Sat 25 Aug 2012
DARK SHADOWS. NBC; January 13-14 1991. Premiere of TV series: 4-hour mini-series. Ben Cross, Joanna Going, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jim Fyfe, Barbara Steele, Ron Thinnes, Barbara Blackburn, Jean Simmons. Director: Dan Curtis.
Part Two of the continuing saga of Barnabas Collins, the 200-year-old vampire whose release from a coffin chains means dire things for the village of Collinsport, Maine. I only occasionally watched the previous TV serial, not making much heads or tails of it when it was on originally. Picking the story up in the middle tends to do that to you.
Coincidentally, if you remember reading my review of Barbara Hambly’s SF-Fantasy novel, Those Who Hunt the Night, which was posted here on this blog a short while ago, you will recall that the basic premise is the same: that vampirism is a blood disorder that might be curable. Ben Cross plays Barnabas to the hilt, agonized and tortured (and possibly sensuous, but I have seen anything romantic about vampires), while former Italian horror movie starlet Barbara Steele is Dr. Julia Hoffman, the physician who thinks she can cure him. (It looks as though she speaks through clenched teeth.)
The other major plot thread (there are a few other minor ones, mostly of sexual affairs and liaisons yet to come) is the budding romance between Barnabas and the new governess to the mansion, Victoria Winters, played by Joanna Going, who is beautiful, innocent and charming.
There is a lot of blood — “Where did it all go? If she lost all that blood, where did it go?” — there is at least one stake to the heart, lots of moody atmosphere — caused by lots of fog — and spooky music. Or in other words, the works.
If released as a theatrical movie, this new series would probably be given a PG rating, but it’s not impossible it would be given a PG-13. This may be why, when the series itself started [the following week], it was switched at the last moment to ten o’clock instead of nine. Which is why I missed it, and so (missing an episode) why I probably won’t be watching it on a continuing basis.
(Network shows are losing viewers left and right, and it’s really no wonder, when you consider that with all the stunting around, no one knows when anything is on for sure.)
A brief word on the behalf of Jim Fyfe, who plays the semi-demented handyman Willie Loomis. You have never seen a more perfect example of small-town inbreeding, straight from an H. P. Lovecraft novel, perhaps.
By the way, in case you’re interested, the mini-series is not complete in itself. If the people in charge have their way, the series may never end. I enjoyed it for the two nights it was on, and I may sample the series now and then, but for now, it simply left me — shall I say it? — hanging.
February 1991 (slightly revised).
[UPDATE] 08-25-12. I have been trying to match up the comments I wrote at the time with the episode list found on IMDB. I think what NBC did was to show the two-hour pilot on January 13th, then combined episodes #2 and 3 and aired them on January 14th.
The series itself began on January 18th. Interest in the series seems to have faded quickly. There were only 12 episodes in all, including the three that were shown as part of this introductory mini-series. The final one was shown on March 22, 1991.