Growing up, I was never a fan of documentaries. I’m not sure if I had some sort of aversion to learning new things or just found them boring. All I know is the mere mention of a documentary and I was immediately turned off to the entire viewing experience. Fast forward to now and I can’t get enough of these bad boys. My favorite, of course, being anything to do with the horror genre. Today, I had the pleasure of watching yet another. This time it is David Gregory’s Master of Dark Shadows.
Master of Dark Shadows tells the fascinating story of Dan Curtis’ hit daytime television show, Dark Shadows, and the outstanding impact it has had over the last 50 years.
Narrated by the amazing Ian McShane (John Wick, Hellboy), Master of Dark Shadows starts off with a brief background on award-winning filmmaker, Dan Curtis. We learn of his early life and how he eventually made his way into television production with a golf show that ended up lasting a decade.
From there, Curtis would go on to create one of the shortest-running, but most impactful soap operas in television history. I am, of course, referring to Dark Shadows.
Creeping its way into American households on June 27, 1966, Dark Shadows was not initially the success that he would develop into. After airing for a few weeks, the ratings weren’t where they needed to be and the show was canceled.
With nothing else to lose and a clever suggestion his number one fans — his young daughters — show runner Curtis decided it was time to amp things up and make everything “really scary.”
Dark Shadows may have been considered a soap opera, something that was always thought to just be a “housewives’ medium,” but Curtis’ constantly evolving imagination and guts transformed it into something that all kids love, just needing to rush home from school for. After all, they couldn’t miss out on the newest adventures at Collinwood.
Master of Dark Shadows dives into the legendary soap opera’s short existence from 1966 to 1971, the two movies that would expand the universe a bit more, and the award-winning projects that Dan Curtis would immerse himself in for a decade afterwards.
Master of Dark Shadows is a beautifully crafted documentary showcasing the brilliance and bravado of Dan Curtis, his team of writers, and everyone else who became involved with the groundbreaking daytime drama during its short life.
The doc’s 87 minutes are full of interviews with Dan Curtis’ children, collaborative writers, former secretaries, former ABC executives, and many more. There are also archival interviews with Curtis, himself, and the man who would bring Barnabas Collins to life, Jonathan Frid.
My only true exposure to the world of Dark Shadows is the 2012 film adaptation directed by Tim Burton. The Johnny Depp-starrer is a decent film, but not one that I would revisit too many times, personally.
The original show and it’s 1991 13-week revival, however, are two things that I feel I must hunt down and watch in their entirety now. I am very intrigued and would love to watch all of the crazy and seemingly silly plots.
Borrowing from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, Wuthering Heights, and almost any other iconic horror tale you can think of, this feels like something that no horror fan should miss.
Call it a horror show, call it a gothic romance, call it whatever you like. There is no denying the impact that Dark Shadows has had over the last 50 years.
Master of Dark Shadows is now available to own on Blu-ray and DVD from MPI Media Group. I highly recommend it, if you are a fan of the original series, the revival series, or any of the films dealing with the material. If you are like me and are not familiar with the property at all, it is still a fantastic watch and should still be added to your collection!
I give this documentary 4.5 teen heart-throb vampires out of 5.