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Jeff A. Ferrell
House Of Dark Shadows, based on the very popular TV Gothic soap opera, follows the life (or is that AFTERlife) of Barnabas Collins. Recently unleashed from his coffin by local drunk, Willie Loomis, the vampire (Barnabas) goes on a killing spree, while at the same time charming his present day family members. In the process he meets local girl Maggie Evans and notices that she looks exactly like his deceased fiance Josette. Barnabas assumes that she is the reincarnation of Josette, and plans to make him his unholy bride for eternity. Written by
Nate Gardner <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"House of Dark Shadows", the first feature based on the fondly remembered Gothic soap opera is both exciting and schlocky - sometimes concurrently. Director Dan Curtis (on a very low budget) took what on television was an extremely lengthy introduction and history of the Barnabas Collins character and crammed all he could of it into a 96 minute film. Most of the television cast are here to recreate their parts, chief among them Jonathan Frid as everyone's favorite Vampire. When surly caretaker Willie Loomis (John Karlen) foolishly frees him from his coffin where he has been sleeping for almost 200 years, Barnabas heads for the Collins family mansion and introduces himself as a cousin from England. Both the matriarch of the family, Elizabeth Stoddard (Joan Bennett) and her brother Roger Collins (Louis Edmonds) welcome him and immediately install him in the "old house" which, in fact, is Barnabas' original home. Though the plot has a few twists not seen in the series, the story is still pretty familiar.Sure enough, Barnabas soon has his way with Elizabeth's daughter Carolyn (Nancy Barrett)and she becomes one of his first victims. Although such familiar characters as Professor Stokes (Thayer David) Jeff Clark (Roger Davis) young David Collins (David Henesy) and Todd Jennings (Donald Briscoe) appear, their functions are relatively brief. The two chief supporting females upon whom the plot really turns are Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott) the beautiful governess who bears a striking resemblance to Josette Du Pres, Barnabas' first love, and Dr. Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall) an old family friend writing a history of the Collins family. For seemingly different reasons, both are attracted to Barnabas, and both get more than they bargained for when they become involved with him. The film is fast-paced, predictably gory, and occasionally unintentionally humorous, with loopholes big enough to drive a hearse through. Fans of the show will have a definite edge over new viewers because little is done to introduce the uninitiated to the characters (most of whom quickly go under the tooth anyway) and background of the story.It's also a shame that the still-beautiful Bennett has little to do. Still, it's sincerely acted by all, boasts a superior score by Robert Cobert (much of it recycled from the series),and some beautiful photography. "House of Dark Shadows" is one place you'll want to explore.
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