Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dark Shadows -- A Review

I have been waiting and waiting and waiting for this movie to be released, and this weekend it was! So, guess where I was today. Yes, off to see one of my favorite actors in the remake of one of my favorite 70's shows -- Dark Shadows. And it was well-worth the trip. Depp was superb in the role of unwilling vampire Barnabas Collins, new resurrected after 200 years locked away underground in a steel casket. As vampires are wont to do, Barnabas engages in a good deal of blood-letting without appearing at all apologetic about it. At the same time, though, he mourns his loss of humanity and attempts to ends the curse that turned him into a vampire. Depp is great at expressing puzzlement over the modern era in which he now finds himself, and while the humor is generally low-key, it worked for me. I found him less adept at expressing his feelings towards Angelique, the witchy-woman who originally cast the vampire spell on him. His sometimes-voiced anger failed to impress either Angelique or me as being real enough or strong enough.

Michelle Pfeiffer played her role well as Barnabas' cousin Elizabeth, but then Pfeiffer hardly ever makes a wrong move as an actress. Eva Green was devilishly good in the role of Angelique, mincing no words with Barnabas and coming off effectively as the bad girl in the plot. I also enjoyed watching Jackie Earle Haley play Willie, a handyman-turned-servant to Barnabas. Haley was one of my favorite actors on Human Target, an action/drama TV series stupidly axed by Fox in 2011 after two years of Emmy-nominated episodes. (It's all about numbers, folks, and even 6+ million viewers a week wasn't good enough for money-hungry Fox.)

I won't go deeply into the plot of Dark Shadows here. Suffice it to say Barnabas comes home to Collinsport, Maine to revive the family fortune wickedly stolen away by his nemesis Angelique. The movie shares much with the original TV series, including characters and plot points. What it doesn't share are some of the actors and actresses who helped make Dark Shadow the first and only paranormal soap opera on TV. One of those actresses was a high school classmate of mine named Donna Wandrey. It was obvious to all of us that Donna was destined for the stage. She loved the theater, loved to perform in school plays and talent shows, and she was genuinely funny in a comic sort of way. She also seemed quite sure of herself and of her ability to succeed at anything she put her mind to. It didn't surprise me when I learned she'd won the part of Roxanne Drew on Dark Shadows. She later played parts on The Edge of Night, Ryan's Hope, and Another World, plus she's acted in numerous live theater plays.

I haven't seen Donna since our graduation day many, many years ago. But it's nice to know she lived her dream and earned the success for which she worked so hard. I'm betting she went to see Dark Shadows this weekend too (unless she was one of the lucky ones to see a preview), and I'll bet it brought back a lot of memories for her. The '70's were a weird and wild time. It seems appropriate that Dark Shadows has become almost a symbol of the experimentation that marked our culture from the mid '60's through much of the '70's. If you remember the Dark Shadows of that bygone era, you'll enjoy seeing this latest adaptation with -- in my opinion -- a much superior version of Barnabas Collins.


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