Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Brief History of the Dark Shadows Wars

I understand the anger directed at the new Dark Shadows film. I’ve even embraced it a few times, because much of what we’ve seen about the film contradicts everything we’ve been told, from Tim Burton’s assertions that the movie is not a comedy, to screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith’s insistence that the movie is respectful to the source material. A handful of recent interviews suggest there’s a great deal of contempt for the original show by the people creating the new film, which is rarely the kind of atmosphere that produces good work.

At this stage, though, it’s all conjecture. There’s been a lot of heated, nasty commentary on both sides of the aisle as people hurl invectives over a movie they have yet to see. Nothing shown so far suggests Burton’s film is going to be a good Dark Shadows movie, but that’s hardly a useful method of evaluating a film. Tim Burton’s movie deserves to live or die based on its own merits and I hope we can all wander into theaters in May with an open mind.

But it’s not the fault of Dark Shadows fans that we’ve arrived at this divisive place. Warner Bros has done an amazingly shitty job of promoting the film, and the studio should be delighted that John Carter has provided a distraction by lowering the bar for terrible movie marketing. The creators of the new Dark Shadows film have, intentionally or not, misled people about the kind of movie they were making. And the few times they’ve dropped the veil and shared their true feelings, they’ve been fairly offensive.

So I thought it was time to revisit the rocky, often ugly history of how the new Dark Shadows movie has tried to unusual technique of charming fans by alienating them. Hold onto your butts.

July 8, 2008

It’s reported that Tim Burton and John August are developing a new Dark Shadows movie. People are initially excited that the acclaimed director of Ed Wood, Batman and The Nightmare Before Christmas is helming the film, but doubt slowly settles in as they realize Burton is also the director of Alice in Wonderland, Planet of the Apes and Batman Returns (and that he also didn’t direct The Nightmare Before Christmas.)

July 15, 2010

Seth Grahame-Smith, the “author” of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, agrees to write Dark Shadows. It’s unclear if his job will be to polish August’s work or to start the process from scratch. It’s the first sign that the 2012 Dark Shadows film might be something … offbeat.

March 24, 2011

The collective spider-sense of Dark Shadows fandom begins to tingle as Seth Grahame-Smith begins to refer to the film as “funny.” Sample:
“Let’s not be afraid to be funny. Let’s make Barnabas funny. Let’s see this movie through his eyes and really see a man who is trying to come to terms with what he is, where he is and when he is.”

September, 2011

Set photos of Dark Shadows leak, revealing a white-faced Johnny Depp strolling in the sunlight. The words "Michael" and "Jackson" are used together quite often to describe the images.

December, 2011

Helena Bonham Carter calls Dark Shadows “hilariously terrible” in an interview. It’s pretty clear she means what she says, as further comments in the same interview don’t leave a lot of room for misunderstanding. Sample:
“It’s actually a really bad, hilariously bad soap opera, and because it’s so bad, he felt he had to make a hugely expensive movie.”

February, 2012

As descriptions of the pending trailer for Dark Shadows begin to leak online, Tim Burton tries to dispel rumors that he has made a comedy. He tells  Horrorhound Magazine:
“The reason I liked Dark Shadows was that it was a weird family story. It just happened to have supernatural qualities to it," he reveals. Responding to reports that the film will feature comic elements, Burton says: "It's news to me... I always start things with the most serious of intentions. I sometimes find humor in things that aren't funny and vice versa.”


March 1, 2012

Kathryn Leigh Scott’s Return to Collinwood is published, which includes several chapters about cameos filmed by four original cast members of the Dark Shadows television show. Helena Bonham Carter reportedly arrives late for a meeting with the movie's guests. Lara Parker has nothing but kind words for Eva Green, the actress taking over her role as Angelique, but is later shocked by some of the comments Carter makes about the original television show.

March 16, 2012

With less than two months to the film’s premiere, the official trailer for Dark Shadows is released online. Fan response is not entirely positive. In fact, a lot of people are seriously angry. Arguments break out all over social media networks and things get ugly fast. Here’s a sample from one Facebook fan site:

“I have made The Dark Shadows Fan Site out of my love for Dark Shadows, but the past two day's i have seen such hatred that it is totally shocking me how some "Fanatics" are behaving. I stated from day one that this will ALWAYS be a fan friendly site for all to come and visit. But today i was even shocked beyond anything i have ever though I would hear...I was called a Nazi. All because I said i will delete and ban anyone that gets out of line on here, and that means cursing or treating others with disrespect. My Fiance is Jewish, My Best Friends Wife is Jewish and so are a few of my friend's on here. When will all this hatred stop, and why is it happening...all because of a 2 minute Dark Shadows Trailer? I am disgusted and appalled that this is still going on today. HOW DARE YOU CALL ME A NAZI!!!”

That post wasn’t typical of the kinds of dialogues taking place after the trailer’s release, but it was certainly not out of the ordinary. My favorite comment came from @mscriseyde via Twitter: “Can't wait to see when they schedule the #DarkShadows purity test at this year's festival”

You can read my initial response to the trailer HERE.

MTV published a piece called 'Dark Shadows' TrailerDivides Fans.

March 18

Seth Grahame-Smith says he was surprised by the unfavorable response to the trailer. He says the film is “respectful” to the source material, apparently unaware that a scene of Angelique dropping her panties on Barnabas’s face was included in the trailer. Sample:
“We wanted to have fun with it. We wanted it to be something that paid homage to the actual series, which was campy in its own right and very sincere. But we also wanted to make something that people would have fun seeing. We didn’t want to have people sit through the organ music of a two hour chamber piece. You need to entertain and you need to have fun with the premise. And I think when people see the movie, they’ll realize we struck a good balance between respectful and updated.”

March 23

Not to be outdone by Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Burton explains that the appeal of Dark Shadows is harder to identify that that of Star Trek, saying “I think you could say it was actually awful.” The interview was published in the L.A. Times.

March 26

Kathryn Leigh Scott, one of the original cast members of Dark Shadows, filmed a cameo in the new film and was reportedly onset when the “awful” interview with Tim Burton was conducted. Sample:

“With regard to Tim Burton’s alleged quote about the original Dark Shadows series (“technically speaking . . . you could say it was actually awful”), I can only agree that the technical bloopers were embarrassing at the time, and are painful to watch some 40 years later. However, we produced 1,225 half-hour shows “live” each day, with a single take and very little rehearsal five times a week! Our cutting-edge special effects consisted of a bat dangling on a string attached to a fishing pole, and early Chromakey before there was such a thing as green screen. Boucher misses the point in comparing the production values of a 47-year-old daily soap with a handsomely budgeted, big-screen feature directed by one of the most extravagantly talented and creative film makers of our time. The only direct comparison would be if Tim Burton had chosen to film Dark Shadows in one long single take and then released it without any editing or post production.”

Her response is published in the April 1 edition of the L.A. Times.

March 28

Further proving that Tim Burton staffed his production with like-minded individuals, Eva Green says Dark Shadows was not “inspiring” in an interview. Cast as Angelique in the film, she claims there was some confusion over who was going to play the role when the original cast was ready to film their cameos.

“I’ve seen scenes, but the show’s not inspiring for my character,” she told the May issue of GQ.
Eva also revealed she had an awkward encounter with Lara Parker – who played the original character of Angelique in the TV show. Lara makes a brief appearance in the new movie and Eva admits meeting her on set led to a confusing situation.
“When I met her I was thinking, ‘Oh no, I haven’t done my homework! It was weird: she thought she was playing Angelique because she had a cameo,” she recalled.

April, 2012

Burton continues to beat the “Dark Shadows is Terrible” drum in an interview published in Empire.
“Helena had never seen the show, because it was never really over here in England, and she was one of the few people I showed some episodes,” Burton said. “I don’t really know if that was a good thing to do. It may not have been helpful, because she looked at it and said, ‘So this is how you want me to act? Like, bad?’ So I didn’t really show it to anyone else.”


So, here we are ...  as Humphrey Bogart used to say, things are never so bad that they can't be made worse. There's more than a month left until the Dark Shadows movie opens and a I am DYING to see what these people have to say next. My prediction? Tim Burton will out Jonathan Frid during an interview on Good Morning America.


Erica said...

This is absolutely brilliant. You've captured all the insanity in a one-stop post. Thank you.

It's good to know that the disrespect is not just my imagination or overreaction. It's real, and I'm not alone in my outrage.

The Times printed my letter right below KL Scott's. I was thrilled to be in such perfect company.

Anonymous said...

That was hilarious because it is true and very sad because it is true! Some of the best writing about the new film, by the way, has been on this site. My favorite post: The blown marketing opportunity of the Barnabas portrait poster.

richard said...

My one quibble would be your saying that Burton's film deserves to live or die on its own merit. I don't think that's true. Were this simply a Tim Burton movie that was a completely original work (God forbid he not bastardize somebody else's), that would be true. But when you make something that is known (let alone beloved) by an audience, you lose the right for it to "live or die" on its own merits. The very fact that you're remaking something means that from day one, it is going to be compared to the original source material.

Anonymous said...

What seems odd to me, is that even if you do think it sucks, why share it in these press interviews? It doesn't make good business sense. Half the reason to revive an old franchise is to repackage the past comics, novels, models, cds & dvds because of all the new interest and discovery. I can't imagine the studio heads being thrilled with these comments that are definitely swaying Burtonites away from checking out the old stuff. Warner and Jim Pierson need to have a meeting with the agents of these assholes and explain how they endangering huge investments, and to start saying only positive things. Doesn't mean they have to lie, just a wee bit more tactful, and dodge more questions. You didn't see people related to the Star Trek reboot putting down Captain Kirk's fight with the Gorn as one the cheesiest moments in television history. They merely didn't talk about it, and spoke only about what the original series did well. Same with Tron.

Anonymous said...

Odd. I like the original show and the new movie. I see the two as cut from the same cloth, in a strange way. I understand why they are not exactly alike, time & different artistic visions combined with today's audience expectations (the flow has to move swift & tight). You'll also have people, many young people that are into the whole vamp thing now day who probably never heard of the original show going to see this film (and Burton has a huge following).

The one I never cared for was the 90's revival show. I think it was Ben Cross (fine actor, just didn't like him as Barnabas. I didn't like how Willie was done either in that, nor in the new movie much actually. But as over the top Depp's makeup looks for example (it is A Burton film after all, and people tend to be very pale for some, but I did like the way he played Barnabas for this film. I didn't see the film as a comedy really, just a lot of great comic timing. If you look at the original show, you have to admit it was way camp, but very enjoyable. I Don't feel the new movie was done as an insult, and even Mr. Frid was happy to pass the curse on to Mr. Depp. ;-)

Jonathan Frid will always be the only true Barnabas Collins to me. But time marches on, and I bet another film gets made, at least one more. I see a new show in the future too, best strike while the iron is hot, so to speak! Vamps, witches, ghost, werewolves and what have you are very popular with the kids these days. But be warned, if that happens, the cast will be much younger than the original or even in Burton's movie.. that much you can bet.

majkinja said...

Actually there were made some insults aimed at ST:TOS from director and crew of the 2009 Star Trek movie as well but nothing comes close to the disrespect Burton & co expressed towards Dark Shadows.
An absolutely true and good comment made by Kathryn Leigh Scott.

Sigh I used to be a huge Burton fan.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...