House of Dark Shadows (1970)

The shining glory of Producer/Director Dan Curtis’s career came in 1983 when he transformed Herman Wouk’s acclaimed World war 2 novel “The Winds of War” into an epic television miniseries. But it was during the late 60s and 70s that Curtis originally became a known and respected commodity in hollywood. During that time, Curtis was responsible for the creation of several suprisingly effective “B” horror films.

Minor classics like “The Night Stalker”….”The Night Strangler”…..”Scream of wolf” are must see nostalgia pieces for true fans of the Genre. His 1971 semi-gothic effort “House of Dark shadows” also ranks high on the list of Curtis’s early cinematic achievements.

The film is based on the unquestioned most popular segment of the old daytime TV series, “Dark Shadows”. For those that don’t know…”Dark Shadows” was a struggling 60s daytime soap opera concerning the dulling exploits of a boorish super rich New England family….the Collin’s. After a season of well worn plots about family infighting and powerstruggles the show was on verge of being canceled. That’s when series creator….Curtis….came up with a radical idea. Introduce supernatural elements into the show.

Soon the shows focus drifted from standard issue soap opera melodrama into a detailed examination of Collins family’s haunted past. Over the next five years, Dan Curtis brought to light virtually every family Skeleton…..often literally. The seemingly eternally cursed clan’s estate….Collinwood…was to play host to various unwanted preternatural ghouls who in one way or another were connected to the family. Among the collection of these occult charactors were: Vampires, Werewolves, Witches, Wizards, Demons, Artifically created men and women, Ghosts, Headless entities…..just to name a few.

When Dark Shadows faded from the afternoon scene in 1971….its ever loyal fans cried for more. Curtis responded with with pair of post series movies….and some 20 years later….a prime time sequel series. The first of these films efforts being the aforementioned ‘House of Darkshadows’. In the recreation process the noted director quite capably revived and enhanced many of numberous supernatural elements that made the old serial popular….while offering up far superior production values.

In house of Dark Shadows the audience is privy to the scheme of a wily caretaker who happens upon a map he believes leads to an ancient treasure buried on the grounds of Collinwood. The map brings him to the Collins family crypt where rather than treasure, the caretaker accidentally releases something dark from its eternal bondage.

That same night a young woman is attacked at the main gate of the estate. Left comatose from loss of blood caused by mysterious twin puncture wounds on her neck…..the girl can provide no clue to the nature of her attacker. But soon other victims start to pop up…similarly wounded and minus a few pints of plasma.

A pair of learned locals conclude a vampire is responsible for the attacks. The authorities and Collin’s family….quite naturally scoff at the notion. They prefer to believe an unknown type of animal or a madman is behind the attacks. However, the doubters soon change their tune when a Collins family member on the intruders menu is killed and eventually returns from the grave as one of the living dead.

The supernatural nature of the killer revealed….the police are soon scurrying about the area with crosses and stakes….while almost the entire Collins family are armed with cross bows and stringing up enough garlic to corner the market.

While terror reigns supreme at Collinwood, the family has no way of knowing the perpetrator of this unspeakable villainy is dwelling unsuspected within their midst.

By todays standard “House of Dark Shadows” might seem somewhat hokey with its max factor fangs and cherry syrup blood. But for its time, it was quality achievement and even now it provides something rarely seen…..a well written horror film with some into classic gothic overtones added into the mix.