“There’s danger in the Dark Shadows…”

Somewhere in the mists of my early youth I was a DARK SHADOWS fan. I suppose that I was about 8 years old in 1966 when DS first aired, but I don’t think I caught onto the fact that this gothic horror soap opera was even on television until I was about 10, well after vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) was added to the show. At least I don’t recall watching any episodes without Barnabas, and Wikipedia claims he didn’t show up until a year after the show started.

Once upon a time I even collected Dark Shadows bubblegum cards. I remember that they came packaged with the most gawdawful chalky slab of gum imaginable. To a 10-year-old, the taste of the gum was at least as important as the card enclosed, so it took a lot of determination to keep buying packs of the nasty stuff. I’m not sure I ever collected a complete set of cards (and yes, I had some of both the original red-edge series and the later green-edge version). In fact I think I still have those cards somewhere, probably rubber-banded and sitting in the bottom of a dusty shoebox along with my Liddle Kiddles and my mood ring. Ah, sweet youth!

Despite DARK SHADOWS being one of my own earliest fan passions, it came as a surprise to me when I learned that Tim Burton was making a new film version starring Johnny Depp (of course). Both Burton and Depp claim to be huge DS fans from way back, although I would guess that Burton is the truer devotee, as he and I are almost exactly the same age, whereas Depp was a mere 3 years old when the show started airing on television. Who knows – perhaps Depp caught the 1992-2003 reruns on SyFy? I was initially amazed that anyone would want to resurrect my kooky but beloved show after the last somewhat disappointing and short-lived 1991 primetime reincarnation starring Ben Cross and Jean Simmons. Then I realized that Burton is just about the only director out there who could do this story justice.

I admit to being a little bit worried that Depp may turn in another silly fey performance as I felt he did with Willy Wonka, and precocious and campy are NOT what the almost 200-year-old bloodsucking vampire Barbabas Collins is all about. Right now Depp’s take on the character is anyone’s guess, as the only thing we’ve seen from the new production so far has been a few recently-released promotional publicity stills.

Someone got a little heavy-handed with the face powder again.

Gotta say that I LOVE the Frid-inspired hairstyle he’s sporting above, but the nails…hmmm, not quite so much. Those look more Nosferatu than Barnabas. Hey guys, he’s 200, not 2000 years old, remember? Here Depp looks more like Legolas from LOTR rather than a voracious and bloodthirsty undead fiend. On the other hand, Michelle Pfeiffer (below) has just about the right look going for Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, the beautiful and haughty matriarch of the Collins clan. I’m sure she’ll do movie star Joan Bennett’s original role proud.

Johnny Depp as "Barnabas" and Michelle Pfeiffer as "Elizabeth Collins Stoddard" in DARK SHADOWS.

Helena Bonham Carter is playing the slightly off the wall psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman, which is about as perfect a typecast role as you can get. (But will she have Grayson Hall’s memorable cheekbones?!) Bonham Carter may do well in the part, as long as she reins in the manic behaviors so common in her later performances (but I am beginning to wonder if she can’t find work in anything other than her husband’s films now that HARRY POTTER is done).

I can’t say that I am familiar with Eva Green who is playing Angelique. It seems that Green starred in the 2006 James Bond flick CASINO ROYALE. Now, I did see that film, but must admit that when Daniel Craig is on the screen he’s pretty much all I’m looking at, so I don’t remember much about this actress’ performance. At least she is actually French, as Angelique is supposed to be. Whether or not she can pull off Lara Parker’s signature mesmerizing gaze we must wait to find out. Happily, it looks like they keep her a blonde in this, which stays true to the original actress’s much-admired appearance. However I’m confident that Jackie Earle Haley will nail the part of poor, cracked Willie Loomis, and IMDB lists both Frid and David Selby as having at least cameos, so it’s sure to be a lovefest for DS fans. Plus – joy! – veteran horror film legend Christopher Lee (excuse me, that’s SIR Christopher Frank Carandini Lee now) is tossed into the mix somewhere as well. Be still my horror-loving heart!

The cast of 2012's DARK SHADOWS.

The original DARK SHADOWS cast. I LOVE how Burton copied this tableau for the new movie's promotional shot!

I also get the feeling that the new film will include PLENTY of other nods to the original show which will surely delight old fans. For example, if you look really closely at the 2012 photo above, you can just make out that Depp is holding Barnabas’ dog headed silver cane. But is he wearing the same famous black onyx ring?? Dare we hope? And am I too obsessed with this?? Most probably so.

But the best news of all is that Burton has set the film in 1972, within the same time period in which the original TV series was produced, allowing those of us who are longtime fans to relive some of our youthful memories of the series and yet still enjoy the whole horror-filled, time-traveling, mind-bending trip through Collinsport a marvelous second time around. (It’s just too bad there probably won’t be any wibbly-wobbly sets or window curtains falling down unexpectedly to add the true authenticity of the original.)

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