Two hundred years is a long time to revive a vampire, but then again, forty years is long time to revive the first horror soap opera (not counting an earlier, feature adaptation and a TV revival in the ’90s). In Tim Burton’s DARK SHADOWS, Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) is cursed into vampirehood by spurned lover Angelique (Eva Green) in the 18th century and is buried alive (undead?) to await his unearthing in the 1970’s. What he finds is the family fishing empire in ruins, the occupants of stately Collinswood manor — including Michelle Pfeiffer as matriarch, Helena Bonham Carter as a drunk doctor, Jackie Earle Haley as a drunker handyman, and Bella Heathcote as a nanny who bears a striking resemblance to Barnabas’ lost love Josette — devolved into feckless dissolution, and Carpenters music everywhere.
Cinefantastique Online’s Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons have seen the film, and sit down to discuss whether Burton’s more comedic take on DARK SHADOWS’ melodramatics are worth the trip back to the Me Decade. Also in this show: What’s coming to theaters.
Here’s the premise of the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp version of DARK SHADOWS, according to Warner Brother’s press release.
“In the year 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. But even an ocean was not enough to escape the mysterious curse that has plagued their family. Two decades pass and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has the world at his feet–or at least the town of Collinsport, Maine.
The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy…until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Brouchard (Eva Green). A witch, in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive.
Two centuries later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin. The dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family have fared little better, each harboring their own dark secrets. Matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) has called upon live-in psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), to help with her family troubles.
Also residing in the manor is Elizabeth’s ne’er-do-well brother, Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller); her rebellious teenage daughter Carolyn Stoddard (Chloe Moretz); and Roger’s precocious 10-year-old son, David Collins (Gulliver McGrath). The mystery extends beyond the family, to caretaker Willie Loomis, played by Jackie Earle Haley, and David’s new nanny, Victoria Winters, played by Bella Heathcote.”
Looks like the film is play around with the time frame. On the Dan Curtis-produced TV series, Barnabas becomes a vampire around 1795-97 (both years mentioned, possibly a continuity error) and is released in then contemporary time (circa 1967). I’d have preferred the “modern-day” scenes in the new film to be set present-day, but I suppose an early-`70’s flavor could add to the charm of the piece.
Also, in the original soap opera Barnabas Collins might have been a somewhat feckless lover, but hardly a playboy. He was a pretty serious-minded, brooding and passionate man. Could they be going for a bit of that “Captain Jack Sparrow 18th Century rake” vibe?
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Thomas McDonell (THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM) has been cast as a younger version of Barnabas Collins in the Tim Buton/Johnny Depp DARK SHADOWS.
Depp is playing the mature Barnabas, cursed as a vampire by the witch Angelique (Eva Green, CASINO ROYALE), in the feature film based of the 1960’s Dan Curtis gothic soap opera.
Michelle Pfeiffer has been cast as matriach Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, Bella Heathcote as governess Victoria Winters, and WATHCMEN’S Jackie Earle Haley as the coniving caretaker Willie Loomis.
With a screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), Warner Brothers intend for filming to get underway in April.
McDonnell certainly looks a good deal like a younger Johnny Depp, though it’s unknown how extensive the part might be. If I recall correctly, young Barnabas and servant girl Angelique Bouchard had a fling in Martinique, and she became obessed with the wealthyAmerican.
This week offers a wide-ranging edition of the Cinefantastique Round Table Podcast, including capsule reviews by Dan Persons of three films currently in release: GNOMEO & JULIET, Disney’s animated adaptation of Shakespeare; VANISHING ON 7TH STREET, an independent film with a TWILIGHT ZONE vibe making its way around the country with art house engagements; and WE ARE WHAT WE ARE, a cannibal horror story from IFC Films, currently playing exclusively in New York. Also up for discussion: the news that Michelle Pfeiffer is being courted to play Elizabeth Collins in DARK SHADOWS, the big-screen adaptation of the Gothic soap opera, set to be directed by Tim Burton with Johnny Depp as reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins. And Steve Biodrowski celebrates Christopher Lee’s recent BAFTA Fellowship Award with a double-bill screening of SCREAM OF FEAR and THE GORGON. All this, plus the usual round-up of news, theatrical events, and home video releases.
Paramount has sent out a press release announcing that STARDUST (2007) will make its U.S. Blu-ray debut on September 7. The good-natured fantasy film – based on the novel by Neil Gaiman – was previously available on DVD and Region 2 Blu-ray disc. The new Blu-ray disc will port over bonus features from the DVD release and add some new ones, including audio commentary and an extensive behind-the-scenes featurette. STARDUST was adapted for the screen by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn; the later also directed. Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Robert DeNiro star.
Read the press release below:
Prepare for a magical journey filled with witches, pirates, maidens and true love as STARDUST makes its Blu-ray debut on September 7, 2010 from Paramount Home Entertainment. The epic adventure stars Claire Danes as Yvaine, the embodiment of a fallen star, who is pursued by the youthful and inexperienced Tristan (Charlie Cox) because he believes that retrieving the star will win him the heart of the village beauty (Sienna Miller). But a ruthless witch named Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) has other plans for Yvaine—she intends to eat her heart to gain eternal youth. As Tristan attempts to protect Yvaine, they encounter a number of wildly entertaining characters, including Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro), a much-feared seafarer who is partial to performing the can-can. Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman, the rollicking fairy tale is filled with action, humor and stunning visuals and will leave viewers believing in the power of true love.
The STARDUST Blu-ray features “Crossing the Wall: The Making of Stardust”, a new behind-the-scenes documentary that takes viewers on a journey into the supernatural kingdom of Stormhold, deleted scenes, a blooper reel, as well as a new commentary by writer and director Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman and a new featurette entitled “Nothing is True…”.
The STARDUST Blu-ray is presented in 1080p high definition with English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, German 5.1 Dolby Digital, Castilian Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Latin American Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital with English, English SDH, French, Danish, German, Castilian Spanish, Latin American Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Finnish and Swedish subtitles. The disc includes the following new bonus features:
Commentary by writer and director Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman
Crossing the Wall: The Making of Stardust (HD): The Quest for the Stone; A Portal to Another World; What Do Stars Do?; A Quest of Enormous Importance; Have You Seen a Fallen Star?
Nothing Is True…(HD)
The following previously released bonus features are also included on the disc:
This genre film is not very generic, which is to say it has a distinctive personality that sets it apart from run-of-the-mill fairy tale films. The personality happens to be British (despite the American stars), but that’s all to the better: the ghosts, witchcraft, flying pirates, and other fantastic imagery filling the film are treated with a distinctive touch of deadpan black humor that prevents STARDUST from lapsing into formulaic family fantasy film-making. It’s not Monty Python or HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, but if you have a taste for either of those, you should be on the correct wavelength to receive transmissions from this particular star.
The story follows young Tristran (Charlie Cox), whose father crossed the wall that separates an English village of Wall from an enchanted land, where a dalliance with a Princess in servitude to a witch resulted in the conception of our hero. In order to gain the love of the lovely Victoria (Sienna Miller), Tristran follows in his father’s footsteps, crossing the wall to retrieve a fallen star. The star, however, turns out to be in the lovely human form of Yvaine (Claire Danes). For reasons of their own, Yvaine is also being sought by the witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) and by the surviving heir to the magical kingdom (who has killed off his brethren to insure in ascension to the throne).
The coming attractions trailer does a poor job of representing the film, suggesting an insipid, almost childish comic fantasy. STARDUST contains humor to be sure, but it tends to be of the quirky, English variety, and the tone is distinctly adult, although children should be pleasantly amused. Contrasting with the whimsical charm and romantic adventure, we see witches divining the future by carving up the entrails of harmless animals; there is a wonderful running gag about the growing ranks of dead heirs to the throne, who must remain on Earth as ghosts until a new king is finally selected; and to top it all off, the film serves up a decapitation when Lamia grows tired of a rival witch. Not your typical Disney film by a long-shot.
One of the many droll highlights is Robert DeNiro’s turn as a pirate (who literally captures lightening in a bottle) named Captain Shakespeare. Although he poses before his crew as a threatening, murderous rogue, the captain has a softer, effeminate side that he reveals to Tristran and Yvaine in private. In plot terms this explains why he aids the besieged couple (who certainly could use some aid, considering that they are pursed by multiple villains), but the true value lies in the bizarre delights of seeing Travis Bickle turned into a transvestite. (The trailer’s brief glimpse of DeNiro is unimpressive; the revelation that he is hiding a personal secret makes sense of his off-kilter performance.)
Danes is lovely and convincing as Yvaine, a role that could have been a non-descript love interest. Being non-human, she has none of the personality quirks that distinguish the other characters; her only distinctive characteristic is her disparaging, almost but not quite modern “attitude” toward the naive Tristran. As the male lead, Cox initially seems too boyishly bland, but that is merely part of the film’s strategy, which charts his change into a dashing romantic hero. (If he can do it, there is hope for us all!) If one were forced to make comparisons, it would be to Orlando Bloom As Will Turner, but frankly, Cox has more genuine panache, and the romantic triangle in STARDUST is handled far more deftly than the belabored soap opera theatrics in the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN sequels.
Peter O’Toole shows up for a few moments of fun as the dying king, who is amazed to see that he still have four out of seven sons living (he had killed his brothers long before his own father’s death). Rupert Everett generates laughs as the first royal heir we see tossed to his death by a rival brother. However, the real scene-stealer is Pfeiffer, who has not had this much fun on screen since playing CATWOMAN in 1992’s BATMAN RETURNS. As the evil Lamia, she makes Glenn Close’s Cruella DeVille in 1010 DALMATIANS look like a mildly annoying spoiled brat in comparison.
The only area where STARDUST sometimes falls to Earth is in the special effects department. The early attempts to wow the audience with visual pyrotechnics feel like a desperate attention-grabbing device, as if fearful that bored viewers will walk out if there is nothing spectacular in the first five minutes. The computer-generated imagery is distinctly lacking in magic and often ill-conceived; for example, the falling star is astronomical in approach, suggesting science-fiction rather than fantasy. Fortunately, at some point the filmmakers seem to realize that the effects work best when they are punctuating magical moments in the story; from then on, they augment the fairy-tale feeling of the film.
A bit like SHREK, STARDUST puts a spin on familiar fairy tales; this is, thankfully, not a made-to-order fantasy flick. The oddball elements may surprise viewers expecting something a bit more ordinary in approach, but the surprise should be a pleasant one, even for those without a predilection for quirky British humor. The nice thing about STARDUST is that, for all the knowing winks at the audience, it never undermines the magic and romance at the heart of the story, which works just as well as – in fact much better than – more earnest endeavors. It just goes to show that you can have your cake and eat it too, even with your tongue pressed in your cheek.
STARDUST (2007). Directed by Matthew Vaugn. Screenplay by Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn, from the novel by Neil Gaiman. Cast: Clare Daines, Charlie Cox, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mark Strong, Jason Fleming, Sienna Miller, Robert DeNiro, Peter O’Toole, Rupert Everett