Happy Turkey Day! It’s time for another pre-emption, as we reach Thanksgiving 1970 and ABC decides to spend the day looking at basketball. It’s traditional on pre-emption days to do a little time travel, and watch a future version of Dark Shadows. This time, we’re only jumping about eight months ahead; we’re going to watch the 1971 feature film Night of Dark Shadows, executive producer Dan Curtis’ next attempt to catch lightning in a bottle.
Last year, Dan signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to make a Dark Shadows movie, and he came up with House of Dark Shadows, a fearlessly unrestrained retelling of the original Barnabas storyline. The movie did well at the box office, considering how cheap it was to make, and MGM asked for a sequel. Unfortunately, almost every character in House of Dark Shadows met a grisly end in one way or another, so bang goes the Dark Shadows Cinematic Universe before it’s even started.
For the sequel, Dan had the good manners to wait until the TV show was over before hauling half the cast to Tarrytown, New York and dousing them with a hose. The final taping day on Dark Shadows was March 24th, 1971, and shooting began for Night of Dark Shadows on March 29th. Dan had nine hundred thousand dollars, six weeks, and a cast and crew that was mostly from the TV show. He’d planned to resurrect Barnabas for the second movie, but Jonathan Frid was sick of playing vampires, and asked for a million dollars. So Dan took the show’s second male lead, David Selby, and set him up with two leading ladies — Lara Parker, Dark Shadows’ veteran vixen, and Kate Jackson, an ingenue who’d joined the show about ten months earlier and was obviously destined for stardom.
Night of Dark Shadows was vaguely based on the show’s Parallel Time storyline, which was vaguely based on Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca, plus some inspiration from The Haunted Palace, a 1963 Roger Corman film that was supposed to be based on an Edgar Allen Poe poem, but was actually based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”, which when you get right down to it isn’t really very much like Night of Dark Shadows at all.
Now, the thing that you need to understand about Night of Dark Shadows is that MGM didn’t actually want to be in the movie business anymore. In 1969, real estate speculator Kirk Kerkorian bought MGM with the intention of selling off all the assets, knocking the studios down and then selling the valuable real estate in Los Angeles and London where they used to make movies. In 1973, Kerkorian closed down MGM’s film distribution offices, and then he went to Las Vegas and built the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, which was the largest hotel in the world.
While he was dismantling the studio, Kerkorian needed a henchman, so he hired James Aubrey, the president of the CBS Network from 1959 to 1965. Aubrey was a shark in human clothing who turned CBS into the top network by going straight for the lowest common denominator with sitcoms for the extremely stupid — The Beverly Hillbillies, Mister Ed, Gilligan’s Island, My Favorite Martian, and so on. He was also taking kickbacks from production companies, and doing something with pretty young women that nobody wants to talk about in print. You know the stuff that Les Moonves got up to, when he was president of CBS? Well, Aubrey was the guy who invented it.
Selling off all the sets and props took a while, and they still wanted to pretend that MGM was a movie studio and not a garage sale, so during the four years that it took Kerkorian to close the place down, Aubrey was tasked with greenlighting a small slate of movies each year which could be made cheaply, and not on MGM property. And along comes crazy Dan Curtis, who was used to making something out of next to nothing, and he wanted to shoot his movie on location at an old mansion in New York state, which was exactly as far away from Los Angeles as Kerkorian and Aubrey wanted their movie shoots to be.
After 1973, MGM continued to make some films here and there until 1980, when they split off the movie studio and the hotel business. He merged MGM and United Artists in 1981, and sold it to Ted Turner in 1986. Turner split off United Artists and sold it back to Kerkorian, and then Turner immediately went into debt, and sold MGM back too. Kerkorian sold it again in 1990 to an Italian financier, and then bought it back again in 1996. He continued to merge and split and sell and buy MGM for decades, and he’d probably still be at it, if he hadn’t died in 2015.
Dark Shadows fans like to say that the success of House of Dark Shadows “saved” MGM, but that’s kind of like falling off the roof of a thirty-story building, and saying that you’re “saved” because you hit an updraft while you’re passing the fifteenth floor. This story doesn’t have a happy ending, except if you like big hotels.
Once the shooting was over, Dan assembled a fine cut that was 150 minutes long, which he liked but was too long to give the studio. He cut the film down to 129 minutes, and then went to LA with screenwriter Sam Hall and composer Robert Cobert, to show it to James Aubrey and the MGM executives. They didn’t like it.
Sam Hall (in Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood): The film just seemed to go on and on and on. I started slinking down in my seat more and more as it went on.
Here’s what happened next, according to The Dark Shadows Movie Book:
Aubrey demanded that approximately 40 minutes be eliminated from Night of Dark Shadows, ordering a revised cut be delivered the next day, a ridiculously inadequate amount of time in which to oversee such a major re-edit. Curtis and editor Charles Goldsmith had spent several weeks on their final cut. If Curtis did not deliver the shorter picture overnight, Aubrey threatened to do the recutting himself.
Curtis was given an old-time MGM staff editor who never betrayed the slightest reaction to the frenzied activity. The following day, Curtis delivered a shorter, though less coherent film. Cobert also edited his score to fit the revised cut. Aubrey was satisfied with the changes, remarking, “It’s a tight little thriller.” “But the film doesn’t make sense anymore!” Curtis argued. “With your audience,” Aubrey shot back, “it doesn’t matter!”
That means we’ve got a 129-minute film that’s been chopped down to 97 minutes, so it makes even less sense than it’s supposed to. Luckily, the Dark Shadows Movie Book has the shooting script, so we’re going to watch this movie together, you and I, and as we go along, I’ll explain what’s been cut and where it was intended to go.
Of course, I can’t be left alone in the house with a movie like this; I’ll go mad, and start limping and painting abstract art. So I’ve invited all the people who leave comments on the blog to join me up here in the actual post, sending me their thoughts and opinions and terrible jokes about the movie. Now I’m going to put it all together into a huge director’s cut, and then give myself 24 hours to re-edit it, just to see what happens.
The lovely people who are joining me today are: Stan Brown, Park & Barb Cooper, Laramie Dean and Katya Mickelson from the podcast This Place Scares Us, Mark Hardy, Melissa Holzen, Allison Lahikainen, Marc Masse (aka PrisoneroftheNight), Jerry Rathgeb (aka John E. Comelately), Stephen Robinson and Robert Sharp. These days, the comments are about 70% of the page anyway; it’s only right that you all get some time on the main stage.
So this post is going to be complicated, and messy, and confusing, and far too long. For my audience, of course, it doesn’t matter.
1: EXT – RIVER ROAD – NIGHT – WIDE ANGLE
A desolate, forbidding scene. A heavy driving rain. Trees bending against a HOWLING WIND. There is no living thing abroad. HOLD on this until faintly above the SOUND OF A CAR can be heard. Finally, headlights appear at RIGHT FRAME and move slowly TOWARD CAMERA.
2: EXT – ROAD – MEDIUM ANGLE
Standing at the side of the road, drenched by the storm, stands a young man, dressed in hippy apparel. As the approaching car gets closer, he steps out into its lights and tries to flag a ride. All the car does is accelerate and ROAR by him.
3: HIPPY – CLOSE-UP
as he tries to leap out of the way, only to be engulfed in a wave of water as the car leaves him in its wake.
(screaming in anger)
Hey, you dirty… I’m lost, man! I’m lost!
Danny: Yeah, you can say that again. It’s the first page of the March 10th script for DARK SHADOWS II, and already everybody’s damp. This is Dan Curtis’ cinematic vision in miniature — it’s night-time, it’s raining, the scene doesn’t make sense, and it’s already been cut for time. The first five pages of the script are a pre-credits sequence about a HIPPY who’s lost, man, lost, and who takes temporary shelter at a little old mansion called Collinwood. Six days into filming, Dan dropped it from the shooting schedule, probably because it was terrible and it makes no sense.
This was going to be Michael Stroka, who played Aristede on the show, because Dan Curtis is loyal to a fault, and he likes working with people that he knows and trusts. Almost the entire cast is made up of actors from Dark Shadows, except for the little girl because they didn’t have one of those. (I bet they offered the role to Denise Nickerson, Kathy Cody, Kathryn Leigh Scott and Joan Bennett, but they were all busy that day.) The screenwriter is Sam Hall, the Dark Shadows head writer, ditto composer Robert Cobert, stuntman Alex Stevens, and hair stylist Edith Tilles.
In this sequence, the Hippy breaks into Collinwood to get out of the storm, and finds a completely dark and empty house, with all the furniture covered with sheets. He instantly skids across the floor and shatters an expensive vase, and then goes and finds a bottle of brandy to drink. He didn’t try knocking, by the way. Hippies are like that. Then there’s a strange iridescent glow, which he follows upstairs to the master bedroom.
19: INT – MASTER BEDROOM – NIGHT
Through the doorway of the Master Bedroom the glow has disappeared as the Hippy ENTERS THE SHOT. Then looking TOWARD CAMERA, he mounts the three stairs that lead into the room. TRUCK INTO AN EXTREME CLOSE-UP as he suddenly reacts to something in back of CAMERA. Whatever it is, it is terrifying. He starts to inch backward when in a lightning-like movement, something blurs IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA, striking him in the face. His hands go to his face as he SHRIEKS WITH PAIN. Again and again, whatever it is strikes as he staggers backward, tripping and falling down the three stairs to the main corridor.
20: INT – SECOND FLOOR CORRIDOR – NIGHT
HIPPY – CLOSE-UP
as he stares back in terror, his face is a mass of bloody claw marks. Staggering to his feet, he lurches crazily AWAY FROM CAMERA as suddenly the silhouette of a man carrying a blinding flashlight appears at the far end of the hall.
Danny: And so on. The man is GERARD STILES, and he’s accompanied by the HOUSEKEEPER, CARLOTTA DRAKE, and they murder the guy, because it’s a horror movie and he didn’t offer to pay for the vase. But Dan decided that we didn’t really need a dead hippy at the top of the movie, and as spooky as they turn out to be, Carlotta and Gerard don’t really seem like people who would inflict bloody claw marks on a complete stranger, even if they broke something. So that’s a thing that’s not in the movie.
Danny: And here we are! The actual beginning of Night of Dark Shadows, which introduces David Selby and Kate Jackson, as well as the cast of commenters joining me today.
Melissa: Note to self: constantly noting that David Selby is hot will not help your credibility.
Danny: The song that’s banging away on the piano is “Joanna”, which was written by Robert Cobert, and they used it on the show, as the theme song for the love affair between 1840 Quentin and Joanna Mills. We never actually got to see any of that relationship because Joanna was dead before we even got to 1840, but it’s a nice tune, and I’m glad they got some use out of it. It appears in this movie approximately eight hundred times. I might actually keep track of that as we go along, unless I can think of something better to do.
Park: The song is basically “Night and Day“. Night and daaay, under the hide of me… There is oh such a hungry yearnin’ burnin’ inside of me…
Danny: Quentin says, “Hey, look up there,” and then there’s a shot where it’s not really clear what we’re supposed to be looking at. His vision must be obscured by the credits.
Mark: House of Dark Shadows is late winter turning to spring, and Night of Dark Shadows is late fall turning to winter. The recurring harmonica theme, the landscape, and the sweaters make NODS very autumnal in tone. The harmonica denotes a longing goodbye, which was very hip for early 70s instrumentals.
Melissa: David Selby is hot.
Tracy: I can’t believe it’s really Collinwood!
Danny: It’s not. It’s the Lyndhurst mansion in Tarrytown, New York, about an hour’s drive from New York City. The TV show used Seaview Terrace as the exterior for Collinwood, but Seaview’s in Newport, Rhode Island, which is three hours from New York, and also at the time it was a girl’s school. Lyndhurst was donated to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1961, and is therefore open to the public to make nonsensical ghost movies in it.
In The Dark Shadows Almanac‘s piece on Lyndhurst, it says, “Among the additions made at Lyndhurst by the Merritts and Goulds was… a playhouse for the children named Rose Cottage.” The Dark Shadows team had already shot House of Dark Shadows at Lyndhurst when they were writing the 1970 storyline, so that must have been the inspiration for Hallie’s obsession with Rose Cottage, and all the related problems.
Quentin: Here it comes, I’m gonna put the top up.
Jerry: I get the feeling the rain as Quentin and Tracy are driving to Collinwood was not “scripted”, they just happened to be filming on a rainy day, and used it instead of waiting for better weather.
Stephen: This is like the opening of Manos: The Hands of Fate.
Danny: They get out of the car and then there’s this shot, where they pause for three seconds to acknowledge that David Selby is handsome.
Tracy: What do you want to bet I turn into one of those women you see in House & Garden?
Quentin: Yeah, I can see it now. Mrs. Quentin Collins in her fashionable jeans, sitting at her 18th century rosewood desk, making out menus for the week. We have a housekeeper, did you know that?
Tracy: Oh, great. I bet she looks just like Mrs. Danvers.
Quentin: I’m sure she does.
Stephen: Tracy “lampshades” the Carlotta/Angelique relationship.
Jerry: I like the way Sam Hall creates a couple with just a few lines; here during the credits, then later with Alex and Claire.
Danny: Yeah, they put some effort into making us like Quentin and Tracy, with a string of wry little quips. Sometimes films don’t bother to consider why the audience should like the main characters; they just assume we’ll take an interest in whoever the camera is pointing at. I appreciate Quentin and Tracy meeting me halfway on this.
Tracy: Well, that solves one problem; she can probably do everything. I’ll just sit around arranging flowers all day.
Quentin: And loving me.
Danny: Not a bad job. I didn’t realize that was available.
Laramie: David Selby in the film is really low-key. In the series, he’s not — you couldn’t be! These were all theater actors, and theater acting is very different than film acting. So you have to have a certain mindset to watch Dark Shadows; if you like big, larger-than-life performances like Grayson Hall’s and Lara Parker’s, then you’re going to enjoy it.
Stephen: David Selby and Kate Jackson are adorable together. They have great chemistry, and a natural comfort that makes them believable as a married couple. They make jokes, they have friends, they advance the plot… so how does it all go off the rails?
Barb: We take you now to the Ghost-Cam.
Marc: The view from the top window looking down on Mr. and Mrs. Collins as they take their bags from the car reminds me of Dan’s 1976 film Burnt Offerings, the sentinel looking down on the new arrivals. The house is “alive”…
Danny: Everything about Night of Dark Shadows is shrouded in confusion one way or another, and that includes the release date. Apparently B-movies kind of ambled around the country, and opened in different cities on widely divergent dates. Turner Classic Movies says that it was planned to open in New England on August 4th, 1971, but for the “premiere,” they list the Los Angeles opening on September 22nd. The Google Knowledge Panel says August 3rd, while Wikipedia, IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes say August 4th. The Television Horrors of Dan Curtis says August; The Dark Shadows Almanac and The Dark Shadows Movie Book say September. Roger Ebert’s review in The Chicago Sun-Times was printed on September 21st, and the review in The New York Times was printed on October 14th, noting that the movie opened in local theaters the previous day.
A.H. Weiler (New York Times review): Night of Dark Shadows, which fell on neighborhood theaters yesterday, is illustration that the pseudosinister can be a bore, even without vampires.
Danny: I discussed this with commenter Mark Hardy, who did some research on Newspapers.com. The earliest mention in newspaper advertisements is an August 4th opening in Burlington, Vermont. There are August 5th dates in Detroit and Boston, and it reached an Allentown, PA drive-in on August 6th. In Indianapolis, it opened around August 11th, the same date it played as a double feature with House of Dark Shadows at a drive-in in El Paso. It reached Austin by August 12th, ditto Mississippi and Tennessee. On Friday the 13th of August, it opened in St. Louis, along with cities in Kentucky and North Carolina. San Antonio got it on the 14th. It hit South Carolina and Oklahoma on August 16th. It reached Baltimore, Philadelphia and Cincinnati on August 18th, Pensacola on August 20th, and so on. The world is different now.
Tracy: Uh-uh. I don’t think I’m going in there.
Jerry: Oh, girl, should have trusted that instinct!
Danny: That line isn’t in the March 10th script that’s reproduced in the Movie Book. In the script, Quentin picks Tracy up and carries her across the threshold, but those directions are crossed out. I’m not saying that’s interesting, I’m just telling you.
Carlotta: Mr. and Mrs. Collins? Welcome to Collinwood. I’m Carlotta Drake.
Jerry: Okay, I would have taken one look at that toothy grin and run for the door!
Barb: Grayson Hall is at her scariest when she smiles.
Danny: There’s the first tiny cut here, just a couple more lines for Carlotta. Aubrey apparently said that he specifically wanted to cut Grayson Hall’s scenes, for a reason that has been lost to history. They don’t really cut that much of her material, compared to everyone else’s. I’d say Gerard and Angelique get off worse.
Carlotta: Mrs. Stoddard, before her death, had served tea here every afternoon.
Marc: Did Joan Bennett say no to Dan Curtis? Maybe she’d had enough of horror movies. Her character in HODS did sort of disappear, without any explanation of what happened to her.
Stan: Of course, you want this to be a sequel to House of Dark Shadows, since it’s filmed in the same location and seems to follow the deaths of all the Collins family in the first movie. But then it doesn’t really fit, since Grayson Hall as the housekeeper and Karlen and Barrett playing mystery writers suggest another Parallel Time.
Park: This is a band of time where people have made different choices, like the choice not to play Barnabas anymore.
Danny: Quentin comes pre-programmed with the ability to play “Quentin’s Theme” on the piano. This would have been a very well-known song in 1971; it was in the Billboard Hot 100 two years earlier, peaking at #13 in August 1969. It’s actually supposed to be Charles’ theme in the movie, and it signifies that Quentin is possessed by Charles, except for the times when it doesn’t.
Danny: And now they’re showing off. They start the movie with a tour of the house they’re filming in, to make sure everybody’s noticed how pretty it is.
Mark: It seems like Quentin and Tracy aren’t that impressed with their new rambling manor house. Maybe they were in New York too long, and got blase about everything.
A.H. Weiler: The attraction of this dour adventure is Lyndhurst, the Gothic revival mansion and estate, where the film was shot. Its many period rooms, paintings and objects d’art are richly eye-filling. The somber story shot there, however, is strictly for the low-rent district.
Danny: This is a much smaller and simpler movie than House of Dark Shadows, just a few people moving around these big, empty rooms. There’s basically only seven characters in the movie, eight if you want to count Charles as a separate entity. HODS had around fourteen main characters, twice as many, and they introduced most of them in the first few minutes.
Carlotta: As a child, I used to hide here. So many parties, in those days. The guests were so elegantly dressed, and the candles were always burning.
Danny: And then there were a shit-ton of murders, and nobody comes around here anymore.
Barb: All those stairs! I’m used to the Old House only going up six steps.
Danny: Yeah, if the TV show was set in this house, every episode would have been three hours long.
Quentin: What’s up there?
Danny: The camera. Hi, everybody! This is another one of Dan’s gimmick shots, where he hides the camera up in a tree or behind some furniture or directly underneath Ben Cross’ nose. House of Dark Shadows was pretty much 100 percent gimmick shots. Dan tones it down somewhat in this movie, but he does love shooting from above.
Carlotta: The master bedroom is this way, it has an excellent view of the front grounds.
Park: Yeah, like the death tree, don’t want to miss that.
Danny: Another thing that’s uncertain about Night of Dark Shadows is how long it actually is. This isn’t the kind of thing that you’d imagine could be uncertain, but there you have it. MGM’s cut was 97 minutes, but it had to be submitted to the Motion Picture Association of America, and they insisted on changes in order to get a GP rating. After cutting some violence and sex, the MPAA’s cut was 93 and a half minutes. (I’ve got a list of the MPAA cuts as well, so I’ll point these out as we go along.) But copies had already been sent out to distribution centers, which were instructed to excise the forbidden scenes. Some did and some didn’t, so there were two simultaneous versions released, one 97 minutes and the other 93 and a half.
As is standard operating procedure for anything related to Night of Dark Shadows, the confusion doesn’t stop there. The film’s copyright record says the movie is 93 minutes, the Los Angeles Times review said it’s 94 minutes, The New York Times said it’s 96 minutes, and Variety and The Hollywood Reporter said 97 minutes. Rotten Tomatoes says 97 minutes, IMDb says 95 minutes, and Wikipedia also said 95 minutes until two minutes ago, when I corrected it.
The version released on video is the 93.5 minute version. There are apparently no existing copies of the 97 minute version.
Mark: The pink lamp is the only glint of plastic color.
Danny: Yeah, that’s a weird detail to structure a shot around. Besides that lamp, the color palette of the house is deep red, deep orange and deep brown. You were right about the autumnal thing.
Danny: Their clothes echo those colors too. If they wanted Tracy to look out of place, they shouldn’t have made her coat the same color as the hardwood floor.
Quentin: I’ve got a feeling my ancestors wouldn’t have bought my work.
Tracy: Quentin’s paintings are very abstract.
Danny: Yeah, it’s mostly paint spatters and eyeballs. He’ll get over it.
Quentin: Is she one of the family?
Carlotta: Her name is Angelique Collins. She died in eighteen hundred and ten.
Danny: Portraits in Dark Shadows are like Chekhov’s gun, you only put them on the wall if you plan to use them.
Marc: They should have said 1840, just to reference the TV series. The only real continuity in Dark Shadows is its complete lack of continuity.
Danny: Witch by Bil Baird.
Laramie: Right away we have some — what did you call it, when Quentin sees Angelique hanging in the garden?
Katya: Emerging thought disorder.
Laramie: Yes! He’s been in the house for two minutes.
Katya: He’s a guy who looked like he was probably in his mid-twenties, and he’s seeing a hanging corpse dangling from —
Laramie: And he just blinks it away.
Katya: Thinking, oh shit, I need to get this assessed. This is when schizophrenia emerges.
Danny: There’s another little cut here, where Carlotta brings in the salad and Tracy says it looks delicious. They’re only saving about twenty seconds so far; Aubrey must be getting restless.
Jerry: Wait, that’s the “master bedroom”? It looks way too dinky and sparse. I can’t imagine Joshua and Naomi (or Elizabeth Stoddard, for that matter) having a room that tiny.
Danny: Here’s “Joanna” again; so far the score is Joanna 2, Quentin’s Theme 2.
Quentin: (whispers) Are you going to be happy here?
Tracy: Well, I think I am if you are.
Allison: I keep trying to turn up the dialogue over the music. It’s not working.
Danny: The dialogue in this movie isn’t very interesting. It’s not bad, and some of it is cute and pleasant, but it’s not memorable. It’s a shame, because Sam was one of the best dialogue writers on the show, but it feels like he’s pulling back here, and trying to be naturalistic. I understand that as a choice, but I could use a touch more melodrama.
Mark: It’s obvious when Quentin turns out the light that it’s not dark in the room. In fact, there’s more light in the room. They should have hired a better lighting director; the movie isn’t moody enough. Or maybe I miss the grainy transfer of the VHS copy I taped off TV. This HD transfer is too perfect; I can see the lipgloss on Quentin’s lips.
Melissa: I admire the fact that butt-ugly sheets remain a Dark Shadows staple until the bitter end.
Barb: It’s like sleeping in a pumpkin spice egg-nog.
Danny: And here’s the first day for night establishing shot, which establishes entirely the wrong thing. Day for night was a huge problem for House of Dark Shadows; it was obvious every single time they did it. I can’t imagine why they did it again; there must be cinematographers in the world that know how to shoot an establishing shot in the dark.
Stan B: Quentin’s pajamas in the first bed sequence change from yellow when he goes to bed to blue when he has his nightmare. Then I saw that he wore the blue pajamas later in the movie in the second nightmare sequence — so I guess it was shot to be one long, tortured night of bad dreams.
Danny: Yeah, this is the first major edit, cutting three scenes and four pages of the script. In the original cut, there aren’t any dream flashbacks here; Quentin just gets up, puts on a robe, and goes up to the tower. This establishes that there’s a pattern of Quentin sneaking up to the tower every night, which isn’t super clear without this scene.
EXT – COLLINWOOD – NIGHT
SHOT favors the windows of the Tower Room, they still glow faintly from the light within.
HOLD on this for a moment as Quentin suddenly appears near the windows and then moves out of sight toward another part of the room. RACK FOCUS to EXTREME CLOSE-UP of Gerard, who has been standing there watching, his eyes blazing with hatred.
Danny: That’s the other thing that this scene is supposed to establish, that Gerard realizes that Quentin is visiting Angelique. This explains a baffling bit of dialogue coming up soon, and more importantly, would explain why Gerard attacks Quentin twenty minutes from now.
Then there’s a morning scene. Quentin and Tracy wake up, and she asks what he was doing last night — she woke up, and he wasn’t there. He doesn’t remember getting up, so she just smiles and forgets about it too. Next up is a breakfast scene, where Tracy looks out the window and sees Gerard and his dogs, staring up at her. Carlotta explains that he’s her nephew, and the caretaker-handyman. Tracy is unnerved, and this sets up the Gerard/Tracy stalker subplot that we see later on.
Anyway, they cut all of that, and here’s what we got instead:
Reverend Strack: Angelique Collins… you have been condemned as a witch, and you must die as a witch!
Barb: Turn off the reverb, I’m trying to sleep over here.
Danny: I would like to point out at this juncture that there is not a single moment of witchcraft in this entire movie.
Strack: Let your soul be returned to the pits of darkness forever more!
Danny: What’s delivered here as a Strack monologue voiceover is actually part of the hanging scene, which is about 50 pages later in the script. But they cut Angelique’s response — “As I die, so shall all of you. For that will be my legacy!” — which you’d think was kind of important.
Strack: For thou knowest we do what we must for thy sake, in thy name! Amen!
Danny: That’s a little bit later in the hanging scene, when Strack is calling on the Lord to protect them from Angelique’s evil. Jumping ahead like this creates a bit of pronoun trouble. Why would they be doing things in Angelique’s name?
Strack: Prepare yourself for eternity, witch!
Danny: And then there’s a dissolve to a different flashback, from even later in the film. This sequence jumps from page 14 to page 63 for the hanging scene, and then ahead to page 69 for the horse murder. It took me a while to figure all this out, I had to draw diagrams.
Allison: This is a weird-ass art film that I did not sign up for.
Charles: You killed her! You killed Angelique, Strack!
Danny: Those monsters, they’re making Thayer David run! After this, he swore off exercise and never touched it again.
Charles: Up, Doubloon!
Danny: You probably never noticed that line, because it’s got a lot of reverb and there’s a horse murder going on, but keep that name in mind; it’ll come up again in a minute.
From The Dark Shadows Movie Book: “The scene of Charles’ horse stomping Strack to death involved Thayer David crouching several feet from the camera and acting as if he was being trampled. A crew member retrieved two severed horse legs from a slaughterhouse and when the shot was filmed, a prop man stood off camera and poked the horse hooves into Thayer.”
Danny: I would pay cash money for some outtakes from filming that scene. Imagine telling Thayer David to writhe on the ground while people poke him with severed horse legs! Tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight.
Danny: Some of this scene was cut by the MPAA, in order to get a GP rating. There were some more shots of Strack getting trampled, with blood on his face, and Charles shouting, “Die, Strack, die! Die!” which was kind of unnecessary since he already was.
Danny: By the way, I have no idea why Charles is so angry. We see the hanging scene later in the movie, and Charles is standing right there, not doing anything. As far as I can tell, there’s no explanation for what the trigger was that inspired Charles to commit horsicide.
I guess if you’re riding around on Doubloon and you get the chance to chase an obnoxious clergyman, it’s hard to pass up the opportunity. Charles just got caught up in the moment.
Danny: And then this is just baffling for the audience. Charles kills Strack because Strack killed Angelique, and then Charles limps uphill and Angelique is right there, and you have no idea who’s supposed to be alive at this point.
Danny: And somewhere in the afterglow, Quentin is remixing the film in his sleep. We’ve jumped from page 69 of the script to page 44 now, and Quentin has changed his pajamas from yellow to blue.
Gabriel: Charles, you’ve been with her again!
Charles: What’s wrong with you, brother? Don’t you remember? Your wife is dead.
Gabriel: No, she still comes to you! I know it! All right — you will have her!
Gabriel: For eternity, brother! For eternityyyyyyyy!
Danny: A little bit of lost nerd info here: I don’t know who these two extras are. There are a couple uncredited people listed on IMDb as Henchman and Bald Henchman, but they’re from the hanging scene, and these aren’t the same actors.
Danny: And then this, in my opinion, is the most bungled part of this extremely bungled movie. Here’s what the script says:
INT – CELLAR ROOM – NIGHT – NOT THE SAME LOOK AS THE MEMORY CUTS – SLOW MOTION DREAM EFFECT.
ALL BLACK – THE SOUND OF BIG IRON DOOR OPENING.
Gabriel is at the open iron door. Two men hold the struggling Charles.
He nods to the two men.
You will have her… for eternity.
They throw Charles onto the floor in front of what seems to be a coffin. He scrambles to his feet as Gabriel slams the door. Charles runs to it and begins POUNDING.
Let me out! Let me out!
SOUNDS: BRICKS BEING LAYED AS THEY SEAL THE DOOR. TRUCK IN ON HIS FACE as we SLOWLY FADE TO BLACK.
Danny: What we actually get is a completely black screen. The door opens, revealing Gabriel with some candles, and the silhouette of somebody who’s apparently Charles. There’s also a big helping of fog machine, for no particular reason. You don’t usually get a lot of mist in the basement; mist is generally an outside phenomenon.
Gabriel yells, “She’s yours, brother!” and the two men push Charles into the room, who stumbles and falls onto something that you can’t see. “You will have her for eternity!” Gabriel giggles, and then he slams the door and it’s completely black again. Then we hear the sound of bricks and mortar, as Quentin tosses and turns in his bed.
There are three reasons why this botched scene is such a failure. To begin with, there’s the nonexistent lighting, which I suppose is more naturalistic than the usual Dark Shadows abandoned basement that has lit candles all over the place, but it completely obscures the purpose of the scene, which is to show that Charles is being locked in with a coffin. I don’t know if any of you ever figured this out, but I didn’t, until I read the script.
The second problem is that they cut Charles yelling “Let me out,” and then hearing the bricks sound as he pounds at the door, so the audience has no idea what that sound is supposed to mean.
The third is the timing of this flashback, which should have been way later in the movie. This flashback collage shows us Angelique’s death, Strack’s death and Charles’ death, and you don’t even know who any of those people are. This is effectively the end of the 1810 storyline, ten minutes into the movie, and we haven’t seen the beginning yet.
Danny: But one thing I love about this sequence is the line that Gabriel yells after he slams the door. Here’s the scene, as we see it in the film:
The door opens, revealing Gabriel and the candles.
Gabriel: She’s yours, brother!
The henchmen toss Charles into the room. He stumbles on the coffin that you can’t see.
Gabriel: You will have her — for eternity!
Gabriel giggles insanely, as he closes the door. Charles runs towards the door, too late. It slams shut.
Gabriel (off-screen): Kill Doubloon!
Danny: That’s my favorite line in the movie — “Kill Doubloon!” It sums up everything that’s mysterious and bungled and bizarre about this production. Doubloon, as you wouldn’t remember if I hadn’t pointed it out, is the horse that Charles was riding when he killed Strack. The audience obviously wouldn’t recognize that name, because the only time you heard it was while Thayer David was screaming and getting horse-trampled.
There would have been more Doubloon in the finished movie, too. In the script, a couple pages after the bricking-up flashback, there’s a scene where Quentin limps into the dining room, wearing the riding clothes that Tracy bought him.
What’s wrong with your leg?
What?… oh… I took a ride over
to the Mill this morning and that
stupid horse… threw me. It’ll
be OK. Don’t worry.
I asked you not to ride Ulysses.
It wasn’t. It was Doubloon.
In the next scene, Tracy goes out to the stables and asks Gerard about Doubloon, and he says that they don’t have a horse named Doubloon. Then she asks where the Mill is, and he says it burned down a hundred years ago.
All of that was cut in the frenzy of the Big Edit, so there’s no payoff — but they still kept Gabriel shouting “Kill Doubloon!” And that’s an utterly insane thing to say, anyway. After we leave my brother entombed in the basement, let’s kill his horse! Why would that even occur to you?
That line isn’t in the script, by the way, so I don’t know where it came from, or how it managed to survive all the way from 150 minutes to 129 minutes to 97 to 93 and a half. But there it sits, at 10:43 of the finished movie, in defiance of all reason. They cut the piano make-out scene, they cut the seance and the sleepwalking and every single moment that Tracy acts like a sentient being — but they kept “Kill Doubloon!” That’s Night of Dark Shadows.
Dany: Now, if you’re looking for Selby skin, you get a little flash of Quentin’s nipple in this scene. Enjoy it, there won’t be any more. David Selby is surprisingly non-sexy in the movie — Quentin is bland and happy, and Charles is continually furious in a way that doesn’t allow for even the most devoted admirers of brooding bad boys to enjoy. It would be great if any of these people remembered what was cool about Quentin.
Danny: But hooray, it’s Gerard! There are a lot of people who’ll read this post on its own, outside of the context of the last couple months on the blog, so it might be hard to explain why I like Gerard more than Quentin these days.
James Storm is a handsome guy, but not as pretty in the face as David Selby is, and it took me a while to warm up to him, because for a while he was just a ghost who stood in the corner with an ugly sneer on his face. But once we got to the 1840 storyline, it turned out that Gerard is a super-suave love machine who makes out with everyone who comes in reach. He’s sly and seductive and scheming, just like Quentin used to be, and I am entirely in love with him.
Unfortunately, in this movie, they gave him the role of a stuttering, mentally impaired caretaker who slouches around and acts depressed, because they’re just not good at sexy anymore.
Gerard: D-do you know w-what happened last night? Do you?
Danny: Well, on behalf of the audience, we don’t, actually. The previous scene was supposed to be Quentin getting out of bed and walking up to the tower room to begin his nightly string of dead-lady booty calls, and we’d see Gerard’s reaction as he sees that he’s been replaced as Angelique’s lover. But in the cut version, they took out the sleepwalking and replaced it with horse murder, and ended that sequence with a shot of Tracy that makes it clear that Quentin stayed in his bed all night, tossing and turning in his magic color-changing pajamas.
This is the first of two moments in the film when the editing is so bad that the only explanation for what’s going on is that Gerard can see into Quentin’s dreams.
Mark: I love the stuttering Gerard as the yokel stableboy of ill-breeding.
Carlotta: Everything has changed; you must accept that.
Gerard: I was good enough until he came around!
Danny: I do like the idea that Angelique spent the last century and a half screwing the domestic staff, while she waited for the right descendant to come along.
Danny: For this stable scene, they add in some ADR growling when Quentin walks by the dogs. The dogs were actually super friendly, and it took a long time for the trainer to get them riled up to attack Tracy.
Danny: They cut some material here. In the script, Gerard asks Quentin if he rides well. Quentin says he’s out of practice, so Gerard saddles this horse.
His name’s Ulysses. Just give
him his head and you’ll think
you’re in a rocking chair.
I’ll do my best.
Danny: And then it turns out Ulysses isn’t that easy to ride, and Quentin struggles to get him under control. There is way more horse drama in the script.
Gerard: I saw your w-w-wife today.
Danny: No you didn’t, they cut that scene.
Gerard: Sh-sh-she rides, doesn’t she?
Quentin: What did you say?
Melissa: James Storm is trying super hard to give Gerard some real character.
Danny: Yeah, in the script, Gerard doesn’t have a stutter; that’s just Storm trying to find something interesting to do.
Danny: This is News Chopper 12 with an update on the morning’s commute. Traffic is pretty light on the freeway this morning; it looks like one guy on a horse, and everything else is clear. You shouldn’t have any trouble getting to work, or a funeral, or your next murder scene. Stay tuned for weather on the 7s.
Danny: So that takes us to what was supposed to be the first flashback of the movie, the big all-singing all-dancing underwater funeral scene.
Danny: For House of Dark Shadows, Dan got the Tarrytown fire department to spray the actors with a hose during Carolyn’s funeral. In this movie, it’s raining even harder; it looks like they redirected the Hudson River.
Danny: Good lord, look at that; this is basically an outtake from Finding Nemo. I hope Quentin put the top up on his horse.
Strack: Oh Lord, we beseech thee to have mercy on this sinner, for we all sin, knowing the mercy of our heavenly Father.
Danny: This was supposed to be Reverend Trask, but Jerry Lacy was playing Humphrey Bogart in the film Play It Again, Sam. They changed the character’s name to Strack, a near anagram of Trask. There was a minor character in the Leviathan storyline named Strak, too; he was the guy who made a Devil’s bargain with Paul Stoddard at the Blue Whale.
Danny: And that’s Diana Millay, who played Laura Collins on the show and is playing a different Laura Collins now. This part was originally meant for Virginia Vestoff, playing Samantha, but she was appearing on Broadway in 1776. In the script published in The Dark Shadows Movie Book, it still says “Samantha” in a couple places.
Strack: And so we commend to thee the flesh and spirit of Angelique, beloved wife to Gabriel, loyal and loving sister-in-law to Laura.
Jerry: I thought Strack said that Angelique would hang in the tree “forever”, and not be buried. Well, nobody wants a corpse dangling in a tree on their front lawn, I suppose; guests are bound to ask embarrassing questions.
Danny: Yeah, I don’t understand why they’re having this funeral. They hanged her in public, and then stashed her corpse in the basement. Who are they trying to kid?
Danny: And then this is the same shot that Dan used at the end of Carolyn’s funeral, in House of Dark Shadows.
Danny: There’s more horse drama in the script here.
EXT – CEMETERY – 1971 – DAY
Quentin can be seen still sitting on his horse on the other side of the trees. START A SLOW ZOOM IN AS HE SHAKES HIS HEAD IN BEWILDERMENT. Finally, he decides to take a closer look. He tries to spur his horse forward but he won’t move. All of a sudden, it rears on its hind legs and with a whinny of fear wildly gallops off in the opposite direction as Quentin tries futilely to control him.
EXT – ROAD – DAY
as the horse and Quentin charge into view. The horse, moving sideways and out of control, is thundering toward the road. Suddenly, a car driven by CLAIRE JENKINS ENTERS THE SHOT just as the horse runs into the road. She slams on her brakes. The horse rears and as they almost collide, Quentin finally regains control.
Danny: See what I mean? Horse drama! I don’t think there’s a single horse in all of Dark Shadows, and suddenly, WHAM! Nothing but horses.
Quentin: I see you’ve still got that crazy eye of mine.
Alex: That’s right, buddy. Wherever we go, that goes.
Danny: That’s adorable. In two lines, I completely believe in this friendship.
Jerry: Nancy Barrett and John Karlen do go well together, what a shame it took so long for that to be noticed. I think they even might have worked in the series, using Carolyn and Willie. Trap them someplace together, so they have to work as a team to get free… and love blooms.
Melissa: There’s a beautiful sense of camaraderie here that you could only get from actors who’ve spent years together in a confined space.
Claire: She had no reason to smile at you, Alex. The first time he meets her, he asks if the place is haunted.
Quentin: Is it?
Claire: Not according to her.
Alex: Yeah? Well, one of these nights, we’re gonna go to the Blue Whale, and I’m gonna introduce you to a Captain Russell who’ll tell ya a different story.
Barb: Karlen’s amazing free-range accent.
Danny: I would like this movie more if Alex sat up straighter.
Claire: It’s time for lunch. What do you want, ham or tunafish?
Quentin: The same.
Quentin: I didn’t sleep well last night. It’s a funny thing about this place, I keep imagining things.
Alex: What do you mean, imagining things?
Quentin: Nothing. Forget it.
Alex: No, man, maybe I can use it. Claire and I are starting a new gothic novel.
Quentin: That reminds me, I’ve got a library over there that’s got to be full of material.
Danny: And that’s how Sam Hall and Dan Curtis think that you write gothic stories, stealing material from other people’s books.
Danny: Hey, the tunaham’s arrived! Pretty fast turnaround on that, the kitchen must be just off-camera.
Melissa: Grayson Hall only says three lines in this scene, but her face says about twenty. Who needs dialogue when you can do that?
Quentin: I’ve got the strangest feeling I’ve been here before.
Carlotta: How could you have been?
Quentin: I couldn’t have.
Danny: Yeah, they cut that scene, and replaced it with Thayer David getting run over by a horse. The movie may be developing self-awareness.
Robert: Hey, a special guest appearance of the bust that almost busted Julia in 1995!
Mark: All this crap left around is in keeping with the Dark Shadows aesthetic of overstuffing the set.
Jerry: Collinwood could have been a groovy, freewheeling artists’ colony. Such a shame they’re all doomed.
Danny: “Quentin’s Theme” is back with a vengeance in this scene, stabbing away at the piano like Edward Scissorhands. It sounds like it’s being played by someone who really hates pianos. The score is currently Quentin’s Theme 3, Joanna 2.
Danny: And here’s the movie’s second-ugliest edit, where there’s a really visible scar left behind. Carlotta’s standing in the tower room talking to Quentin, and then in the next shot, Quentin is sitting there and Carlotta’s disappeared. The only edit that’s worse is in the basement, at the end of the movie.
They’ve skipped nine scenes here, just tearing out pages from the script and throwing them down the stairs. Here’s what you missed:
Carlotta oils out of the room, leaving Quentin to set up his easel.
Then there’s another bedtime sequence, with Quentin going to bed telling Tracy about how great the tower room is. Once they’re asleep, there’s that light in the tower room again, and Quentin sleepwalks his way up the stairs. Next thing you know it’s morning, and Quentin’s still sleepy for some reason. This establishes that Quentin’s tower escapades are a nightly phenomenon.
Quentin and Tracy plan a picnic, and when Quentin passes the drawing room, he hears “Quentin’s Theme” from the piano. He looks in — and sees the following.
INT – DRAWING ROOM – 1810 – DAY – QUENTIN’S P.O.V.
The piano is now on the other side of the room. Angelique sits at the piano PLAYING QUENTIN’S THEME. CAMERA BEGINS A SLOW TRUCK IN as a man enters the shot right. PAN UP to CHARLES COLLINS, who, except for a scar on his face and a limp when he walks, looks amazingly like Quentin.
When I’m not with you… this is
my way of feeling you near… I
sit alone, and play this song…
I see your smile…
They kiss. Her playing falters, then stops, as the kiss grows in intensity. Suddenly, the door opens, Laura stands there. She looks as if she has finally seen something she has tried not to think of before… but something has been in some part of her mind. Quentin [sic] sees her, ends the embrace with a smile. He nods, turns toward Laura. Angelique sees her.
Did you enjoy watching us, my
She must have… She didn’t leave.
How… how incredible you are…
the two of you… what you do… in
In front of the family.
Who knows who sees us… think of
You are a witch! Charles, can’t you
see? Are you so mesmerized that
you don’t even know what’s happening
Oh, he knows what’s happening, Laura,
my darling, and for the first time
in his life he’s really enjoying it.
Danny: So that’s a damn shame; that’s the kind of thing that should probably be in a movie somewhere. An actual flashback that establishes the Charles/Angelique relationship, with a bonus witchcraft accusation, plus it’s sexy and mean and it would have made the movie better. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a murder in it, so it hits the cutting room floor, and lies there in a sticky, steaming heap.
Danny: Then there’s a nice Quentin/Tracy picnic scene, where they eat some food and ride horses and take a look at the greenhouse. Seriously, more horses. Just imagine how Ulysses felt, when he saw the final cut and realized they’d taken out all his best scenes. Still, show business is never easy for horses; it’s not a very stable profession.
Then there’s a little scene of Quentin and Tracy holding hands as they walk across the railroad bridge, and there’s another brief night-time scene where the light in the tower comes on. I’m actually starting to see Aubrey’s point; this feels interminable and I’m only describing it.
There’s another daytime scene on the driveway; Quentin says goodbye to Claire and Tracy, as they drive downtown to go shopping. Then Quentin strolls across the lawn and sees a vision of a little girl at the window, which is still in the film, but it’s moved five scenes later.
Danny: Wow, there’s more. After that, Claire and Tracy walk around downtown Tarrytown, which is playing the role of downtown Collinsport, and they have a worried conversation that scores a perfect zero on the Bechdel test.
I’m a little concerned about
Quentin. I don’t think he’s getting
a lot of work done.
What’s he doing?
It’s not that he doesn’t try.
He goes to his tower every day
but not much really happens.
Danny: Ouch. That’s not what you want to hear from the newlyweds. But get a load of this:
INT – BOUTIQUE – DAY
A very New York shop, with the very mod GREGORY in charge.
Hi, Gregory, I’m back.
And I have a mattress ticking
jumper you’ll live in the rest
of your life —
Alex won’t let me wear those
knickers. He said if he had
wanted to live with an 1890
newsboy he’d have found one.
God knows where. Obviously he
has no sense of style… Chic.
Come to my house next week for
a drink and wear them. He’ll
adore them —
He’ll adore the drinks. This
is Tracy Collins.
The lady of the manor?
Hi. This makes me feel like
I’m back in New York.
Oh, do I have something for you…
it’s madness it’s so perfect.
He whips out an insane dress.
Could it be more you?
It’s very me… but it’s completely
The husband, darling?
(seeing riding clothes
on the mannequin)
Oh, he’d never wear that.
I’m sure he’d look marvelous in it.
Gregory, wrap it up. We’ll take it.
Alright, but only if we can return it.
Danny: So obviously Gregory is the fourth-best character in the movie, after Doubloon, Ulysses and Gerard. The scene was cut from the script before they started shooting, but the Movie Book says that the role would most likely have been played by Michael Stroka (Aristede) or Keith Prentice (Morgan Collins).
Danny: And we’re finally back in the movie! Quentin opens a little cubbyhole in the tower room, and finds a half-finished picture.
Danny: And you know what this painting needs? A huge weird eye. They’re lucky Quentin came along.
Danny: By the way, the horror fan magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland printed a summary of the movie in issue #88 (January 1972), under the title “Gothic Ghosts Strike Again in Night of Dark Shadows“. The synopsis was based on the script rather than the movie, although it has its own weird take on the story, and it reads like a little kid telling you about a movie he saw last year.
Famous Monsters of Filmland: Quentin continues his nocturnal visits to the strange tower room, which draws him more & more like a magnet, like a helpless fly to a spider’s net. And something new has been added: someone awaits him there — the ghost of Angelique! And Angelique is very amorous.
Danny: She really is, Famous Monsters gets the scoop again.
Danny: So at some point, I need to talk about the restoration, and since it looks like the characters are occupied at the moment, it might as well be now.
The question of restoring Dan’s original cut of Night of Dark Shadows was first raised in 1990, when MGM/UA announced that they were releasing the two Dark Shadows films on video. Fans who knew the legend of the movie’s forced recut wrote to the company asking for the uncut version, and MGM/UA went and looked for it, but they couldn’t find anything.
Then along comes Darren Gross, film student and Dark Shadows fan, who became obsessed with Night of Dark Shadows. He got a copy of the shooting script which was circulating among DS fans, and in 1996 he wrote an article for Video Watchdog Magazine analyzing the missing footage.
Building on that article, Darren wrote a chapter for Pomegranate Press’ 1998 book The Dark Shadows Movie Book about the making of the two films, plus a complete listing of the cuts made to both movies. In 1999, he made contact with a fan who made an audio recording of the 97-minute version of the film at a drive-in, which proved that some copies were actually distributed without the MPAA cuts. After that, he started talking to rental houses and film archives, looking for a copy of the 97-minute version.
MGM’s pre-1986 film library was owned by Turner/Warner Brothers, and Darren lobbied for permission to examine the film elements held in their archives. There was one promising-looking set of negatives, but on examination, it turned out to be the regular 93.5-minute version. But he got a full printout of the materials in the archive, and found an item listed as containing 15 reels. The standard version of the film was 12 reels, so this was an exciting find.
The 15 reels were kept in the studio’s safety vault, kept in a salt mine in Kansas City. Darren convinced them to ship the material to Burbank, and examined it with a film-editor friend.
Darren Gross (from The Dark Shadows Almanac: Millennium Edition): Glenn rolled through the basement sequence slowly as I examined each shot over the light board on the table. Suddenly I let out a gasp, made a quiet whoop and whispered in a conspiratorial stage whisper to Glenn, “This is it, we found it. This is the uncut version!” Right in front of my eyes, in beautiful 35mm, Alex appeared in the basement scene and ran to help Quentin. With only around 90 minutes left in our viewing session I had Glenn measure all fifteen reels so a 100% accurate running time could be calculated. As we measured reel 14, I requested that Glenn stop a few times so that I could review shots from the seance. Being able to finally see all the shots from this legendary sequence was such a thrilling revelation I had to stifle any yelps of joy. We finished measuring the film just in time to restock the materials and say our thanks and goodbyes to the archive personnel.
Danny: Unfortunately, they found that most of the sound material had been destroyed, and they only had 100 minutes of audio. If they wanted to create a restored version of the film, they would have to re-record the dialogue with the original actors.
The problem was that Grayson Hall had died, so they’d need to use a voice impersonator. There were only three cut scenes that included Grayson and they had the sound for one of them, so they’d only need to use the impersonator for two scenes.
In 2000, Darren wrote a chapter for The Dark Shadows Almanac: Millennium Edition describing the work so far. He also appeared at a special screening of Night of Dark Shadows at the Vista Theatre in Hollywood with most of the cast. After the film, he gave a presentation about the restoration, showing the seven extended scenes from the 97-minute version, and two scenes from the 129-minute version — the piano scene and the seance scene.
Jeff Thompson (in The Television Horrors of Dan Curtis): Because only 100 minutes of the soundtrack survive, all of the film’s living stars have re-recorded their missing dialogue. “That was the hardest I ever worked!” David Selby told me at the 2008 Dark Shadows Festival in Burbank, California. “We had the script, but we didn’t know the exact words we’d said, so they brought in lip-reading specialists to help us match our dialogue to the picture.”
Danny: I’m not sure what happened after that, whether they found someone to record Grayson’s dialogue or not. In 2008, Darren got a job at MGM Studios, as the Manager of Feature Remastering and Acquisitions. He located and restored deleted scenes from Blue Velvet, and worked with David Lynch and his team for a restored Blu-ray release in 2011.
In 2012, to tie in with the release of the Tim Burton Dark Shadows movie, Warner Home Video announced that they were releasing House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows on DVD for the first time. I don’t know if they ever said anything about releasing a restored version or if that was just something that people were hoping for, but it didn’t happen; they released the 93.5-minute version and that’s it.
Danny: We should probably get back to the movie.
Angelique: As long as she’s here in this house, I can’t be happy. Bring the painting to life, Charles. Please, promise me.
Danny: Which means nothing in particular to the audience.
Danny: They seem to have had trouble with this moment; the scene was apparently heavily rewritten. The page in the Movie Book script is dated “Revised 3/31/71”, which is two days after shooting started, and that page is scribbled over and crossed out. The script that’s crossed out makes a hell of a lot more sense, so that’s evidence that it’s not just the editing that makes this movie difficult to understand. Here’s the March 31st version:
We can’t stay like this forever.
You must finish the picture.
Why? We have all the time in
We haven’t. You must finish it
because when you do, you will give
me the most marvelous gift of all.
Charles looks at her, not understanding.
This time, life will imitate art.
I know you merely planned to paint
it to torture her, but that’s not
enough. My darling, you must do it.
Don’t you want us to be like this
always? Must we constantly be
leaving each other? How can you
hold Laura? How can you touch her?
When I do, it’s you I hold, it’s
you I caress.
We are in each other’s souls, Charles.
We can’t escape it.
You will make the picture come true.
Then you must paint, my darling.
Tonight. It must be done.
Danny: That would have been a way better scene, much more coherent. Angelique isn’t asking Charles to perform witchcraft; she just wants him to finish the painting and then go drown his wife in the swimming pool. “Bring the painting to life, Charles. Please, promise me,” does precisely nothing at all. As dramatic dialogue, it’s an inert substance.
Gabriel: Charles? I want to talk to my wife. I know she’s in there, now open the door!
Charles: For more of your dreary moralizing? You try my patience, brother.
Barb: Lara Parker spends this entire movie in a diaphanous nightie. How can people not like this movie?
Stephen: Lara Parker is a surprising weak link. When I was a teenager, her sultriness was sufficient, but this is the worst version of Angelique.
Melissa: There is not a moment in this movie when her hair looks good.
Gabriel: You’ve got my wife, Charles.
Charles: Little brother, suddenly become a man.
Melissa: I’m a sucker for a good leaning Selby.
Danny: Hey, it’s Bald Henchman, I was wondering when he’d show up. That’s Arthur J. Haggerty, who was also the dog trainer. In fact, his 2006 New York Times obituary calls him a Master Dog Trainer, and says he was “familiar to legions of dog owners as Captain Haggerty, and to legions of dogs as He Who Must Be Obeyed.” He had a hard time getting the Doberman Pinschers to be mean to Tracy, though. I guess it’s hard to get anybody to be angry at Kate Jackson.
The other Henchman is Robert Singer, who was Dan’s assistant on this film. Once Dan likes you, you’ve got a job for life, so Singer was an associate producer on a string of Curtis’ early 70s TV-movies — The Night Stalker, The Norliss Tapes, Scream of the Wolf, Dracula, Trilogy of Terror and so on. In the mid-80s, he produced the V television series, in the 90s he was executive producer of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and for the last 13 years, he’s been executive producer of the ridiculously popular Supernatural. He’s the short guy holding Quentin, the one who isn’t bald.
Danny: Angelique claws at Bald Henchman and scratches his face with her fingernails, which as far as I can tell is the extent of her bad behavior. Her ghost apparently clawed the Hippy in the pre-credits sequence, and Gerard ends up with claw marks on his face too. It’s probably a metaphor for something.
This is the fourth time they’ve used “Quentin’s Theme”, the score is currently 4-2.
Angelique: Don’t touch me! I’ll come with you, but don’t any of you touch me!
Strack: Come with us, Angelique Collins.
Danny: And then she goes, like a chump. This version of Angelique needs to figure out how to make a Plan B.
Danny: So now we’re jumping back a few pages in the script. Before the Big Edit, this sequence happened just after the picnic, when Claire and Tracy drove downtown to see Gregory.
Danny: Quentin sees the ghost of a little girl; it’s a reverse Turn of the Screw. Touché.
Danny: And after all this time, Angelique is still hanging around the house.
Quentin: I saw a little girl, standing here by the window.
Carlotta: A little girl?
Quentin: Yes, I was outside.
Carlotta: I know, I saw you from the window.
Quentin: But I didn’t see you. I saw a child, holding a doll.
Danny: There are four other dolls on the bedspread, besides the one that Carlotta’s holding. I believe they’re implying that every once in a while, Carlotta runs upstairs and plays with her dolls.
Carlotta: It was Mrs. Stoddard’s room, when she was a child. It must have been a trick of the light.
Danny: Yeah, light can be tricky that way, you never know with light. I’m surprised we still use it.
Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times review): A good horror movie can be a thing of beauty, but a bad one can be horrible indeed. Night of Dark Shadows is bad, all right, but not merely bad. It is also shabby and unwholesome, made by people who take no joy in their work. It is a mean, evil little enterprise.
Angelique has been reincarnated as a double exposure and drifts between the camera and the action in a white gown and a push-up bra that must have started tongues wagging 200 years ago. No wonder they hung her. It is her function to stand high on the roof, when we are on the ground, or to be standing on the ground, when we are high on the roof. She also turns into lace curtains on occasion. And she beckons a lot. Too much, some would say.
Danny: There’s another cut scene here, where Quentin shows Tracy, Alex and Claire the portrait that he found of Angelique in the tower room.
Yeah, it’s amazing, isn’t it? So
evil here… so prim over there.
The double life of Angelique Collins.
I wonder what Charles Collins knew that
the others didn’t.
I’m not half as curious
about Angelique Collins as
I am about Charles. He is quite
good, you know.
He is good?
He was good.
He was good.
Danny: And then it’s time for another cute scene with the Jenkinses.
Alex: Would you take a look at this thing? Gregory strikes again! He must think we’re the manor folk. Honey — remember, we are broke.
Danny: They never shot the Gregory scene, so that’s another one of those obscure references that makes watching Night of Dark Shadows such a perplexing experience.
They’re playing “Quentin’s Theme” again here — current score 5 to 2 — but I thought they were only using that cue when Charles was around. Quentin is absolutely not Charles here, so there goes that theory.
Danny: Then there’s another reference to the late lamented Gregory scene, with Quentin opening the package and finding the riding clothes. Gregory’s gone, but obviously they have to show the pants, because this movie is entirely about horses. As I mentioned earlier, these jodphurs are supposed to show up in the scene where Quentin tells Tracy that he fell off Doubloon. In the movie as released, they relate to nothing at all. It turns out cutting half an hour from your movie leaves a lot of loose ends flapping about, getting into mischief.
Quentin: I’ve been having more of those crazy daydreams.
Alex: Wanna talk about it?
Quentin: Come over tomorrow?
Danny: And he does, but they cut that scene, so this is just another postcard from the infinite, marked return to sender.
Danny: And here’s another non-establishing shot of a light in the tower room, coming on at 3:30 in the afternoon.
Jerry: This must be Parallel Time — the people here actually go to bed in the evenings, unlike the folks on the TV show who are up and about at three in the morning, when Barnabas pops in for a chat.
Danny: Yeah, basically nobody goes to bed for five years on the show, and in this movie they go to sleep every five scenes.
Danny: Another point on the board for “Quentin’s Theme” here, as Quentin navigates his way upstairs in what looks like a storm at sea. It’s no wonder the song did well on the pop charts, ghosts were playing it non-stop.
Richard Shore, cinematographer: Dan wanted the flashbacks to have a different look than the modern sequences. I tried to make it a little softer, paler. For shots where Angelique was a ghost, I wrapped cloth around the lens to make the edges of the frame appear hazy and ghostly. The ghost attacks were stylized, using slow motion.
Lara Parker: David Selby was wonderful! He’s still a very good friend and was a very good kisser.
Danny: And meanwhile, downstairs: Gerard with a bat. Before I read the script, I thought this sequence was supposed to be Quentin dreaming about Angelique, because they cut all the material that established that Quentin actually went up to the tower every night. So it looks to me like Gerard can see into Quentin’s dreams, and he’s really pissed about it for reasons that they don’t bother to explain.
Danny: It’s a hell of a bat, too; look at that thing. The script calls it “a vicious-looking club”. I don’t know where he got it from. Where would you buy a vicious-looking club, these days?
Danny: Now, this is actually my favorite scene. I think it’s the best thing in the movie, and it’s because of the choice they made with the soundtrack. In the script, it says:
Gerard pauses to listen. The SOFT SOUNDS OF LOVEMAKING can be heard. TRUCK IN ON HIS FACE. It is now insane with jealous rage. Now there is the SOUND OF ANGELIQUE’S LAUGHTER and finally he explodes.
Danny: But in the movie, there are no sounds at all — this entire sequence is just scored with portentous music. Gerard slams through the door, smacks Quentin with the bat, Quentin falls, Angelique shrieks — but we don’t hear any sounds at all, just the music. It makes the sequence feel like it’s half-real and half-dream, and it plays up Quentin’s addled state of mind. If Dan made more smart choices like that, this would have been the kind of movie he was aiming for.
Marc: Past and present colliding, and fighting it out for preeminence.
Danny: And here’s Angelique and her amazing press-on nails, which she’s currently pressing on Gabriel’s eyeball. The ghost scratches Gabriel’s face, and that scratches Gerard’s face, and you don’t know whether this happened in the past or if Quentin is just seeing it that way, and there’s still no sound except the piano and the saggy woodwinds. This is the only really eldritch sequence in the film, if eldritch is the word I want.
Danny: WHAM! And then it’s a rock-em sock-em robot battle royale for teen idol supremacy. At one point, Quentin lifts Gerard up off the ground and slams him against the wall, which should teach Gerard not to pick on kids who are bigger than him.
Danny: And then Quentin kicks a stunt-Gerard, who somersaults backwards down the narrow wooden stairs and slams into the wainscotting.
James Storm: There was a lot of physicality on the film — nearly every stuntman went to the hospital.
Famous Monsters of Filmland: Gerard becomes mad with jealousy and one night attacks Quentin while he is in his trance-like state in the tower. Tracy awakens and intervenes; her husband, still mentally in the past, still tries to kill her!
Mark: So Gerard is Gabriel reincarnated, with these crosscuts. Tracy intervenes as Diana Millay — does that mean Tracy’s a reincarnate too? There’s something karmically crazy going on, they’re all reincarnations of each other.
Melissa: David Selby and Chris Pennock always seem to get such a kick out of beating each other up.
Laramie: My question is: Quentin’s an artist, but what is Tracy?
Katya: A wife.
Laramie: She can’t even keep her own house clean.
Katya: I think she was just a professional wife. She had an MRS.
Laramie: I wish we’d known more about her. That’s a big problem with this movie. What does Tracy like?
Laramie: She likes Quentin, and that’s it.
Katya: And maybe intimate partner violence. Because she seemed very tolerant of it.
Carlotta: Mr. Collins! Mr. Collins!
Danny: I feel like Carlotta could have seen this coming. She’s deliberately trying to turn Quentin into a guy who killed clergymen with horses.
Danny: You see this image of Carlotta cradling a bloody Gerard a lot, in the Night of Dark Shadows publicity materials. There’s a lot of Gerard in general, because he’s the villain who gets blood on his face and hits people with clubs, as opposed to Angelique, who mostly just beckons.
Danny: This is a great publicity shot from 16 Magazine, which is supposed to be from the tower fight scene, but it looks to me like the actors just messing around on set. Lara Parker is entirely unbothered about the desperate fight for life going on immediately in front of her.
Tracy: Darling, we don’t need to talk about it anymore.
Danny: You haven’t talked about it at all, yet. This family burns through the five stages of grief, and goes straight to acceptance. The first rule of Collins Fight Club is that you don’t talk about Collins Fight Club.
Tracy: Come on, let’s go to sleep. I’m sure it’ll seem easier in the morning.
Danny: To sleep? That’s how this all started, woman. Are you mad?
Laramie: As a character, Tracy isn’t just underdeveloped, she’s a cipher. The only thing we know she likes is Quentin, even after he tries to strangle and rape her.
Danny: So this is where the blue-pajamas flashback was supposed to be. Quentin goes back to bed with Tracy, and tosses and turns, and we hear Gabriel accusing Charles of still seeing Angelique, even after she’s dead. Then he pushes Charles into the basement room with Angelique’s coffin, and blocks the door with a brick wall. It would have made more sense here, because we just saw Gabriel fighting Charles. I have no idea why they moved it when they were doing the Big Edit; they could have just left it here where it belongs.
Danny: There’s another five pages cut from the script here. It starts with a scene I described earlier, with Quentin limping into the dining room and telling Tracy that he fell off Doubloon. The scene also includes the following self-aware exchange:
Quentin, maybe it’s this house.
Maybe we don’t belong here.
You know, we don’t have to stay.
Look, in the light of day the
whole thing seems completely ridiculous.
Danny: And then more horse drama! Tracy goes out to the stables to try and ride something, but the big black dogs growl at her, and Gerard has to defuse them. They basically obliterated Gerard’s part in the editing.
Stay away now… stay away…
The dogs are slowly backing her into a corner when Gerard ENTERS THE SHOT.
He crosses to her. She can see the raw scratches still on his face.
Now, Brutus… now, Tar…
The dogs keep up their snarling.
She won’t hurt you… no… she’s
just come down to ride, that’s
all. She likes Gerard…
He moves close to her and reaches out, caressing her face. She pulls away but stops as the dogs snarl and he rubs her again.
She is a friend. A friend. See?
Finally the dogs turn and walk away.
Don’t you ever touch me again!
Gerard stares at her, then quite cooly turns away.
I’ll saddle your horse.
Danny: So at this point, I think you have to admit that this is mainly Tracy’s problem. Her husband doesn’t like her, the housekeeper doesn’t like her, the dogs don’t like her, the sexy young woman who secretly lives in her home doesn’t like her. She hasn’t even learned the names of the horses yet. The only person who wants to be friends is Gerard, and she’s a total B about it. This is not going to earn her any points with House & Garden.
Danny: Now we get to what I feel is the most pointless sequence in the movie, the big dance number at the Large Hadron Collider.
Danny: Alex is riding around on his little bicycle when he sees a woman in a long white gown walking across the lawn in the middle of the afternoon, like ghost witches so often do. And instead of minding his own business, he stops and shouts, “Hey, you! Hello there!” She ignores him, obviously, because who are you even a reincarnation of?
Danny: So he says “Hello, there!” a couple times to no effect, and then he pedals his little bike up to the door and walks into the abandoned greenhouse, where he does not belong.
Danny: There’s no sign of the witch, which seems to irritate him even more. Does he want her to be there, or not?
Danny: And then some glass in the ceiling shakes and clatters to the ground. This effect is produced by the quantum excitation of the Higgs boson particle. Alex doesn’t appreciate this, of course, he just dives out of the way. Particle physics isn’t for everyone.
Trevor Williams (associate producer, quoted in Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood): “The panes were all specially rigged to fall and the A.D. said ‘Okay, I’m going to say ‘1, 2, 3, now’ and when I say ‘now’, release the glass.’ Everybody backed out of the shot and hid, waiting for the cue. The A.D. stupidly popped up again and said, ‘Remember, when I say ‘now’…’ The crew people, only hearing the word “now”, released the glass, which came crashing down.” Unfortunately, the cameras hadn’t been rolling. “The A.D. wasn’t hurt but we had to go back and reset the whole thing.”
Barb: I love the greenhouse, it really looks dangerous.
John Karlen: I was very young back then, and full of youthful bravado, so Dan was able to talk me into doing it.
Mark: Then Tracy horses up.
Kate Jackson: It was very exciting. I was young and ready to do anything. All of us in the cast did little things that were scary. The scariest one for me was jumping off a horse, running. You had to keep your concentration so you wouldn’t get hurt.
Danny: And Alex just gets up and saunters away, so that was basically a waste of suspense. This sequence actually bothers me, because it’s so obviously contrived. You know what would make a great plot point, they didn’t say, is if somehow we could find an old broken-down greenhouse. If only they had one on the mansion grounds, they didn’t continue, because the one thing that perfectly encapsulates Angelique’s emotional throughline is if she walked into a greenhouse in the middle of the day and dropped glass on someone. I don’t think that’s a thing that ghosts even do.
I mean, I get if you have a greenhouse at your location, then you try to come up with something to do at the greenhouse, but it doesn’t make sense and that’s all there is to it.
Tracy: Something sort of funny happened last night, Alex. I’m a little worried about it.
Alex: C’mon, tell me about it.
Allison: Yeah, tell me about it, as we walk away from both the camera and the sound man. This movie is great if you only want to hear half of what everyone is saying.
Danny: This sequence, like the car chase at the end of the film, looks impressive but doesn’t really add anything to the story. You could easily cut this entire scene and nobody would notice; it’s actually more jarring to keep it in the film than it would be to cut it out. So when Dan had 24 hours to cut 40 minutes out of the movie, why did he keep this sequence, instead of the piano scene, or Quentin sleepwalking up to the tower the first night?
My theory is that in the moment when Dan suddenly had to tear his movie apart, he couldn’t bear to take out the scenes that were difficult to shoot. Yes, the piano scene would have established the characters and storyline a lot better, but that’s just people sitting in a room talking. This sequence was way harder to make, and therefore more important.
Danny: There are a few more cut scenes here, including some exposition which would have been nice for people who enjoy understanding what’s going on. Taking a walk to the railroad bridge, Alex tells Quentin about the greenhouse.
Quentin, she had a reason
to stop me. I found out a lot
about your family. You already
know about Charles Collins. But
do the names Gabriel and Laura
mean anything to you?
Why should they?
Because of those little… day
dreams of yours.
Those daydreams don’t mean a
Yesterday, you said you wanted to
talk about them.
Now I don’t.
Look, the same year Angelique died,
Laura drowned and Charles disappeared.
The drowning was recorded as an
accident. But suppose Charles
Quentin looks at him.
Quentin, I think Tracy’s in
Danny: Now, I’m not a true believer in the magical transformative powers of the 129 minute version that would turn a not-very-good movie into a masterpiece, but these little bits of characters talking things over would have helped a great deal. The scenes must have seemed easy to cut, because again it’s just people talking and not exploding shards of glass, but they would allow the audience a minute to process what the hell is going on, and it would indicate that the characters have functioning central nervous systems.
Then there’s another scene with Tracy talking to Alex, which is frankly more of the same and not that interesting. Alex asks Tracy if she’s been to the tower room, and tells her to be careful, and then he gets on his little bike and rides away.
Danny: There’s a moment in the next scene that’s about as close as you can get to a good old-fashioned Dark Shadows blooper. This is all done as one shot. Tracy walks all the way across the room and kneels down next to Quentin, and then they have a few lines of dialogue:
Quentin: Hi. I want to thank you for not telling Alex everything.
Tracy: Well, I couldn’t do that. You weren’t yourself.
Danny: And then she holds his hand and gazes into his eyes, which should be the cue for Carlotta to enter and continue the scene. But Carlotta enters a few seconds late, which leaves them silently staring at each other for an unnaturally long time.
While they’re waiting to hear Carlotta’s heavy footsteps, Tracy kisses Quentin’s hand, and he gives a little chuckle — clearly in amusement about Carlotta’s late entrance, and wondering if Dan’s going to yell cut and do the scene again. When she finally enters, Quentin says, “Carlotta,” and Tracy looks around as if she hadn’t noticed that anyone had come in. This might be the most Dark Shadowsy moment in the whole film; it’s a little slice of Studio 16, transported to Tarrytown.
Danny: And they’re still structuring shots around that fucking lamp. If that was the Ralston-Purina lamp from the show, this would have been my favorite movie.
Quentin: Carlotta, I’ve decided not to use the tower room as a studio anymore.
Danny: It’s a shame Carlotta isn’t holding anything when Quentin says that; it would have been a fantastic moment for her to drop a tray full of glassware.
Danny: There’s another cut here, a happy little Quentin/Tracy scene. It’s the next morning, and Quentin’s painting in the gallery. Tracy sees him at the easel, and runs to his arms.
The world is ours, the gentleman
Ours. We’ll celebrate. I’ll drive
into Collinsport and get the biggest
steak anyone has ever bought. We’ll
charcoal it ourselves.
And eat it ourselves.
I’ll make my famed Caesar salad,
which is the only one I can make —
And we shall open the best wine.
She turns, sees that Angelique’s portrait is gone.
What happened to her?
Angelique? She’s been retired,
after years of honorable service.
Mostly so Alex will forget our
non-existent ghost. Hey, let me
Paint on, paint on. I love you…
Danny: It’s a happy couple scene, so they’re playing “Joanna” — which explains why the last few bars of harmonica and guitar are playing, as we rejoin the actual movie, still in progress.
Danny: And Carlotta is bringing back the portrait of Angelique, which the audience wasn’t informed was gone.
Quentin: I said I didn’t want to see that again.
Carlotta: It belongs in this room.
Quentin: I find it distracting. I don’t want it around.
Carlotta: There would be fewer distractions if you went back to the tower.
Danny: Geez, lady. Who died and made you the boss? Well, a whole bunch of people, now that I think about it.
Quentin: You know about those dreams I’ve been having, don’t you?
Carlotta: I don’t know what you’re referring to.
Quentin: You know damn well what I’m referring to! Her! Am I dreaming it, or is she real? Now, tell me — is she real?
Danny: I like that this is something you’d get angry at the domestic staff for. What would this conversation be like, if there were no such thing as ghosts and he actually is just dreaming it? She’d probably wonder if there was some other spooky castle somewhere that needs a housekeeper.
Danny: And then she goes into her sales pitch.
Carlotta: Do you remember that little girl you thought you saw at the window the other day?
Carlotta: Well, it wasn’t your imagination. The little girl was Sarah Castle. She lived in this house, over one hundred and fifty years ago. What you’ve been seeing are actually memories of a previous life. I am the living proof of it. I am the reincarnation of Sarah Castle. That little girl was me.
Danny: And I was also several other people in the middle.
Jerry: The whole “past lives” fad was big through the late 60s and early 70s, along with Chariots of the Gods, the Bermuda Triangle, pyramid power and Transcendental Meditation.
Grayson Hall (in an Aug 1971 interview): When the show was on the air, people said it was bad for children. I think it was good because it denied death, one of the greatest fears children have. Characters would die and then come back later. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with postponing the reality of death for children.
Carlotta: I’ll always remember that last day. It was a dark and rainy afternoon.
Danny: My doll and I were wandering around the house, playing Pokémon Go.
Danny: So the little girl hides under the table, listening to one of the strangest conversations of all time. Try and see if this makes sense to you; I can’t make head or tail of it.
Laura: Gabriel, you must make a decision.
Gabriel: Well, I think you’ve already made that for me. Why else would the good Reverend Strack be here?
Strack: Where is the witch now?
Laura: Where she always is — in the tower, “posing” for my husband.
Strack: Well, Mr. Collins?
Gabriel: Why do you want my permission?
Strack: Angelique Collins is your wife.
Danny: Okay, but still, why do you want his permission? They’re talking about going upstairs with their Henchman and their Bald Henchman, kidnapping a woman, yelling at her, and then murdering her on the front lawn. How is that a thing that you discuss, in 1810?
Laura: Do you want a mob with firebrands outside this house?
Strack: I promise you, it will come to that, and soon.
Danny: But that would probably help to justify it, right? A mob with firebrands would have a wonderful time at a public hanging; they could pack a lunch and make a day of it.
Strack: The strange death of Reverend Herridge, so soon after his sermon denouncing her?
Barb: Denouncing her for what, posing for paintings?
Danny: That sounds like a reference to something they’d cut from the movie, but no, that’s all there is. There is zero evidence in the film to support this witchcraft charge.
Gabriel: Yes, yes — but the scandal…
Laura: There will be no scandal!
Danny: Of course there will, you’re going to hang her on the front lawn! What is the matter with you people?
Strack: We’ve chosen four men from the estate, each of whom has seen proof of her witchcraft. They’ve sworn to keep silent forever!
Danny: But it’s the tallest tree in the county! And the servants are all watching from the windows. Plus they give tours of the estate at 2pm and 4pm; the shuttle bus will be here in half an hour.
Laura: Gabriel… if we must, we’ll do it without you.
Strack: This evil must be driven from the land, before it destroys us all!
Danny: Have they considered divorce, though? Or just smacking her with a broom until she leaves the house? And why is it Gabriel’s choice? Shouldn’t we leave it up to the police, or the mob of peasants?
Danny: Oh, but there’s Clarice Blackburn, who’s come up to Tarrytown for the afternoon. It’s nice to see her, for about fifteen seconds. I think she was already on Where the Heart Is at this point; you couldn’t keep Clarice away from soap operas.
Angelique (snapping the locket off her neck and showing it to Sarah): You always thought this so pretty. As long as you wear this, you will remember me.
Melissa: The kid thinks jeez, you just broke it. Thanks a lot.
Danny: This sequence with Sarah and Angelique was longer in the script, and there’s an additional scene with Sarah and her mother, up in Sarah’s bedroom. Sarah’s weeping in that scene, and Mrs. Castle tells her to get into bed and pull the covers over her head. I don’t know how that’s supposed to help.
Danny: Dear lord, this post is long. The movie’s not even half over yet. I don’t know why I ever thought I should write a blog post this way. Well, it’s too late to turn back now.
Danny: The weather continuity is funny here. It’s really cloudy in all the long shots and crane shots, but in this shot of the three guys, it’s a lovely day.
Strack: Angelique Collins, you have been condemned as a witch, and you must die. But your spirit will not live after you, for your earthly remains will hang here until your spirit returns to the pits of darkness forever more.
Allison: Thayer’s speech is killer.
Danny: That’s not the same dialogue as in the flashback in Quentin’s dream, at the beginning of the film. This must be an alternate take. Also, the script for this scene says “Gabriel, Quentin, Trask and the other two men stand below,” because even in the script, they couldn’t keep track of whether this was Quentin or Charles.
Danny: There’s a key moment that was cut here. In the script, Angelique says:
As I die, so shall all of you.
For that will be my legacy –!
Danny: Which you’d think was a big deal, but I guess not.
Angelique (in thinks): I have lost him, but I will have him again. You will help me, Sarah… You will know when the time comes, for it is your love that will keep me alive.
Danny: Pretty convenient time to turn into a Buddhist, all of a sudden.
Mark: Bad glycerin tears on Sarah sort of spoil the moment. I don’t remember her tears reading as juicy and glisteny on VHS as they do on this DVD transfer.
Danny: This looks like some sort of medical condition.
Strack: Oh Lord, thou hast heard her threats —
Danny: He has, but we haven’t; they cut that line. Also, if you watch closely, they use this shot twice during this sequence.
Robert: They push her off the scaffolding, and we sort of see the body fall before cutting away for reaction shots. Then they cut back, and her body is above the gallows. I remember Lara Parker even commenting about that, just as puzzled as the viewers were. There’s footage that was used in the trailers of her body falling, and then pulled back up to the scaffolding.
Darren Gross (in The Dark Shadows Movie Book): Angelique’s hanging was edited down to its bare bones, reducing much of Curtis’ carefully staged action. The final version eliminates Angelique’s curse on the group and shots of Laura and Mrs. Castle watching from the porch, as well as softening the intensity of the hanging. The script had Angelique’s body fall and jerk to a halt. The hangmen subsequently pull her body up so that it hangs high above the scaffold.
Danny: Some of this was cut by the MPAA. In the trailer, which is based on the 97 minute version, there’s a shot of Angelique’s body getting dragged up by the rope.
Glenn Padnick (review in Boston After Dark): The movie itself is not quite as awful as you might expect. But there’s little positive to be said about a horror movie that doesn’t contain one scary moment. It is very dull.
Quentin: Then her spirit is still alive in this house.
Carlotta: For certain of us, yes. For me, for you.
Park: For a dog named Boo.
Danny: Carlotta is fondling the locket in this scene, making sure everybody knows she has it. I’m not sure how a piece of jewelry gets passed down through different reincarnations; it’s not like you die and then instantly get reborn as your own granddaughter. It’s hard for an infant to remember where you put something in your past life. Maybe her accessories reincarnate too.
Quentin: But I’m not Charles Collins!
Carlotta: You will come to accept it, after a time. And then you will realize something else… there is no longer any place in this house for Mrs. Collins.
Danny: Of course Carlotta is the one who can explain the premise of the movie. Grayson Hall always plays the character who understands what kind of story she’s in.
Jerry: This seems like part of the plot of The Haunted Palace, one of the American International/Roger Corman horrors from 1963, which is lifted from Lovecraft’s “The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward”. Is that why Quentin’s ancestor is named Charles?
Danny: A couple people mentioned The Haunted Palace, which I’d never heard of, so I checked it out. The plot does have some similarities to Night of Dark Shadows — in Palace, married couple Charles and Anne show up at an enormous mansion that he’s unexpectedly inherited, and he slowly becomes obsessed with a portrait of his great-great-grandfather, an evil wizard who promised to return after death. The ancestor slowly takes over Charles’ personality, as per, and at one point, Charles tries to rape his wife. There’s a big climax in the basement, followed by an epilogue where everything seems to be okay, except that the guy is still secretly possessed.
I suppose the biggest thing that The Haunted Palace has in common with Dark Shadows is that it’s an uncertain mash-up of an Edgar Allen Poe poem, an H.P. Lovecraft story and a soap-opera drama about a newlywed couple.
The poster says “Edgar Allen Poe’s The Haunted Palace”, but the poem “The Haunted Palace” has fuck-all to do with the movie. The poem is about the ghost of a king and his courtiers hanging around in an abandoned castle, which is pretty much what it says on the tin.
The movie is actually loosely inspired by “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward“, a novella by H.P. Lovecraft published posthumously in 1941, but even that’s a stretch. Lovecraft isn’t really very interested in wives, for one thing; the domestic sphere is not a prominent feature of his work. He’s mostly interested in reclusive nerds who read a lot of scary books, and engage in odd rituals in the small hours.
In this story, the nerd is Charles Dexter Ward, and the ancestor is an eighteenth-century wizard called Joseph Curwen. Charles finds Curwen’s grave and unearths some of his journals, and then sets about the task of resurrecting him from his “essential saltes,” a substance which is something something ashes something. Freshly minted, Curwen kills Ward and takes his place, because apparently they’re identical twins, and stop asking stupid questions.
So Curwen goes on a typical Lovecraft spree, corresponding with other necromancers and calling up hideous beings from Beyond, and he finally gets locked up in an insane asylum and everybody loses interest.
The Haunted Palace doesn’t actually stay faithful to that story in particular; it’s more of a general pastiche of Lovecraft-y stuff, through a 1960s Hollywood filter. In the movie, Curwen is Charles’ great-great-grandfather, and his plan was to call up hideous beings from Beyond and then have them mate with pretty girls, partly to create a race of super-humans, and partly because people in 1963 were obsessed with the idea of breeding monsters with pretty girls.
Anyway, none of this Lovecraft stuff has anything to do with Night of Dark Shadows, except that The Haunted Palace involves a guy being possessed by an ancestral portrait. But that was already pretty deep in the Dark Shadows DNA, so I’m not sure if The Haunted Palace was really an influence or not. I’m not even sure why I brought it up.
Danny: Anyway, there’s another cut scene here. Tracy comes back with the groceries — you remember how she wanted to get some steaks, before all the hanging started? She got the steaks.
She goes and puts the food away, and then she comes back and notices that Angelique’s portrait is up again. Quentin explains, “I offended Carlotta’s sense of family tradition,” and they go out for a walk. I don’t know who they’re expecting to cook those steaks.
Danny: So here’s another romantic mid-movie stroll, a la Maggie and Barnabas in House of Dark Shadows. They have to let the main couple go outside once every 45 minutes, it’s a union rule.
Mark: The sensitive walking scenes with the harmonica theme is like the TV commercials for Sounds of the Seventies.
Danny: That’s “Joanna” again; current score is 6 to 4, with “Quentin’s Theme” in the lead.
Laramie: I want to be on Quentin’s side. But the problem is, we don’t see much of Quentin and Tracy as a happy couple. We don’t see Quentin doing much of anything, even emoting. And part of that is that David Selby was off the show for the last couple of weeks, just before this filming began, because he had appendicitis. His acting is so low-key, and when you watch him on the series, he is charismatic — I mean, America was in love with him. And on the screen, he’s different, and I think it’s two factors. I think it’s the appendicitis, recovering from surgery, and I also think it’s because Grayson Hall — she was the only one of them who’d ever made a movie before — she told all of them it’s one thing to act on stage and to act on television, but in movies, your face is thirty feet high, and every little emotion that’s flickering across your face, so bring it down, bring it down, bring it down.
Katya: When Richard Burton first acted with Elizabeth Taylor, he’s like, she’s so still, she doesn’t move, and the director said, watch her on playback, and he says, oh, I get it, because he came from a theater background.
Laramie: And it’s totally different. So I think that part of the problem is that David Selby isn’t giving us much. He’s pretty to look at, but he’s not giving us that Quentin flair that we know on the television show.
Katya: You can tell that his heart wasn’t even in it when he was trying to drown her.
The phone rings.
Danny: It’s Doubloon! The call is coming from inside the horse!
Alex: Tracy, honey, what’s wrong?
Tracy: Oh, Alex, how gloomy you are. There’s nothing wrong! I called to say everything’s perfect.
Danny: And we start the countdown for the next assault.
Danny: They cut a couple of lines here, which creates a visual continuity error. When they filmed the scene, after Tracy reports that “everything’s perfect,” Alex asks, “Are you sure? Did you get into the tower?” Claire gets up from her chair and walks to Alex as he says this line. They cut that exchange because it referred to a scene that was cut, so it looks like Claire teleports from her chair to Alex’s side.
Alex: Listen, Trace, Claire and I should go to New York tonight. We thought we’d stop in at Burton’s Gallery. He’s an authority on Early American artists, isn’t he?
Tracy: I think he’s the best. Why?
Danny: Well, I thought maybe he’d be interested in making his own terrible Dark Shadows movie, forty years from now.
Alex: You sure you’re gonna be okay?
Tracy: Go, Alex, go! Nothing bad will happen to us now.
Danny: Oh come on, y’all. That’s slasher movie victim dialogue. We’re better than that.
Tracy: It’s late, let’s go to bed.
Quentin: (holding a book) You go ahead, I want to finish this first.
Danny: Oh, man! Alex and Claire hung up literally fifteen seconds ago, and already things aren’t perfect anymore. Call them back!
Quentin: Now, go on! I’ll be up soon.
He kisses her.
Tracy: Don’t read all night!
Danny: Yeah, that’s the concern. Don’t read all night. You know, I liked this story better when it had a dimension-hopping vampire in it.
Danny: And here we are, Quentin Collins: portrait of a man not reading all night. They’re playing “Joanna” again, for no particular reason. The idea was supposed to be that they would play “Joanna” when he was Quentin, and “Quentin’s Theme” when he was Charles, but they’ve lost track and now they’re playing whatever they have lying around. The score is 6 to 5, Quentin still ahead by a nose.
Danny: By the way, if you’re interested, here’s what happened to the portrait, according to Barnabas & Company: “At the conclusion of the filming, Dan Curtis presented Lara Parker with the portrait. For years, it hung in her mother’s dining room in Memphis. After her mother’s death, Lara moved the portrait to her own home in California. Lara has on occasion brought it with her to DS Festivals to display as she signs autographs.” Now you know.
Mark: What happened to the pink lamp? Carlotta’s moving things around again.
Danny: This is the pink lamp, but it’s possessed by the spirit of a green lamp. Check the portraits, there’s usually a portrait.
Mark: Evidently Tracy sleeps with a light shining on her face.
Danny: Yeah, this is day-for-night sleeping. “Joanna” is still hanging in there, despite the worried woodwinds and violin trills they’re layering on top of it. It sounds for a minute like Joanna’s going down, and then she rallies. She’s got spirit, you have to give her that.
Danny: There’s another cut here, which you can tell because the music cue cuts off in the middle of a note. What’s supposed to happen is that Quentin looks upstairs, and just as it seems like he’s going to join Angelique in the tower, he suddenly turns and runs out the door.
EXT – COUNTRYSIDE – NIGHT
as Quentin walks through the night in an effort to purge himself of the horrible temptations that are gnawing at his soul. He comes to a fallen tree, where he stops for a moment and sits. SLOWLY TRUCK IN ON HIM as the SOUND OF THUNDERING HOOF BEATS can be HEARD O.S. As we end up on a TIGHT SHOT OF HIS EYES.
Danny: And then here’s where the horse murder flashback was supposed to be. It would have made more sense here, because we’ve just seen Strack taking Angelique outside and hanging her. Instead, they put Strack’s death all the way at the beginning when nobody knows who he is.
Danny: Although Quentin ends up going to the tower anyway, so I guess it doesn’t matter much.
Craig Hamrick (in Barnabas & Company): Sweet-natured Kate Jackson stunned her NODS cast mates with an unusual acting technique. Before each take she would release a string of profanity, in a practice designed to help her release her inhibitions and relax.
Danny: So here’s why this isn’t Dark Shadows: this story isn’t connected to any other stories. Dark Shadows is a soap opera, and there are always multiple overlapping storylines happening at the same time. This is just one story, spread over a two-century divide, and you can’t cut from here to anything surprising or outré. You’re here, and you’re stuck with this for as long as it lasts.
Also, they need to watch their step here; the visuals are getting dangerously close to the Dream Curse.
Tracy: There’s someone else in that room, isn’t there?
Quentin: Why don’t you go back to bed?
Tracy: Is there someone else in that room?
Quentin: Is there someone else in that room?
Danny: I don’t know. Third base!
Quentin: You make me sick! I can’t stand the sight of you anymore, now get out!
Melissa: Yes, he’s yelling, but take a moment to appreciate his blue, blue eyes. And he’s leaning again. Crap, this is another one of those “David Selby is hot” comments.
Danny: There’s another cut here. When Quentin slams the door on Tracy, he returns to his painting, and Angelique is there to pose for him.
How could I have ever thought
you were a dream?
Danny: And then a little scene with Tracy going to the phone and trying to call the Jenkins, but they’re not home so it just rings and rings. They told her that they were going away, but Tracy’s not very good at processing information.
Danny: Oh no, the plants have taken over! Like I said earlier, Dan’s trying to dial back his use of gimmick shots in this movie, but every once in a while it gets the better of him. This shot from the point of view of Carlotta hiding behind some flowers is probably the most pointless and gimmicky shot in the film.
Carlotta: I thought these might brighten the room. Aren’t they lovely?
Danny: Oh, man — arranging flowers was supposed to be Tracy’s job! Sit around arranging flowers, and loving Quentin. That was the job description. Now all she’s got is sitting around.
Carlotta: Is something wrong, Mrs. Collins?
Tracy: Yes, Carlotta. Something is wrong.
Carlotta: Anything I’ve done?
Park: Must everything be about you?
Carlotta: What time will dinner be this evening?
Tracy: I don’t know what time!
Park: Darn it, Carlotta, I’m only twelve! I found a fortune-telling machine and wished I was big and married to David Selby but I’m in over my head!
Carlotta: Mrs. Collins, did you ever stop to think that perhaps you don’t belong here?
Mark: Carlotta’s right, Tracy doesn’t belong. She’s disturbing the house’s equanimity. The house wants Quentin to be Charles, so he can wander around with a limp forever.
Danny: Mansions can get bossy sometimes; it’s because they spend all their time with rich people.
Danny: One thing that I love about Grayson Hall’s performance in this movie is how slow and deliberate she is — like here, where she paces out of the room, thoughtfully stroking a flower petal.
It’s like she pauses before every action, and arranges herself into the correct position and tone. There’s nothing extra about it — no nervous flutters or eccentric hand movements. It’s a very different performance than Julia, or any of her Dark Shadows characters.
And I think that studied and calculated approach really works for Carlotta, the one person in the story who understands what’s happening. This scene is probably the best example, because she’s being deliberately manipulative; every pause and tilt of the head is specifically designed to make Tracy believe that everyone thinks she’s insane.
Danny: And now, in case you’ve forgotten what it sounds like from five and a half minutes ago… “Joanna”. The score’s all tied up now, 6 to 6.
Danny: Oh, the rarely-seen day-for-night-for-day establishing shot.
Danny: And then — the coat!! Dum-dum-DUMMM. Just lurking there in the foreground.
Danny: I like how big the tower room key is, like the jailer’s keys from Pirates of the Caribbean.
Danny: Jesus, look at that. There’s not a good artist in this whole family.
Jerry: Maybe they should have taken pictures and painted over them, like they did with Angelique’s portrait.
Danny: Or not make him an artist? There’s got to be some other profession that would get him up into the tower room. How about a skydiver or a trapeze artist or something?
Danny: And now the coat drama.
Marc: That dizzying angle, showing off the magnificent dimensions of Lyndhurst Mansion. It’s another instance of viewer vertigo. The house is the real star of the film.
Danny: Yeah, but look at the lawn. What have they been doing out there? They need to have a funeral; that’s the only time it rains in movie Collinsport.
Danny: Here’s a nice cameo from the Tappan Zee Bridge, which connects Manhattan with Tarrytown and Westchester County. They also have one in Maine, apparently.
Quentin: Carlotta, have you seen my jacket? Never mind, I’ll check the tower. I can’t buy a damn thing without a wallet.
Danny: Why would his jacket be in the tower? That’s like the furthest possible place from the front door.
Wallace McBride (from the Collinsport Historical Society podcast): It feels like a wonderfully brilliant sequel to House of Dark Shadows, because House of Dark Shadows is such a social film — it has parties, and so on. And as it goes on, everyone turns into a vampire and gets whittled down further and further. [Night of Dark Shadows] feels almost post-apocalyptic, if the apocalypse is what we see in House of Dark Shadows.
Danny: And then “Joanna” starts up, as soon as Quentin says Tracy’s name. I think this film was scored by Alexa; it’s programmed to play that song every time these two are in the same room together. “Joanna” pulls into the lead, 7 to 6.
Danny: Tracy has to plant the keys back in Quentin’s jacket so he doesn’t know she’s been snooping. They’re not the car keys because he was just driving the car, so these are what, the keys to all of his secret boudoirs and torture chambers?
The story as I figure it is that Quentin went out for a drive, except he didn’t take his coat, his wallet or his keys. Coming home, he thought his coat might be in the tower room, except that the key to the tower room was in his coat pocket, so I guess he figured he’d locked himself out. What the hell is going on in this house?
Danny: I do like this moment a lot. Tracy’s watching from the window as Quentin starts up the car, and then Carlotta runs up to him and says something… and then they both look up, right at Tracy’s point of view. That might be the creepiest moment in the whole picture, because it feels like they’ve noticed there’s an audience, and they know that we’re watching. It’s so small, and unexplained.
Danny: And then they just crank up the “Joanna” and leave it running, all day and into the night. This must be the extended party mix.
Danny: The music stops abruptly as Quentin leaves the tower room, so you might think there was another cut here. As far as I can tell, there wasn’t; it’s just a shitty edit.
Danny: Oh my god, the fake tears! Those are terrible, and totally unnecessary. She’s an actress; pretending to be sad is part of her job. You don’t need to draw tears on her face with a glue gun.
Danny: Quentin comes in, and they do some cross-cutting between him entering the room and Tracy closing her eyes, to show us that she’s pretending to be asleep. But they get the continuity wrong, so if you follow Quentin’s eyeline, it’s clear that he’s looking right at her when she closes her eyes.
Quentin: Aw, don’t cry, huh? You’re gonna flood the place.
Danny: Ew, he’s going to get glycerin all over his shirt.
Tracy: I’ve been so afraid. I didn’t understand any of it.
Danny: And here comes “Joanna” again, right on time — one minute and forty-five seconds after the last one. The score is 8 to 6.
Tracy: And then the things that you said to me last night…
Quentin: I didn’t mean any of them.
Tracy: No, I know you didn’t.
Danny: Yeah, people are always saying “you make me sick” by accident.
Tracy: Quentin, look at me. Do you love me?
Danny: There’s another little blooper here, if you want one. Quentin looks at her and mouths “Yes,” but they forgot to do the ADR. Then he says “God, yes” out loud.
Danny: And then there’s the super-fun rape scene! The MPAA cut out a piece here, to get a GP rating. It’s easy to see where the edit happened, because Tracy says, “Stop it, Quentin! Stop it, y–” and then it cuts to a shot of her in a slightly different position.
In the missing part, Tracy says “Stop it, you’re hurting me!” He strokes her chest and then violently grabs her breast, and she fights him off. He says, “What’s the matter, don’t you like it anymore?” She doesn’t.
Quentin: I’ll touch you whenever and however I want, and if you don’t like it, you can always leave!
Danny: There’s another cut here, as Quentin leaves. In the script, Tracy says, “She’s doing this to you! It’s her! It’s Angelique!”
Danny: Then there’s a scene with Quentin and Carlotta, out by the back stairs. Quentin leaves the scene of the crime in a hurry, and seems like he’s anguished and confused about what he’s just done. Carlotta approaches.
Quentin does not respond.
The Jenkins will be returning
soon. If Mrs. Collins is going
to leave, she should go before
they come back. Otherwise she
will simply run to them. Don’t
He does not move or look at her.
Don’t you agree, Mr. Collins?
With great violence, he turns on her.
Yes, I agree, Carlotta! But
I don’t need you to tell me
what I have to do!
Danny: It’s a shame that was cut, because it would have been one of the creepiest exchanges in the movie. According to that dialogue, Quentin and Carlotta have discussed an explicit plan to kill Tracy, which he just doesn’t feel like doing right now.
Anyway, Quentin exits, and Carlotta looks down the stairs to see Gerard, looking up at her. Carlotta nods, and Gerard leaves.
Danny: Then it’s back to Tracy.
Darren Gross (from the Collinsport Historical Society podcast): I think one of the most egregious cuts in the picture, as far as character is concerned, is after Quentin attacks Tracy in the bedroom and leaves.
First of all, she has an idea of what’s been going on, because it’s been implied that Alex told her, so she’s not completely oblivious. And after Quentin attacks her — in the short version, he attacks her and the next time we see her, she’s having nightmares in bed. Now, if my husband attacked me, I don’t know if I’d go right back to bed. Doesn’t seem natural for a character.
But there’s a scene right after he attacks her, where she goes to the window, looks up and sees Angelique’s outline in the tower. And she says to it, “I won’t let you have him. I’m going to stay, and I’m going to fight for him.” That’s the strongest moment of her character, that declaration.
Danny: One more missing scene — Alex and Claire drive up to the cottage and get out of their car, back from wherever the hell they went several assaults ago. They enter the house, and then the camera pans to show Gerard sitting in his car, watching them.
Gerard’s involvement doesn’t really connect to anything, and I’m not sure why Carlotta sent him out here, just to park outside the cottage. The only thing I can think of is that Angelique’s ghost needed Gerard to give her a ride.
Danny: Wow, Claire’s only been back in the movie ten seconds, and already she’s exhausted. That little vacation during act two didn’t help at all.
Claire: I don’t like being back here.
Danny: Yeah, here sucks. I don’t think Claire’s had a thing to do in the whole movie so far, except clothes shopping. I mean, Alex got to ride a bike, and play in the greenhouse. It’s not fair. They go out of their way to break the glass ceiling in this movie, but it only falls on men.
Claire: I still can’t get over the likeness. Charles Collins could be his twin!
Danny: Was that really something they had to go all the way across the Tappan Zee Bridge to find out? We’ve known that Quentin and Charles look alike since scene five.
Alex: All that Quentin needs is that scar on his cheek, and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
Melissa: I’m having a weird moment where John Karlen looks like Willie Loomis but sounds like Harvey Lacey.
Claire: I still don’t see how showing him that is going to make him leave here.
Danny: Maybe he’ll realize that his ancestor was a terrible artist, and he’ll give up and become a stockbroker or something.
Danny: The music cue here was written by Cobert for Dan’s 1969 prime-time TV pilot, Dead of Night: A Darkness at Blaisedon. It was later used on Dark Shadows, and it’s on the soundtrack album, The Original Music from Dark Shadows, as track 4, “A Darkness at Collinwood”. I know you don’t care, I’m just excited that it’s not “Joanna”.
Danny: I like the blue-green “Under the Sea” prom theme of this ghost attack. In the script, Claire and Alex are supposed to be in bed together, and the attack happens in total silence.
Danny: There’s a little jump in the music cue, which usually means an edit, but I don’t know of anything that’s missing here, except sense.
Famous Monsters of Filmland: Next, Claire & Alex are attacked in their own cottage. Not by a human, flesh-&-blood prowler, but by — “A ghostly phenomenon!”
Lara Parker (in Barnabas & Company): Johnny [Karlen] and I are still good friends to this day. He and I really, really like each other, and we have a good time together. Our friendship mostly started on the movie.
Danny: I wrote about the “Miss American Vampire” pageants that they held in summer 1970 to promote House of Dark Shadows, but I didn’t realize until I started working on this post that MGM publicity did another national beauty pageant for Night of Dark Shadows, “Miss Ghost America”. There were regional contests in August 1971, and the final was held in Los Angeles on September 25th. The winner was crowned on Fright Night, KHJ-TV’s local late-night creature feature, with horror host Sinister Seymour.
The ad reproduced here has the following breathless copy: “If your beauty is spirited enough to win the regional final of the Miss Ghost America Contest you will receive an all-expense paid trip to haunting Hollywood where you will be a guest of Holiday Inn and will vie for the National title of Miss Ghost America, an appearance on ABC-TV’s Dating Game and a $250.00 saving bond.”
The Collinsport Historical Society posted an article last year with some excellent detective work, including pictures of the contestants, the name of the winner, and what happened on her Dating Game date. It’s incredible work, go check it out. Don’t worry, Alex will be fine.
Dan Curtis: People don’t realize that it’s far more difficult to do a horror picture well than a straight drama. That’s why most supernatural pictures stink. They attract a lot of people who have no talent and don’t know what the hell they’re doing.
Danny: The editing in this sequence is choppy and weird, and it’s hard for me to tell if it’s the Big Edit or if it was supposed to be that way.
Claire sees her husband engulfed by ectoplasm, and instead of helping him she reaches for the lamp, which falls on the floor. He’s being suffocated, but her primary interest is the lamp. I suppose you could always get another husband.
Barb: Why does everyone stay in this terrible place? Just pack up and head back to town.
Danny: There’s another cut here, and it’s a shame, cause it sounds like a doozy.
INT – MASTER BEDROOM – NIGHT – HIGH ANGLE
Tracy lies asleep, fitfully tossing and turning on her bed. SLOWLY CRANE DOWN AND TRUCK INTO HER CLOSE-UP. HOLD ON HER FACE as she is obviously experiencing a dream. Over this, slowly bring in the SOUND OF ANGELIQUE’S LAUGHTER. TIGHTEN TO AN EXTREME CLOSE-UP as the SOUND ECHOES IN HER EARS.
INT – RUINED SWIMMING POOL – NIGHT
SLOW MOTION DREAM EFFECT
Series of DISSOLVES depicting Quentin and Angelique making love — GP RATING STYLE. Their AD LIB love dialogue will be HEARD OVER THE SCENE.
Richard Shore, cinematographer (in Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood): The Quentin and Angelique pool house make-out scene was supposed to be a dreamy fantasy so we made it wild with colored lights, filters and fog.
Danny: That scene is lost, sadly. About five seconds survive in the trailer.
Danny: I also have a couple still pictures from the scene, and they will be of no further use to me in my daily life, so here they are, with my best wishes.
Danny: So that would have explained why Tracy walks out to the pool house, which in the finished film is entirely unexplained. In the film as we know it, we see Tracy tossing and turning in bed, with Angelique’s face superimposed on the scene, and then she’s standing outside the pool house, with Angelique’s face ditto. That moment clearly indicates to the audience that Tracy is in bed, dreaming about approaching the pool house. But then Angelique’s face goes away and the music dies down, and now she’s awake, actually doing the stupid thing that she’s doing.
Oh, and between those two shots, there was supposed to be a scene with Alex and Claire, recovering from the ghost attack.
It was the most frightening
thing I’ve ever seen.
Claire… I want you to take
the car and get out of here
No — I won’t leave you!
Danny: So Claire says what are we going to do, and Alex says I don’t know, and then it’s off to the pool house with Tracy.
Park: If Tracy catches this one, Carolyn isn’t dead…
Tracy: Quentin? Are you here? Quentin? Quentin!
Quentin: Did you come to spy on us, Laura?
Tracy: Where are you?
Quentin limps toward her.
Tracy: Quentin? Where are you?
Quentin: Isn’t it enough that you killed her?
Tracy: What are you talking about?
Danny: What do you think he’s talking about, you idiot? He’s possessed again, just like he was when he tried to strangle you, and when he tried to rape you, and when he told you that you made him sick. This is not a misunderstanding! Possessed Quentin doesn’t like you.
Danny: Wow, it looks like the pool house was a wreck back in 1810, too. When the Collins family abandons a structure, it stays abandoned. They’re going to need to stop killing branches of the family, so they’ll have some descendants to keep the place up.
Quentin: Won’t you ever leave us alone… ever?
Tracy: Quentin, it’s me!
Quentin: No, Laura. I’m going to make sure that you never interfere again.
Tracy: No, it’s me! Stop it, look, it’s me!
Danny: Yeah, “it’s me” doesn’t seem to be working. Maybe you should be more specific.
Jerry: Ugh, that pool water is skanky — I sure wouldn’t want to do a scene where I got dropped in it.
Danny: Yeah, there aren’t enough antibiotics in the world to get you out of that mess.
Will McKinley (from The Collinsport Historical Society podcast): I think something that might limit the movie’s appeal to a lot of audiences is that it deals with some uncomfortable subject matter. When you take the ghosts out of the film — and the ghosts really are just symbols and set decoration — you’ve got a movie about a new marriage that devolves into alienation and verbal and physical abuse, and that’s really what the film is about.
Danny: Wow, I don’t think that’s a stuntman in a wig, either; that’s Kate Jackson getting submerged in skankwater. There’s probably a line in the credits indicating that no Angels were harmed during the making of this film.
Danny: Ooh, a post-drowning David Selby butt shot. A little something for the ladies.
Danny: Wow — of all the day-for-night shots in Day-for-Night of Dark Shadows, this is the most flagrantly day. This is brighter than some of their daytime scenes.
Danny: Oh my god, y’all, the headlights are not fooling anybody. You need to not film your night scene on the sunniest day of the year. Make other arrangements.
Claire: What was he doing here?
Alex: I dunno.
Danny: So Tracy is dead, right? She’s been underwater more than a minute, and there was time compression between getting out of the car and walking into the pool house. How long does it take somebody to make-believe drown?
Danny: Ugh, first they say that Tracy doesn’t belong in the house; now she’s getting kicked out of the pool. They won’t let her do anything!
Barb: Hugging and crying is not CPR.
Alex: Open the door! Where is he?
Carlotta: I don’t know —
Danny: I love Carlotta’s little duck-walk run after Alex.
Danny: And it’s Gerard, hooray, looking all rumpled and sexy. It’s been forty minutes since we’ve seen him on screen; they cut all of his scenes since the fight in the tower room. When they do the reconstruction, they should do a Gerard’s cut, where the whole movie is about him saddling the horses and getting into fights. I would like that movie so much more than this movie.
Danny: He doesn’t get any lines, though, unless we’ve just managed to catch him mid-stutter.
Alex: You didn’t succeed, Quentin, she’s still alive!
Quentin: What are you talking about, Alex?
Alex: Are you going to try and tell me you don’t know what you did tonight?
Quentin: I didn’t do a damn thing. I’ve been painting all evening.
Danny: Yeah, painting a picture of himself drowning his wife. I wonder what Quentin thinks he’s painting, when he’s up there? I mean, imagine being so hypnotized that you could look at that picture and not see it. Some people have all the luck.
Quentin: Now, what are you so upset about?
Alex: You tried to drown Tracy!
Danny: Excellent, just in time for the third act plot point, cue the resolution. We might actually get a screenplay out of this.
Danny: Man, Gerard has the most mutable face. He’s a really cute guy, but he can arrange his features into a variety of ugly masks, as needed. It’s possible that James Storm is a collective noun.
Danny: Oh, great, Tracy’s gone. Now we have to replace her with Shelley Hack.
Danny: I really like this shot of Quentin clenching his fist, and then a rack focus to Alex at the other end of the hallway. It’s one of Dan’s gimmick shots, used effectively. When he gets an idea like this that really adds something to the scene, he’s a good director.
Danny: Another creepy use of “Quentin’s Theme” here, with Quentin pacing down the hall with no idea what he’s thinking. The score is 8 to 7, Joanna still in the lead.
Quentin: Alex, listen to me. I’ve known you for a long time. I’m sick of your insane writer’s mind. I don’t want to talk about it any more. I just want you to get out of here, and take her with you.
Melissa: This entire sequence is great, and it happens to be one of the longest stretches without edits. It’s a window into what the movie would have been like in its true form.
Danny: I like Gerard’s little satisfied smirk as they watch Alex walk out.
Danny: But there’s a little visual continuity error here. When we cut to this angle, Gerard is looking up at Quentin.
Danny: And another one here, with Carlotta’s head in a slightly different position and expression.
Danny: And now it’s another lonely night at home for Quentin Collins, just him and the brandy and the spooky staff. He should check the fridge, maybe there’s some leftover tunaham.
Danny: He’s got scratches on his wrist, which are entirely unexplained. The suggestion is that Tracy tried to claw at him while he was drowning her, but he had his sleeve down the whole time, and she didn’t get anywhere near his wrist. Sam and Dan appear to think that any physical interaction with a woman leaves deep fingernail grooves anywhere she touches you.
Danny: Another visual continuity error here; when they cut to the two-shot, he’s holding the glass in a different position. Now that I’ve started noticing these, they’re everywhere. I think this movie is trying to tell me that I don’t belong here, and I should get out and take Tracy with me. It might be right.
Quentin: He was telling the truth, wasn’t he?
Carlotta: You did it for her. For Angelique.
Quentin: I tried to kill my wife.
Barb: If only there was such a thing as police.
Danny: On the plus side, now Alex and Claire can stop dragging that stupid eye picture around.
Quentin: I am not Charles Collins! And I’m not going to allow them to be hurt!
Danny: Roger Ebert was right; Angelique really does beckon a lot in this movie. I’ve never seen somebody beckon this much.
Danny: There are a couple of these funny promo shots of the cast fooling around on set. I love them; they’re my favorite part of the movie.
Darren Gross (from The Collinsport Historical Society podcast): It seems like everyone was enjoying themselves. Lara’s kids showed up and they played baseball on the back lawn of the house, and people were riding horses, and playing cards in the costume room, just sort of lounging around the lawn when it was sunny enough to do so. It seems like it was more casual [than filming House]; there’s a lot more pictures of everybody smiling.
Danny: And so begins the two and a half minute demolition derby car chase sequence. It’s not that exciting, but at least there’s a lot of it.
Danny: In the blue corner, there’s Alex Jenkins…
Danny: And in the other blue corner, the challenger: Gerard Stiles.
Danny: According to IMCDb — the Internet Movie Cars Database — Alex is driving a 1963 Chevrolet Chevy II, and Gerard has a Willys Jeep pickup truck. Yes, that’s a real website.
Mark: This could have been effective if it was actually dark. It’s supposed to be a terrifying, black as pitch night, and instead it’s just… blue and in the daytime.
Jerry: I don’t know why Dan Curtis kept so much of the car chase — he could have cut some of it and left in something else.
Danny: I think it’s the same thing as the greenhouse scene. The movie doesn’t need all of this, but it was expensive and hard to film, so here it is.
Danny: Honestly, Gerard could just quietly follow Alex home and shoot him, or something. There’s got to be an easier way to kill this guy.
Sam Hall: (from an Aug 1971 interview) Our gore is artificial, and not within your life experience. Removing it from the realm of possibility diminishes real fear. Our violence is fundamentally romantic violence. It’s all based on oversized passion. Revenge or love or the supernatural motivates the violence, not the fact that someone needs heroin. I was mugged in New York. That’s a real, scary experience. Seeing that on the screen would terrify me. The human being overcome by the mechanical, like when a car runs a man down, I find that scary.
Darren Gross (in Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood): The exciting car chase scene climaxes somewhat differently than planned. Originally Gerard is supposed to drive Alex’s car off the road so that it tumbles down the embankment and rolls over. Netting was set up off the side of the road to catch the car when it went off the road and out of the shot.
Unfortunately, stuntman Alex Stevens, who was driving, turned the wheel too late and instead of going off the road near the trees, plowed right into one fullspeed. Assistant cameraman Ron Lautore was in the car, filming with a handheld camera, and when the car hit the tree, the impact caused the eyepiece to collide with his eye-socket. Thankfully he escaped with only a black eye, but Alex Stevens injured his leg as a result.
Tracy: Claire —
Tracy: What’s the matter?
Danny: She just realized they’re two women alone, near the end of a horror movie.
Mark: Nancy Barrett looks great in the mustard sweater with the little belt. Tracy is doing shabby post-drowning chic.
Tracy: What are you going to do?
Claire: Alex told me to shoot anyone who tries to come in here.
Danny: He did? Good lord.
Melissa: If Alex and Claire had inherited that house, they would have fired everyone and ignored the ghost. Tracy and Quentin are the dead weight bringing the Jenkins’ down.
Danny: Ka-blam! Right in the kisser. Well, at least they’re ahead on their shooting schedule.
Richard Shore, cinematographer (in Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood): The gun Nancy Barrett used was filled with blanks. We had to make it look like a bullet went through the window when she fired the gun. We had a crewmember stand near James Storm, just off-camera with a slingshot and a B.B. We then placed a sheet of plexiglass in front of the window to protect Nancy from the B.B. and the shattering glass. Jim was given a rag soaked in stage blood. When Curtis called action, Nancy fired the gun. At the same time, the crewmember fired the slingshot; the B.B. shattered the glass and Jim slapped the bloody rag to his head, making blood run down his face. It worked very effectively.
Danny: And then obviously you go outside and check.
Tracy: I know we hit him.
Claire: Quick, we’d better get back inside.
Danny: As always, shooting a killer in a horror movie just makes him stronger and more resourceful.
Danny: So I have some questions for Night of Dark Shadows, regarding what happened to that bullet. We saw her shoot him directly in the face, and here he is, stage blood everywhere. How did he not sustain actual damage? I need to review the Zapruder footage.
There’s another little cut here by the MPAA. This shot lasted a few seconds longer, and Gerard lunged at the girls.
Allison: Alex is one cool mofo leaning on his smashed car smoking a cigarette.
Danny: In the script, Quentin finds Alex trapped in the car, and helps him get out. But when they were shooting, the stuntman drove the car into a tree, so they had to improvise.
Danny: Tracy and Gerard’s struggle in the truck was cut down by the MPAA too. In the 97 minute version, after Gerard puts his hand over Tracy’s mouth, he says, “Promise not to yell and I’ll let you go.” Then his hand slowly moves up her leg to her thigh, and as it approaches her crotch, she starts kissing him in order to distract him.
Danny: In this version, it cuts from a shot of Quentin to this, and for a second it looks like they’re just parked in the truck, making out.
Danny: So Gerard only gets six lines in the entire movie: Do you know what happened last night? I was good enough until he come around. Yeah, I got your horse ready for you. I saw your wife today. She rides, doesn’t she? I said, she rides, doesn’t she? They cut his other scenes in the Big Edit, and then the MPAA cut what would have been line #7 here.
Danny: I like that Gerard has a bloody side and a clean side, like Harvey Dent.
Danny: The action of the next couple minutes is considerably different from what’s in the script. Here’s how Gerard and Tracy’s trip to Makeout Point was supposed to end:
INT – JEEP – NIGHT
as Tracy puts up a valiant struggle, Gerard suddenly reaches for the door. Opening it, he throws her out of the car and onto the ground. As she tries to scramble to her feet, he jumps on top of her. Then clutching her face with both his hands, he brutally forces his lips on hers.
EXT – COUNTRYSIDE – NIGHT
as Quentin runs through the night TOWARD CAMERA, he suddenly hears the SOUND OF TRACY’S SCREAMS O.S. He stops for an instant, looks around.
EXT – GROUND NEAR JEEP – NIGHT
Tracy is clawing at Gerard’s face, as she screams.
Gerard, grabbing her hands, viciously slaps her face. Then he suddenly reacts to the DISTANT SOUND OF QUENTIN’S VOICE.
Where are you?
Before she can answer, he clamps his hand over her muth.
QUENTIN – GERARD’S P.O.V.
As he runs TOWARD CAMERA, Quentin is a dark figure in the distance. He still does not see the car.
Tracy!… Tracy!… Where are you?
GERARD – TRACY
as Gerard still stifles the struggling Tracy, an evil smile spreads over his face. HOLD ON HIM as he watches Quentin. Suddenly, he lets Tracy go. Before she can utter a sound, he viciously slaps her face and leaps into the car.
Danny: None of that happens in the actual movie; Gerard just pushes Tracy out of the car when he sees Quentin.
Danny: The next part is different, too.
Gerard throws on the lights, trapping Quentin in their beam. Then, to the SOUND OF GRINDING GEARS, the car ROARS to life. Quickly, Quentin turns and runs as the car careens after him. Just as it is almost on him, he dives into a ditch as the car hurtles over him, plowing headlong into a stand of trees. As Quentin scrambles to his feet, he sees Gerard running toward the river.
Danny: So, yeah. They didn’t do the car hurtling over David Selby as he cowers in a ditch. That’s possibly because the stuntman already hurt himself driving into a tree, and possibly because it’s an insane idea that they didn’t know how to do. Instead, Gerard drives over a bump and then smashes into a tree for no particular reason.
Danny: I find the editing of the next few shots really confusing, because everyone’s running in the same direction, two of them are wearing similar colored clothes, and everything’s blue.
Having watched the sequence about twenty times, I now understand that Gerard is running away from Quentin, Quentin is chasing Gerard, and Tracy is running after Quentin. When they get to the bridge, Gerard runs to the middle, while Tracy catches Quentin and tries to stop him from running after Gerard. The first nineteen times, I thought it was Tracy running onto the bridge, and then Gerard and Quentin having a scuffle. Anyway, everybody runs and then there’s a knife fight.
John Kenneth Muir (in Horror Films of the 1970s): And Gerard the groundskeeper? He’s another character in service of a bad plot. He goes crazy at the right time to facilitate two necessary action scenes (a car chase and a fist fight). Who is he? Why is he nuts? Who knows! He’s there only to present a physical conflict, because the film could not, apparently, afford a climax featuring a ghost.
Danny: Gosh, it’s a nice day. I wonder what time Dan thinks we’re supposed to think it is?
Danny: I don’t think that there’s been enough critical attention paid to Gerard’s hair in this film. That’s just my opinion.
Famous Monsters of Filmland: Quentin arrives on the scene in time to see sudden death: his wife killing Gerard in self-defense.
Jerry: Hooray, Tracy actually does something to help! Usually women in movies like this just cower. I like Kate Jackson in this film; shame she’s not mentioned on the posters. Neither is Jim Storm.
Danny: Wow, I never noticed that. It says “Starring David Selby, Also Starring Grayson Hall, With John Karlen, Nancy Barrett, Lara Parker.” How is Kate Jackson’s name not on the poster? That’s insane, yet another baffling Night of Dark Shadows mystery.
Darren Gross (in Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood): Gerard’s death scene was originally staged with the character falling from the railroad bridge onto electrified power lines where he is burnt to a crisp. Unfortunately, the Gerard dummies used for the electrocution effect weren’t deemed convincing enough when the dailies were screened, so the death was reshot with Gerard falling to his death on the railroad tracks below.
Danny: Aw, man. Now he has to go be on The Secret Storm, along with Joel Crothers, Kathy Cody, Jerry Lacy, Diana Millay, Clarice Blackburn and Dennis Patrick. That was one of the soap operas that operated as a halfway house for Dark Shadows actors after the cancellation.
Later in the 70s, Dan hired Jim Storm again for a bunch of TV-movies, including Scream of the Wolf, The Invasion of Carol Enders, Trilogy of Terror and The Kansas City Massacre. I haven’t seen any of those because honestly there is a limit of how many Dan Curtis movies you can watch in one lifetime.
There was another MPAA cut here. In the 97-minute version, there’s a closeup of Gerard’s head, all bloody and dead. Then Alex looks down from the bridge at the broken body lying on the railroad tracks, and quips, “Looks like the old Bangor local will be running a little late tonight.” We’ll be coming back to that line later on.
Quentin: Alex, you know there’s only one way we’re going to end all of this.
Danny: Actually, there’s two ways — the way that they shot it, and the way that we see it in the final cut. When they were doing the Big Edit, they knew that they had to cut a huge chunk out of the ending, so they flew David Selby out to LA just to record this little ADR piece, to try to put a band-aid over the gaping wound. It is not super successful.
Quentin: We’ve got to go back in there, and find Carlotta… because she’s the one who’s keeping the spirit alive.
Danny: And there you go, that fixes everything. Now we’re in the basement, which totally makes sense.
Danny: Okay, maybe not. They pretty much shredded the next ten pages of the script, so let’s go back outside and see what we missed.
EXT – RIVER ROAD – NIGHT
Quentin and Tracy are alone together for the first time since the drowning. Alex and Claire can be seen in the B.G. waiting for them. Tracy still sobs as he holds her, comforting her.
I’m sorry, Trace. I’m sorry
for everything that’s happened.
Holding her, he kisses her eyes, her lips as they try to comfort each other.
Oh, please, Quentin… please
don’t go back in that house.
He looks at her, trying to find a way to explain it.
Tracy, try to understand the
way I feel.
Danny: And then we pause, as the audience takes a moment to try to understand the way Quentin feels.
I have such a tenuous
hold on myself that —
But you’re all right now.
You’re all right.
But I don’t know how long I’ll
stay this way. There’s only
one way to end it. We’ve got
to go back in there and face it
She nods. HOLD ON THIS as the two of them cross toward Alex and Claire.
What about Carlotta?
As Alex and Claire cross to meet them.
I don’t think we’ll find her.
They all start up toward the house.
EXT – COLLINWOOD PORTICO – NIGHT
As Quentin, Tracy, Alex and Claire stand near the front door, getting ready to go in. Alex is about to open the front door, when Quentin stops him.
Alex, there’s something in
there we’ve got to find.
What are you talking about?
In a dream I had, Gabriel
threw Charles into a small
dark room. I remember that
when he hit the floor, he
fell over something wooden.
Before I could see what it was,
Gabriel bolted the door.
Do you remember anything else?
No – only a sound, and I can’t
even describe it. But I know
I’ve heard it before.
Well, where do we start?
The room had a heavy iron door —
Danny: And that’s why we’re in the basement. They walk around in the halls a bit, Quentin feels weird, and then the couples split up — Alex and Claire go up to the tower room, and Quentin and Tracy go to the basement.
Tracy: It’s cold down here.
Quentin: Yeah. We’ve got to be fifty feet below the house.
Danny: This was actually shot in the storage cellar underneath the greenhouse.
Danny: And I have to admit, Aubrey had a point; this does ramble on. This is supposed to be the climax, but they wander around silently in the basement for a full minute and a half before anything happens. Even with that dialogue between Quentin and Alex, it’s not clear why Quentin feels like he needs to find this hidden room. It doesn’t actually advance the plot in any way.
And with the last-minute ADR line that Selby recorded about finding Carlotta, this is even more baffling. Why would they think Carlotta’s in the basement? So the audience’s attention just kind of drains away.
Quentin: I’m going to check in there.
Danny: Because obviously you have to split up; it’s only natural that four people searching a haunted house would spread out in all directions.
Danny: So Tracy gets trapped in a room, obviously, and possibly sort of attacked by something?
Danny: Because this, I have to say, is a terribly inefficient way to do whatever Angelique is attempting to do here. She blew out Tracy’s candles and slammed a door shut, and now she’s kind of just slowly approaching with her arms up, and I have to imagine that she’s wondering, Okay, now what do I do? This is a ghost that needs a step two.
Danny: And here’s another big cut. In the original cut, Alex and Claire come downstairs and help Quentin break through the door. They find Tracy on the floor surrounded by that weird ghostly mist that doesn’t do anything, and they chase it away.
THE BRICK WALL – QUENTIN’S P.O.V.
BACK TO SCENE
as they help the still-crying Tracy to her feet, Quentin crosses to the brick wall and stands looking at it. He thinks for a moment, then turns to them.
Alex looks at him.
The brick! That was the sound!
The sound of brick being laid.
Charles Collins is in there!
INT – SMALL ROOM – NIGHT
as Alex and Quentin have just about finished ripping out the brick wall, the large iron door is revealed. Quentin grabs the rusted bolt and unlocks it.
INT – ROUND BURIAL ROOM – NIGHT
as the door opens and light streams in, Quentin and Alex stand silhouetted in the doorway.
THE ROOM – THEIR P.O.V.
The light of their candleabras reveal an aged pine coffin covered with cobwebs and dust. As they ENTER THE SHOT and cross to it, they suddenly see the skeletal remains of Charles Collins. In the B.G., the girls appear at the doorway.
So this is why Samantha [sic] was
laughing at the funeral. They
were burying an empty coffin.
Danny: And then it’s the big seance scene!
Darren Gross (from The Collinsport Historical Society podcast): Sam Hall has said that Aubrey targeted the seance. He specifically had a problem with the seance, and he had a problem with Grayson. He didn’t like her, wasn’t interested in her, wasn’t interested in what she was doing or her character. He thought the movie would be better without her.
Aubrey’s comment about “you didn’t know where to end it,” I think goes to not only just generally the running time, but actually that he felt the movie was over, and it just kept going and going for the seance scene — which is a five-minute scene. So if they needed to cut this much footage, and he was complaining about this five-minute section, then that’s an easy cut you can make.
INT – GALLERY – NIGHT – HIGH ANGLE
The four sit around a table set near the windows. The room is lit by a single candleabra on the table. Quentin sits in the most comfortable chair. Tracy is at his left, Claire at his right. Alex is across from him.
I’m not sure I know what to do.
Just do as we told you. If
Angelique appears for anyone,
it’ll be you.
Quentin looks around the room.
They all begin to concentrate.
GROUP – TRUCKING SHOT
During the following, CAMERA TRUCKS AROUND THE TABLE.
Is there anyone in this house
who wishes to speak with us?…
who has anything to say to us?
We are here to listen to you
… the psychic door is open
for you to enter.
Danny: I have to say, I am entirely with Aubrey on this one. It is way too late in the movie for this bullshit. A seance is something you do in the middle of the movie, to show that it’s actually ghosts and not just a misunderstanding. You don’t throw a dude off a railroad bridge onto electrical wires, and then walk back to the house and open the psychic doors.
INT – TOWER ROOM – NIGHT
as CAMERA begins a LONG, CONTINUOUS TRUCK through the doorway to:
INT – TOWER STAIRS – NIGHT – CONTINUE TRUCKING
INT – THIRD FLOOR STAIRS – NIGHT – CONTINUE TRUCKING
INT – SECOND FLOOR – NIGHT
as CAMERA CONTINUES TO TRUCK DOWN THE CORRIDOR…
Danny: You see what I mean? Come on. Some of us have places to be.
We want to help whoever is
in this house. That is all…
we know you are troubled…
Let us try to help you.
He suddenly stops and looks TOWARD CAMERA. They all look at him. HOLD FOR A MOMENT.
Danny: Sure, take your time.
Is she here? —
As Quentin casts his eyes around the room, he nods his head, “yes.”
I know you’re here, Angelique.
I know you’re with us. Now you
must listen. You must leave us
alone. We know you were not a
witch, that your death was unjust.
We have found your bodies… yours
and Charles’. We have buried them
in holy ground.
Danny: Wait, you did what? When the hell did that happen? Is this still supposed to be the same night? Because hauling people out of the basement and burying them in holy ground usually takes a few minutes per person.
TRUCK IN ON Quentin as he REACTS to something near the top of the room, directly above the table. They follow his gaze as ever so faintly a mist begins to form and take shape. HOLD until we see the faint outline of the face of Angelique.
Come with me.
They all look at him as he REACTS. They do not hear or see it.
What do you hear?
I am not Charles Collins. You
do not love me. Let go of me.
Your spirit is free to leave
this house, never to return
here where you have had such
unhappiness. You and Charles
Finally, the face starts to fade.
Join each other in a world
where there is no death or hatred.
Go with my love. Go forever —
go — go — go.
Just as the mist is about to vanish completely, the moment is shattered by the SOUND of the Music Room shutters flying open and the SHRIEK OF CARLOTTA’S ANGUISHED VOICE.
No! You must not send her
WHIP PAN to Carlotta, who stands in the Music Balcony high on the back wall of the gallery.
I will not let you!
Danny: There’s a tiny clip of this moment, which still survives in the movie trailer.
QUENTIN – CLOSE-UP
as his eyes roll back and he topples from the chair.
WIDEN as the three of them jump to his side.
Get out of this house! Take
him with you if must, but
Danny: By the way, what did Quentin mean when he said, “We know you were not a witch”? Finding Charles and Angelique in the basement doesn’t prove anything one way or the other. As far as I know, there are zero clues in the script or in the finished movie that give the audience any indication of what a witch actually is, or whether Angelique was one. It doesn’t seem like a question that the film is interested in answering at all.
The sad thing is that they didn’t really think much about Angelique as a character. She hardly says anything in the movie, and mostly just scratches people with her fingernails. Earlier in the script, Alex said, “So evil here… so prim over there. The double life of Angelique Collins.” But they didn’t bother to establish the prim side; all we see is a sleepy swinger with a terminal case of bed-head. They basically treat her like a Halloween decoration, and hang her up anywhere they need some visual scare.
Quentin is out cold, as the girls work on him.
Alex stands to face Carlotta.
(calling to her)
Let go of her, Carlotta!
You have no right to hold
No! — no!
You must let her go!
Never! I will never let her go!
Suddenly Carlotta runs from the balcony as Alex, looking at the girls, makes his decision and runs after Carlotta.
Danny: And hey, we’re back in the movie! And here’s “Quentin’s Theme” to welcome us back, which leaves us all tied up at 8 to 8.
The original cut had all that stuff — breaking down the wall, finding Charles’ skeleton and Angelique’s coffin (and burying them off-screen somehow), and the seance and trucking down the corridor and Angelique’s face and Carlotta saying No! and the whole bit.
But in the world that we know now, the movie jumps straight from Angelique making ghost faces at Tracy to here, with Alex running up the tower stairs after Carlotta. And if you find that baffling, then consider this: they kept the greenhouse.
Danny: I think this is still supposed to be day-for-night, but they had to go and bury people, so it’s possible that the sun came up and this is actually day-for-early-morning.
Danny: Okay, pop quiz: why is Angelique on the lawn encouraging Carlotta to jump? There is no answer to that question.
Danny: When Carlotta jumps, she does a kind of tuck and roll forward dive, which is impressive, considering how hard it is to practice jumping off a tower.
Danny: And we take you now to five minutes ago, as we pretend that all of that happened while Quentin was on the other side of the door. As he tries to wake Tracy up, he gives her face a slap, which is a nice little extra taste of spousal abuse.
Danny: Great, now Carlotta’s going to get reincarnated as Barbara Steele.
So it’s time to discuss Alex’s line that was cut by the MPAA. As you recall, Alex looks down at Gerard’s broken body lying on the railroad tracks, and says, “Looks like the old Bangor local will be running a little late tonight.”
The bizarre callousness of that line highlights something weird about the end of the movie — human beings die in this movie, and literally nobody on earth cares. There’s one crumpled body on the tracks, and another on the front lawn. And Gerard’s body would show blunt force trauma to the head, i.e. Tracy smacking him with a piece of wood. These people also found human remains in the middle of the night, and buried them on holy ground, i.e. a nearby churchyard.
There’s a ton of physical evidence that would tie Quentin and Tracy to these suspicious deaths — bloody clothes, the gun, the knife, a bullet hole in the front window, two wrecked cars, whatever clothes and implements they used when they hauled the coffin out of the basement and buried it. Every single one of these people should be held for questioning.
But the movie cuts from a shot of Carlotta’s dead body on the front lawn of the house, straight to the four friends the next morning, chuckling and essentially planning a picnic. Sometimes I think I just don’t get white people.
Danny: But phew, here we are at the end of the film. After several false climaxes, we’ve finally arrived. So now there’s only — wait, there’s six minutes left? Jesus Christ.
I would like to propose that this is the point when James Aubrey snapped, and decided that Dan needed to cut the movie down. As Sam Hall described the screening for MGM executives, “The film just seemed to go on and on and on. I started slinking down in my seat more and more as it went on.”
In the original cut that Aubrey screened, there are six different points that would have felt like the movie was about to end:
#1. Gerard dies, everyone goes home.
#2. Tracy is menaced by Angelique in the basement, possibly leading to a face-off between Quentin’s two lovers.
#3. Quentin and Alex discover Charles’ skeleton and Angelique’s coffin.
#4. Angelique appears at the seance.
#5. Carlotta dies, everyone packs up the car.
#6. The actual ending.
In the released film, there’s ten minutes between #1 and #6. In the original cut, that would have been nineteen minutes. So Aubrey is sitting there for almost twenty minutes, saying for fuck’s sake, how long does this go on? I’m a busy man, I have a movie studio to destroy. So that’s why he insisted on cutting the seance.
Alex: You know, I never told you how worried I really was.
Danny: What do you mean, why? Because of — oh, never mind.
Alex: Cause I had this funny feeling it was really you keeping her spirit alive.
Quentin: Well, I’m glad you were wrong.
Danny: Yeah, that’s not a thing, by the way. The only time they mentioned the concept of someone keeping Angelique’s spirit alive was in the extra line that Selby recorded when they were doing the Big Edit: “We’ve got to go back in there, and find Carlotta… because she’s the one who’s keeping the spirit alive.” In the original script, the only time they discuss who’s keeping the spirit alive is right now.
Danny: Quentin and Tracy are driving together, so they’re playing “Joanna” again. That makes it 9 to 8, with Joanna in the lead. But the game’s not over, stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion.
Tracy: What are you doing?
Quentin: I have to pick up my canvases.
Barb: And I almost forgot my copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
Allison: Best thing to do after escaping a murder house is to head right back in.
Quentin: Just take a minute.
Danny: Okay, take your time. We’ll wait here with James Aubrey, plotting your destruction.
Famous Monsters of Filmland: Quentin and his bride have had enough. They prepare to leave Collinwood with Claire & Alex Jenkins. But — one last thing — Quentin returns to the room to get his paintings. He should not have.
Laramie: So they’re leaving with the knowledge that ghosts are real, and reincarnation is real, and possession is real. And what do you do with that?
Katya: You leave your fucking painting, and GTFO!
Laramie: Now we know.
Katya: That’s what you do!
Danny: So here’s a tip for filmmakers who have dragged their ending out beyond human endurance: don’t show us someone getting impatient, especially if there’s a fuming studio exec at the screening.
Danny: Dan used this sequence again, in his 1976 movie Burnt Offerings. In that case, it’s the wife who goes back into the haunted house to say goodbye to the ghost, while her husband and child wait outside. In that movie, the sequence is 13 minutes long, and it involves the husband flying out of an upstairs window and falling face-first into the car windshield, showering his son with blood and glass. Then the kid is crushed by an exploding chimney. So Night of Dark Shadows could have been worse.
Tracy: Quentin? Quentin, what’s taking you so long?
Danny: Night of Dark Shadows made money, by the way. They had a $900,000 budget, and they made $1.4 million. House of Dark Shadows made about $1.8 million, Burnt Offerings got $1.6 million, and The Haunted Palace earned $1.2 million. Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows movie made $246 million.
Tracy: Quentin, what’s the matter?
Barb: He’s limping, you can outrun him! Run, Tracy, run!
Tracy: Why are you limping? What happened?
Danny: You’d think that now Charles has a new body to inhabit, he wouldn’t have to limp anymore. Isn’t that one of the features of upgrading to the new model?
Robert: Angelique’s final appearance seems awkward. She isn’t creeping in with purpose; she enters as if she’s just looking for a magazine to read.
Tracy: Oh, no. Oh, God, no! No! No! No! No! No!
Tracy: No! No! No! No! No!
Jerry: Well, at least Charles and Angelique get a happy ending. Too bad they have to wait until Carlotta and Gerard get reincarnated to have some servants.
Danny: Right, and then you have to wait until they get old enough to do the dishes. This place is going to be a mess.
Melissa: Dan “kill ’em all” Curtis really got his way this go-round. There are even fewer survivors than House of Dark Shadows.
Danny: They misspelled Claire’s name in this UPI report, sadly. The report says Clair Jenkins, but the credits say Claire.
At this point, “Joanna” comes back for a triumphant lap around the track. The final score is Joanna: 10, Quentin’s Theme: 8.
Danny: And a little trivia note about Alex and Claire’s best-known novel, The Ghost at Corinth Bend. Corinth Bend was first mentioned on Dark Shadows in episode 912; it’s a fishing village on the outskirts of Rockport, where Harrison Monroe lived. In episode 1133, it’s mentioned that Joanna Mills’ brother Frank was killed in a strange accident near Corinth Bend.
Danny: And so, as Night of Dark Shadows disappears in a cloud of thick white smoke, I’m going to be honest with you about the chances of Warner Home Video releasing Darren Gross’ Night of Dark Shadows restoration: it’s not going to happen.
Yes, it would be cool for you and me, and another several thousand Dark Shadows fans who would buy it mostly out of curiosity, but Warner Home Video doesn’t release things willy nilly. They’re a division of the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group, and if they go around remastering things that people don’t want to buy, then all the other divisions get together and make snide remarks. Just imagine how Warner Bros. Digital would react; Warner Home Video would never hear the end of it.
And Warner has a pretty good idea of how many people would buy a restored Night of Dark Shadows video, because they released a regular Night of Dark Shadows video in 2012, right around the time that Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows film came out. If Warner wasn’t impressed by the sell-through of Night of Dark Shadows in 2012, then they’re not going to put money and time into a special deluxe remastered director’s cut that would sell fewer copies.
Now, I know that somebody in the world is currently thinking, “No, more people would buy the restored version, because it’ll be a better film. It may even find an audience outside the existing Dark Shadows fanbase, because people will finally be able to appreciate it as a classic of the genre.” This person is not living in the real world. It’s still not going to be a good film; there’ll just be more of it. You and I and the other Dark Shadows addicts would buy the DVD, and the other one hundred percent of the people in the world would not. Warner Home Video is correct.
Still, there is hope. Streaming video is changing the rules of the home entertainment delivery system, making it much cheaper and easier to distribute content that you couldn’t hope to sell in physical packaging. Ten years ago, nobody thought that a subscription to Amazon’s postage discount service would eventually give you instantaneous access to every episode of Dark Shadows on demand. The great behemoths of streaming video are already engaging in fierce content wars as they battle for subscriptions and eyeballs; someday a Night of Dark Shadows reconstruction could be a tiny piece of somebody’s battle plan. It doesn’t seem likely, but you never know.
Famous Monsters of Filmland: Well, that about wraps it up. What next — BENEATH THE PLANET OF SHADOWS?
Marc: I’m glad they made the movies. They didn’t know if the TV series would make it to syndication, but motion pictures are always there, and would always point the way back to the original series. They helped to guarantee the lasting legacy of Dark Shadows.
Laramie: It’s a flawed movie and it’ll always be flawed… but I never get tired of it.
Sam Hall: Doing a movie that has an end is a relief.
Tomorrow: The Fall of Man.
— Danny Horn