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DARK SHADOWS: THE VAMPIRE'S CURSE and DARK SHADOWS: THE HAUNTING OF COLLINWOOD new releases


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#1 of 8 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted October 06 2009 - 05:37 AM

MPI Home Video released two new DARK SHADOWS DVDs on September 15.

THE VAMPIRE CURSE re-edits DARK SHADOWS mostly fondly remembered episodes, the 1895 flashback, into a streamlined narrative. Entire episodes and huge parts of the story are omitted to focus on the main conflict between Barnabas and Angelique. That storyline lasts three wonderful hours. Think of it as the DARK SHADOWS epic you always wanted. We get to see Angelique cast spells over the Collins family as she practices her witchcraft, the romance between Barnabas and Josette go wrong, and how Barnabas is turned into a vampire. The streamlined narrative is surprisingly coherent and thoughtfully put together into a traditional three-act structure with the third act being the strongest and most horrific. Pure Colonial Gothic. True there is some choppiness as major characters from the daily episodes drop out abruptly, but all the high spots are hit, including all the cool stuff everyone wants to see.  There is an opening title and a credit crawl at the end. All the individual openings and closings are cut.

One comes away with an even greater appreciation for the acting chops of Lara Parker (who is sensational), Thayer David, Louis Edmonds, and the great, great Jonathan Frid. Edmonds consistently surprises me with his range. He has some brilliant moments, especially when he realizes the horror. He achieves genuine pathos in the end when he realizes what is happening to his family and what he must do to stop it. Jonathan Frid invests Barnabas Collins with all the gravitas of Shakespearean tragedy. He's playing a hundred different levels at once in a meticulously modulated performance. He finds layers and nuances in  the character that aren't on the page. The way Frid lingers on his s's and lowers his voice at the end of a sentence after Barnabas dies is pure theater. He's got some creepy hand gestures, too, proving he was a Lugosi-watcher. Watch the interaction between Frid and Lara Parker when she, as Angelique, tries to blackmail him into marrying her. They play off each other so well they're a pleasure to watch. Parker should have become a major star. This edit favors all the actor's best moments and much of Sam Hall's, Gordon Russell's, and Ron Sproat's best writing. Yes, there was some damn fine writing in this old soap.

The uninterrupted 210-minute edit begins with episode 370 (November 24, 1967) hops, skips and jumps all the way to episode 460 (March 29,1968) with a monochrome epilog edited from episodes 211 and 212 (April 18 and 19, 1967).
That brings us from DARK SHADOWS Volume 4, disc 4 all the way to volume 8, disc 1.
The bonus episode is 221 (May 2, 1967) in which the resurrected Barnabas meets Maggie Evans for the first time.
The epilog and the bonus episode are from volume 1.

The interview with Jonathan Frid is most welcome, but too brief and too stingy.
I mean really.
Fans want to hear more from Frid, but after all these years a definitive interview seems unlikely.
No mention of when it was recorded, I'd say probably this year.

Is it my imagination, or has the transfer been upgraded since the box-sets were released in 2003?
The image looks sharper, cleaner, better defined and more stable to me than the transfer on the box-sets.
There is some gamma boosting and edge-enhancement, however, but given the state of analog video from that era this is only to be expected.

Years ago MPI edited together the storyline of Barnabas being freed from his coffin into a tight 100-minute feature in DARK SHADOWS VOLUME 1: THE RESURRECTION OF BARNABAS COLLINS. Essential viewing and a neat follow-up to THE VAMPIRE CURSE. It was released only on VHS. MPI ought to take another look at that and do it up better for DVD. Although the VHS is long out of print it can still be found cheap at amazon marketplace.

Incidentally, the cover art on amazon and elsewhere has THE CURSE OF THE VAMPIRE for a title, but the actual title on the DVD and on the box is THE VAMPIRE CURSE.
If anyone gets one with the THE CURSE OF THE VAMPIRE I want to know.
I understand some retailers sell the DVD in a slipcase but my copies from amazon didn't come in a slipcase.

Next up: Quentin the werewolf re-edited into a streamlined narrative in THE HAUNTING OF COLLINWOOD.

I will try to post links to amazon if this new system lets me.

Richard


#2 of 8 OFFLINE   Richard V

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Posted October 06 2009 - 07:06 AM

What I really wish someone would do is re-release the remastered movies "Night of Dark Shadows" and "House of Dark Shadows".  I DVR'ed them off of "Chiller" a year or two ago, but quality wasn't all that great.

See you at the pah-ty, Richter.

#3 of 8 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted October 06 2009 - 09:38 AM

Yes, everybody has  been clamoring for the feature films to be released on DVD for years.
There have been letter-writing campaigns and thousands of signatures on petitions.
MGM has turned a deaf ear to the persistent demand for over ten years.
Meanwhile, the original VHS tapes continue to turn up on amazon marketplace and ebay.
The laser disc editions are a little harder to get.

It has been rumored that House of and Night of will be released as DVD tie-ins to the new Tim Burton / Johnny Depp film version in 2011.
That promises to be a travesty, but if it facilitates the release of the original Dan Curtis films, some good will come out of it.

Meanwhile fans of the original program will really enjoy these two streamlined epics on DVD.
Both DVD's also serve as a low-cost introduction to those who are curious about the program and want to see the best of it.
Those who can't afford the more expensive box-sets should just gobble these up.

Richard


#4 of 8 OFFLINE   JohnMor

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Posted October 06 2009 - 08:09 PM



Originally Posted by Richard--W 

Yes, everybody has  been clamoring for the feature films to be released on DVD for years.
There have been letter-writing campaigns and thousands of signatures on petitions.
MGM has turned a deaf ear to the persistent demand for over ten years.

It has been rumored that House of and Night of will be released as DVD tie-ins to the new Tim Burton / Johnny Depp film version in 2011.
That promises to be a travesty, but if it facilitates the release of the original Dan Curtis films, some good will come out of it.

 
As well MGM should, considering Warner Bros, owns the rights to both films.  Although WB did say in one their chats here that they were going to be released in 2008.  I fear the economy drove a stake through those plans.  But I have a feeling we may see them with the new film.  And if not, then they'll find their way onto the Warner Archive.
I'm actually looking forward to the Burton/Depp DS.  Not sure they'll ever top Sweeney Todd, but I'll keep an open mind. 

#5 of 8 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted October 07 2009 - 03:28 AM

I meant to say Warner Brothers.
If I have MGM on the brain it's because MGM backed the films originally and released them when I saw them in the theater in the 1970s and again yesterday when I watched the VHS tapes. Both movies have always had the MGM logo ahead of them so it's habit with me even though I know Warner Brothers controls them now.

I'm not anxious to see Tim Burton turn Dark Shadows into another fetish movie nor am I anxious to see Depp trivialize Barnabas the same way he does all his other characters. They are the popular choice of today but that doesn't mean they are the right choice. THE VAMPIRE CURSE and THE HAUNTING OF COLLINWOOD are a reminder that Dark Shadows needs a more literate approach than what Burton and Depp are known for. i highly recommend both DVDs for fans and newcomers.


#6 of 8 OFFLINE   JohnMor

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Posted October 07 2009 - 07:28 PM

Interesting take.  Depp is one of the last actors I would say trivializes his characters. 

#7 of 8 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted October 08 2009 - 06:25 AM

I would say that's all Depp does, is trivialize his characters.
He plays every character the same way, for cuteness.
I mean cuteness in terms of attitude, not in terms of looks.
Depp is a boring actor for this reason, and besides, he doesn't have the range or the insight.

Barnabas needs to be played by a classically trained-actor who can fill a theater with his emotional presence.
Depp is just a movie star.
There's no comparing Depp to Jonathan Frid.
THE VAMPIRE CURSE is a reminder of the enormous difference between these two actors.

They should look for an unknown theater actor who has the chops and the right features.
Since DARK SHADOWS is already an attraction and a known commodity it doesn't really need a movie star to sell it.
People will come to see DARK SHADOWS regardless of who plays Barnabas, so they may as well cast it properly.



#8 of 8 OFFLINE   James 'Tiger' Lee

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Posted October 11 2009 - 06:20 AM

I think Depp could pull it off, but I do agree that its a good way to launch an experienced but unknown actor.





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