Sunday, May 26, 2019

Hear Dark Shadows as it originally aired 50 years ago today


Dark Shadows for me has always been a curious study of television. I have always been curious about more than the story, but the show as a whole experience. I could really say that about any television show, past or present. By that I mean that not only is the show interesting but the commercials and promos as well. I have been a tape collector for over 20 years now and like finding an old television show with all of the breaks included.

In January 2007, the Dark Shadows Fan Club offered an interesting item for a limited time -- kinescope negatives. Kinescopes are a black-and-white film made from a monitor as a show is broadcast. By 1969, they were only being used to distribute shows to stations that had not purchased videotape machines. As a matter of fact, there were very few stations still needing shows this way at all. I'll come back to that. I jumped on the chance to purchase some of these rare items at $25 each. I bought four of them. A broke college student such as myself at that time probably had no business spending so much money, but alas, I did. I couldn't pass it up.

When I got these negatives in the mail I was surprised to find that the picture and sound were on different prints entirely! I didn't expect to be able to do anything with the picture knowing it would be a negative, but at least I figured I could do something with the sound. So I laced it into my 16mm projector and gave it a whirl. Fortunately, it worked and I captured the sound of all four of these film recordings. These recordings give a great window back in time to TV of a different era.

Fifty years ago today, on May 26, 1969, the first of my kinescope negative film prints was made, recording Episode 761 (labeled here with the ABC production number of #106, shorthand for #106-DRK-69, or the 106th episode of 1969.) The audio of this film is below.

This episode deals with the aftermatch of Laura Stockbridge Collins being destroyed and failing to bring her children Nora and Jamison with her. Quentin Collins, having just recently being cursed as a werewolf, turns to Evan Hanley to use the black arts to try and undo his curse by summoning the devil himself. A mysterious shadow appears and Quentin passes out... leaving the audience hanging until tomorrow to find out who it is.

Beyond the show, the commercials themselves are a great time capsule of the typical life of the hip young person of 1969... which is definitely the demographic ABC was aiming for. Commercials for hair care products, weight loss fad Metrecal, Fruit of the Loom - trying to make men's underwear sexy (for 69 cents no less!) etc. etc. Even more fascinating are the ABC network promos at the very end for repeats of The Mod Squad and It Takes a Thief.

I hope you find this as interesting as I do. I'll be back with another one on March 5, 2020 during the Leviathan story.

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