Thursday, April 19, 2012

Jonathan Frid's Last Bow

Devoted fans of the Dark Shadows soap opera of the 1960s and early 1970s may be forgiven for speculating that publicity for Tim Burton's movie remake may have sped the demise, reported today, of Jonathan Frid, the original Barnabas Collins. From my own experience showing the trailer to my friend Wendigo, what Burton appears to have perpetrated has shocked and infuriated many fans of the old series. They were clearly hoping for a somewhat straight retelling of Dan Curtis's Barnabas legend, but Burton, in the promotion stage at least, has delivered a travesty that looks as much like a pastiche or parody of his own past work as it resembles a homage to or parody of Dark Shadows. Watching it with no vested interest in Dark Shadows myself, I was appalled that Burton had seemingly backslid about a quarter-century -- though the film is clearly meant in a nostalgic vein -- when something more in the Sweeney Todd manner might have been expected from him and purported Dark Shadows superfan Johnny Depp. Burton has tried to spin this -- presumably in the face of fan-base rage, --  by saying that they'll like the film as a whole better, but that he felt that overt comedy would evoke the unintended amusement many viewers got from the cheap, campy old shows.  In any event, lest anyone feel that Frid went to his grave -- or wherever -- cursing the movie, original co-star Kathryn Leigh Scott is quick, following the announcement of his passing, to state that neither he nor she resented Burton's treatment of their legacy. Both Scott and Frid make cameo appearances in the picture next month and we may presume that both were treated with a due deference from self-professed fans on the set that may color their attitudes. As old troupers they may also have been better sports about the material than their fans. Whatever Frid himself felt about it -- he remained relatively aloof from the fandom for many years, perhaps cursing the typecasting that limited his post-series acting career, before embracing them late in life -- it might be said that when Burton's movie appears and Frid has his scene, the beloved thespian will at last be truly undead....


hobbyfan said...


Having seen the trailer the other day, I get the sense that the angle Burton was looking for was to recast the Collins clan as a modern-day Addams Family in reverse, wherein they're all normal, save for the long-lost (and dead) relative who comes a'callin'. The film is set a year after the original series ended (1972; Shadows was cancelled in '71), so there's some period music to be had of the AM Gold variety (i.e. Carpenters).

Frid, I read, returned to his native Canada, where he passed away a week ago. Didn't even realize he was Canadian in the first place!

Samuel Wilson said...

hobby, that family does not look normal -- look at that skin tone! I think the idea is going to be that the dead guy has to show these reclusive misfits how to really live, or something Burtonesque like that. But the whole thing looks and feels retro in a 90s, not a 70s way. I can't help expecting evil yuppie developers to turn up as the bad guys. Your first response to a new Burton movie shouldn't be "yawn," but that's how I feel about Dark Shadows.