Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dark Shadows Volume 22 (Or The Last Dark Shadows I’ll Sit Through…)

The Good: Characters are actually developing…
The Bad: Plots do not progress, Special effects are not special, Production/Medium issues.
The Basics: Despite having some actual character development, “Volume 22” of Dark Shadows is a flop because little truly happens and it is poorly presented.

Even as I give up on Dark Shadows, I could not resist doing was finishing off the review of Dark Shadows “Volume 22” mostly because I already watched the episodes and wrote up the plot summaries. Fortunately, that leaves me eminently qualified to “not recommend” the VHS tape.

For those unfamiliar with it, Dark Shadows was a gothic horror soap opera from the 1960s which included characters who were vampires, werewolves and ghosts. Unfortunately, shortly (relatively) after the saving grace of the series was introduced in the popular vampire character Barnabas Collins, the series became mired in soap opera conceits like forced weddings, blackmail plots and increasingly melodramatic capers, instead of genuinely frightening storylines. Sadly, the five episodes on “Volume 22” are very much soap opera episodes with only a minimal infusion of supernatural happenings. This volume, which contains episodes 315 – 319, follows right on the heels of the plots in “Volume 21” (reviewed here!). On this video, the story continues from where it left off, so those looking to just pick up this tape are likely to be lost.

The three hundred fifteenth episode has David captured by Barnabas. After a tap dance about where they will go – so Barnabas may kill the child - during which Barnabas tries to get the truth out of David, David is rescued by the appearance of Burke Devlin. Returning to Collinwood, Roger and Victoria try to suss out the truth about where David was, though he sticks to his lie that he was out in the woods, possibly protecting himself from Barnabas.

In episode three hundred sixteen, Dr. Hoffman trails Barnabas as he stalks David. After a lengthy discussion, she convinces him not to kill David. Meanwhile, Sam Evans goes in search of answers and discovers the name Sarah Collins in the Collins family crypt.

Episode three hundred seventeen finds Dr. Hoffman as Barnabas's prisoner as Sam Evans and Dr. Woodard investigate the Collins family mausoleum. While Dr. Hoffman tries to cry out, Barnabas subdues her. Overhearing the conversation between Dr. Woodard and Sam, Barnabas resolves to kill David. Dr. Hoffman desperately attempts to talk him out of such a drastic action, but Barnabas is convinced it is the only way. Dr. Woodard confronts Hoffman.

The three hundred eighteenth episode finds Dr. Woodard taking over the care of Maggie Evans. As news reaches the residents of Collinsport that there has been another murder of a young woman, Maggie decides to become proactive. She, Sam and the sheriff hatch a plan, making public a vulnerability in the Evans family. Willie overhears it and dutifully relates it to Barnabas.

In episode three hundred nineteen, David Collins has a nightmare where he is tormented by Barnabas Collins (as a vampire) and he awakens still afraid of his older cousin. He confides in Burke Devlin. Barnabas, in the meantime, turns on Dr. Hoffman, threatening to kill her if Maggie Evans recalls any of her ordeal with him!

Unfortunately for viewers, when Dark Shadows progresses in the plot department, it usually neglects the characters and vice versa. “Volume 22” is proof positive of that as the episodes actually have somewhat decent character development, especially of the oft-neglected David, who grows a serious spine in these episodes. But beyond David standing up and saving his own life through continuing a lie, not much actually happens in these episodes. Instead, his fear is revealed through a pretty obvious dream sequence and the other characters mull about for the episodes doing not much in particular.

Even though the character of David progresses some, the acting in these episodes is frequently terrible. David Henesy, who plays David Collins, is a child actor and given how much of Dark Shadows is filmed in a single take, the episodes on “Volume 22” reveal some of the serious issues with hiring child actors. When Henesy does not stutter his way through his lines, his body language is often unnaturally stiff.

Beyond such petty issues, the episodes of Dark Shadows on “Volume 22” are problematic from a production standard as well. Shortly before these episodes, the series moved from black and white to color film. Strangely, episodes 317 and 319 revert to black and white and episode 317 is especially grainy. Unfortunately, the lighting directors do not seem to know how to keep the film from either black and white or color focused and from burning out the film (lit candles cause burnout on the prints). So, on the technical merits, these episodes are very weak.

As well, fans of the series who can actually put up with the fact that not much at all actually happens on the show in these episodes can get cleaned up versions in the third DVD boxed set. But “Volume 22” is a VHS and there are no bonus features or goodies that offer a real incentive to buy. Instead, fans need to be wary as the medium is becoming more fragile with age, making it easy to avoid, even for fans of soap operas or vampires.

For other television shows with vampire characters, please visit my reviews of:
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
True Blood - Season Five


For other television and movie reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of those reviews!

© 2013, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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  1. Again, you still seem to rather condemning to the show about its use of the surviving B&W kinescopes they used in place of the lost Master tapes. It's all that exists of those episodes (and TPTB should be respected for its attempt to present every episode of this soap opera). And yet, your reviews seem to make the constant switch from color to B&W as a on-purpose fault of the episodes on first broadcast.
    It's a pity you won't continue up to Vol.30. I hoped to read your thoughts about the switch to the year 1795, but your consistent disappointment with the show probably would be more of the same.

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

      Yeah, I couldn't get by the technical and acting issues with "Dark Shadows" - I felt it would be a disservice to continue plodding through it, knowing it was not something I was enjoying. Life's too short!

      Thanks for reading and thanks for the comments, as always!