Now Streaming in Austin: Master of Dark Shadows
New documentary bites into the legacy of the Gothic soap
Daytime soaps are the perennial running joke of television, the blue-collar dream of upper-middle-class comfort. So if you're going into the realm of fantasy, why stop there? Ditch the suburban McMansion for a Gothic hall. No more bored housewives as the protagonists: Instead, classic 19th century heroines, exploring hidden passages and moonlit cemeteries. Finally, dispatch the swoon-worthy surgeons as the love interest. Why not a vampire?
Depending on your point of view, 1960s horror-soap Dark Shadows was either the nadir of cheapo TV, or a hidden masterpiece. However, new documentary Master of Dark Shadows digs up the astonishing history behind the unlikely smash, which dominated ratings, spawned two film spin-offs, a 1991 reboot and – most terrifying of all – a 2012 cinematic do-over by Tim Burton. The show's rise, fall, and lasting legacy is narrated by Ian McShane from a script by director David Gregory and Austin film writer and historian Max Meehan (if you recognize the name, that's because Meehan is best known to local audiences as a keystone of the booking team for two now-legendary repertory series, Video Hate Squad and Savage Gold, the latter of which recently wrapped up its long run at AFS Cinema with a sell-out double bill). Yet the documentary looks beyond the cult appeal of one show and instead takes in the full history of series creator Dan Curtis, who later went on to sweep the Emmys with his epic miniseries The Winds of War and War and Remembrance.