Dark Shadows – A Fim Review

Watch the trailer to The Dark Knight Rises and then watch Timothy Burton’s Dark Shadows trailer(s) and you will have an idea about how this version of the vampiric TV program is morphed into a from-yet-another-other-dimension Burton variation on a theme.

For those of us who immersed ourselves in the original Dark Shadows back in the 1960s, that theme was on a far off planet in a long-ago time. With the 2012 target being today’s youth market this $150 million dollar film is more like Rocky Horror Picture Show meets The Addams Family only with the characters from Dark Shadows with Alice Cooper thrown in to boot.

Is it good? Well, of course, it is marvelous filmmaking, but it will also outrage the purists, and here’s why…the creepy Dark Shadows music from the original TV show (and the films House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows) is replaced by…The Moody Blues “Nights in White Satin” over a superb shot of the railway train bringing Victoria Winters to Collinwood.

Go to YouTube and watch the quasi-Hitchcockian original episode of the series and watch the beauty of the low-budget yet high creativity moment that helped spawn the legend. What Burton has done is sacrilege, no doubt, yet Burton brought in over a billion dollars worldwide with an Alice In Wonderland I couldn’t sit through…and his rather odd version of Batman brought in over four hundred million on a 35 million dollar budget. So this is all about the money and having a good time, “fortune favoring the foolish” as William Shatner quotes a phrase from Roman times (in Star Trek, not this movie.) The artistic license is actually so skewed and liberally sprinkled here that an appearance by Mr. Spock or Captain Kirk would fit into Burton’s many delusions. Keep in mind, it took another director, Christopher Nolan, to repair and reactivate the Batman franchise after Burton led it down a bizarre path …the opportunity is now there for another visionary to do the same and take us back to the future with Dark Shadows.

That being said, this is entertaining, if a bit unsettling for Barnabas Collins AND Alice Cooper fans. You have to look really hard to see if you can find the original show tv stars in their cameos – Quentin David Selby, Jonathan Frid and others in the Alice Cooper party scene…and with all the heavy makeup on Clarney you won’t be able to tell if it is Christopher Lee or Vincent Furnier (Alice Cooper) playing the character (it’s Lee as Clarney). Johnny Depp’s makeup resembles Michael Jackson more than Jonathan Frid’s Barnabas character this is supposed to be all about while Michele Pfeiffer steals the show. She’s perfect…not Joan Bennett (the wonderful actress who played Elizabeth Collins Stoddard in the 60s/70s TV series) but a droll Collins-Stoddard with a distinctive drawl. The overacting Pfeiffer displayed (for a reported 3 million bucks!) in Batman Returns (1992) is far more refined as she reunites with Tim Burton 20 years later. The Director’s penchant for taking important art from the past like Batman, Planet of the Apes and now Dark Shadows is akin to the Taliban finding it important to blow up the statues of the Buddah – archaeological terrorism. USA Today reported on the Taliban destroying all ancient sculptures and Tim Burton, rather than go all-out camp and make a travesty of Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Munsters, parodying the parody, finds more pleasure in maliciously desecrating House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows with this Julie Taymor-inspired mockery.

It entertains with its gross distortions and…the good news…unlike our inability to resurrect the old Buddahs after the Taliban engage their wrecking crew and demolish the place, we can find a Christopher Nolan or a Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet Of The Apes in 2011 after Tim Burton’s 2011 desecration) to afford us the opportunity to indulge in this guilty pleasure and await some logical genius filmmaker to understand the original is still the greatest and remake and remodel House of Dark Shadows. Until then, keep hitting BoxOfficeMojo and see how much Burton’s delirium benefits the cash register.

Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.