Let’s say you want to explore the tantalizing supernatural world of Dark Shadows, but you just can’t commit to the nearly 600 hours it would take to truly appreciate the gothic soap opera’s 1,225 episodes. And let’s also say you don’t want the experience to be tainted by the camp treatment of Tim Burton’s big-screen remake from earlier this year. What, then, do you do?
The comical Johnny Depp version of Dark Shadows wasn’t the first time the franchise had clawed its way to the big screen. It wasn’t even the second. While the original TV series still was airing — in 1970 — House of Dark Shadows presented a modified version of Barnabas Collins’ vampire story with the original cast and more graphic violence than daytime TV at the time would accept. Think of it as a Reader’s Digest condensed version of Barnabas’ life, which admittedly is just one small facet of Dark Shadows, if the most prominent. It’s one of the most tragic vampire movies you’ll ever watch, sparkles or no.
House of Dark Shadows was followed the next year by the TV series’ cancellation but also a big-screen sequel, Night of Dark Shadows, which followed the story of death-crossed lovers Quentin Collins and Angelique, a reincarnated witch. The masterful Jonathan Frid, who had played Barnabas, did not want to return to the role, and to the producers’ credit they wisely decided against recasting it.
Anyone wanting to see either of these horror gems has long been in for either a challenge or disappointment, but both films, which were directed by series creator Dan Curtis, will finally be released on DVD and Blu-ray on Oct. 30, and on Halloween itself Turner Classic Movies will air House of Dark Shadows. Can’t wait? You can also watch both films right now via iTunes or Amazon.