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August 2012
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Posts Tagged ‘soap opera’

Classic horror fans growing up in the States during the sixties and early seventies would have had the pleasure of stumbling across a daytime soap opera which seemed to cater exclusively to their tastes! Dark Shadows began airing on ABC Television in 1966 as a gothic romance but took a much creepier direction a year into its run with the introduction of a character called Barnabas Collins…who just so happened to be a vampire! As the show took off in the ratings, many more supernatural storylines and characters were introduced including a werewolf, witches, ghosts, time-travel and alternate dimensions. Monster kids and teenagers especially became caught up in all the hype surrounding the soap and Dark Shadows continued to enthrall daytime viewers until it was ignomoniously cancelled in April 1971.

Most British horror fans weren’t really aware of Dark Shadows since it never received any networked screenings on either the BBC or ITV stations; in fact, I’m not sure if it was ever screened in the UK at all! I only became aware of it through a book called Fantastic Television by Gary Gerani which was published in 1977 and became my reference guide to all science-fiction TV shows and TV movies at the time. I spent years tracking down some of the American series and TV films mentioned including Dark Shadows which I eventually watched for the first time when it was being rerun on the Sci-Fi Channel in Boston and subsequently the odd clip on Youtube.

Even though Dark Shadows was cancelled so many decades ago it left a lasting legacy for horror fans including two theatrical movies (House of Dark Shadows in 1970 and Night of Dark Shadows in 1971), a short-lived primetime TV remake in 1991, a pilot for yet another TV remake in 2004 and finally a dreadful “comedy” movie version from Tim Burton in 2012. There were also numerous paperback novels and comic books based on the series as well as board games, colouring books and a series of audio plays from Big Finish Productions.

Sadly, the star of Dark Shadows, Jonathan Frid, passed away on Friday 13th this year and is the focus of a special issue of the cult movie and television fanzine Kontinental X. Issue 9 of this popular publication is devoted to all things Dark Shadows with a particular emphasis on Frid and his life and career. If you would like to order a copy of the Kontinental X Jonathan Frid tribute issue just email cranstonman@o2.co.uk for more details or check out the Strange Vice website for further back-issues.

You can now buy the complete series of the original Dark Shadows soap opera on dvd from Amazon.


Magdalena is an orphaned teenager who lives at a girls boarding school. After her grandfather is crucified by a prostitute (!) she becomes possessed by the Devil in this hilariously bad German rip-off of The Exorcist. The plot itself is at times incoherent but don’t let that spoil things for you; if you’re a fan of trashy exploitation movies just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Once Magdalena becomes possessed her symptoms include fainting, being rude to priests and running around in the nude a lot. The headmistress of the girls school initially dismisses this strange behaviour, acting as if the girl has nothing more than a bad cold despite being witness to levitating furniture, demonic noises, a satanic cat and Magdalena kicking a door in with her bare feet. Elisabeth Volkmann’s performance as the headmistress¬†(in cahoots with whoever dubbed her voice into English) put me in mind of Celia Imrie’s portrayal of Miss Babs in the iconic soap opera spoof Acorn Antiques and this certainly adds to the general air of slapdash that permeates the film.

After being subjected to medical tests Magdalena is diagnosed with possession, runs around in the nude some more, tries to seduce various male cast members and then accuses them of rape and is sexually abused by an invisible spirit a few times. All in all, just another day in the life of a possessed teenage girl. More highlights: dopey dialogue, dodgy disco dancing, more gratuitous nudity and did I mention the outrageously bad dubbing?

If you want to witness this movie car-crash for yourself Magdalena is available on dvd on a double-bill with blaxploitation Exorcist rip-off Abby.

Review by Richard Gladman

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