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Dark Shadows (**)
directed by Tim Burton
written by Seth Grahame-Smith, from a story by Grahame-Smith and John August,
based on the television series created by Dan Curtis
Dark Shadows
Principal Cast
Johnny Depp -- Barnabas Collins
Michelle Pfeiffer -- Elizabeth Collins Stoddard
Helena Bonham Carter -- Dr. Julia Hoffman
Eva Green -- Angelique Bouchard
Jackie Earle Haley -- Willie Loomis
Jonny Lee Miller -- Roger Collins
Bella Heathcote -- Victoria Winters / Josette DuPres
ChloŽ Grace Moretz -- Carolyn Stoddard
Gulliver McGrath -- David Collins
Ray Shirley -- Mrs. Johnson
Christopher Lee -- Clarney
Alice Cooper -- Alice Cooper
Ratings
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

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The new Dark Shadows move has some good bits in it, but the inconsistency in character and tone, as when Dr. Julia Hoffman gives Barnabas Collins a blow job, are enough to spoil it for any Dark Shadows fan, and not enough to endear it to fans of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.

Here's what you need to do to enjoy Dark Shadows. First, you need to be twelve years old. Second, you need to run home after school every day to watch it on television. Third, you need to see it in bits and pieces, picking up the story in the middle, missing a big chunk when your parents take you away on vacation. Most important, you need to fill in what you missed talking to friends.

That's the ideal Dark Shadows experience.

My own Dark Shadows experience was a little different. I was older than the perfect age, and picked up the pieces of the puzzle listening to sf fans talk about the show at meetings of the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society. "A séance was held in the great house of Collinwood." I get goosebumps! Then, back in Louisiana, in the small town where I lived, local tv showed the program one week ahead of the New Orleans station, so when I traveled to New Orleans every week-end, to attend the meetings of the New Orleans Science Fiction Association, I had the pleasure of recounting the plot for the coming week to all the pretty girls in the club. I met my first wife that way. Then, at a New Orleans convention, Jim "The Trekkie" Mule, for the convention film program, showed the entire series to date on film, 24/7 throughout the convention. I finally got to see Barnabas turned into a vampire for the first time, and his horrific, unwilling wedding to Angelique. But there were other things happening at the convention and I had to sleep sometime, so again I got the story in fragments. It was like reading the Epic of Gilgamesh on the original clay shards. I loved it.

Not a bad way to experience Dark Shadows, really.

Many years later I watched every episode on video, one episode each night, for one thousand two hundred twenty-five nights. That was fun, too.

The film opens well, which is to say seriously. Johnny Depp makes a good Barnabas Collins, Michelle Pfeiffer makes a good Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, Helena Bonham Carter makes a dreadful Dr. Julia Hoffman. And so it goes. Willie Loomis is good. Angelique is awful. And none of these names mean anything to you unless you are a fan of the original series.

I don't mind that they changed the story around. Dan Curtis would have done the same -- did the same in the 1991 remake. What I hate is that Tim Burton could not make up his mind whether he was directing a drama or a comedy. Are we sympathizing with the characters or laughing at them? We wind up doing neither. It was also a bad mistake to try to bring the story to a conclusion. The "ending" of the tv series is better.

Four of the original stars have cameos, but they went by so fast I couldn't spot them, and I was looking for them.

If they had used more of the original music by Robert Cobert, that would have helped. He's listed in the credits, but again I couldn't spot his music, and I was listening for it. He music is one of the best things about the original series.

If you want to experience Dark Shadows today, well, you can't. If you really want to try, your best bet is to buy a random selection of the DVDs, get your friends to buy different random selections, watch them in random order, and then get together and talk about what you've seen. Then, if you're hooked, you'll want to watch them all.

Copyright © 2012 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon. Visit his web site at comicsrevue.com.


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