Wednesday, November 6, 2013

New vs. Old- Dark Shadows; my critique.

Okay... Antique Mystique, where's the photo of Depp as "Barnabas"? Please, I don’t want to post one. First, I won't bash or toss the DVD disc around like a hockey puck. I admit it: I bought a copy of this movie. Clearly, I was never a Tim Burton fan to begin with, but didn’t want to judge this movie by its ending I watched on Youtube recently. Secondly, I'm not even near a baby boomer’s age, either. And third, it would sadly mark Jonathan Frid’s final cameo appearance alongside his fellow co-stars from the original TV show. I won't knock Johnny Depp (the actor). I remember him from the late eighties show, 21 Jump Street. But whatever became of Depp telling the late Dan Curtis he'd always been a fan of the TV series and wanted so much collaborate with him on a new movie? All I heard Depp mention was to the effect of, "I wanted to do an old-fashioned vampire film with Tim Burton." In the behind-the-scenes interview is Dan Curtis fondly mentioned (posthumously) during the filming of this Tim Burton movie? I heard no mention of the late director’s name nor that of the original show's cast/ crew. I think the new Dark Shadows movie was a comedy and way too explicit with some awkward 'use your imagination' segments between Dr. Hoffman and Barnabas. That, and the actress who portrayed Julia's character just trashed it. What is she in the new movie exactly: a medical doctor or psychologist? And when did Julia Hoffman become a raging alcoholic and suffer daily hangovers? If I were a parent… (I’m not, but let’s see this from a ‘parental perspective’), then would I let junior watch this new movie? Not exactly. I'd much rather they enrich their literary diet with the slew of old Marilyn Ross paperbacks and Gold Key comics, then let them make the decision if they wanted to watch the 1970 MGM House of Dark Shadows and the original MPI vhs series. Then I must be from some foreign universe where I don't grasp that nothing is too extreme in movies nowadays. Not really. Whatever became of a small trickle of blood from the corner of the mouth or two small punctures on the neck? And what happened to a normal well-groomed vampire who didn't have elongated talon-like fingernails through the entire movie? Well, I am thankful for one thing: Barnabas (Depp) didn’t sparkle like Ed-weird-o did in Twilight. Moving along… The pros of the Tim Burton movie: 1. A handful of the original TV show cast members made their last on-screen cameo appearances together as they waltz through the doors of Collinwood, of which was an elaborate stage set. 2. The interior (and recreation of the early 70's decade) seemed about accurate for the time period. 3. Some of the key characters in this new movie were loosely based on the Gothic TV show’s counterparts. 4. The exterior of Collinwood looked like a carbon copy of the TV show’s depiction. 5. Alice Cooper helped flesh out the movie and made it worth watching as well. 6: The ending was a new twist with a lot of possibilities. I did find the ending poignant and unique. However, I could very well envision this scene belonging to Jonathan Frid and Kathryn Leigh Scott forty-three years ago, but the technological advancements and new computer-generated special effects weren't readily viable when the TV show aired and then the movie House of Dark Shadows was released in 1970. If Dan Curtis had the newer technological elements at his disposal back then, the possibilities would have been visually stunning. However, movie-goers nowadays might consider House of Dark Shadows a laugh-fest much like the original Halloween movie is to groups of college-aged kids who think Saw and its sequels are top notch horror films. I find the movie Saw and its sequels to be overtly grotesque, but that’s just my opinion. The cons I had about the Tim Burton Dark Shadows movie: 1. Barnabas' arrival in America is too fast-paced and the transitions don’t flow quite right. As a young man Barnabas’ all-too-brief love scene with Angelique is missing a lot of key elements. Whether this was Burton’s intention or not is anybody’s guess. Angelique curses Barnabas over a bubbling cauldron with a lock of blonde hair because Josette comes from a wealthy family, I assume? There’s no mention that Angelique came from Martinique or that she was the maidservant to Josette DuPres. The bubbling cauldron reminded me of a Grimm’s fairytale-style. 2. Unlike the new movie’s depiction, the veteran Barnabas didn't leap off Widow's Hill, hit the jagged rocks below and… ta-da! miraculously rise from the waves as a vampire. That’s Tim Burton pulling a rabbit out of a hat trick, I guess. This particular scene in the new movie made Angelique out to be a witch that just graduated with her degree in witchcraft. 3. Barnabas (Depp), had a need to show off his prowess and claw up the banisters and moldings. Too much claw action reminded me of a feral kitten. 4. Barnabas (Depp) did his best acting in terms of a man straight out of the 1790’s. However, his over use of the old English language annoyed me by movie’s end. 5. Barnabas (Depp), constantly made references to Victoria’s fertile birthing hips every chance the line could be reiterated. And why would he need to run to Carolyn asking for the fifteen-year-old’s advice on how to date a woman by 1972’s standards? Despite the humorous line of “Only fifteen and no husband?” the rest was kind of awkward. 6. Barnabas (Depp) sleeping in the linen closet, plus admitting to the modern-day Collins’ that he’s a vampire just simply killed whatever mystique this movie had going for it. I’m sorry, but Depp gets a few points docked, no offense. 7. When/ where does Josette’s ghost/spirit begin to possess Maggie Evans/Victoria Winters in the new movie? All the movie-goers notice by the end is her sudden change from mortal to doe-eyed, pasty white vampire during her fall off Widow’s Hill and Barnabas swoops to her rescue and bites her. Next, Barnabas clutches her to him amid the crashing waves, jagged rocks and kisses her lips. One would think by now the waves would have washed off the trickles of blood and they’d want to cut out of there before the sun dotted the horizon, but nope. 8. Why bother? I won’t mention the cliff hanger. Just buy/ rent the movie. Now for the original series and why it enthralled, terrified and captivated: On the TV show during the 1795 storyline Barnabas shoots Angelique, and before she dies, places a curse on him and whoever loves him, dies. Then a vampire bat crashes through the window and bites him on the neck. Barnabas suffers a terrible bed-ridden illness as a result, then rises again as a vampire. He returns for his beloved Josette, but having already seen a ghastly vision of what she'll become if she tries to be with Barnabas (now a vampire), she flees to Widow's Hill, and just as Barnabas tries to desperately intervene, throws herself off the cliff and dies a horrible painful death. Josette doesn't rise a vampire or become reincarnated as Maggie Evans/Victoria Winters on the show. In fact, this is where the new movie plot was confusing. 3. The new movie veered off into left field here and there. The TV show dared to push the envelope with what could be allowed to be aired on TV. True, on the TV series, Barnabas and Dr. Hoffman *might* have had the potential of an unrequited romance, but never in the Tim Burton vein (pardon the pun). The new movie is geared for a Twilight-infused generation full of tweens and young adults. However, on the other side of the fence, there are the baby boomer die hard DS fans, and lumped in with them are the displaced 80's generation who discovered this 60’s Gothic soap opera in syndication land. Then throw in a scant few early 90's born generation of nineteen and twenty-somethings that found the original show by happenstance on Sci-Fy.(I guess the old “Sci-Fi” network has long since changed), and thus it becomes one big eclectic mix that walk away from the new movie with confusion and misinterpretation of the origins of Maggie Evans and Victoria Winters. The soon-to-be governess didn’t glance at a skiing poster on the train, and decide on a whim, that her new identity would be “Victoria Winters”. The real Victoria Winters (from the TV show): Alexandra Moltke played Victoria Winters. She didn’t suffer from multiple personality disorder as the 2012 Maggie Evans/ Victoria Winters/ Josette DuPres does in the new movie. Victoria Winters (Moltke) was not reincarnated as Josette, although Barnabas did slip into her room at night, prepared to bite her. However, once he discovered Maggie Evans, the Collinsport waitress, he was instantly taken by her. He kidnaps Maggie and holds her captive at first in Josette’s bedroom of the old house, then imprisons her in the basement. Barnabas (Frid) tries to break her will and hypnotize her into believing she is his long-lost love, Josette DuPres, but with ghostly help of Barnabas’ long deceased sister, Maggie’s able to break free and later is confined to Windcliff sanitarium. At best, the new movie’s flashback of Maggie Evans/Victoria’s secret past where she’s committed to a padded cell as a girl in a kid-sized straight jacket is strange. Sure, her parents think their little Maggie… err, I mean Vicky Winters is a nut cluster because she has a sixth sense and can see/ talk to ghosts? This part of the movie confused me. Then again maybe I missed something and wasn't paying attention. So the parents have their child committed to an insane asylum because she’s talking descriptively about seeing a ghost? This segment reminded me of the Sixth Sense where the boy can see dead people. As for the younger generation they won’t know that on the TV show, Windcliff sanatorium is where Dr. Julia Hoffman worked when she wasn’t helping to cure Barnabas of his vampirism. On a related note: the younger generation won’t know that Alice Cooper’s Ballad of Dwight Fry somehow correlates with the 1931 Dracula’s all-time classic insect-eating lunatic, Renfield played by character actor Dwight Frye for that matter. On the original TV Dark Shadows series (1966-71), 1,225 episodes: The introduction of Barnabas Collins was creepy, simply put. He was sadistic in the early part of the show, then became a tragic romantic hero of sorts and the audience fell in love with him, sympathized with his situations and struggles. Barnabas Collins (Frid) was supposed to meet an early demise on the show and be staked off camera. However, the concept of a vampire living in a modern world was something new, exciting and unexplored in the 1960’s. Also, take into consideration there was the Vietnam war, social and economic unrest in modern society at the time. The country was going through a vast dark period. People needed an escape and Dan Curtis offered that every weekday afternoon on TV. When Jonathan Frid would flash his fangs before he bit on camera was also a very new concept that drove the ratings through the roof. Jonathan Frid received large volumes of fan mail as a result as did many in the cast. Barnabas quickly became one of America’s favorite ghouls. However, he was also typecast to play vampire roles, which severely crippled his versatility as an actor. On the TV show when Barnabas is accidentally released from his chained coffin by drifter, Willie Loomis, he’s the first victim and becomes Barnabas’ slave. In the black and white episodes (before the show transcended to color which was a brand new medium at the time), was far more atmospheric, aesthetic and spooky! Try watching the series in the dark sometime preferably when there’s a thunderstorm. In color, the show takes on new appeal, and the differences of Barnabas’ complexion are noticeable when he’s a vampire and when he’s cured. Depp’s Barnabas stood out like a sore thumb and he didn’t try to blend in with modern day society. Barnabas (Frid) didn’t poke his nose into the Collins’ family fishing business much less was hardly ever seen during the day at all. Staying true to the literary vampire folklore made Frid’s Barnabas eerie. What I liked: no claws. None. No pasty-white or over the top painted blood red-lips. I realize for the movie, heavy makeup was in order and so was the emphasis on the blood that didn’t readily rinse clean, either. Willie Loomis was lazy and too mellow in the new movie. On the show, poor Willie Loomis was timid and tormented something fierce by Barnabas (made equally graphic in House of Dark Shadows). The TV show’s Willie Loomis (Karlen) wasn’t out for laughs. In fact, it made one feel pity for the drifter, who was forced into being Barnabas’ slave. Dr. Julia Hoffman (Hall) was constantly trying to help Barnabas and more of his ally as the show progressed and they became central characters. She was not out to become a vampire herself or try to breech the patient/doctor code of ethics in any abhorrent manner like what was depicted in the new movie. Their TV show chemistry clicked, no doubt. The new movie’s characters seemed too Scooby-Doo-ish and veer off in a drive-in double-feature vein. Carolyn is a werewolf in the new movie. Whereas, Carolyn (Barrett) was nothing more than a typical rebellious young lady on the TV show and she didn’t change into a wolf and howl at the moon. Claws, claws, claws—- enough with the shredding already. Thank goodness, Carolyn (Barrett) wasn’t cursed with lycanthropy on the show or in House of Dark Shadows, either. Reverend Trask would have been a good pick for the new movie or how about Professor Stokes? They were hell bent on seeing Barnabas die. But… time is money and the movie can’t be two or three hours long. Maybe it can be made up in the sequel if there’s one for the new Dark Shadows movie. Enough said, for now anyway.

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