By Craig Hamrick
House of Dark Shadows
At the peak of public frenzy about his hit TV series Dark Shadows, producer Dan Curtis decided to move the story of the Collins family to the big screen.
He sold MGM on the idea, and set out to retell the basic tale already laid out on TV, which had propelled the show to such success: the unleashing of vampire Barnabas Collins. But while Barnabas was a sympathetic, heroic character on TV, the movie version of the character was a bloodthirsty amoral creature, preying on the rest of the Collins family. He turned Carolyn, Stokes, and Roger into vampires (giving Nancy Barrett, Thayer David, and Louis Edmonds each a chance to don fangs, which they never got to do on the TV show.)
Kathryn Leigh Scott, Dan Curtis, and Jonathan Frid on the set of House of Dark Shadows.
The movie, filmed from March 23 to May 1, 1970, is set in an whole different universe than that of the TV series. Members of the TV cast reprised their roles, but the setting and tone were quite different. Rather than trying to recreate the dark and somber Collinwood from the small-screen version, Curtis moved the action to a more elegant mansion -- a real home-turned-museum in Tarrytown, New York.
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An early cut of HODS featured a scene in which David (David Henesy) pretended to hang himself.
The scene was removed because it was feared that young fans might imitate the dangerous stunt.
Nearly all the HODS cast members were from the TV series cast. (See list, below.) There was one notable exception: Because Clarice Blackburn had left Dark Shadows and was appearing on The Secret Storm, her TV role of housekeeper Mrs. Johnson was assumed by Barbara Cason for the film. Cason had recently married DS regular Dennis Patrick, who played Paul Stoddard on the show and Sheriff Patterson in the film.
While HODS was being filmed, the 1970 Parallel Time storyline was taking place on the TV show. This storyline prominently featured cast members who were not in HODS, including David Selby, Lara Parker, and Christopher Pennock. They would get their big-screen time in the next film.
Fans loved the film, and flocked to theaters. Newspaper critic Joe Rosen described the setting at the screening he attended: "A large claque of girls cheered wildly as the name of each member of the cast was flashed on the screen in the opening credits."
The film didn't fare as well with reviewers:
The New York Times' Roger Greenspun said the movie "really has no subject except it special effects (which aren't very good) and its various shock sequences. Characters are picked up and dropped with an indifference unacceptable even for a soap opera."
Some of the HODS newspaper ads played up the romance between Maggie and Barnabas.
Greenspun mentioned the fact that Joan Bennett's Elizabeth stayed out of the action: "Joan Bennett has the good fortune to settle into a catatonic state early on."
The New York Post said "the transfer to the large screen has magnified all the faults and foolishness."
On the brighter side, The Daily News said fans of the TV show would enjoy the film, and Variety called it "an okay Metro exploitation serial laced with a bit of limp camp."
The Newark Evening News' Don Vaillancourt liked one performance: "The real star of the show turns out to be [Kathryn Leigh] Scott, who plays her love scenes with a good show of tenderness and compassion, yet changes her emotions to plausible shock and fright when she learns what her sweetheart really is."
House of Dark Shadows Cast
Jonathan Frid -- Barnabas Collins
Grayson Hall -- Dr. Julia Hoffman
Joan Bennett -- Elizabeth Collins Stod dard
Kathryn Leigh Scott --Maggie Evans
Roger Davis -- Jeff Clark
Nancy Barrett -- Carolyn Stoddard
John Karlen -- Willie Loomis
Thayer David -- Professor T. Eliot Stokes
Louis Edmonds -- Roger Collins
Donald Briscoe -- Todd Jennings
David Henesy -- David Collins
Dennis Patrick -- Sheriff George Patterson
Lisa Blake Richards -- Daphne Budd
Jerry Lacy -- Minister
Barbara Cason -- Mrs. Johnson
Paul Michael -- Old Man
Humbert Allen Astredo -- Dr. Forbes
Terry Crawford -- Todd’s Nurse
Michael Stroka -- Pallbearer
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Dark Shadows © Dan Curtis Productions. All rights reserved.
Dark Shadows Online © 2004 Craig Hamrick.