Dan Curtis wanted to drive a final stake into vampires with 1974's ''Dracula''

Curtis was an undisputed master of horror.

Here's the thing about being really good at one thing: It can get old, quickly. The repetitive nature of fulfilling expectations in the same way, again and again, would drive anyone bonkers. That's why none of the old European masters spent their lives painting the same figures over and over. There is value in variety, not just commercially, but artistically.  There's great satisfaction to be found in succeeding at new ventures and in conquering new creative worlds. 

Dan Curtis found it all to be a very tough spell to break. 

The filmmaker cut his fangs making vampires more respectable. During his early career, Curtis revisited that same well of souls, finding fertile ground in bloodsucking things that go bump in the night. First, he brought these creatures of the night into the soap opera format with Dark Shadows. That series ran for six seasons, producing 1,224 gothic episodes for ABC. 

Following the success of Dark Shadows, Curtis directed the feature film spin-offs House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows, with many cast members from the show reprising their roles.

Immediately after that, Dan Curtis produced The Night Stalker, which introduced Kolchak to the ABC Movie of the Week audience. The television film was the highest-rated ever at that time. The Night Strangler once again featured vampires, this time with the movie's veteran reporter— played by Darren McGavin— investigating a murderous conspiracy on the Las Vegas Strip.

While he'd made a name for himself building upon centuries-old vampiric mythos, Dan Curtis wanted to stretch his wings and fly to greener pastures. He did, however, have one final, definitive statement. In 1973, Curtis went to England to create his adaptation of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula

"Hopefully, that'll be the last vampire picture I'll ever make," Curtis told the Associated Press. "I've been successful, but I think I've run out of things to do with vampires. Unless someone comes along with something new I'll never do another."

In fact, Curtis would've called it a day on the coffin-dwellers before Dracula had it not been for one actor's inclusion.

"I wouldn't have done Dracula if [Jack] Palance hadn't agreed to do it," Curtis said. 

The British made-for-television movie also offered Curtis the chance to explore and subvert the vampire tale that audiences were surely the most familiar with. He was creating in the shadows of one of the most adapted novels of all time, adding to a pantheon of iconic Dracula movies.

"I won't fall for all those cliches done before. I took all the stupid things out of the novel. We made [Dracula] a human being. Admittedly he's terrifying, but when he goes in the end you'll feel sorry for him. When you do a picture like Dracula you must remove all the unbelievable things. He won't change into a bat, but he will wear the cape when he goes marauding. It would be a mistake to change that."

Curtis did not keep his word, however, and revisited vampires in the 1977 television anthology Dead of Night.

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6 Comments

BorisK 4 days ago
I remember watching this version with Jack Palance. Thought he did a good job at least, but he was even better in the Jekyll & Hyde TV movie he did.

As for Dark Shadows, the theme song and image of waves crashing on the rocks is about all I remember.
harlow1313 1 month ago
I own the enormous "Dark Shadows" DVD set.

When I was a boy during the initial run, I found the angst of Barnabas revelatory. I never got over Josette leaping off Widow's Hill, rather than partner with Barnabas in his vampire world.

Angelique's beautiful evil also left impressions on my boy brain.

The theme song is so mournful and distressing, and listen on the Youtube on occasion.
Runeshaper 1 month ago
Dan Curtis was a very talented filmmaker to be involved in all of these (-:
Sway 1 month ago
Thank you Dan Curtis for Dark Shadows. Would like to see those Dark Shadows movies on Svengoolie 🧛🧙‍♀️, with those Svengoolie commentaries.
WGH 1 month ago
Regarding his return to vampires after Dracula, money talks. I'm sure he got paid a mint for that!
Stoney 1 month ago
Never seen this one before, looking forward to seeing it this Saturday night!
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