Night of Dark Shadows (1971)

After the success of 1970’s  House of Dark Shadows, MGM wanted a sequel. The show was off the air and Curtis thought that this would be the perfect time to bring back Barnabas Collins, but Johnathan Frid was fearful of being typecast.

To his credit, Curtis didn’t recast the role and worked on an all-new story, originally called Curse of Dark Shadows. They even hired spiritualist Hans Holzer — yes, the guy who wrote one of the Amityville books — to be on set and loosely followed the parallel world sequence of the show, focusing on the popular Quentin Collins.

With just 24 hours notice, MGM forced Curtis to cut over 35 minutes from the movie, which makes it pretty incoherent. The film that was to be was much darker and more intense.

While this movie did fine, it didn’t have the magic or box office of the last one. Which is a real shame, because I love it.

Quentin Collins (David Selby, also of the Dark Shadows TV show) has arrived at Collinwood with his wife Tracy (Kate Jackson) and is mesmerized by the portrait of Angelique (Lara Parker, also reprising her role from the show).

John Karlen and Nancy Barrett show up as Alex and Claire Jenkins, two horror novelists who have moved into one of the guest houses. They’re about to learn just how crazy Collinwood can get, what with the housekeeper Carlotta (Grayson Hall, who played several Dark Shadows characters, but foremost amongst them Dr. Julia Hoffman) revealing that nearly everyone here is reincarnated from the past of the house, with herself as Sarah Castle and Quentin as Charles Collins, who once was the love of, yes, Angelique, who was hung as a witch. Seeing as how Charles was having an affair with her — the wife of his brother, no less — he was buried alive next to her corpse.

Hijinks, as they say, ensue. Hijinks like murder, possession, women hung in the trees and a girl holding a doll.

You also get Dark Shadows regulars Jim Storm as Gerard Stiles, Diana Millay (whose role as the phoenix-like Laura Collins was the first supernatural character on the show), Christopher Pennock as Gabriel Collins, Thayer David (who again, played many characters on the show) and Clarice Blackburn, who missed the last Dark Shadows film.

I spent years hunting this down on DVD and it was worth the effort. Perhaps the best viewing I’ve enjoyed of this film was in a rainy and foggy drive-in, late into the night. Does life get any better than that?

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