Work underway to restore Night of Dark Shadows
The behind-the-scenes story of the making of the film Night of Dark Shadows has become legendary. Critics and fans panned the 1971 film for having a disjointed plot and shallow character development. The movie seems to be missing something--and in fact it is.
As the story goes, Dan Curtis delivered a two-hour version of the film to MGM executives who demanded that it be cut, literally overnight, to a 90-minute running time. Under the pressure of that deadline, the film was slashed, and much of the heart of what could have been a romantic, chilling ghost story ended up on the cutting-room floor. For decades, it seemed that footage was lost forever. But after an exhaustive search, film historian Darren Gross finally located much of the missing footage in August 1999, and he is now spearheading a drive to produce a restored version of this movie.
In an exclusive Dark Shadows Online interview, Darren provides an update on the status of the restoration project, and gives us an exciting peek at some of the scenes we'll hopefully soon get to see.
For more information about the restoration project, visit the Darren's official site by clicking here.
Dark Shadows Online: What's the status of the restoration project?
Darren Gross: Dan Curtis Productions (DCP) is negotiating with Turner Entertainment to license the rights to the two Dark Shadows films. Once the license negotiations have been settled, we'll begin work immediately on the restoration of Night of Dark Shadows.
DSO: What are some of the challenges you're facing?
DG: Because we located the film, but not the soundtrack, we have to re-record around 30 minutes of dialogue for the missing sections then add the appropriate sound effects and music. There's also a tremendous amount of lab work and picture cleanup and restoration that needs to be done. It's a dream project that is slowly coming to fruition and a challenge Jim Pierson (restoration co-producer and DCP executive) and I are certainly up to..
DSO: Are the original actors going to re-record their own dialogue?
DG: Yes. Everyone we've talked to--Nancy Barrett, John Karlen, James Storm, David Selby, Diana Millay Lara Parker --they're all looking forward to working with us.
I spent a lot of time at the recent Dark Shadows Festival in L.A., listening closely to all the actors' voices when they were onstage, in an effort to gauge how cleanly the new audio will fit in.
At one point when Nancy Barrett was onstage, a fan mentioned that he thought she was the best screamer on the show. In reply, she let out a good one. It was very funny, and it was great litmus test for her voice. Most of the audio we need to record with her is sobbing, shrieking, reacting...as well as a few dramatic scenes. I'm so grateful her voice (especially at the higher, intense pitches) has changed so little! Nancy, Diana, and Lara will probably be the easiest voices to record because of that.
DSO: Are any of the deceased actors in the scenes that have to be re-recorded?
DG: Yes: Grayson Hall.
DSO: So, if someone out there can do a great Grayson impression, they should drop you a line?
DG: (laughs) Yes, We're actively looking for someone (male or female) who can impersonate her. They'll be listed in the film credits.
DSO: Sounds fun.
Darren, how did you get involved in this project?
DG: Since I graduated New York University's School of Film and Television, I'd been focusing my career on film restoration. I always considered the restoration Night of Dark Shadows to be a dream project. It had been a favorite of mine and the story of its forced re-cutting had become legend. MGM had reportedly tried to find the long version back in the early 1990s, but they'd never been able to turn up anything. I wrote a piece for Video Watchdog Magazine in 1996 to raise awareness of the film's legendary missing footage and to inspire audiences (and critics) to give the film a second look. On the strength of that article, I was asked to contribute two chapters to The Dark Shadows Movie Book (available from Pomegranate Press)--one on the making of the two films, the other a detailed account of the cuts made to each film.
Once I'd established a connection with DCP and Jim Pierson, I began to query rental houses and film archives about the film in an effort to hunt down the cut footage. After hundreds of letters and phone calls, I received permission to examine all the film elements for Night of Dark Shadows that were held by Turner. Several months (and several hundred hours later) I turned up elements for Dan Curtis' 129 min. version of the film. This version restores 35 minutes to the version currently available on video (which is 93.5 minutes long). It includes over 40 scenes cut from the short version and over a dozen extensions of scenes. In my opinion, the long version is a gothic masterpiece and any flaws that might have been present in the short version are non-existent in the long version. They were obviously the result of the haphazard re-cutting.
DSO: I'm sure I speak for Dark Shadows fans everywhere when I ask, how soon are we going to see this movie?
DG: We're hoping to have the film restored and available on video in time for its 30th Anniversary, next year. There's a possibility that the long version will also screen in a theater, something I would personally love to see. Dan Curtis' preferred cut was never screened for an audience, and it's a film that deserves to be seen on a big screen.