Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Supernatural Soap Opera

When searching for this image I was offered a choice of 'Dark Shadows' and 'Dark Shadow the hedgehog'.  When I clicked on the latter, of course I was disappointed to find the image below. I was expecting a real hedgehog with some kind of evil glint in its eye.

Moving on. Dark Shadows is an ensemble piece, with Johnny Depp at the head. Having not seen or heard of Dark Shadows until Tim Burton announced he was making it, I was intrigued to find out it was a 70's US soap opera, especially when I found out it has obvious supernatural elements to it. This was the main reason I wanted to see it. A combination like that is always a winning formula in my eyes.

The film's plot is basically this; Barnabas Collins, with his family sail from Liverpool to Maine in 1760. The family set up a fishing port and the town is soon established as, Collinsport. Barnabas seduces the maid, Angelique who is madly, note madly, in love with him. But when he throws her over a falls for another woman, being a witch, she puts a curse on his family in revenge. She murders his parents, makes his love jump off a cliff and turns him into a vampire. After turning the entire town against him, they capture and bury him in a chained up coffin and there he remains for 200 years.

In 1972 the Collins family, struggling financially and some mentally live together still in Collinwood Manor. They have seen better days. Their business is in almost ruins because of their rival, Angelbay which is run by Angelique. Being a witch she doesn't age. But when Barnabas's coffin is unearthed but accident by a construction crew, things start to change.

After seeing the film I was intrigued about the characters and wanted to see the actual show. It was never shown over here originally but I bet with release of the film, box sets will start to become available. I also found at that Barnabas' character was introduced until a year into the show's run. Ghosts were introduced first in the show, only six months into the run and they do play a heavy part in the film. There were also a few revivals of the show in 1991, which was short lived (look at the trailer and see why, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97m6aBjqXLo) and in 2004 where a pilot was cast and filmed but never picked up.

Although on paper it looks to be a winning formula, on screen I'm not so sure. I was expecting to see melodramatic performances and soap opera dialogue but there was hardly any of this. The characters were all so brilliant and the casting couldn't have been better, especially Eva Green as the evil witch Angelique, but I felt there were too many unanswered questions that weren't answered. What actually happened to Elizabeth's husband? How did Angelique pretend to be her ancestors? Why did Roger Collins marry if he's such an arsehole? Why were those hippies in the wood? Hasn't Christopher Lee retired? Why is Victoria Winters so dull? Why Helena Bonham Carter in this film? Was that the end?

Just a few things that I wondered while watching the film and on my way home. I also wished that more time was spent on the other characters instead of Barnabas. The elements of soap operas that did shine through were that the characters were very stereotypical, the teenager was a bitch, the witch was a slut, the guy who works for the family was a drunk and so on.

Not to lead you astray, I did enjoy the film, I just wish it could have been even more over the top. The costumes, set design and style of the film were all amazing as you would expect from a Tim Burton film and I would recommend the film to people, just warn them, its not really like a soap opera, just based on one.

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