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Dark Shadows Reviewed: Burton's Sacrificed Artistry For Financial Success

by Joe Viglione
15 May 2012 11 Comments

He did it with Planet Of The Apes, he did it with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he did it with Alice In Wonderland, and now he's done it with Dark Shadows. Fun? Sure. Timeless? Not even close.

Dark Shadows

Watch the trailer to The Dark Knight Rises and then watch Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows trailer(s) and you will have an idea about how this version of the vampiric TV program has 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.

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.

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 essential art from the past like Batman, Planet of the Apes and now Dark Shadows is akin to the Taliban finding it necessary to blow up the statues of the Buddah – archaeological terrorism.  USA Today’s reporting on the Taliban  destroying all ancient sculptures is a warning that this director ignored.   Tim Burton finds more pleasure in maliciously desecrating the tone set by House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows with a mockery that would make Julie Taymor blush, and he embraces that turmoil with the same affection Jack Nicholson displayed in Burton’s Batman. Rather than go all-out camp and make a travesty of Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Munsters, parodying the parody, Burton splashes paint on precious memories and replaces them with his penchant for reinvention.   Problem is, it is financially successful while artistically missing the mark.

The late Jimmy Miller, Rolling Stones producer, would call it standing in the way of important art…or take it to the next level – murdering important art.   But the new wave of cinema is all about the blockbuster and a blockbuster this shall be.

It entertains with its gross distortions and…the good news…unlike our inability to resurrect the old Buddahs after the Taliban engaged their wrecking crew and demolished 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 parallel universe http://www.tmrzoo.com/2012/34423) 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.

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image descriptionCOMMENTS

Andrew Bayuk 3:42 pm, 15-May-2012

Regardless of the reaction to the movie, Barnabas Collins is a fascinating character study, in many ways different from the many other vampire stories. He enters the original series as a virtual monster and is able to win the sympathy and eventually the full support of the audience as the hero. This transformation is due to his complex character which inspired me to write a song called "Barnabas Collins". If you're a fan of the original series, whether you liked the new movie or not, you will appreciate how my song actually captures the original "spirit" of the main character in Dark Shadows. You can check out the song here, be sure to leave a comment.... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jXQ652Q7LM

Lexx 3:44 pm, 15-May-2012

To be honest I think you've got this backwards. The film is (intentionally) all over the f**king place. It doesn't make a lick of sense, there's a dozen subplots that are never expanded on or explained, we never feel any real affinity for anyone in this, there's extra drama shoved in randomly without a thought for narrative (why is the girl a werewolf? Where did that come from? More importantly, why does it happen at all?). Now, this all mirrors the schlocky US soap opera roots quite nicely, but doesn't make any sense to cinema audiences. There's no way this will make money, it's just too off the rails to be succesful. Is it a horror? A teen comedy? A romance? It tries to be all and ends up being an unevan mess. It's visually gorgeous, but it's a complete shambles, rambling zombie-like from one set-piece subplot to the next. Do you really give a crap about Depp's eternal romance? I know I didn't, and there's nothing to make us care or feel that this is somehow driving his actions. Is this a movie about love, or one about rival fish-canneries? Who knows. It's a mess that Burton and his regular ensemble obviously had fun making, but a popular hit? Not a snowballs chance in hell.

Artamus 6:26 am, 16-May-2012

Burton’s delirium isn't benefiting the cash register THIS time. I hope that the powers that be in hollywood start buying the clue that hiring Directors who delight in flipping the bird to fans of the source material is not really the best plan of action.

David L 3:06 pm, 16-May-2012

I'm having a fairly shit year so far, but at least I'm not a 53 year old enfant terrible who's so misunderstood by Hollywood that I get $150 million thrown at me every couple of years to piss away on a "reimagining" of some cult classic, and then spend two months on a world-wide press junket telling everyone that I've always felt like an outsider, and that Johnny "13 tattoos and a private island in the Bahamas" Depp is a misfit and an outsider just like me. That must get fucking soul-destroying sometimes.

wong kit ru 3:43 pm, 17-May-2012

i likely

Allen 9:08 am, 20-May-2012

But why oh why couldn't they have used Quentin's Theme and Josette's Theme and the Waves Crashing Against the Rocks Theme? Otherwise, I liked the camp adaptation.

Artamus 7:18 pm, 20-May-2012

Allen, they didn't use those themes because they weren't written by Danny Elfman. Also, Quentin was spared the embarrassment of being in this thing. David Selby does make a cameo, but I'll bet he regrets it!

Batman 12:39 pm, 2-Jun-2012

Burton didn't ruin Batman, it went downhill AFTER he stopped doing them.

Elsie 9:41 am, 1-Oct-2012

This is proof positive the yanks just don't get satire (generally speaking of course). This movie didn't sell out to the big blockbuster $, it stuck to subtle, knowing, edgy satire (thank god), and as a result, it went way over the heads of most(ly Americans). This film was brilliant. I loved every minute of it. The fact that this reviewer didn't like the first Batman (which was so far and away superior to any of the other Batman flicks), proves their total absence of taste.

Artamus 12:51 am, 2-Oct-2012

The REAL Dark Shadows movies, "House of....", and Night of...." are being released on Blu-Ray and DVD on October 30th, At least something good has come from all this.

Iqra 2:59 am, 10-Dec-2012

You know Burton owns other companies right? They own Forum, Special Blend, and Foursquare. I think they also just aqiucred Alien Workshop or somebody a couple months ago.k2RideRomeNeffGrenadeGNUQuiksilver (Yes, that's how you spell it, without the c and one word.)CoalHoldenVolcomBillabongHurleyOakleyAnonDragonVon ZipperAirblasterDakineAtomicLib Tech(-nologies)Signal (Don't know if they make street wear.)

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