Thursday, November 11, 2010
Anyone who knows me also knows that I am the world's biggest DARK SHADOWS fanatic. And I use the word "fanatic" very deliberately. Just how much of a DS enthusiast am I? Let me provide the following DS geek credentials as proof:
1.I've seen every DS episode (all 1225!) multiple times, as I usually watch the entire series from beginning to end about every 2-3 years.
2. I've memorized more dialogue from DS than I have from STAR TREK, STAR WARS, and THE X-FILES combined.
3. I have autographed photos of almost all the DS stars, both living and deceased. (Sadly, I never got to meet the late-great Grayson Hall...).
4. Way back in screenwriting school, the 2nd story outline I ever wrote was for a DS TV movie. (Believe it or not... the 1st thing I wrote was an outline for an episode of FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE SERIES. No, that's not a typo.)
5. After watching my first produced screenplay (a Season Two EUREKA episode), my proudest geek moment was the recording and release of my first Big Finish DS audio drama, "The Wicked and the Dead (available at AMAZON.COM or BIGFINISHPRODUCTIONS.COM)."
6. I have pretty much every piece of DS collectible memorabilia that exists, just some of which includes: all the Marilyn Ross novels, both Milton Bradley board games, the ultra-rare DS VIEWMASTER reels, original DS trading cards from the 60s, all the Gold Key comics--how about those new hardcover reprints? Nice, eh?--and of course a Josette's music box. And that's just the more well-known stuff. (DS cookbook, anyone? YUP. MINE.)
7. I even did a book report on Barnabas Collins in the 3rd grade.
SIDEBAR: Sometimes I think 2nd generation fans are more fanatical than 1st generation ones because we spend so much time recreating something we weren't around to fully appreciate during it's initial run (I became a devotee of the show in the early-to-mid-80s when it was rerun on PBS stations). It's as if we have to make up for the lack of 1st Gen experience by battering everyone with our fanatical 2nd Gen ability to uncover facts, anecdotes, and memorabilia our older counterparts never knew about (or in the case of memorabilia--couldn't afford). That in somehow possessing these things we balance an enormous imaginary geek scale that infinitely favors 1st Gen fans via one simple fact: they were alive to discover the thing we all love first hand and we weren't. Which those of us who have older siblings know makes the 1st Gen folks COOLER than us in some pioneering way.
Dammit, I want a time machine NOW.
Yes, the one thing a 2nd Gen fan can never do is turn back time. Just ask Cher. We are, however, the ones who carry the genre torch into subsequent generations, thereby creating a fandom market that wouldn't have existed otherwise and which allows the genre product--in this case, DS itself--to thrive beyond its original lifespan and find pop culture immortality. (So take THAT... all you DS fans were old enough to actually run home from school. I can use an iPad. Can you?!)
BUT BACK TO OUR TOPIC: THE NEW DS MOVIE IN 2011
So now the news is out that Tim Burton & Johnny Depp are going to do a big budget feature film of my all-time favorite show. Are they going to screw it up? Is Tim Burton too weird to get the romantic aspects of the show? Will the involvement of a mega-studio-marketing-machine turns my childhood fantasies into modern day, plotless CGI garbage? And what's my two-cents on all this?
Glad you asked.
I think it's AWESOME.
Folks, I'm a huge fan of the original show, but for the DS world to continue to grow... it must be reinterpreted for a new generation of fans. The fact that vampire flicks are uber-vogue nowadays makes the timing perfect for a "mature" vampire romance tale. And sadly by mature I mean over the age of sixteen. (But I'll save that for another posting...) So, yeah, I can't wait for this movie to blow up in theaters next year.
FACT: DARK SHADOWS ORIGINATED THE ROMANTIC VAMPIRE GENRE. PERIOD. And it did so waaaaay back in 1967. That's about forty years before TWILIGHT and thirty years before BUFFY, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (another one of my favorite shows). Of course it's about 70 years after Stoker's original DRACULA novel, so maybe I'll stop while I'm ahead...
DS IN A NUTSHELL: DARK SHADOWS is the continuing story of Barnabas Collins, a fallible human being who--because of a conflicted heart and conscience--is doomed to suffer the curse of vampirism for all eternity.
And most tragically of all, it's not Barnabas who suffers the most, but rather those who love him: his fiance--the beautiful and innocent Josette (above, getting kissed)--and the wicked but vulnerable sorceress Angelique Blouchard. What these three characters go through over four-plus seasons of DS continues to break hearts and inspire fandom more than 40 years after its initial airing. So with such rich characters and a great storyline to use as a starting point (no spoilers here -- just Google Dark Shadows for a complete synopsis), I'm pumped that a great filmmaker like Burton will get the opportunity to run with it and make something special even more elegant, sumptuous, and epic than any vampire movie we'll seen in decades. (Probably since Coppola's BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA...)
EWROTE GOES FAN GIRL: Johnny Depp is the the perfect casting for the role of Barnabas Collins. He's got the dark, brooding, and unconventional good looks to essay the visual essence of actor Jonathan Frid's original portrayal. Plus, since he's already a fan of the show, he'll know how to mine the complexities of Barnabas's human side, as well as the immortal one. Plus, the guy's one helluva actor!
The other big reason I'm excited for Burton & Depp to team up on Dark Shadows? It's a little movie called SLEEPY HOLLOW. Dude and dudettes, that movie was FRAKKIN' BADASSED. It was soooo obviously an homage to HAMMER HORROR movies (apparently Burton and I have the same excellent taste and influences), and was done perfectly. Cinematography? Brilliant. Mood? Spot one. Charm? Yup, got that, too. And gore? Heh. Nailed that!
Yes, Mr. Burton... I totally noticed that Michael Gambon's impaling was a perfect updating of Chris Lee's death moment at the end of Hammer's DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE. Bravo!
Now I know what you're thinking: "Hey, Ewrote. You're a screenwriter. Aren't you worried the script will suck? YES AND NO. Yes, because that's always a legitimate fear in a business where commerce comes before art. No, because top-notch scribe John August has been working on the early drafts. And that dude can write. Also, the new guy they've brought it to take things over the finish line--Seth Graham Smith--wrote a groovy little book called ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER--so he's clearly got the right sensibilities to help update DS for the baroque tastes of 21st Century geeks.
So, yeah. I'm already beyond pumped for this flick. Please let there be a midnight showing at the Cinerama Dome for this, oh Movie Godz!
Finally, I have to ask my own inner geek if there are any things I'd like to see in this movie. Things that need to happen in order for it to be a true DARK SHADOWS flick. Yeah, there are a few things. In no particular order, any good DS adaptation must have:
1. COLLINWOOD as a CHARACTER.
Collinwood is the name of the creepy estate where the Collins Family lives. But it's more than a building, it's an enormous atmospheric setting for all the show's spooky goings-on that reflects the emotions and attitudes of the characters themselves. Think of it as the HEATH in Thomas Hardy's RETURN OF THE NATIVE. So any new DS flick needs to treat Collinwood like a new starship "Enterprise" in a STAR TREK movie. It must look beyond awesome, be on full display throughout the flick, play a key role in the story, and--and this is the most important thing--evoke a specific mood, atmosphere, and thematic unity for the picture. Oh, and it should also be the ultimate spooky haunted house.
2. TIME TRAVEL as a part of the PLOT.
DS storylines are best known for traveling back in time, specifically to the years 1795, 1897, and 1840. Remember on BUFFY and ANGEL when they would flashback to see how Angelus was made into a vampire? Yeah, that was all done 30 years earlier on DARK SHADOWS. Seeing all the actors in highly-detailed, exquisite period 1795 costumes should be a no-brainer for someone of Burton's caliber, so I'm not worried here. The only question is, how much of this new DS will take place in the present vs. the past? My vote? 50-50. Start off in the present for Act 1, spend all of Act 2 in 1795, then come back to the present for Act 3. But again, I'm not the screenwriter of the movie, so I'll let them surprise me.
3. THE LOVE TRIANGLE
I've already mentioned this before, so I won't belabor the point. DS is about a guy who falls in love with one woman, then unfairly dumps her for another. So the first woman--who just happens to be a WITCH--gets back at the guy's assholeishness (that is so not a word, but who cares) and puts a curse on him for all eternity. See how all the supernatural jazz is really wrapped around a romantic love story core?
If Barnabas had just been honest with Angelique (that's her above in 1795 garb), she wouldn't have turned him into a vampire. Of course, turning someone into a creature of the night is a rather large overreaction at getting spurned. It's not like Angelique's smoking hot and could've have just found another guy, someone who would treat her a lot better (me).
Oh, and did I mention that rich Josette's maid, was also, you guessed, Angelique? Clearly, there are socio-economic jealousy issues wrapped up in Josette and Angelique's relationship... especially when Barnabas dumps the maid and announces his engagement to her mistress, the wealthy heiress Josette. HA! It's all such great soapy goodness I get goosebumps just thinking about the first time I watched the original episodes. It was all so weird, yet familiar, AND surprising at the same time. And all set against a world of magic and time travel. Sounds like a great idea for a movie, right?
Yeah, I think so, too.