NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS (1971) Reviews and overview

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‘Just another night of… terror’
Night of Dark Shadows is a 1971 American horror feature film produced and directed by Dan Curtis (Dead of Night; Trilogy of Terror; Bram Stoker’s Dracula; The Norliss Tapes; et al) from a screenplay by Sam Hall (Dead of Night: A Darkness at Blaisedon), based on Curtis’ and Hall’s storyline.

The movie stars David Selby, Grayson Hall, Kate Jackson and Lara Parker.

While Night of Dark Shadows is not a direct sequel to House of Dark Shadows, 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 the previous film died 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 Doctor 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 considerably more polished film than House of Dark Shadows, however it also unfolds at a far more leisurely pace. It lacks the relentless energy that distinguished Curtis’ previous movie. 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.

Lisa Marie Bowman, guest reviewer via The Horror Critic

Other reviews:
“The setting – the Jay Gould estate in Tarrytown, New York – is far from menacing, what humor the film has is unintentional and the plot unfolds in haphazard fashion…” John Stanley, Creature Features book

” …tries too hard to be atmospheric and scary, from the overabundance of tilted camera shots, the overuse of echo in the first nightmare sequence, a score that thinks it’s the scariest movie ever made and seeks to remind you of it, the protracted twist ending in which you know exactly what the twist is but the movie goes on and on pretending that it’s some big surprise…” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“In particular, the score does a great job conjuring up atmosphere. Although for all that, the film is more atmosphere than anything actually happens. Things do pick up with some undeniably spooky scenes where we see the superimposed ghost of Angelique sneaking into David Selby’s bed or hovering over John Karlen as he sleeps on the couch.” Moria

“Perhaps not as (consistently) powerful as its progenitor, Night still has a few good scares and is worth a watch both for Jackson’s film debut and Lara Parker’s creepy portrayal of ghostly Angelique Collins.” The Terror Trap

“As a ghost story focusing on the supernatural, Night of Dark Shadows requires considerable imagination by the audience to figure out what’s happening.” Variety, 1971

Cast and characters:
David Selby … Quentin Collins / Charles Collins – Loon Lake; Castle Rock TV series; Grave Secrets: The Legacy of Hilltop Drive; Dark Shadows TV series
Grayson Hall … Carlotta Drake – House of Dark Shadows
Kate Jackson … Tracy Collins – Satan’s School for Girls (1973 and 2000)
Lara Parker … Angelique Collins
John Karlen … Alex Jenkins – Trilogy of Terror; Daughters of Darkness
Nancy Barrett … Claire Jenkins
Jim Storm [as James Storm]… Gerard Stiles
Thayer David … Reverand Strack
Christopher Pennock … Gabriel Collins
Diana Millay … Laura Collins
Monica Rich … Sarah Castle
Clarice Blackburn … Mrs Castle

Filming locations:
Lyndhurst Estate, Tarrytown, New York from 29 March 1971 to 18 May 1971.

Running time:
1 hour 34 minutes

Distributed by MGM from August 4, 1971.

Film Facts:
A version lasting 129 minutes was apparently filmed but Dan Curtis was, understandably, forced to reduce the running time by MGM.


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