House of Dark Shadows / Night of Dark Shadows Dan Curtis

House of Dark Shadows / Night of Dark ShadowsDan Curtis
With its darkly gothic recasting of the even then antiquated soap opera format in the '60s, T.V. series Dark Shadows paved the way for the likes of Twin Peaks, among other unorthodox reimaginings of the classic tropes of horror over the last 40 or so years. Now on Blu-Ray are the two big-screen adaptations of the show, made in 1970 and 1971, respectively, by series creator Dan Curtis. Those coming to the movies from the recent Johnny Depp/Tim Burton remake may be startled by their grimness and powerful sense of menace. There's no groovy '70s kitsch here, as the makers are more interested in updating the conventions of classic horror at a new pitch of intensity, in a manner reminiscent of the Hammer horror films of the era. Also, Curtis clearly revels in the license the big screen affords for ferocious, intense violence, compared to what ABC would allow. This alone might justify the fact that House of Dark Shadows is essentially a remake of the show's second season, in which vampire antihero Barnabas Collins is released from his coffin, arrives at the family estate and immediately falls in love with Maggie, whom he believes to be the reincarnation of his centuries-lost love, Josette. Along the way, he cuts a swathe through the household, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake, some of which return, of course, ready to suck the blood of the living. Wilfully preposterous as it is, with gaping plot holes reminding us that a year of television has been crammed into 90 minutes, House of Dark Shadows works nevertheless, helped considerably by the utter conviction of the performers, with Canada's Jonathan Frid rating special mention for his indelible portrayal of the saturnine, but strangely likeable Barnabas. Night of Dark Shadows is another animal altogether. Here, the show's other main male star is featured — a very good David Selby, as Quentin Collins. Collins turns up at the estate with new bride Tracy, only to find himself haunted by the ghost of the long-dead Angelique, who was hung as a witch and the mistress of his ancestor, Charles Collins. Gradually, his personality is taken over by the ghost of his long-dead blood relation and Tracy (a very young Kate Jackson) becomes a target. While a more measured and elegant film than House of Dark Shadows, Night of Dark Shadows delivers the shocks, even though the extensive cutting mandated by the studio leaves the film barely on the edge of coherence. This is a worthwhile pair of films for cultists and newcomers to the Dark Shadows universe alike. The only extras are the films' suitably hyperbolic trailers. (Warner)