Fans of the Classic TV show Dark Shadows have wrung their hands in anxiety, held seancés, looked into crystal balls and read tarot cards to divine when - or if - the next DVD release of their favorite gothic soap opera would EVER be released, but mainly they've just plain waited and waited and WAITED. In fact, they've waited for these DVD episodes longer than the beloved series aired - and now it's finally come true.
MPI Home Video began releasing Dark Shadows episodes onto DVD on May 28, 2002, with its first boxed set of 40 episodes, which began about a year after the series debuted and included the fabled first appearance of 175-year-old vampire, Barnabas Collins, impeccably portrayed by Jonathan Frid.
Now, more than six years later, Dark Shadows: The Beginning, Vol. 6, collects the remaining black and white episodes to be released on DVD, truly coming full circle, as it ends with the fully-restored and remastered episode of the fabled first appearance of 175-year-old vampire Barnabas Collins!
In total, all 1225 episodes from the iconic horror series (which premiered on ABC June 27, 1966, and aired episodes until April 2, 1971) are now available on DVD. Whew!
When MPI began releasing episodes on DVD, they had not decided if they would release ALL of them or certainly the pre-Barnabas episodes, because they tended to be less popular than those after the arrival of everyone's favorite Creature of the Night. In the end, they decided to release everything, calling the pre-Barnabas episodes "The Beginning" series, of which this is the final of six sets.
MPI should be genuinely congratulated for its unwavering commitment in releasing the entire catalog of Dark Shadows episodes onto DVD. Few studios show that kind of dedication to fans, plainly evident by the large number of Classic TV shows that have been dropped after only a couple of DVD season releases, or even dropped in mid-season. Imagine a studio committing to release 1225 episodes of ANYTHING onto DVD, much less a cult TV series from the 1960s. Also, we fans deserve huge kudos for our steadfast devotion to be willing to wait out the lengthy release schedule to enthusiastically obtain the entire series run. The fact that it has even happened is a tribute to the enduring power of Dark Shadows, which cast a powerful spell that has transcended time: It is truly the show that would not die.
The episodes in this set continue to focus on the unexpected return of Roger Collins' wife, Laura Murdock Collins, whose presence has become more mysterious, supernatural and - very, very dangerous.
Roger (Louis Edmonds) had told his young son David (David Henesy) that his mother was dead, but she had actually suffered a mental breakdown and was confined in sanitarium. Since being released, she apparently had been living in Phoenix, Ariz., unbeknownst to the Collins family.
Without warning, Laura (Diana Millay) returned to Collinwood and demanded full custody of her son. Roger's sister, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Joan Bennett) steadfastly refused, and was inexplicably stricken by what appeared to be a trance, but was actually a spell cast by Laura.
Now, Governess Victoria Winters (Alexandra Moltke) has figured out that two other Laura's (Laura Murdock and Laura Murdock Stockridge,) each died by fire exactly 100 years apart. Now, Laura Murdock Collins wants to take David away with her, despite a series of foretellings that depict them being consumed in fire: exactly one hundred years after the death of Laura Murdock Stockridge.
In a dramatic and fiery finale never seen before that time in soap opera history, Victoria struggles to pull David away from his mother in the midst of a crackling fire that threatens to destroy them all. The Phoenix is Reborn! (This represented the series first truly supernatural story arc, along with its first seancé, which would become a Dark Shadows' staple.)
Classically trained actor Frid became Barnabas Collins at Episode 211, which first aired 04/18/67. Frid was beyond perfect, playing the most unusual role completely straight. He was compelling, guilt-ridden and just as often cruel and dangerous. Almost immediately, the show, which had been constantly threatened with early cancellation, skyrocketed in the ratings and made Frid an international super star. (Note: Many fans who began watching only after Barnabas had become a fixture on the show, either never saw these early episodes when they first aired, or when they were syndicated for a short time years later.)
In this set, Episode 191 has extended footage, and Frid's Episode 211 has been fully restored and remastered. Original 1967 commercials that aired at the time are included as a special feature, along with new interviews and newsreel footage of movie star Joan Bennett.
This set is also noteworthy for introducing the character of Willie Loomis (originally horribly portrayed by James Hall who was VERY thankfully and quickly replaced by the brilliant John Karlen.) It was Willie, after all, who inadvertently let Barnabas out of his coffin and the rest is soap opera, entertainment and cultural history!!
Let's hope that whichever studio or studios that have the rights to the two 1971 Dark Shadows' movies, House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows, finally allow those dead films rise from their coffins and onto DVD. I just hope that it won't take yet more seancés and spooky incantations, not to mention more YEARS of waiting, to get it done!