18 May 2001 | hackwriter
A call to bring the REAL 'Night' into the light of day
Late actress Grayson Hall was Oscar nominated for her role as Judith Fellowes in John Huston's 1964 film `Night of the Iguana'. But Hall's BEST career performance might well be found in a different 'Night of...' film. We won't know for sure unless/until the current owners of 'Night of Dark Shadows' -- the Turner/Time Warner entertainment conglomerate -- get on board for a fan-requested restoration of the film.
This story begins with the 1970 theatrical release of 'House of Dark Shadows', the first theatrical film based on a TV soap opera, 'Dark Shadows'. Giddy about the unprecedented ability of a TV soap opera to sell movie tickets, MGM executives approved a second DS film. Originally titled 'Curse of Dark Shadows', the film (directed by Dan Curtis) also starred David Selby, Lara Parker, and Kate Jackson, the three actors destined to enjoy the most post-DS mainstream success.
The 93-minute film released to theatres in 1971 as 'Night of Dark Shadows' (or NODS, in fan jargon) was roundly dismissed by critics and audiences alike. Contemporary viewers deemed the film disjointed and difficult to follow: events lacked proper motivation, characters appeared and disappeared without sufficient explanation, and there was no build-up of suspense as the film raced toward its denouement.
In a 1996 cover story he wrote for 'Video Watchdog' magazine, film historian and restorationist Darren Gross explained that a drastic, eleventh-hour editing job forced on Curtis by MGM essentially crippled the film. By all accounts, the hacking-up of NODS was more extreme and bloody than any of the make-believe violence perpetrated by the vampires, werewolves and ghosts that populated the supernatural TV series and films.
In 1999, following a long and frustrating search, Gross located an unexpurgated 129-minute cut of NODS in a studio vault housed in a Kansas City salt mine.
Gross reported that the narrative and thematic focus of the uncut NODS is completely different than that of the 93-minute release version. In 2000, Gross told readers of the 'Louisville Eccentric Observer' ('LEO') that a disturbingly Gothic mood is sustained throughout the entire runtime of the 129-minute NODS, and the emotional and sexual chemistry between the Selby and Jackson characters is brilliantly conveyed in scenes that are completely absent from the shorter version.
Some major hurdles remain to the planned restoration and DVD release of NODS, not the least of which is convincing the film's owners that the never-before-seen 129-minute version has significant commercial viability.
The following facts should help settle that argument: 1) The 1966-71 ABC series 'Dark Shadows' now boasts several generations of fans across the globe, and their interest and dedication have kept the show in syndicated reruns since shortly after its network cancellation; prior to the advent of a cable channel programmed almost exclusively with soap reruns, it was the only soap to receive such treatment; 2) NODS features Oscar nominee Grayson Hall, which lends the film importance from the perspective of cinema history; and, 3) the release version of NODS made no real sense, while the restored version does.
I invite and encourage all would-be fans of the uncut NODS to join me in voicing support for this worthwhile restoration and release project.