Posts tagged Dark Shadows
I’m not the target audience for Mark Salisbury’s book Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion. That’s because I never saw the 1970s soap that inspired Tim Burton’s film “Dark Shadows,” and I didn’t find the movie particularly entertaining. I thought it was better than Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” but not one of his all-time best. However, I am a sucker for coffee table books, especially ones about movies, which is why I decided to check out Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion. I knew it would be a quick, easy read with lots of big glossy photos and fascinating behind the scenes stories. And it didn’t disappoint!
Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion features a foreword by Johnny Depp, the movie’s lead actor and frequent Burton collaborator, as well as an introduction by Burton himself. Neither of these statements are very long, although Depp’s foreword is especially entertaining. Even if it was ghostwritten, the section captures his unique voice perfectly with statements like “The character of Barnabas Collins possessed a sense of elegance that bewitched me.”
Following these opening statements is a section on the history of how the project came to be, which annoyingly repeats some of the same sentiments expressed in Depp and Burton’s intros. After that, the book delves into original material again, taking a logical approach to organizing itself: Chapter 1 (Cast), Chapter 2 (The Sets), Chapter 3 (Costume, Hair & Makeup, Prosthetics), Chapter 4 (Cinematography, Stunts, Special Effects), and Chapter 5 (Visual Effects, Editing, Scoring).
Each chapter contains a pleasing mixture of behind the scenes photos, concept art, and anecdotes from the cast and crew. Frustratingly though, captions are not placed next to images. Instead there is a single page in the back which has them, forcing you to flip back if you want to know who or what is featured on a specific page. The most hilarious interview snippets come from Depp of course, who is the only person in the book who requires censoring. He drops an f-bomb, which is politely altered so as not to offend readers.
My favorite discoveries mainly involved how the filmmakers created the costumes, sets, and effects for this supernatural flick. I loved hearing about how movie magic was used to create this quirky world. Although it was also intriguing to learn that Michelle Pfeiffer who plays the Collins family matriarch, was a huge fan of the “Dark Shadows” television show and practically begged Burton for a role in the movie.
Perhaps the most bittersweet part of Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion, is its afterword by the late producer Richard D. Zanuck, to whom the book is dedicated. Zanuck had an extremely long and successful career working on many iconic films, so it’s surprising to hear him describe this cast and his crew as one of his all-time favorites. I wonder how much of his statements were derived from truth, and whether he was putting on a kind face for publicity’s sake. Unfortunately we’ll never get the chance to ask him.
Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the film “Dark Shadows” I still dug Mark Salisbury’s book, so if you’re a huge fan of Burton, Depp, the movie, or the television show, you’ll probably have just as much fun with this book.
Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion is available in stores and online at www.titanbooks.com.
You know how “Pirates of the Caribbean” was a Disney ride before it became a Johnny Depp film? Tim Burton’s “Dark Shadows,” which also stars Depp, could easily be the reverse: a movie that inspires a theme park ride. Just like an amusement park attraction, Burton’s flick focuses more on spectacle than it does on substance.
The movie opens with Barnabas Collins (Depp) over-dramatically narrating his back story. In the 1700s, his family leaves Britain to settle in colonial Maine. After arriving, they establish the town of Collinsport and start a lucrative fishing business that allows them to build a palatial manor called Collinwood.
Flashing forward, we see Barnabas as a handsome man with loving parents and the woman of his dreams. He doesn’t remain happy for long; because the jealous witch Angelique (Eva Green), rips away everything that’s important to him. She transforms Barnabas into a monstrous vampire and convinces the townspeople to bury him alive. Unfortunately he sits undisturbed until 1972, when construction workers unwittingly free him.
Barnabas returns home to find his beloved Collinwood in shambles and a group of dysfunctional descendents living there. Once he discovers that Angelique has stripped his family of their wealth and reputation over the centuries, Barnabas vows to restore their good name and to defeat her. Everyone in the Collins clan is puzzled by his strange clothes and mannerisms, but they rapidly embrace his positive thinking and fierce loyalty.
As you might guess, the majority of the humor in “Dark Shadows” is derived from the culture shock that Barnabas experiences as a result missing 200 years of history. It doesn’t get any funnier than Barnabas quoting Steve Miller’s song “The Joker” or reeling in disgust from glam rocker Alice Cooper, who he refers to as “the ugliest woman I have ever seen.” However these jokes start to get old as the movie goes on.
Despite his ugly bowl cut and outdated social skills, Depp oozes his bravado as Barnabas Collins, even when telling someone to kiss his ass, “You may strategically place your wonderful lips upon my posterior and kiss it repeatedly!” Michelle Pfeiffer works well as the present-day Collins matriarch in spite of her lack of intelligent dialogue, but her rebellious daughter played by Chloe Grace Moretz is annoying. Honorable mention should go to Johnny Lee Miller who is perfect as Pfeiffer’s sleazy, thief of a brother and Jackie Earle Haley who’s a riot as the family’s drunken groundskeeper.
Depp isn’t the only Burton regular to return for “Dark Shadows.” Burton’s lady friend Helena Bonham Carter portrays the booze addled psychiatrist living with the Collins family, and composer Danny Elfman handles the music. Stylistically, “Dark Shadows” is very similar to other Burton films, which gives it a bit of a stale quality. Everything is very gray like in “Edward Scissorhands” and the score has a madcap quality to it reminiscent of “Beetlejuice.”
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of “Dark Shadows” is its villain. Green does a fine job as the diabolical Angelique; however her motivations aren’t very complex. When she finally confronts the Collins family in a magical showdown, the special effects are incredibly cheesy. Her cracking porcelain form looks like a cheap rip off from “Death Becomes Her.”
Since I haven’t seen the 60s British soap “Dark Shadows” is based on, I can’t really speculate on its quality as an adaptation. Although I can certainly say this movie isn’t Burton’s finest work. At least it’s funnier and less bizarre than his previous flick “Alice in Wonderland.”
My Grade: C