Gotta confess, I love "Dark Shadows." When I was a kid in the 1970s, it aired in a prime after-school timeslot and I watched with my mom. She was no fan of regular soap operas, but somehow "Dark Shadows," with its Gothic theme, vampires, family crypts and chained coffins, didn't seem like a soap. It had drama, action, intrigue and plenty of spine-tingling scenes. (That little ghost girl Sarah, Barnabas Collins' sister, haunted me for years.)
In fact, when I co-wrote "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops: The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," (shameless plug!) I made sure "Dark Shadows" got an entry all its own.
"Dark Shadows," it seems, was a childhood fave of Johnny Depp as well, and he's now starring as beloved head vamp Barnabas Collins in the big-screen edition, due out May 11, 2012. At the time I wrote the book entry, I wondered if the proposed movie version would ever get off the ground.
But when photos from the set started to trickle out, I stopped short. As played by Jonathan Frid (who's still with us at 86), Barnabas was an imposing, aristocratic leading man who was also the head of an established New England family. Yes, vampirism was thrust upon him thanks to vengeful witch Angelique, but even as a vampire he was stately and dignified. One thing he never was was a freak.
And yet that's exactly how he looks in these photos. Numerous blogs have compared this Barnabas to Michael Jackson or earlier Depp character Edward Scissorhands. (Tim Burton directed "Edward" and is directing "Dark Shadows.") Some have suggested that perhaps Barnabas needed the makeup to go out in the daytime.
I'm reserving judgment for now, but really, Johnny Depp — as a fan since childhood, you should know better than most not to mess with Barnabas Collins. Moviegoers have watched too many of our beloved childhood memories ("Bewitched," "The Flintstones," "Land of the Lost") get dragged through horrible film versions just because Hollywood doesn't have any new ideas. Fans will call down many a curse on your head should the beloved soap be trashed onscreen.
"Dark Shadows" fans, will Depp do Barnabas Collins justice? Weigh in on Facebook.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is TODAY.com's movies editor.