"Barnabas Collins, vampire, takes a bride in a bizarre act of unnatural love. Come and see how the vampires do it. House of Dark Shadows. Nobody lives there."
John: Right off the bat (pun intended?), I noticed a more robust opening theme from Robert Cobert. And an underscore reminiscent to his Burnt Offering foreboding theme — PLUS a bit of Blue Whale rock and roll!
Christine: According to The Dark Shadows Movie Book, Cobert wanted to compose original music for the movie, but Dan Curtis insisted on using music from the show. The opening theme was boosted by extra bass and echo. I love that Blue Whale music is playing on David's hi-fi.
John: Watching all the cast members names come up is a welcome surprise, too! I didn't realize that so many familiar faces long gone from the show would be appearing!
Christine: No doubt they had to supplement with DS alumni since a cohort of actors remained on set for the daily taping of the Parallel Time storyline on the show, but it is certainly nice to see past cast members involved.
John: Lots of great introductions! Willie lurking in the shadows... Roger showing up just in time to shout at him for bothering Maggie...
Christine: Willie is back to being the creep we first encountered on the show and David is once again the wicked little boy who locks his governesses in abandoned buildings and leaves them to die. Those early episodes certainly were special.
John: Wow! It's so different to see something shot on film for a change, but even more impressive is shooting in actual locations! Talk about some great production values. I don't know what I was expecting, but for some reason I was thinking we'd still be seeing some of the same sets we've become so familiar with. What a welcome change of pace. We even get to see the ceilings of some of these actual locations!
Christine: Many scenes were filmed at the historical Lyndhurst estate. Be sure to check out the virtual tours of Lyndhurst and look for the places where scenes were shot, and some of the antique pieces that can be seen in the movie.
John: Dan Curtis certainly doesn't waste any time cutting right to the chase — getting Willie Loomis into the Collins family crypt within moments of the credits wrapping up. And Barnabas doesn't disappoint, delivering the out of the coffin open-throat grab.
Christine: After perusing the script from TDSMB, there was quite a bit of film edited before that scene, including Maggie finding David's corpse hanging in the closet, that disappears once she rallies the rest of the family. I sure wish there was an uncut version of this film, but the edited pieces were presumably thrown out, making the shooting script a worthwhile read.
John: So our modern-day Daphne is portrayed by the gal who played Sabrina Stuart. When she steps out and hears a dog howling, I thought we might be getting werewolves, too, but I knew better than that. When she became Barnabas' first victim, I wasn't sure if she was going to last long into the film.
Christine: She had me thinking of Barbra running away from the zombie at the beginning of Night of the Living Dead. I was just waiting for one of her shoes to come off and then see Barnabas smash the car window with a rock, so it was quite a shock when he easily opened the door and grabbed her by the throat. Let that be a lesson to always keep your car doors locked!
John: NO! Jeff Clark! I guess we can't be too picky about who shows up in the film... And how about that gash on Daphne's neck! Definitely too gory for television.
Christine: Dan Curtis is pulling out all the stops for his film directorial debut.
John: David spying on his mother and sister reminded me of the scenes of Joan Bennet in Suspiria.
Christine: I'm happy to see Don Briscoe again. He was one of my favorite vampires on the show.
John: Nice shot of Daphne through the bedframe. And that's Dennis Patrick as the sheriff! Playing a law enforcement officer sure is a long way from Jason Maguire and Paul Stoddard! I also guess it makes sense that Julia is already involved with the Collins clan.
John: I like how Willie shields Barnabas from view when Carolyn sees him in the bar. Despite the viewers knowing that it has to be him, they do a great job of saving his reveal until he's in front of the portrait. And speaking of portraits, it looks like there are more than just family member's portraits in this version of Collinwood.
Christine: Some of the paintings are part of the Lyndhurst collection. The first portrait seen when Barnabas enters is Jay Gould, who purchased the estate in 1880, though he could pass for town founder, Isaac Collins. The portrait of Barnabas has me mystified. You'll recall that the original portrait went missing during filming of the movie. This appears to be the original, but the face on Barnabas, as well as the medallion around his neck appear to have been altered. It is certainly not the portrait that replaced the original that is seen in Episode 1008. Perhaps the original portrait of Barnabas is hidden away somewhere at Lyndhurst castle.
John: Poor Carolyn! No sooner than Barnabas puts the bite on her and he gets his first look a Maggie. I love how he tries to convince Maggie to stay, mere minutes after meeting her for the first time. Of course, from Maggie's perspective, given the choice between Jeff Clark and a 200 year-old vampire, odds are I'd choose the vampire, too.
Christine: It's nice to hear Josette's music box again and see that the portrait of Josette actually looks like Maggie Evans, making it more believable that she could be the reincarnation of Josette.
John: What a nice twist to see Carolyn die of Barnabas' anger-bite! And a Trask/priest introduction! Not to mention Aristede/Bruno/Lazlo at the funeral!
Christine: Barnabas is certainly not the reluctant vampire in this version. I would have been shocked to see that Carolyn had died if the movie trailer hadn't already given it away! Perhaps they thought they needed to soften the blow for fans of the show.
John: It was cool to have Stokes and Julia partner up. And perfect timing that he pitches his vampirism theory on her just as she's isolated a vampire-germ — something right out of I Am Legend!
Christine: Nice to see one of our friendly skulls hanging about on the windowsill behind Julia.
John: I got a good laugh out of David falling and knocking himself out in the empty swimming pool. But I also liked his being haunted by his dead sister.
Christine: Ouch! That looked like it hurt! I wonder if the spooky Lyndhurst pool inspired the evil pool shenanigans in Burnt Offerings.
John: I have to admit, I was a little disappointed not to see one particular old standby, Mrs. Johnson portrayed by the actress from the show.
Christine: Clarice Blackburn was busy working on the soap opera, Secret Storm, so the role was played by Dennis Patrick's wife, Barbara Cason. It would have been nice if she could have been on hand to round out the cast reunion.
John: Such a welcome visual to see real people exiting real, full-size coffins. It's also kind of cool that Collinsport should soon be full of vampires, between Daphne, Carolyn, Todd, Willie, and ringleader Barnabas!
Christine: The vampire germ is certainly spreading rapidly.
John: Isn't it odd not to have Julia in love with Barnabas?
Christine: Give her time...
John: What a great showdown between the cross-wielding cops and Carolyn, not to mention the great staking by Professor Stokes! More ghastly than anything we've seen in the show.
Christine: Things are moving right along in this film! The staking was a great scene, that apparently took a number of takes to get right. Carolyn certainly was a scary vampire.
John: I love how after Carolyn is staked, Julia offers to help Barnabas! I also find it amusing how she promises him a normal life, and how quickly he signs up for her little experiment. Of course, that seems to be all she needs to develop her feelings towards him. So funny that the next scene he's on a date with Maggie.
Christine: There was a scene included in the script that has Julia and Barnabas strolling in the moonlight together, having spent nights together for a month, which might make it more reasonable that she would develop feelings for him.
John: I was a little surprised to see David relegated to a supporting role.
Christine: He does have a few more scenes in the script, as does Jeff Clark, that did not make the final cut.
John: Willie's caning is better than any of the ones seen in the series, too! Stokes seeing Barnabas in the daylight was not too far removed from the scene we recently saw where Gerard encounters Barnabas during the daytime in 1840 in the show. Of course it was nice to see Stokes run right to Julia to accuse her of helping Barnabas; pointing out that while she's obviously in love with him, he will only ever love Maggie!
Christine: That was a brutal beating! Everything has certainly been taken up a notch. Stokes raises the interesting argument of whether Barnabas is truly a monster, as he sees it, or an unfortunate victim of disease in need of curing, as Julia believes.
John: I enjoyed Maggie and Barnabas' daylight stroll, on location, and yet under the watchful eye of Julia atop the parapet!
John: Why on Earth would Barnabas want to rush his treatment just to marry Maggie? At least film Barnabas caught a clue, realizing that Julia was in love with him. And having his aging triggered by her deliberate action is brilliant... which leads to his attacking her, and then attacking Maggie as well! Kudos to Dick Smith on some nice make-up on Old-Barny... in particular that wild hair of his!
Christine: I think Barnabas wants to accelerate his treatment so that he can marry Maggie before Jeff Clark can reappear to take her away from him. After seeing him throttle Julia time and time again, it was unexpected to see him choke her to death and then turn and savage Maggie's throat. So, it would seem that Stokes was right that he is more monster than victim.
John: I was really hoping that Humbert Allen Astredo would say, "I'm a warlock, not a doctor, dammit!"
Christine: Very funny! His scene was too short, though there was not much else he could do, short of giving her a blood transfusion.
John: I love how Stokes has figured everything out, and then he and Roger deliver a nice summation of Collins family history!
Christine: There's not much sympathy for Dr. Hoffman here, giving the impression that they believe she got what was coming to her.
John: Did you notice George Dicenzo guarding Maggie Evans when old vampire Barnabas shows up? Do you suppose old-Barny's eyesight was so bad that he didn't notice all of the crosses in the room? I'm not going to lie, I was a little disappointed when he reverted to young-Barnabas again. Hard to beat the creepy-factor of a wild-haired wrinkly vampire.
Christine: The chomping and squelching sounds he made while feeding on her were pretty disturbing.
John: What's up with sending Jeff Clark on a solo boat tour? And then I thought since they had David hanging around him (sans dialog), he'd be along for the ride.
Christine: David was not included in that scene with the Sheriff in the script. I wonder if David Henesy just decided to show up on set.
John: It was a pleasant surprise to see Stokes the 'unexpected' vampire attack Jeff, though he really should have seen that coming when Stokes oversells his search as unsuccessful.
Christine: At this point I have to wonder if Roger, Liz, and everyone else at Collinwood have all become vampires.
John: It was nice to hear a fresh rendition of one of the most overused Dark Shadows music cues as Jeff approached the old house, followed by the staking of vampire-Roger! Can anyone survive the House of Dark Shadows?
Christine: As the trailer informed us, "nobody lives there."
John: How could one not anticipate a red wedding for Barnabas and Josette (Maggie)... I love how Willie takes a crossbow bolt to save Barnabas, not unlike a secret service agent jumping in front of a bullet intended for the president. I can't say I wasn't too excited about Jeff being in the Van Helsing role in this story, so it was a pleasant turn of events when Willie was the one to initially drive the stake through Barnabas (even if they allowed Jeff the final push).
Christine: In the script, Willie just happened to be passing in front of Barnabas at the wrong moment to hand him a chalice when he took the crossbow hit. I think that would have made more sense. Why would Willie sacrifice himself for Barnabas and then turn around and do him in? Still, it was a lovely dark gothic wedding.
John: Gotta love how they had the bat fly away at the end... leaving things wide open for a sequel.
Christine: Too bad Jonathan Frid decided to retire his fangs. It would have been awesome to have had a movie version of the 1795 vampire origin storyline with Angelique and Josette come next.
John: For a story that moves along like a runaway train, House of Dark Shadows certainly ends abruptly! While I had seen it before, watching it in the wake of four and a half years of the TV show provides a completely different viewing experience. I have a completely new appreciation for the film. I never realized just how much of the original cast of the show turned out to populate the film, since my exposure to the show was previously limited to some of the main storylines referenced in the film, and the key Collins family members who were around at that time. It plays like a highly concentrated version of the story, perhaps too concentrated at times, with all they manage to squeeze into 97 minutes, but with the benefit of significantly higher production values. I do think that had I seen the film before sitting down to watch the entire show, it might have made the series much harder to appreciate, as it likely would have come across as a bit of a low-rent, watered down version of the story stretched out across months!
Christine: It's hard to divorce myself from four years of Collinwood history to determine whether or not this is a good standalone vampire flick for someone with no experience with the show, but I believe it is. Its fast pace and high death toll, along with the copious amounts of garish red blood, spooky scenes and location shots puts it on par with some of the Hammer horror films of the day. I enjoyed House of Dark Shadows and look forward to seeing Night of Dark Shadows once we wrap up the series. I do recommend The Dark Shadows Movie Book to anyone interested in reading the un-cut original scripts and learning more about the movies through cast member reflections, publicity photos and more. Kathryn Leigh Scott still has some "slightly dinged-up" copies for sale at her website (be sure to tell her that your pals at Dark Shadows Before I Die sent you!-JS), and she is just as lovely to do business with as you would expect.
If you've read this far, spoilers are pretty much out the window, so go ahead and check out the trailer, which makes no effort to avoid spoiling much of the film!