Can Tim Burton Convert Over 1000 Hours of TV into One "Dark Shadows" Movie?

Illustration for article titled Can Tim Burton Convert Over 1000 Hours of TV into One "Dark Shadows" Movie?

One of the weirdest soaps ever to hit the airwaves is Dark Shadows, a late-1960s daily story that spent 6 months as a typical gothic melodrama and then surprised viewers by abruptly introducing ghosts, ancient gods, a sexy vamp named Barnabas (pictured), time travel, and parallel universes. Dan Curtis' iconic series aired for 5 years on ABC, racking up almost 1100 hours of television packed with monstery goodness. And now Tim Burton is set to make a movie version of it, with Johnny Depp as Barnabas. Can it really be done?


The soap-opera lovers over at Collider yesterday managed to get producer Richard D. Zanuck to confirm that Dark Shadows is Burton's next project, filming next year in England. Depp, who owns the rights to the series, has said many times that his greatest fantasy as a kid was to become Barnabas.

But how will the team that brought you Sweeney Todd manage to cut down all that TV into a digestible chunk? Obviously they'll have to choose one of the mini-arcs from the show to focus on (let's hope it's from the sequence where Barnabas travels back in time to an alternate nineteenth century). Or maybe they'll just come up with a brand-new plot arc involving Barnabas. That might be the best way to go, with just a few nods to the original thrown in for die-hard fans.

More importantly, will audiences go for it? By the time this movie comes out, everybody may be suffering from vampire fatigue. Probably the second Twilight movie will be in theaters, and HBO's True Blood will have cornered the market on smart-sexy vamp action. Burton will also be competing with another gothic, old-school vampire tale: Mike "Hellboy" Mignola's Baltimore, directed by David "Dark Knight" Goyer.

Previous attempts to reawaken the sleeping show have also been unsuccessful. When Curtis rebooted the series in the early 1990s as a weekly tale of the supernatural on NBC, it was canceled after just a few months. A 2004 pilot for a WB version of the show was never picked up.

But let's not get gloomy about this. There's plenty of room for more vampire stories, and Dark Shadows isn't just vamp-focused anyway. It's more like The Supernatural, ranging from tales of ghosts to alternate realities. And let's face it: This story was pretty much made for Burton, who is the master of dark camp.


Zanuck Spills It About Dark Shadows [via Collider]



I'm betting Tim will probably do what was done with House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows, where it's not so much adding to the storyline (like say.. Fire Walk With Me is to Twin Peaks) as it is the characters from the show doing other things.

House o' D.S. was pretty much the bit of the series where poor Willie digs up Barnabas, Barney gets some stalker notions in his head, things go south. But it pretty quickly deviates from the way the bit in the series went (since, well.. the movies has to conclude a bit more succinctly than one would want to conclude a story-arc in a series).

Night o' D.S. had no place in the series whatsoever; It was basically the Dark Shadows Players doing Turn of the Screw, using characters strikingly similar to their normal Dark Shadows roles (Quentin = confused hero. Willy = inbred local. Angelique = hot witch.)

I'm hoping Tim doesn't try to just take a slice from the series, but instead takes a cue from the two actual DS films.