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Dark Shadows 1991

A relaunch of the classic series starring Ben Cross, Roy Thinnes, Barbara Steele and Jean Simmons.

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A Beautiful Revival

  • Apr 1, 2012
Dan Curtis' nighttime re-vamping of his original daytime soap forgoes the plot offered in the original's first 200 episodes and dives right into the introduction of Barnabas. This time, however, he had some big bucks to play around with, so he went for the best-looking DS ever.

The story is basically the same to its analogue in the soap, minus the fillers and plus some interesting alterations to the plot and a few of the characters. For instance, there is no Professor Stokes this time around. However, there is a similar character who is loaded with as much potential -- but, sadly, he is quickly killed off. Willie Loomis is not a punk looking for trouble, but a barely literate slack-jawed relative of the Collins family housekeeper.
Altered to the point of non-recognition is Maggie Evans. She's still a waitress in town, but she smokes and secretly sexually carries on with Roger. She bares no resemblance to Josette DuPres, and she is a talented portrait painter (this was the character's father's role in the original). We also learn that she has certain psychic abilities.

Adding to the realism of the show, is how some of the locals speak with authentic-sounding Maine accents. When Angelique appears, she also speaks with a French accent, as one might logically expect of her. 

Unquestionably, the acting has improved. This is not to cast aspersions upon the classic cast; they were told to ham it up, even against their better judgment. Plus, taking into account the pressure to learn lines quickly every day coupled with the knowledge that there would be no do-overs if they flubbed, it becomes quite understandable. The new production was able to take some time in this department.

In the black and white episodes of the soap, it wasn't unusual to see the characters in outdoor settings. The ghost of Josette is shown dancing outside of the Old House; Roger is seen walking up to the entrance of the Blue Whale. At about the time production switched to color, outdoor scenes, for the most part, became nonexistant. Even where it was unavoidable (such as a scene taking place in a graveyard), it was painfully clear that it was still a dressed up indoor set. Old photographs were used for external establishing shots of Collinwood, or the Old House.

In the new production, they returned to shooting outside scenes outside, but instead of filming the outside of a real mansion for Collinwood, the producers went for a scale model and used that. And that's exactly what it looks like. However, Collinwood's interior looks appropriately lavish, and I cannot tell whether it is real or a set.

A wise decision was made to bring composer Robert Cobert back to score the new series. His music has become iconic and inseparable from the series. His new arrangement for the main title gives me goosebumps.

Dan Curtis said in an interview that DS was not a horror story (tho it obviously had those elements in it). It was a romantic drama with an almost dreamlike quality to it. Which is why, he said, others who tried to copy it never got it right. I would add that it created a new subgenre: supernatural intrigue. This idea that everything that you know about the legendary things that go bump in the night is a given, then how it could all intertwine in a plot so gripping that you just have to tune in again to see what happens next.

The '91 DS could have been a glorified rerun. But instead it used the original plot as a guide, to improve upon it and begin taking some roads that the old show didn't choose to go down. From a viewer perspective, those are the only two legitimate reasons to do a remake. And that is why I praise it.

When MPI had the rights, they released all of the episodes (with restored footage in the first and final ones) on VHS. They never did get the chance to release it on DVD. That right somehow went to MGM, and their DVD release is substandard, to put it mildly. Please see the YouTube video in the link below to get an accurate assessment of why that is so.

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May 14, 2012
how many seasons did this one last?
May 14, 2012
Just the one, unfortunately. If it had been aired during the ongoing True Blood/Twilight era, it would probably have lasted longer.
May 14, 2012
If you count an American TV season as 26 episodes, then it was only half of one. Most concepts that survive selling the pilot don't make it past 13 episodes. But it becomes almost tragic when it's obvious that all phases of the production are top-notch and there is a massive audience for it. I recall reading somewhere online (so I can't vouch for its authenticity) that NBC had reconsidered the cancellation and offered Dan Curtis the chance to continue this incarnation, but he refused on the grounds that he has busy with other projects.
April 01, 2012
The cancellation of this series was one of the most disappointing moments I have had in my tv viewing history. I really enjoyed this reboot. The comics that came out after didn't do the series justice and it was just a lost opportunity.
April 01, 2012
I've only been lucky enough to see a few issues. Story-wise, yes, I didn't get where the writers were trying to go. I'm guessing that while they had the rights to use the likenesses of the actors, they could not use any part of any story used in the original series or what was planned to be used in the '91 series second season. Visually, tho, I was (and still am) impressed by the stunning detail that you see in every panel. Granted, I'm not generally a follower of graphic novels, so maybe that kind of gorgeous artwork is more common than I know. But it was new to me.
April 02, 2012
I have the entire set tucked away. I think that Lara Parker had a big hand in their creation.
More Dark Shadows 1991 reviews
review by . March 26, 2012
posted in Dark Shadows
In 1991 one of the most popular television shows in daytime history was rebooted with an all-star cast.  Ben Cross, the acclaimed actor from Chariots of Fire was brought on to play Barnabas Collins.  Jeanne Simmons who played in such films as Spartacus was to be Elizabeth Collins Stoddard.  Roy Thinnes who gained fame from the tv series The Invaders was Roger Collins.  Barbara Steele star of many B movies was Julia Hoffman.  A stream of newcomers filled out the cast as well …
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Also developed by Dan Curtis, it tells a streamlined version of the original storyline - the arrival of Governess Victoria Winters at Collinwood, vampire Barnabas Collins being released from his coffin, Dr. Hoffman's attempt to medically cure Barnabas' vampirism, and finally Victoria's time warp into the past to witness the still-human Barnabas' encounter with Angelique, and his transformation into an undead creature.


Dark Shadows (1991) Format Soap opera Created by Dan Curtis Starring Ben Cross
Joanna Going
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Michael T. Weiss
Lysette Anthony
Roy Thinnes
Jean Simmons
Barbara Steele
Barbara Blackburn
Jim Fyfe
Veronica Lauren
Julianna McCarthy
Ely Pouget
Eddie Jones
Stefan Gierasch
Adrian Paul
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