Bill Barnett, a friend and fellow movie aficionado asked me what I thought of the trailer for the upcoming DARK SHADOWS movie starring Johnny Depp. I told him that while it looked funny, I was sad that director Tim Burton chose to make it a farce and not be faithful to the more serious tones of its source material. The original 1960’s soap opera scared the bejeezus out of millions every afternoon for five years, including me, and I felt it was a shame that Burton and Depp weren’t being more reverent. Bill agreed and wondered why so many filmmakers today feel the need to snicker at the material they’re adapting. “I’d hate to think what some smart-aleck screenwriter will do some day to HILL STREET BLUES”, he sighed.
|Johnny Depp as vampire Barnabas Collins in the big screen version of 1960's TV soap DARK SHADOWS.|
Sigh indeed. You can follow this link to see the trailer of the Burton and Depp version of DARK SHADOWS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cVcpz8H3Pk. If you don’t know the original show, you’ll surely laugh. If you do know the original soap, you may weep.
So, why are so many filmmakers adapting material for the big screen with nary a shred of reverence for the original material? Who are the folks in Hollywood who devote years to bringing something like STARSKY & HUTCH or CHARLIE’S ANGELS to the screen, only to snigger at it? Who in Hollywood said, “I love that old Stephen J. Cannell show 21 JUMP STREET so much and have to make it into a big screen adventure” but then chose to make it into a complete joke? Yes, the movie version of it this past month was quite funny, but why didn’t the filmmakers just do a straight version of it? Why not show a little more respect for the material?
|Quentin Collins (David Selby) and Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) in the original ABC soap DARK SHADOWS.|
The truth is that the original DARK SHADOWS, created by the legendary Dan Curtis (THE NIGHT STALKER, THE WINDS OF WAR), was definitely not a Gothic comedy. It was fun to watch, yes, but it was a melodrama, striving for something serious, both in its scares and its romanticism. Its two leads, vampire Barnabas Collins and werewolf Quentin Collins, were tragic heroes. They were tortured men caught between two worlds: the modern day and their monstrous pasts. Where’s the humor in that?
|The cast of ABC's hit primetime soap REVENGE.|
Perhaps Burton should have taken a look at the hit TV series REVENGE, currently garnering big ratings Wednesday nights on ABC. It too is a fun soap, but its makers treat their story with a sense of regard, not scorn. Not once have they ever stepped outside the genre to ridicule it. Granted, Burton and Depp have enough clout to do anything in Hollywood they want, but why take such an obvious and lazy route as another parody of horror? There’s way too much of that already glutting the screens. And besides, Depp has shown that he can laugh at genre and treat it with sincerity, parodying pirates (the Disney franchise) as well as treating them with respect (FINDING NEVERLAND). So why not strive for something more reverential here?
The 1995 movie adaptation of THE BRADY BUNCH may have set a dangerous precedent that Tinseltown is still avidly following. That movie adaptation lampooned its source material and became a sensation so perhaps that is why Burton, Depp and countless studios are going for laughs instead of something more genuine. Granted, the Brady family wasn’t any more realistic than creatures of the night, but I think DARK SHADOWS deserves a straighter take. We’ve already had so many funny vampires as of late, what with the likes of HBO’s series TRUE BLOOD and movies like FRIGHT NIGHT, so why not try for something scarier, even moving or truly haunting? In my humble opinion, a version like that would not only be fresher but also have a lot more teeth.