DVD Review: The House of Dark Shadows

The House of Dark Shadows is a film based on the popular soap opera, made in 1970 while the show was still running and while some of the original cast were still around. It’s a highly compressed version of the first 100 episodes or so starting with Barnabas Collins’s resurrection, with some events and characters rearranged.

The film begins with Maggie Evans and another young woman whom I don’t know named Daphne searching for David Collins, first around Collinwood–which looks like a real house instead of a collection of flimsy sets. Then Maggie goes over to the abandoned old Collins house to look for the boy. Dialog will later establish that Maggie is David’s governess; Vicky Winters is long gone or else, in this version of the story, never existed.

While at the old house, Maggie runs into Willie Loomis, who apparently works for the Collinses and in his spare time hunts for some long-missing jewels. He tells Maggie about an important clue to their whereabouts and, after David’s father Roger fires him a few minutes later, decides this is the right time to follow up by visiting the Collins family crypt.

Willie gets choked - in color!Willie doesn’t find the jewels, but he does find a coffin sealed with chains, which he opens… and the rest of the scene plays out pretty much as it did in the television version except that it’s in color.

As in the television version of events, all we see of Barnabas is a ringed hand.

Oh, and Daphne? No point in getting attached to her. While leaving Collinwood that evening, she walks down a long and spooky avenue of trees toward her car and becomes Barnabas’s first victim before we’re ten minutes into the movie.
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After the Scotland Tour

Kew Palace & Gardens

The morning after my tour of Scotland and the border counties was over, I didn’t fly home directly. Instead, I took the short flight from Edinburgh to Heathrow. I wanted to spend an afternoon in London–in particular, I wanted to go to Kew and finally visit the palace there.

I’d been to Kew Gardens before, most recently with my mother when we went to the UK together about 7 years ago. That was on the day we arrived in London after the sleepless overnight flight and we never got as far as the palace; the hike to Queen Charlotte’s cottage completely did us in and I remember having to lie down for awhile in one of the vast Victorian greenhouses.

Victorian Greenhouse
I think I took a nap in here in 2007

Whenever I’ve been back in London since then, it was always too early or too late in the year and Kew Palace was closed for the season. But on this day I was out of the airport early enough in the afternoon that I was determined to go while I had the chance.
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Scotland Travel Journal, Part 8

Traquair House

When we left Abbotsford, we drove for about half an hour along the River Tweed to reach the final house on our tour of the border counties, Traquair House.

Traquair House
Traquair House

Ages ago, perhaps even as far back as high school, I heard a story about a Scottish lord who locked the gates to his home and vowed they would never be opened again until a Stuart returned to the throne of Great Britain. I didn’t realize until we were actually here that this is the place. The gates are still locked, but there is another entrance off to one side and a new drive that takes you to the house; people want to be able to get in and out, after all.
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Scotland Travel Journal, Part 7


Abbotsford was the home of Sir Walter Scott, the famous early 19th-century author. He’s never been one of my favorite writers, but I gained a new appreciation for him as a person once I visited his house.

Abbotsford, as seen from the garden
Abbotsford, as seen from the garden

The house is less than 200 years old, but Scott had it built to look deliberately medieval and the place has something of fairy-tale air about it as you approach through the walled garden. This is entirely his own creation; there was nothing but a farm house on the site when he bought the land. The great views of the house from the garden as well as from the lawn below along the River Tweed are planned to be impressive.
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Scotland Travel Journal, Part 6


After our foggy morning at Hadrian’s Wall and a brief stop for lunch, we spent the rest of that afternoon at Cragside.

Cragside House from the Rock Garden
Cragside House from the Rock Garden

Cragside was the home of Victorian inventor, Lord Armstrong. It was the first house in the UK to use hydroelectric power and also features other technologically advanced late 1800s equipment. For example, an hydraulic lift goes from the basement kitchen and storage rooms up four floors; I couldn’t help thinking of the poor servants back at Newhailes who had to carry everything up two flights just to serve dinner. In the basement are not only bathrooms with running water, but a small sauna.
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Scotland Travel Journal, Part 5

Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian’s Wall
This was the day we visited one of the Roman forts along Hadrian’s Wall. It’s called Housesteads now, but was Vercovicium back when the Romans occupied it.

It was already a misty morning when we left the hotel, but instead of clearing up, it only became more foggy until you could barely see beyond the sides of the coach.

We stopped on the way in a village called Corbridge to pick up our guide for the morning, a local historian named Graham. As we drove along a Victorian military road actually built atop a section of Hadrian’s Wall, Graham gamely tried to point out the remains of Roman outposts–“over there, by that lone tree,” when we were barely able to see the tree looming out of the fog, never mind the stone ruins around it.
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Scotland Travel Journal, Part 4

We left the Norton House Hotel, although we would be returning at the end of our tour. Another relatively long drive this morning, a couple of hours, as we headed south through those border counties.

Going from Scotland to England is like crossing a state line; there’s a sign beside the road that says “Welcome to…” and there you are. As we were driving along, we speculated on how that would change if the separation vote won, and whether or not we’d have to show our passports in future.

It was at this point that we started to keep count of the Yes and No signs in the windows of shops and houses and in the fields we went past on the road.

Floors Castle

Floors Castle
Floors Castle

Our first stop was Floors Castle, just above the Scottish / English border along the Tweed River, which is famous for its trout fishing.

The name of the original house was the House of Floris, but the name changed when it was taken down to its foundations and rebuilt again by Robert Adam in the 1720s. The Dukes of Roxburghe and their families have lived here since that time.

We were told you might sometimes run into the present Duke or Duchess on the grounds (We didn’t). They are directly descended from those Ker(r) border lords of the Stuart era.

I enjoy visiting the houses that the old families still live in. Even if they don’t show you around personally, they make their presence felt so that you’re always aware that this is someone’s home. Photos of the children on vacations and at birthday parties sit on the tables in the rooms visitors walk through. A very nice modern-style portrait of the Duke hangs in the drawing room.
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Scotland Travel Journal, Part 3

I forgot to mention at the end of the previous day’s journal: when we returned to the hotel, we had a guest speaker before dinner, Anna Groundwater, a professor who is an expert on the history of the border counties during the time of James VI&I before and after the UK unification. I bought a copy of her book before the trip. She gave us a slide presentation about the major border families such as the Armstrongs, Bothwells, and Kers with one R or two, and the strongholds they lived in.

The next morning, we embarked on a longer drive, not south to the border counties but about an hour and a half northward to Scone Palace (pronounced “skoon”).

Along the way, we crossed the Firth of Forth on the motorway bridge that runs parallel to the famous railway bridge, which is not only a marvel of Victorian engineering, but looks really cool. The last time I was here, the bridge was swathed in mist and I couldn’t get a good picture. This time, I was determined to do the best I could through the windows of a moving vehicle.

Victorian Railway Bridge
The best photo I could manage of the Victorian Railway Bridge

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Scotland Travel Journal, Part 2


A chilly morning, and we drove through Edinburgh and out the other side to visit a home called Newhailes near the coast.


This house was only recently acquired by the National Trust. Like Strokestown on my Irish trip last spring, Newhailes was occupied by the last elderly members of the family who had owned it until around the end of the last century; in this case, the Lady is still alive, but she retired to a nursing home around 2000 and left the house to the care of the National Trust since she and her late husband had no heirs. The Trust has been working on a project to conserve and restore Newhailes since then.

A lot has been left untouched. There is crumbling plaster and peeling wallpaper. The iron rails on the front entrance stair are rusted and the wood decayed. But there are also some lovely antiques and family portraits going back to the early 1700s inside.

It looks like a large house, but it’s actually quite shallow–only one room deep from front to back. You can’t tell from the photo, but the windows on the ground floor left side are fake. Not because of the window tax, but because the library takes up that whole one wing and the walls inside are lined with shelves floor to ceiling. Most of the books are gone; one of the previous owners donated his collection to the library in Edinburgh and the Trust is trying to get it back.
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Scotland Travel Journal, Part 1

This is the tour I took: Noble Bastions in the Rugged North: Edinburgh & Northumberland.


The flight from Washington DC to London was overnight and uneventful. This was the first time I’d ever had to change planes at Heathrow, so I was nervous about making the connection to the Edinburgh flight. I needn’t have worried; I was at the gate in plenty of time and the flight was an hour late taking off. We didn’t get into Edinburgh until nearly noon.

Norton House Hotel
Norton House Hotel
As arranged, there was someone waiting for me with my name on a sign. She drove me to the hotel, which was only a couple of miles from the airport, in the country outside the city and surprisingly quiet. The Norton House Hotel, an old county house restored with a modern wing around the back and a pool/spa in another building a short walk across the walled private garden.

And there were cattle just across the road. I could see them from the balcony of my room.
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