Horror Film Review: Night of Dark Shadows (dir by Dan Curtis)

Since I just reviewed House of Dark Shadows, it only makes sense to now take a look at 1971’s Night of Dark Shadows today!

While Night of Dark Shadows is not a direct sequel to the first film, it is still definitely a part of the same cinematic universe.  There may not be any vampires in this film but it does take place in the same house and it features two members of the family that was decimated over the course of the previous film.  At one point, it’s mentioned that Joan Bennett’s character from House of Dark Shadows died after the first film but no one goes into any details.  I guess a vampire in the family is something that’s simply not discussed amongst polite company.

Night of Dark Shadows deals with Quentin (David Selby) and Tracy Collins (Kate Jackson).  Quentin is an artist who confesses that he wasn’t particularly nice before he married Tracy.  When they move into the Collins mansion, they bring two friends with them, Alex (John Karlen) and Claire (Nancy Barrett.)  Interestingly enough, Karlen and Barrett both played different characters in House of Dark Shadows.  Grayson Hall, who played Dr. Hoffman in House of Dark Shadows, also returns for Night of Dark Shadows.  This time Hall is playing Carlotta Drake, the creepy housekeeper.  (Needless to say, all mansions comes with a creepy housekeeper.)

Soon after everyone moves in, Quentin starts acting strangely.  He becomes obsessed with the painting of a beautiful woman who was named Angelique (Lara Parker) and with the story that Angelique was hanged when it was discovered that she was having an affair with Quentin’s ancestor, Charles.  (For his part, Charles was apparently walled up in the mansion.  That sounds a bit extreme to me but I guess that’s the way they did things in the 19th century.)  Quentin starts to have visions and nightmares involving his ancestor who, it turns out, looked exactly like him!  Meanwhile, Carlotta and the groundskeeper, Gerard (Jim Storm), seem to be determined to make sure that Tracy doesn’t feel welcome in her new home.  It’s almost as if they’re trying to drive everyone but Quentin away from the house.

Night of Dark Shadows is a much more polished film than House of Dark Shadows but it also unfolds at a far more leisurely pace.  It lacks the relentless energy that distinguished House of Dark Shadows.  This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the plot itself wasn’t so totally predictable.  From the minute that Quentin first sees that portrait of Angelique, you know that he’s going to get possessed and start acting strangely.  There are a few atmospheric scenes but, for the most part, the film just doesn’t grab the viewer’s attention the way that House of Dark Shadows did.

On the plus side, David Selby is properly intense and brooding in the dual roles of Quentin and Charles Collins while Lara Parker does an equally good job as the wonderfully evil Angelique.  Grayson Hall, who tended to go overboard in House of Dark Shadows, gives a much better and far more menacing performance here.  Night of Dark Shadows isn’t a bad film.  It’s just not a particularly memorable one.

Horror Film Review: House of Dark Shadows (dir by Dan Curtis)

There’s a lot that you can say about this vampire film from 1970 but I think it can all be summed up with one word: relentless.

A lot of this is because House of Dark Shadows is a film adaptation of a daytime drama.  Over the course of six sesons, Dark Shadows ran for a total of 1,220 episodes.  That’s a lot of story to cram into a 97-minute film but director Dan Curtis does just that.  The end result is an incredibly busy film and I mean that in the best way possible.

Seriously, there are so many twists and turns in this film’s plot that it’s difficult to even know where to begin.  This is one of the most incident-filled horror films that I’ve ever seen.  No sooner does one plotline resolve itself than another begins.  Meanwhile, a surprisingly large cast wanders through the shadows and tries not to get transformed into a vampire.  Most of them do not succeed.

See if you can keep all of this straight:

In Maine, a lowlife handyman named Willie (John Karlen, giving the film’s best performance) breaks into a mausoleum and approaches a coffin that’s covered with chains.  Willie thinks that there’s a treasure hidden in the coffin but, after he removes the chains, he instead discovers that he’s stumbled across the home of a vampire!  Barnabas Collin (Jonathan Frid, who perfectly combines old world manners with thinly veiled menace) has spent 175 years trapped in that coffin and now that he’s been released, he’s not in a very good mood.

Soon, Barnabas has introduced himself to his descendants (including Joan Bennett, as Elizabeth, the family matriarch) as a cousin from England.  Everyone is impressed with Barnabas’s charm and courtly style.  Of course, some people are a little bit skeptical.  Prof. Stokes (Thayer David) notices that Barnabas doesn’t seem to know much about London while Dr. Hoffman (Grayson Hall) flat out accuses Barnabas of being a vampire.  Barnabas admits that this is true but fear not!  Dr. Hoffman’s fallen in love with him and wants to help cure him.

Meanwhile, everyone in town is growing concerned about all of the bloodless bodies that are showing up.  They especially get worried after Elizabeth’s daughter, Carolyn (Nancy Barrett), dies and then promptly comes back to life, complete with her own set of fangs….

While the town concerns itself with what to do about Carolyn, Barnabas has fallen in love with a nanny named Maggie (Kathryn Leigh Scott), who he thinks is the reincarnation of his former lover.  Unfortunately, Maggie already has a boyfriend named Jeff (Roger Davis) but when has the ever been a problem for a vampire?  Far more of a problem than Jeff is the fact that Willie is also in love with Maggie and Dr. Hoffman is so jealous of Barnabas’s love for Maggie that she’s willing to inject him with a formula that causes him to transform into an elderly man….

And all that’s just in the first hour!

Needless to say, it all leads to one final, gore-filled confrontation.  When I say that this film is gory, I mean just that.  Blood isn’t just spilled in House of Dark Shadows.  Instead, it flows like water busting out of a cracked dam.  When Barnabas bites a victim, he doesn’t just leave two neat little puncture marks.  Instead, he literally rips their neck to shreds.  Just how savage Barnabas and Carolyn get in this film is one of the things that sets House of Dark Shadows apart from other vampire films.  As opposed to the type of tragic figure who shows up in so many vampire films, Barnabas is ruthless, cruel, and unforgiving.  He’s a genuinely frightening creation.

House of Dark Shadows is a chaotic movie but it’s also a lot of fun.  This is one of those films that you watch in amazement as it just keeps going and going, piling on one incident after another.  Does the film always make sense?  No, but it doesn’t have to.  Quickly paced and featuring nonstop gore and fog, the film has a dream-like feel to it.  Curtis and the cast attack the material with such unbridled enthusiasm that it doesn’t matter if the plot occasionally doesn’t always add up or if the dialogue is occasionally a bit clumsy.  It’s impossible not to get swept along with the film’s insanity.

Probably because of its television roots, House of Dark Shadows is often dismissed by critics.  (I’ve never seen any old episodes of the show so I can’t say how the movie compares to it.)  Well, those dismissive critics are wrong.  House of Dark Shadows is one of my favorite vampire films and it’s definitely one that deserves to be rediscovered.

(And yes, it’s a helluva lot better than that movie that Tim Burton made with Johnny Depp….)

10 Shots From 10 Horror Films: 1975 — 1977

4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we take a look at three very important years: 1975, 1976, and 1977!

10 Shots From 10 Films: 1975 — 1977

Deep Red (1975, dir by Dario Argento, DP: Luigi Kuveiller)

Trilogy of Terror (1975, dir by Dan Curtis. DP: Paul Lohmann)

Eaten Alive (1976, dir by Tobe Hooper. DP: Robert Caramico)

The Omen (1976, dir by Richard Donner, DP: Gilbert Taylor)

Carrie (1976, dir by Brian De Palma, DP: Mario Tosi)

Shock (1977, dir by Mario Bava, DP: Alberto Spagnoli)

The Hills Have Eyes (1977, dir by Wes Craven, DP: Eric Saarinen)

Suspiria (1977, dir by Dario Argento, DP: Luciano Tuvalia)

Eraserhead (1977, directed by David Lynch, DP: Frederick Elmes and Herbert Cardwell)

Shock Waves (1977, dir by Ken Wiederhorn, DP: Reuben Trane)

Retro Television Review: Scream of the Wolf (dir by Dan Curtis)

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Sundays, I will be reviewing the made-for-television movies that used to be a primetime mainstay.  Today’s film is 1974’s Scream of the Wolf.  It  can be viewed on YouTube!

A small town in California is shocked when a series of brutal murders occur within the city limits.  Someone or something is killing people whenever the moon is full.  The only clue are the footprints that the killer leaves behind at every scene.  Strangely, there are time when the kill seems to walking on all fours, suggesting that it’s a wild animal.  But then, suddenly, there are only two footprints, indicating that the killer is a man.  Is the killer a beast or a human?

Maybe it’s both.

That’s the question that John Weatherby (Peter Graves) attempts to answer in Scream of the Wolf.  John is a former hunter who is now working on a book about his life.  He looks at the footprints and the savagery of the attacks and he says that the killer is obviously a wolf because no human could be capable of doing such a thing.  However, many people in town are convinced that the killer is a werewolf.  That includes John’s girlfriend, Sandy (Jo Ann Pflug).

In fact, Sandy thinks that she knows exactly who the werewolf is.  She thinks that Bryon Douglas (Clint Walker) is responsible for the murders.  Byron is an old friend of John’s.  They used to hunt together.  John eventually turned his back on hunting but Byron continues to insist that people are never more alive than when they are hunting another creature.  In fact, Byron claims that the murders are actually a good thing.  According to Byron, the murders have woken up the survival instinct in the spoiled inhabitants of the town.  And indeed, the citizens of the town do appear to be getting progressively more and more paranoid.

Okay, so Byron obviously has some issues.  But does that make him a werewolf?  John insists that there are no werewolves and that Byron is just a somewhat eccentric blowhard.  John better hope that he’s right because Byron has announced that he’s going to hunt down the werewolf and he’s invited John to join him on the hunt.

Running a brisk 78 minutes and not wasting a single one of them, Scream of the Wolf is an enjoyable and atmospheric werewolf film.  I don’t think I actually heard a wolf scream over the course of the film but I did hear plenty of people scream.  For a made for TV movie, Scream of the Wolf doesn’t shy away from showing the horror of being stalked by an unseen creature in the middle of the night.  Needless to say, any film featuring Peter Graves as a former big game hunter is going to have a bit of camp appeal but, in the end, Graves’s somewhat stolid acting style works well for the character that he is playing.  Clint Walker, who towers over everyone else in the film, gives an intimidating and creepy performance as Byron.  The film’s central mystery isn’t particularly complex but the story is told well.  Scream of the Wolf is a simple but entertaining film, one that’s ideal for October viewing.

6 Horrific Trailers For October 9th, 2022

It’s Sunday and it’s October and that means that it’s time for another edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse trailers!  For today, we have six trailers from the early 70s.  This was the era when horror started to truly get …. well, horrific!

  1. The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970)

First off, we have the blood and scream-filled trailer for Dario Argento’s The Bird With The Crystal Plumage.  This Italian thriller made quite a splash when it was released in America.  Indeed, for many Americans, this was their first exposure to the giallo genre.  This would go on to become Argento’s first (and, so far, only) film to be nominated for a Golden Globe.  (Read my review here!)

2. House of Dark Shadows (1970)

Speaking of blood and screaming, 1970 also saw the release of House of Dark Shadows.  Personally, I think this is one of the best vampire films ever.  The trailer is heavy on atmosphere.

3. The Devils (1971)

In 1971, British director Ken Russell scandalized audiences with The Devils, a film so shocking that it will probably never been in its full, uncut form.

4. Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972)

Italy was not the only country sending horror films over to the United States.  From Spain came the Tombs of the Blind Dead.

5. The Last House on the Left (1972)

Speaking of controversy, Wes Craven made his directorial debut with the infamous The Last House On The Left.  The trailer featured one of the greatest and most-repeated horror tag lines of all time.

6. Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)

Finally, even as horror cinema changed and became more extreme, Hammer Studios continued to tell the long and twisted story of Count Dracula.  They brought him into the present age and dropped him in the middle of hippie-infested London.  No matter how much the rest of the world changed, Dracula remained Dracula.

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: The Early 70s

4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we take a look at the early 70s!

8 Shots From 8 Horror Films: The Early 70s

The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970, dir by Dario Argento, DP: Vittorio Storaro)

House of Dark Shadows (1970, dir by Dan Curtis, DP: Arthur Ornitz)

Hatchet For The Honeymoon (1970, dir by Mario Bava, DP: Mario Bava)

The Devils (1971, directed by Ken Russell, DP: David Watkin)

Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971, dir by Amando de Ossorio, DP: Pablo Ripoll)

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972, dir by Bob Clark, DP: Jack McGowan)

Last House on the Left (1972, dir by Wes Craven, DP: Victor Hurwitz)

Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972, dir by Alan Gibson, DP: Dick Bush)

Horror on the Lens: The Night Strangler (dir by Dan Curtis)

For today’s horror on the lens, we have 1973’s The Night Strangler.

This is the sequel to The Night Stalker and it features journalist Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) in Seattle.  (After all the stuff that happened during the previous movie, Kolchak was kicked out of Las Vegas.)  When Kolchak investigates yet another series of murders, he discovers that paranormal murders don’t just occur in Las Vegas and aren’t just committed by vampires.

I actually prefer this movie to The Night Stalker.  The Night Strangler features a truly creepy villain, as well as a trip down to an “underground city.”  It’s full of ominous atmosphere and, as always, Darren McGavin is a lot of fun to watch in the role in Kolchak.


Horror on the Lens: Trilogy of Terror (dir by Dan Curtis)

For today’s horror on the Lens we have a made-for-TV movie that, like yesterday’s The Norliss Tapes, was produced and directed by Dan Curtis.

Trilogy of Terror, which aired in 1975, is an anthology film, featuring three segments that were each based on a short story from Richard Matheson.  What makes this particular film special is that each segment features Karen Black playing a radically different character from the previous segment.  The film really is a showcase for this underrated actress, though Black herself later said that the film ruined her career because it typecast her as a horror actress.

The third segment is the one that gets all the attention.  That’s the one with the killer doll.  I like all of the segments, though.  The first one is often considered to be the weakest but anyone who has ever been through a similar situation will appreciate it as tale of revenge.  The second segment has a playful vibe that I liked.  And yes, the third segment is genuinely frightening.

From 1975, here is Trilogy of Terror:

Horror Scene That I Love: Carolyn Returns In House of Dark Shadows

Since I paid tribute to Dan Curtis with our latest 4 Shots From 4 Films entry earlier today, it only seems appropriate that today’s horror scene that I love should come from one of his films as well!

In this scene from the 1970 film House of Dark Shadows, young David Collins explores around the old pool on the Collins estate and runs into his cousin, Carolyn. The only problem, of course, is that Carolyn died a few days ago so why is she now wandering around the estate? Could she be a …. VAMPIRE!?

There’s a lot of atmosphere in this scene. That dilapidated pool is frightening on its own. Add a vampire and …. AGCK! In the role of Carolyn, Nancy Barrett does a great job of portraying her new vampiric nature. Run, David, run!

Of course, back in the dining hall, no one believes him. A refusal to believe is a vampire’s best friend. (Personally, I don’t believe in vampires so I’ll probably be in trouble if I ever meet one.)

From House of Dark Shadows:

4 Shots From 4 Dan Curtis Films

4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films is just what it says it is, 4 (or more) shots from 4 (or more) of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Since today’s Horror on the Lens was a Dan Curtis film, it only seems appropriate that today’s edition of 4 Shots from 4 Films should be dedicated to one of the most underrated horror directors around, Dan Curtis!

It’s time for….

4 Shots From 4 Dan Curtis Films

House of Dark Shadows (1970, dir by Dan Curtis, DP: Arthur Ornitz)

Night of Dark Shadows (1971, dir by Dan Curtis, DP: Richard Shore)

Trilogy of Terror (1975, dir by Dan Curtis. DP: Paul Lohmann)

Burnt Offerings (1976, dir by Dan Curtis, DP: Jacques R. Marquette)