Dark Shadows and How to Name a Pixie

Published May 25, 2013 by rmpixie

house of dark shadows      night of dark shadows

House of Dark Shadows                                Night of Dark Shadows

(1970 1 hr, 37 mins)                                       (1971 1 hr, 35 mins)

My mom was such a huge fan of the gothic ABC T.V. soap Dark Shadows that she named me after one of the characters.  This is original pixie lore, and I wear it like a badge of honour.  How cool/crazy do you have to be to name your wee pixie child after the daughter of a gothic and ghostly dynasty?  My mom really dug all things supernatural, and she has passed this penchant down to me.  I miss her dearly and I feel that today, on my birthday, it is only fitting that I watch House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows as my birthday double feature.

In House of Dark Shadows, governess Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott) looks for her charge, David Collins (David Henesy).  They play a cat and mouse game, while creepy handyman Willie Loomis (John Karlen) who is supposed to help look for David too, decides to instead look for some hidden treasure on the Collins Estate, and gets himself into a spot of trouble as he awakens Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid), a vampire and ancient ancestor, and becomes his servant.  Barnabas introduces himself to the Collins clan, Elizabeth (Joan Bennett), Roger (Louis Edmonds), Carolyn (Nancy Barrett) and David, as a distant cousin who just happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to a portrait of Barnabas from the 1700’s.  During a fancy dress ball, Barnabas becomes smitten with Maggie, who looks like his long-lost love Josette.  He is determined to make her his bride, despite Maggie’s attachment to her boyfriend Jeff (Roger Davis).  In the meantime, Barnabas feeds on unsuspecting women, one of them being his cousin Carolyn.  She joins him as an undead and becomes a tad jealous when he reveals that he intends to marry Maggie.  She gets vampy crazy and threatens to reveal Barnabas’ vampire secret.  He confines Carolyn to her crypt, but she escapes and tries to turn her boyfriend Todd (Donald Briscoe).  Sadly, she gets staked.  There is also Dr. Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall), who learns of Barnabas’ vampire secret, and she too becomes smitten by his vampire charm.  She creates a cure for him, and he is determined to marry Maggie as he becomes more human-like.  This plan becomes botched by the jealous Dr. Julia, and Maggie’s boyfriend Jeff and creepy Willie have to save the day, but not before Barnabas flits away as a bat.

In the second film, Night of Dark Shadows, we meet artist Quentin Collins (David Selby) and his wife Tracy ( played by the stunning Kate Jackson in her first feature film), who have inherited the Collinwood Estate. It is run by creepy housekeeper Carlotta Drake (Grayson Hall) and Gerrard (James Storm) the stable hand. Quentin is haunted by dream memories of an Angelique Collins (Lara Parker), a woman who was accused, tried and hanged as a witch. She was also having an affair with her husband’s brother, Charles Collins.  Carlotta reveals to Quentin that he is the reincarnated Charles and he must get rid of his wife for the spirit of Angelique, who vowed to return one day.  Quentin becomes lured by the spell of Angelique and the influence of Carlotta.  He also becomes more and more like Charles, Angelique’s lover and more contemptuous towards his wife Tracy.  Their worried friends, Alex (John Karlen) and Claire (Nancy Barrett), intervene when Quentin becomes violent.  Apparently, director Dan Curtis had to edit out several minutes from the film, so it lost some coherency towards the end.  The plot quickly dissolves into Team Carlotta vs. Team Tracy, then Team Quentin & Tracy vs. Team Carlotta & Gerard, and some crazy bongo punctuated fights.

Both films were a lot of campy gothic fun for me.  If I had to pick a favourite though, it would have to be House of Dark Shadows, simply because of my huge inflated ego.  Yes folks, pixie was named after Carolyn Stoddard.  It’s not often these days that I hear a man sigh “Ohhh, Carolyn!!” as he is being fed on by a vampire, or scream, “Carolyn!!” in a vampiric, fevered trance.  Hey, I’ll take what I can get (and no, I’m not skipping back to those scenes continually just to hear my name…I’m not!…really!).  The groovy camera angles and blurred kill shots are things of beauty, as well as the delicious, bright red ’70’s blood.  It’s interesting to see that some of the actors in the first film played completely different characters in the second film, a practice that is most currently seen in American Horror Story.  In the original Dark Shadows T.V. series, there were several story arcs that got a tad confusing as parallel times and storylines occurred with different outcomes.  Check out http://www.collinwood.net/ for detailed episode synopsis and great information on the series, cast and crew.

I was excited to see the 2012 remake by Tim Burton.  I’m a huge fan of his, and couldn’t wait to see what he would bring.  He combined storylines from the 2 films to create campy visual eye candy.  I loved the sets and costuming, and Johnny Depp brought his own unique interpretation of Barnabas.  Helena Bonham Carter was perfectly cast as Dr. Julia Hoffman,  but I was disappointed with the liberties taken with Carolyn’s character.  He stayed true to her being a teen in the original series, but a werewolf?  That blended part of Quentin’s lineage put me off, but then again, the Collins lineage itself is quite a trip.

Of course these two vintage horror films are part of my collection, courtesy of Suspect Video.  So glad I have them as I feel they are a part of my crazy, personal history. Happy Birthday to me!!

Favourite Scenes:  Anything with Barnabas Collins.  Jonathan Frid’s face was so interesting and charismatic, despite not being conventionally handsome.  The same goes for David Selby as Quentin Collins.  I also loved the scene in House of Dark Shadows when the vampire cure goes wrong. The close-ups were kind of revolting and actually scary. Oh, and the slo-mo staking.  Just has to be seen.

Most Memorable Lines:  when Carolyn says to Barnabas, “There’s so much about you that I’m dying to know.”  Um, yeah, you bet sister!

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