It's been forty years since the waves stopped crashing along the cliffs of fictional Collinsport, Maine (Yes! Forty years!), but Barnabas Collins will rise again in 2012.
Dark Shadows, the gothic soap opera that aired on ABC from 1966 to 1971, was wildly popular back in the day. The show floundered a bit in the ratings until the characters of Barnabas, Angelique, and Josette were introduced and immediately captivated audiences. Kids everywhere, myself included, rushed home from school to visit Collinwood circa 1795. Despite the over-the-top, melodramatic performances, Dark Shadows became a cult classic; Barnabas Collins, played by Jonathan Frid, emerged a romantic figure and an instant star. Apparently, director Tim Burton well remembers Master Barnabas and is currently resurrecting the lonely vampire.
The news of the upcoming Dark Shadows film is hardly surprising. With the popularity of the Twilight series, it's little wonder that somebody finally recognized the wealth of untapped potential in Dark Shadows. The production is currently underway in California with actor Johnny Depp in the role of Barnabas Collins. Other cast members include Michelle Pfeiffer as Matriarch Elizabeth Stoddard and Helena Bonham Carter as psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman.
Clearly, this is not your mother's (or my) Dark Shadows. The all-star line-up and the movie's plot indicate a new direction for the Collins family. According to the film's press release, the story focuses on the cursed Barnabas, entombed since the eighteenth century, as he awakens in 1972 to find his beloved mansion, now inhabited by troubled descendants, in ruins. The film bypasses the infamous Barnabas/Josette/Angelique triangle that so enamored original viewers.
Creating a “contemporary” Dark Shadows will introduce Barnabas Collins to a new generation, but may simultaneously disappoint middle-aged viewers who may continue to identify the tortured character with the gentlemanly Jonathan Frid rather than the brooding Johnny Depp. Johnny Depp is a consummate actor, but not my image of Barnabas, ditto for Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth Stoddard. Since when is Michelle Pfeiffer a matriarch character? She would be better cast as Angelique, a role that went to Eva Green – again, not my image of the crafty witch that dooms young Barnabas for eternity. While I applaud the resurrection of Barnabas Collins, Tim Burton's casting and vision leave me ambivalent.
I must remember that Dark Shadows 2012 is a remake of a classic television series. This is the new Dark Shadows, the new Barnabas, the new Angelique. It may be presumptuous and possibly short-sighted, but I don't hold out much hope for the updated Collinswood. To me, Barnabas Collins will always be the face of Jonathan Frid, sequestered in the Old House. Angelique will forever be the bright-eyed face of Lara Parker, and her mistress, Josette DuPres, will always be the beautiful Kathryn Leigh Scott.
Some things are best left alone.