Tim Burton's Dark Shadows (opening in theaters Friday) stars Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, a vampire who has been locked in a coffin for almost 200 years. When he is freed in 1972, the puzzled Barnabas doesn't know what to make of his surroundings. For Depp, the film, which is based on the 1960s-70s soap opera of the same name, was a chance to explore the sounds and styles of the endearingly tacky decade.
The thought of this very elegant man from the 1700s coming back to 1972 - maybe the worst time, aesthetically, in human existence, where people accepted everything from ugly little troll dolls to macramé jewelry and resin grapes to lava lamps, Depp said in an official press release. We thought what a great way to incorporate this vampire being the eyes that we never had back then, the eyes that can see the absurdity in those things.
Here's a look at some of the period details in Dark Shadows, and what they meant to that generation.
The film's soundtrack contains several of the decade's top hits. The heavily orchestrated love song Nights in White Satin topped the charts in 1972 and is played during the film's intro. The poetic Moody Blues hit signifies Barnabas' tormented longing for his beloved Josette.
Dark Shadows also features Donavan's 1966 hit Season of the Witch, a song that remained popular into the early 1970s. The track conveys the predatory nature of the film's villain, Angelique, a devious witch. Other groovy tunes on the soundtrack include Top of the World by the Carpenters and You're the First, the Last, My Everything by Barry White. These widely known dance hits serve the film's lighter moments. Barnabas' assumption that Karen Carpenter's live TV performance is the result of sorcery from a tiny songstress makes for one of the film's best scenes
Barnabas is shocked to learn that horses are no longer the primary mode of transportation, and that people now drive around in Chevys. Muscle cars were all the rage in the '70s and the Chevy Chevelle was one of the most common purchases. This is largely because the car was available in a variety of designs, such as the convertible and station wagon.
Ah, the lava lamp! Released in 1968, these funky light sources were a bestselling item. Available in a gaudy array of colors, they became a trademark of the vibrant and psychedelic early '70s. Barnabas is intrigued by the eye-catching lamp because it looks to him like a pulsating blood source. Upon his initial introduction to the period, Barnabas is startled by the ugly sight of a troll doll. The eerie yet imaginative dolls were a popular toy fad at the time. They have since been listed as one of the most creative toys of the 20th century by the Toy Industry Association.
Erich Segal's Love Story was the bestselling fiction book of 1970. The film version of the tearjerker is considered to be one of the most romantic films of all time. It stars Ali McGraw as Jennifer, a brazen working class girl, and Ryan O'Neal as Oliver, a preppie Harvard student. In Dark Shadows Barnabas repeats Love Story's best known line; Love means never having to say you're sorry. He also reads the novel, an odd activity for a vampire! It's hard to imagine Bela Lugosi's Dracula doing anything of the sort.
Reviews for the Dark Shadows have been largely mixed. Critics are claiming that Burton is so concerned with capturing the '70s that he neglects to give the film a compelling plot. While the scenery and production values are easy to admire, the precise detailing of the time period detracts from the narrative, which becomes jumbled.