Phillip Thompson

Crime Fiction writer

Somehow I totally missed National Alfred Hitchcock Day this week. That would be March 12. I only learned of my oversight while listening to the best radio show in America – the Mark & Brian Radio Program on KLOS Los Angeles, my –one-stop source for all things news and entertainment.

Hitchcock has become one of those long-forgotten threads in the quilt of American entertainment, and that’s too bad. They, as they say, don’t make them like that anymore (cue the Greg Kihn Band).

I think the first Hitchcock film I saw was his last, a comedy (yes, that’s right) called Family Plot. I was in junior high at the time. And I went in to the show knowing only that Hitchcock made scary movies (I don’t recall if I’d seen Pyscho or not), but I had no idea the man had wicked (and I mean that in a good way) sense of humor.

He was definitely original, from the cameos he made to the mind-bending suspense of Pyscho or Rear Window. I never really watched his TV show, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” all that much – I’m a little young for that, plus I generally tuned into Rod Serling’s “Night Galley,” which was sometimes spooky as hell. But I do enjoy Hitchcock’s movies, and his style. I feel a Hitchcock Weekend Marathon coming up.

Or another blast from past — a Dark Shadows marathon (provided, of course, that I can find the episodes). Yahoo posted the trailer for the newest Tim Burton/Johnny Depp collaboration in which Depp will star as the original creepy, horny vampire Barnabas Collins. I watched the trailer, and I have to say, I’m a little torn. I think Depp is perfect to play the part in a Burton version of Dark Shadows, but the trailer leads me to believe that  Burton is playing up Barnabas (and the expense of the other characters) and making a comedy, when the original show was, frankly, scary as hell.

Those of you who are old enough remember that Quentin, Josette, Barnabas, et al, were all a little creepy, but Barnabas would just scare the life out of you. The show ran in the late ’60s into the early ’70s, and I used to catch it in the afternoon, right after school. I would walk home from Marion Park Elementary (first grader) in Meridian, Miss., and plop in front of the TV at 3:30 to watch Batman (the Adam West version), followed by Dark Shadows. Yes, I know, the wisdom of letting a 6-year-old watch a show like that could be questioned, but there I was. And here’s the thing. It was broad daylight outside, and I was scared to death watching a TV show! Forget about your Addams Family, The Munsters or today’s Twilight and True Blood. This shit was scary. And I wasn’t the only child in Mississippi affected by it. Singer/songwriter Kate Campbell (check her out, she’s real good) gave Barnabas his props in a line of her song, “When Panthers Roamed in Arkansas.”

So, while I’m sure I’ll catch the movie version (I know Depp will nail the part), I think I’d rather have seen Burton make it truly scary — like the original, but without the overacting and the melodrama. I’m not a “Oh, they ruined it when they remade it!” kind of person — I loved the Coen Brother’s True Grit and Burton’s “re-imagining” of Planet of the Apes — but there’s enough of that little kid in Meridian left in me to want to have the bejeebus scared out of me again.

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