Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dark Shadows (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Dark Shadows

Here it is. The moment that the most Goth and kitschy among us have been waiting for: the latest film adaptation of the cult soap opera "Dark Shadows" which ran on Tv from 1966 to 1971. The supernatural elements of the soap, most notably the introduction of Barnabas Collins (Johnathan Frid) were introduced about six months into the show's run. From then on, the  show took off into the night becoming ravenously popular. I've heard countless stories of many during that time racing home from school or work to catch the latest Naugahyde nightmare in its half hour time slot.

I was a bit behind the times and a little too young. At five years old, near the show's conclusion I was coping with my own orthopedic monsters due to hip surgery. Alas,  I was too preoccupied then to taste Barnabas' astral charms and his speech which in retrospect is as heavy as an oak casket. 

 But fear not, now I can rest easy and endure periods of smoother insomnia with this latest version of the afternoon spook show directed by the funster of Fright, Tim Burton.  Better still, the film actually gives the impression that if you were born too late to catch the original Dark Shadows, they are here once again as lurid and as lovely as ever.

It is hardly a surprise that we have the Vamp virtuoso of Camp, Johnny Depp as Barnabas, complete with heavy eyeliner and lipstick. Not since Divine have I seen anyone incorporate his makeup so well until it becomes almost a personal trademark. Rather than play Barnabas in gravely gray tones throughout,  as Frid once did, there is more than a bit of tongue and cheek here. It is Johnathan Frid as interpreted by John Astin. Gomez Addams is never far away. There is the usual comic commentary about the current age when our eerily existential elitist awakes: cars have an infernal luminescence and Tv is sorcery. It isn't the dialogue that is funny so much as the delivery. Depp is so deliciously Draculish and brazenly Barnabas that his timing is perfect. 

Tim Burton knows his visual history and the washed out greens and grays retain the unmistakable anemic cinematography that the original series had to cope with. For Burton, the look of  the film is both conceptual and a matter of infectious nostalgia. The iconic black  rocks that bookend each dramatic segment remain identical to the original and are just as crucial to the film as its characters. In "Dark Shadows" appearance is everything.

The film does become a bit torpid and tepid during its middle passage. Barnabas does a lot of skulking around the grounds of the family mansion with Elizabeth (Michelle Pffeifer) and Willie (Jackie Earle Haley) both of these characters have very little magnetism of heart or mind. For a few minutes, I grew impatient and thirsty.

The action picks up again however when Barnabas confronts the dark and delectably diabolical Angelique (Eva Green) who has all the best lines. Green's chemistry with Depp is masterfully meshed with enough monster chemistry to quell a hundred lovelorn Lon Chaney, Jrs. Everything is lampooned here from "Fatal Attraction" to a bit of "The Exorcist" projectile pea soup. The love scene by itself will have you howling in your seat as much for its Rube Goldberg style ribaldry as its carnal cacophony. 

"Dark Shadows" although a bit uneven and jagged is a visually robust crowd pleaser with enough sight gags and sneaky charms to excite both those who burn for the third coming of Barnabas Collins and the sons of Scissorhands who venerate Tim Burton either by night or day.

Write Ian at redtv_2005@yahoo.com

No comments: