17th Apr2019

‘Master of Dark Shadows’ Review

by Alain Elliott


Dark Shadows is a show, like many people of a certain age I’d imagine, that I knew nothing about until Tim Burton made the actually very good, and underrated, movie of the same name based on the series.

However I still had not watched a single episode before watching Master of Dark Shadows. And this way of viewing this  documentary was a surprisingly good way to watch. Every piece of information was new to me and I learnt so much about the show. To learn that Dark Shadows went from a pretty run of the mill if slightly gothic-y soap opera to a horror-filled soap opera that no-one had ever seen before is some pretty fascinating viewing.

The talking heads include many of the people involved in making the show and the actors in it. We hear a lot from Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis and we hear plenty of thoughts on Curtis from everyone else… He was clearly an interesting character and one that absolutely loved working with people and making TV shows and movies. He clearly has a place in his heart for Dark Shadows even if he doesn’t believe it is his best work. Despite going on to win an Emmy and other awards for future work (some of this gets covered in a small part of the documentary), he does understand that he will always be best known for creating Dark Shadows.

The actors interviewed for Master of Dark Shadows, as well as its producers and various other people involved in the series all have an affection for the show and love that it is still celebrated fifty years later by fans and at conventions. This is proof that if you can make something that horror fans can love, they will love it forever and forever. But Dark Shadows’ popularity wasn’t just from genre fans. Because it was on at 4/5pm, kids loved the fact that they could watch a show as soon as they got home from school that involved vampires, werewolves and ghosts! That was unique at the time and if it was in a soap opera, it would be now!

Perhaps the strangest talking head is Whoopi Goldberg. She is clearly a big fan of the show and offers some insight as to why it was so popular with youngsters at the time but without any of celebrity fans being interviewed, she sticks out like a sore thumb. Alan Ball (creator of True Blood) also has a few insights on why vampires are so popular and I personally loved the stories from music composer Bob Cobert on how he came up with the music. Most of the people who are spoke to are engaging and interesting, keeping a good pace to the documentary with clips of the show in between.

Dark Shadows being shot live makes for some interesting stories, with plenty of ‘mistakes’ still on film and it seems funny now to hear people say they weren’t worried at the time because they believed it would never be shown again so it didn’t really matter. A line was forgotten – no worry, do better the next day – nobody ever thought that 50 years later new and old fans would be watching the show again and again.

This Master of Dark Shadows focuses on the initial Dark Shadows run between 1966 and 1971. But we do get brief mentions of the spin-off Night of Dark Shadows, the ‘remake’ of the show in 1991 (that I discovered starred a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Tim Burton’s movie version in 2012. Director David Gregory is very experienced in documentaries and it shows, even if there are no surprises – we see clips of the show, people talking and that’s about it – but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it- and it works.

I am a fan of documentaries and Master Of Dark Shadows squeezes plenty of info into its short eighty five minute run time for fans and newbies like myself alike. I wish more shows, after the news that they would be axed, just decided to go all out and add any type of horror element they could. It would make for some fantastic viewing!

*** 3/5

Master Of Dark Shadows is available on DVD and VOD, across the US, now from MPI and Dark Sky Films.


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