Shadows was proving a massive hit in the daytime ratings,
enough for producer Dan
Curtis to begin actively pursuing the possibility of translating
the format to the big screen. Having successfully handled
directing chores on the daytime episodes, Curtis was eager
to direct a big screen version of the show.
plans to utilise existing footage from the daytime series
were soon abandoned, and numerous backers were considered.
Curtis' proposals were met with scepticism, as a big screen
spin-off from a soap opera was unprecedented. Finally,
in late 1969, Curtis struck a deal with MGM to produce his
movie, which would film in spring 1970. Armed with a miniscule
budget of $750,000 and just six weeks shooting time, production
began in earnest on March 23, 1970. Sam Hall and Gordon Russell
adapted their script from the 1967 story that introduced Barnabas,
though added a distinctly more adult flavour, with a messy,
corpse-laden ending. The cast would be made up exclusively
of actors from the daytime series, which would continue to
tape throughout filming. The current 1970 Parallel Time storyline
was plotted especially to contrive absences for characters
while filming was taking place, leaving a skeleton cast to
continue the story during this time.
the tight budget precluding the building of any sets, the
Lyndhurst mansion and grounds in Tarrytown, New York, were
put to ingenious use throughout filming, which took place
entirely on location. Lens filters were used to film night
shots during daytime, avoiding costly night shoots. In spite
of a difficult relationship with director of photography Arthur
Ornitz, Curtis succeeded in bringing a surprising amount of
visual flair to the finished film, which belied its humble
origins. Aided by Trevor Williams' superb set dressing, the
finished film, titled House
of Dark Shadows, proved a great success for MGM, and emerged
as one of their most profitable films during the 1970 financial
by the success of House
of Dark Shadows, MGM were eager to rush another Dark
Shadows movie into production, which would go ahead in
spite of the cancellation of the daytime series. Jonathan
Frid was now tired of playing vampire Barnabas Collins
and refused to appear in the sequel. Faced with this setback,
Curtis and writer Sam Hall worked on an entirely new idea,
showcasing the characters of Angélique and Quentin. The new
film would feature no direct links with the original television
series, instead produced with a fresh audience in mind.
March 29, 1971, filming began on The
Curse of Dark Shadows, later re-titled Night of Dark
Shadows for its release. Without the headaches of producing
the television series concurrently, the production crew were
able to achieve a far more polished product than the previous
year. Spiritualist Hans Holzer was employed as an advisor
to the production, to give the production some authenticity,
though in the event his actual contribution to the finished
product proved minimal.
script, developed in conjunction with Curtis, was a wistful
tale of gothic romance and supernatural reincarnation, bolstered
with creditable performances from David
Jackson and Grayson
Hall. With filming completed without major problems, Curtis
set about editing the final film, which proved far denser
and more complex than House of Dark Shadows.
August of 1971, Curtis and Hall journeyed to California with
a finished print of the film, which ran 129 minutes even when
shorn of several key sequences. MGM executive James Aubrey
had already made plans to run both films as double-bills,
and demanded that its running time be trimmed to 96 minutes,
giving Curtis only 24 hours to perform a drastic re-edit.
Night of Dark Shadows was pre-booked to open in theatres
in New England in little over a week, leaving no time to evaluate
a proper reconstruction of the story for a shorter running
time. Under protest, Curtis delivered the cuts as requested.
Unsurprisingly, the film was considered considerably weakened
from this exercise, gaining mediocre reviews upon release.
this, the film still performed remarkably well, reaping comparable
returns to the first film, even without the cross promotion
of the daytime series. MGM requested a third Dark Shadows
film from Dan Curtis, though he refused the offer, choosing
to move onto other film formats and television projects, albeit
ones which usually owed some debt to the horror genre that
Dark Shadows had drawn from so often.
excised footage was though lost for many years, until researcher
Darren Gross located a print of the original, 129 minute director's
cut of Night of Dark Shadows in the summer of 1999.
Sadly, despite the film elements having survived in excellent
condition, the accompanying soundtrack was found to be incomplete.
of this writing, Darren Gross is attempting to mount a full
restoration of the recovered film, employing the surviving
actors to dub scenes with lost audio. At present, no firm
date for the project has been set, and plans have yet to be
finalised. Progress is currently documented at nightofdarkshadows.com,
the project's official website.
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