DVD Review: Winding up the first 2 sets of Dark Shadows: The Beginning

I started out to watch the first two DVD sets of Dark Shadows: The Beginning, 70 episodes in all, and have reached the end of the second set. At this point, the investigation into Bill Malloy’s murder still going on.

My overall impressions:

Before I started watching Dark Shadows, the one thing I’d heard about the very early shows is that they were laughably bad, with frequent boom shadows and flubbed lines. Yes, these things do happen. Curious shadows appear on walls behind the actors, or an object that might be a microphone or part of a camera rigging is glimpsed at the edge of the screen. My favorite was the shadow of one of the TV crew crossing the foot of Vicky’s bed in a very early episode. Lines are sometimes misspoken, but they aren’t huge gaffs. I note from the chalkboard held up at the opening of each show that almost all of the shows as filmed are first-take efforts; the poor actors don’t get a second chance if they slip up. So I’m inclined to be forgiving.

As for the show itself, one thing I like a lot is that, while the men seem to get into a lot of tiresome quarrels, the women don’t. I’ve seen surprisingly little of that bitchiness I associate with soaps. Vicky has been friends with both Carolyn Collins and Maggie Evans since they first met. Carolyn does show the occasional flash of cat-claws when she thinks Vicky might be her rival for Burke’s attention, but these moments are mercifully few and far between and haven’t affected their friendship so far. Elizabeth Collins Stoddart is also kind and supportive of Vicky when the younger woman has clashes with Roger or David. Whenever Vicky thinks about quitting, her employer convinces her to stay.

Vicky finds a portrait of Betty HanscombVicky’s search into her origins–the reason why she came to Collinsport in the first place–has had very little progress during these first episodes. I would’ve said that this plotline had been dropped if it weren’t for one small event.

At Sam Evan’s studio, Vicky discovers a portrait Sam had done about 20 years ago; Vicky fancies that the model looks something like her and she determines to find out more about the woman.

There hasn’t been as much of the spooky old house trappings as I was hoping for when I began, but certain supernatural elements have been developing over time–enough to keep me interested. The final episode in the second set ends on a good, ghostly note.

David tells Vicky that there’s a second house on the Collinwood grounds–the original home of the Collins family before the neo-gothic Collinwood was built in the 1830s. He says that he goes there often to play, and he has seen and spoken with a ghost-lady. He’s even drawn a picture of her. He offers to take Vicky to the old house to show her.

The old Collins house is out in the woods, a smallish colonial mansion with a columned portico; it looks like it was abandoned while still partially furnished, though everything that remains is covered thickly with dust. A portrait of Josette Collins hangs above the cobweb-festooned fireplace. While David pleads for his dead friend to show herself, Vicky gazes up at the painting and decides that David’s drawing of Josette must be copied from it and not drawn from – er – life, so to speak. She doesn’t believe his story. It’s getting dark, so she takes David home.

Josette's ghostAfter the two have left the old house, the portrait begins to glow. The transparent figure of a woman (who resembles Kathryn Leigh Scott under her white veils and draperies) emerges. She descends from the mantelpiece to the floor in a pretty cheesy-looking special effect, then goes outside to dance among the portico columns–a glowing presence in the dark.

That’s where it ends for now!

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Author: Kathryn L Ramage

Kathryn L. Ramage has a B.A. and M.A. in English lit and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She lives in Maryland with three calico cats named after the Brontë sisters. In addition to being the author of numerous short stories, reviews, essays, and period mystery novellas, she is also the author of a series of fantasy novels set in a dukedom called the Northlands on an alternate Earth whose history has diverged from ours somewhere during the medieval period.