Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Dark Shadows of my youth

Tim Burton is remaking the cult-classic TV soap opera Dark Shadows, which ran from 1966 to 1971. While I recognize that the original is best known by many for charming screws-ups in the production of the show, I remember it as just another program we watched after school and seemed to enjoy a great deal.

Still, it is true, as The Hollywood Reporter writes, that:

[O]ne of the most charming things about the daytime drama was the plethora of bloopers – wrong props, bats flitting about on visible wires, falling scenery, muffed dialogue, the crew seen walking through shots, the cast trying in vain to ignore them -- in every episode.

Ah, yes, the bats flitting around on visible wires. I do remember that and it was pretty funny, but mostly, as an eight to thirteen year old I didn't particularly see it as camp, though apparently I should have.

Again, The Hollywood Reporter:

The original Dark Shadows dialogue was very stilted and the show took itself very seriously. Still, due to the recurring onset mishaps, it was hilarious (in that so bad it's good way) and highly addictive.

As I look back now at the Dark Shadows clip I retrieved from Youtube, I think of a Frasier episode in which Frasier and his brother Niles lion an actor who had been on television in their youth only to realize when they see him perform years later that he was always just a bad actor. Maybe the old Dark Shadows is a little bit like that, kind of awful but really cool when you were a kid.

Dark Shadows was a gothic soap opera that originally aired weekdays on ABC, from June 27, 1966 to April 2, 1971. As the Wikipedia entry indicates:

The series became hugely popular when vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) appeared a year into its run. Dark Shadows also featured werewolves, zombies, man-made monsters, witches, warlocks, time travel, and a parallel universe. A small company of actors each played many roles (as actors came and went, some characters were played by more than one actor).

I don't even really remember what it was all about, only that it was creepy in that way that younger people have always tended to like. 

The remake will feature Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Helena Bonham Carter, and will be, according to reports, "flat out funny, over-the-top and very vampire tongue-in-cheek."

That's fine. I'm sure it will be good fun, though very different than the original.

This clip below features Barnabas, the aforementioned vampire, and a character named Burke. I have no idea what's going on in the scene, but it's fairly painful to watch in a wonderful sort of way. It does bring back memories.

As an added bonus, and because I was so proud of myself for remembering it, I've posted "Quentin's Theme," a spoken-word instrumental track from the show that peaked at number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1969. Yes, it did. 

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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  • I don't know if it was something in the water (or in the acid), but the 1960s was the best era ever for TV shows, in my opinion.
    Nothing has ever topped programs like "The Twilight Zone," "Star Trek," "The Outer Limits" "The Wild, Wild West," "The Addams Family," "The Prisoner," etc.
    Even the "trashy" TV shows of the 1960s were great: "Gilligan's Island," "Green Acres," etc.
    Hell, I'll even take the original 1960s "Batman" over all the bloated, overrated $100 million Hollywood remakes over the years. Adam West WAS Batman. And nothing in the remakes has ever been cooler than the original Batmobile.
    To get a measure of how influential and popular 1960s TV still is, consider all the mega-million-dollar remakes of various '60s TV shows there have been over the years. (All of them, inferior, by the way, to the originals).
    The enduring appeal of these shows is remarkable. I mean, will anyone fondly remember the likes of "Law & Order" or "CSI" 40 years from now? Will Hollywood be doing lavish mega-million-dollar remakes of today's TV shows in the year 2050? I don't think so.

    By Blogger Marc McDonald, at 7:05 PM  

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