Discussion in 'Cult TV' started by Alexis, Oct 5, 2016.
Dan was a good director i think, but House of Dark Shadows though it wasn't entirely his fault in what it ended up being wasn't that good of a movie because of the cuts he was forced to make. having said that it was edited really badly and it hurts the film i think. it's a wonder it was a hit at all because of the edits
Cryptic Rock says:
Soap Operas can come in many shapes and sizes and differ from culture to culture. British ones like Eastenders or Coronation Street will try to take themselves seriously for a few weeks before going back to the cheese. While Telemundo telenovelas boil down Soaps to its basic appeal – handsome men, pretty women, high emotional stakes – and jam on that chord no matter how silly it gets.
Then there is something like the 1966 series Dark Shadows, which told the story of the many goings-on within the Collins family in the fictional town of Collinsport, Maine. Gothic Horror-based family shenanigans were not exactly new at the time, with The Addams Family and The Munsters having been on TV since 1964. Those were sitcoms. Dark Shadows may have had vampires, witches, and warlocks, but it went for mood, melodrama and menace.
It became a cult classic, though perhaps a little more niche than others. While The Addams Family and The Munsters reached beyond America’s shores, most foreign markets did not get a whiff of Dark Shadows until Tim Burton’s 2012 film adaptation. While it was not as successful as The Addams Family’s classic 1991 effort, it did pique interests abroad in the series. It may be cheap and cheesy by today’s standards, yet, like the original Star Trek and Batman series, that might be part of its charm.
Luckily, the MPI Media group will get to satisfy the curiosity seekers, releasing the new Documentary Master of Dark Shadows on DVD and VOD as of Tuesday, April 16, 2019. Director David Gregory talks to Whoopi Goldberg, Alan Ball, Ben Cross, and Barbara Steele, amongst others, about the show’s history, appeal, and legacy. Not to mention that of its creator, the ‘king of TV horror,’ Dan Curtis (Trilogy of Terror 1975, Burnt Offerings 1976). Featuring narration by Ian McShane (Lovejoy series, Deadwood series).
The feature also throws in rare behind-the-scenes footage, alongside stories behind the show’s creation and tenure on TV. It sounds like a must-have for fans, and a fascinating watch for beginners. Does it hit the mark?
Well, the production cannot be sniffed at. It follows the familiar talking-head structure, using on-site interviews interspersed with show footage, photos, archive interviews, etc, tied together by McShane’s narration. Though it does throw in a few visual fancies, like the Gothic test introducing each speaker, or its creative use of stock footage to illustrate points (i.e. Dan Curtis’ burgeoning interest in Horror).
The film also presents its info well, as the interviewees give the audience a clear idea of what Curtis was like, and how Dark Shadows came to pass. However, its pacing also plays out like the original show’s rise. It starts off rather dry and rote until it begins talking about the supernatural shift and eventual star Jonathan Frid as vampire Barnabas Collins.
Not that the story of Curtis and his show’s beginnings are dull, but it is a slow burn. The rise of Curtis and his show was not as chaotic as Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr Moreau in Gregory’s Lost Soul Documentary. Though once it reaches Frid’s debut, the Documentary hits its stride through the show’s peaks, its curious story twists, and even how it was affected by the politics of its time.
Not that the film pretends the show is a technical masterpiece. It admits its faults through its cast interviews and footage. Like its shaky scenery, flubbed lines, and other Garth Marenghi-esque bloopers. It does a good job in highlighting the positives that got the series its appeal, be it the ghouls and ghosts, or the campy nature of its Gothic romance stories.
It manages to keep up the pacing by covering Curtis’ other projects, like 1983’s The Winds of War TC series, to cover the gap between the original show and Dark Shadows’ 1991 revival. It makes for fascinating viewing, and in contrasting Curtis’ own feelings towards returning to old ground. Despite that, it does not go into the 1990’s revival that much. There is a little backstage info from Cross and Steele, yet not much on its reception from critics and fans. There is even less on Burton’s film take beyond mentioning it as Frid’s last picture.
So, ultimately, Master of Dark Shadows does offer a good look at the original Dark Shadows’ popularity, and the career of Dan Curtis. It is not an exhaustive one. The film runs enough miles to satiate curiosity in the classic series, but it does leave one feeling it missed out a lap or two. Particularly when it takes some time to build up steam. Master of Dark Shadows is still worth a watch for fans and newbies alike, though it is not quite the definitive Documentary experience on the show. Thus, for these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives it 3.5 out of 5 stars.
“Master of Dark Shadows” probably won’t make many new fans out of people who have no preexisting affinity for the venerable gothic horror property. At 85 minutes, the documentary can’t burrow deep enough into “Dark Shadows,” or its creator Dan Curtis, to have that sort of sway.
For the franchise faithful however, director David Gregory’s quick skip down Memory Lane features all the nostalgia necessary to pull out plenty of fang-baring smiles. The doc steers heavily into the latter half of its title, and more cursorily on covering the “Master.” Still, copious clips, archival footage, and interviews with every important figure a fan can think of present an entertaining primer on the cultural phenomenon that “Dark Shadows” became.
“Master of Dark Shadows” begins with collaborators characterizing filmmaker Dan Curtis in single words. Affectionate terms identify Curtis as brilliantly creative, intuitive, and dedicated. More than one person calls Curtis “tough,” with less flattering words describing him as stubborn, impatient, and definitely demanding.
Later in the film, veteran actress Barbara Steele details the day she stormed off the set of the 1991 “Dark Shadows” revival with a vehement “I quit!” Commiserative crewmembers gave Steele an ovation for daring to defy Dan Curtis’ taskmaster tone, although her rebellion lasted less than 24 hours. She now laughs about the incident as an illustration of her admiration for the complicated creator. Steele’s testament provides fitting punctuation for the notion that Curtis could be difficult to deal with professionally, yet remained personable to those who saw the vulnerability in his ferocity.
Following the sound bite montage serving as his introduction, “Master of Dark Shadows” touches on Curtis’ early life. Dan’s two daughters Tracy and Cathy Curtis bullet point background bits about their father. Dan’s wife Norma receives the first of her three swift mentions. Essentially, the movie doesn’t spend any more time than required on a basic biography, maybe five minutes, before hurriedly getting to the goods most viewers came for.
Wistful recollections and colorful anecdotes from two-dozen talking heads discuss all things “Dark Shadows” for the better part of a consecutive hour. Unlike similar documentaries that go thick on superficial gushing, famous fans such as Whoopi Goldberg and Alan Ball only appear long enough to make their points about the program’s popularity. “Master of Dark Shadows” otherwise maintains its focus with David Selby reminiscing about his role, Kathryn Leigh Scott and Lara Parker covering theirs, writers Malcolm Marmorstein and Joseph Caldwell recalling the creative chaos of story sessions, and too many other actors, academics, and ABC executives to mention. Even memories from Curtis’ personal secretary Rita Fein provide a peek behind the creator’s curtain.
Dan Curtis died in 2006. Series star Jonathan Frid died in 2012. “Master of Dark Shadows” doesn’t let their unavailability prevent the show’s two biggest heavyweights from weighing in. Although scanlines date Curtis’ inclusion, previously recorded footage featuring both he and Frid almost seamlessly slots in alongside other interviewees.
“Dark Shadows” goes off the air not long after the film passes its one-hour mark. The remainder of the movie briefly covers Dan Curtis’ work afterward, including the 1991 NBC revival with Ben Cross, but mostly spotlights Curtis’ passion projects “The Winds of War” and “War and Remembrance.” If he had it his way, Curtis concludes in an amused summation, he would be remembered for those miniseries and not for “Dark Shadows.”
But the supernatural soap opera’s fans collectively will it differently. You’ll need a supplement for context on what made the show’s content so richly compelling. Based solely on “Master of Dark Shadows,” you might think the hype is a lot of hullaballoo for a camp classic with a strange song for a chart topper, goofy special effects, and more live-taping blunders than a blooper reel of Judd Apatow outtakes. You’ll certainly need something else if you expect to become learned about the complete career of Dan Curtis.
I wouldn’t want to argue with a harrumphing naysayer over dubbing the documentary as a feature-length home video extra. Nevertheless, I confess I’m whistling the main title theme as I type this and have a sudden urge to indulge in a double bill of “Burnt Offerings” and “Trilogy of Terror” before taking a TV trip to Collinwood. That’s the mark of a movie that’s done its job, solidifying “Master of Dark Shadows” as a delightful dip into the immense ocean of “Dark Shadows” fascination.
Review Score: 75
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/19/2019
Being a genre fan can be exhausting. There was a time when one would check out re-releases of movie, rent some videos, and read fanzines and books to get a fix for your favorite type of movie. Today, with the various physical and streaming offerings available, staying caught up on a favorite type of movie or television show is a daunting task. Thus, things are going to fall by the wayside. For example, I’ve been a horror fan since my earliest memories, but I’ve never seen a single episode of Dark Shadows, the gothic soap opera which ran from 1966-1971 on ABC. I’ve seen the videos advertised and noticed the ads for the various merchandise tied to the show, but still knew little about it. Therefore, my mind was a sponge ready to absorb knowledge as I checked out Master of Dark Shadows.
Master of Dark Shadows is sort of a hybrid documentary. One the one hand, it profiled Dan Curtis, the producer who created Dark Shadows. It follows his early career, where he invented the idea of putting golf on TV, goes through the Dark Shadows years, and then examines his movie and television work which came once the soap opera went off of the air. But, the bulk of Master of Dark Shadows is reserved for Curtis best known creation, Dark Shadows. Through clips from the show and interviews with stars like Nancy Barrett, Lara Parker, and Roger Davis, and many of the shows writers, we are given a detailed primer on the creation of the show, its rocky beginning, and its ascent to cult popularity.
As noted, I had some general knowledge about Dark Shadows (soap opera, vampires, etc.), but had never seen the show. Similarly, I was somewhat familiar with the work of Dan Curtis, but other than Trilogy of Terror, had not experienced his output. Therefore, I was a sponge prepared to absorb a great deal of information and Master of Dark Shadows, which is narrated by Ian McShane, delivers. To be honest, the documentary’s opening is a bit shaky, as it soars through Curtis’ early years (I’m still not sure if I understand how he invented putting golf on TV) and how the Dark Shadows deal developed. But, once production of the show begins, the documentary really takes off. We get clips from the show, still photos, and best of all, interviews with the living cast members and creative team. They give a detailed account of how the gothic soap opera was on the brink of cancellation when Curtis and his team decided to go for broke and bring in the supernatural elements. The movie then essays how the show became a cultural phenomenon, with the stars appearing on talk shows, and even being covered in teeny-bopper magazines. This was all news to me, as I thought that Dark Shadows didn’t become a thing until genre fans discovered it years later.
Aside from Dark Shadows, the movie breezes through Curtis’ subsequent work, giving the most attention to the TV mini-series The Winds of War and War and Rememberance. The productions of these projects were clearly well-documented, as we get some behind-the-scenes footage of Curtis at work. And while Trilogy of Terror is mentioned, it receives no detailed coverage. While the War mini-series were rating successes, I think that many people still recall the effect that Trilogy of Terror had on them.
Long before Chris Carter oversaw The X-Files or Joss Whedon created the “Buffy-verse”, Dan Curtis was the king of horror television. Besides the fact that it spawned a feature film and an unsuccessful TV reboot, Dark Shadows influenced a generation of horror fans. Despite some minor shortcomings, Master of Dark Shadows does a great job of providing an overview of the show and explaining why its appeal endures to this day.
Master of Dark Shadows doesn’t suck on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of MPI Media Group. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 39 Mbps. The documentary is made up of several different source elements. The modern-day interviews, look great, as they are sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects. Beyond this, we get clips from Dark Shadows (which was shot live) and archival interviews. Most of these look pretty good given their age, but we do get some grain and scratches on the images. (The older Dark Shadows are quite soft.) The Disc carries a Linear PCM Stereo audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 1.5 Mbps. Being a documentary, we don’t get many dynamic effects here. However, those being interviewed are always intelligible and the Dark Shadows theme music sounds fine.
The Master of Dark Shadows Blu-ray Disc contains a crypt full of extra features. “Dark Shadows in Hell’s Kitchen: Visiting Studio 10” (2 minutes) offers a brief tour of the building in New York where the show was shot. “Original Dark Shadows TV Spots” (2 minutes) offers a reel of commercials for the show. “Jonathan Frid on The Dick Cavett Show (1968)” (16 minutes) is an audio-only presentation of the interview. “Jonathan Frid: Poe & Shakespeare in the Shadows” (16 minutes) offers the actor doing one-man readings for a PBS broadcast. “Barnabas at the White House” (4 minutes) documents Frid attending a White House Halloween party in 1969. “The House” (26 minutes) brings us the episode of the TV show The Web from 1954 which served as an inspiration for Dark Shadows. “David Selby: Light & Shadows” (6 minutes) has the actor performing a song about the show at a Con. “Dark Shadows in Print” (8 minutes) almost plays like a commercial for a book about the show. “Dark Shadows Audio Dramas” (2 minutes) offers excerpts from audio stories based on the show. The extras are rounded out by a TRAILER for Master of Dark Shadows and a reel of commercials for other projects from Curtis.
Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long
In 1966, a phenomenon was launched when Dark Shadows debuted on ABC-TV as a daily Gothic suspense series. Airing in the late afternoon, the show attracted a massive youth audience as it shifted to the supernatural with the introduction of vulnerable vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid). Witches, ghosts, and scary storylines turned Dark Shadows into a TV classic that led to motion pictures, remakes, reunions, and legions of devoted fans who have kept the legend alive for five decades.
Ban the Sadist Videos!, Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s The Island of Dr. Moreau) reveals the fascinating, far-reaching impact and appeal of Dark Shadows with a compelling blend of rare footage, historical images and behind-the-scenes stories while also exploring the dramatic talents of creator-producer-director Dan Curtis. Known as the "King of TV Horror," the Emmy-winning filmmaker followed Dark Shadows with other legendary small-screen scares including The Night Stalker, Trilogy of Terror, The Norliss Tapes, and Dead of Night before earning accolades for the epic mini-series The Winds of War and War & Remembrance.
Narrated by Ian McShane (Deadwood), Master of Dark Shadows offers insights from the late Curtis (via archival footage) as well as Oscar-winning writer/producer Alan Ball (True Blood), screenwriter William F. Nolan (Trilogy of Terror, Burnt Offerings), author Herman Wouk (The Winds of War), horror icon Barbara Steele (Black Sunday), actor Ben Cross (star of the ill-fated Dark Shadows '90s reboot), original stars Jonathan Frid, David Selby, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, John Karlen, Nancy Barrett, Jerry Lacy, Roger Davis, Marie Wallace, Chris Pennock, James Storm, and other colleagues and family members.
Dark Shadows Studio Visit (2 min)
“The House” from 1950s horror anthology series The Web (26 min)
Vintage TV Spots
The Dick Cavett Show: Jonathan Frid (16 min)
Excerpts of Jonathan Frid solo performances of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and Richard II (16 min)
"Barnabas visits The White House" (4 min)
Light & Shadows: A Musical Performance by David Selby (6 min)
"Dark Shadows in Print" with Kathryn Leigh Scott and David Selby (8 min)
Excerpts from Dark Shadows Audio Dramas featuring original Dark Shadows stars (3 min)
Trailers and Promos
My name is JROG and I have finally arrived in Collinsport, Maine, where I am greeted by a kind of supernatural, creepy Peyton Place. I am intrigued by the mysteries set forth, and find Joe Haskell to be very pretty. I cannot stop watching. Victoria's monotone voice is the most exciting monotone voice I've ever heard.
Be warned it's a very slow burn at first. It takes about 2568 years for Barnabas Collins to even show up. I don't think I will be going back to Dark Shadows again until the Autumn. It just doesn't feel right for me to watch in Summer time.
Turns out Dan Curtis indeed wanted DARK SHADOWS to be a primetime show, but Leonard Goldberg at ABC forced it into daytime.
The tiny Manhattan studio where they taped DS --- 433 W. 53rd St:
I was amazed that the whole Dark Shadows world was contained in that small studio. The set designer was a genius.
Quite a few forum members have arrived in Collinsport over the years but has anyone stayed long enough to finish it? Well, other than @Afton (RIP) and @sunshineboyuk (RIP).
It's all on YouTube, and I want to want to watch it, but I'm still not convinced.
I just randomly clicked on an episode, which turned out to be Angelique's curse (what are the odds that I would pick this one by chance).
"Hammy" doesn't even begin to describe it.
And it makes me wonder, what's the good part of Dark Shadows?
I liked the slow burn, nothing is really happening, gothic pre-Barnabas era.
Don't get me wrong, I am intrigued, but mostly because of its obscurity. It's just that I don't know how to watch it.
Is it really as wonderful as Peyton Place, or should I watch it in a so-bad-it's-good mood? (which can be equally enjoyable, but there is a difference).
I'm kind of in the same boat as you Willie when it comes to Dark Shadows. People recommend it and I am tempted, but for some reason I continue to resist it. On paper it seems like something I might like, but it just doesn't quite grab me for whatever reason.
I think atmosphere is the main thing with DARK SHADOWS. Sometimes it's delightfully wobbly and rickety, sometimes it's genuinely creepy, a lot of times it's both at once, but always there's this atmosphere. It's part gothic, part 1960s, but it sort of carries you along.
But no, it's not PEYTON PLACE.
That is the good part. And, yes, the late-'60s post-apocalyptic atmosphere, all these characters caught in a perpetual damnation zone from which they cannot escape (even, apparently, to take a lunch) enhanced immeasurably by the flickering videotape, some of the casting, and Robert Colbert's hopelessly eerie score.
But, yeah, like they said on MAD MEN, the show is largely crap.
Eons ago, I used to love it.
I'll do it if Richard does it, if only to hold someone's hand when it gets too creepy.
But the thing with gothic, just like camp come to think of it, is that it works best when it's kind of unintentional and not so in-your-face.
Candlesticks, cobwebs, flapping curtains and whoo-ooo music in an old mansion may tick all the boxes of the gothic genre, but atmosphere - to experience it as gothic - is a very different thing.
It would help if there weren't 1,400+ episodes. If Curtis had succeeded in making it a nighttime series, and the show had managed to last five years, we could have had fewer episodes and more cohesive plotting.
As it is, one has to view DARK SHADOWS as a state of mind. An eternal echo chamber of sorts.
The primetime remake/reboot/revival in 1991 picked up the stories that began with Barnabas's awakening and boiled down about a year of storylines into thirteen, hour-long episodes. Sitting through the original half-hour, daily episodes can be a chore at first. In early syndication, local stations simply skipped the pre-Barnabas episodes. "Purists" would of course demand every episode be viewed, but I think a casual viewer might do fine to start with the material around three weeks before Frid joins the cast.
The best parts (to me) are the flashback periods. The actors seem to like getting to play other characters for a while, and the plots are written with much higher stakes since the writers can kill off those characters with reckless abandon (and usually do). In those plots, killing off a character didn't mean firing the actor. 1795 laid the groundwork, of course, but 1897 went so well, ratings-wise that they were forced to extend the trip back in time longer than originally planned. I also liked the parallel-time visits. The popularity of these trips through time and space made the present-day stuff look kind of dull in comparison, and as they got closer to the end of the series it seemed the time spent in present-day Collinsport was merely the set-up for their next trip into the past and/or a parallel universe.
I love the show dearly, but I can't picture having the patience or the inclination to re-watch the show again. Like others have said, it's just too many episodes (1225) with many of them barely pushing any plotline along. There are periods where they burn through plot so fast that it would make Darren Star blush, but there are just as many periods where you watch three or four episodes in a row and wonder "Did anything happen?". The last time I made the effort to watch it was when the Sci-Fi Channel ran four consecutive episodes every morning for about two years (?). By the time they started 1840-41 I was watching only so I could say I completed the task, not because it was so watchable and exciting...because frankly it was neither.
As tempting as you've made it, trying to seduce me with offers of hand holding and such, I'm afraid I'll have to decline. I may be in my 40's, but I have the attention span of a modern day teenager. If people who love(d) it refer to it as "a slow burn" and "largely crap", I wouldn't have the patience for it, no matter how atmospheric it is. Couple that with my commitment issues and the fact that it's over 1200 episodes. With so much TV to choose from, and a lot of shows that are more likely to grab, and keep, my attention from the get-go, I can't see myself getting into this.
For what it's worth, Netflix isn't offering any exciting stuff at the moment, it's almost as if they know that I can't be disturbed.
I only have one title in MyFlixList, and I'm not in a hurry to watch it.
Separate names with a comma.