Dark Shadows, Take… Three? Four? Five? Cast.

I don’t know how many of you recall Dark Shadows, the campy goth soap opera that kids ran home to catch from 1966-1971, and afterward in reruns. It took off when they added Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins, the only serious vampire in series television, in those long-ago days, before the undead were thrown about the mass media like sparkles at New Year’s. For a time, Dark Shadows staked its claim as the daytime tv ratings champion.

Tim Burton’s adaptation, big news at Comic-Con, starts shooting this spring. In addition to Johnny Depp as Collins, they recently announced Bond Girl Eva Green as Angelique.

The question….

….the original show’s success seems very much a product of a time and place. A couple of feature movies followed: House of Dark Shadows, which replayed the original Barnabas Collins storyline, but with twists the series never would have allowed, and Night of Dark Shadows. Novels appeared, and Gold Key published a successful comic-book which transformed the show’s vampire into a proto-Angel, fighting evil to atone for his past sins.

The “sexy” 1991 revival bombed. A 2004 pilot episode went nowhere. Can Burton and Depp– considerable talents with an uneven track record– bring this one back from the dead? Or have the shadows fallen forever on Collinwood?

6 replies on “Dark Shadows, Take… Three? Four? Five? Cast.”

  1. Aside from the never-ending ‘Pirates series that Depp’s stuck to (though you must admit he still did an excellent job with his part), what’s uneven about their track records?

    • Burton: Several excellent films (such as Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood)
      Several uneven films: (Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
      Don’t get me started: (Planet of the Apes. Batman Returns).

      Your mileage may vary: lots of people like Batman Returns. The Apes reimagining was panned by the majority of critics and virtually everyone I’ve ever met.

      He’s often so interested in creating cool images he loses track of other elements. Dark Shadows, which has failed two attempted revivals, seems tailor-made to go astray.

      • Yep. Planet of the Apes was a great movie until the last five minutes ruined the whole….damn….movie.

  2. Campy? Are you kidding? Batman was campy; DS was deep, dark drama. It was truly a phenom in the 60s in a way that nothing has been since. The sets would literally fall over in the middle of a shot and they would stay in character to finish the scene and then broadcast it out the next day and everybody would eat it up. Sometimes you could even see the cross shot camera crew in the background.

    Didn’t matter, DS achieved total willing suspension of disbelief. It was GREAT. ***I*** was one of those kids that ran home (well, walked, it was a couple o miles with a big hill) to watch DS. These were the eps where Barnabas had Maggie locked down in the dungeon and the only friend she had to pass the time was the little ghost girl. I can still hum the theme song today, with that castle up on the cliff. And I rememer the first DS movie, too. Had to argue with my mom that I was old enough to go.

    Barnabas was SOOOOooo tortured and misunderstood. Depp can do him justice. Now if only they get Jason Statham to do Quentin as the archnemesis of Barnabas, I’ll be there front and center on opening night….

    • Perhaps I should have said, “melodramatic.” Batman was deliberate camp. DS had, as you say, strong acting, but the combination of overwrought scripts, cheesy music, and production problems means that a number of viewers watched it (especially in reruns) at least partially as camp. Sort of how you can get behind the better Kaiju films or old eps of Doctor Who but still laugh at the cheesier and more overdone moments.

      And I’d be happy to be wrong about the forthcoming film. Right now, it’s difficult to get around the notions that Dark Shadows belongs to the late 1960s/early 1970s, and Barnabas Collins belongs to Jonathan Frid.

      • I will certainly agree with “melodramatic”, but there was something else, an INTENSITY about DS, that just sucked (er, sorry) you in. It was absolutely over the top writing, but delivered in this quiet, drawn-out, life-or-death manner that just never ever seemed silly. Beneath all the cheese, DS was a serious attempt to address destiny, and fate, and deep time, and mortality, and most of all, the consequences of choice. That there was a vampyre or ghosts running around was just part of the deal.

        It is sort of hard to describe just what DS was or meant back in the late 60s. I was just a young teen so my memory isn’t totally reliable. But there was absolutely nothing like it before or since. There was so much social repression in so many ways back in the 60s that any mode of escapism seemed larger than life and was given much more heft than it deserved.

        And DS was way beyond larger than life. It certainly WASN’T an old style radio show (altho the dialogue was KIND OF like that) and it COULDN’T be a TV show because the production values were so ABYSMAL. Yet NOBODY thought is was camp or even “bad”. People thought of it as a kind of an ongoing stage play they got to catch a glimpse of every day and production pratfalls were just part of the medium the DS story was presented in. It was shot live and by the late 1960s that was almost unheard of, a thowback to the mid-50s.

        Bottom line, you are absoultely correct, there is no was whatsoever to do a DS movie today, even with Depp channeling Frid perfectly. There is just no way to create that kind of atmosphere in only 2 hours.

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