I was ten when WTBS syndicated Dark Shadows, a soap opera actualized by Dan Curtis Series Creator, Executive Producer, Director, who was also behind cult favorite, Night Stalker. As a child, I’d cut my teeth on all things macabre – The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, anything with Vincent Price, and of course, Dark Shadows, a soap opera where the hero just happened to be a vampire.
I’d always wanted the vampire to get the girl in the end but none of the Lugosi or Lee movies ever delivered. Dark Shadows reluctant vampire, Barnabas Collins, was the first of his kind to inspire sympathy for his plight in the audience’s heart.
Dark Shadows blended vampires, witches, ghosts, werewolves, and even time travel to create a world where viewers could suspend belief, to be swept away for thirty minutes a day to the eerie coastal town of Collinsport, Maine.
My best friend, Karen, and I wrote Dark Shadows fan-fiction and I still have several pages of it stored in my coffers. Our fifth grade teacher even allowed us to write, produce, and star in a play based on the Gothic series.
When I heard Tim Burton planned to revive Dark Shadows and cast Johnny Depp as the ill-fated Barnabas Collins, I was ecstatic. Who but the combination of Burton and Depp could infuse the dusty old soap opera with new blood? My favorite Burton / Depp collaboration was Sleepy Hollow – another of my childhood favorites breathtakingly rendered on the big screen. I hoped Burton would infuse Shadows with the same morbid beauty, the evocative Elfman score, and bewitching cinematography he’d brought to Sleepy Hollow, Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride, and Nightmare Before Christmas.
I followed the making of Dark Shadows all the way up to the release of the official trailer. The beginning scenes revealed everything for which I’d hoped. Widow’s Hill as only Burton could paint it. Depp channeling the original Barnabas, Jonathan Frid. Big, dark, creepy Collinwood, and everyone’s favorite wicked witch, Angelique depicted in all her ice and fire force by the mesmerizing Eva Green.
Then the trailer took a turn for the comic worse.
I watched it twice. My heart sank. Had Burton turned my favorite childhood memory into a farce?
I resolved to see the movie, even though I feared I’d be terribly disappointed. A friend from those old grammar school days met me at a sold out showing where we were forced to sit on the front row.
The movie opened in typical Burton washes of foggy grays, scenes rich with cinematic creepiness against the backdrop of a haunted music box Elfman score. At any moment, I expected the quirky campiness of the trailer to crank up, ruining the spell Burton cast in the first ten minutes of the movie. I thought I would cringe upon seeing the scenes from the trailer.
I was pleasantly surprised.
Burton’s Dark Shadows is a homage to not only the old soap opera, which ran from 1966 to 1971, but also to the Dark Shadows movies, Night of Dark Shadows and House of Dark Shadows, of the late sixties and seventies.
Toil and trouble, family secrets, unrequited love, hidden passages, and inner demons abound amidst Burton’s gallows humor. Instead of the plot-less free-for-all I’d expected, Burton delivers a fond epithet of gore and glory.
Fans will notice cameos by original cast favorites, Kathryn Leigh Scott - Maggie Evans Haskell, Lara Parker - Angélique Bouchard, David Henesy - David Collins, and Jonathan Frid - Barnabas Collins. Frid passed away a mere two weeks before Dark Shadows’ release.
The ending. Oh, the ending is fabulous, a veritable bird flung in the face of the Twilight Saga, reminding the audience that Dark Shadows is the benchmark of all vampire romance.
I loved it and will definitely see it again.
Opens on Friday May 11, 2012 nationwide.
Directed by Tim Burton; written by Seth Grahame-Smith, based on a story by John August and Mr. Grahame-Smith and the television series created by Dan Curtis; director of photography, Bruno Delbonnel; edited by Chris Lebenzon; music by Danny Elfman; production design by Rick Heinrichs; costumes by Colleen Atwood; produced by Richard D. Zanuck, Graham King, Johnny Depp, Christi Dembrowski and David Kennedy; released by Warner Brothers Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 53 minutes.
WITH: Johnny Depp (Barnabas Collins), Michelle Pfeiffer (Elizabeth Collins Stoddard), Helena Bonham Carter (Dr. Julia Hoffman), Eva Green (Angelique Bouchard), Jackie Earle Haley (Willie Loomis), Jonny Lee Miller (Roger Collins), Bella Heathcote (Victoria Winters /Josette DuPres), Chloë Grace Moretz (Carolyn Stoddard), Gully McGrath (David Collins), Ray Shirley (Mrs. Johnson), Christopher Lee (Clarney), Alice Cooper (Alice Cooper) and Charlotte Spencer (Coat-Check Girl).