Dark Shadows Movie

House of Dark Shadows

House of Dark Shadows is a 1970 feature-length horror film by Dan Curtis based on his Dark Shadows television series. Filming took place at Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, New York with additional footage at nearby Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) searches for a cure so he can marry the lovely woman who resembles his long-lost fiancée Josette (Kathryn Leigh Scott).


Dark Shadows producer Dan Curtis began pitching the idea of a movie based on his Gothic soap opera hit sometime in 1968. The project was finally given the green light at MGM by company president James Aubrey in 1970. Curtis decided to use the original Barnabas storyline as the basis for the film, but to have it run to the conclusion originally intended for the character: that Barnabas would remain evil and be destroyed for his sins.

The film was shot in six weeks for a budget of $750,000. Principal shooting took place at several historic locations, including the Lyndhurst Estate, where the production had to work around the scheduled public tours of the house.

Unrestricted by TV's censors, the film is far more graphically violent than its television counterpart, with dripping vampire bites and bloody stakings. The film was released at the height of the TV show's popularity, to great commercial success.


Seeking a legendary fortune in jewels, troublesome Collins family handyman Willie Loomis opens a hidden coffin in the Collins family crypt, releasing vampire Barnabas Collins from his 150-year confinement. Barnabas makes Willie his slave, then presents himself to the modern day Collins family (Roger, Elizabeth, Carolyn, and David) as a "cousin from England." Barnabas moves into the "Old House" on the Collins estate, where the "first" Barnabas had lived. To thank his gracious hosts, Barnabas throws an elaborate costume ball.

Barnabas becomes attracted to the family governess Maggie Evans, who looks just like his long-lost love, Josette. When Carolyn, who has become one of the vampire's victims, threatens to reveal his secret out of jealousy, Barnabas kills her. Carolyn rises from the grave as one of the undead, and seeks out her former lover, Todd Jennings. Professor T. Eliot Stokes uses the young man as bait for Carolyn, who is eventually trapped and staked by Stokes, aided by the Collinsport police.

Meanwhile, a doctor, Julia Hoffman, has studied blood samples from the victims and begins to conclude that vampirism is real and that it may be a curable disease. She has accidentally discovered, while using a compact mirror, that Barnabas is the vampire. She makes a pact with Barnabas and develops a serum to cure him.

The cure works for a while, and Barnabas's courtship of Maggie proceeds. He gets her boyfriend, artist Jeff Clark, out of the way by arranging a showing of the young man's paintings in nearby Boston. However, Julia, who has fallen in love with Barnabas, discovers his dalliance with Maggie. Insanely jealous, Julia gives Barnabas an overdose of the serum, with the result that he ages to his true 175 years. Barnabas angrily kills Julia, and restores his youth (and vampiric nature) by biting Maggie. He flees with the young woman. Stokes and Roger Collins quickly research the family history of Barnabas in 1797, and Stokes is convinced that Barnabas intends to take Maggie as his bride.

The search extends to St. Eustace, an island off the shore of Maine. Jeff discovers that both Stokes and Roger Collins have become vampires, and he has to destroy them both--Stokes with the silver bullets intended for Barnabas, and an arrow through the heart for Roger.

Jeff tracks the vampire to an abandoned monastery, where Barnabas is planning to make Maggie his bride. Jeff attempts to shoot Barnabas with a crossbow, but Willie, who is also infatuated with Maggie, rushes over to the altar to stop Barnabas. The arrow that Jeff aims at the obsessed vampire hits Willie in the back. Barnabas takes Jeff under his hypnotic control and is about to vampirize Maggie when Willie revives and plunges the wooden shaft into Barnabas's back. Coming to his senses, Jeff finishes Barnabas with the stake, which bursts through Barnabas's chest in an outstandingly graphic scene for a PG-rated movie, and leaves with the revived Maggie.

In the final shocking scene, the apparently dead Barnabas turns into a bat and flies away.


  • House of Dark Shadows has only been released on VHS, which is out of print. The DVD is rumored to be released by Warner Brothers at some point in 2008. It is currently available to rent from Amazon Unbox.
  • Dark Shadows producer Dan Curtis's original idea had been to edit together footage from the original TV series into a feature-length film. This idea was quickly abandoned, due to the complexity of the storyline and ABC-TV's refusal to cooperate.
  • One well-known (but unnamed) producer would agree to back the film only if it were recast with "stars."
  • A paperback novelization of the film by Marilyn Ross (who had written a series of novels based on the TV show) was published in October 1970. The novel is based on the original script, and contains some scenes which were either cut from the movie, or were never filmed.
  • The film was originally to be titled simply Dark Shadows, but MGM wanted to differentiate it from the TV show.
  • This is still the only soap opera that has made a transition from TV to the movies.
  • The TV series was still in production while the film was being made. Some characters had to be temporarily written out of the show so that the actors would be available to appear in the movie. Barnabas, for example, was trapped in his coffin on the TV show by a failed writer who wanted to use the vampire's life story as the basis for a novel.
  • When Dark Shadows was revived in the early 1990s, the script for the movie was used as a jumping-off point because it so neatly summarized some of the original show's complex storyline.
  • The movie's action scenes were coordinated by Alex Stevens, who also looked after the stuntwork on the TV series and usually played the werewolf on the show whenever one was called for.
  • The preview version of the film included a scene where young David Collins pretends to hang himself. It was removed because there were concerns some children might "try this at home". No copies of this footage are known to exist. Another scene that was shown in some theaters has Jeff testing out the bow and arrow before pursing Barnabas.
  • Some interior scenes were shot at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion in Norwalk, Connecticut
  • The second movie was originally supposed to bring back Barnabas. The movie was to go under the name of "Curse of Dark Shadows" (according to Famous Monsters of Filmland). But by then the show had gone off the air and Jonathan Frid had moved on to other things. So "Night of Dark Shadows" was made, focusing on Collinwood after a new heir takes over after the decimation of the Collins clan by Barnabas. Elizabeth Stoddard gets a brief mention in the film, the only connection to the first movie.
  • As of this writing, Johnny Depp, a long-time Dark Shadows fan, has gotten the green light to do a new Dark Shadows movie, where he will star as Barnabas Collins.



The Dark Shadows Companion: 25th Anniversary Collection, edited by Kathryn Leigh Scott, Pomegranate Press Ltd., 1990, ISBN 0-938817-25-6

Dark Shadows Memories: 35th Anniversary, by Kathryn Leigh Scott, Pomegranate Press Ltd., 2001, ISBN 0-938817-60-4

The Dark Shadows Movie Book: Producer/Director Dan Curtis' Original Shooting Scripts from "House of Dark Shadows" and "Night of Dark Shadows", edited by Kathryn Leigh Scott and Jim Pierson, Pomegranate Press Ltd., 1998, ISBN 0-938817-48-5

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