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Customer Review

101 of 107 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best vampire films of all time, March 5, 2002
This review is from: House of Dark Shadows [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Largely because it was based on a cult daytime seriel, House of Dark Shadows has always been underrated and often unfairly dismissed as just one last attempt to exploit the show's then-waning popularity. As well, House of Dark Shadows came out at a time when the vampire film was having a minor revival and as such, it is often simply lumped together with the likes of Count Yorga or Blacula and forgotten. This is unfortunate because, when watched with an unbiased, open mind, House of Dark Shadows is revealed to be one of the best horror films of the '70s, an original work that -- if indeed it was created mostly to cash in on a tv show in decline -- manages to both improve on the show and to stand along as its own seperate, highly satisfying terms.
It is true that the film's plot is basically a retelling of the first few years of the tv show. Petty criminal Willie Loomis accidentally releases 200 year-old vampire Barnabas Collins who proceeds to reacquaint himself with the modern day Collins family, all the while pining for his lost love Josette and feeding on random victims during the night. A local doctor, Julia Hoffman, discovers that Barnabas is a vampire, and persuades him to let her try to cure him. When he discovers what he believes to be Josette's modern day incarnation in the form of Maggie Evans, a jealous Hoffman spikes his cure which leads to a lot of a mayhem, a lot of blood, and most of the cast (all playing versions of their beloved TV characters) dead.
That's where the movie breaks off from the TV show and sets up its own identity. Whereas on the television show, Barnabas was a tortured hero out of Wuthering Heights, in the film he is pure evil, an indiscriminate killer who -- by the bloody end -- has managed to wipe out almost all the remaining members of his family. For fans of the TV show, it provides quite a shock to see such familiar characters struck down. However, all of the actors give sympathetic, likeable performances. Nobody can be dismissed as just doing "television" work and even if you have no background with the show, its hard not to feel pained as they all meet their end. In the end, this helps to create one of the most truly dark horror films I have ever seen.
As said before, the acting is far better than the show's reputation might lead some to guess. By most reports, the actors were getting tired of the show by the time the film was shot and as a result, they seem to get an extra jolt of energy from the chance to kill each other off. Special mention should be made of John Karlen, whose jittery Loomis is one of the film's highlights and veteran character actor Thayer David is a strong Van Helsing-type as Prof. Stokes. As Barnabas, Jonathan Frid -- whose disdain for the TV show is well documented -- is a terrifyingly evil presence. For fans of the show, one of the film's joys is a chance to see actors who never got to do much on the television show actually sink their teeth (or fangs) into the film's juicier roles and pull them off far better than anyone could have guessed. Roger Davis -- who always seemed to be getting killed on the show -- is a strong, sympathetic hero while Elizabeth Barrett makes for a sexy vampire. (Her final battle with the film's vampire hunters is one of the film's most suspenseful -- and bloody -- moments.)
The film is well directed by Dan Curtis who makes a point of not using any of the familiar locations from the TV series but instead totally reimagines the world of Dark Shadows. Working with a low budget, he still pulls off several atmospheric scenes and, most importantly, never allows the story to drag or the action to cease. The film is far more graphic than anything ever seen on the television show and the film's ending is almost disturbingly intense. This is a film that will surprise, frighten, and delight fans and non-fans of the show alike.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 25, 2012 10:26:42 AM PDT
Who is Elizabeth Barrett?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 27, 2012 3:05:47 PM PDT
I think he meant Nancy Barrett, who played Carolyn

Posted on Oct 30, 2012 11:24:13 PM PDT
Tucson2k says:
I'd like the reviewer to provide proof that Jonathan Frid had "disdain for the TV show". He may have been tired of being typecast or the frenzy of his adoring public, but "disdain"? Why then would he attend the conventions? Why would he have agreed to be in the Tim Burton "remake" of DS?

The reviewer is embellishing and it does not serve them well.

Posted on Nov 2, 2012 2:54:12 PM PDT
This review should have a spoiler warning.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 5, 2012 10:17:43 AM PST
I am so sick of people whining about spoiling warnings.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 5, 2012 10:21:19 AM PST
I would ask Matthew D. Hydeman if it serves him well to get so worked up over a review that was written ten years ago.

And yes, I did mean to say Nancy Barrett. If I had to make a guess, I would say that I got her first name mixed up with the character of Elizabeth Stoddard. Again, I can't say for sure because the review was written ten years ago.

Posted on Jul 17, 2013 6:44:39 AM PDT
john salonia says:
Can't agree about Roger Davis. He's too brash, annoying and unlikeable to be a hero. He excelled in character parts that didn't require him to be sympathetic. This is not to trash Davis; merely to characterize his unsuitability for leading-man roles.

Posted on Aug 6, 2014 12:07:54 PM PDT
This movie was filmed during the 1897 flashback of the Dark Shadows television show, at a time when both the ratings and the show were at their height of popularity. When this film was released in September of 1970 in theaters, the show's ratings had declined.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2014 9:46:58 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 28, 2014 9:49:49 AM PDT
Wiseguy says:
No, the movie was filmed later during the 1970 parallel time storyline after the ratings had already begun to fall. If you notice during that time Jonathan Frid, John Karlen, Kathryn Leigh Scott, etc. mostly disappear from the TV series while other actors (such as Lara Parker and David Selby) take up the slack. As soon as the movie finished filming the actors re-appeared on the series.
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