Category Archives: Dan Curtis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time Travel, part 6: One Giant Leap


Today’s episode of Dark Shadows did not air on July 21st, 1969, because over the weekend, a couple of crazy kids from the Kennedy Space Center went and landed a rocket ship on the entire moon. This amazing stunt was picked up by the press somehow — I guess they had viral videos back then — and there was continuous commercial-free coverage of the event on all three networks for 34 straight hours.

The Eagle landed on the moon on Sunday afternoon Eastern time, and on Sunday night, Neil Armstrong was the first person to step onto the surface of the moon. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left the moon on Monday afternoon, and at the time that Dark Shadows would have been on the air, the Eagle was approaching Command Module Columbia to prepare for the return trip to Earth.

ABC got hammered, by the way. All three networks were showing basically the same thing, but CBS had Walter Cronkite, who was that most elusive of creatures, a respected television news anchor. They also had a scale model of the lunar module, and a seven foot long conveyer belt so they could simulate what it would look like for the astronauts orbiting the moon. But mostly they had Cronkite, for 32 of the 34 hours of coverage. Apparently his keepers at CBS wouldn’t let him sleep.

So CBS got a 45 share of the viewing public, NBC got a 34 share, and ABC had a 14 share. Each network invested 1.5 million dollars to broadcast the mission, and they couldn’t run commercials in case something blew up or they found a moon monster. So ABC lost a lot of money, and everybody was watching Cronkite anyway. They might as well have showed Dark Shadows.

I wonder, on that sunny Monday afternoon, if there were any kids staring at the scale models pretending to dock with each other, and thinking, Come onnnnnn! They just ripped off Count Petofi’s hand on Friday! Enough already with the moon! I probably would have thought that, but I’m bad at priorities.

Continue reading Time Travel, part 6: One Giant Leap

Time Travel, part 4: I Was Just Noticing Your Harpoon Collection

“She’s not like other people. She never was.”

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s not actually Thanksgiving for me, and it’s probably not Thanksgiving for you, but it is for the housewives, teenagers, assorted mental cases and inadequately supervised middle schoolers who make up the 1968 Dark Shadows audience.

On pre-emption days, I take a look at the 1991 Dark Shadows revival series, because apparently I don’t know what’s good for me. Here’s the rundown so far:

Episode 1 : Mostly gimmick shots, indoor mist, no clear idea what the purpose or tone of the show should be.

Episode 2 : Mostly about sweat and sexy biting time, including several ideas borrowed from House of Dark Shadows which weren’t even good the first time.

Episode 3 : Hot tentacles stretch upwards.

Okay, is everybody oriented now? Happy Thanksgiving. Let’s begin.

Continue reading Time Travel, part 4: I Was Just Noticing Your Harpoon Collection

Time Travel, part 1: Mist Opportunities

“I’m just glad to be here.”

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Thursday’s episode of Dark Shadows was pre-empted this week, so ABC could air football on Thanksgiving afternoon. I want the blog to keep the Monday-to-Friday rhythm of the original broadcast, so today, the normal blog entry is pre-empted by our own Thanksgiving treat.

Today, we’re going to do some time travel, fast-forwarding to the mysterious far-off year of 1991. It’s a Sunday night in January, and NBC is airing the prime-time remake of Dark Shadows. This first episode is a two-hour journey into the unknown, so let’s get started…

Continue reading Time Travel, part 1: Mist Opportunities