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In 1975 I was a freelance writer in New York. During that year I was honored
to interview stage and screen actress and one of the stars from Dark
Shadows, Grayson Hall.
It was during this interview that I learned why NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS was
such a bad film.
The late Ms. Hall related a story which told of how MGM called her husband, "Dark Shadows writer" Sam Hall and told him that he would have to fly out to California and edit out nearly 30 min. from his latest film. After his sad task was done he returned home and shortly thereafter the film was released. It was not up to the standards the the series nor MGM's hit from just the year before "House of Dark Shadows" had. The idea was excellent. Dialog well written, stylishly photographed and wonderful performances from the cast. The problem was the fact that the feature made little sense. It plotted along for 90 min's filled with questions and vagueness.
However, the good news is that most of the edited footage has been found and is now in the process of being re-edited. Night of Dark Shadows, through the popularity of the series, is in a sense going to be re-born. Sam Hall's work shall now be seen as it was created. Perhaps then we will be able to appreciate this classic haunted house story, the way it should be, without studio butchering.
This is a film that simply must be restored. Approx. 1/3 of it's footage was left on the cutting room floor. If it seems incoherent at times, that's why. Even in it's truncated condition, it's a fine, moody piece and holds together surprisingly well. How many other movies could we say that about?
Perhaps few fans would agree, but I actually find this a more satisfying
film than the predecessor, House of Dark Shadows. The script is more
interesting--even with all the cuts (depending upon which version of the
original script you consult, something like an hour of the final cut
time was excised, and MGM only gave Sam Hall and Dan Curtis one working
to make the cuts). There is still more character development in this film
than in House of Dark Shadows. The cast is excellent, with a great
chemistry, thanks to the fact that they had all worked together for
years on Dark Shadows as an ensemble before they made this film.
include the young David Selby in the dual role as Quentin and Charles,
Parker as the evil Angelique, and John Karlen and Nancy Barrett in minimal
roles as the young couple in the cottage. Grayson Hall is, as always, in
league of her own as Carlotta Drake, the Mrs Danvers-like housekeeper.
her elegant wardrobe and sinister glances, Grayson gives this film an
alluring atmosphere of lingering evil waiting to pounce upon the bored and
feckless yuppies who stumble into her web. Thayer David makes a great
out of the small role of Reverend Strack. James Storm is pretty much
in the role of Gerard. Diana Millay, Clarice Blackburn, and Christopher
Pennock have memorable little cameos. The score by Robert Cobert features
the beautiful love theme (originally titled "Joanna" and used in the final
season of Dark Shadows) which lends an air of wistful romance to the
otherwise flat onscreen relationship between Selby and Kate
Too bad the harried writer and producer didn't manage to film in the climactic seance sequence; in the theatrical trailer to the film, included on the laser disc version, you can see a couple of brief moments from this.
If ever a film needed restoration, this is it. Creepy atmospheric follow-up to House of Dark Shadows lacks the coherent plot of the first picture. Apparently the studio forced director Dan Curtis to cut his 2 hour movie down to 90 minutes so it could be sold as a double feature with House of Dark Shadows or other horror flicks--and it shows. It often doesn't make any sense and you wind up frustrated, as if you just had a good dream but can't remember it all. Word is that a complete uncut print has been recently discovered. A new DVD release of this picture restoring the missing pieces would be a big seller among Dark Shadows fans and horror film aficionados alike.
I think all the fans agree on one thing about this movie: it's the deleted scenes and the horrible editing job that prevent this movie from being the great ghost story it should be. But for me, having seen it just once on television, it could also do something about the extrenuous extra characters in the movie with vague connections to the ghost. The best ghost story only really needs the people who see the ghost and the ghost itself/herself. All the extra roles, the handyman, the psycho maid, the neighbors just barely provide the Collins some breathing room from the ghosts. Lara Parker does a very good job playing etherial and ephemeral as she portrays the ghost lurking just out of your mind's eye. David Selby and Kate Jackson have a wonderful chemistry, but the hestiant romance as well as the unnecessary flashbacks also do much to impair the flow of the story. John Karlen and Nancy Barrett, two of my faves from the series (John has a wonderful voice for mimmickry and Nancy's beauty has no bounds), seem to be only present to remind the watcher that this movie is based on a television series. Grayson Hall, much like Bette Davis, does a wonderful job playing a sinister and unpredictable old bat of a housekeeper. As a whole, the film is rather fair, but what it lacks in the style of a ghost movie such as The Legend Of Hell House, it more than makes up in atmosphere.
Late actress Grayson Hall was Oscar nominated for her role as Judith
Fellowes in John Huston's 1964 film `Night of the Iguana'. But Hall's BEST
career performance might well be found in a different 'Night of...' film.
won't know for sure unless/until the current owners of 'Night of Dark
Shadows' -- the Turner/Time Warner entertainment conglomerate -- get on
board for a fan-requested restoration of the film.
This story begins with the 1970 theatrical release of 'House of Dark Shadows', the first theatrical film based on a TV soap opera, 'Dark Shadows'. Giddy about the unprecedented ability of a TV soap opera to sell movie tickets, MGM executives approved a second DS film. Originally titled 'Curse of Dark Shadows', the film (directed by Dan Curtis) also starred David Selby, Lara Parker, and Kate Jackson, the three actors destined to enjoy the most post-DS mainstream success.
The 93-minute film released to theatres in 1971 as 'Night of Dark Shadows' (or NODS, in fan jargon) was roundly dismissed by critics and audiences alike. Contemporary viewers deemed the film disjointed and difficult to follow: events lacked proper motivation, characters appeared and disappeared without sufficient explanation, and there was no build-up of suspense as the film raced toward its denouement.
In a 1996 cover story he wrote for 'Video Watchdog' magazine, film historian and restorationist Darren Gross explained that a drastic, eleventh-hour editing job forced on Curtis by MGM essentially crippled the film. By all accounts, the hacking-up of NODS was more extreme and bloody than any of the make-believe violence perpetrated by the vampires, werewolves and ghosts that populated the supernatural TV series and films.
In 1999, following a long and frustrating search, Gross located an unexpurgated 129-minute cut of NODS in a studio vault housed in a Kansas City salt mine.
Gross reported that the narrative and thematic focus of the uncut NODS is completely different than that of the 93-minute release version. In 2000, Gross told readers of the 'Louisville Eccentric Observer' ('LEO') that a disturbingly Gothic mood is sustained throughout the entire runtime of the 129-minute NODS, and the emotional and sexual chemistry between the Selby and Jackson characters is brilliantly conveyed in scenes that are completely absent from the shorter version.
Some major hurdles remain to the planned restoration and DVD release of NODS, not the least of which is convincing the film's owners that the never-before-seen 129-minute version has significant commercial viability.
The following facts should help settle that argument: 1) The 1966-71 ABC series 'Dark Shadows' now boasts several generations of fans across the globe, and their interest and dedication have kept the show in syndicated reruns since shortly after its network cancellation; prior to the advent of a cable channel programmed almost exclusively with soap reruns, it was the only soap to receive such treatment; 2) NODS features Oscar nominee Grayson Hall, which lends the film importance from the perspective of cinema history; and, 3) the release version of NODS made no real sense, while the restored version does.
I invite and encourage all would-be fans of the uncut NODS to join me in voicing support for this worthwhile restoration and release project.
The film that was released as NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS doesn't begin to do justice to the screenplay penned by Sam Hall. The screenplay moves forward with intriguing clues scattered throughout (in the form of Quentin's daydreams and nightmares, as well as Carlotta's sometimes cryptic comments) as to the source and reasons for the haunting. As shot, the film basically followed the script--but MGM's forced butchery in the editing room, to achieve a 90-minute running time, turned the final product into a sometimes incomprehensible second-rate ghost story. I long for the day when the cut footage may be restored and a pristine new print (with Dolby Surround sound--or am I wishing for too much?) appears on DVD. ..
Night of Dark Shadows was Dan Curtis' follow-up to the immensely popular movie from the hit soap opera Dark Shadows. This movie reinforces many known facts about sequels. Sequels always have much to overcome. They are invariably compared to the original. If the movie is a carbon copy of the first, it's criticized for being un-original. If it takes a different road, the public laments that it's not what they wanted. Dan Curtis deserves much never received praise for taking an entirely different road to Collinwood this time and risking the public's ire. At the time of it's release, Night of Dark Shadows received undeserved criticism for being slow and disjointed. The probable reason for this was that Dan Curtis was forced to edit Night down to a double-feature friendly running time, so much of it's plot and character explanations landed - guess where - on the cutting room floor. However, if one really watches this film closely, they will be richly rewarded with a delightfully moody and atmospheric haunted house/possession/witchcraft flick that will send chills where they should go during a horror flick. David Selby is stoic and forboding as Quentin and Charles Collins, and Kate Jackson is the embodiment of purity and goodness as Tracy. Grayson Hall plays Carlotta with sheer relish. She's the kind of housekeeper that motivates one to become a better housekeeper, so that we can one day fire her. Lara Parker will make you forget to inhale or exhale as Angelique. Her beauty is indescribable, as is her ability for evil. John Karlen returns as Quentin's best friend Alex, and Nancy Barrett is approachable yet truly seductive as Alex's wife Claire. They are simply a joy to watch together. Once again, the elegant Lyndhurst mansion is the perfect home for the Collins family, this time a haunted one. If you haven't seen Night of Dark Shadows yet, give it a try. If you have and weren't impressed the first time, give it another chance. It deserves that much - and you'll be glad you did.
NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS has a bad reputation because of its plotline that strays from the vampire theme and because it is somewhat confusing. Many fans of the original series weren't fans of it in its early years before Barnabas Collins, when the plotline centered on Gothic hauntings like this movie. Thankfully, today many people (some not even fans of the original series) see the actual merit of the film. It is a very beautifully shot film, the acting is all perfect (my favorite is Kate Jackson), and even though so many scenes were cut out of the film, the film is still fun to watch and gives a few jolts here and there. The overall Gothic feel of the movie is more prevalent than its predecessor, HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, and this movie actually is more in-depth and psychological in its plotline. The ending is sort of a let-down, but doesn't ruin the final impact of the film. Hopefully someday someone can unearth the cut 40+ minutes and release it intact on video!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"House of Dark Shadows" is an abridged version of the Barnabas Collins
storyline of the popular television show. However, creator / director
Dan Curtis was forced to explore different plot avenues with "Night of
"Night of Dark Shadows" focuses on the arrival of artist Quentin Collins (David Selby) and his wife, Tracy (Kate Jackson), to his newly inherited home, Collinwood. He's greeted by the mysterious housekeeper, Carlotta Drake (Grayson Hall), and the caretaker, Gerard Stiles (Jim Storm). Quentin begins having visions of a past existence in which he's having an affair with his brother's wife, Angelique (Lara Parker).
As he digs deeper into the family history, he discovers Angelique was hung on the property for accusations of being a witch. Are his trances truly memories of a former life? Can he keep the evil spirit of Angelique from destroying his family and friends and driving him insane?
Where "House of Dark Shadows" is quickly paced, this indirect sequel plods along nicely and establishes a storyline and a sense of fear and creepiness. The problem is what it builds up to. The conclusion of the film is rather abrupt and unsatisfying. There's also a similarity to director Curtis's ending of his 1976 film "Burnt Offerings," which I find interesting in hindsight.
It's obvious when viewing the movie that it suffered some final cuts in the editing room. Long-time enthusiasts of the show know the history behind the making of the film and the existence of lost footage. Director Curtis was given 24 hours to re-cut the movie from 129 minutes to 94 minutes by MGM.
Fans of the film petitioned to have the chopped sequences restored and a director's cut released. The footage was found in 1999, but it was without sound. The scenes are said to give "Night of Dark Shadows" a darker mood and reinstate the original cohesion and framework of the film. It's unfortunate that what we get here is still the 94-minute version released by the studio in 1971. However, beggars can't be choosers. The movie might have some problems, but it's still an entertaining watch.
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