Dark Shadows: How Barnabas Became a Vampire (Part 1)

The old Collins house, looking pretty

Time has been suspended at Collin- wood. It waits for the completion of an uncertain and frightening journey into the past, back to the year 1795…

With some variation, this is the new opening voiceover for every episode of Dark Shadows. Since the character of Victoria Winters has been sent back into the past to witness the beginning of the unhappy story of Barnabas Collins and his family, actress Alexandra Moltke no longer does these introductory speeches and the other women in the cast take turns with it. Sometimes, it’s a voice I don’t recognize and I wonder if the woman speaking is a production assistant or perhaps the show’s director, Lela Swift?

I have to note that when we were first introduced to Josette Collins in the very earliest episodes of Dark Shadows, and even when Barnabas first arrived, the key events of their lives and deaths were supposed to be happening in the 1830s. At some point in the narrative, the timeline shifted back about 40 years to the late colonial era, which is where Vicky suddenly and unexpectedly finds herself.

Vicky has been in love with the past and dreaming about the history of Collinwood for some time, but she’s about to discover that the olden days weren’t all that great to live in.

Not that we’ll see this at first. As we and Vicky approach the old Collins home when it wasn’t so very old, the initial impression is of a bright and cheerful place. There are flowers all around the handsome colonial house. Inside, the drawing room is painted pastel colors–pink and minty green.

Vicky. Barnabas, and SarahBarnabas, who seems like he might’ve once actually been a nice guy before that whole vampire thing, is out in the sunshine with his little sister Sarah, awaiting the arrival of his bride-to-be, Josette, from Martinique.

Vicky is more than a little bewildered, not just by this information that contradicts what she knows of the Collins family history–that Josette was the bride of Jeremiah Collins–but also that this Barnabas who looks just like the Barnabas she knows in 1968 doesn’t recognize her.

Poor Vicky’s bewilderment will only increase as she meets the rest of the family, who also look just like people she already knows. No wonder it takes so long for her to accept that she really is in the past; this double casting gives things a sort of Wizard-of-Oz “and you were there, and you,” dream-like feeling.
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DVD Review: Night of Dark Shadows

I put this movie into my Netflix queue because of the title, thinking it had some connection the supernatural soap opera. In spite of the title, however, it has little to do with the TV series; the little it does is more of a detriment than than a benefit except in the marketing sense. Changing the names of a few characters and locations would remove the relationship, but improve the viewing experience.

The story begins with Quentin Collins and his wife Tracy (Kate Jackson before she was anybody famous) inheriting the family mansion, Collinwood, from Mrs. Elizabeth Collins Stoddard whom it seems has recently died. The Collinwood seen here doesn’t resemble the house in the series. Instead of flimsy studio sets for the interiors, Collinwood is a now shown inside and out as a handsome and spacious, actual house. This is a reasonable change; the filmmakers had a much bigger budget, so of course they’d want to make use of it with a good location.

The housekeeper, Carlotta, is waiting to welcome the young couple upon their arrival. The Collinses jokingly refer to her as “Mrs. Danvers,” but they don’t know the half of it.
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