Dark Shadows Update

“Dark Shadows,” the vampire-theme collaboration by Tim Burton and Johnny Depp continues filming, with generally a lot of security surrounding the process. This has continued to spawn rumors and sometimes outrage amongst some fans of the original series. More than one person associated with the production, for example, have used the word “funny” to describe the script. In some, this brings to mind images of slapstick comedy or the kind of camp initially associated with the 1960s “Batman” with Adam West.

Of course, given that Burton directed the “Batman” film that eschewed all hint of camp, one wonders why anyone’s imagination would head there?

Still, at least some fans (on facebook and elsewhere) continue to point at Burton films like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factor,” “Ed Wood” and “Planet of the Apes” as examples of why they regard this version as an abomination–sight unseen. They seem to forget “Sweeney Todd,” “Sleepy Hollow” or “Batman Begins.”

Apart from minor details, like the fact several period cars were bought or rented for the film (which is set mostly in 1971, the year the show ended) and Chloe Grace Moretz is indeed wearing her hair long as rebellious teen Carolyn Stoddard, one major news that can be confirmed is that Alice Cooper will be making a cameo! He confirmed this is a televised interview, laughingly noting he had no idea what his role would be. Cooper, who can be seen in the independent film “Suck” about a rock band that hits the big time when they all become undead, recently had Depp as a guest musician during a gig. He joked that the actor might want to join the tour if that movies thing doesn’t work out!

Rumors immediately began to swirl about Cooper’s part, based on evidently nothing more than his onstage persona. It bears pointing out that Cooper played a possessed homeless man in John Carpenter’s “Prince of Darkness” years ago.

Not confirmed to this writer but evidently true (because many others–reliable people all–say it has been confirmed) is that Jonathan Frid–the Canadian who created the part of Barnabas Collins but has now retired–will be making some kind of cameo himself. Depp has expressed many times his admiration of Frid’s performance. Frid himself had a career almost entirely in live theatre, including a Broadway tour of “Arsenic and Old Lace” (playing Jonathan, naturally) and several one-man shows. Whether any other living members of the gothic soap opera’s ensemble of actors will make cameos remains to be seen. These might include John Karlen (a former regular on “Cagney and Lacey”) and Kate Jackson (one fo the original “Charlie’s Angels”). Another might be Lara Parker, who played Angelique the witch (a part taken by Eva Green in the Burton film) and later penned two novels based on her character.

Interestingly, one former cast member–Kathryn Leigh Scott–has published several non-fiction books about “Dark Shadows” met Depp early in his acting career. Back when he was one of the stars of “21 Jump Street,” she played a guest role as a closeted lesbian school Principal, and according to her acted quite star-struck. Soon after he purchased the rights to “Dark Shadows” from the estate of Dan Curtis, he got in contact with her–not least to get copies of the many Marion Ross novels written in conjunction with the show.

Those paperback, with their distinctive gold covers broken by an oval graphic on the front cover, formed their own (and different) continuity and history of the Collins family than the show. Later two offshoot films–“House of Dark Shadows” and “Night of Dark Shadows”–created a third followed by a fourth with the 1991 revival starring Ben Cross in the part Depp is taking on.

By david

David MacDowell Blue blogs at Night Tinted Glasses.  He graduated from the National Shakespeare Conservatory and is the author of The Annotated Carmilla. and Your Vampire Story (And How to Write It) as well as a theatrical adaptation of Carmilla.


  1. My brother is a huge fan of the original series and is looking forward to this. It will be interesting to see how Burton and Depp interpret the story.

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