|Barnabas Collins (with Carolyn|
Collins in background).
The film opens with unemployed handyman Willie Loomis, a modern-day Renfield, inadvertently unleashing vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid). Freed from decades of captivity in his coffin, Barnabas makes a house call on the wealthy Collins family, introducing himself as a cousin from England. The family welcomes the charming Barnabas, who presents matriarch Elizabeth (Joan Bennett) with a thought-to-be-lost, emerald-encrusted heirloom. Yet, while everyone else is enamored with the newly-discovered, gift-giving cousin, Professor Eliot Stokes (Thayer David) becomes immediately suspicious when the vampire avoids some pointed questions.
|Kathryn Leigh Scott has written|
several Dark Shadows books.
Fans of the TV series will quickly recognize that the first 75 minutes of House of Dark Shadows condenses the TV show's familiar plot. However, to create an acceptable climax (and perhaps reward fans with some new material), producer-director Dan Curtis opts for a dramatic--and surprisingly bloody--ending. The truncated storyline also means that several popular characters only get a few minutes of screen time. Still, the focus on Barnabas works to the film's advantage, since Frid's nuanced performance is what made the show a hit in the first place.
|Grayson Hall received an Oscar nom|
for Night of the Iguana.
For non-fans, House of Dark Shadows is a straightforward horror film released in the same year as another contemporary vampire outing, Count Yorga, Vampire. The Dark Shadows script has some bite (sorry!), such as when Carolyn (soon to be a vampire) tells Barnabas: "There's so much about you that I'm dying to know." One must also admire how the film avoids the whole "there are no such thing as vampires" discussion. Once Professor Stokes proclaims a vampire is to blame, everyone seems to accept that theory. (Of course, the townsfolk--except for Stokes--are slow to connect Barnabas's arrival with the sudden appearance of the bloodsucker).
|Jonathan Frid in Dick Smith make-up|
as the aged Barnabas.
That was not the end of Dark Shadows, of course, which has been released on video, revived multiple times for television, and recently turned into a campy motion picture by Tim Burton. The simple fact is that you can't keep a great vampire like Barnabas Collins down for long.