It’s morning at Collinwood, so we’re safe. Nothing’s popping out of the ground, particularly during the time of the show that I’m going to start working on now. Yes I haven’t posted here in a long long time but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been keeping up with my favorite show and the favorite show of anybody that stops by this blog probably, the original Dark Shadows that began in 1966.
When the show was syndicated, it begin with episodes almost three-quarters of the way through the first year of the show. It cut the early episodes out and went straight to the arrival of signature character Barnabas Collins.
I think they made the right decision. They wanted to jump start some new interest in a show that had been off the air for four years when I saw the syndicated episodes in 1975. And there’s no way to better jump start some interest then to see my favorite actor on the show, John Karlen, gradually obsessed more and more over jewels. He heads on over to the local mausoleum where he believes they’re stowed, and opens a coffin, and gets something he really didn’t bargain for.
But there were plots, characters and situations leading up to that. Until the Syfy channel broadcast those episodes in the nineties many fans had never seen them including myself.
In the middle 2000’s MPI decided to issue the beginning episodes on DVD. I was anxious to get them. Due to a number of life catastrophes and poverty I didn’t get them until the next decade. I said, “Wait a minute why didn’t they show this when the show was syndicated?” It would have explained plot point x a little bit that happened later on in the episodes we do see.
Dark Shadows was a completely different show when it premiered in June of 1966, than what it looked like to viewers who saw the beginning of the run when Barnabas pops out of the coffin. It’s much slower paced, and in the first half of those 210 episodes it is much much less supernatural. There’s all these hints of it, but the writers make sure they can explain it away. It’s much more conventional soap with a Gothic twist instead of the monster filled Maelstrom it later became.
There is a wonderful website called http://www.darkshadowseveryday.com. that does daily summaries of the episodes one episode per day beginning with the opening of the coffin. What I intend to do is a similar thing for the beginning of the show. I’m not going to step on Mr. Horn’s toes. He’s doing an excellent thing and I encourage anyone who reads this blog to stop at his site.
It is there I have discovered that reading his summaries is almost more fun than watching the episodes.
I said almost.
The other thing I intend to do, no disrespect to Mr Horn, is to give Vicki Winters a break. Yes she is utterly clueless and heartbreakingly naive. But I don’t hate her. I feel sorry for her. The closest I get to disliking her is a mild contempt and a couple of eyerolls. My hatred I reserve for James Hall’s Willie.
In the episodes roughly from episode 155 to episode 209 we get a lot of beats that are clearly important touchstones in the show as rough drafts. They were characters and plots that we see again in a more refined version as the show moves forward. By the same token these characters are unique in and of themselves and I believe that the first version of Laura Murdoch Collins, and her nemesis Dr. Peter Guthrie have their own merit as supernatural creature and fearless supernatural creature Fighter. They deserve their moment in the sun.
Next time, you and I, and Victoria Winters will take a train ride to Collinsport Maine.