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Why I’ll Wait to See Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows

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I’ve followed the long and very slow progress of Johnny Depp’s plans to make a movie based on Dark Shadows with increasing trepidation. I was dismayed, to put it mildly, when Tim Burton came on as director, and suspicious about the lack of early promotion. As photos from the set were leaked and then stills from the film were grudgingly released, my doubts hit the red zone.

When the film trailer finally appeared on March 15, a mere two months before the movie’s opening, I was so appalled that at first I said flat-out that I would never see this movie, ever. When I made that statement on Facebook, the ensuing comments served as the last straw to make me close down my personal Facebook page. I guess I have to admit that I really, really care what happens with a Dark Shadows movie.

Since then, three shorter television spots have moderated the initial impression given by the trailer, and I’ve watched those and the trailer several more times. I’ll probably see Dark Shadows eventually, most likely on Amazon Prime—when it’s on sale. I can wait.

You’re probably wondering: what’s the big deal? Why should anyone care whether a remake of Dark Shadows treats the original fairly? Wasn’t Dark Shadows just a silly, badly-done soap opera with a mealy-mouthed “nice guy” vampire?

No, it wasn’t. It was far more than that.

For all its flaws in execution—mostly fallout from a limited budget and the break-neck, brainstorm speed of daily production—the original Dark Shadows (1966-1971) was an extremely creative and innovative show whose influence on the vampire trope in America, and on horror television and fiction, was enormous and is still very much in effect. Dark Shadows did things that had never been done before, and the fabulous success it enjoyed in its day was earned.

Dark Shadows was the brainchild of producer/director Dan Curtis (who later made the critically acclaimed miniseries The Winds of War and War and Remembrance). It premiered in June, 1966 as a daytime serial with a heavy film noir atmosphere. Hollywood actress Joan Bennett starred as the matriarch of the wealthy but thoroughly messed up Collins family in Collinsport, Maine. Full of simmering mysteries around missing persons, blackmail, troubled kids and sinister handymen, the show was no more “supernatural” than Gaslight (which it greatly resembled) until the ratings dropped to desperation levels.

Facing cancellation, the writers tried a Gothic twist and added some ghosts to the storyline. Audiences perked up. Then the show had the prodigal mother of one of the kids turn up. But rather than do the usual nasty divorce and custody battle, one of the writers suggested, “what if she’s really dead?” The mom was made a “phoenix” who was trying to claim her son and burn him alive with her so he would be immortal, too.

With ratings and viewer enthusiasm improving—and the Hammer Films Dracula series at the height of its popularity—the writers decided to try a vampire story, and invented Barnabas Collins. Neither they nor the actor hired to play Barnabas, Jonathan Frid, had the slightest inkling of the phenomenon they were about to unleash.

Barnabas was never intended to be “romantic” or “a good guy vampire.” The writers planned a three-month story arc that basically refitted Dracula to a small town in Maine. Frid signed a twelve-week contract to pay the bills between stage engagements. Barnabas was a stone evil sociopath who kidnapped, held hostage and psychologically tortured a young waitress unlucky enough to resemble his long-lost fiancée (who had committed suicide to escape from him). He was supposed to be staked and his captive rescued at the end of the story arc.

But as soon as the vampire was sprung from his chained coffin in April of 1967, viewers had other ideas. Dark Shadows, and Barnabas Collins, instantly became so thunderously popular, killing off the bloodsucker was out of the question. Not only did Barnabas stay on the show for the next four years, the writers were obliged to “reform” him and make him a somewhat more sympathetic figure. This led to a lengthy flashback to the eighteenth century to show Barnabas’ origin story, a plotline that introduced witchcraft and zombies to the mix.

With that, the show was off the charts—in more ways than one. Witchcraft, demons, ghosts, a Frankenstein creature, a disembodied hand with magic powers, werewolves; the show did versions of every major horror fiction trope, including homages to Poe and Lovecraft, along with multiple time travel segments and an alternate universe sidebar. There was even a nod to the classics with a riff on the Orpheus myth. Some of the show’s former cast speak appreciatively about the opportunities to play multiple characters and/or alternate versions of the same character, an acting challenge rarely found in daytime television. The show’s viewers lapped it up. Dark Shadows was the Twilight of its day, with the somewhat bemused actors buried in love letters from fans, riding in parades and mobbed in public. All this, mind you, long before the Internet, or even cable TV.

I always suspected that Dan Curtis himself hated Barnabas The Good Guy. The character was written inconsistently, often “reverting” to a rather cruel and nasty attitude, especially towards Dr. Julia Hoffman, the middle-aged physician who fell in unrequited love with him. In 1970, Curtis had the “second string” carry the show for a few weeks while he and some of the cast filmed the movie House of Dark Shadows on several locations near New York City. House of Dark Shadows repeats the Barnabas storyline from the show almost verbatim, but with the original planned ending: Barnabas is staked in a gruesome and protracted slow-motion sequence. After the film’s release, Curtis gave an interview to the New York Times in which he described a “fantasy” of inviting the entire Dark Shadows cast to a wrap party at which they would all be slaughtered with crossbows.

As “jokes” go, this was pretty weird, but it was also typical of Curtis. In 1972, he produced a movie based on Jeff Rice’s novel The Night Stalker, about a murderous vampire—he never speaks, just snarls—rampaging through modern-day Las Vegas. It garnered the highest ratings of any made-for-television movie ever. In 1973, Curtis produced a made-for-television version of Dracula whose script added several elements from House of Dark Shadows including, to the fury of Dracula purists, the plotline about the vampire wooing the double of his lost love. After that, reworkings of Dracula in which the master vampire was actually in love with one of the female characters became commonplace. (Now you know who to blame.)

It’s safe to say that without Dark Shadows, the entire vampire genre, fiction and film, would be vastly different today—if it even existed. A list of the show’s original contributions to fictional vampire conventions includes:

  • Barnabas Collins was the first American-born vampire. Until he appeared, fictional vampires were European, modelled on Dracula.
  • Dark Shadows invented the vampire as romantic hero—or rather, its fans did, and the show’s producers, once they got over their stunned astonishment, were smart enough to give the viewers what they wanted.
  • The Barnabas-Josette storyline introduced the quickly adopted and widely imitated theme of the vampire searching for the reincarnation of his lost love. The writers borrowed this plotline from the 1931 Universal film The Mummy.
  • Dark Shadows innovated the vampire as protagonist rather than villain. He was the first vampire whose feelings and motivations the audience cared about.
  • Dark Shadows popularized the notion that a vampire might become human again through medical treatment, an idea first floated in the 1945 Universal film House of Dracula.
  • Barnabas did eventually become the first “angsty” vampire who hates his curse and seeks a “cure,” but this idea was actually borrowed from Universal’s series of “Wolfman” movies starring Lon Chaney Jr. as mopey werewolf Larry Talbot. Anne Rice’s Louis is the direct descendant of both Barnabas Collins and Larry Talbot.

Whatever his ambivalence about Barnabas’ softer side, Dan Curtis maintained rigid control over the rights to the Dark Shadows “brand.” Fan interest in the show remained so strong after its 1971 cancellation, that in 1975 it became the first daytime serial in history to be syndicated for reruns. Annual fan conventions, the Dark Shadows Festivals, began running in the mid-1980s, and the episodes started to be released on commercial videocassette in 1989 and then on DVD in 2002.

In 1990, Dan Curtis revived Dark Shadows as a prime-time drama starring Ben Cross as Barnabas and repeating the same basic storyline that had now been filmed twice, on the original show and in House of Dark Shadows. The reboot sputtered along for twelve episodes and was cancelled. In 2004, the pilot for a second revival of the show was filmed but never aired. I was actually hired to help write a role-playing game based on Dark Shadows in 1998, but after we finished the project, it was shelved because the game publisher wasn’t able to get the necessary licenses from Dan Curtis’ production company.

Dan Curtis died in 2006, and one year later, Warner Brothers acquired the Dark Shadows film rights from his estate for Johnny Depp, who said publicly that he’d watched the show as a kid and had always wanted to play Barnabas Collins. After a Writer’s Guild strike, a change of screenwriters, and several postponements by Depp as he took on other projects, the Dark Shadows movie began filming in May, 2011. It was four months before fans saw any “official” photos of the production, and only after leaked snapshots from the set aroused unfavorable comment on the Internet.

Even the most die-hard fans of Dark Shadows enjoyed it for very different reasons. I fell into the category of viewers who forgave and disregarded the shortcomings in order to focus on the stories and characters. Other fans were entertained by the show’s excesses and errors, but I was not. It’s important to remember that Dark Shadows was never deliberately “campy” or a self-conscious spoof. It took itself completely seriously, even when it ramped up the melodrama with what cast member Lara Parker called “the Dark Shadows style” of overwrought line delivery. People who call Dark Shadows “campy” are projecting their own opinion onto the show and missing the point.

When I attended some of the Dark Shadows Fests in the 80s, I met a lot of fans who were doing wildly satirical skits making fun of the show, or assembling homemade “blooper reels” of all the muffs and blunders that were aired as-is because the show couldn’t afford the time or money for retakes. While I laughed along with most of it (indeed, I performed in some of the skits with the “Collinsport Players” troupe), I found it somewhat annoying.

I yearned for a remake of Dark Shadows that would take advantage of a bigger budget, better technology and more leisurely shooting schedule to develop the dramatic core of the characters and their dilemmas. I wanted to see the implausibilities ironed out, the historical and factual mistakes corrected and the characters allowed to evolve into real three-dimensional people. In short, I didn’t want Dark Shadows merely to be replicated, I wanted to see it improved.

But I was always disappointed. House of Dark Shadows and the 1991 revival of the show slavishly repeated the inanities of the original’s lowest points. In many ways they were even more implausible and risible than their source, and mostly seemed interested in drenching the screen with blood and angst.

I was cautiously optimistic about Johnny Depp’s interest in the new film version. Until recent years, I was a great admirer of Depp, and I couldn’t imagine him donning fake fangs and playing all the stupid vampire movie clichés. But my optimism was sucker-punched when Tim Burton assumed the director’s mantle. Of all the directors in Hollywood, Burton would have been the last on my list to helm a Dark Shadows movie. He’s simply too affected, stylized and self-conscious—all the traits that would automatically turn something like Dark Shadows into a post-modern parody. I’ve enjoyed a few of Burton’s films, Sleepy Hollow in particular, but always with qualifications. I absolutely loathed Sweeney Todd.

I know that it’s not fair to judge a film on the basis of five minutes of fast-cut footage in trailers. Trailers can be deceptive. It’s not uncommon for film trailers to contain footage that doesn’t even appear in the movie, and often the final score isn’t ready so the trailer uses other studio-owned music. But the trailer and TV spots for Dark Shadows, along with the publicity photos, would have to be extremely misleading indeed to completely falsify a few general impressions.

The first obvious problem is the way the film laboriously recreates the superficial visual appearance of the original show, which is completely unnecessary. It’s obvious that the movie aims to poke fun at “the Dark Shadows style” in set design and costumes, as well as the silly, silly 1970s and how ridiculous everyone supposedly looked and acted. Ideally, a recreated Dark Shadows would go back to its original premises and invent its own completely new style fitting the characters and story. This picayune attention to surface appearance suggests satire, not drama.

The action and dialogue we see is heavily slanted toward sight gags, silly vampire jokes, pokes at other vampire movies, and snappy one-liners that sound like they should be punctuated with rim-shots. We see Barnabas brushing his fangs with only the toothbrush (but not his clothes) reflecting in the mirror. We see Barnabas hanging upside down from his canopy bed (shades of The Lost Boys), clinging head down to the outside of a window (like Frank Langella in the 1979 Dracula) and popping straight upright from his coffin (like Gary Oldman in the 1992 Dracula). It appears that the movie is going to be one long series of vampire-related nudges and winks. I know there’s something in there about sparkles or glitter. I’ll just be waiting for it.

Depp’s makeup is inconsistent; sometimes he looks scruffier, in other shots he looks like he’s wearing a painted fondant mask made by the Cake Boss. Sometimes he’s wearing bright red lipstick and sometimes he’s not. There may be an explanation for this, but Depp seems to favor heavy, cartoonish makeup these days, and it simply makes him look like he’s playing the same character in movie after movie.

On repeated viewings, I can see some evidence of a plot, one that might even have elements of actual drama. But that’s not what the trailer and TV spots are selling. Just what they are selling is somewhat mystifying. To make matters even more confusing, in late February, Horrorhound magazine printed an interview with Tim Burton, asking him about rumors that the movie would be humorous. (Some of these “rumors” came from cast member Helena Bonham Carter’s offhand comment to an interviewer that “hopefully it will be funny.”) Burton said, “It’s news to me… I always start things with the most serious of intentions,” and also said he “wanted to rely on the characters.” Just weeks later, the trailer was released, giving Dark Shadows every appearance of an over-the-top comedy.

My preferences aside, the real issue with making a satire of Dark Shadows is this: No one is going to get the joke. People like me who remember watching the old show may not appreciate its being lampooned. But the vast majority of movie-goers won’t have the slightest idea what’s supposed to be so funny. Maybe that’s why the movie throws in so many digs at other vampire films. But as far as the original Dark Shadows is concerned, a joke that has to be explained is no longer amusing, and hence pointless.

The Dark Shadows movie raises the general question of what derivative works owe to their sources. Is it fair to appropriate a solidly established work and not only change it beyond all recognition, but do so in a way that completely reverses the tone and intent of the original? Parody and satire are only sporting when they aim upwards, poking the inflated importance and egos of the successful, wealthy and powerful. Turn those guns down at something utterly defenseless and mostly forgotten, and it’s no longer satire. It’s just bullying.

It’s possible that the trailers are misleading, that the studio PR department was so baffled as to how to market this movie that they tried hard to make it look sillier than it plays. The fact that there’s been so little “buzz” before now—for a Tim Burton/Johnny Depp vampire movie?—suggests tremendous uncertainty among the powers-that-be at Warner Brothers. But I don’t want to speculate any further. We’ll find out in May.

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About Vyrdolak

Inanna Arthen (Vyrdolak) is an artist, speaker and author of The Vampires of New England Series (http://vampiresofnewengland.com): Mortal Touch (2007), The Longer the Fall (2010), and All the Shadows of the Rainbow (2013). Book 4 is currently in progress. Inanna is a lifelong scholar of vampire folklore, fiction and fact, and runs By Light Unseen Media (http://bylightunseenmedia.com), an independent press dedicated to publishing vampire fiction and nonfiction. She is a member of Broad Universe, New England Horror Writers, Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and Independent Publishers of New England (IPNE). She holds an M.Div degree from Harvard and is an outspoken advocate for the Pagan and LGBT communities. She is minister of the Unitarian-Unitarian Church of Winchendon, MA.
  • http://crazylazysilly.blogspot.com MCW

    Great article. Dead on and very articulate. I, too, was hoping for something a little more serious; perhaps a loving homage to the original with some humorous moments to add balance, but it was clear from my first viewing of the trailer that this was just going to be another silly farcical stab at one of my favorite memories from the culture of my youth. I liken this to 1998’s Lost in Space, which by any estimation needed only to be slightly better than the TV show and way less campy to be good, but somehow Hollywood managed to take that little piece of nostalgia and turn it into unrecognizable drek with zero relation to the source material and not an iota of ‘fun quotient’. This version of Dark Shadows looks like it may be a cool thing to watch a few years from now on FX or maybe USA network on a Sunday afternoon when nothing else is going on. The original Dark Shadows, which I devoured every day after school, was as scary and moving as anything could be to my young mind and I will always have those cherished memories of sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the big green console cabinet of our Magnavox and being totally engulfed in spooky tales and Fritos.

  • Rob

    Thanks for this insightful dead-on article. I guess what’s most upsetting to me from these TV spots is that they all kind of show how really incredible the movie COULD’VE been, had Burton just taken a less aggressively silly approach to the material. I have nothing against adding a layer of wit or even having a bit of winking fun with the melodrama — but it appears that their efforts at humor are so broad and juvenile that they completely undercut the spirit, tone and intent of the established storyline. Ah, what might have been — Depp shows every indication that he would’ve made a wonderful Barnabas, had he been given a better screenplay and direction.

  • http://andrewsongs.com Andrew Bayuk

    Dark Shadows was already remade as a series once and had 2 full length movies dedicated to the original. I was also looking forward to this remake having a semblance of the original flavor. That being said, maybe the new movie will be entertaining on its own, so I am reserving judgment. If you want to hear a song about Barnabas Collins that does adhere to the original, check out Barnabas Collins – the song.

  • Jan

    Sad to say, I absolutely agree with everything you said. Dead on is absolutely correct. Yes, I can hold out hope that the actual movie is more than a series of vampire jokes. I was so excited when this project began, especially hearing that Depp was such a huge fan. He must be a different type of fan than you and I. This movie could have included some dark humor and a few inside jokes, while still taking itself seriously. It could have been and should have been an amazing tribute to the original, while having its own point of view. Instead it looks like a series of one-liners. Ugh. So disappointed.

  • http://insomniacentertainment.com Luigi Bastardo

    Wow, you did your homework, didn’t you? Nice work!

  • Jor

    Sounds like she was at the very first Festival when Ron Sproat talked about DS. Her quotes were almost word for word (I have a tape ofvthe session). Great job!

  • What_Could_Have_Been

    A friend of mine saw a screening of this movie in Burbank a couple weeks back and was very disappointed. She said it was nothing less then a comedy, with flashes of drama here and there.

  • jddarr

    If the decision was not to create a serious Dark Shadows movie based on the series, I wish they would have been a bit more creative by doing a movie about the making of the series, paying homage to live television and telling the many stories from the actors and perhaps weaving segments of the actual plot line.

    I really didn’t want a parody. Very disapointing.

  • http://bylightunseenmedia.com Vyrdolak

    MCW: Yes, it’s especially frustrating when you see how seriously some of the comic book series are being treated in big-budget films–and a Dark Shadows movie wouldn’t have to be big-budget. Tim Burton is saying he didn’t want to do a lot of special effects, but what is this big sex scene going all over the walls and ceiling?

    Rob: I thought Depp might be a good Barnabas when I first heard about his interest, but I’m not sure he wanted to be. A couple of weeks ago he made some comments complaining that modern movie vampires “don’t look like vampires” and he wanted to look more like Lugosi or Max Shreck in Nosferatu. I’m not sure he really accomplished that, but why not aim for your own individual style instead of mimicking one that’s 80 or 90 years out of date? Here’s the link to that.

    Andrew: Thanks for the link to that song!

    Jan: Well, Depp was very young, if he was really running home from school to watch it during its original run. He was only 7 when it aired for the last time in April, 1971.

    Luigi: Yes, I did! But not as much as you might think: I was there, you see. :-)

    Jor: It was Ron Sproat, yes! But not the very first Fest, I missed that one (and my only chance to see Grayson Hall in person, as she passed away that year). I’m sure Sproat told that story several times. Lara Parker’s story about “the Dark Shadows style” was at one of the Fests, too. She described, with examples, of how they all were coached to read their lines more and more dramatically and it was pretty funny.

    What_: That’s disappointing. I’m still clinging to the faint hope that the trailers have been edited in such a way as to make the movie look more comedic than it is. It’s fairly easy to take a bunch of fast cut clips and edit them together to achieve almost any effect regardless of what they convey in context, and we’re not seeing that much. They’re getting a lot of mileage out of that breakfast table scene! I won’t pass final judgment until I see the film, but I’m sure not paying $15 to see it in IMAX.

    There’s a fourth TV spot out, too, slightly different style, this one has a voice-over.

  • Artamus

    I certainly agree with you on most of your points. But I completely disagree about “House of Dark Shadows”. I think it’s fantastic – the best Vampire movie Hammer never made. It had the original cast, in a nice tight condensation of the early stories, excellent atmospheric cinematography, with none of the built in bloopers of the Series, plus it was true to Dan Curtis’ original concept with Barney as an evil Monster, instead of a hero. If “House” is remastered and released on Blu-Ray, that will serve wonderfully as THE Dark Shadows movie. As for Mr Burton’s latest steaming pile, in an ever growing heap of them, I won’t watch it at any price. But if you’re curious, fear not, it will no doubt be available in Walmart’s $5.00 bin soon enough.

  • Leticia

    At last, an intelligent summation of what the original program was all about. When first I heard of Johnny Depp’s involvement, not only was I somewhat disappointed, but knew that Tim Burton, et al., would not be far behind. From what I have seen of the 18th century scenes, it appears that the costuming and makeup are fine. In many instances and, despite his slight stature, Depp actually retains what was noble and impressive about Mr. Frid’s physicality. Unfortunately, he parlays his typical back of the throat, childish screech–similar to the one affected by the little boy in “Overboard”–into what he supposes the sophisticated Barnabas, whose eloquence and elocution were renowned, ought to sound like. In that regard, alone, he can never approach Mr. Frid’s masterful command of voice.

    The beginning sequences of the initial trailer seem like a period piece akin not only to the 1795 story arc but to any number of polished Regency dramas produced by Merchant Ivory, or found on PBS’ Masterpiece Theater. For that, I am pleased. I find no fault with the lush sets or the somewhat moody atmosphere; they are in keeping with what is remembered from prior versions of the series. The choice of 1970’s songs are not my choices–I was the age of Mertz’s Carolyn in 1972–because I disdained bubblegum and disco, preferring folk-rock, blues, and “heavy” type songs from guitar gods. If I were Burton and I just had to include music of the era, I would have used the Baroque sounds of Procol Harum or The Moody Blues. But, that’s just me. Those groups’ songs seem to go better with Barnabas as does a certain brand of cola, which goes better with potato chips. If Danny Elfman incorporates Robert Cobert’s signature theme song into the mix, I will be most grateful; if not, then something similar would be appreciated. The so-called “tone” that Burton was said to be striving for was right before his eyes and ears, had he remained true to the aesthetics of the original series. Most of that tone was set by the remarkable use of lighting, detailed sets, and haunting music.

    Here is where Burton’s direction fails for me: by splitting the film into two sections–giving shallow emphasis to Barnabas’ back-story, then jumping forward into the “present”, or 1972–the long-awaited serious treatment of Barnabas’ tragic tale is abruptly quashed when he digresses into a mash-up of all the vampire-related themes ever conceived. How better it would have been had Burton continued the 18th tragic-drama throughout the film, expending a measured portion of that time in Martinique, thus further developing the lightly spoken of, yet never seen, beginnings of Barnabas’ downfall. Then bring it forward to 18th century Collinwood and those condensed tragedies, ending with a brief scene in the present, filmed through rolling fog or misty vapors, depicting the finding of Barnabas’ coffin. The scene with the ghost of Josette wafting through the corridors chanting, “He’s coming…” should be the very last one and would indicate to the audience that a sequel might be well on its way.

    The sequel could depict Barnabas’ adjustment to modern life, but without the juvenile hi-jinks. Barnabas was a cultured, man of the “Enlightenment” who would have a natural curiosity for most things scientific. How much better it would be, then, to depict him puzzling over these new marvels, then studying up on them through books, gleaning wisdom from his 20th century acquaintances, or through simple furtive observation. Here, we would have the Maggie-Josette-kidnap-obsession theme, the discovery-experimentation-unrequited love formed by Dr. Hoffman, and the return of Angelique to inflict further suffering.

    I could have envisioned no less than three, possibly four, sequels exploring the story arcs that made “Dark Shadows” compelling viewing. Alas, I feel that this movie will not have a sequel, as Burton has previously said that he does not like them. Yet despite that, he has acquiesced to do a “Beetlejuice” sequel some twenty-odd years after its premier. Perhaps, in that many years from now, we will have a truly creaky Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, face slathered in Bondo and, after viewing the original “Dark Shadows” on NetFlix, pronouncing, “Reveal yourselves, tiny demons!” (One can only hope…)

  • Kay Cnway

    I am with you competely. The people who found the “real” Dark Shadow campy forget that the show was filmed in the 1970’s. There wasn’t much special affects to be used on TV. I loved and still do love the show… It would be hard to do the same story line in one movie
    I will go see the movie because I have decided to consider it a completely different comic movie done for laughts.

  • http://bylightunseenmedia.com Vyrdolak

    Artamus: Given that I just ran House of Dark Shadows for my workout video, I obviously don’t hate it that much. :-) It clearly suffers from budget constraints, especially in the sound, which could have used remixing and remastering. My major complaint is that it flies off into wild implausibility with the cross-waving police officers and the way Carolyn is dispatched. The extreme skepticism of law enforcement in The Night Stalker is far more believable, and I’d have preferred to see that whole scenario handled with a bit more finesse: say, Carolyn being staked clandestinely, or maybe packed off to a locked ward somewhere permanently (because what would you do with a person you’d known for 20+ years and thought was dead suddenly showing up like that?).

    I do think that the sequence at the old swimming pool, with Carolyn walking out of the mist, is just about the creepiest, most effective such scene ever filmed: it’s flawless. The 1991 revival of the show made total hash of it. :-(

    House of Dark Shadows must be in some kind of weird copyright limbo, because it came out on VHS which is now out of print and never has been released on DVD. You can watch it on Amazon Instant Video but you can’t buy it on DVD. Very strange, considering that you can buy all the episodes of the original show on DVD. Movie copyrights can get into very strange (and very frustrating) legal knots.

    Leticia: I agree, Depp is just trying too hard with that growly, formal speech. It doesn’t come off; he just sounds affected and artificial. I know he can do much better than that, but again: he’s not making the part his own, he’s just mimicking other actors. That’s so not like Depp, it’s additionally disappointing. We can’t be sure that the music in the trailers represents what will be in the final film; very often it doesn’t because the score can’t be finished until the movie’s final cut is ready. I usually love Elfman’s scores.

    We as yet have no idea what percentage of the film will be devoted to the 18th century and how much to the present day, but it does seem like too much to cram in. And you nail it when you say, “mash up,” that’s exactly what the movie looks like, and not just vampire films. The fourth TV spot shows Barnabas poking at his silverware with his long fingernails, an etiquette dilemma straight out of Edward Scissorhands. Where is Tim Burton’s legendary originality?

    Kay: Exactly! It’s rather like Dracula, which was intended to be set in the present-day (that being 1897 when the book was published) and went to great lengths to show how an essentially Medieval man would consciously study and practice to master the post-Industrial world and its resources. But now, people see Dracula as archaic, or at best, steampunk. That’s a complete reversal of the author’s intentions.

    Dark Shadows really peaked in 1968-70 and is very much a product of the 1960s and the cultural attitudes of that decade. It had been off the air for a year by 1972, so setting a remake in that year doesn’t make much sense. If you want to do a vampire spoof set in the 1970s, complete with disco balls, why not remake Love at First Bite?

  • dave parker

    The movie is an insult to true Dark Shadows fans. And the fact that Depp, supposedly such a huge fan of the show, would OK this ridiculous script is unbelievable. Did he really wait all these years only to make a joke out of his favorite show? He looks like a member of some TeenNick goth band! I won’t see it at the theater or rent it, instead revisiting the REAL D.S. movie, “House of Dark Shadows”. Probably will watch that on May 11, actually!

  • Leticia

    I have a suspicion that much of that music played in the trailers will not be heard in the actual film. Here are some snippets of sound from Elfman’s scoring.

    To my ears, they are reminiscent of Cobert’s themes. They are lush, in many cases, and adhere to that Gothic Romanticism we associate with “Dark Shadows”. I’d imagine that Warner’s put this out to quell the older fans, in particular, who were not keen on the sugar-pop and disco sounds emanating from the trailer.

  • http://bylightunseenmedia.com Vyrdolak

    Leticia: Wow! THANK YOU! Some of that is very much in imitation of Cobert. I usually love Elfman, and this stuff sounds great. Trouble is…now I’m even more confused! But I may buy the score, regardless.