Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Possibly Going Somewhere? Dark Shadows Volume 7 Leaves Viewers With Little Hope!

The Good: Plot is progressing
The Bad: Slow and drawn out plot, Soap operatic qualities, Acting problems, No character development, Medium issues.
The Basics: A very typical soap opera experience, despite the darkness and gothic feel to it, Dark Shadows Volume 7 is a real letdown on VHS!

As I continue working my way through Dark Shadows, I continue to find myself stymied as to what the hype surrounding the show is all about. Unlike some shows from the 1960s, like Star Trek, where the originality was matched with enduring social allegory, Dark Shadows seems creative in its concept and setting, but little else. In fact, with Volume 7 of Dark Shadows, the series seems very much like any other soap opera and that makes it tough to sit through and impossible to recommend.

For those unfamiliar with Dark Shadows, the series was a soap opera that was set in the gothic mansion of Collinwood, an old New England estate with a dark history. Supernatural events occurred around Collinwood and the adjacent port of Collinsport. In the storyline that has progressed since the first video, a stranger named Barnabas Collins - who bears an uncanny resemblance to the portrait of a Barnabas Collins from hundreds of years prior - has arrived in town and strange occurrences have been happening since. The problem with this black and white soap opera now is that these episodes seem especially campy and "Volume 7" is notable for how it barely progresses any of the plotlines the show has been developing. In short, it is boring.

"Volume 7" of Dark Shadows is very much a soap opera story in progress. It picks up where "Volume 6" (reviewed here!) left off and it continues plots with about a dozen characters trying to piece together the current mystery in Collinwood, which is not much of a mystery at all.

The video of Dark Shadows "Volume 7" contains episodes thirty-one through thirty-five, without any bonus features or additional programming to make the video a better value. Here is how the stories go:

Opening with David Collins encountering his Josette (Maggie Evans, brainwashed by Barnabas), episode thirty-one find David imploring Josette to keep appearing to him moments before she disappears and Victoria, Roger and Barnabas arrive. After chasing the others off, Barnabas returns to Josette's room where he reinforces that she is Josette now, not Maggie. Barnabas finishes his reinforcement moments before Sheriff Patterson arrives to interrogate Barnabas about the disappearance of Maggie Evans.

The thirty-second episode opens with Burke Devlin interrogating Dr. Woodard about the blood samples he took from Maggie Evans. As Dr. Woodard tells Burke that the blood tests have resulted in mysterious and unscientific conclusions which require him to ship the samples to a specialist, Roger confronts Elizabeth about Jason McGuire. Roger suspects Elizabeth is blackmailing her and, feeling threatened, Elizabeth confronts Jason. When Burke and the doctor return to the office, they find it ransacked and all of Maggie's samples gone.

Episode thirty-three has Doctor Woodard hunting Willie Loomis down at the Old House to try to get a blood sample from him. Willie refuses and Barnabas insists he cannot force Willie to give it up. Woodard returns to Collinwood where Elizabeth and Jason are conversing. As they try to put the pieces together, Jason leaves to visit Willie and encounters Barnabas instead. Upon returning to Collinwood, Jason comes up with an interesting solution to his money problems.

Jason insisting Elizabeth marry him opens episode thirty-four. After attempting to coerce Elizabeth into marrying him, Jason seeks out Carolyn and attempts to sew seeds of discord between the two of them. After Elizabeth tries to tell Carolyn about how life with her father was, Carolyn runs out and back into the manipulative presence of Jason McGuire!

Episode thirty-five has Barnabas insisting Willie give Woodard a blood sample. After Burke and Woodard try to figure out what might be wrong with Willie and Maggie, Woodard visits the old house to get the blood sample from Willie. Burke takes Victoria to the Blue Whale to try to relax her and relax with her. Dr. Woodard studies the slide and Barnabas reveals to Willie how he has protected his servant.

In this week of episodes of Dark Shadows, very little happened on the plot front and even less happens on the character front. Well before now, Willie Loomis has clearly been the servant of Barnabas, though how or why remains a mystery. By this point, it is just hard to care.

Part of the deficit of interest has to come from the fact that this volume of Dark Shadows is particularly marred by mediocre-at-best acting. Episode 32, for example, features some absolutely terrible deliveries by Burke Devlin (Mitchell Ryan). Ryan flubs his lines, then speaks the ones he makes his way through with a stiffness that is inappropriate and then melodramatic. It is hard not to watch these episodes and wince at that.

Finally, this volume is a video tape and as the medium has been more or less buried, it is tough to recommend resurrecting it for the purpose of these few episodes of Dark Shadows. The lack of endurance of VHS tapes is a severe detraction, though it is hard to imagine anyone wanting to watch these five episodes more than once, even if that.

[For a much better value, check out Dark Shadows Volume 1 on DVD, reviewed here, as it has over forty episodes on the currently dominant medium!]

For other supernatural television episodes, please check out my reviews of:
Buffy The Vampire Slayer - "Welcome To The Hellmouth"/"The Harvest"
Star Trek - "Wolf In The Fold"
Twin Peaks - “Pilot”


For other television reviews, be sure to check out my Index Page for an organized listing of all the shows I have reviewed!

© 2012, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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