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Dark Shadows: Fan Favorites

MPI Home Video // Unrated // April 10, 2012
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted April 6, 2012 | E-mail the Author
The Collection:

With a high-profile Tim Burton/Johnny Depp movie version of the classic gothic daytime soap opera Dark Shadows scheduled to be released in a couple of months, MPI has decided to release the entire series in one impressive boxed set [read my review here] as well as two single-disc collections featuring some of the best episodes from the series.  This disc is Fan Favorites, a set of some of the most memorable events from the show's five-year history.  The other disc, The Best of Barnabas, is reviewed here. 

This compilation has nine episodes, taken from various times in the series.  If you don't have a pretty good understanding of the show, the characters, and the various plot that occurred over the 1225 episodes you'll have a bit of trouble figuring out just what's going on. 
Episode 212:  Barnabas arrives at Collinwood after being freed from his coffin where he was imprisoned. He claims to be the last member of the Collins family who immigrated to England, the rest having died off.
Episode 365:  During a séance that is held to attempt contact with the spirit of Sarah Collins, Victoria Winters disappears and a woman in period clothing appears in her place.
Episode 370:  The story has gone back to 1795 and Josette has fallen in love with Barnabas.  That's made Angelique jealous and she uses her magic.
Episode 699:  Barnabas has to battle Chris Jennings (well, actually just hit him with a cane... but still it's sort of a battle) who is under the werewolf's curse.  Later, he and Maggie find a secret passage that the woman saw in a dream.

Episode 725:  It's 1897, and Jamison Collins is possessed by the spirit of Quentin Collins.
Episode 1024:  We travel to a parallel time for this episode where Maggie is tricked into wearing Angelique's clothes.
Episode 1065: In the far off future year of 1995, Carolyn is declared insane.
Episode 1102: David and Daphne perform a ceremony in Windcliff Sanitarium.
Episode 1115:  This time the show is taking place in 1840 and Gerard gets a supply of arsenic from Gabriel Collins.

The problem with this collection, and with the other one too, is that it doesn't really give you a feel for the show.  Presenting nine assorted episodes from various parts in the series, the narrative jumps around so much that it's hard to get a handle for what's going on.  There's not time for the viewers to get to know the characters.  More importantly people only get a small taste of the mysteries that are the show's strongest point.  Being a 5-day-a-week soap opera, the series moved slowly and no one episode can really bring new viewers up to speed, and even if one of these did succeed in catching someone's imagination, the next episode jumps somewhere else in the series with a different set of problems and often characters.  It's a nice attempt to introduce people to the show, but it doesn't quite work.
The DVD:

There are nine half-hour episodes on a single disc.  It comes in a clear case with the episode list on the inside of the cover.  The first printings of the collection feature a slipcover.
Though the full frame video hasn't been restored it doesn't look too bad at all.  Due to the sheer number of episodes the cost and the time that it would take to do even a rudimentary cleanup pushes it outside of the realm of the realistic.  As it is, the image is a bit soft, details tend to get lost in dark areas, and there is some print damage.  The spots and scratches aren't very bad, and they never become a distraction, but they are present.  Some of the installments only exist as Kinetoscopes (where they filmed the image on a TV screen) and these naturally lack the detail that the others have but there's only a few that are like that.  If you go into the show with realistic expectations for an unrestored show from the 60's, chances are you won't be disappointed.  
The show comes with the original mono soundtrack which, like the video, hasn't been cleaned up.  There's some hiss in the background and while some episodes sound better than others, none of them that I screened had horrible audio.  The extraneous sounds were never distracting and dialog was always easy to hear.  There are no subtitles.
There are introductions to each episode by Lara Parker who played Angelique, but they're not as effective as they could be.  Running only about half a minute each, she doesn't really set up the situation or relate the events leading up to the episode as much as tell viewers, in general terms, what happens in the episode they're about to watch.
In addition there are some commercials for current Dark Shadows merchandise and web sites devoted to the show. 
Final Thoughts:
If you've seen the show in the past and just want to refresh your memory or revisit some of the high points, then this collection is for you.  Otherwise, I can't really recommend it.  These nine episodes don't really give you an accurate feel for what Dark Shadows is like.  If anything, I think it would discourage potential viewers since there are so many different plot lines that are touched upon in these almost random episodes.  It's almost like giving someone your favorite chapters from the Harry Potter series.  If they don't know what's going on already, they'll just be confused.  Instead I'd save up for the magnificent complete series collection.
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