In Tim Burton’s campy reboot of the old horror soap opera “Dark Shadows,” it’s 1972, vampire patriarch Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) has just returned after 200 years of imprisonment, and a huge celebratory concert is scheduled.
To headline, a teenage descendant suggests the hottest act of the era, shock-rocker Alice Cooper – leading to some hilarious gags: Upon first spying the androgynous star onstage, Barnabas shudders, “Ugliest woman I’ve ever seen!”
But Burton added an extra illusion. Through motion-capture technology, he physically time-warped Cooper, 64, back four decades to his “Killer”-slithery self.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer – who plays San Francisco next week, backing his 2011 Bob Ezrin-produced recording “Welcome 2 My Nightmare” – said both Burton and Depp phoned him, insisting he be in their picture, snarling their favorite catalog chestnut, “The Ballad of Dwight Fry.”
“So we did a full day of shooting where they put 50 or 60 dots on my face, and dots on this 20-year-old kid’s face,” he says. “We both did ‘Dwight Fry’ and ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy,’ they shot us in 360 degrees, and then they literally lifted his face off and put it on mine. It was quite an odd process.”
Cooper – born Vincent Furnier -- originally nicked his mascara-dripping persona from Bette Davis’ unhinged sister in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”
When he and Burton met, they felt like long-lost brothers, and discussed horror films for hours. Ditto for Depp.
“We hit it off great, and now Johnny plays guitar with us all the time,” he says. “He’s joined us several times now, and he’s a really good guitar player.” Not that his current ax woman – the red-hot Orianthi – can’t hold her own on tour.
The new show is full of creepy surprises, Cooper promises, like former extravaganzas that featured guillotines, electric chairs, live constrictors and gallons of fake blood.
The album also boasts different shocks alongside trademark venomous rockers like “I’ll Bite Your Face Off.”
Cooper teams with Nashville picker Vince Gill for two fiery tracks, and popdom’s Ke$ha for “What Baby Wants,” where she plays the devil.
“I like taking people out of their comfort zone,” he says.
Adding to this resurgence: Two new Universal theme-park rides, a Phoenix Coyotes bobblehead, and a passionate, pro-Alice rant in Bobcat Goldthwait’s great 2011 movie “God Bless America.”
“But with ‘Dark Shadows,’ I said, ‘guys, you’re going the wrong way – make me look older!’” says the long-sober singer. “I was doing everything I could to kill myself in 1972, and I looked like I was 70. So I look better now than I did then!”