Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Chat About Dan

The Television Horrors of Dan Curtis has just been released, a new book offering a scholarly overview of the Dark Shadows creator's work. Here are some words from its author, Jeff Thompson.

When did you first start watching Dark Shadows and what attracted you to the show?

I first saw Dark Shadows in September 1967. I ran across it by accident when I was home sick from elementary school. The first scene of that episode involved David, Sarah and Barnabas, so the sight of kids my own age encountering a vampire hooked me on the show instantly! I watched Dark Shadows until 1971.

How did you come to write The Television Horrors of Dan Curtis?

In 2005, I wrote entries about five of Dan Curtis' movies for a multi-author book about loss of identity in films. In 2006, Dan Curtis died, and the Scoop website asked me to write an obituary for him. At that moment, I was pondering what the subject of my Ph.D. dissertation should be – I was considering film noir – when I realised that I should write more about Dan Curtis and give him and his works some scholarly recognition. My 2007 doctoral dissertation about Dan Curtis turned in to my 2009 book about him for McFarland.

How would you define the Dan Curtis' unique approach to horror?

Curtis's films feature a unique blend of classic horror and modern horror. Curtis was making his horror productions in the 1960s and 1970s, as classic Gothic horror – in the styles of Universal and Hammer films – was giving way to more graphic, brutal horror – things like Night of the Living Dead and The Last House on the Left. Curtis used elements of both traditional, atmospheric horror and more visceral, explicit horror in his remarkable films.

What do you think is Dan Curtis's finest horror production – the one that sums up this entire approach to the genre?

Dr. Will Brantley, the director of my doctoral dissertation, asked me this same question. I feel that Burnt Offerings is Dan Curtis' greatest horror film because of its bigger budget, star power, fidelity to Robert Marasco's original novel, and its effective blend of scary haunted house atmosphere and deeply shocking moments. Curtis himself felt that making a successfully scary movie was difficult, but that he had mastered the skill – especially in the last 15 minutes of Burnt Offerings, of which he was very proud.

Finally, why should Dark Shadows fans read your book?

We Dark Shadows fans can never know enough about our beloved show and its prolific creator, so we are always eager for new and in-depth information. Although I have loved and studied Dark Shadows for more than four decades, I learned a great deal more as I conducted research for my book. I believe that my fellow fans will enjoy perusing my findings and making new connections among Dan Curtis' films and their literary antecedents. Also, the book's 69 unusual photographs are not to be missed!

To order The Television Horrors of Dan Curtis from Amazon, click here.

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