So…”Dark Shadows”…What can I say? So much to talk about so let’s get started! First, we all know about my little Tim Burton obsession, and I use the word “little” as a joke. It’s ridiculous. But I also think fan’s are critical of their idols work, just as I am. I first heard of Burton undertaking this huge production right after “Alice in Wonderland” was released, and I must say that as a fan of the show I was so excited! I have always been a fan of the show, and although am not old enough to remember running home to catch the original on T.V., I do remember watching it as a kid in the 80’s, and watching the revival of “Dark Shadows” starring Ben Cross in the early 90’s. I was heartbroken when the revival series only lasted one season, and not because of ratings, but because during that series, we were all too enthralled in the Gulf War coverage which destroyed it. I actually loved that series as well and wish it lasted.
I also heard of production on “Dark Shadows” from the man himself at his art exhibition at LACMA last year which I covered for DM of course. he talked about it not only in person with me, but during our intimate small theater screening of “Ed Wood”. He said that he had only been about 2 weeks into shooting, and that he wasn’t sure what kind of feeling it was taking on other than it was “strange”. It’s a Burton film so that’s a given right? Also at Comic Con 2010, I attended a Dark Shadows panel with a few members of the original cast who stated that they were very closely guarding it’s legacy and would not allow Burton to “make a bad movie”. Good thing he didn’t.
Now I must state that I have to look at this film as a whole new “kind” of “Dark Shadows”, or even a new “entity” in itself. While accurate in some regards to the original series, it is NOT a reprise or copy of the original, and Burton was successful in not re hashing the old series and making sure it had a vibe of it’s own while only paying homage to the original series. Although I did not enjoy this movie as much as I thought I would, I did enjoy it. I mean I have to take into consideration the fact that the original series was complicated, and had over a thousand episodes, and all that would be impossible to put in one movie. The cast was perfect, and I cannot imagine anyone else playing Barnabus Collins other than admitted show enthusiast Johnny Depp. I enjoyed the new take on his heavy white face makeup and long sharp fingernails making reference to the original Max Schreck version of “Nosferatu”. I thought Burton did a good job of trying to keep the strange vibe of the movie and while I was worried this would be a comedy (trailers can actually be deceiving), I don’t consider it a comedy at all, although it did have some really comedic parts. I especially enjoyed the cameo’s by Alice Cooper himself playing his original “No More Mr.Nice Guy” while a ball was thrown at Collinwood mansion, and the cameos of some of the original cast members including original Barnabus Collins, Jonathan Frid. Little did we know that just a few weeks from release, this would be Jonathan’s last appearance on camera as he passed just a few weeks ago. But from what I have read, I understand that he as well as the other cast members from the original are “Happy with how Burton portrayed Dark Shadows, and that it a damn good movie”. Visually, I am always impressed with Colleen Atwood’s costumes and this was no different. She is absolutely worthy of the oscar’s she has won for her costume designs. While set in 1972, this time period was covered perfectly and painstakingly with everything from the cars driven, to the David Bowie posters on the wall and shag carpeting. Collinwood mansion looked great inside and out, and everything from the Victorian paintings of the Collins clan on the wall to the furniture was antique and decadent. Just as it should be. While very difficult to make one movie out of over a thousand episodes, I can understand the story progression as it went. Starting with the arrival of the Collins family in America, building Collinwood mansion and the Collinsport fishing and harbor business, then the murder of Mother and Father Collins. Angelique, a love jealous housemaid and seasoned witch, turns Barnabus into a vampire and he is buried for almost 200 years when discovered by the townspeople via Angelique. When re awakened, he seems to have a huge undertaking. Re building Collinwood mansion and the Collinsport family business, confessing and nurturing his love for Victoria the family governess, trying to undergo a so called “cure” via the alcoholic family Doctor (and Burton spouse/muse Helena Bonham Carter), all while understanding the new era he is in. But the underlying plot seems to be the love and hate relationship between Barnabus Collins and Angelique Brouchard, played wonderfully evil by James bond alumni, Eva Green.
My only negative critiques of this film are just a few things as I really did feel Burton did the best he could with what he had to undertake. And if anyone was qualified to make this film, it was Burton! First, I really don’t know who makes the blood for Burton’s movies but the formula needs to change because the color and consistency is all wrong. Even for a movie. A few scenes were not necessary at all, such as the implied oral sex scene between Barnabus and Dr.Hoffman, and the Carolyn Stoddard werewolf scene, and the very final scene of the movie also with the supposedly dead Dr.Hoffman. Maybe implying a sequel?
If anything it’s a visually stunning time period piece with excellence on the costumes, effects, set builds, makeup, everything. Again, not what I was expecting as an actual “Dark Shadows” story, but great as a variation of the series. Let’s hope screenwriter Seth Grahame Smith (who also wrote Burton produced upcoming move Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter) keeps a visually colorful script when he writes the Beetlejuice sequel for Burton, which he says he is writing now.
Although briefly mentioned by me in this article, I want to come back to the original Barnabus Collins and “Dark Shadows” alumni, Jonathan Frid. I am so happy this god of gothic soap opera T.V. made a cameo on this movie, and was somewhat involved. When I think of some of the greatest icons of T.V., Frid always comes up. It was incredibly sweet of him to reply to my letter I wrote to him only months ago, with a signed letter and poster of him as Barnabus Collins. We “Dark Shadows” alumni and fans will miss him dearly and know his legacy will live on. And while I cannot afford it, I hope some day I will be able to purchase the recently released Dark Shadows box set, with the entire original intact episodes and Frid autographed card housed in a wonderfully crafted coffin, so I can watch Frid’s timeless performances over and over and over. Well worth the 600.00 for the box set, when I have it of course! Jonathan we love you and miss you and this article is dedicated to your memory.