Dark Shadows – My Review
How would you rate Dark Shadows?
Elizabeth Collins Stoddard
Fantasy, horror or science fiction?
Although I am not a fan of horror movies, I have read many books over the years. The list includes H.G. Wells’ "Time Machine," "Island of Doctor Moreau," "Invisible Man," and "War of the Worlds;" Jules Verne’s "Journey to the Center of the Earth," "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea," and "Around the World in Eighty Days;" R.L. Stevenson’s "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde;" Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and Bram Stoker’s “Count Dracula.” Not only was I interested in futuristic tales, but also in some science fiction, notably Arthur C. Clarke's “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” and George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and “1984.” As a child, I loved reading fairy tales.
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that I have seen many movies in this genre. Amongst the most fascinating (perhaps for many of us) are the stories about vampires, witches, werewolves and warlocks! By far the most depicted character in movies is that of Count Dracula, a vampire that has been represented in film at least 170 times. It is not surprising, therefore, to note the popularity of this creature. Some of my favorite movie representations include "Love at First Bite," (Stan Dragoti – 1979) starring George Hamilton – a romantic, comedy offering; “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” – (Francis Ford Coppola – 1992) starring Gary Oldman as the menacing vampire in a Gothic, horror presentation; “Interview with the Vampire” (Neil Jordan – 1994) starring Brad Pitt; "Dracula: Dead and Loving It," Mel Brooks’ parody starring Leslie Nielsen (1995) and my list would not be complete without including the “Twilight Saga” with its shimmering vampires and loyal werewolves – first released in 2008 – based on the trilogy written by Stephenie Meyer.
A dark and stormy afternoon...
I was looking forward to seeing this common tale of horror, mystery, comedy, and romance and as I drove my friends to see the movie, the sky was heavy with clouds as a Norther blew in, and lightning cracked as the approaching storm set the tone for the late afternoon’s entertainment. Tim Burton (Director) brings this American TV soap opera series (1966 – 1971) to the big screen with an all-star cast (Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter). The original show was created by Dan Curtis. Depp is delicious in the starring role and you’ve got to hand it to him – with his Droll English accent and elegant manners reminiscent of 1750s England, he is oddly compelling as the romantic, Gothic vampire – Barnabas Collins.
Young Barnabas is taken by ship to America with his family, to build a new life. He grows up to become rich, powerful and a playboy. House maid (and witch) Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green) has her sights set on Barnabas, but her heart is broken when he falls in love with an ethereal beauty named Josette DuPres (Bella Heathcote). Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and Angelique disposes of her competition then turns Barnabas into a creature of the night and makes sure he will not be seen again!
I am not a film critic and dislike plot spoilers, so I will resume my narrative 200 years later in the 70s era, when opportunity knocks and chains to the past are broken. We discover that our vampire can become a real pain in the neck with what some might call a deadly, biting sense of humor! I found the humor entertaining and enjoyable as I watched the plot unfold! Barnabas reminded me of the late Michael Jackson in his successful evasion of sunlight and I was most amused at the variety of sleeping arrangements that he concocted. He seemed to get the hang of it! Amidst an estate which had once seen much opulence, Barnabas employs the help of the still-attractive head of the family – Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) and also Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley), the sole caretaker of the age-old estate, who cannot resist the hypnotic hands of our hero – to restore the family estate to its former glory.
The Mad Hatter
Depp, Pfeiffer, Bonham Carter and Burton
Add to this odd group, Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller) – Elizabeth’s shady brother; Carolyn Stoddard (Chloë Grace Moretz) – her strange teenage daughter and David Collins (Gully McGrath) – Roger’s troubled 10-year-old son, not to mention live-in psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), who has her own hypnotic tricks up her sleeve, plus the arrival of a new governess, an ethereal beauty named Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote) and this really gets the “ball” rolling.
Set amidst the fashionable 70s era, Barnabas encounters many newfangled and confusing “modern” inventions. With a real live performance by Alice Cooper himself (or is it herself?) Barnabas sets about ridding the town and his family of the supernatural charmer who has plagued them for centuries and who meets her ultimate demise in a scene vaguely reminiscent of the movie “Death Becomes Her,” (1992).
Michelle Pfeiffer is not unfamiliar with creatures of the night, having played in roles such as Catwoman in “Batman Returns,” (Tim Burton – 1992), Girlfriend to Jack Nicholson’s werewolf in “Wolf” (Mike Nicholls – 1994); and one of Jack Nicholson’s three witches in “The Witches of Eastwick,” (George Miller – 1987).
Johnny Depp and Tim Burton (Director,) have collaborated on seven movies thus far. Depp’s talent for accents and his ability to portray a wide range of characters – eccentric, romantic, sensitive, serious, dark and humorous – is a perfect fit for the type of characters Burton loves to showcase. Throw in Helena Bonham Carter for good measure, and this foursome is good to go!
I loved Depp’s role as the Mad Hatter in “Alice in Wonderland,” (2010). His wonderful whimsical character helps Alice on her fantastical journey through Wonderland, while Helena Bonham Carter plays the fabulously quirky Red Queen.
Depp plays an insanely warped and deadly Barber seeking vengeance in “Sweeney Todd,” (2007) a horror story based on Broadway’s successful musical. Once more, it is Helena Bonham Carter who aids him with his deadly deeds as the sinister Mrs. Lovett.
“The Corpse Bride,” (2005) an animated film, again co-starring Helena Bonham Carter, is a story in which she and Depp lend their voices to the characters of a Groom who accidentally marries a dead bride.
In “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” (2005) Depp, an eccentric candy maker, escorts a group of children around an intriguing chocolate factory. Once more, Helena Bonham Carter joins the action.
Sleepy Hollow," (1999) tells the story of Constable Ichabod Crane, who is sent to investigate a series of horrible murders, which involve decapitation and encounters the curse of the Headless Horseman at Sleepy Hollow.
In “Ed Wood,” a black and white film (1994), Depp portrays the writer and director of the same name, who had the dubious distinction of being known as the “world’s worst movie director.” He made movies during the 1950’s science fiction craze and was known for his eccentricity, cross-dressing, alcoholism and close friendship with Bela Lugosi – an actor best known for his role as Dracula.
Depp’s portrayal of “Edward Scissorhands,” (1990) is poignant and moving as this gentle and romantic creature tries to come to terms with his strange life. With scissors for hands, he navigates the world trying to create beauty, rather than destroy his surroundings. He holds us spellbound by his expressive face and body language, as our shy and unfortunate hero realizes that he does not fit in and prefers isolation to the hectic modern world out there.
Dark Shadows Trailer
Tim Burton - Johnny Depp collaboration
Which Burton-Depp Movie did you like best?
The music in this film was scored by Danny Elfman, another long-time collaborator of Burton’s. Including rock and pop songs from the 70s, Alice Cooper sings “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “Ballad of Dwight Fry.”
The film grossed $29,685,274 in the USA, when it was released this last weekend and grossed $36,700,000 in other countries.