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Monday, November 8, 2010

House of Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows-- and the movie that reduces it all to a slick 90 minutes-- is a case study in gothic, true gothic, complete with governesses and long shadows, whispered secrets and vampires rising from crypts. I wanted to spend a moment on Dark Shadows before I return to my own crypt, of sorts.

The clock is ticking for me. This week I'm doing what should be the final touches on the outline for Alex Van Helsing 3, and then we get to writing that book.  I've been enjoying the break-- along the way I've written a couple of new proposals, one of which hasn't gone out and who knows if it will, and read a lot of books as well.

This past week, though, I've been watching Dark Shadows, a gothic vampire soap opera from the 1960s. It's strange to me that I never watched this show the many millions of times it's been re-run over the years. Dark Shadows fandom has been a phenomenon I was aware of but had never actually taken part in, and as with all such things I always felt a certain painful detachment, as though I should know these characters. For a vampire fan, not having watched Dark Shadows was like not having seen Bela Lugosi in Dracula. It's okay to tell someone you never got around to watching Daughters of Darkness, but Dracula?

So Dark Shadows is like that. But hark: you can now catch it streaming on Netflix streaming, which seriously I advertise so much you'd think I worked for them.

Dark Shadows concerns a lot of things, because it's a soap opera, but chiefly it concerns vampire Barnabas Collins, who has returned to the stately Collinwood in coastal Maine, where he plots to find his lost love and control the people around him. You can literally watch this series the way it was first intended, one episode after the other. But of course watching it would take years, which is why in 1970 Dan Curtis (who would go on to make one of my favorite Draculas) took his own series and made a movie out of it.

The movie, called House of Dark Shadows, is available on iTunes and through Amazon, and it retells the story of the soap opera in vivid Hammer-esque color. Here, Barnabas returns and falls in love with Maggie, a woman he believes to be the re-incarnation of his lost love (Curtis and Richard Matheson would re-use this plot in Dracula, introducing an element that everyone remembers but wasn't there in Stoker's novel). The movie has some pacing issues but what I loved most was the gloomy, gothic sense of it all, the great house, the vampires in gossamer, the unabashed use of crosses and traditional vampire trappings, and finally the absolutely jaw-dropping beauty of Barnabas' and Maggie's almost-vampire-wedding. Truly, that's some beautiful vampire imagery.

Here's the trailer. Check out House of Dark Shadows.

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