Author Topic: Dark Shadows: The Movie!  (Read 2857 times)

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Offline Luciaphile

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Dark Shadows: The Movie!
« on: January 04, 2004, 10:49:15 PM »
Ah, 1991. Remember 1991? The bad hair? The clothes? Hard to believe it was 13 years ago. So, in my efforts to spread my vitriol far, wide, and without mercy, and also because I was going through old videos and found the tapes, I bring you my Idle Thoughts on:

Dark Shadows: The Movie!

Or at least that's what the anonymous announcer guy was calling it.

First a technical note: The TV that turned people's faces orange intermittently. First VCR. Living at home. Parents and sibling untutored in the intricacies of watching TV while VCR was working. No cable. 13-year-old tape.

So I won't be criticizing the lighting. I have dim memories of some scenes being on the dark side (wattage-wise) but since I have no way of knowing who's to blame: Curtis or my TV or my recording situation (Sue's to blame, don't you read the . . . never mind, wrong movie), I will refrain from comment.

Anyhow, overall, I'm kind of pleasantly surprised. My reaction the last time I rewatched this was less charitable. Put it down to my general state of mind today, or whatever, but the first two hours of this were not at all bad.

Okay, the clothes are kind of scary, but I think much of this is 20/20 hindsight, because I distinctly remember liking much of the costuming. And the hair. Eeek.

But more on that later.

The whole production is quite lush. Money was spent. The actors were allowed to rehearse. The script is pretty solid. The dialogue, be still my beating heart, is relatively decent. And it all shows.

Joanna Going, who I remember from her stint on Another World (about the same time Anne Heche was on), is really well cast as Victoria. I would actually argue that she was possibly the best casting choice for the whole show. When you consider that an ingenue, particularly a Dan Curtis ingenue, has got to be a difficult part to give any life to, it's very much to her credit, that Going manages to invest Victoria with such luminosity and intelligence. I'm not sure what's happened with her career, but she really is a wonderful actress.

The opening with that damn train doesn't bother me nearly as much as I thought it would. I still find it bizarre that a 1990s person is taking the train in this day and age and not suffering the trip on the Greyhound next to the guy who's had way too much to drink, but then again, I'm not a beautiful young girl with flowing black hair heading to my job at the old, dark house.

Fashion note: Carolyn in black tights, a pleated mini-skirt, and sweater. All right, it kind of works. She's got the slutty thing going and the clothes are of good enough quality that the effect is: wild young heiress with bad taste.

I think they missed the boat with setting up Sam as owner of the Blue Whale. I'm not sure why this was seen as such a great idea. The actor is decent enough. They had the bucks. Art Wallace's original concept for the show had an artists colony going on--done properly that might have had some more potential, but okay. Sam runs the bar rather than just drinking there all the time. And oh, yeah, the Blue Whale is hip.  :P Okay, well, it's less pathetically scary and it lacks cheesy fishnotes and they have live music. There you go. Bad live music, but there you are.

Really, so not a fan of Jim Fyfe or of Barbara Blackburn (at least not as Carolyn). Let's just get that right on the table now. Blackburn delivers her lines as if she's high all the time--while that may have been a conscious choice on her or Curtis' part, it's kind of grating and largely unproductive. Do we really have any sense of who the hell this chick is? Other than a good-time girl? No.

And we've got Jim "I will chew the scenery" Fyfe. He's nowhere nearly as annoying as Roger Davis, but in a production full of some very nice, layered, and subtle performances, he sticks out like a sore thumb.

So here's Vicki and she's at the Blue Whale waiting for her ride to Collinwood. A skeevy-looking drunk shows up, hits on her and several nearby women, the nice normal people she's met seem to think it's not a good idea to get in the car with him, and what does Vicki do? She gets in the car with him. I'd like to pause here and note that for about a minute, I believed that she had made a good choice. That, my friends, is a tribute to Ms Going. She sold it. She made it seem like a smart move. Hard to do. Full marks.

Oh, and Michael T. Weiss, the former Dr. Mike Horton of Days of Our Lives which I watched for about a month before giving up in disgust, is on my screen. I thought he was another solid casting choice.

The heavy-handed music cues. Rebecca Staab runs screaming through the dark night pursued by something menacing. It's kind of overkill to bring on the scary music. We got it. She's in trouble. Something nasty has been released. It's a horror film. Let's save those for when you're being more obscure.

Not that such a thing happens often here. Curtis is pretty predictable with the directing, even when he's trying to be innovative, if you know what I mean.

Little Joseph Gordon Levitt! Man, I forgot he played David. I remember seeing Third Rock from the Sun and being surprised and pleased to see him. He does a good job as David, even though he plays him more as a 100% psychopath than Henesy's David.

And then there's my personal favorite. Mr. Michael Cavanaugh as Sheriff George Patterson. I'm not joking. I had a little crush on him at the time (oh, this is freaky, looking at IMDB right now; he played Walter Wanger in Liz: the Elizabeth Taylor Story But I digress). I just liked him. The use of the Down East accent was a nice touch. I also loved the fact that his character is the first to voice what should have been said on the old series: "If she lost all that blood, where did it go?"

The actor playing the Dr. Woodardesque character is sporting an unfortunate toupee. Just thought I'd share.

One of my chief complaints about the new series has to do with the use of Jean Simmons. I'd like to know why she got hired in the first place. I mean, they had Ben Cross for marquee value. Most people aren't aware of Simmons, her high calibre as an actress, or her oeuvre. So they hired her to have her do what exactly? I have no sense of Elizabeth as a character. She mostly gets to stand around looking nice and concerned, but you don't waste Jean Simmons on the Ruth Martin part. It's a crime.

The guy playing Stokes is bugging me. Not sure why yet. May have more to say about him when I watch the other eps.

Ben Cross (IMDB is really freaking me out. Looks like they are remaking Spartacus of all things and Cross is in it in the John Dall part. Color me scared) is working for me here. He's on the severe side, but I imagine that was what Curtis wanted. In a way, it appeals to me because he's a less hypocritical character or maybe it has something to do with Cross' physical presence or something.

Hello? Man shows up out of the blue, claims to be family, wants to live in a house on the property and boom! Sure thing! Move right on in. Place is yours. Why don't I know people this gullible and easy?

Time warp: I left the commercials on the tape and can we just pause and talk about this? The Soviets, remember them? The Soviets were cracking down. President Bush (George Herbert Walker, not Shrubya) was in office. Geraldo and Donahue were on the air. God, I feel so old . . .

So when does Maine boast tarantulas? Not looking this up so it will probably turn out that coastal Maine is a haven for poisonous arachnids. or something.

Roy Thinnes in riding togs makes up for the horror of Victoria's oversized Cosby sweater complete with shoulder pads.

Man, stupidity is still very much a part of the show. Willie is blubbering and being interrogating and in strides in icy, cold Barnabas who's exuding "Hi, I live in a creepy old house, enjoy walks on the beast, and in my spare time like to spend time on alt.sex.bondage" vibes, Willie immediately shuts up, and the family thinks he's the greatest thing since sliced bread,

I was glad to see that they wrote some extras in to explain the speedy restoration of the Old House.

Ah, night life at the Blue Whale again. I remember thinking this looked like a dive even back in 1991. Now it's just even worse. At least Barbara Blackburn actually picked up her feet when she danced.

Gloria, the skank. Anyone else remember Gloria? She's the equivalent of the dock side hooker that Barnabas was always sidling up to. She's wearing day-glo green on an outfit that would definitely get her a spot on What Not to Wear and it's all just very traumatizing. She's also kind of dim. I realize this is a character who undoubtedly resides in a trailer park, but she's never heard an English accent before? "You talk kinda funny." Oh please. Also thinking that Barnabas may wish to have a full-spectrum of antibiotics after snacking on her and her equally skanky boyfriend. Sic transit Gloria mundi . . .

And then there's Julia. Not sure why she has to look so severe. I mean, I know why, but there's severe and then there's severe. Nice attempt to upgrade the science which is much appreciated. Still very much in the hoky "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV" vein (and yes, pun intended), but it's a big improvement.

The unveiling of Josette's room and the portrait. I wish my recording was clearer, but I liked it.

Now I admit that I have never had a tall, dark, Byronic brooding rich suitor wooing me, but I find it hard to believe that all sorts of danger signals are not going off in Victoria's black-tressed head every time Barnabas opens his mouth. His elegantly-phrased and delivered belief that perhaps they are the reincarnations of Barnabas and Josette alone should have her sticking out her hand for a firm handshake, and "this was fun. We should do it again. Tell you what, I'll call you, okay?"

All that said though, it's a pretty solid two hours of TV. I can let a lot slide. It ages a lot better than I had thought.
"Some people ask their god for answers to their spiritual questions. For everything else, there is Google." --rpcxdr-ga

Offline Gothick

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Re:Dark Shadows: The Movie!
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2004, 06:20:06 PM »
For the most part, I agree with your estimation of this pilot episode.

It's OK as entertainment.  For me, it just doesn't work as Dark Shadows.

I thought the real badness of the series came in the actual episodes, particularly when they moved to 1790 and started flashing backwards and forwards to then and the 1990 story.  This was a bee that flew out of the bonnet of some tiresome executive at NBC.  Apparently, he thought it would make the pace more exciting.  It didn't.

Agree absolutely about Jean Simmons as Liz, and Roy Thinnes as Roger isn't much better, although very good on the eyes I must say.

I don't remember Michael Cavanaugh at all, sorry to say.

S.

Offline loki

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Re:Dark Shadows: The Movie!
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2004, 05:42:47 AM »
Is there anyway to view these episodes? VHS, or DVD?Going thru withdrawal, since Jan. By the way, have  truly enjoyed Luciaphil's fashion commentary for the past 2 yrs. your comments are both historical & hysterical, a wonderful enhancement to a great show. Thanks, Loki, one of your fan "lurkers".

Offline Luciaphile

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Re:Dark Shadows: The Movie!
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2004, 12:36:09 AM »
Why, yes, yes there are.

The 1991 series is available on VHS. I'm including the link to MPI's site (called the "revival series"), but I'd urge you to shop around on Amazon, some of the discount video places, and eBay. Prices are probably better elsewhere.
http://www.mpimedia.com/darkshadows/

Darkness at Blaisedon is also available on VHS.

Thanks for the compliment--hopefully, I'll do more of these in the coming months  8)
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Offline Miles

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Re:Dark Shadows: The Movie!
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2004, 07:12:25 AM »
Lighting: I really enjoyed the night shoots used in the pilot ep.  Dark Shadows usually is not afforded such luxury.  Surely not in the next 11 episodes...

I really have to agree regarding Going, Weiss and Cavanaugh.  "Elizabeth, that girl belongs in a hospital," must be one of the show's best lines.

Jean Simmons... At this point I think it's very possible that she was intentionally going for the title of most-innapropriately-used-due-to-her-advancing-years-golden-era-actress.  One cannot forget guest appearances on shows such as Star Trek: Next Gen.

Quote
Now I admit that I have never had a tall, dark, Byronic brooding rich suitor wooing me, but I find it hard to believe that all sorts of danger signals are not going off in Victoria's black-tressed head every time Barnabas opens his mouth. His elegantly-phrased and delivered belief that perhaps they are the reincarnations of Barnabas and Josette alone should have her sticking out her hand for a firm handshake, and "this was fun. We should do it again. Tell you what, I'll call you, okay?"

Come on, when did overwhelming creepiness stop being sexy!  I thought Cross and Going's makeout scene was the hottest thing since Rita Hayworth's first line in Gilda.  No, just kidding.  I found the creepiness sortof jarring, but in the end I bought it.
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Offline Luciaphile

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Re:Dark Shadows: The Movie!
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2004, 09:25:47 PM »
Come on, when did overwhelming creepiness stop being sexy!  I thought Cross and Going's makeout scene was the hottest thing since Rita Hayworth's first line in Gilda.  No, just kidding.  I found the creepiness sortof jarring, but in the end I bought it.

Oh, I totally think they managed to sell it. Cross and Going had some great chemistry together. That, IMHO, is what carries the romance off. The thing is that Going's Victoria is a lot more, shall we say, reality-based. That's what's fighting against the creepy romance.

Thanks for the comments! Also, just want to say that I love Gilda (just flashed back to a line in Janine Basinger's A Woman's View where she remarks that "Gilda has enough twisted sexuality to fill dissertations for a lifetime." Misquoting, but you get the idea).
"Some people ask their god for answers to their spiritual questions. For everything else, there is Google." --rpcxdr-ga

Offline Mary Elizabeth

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Re: Dark Shadows: The Movie!
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2005, 09:44:53 PM »
Thank goodness i am not the only one who thought about poor Jean Simmons. I mean the woman made out with Brando for Crissakes! [hall2_kiss] the worst part for me was in the pilot episode when everytime someting terrible would happen she would either have to look bewildered or put her hand to her forhead like she just couldn't take it anymore.

But I do have to say that having to Revival series on DVD, digitally remastered really makes it look so much better and it was definatly worth the $34 I paid for it.
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