The more you learn the more you realize just how little you know. The House of Dark Shadows was like a key, a missing puzzle piece for me. Dark Shadows has been on my mind quite a bit lately. I’m the first to admit that I’m no expert. I never saw the whole series on television—I saw many episodes once, during my childhood. Enough to know who the characters were—especially Barnabas—but when I stopped watching it (when? Why?) I started reading the novels by Marilyn Ross. Clearly the soap opera was gaining enough ratings to merit the building of a franchise. But the thing was, there is so much in life that I never concentrated on it. I read the novels occasionally, and I never saw House of Dark Shadows when it came out in 1970. Not, in fact, until 2022.
Since I was only eight when it came out, even though it was rated PG, I would’ve had neither the means nor the money to get to a theater. I had, in fact, never even heard of it. Having been raised a Fundamentalist, I have a tendency to believe there is just one way a story goes. I know there are variations—they occur in the canon of Scripture, even—but something deep-seated tells me it should go this way. House of Dark Shadows (which explains a lot of Tim Burton’s decisions for his movie reboot) has a different story line. Given that it was 1970 it would have been in the midst of the initial series broadcast. The movie was quite successful. Still, Barnabas ends up victimizing Carolyn (which in the novels he is reluctant to do), and Roger, and outright killing a number of people.
I spent the movie trying to process how the story should go. Of course, I haven’t seen the soap opera enough to know. This Dark Shadows franchise is episodic and it doesn’t add up. The film was shot quickly and leaves gaps in the story. It certainly doesn’t track well with the tale of the Maine family who knows about “cousin Barnabas”and that he visits Collinwood from time to time. Our course, between the series and the novels there are many, many avenues to select. When Tim Burton got the idea to make a movie he had an abundance of stories from which to choose. The House of Dark Shadows isn’t a great movie. It is gothic and moody and a standalone story. And it has me wondering about what other dark shadows conceal.