Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Movie Review - Night of Dark Shadows

After the success of House of Dark Shadows, MGM greenlit a sequel Curse of Dark Shadows. By the time production near, the soap series was canceled by ABC and actor Jonathan Frid didn’t want to return as fear of being typecast. Therefore, the co-writer and director Dan Curtis (creator of Dark Shadows) changed the title to Night of Dark Shadows and focused the main character onto Quentin Collins (played by David Selby), whom was absent from the previous film. This time the plot didn’t involve vampires, but returned to Dark Shadows original theme of ghosts.

    Quentin Collins along with his wife Tracy (played by Kate Jackson) arrives at their newly-inherited estate, Collinwood, as most of the Collins were killed in the previous film. Actress Grayson Hall returns, but she’s playing a new role as the housekeeper Carlotta Drake. The couple is introduced to her and the caretaker Gerard Stiles. There is no mentioned of the events that happened in House of Dark Shadows.

    The couple’s novelists’ friends Alex and Claire Jenkins (Played by returning actors John Karlen and Nancy Barrett, but in different roles.) move into the small cottage that is located on the estate. Quentin soon has weird and realistic dreams about his ancestor Charles Collins, who had an affair with Angelique (Once again played by actress Lara Parker.). Upon hearing about his dreams, Carlotta tells him that she is the reincarnation of Sarah Castle, a girl who once lived at Collinwood, and that he is the reincarnation of Charles Collins. Charles had a passionate affair with his brother’s wife, Angelique. Because of their actions, Angelique was hanged and Charles was buried alive in her crypt.

    Quentin becomes possessed by the spirit of Charles Collins and tries to drown Tracy. Meanwhile, the ghost of Angelique is haunting everyone.

    The Night of Dark Shadows was somewhat inspired by the Angelique storyline, minus her being a witch, and the 1970 parallel timeline episodes. With the Dark Shadows serial being cancelled, MGM had lost faith with the movie. With hardly little notice, less than twenty-four hours, the executives forced Dan Curtis to cut the movie down so it could be aired in midnight double features. In today’s words the movie was being sent straight-to-video. The result was the original 129 minutes running time being cut to 95 minutes. The final result left the main plot confusing, the characters one dimensional, and overall the movie looses its coherence.

    The heart of the movie is a gothic romantic novel. The scenes with the stunning Lara Parker are my favorites, but I would have liked it if Dan had left her a witch. But then again, I like that Dan used the basic ghost plot from the original year of the Dark Shadows serial. There is some good news. Back in 1999 the lost 35 minutes (16 scenes) were recovered, but with no surviving audio. Since then Warner Bros. (who is producing the remake) has bought both the movie’s rights. They are restoring the movie to its original 129 minutes length along with new audio that has been created with the surviving actors. It is planned to be released along with House of Dark Shadows six months after the release of the remake, so hopefully they’ll be out by the end of the year.

    Despite Night of Dark Shadows being heavily edited, I enjoyed Dan Curtis's attempt at the dark ghostly gothic romance, in which he's trying to do things he couldn’t do on television at the time. Sadly, the movie was a complete flop and there was never a third movie made. If you can’t wait until the DVD release, the movie, along with the first, are occasionally aired on TCM and Chiller.

Night of Dark Shadows Trailer

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