The Good: Plot finally progresses
The Bad: Very much a soap opera plot, No real character development, Medium issues, Clunky acting.
The Basics: Another dreadfully dull selection of Dark Shadows episodes, "Volume 12" is more soap opera than supernatural!
Soap operas have not, traditionally, been moved to permanent mediums like video and now DVD and Blu-Ray. There is a pretty good reason for that, arguably, which is that there are only so many soap opera plots and because they go on so long, most people either would not have the time to rewatch them and the creative staff behind them would likely be embarrassed to reveal how contradictory they are over the years by giving people the episodes to review and put in a larger story context. And yet, there are a few soap operas that have managed to make it to permanent mediums. Honestly, the only one that comes to my mind is Dark Shadows.
Dark Shadows was a soap opera in the 1960s which garnered a cult following which fell in love with it. Despite its campy qualities, a second series of the show was done and Johnny Depp has repeatedly expressed interest in reviving the series and starring in it. But, despite the fact that the show had supernatural characters like the vampire Barnabas Collins, Dark Shadows was largely a soap opera. Seldom is that more clear than in Volume 12 on VHS.
Volume 12 is a week of Dark Shadows episodes where the story largely neglects the supernatural and instead focuses on a very standard soap opera plot: the blackmail marriage. In this case, Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard has been manipulated by Jason McGuire and the result is dreadfully boring.
"Volume 12" features episodes fifty-six through sixty and is more like a soap opera than anything from science fiction or fantasy. This basically picks up right where “Volume 11” (reviewed here!) left off, with Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard days away from marrying Jason McGuire and getting suicidal about the prospect.
In episode fifty-six, Elizabeth had a dream of her own death, plummeting to the sea from a spot near Collinwood. Visited by Victoria, Elizabeth is despondent. As Jason pushes Elizabeth to make wedding plans, Elizabeth lets him tell Miss Johnson what he wants while she goes off. Elizabeth wanders to Widow's Hill, where legend has it three widows once killed themselves and are waiting for a fourth widow to join them! Returning to the house, Miss Johnson tries to warn Victoria that Elizabeth might be suicidal.
In the fifty-seventh episode, Elizabeth wanders to Widow's Hill and prepares to take her own life. She is rescued by Barnabas Collins, who talks her out of killing herself. The pair return to Collinwood, where Barnabas warns Victoria of Elizabeth's mental state. Victoria visits Burke at the Blue Whale and manages to not tell him Elizabeth's secret. David Collins finds himself bewildered that Elizabeth has dragged out the family bible and seems interested in her own birth and death dates!
Episode fifty-eight finds Elizabeth still despondent and David acting somewhat bratty about it. Roger and Victoria try to make Elizabeth feel connected, but she begins to feel even more like she cannot go through with marrying Jason. Elizabeth finds Carolyn and does her best to make peace with her and after an initially tense discussion, the two actually resolve some of their differences. But, following that discussion, Elizabeth resolves to end her life and she writes her death date into the family bible.
In episode fifty-nine, Elizabeth steps toward the edge of Widow's Hill and she is rescued by Victoria Winters, who tries to talk her out of taking the leap. Victoria is successful and Elizabeth returns to Collinwood in shock. And when Burke Devlin comes through with international requests to question Jason McGuire, Victoria brings him to Collinwood and both are shocked that she insists the marriage to Jason will still go forward!
Episode sixty finds Carolyn packing to flee Collinwood on the day of her mother's wedding. She discovers a journal in Jason's room and she tries to incriminate him, but Jason arrives too soon for her to stop him. After Carolyn finds herself at the Blue Whale, Burke Devlin takes her to Collinwood. Once there, Carolyn arms herself and the wedding between Elizabeth and Jason begins.
"Volume 12" has nothing superlative and on VHS, it looks remarkably bad. The videos were not retouched and as such possess a grainy quality. Beyond that, the plot and lack of character development makes this a decidedly dull video investment.
Fans of Dark Shadows are likely to be disappointed by this VHS volume as well by the almost complete lack of Barnabas Collins. Given that he dominated several of the volumes that preceded this, his absence is keenly felt. Moreover, the whole five episode arc has the feeling of being dominated by the second stringers.
Joan Bennett does a fair job as Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard, but even she is very stiff at points, most notably when she has to react to special effects shots. Nancy Barrett is more stiff and Dennis Patrick is even more stiff and awkward as Jason McGuire. In these episodes, Patrick is most problematic in that his accent continually slips and the back and forth between an American English and Scottish accent. The show was basically shot in one-take each episode, so these flubs are kept in.
It also makes it virtually impossible to watch, especially a second time. Despite the fact that the plot progresses, viewers could pretty much skip the process and leap to the results with no major problems. In other words, this whole week is spent with the question "will she or won't she?" being bandied about in relation to Elizabeth marrying Jason. The resolution actually comes in the beginning of the next episodes, so these can be skipped.
[For a much better value, check out Dark Shadows Volume 2 on DVD, reviewed here, as it has over forty episodes on the currently dominant medium!]
For other television reviews, be sure to check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2012, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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