Monday, March 19, 2012


Last week's release of the first trailer of Tim Burton's/Johnny Depp's Dark Shadows feature film earned cries of foul from the original series' devoted fans. They assert they'd been led to believe the movie would be more along the lines of Burton's previous Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Sweeny Todd, gothic, atmospheric thrillers played more or less straight, when what they got appears to be closer to Bettlejuice.

And the Brady Bunch Movie.

And Dukes of Hazzard.

And Bewitched.

And A Very Brady Sequel.

In other words, laughing at, not with a beloved 1970s television show.

See for yourself, below:

The movie's defenders, like's John Mitchell rationalize:

(T)he original series was a true-to-genre soap opera (just, you know, with a heavier lean on the supernatural).... The problem is, a straight take on the original... wouldn't fly with today's sophisticated film audience.... It's based on a soap, after all, and is so over-the-top that to direct it as a straight romantic vampire drama might have meant significant alterations to the story to "normalize" it. It would have had to be boiled down to the basics. That still might have made for a good film, but (real talk) it also might have meant that something really dynamic would be translated into a highbrow, slightly more horror-leaning version of "Twilight." And, um, no one wants that. On the flip side, if Burton had kept the deliberately exaggerated and theatrical style of the original without acknowledging the comedy inherent in going so over-the-top (this is the literal definition of "camp"), it would have been unwatchably ridiculous. Soaps are absurd but play their ridiculousness with the utmost seriousness. It's something we all know and accept about them, but it's not something that would work, not even for a second, on the big screen.

The debate reminded me of a quote I loved from Kathryn Leigh Scott, the original Dark Shadows' Maggie/Josette, who told me, when I interviewed her for my book, Soap Opera 451: A Time Capsule of Daytime Drama's Greatest Moments:

Barnabas was essentially evil at first, but one felt sorry for him and he, poor man, suffered the fearful guilt and loathing of his curse: for him to live, others must die. His love for Josette was eternally doomed and he was a despised wretch who, at times, wielded immense supernatural powers and, at other times, was an impotent creature lying helplessly chained in a coffin. One responded to this sad-eyed despair with the romantic notion of saving him from himself. The situations were often absurd, but we played everything with an intense honesty.

(Watching the trailer, my husband kept asking, "Where is the romance? Where's the romance? How do they expect this to work without a real romance?")

What do you think? Is the new Dark Shadows an affectionate homage, or just another mean-hearted spoof of soaps in general, and Dark Shadows in particular? Tell us below!

1 comment:

Beckie said...

I have heard for years that there was a "Dark Shadows" in the making. I saw the commercial for it yesterday and immediately posted to my FB friends how appalled I was on this movie. Who is it that we are trying to appeal to here? The kids of today who have NO IDEA what "Dark Shadows" is or the people who remembered and faithfully watched this daytime soap after school, yes many of us were in High School when this was on tv. I know many of those in my age bracket would have looked forward to seeing and re-living the loves of Barnabas or even to see Quentin and Daphne reunited. OH! Burton and Depp have ruin that! Tell me there is no one in Hollywood that could have come up with a better storyline! Goodness gracious! What would they do with other soaps like "Search for Tomorrow", "One Live to Live" or "All My Children." I haven't cared for or have been taken in with any of these "Vampire" movies BUT I would have LOVED to have seen "Dark Shadows" on the Big Screen but this is SO Screwed up!