DVD Review: Dark Shadows–the end of “The Beginning”

Although I’ve put the next series of Dark Shadows on DVD in my queue, I’m not sure I’ll be reviewing any more after this. We’ve come to the part of Dark Shadows that everyone who knows anything about the show is familiar with.

There isn’t much else to tell: Willie Loomis, now played by John Karlen, continues to make himself repugnant by committing petty thefts around Collinwood and threatening the rest of the cast until even his partner-in-crime Jason is sick of it and wants him to go away. But you can’t push Willie around–Willie won’t go. He’s determined to stay around long enough to steal something expensive and shiny; jewels seem to be a special object of fascination for him.

The Painting of BarnabasIt isn’t the ring and medallion displayed in Barnabas’s portrait he’s after, however. According to Collins family tradition, Barnabas went to England and died there and presumably took his valuables with him.

Further research into the family’s history, with David’s assistance, turns up the story of one Naomi Collins, a lady who was once given some gemstones by a pirate and wore them to her grave.

Everyone except for David and Willie thinks that the pirate part of this story sounds silly, but they believe the part about Naomi being buried with her jewelry to be true. Willie is also urged on by the tell-tale sound of a beating heart, although it doesn’t seem to make him feel guilty about anything.

Willie heads off to the Collins family graveyard–which isn’t as atmospheric and crowded with ghosts as the Stockbridge graveyard, but it does have a caretaker who delivers dire warnings about an Evil Thing inside the vault where Naomi, her husband, and their children lie, except for one who died in England. I take this to mean that Naomi is Barnabas’s mom.

Not surprisingly, Willie ignores this warning and goes straight to the vault to break open the door and try a little grave-robbing. It doesn’t look as if it will be a difficult job: the coffins of Naomi and her family are just sitting in a row on the floor.

While trying to pry up the lid on Naomi’s coffin, he inadvertently opens a panel that leads to a secret chamber containing one moWillie opens the coffinre coffin, this one bound shut by heavy chains. This is too much for Willie to resist.

The final episode on this last DVD in “The Beginning” series, episode 211, opens with Willie lifting the lid on the chained coffin. He exclaims in horror, and a hand wearing that ring from Barnabas’s portrait emerges from the coffin to seize him by the throat. That’s the last we’ll see of Willie for awhile.

The rest of the episode is spent on Jason wondering what happened to him. He finds a cigarette stub left by Willie in the main part of the Collins family vault, but the secret panel is now shut and all the grave-robbing tools Willie brought with him are also gone.

At the end, a strange gentleman with a British accent calls at Collinwood and asks to see Elizabeth. Positioning himself under the portrait so that we notice the remarkable likeness, he introduces himself as Barnabas Collins.

Barnabas's arrival

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I started watching these original Dark Shadows episodes in hopes of catching some elements of the Old Dark House movies from an earlier era that I enjoy. After a slow and somewhat tedious start, the show did deliver: stormy nights, séances, women wandering darkened rooms in the middle of the night to investigate strange noises, not to mention murders and other more bizarre mysteries. It developed its supernatural elements much sooner than I expected, but I enjoyed those as well even if I laughed at their absurdities and the actors’ occasionally bizarre lines.

Victoria WintersThere is one thing that I’m left to wonder about: Victoria Winters, who was abandoned as an infant, first came to Collinsport in search of her past. Elizabeth Collins Stoddard seemed to know something about it, but at the point where Barnabas comes in, that issue remains unresolved. In fact, it hasn’t been mentioned at all for a very long time.

As I recall, Vicky and her sort-of boyfriend Frank were going to search for a former model of Sam Evan’s who bore a resemblance to Vicky. Nothing came of that. Did Vicky ever find out who she was later on in the show? Or was that initial mystery simply dropped once the vampire story took over?

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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.