Book Review: Dark Shadows – The Visual Companion by Mark Salisbury

dark shadowsTitan Books is back with another coffee table companion book, this time for another vampire movie book (I last reviewed their companion book for Hotel Transylvania) and while Dark Shadows – The Visual Companion is quite a bit different in subject matter, the style of the book is much the same.  Written by former Empire editor Mark Salisbury, the book covers all the aspects of the production of the movie Dark Shadows, released last year, directed by Tim Burton, starring  Johnny Depp.  

The glossy hardbound book is filled with full page photos detailing everything from the cast, to the sets, the costume, hair, make-up, prosthetics,  cinematography, stunts, special effects, visual effects, editing, and scoring.  The books begins with the story of how Burton and Depp came upon the project.  Basically, both men were such big fans of the strange 70’s soap opera, that they had always wanted to make a feature film version of their favorite after-school show as kids.

Now, at a point in their career where both men have the financial freedom and clout to make whatever they choose to make, they finally sat down and collaborated once again to make Dark Shadows.  The book covers everyone in the cast, and how they came to be in the film, most of them having previously worked for Burton on other films.

Since Burton’s films are so often identified by their visual appearance, the book also delves into the many aspects that compose Burton’s visual palette, encompassing everything from the cinematography, the sets, the make-up, the special effects, and how those physical visuals are incorporated into the digital visual effects,  and what processes the filmmakers went about to blend the two, especially with the 1972 period clothing and set dressings, and what that meant to the film as a whole.

There are also a few cool extras, like the pre-production designs, and how Burton uses everything put together to compose a specific vision for his films.  Often, this is the most identifiable aspect of his films, and while sometimes that’s not always a positive thing, in Dark Shadows, it works, and doesn’t feel like it’s a story that Burton has co-opted for his own use, rather, it feels like something that fits right in line with the type of films he has always made, probably because the original TV series was such a huge influence on Burton as an artist from the very beginning.

Being a beautifully bound coffee table book from Titan, you know it’s well designed and printed on glossy paper, with plenty of pictures, so it’s the perfect collector’s item for anyone that loved the movie Dark Shadows.  However, anyone that wasn’t a fan of the film won’t have much use for a book like this.  Still, it has a wider range than just this film, it’s also a close examination of the way Tim Burton makes movies, so it would be the perfect addition to the collection of any Burton fans, new or old, whether they liked this specific film or not.


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