Wednesday, October 24, 2012

House of Dark Shadows

I meant to watch this 1970 feature film while I was watching the episodes of the Dark Shadows TV series a few  months back, but then decided to save it for Halloween season. I'm glad that I did now, because it was fun to see the cast of Dark Shadows again after a little time had passed.
   House of Dark Shadows is sort of an abridgement of the series, retelling events that took weeks or months to pass on the daily soap opera in less than two hours. The basic story is the same, vampire Barnabas Collins is released from his 150 year imprisonment in a chained coffin by handyman Willie Loomis who is searching the Collins family crypt for jewels rumored to be hidden there. Barnabas makes Willie his thrall and sets about establishing himself to the Collins family as a distant cousin from England.
   Here's where things go a bit off trail though, as the movie isn't a sequel to the series, but rather a re-imagining, almost a parallel universe to the show which was still on the air. Characters die who are still just fine on TV and plotlines run off in unexpected directions.
   What was rather strange for me was seeing the familiar faces in a whole new setting. The TV show Dark Shadows was notorious for its low budget and shaky sets. House of Dark Shadows is filmed mostly on location in a real house and in several outdoor settings. Not that house had a huge budget, but it looks so different as compared to the show that it comes as something of a shock.The movie is also much more gory than the show. There's a lot of blood.
   Another thing that struck me as odd was the fact that the actors were allowed retakes, so the constant flubbing of lines, which the show was famous for, doesn't occur here. Nice to see what the actors could do given time and a bit better production values.
   Now here's the weird thing. The movie was made because the TV show had become a runaway hit, but according to some Dark Shadows fans, it was the movie that ultimately killed the show because the principle actors were away from the show for several weeks filming the movie. The show lost momentum without its star, Jonathan Frid, and never quite got it back. Add that to a couple of weak storylines and the show faltered and eventually failed.
   Anyway, it was fun visiting the folks at Collinwood again, even in a slightly altered fashion. I haven't quite worked up the nerve to watch the Johnny Depp version yet. Maybe soon.


Paul R. McNamee said...

Sounds akin to the Doctor Who movies they made with Peter Cushing in the 1960s. Though, those did not use any of the actors from the t.v. show. But the movies were made and released even as the show continued.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Excellent comparison, Paul. It is a lot like that. I thought of a plot for an episode of the current Doctor Who series that would explain how those two movies actually connect to the series. Might have to write that at some point just for fun.

Brett Brooks said...

They are showing this film on TCM this Wednesday afternoon, for anyone who doesn't have the dvd. :)