by Greg Lamberson
Dark Shadows, the new comic horror film directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp, is dedicated to the memory of Dan Curtis, who created the gothic soap opera which inspired it. Curtis was the most prolific and influential genre filmmaker working in television in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In addition to introducing the world to the tragic vampire Barnabas Collins, portrayed by Shakespearean thespian Jonathan Frid (who died recently), Curtis also produced The Night Stalker with Darren McGavin and Trilogy of Terror, which featured an African doll stalking Karen Black. But Dark Shadows was his baby, a bizarre serial featuring vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and other assorted ghouls, made all the more charming by the wobbling sets and performances inherent to live television. Curtis later made two feature films based on the show with the original cast, and in the 1990s he revived the series for prime time TV with Ben Cross and Barbara Steele.
I saw my first episode of the original at the impressionable age of four, when repeats followed Commander Tom on Channel 7; a deluge of phone calls from irate parents caused its abrupt disappearance after less than a week. Depp and Burton were young fans as well: Early in his career Depp commented that Barnabas was his dream role, and a few years ago he acquired the rights and convinced frequent collaborator Burton to helm the project. The resulting film manages to be faithful to the original while lovingly lampooning it. The plot uses the original Barnabas storyline to poke fun at the era in which the show ran. After a jealous servant (Eva Greene) curses him with vampirism, aristocratic Barnabas is buried “alive” for 200 years, until he is freed from his coffin in 1972 and moves in with his dysfunctional descendants at Colinwood, a haunted mansion in Maine. Michelle Pfeifer shines as the family matriarch, with young Chloe Grace Moretz scoring points as her rebellious daughter. Depp’s performance is a loving tribute to Frid’s, and he and Greene, whose immortal witch assumed control of Colinsport during Barnabas’s absence, have a lot of fun playing their characters’ supernatural sexual tension. Although Burton’s version is a humorous celebration of the unlikely weirdness once found on daytime TV, today’s irate parents are warned that the film is also gleefully dark and violent.
Watch the trailer for Dark Shadows
Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v11n19 (Best of Buffalo Issue, week of Thursday, May 10) > Film Reviews > Dark Shadows
This Week's Issue • Artvoice Daily • Artvoice TV • Events Calendar • Classifieds