Dark Shadows

Anyone of a certain age will recall coming home after school in time to watch Dark Shadows on the telly, which spoke to our generation in a way our mother’s soap operas could not. Many of us were Barnabas Collins fans, including Johnny Depp, who fought for years to bring the story to the big screen. “I do remember, very vividly, practically sprinting home from school in the afternoon to see Jonathan Frid play Barnabas Collins,” the actor says. “Even then, at that age, I knew — this has got to be weird.”

How appropo, as these days anything starring Johnny Depp has typically got to be a tad weird. And directed by Tim Burton, as this film is. And to co-star Helena Bonham Carter, which this film does. She plays Dr. Julia Hoffman. See below. And to feature Depp in wacky make up. Done. See above. And below, in the first photo of Depp as Tonto in the new Lone Ranger movie.

But I digress . . . . . the new Dark Shadows storyline begins in the 18th century, when Barnabas is turned into a vampire by the brokenhearted witch Angelique (Eva Green) and buried alive. The film then flashes forward two centuries, as Barnabas is freed from his tomb and returns to his home and the dysfunctional relatives who now reside there.

Principals involved in the film have given us a less clear vision of what to expect from the film:

“We’re changing it a little bit,” Burton said last fall. “I wouldn’t do it if it felt like it was just doing the same thing. For me, it’s about trying to go back to the original drawings and kind of capture that spirit a little bit more of what the drawings are. It feels different even though it’s a similar story, but we’re kind of expanding it a bit.

Bonham Carter muddled the water even further via the following comment, “It’s very original, and it’s kind of uncategorizable,” she said. “It’s going to be impossible to sell, frankly, because it’s a soap opera, but it’s very, very subtle, I don’t know. We’ll see. It’s a ghost story, but then it’s an unhappy vampire story.”

The film opens in theaters on May 11th, and no doubt the characters will garner themselves a whole new set of fans. If, that is, anyone comes away with a clear understanding of what the film was actually about.

So what’s next for Depp, who has never been one to rest long upon his laurels? The big screen version of The Night Stalker, with Depp playing Kolchak, the reporter in the seersucker suit who keeps running into monsters on his beat, originally played by Darren McGavin. No doubt there’ll be a part for Helena in this one, as well.

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