House of Dark Shadows: Let’s Not Play Insane Games

“I haven’t seen the light of day in almost two hundred years.”

Right this minute, teenage bad boy John Yaeger is in the basement of the Old House, pulling apart the locks and chains that keep Barnabas Collins shut up tight in his coffin. Six weeks ago, the Dark Shadows cast took off for Tarrytown to shoot a feature film, leaving the newcomers and second-stringers to keep the show warm while they’re gone. Now they’re cracking open the mystery box, and once more unleashing Barnabas upon the populace. Dark Shadows is back at work.

To celebrate, I’ve invited actual famous grown-up film critic David Edelstein to come watch the 1970 film House of Dark Shadows. David’s the film critic for New York magazine, NPR’s Fresh Air and CBS Sunday Morning, and he’s also a lifelong Dark Shadows fan and a friend of the blog.

Five years ago, David wrote a very funny review of the Tim Burton movie, which he figured was his only chance to write about Dark Shadows. But it turns out he’s got more in the tank, so we’re going to watch the 1970 film House of Dark Shadows together, and discuss the whole thing from start to finish. David saw HoDS when it first came out, and he’s always loved it, so yeah, I know, just another example of bias in the mainstream media.

Today’s journey involves Hammer movies, overstuffed sets, inadvertent love triangles, how you can tell it’s daytime, cameos, cannons, the color of blood, and the age-old war between actors and scenery, and it ends with the extermination of everything that you love.

Danny:  So how did you get into watching Dark Shadows?

David:  Well, vampires weren’t mainstream in the 1960s, the way they are now. I would read Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, and beg my dad to take me to the Strand Theater in Hartford, because vampire movies never played in the suburbs. You had to go to the downtown theaters, where people were always yelling at the screen; it was a blast. So seeing a vampire on TV every afternoon was impossibly great. The first Dark Shadows I saw was episode 700, when Barnabas used the I Ching to travel back in time to 1897.

Danny:  Oh, that’s a great place to start.

David:  Professor Stokes threw down the I Ching wands, and as Barnabas walked through the door — there was one particular image of him in this triangular slash of light, and then the coffin fades in… It was haunting and powerful, and the moment I saw that, I said, I am never going to stop watching this show.

David:  I stuck with it to the bitter end, too. We didn’t have video back then, but I tape-recorded the last episode and played it over and over. I must have listened to it a hundred times.

Danny:  Oh, I did that with The Muppet Movie, in the early 80s, with a tape recorder in front of the TV.  I would listen to The Muppet Movie, with commercial breaks.

David:  Exactly! It was so precious back then. The episode was awful, especially Jonathan Frid: Catherine, he’s choking me! But —

Danny:  But that’s the only piece of Dark Shadows that you own, at that point.

David:  Well, no — I had stacks and stacks of 16 and Tiger Beat, and all the Marilyn Ross books, every one of them.

Danny:  Right.

David:  Barnabas Collins in a Jugular Vein — and the terrible comic books, which I can’t believe you’re going through panel by panel —

Danny:  Well, that’s a thing that I’ve just learned to love, doing this blog and looking so closely at it —

David:  No, I know!

Danny:  The Marilyn Ross books, I do not like — the more I read of those, the more I hate them.

David:  I loved them. When you wrote about the mummy one, I was reminded of how bad they were, but — I’d just run to the local Doubleday bookstore to see if the latest had arrived, and, oh my god, Barnabas and Quentin vs the Mummy! I could barely wait to get home! And there was one with outer space invaders — Barnabas, Quentin and the Body Snatchers! At the time, it was fantastic.

Danny:  And all these things — you couldn’t own the show, that concept didn’t exist, so you would just collect these tokens and talismans.

David:  You couldn’t even watch the episodes more than once. Poof, they were gone. But a movie you could see over and over. Also, there was something about watching a TV show on the big screen — if people would pay, would stand around the block to see Dark Shadows — that was a really big deal.

David:  So that idea, in and of itself, made House of Dark Shadows an event. Plus, the first commercial for it on network television — just seeing Maggie Evans coming downstairs, and hearing an announcer say, “Barnabas Collins will take a bride!” You know?

Danny:  Yeah.

David:  “See how the vampires do it.” Oh god, so exciting.

Danny:  They really played up the sex angle in the publicity — did that feel weird for you, as a kid?

David:  No, because the poster had Carolyn with fangs, and blood running down… It felt like a real movie.

David:  The Dracula Has Risen from the Grave poster that everybody remembered at the time was just a shot of a very beautiful neck, with a Band-Aid on it. The Gothic lettering, and you always had blood dripping down from the letters — I loved that. You know, when you’re ten years old, that sort of thing doesn’t bother you.

Danny:  Right.

David:  Now, as a film critic, I would probably say that this movie violates the spirit of the show, and it does! It violates everything we love about the show! But at the time — it was just another realm that Dark Shadows had penetrated.

David:  Dan Curtis didn’t want this to be a feature-length soap, he wanted to make a Hammer movie. Dracula Has Risen From the Grave came out the year before, and was a huge hit. That was the third Christopher Lee Dracula movie, after Horror of Dracula and Dracula: Prince of Darkness. Hammer made their movies incredibly cheaply, but they were known for getting maximum production value for their dollars. They had access to all these great British actors, who were making nothing doing Shakespeare at the National Theater, and were really grateful for the few British film opportunities that they had. Also, the Hammer movies had the same bright red blood that Curtis used. It must have been the same brand of paint.

Danny:  Well, that’s the main thing you need. Once you’ve stocked up on red paint…

David:  Curtis had his terrific actors, he already had a great score, and he had this story that he couldn’t let go of, with Barnabas coming in and getting a stake through his heart after six weeks…

Danny:  And he needed to go make that movie.

Danny:  How old were you, when House of Dark Shadows came out?

David:  Ten or eleven. It opened on a Friday, so on Saturday, my parents dropped me and some friends off at the Strand — and the lines were around the block, twice.

Danny:  Wow.

David:  It was packed, and they were letting people in really slowly, like it was some nonstop party. By the time I got in, Carolyn was already a vampire.

Danny:  Oh, my gosh.

David:  It was on a double-feature with another James Aubrey era MGM movie that I had to sit through, in order to see the beginning of House of Dark Shadows. I would guess the audience at the Strand that day was 80 percent black, and probably very few of them had ever seen Dark Shadows. They were there because it was a vampire movie. And it really worked for them.

Danny:  Oh, really?

David:  Oh, my god. If you had shown them the Dark Shadows movie that we would have wanted to see, they would’ve hated it, but they screamed! every time a vampire popped up. When Carolyn was sucking on Todd’s neck, and all the blood bubbled up…

Danny:  They loved it.

David:  Stakes were going into hearts… They went crazy, they loved that movie so much.

Danny:  Well, I hope we do too. Are you ready?

David:  Sure.

Danny:  All right, let’s go watch a movie.

Danny:  And here we go. The title’s a little bottom-heavy.

David:  Well, they changed the title — originally, it was just Dark Shadows.

Danny:  I guess they knew making a Dark Shadows movie was ridiculous, so they tried to sneak it by under an alias.

Danny:  The first thing that you hear is Kathryn Leigh Scott sighing. That’s the first bit of dialogue, just a frustrated sigh. Maggie is already super sick of being in this movie.

David:  And she’s in this little skimpy dress. Dan Curtis puts her in these dresses, no matter what’s going on or what the weather is. But as a horny eleven year old, I didn’t mind a bit. I still don’t.

David:  Oh, and look, he’s doing the low-angle thing. The cinematography in this is vastly different from the show, because he doesn’t want to have even a whisper of a television show setup.

Danny:  Well, he does this on television, too. He repeats a lot of these gimmick shots in the 1991 revival show, and I’ve just found them oppressive and distracting. I’m going to try to keep an open mind about these, but to be honest, I’m probably not going to try that hard.

David:  This was so exciting. You’re a kid, you’ve been watching Dark Shadows, and you see these names on the big screen, in a giant theater! And it looks like a movie, it doesn’t look like a corny TV show.

Danny:  It’s super dark, though. You can’t really tell where you are.

David:  Well, you’re not supposed to. You’re supposed to see the flashlight, and then the blackness, with the red of the credits, those big bold red credits —

Danny:  That does look incredible, yeah.

David:  And that tells you there’s blood coming. That’s the color of early 70s blood. In the early 1970s, even hyper-realistic crime movies like The French Connection used a shade of blood that clearly Curtis was really into. It’s a shade that I now associate with lipstick.

Danny:  Yeah, like super red, cherry flavored blood.

Danny:  So I read the script in The Dark Shadows Movie Book, and they cut at least 20 minutes worth of material.

David:  Really!

Danny:  Yeah, the script is 118 pages, and the movie’s 97 minutes. And one of the cuts is the first sequence, leading up to Maggie looking for David in the cemetery.

David:  David Henesy was supposed to have hung himself.

Danny:  Yeah, they establish that Maggie is David’s governess, and Roger is David’s father, and then we see David pretending to hang himself, to make Maggie look bad. So Maggie’s frustrated with her job, and she wants to quit, and leave Collinwood. But without that sequence, you basically have no idea who anybody is; Maggie could be David’s sister. They don’t say the word “governess” for the first 25 minutes.

Danny:  Metrocolor! All hail Metrocolor. That was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s trade name for their film processing.

David:  Okay.

Danny:  I looked that up, so I would sound informed next to all your film knowledge.

David:  Sure.

Danny:  I really like this scene, with Willie accosting Maggie and shoving his little grave-robbing poem in her face. She does a lot of acting here, you can tell that she’s really engaged with the scene.

David:  John Karlen was a well-known and much beloved stage actor. Kind of a wild man. I knew people at the Yale Rep who had worked with him, and who adored Johnny Karlen. He was having the time of his life during this whole period.

Danny:  Now, you’d never seen Willie like this on the show — opening the coffin, getting strangled by Barnabas. Everybody started watching after Barnabas was already out of the box. For the kids in 1970, this must have been like a legend that you never thought you’d see.

David:  Now we have a shot — this is not the most egregious, but it’s bad. One of the worst problems with the Hammer movies, and with House of Dark Shadows, is the decision to shoot day for night. Everyone knows the term, it just means that they’re going to underexpose the film, and pretend they shot this at night. They think they’ll correct it in post, but it never looks right.

Danny:  And look at him, in the middle of the day, with his little flashlight.

David:  These days, with computers, they can do it better. They can make it look like whatever time of day they want. But later on, with Daphne running through the woods…

Danny:  And it’s just day, not really for night.

David:  It makes the movie look really cheap.

Danny:  Now, Willie’s got this little poem that he found somewhere. He says “I found this in an old book,” which is not convincing, and he thinks it’s the key to finding the legendary Collins jewels.

The Madonnas rest high above
The lion’s head watches the dove

David:  I guess they couldn’t think of a word that rhymes with “vampire”.

Danny:  I love the idea that somebody planted little treasure maps around Collinwood, to give grave-robbers something to do.

Danny:  The sound design is fantastic, especially if you’re listening with headphones. The sounds are super sharp and exaggerated. Each step that Willie takes down the stairs has its own specific crunch, it’s like every sound is individually hand-crafted.

David:  Yes.

Danny:  A huge chunk of this movie was reused in the 1991 revival, sometimes shot for shot, but with less appealing actors. They introduce Vicki instead of Maggie and they don’t do the looking-for-David stuff, but Willie’s treasure-hunt poem ends up in the show.

David:  Look at Karlen chewing the scenery. Dwight Frye would sit up in his grave and salute. Karlen’s one of the treasures of Dark Shadows. Karlen and Nancy Barrett are the ones that don’t get as much attention as they should. They’re the real bedrock of the show.

Danny:  That lion head is not really watching the dove. It’s looking in completely the wrong direction.

David:  Girls walking down dark corridors with flashlights, or candles — this is the ur-gothic. Curtis can finally live out his peculiar fantasies on screen, in a way that he couldn’t on TV.

Danny:  The script is by Sam Hall and Gordon Russell, which is two-thirds of the show’s writing team, but it doesn’t really sound like Sam Hall’s dialogue. It’s not witty or clever, there are no funny exchanges. It’s not bad dialogue, it’s fine, but it feels like Curtis didn’t want fancy dialogue to distract people from the action.

Maggie:  David! David, let me out! David!

Danny:  Did you take this personally, when you saw it? That the first ten minutes of the movie is basically just people shouting your name? Like, you were so into this movie, and the movie was also into you.

David:  I never thought of it that way.

Danny:  They were microtargeting.

David:  You just keep thinkin’, Butch. That’s what you’re good at.

Danny:  Willie is about to learn why you shouldn’t dig up other people’s stuff just because you read a poem.

David:  And there’s poor Joan Bennett, who — certainly as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard — she always had to play it so starched.

Daphne:  I’m ready to go, unless you want me to help look for David.

Danny:  God, everyone is obsessed with looking for David. Do they really play hide and seek every night, on this enormous estate? They need to put a leash on that kid.

David:  Right.

Danny:  They cut a lot of Liz scenes; she hardly needs to be there at all. This is a great movie, if you don’t like backstories or human relationships.

David:  Well, here’s a day for night shot with Sabrina — or Daphne, she’s Daphne here.

Danny:  Yes.

David:  Man, that hair she wears in the show… So this is daytime. The sky is —

Danny:  It’s blue.

David:  This is daylight.

Danny:  It actually looks like a nice day.

David:  She’s walking in and out of shadows of trees. That’s not the moon.

Danny:  Yeah, that’s not how the moon works.

Danny:  Now, as the first person getting attacked by a vampire, she’s the redshirt for this movie, and she’s actually wearing red, which is convenient.

David:  And that’s the color of blood in the movie, that cherry red.

Danny:  I guess that’s why the first victim always wears red, it’s so the blood doesn’t ruin their outfit.

David:  Now, one thing you’ll notice is that no cows die in the movie.

Danny:  Oh, yes! She’s the cow, you’re right. Daphne is the honorary cow.

David:  And this is straight out of the gothic novels, a young woman running away from a house.

Danny:  Oh, watch this — when she gets in the car, she reaches for her seatbelt, which I love. It’s like, that’s not what safety belt means, Daphne. It’s not that kind of safety.

David:  And here’s Roger Davis, the most hated actor on the show.

Danny:  He’s actually left the show at this point, but Curtis gives him one last chance to ruin Dark Shadows.

Danny:  And the first thing he does is just get his hands right on a female.

David:  Oh, I know. He’s always pawing the actresses — especially Lisa Richards, actually. He’s all over her when he’s playing her brother.

Danny:  Yeah, super creepy. And now he gets to do it on the big screen, in Metrocolor.

Danny:  And now Maggie —

David:  In that little shortie dress.

Danny:  Her flashlight doesn’t work anymore… she’s just given up on even being in the movie.

David:  It’s sad, in a way — Kathryn Leigh Scott, and Lara Parker, they really thought they were going to be big movie stars. They didn’t realize that fifty years later, this would be the pinnacle.

Danny:  Hey, there’s David! We found him. Movie’s over, I think.

Liz: Where could Roger be? I’ve tried to reach him everywhere.

Danny:  A house full of people, and nobody can find anyone. They need a better inventory control system.

Danny:  And here’s more cast members, if you need any. They keep introducing characters, and not telling the audience who they are.

David:  Oh, it’s Don Briscoe. Apparently a very brilliant, very funny, very interesting, bipolar guy. After he died, a really smart critic in Memphis named John Beifuss wrote the most wonderful obituary for him. He interviewed a lot of people about his life, and his last few years — and it was heartbreaking. Probably around 300 pounds. He mostly shunned Dark Shadows pilgrims, but he finally talked to a few, in the end. What a sad story.

Todd:  Are Dr. Hoffman and Jeff still with Daphne?
Liz:  Yes, I didn’t have a chance to tell Jeff about Maggie.

Danny:  At this point, they’re just launching character names out into the darkness, daring the audience to keep up.

Maggie:  David?

Danny:  And back to Maggie, who’s still saying “David”.

Maggie:  David?

Danny:  We’re almost fifteen minutes into the movie, at some point somebody needs to figure out where somebody else is, and start having scenes together.

Danny:  Now here, I don’t understand why Maggie gets upset. She’s been asking David to let her out of the room for five minutes. Now someone’s letting her out. I don’t see the issue.

Jeff:  Maggie!
Maggie:  Jeff? Jeff!
Jeff:  Maggie!
Maggie:  Jeff!
Jeff:  Maggie…
Maggie:  D-David! D-D-David!

Danny:  We’re now communicating entirely through character names.

David:  But look at this shot, from below, so you see the ceiling, just to prove this isn’t an ABC studio. Curtis is always shooting from an interesting angle — around the corner, through a door…

Danny:  Or through the furniture, as here.

David:  Right here, yeah.

Danny:  He’s thinking outside the box. Like Barnabas.

Danny:  Hooray, it’s Julia, the movie is saved.

David:  This is great, to see Dennis Patrick and Grayson Hall, in a mirror that doesn’t show the camera or the boom mic.

Sheriff:  Do you think she’ll be all right?
Julia:  I don’t know. She’s lost an enormous amount of blood.

Danny:  She says that like she’s disappointed, like it’s totally irresponsible of Daphne to lose all that blood. I bet it’s in the last place she looks for it.

Julia:  I’ll move her to the hospital tomorrow.

Danny:  Yeah, we’re not going to do it now. She’s asleep, she wouldn’t appreciate it.

David:  I’m flashing back right now to how I felt seeing these actors on the big screen…

Danny:  How happy you were.

David:  The excitement of seeing these people for the first time on film.

David:  They got a lot of bang for their buck out of that mansion, too. They rented that for a song, and they knew how to dress the sets to disguise the threadbare budget. Whatever you say about Curtis, he had an eye.

Danny:  One thing that I like about the sets is that they’re super overstuffed. Like, you saw in that last scene, there’s not just one lamp in this room, there’s like six lamps, and twelve pictures on the wall — they commit completely. If there’s cobwebs, there’s cobwebs everywhere.

David:  But not your favorite, the Ralston-Purina lamp. They left that back on 53rd St.

Danny:  Yeah, well, it had a job to do. Somebody needs to stick around and make Dark Shadows, so the lamp had to stay.

David:  And here we are in the Blue Whale.

Danny:  There’s another big cut here, they skipped eight pages. There was a scene with Maggie, Jeff and Roger that established that Maggie feels helpless with David. And then Roger insults her, and she gives notice. Maggie’s job satisfaction was a huge arc in the first act.

David:  Really?

Danny:  Yeah, they cut it so they’d have more time to say David’s name.

Danny:  And then there’s a sequence with a woman named Nancy Hodiak, who gets killed, and that’s what Todd and Carolyn are talking about.

Todd:  Come on. Let’s get out of here.

Danny:  But you just got here. And it’s the middle of the day.

David:  No, it’s not.

Danny:  Uh, yeah.

David:  It can’t be.

Danny:  Yeah. No. You’ll see, in a second.

Danny:  It is daytime. it is entirely daytime.

David:  Well, Barnabas is there.

Danny:  That is so daytime.

David:  I know! But Barnabas is there.

Danny:  He’s sitting right in front of the window, too. But you know, this was a daytime soap opera, maybe they didn’t know the difference. Daytime is all they know.

David:  It must have been so liberating for someone working in soaps, to actually have things happen — people get attacked, people die, it all happens in quick succession.

Danny:  Yeah, he can actually set the pace. And now we can see the big black ring again. He’s doling out Barnabas in bite-size chunks.

David:  Look, this is a good shot, of him walking towards this ridiculous looking mansion. Fantastic.

David:  POV! Oh yeah, the Barnabas POV. Was this in the series?

Danny:  No, not for Barnabas. But they did this again in the 1991 pilot. I think it’s one of the most gimmicky of Curtis’ gimmick shots, this really long Barnabas point of view scene.

David:  And I love it.

Danny:  Do you?

David:  Because of the way he delays the sight of Frid. Let’s face it — we’re here now, we went to the movie, it’s all about seeing Jonathan Frid, and Curtis is delaying our first sight of him.

David:  Now we’re in the great hall at Collinwood, which is the size of a closet, actually, on the set. You wrote at some point that it was really big? Everybody said it was like, you could barely fit two people in it.

Danny:  Well, it’s big compared to everything else. It’s big compared to the woods, which is a little rectangle of burlap and bushes. Oh, look, like everyone in a horror movie, vampires are naturally drawn to pipe organs.

David:  Louis Edmonds through the cane!

Danny:  Yes.

David:  And then that rack focus shot.

Danny:  One thing that’s unfortunate is — that’s pretty much all you see of Barnabas’ portrait. That’s very easy to miss. And then they just stand around talking about it.

Danny:  And there’s Thayer David, arranged tastefully around the room. They’re throwing people at the screen now, just to make us happy.

David:  Think about how much small talk they’ve cut through. We just lost days here, in terms of story time.

Liz:  Dr. Hoffman has taken a sabbatical from her practice, and is writing a history of our family.

Danny:  Is she? That seems super unlikely. I mean, it’s nice that they’ve catapulted us straight into summer ’67, but they never mention the family history again. They just have a live-in doctor and mad scientist.

David:  Several.

Danny:  There’s 13 characters introduced in the first 20 minutes of this movie, and you don’t know any of their relationships to each other. Professor Stokes might as well be the family pet.

Danny:  And then Barnabas gives Naomi’s jewels to Elizabeth. Joan Bennett has no plot points, they cut most of her scenes, and at the end, they forget about her. But she’s the film star, so they paint a portrait of her and give her a big fancy necklace, as her reward for showing up.

David:  Are you a fan of Suspiria?

Danny:  I’ve never seen Suspiria.

David:  What? Suspiria is like Dark Shadows on acid.

Danny:  But Dark Shadows is Dark Shadows on acid.

David:  Suspiria should be seen by everybody on the biggest possible screen, with the loudest possible sound system. It was Joan Bennett’s last big screen performance. She’s terrible in it, but I forgive her everything.

Danny:  There’s a cut here, a scene with Barnabas walking around the Old House, and telling Liz and Roger he’d like to fix it up. But they cut that, so he just mentions wanting to live in the Old House, and then they cut to Carolyn, walking right in without knocking.

David:  And he’s already moved in!

Danny:  Yeah.

David:  The Old House was supposed to be a ruin, at this point. Now it looks like it’s been lived in the whole time.

Danny:  They give a lot of confusing signals about how old the Old House is in this movie.

David:  Okay, Nancy Barrett —

Danny:  Yeah. The great Nancy Barrett.

David:  You know, when she played Carolyn, you never saw the acting. She was always convincing — it didn’t matter if she was getting on the back of Buzz’s motorcycle, or being Barnabas’ love slave. She was always, always convincing.

Danny:  Yes.

David:  And then when she got to cut loose and play Millicent and Pansy Faye, or whatever those other characters were, she had the time of her life! She was real. It didn’t surprise me at all that she’d moved into performing in a cabaret. You just know this is somebody you’d want to go out to drinks with after rehearsal.

Carolyn:  Barnabas? Anybody home? Barnabas?

Danny:  God, “Barnabas” is the new “David”. So far, this movie is mostly people looking for people.

Danny:  Are we invited to this scene?

David:  This is very well-done.

Danny:  Yeah, it’s cool, they’re kind of in silhouette. Then Willie shuts the door on us, and leaves us in the basement with Barnabas and the coffin, which is exactly where we want to be right now.

Danny:  And here’s Barnabas getting out of the mystery box! He does a little flourish with his hand, to make sure everyone notices the ring. Then they cut away, because a character lying down in a box is actually super awkward.

Danny:  You know, I’ve been complaining about how they cut all the character introductions and explaining who anybody is, but you don’t really want an extra ten minutes before Barnabas opens his coffin.

Danny:  Look how many props there are in this room! They’re acting through a blizzard of set dressing.

David:  And it’s low light. This is one of the ways you disguise a movie’s cheapness, because nothing is more merciless than too much light on a tatty set. Clint Eastwood knew that trick. Pauline Kael once said, Eastwood’s movies look like he forgot to pay his Con Edison bill. And then Curtis loads up on bric a brac in the foreground, which creates the kind of visual interest you don’t have on television, with two cameras moving around the set and everybody sort of huddled against the wall.

Danny:  And now he’s shooting Willie through the ladder, which is a whole new technique in cinema. Although, you know, these felt like gimmick shots in the 1991 series, but they’re not really used as gimmicks here. He sincerely wants to make every shot interesting.

David:  Yes!

Danny:  I’m enjoying this a lot more, watching it with you. I should always have a film critic nearby to explain movies to me.

Danny:  And then it’s daytime. That’s just daytime.

David:  Yeah, definitely.

Danny:  They really have a problem with the windows.

David:  They’re doing Christopher Lee, here. All of these shots — the entrance of Barnabas, the way he comes in, the way he’s photographed, the back and forth with the eyes, that’s taken right from Hammer.

David:  And the fangs! Our first shot of the fangs, and they’re coming straight at us. This is great.

Danny:  And then it’s time for a party! We’ve had our first onscreen vampire bite, and now we celebrate.

David:  By the way, this woman who comes in here was in the TV show.

Danny:  Yeah, that’s Camila Ashland, she played the crazy bird lady from the Leviathan story, and Buffie’s landlady in Parallel Time.

Danny:  Another Easter egg, here — you really have to listen — but the music is a jazz version of “I Wanna Dance for You,” from 1897. And in unrelated news, Jeff is on the right there, apparently putting the moves on Liz somehow.

Danny:  Nancy Barrett is determined to take over this scene.

David:  She doesn’t move her features, and yet the emotion pours out of her.

Danny:  So good.

David:  She conveys feeling through lack of movement.

Barnabas:  Who is that girl?
Julia:  Oh, that’s Maggie Evans, she’s David’s governess. Haven’t you met her?
Carolyn:  What a shame.
Julia:  Yes, this is her last night at Collinwood, isn’t it?

Danny:  Hooray, they finally mention who the heroine of the movie is, and what she’s doing here. But they cut the scene when Maggie quits, so the “last night at Collinwood” line doesn’t make sense. They trimmed that subplot all the way down to the bone.

Danny:  Having a big party is very soap opera, with everyone crossing over from different storylines.

Danny:  Oh, but she’s just heartbreakingly beautiful. She is putting everything she has into that smile.

David:  Now, of course, in the diaries that she published in the Movie Book, she’s just yelping in despair at how little time they had to do these scenes. I wish those diaries were longer.

Danny:  I know, she gets tired in the middle and stops writing in her diary.

David:  You said it dropped off for about two weeks.

Danny:  Yeah. She didn’t know she was going to publish it someday.

David:  I’m surprised all these people didn’t have pneumonia at the end of the shoot, because it was freezing outside, they had to get up at four thirty am every day, and work long, long hours.

Danny:  Yeah. And they’d be like, today is a cemetery day.

David:  Yeah. You have to go and be doused with a firehose. She says at one point that Roger Davis wandered away with her umbrella, and she got completely soaked.

Danny:  Everyone hates Roger Davis.

Barnabas:  You mustn’t leave. You know, I was watching you and David earlier this evening. He’s so fond of you, and you are of him.

Danny:  That’s supposed to be a big deal, like he’s seducing her into rethinking this huge choice that we haven’t heard about.

Barnabas:  Go tell Elizabeth you’ll stay. She wants you. David does. I do.

David:  You know, there are times when I look at Jonathan Frid, and I just think, he looks like — I can see him as a nerdy little boy, with pockmarked skin. There’s something really goofy looking about him. And then there are other times, when I think he looks incredibly dashing and romantic.

Danny:  This is more goofy. But still, I think they’re selling the connection between them. There’s a close-up on his eyes, I don’t know if he’s supposed to be hypnotizing her or not. There’s a lot in this movie that I don’t understand about Maggie.

David:  That costume that he’s wearing would have looked really amazing at the time of Their Satanic Majesties, you know, Sergeant Pepper —

Danny:  Oh, right, yeah.

David:  A lot of the rock stars were wearing stuff like this in 1969-70.

Danny:  You’re right, that’s a super “mod” outfit.

David:  So when the press wrote about him, you know, he was the mod vampire.

Barnabas:  This was her room. It’s exactly as it was, the night we were to be married. And I’ll never allow anyone in here, Willie. I won’t even allow you.

Danny:  In fact, you’re not even here now. I don’t know where you are.

Danny:  So, you know horror movies better than I do — is this unusual, the vampire having a sad backstory? People talk about the “reluctant vampire” as being an innovation, and I have no idea if that’s true or not.

David:  I don’t think there was a reluctant vampire onscreen before Barnabas. Christopher Lee always talked about “the loneliness of evil,” but the vampires in most of these movies were just demons. They were a pestilence. In Nosferatu, the vampire arrives in Germany in a ship loaded with rats, a metaphor for the plague. It’s possible he even represents the Eastern European Jew, given that Jews were supposed to be doing blood sacrifices with Christian babies — and you scare off vampires with crucifixes. The vampire wasn’t sad until Barnabas Collins.

Danny:  That portrait of Josette is the worst thing in the movie. They don’t linger on it very much, and they kind of make a point of never showing it to Maggie. In her diary, she calls it ghastly and terribly unflattering, which it is.

David:  Yes.

Danny:  But that’s interesting, the tragic backstory being a Dark Shadows innovation, because that must be the soap opera influence. Everybody has to have feelings on soap operas, because you need something to talk about, so they give Barnabas all these sad speeches. And I guess that had a big impact, not just on Dark Shadows, but on 20th century vampire fiction. That’s the natural selection of serialized narrative. It’s all these accidents and random ideas that you throw at the screen, and then the strongest ideas survive.

David:  As you’ve pointed out on the blog, the violent men on soaps — rapists, even — were often so much more appealing to viewers that they were kept beyond their natural arc, and turned into romantic figures.

Carolyn:  I won’t let you do it, Barnabas!
Barnabas:  How dare you follow me to this house? I didn’t summon you! Don’t come in this room!
Carolyn:  Love me, Barnabas! Not her!

Danny:  And then it moves away from soap opera, all of a sudden. This wouldn’t happen on a soap, this really fast confrontation where suddenly everything falls apart, and everyone’s screaming at each other.

David:  This is a scene right out of Dracula Has Risen From the Grave, where the earthy barmaid gets jealous because Dracula won’t stop talking about the virginal leading lady, and Dracula just kind of goes “I don’t need this shit,” and kills her.

Danny:  Oh, my god. This is mayhem. All three of them, shrieking and biting and the music swells — everybody’s super amped up. I guess this is what you were saying about the audience reaction. Curtis knew that people would be screaming at the screen, so everything gets louder and more urgent. He really wants this to be the huge catharsis moment. Barnabas meets Maggie, he acts romantic and sad, and then a burst of violence, as a release.

David:  Oh, I love this bit between them, stumbling towards Collinwood.

Danny:  Yeah, this is one of the weirdest moments in the film. This is super Dark Shadowsy.

David:  Willie is utterly destroyed by what happened. Just dabbing ineffectually at her neck with the handkerchief.

Danny:  Yeah, maybe this will make it better somehow, if I can wipe off some of this blood. He’s grasping for some control over the situation.

David:  And he’s breathing hard, he has that stammer — everybody on Dark Shadows developed a self-protective stammer, to help them cover up that they were reading off the teleprompter, but some of them really integrated it into their performances, Grayson Hall most prominently, but also John Karlen. M-m-m-maggie. B-b-b-barnabas.

David:  Now, look — that’s daytime, okay? I don’t care how many lights they turn on in the house. That’s daytime.

Danny:  We’re never going to get over that. It’s upsetting every time.

David:  And then the big shot is coming up, Mrs. Johnson dropping the tray. She apparently damaged the historic tile on the floor.

Danny:  Totally worth it.

Danny:  And there you go. The perfect crime. Nothing to see here.

David:  This is, just — I’ll never forget this shot of Nancy Barrett staring at nothing in this world. It was heartbreaking.

David:  And then we cut to the first scene that they shot.

Danny:  Yeah, Carolyn’s funeral, which happens in the shower.

David:  It wasn’t actually raining that day. This is the Tarrytown fire department, standing just offscreen with hoses.

Danny:  People are going to think that’s a joke, but that is an actual fact about this movie.

David:  And then Reverend Trask, reading the Lord’s Prayer.

Danny:  Yeah, another Easter egg for the fans.

David:  And there’s Michael Stroka. Hi, Michael!

Danny:  Everybody gets to come upstate for one day, to appear in the movie. This is Dan Curtis’ Dark Shadows home movies.

Trask:  Carolyn Stoddard… loving daughter of Elizabeth Stoddard, niece of Roger Collins, devoted cousin of David Collins, beloved fiancee of Todd Blake.

Danny:  Everyone in the audience is taking furious notes. They’re finally explaining all the family relationships.

David:  Henesy was a good little actor, too. He was not one of these “hug-me” child actors. He was always very self-possessed.

Danny:  Yeah.

David:  You could tell that he didn’t want to be caught playing a child.

Danny:  So this isn’t day for night, but it’s sunny day for rainy day.

David:  Yes, it is. I love how they put in wind effects there, to make it sound even worse.

Trask:  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life.

Danny:  He’s still doing the funeral, as they carry the coffin away. He must be working for tips.

David:  That’s a fantastic cut. Fantastic! From closing the mausoleum door, to inside the refrigerator, with the test tubes full of blood. Oh, my god.

Danny:  Look how many samples she has. All different colors, too; she got the whole variety pack.

David:  And now he’s posing her behind the shelves — it’s mannered as hell, but it’s cinematic. The man knew how to compose a shot.

Danny:  Yeah.

David:  I wouldn’t put him up as one of the great stylists, but for this sort of movie, you don’t expect that. As you said, he keeps finding ways to fill the screen.

David:  And now you have Stokes coming in, to add something on the other side.

Danny:  Now that we’re looking at the compositions so closely, I realize how much thought he put into every shot. He comes up with crazy decisions, but he’s thought about them, that’s the important thing.

David:  I guess that’s also what I respond to, is his delight in making a movie.

Danny:  Yeah.

David:  I think one of the actors, at one point, said it was like Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland — hey gang, let’s make a movie! You feel that, if nothing else. You feel it in Curtis’ technique.

Danny:  Oh, now you’re making me appreciate all the gimmick shots. I have to stop using that word now. Fine, you win, you and Dan Curtis. I think I like this movie now.

David:  But you know, it’s funny — he’s not good at framing closeups. It’s as if he can’t get too intimate.

Danny:  So here’s a question: Who’s the main character of this movie?

David:  Is it Barnabas?

Danny:  The protagonist is supposed to be making all the big choices that drive the plot. I guess that’s Barnabas, but really all he’s done is bite people and give Joan Bennett a necklace. It’s definitely not Maggie, she hasn’t done anything. I would think Julia, but she’s not the one who figures out that Barnabas is a vampire. Maybe Stokes is the hero.

Julia:  Assuming you’re right — this cell that I’ve discovered would indicate that this creature, whatever it is, might be cureable.

Danny:  So it ends up being this weird ensemble piece, because they’re turning a rambling soap opera story into a movie, and soap operas don’t have a main character. And this idea of the lady doctor with no connection to the Collinses, who decides in the middle that she’s going to cure the vampire? You’d never come up with this, as a story structure.

David:  No.

Danny:  It’s the kind of idea that you only come up with in serialized narrative, because you need to invent a reason to keep Julia interacting with Barnabas.

David:  Well, that’s why this movie is kind of a Frankenstein. There’s very little organic about this movie. I think that’s why it’s easy to like, and hard to love. It’s all accidents taken from the TV show, and things borrowed from other movies.

Danny:  But it’s so weird and stylish. I like David’s impossible overlapping reverb in this scene, where you can still hear echoes from ten seconds ago. It’s another area where Curtis is just messing around with all his new toys.

David:  Look how rundown and deserted the estate is, all this empty, broken space.

Danny:  And now he falls and knocks himself unconscious. You can’t leave the kid alone. We’re going to have to cordon off this entire movie.

David:  Yes.

Danny:  I think Julia and Stokes are just hanging around Collinwood because they can’t find their way to the exit. If you try to leave the estate, you tumble down these gaping holes and get eaten by monsters.

Roger:  Everyone else is in the gallery. Have you seen David?

Danny:  Great, the movie just lapped itself. Now we’re all looking for David again. We have to do that once every thirty-five minutes.

David:  I think this is about when I came in, actually.

Danny:  Just in time for the second lap around the track.

Danny:  So then the movie slows all the way down, for this Carolyn/David scene. David gets up, he shakes his head, he climbs out of the hole, he looks around… They’re letting us know that what’s coming up is a big deal. It’s big enough for them to invest three minutes in this sequence.

David:  Well, this is the first big Hammer sequence. The way Carolyn is used is straight out of Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

Danny:  In the flowing white gown?

David:  In the flowing gown, reaching out to beckon her victim.

Danny:  This location’s amazing, this ruined pool area. I wonder how many ruined bathhouses the location scout had to look at before they found exactly the perfect one.

Danny:  And mist! Finally, they crank up the fog machine. I don’t think we’ve had any mist at all, until just now. They redo a lot of these scenes in the 1991 revival series, and there’s mist in every single scene, even when it’s inside with all the windows closed.

David:  And here’s Barbara Shelley. In the Dracula movies, there’s always a second girl. It’s a cousin or a sister or a friend, who gets vampirized, and the main heroine escapes, of course. You know, she almost dies, but there always has to be one girl who dies first. Usually the more sexual one.

Danny:  Just to show that they’re serious.

Danny:  This is supposed to be dinner after the funeral, everyone’s in black. So I guess when they came home, Julia threw on a lab coat and messed around with samples for a while, and then took the coat off again for this depressing dinner.

David:  Having the camera spin round the table, and ending up pointing down the hall so David can run into the room — it’s very stylish.

Danny:  Everybody’s screaming at each other, and then Stokes says, “David, come here!” and suddenly everyone stops talking, because Stokes is magic.

David:  Why are the Collinses friends with him, again? What is —

Danny:  No explanation for that.

David:  Is there a university in this town? Or is it in Bangor?

Danny:  Uhh… unstated.

David:  What does he teach?

Danny:  Occult studies? I have no idea.

David:  So Stokes announces that vampires exist, at the dinner table. That never happened in the show.

Danny:  Nope. I don’t think anyone in the Collins family ever officially knows that vampires exist, even after they get bitten by one. But in the movie, Stokes does what you’d expect someone to do, which is look at the bite marks and say, oh, it’s a vampire. It’s weird to think of this movie as “more realistic”, but I guess you take the realism where you can get it.

Julia:  Elizabeth, please! You must listen to what Eliot has to say.
Stokes:  I believe Carolyn was destroyed by a vampire, and tonight she walks as one of the living dead.

Danny:  Man, when Julia says you must listen to something, they really deliver. That’s the most compelling thing anyone’s ever said in the entire history of “you must listen to”.

Todd:  Professor, I respect you, enough to believe almost anything you say. But the things I’ve heard tonight, I don’t see how you can expect any sane person to believe them.

David:  This is an example of how Don Briscoe works. He speaks very deliberately, and he thinks through his lines. He’s a “head” actor. He doesn’t say anything that he can’t believe. If he can’t make sense of the line, he blanks out.

Danny:  They give Todd a weird little audio flashback here, from the lines that Stokes said 45 seconds ago. But they give it this spooky musique concrète reverb which is super avant-garde. I think I really like this movie now.

Danny:  So check this out. Todd walks into the same Collins mausoleum that Willie went into, right? Walks down the same stairs, walks through the same door, and then they pretend it’s a totally different room. It’s got a little bench, there’s no lion watching the dove, and the lighting is totally different. I’m not saying that’s interesting, I’m just killing time until the vampire attack.

David:  She’s not wearing any clothes under that, by the way. Under that nightgown.

Danny:  Wow, she really isn’t.

David:  She has no underwear.

Danny:  I never noticed that. Girl noticing isn’t really my area.

David:  And she has to talk with fangs in her mouth, which is unusual.

David:  And there it is! The vampire bite. You did not get that —

David:  Oh, look! Terry Crawford. A very interesting looking actress, with zero affect whatsoever.

Danny:  Yeah. She’s terrible. I’m not happy with her at all.

David:  But that shot of Todd’s neck, with the blood — I remember the audience screaming. Because you really didn’t see much of that, even in the Hammer films, at that point.

David:  Oh, this is fabulous.

Danny:  Yeah, this is a good time.

David:  Moving in on that coffin… There’s too much zoom lens in this movie, but in this case, when they just use a tracking shot? It’s really quite beautiful.

Barnabas:  You are never to go near Todd again.

Danny:  Man, it’s her first day and they’re doing performance reviews.

David:  She is so beautiful in that shot. As a vampire, she’s so beautiful.

Barnabas:  Where is Elizabeth? I’d like to see her.
Julia:  I’m afraid that’s not possible now. I’ve just given her another sedative, and she’s sleeping again.

Danny:  Hooray! A sedative.

Maggie:  Julia, where is Todd?
Julia:  About the same, he’s sleeping too.

Danny:  Another sedative! Julia’s on a roll. You can cross off “sedatives” on your Dark Shadows bingo card.

David:  Oh, and the mirror revelation.

Danny:  Yeah, Julia figures out that Barnabas is a vampire from looking in her compact.

Danny:  It’s fantastic, they could do this for like five minutes and I wouldn’t mind.

David:  The way she squints!

Danny:  Disney nerds always talk about this cartoon called “Playful Pluto”, where Pluto gets all tangled up flypaper, and he tries to figure out how to get unstuck. It’s a big advance in character animation, because it’s the first time you can see an animated character actually thinking. And Julia is doing that right now; this is her homage to Playful Pluto.

David:  Now, I don’t think Grayson Hall is camp, I think she transcends camp.

Danny:  What do you mean?

David:  She has her own reality. Camp is a bit like kabuki; you’re always sort of holding a pose. I think there’s something very fluid about Grayson Hall, she’s inhabiting that space completely. She’s not standing outside it while she’s doing it.

Danny:  Right.

David:  The way that camp performers do. I don’t think anybody on DS is standing outside their roles, and winking at the audience. They’re going big, but they’re earnest.

Danny:  Oh, Jeff’s wearing a tight shirt. We might be getting somewhere.

David:  Really?

Danny:  I’m sorry, that’s my “Carolyn’s not wearing underwear.”

David:  But he’s Roger Davis!

Danny:  I know, I know. I’m only human.

Danny:  And then Carolyn just stands outside in the driveway, to make a police car crash into a tree.

David:  That’s how you do a car crash, when you don’t have money to crash a car. You do it as a POV, from inside the car.

Danny:  They’re probably going to need that car, later. That’s somebody’s ride home.

David:  And look — Curtis has really thought through this stuff, visually.

Danny:  Yeah.

David:  I think he must have storyboarded this. It seems like he had to make a lot of decisions on the fly, but —

Danny:  I wonder if it’s just, like, he shows up on the day, and he has another weird idea.

David:  You think he walked around the set and figured out what prop he’d put the camera behind?

Danny:  Maybe, yeah.

David:  I don’t know.

Danny:  It doesn’t seem likely, but I can’t imagine they sketched a picture of Willie, as seen through the rungs of a ladder.

David:  That may be true. Curtis must have really walked the set. He was thinking a lot about point of view.

Danny:  So this is a nice big chunk out of the middle of the movie where Barnabas has nothing to do with it. What is he doing all this time? Maggie isn’t doing anything, Julia isn’t doing anything. It’s really hard to say who’s supposed to be driving the story. Things just happen.

Danny:  Oh, look at that! It’s the only skin in the movie. Don Briscoe was one of the two guys who ever took off his shirt on the show.

David:  Now, this is scary. People were screaming in the theater.

Danny:  Yeah.

David:  Screaming.

Danny:  And you’re expecting it? But when it happens —

David:  I’m so glad that I saw this with that Strand audience. I can still hear them.

Danny:  Yeah.

David:  And, you know, there are a lot of ways in which this movie is nothing like the show. If you read interviews with people like David Henesy, they say that it was nowhere near as much fun, you just had to hit your marks; you had no sense of live performance. But to be able to see Dark Shadows like this…

David:  So, okay, it’s not a replacement for the original. Nothing that we’re seeing here rivals the joy of seeing the show, day by day. But as an adjunct to the show, it’s fascinating. Like, what if our favorite characters from Collinwood could be — in a movie!?

Danny:  Yeah, it’s like a cover version. No, it’s not the same thing as the original, but it’s a different spin, and it’s fun to see what this version can do.

David:  Now, the question of whether or not it destroyed the show

Danny:  Oh, it did.

David:  I’m convinced by what you wrote.

Danny:  But it’s not like the content of the movie killed the show. It’s just straight-up, the experience of making it, while they’re also still making a daily TV show, just stretched them beyond their limits, and it all falls apart after this.

David:  Look at the lights on top of the police car! The red of those lights, and the red of her lips, and the blood… There’s no red in this scene, except her lips —

David:  — and we’re about to see a lot of red.

Danny:  Yeah.

David:  The way she’s staked recalls Dracula: Prince of Darkness, where Barbara Shelley plays this buttoned-up woman, who becomes very sexual when she’s turned into a vampire. And she’s caught by monks, with these giant crosses —

Danny:  Oh, really?

David:  They hold her down, and her bazooms are heaving, and they take this enormous stake — and when the monks pound in the stake, you can hear church bells pealing. So the symbolism of holding her down, this sexualized woman — it’s very important in those Dracula movies. Curtis uses exactly the same kind of shot here. It doesn’t have the same implications, but Curtis learned a lot from Hammer.

David: What makes this so intense is that in the sixties, you were seeing protests, police surrounding a young girl, who’s maybe having a drug trip, and flipping out —

Danny:  Right.

David:  This is like the pigs surrounding a girl with long hair and a flowing dress, who’s probably a hippie, who’s doing free love.

David:  And they’re holding her down, and oh my god —

Danny:  And then they pull out the stake and hammer. Yeah.

David:  Oh, and I can hear the people shrieking

Danny:  Which was actually not a response that you ever have to the show, at all. The show isn’t made for moments like this, where you could be in a crowd of people, all getting excited, and buiding off each other’s excitement.

David:  Whew. I’m spent.

Danny:  The thing that I like about this sequence is that they give you every shot that you want. You’re thinking, oh, I wish I could see it from that angle — and it’s like they’ve anticipated that desire, and here’s that shot.

David:  The only thing they don’t do is give you a last shot of her beatific face to show you that the evil has left her. The demon is gone, and the face becomes soft — they don’t show Carolyn at peace. They probably ran out of time. Or Curtis was too cynical.

Danny:  Oh, this is one of my favorite things, Julia showing up right before dusk.

Willie:  Hello, Dr. Hoffman. You can’t come in right now.
Julia:  Would you tell Mr. Collins I’d like to see him?
Willie:  Well, he ain’t here now, he’s away in Portland on business.
Julia:  Oh, when will he be back?
Willie:  I don’t know, he didn’t say —
Julia:  Oh! Oh, what marvelous things you and Barnabas have done here! It really is extraordinary —
Willie:  Now, look, Dr. Hoffman, I told you, now, Barnabas, he ain’t here!
Julia:  The workmanship…

Danny:  All that stuff about the work they’ve done, and the workmanship? Not in the script. That’s either an adlib, or they figured it out on the day. This is the thing that I love most about Julia — she’s the mythopoetic trickster, who smiles and lies and violates all the rules, in order to make the story more interesting.

Barnabas:  Put that away!
Julia:  I can change you. I can make you a normal human being.

Danny:  She’s an alchemist — she changes Barnabas from one thing to another, and at the same time, she changes what kind of story this is, just using the power of her face and her voice and her own personal crazy. She will tell any lie, and break any rule, and the only thing that she wants in the world is to make this story more interesting than it was a minute ago.

Julia:  That’s right, Barnabas — I can eliminate it! You’ll be able to live a perfectly normal life.

David:  If you went to Christopher Lee’s Dracula, and you said, I have something that could make you not a vampire, he would throw you out the window.

Danny:  Would he?

David:  He’s a vampire, that’s his identity. It was the werewolf, who didn’t want to be a werewolf. The vampire just wanted to drink blood and enslave people.

Danny:  And look at that. He’s got the Bela Lugosi light over his eyes, but for Lugosi, it meant he was hypnotizing a victim. For Barnabas, they’ve turned it into this beautiful yearning for the sun.

Barnabas:  I haven’t seen the light of day in almost two hundred years. When do you want to begin, doctor?

Danny:  All right, I’m going to need your insurance, fill out some forms, sign a couple waivers —

Danny:  Oh, I guess we’re just doing it. C’mere, let’s see what happens when I stick this in your arm.

David:  It’s amazing how quick it goes, from his first injection to walking in the sunlight.

Danny:  Yeah, they need a training montage.

David:  Right, that first moment, when he puts his little finger out in the sun, and it goes sizzle, and then it stops sizzling. Something like that.

Danny:  Well, there was another scene in the middle here, a moonlight walk with Barnabas and Julia, where they talk about how he’s making progress, and he says, “Don’t you realize how happy you’ve made me?” and she says, “Have I?” which is cute for the shippers, but they cut it because that’s exactly the same thing that they’re doing in this next scene anyway.

David:  But it should have something in the middle, to make us like him more. Because actually he’s not likeable in the movie at all.

Danny:  Right, cause he doesn’t have friends. That’s one of the steps for how you get the audience to care about a character — make a joke, make a friend, make a plot point happen. But this movie doesn’t have a sense of humor, and they have no time for friends, so he just kills everyone he comes into contact with.

Julia:  Oh, where did you find that?
Barnabas:  It belonged to somebody I knew many years ago.

Danny:  I didn’t ask who it belonged to, I asked where you found it.

David:  And her crush on him — you know, Grayson Hall created that herself. That idea that she was in love with him was not in any of the scripts that she got, she just played it that way.

Danny:  Well, it’s the most logical thing to do, on a soap opera.

David:  And the audience noticed it, and then the writers noticed it.

Danny:  So, now, what is going on with Jeff? Like, what is Maggie — she never mentions him, and she’s having this obviously romantic fireside date with Barnabas.

David:  Huge gap in the script. She’s obviously attracted to Barnabas, maybe she’s hypnotized by him, but doesn’t she have any loyalty towards Jeff? It’s a love triangle, in which the woman isn’t acknowledging that she’s in a love triangle.

Danny:  You know what would’ve helped, is for Maggie to have a dream sequence that shows him exerting influence over her. Some kind of hypnodream. It’s actually weird that the Dark Shadows movie doesn’t have any dream sequences or seances. It’s a good thing they have sedatives, otherwise this wouldn’t even count as Dark Shadows.

David:  If Frid showed more animal lust, this would be a different movie. In 1979, there was a Dracula remake with Frank Langella, where the liberated heroine was bummed out when Dracula got staked. She knew that with her straitlaced fiance her sex life was about to get a lot duller. House of Dark Shadows is in this funny neutral zone, where the sex metaphor breaks down.

Danny:  Right, it’s too late in the sexual revolution to say that she’s unclean forever, but too early for her to be really into it. So they just eat dinner and talk about oil paintings.

David:  Is the music box supposed to be the hypnosis?

Danny:  But she’s not playing it like she’s hypnotized at all. It just feels like there are two different characters named Maggie.

David:  Yes.

Danny:  Which maybe there is. Maybe that’s the secret of this movie that nobody’s ever figured out.

Danny:  Oh, and there’s another weird cut in the script coming up, when Willie is arguing with Barnabas about what he’s going to do to Maggie.

Barnabas:  She won’t be seeing Jeff for several days. I’ve seen to that.
Willie:  What are you talkin’ about, you ain’t done nothin’ to Jeff, have you?
Barnabas:  On the contrary, Willie — I’ve done something for him!

Danny:  That line is supposed to set up a picnic scene here, where Maggie and Jeff talk about this great opportunity he has in Boston. He’s an artist, and Barnabas has arranged for him to show his work at a gallery. But they cut that scene, so you have no idea what Barnabas is taling about. “I’ve done something for him!” Total mystery.

David:  He’s an artist?

Danny:  Yeah, that’s why he’s so upset about the vampire bites. All that wasted red paint.

Danny:  See? David’s carrying a picnic basket.

David:  I love this scene. This is the scene that they filmed in like twenty degrees, and she’s wearing that little dress — and there’s an arctic wind that’s trying to blow it off.

Danny:  So Willie’s trying to explain to her that she might be in danger, and everybody knows that vampires are real now. And Maggie just stands there, and categorically refuses to participate in this movie in any way.

David:  She really is very dumb.

Danny:  She does not have full situational awareness.

David:  I’m not sure Kathryn Leigh Scott ever felt the need to fill Maggie in, or bring more intelligence to the part. It wasn’t like Alexandra Moltke, who was an intellectual. She dated John Simon, the critic, and Klaus von Bulow, obviously, which brought her the kind of fame she didn’t want. She went on to direct documentaries. She always seemed faintly embarrassed by what she was doing, which made her nowhere near as likeable as simple little Kathryn Leigh Scott in her mini-dresses.

David:  But I don’t think Kathryn ever had ideas about Maggie that weren’t in the script.

Danny:  Which may be why there’s no hesitation, there’s no “I shouldn’t be dating somebody else, this is forbidden”. She’s just on a date. This is her, being out on a date.

David:  No subtext whatsoever.

Danny:  This is a problem that they fixed in the 1991 series. The first few episodes are mostly a reshoot of House of Dark Shadows, with Vicki as the governess. But they don’t have this weird non-love triangle, because 1991 Vicki is single. I mean, they created twelve brand new story problems, but this is the one that they fixed.

David:  Oh, and this scene, where he beats the hell out of Willie? So traumatizing.

Danny:  Because you liked Willie.

David:  Yeah, and I’d never seen Barnabas act like this on television.

Danny:  Oh, right. He did beat Willie on the show, but that was before you started watching. You started in 1969, when everybody was friends. The Loomis abuse was early ’67.

David:  It’s well done, though. This is emotionally violent, and the cuts between Willie and Barnabas — that’s so good.

Barnabas:  Juliaaaa!

David:  Why he calls Julia, I do not know. Curtis just wanted a punchline for the scene. He could have yelled, “Mommyyyyy!”

Stokes:  Willie, what’s the meaning of this? You knew I’d be here this morning.

David:  So they must have cut the scene where Willie talked to Professor Stokes.

Danny:  Yeah. There’s a lot of these little narrative holes that you’re just supposed to fill in on your end.

David:  But at least Curtis made his own editing choices, it wasn’t like Night of Dark Shadows, where Jim Aubrey gave him 24 hours to cut half an hour out of a very convoluted storyline.

Danny:  Oh, there’s a very important cameo coming up. You have to look closely, up at the top left —

Danny:  There. A boom mic shadow.

David:  Really?

Danny:  Yeah, it’s the most exciting cameo in the movie.

David:  I loved the line, early in your blog, when you said that Dark Shadows is the story of a boom mic shadow, and the unhappy people who live underneath it.

Danny:  Yeah, we’re watching this team of under-resourced lunatics desperately struggling every day to make the most surprising possible show.

David:  And you’re absolutely right, to think about it in terms of theater, rather than television.

Danny:  Yes.

David:  It’s live theater. Every day, you go to this place to see a show, which they have assembled very quickly. There’s a skeleton crew, and a bunch of very game actors, and when it’s over, they move on.

Danny:  Right. And by the way, there’s going to be Chromakey effects and puppet bats, whatever we can pack into it, just to make life more interesting.

Danny:  I love the number of pictures and knickknacks in this room. I have no idea what this room is. Julia’s sitting behind a desk like she’s Collinwood’s faculty advisor, holding office hours. So they just scatter set dressing at random.

Stokes:  Julia! Let’s not play insane games!

Both:  (laugh)

Danny:  Yes! That should be the name of the movie, Dark Shadows: Let’s Not Play Insane Games.

David:  See, I think Grayson Hall and Thayer David must have loved each other. There’s so much juice; they’re veteran theater actors — I think they loved playing off each other.

David:  That look! I’ve seen that look in my mother’s eyes so many times, when you catch her in a lie.

Danny:  Making this movie is such a happy experience for Grayson Hall, because she doesn’t have to find her light all the time, and make sure that her face is turned the right way. They have someone doing that for her. She’s so happy that I don’t think they even have to pay her money.

Danny:  Now, this is one of the craziest shots in the movie.

David:  It’s one long shot, they just walked for a long time —

Danny:  While the camera hides behind a tree.

Maggie:  You seem so preoccupied.
Barnabas:  Do I? I was just thinking, what a lovely, beautiful day it is.

Danny:  So there, finally, is the explanation for why Barnabas is always looking offscreen. He’s not trying to read his lines off the teleprompter. He’s just thinking about what a lovely day it is.

Danny:  So this is just actors vs scenery, at this point.

David:  She said in the diary that they didn’t have time to do this more than once, and when they took each other’s hand, they were behind a tree branch —

Danny:  Yeah, weird. I wonder how that happened.

David:  So what is the plan? I mean, is she going to marry —

Danny:  It’s hard to tell, yeah.

David:  Or would she say, what are you talking about? You’re too old for me, I’m with Jeff.

Danny:  There’s no way to know. They keep cutting all the scenes where Maggie has feelings.

Barnabas:  Look at those trees!

Danny:  Where? Oh, right.

Maggie:  Barnabas, I love to be with you. You have a way of looking at things.

Danny:  Trees, for example.

David:  You know, she does have nice chemistry with him. It’s not erotic, or even especially romantic. I think Frid was too ill-at-ease in his body to have much sexual chemistry with the women on Dark Shadows. But at least Kathryn Leigh Scott isn’t suppressing a gag reflex, like she is with Roger Davis. She looks sort of relieved.

David:  Oh, and Julia out on the parapets —

Danny:  That’s so great. I think that’s one of the most effective shots that they do, they walk by and then it zooms up to Julia.

David:  I’m not a fan of the zoom lens. It’s very early 70s, and it always feels artificial. It makes it so easy to move through space that it’s tacky. But I can understand why they used it, it saved a lot of time and money. If it was a Baz Luhrmann film, the camera would literally rush toward her — somebody would get onto a crane, and hurtle up! into her face.

Danny:  Yeah.

David:  I hate Baz Luhrmann.

Danny:  Look at all these globes, by the way. It’s like, screw having one globe. One globe is for chumps.

David:  You get a choice of worlds.

Danny:  Oh, wait — those are the different dimensions that we visit! One of them is the Earth from the TV show, and then the Parallel Time Earth, and the House of Dark Shadows Earth.

David:  Hmm…

Danny:  I’m sure that’s what Dan Curtis intended.

David:  Okay.

Danny:  I am absolutely certain about that.

Julia:  It’s almost night. I’ll prepare your — next injection.

David:  Oh, that little hesitation between your and next.

Danny:  That’s lovely. It’s not a subtle performance. We left method acting behind, like, way back there. Now we’re just blatantly indicating.

David:  Oh, an audio montage.

Danny:  Yeah, they don’t do the thinks monologues in the movie, where you stand there and the voiceover remembers your lines for you. This is the closest they come.

Stokes’ voice:  There is only one woman he’s interested in: Maggie Evans… Maggie Evans… Maggie Evans…

Danny:  Selections from the Audible recording of He’s Just Not That Into Biting You.

Danny:  Oh, and look at that shot.

David:  She makes it work. You can’t take your eyes off her.

Danny:  And then it’s off to Mexico! She’s gotta get out of town. It’s like Thelma and Louise, just — run! Don’t even pack your stuff, just get in the car!

David:  Get away from the vampire.

Danny:  Yeah, you need to put some space between you and your crime spree.

Danny:  Now that… that is extraordinary. I can’t believe I used to not like this movie. I must have been watching it wrong.

David:  “You’ve betrayed me!” That’s a real Christopher Lee line.

Danny:  And then this is how it feels, this is the aging process. Once you hit a certain age, every day when you wake up, you do exactly this, you just stare at the back of your hands and scream.

David:  This is Dick Smith, doing the old man makeup. He did that same makeup for Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man, and that came out two months after House of Dark Shadows.

Danny:  And nobody noticed, because there is zero overlap between those audiences.

David:  Okay, well? Grayson gets her death scene.

Danny: Yeah, well, I’ve always said that the show couldn’t survive for a single episode without Grayson Hall, and now they’ve just killed Julia.

David:  And the next half-hour consists of everyone dying.

Danny:  Yup, turns out I was right. Nobody listens.

David:  Now he’s got Maggie, too.

Danny:  This is shaping up to be a big night for Collinwood.

David:  And there’s Liz! We’d forgotten about her.

Danny:  Man, she just got back to the movie, and look what she has to deal with. She needs to go run off and marry Jason McGuire or something.

David:  I thought he was the sheriff.

Danny:  Oh, even better; she’ll have police protection.

David:  Bad cut, here. Bad music cut. And there he is, Humbert Allen Astredo.

Danny:  That character’s name — I don’t think they say it out loud, but he’s Dr. Forbes.

David:  Oh, really?

Danny:  Which makes me wonder if they were hoping to get Joel Crothers to make a cameo, and he told them to go to hell.

Danny:  And now Roger Davis is back, after half an hour of not being in the film, and what does he do? First thing, he gropes a woman. Uggh, he puts his nose in her eye. What is he doing?

David:  She complained about that shot in her diary.

Danny:  So horrible.

David:  She said he didn’t touch her in rehearsal, but when the cameras rolled, he basically rested his elbow on her face.

Danny:  He doesn’t appear on the show anymore after this, I forget what he did next.

David:  He did Alias Smith and Jones, right?

Danny:  Oh, that was his next thing?

David:  Yeah.

Danny:  Which actually was popular, and made him feel famous for a minute.

David:  Yeah, it did. And he did a lot of voiceovers in the 70s, because he sounds like Henry Fonda. Joan Bennett said he was like Fonda with no talent. There’s also a story in Barnabas and Company about him trying to get between Grayson Hall and the camera, and she stepped so hard on his foot that tears sprang into his eyes. And when they called “Cut,” she hissed, “You’ll never try that again, will you?”

Danny:  So where are we, at this point? What house is this?

David:  I think it’s the Old House.

Danny:  Well, is this the renovated Old House or the falling-apart Old House?

Danny:  Oh, look at Liz hanging on the wall, still trying to be in the movie. That portrait is just clearing her throat, like, ahem, I’m back here, you guys.

David:  What I don’t understand — Can you imagine the idea of Dark Shadows as being built around Joan Bennett?

Danny:  Not really.

David:  She did some good work in the series, but as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, there was just nothing there.

Danny:  Well, there was at the beginning. And then they sort of cleared up all of her personality problems.

David:  You mean, with her husband that she’d murdered?

Danny:  Yeah, by the end of the first year, they’d solved all the Collins family problems, and then Barnabas came along, and they forgot to give the family anything else to do.

Roger:  We’ve just spent the past two hours reading the 18th century history of the family. In 1797, Josette DuPres was to become the bride of Barnabas Collins.

Danny:  He’s doing a Powerpoint presentation. He only has one slide.

Stokes:  Maggie Evans bears an astonishing resemblance to Josette. I’m convinced that tomorrow evening — the anniversary of Josette’s death — Barnabas Collins intends to take a bride.

Danny:  Well, thank goodness Maggie’s unconscious, then. It would be a shame if she was actually awake for the climax of the movie.

David:  I know.

Danny:  I don’t think she has a single line of dialogue in the entire third act.

David:  And that’s George DiCenzo, he was the associate producer.

Danny:  Oh, is it? I didn’t realize.

David:  Yeah, the casting director forgot to cast somebody to play the part. And after this, he became an actor.

Danny:  From his expression, it looks like he’s thinking, Man, this girl’s pretty, but she’s so religious.

Danny:  Oh, look at this, Barnabas coming in through the secret panel. That’s a super theatrical way to be sneaky. That’s a version of sneaky that can’t happen anywhere but Scooby-Doo and this movie.

Danny:  I don’t know what they thought all these crosses would be for. They clearly have no effect on Barnabas whatsoever.

David:  The kettle drums are getting excited. With this movie, they had this rich reservoir of Robert Cobert music cues. Movies with this budget, normally they’d have one guy with an organ, like Manos: The Hands of Fate.

Danny:  Well, they’ve amortized the cost of the music over, like, a TV show, and the Jekyll and Hyde movie, and a primetime pilot, so they’ve gradually built up this library of music cues. That’s why Curtis kept using Cobert; every production, they’d record fifteen more music cues.

David:  And clearly, they didn’t need a very expensive casting director, because they had their cast. They put all the money into Dick Smith and red paint.

David:  The reflection of the light on his bald head is the worst shot of the movie.

Danny:  You think?

David:  It goes on too long. People were laughing at that, in the theater.

Danny:  I love the crunchy slurpy sounds, though. Worst shot, best use of sound.

David:  That’s a fantastic pose that he strikes. And even though it’s not the smoothest transition, it works.

Danny:  Yeah. And the blood on his face.

David:  It takes two servings to get his looks back.

Danny:  And once again, Jeff is late to the movie. He keeps missing his call times.

Danny:  But this is exciting, a car chase! They actually have a car chase in this movie.

Danny:  And then: aah, wait, stop! And they murder all those people.

David:  Well, Curtis is learning the vocabulary of making a movie, and it’s fun to see him do it. He wants to do as few shots as possible, and he wants to make them as interesting as possible.

Danny:  Right.

David:  So he’s figuring out shortcuts. He’s figuring out new ways of getting into a scene, and new ways of getting out of a scene.

Danny:  And now the Sheriff is just handing out silver bullets like they’re candy. They must think silver grows on trees.

Sheriff:  Silver bullets. They’ll kill him, but you have to shoot him directly in the heart.

Danny:  That’s werewolves. Isn’t that werewolves?

David:  They’re just making shit up.

Sheriff:  You better get some rest. You’re gonna need it when it’s dark again. We’re all meeting at my office, at dusk.

Danny:  Okay, good plan. What could possibly go wrong?

Danny:  Oh, except Jeff falls asleep on the couch. Well done.

David:  So this guy with the note is King Johnny Romano, King of the Gypsies! Another deep cut cameo. I wish he’d been used more, in the show.

Danny:  Yeah, he’s fantastic.

Jeff:  What time did they give you this?
KJR:  About five o’clock.
Jeff:  What time is it now?
KJR:  Almost six.

Danny:  So that’s just… He’s going out to rescue the woman he loves from a vampire, and he oversleeps? Oh, it’s six o’clock. What have you been doing? You have a handful of silver bullets —

David:  And now the whole world is vampires! He slept through it, the world is vampires now.

Danny:  Right, the apocalypse has already happened. Oops, the hero overslept. What is the matter with you?

David:  I know!

Danny:  This is why we can’t have nice things.

Danny:  So now we row out to an island — I’m not sure why we’re on an island — and here’s where we just start killing dudes.

David:  Yes! We’re at the end of the movie already.

Danny:  And it’s super dark, because screw you, audience, we’ve decided to finish up the movie without you.

David:  They finally figured out day for night, and they overcompensated.

Danny:  Well, somewhere in there, it’s supposed to be Stokes.

David:  You wouldn’t think Stokes would turn evil, just because he became a vampire. This is more like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Now he’s an ally of Barnabas?

Danny:  I think he’s freelancing. Anything for neck blood.

David:  Curtis at this point just wants to kill everybody. He’s really enjoying the idea that every single one of his characters is going to die.

Danny:  Yeah, after working with these people for four years, he’s taken the entire cast upstate, where it’s nice and quiet, so he can ritually slaughter them, one by one.

Danny:  The great thing about this scene is vampire Stokes’ evil chuckle, as he tries to throttle his friend. Stokes is so happy right now, he can’t wait to get started.

David:  Ah, Thayer David. How I wish he’d lived longer. He was a rich kid, went to Harvard. John Simon told Alexandra Moltke that he was the handsomest man on campus. And then he found food and alcohol, and destroyed his appearance and had a very difficult time. Then he sobered up, but kept eating. Many people seem to think he’s gay because he clearly made Stokes gay, but he fell in love with a much younger woman, a British actress.

David:  He was working all the time when he died. He was going to be Nero Wolfe on TV.

Danny:  And look at him now, gunshot with a face full of food coloring. Now Jeff has to go wash up in the lake, clean all the Stokes off his hands.

Danny:  So where is this, now? What house is this?

David:  It’s some house in Norwalk, CT.

Danny:  But they just have spare — like, on this island, they just have spare mansions.

David:  Oh, you mean where is it in Collinsport?

Danny:  Yeah, just, what am I looking at right now? It’s not the Old House. This neighborhood is full of deserted mansions. The movie must take place in 2007, too many subprime mortgages in this town.

David:  You’re really concerned.

Danny:  I am. I’m worried about the real estate market.

Danny:  So this is my favorite set, where they take the concept of props, and literally weaponize it.

David:  Roger’s been bitten and left for dead in a chair…

Danny:  And Jeff’s rummaging around, and what do you know? This is the armory. There’s a pike, and a suit of armor, and a cannon… I love the cannon. If he tried to light that cannon and shoot Roger with it, it would be the best scene in the film.

David:  There’s something rather haunting about Roger’s death, here. He wakes up and it’s like, “Hey, I’m a vampire!” and then, wham! He doesn’t even get to enjoy it.

Danny:  It’s not fair.

David:  It’s like Sam Hall thought, okay, we’ve just had this bloody fight with Professor Stokes —

Danny:  And this one needs to be the opposite of that. So here comes Jeff with the harpoon collection.

David:  I mean, that’s actually really upsetting.

Danny:  Well, I guess they’ve figured out they’re not going to do any more episodes. What do they have to lose? This is how Ryan’s Hope ended, too, just butchery.

Danny:  God, every mansion in New England is just stocked with murder weapons. It’s no wonder there are all these deserted mansions, the inhabitants must have exterminated each other.

David:  And now, really, you’re going to have Dan Curtis go the full Grand Guignol here.

Danny:  Yeah, it’s gonna get messy.

David:  We’re going to buy out the Sherwin-Williams on the corner.

Danny:  Now, Willie has an amazing line coming up. It’s in the script in the Movie Book, but it’s written in the margin.

Willie:  Maggie, I wish I could help ya. But I can’t, I can’t do anything. (pause) Can I get you a glass of water? I’ll get you a glass of water.

Danny:  Isn’t that amazing? I bet he came up with that. That sounds like a John Karlen special to me.

Danny:  And then Jeff comes in, cause he thinks he’s the hero of the movie.

Jeff:  Maggie? Maggie, look at me.

Willie:  You’re wasting your time, Jeff. There’s nobody for her but Barnabas.

Danny:  God, look at how Maggie’s head just tips sideways, like she’s got a doctor’s note and doesn’t have to show up to the movie today. I think they’ve given up on the idea that this is a regular type movie, with characters and locations and sequential events. This is its own weird collage.

David:  Oh, but look how he stages this in the mirror, so we see —

Danny:  Boom! And he’s down.

David:  That’s a really good shot, the way he figured that out.

Danny:  So can we play another quick round of “who’s the main character”? Because this is ridiculous, at this point.

David:  Well, the heroine’s out to lunch.

Danny:  Yeah. Jeff’s supposed to be the hero, but we’ve hardly seen him.

David:  He’s a cipher, really, until the end. He’s barely been involved in the movie. I mean, the main character has to be Barnabas, but sometimes he’s absent too.

Danny:  Julia’s the main character for a while — it’s like everyone gets a chance?

David:  We don’t particularly want to see Maggie and Jeff get together.

Danny:  Yeah. We don’t care.

David:  But we do think Barnabas maybe shouldn’t have killed Julia, or Carolyn. So we want to see him get it. That’s what’s holding us in our seats, we want him to get it so it hurts.

Danny:  But this! This is what we need.

David:  This is beautiful.

Danny:  It’s spectacle. That’s the answer to every question, every little nitpick. Show us something like this. All is forgiven.

Danny:  Crazy. I love it. That is mist for mist’s sake.

David:  Absolutely, and no one would begrudge it. Or, no one you would like.

Danny:  Right, exactly.

David:  Anyone who says, where’s that smoke coming from?

Danny:  You’re missing the point of the movie.

David:  You don’t want them in your house, you don’t want to watch movies with them.

Danny:  It looks fantastic, just this storm front moving in.

David:  Unfortunately, I think the final conflict is misdirected. It’s very hard even to see what’s going on. Curtis didn’t get enough coverage. He knew how to frame a shot, but he didn’t give the editor enough choices.

David:  You see? No coverage. We didn’t see Jeff get up —

Danny:  Yeah, you’re right.

David:  We didn’t see him say, what’s going on? There’s no —

Danny:  Was this the last day?

David:  These were the last things they shot, yes.

Danny:  So they really are just using up all the blood they had left over.

David:  Yeah! Apparently Karlen was lying on the floor for a whole day, and drank about half a bottle of vodka.

Danny:  So I’m going to pitch you a different ending — Liz shows up right now, with the cannon.

David:  (laugh)

Danny:  Saves the day! That would be —

David:  Just blow up the whole place.

Danny:  Yeah. That would be the greatest movie of all time. That’s my personal version of the movie, that’s how it ends.

David:  But Curtis has not set up this situation properly.

Danny:  P-twang! Strike one.

David:  We didn’t even see Willie make the decision to stop the wedding. It’s his biggest moment in the movie, and there’s no close-up of him saying, “Screw this! I’m going to take Hill 19 even if the Japs riddle me with bullets!”

David:  You see? Curtis’ vocabulary breaks down, his film syntax breaks down…

Danny:  I like that you’re bringing the film criticism.

David:  Plus, that is Sherwin-Williams, right? That’s not blood.

Barnabas:  CLARRRRK!

David:  But that’s a great shot, pointing a stake into the camera.

Danny:  One thing that’s weird is, he’s saying Clark, Clark, Clark? I don’t think they’ve ever said that his name is Jeff Clark. They called him Jeff the whole time. So now half the audience is saying, what? Isn’t that the same guy?

Barnabas:  I command you to come to me! You cannot resist me. CLARRKK!

David:  Also, when did they establish that he has mind control with his voice?

Danny:  Yeah.

David:  This came from nowhere, the fact that he could hypnotize Jeff wthout biting him. This is not really in a vampire’s arsenal. This is Jedi mind control.

Danny:  One thing that I like about this, though, as somebody who likes dudes, is Roger Davis with stubble, which he has here? This is the most attractive version of Roger Davis.

David:  You’re the one person who’s into Roger Davis.

Danny:  I am, a little bit. With stubble, I am. When he’s not talking. It’s just when he starts to talk or move or do anything that it becomes a problem.

David:  This sequence is a mess, look at this. There’s the three of them…

David:  And there’s Maggie…

David:  And there’s Barnabas…

David:  And Jeff.

David:  And then what happens there?

Danny:  I don’t know.

David:  There’s just a sound. And then Willie’s put a bolt in the vampire’s back.

Danny:  Ouch, yeah.

David:  But you don’t really see what happened. You have to figure it out after the fact, reconstruct it in your head.

David:  But here, that crunch, that’s one of the things that made the picture. People shrieked at that crunch, when Jeff shoves the stake down —

Danny:  And then this —

David:  That’s the cum shot. That saved the climax, right there.

David:  And now he’s carrying her, but they seem like strangers, Maggie and Jeff. So everybody’s dead, and it’s kind of like — okay, what have we just seen? Why did we — and then there’s the credits.

Danny:  So what have we learned?

David:  Do you like the movie more now?

Danny:  I do, yeah.

David:  Because I got the impression going into this that you didn’t like the movie at all.

Danny:  I thought I didn’t. When I talked to you a few weeks ago, I hadn’t watched it again, and my memory was that I didn’t like it. I think I probably saw it at a moment in my life when I didn’t have Dark Shadows — after New Jersey Network, and before the Sci-Fi Channel, those five or six years, when as far as I knew, I was never going to see Dark Shadows again, it was just gone from my life.

David:  Right.

Danny:  I saw the movie on late-night TV, and Julia was killed, and Stokes and Carolyn and everyone, and it made me really angry. And then I never watched it again until last week, to prepare for this. And now, obviously, Dark Shadows was saved, I have the box set, so now I can actually enjoy the movie as its own weird little work of art.

David:  I have to acknowledge, when I went to see this at the time, seeing your favorite characters die in these horrible ways, there’s something very cold and cruel about Curtis just deciding to do that, to take people who we care about — including Barnabas — who we’ve seen grow emotionally, and regress them to this earlier stage, and then kill them, in the most gory ways imaginable! That’s something — you know, only a son of a bitch would do that, without really thinking about the feelings of the people who watched these actors and these characters every day.

Danny:  Well, I think this is where this particular line of thinking takes you. Curtis’ idea was, what if we make this a horror movie instead of a soap opera? Can we build another world around this? And the answer is basically no.

David:  And then you go back to Manhattan…

Danny:  And you pick up the pieces of your shattered life, and you move on.

Monday: The Cast Came Back.

House of Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When he’s in the crypt, Willie says, “The lion head watches the dove!” The poem actually says “lion’s head” — he said it right the first time, when he read it to Maggie.

When David is hiding behind the clock, Liz’s lines — “he should be here” and “one of them should have been back by now” — are obviously not in sync with her lips.

As Barnabas approaches the locked door, Maggie’s line “Answer me, David, I know you’re there” is slightly out of sync.

A minor continuity error when we’re watching Carolyn walk around in the Old House — when she looks through a doorway, she’s already turning away when they cut to a different shot, and she starts turning again.

When Willie races to the stairs to keep Carolyn from walking down into the basement, he brushes up against a big strand of cobwebs, which sticks to his shoulder in a big clump.

Carolyn rests her hand on a chair when she talks to Barnabas about Cadogan Square; in the next shot, her hand isn’t on the chair.

There’s a minor continuity error when Jeff, Maggie and Barnabas are talking by the punchbowl. He’s looking at Barnabas in one shot; after the cut, he’s looking at Maggie.

Barnabas says that Josette’s room is exactly the way it was when she died, but the paint is peeling off the wall around her portrait, and there’s cobwebs everywhere.

When Todd sneaks out of the house, his shirt magically unbuttons itself.

Another minor continuity error — when Julia puts away the cross, she puts her hand over it in one shot, and in the next shot, the cross is still visible in her hand.

Just before Barnabas throws Willie down the stairs, you can see a light switch on the wall behind them.

When Stokes comes to visit Willie, there’s a boom mic shadow — it’s in the top left, when Willie moves toward a portrait, and Stokes follows.

When Barnabas and Maggie are walking in the sun, there’s a little mic error as he says “what a lovely, beautiful day it is.” It sounds like the mic brushes up against something.

After Barnabas chokes Julia to death, she blinks.

When old man Barnabas feasts on Maggie in the bed, there’s a continuity error when he straightens up again — after a cut, he’s shifted position.

When the sheriff is handing out silver bullets, none of the cartridges have primers. I don’t know what that means, but apparently bullets don’t work that way.

The box of bullets has a paper label with heavy black cross-outs on one side, and the other side is blank. In close-ups, the paper label side is facing the camera; in long shots, the blank side is facing the camera. At the end of the scene, a cop picks up the box, and you can see the label and markings on the other side of the box.

When vampire Stokes is dead in the water, he moves his right hand.

After vampire Roger is killed, he appears in a mirror.

When Willie gets shot with the crossbow bolt, you can see the outlines of the material under his jacket that the bolt is actually attached to.

Don Briscoe is credited as Todd Jennings, not his actual character name, Todd Blake.

Camilla Ashland is not credited.

They make a sequel.

Monday: The Cast Came Back.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

134 thoughts on “House of Dark Shadows: Let’s Not Play Insane Games

  1. Danny, thank you for being such a talented writer that David Edelstein would become a fan of your blog. I still don’t like the movie, but the two of you talking about it… That’s Entertainment!

    Good luck finding somebody who’s in love with NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS.

    1. I won’t say I’m in love with NODS….but I will say it grew on me, over time.

      Adapting the 1970 PT to movie form with changed names and another PT entirely,
      and the musical change of tone with “Joanna” dominating, made for a decent rainy day flick….without an ending.

      Grayson Hall was outstanding as her alternate PT version of 1970PT Hoffman, Carlotta Drake.

      The house was great, too.

      I loved Karlen and Barrett together.

      But the day-as-night scenes…..yuck.

      And Angelique wasn’t much of a witch. They should have made her more of a seductress, too. Probably got cut for that GP rating.

      I suppose that the ending was something shocking that got cut, too.

      It felt like they just gave up, and went home.

  2. Roger in the mirror after dying–is that an error or symbolism? (ie, his soul came back to him?). Don’t know, just asking!

    One thing the Johnny Depp movie did right–everyone survived (though I was miffed they destroyed Collinwood–crapola ending).

    Having just watched some Hammer horror flicks, I can see this is an Americanized ripoff. The way the camera cuts and the way it just suddenly ends without any kind of ending dialogue or coda are just like Hammer. I love Hammer but those films are known for cardboard cutout characters. DS had beloved characters (to us anyway–well, except for Roger Davis). Maybe people totally unfamiliar with DS the Series wouldn’t mind as much. I’m with Danny–the mayhem makes me angry and disappointed.

  3. Hey, maybe Julia blinks because she’s actually alive and faking her death. Now that I could get behind. Stokes too?

  4. I first saw this movie in the early eighties, then not again for more than 30 years, after I’d finally collected the complete DVD set. The funny thing was that occasional scenes I remembered from this movie kept melding with my overall impressions of the original series. Watching the DVD set all the way through episode by episode for the first time, I kept expecting to see Barnabas and Maggie walking in daylight, sometime during 1967 during Julia’s experiments to cure him, and was surprised to not see that scene in the TV show. Another scene I was expecting in the TV show was Barnabas from the floor of the chapel screaming up at Clark. But I still like the movie — because it’s more Dark Shadows with the original cast, sort of like the deluxe edition of something, like a favorite album of music: With House of Dark Shadows you’re getting the bonus features, like outtakes of favorite songs with alternate mixes. You can see the Dark Shadows story in a different way with the movie, but still go back and enjoy your favorite and cherished originals. It would also be the ideal recommendation for any burgeoning Dark Shadows fan whose only knowledge of the name Dark Shadows comes from the Burton Atrocity of 2012.

    Some more bloopers to mention: (1) Just before Barnabas puts the fatal bite on Carolyn after she follows him to Josette’s room, Frid opens his mouth wide to bare the fangs, but you can see that his mouth is already full of movie blood; (2) When Professor Stokes shows up at the Old House that morning to see Willie Loomis, in the panes of glass framing the door to the left of Stokes you can see members of the production crew reflected; and (3) As the police cars are speeding toward the front of Collinwood so the sheriff can hand out silver bullets, the cars have New York license plates.

    On why Curtis decided to kill off the whole cast, all those characters that fans had come to care about. Perhaps it was a symbolic gesture on his part, a subconscious desire to kill off the TV show he’d created — the same way he would do with the destruction of Collinwood on the TV show itself later that same year. Creating Dark Shadows unleashed a fascination with horror he’d had since childhood, but hadn’t been able to express as first a salesman for network TV and then as the producer of a golfing program. Even before Dark Shadows was on the air for a full year, he was off in England making a horror movie. As the producer of a soap opera, he was a fish out of water — one major reason why Dark Shadows was always so unique as a world unto itself. After making a horror movie about his TV show, he didn’t want to just go back to working five, six days a week ten hours a day being a soap opera guy. He wanted to go on making horror movies and other things, which is what he did.

  5. I first saw this movie in the early eighties, then not again for more than 30 years, after I’d finally collected the complete DVD set. The funny thing was that occasional scenes I remembered from this movie kept melding with my overall impressions of the original series. Watching the DVD set all the way through episode by episode for the first time, I kept expecting to see Barnabas and Maggie walking in daylight, sometime during 1967 during Julia’s experiments to cure him, and was surprised to not see that scene in the TV show. Another scene I was expecting in the TV show was Barnabas from the floor of the chapel screaming up at Clark. But I still like the movie — because it’s more Dark Shadows with the original cast, sort of like the deluxe edition of something, like a favorite album of music: With House of Dark Shadows you’re getting the bonus features, like outtakes of favorite songs with alternate mixes. You can see the Dark Shadows story in a different way with the movie, but still go back and enjoy your favorite and cherished originals. It would also be the ideal recommendation for any burgeoning Dark Shadows fan whose only knowledge of the name Dark Shadows comes from the [2012 film made by those whose names we do not speak].

    Some more bloopers to mention: (1) Just before Barnabas puts the fatal bite on Carolyn after she follows him to Josette’s room, Frid opens his mouth wide to bare the fangs, but you can see that his mouth is already full of movie blood; (2) When Professor Stokes shows up at the Old House that morning to see Willie Loomis, in the panes of glass framing the door to the left of Stokes you can see members of the production crew reflected; and (3) As the police cars are speeding toward the front of Collinwood so the sheriff can hand out silver bullets, the cars have New York license plates.

    On why Curtis decided to kill off the whole cast, all those characters that fans had come to care about. Perhaps it was a symbolic gesture on his part, a subconscious desire to kill off the TV show he’d created — the same way he would do with the destruction of Collinwood on the TV show itself later that same year. Creating Dark Shadows unleashed a fascination with horror he’d had since childhood, but hadn’t been able to express as first a salesman for network TV and then as the producer of a golfing program. Even before Dark Shadows was on the air for a full year, he was off in England making a horror movie. As the producer of a soap opera, he was a fish out of water — one major reason why Dark Shadows was always so unique as a world unto itself. After making a horror movie about his TV show, he didn’t want to just go back to working five, six days a week ten hours a day being a soap opera guy. He wanted to go on making horror movies and other things, which is what he did.

    1. It’s what I used to recommend to Canadian friends who had limited access to the series, but wanted to get a taste of what I was nattering on about.

      1. Christopher Lee was Dracula. Bela Lugosi was Dracula. The Draculas of today are not the Christopher Lee Dracula. Barnabas was somewhere in between and I will give him some props. I have not watch Johnny Depp Dark Shadows. I cannot bring myself to that torture.

  6. There’s the skeletal structure of a classic tragedy in this film: Barnabas is freed from his “prison,” is “reunited” with his lost love, attempts to transform himself to win her but is ultimately consumed by the evil within him that he can’t escape. Carolyn’s early flirtation and jealous rage even foreshadows what happens later with Julia.

    So, you have the formula at least for a decent movie, but Curtis anchors himself to the confines of the TV show. For instance, why is Roger Collins in the film at all? Or just have Thayer David play “Elliot Collins” or something — he can still be the resident know-it-all but you at least take advantage of narrative shorthand.

    Barnabas’s restoration of The Old House is a plot point in both this and the 1991 series. I’m a big fan of the 2012 film’s decision to just leave it out and focus on the actual Collinwood. In the series, abandoned, run-down Grey Gardens-like Old House was an indication that the current Collins family had seen better days. That’s not relevant in the later adaptations but yet you get this abbreviated scene where Barnabas literally shows up, meets the family, and then leaves with them giving him a house. I saw a few minutes of the 2004 pilot on YouTube and they do the same thing. It’s so odd. Also, Barnabas’s fascination with the past was a bigger deal in 1967 and added an actual common interest he shared with Vicki that she didn’t share with her fiancee.

    The HODS script describes the connection between Barnabas and Maggie as “electric.” Frid, who is almost 20 years older than KLS, has no such chemistry with her (or arguably any woman on the show other than Grayson Hall and Lara Parker). In a film, you really need the shorthand of the audience quickly buying that the two characters are into each other. I would disagree, though, with the idea that Vicki being single in 1991 is an improvement. Drama thrives on conflict, and the love triangle is an obvious one. The problem here is that HODS doesn’t give us any real sense of what Maggie’s relationship with Jeff is like. Is she not content with it? Does Barnabas offer the allure of wealth and romance? There’s nothing there. Jeff really should have played more of a “Burke”-like role here: He should be suspicious of Barnabas, Willie should go to him with his suspicions. If you want to give Thayer David a part (and Curtis is big on loyalty, as the many cameos from former cast members prove), let him be the professor at Jeff’s college who Jeff bounces his “crazy’ ideas off of. But the film basically has two antagonists to Barnabas, which is narratively clumsy.

    Perhaps the greatest dramatic sacrifice to the accelerated pace of the film (and again the 1991 series) is that Julia is already living at Collinwood and is a doctor who is actually a historian (this was just her cover on the TV show). I know there’s a sense that DS must start with Barnabas’s release from the “magic box,” but do we really need to see it? It’s arguably an “origin” that might work better as a flashback. Julia’s arrival is what really blows the doors off DARK SHADOWS in 1967. It’s also one of the greatest “twists” in TV. We feel (along with Barnabas) that this person is closing in on him — she’s even discovered him in his coffin (which no one else has). She’s asking all sorts of uncomfortable questions. And then… blam, she declares her desire to make a *deal with the devil.” A version of DS I’d be interested in seeing would be one where Barnabas is already established at Collinwood, there are already weird things going on, and the pilot begins with the arrival of this “historian” (or “journalist” if you want to update it) who makes Barnabas nervous: Instant conflict. But that shall remain in my dreams.

    Finally, your comments about KLS and Parker’s careers reminds me of how different things are now. I’ve been watching THE CROWN, featuring the former Doctor Who as Prince Phillip and VICTORIA, featuring his former companion in the lead. This just didn’t happen once upon a time. You didn’t go from a sci-fi/fantasy/genre series to a prestigious drama. I think things would be different for cast members of a show now that was as big as DARK SHADOWS was at the time, regardless of its overall insanity (that’s the best part!).

    1. I’ve wondered about this before. Julia could have just been a doctor who happened to be a close friend of the family. There was no need for the family history angle, if Curtis and the writers had just stopped for a second to think about it.

      1. Dramatically, it’s too big a coincidence: The family’s one non-Collins friend also happens to be specializing in vampire cures. It also fell flat in the 1991 series for this reason. The TV series introduced Julia in a more organic and realistic manner — but again, it had the benefit of time: Julia is brought in because of Maggie’s condition — she’s the specialist that Dr. Woodard (unwisely) trusts. Woodard had spent weeks already dancing around what was wrong with Maggie, so we buy the later twist that Julia doesn’t just want to treat Maggie but also “cure” the person who victimized her.

  7. You have really outdone yourself with this post, Danny! God, that was fun to read! It inspired me to watch the movie again tonight, with new eyes. I’ve seen HODS so many times that I thought there wasn’t much new to see, but you proved me wrong. I really appreciate what you’ve done with this blog, and how it has greatly enhanced my experience of Dark Shadows. Thanks for all your hard work!

    1. I agree! I saw HODS in its initial release, lined up with hundreds of other mostly teens. I will watch again soon with this blog in mind. Thank so much!

  8. Terrific column, Danny–an achievement!

    What occurs to me–and this makes it hard for me to love the film–is that House of Dark Shadows killed not one, but two television series–the daytime soap, by diverting the talent and resources and leaving the serialized narrative to fall apart from neglect, and, much later, the prime-time remake as well. We all knew Curtis went for inspiration back to the film (which was all his) rather than the series, but I never realized till now how much the slapdash narrative laziness and disorder of the film, the sense of banking on the power of certain set-pieces without creating a compelling narrative or complete characters or a strong protagonist to connect them, would damage the remake from the start, even with the addition of Angelique and the 1790s. (All the cuts of expository dialogue in the film, the competitive undermining of writers in the prime-time series–the guy thought storytelling was just piling stuff on lurid stuff to excess; honestly, it makes you think the throw-it-all-in-at-once ending of the Burton movie is a misguided accelerationist tribute to Curtis’s taste.)

    Maybe the best of the series was always a war between a mad vulgarian of a newbie producer and some earnest and (variously) skillful soap writers drawing on everything from Bram Stoker, the Brontes, Arthur Miller, Lillian Hellman, Daphne du Maurier, Henry James, and H. P. Lovecraft in what-the-hell combinations, under the pinchpenny pressure cooker of studio TV routines and resources; but undo that tense balance of forces, and it all goes wrong: disempowered writers in the primetime series, directorial mischief undoing the effect of the WB pilot (or so we’re told), Tim Burton adulterating John August’s straightforward screenplay with a campy cowriter and Depp’s lazy fallback into ironic comedy. Without writerly pushback, directors kill this stuff.

    So deep thanks to Danny for drawing such attention to the writing of the series. It’s–as William Goldman once said of book-writing for musicals–the flour in the cake; nobody eats the cake for the flour, but without the flour . . . (although I DID go to DS for the dialogue–often. But that’s me.)

    1. The problem with remakes is that Dark Shadows isn’t a story, it’s a process. A daily soap opera isn’t a planned story with a set of characters or events. It’s an ongoing improvisation, based on the writers and cast and what the audience responds to.

      If you think of any other daily soap, you can see how absurd it is. “I’m going to do a remake of All My Children” doesn’t mean anything. “This is the Guiding Light movie, which retells the story of Guiding Light.” There literally is no such thing as “the story of Guiding Light” to retell.

      And to the extent that Dark Shadows is different than All My Children and Guiding Light, the difference is that Dark Shadows is less predictable and narratively constrained, and therefore even more impossible to “remake”.

      The only correct way to make Dark Shadows is to start somewhere, and then go someplace completely unexpected. We already have the best possible version of Dark Shadows. Go make something new.

      1. Superhero movies (often the least successful ones) make this error, as well. “OK, now we’ll do Phoenix/Death of Jean Grey or Death of Superman or Knightfall/Dark Knight Returns, etc…” And without the context of the originals, they almost always fall flat.

        I recall fans of the 1991 DS on message boards discussing what a possible 2nd season would be like: “And (insert popular 1990s actor) could have been Dr. Lang and then (another 1990s actor) could be Adam, and Lysette Anthony would wear the black wig as Cassandra!” I’m like: “Why the hell would they ‘remake’ one of the weakest periods of the show?” DS isn’t a novel that requires faithful adaptation of each chapter.

        There are elements of DS in X-FILES (male and female couple investigating spooky events) and ANGEL (sympathetic, brooding vampire — Spike is arguably Angel’s “Quentin,” as much of his appeal is that he’s both sexy and funny). The 1991 DS and the 2004 pilot were just reshooting old scripts. It was like the 1998 PSYCHO.

        1. Stephen, I couldn’t believe that a DS fan (not from this group) years ago actually thought that the 1991 prime time version of the show would pick up when the concluding episode…set in 1841 PT! LOL.

        2. Stephen I seen to recall that had they gone to a second season it was planned that Lysette Anthony would be playing Roger’s wife and David’s mother in a combination of the Phoenix/Cassandra plotline.

      2. I agree with you that the remaking Dark Shadows is inherently problematic because of the soap opera process. A mini-series sequel might have been the only way to do it back in the 1970s poor ’80s when the series was having a renaissance of sorts.It’s interesting that Peyton Place went the opposite direction. Started off as a best-selling book and was turned into movie followed by a book sequel and movie. THEN a few years later it became a nighttime soap opera followed years by terrible TV-movie sequels AND a daytime soap.

      3. You were right this is an especially good post and well worth the earlier delay.

        I do want to correct you though that they did do a “Guiding Light” movie in the early 1980s in a mash up with a Mary Higgins Clark book and that when Paul Rauch died he was working on remaking “Guiding Light” with a focus on the Meta Bauer-Ted White and their son Chuckie storyline from a landmark early 1950s story.

  9. Thanks for another epic entry! This was my first time seeing the film and enjoyed it for what it was but really wanted a “director’s cut” with more flesh on its bones. Also, the bat that flies away as the credit ends – an attempt to open a sequel or just a fun bit? Sure, it appears the body of Barnabas is still there but his soul/the curse could be in the bat waiting to be reborn. I have yet to see NODS so that’ll be my next DS viewing, I imagine. I’ve really missed since I finished my breakneck binging of the TV series…

  10. I began reading the script for HODS last night, and David is right, there was quite a bit cut from the movie. It begins with the famous scene of David hanging in the closet. Maggie discovers him and runs from the room, screaming. Of course, when the rest of the family comes to investigate, the little stinker is gone. We see that Maggie and Roger (whose character is more fleshed out here than what we see in the move) have had a contentious relationship, and Maggie suggests that perhaps she should leave. Roger says that would be a good idea. Later, after Barnabas has been released from the coffin, there is a scene where Maggie and Jeff, who is an artist, go to his studio. A woman arrives to pick up her portrait, and is later found dead, another victim of the vampire. And after Barnabas arrives at Collinwood, there is a scene that wasn’t in the movie, where he and the rest of the family go over to the Old House, and it is here that he is given permission to move in and restore the place. It is much less abrupt than what we see in the movie. These three scenes, if they had been left in the movie, would have done a lot to dispel that feeling that we were just having a lot of characters and situations thrown at us, with no explanation as to who they were. I will look at the rest of the script later today, and will comment again if I find anything interesting.
    There was also a point I wanted to make about your discussion of Barnabas being the first portrayal of a “sympathetic”, angst-riden vampire. Actually, the first would surely have been Countess Marya Zaleska in the Universal film “Dracula’s Daughter” in 1936. She comes to London shortly after her father has been staked by Van Helsing, steals the body, and burns it in a ritual, hoping to gain release from the curse she has inherited from him. It doesn’t work, but she later meets a psychiatrist, Jeffrey Garth, at a party, and is fascinated by his theories on how people can find release from thoughts and actions that torment them. She asks Garth to come to her apartment, where they can discuss this further. I don’t know if Curtis or the writers were influenced by this movie, but Anne Rice has always said that this film was an inspiration for her in the creation of her vampire characters Louis and Lestat.

  11. Fantastic post, as usual. I have another possibility, other than Dan Curtis, to credit much of the best of the visual composition of HODS. Two words: Arthur Ornitz. As a cinematographer, he had 35 years of experience, and an Oscar nomination by the time of HODS filming in 1970. He was Director of Photography here. His films had won, in one way or another, a fistful of Academy Awards.

  12. If this isn’t my new favorite post, it’s certainly in the top 10!

    I’ve always felt that Karlen and Barrett were the backbone of this movie. Briscoe’s performance was delicious gravy, but I’m not sure how to add it to the final tally because I’m not sure he was actually acting.

    And Joan Bennett floats tragically and beautifully in the background, like Hollywood’s answer to Madeline Usher.

    So many thoughts to unpack.

  13. I just finished reading the script for HODS. Some highlights:
    1, After Carolyn is staked, the camera was supposed to zoom in on her face, now at peace, just like in the Hammer movies, but we don’t see this on screen, for some reason.
    2. There is much more interaction between Maggie and Jeff here than in the final movie version. After Barnabas tells Willie that he has done something for Jeff, the next scene shows Jeff and Maggie having a picnic while David plays nearby. We learn that Jeff is going to Boston because Barnabas has recommended him to an important art gallery there. Later, Jeff drives off as Maggie and David wave goodbye, then they walk back to the house, where the scene begins in the movie, and Willie runs up to warn Maggie that she is in danger. 4.Willie then goes to Prof. Stokes office, and tells him that he thinks Barnabas is going to turn Maggie into a vampire, just as he did Carolyn. Cutting this last scene from the movie makes it unclear, when Stokes visits the Old House the next day, why Willie apologizes for what he told Stokes the previous afternoon.
    5. Willie’s possible ad-lib about getting Maggie some water? Not in the original script, but penciled in the margins before shooting. It does sound like something John would come up with, though
    6. In the wedding scene, Willie is handing Barnabas a chalice for the ceremony when he is struck in the shoulder by the arrow from Jeff’s crossbow. The change to this scene in the final movie version was much more effective, as we see Willie sacrificing himself to try to save Maggie.
    7. The script ends, “HIGH ANGLE SHOOTING FROM ROOF of house as they exit shot. CAMERA REMAINS on same angle as a bat suddenly appears in shot. The bat swoops and circles and flies off. FADE OUT.”
    The Dark Shadows Movie Book is a lot of fun, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys these movies.

    1. 1, After Carolyn is staked, the camera was supposed to zoom in on her face, now at peace, just like in the Hammer movies, but we don’t see this on screen, for some reason.

      SER: Carolyn as a vampire creates a major plot hole or rather complicates Stokes’s motivations. There’s no reason to believe Carolyn was a psychopath prior to Barnabas turning her. For instance, if Julia could cure her vampirism, wouldn’t that mean that Carolyn would become the law-abiding trust fund kid she was previously? Stokes is adamant that Barnabas is the “living dead” and a “monster,” but Carolyn is evidence that vampires aren’t entirely responsible for their actions.

      Also, in the TV series, Julia could rationalize to herself that Barnabas hasn’t killed anyone — well, at least no one she knows. In the movie, she’s aiding the murderer of a family friend. It makes us far less likely to sympathize with this Julia. And again, in the TV series, she had no previous relationship with the Collins family prior to her arrival.

      Willie then goes to Prof. Stokes office, and tells him that he thinks Barnabas is going to turn Maggie into a vampire, just as he did Carolyn. Cutting this last scene from the movie makes it unclear, when Stokes visits the Old House the next day, why Willie apologizes for what he told Stokes the previous afternoon.

      SER: I wish they’d have made Stokes a police officer or something that would justify his involvement in the film or explain why Willie would go to him with his fears.

      Or, as I mentioned before, they could have just dropped Stokes and made Jeff a more proactive lead (yes, I know this would mean seeing more of Roger Davis).

  14. I swear there’s still a mention of Jeff being called to Boston about his artwork left in the final cut of the movie. From the very first time I saw it on late night TV in the pre-internet days during the War of 1812, I was never confused about the fact that Jeff was called away to a gallery show and we were supposed to assume that Barnabas set it up.

    Then the Internet came along, and I started reading about the famous cut scene that explained about the gallery show. I know I’m a weirdo, and maybe it’s hard to miss what you never had, but I’ve always kind of felt that would have been over-egging the explanation pudding.

    Then again, the scene could have gone a long way toward establishing some kind of relationship between Jeff and Maggie, so what do I know?

    1. There was more than one scene between Jeff and Maggie that Dan cut from the movie, which shows that they are in a romantic relationship. It’s led to a lot fo confusion over the years! When Maggie is laid up in bed because of her vampire bite, doesn’t Jeff say something to the effect of “I never should have gone to Boston”? Maybe that’s what you remember.

      1. I mean, you can tell narratively that Jeff and Maggie are a couple, but you’re not given a lot to emotionally invest in, is what I’m saying.

        1. In the picnic scene that was cut, Jeff gives Maggie a kiss when she admits to feeling sad, thinking about what happened to Carolyn. When Jeff gets ready to leave, they kiss once again. I would have like to have seen whether she smiles at Jeff the way she does at Barnabas. The way the movie shows it, Jeff is out of sight, out of mind as Maggie dines with Barnabas, receives the gift of the music box, and then strolls hand in hand with him on the estate. You’re right, we don’t really much care about whatever relationship Maggie and Jeff has, because we have seen practically nothing of what has gone on between them.

          1. Yes, Jeff is just an obstacle who later turns up to “save” Maggie, which Willie winds up doing about as much of as Jeff.

            Curtis would never have considered this but you could have just dropped Jeff all together and had Willie and Maggie as involved — with Willie more of a Joe Haskell type. Grave robbing isn’t really anything our upstanding Joe would ever do but maybe if you establish him as desperate enough and annoyed enough with the Collins to stick it to them this way. One of the most compelling DS storylines for me was how Nicholas slowly destroyed Maggie and Joe’s relationship while moving in himself. I wished they’d adapted something similar.

            But HODS (as well as the TV series at its worst rather than its best) is not a story about people. It’s just things that happen with scares and spectacle thrown in.

            1. I think Barnabas beating up Willie unmercifully is horrible. Barnabas just beats the shit out of people and bites them. How sexy is that?

    2. Wonder who Barnabas knew in Boston who could set up a show. He’d only been out of the coffin for a short time and who would consider him an expert in art? Odd! (The painter angle means that Jeff is here conflated with Charles D Tate, no?)

        1. And Willie knew nothing at all about it! Very strange indeed!! Why didn’t he just kill Jeff (an idea we could probably all get behind). He didn’t want Maggie to flip out, maybe, but he could have hidden the body and made it look like Jeff took off. Just some strange lacunae in the story if you ask me.

          1. I like the way you think! As Kathryn Leigh Scott says in her diary in the DS movie book, “Joan and I agree life would be perfect without Roger Davis”.

        1. Yes, that is the implication, but if you think about how that kind of wheeling and dealing would require familiarity with 20th century business and money (not to mention the art world), it’s pretty farfetched. Colonial America had nothing of the kind, and that would have been his frame of reference. I don’t know, it’s just bizarre. Killing Jeff would have been so much easier and you would think that would be B’s first thought.

          1. HODS Barnabas’s actions are far more irrational and impulsive than 1967 TV show Barnabas.

            TV Barnabas lives off cows and although there are occasional reports of a woman being “attacked,” these are all random and not people who work for the Collins or an actual Collins herself. (Daphne was perhaps an “accident” as he didn’t know about her relationship to the Collins family.)

            Attacking Carolyn in a fury of rage wasn’t really wise but leaving her to bleed out on the front door of Collinwood rather than just killing her and not having her back as a vampire made no sense.

            But this film is designed to have Barnabas basically “racing toward the stake,” whereas the TV series after a point wanted the opposite.

  15. <<Yeah, that’s Camilla Ashland, she played the crazy bird lady from the Leviathan story, and Buffie’s landlady in Parallel Time.

    Also worth pointing out in that same picture is the couple standing at the far left end of the frame. That’s Lyndhurst administrator Gerald L Fiedler and his wife Christiane. Without their cooperation, the Dark Shadows movies would not have been filmed at Lyndhurst. Gerald’s name appears in the opening credits screengrab with “Metrocolor.”

    More than just the shadow of the boom mike appears in HoDS. The microphone itself makes an on-camera appearance hovering above the heads of Liz and Daphne.

    1. <<Well, Curtis gave Michael Stroka, Humbert Allen Astredo, and Terry Crawford cameos in the film, so it’s only fair that he did the same for the boom mic.

  16. All this discussion of “Who is the protagonist of House of Dark Shadows?” has me thinking about interviews with William B Davis, in which he said he played the Cigarette Smoking Man as the main character of The X-Files.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that John Karlen played Willie Loomis the same way in HoDS, and in the decade of scruffy, non-traditional anti-heroes, I think I believe he succeeded.
    Working class guy trodden down by The Man in the person of the cold, uncaring Roger Collins (can’t even be bothered to look for his own kid) turns to the ultimate victimless crime as the only way to get ahead. Used and abused by decadent, perverted aristocrats, he still tries to help the pretty girl as best he can, even though the corrupt system is against him. They try to take away his will to fight, but in the end, with his independent spirit all that he has left, he summons the courage to sacrifice himself and save the girl. That’s not a gritty 1970s American anti-hero, I don’t know what is.

  17. I agree that HODS did not kill DS for the reasons many people think. I didn’t stop watching the show after seeing the movie, even though the movie really bothered me on some deep level my eight-year-old self had a hard time understanding. My father took me to see it. And superficially I loved it: all that blood, all those familiar faces on the big screen. I remember feeling I was learning stuff about the origins of the show I’d never known, since I’d started watching during 1897. Afterward, my friends and i talked about the movie for weeks, analyzing the bite marks on Carolyn’s throat, how Willie managed to impale Barnabas. We threw balls at recess chanting, “If I catch this one, Carolyn isn’t dead.” But something deep down troubled me. Walking out of the theatre, I said to my father, “I think because Barnabas was killed all his victims come back to life.” Seeing Carolyn, Stokes, and Roger slaughtered bothered me. But it was seeing Barnabas kill Julia that really disturbed my innocent little mind — and all these years later, I realize just how fucking cruel that was on Dan Curtis’s part. Julia was Barnabas’ best friend; on the show at that time, he risked everything to save her. That relationship mattered to my eight-year-old self. I probably rationalized that this was another “parallel time”– the concept was familiar to me from the show. But something soured for me after that. HODS didn’t kill DS because parents finally saw what their kids were watching and freaked out; my father wasn’t troubled by what he saw. HODS didn’t kill DS because people tuned out after seeing the movie; I certainly did not, watching straight through that horrible PT 1841, always with the hope that we’d return to “my” DS. HODS killed DS because, as Danny says, it caused the show to lose its rhythm and pace and momentum. But here’s one other factor: it killed some of the magic. These characters mattered to an audience of mostly young teenage and pre-teen viewers. Especially Julia and Barnabas, who are both so unlikeable in HODS. After HODS, these people weren’t real to me anymore. they were just characters. And while I kept watching, and kept the hope alive, and mourned that terrible day it ended, “my” DS was gone. Looking back now, I see it was never the same after HODS.

    1. With HODS, Dan Curtis made the kind of 1967 version of the show that fan mail prevented him from making at the time. In the beginning, Barnabas was ice cold and was only supposed to be around for a few weeks anyway. Maggie was to have been freed by Dr. Woodard who was to stake Barnabas. The “reluctant vampire” thing came about because Frid met with the writers early on and told them “Don’t write me spooky”. Frid had an ally on the writing team in Ron Sproat, who he had known since their Yale Drama School days together. Likewise, Julia was to have been killed by Barnabas early on, like in the movie, as revenge for his rapid aging when the experiment went wrong. Except that in the original show she was to have been upended in the huge vat of acid in her basement laboratory. But, again, the popularity of her character called for the story to be changed. In those days, Barnabas and Julia weren’t friends at first, but instead more like co-conspirators where mutual cooperation was adhered to only for selfish reasons, for the things each had to gain by the association. They didn’t actually become friends until 1968, when Dr. Lang’s experiments commence.

      Even toward the end of the show, when they were casting about for new ideas, writer Sam Hall suggested killing Julia off, to keep the horror going by having someone else come to share Barnabas’ secret. But Dan Curtis refused to do it.

    2. @Will. I absolutely agree with your assessment and reading the review brought back a load of memories.

      I was eleven when HODS was released, but had been a longtime fan of the show. I watched it, as did my sister (3 years younger than me), as well as my mother and my grandmother; the latter two were the ones who gave me my love and passion for movies which has never died. It was a very long however many weeks (which felt like years) when Barnabas was sealed in his coffin while the DS gang hauled it up to the movie version. But we knew a movie was being made. We couldn’t wait for it to finally be released (and for Barnabas to finally be released as well).

      In the commentary, I believe it was David who mentioned “I would guess the audience at the Strand that day was 80 percent black, and probably very few of them had ever seen Dark Shadows.” Oh it was so different for me! I’m biracial. The neighborhood I grew up in at the time was a mix of blacks and whites. When we got home from school every weekday, there were two shows which got us to run to our homes when we were out visiting or playing: Dark Shadows and Ultra Man! Mainly Dark Shadows. It cut down racial lines and gender lines in my neighborhood. Hell, we talked about Dark Shadows at school when the teachers weren’t listening because that subject was verboten! LOL

      Anyway, everybody was going to see the movie opening weekend: kids, parents, grandparents. My family went as a group along with some of the neighbors. This was excitement I hadn’t seen since we lined up to see the re-release of ‘The Ten Commandments’. We could NOT wait to see what Dan Curtis had stirred up, to see if it was worth it to hand over our favorite TV show to all these secondary folks in a parallel time plot none of us particularly liked. At any rate, there were are for a matinee. The line is down the block of this beautiful old 1920’s era theater which survived the wrecking ball of 1960’s Urban Renewal. (Side Note: Ironically, another theater which survived and is still in huge use is what we call the Louisville Palace, formerly the Penthouse Theater – which was upstairs – and the United Artist, the downstairs facility. I say ironic because just before the theater was to be razed, two developers came along to save the building and fully restore it to its’ past glories. One of the developers was this guy named Roger Davis. Yeah! THAT Roger Davis! So he might be an asswipe, but helping save such a magnificent work of architecture always made we citizens happy. I look at him now and think ‘Good Lord – he helped save the Palace,’ right before I cringe at his wooden acting).

      Where was I? Okay, so we’re lined up. I wouldn’t see lines like that again until I went to see ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ in 1980! This was in the days before Fandango and after all. The theater is packed. They actually turned people away and asked them to come back to the next show, which didn’t make them happy. But we were in: my family, my friends and classmates.

      And when the theater darkened and the credits started we screamed our heads off. We cheered each name when it appeared. We stomped and yelled as familiar faces appeared. Yes, we were screaming the characters names “Look it’s Maggie! WOOOOOOOOO! It’s Willie! WOOOOOOOO!” When Barnabas’ hand reaches out of the casket, we screamed, not in terror but in sheer delight. ‘Here we go’ we’re all thinking. ‘THIS IS IT!’ When we saw that long shot of Barnabas looking towards Collinwood, people jumped out of their seats and screamed and clapped. A friggin’ standing ovation and the movie’s barely going. We all screamed and stomped and cheered. We are in this sucker for the long haul.

      Then somewhere along the way, it started to deflate. The next time I saw disappointment like that wash over an audience was when 1000+ Star Trek fans were subjected to ‘Star Trek: the Motion Picture’ in 1979 at another theater. It was that feeling of wanting to escape the pain you saw on the screen, but you sit there, hoping in the end it’ll be worth it. Well, it wasn’t. Not for HODS and not for ST: TMP.

      Trying to remember, but I think it was Carolyn’s murder by Barnabas, her death, resurrection as you were and then being put out of her vampire misery – I think that was the first indication we weren’t going to like this. After all, we all “knew” Carolyn. This wasn’t like Lucy in ‘Dracula,’ where you see her character off and on for a bit before she bites the dust so to speak. I don’t remember anyone that didn’t like Carolyn. And all the boys, no matter their race, had crushes on Nancy, whether she was Carolyn or Charity. But once Movie Carolyn was gone, we started getting quieter. I wonder if we were trying to sort things out in our minds. Then we see the jealous Julia give Barnabas the injection which ages him, and when he tears into her, we were all screaming, but I don’t know if we screamed because of this aged Jonathan Frid filling up the screen…or because he was killing this woman who was the other half of the DS version of Scully and Mulder/Holmes and Watson. I know personally, I didn’t like jealous Julia. I didn’t like she was dead. And being a movie buff even at eleven, I’m thinking “Great. You just killed off a woman who received an OSCAR NOMINATION for ‘Night of the Iguana’ opposite Sue Lyon and Richard Burton!” (Yeah, I’d seen ‘Night of the Iguana’ on TV).

      Now the movie’s fast going downhill. The next time the audience screamed was when Barnabas’ bald head made its’ appearance with that bad lighting (thank you so much for that image in your review. Trust me, seeing it on a big screen was horrific because it literally FILLED the screen). I’m not sure if it was him trying to suck Maggie dry or the sight of that bald head which had us scream. By now, I’m ready for it to be over. One by one we are clueless as to why Stokes is a vampire or why Roger is one. We’re talking to the screen and each other the way we would at home. The sounds of “What the…” “When did he…” “How come…” fill the theater.

      We laugh our asses off when Willie asks Maggie if she wants a glass of water! (I was so thankful you included that line. To this day, I was beginning to wonder if I’d imagined that).

      The climax is almost in the blink of an eye. Barnabas dies. People screamed “NOOOOOOOO!” Willie died. People screamed “NOOOOOO!” We see that long shot with Barnabas’ body. The end credits roll. People are booing. People are shouting. A few pieces of trash fly towards the screen. Then it calms and we all file out in silence.

      I know to this day people saw our audience leaving the theater – the ones in line for the next showing – and wondered why we looked angry. After they saw HODS, I’m sure they remembered.

      And for me, my sister, my mother, my grandmother, it was never the same – the show I mean. I think DS in its’ own manner was on the way out anyway, but nothing felt like it used to…pre-HODS. When my mother – for a reason I no longer recall – punished me by saying I couldn’t watch DS anymore, I don’t think I cared as much as I might have before HODS. When the series was going off the air, she lifted her ban. Like it mattered watching another parallel world where Barnabas was now Bramwell or Branwell, like the brother of the Brontë sisters, and Angelique had some other name that wasn’t Alexis or Angelique or Cassandra. My mother told me it reminded her of ‘Wuthering Heights’. LOL I’d already read ‘Jane Eyre’ so I finally got around to the book by the other sister!

      But that was my history with HODS. As the Stones sang, ‘You can’t always get what you want.’ We had no idea, when we walked into the theater that weekend, that our love for DS was about to wane, even before my “punishment”. After school, we played ‘Ultra Man’ and ‘Speed Racer’ or re-enacted the old Universal movies we’d seen on a local station running ‘Fright Night’. We didn’t talk about DS anymore. Period. If we did, it was along the lines of “I’m sorry they made that movie.” It was the only time I saw it. The only way I’d watch it now is with narration by Danny and David – or Joel/Mike with Tom Servo and Crow!

      1. That is a great and very moving post. We can all feel your pain. I wonder if people who had no idea what TV DS was all about and were just looking for a horror flick liked it better. You really have to wonder what Curtis & Co were thinking, though.

        1. Lori Page – I’m sorry, but I just now saw your kind reply. Thanks for your compliments, and yes, to this day, it still hurts. You don’t like seeing something you love crash and burn the HODS did, and then to see how it affected the series as well. At least with the first Star Trek movie, they went on to make ‘Wrath of Khan” so that lessened the blow. DS made NODS. 😦 I still look back on DS and smile, because overall, it’s still a blast to watch, even when they have the most convoluted bunch of BS in the world. When they make mistakes or forget their lines, it’s part of the charm and what made it special. That’s a good memory for me.

      2. Silentmoviefan, you pretty much summed up my feelings about HODS. You are so right: the TV show just wasn’t the same anymore. I can think of only two other times I was so disappointed in anything DS-related: (1) Night of Dark Shadows, and (2) Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows – the latter being worse.

        1. Robert Sharp – I apologize for not seeing your reply until today. Thanks for your kind words. I never saw NODS. I think I heard about it; my mother, I think, saw it didn’t like it, and after all these years, I don’t think I’ve missed anything. I never did like the reboot. I refuse to watch the Tim Burton version and I usually like his movies. The few clips I’ve seen of it left me cringing. And not long ago I was watching a YouTube video about reboots (I think that was the subject) and saw this very sad moment with Depp welcoming people to Collinwood, and I went “OMG…There’s Jonathan Frid.” (I may also have caught sight of Lara Parker too, but I’m unsure). Seeing that didn’t make me smile; it pushed me close to tears, like some last gasp.

          1. You have not missed anything with NODS. It is very difficult to watch. Very slow. I cant remember if I saw it as a teen when it first came out. I have no interest in watching 1991 Dark Shadows.

      3. Thank you for sharing your experience. My family went and saw it at a drive in. We knew how we felt, but we didn’t have input from other fans like you did. My parents were disappointed, mostly because they said the picture was “dark”, meaning that the day for night shooting looked really bad on a drive in screen, very low contrast so you couldn’t see much of what was going on. I’m sure they were disappointed for other reasons, like massive quantities of blood. I remember not liking what was going on, but everyone was alive and well on the tv, so I was good with that. It definitely didn’t feel like my Dark Shadows*!

        The one good thing that came of it is all of the gorgeous color still shots and beautiful costumes. I sort of have to remind myself “Ugh, that’s from HODS.”

  18. Thank you Danny and David Edelstein for this terrific viewing party.

    But here’s my question — in the Barnabas POV shot when he first enters Collinwood, he goes up to the door and rings the bell.

    What the flap?!?!

    He just got out of a coffin after 200 years. How the hell does he know what a doorbell is?

    Oh wait, maybe there was a cut scene where Willy showed him how it works….

    “Mister Barnabas .. it’s a like a thing you press… please Mister Barnabas, just .. you just walk up there …hold your finger … oh god…”

  19. Apparently Willie was able to tell him the ways of the modern world at the Blue Whale. On the show, Barnabas never appeared surprised at the modern world at all.

    1. I did LOL at that scene in the Depp movie when he attacks the TV where the Carpenters are singing. It would have been fun to have a few scenes of Barnabas befuddled with modern stuff in the original. I guess he was studying everything really closely while he was off camera looking for cows.

      1. Speaking of modern stuff/Barnabas Depp,
        Wouldn’t it have been a hoot, if they juxtaposed the “Doctor/Patient Confidentiality”
        scene with Julia going down, and directly cut to Depp/Barney at the breakfast table:

        “What an AGE this is.”

        But I was always pissed at how easily 1967 Barney took to electricity, telephones, and DRIVING, fergawdsake.

        After all, the story Willie used about meeting Barney was changing his flat tire.
        Right out of the box.

        There was one really good look in 1967 in Eagle Hill with Maggie.

        Those fantastic fake oversized eyebrows.

    2. JoeyT – Also on the show, Vicki, Julia, and Professor Stokes never seemed surprised about the historical world either.

  20. You get into the look of Barnabas a little bit here which I think is one of the important.factors in the movie and how Dan Curtis wanted the audience to see him. Many of the actors look as good if not better than they did on the soap.To me Jonathan Frid looks worse with dark hair and eyes, pale face,slightly unshaven.He simply looks unsympathetic.You just can’t imagine this guy as ever being redeemable

    1. When Barnabas first appears in 1967, he comes across as a perfect courtly gentleman. I agree that he seems a bit… seedier in HODS, especially in that scene with Carolyn at the Old House. And the way he hits on Maggie at the party.

      The early 1967 Barnabas is very charming and almost “adorkable” when he goes on about the past. The first time we see the “evil” Barnabas (when he brings Willie to the Old House), it is a distinct shift, almost a shock.

      1. They were just channeling Dracula there, I guess. But then movie makeup is probably done differently than TV, especially in those days of soaps done on the cheap. And the early eps were B&W.

      2. I think his acting is over the top, in the worst sense. It’s an understatement to say he overplayed on DS, but he also had, as you note, his charming and awkward side (his human side, sort of). In the movie, he’s all, “Where’s the nookie?” Not the Barnabas we came to know and love. He’s just a horny jerk.

        1. I can’t help but think Frid hated this script and the stuff he was forced to do. He never cared for the “horror” angle of DS from what I have read. This movie might have been part of the reason he demanded to play Bramwell and thus brought the wretched 1841PT into existence. Just a guess.

          1. Lori, in one of the Kathryn Leigh Scott DS books, Jonathan Frid said that he felt HODS was not successful because it was too real. He said that the TV show had ventured off into its own reality. He did not like the blatant violence and blood letting that we saw on the screen in the film.

  21. I liked HODS when I first saw it but it looks too real, especially now in Blu Ray. Never liked Collinwood in the movie because I love the TV version. Somehow everything looking so stark and real took away from the Brigadoonish feel of the regular series where none of the present day characters were ever hurt.

    The one good thing in Blu Ray is the shots of Maggie in those short Junior Sophisticates skirts. No doubt the woman had the most gorgeous legs in Collinsport.

  22. uncloaking… what amazing comments. I feel privileged not just to read Danny but the witty and erudite comments.

    I cannot recall a single scene in which Willie or anyone else brings Barnabas up to date. Presumably things like doorbells and cars are what he and Willie are talking about at the Blue Whale. It would have been good if Barnabas was looking into the daytime sky he hadn’t seen in centuries and in the middle of his effusive monologue he said, “What the HELL is that?” when a plane went by. But they didn’t do that in Dracula A.D. 1972 either when Christopher Lee was resurrected by mods. He just stayed in a ruined church and kept out of the sunlight and had groupies. He was a lot like Keith Richards.

    One could blame Julia (women and their emotions!) for the downward spiral of HODS, but Barnabas’s selfish indifference to the fate of his great great great great great great niece Carolyn pretty much guarantees that he’s irredeemable in this particular DS iteration.

    1. Yeah, I think the 2012 Burton film is often slammed for actually addressing the clear culture shock Barnabas would have experienced — yes, it’s perhaps played more for laughs than some fans would like but if you come into the Burton film cold, it doesn’t seem forced. Why wouldn’t a 18th Century man react this way to the “present”?

      Frid’s Barnabas (in the TV series and to a degree in HODS) responds to the present in an aesthetic/cultural sense more than a practical one. He doesn’t install electricity in the Old House like a hipster might insist on listening to vinyl (no offense to those who prefer it to digital). He is romantic about the past like Woody Allen romanticizes his childhood New York of the 1940s.

      I also think the 2012 film has a better sense of how the audience should feel about Barnabas. It’s a bit muddled in HODS and the 1991 DS revival: Do we want Barnabas to be cured? Do we feel sad when his chance at a normal life is yanked from him? Arguably, once Barnabas begins his treatment, Maggie herself is not actually in danger (despite Willie’s concerns)…. so the story collapses from lack of true… er… “stakes.”

      But HODS is a film that races to major plot moments from the TV series without the emotional underpinnings that made us care.

      One of the most affecting scenes for me from the TV series is after Carolyn’s fallen under Barnabas’s control and she goes to talk to David. The day before, she was his only ally, the only person who believed him and thought he wasn’t crazy. Now, she’s gaslighting him — and it’s clear as she speaks to him that something terrible’s happened to her. When I first saw this, I wasn’t that much older than David so it really moved me. That is “scarier” than red paint gore and “vampire Carolyn.”

      1. Some culture shock would be expected, but I always think it would be more from someone in the present going back to the past than someone from the past coming forward. For instance, I always find it amazing that women in time travel movies know how to work the underwear which while it fulfills the same purpose was incredibly complicated in the past and worked differently. Try going to the bathroom like you would the modern way (without a flushing toilet of course) in split drawers. It doesn’t work.

        However, for someone from the past coming forward there were things they could build on as an “ah yes, so they’ve really improved that.” For instance, Barnabas might not know to push a button to ring a doorbell, but he would have been very familiar with bell pulls which are activated a different way, but are basically the same idea.
        Also, while how TV works is completely differently he would know about a camera obscura which projects a color image that moves (it’s upside down and doesn’t work over a distance, but a similar idea).

        I mean telephones and rockets and planes would be very new, but a lot of our technology, at least in purpose, is built on much older models.

        People make up stories like the one about people who ran from a movie theater because they saw a film of a train coming at them when they first saw a movie, but stuff like that didn’t really happen. People in the “present” make it up to tell themselves how superior they are.

        1. Another thing to consider is that before an invention enters into popular use, it has already existed in the imaginations of people many years before. For instance, the word television was first coined in 1900, and the first instantaneous transmission of images was achieved in 1909. This was something that evolved from a form of mechanical television, using facsimile transmission of still images from a machine that was developed in the 1840s, an idea that was later developed for use through telegraph lines, in 1856.

          Today we think of camera phones and teleconferencing as something new, but people already had the idea decades before, for instance, from a 1912 motion picture called Love and Science, where a scientist develops a “seeing telephone”. The same idea was proposed a few years earlier, in the 1908 French film The Marvelous Telecinematoscope. That same year, there was another French film called Long Distance Wireless Photography.

          In the 1700s, there was quite an advance of machine-oriented inventions. The fire extinguisher was invented in 1722. The steam engine was invented in 1769 (though a prototype had already been invented in Ancient Greece). The flushing toilet was invented in 1775 — that same year, the steamship was invented. The first submarine was invented in 1776. Air travel was being envisioned as well, because the first demonstration of a parachute occurred in 1783 (the first working parachute was invented in 1785), the same year the hot-air balloon was invented. Collinwood by candlelight? Not for long, with gas lighting being invented in 1792. At the Collinwood of 1795, you probably could have had a soda, because carbonated water had been invented in 1767, and the first soft drink in 1798. In 1799, the first battery.

          The only real culture shock for Barnabas, an advanced, well-traveled, and educated man of his time, would have been the devaluation of the dollar.

    2. “It would have been good if Barnabas was looking into the daytime sky he hadn’t seen in centuries and in the middle of his effusive monologue he said, “What the HELL is that?” when a plane went by.”

      Yes, indeed. Or the endless possibilities of Julia teaching Barnabas how to drive a car: “Now, Barnabas, look in your rearview mirror. Do you see anything?”

  23. Just a thought re: Dan Curtis and how much HODS being a cold paint by numbers version of the series parralels Gene Roddenberry and ST: TMP. Sometimes the most brilliant artists don’t “get” what it is about their creation that makes it special. Gene Roddenberry reportedly hated the humor on the original series. I saw ST: TMP in the theater, and had the same reaction I have to HODS. Same title, same cast, but the “soul” is missing.

    1. I had the same thought. ST TMP sure is disappointing and dull when you look at it now, though at the time we were all happy it was there.

      1. I watched it in the theater with a friend, and we both fell asleep. If anyone had asked me what happened in the film, I’d have said, “I don’t know.”

        1. I went to see it opening weekend with my sisters and my brother. Midway you could hear snoring in the theater! I dozed off a few times too. When we got the big reveal at the end about V’ger, half the audience left. I remember a few people saying “What the f**k?” But my favorite part of all was when my baby sister – who was in my lap, taking a nap – woke up and asked me when the monster was going to appear. I asked her ‘What monster?’ She said, “The one with 2 sets of teeth who drips acid for blood and jumps out of people’s chests.’ I answered, “OMG I wish it was in this movie!’

    2. Glenn Johnson Barnes – funny that you mentioned ST:TMP just as I did in my reply. Like HODS, I was so excited to see it and then walked out of it disappointed. Yes, the ST characters were present and accounted for, but it didn’t feel like ST. I’d forgotten that Roddenberry allegedly didn’t like the humor of the original, but it was the humor and the interactions which between the characters which made ST:TOS what it was, and why I can watch it all these years later and feel not only old emotions but new ones. I can’t say that about a lot of shows, past or present! For me, ST didn’t regain its’ soul until ‘The Wrath of Khan’. I guess DS is still looking for theirs if the Burton movie was – from what I’ve heard – any indication. 😦

  24. I know I’m probably a minority of one here but overall, I don’t have a problem with Roger Davis’ performances on Dark Shadows. His acting style is heavy handed at times, no doubt but I really liked him as Peter Bradford and I thought he was the most menacing vampire the show ever turned out.
    Besides, the show needed a couple of ass kickers like Roger Davis and Mitch Ryan to balance out Frid’s elegance and Edmunds’ flamboyance and Selby’s adorableness.

    1. Yeah, I didn’t think Davis was all bad on the show. I enjoyed Dirk Wilkins in all three of his incarnations; I think he did his best work when they cast him as more of a heavy.

      1. I agree that Roger Davis was better as a heavy. Dan Curtis must really have liked him given how many roles in played in such a limited amount of appearances.

  25. I’ve seen House of Dark Shadows on late night broadcast TV, on Turner Classic Movies, on my own taped-from-TV VHS, and from the recently-released DVD. I’ve seen it alone, with friends, and with other fans in an extremely uncomfortable tent at Lyndhurst. But the most enjoyable experience I’ve had watching it was last September at the Drive-In Super Monster-Rama at the Riverside Drive-In in Pennsylvania.

    There were other vintage horror flicks on the bill, but the Dark Shadows fans got a special moment together, posing for a big group picture and plastic vampire teeth. If you grew up like I did, going to the drive-in every week or every time the movie changed, whichever came first, it’s probably the perfect setting.

    1. The House That Dripped Blood! Oh my gosh! I remember seeing that at the drive-in a long, long time ago. Can’t remember what it was playing with though! LOL

  26. So they sort of killed Julia twice–one, by not letting her dominate the proceedings, as she does on the TV show, and two, by having Barnabas choke her to death. People think no Barnabas, no DS, but it’s really no Julia, no DS.

    I was thinking of re-rewatching HoDS, but this post has convinced me to let it stay in its crypt.

  27. Dennis wrote: “Never liked Collinwood in the movie because I love the TV version. Somehow everything looking so stark … ”

    I couldn’t agree more with the comparison.

    The Lyndhurst mansion: Though quite grand on the outside, the interior of the Lyndhurst mansion in Tarrytown left me COLD! Accustomed to the much more intimate, if somewhat cramped, sets so brilliantly created for the original TV series by Sy Tomashoff, I simply didn’t enjoy the interior of the Lyndhurst mansion. All intimacy and warmth were lost in HODS. Had they filmed HODS inside the huge rooms and oversized hallways of Seaview Terrace mansion in Newport, RI, I’m sure the result would have been much the same — stark and cold — though I do greatly appreciate the use of Seaview Terrace for the beautiful exterior shots of Collinwood in the TV series.

    Sy Tomashoff’s Collinwood: The the ABC-TV studio at 433 West 53rd Street in New York (where the TV series was taped) certainly lacked the spaciousness of the rooms inside either Lyndhurst or Seaview Terrace. Space there was quite limited as is so often the case in Manhattan. We as fans would be truly amazed if we realized just how tiny and cramped some of the spaces were that Tomashoff had to work with to create the TV “drawing room,” “the study,” the parlor of the Old House, etc. These rooms may have appeared very spacious to TV viewers but actually were not spacious at all. Far from it. For example the TV drawing room coffee table measures a mere 27″ inches diameter! Rather on the small side for such a grand estate as Collinwood, I’d say! And the familiar faded green TV drawing room “sofa”? Well, it actually wasn’t a full length sofa at all, but only a much shorter length “settee.” Smaller sized props had to be used for the smaller space of the TV studio set, or else the sets would have looked overcrowded with bigger furniture. Yet, despite the limitations of the 53rd Street studio, Sy Tomashoff in the TV series truly accomplished a scenic design miracle in a very tiny space.

    For me, Tomashoff’s Collinwood will always be the one and only Collinwood!

    -Count Catofi

    1. I wonder if he used forced perspective by putting smaller things in the back and larger items in the front?

      1. “…if he used forced perspective by putting smaller things in the back and larger items in the front”

        In general I think not. At least not that I am aware of. Because when characters appear at the rear of a room of the TV set, for example, when a character walks through the secret panel at the back of the TV drawing room, I’ve never seen the characters needing to crouch or to bend down to enter or to exit the secret panel. Therefore, the secret panel would likely have been roughly the same height as an ordinary, regular size doorway, and therefore not a miniature doorway. Or when a character emerges from the doorway atop the second floor landing at the rear of the foyer set. Same thing. No crouching observed. If you come across an example of forced perspective in an episode, do let me know as it would be a most interesting find …

      2. When you have a moment, take a look for example at the August 1, 2015 entry of this blog entitled, “Episode 693: Sticks and Stokes.” Then scroll down to approximately the 3rd photo, which is a screenshot of David Collins and Professor Stokes at the secret panel in the TV drawing room. Compare the height of the doorway to the heights of the actors, in particular the adult-sized actor Thayer David. And I think you’ll see what I mean about it not being a miniature or reduced height doorway…

        1. Wasn’t everybody always bumping their heads, though, when they went through that door under the stairs in the foyer? (You know what I would love: a fan-created blueprint of both Collinwood and the Old House, based on what we saw on the series as well as some logical guesses.)

          1. David Selby clocked himself a couple of times in that doorway—one time looked so bad that it’s surprising that he didn’t knock himself out! I think that happened in one of the 1840 periods. He and Chris Pennock were the only ones really tall enough to bonk themselves in that doorway!

  28. Will-

    “Wasn’t everybody always bumping their heads, though, when they went through that door under the stairs in the foyer?”

    You may very well be correct about the door in the TV foyer (that leads to the kitchen) being somewhat shorter than a standard-sized door.

    If I am interpreting Tomashoff’s blueprints of the TV foyer correctly, the doorway to the kitchen may be only 6′ feet high, whereas a standard size door might measure 6’8″ or, in a large house or mansion like Collinwood, even 8′ feet high. By comparison, the doorway atop the second floor landing (which the actors pretended to use as access to the various bedrooms) shows a full foot taller at 7′ feet high in the blueprints.

    Therefore, a tall actor (like David Selby who stands 6’2″ or 6’3″ tall) might need to duck a little bit entering or exiting the door often used by Mrs. Johnson to go to the kitchen. If not, then ouch! Quentin would bump his head. Good point. 🙂

    1. The doorway leading to the kitchen and I guess many other downstairs rooms was always weird to me. You enter and immediately turn right and go under the stairs, ad then you turn left again and then??? I think that it would have worked better if it was just a dark hallway, not the meandering thing that we saw.

      1. “The doorway leading to the kitchen and I guess many other downstairs rooms was always weird to me …”

        Truth be told, the doorway under the TV foyer stairs, which we refer to as “the door to the kitchen,” does not in fact lead to any kitchen set at all. If you were to go through the doorway, you would find there was nothing there. Because the foyer set ends there. The only thing you would find back there on the other side of “the kitchen door” is a behind-the-scenes passageway for the actors to use — sight unseen — in order to exit a scene, enter a scene, or even to run if in a hurry to arrive in time for the start of his or her next scene a short distance away in the same studio.

        Besides the most frequently used set for the drawing room/foyer, the studio contained enough space for 3, 4 or possibly 5 other “rooms” or subsets, with each “room” or subset being separated from each other by only a few feet! The idea of a kitchen beyond the door, or in 1897 the idea of stairs back there leading down to the dungeon were of course illusions. Similarly with the door atop the foyer stairs, there was no upstairs hallway leading to the family’s bedrooms beyond the door on the landing. The landing door leads only to a behind-the-scenes set of stairs the actors used to climb down to the main studio level. The kitchen, the dungeon, any “upstairs” bedroom would be assembled as separate smaller sets a few steps away from, and on the same level as, the main drawing room/foyer set.

        1. Count, I know it’s only a set. I’m just trying to suspend disbelief and imagine what it was supposed to be.

    2. Quentin actually does bump his head at one point while walking out of the foyer through that door beneath the landing. He reacts verbally and puts his hand to his head, so it must have smarted. Proof that Sy Tomashoff’s set design work was solid. 🙂 It happens in 1840, in the same episode where Selby swears out loud (though not loud enough for an edit to be made) while having difficulty opening the seal of an envelope. That should be a fun episode to comment on.

  29. Not gonna post the seven pages of comments on HoDS that I’d written; the commentary is already gargantuan on this posting, and many of my observations are already here.

    Overall? Meh. Didn’t HATE HATE HATE the film, but it doesn’t do much for me either. Kind of a Readers Digest condensed version of the Barnabas storyline.

    I will point out, though, that Dan Curtis was trying to create something that was (in format) almost the opposite of what had started all this; where soap operas are open ended ‘continuing stories’, need constant recapping, and generally need to fill time, the feature film has a fairly strict time limit, and require more from an audience (certainly closer attention (possibly excepting the movies where they just blow something up every few minutes)).

    So character was thrown out in favour of spectacle. Along with (it seems) a lot of plot. A vampire movie needs vampire, he certainly delivered on vampire. But the people in this Collinwood were just cardboards, no real personalities, which soap opera thrives on. Yes, so do movies, but in the way that we see a start, middle, finish of sorts for the characters, where soaps stretch stories with mostly limited changes to characters (though I’m sure there are numerous exceptions).

    So in attempting this, the whole franchise stretched too thin – yes, I can get aboard the idea that the overreaching is what led to the show’s end – because it took too much resource out of the TV show, but didn’t give enough in return for it. The TV following wanted their soap opera (which really ever came back), the movie watchers tuned in the TV show and said, “well, this isn’t what was in the movie, where are the vampires?”

    PS I do have to at least mention, the electric lime minidress that Maggie wears in the ‘picnic basket’ scene almost turned me straight. (So I rewound to the part with shirtless Todd, and that took care of it.)

    1. I agree with most of your observations, several of which inadvertently triggered some of my own.I just don’t know if Dan Curtis could have made HODS work given his intention of retelling the “Introduction of Barnabas” story in condensed form. I go back and forth from liking and appreciating HODS to loathing it. In my “fix it” mentality over the years I’ve often thought that Curtis should have done a retelling of Barnabas’ vampire origins but with Phyllis Wick as the governess. In other words he story before Vicki went back in time and altered reality. By that time in 1970 there might have been newer viewers who hadn’t seen the 1795 flashback. That way he could kill off characters he way he wanted. Or just tell a completely different alternate reality story as was done in Night of Dark Shadows

  30. I also think the film is overly cluttered — arguably because Dan Curtis was too loyal (if that’s the right word) to former cast members. For instance, why is Don Briscoe in the film at all? Roger Davis’s Jeff would be sufficient. You could even quickly establish a sort of triangle between Carolyn, Maggie, and Jeff — Carolyn the rich girl desires what the “help” has. It doesn’t even have to be that sinister — Carolyn could just have a “schoolgirl crush” on Jeff, who only has eyes for Maggie (a good way of solidifying their relationship), which she acts on in the extreme as a vampire.

    1. Yes.Would have been better to do away with the Daphne Budd character altogether. They don’t implicitly say what happens to her. If she died she should have been a vampire too.Should have been a random Collinsport citizen bitten and strangled to death without a backstory.

      1. The 1991 DS series made this plot point worse by making Daphne a Collins. Dramatically, the show is now about a family who has experienced the sudden loss of their loved one (seriously, many shows start this way). But this was utterly ignored — to the point that the Collins actually throw a damn costume party just a few weeks after their relative was murdered and then killed again as a vampire.

        1. Yes. I was thoroughly annoyed with the 1991 series trying to do a mash-up of the movie and the original series. And they carried it further by retelling the flashback time-trip with several fatal flaws.

          1. Well I was relieved that the 1991 series didn’t have Barnabas turning Carolyn into a vampire and that they instead had it happen to Daphne. During the first episode I was hoping that Dan Curtis wasn’t going to go completely in the direction of HODS and kill off most of the family. I was like, he’s got to know that if he does that, there won’t be any character left to continue the series!

            1. They sort of made this mistake in VAMPIRE DIARIES. By Season 2 there were barely any human characters left.

      2. I can hear her now, fighting off her attacker, screaming, “I’m too young to die! I don’t even have a backstory!”

  31. I’ve never seen the “House of Dark Shadows” but from this I’m amazed at how much the 1991 revival followed this. I also wonder if part of the interesting shots of the movie were the cinematographer, as Alan Gallant said above. Then Dan Curtis tried to recreate them on his own without that guidance and that’s why there are so many strange choices of shots in the revival.

  32. A great post — both in quality and in the “epic” sense! I kinda wish Danny & David had recorded their observations — it would have made a great commentary track.

    Also glad Danny shared comments with someone who was a more foregiving fan of the movie.

  33. The most interesting thing is that Curtis apparently cut the film down of his own volition, making the story rather slapdash and less coherent. I’ve never heard of any MGM pressure to keep this one short. Is there anything in the “Dark Shadows Movie Book” to indicate there was?

    This may be the first DSED blog post to go into triple digits on the comments. I think I’m #98.

    1. The book says, “In order to improve the pacing, Curtis deleted several scenes and shortened many others. After a screening, a controversial scene was dropped–David’s simulated hanging during the opening credits.” -p.22. It sounds like Dan had complete control over the movie , and made the decision to shorten the movie without any studio interference.

  34. You mentioned Barnabas putting the ‘whammy’ on Jeff, without having bitten him; in the TV show, Barnabas does the same on two different occasions that I can remember. He makes Istvan walk off the cliff at Widows Hill (how could you forget THAT?), and enslaves a day player policeman while trying to bust Quentin out of the Collinsport Jail (a favorite scene of mine, I think it’s so cute the way Barnabas ducks behind his hypnotized victim to prevent Edward from shooting him…) – so there was at least some precedent for his hypnopower.

    And the hypno thing does go back to the 1931 Dracula, with Dracula nearly mesmerising Van Helsing (“Come here. Come…here.”), as well as some minor characters (like the usher at the theatre where he first meets Dr. Seward, Lucy and Mina).

  35. I began reading the House of Dark Shadows book by “Marilyn Ross” a couple of days ago, and the funny thing is that it follows the original script quite closely, even using some of the same phrasing and descriptions (our first glimpse of Roger Collins, for example, in both script and book refer to him as an austere, proud man in his forties, sitting by the fire, sipping brandy and reading Proust). Not exactly great literature, but it’s fun anyway. So far, it seems to be trying to paint Barnabas in a slightly more sympathetic light. Scenes that were eliminated in the movie are present in the book–David’s fake hanging, the vampire attack on Nancy Hodiak, who was bitten and killed near Jeff’s studio where he painted her portrait, for example. I wonder how the author got a copy of the script to base this book on?

    1. Both book and movie versions came out the SAME month, October 1970. Which may very likely indicate coordinated timing of movie and merchandising. The first printing of the book HODS by Marilyn Ross was October 1970. The Internet Movie Database gives Oct 28 1970 as the general USA release date of the movie HODS.

      However, IMDB lists the movie premiere in NYC occurring on Aug 24, 1970, which was a full 2 months ahead of the general release on Oct 28, also in NY. Perhaps someone with movie knowledge might know if 2 months between premiere and general release was the norm then? Or was it an unusually long interval?

      1. August premiere may have been the ‘original’ cut. Studios sometimes reworked films based on premiere feedback; but they could have done previews to get reactions. I’m guessing that since DS had a ‘following’, they didn’t want to rely on random sampling that a preview would have given (since previews were generally unannounced).
        Perhaps there’s some reader out there who attended that August premiere, and can tell us whether it was a different cut?

  36. “Their Satanic Majesties… Sgt. Pepper.”

    Most people mention those two things in the same breath only to pick on the first one for being such a bad copy of the second one. But I’ve always been very fond of Satanic Majesties, so it’s nice to hear them mentioned together so CASUALLY.

  37. Seeing HoDS on line, I’m highly impressed by the photography. My memory tells me the film was quite murky-looking in the theatre, but maybe it was bad projection? Or a bad memory! Which mine can be….

  38. Danny, I wondered why it took so long for this blog entry to get published, but it was worth the wait. 🙂

  39. “Danny: So now we row out to an island — I’m not sure why we’re on an island — and here’s where we just start killing dudes.” From what I read, the name of the island was St. Eustace Island. Barnabas picked it because it had a de-sanctified (un-sanctified?) monastery on it with a church he could use for his “wedding”. That was the “hunch” Stokes had that made him and Roger come out there looking for Barnabas. (An abandoned church, just like in another HAMMER Dracula movie).

    “David: So they must have cut the scene where Willie talked to Professor Stokes.” At the end of the caning sequence, it’s hard to hear, but I do think Barnabas asks Willie ‘whom else did you tell???’ and Willie responds, “Professor Stokes!”, and Barnabas lands one last big whallop on him.

    I first saw this in the movies, and remember a scene where Jeff tests out the crossbow, shooting it at a wooden chair. This scene does not show up in the released versions for home viewings.

  40. I saw this movie in the 90s, and vaguely remember liking it. We saw it last night, first I’d seen it since then, and I was surprised at how good it really was. Not one of the great achievements of the cinema, but fast-paced and fun.

  41. I saw this when it first came out. Two friends went with me and we were all disappointed. I was the only one who continued watching the show regularly. It was horrible and depressing seeing all our favorites killed off one after the other. They turned Dark Shadows into just another horror movie. Who asked for that? Hammer arguably did it just as well, if not better, already.
    I guess Curtis was trying to put his vision of Dark Shadows on film to show that his idea could be successful and make money. Fine. But did he have to destroy Dark Shadows for the rest of us in the process?

  42. I can appreciate some of the criticisms, but I LOVE this movie! HODS is all the Dark Shadows I need. It’s Dan Curtis’s tour de force.

  43. Awesome content. This article would have made a great audio commentary. Is there any unofficial Dark Shadows audio commentary? If not someone should record some of the actors or crew members ASAP!

    I’ve seen the film last week, it must have been an incredible experience to see it in theater.

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