Today, after nearly four years in development, the new Dark Shadows movie began principal photography at England's Pinewood Studios, under the direction of Tim Burton. The news was confirmed by a number of personnel connected with the production on Twitter, including fabric dyers Schultz & Wiremu, who posted yesterday that "filming starts in the morning!" A big screen re-imagining of Dark Shadows has been a long time coming, and we'd like to wish the cast and crew the very best of luck.
Over the next year, Dark Shadows will receive global attention on a scale unlike anything it's experienced before. That's something really worth thinking about for a moment. Millions of people, and yes, it is millions, in many countries will experience Barnabas Collins, Collinwood and the Dark Shadows world for the very first time. At the time of production, the original show was often dismissed as a fad – a little fluke in television history that sprung out of a creative team scrambling for a new direction as their stories failed to catch on. It enjoyed, by soap opera standards, a brief, vibrant run, but was undoubtedly a happy accident, rather than the product of a cohesive version.
In the 35 years since the show left the air, Dark Shadows has been a bit of a sleeper hit. Its actors and fan community are justifiably proud of the series, and perhaps sometimes a little over-protective. The original episodes tend not to be slow-paced, but do have long scenes typical of that era's as-live productions. And, whereas its peers largely have faded from memory, Dark Shadows lives on in DVDs, its quaint, lumbering majesty intact. As fans, we all know just how good much of it is, but to the uninitiated, viewing those shows will always be a culture shock. For every great performance, there's a hopeless flubbed exchange; for every technical triumph, there's a boom mike yo-yoing into shot. To those who can appreciate it, Dark Shadows is sublime; To unkind eyes, it's substandard television.
So it's understandable when fans worry about how the world will greet our modest little ugly duckling of a show. We might cringe at bloopers and pre-empt inevitable carping, but with this film, Dark Shadows will stand on its own two feet, with a top-notch cast and crew recreating the show on a bold, ambitious scale. To hear Johnny Depp – one of the world's most bankable, acclaimed actors – paying sincere tribute to the talents of Jonathan Frid sweeps aside any number of trivial worries about gaffes or forgotten lines. Whatever the merits of the finished movie, no one ever need apologise for Dark Shadows again.