Phyllis Kaelin is Drawn to the Shadows [Fierce Anticipation]


On Friday, Dark Shadows is officially opening and I’m going to be sitting in a theatre sometime that day, watching the big horror offering of the summer movie season. Probably on an Imax screen. My tiny bit of ambivalence is swamped by fierce anticipation. While quick to say I don’t like horror movies, is this really a horror movie? Seems to me, from watching the trailer a number of times – and reading up a bit to try to sort this out – that Dark Shadows is closer to another billing given it: comedy and fantasy. Isn’t this new production going to be more like Rocky Horror Picture Show? This suspicion is strengthened by learning that TV Guide lists Dark Shadows as one of the Top Cult Shows Ever.

Come on. This is a Tim Burton movie which stars Johnny Depp. The trailer has that polished, campy look of current movies looking back to the 1960s or 1970s, a sheen of high production values, and a cast of beauties including Helena Bonham Carter, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Chloé Grace Moretz and Bella Heathcote. Surely these ladies will lift the tone, at least a little. All this is very seductive, never mind the faultlessly charming Mr. Depp, or should I say the vampire Barnabas Collins?

Never saw the soap opera produced by Dan Curtis on ABC in the late 1960s. Reading now about the series, I recognize a classic setup, beginning an involved plot with a young girl on a train heading to a gloomy seacoast town in Maine and a mixed reception from residents and family. This blend of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Turn of the Screw, and plots increasingly driven by mystery and the supernatural were a perfect foil for paperbacks published in the 60s and 70s. The soap opera was also apparently blessed with creatures like ghosts, werewolves, zombies, witches and that tragic romanic lead — the vampire. Well, all this sounds like a gothic romance careening well out of control, and who doesn’t love watching a train wreck?

Not literally of course, although the train wreck in The Fugitive (you remember, Tommy Lee Jones? Harrison Ford? the doctor who didn’t kill his wife), well, that was spectacular. In the past few days, it’s been fun learning about the original Dark Shadows, described repeatedly as the “long-running vampiric soap opera saga”. But I didn’t know any of the background when I first made up my mind. Dark Shadows had me the first time I saw the trailer — and I’m going to go see the movie.


George Barris at work

This Saturday, May 12 between 9 am and 3 pm, Culver City will close Culver Blvd and Washington Blvd between Duquesne & Ince to through traffic for a car show. George Barris, who customizes cars for individuals, movies and television (Batmobile, The Munsters‘ Koach, the Beverly Hillbillies‘ jalopy and others) has lent his name (and some of his creations) to the event. Hot rods, muscle cars, classics, and movie props—what a mix of nostalgia and memory! Reportedly there will be live music, at least one well-known comedian, Jeff Dunham, food booths and probably food trucks, and more than 400 cars competing for a couple of dozen trophies. Free to the public. Worth checking out, I am told by those who have attended past shows.

Note: parking may get a little tricky, but the downtown lots will be open. Once you are there, you have a chance to wander around the lovely downtown district. There are maps at the show web site ( Living close enough to walk “into town” makes this a definite maybe.


This weekend, Sunday is Mother’s Day. Take your mother, or stepmother, grandmother, aunt, sister, friend or another mother out to lunch, buy her a card, candy, or flowers, offer her attention and whatever gifts you like. I like Mother’s Day. However, this election year, I have especially mixed feelings about this lovely sentimental holiday. There are such tough practical issues facing mothers (and fathers) these days.

Anna Jarvis would not be surprised by the turn celebrating the holiday has taken. A West Virginian inspired by her mother, Ms Jarvis campaigned at the turn of the 20th century for a day to recognize mothers and motherhood. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day an official American holiday; as early as 1920, Anna Jarvis publicly declared the holiday too commercial.

More than 100 years later, a politically fractious America doesn’t feel as friendly to families as we might wish for. After the Civil War, Julia Ward Howe — remembered as an abolitionist and as the author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic— suggested women band together for a day on which they would speak out for peace, another early push for a Mother’s Day. In 2012, I would be happy for a day in which Americans campaigned for mothers—a real Mother’s Day!

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