Friday, July 5, 2013

Not-so-nice review of DARK SHADOWS premiere episode

Critic Says 'Dark Shadows' Is Just Another Soap Opera
June 28, 1966

HOLLYWOOD (UPI) - "Dark Shadows" is the name of a new, half-hour daytime suspense series which premiered Monday on ABC-TV, and which the network describes as "styled in the tradition of the classic Gothic novel.”

The story, which obviously is trying to emulate the romantic as well as suspenseful effects of such works as "Wuthering Heights" and "Jane Eyre," revolves around, a young lady who leaves New York to become governess to a 10-year-old boy in a mysterious house in a Maine fishing village.

The mistress of the strange house, and the star of the series, is veteran actress Joan Bennett, who is obviously well equipped to handle such a role, but had little to do in the premiere.

One of the reasons it is worth going into these details of this show, which is somewhat less than Gothic in achievement, is that the recent outburst of announced drama specials for television—because of the success  of CBS-TV's "Death of a Salesman"—is overflowing into daytime programming of the future.

For example, an NBC-TV executive confirmed the other day that the network is planning to run a series based on famous classic romances of the novel form, such as "Wuthering Heights" and "Jane Eyre." These daytime efforts apparently would be produced by David Susskind, who also now has a comer on the prime time drama special market.

It is also fair to assume that the recent spate of films using such accomplished stars as Bette Davis in mystery-suspense stories – and with good box office success – has motivated “Dark Shadows” somewhat, and probably has some bearing on what appears to be a small trend.

One of the chief problems with “Dark Shadows” is that it is ancient in tone, and is merely another form of soap opera in its approach. The soap opera is an honorable form of broadcasting, in that if gives actors a chance to keep working at their profession, and to learn technics (sic) of the trade if they are young, and does the same for neophyte video writers, too. But in this particular case the soap opera approach does little to dignify the “classic gothic” attempt.

The show has waves breaking on rocks, train whistles in the night, trembling violins an every other hoary film trick to signify suspense – so much that is seems like unintentional high camp. One almost expects to see two lovers kiss, followed by a shot of a stallion on a hill with a flash of symbolic lightning in the background.
You can have raging seas and shadowy cliffs and moonlit coasts, but a fine script and sharply-directed performers are even better at setting moods. At present, “Dark Shadows,” particularly because of its New England setting, would seem to be better titled “Son of Peyton Place.”

Furthermore, the landslide of commercials during Monday’s premiere cumulatively assassinating the “romance suspense” attempts with their offensively phony good cheer, tended to make the debut a mystery indeed. One sometimes got the feeling that a chief character was a simpering mother who asked a librarian about cavities. 

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