show is available in the US and the UK getting the shows, depends on how this DVD sells – the DVD is basically a taster and it’s certainly whetted my appetite for more.

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