Burton's "D.S.," a New Midnight Interactive Time Warper in Waiting

by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
Scene from Burton's "Dark Shadows"
Scene from Burton's "Dark Shadows"
(c) Warner Bros

Blood is thicker than almost anything, according to Johnny Depp’s character, the vampire Barnabas Collins in the reimagining of “Dark Shadows.” Ultimately, it pierces veins with awesome visual effects, retro music and digital images, but flounders on an unripe vein in areas of story and characterizations.  Purists know the daytime serial (and its many incarnations) jabbed legitimately intended gothic horrors and shocks, despite betrayals of small budget shortcuts.

The Tim Burton directed version obscures true horrors in favor of  a dysfunctional Collins family and injections of jolly juice which spin more than connect. Burton has the basic --- Angelique (Eva Green), a stunning witch, places the vampire curse on successful businessman Barnabas then imprisons him in a coffin for 200 years. She also compels his true love Josette to jump to her death from Widow’s Hill. The unrequited love serenade plays too often; same with the opportunities to re-consider.

“Dark Shadows” started on weekday afternoons on ABC in 1967 and ended in 1971. A beatnik or disturbed artist might arrive at the Blue Whale for a drink, but the setting was before the protest and Hippie movements touted opposition to Vietnam as well as psychedelic free love and drug experimentations.  Burton injects the philosophical Hippie types into the production, as well as a re-occurring lava lamp onto the screen. The oozes nicely, but it does not have supernatural capacity.

Depp reads Love Story
Depp reads Love Story
Warner Bros

In the afternoon series, early movies and prime time TV remakes, the tucked away from the revolutionary  late 60s nature of Collinsport, Maine,  had been a tranquil and stashed away  necessity. Otherwise, the early blossoming of news media coverage would have put vampires, werewolves, witches, and gypsies on the front covers of the Enquirer, Star, the Globe and any other pop-sensational “news” magazine.  Too, the cultural baptism of the country’s smaller towns did not occur instantly, so it’s a counterculture plunder for Burton to have Berkeley and Woodstock attitudes applied to Collinsport, particularly since the values of the generation have no connection to what’s on screen than a dinner table conversation and a van of pot smokers who succumb to Barnabas’ thirst.

Burton has a generally good needle which more often than not find flat, non-cooperative veins.  The music creates an upbeat noir in the dark mansion , yet Alice Cooper singing at a “ball” doesn’t have a creepy feel.  In fact, there are times in its more campy moments, I can envision future costumed audiences jumping out of their seats and Time Warping (a.k.a. Rocky Horror’s interactive nature) to the music and mocking the off-target spills.

Depp and Green immerse newer personas into the vampire and witch. Whereas, he previously had a guilty streak to blood sucking, his English manners have become toned for the world of business and his adversary, the witch, comes on more as a sexually provocative diva. Burton’s additional ‘fish out of water’ fin around Barnabas’ neck doesn’t mesh , except for an occasional surprise, such as where he says ‘nothing’s changes’ and a big slab of Golden Arches fill the frame.  Not as cool, Carolyn tells him “we don’t throw ball, we have happenings.”  What does provide a few smiles comes from the secret chambers of Collinswood , now filled by nothing more despicable than week old laundry.

 Michelle Pfeiffer is wrong for Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (the matriarch she’s too young and too easily swayed. Joan Bennett played this character with Barbara (Double Indemnity) Stanwyck  snub nose, hard as a rock stubbornness.

Ingénue governess, Victoria (Bella Heathcote) scores in the role  generally by saying little, behaving cordially, and absorbing the insanity. The original Vicky (Alexandre Moltke-Isles) had been a daughter of a Danish count and diplomat so she stayed almost stuffily strident emotionally and classy in her behavior. In fact, during her pregnancy, one reason she permanently left in 1968 was she wanted to play a villain. Heathcote has greater curiosity and topples into Perils of Pauline like troubles more than Ms. Isles; she’s also, more comfortable with notions of romance.

Burton tragically turns the Collins children, David and Carolyn, into potential rebels, but the diversion does not blend with magic, death and the supernatural.

Aw, but you will never put aside the sparkling foreboding brilliance of the tides smashing below widows hill. It’s a priceless image.  Maybe, it’s got some underlying charisma, in which case, I’m not far off in suggesting that in ten years , Burton’s “D.S.” could replace “Rocky Horror” as camp queen of the midnight monster movie genre.

Collinswood Foyer
Collinswood Foyer
Warner Bros

 

 
Comments powered by Disqus