Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dark Shadows Visual Companion: Get it for the Gothic Vampire Freak in Your Life

It's no secret that I'm a Dark Shadows freak, although I came late to the party. I first discovered the 60s vampire soap opera a few years ago and instantly loved it. There's something hypnotic about the show-- go watch a few episodes on Netflix or DVD and you can get sucked into the sheer otherworldly gothicness of it all: the spooky harbor town, the winding corridors of the family mansion haunted by ghosts and vampires. And to me the fact that it's a daily soap opera only contributes to the magic-- the falseness of the sets, the cardboard and wobbliness, makes the unreal strangely more real. I also really admired the 2012 version-- in my review I wrote:
Tim Burton's Dark Shadows knows the whole terrain of the show, and it knows more. It knows that it can have it both ways, parodying the show while constantly showing such familiarity that the jokes feel genuinely affectionate. It knows that somehow 1972 is funnier than 1966, so we get to see Barnabas come back to a world of the Carpenters and Alice Cooper. It knows that Johnny Depp is not Jonathan Frid, so his Barnabas is completely different-- a hilarious meditation on vampires in general, a reptilian, cursed, alien creature, whereas Frid's Barnabas was a rather discreet vampire most of the time, no more alien than JR Ewing. Depp is funny here, and is in almost every scene. And man, it knows the gothic tradition. The brooding house, the tortured young ingenue, the secret pathways. If you feel you've seen all of Burton's tricks before, think of it this way: all of his tricks belong here, in Dark Shadows. Fans of the show should love this adoring letter to Collinwood.
I felt the way I did because Tim Burton has the same strange fascination with the show, and his movie is an astonishing homage. So now I just got the Christmas present of all presents for Dark Shadows fans: the Dark Shadows Visual Companion. This is a heck of a coffee table book-- a visual tour through the making of the film, with sections on the cast, the writing, special effects, costumes, and more. My favorite is a pair of photographs--on pages 8 and 20-- full cast portraits, each with star Barnabas (Frid and Depp, respectively) in the center. I can't make you love DARK SHADOWS-- but if you do, you will love this book and go back to it often.

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