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"Dark Shadows: Revival The complete Series"
Reviewed by: Daniel Moir
Genre: Horror
Video: Anamorphic Wide screen 1:78:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
Languages English
Subtitles English
Length 592 Minutes (3 Disc box set)
Rating NR
Release Date 10/18/05
Studio Anchor Bay
Commentary: None
Documentaries: None
Featurettes: None
Filmography/Biography: None
Interviews: None
Trailers/TV Spots: Trailer for "Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital"
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: None
Music Video: None
Other: None
Cast and Crew:

Ben Cross, Joanna Going, Jean Simmons, Roy Thinnes, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Barbara Steele, Stefan Gierasch, Lysette Anthony, Jim Fyfe, Julianna McCarthy, Michael Cavanaugh, Michael T. Weiss, Ely Pouget, Veronica Lauren, Barbara Blackburn

Written By: Assorted
Produced By: Assorted
Directed By: Rob Bowman
Music: NA
The Review:

In 1991 my parents rudely woke us from our slumber, excited to announce that there was a show about to be aired that they wanted to watch as a family. Fearing that I was about to suffer badly I was reluctant at first, but when the title "Dark Shadows" appeared on the screen the spooky atmosphere of the mansion in the background hooked me right there. I joined with my family in watching the revival series religiously, and was sorely disappointed when it was cancelled after a mere twelve episodes.

My family and I talked for years about how sad it truly was that the story was never completed. My parents then told me about the original series, and so I hunted a few episodes of that down only to feel disappointed, as the original series seems cheesy by today's standards.

Time passed, but I never forgot the tragic tale of Barnabus Collins that, for my generation, was never completed. My memories of the series sadly faded. Oddly, even when Joseph Gordon-Levitt picked up the role of Tommy Solomon I never once realized he was the creepy little boy David on Dark Shadows. Needless to say more than a decade later when my wife and I were shopping at Best Buy last month saw this and immediately picked up two, one for my wife and I, the other as a present for my mother and father (shh! Don't tell.)

We've been picking up a lot of old TV shows lately to see how they hold up. We've found that many of the shows my wife and I enjoyed as children are now painful to watch. With great trepidation I put Dark Shadows into my Xbox (which is our DVD player) and to my great surprise, and relief, this show remains as phenomenal as it was when I first saw it in 1991.

The story is a retelling of the classic Dark Shadows saga of Barnabus Collins, and his arrival at the seemingly cursed Collinwood. Victoria Winters is brought in to serve as the governess for the creepy David, who seems to be haunted by the ghost of a little girl named Sara (who is Barnabus' little sister, long dead.) Soon, one of the grounds servants (the not so bright Willy) accidentally unleashes that long buried and chained vampire while looking for treasure.

Having been in torpor (a vampiric equivalent to near death, or a coma) for a couple centuries Barnabus immediately goes on a feeding frenzy, leaving a few injured and some dead. This is brilliantly handled from a first person perspective, rarely tried, and rarely successful, but here it works very well and adds a great deal to an otherwise slow paced premier.

Soon after Barnabus regains his composure and presents himself to the residents of his former family home Collinwood. You don't actually see Barnabus himself until they remark about his uncanny resemblance to a portrait in the hall of him. Naturally he claims to be a descendant of the man in the portrait, rather than the man himself.

As the story unfolds he makes a ghoul of Willy (Daytime guardian of the vampire) and begins perusing a relationship with Victoria Winters who bares an uncanny resemblance to Barnabus' love in the old days Josette. Meanwhile his vampiric need for blood causes him to attack people around Collinsport, attracting the attention of the authorities. Many people are on to him, but never quite get the evidence they need.

Barnabus then hooks up with a Dr. who claims that she may be able to cure him, they are unsuccessful in the endeavor, and worse yet, Barnabus' ancient nemeses returns to haunt him once more.

 

Desperate to learn the truth of what is going on around their home the Collins family hosts a séance hoping to commune with the spirit of Sara Collins. During this event Victoria Winters is thrown backward in time where she must solve the mystery behind the curse of the Collins family.

The acting is phenomenal, the cinematography is very interesting, though some of the special effects are a bit dated, (granted not as dated as the original series.) But the best part is that despite these flaws the story manages to grip its audience and scare as well. Though I didn't want to stop watching my wife got so frightened she limited us to one episode a night, and then insisted on having a night light after that. Granted I'm so used to horror that I didn't get that scared, but I definitely felt as hooked on this show as an adult ten plus years after the show originally aired as I did as an eleven year old, just getting into horror stories.

This is definitely one of those rare vampire epics done right. It's a true tragedy that it was ended after only twelve episodes. The biggest travesty the network axe swing did to the audience was cutting this show off just as it had become completely irresistible, just after the mystery had been solved, and yet there was still a major confrontation that needed to take place. The series also had a number of loose plot threads that were never woven together, in short the series ended leaving you hanging terribly. The lack of resolution for this story would be the only reason I would recommend against this box set, it's really the only bad thing I have to say about the show, which otherwise, was absolutely brilliant. TV is in dire need of shows like this. It's a shame that it's far too late to revive this revival, as everyone has gotten too old to reprise their roles. Having this set on DVD serves to remind my family just what a tragedy TV really suffered having this show cut off early.

Naturally there will be a temptation to compare this series to the original. Although some plots may be similar the two are like night and day. The revival focuses more so on Barnabus Collins, and has a more refined, but to the point story than the original, and sadly the original does have a lot more going for it by way of nostalgia. Having not grown up with the original series I have to confess I don't like it. I did however; love the revival… as for my parents who did grow up with the original? Well they prefer the revival too, simply because the overall production value was higher, the acting was better, and the story more focused on Barnabus, who was their favorite character from the original series anyway. Certainly it would be nice if this box set has tremendous success on DVD. Perhaps, if it does well, it will make the network realize the severity of their error. ---

Image and Sound:

Most of the film has been cropped to fit a wide screen TV at a 1:79:1 anamorphic aspect ratio. The opening segments after the 2 hour premier are not cropped. While some may complain that this cuts into the original presentation one will hardly notice the missing picture which likely would have been lost due to TV screen over scan anyway. It's also nice to be able to see an older TV show fit my screen perfectly, I wish greatly that other shows I have would have been similarly cropped, in terms of ratio, this show looks great. The film print itself has been cleaned up some to mixed results. Some shots are extremely sharp, while others still host a great deal of grain, and aliasing, as well as edge enhancement. It's not the cleanest picture, but it's certainly better than early seasons of Deep Space Nine where there was grain all over, and even frame rate issues.

The audio on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired. Its only sound options aside from regular sound, is Dolby Digital 2.0, and it doesn't even really take advantage of that, though this may be the fault of the production's age. Though the picture was enhanced the sound really didn't get much that I noticed, in fact the volume had to be cranked up a little bit more than other shows I watch on my set up. Nevertheless, what's there is certainly well used within the production itself, atmospherically speaking… ---

The Extras:

Sadly the only extra is a creepy trailer for the forthcoming Kingdom Hospital miniseries on DVD. There's a lot of history in Dark Shadows, they could have benefited from commentaries, and a especially piece about the differences between old Dark Shadows and this revival, and what went wrong that the series got killed so early, as well as information about what the future of Dark Shadows is. I happen to know that they filmed a pilot for a new Dark Shadows series for the WB, but it was shot down. Perhaps that pilot could have been included here to generate renewed interest in the epic tale of Barnabus Collins. I'm not sure why this disk was bare bones, but there remain numerous unanswered questions, and it's truly a shame that Anchor Bay didn't organize any special features at all.

Commentary: None
Final Words:

It's such a great tale that it's a must own for any vampire fan, or dark romance fan. But at the same time, the lack of supplementary features, and the sudden and abrupt ending to the series hurt the story very bad, there's no other way around it, the ending left no closure and is therefore bad. Nevertheless that can be blamed on the network, not on the production itself. Unless you're die-hard anti-revival Original Dark Shadows fan there's really no reason not to pick this one up. Doing so may encourage networks to consider the grievous error that was made in terminating the series so abruptly, and could give ground for a new Dark Shadows series to appear. I do hope, however, for a supplemental disk in the future that will address the many unanswered questions this series left, including the original plans for a proper ending, as well as the history behind the show itself. Box sets like this are never complete without those features.

 

 
 
 
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