Warner Bros. // 1971 // 94 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // November 20th, 2012
Death kept their love alive.
Night of Dark Shadows was a sequel to House of Dark Shadows, and a bid from series creator Dan Curtis to estabish an ongoing horror anthology using his television cast and crew. Unfortunately, this 1971 film didn't fare as well at the box office, and was the last of the Dark Shadows projects for fans to gobble up.
Without any vampires in site, Night of Dark Shadows is more of a slow burn ghost story. Johnathan Frid feared bringing Barnabas back would only further hinder his career, so they had to find another route to follow. Empploying a different stable of actors, this a subtle tale with very little gore or mayhem, allowing for an alternate reality to takeover what had transpired in the first film. It's more of a "what if" that ponders witches and beautiful spirits that linger beyond the grave, influencing and poisoning future generations. Dark Shadows fans will cheer the presence of David Selby (Falcon Crest) as Quentin Collins, with Lara Parker (Race with the Devil) resurrecting her role as Angelique for the big screen.
The plot is simple enough. Collinwood has a new heir in Quentin Collins (Selby), and he arrives with his young wife (Kate Jackson, Charlie's Angels) to claim the mansion. They seem happy to have inherited such a stunning estate, but little do they know the price they will pay. Greeted coldly by housekeeper Carlotta Drake (Grayson Hall, setting aside her role of Dr. Julia Hoffman), the rest of the staff seem none too pleased to see the new arrivals either. But the maid soon pushes young Quentin to work on his paintings in a peculiar tower that must hold some significance. Bad dreams ensue, and a ghostly witch seems to be casting her spell from the past. To make things worse, an all too real murderer emerges from the mist to terrorize them all.
When Night of Dark Shadows was given a theatrical release, the film was cut to shreds by MGM studio execs anxious over its 125 minute runtime. Truncated to 94 minutes, director Dan Curtis cried foul, claiming the poor box office returns were a result of the studio's creative interference. Many fans had been holding out hope for years that someone would reassemble the original cut for home video. This is not the case, nor does this Warner Bros. Blu-ray release offer any of the missing 31 minutes of footage discovered in 2002 which remains unreleased in any format. It's simply the same cut that was released to VHS and DVD years ago.
Adding insult to injury, the presentation is a matted 1.85:1/1080p widescreen HD upgrade of the DVD print, so some the frame is missing. If you still have that old VHS tape, it remains the most accurate representation of what was original shot. It is amazing to see how clear and vibrant the film looks, given that it was made on the cheap back in 1971. Colors are generally good and black levels are solid. There are a couple of issues with contrast in some sequences, but this is the best Night of Dark Shadows has ever looked. The audio is DTS-HD 1.0 Mono, and little has been done other than removing hisses and ambient distortion. The sole bonus feature is a vintage theatrical trailer.
Night of Dark Shadows is more of a curiosity than a coherent work, but it does offer some signature Dark Shadows moments. It's a creepy little witch tale with more than enough ghostly apparitions to make for a fun night's diversion.
A guilty pleasure and the final piece of the original Dark Shadows
Review content copyright © 2012 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (German)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Italian)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 1971
MPAA Rating: Rated PG