Prelude to 1840 Storyline
E. Hornaday | Lawrenceville, NJ United States | 02/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This box set kicks off the last truly great story arc in the five years of this incredible series --- the best daytime drama ever made!
With only about 10 months left before Dark Shadows was cancelled in 1971, the writers returned to its roots with a fabulous story that featured plenty of supernatural twists and turns along with love, murder and madness!
Reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) and Dr. Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall) escaped parallel time but overshoot 1970 and end up in the Collinwood of 1995 --- which has been almost destroyed! The Great House is in ruins (it is actually heart wrenching to see the magnificent interior sets of Collinwood converted to rubble) and the majority of the proud Collins family are missing, young David Collins (David Henesy) is dead, and Carolyn (Nancy Barrett) and Quentin (David Selby) have gone mad. (Special kudos go to actress Barrett for her bravura performance as the aged and demented Carolyn.)
A sinister ghost who causes others to connect with the dark side lurking within them and who controls minds, took over the estate 25 years earlier, in 1970, and brought about its demise. The estate has remained uninhabited but violently haunted in the succeeding years.
A distraught Barnabas and Julia manage to get back to 1970 but they try in vain to avert the coming catastrophe, which does result in the death of David Collins as well as Hallie Stokes (Cathy Cody), the young niece of Professor Eliot Stokes (Thayer David)!
Eventually, they learn that the evil spirit, Gerard Stiles (James Storm), and the ghost of a kindly governess, Daphne Harridge, had lived in the Collinwood of 1840, so the duo manage to travel back to that era via Quentin's "stairway in time" to try to prevent Stiles from returning as an obsessed ghost more than a century later to destroy Collinwood and all of its inhabitants.
Special effects are terrific, including the "head" of Judas Zachary, which is possessed of evil, supernatural powers, Rose Cottage, and ghosts, ghosts, ghosts!
(The introductory story, captured on this boxed set, is similar to the introduction of Quentin Collins as a non-speaking, menacing spirit who threatens the young children of Collinwood, as well as the ghost of Governess Beth Chavez (Terri Crawford), who was a non-speaking, beckoning presence of good. In that story, Barnabas and Julia also travel back in time to unravel the mystery and save the children.)
Of special note: Daphne is portrayed by Kate Jackson in her first professional role. It is also the last time that the core ensemble repertory cast portrays their original characters, as the final story arc (which is a couple of boxed sets away) of the series has some cast changes and focuses on a different Collins family, not the Collins family lead into TV immortality by the fabulous Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Joan Bennet).
Let us hope that MPI Home Video makes good on its promise to release the pre-Barnabas episodes on DVD after the primary series has been released. These 200-plus episodes are wonderfully compelling and a must have for all Dark Shadows fans --- past, present and future!"
Dark Shadows gets its groove back
H. N. Dohe | My Sanctum Sanctorium | 02/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With the "Gerard Stiles" storyline, Dark Shadows finally got back on track after the disappointing "Parallel Time" arc. After leaving parallel time, vampire Barnabas Collins and Dr. Julia Hoffman find themselves in Collinwood in the year 1995. Most of the Collins Family is dead, except for Carolyn and Quentin, who are both insane, and Collinwood is in ruins. Professor Stokes is also alive, but of little help. One of the biggest nuisances in the Dark Shadows-verse was how much of the dialogue was "I can't tell you", or out and out withholding the truth to prolong the plot! It made you want to shake the character and say "SPIT IT OUT, Dagnabbit!!". Anyway, Barnabas and Julia are able to return to 1970 with a handful of clues that will foreshadow the disaster at Collinwood.
The plot is a bit similar to the "Quentin as a Ghost" one, with a malevolent spirit taking over the house's children as a means of taking over Collinwood. In fact, it makes one wonder why Quentin is so hard to convince that a catastrophe is brewing, when he did the exact same thing once as a ghost in the "1897" storyline. Gerard Stiles is the evil ghost this time out, and Daphne Harridge is his unwilling accomplice (a la Quentin and Beth Chavez from the 1897 arc). Despite their best efforts, Barnabas and Julia fail to save Collinwood, and have to resort to time travelling to stop Gerard (again like in the 1897 storyline).
The writers however, threw in quite a few twists along the way that really added to the story- the mystery of current time's Roxanne Drew (who was Barnabas's love interest in parallel time), the premature release of Barnabas from his coffin in 1840, and the warlock Judah Zachary being the one behind all the machinations. Throw in Angelique for good measure, and you're set for a nice story.
One drawback is that unfortunately a lot of the focus is on the kids- David Collins and Hallie Stokes- who are dull, dull, dull. Continuity is spotty- Quentin tells Elizabeth that the 1840 Quentin is his great grand uncle, which is true since Quentin originally lived in 1897, however Elizabeth doesn't know that he's the original Quentin from the turn of the century. So this uncle should have a few more "greats" in front of his name for a Quentin living in 1970, yet Elizabeth doesn't notice.
Kate Jackson makes her first professional appearance on TV, which led to her getting the role of Tracey Collins in the movie "Night of Dark Shadows". "Charlie's Angels" came her way about five years later, and the rest is history.
It's hard to believe that this show is over 30 years old now, and that Jonathan Frid is in his 80s! Maybe the reason the Dark Shadows revivals (2 so far) have not caught on is that you can't catch lightning in a bottle twice. There's a certain magic around the original Dark Shadows that's hard to re-capture.
So sit back in front of the fire, pour yourself a brandy, and pop in Dark Shadows's last great storyline. Wait, is that a bat outside the window? Do I hear the floorboards creaking?
C. S. Junker | Burien, WA USA | 02/09/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This volume of Dark Shadows takes us from the conclusion of the 1970 Parallel Time sequence to the beginning of the 1840 sequence. The style and pace of the earlier episodes is gone; once Barnabas and Julia return to 1970 the plot starts to drag.
Most of the episodes focus on the ghosts of Gerard and Daphne, and their plot to possess David and Hallie. This is basically a rerun of the original Quentin storyline that it wears thin quickly. Kathy Cody, who replaced Denise Nickerson as David's female counterpart, is a less able actress, and her dialogue is even worse. ("What's going to happen?? What??!!") These episodes feel padded and are livened only a trifle by the introduction of a new vampire who threatens Maggie ... itself a reprise of the early Barnabas episodes, although this time there's the mystery of the new vampire's identity.
I'm a few episodes into the next volume, in which the story goes back in time once more, this time to 1840. For me Dark Shadows has always worked best as a period piece, so I'm hoping that once we're back in time again things will pick up, with new characters and relationships.
I love the series, but sometimes the hammy acting and silly dialogue can be a bit cloying. This set of episodes took a little patience to get through."