Episode 40: Coffee Time

Nancy Barrett in episode 40 GIF_ep40

 

One of the best things about the first year of Dark Shadows is Nancy Barrett. Despite all of Carolyn Stoddard’s faults, not the least of which being her borderline incestuous crush on her uncle Roger, the emphatic range Nancy Barrett brings to her performances simply makes the character nothing short of enchanting. It’s here in episode 40 where such a quality is brought home to epitomize what makes Nancy Barrett so great in the role of Carolyn Stoddard.

 

There are a good many fans who only follow the show from episode 210 where the Barnabas era begins, and for this reason alone the first two hundred nine episodes remain one of the best kept secrets among Dark Shadows fandom. Yet for those who appreciate the fantastic performances of talented actors bringing characters to life with definitive depth, these early episodes contain some of the finest, most memorable moments in the entire series.

 

Here in episode 40, greatness abounds not only in scenes with Nancy Barrett as Carolyn Stoddard, but also in those with David Ford as Sam Evans. In the post for episode 41, we’ll recognize what David Ford achieves in one of his more magnificent moments on Dark Shadows; for now, let’s shine a light on what Nancy Barrett brings to define her portrayal of Carolyn Stoddard in the absolute.

 

Continue reading “Episode 40: Coffee Time”

Episode 39: Open House at Evans Cottage

Open house at Evans cottage GIF_ep39

 

 

Sam Evans likes to keep pretty much to himself. Unfortunately, a number of people continually impose on him, folks he’d rather not see or talk to. He’s a painter who’s been commissioned to paint a portrait he doesn’t want to paint, and will even feign a headache to cut the portrait sitting short. On top of this, another man he doesn’t want to see barges in to talk about things Sam just doesn’t want to talk about; if that weren’t enough, the intruder even goes so far as to seize Sam’s bottle of whiskey to prevent him from even pouring himself a drink in his own living room. On that same morning, this demanding interloper will not only consider threatening him with murder, but will also offer him a sizeable bribe to leave his life and livelihood behind. After managing to get rid of the unwanted portrait subject, he begins losing his temper while trying to usher away trespasser number one, during which invader number three, Collins family business manager Bill Malloy, just walks right in through the front door without so much as a knock. When Sam raises a complaint, Bill simply tells him it’s his own fault for leaving the door unlocked.

 

That’s what happens in Collinsport, if you don’t bar the door, when something from your past you’d rather keep hidden comes calling right at your doorstep. Still, it could be worse, considering what the future holds in store for Evans cottage, with the gallery of Universal monsters that will someday be encroaching on his domain; a gentleman vampire caller who just can’t keep his fangs away from his daughter, a Frankenstein type man child who breaks in to borrow and brandish a huge carving knife while Sam is away at the pub for an evening drink, a werewolf in the night who just jumps crashing through the front window hungry and growling for any kind of action it can find.

 

There will come a time when Sam will long for the good old days of only the year or two before when it was just Burke Devlin, the old friend he betrayed long ago, Roger Collins, the man who imprisoned him in a pact of silence, and Bill Malloy, the wise old owl who comes around asking too many questions, that he would be trying to keep from seeking him out.

 

First thing in the morning here in the summer of sixty-six it’s open house at Evans cottage, and no one is invited.

 

Continue reading “Episode 39: Open House at Evans Cottage”

Episode 38: The Count of Monte Devlin

Burke discovers Carolyn's ring GIF_ep38

 

The Wikipedia page for Dark Shadows links the nineteenth century novel The Count of Monte Cristo with the story of Burke Devlin:

 

Burke Devlin’s Revenge For His Manslaughter Conviction, episode 1 to 201.

 

The accompanying citation, with something one would typically expect from all things Wikipedia, provides erroneous information:

 

“In episode 28, Burke Devlin is seen reading this novel. It similarity to events is commented upon i.e. a man returning to his home town to wreak revenge.”

 

They’re only off by ten episodes; and “it” should be “its” and “home town” is one word.

 

Now that we’ve done the necessary proofreading, let’s examine the more probable origins of the story of Burke Devlin, one of the main driving forces behind the beginnings of Dark Shadows.

 

Continue reading “Episode 38: The Count of Monte Devlin”

Dark Shadows from the Beginning Special Edition: Origins of Dark Shadows: The Uninvited (1944) and The Unseen (1945)

Dark Shadows from the Beginning_Special Edition lead photo_37A

(Ruth Hussey and Ray Milland in the 1944 motion picture The Uninvited)

 

Dan Curtis is the last man you’d think would ever create a soap opera for daytime television. Very much a man’s man, Curtis began his television career in the 1950s by pitching TV syndication sales for NBC and eventually breaking through in 1963 as creator and executive producer of The CBS Golf Classic. The year before, he had created the Golf Challenge for ABC. You couldn’t get any further from the audience for such daytime soaps as General Hospital than a sports program featuring ball competition between Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.

 

While asleep one night in 1965, Curtis had a dream about a young governess on a train taking her somewhere up the coast of New England to a large house where she gets caught up in the intrigues of a wealthy and mysterious family. It has often been said that it was Jane Eyre that Curtis was bringing to daytime television as the first gothic romance; but it’s more likely that while in the dream state his subconscious was piecing together a reinterpretation of a 1945 motion picture called The Unseen.

 

The Unseen stars Gail Russell as a governess in her early twenties who travels from the big city to a New England village to tutor two small children, one of them a troubled boy whose mother is recently absent from the household and whose father is cold and disdainful toward him and who thinks of him as a congenital liar and “little monster.” Produced by John Houseman (Professor Kingsfield from The Paper Chase), The Unseen was Paramount Pictures’ follow-up to 1944’s The Uninvited, which also starred Gail Russell as a young woman who gets thrown into the center of paranormal disturbances plaguing a large house along the rocky coast of Cornwall, England. In terms of atmosphere, there are a good many similarities between The Uninvited and what was first presented on Dark Shadows more than twenty years later, including the strange and unsettling sound of a woman sobbing in the night, the source of which can never be pinpointed to any exact location in the big house.

 

So while Dark Shadows is still Art Wallace’s baby, at least in terms of story development and episode script writing, let’s take an in-depth look at the earlier influences he drew upon to bring the dream vision of Dan Curtis to life on daytime network television…

 

Continue reading “Dark Shadows from the Beginning Special Edition: Origins of Dark Shadows: The Uninvited (1944) and The Unseen (1945)”

Episode 37: One of Our Ghosts

Vicki_basement GIF_ep37

 

In the previous episode while encountering local artist Sam Evans at the Collinsport Inn, Victoria Winters was told by Mr. Evans, “Go back to your house on the hill, Miss Winters, go back to your ghosts and your goblins…”

 

In this episode, it seems that ghosts and goblins are precisely what she is returning to. In the great house of Collinwood during the post-midnight hours, the young governess will be drawn from her room on the second floor by the ghostly sound of a woman sobbing somewhere down below. Following the sound in the hope of tracing its origin, she will be led down to the basement and before a musty old wooden door sealed with a padlock. A moment later, she will come face to face with a real-life goblin.

 

In a subsequent post, we’ll explore the origins of what made Dark Shadows what it was; the deep shades of atmospheric gloom that lend Collinwood its haunting mystique, the family legends of ghosts that seemingly cannot rest, the disturbing disembodied sound of a woman sobbing in the night – even the way people close the double doors of a drawing room when they wish to speak with others in private.

 

As envisioned by Dan Curtis in a dream that woke him one night in 1965 with the spark of an idea for a TV show, the story of Victoria Winters recalls more the age of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, with the sidebar story of Burke Devlin echoing shades of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo; however, the full backstory that fills out Dark Shadows as realized by story creator Art Wallace is more reminiscent of the rise of the haunted house genre from American motion pictures in the mid-1940s, with two in particular, The Uninvited (1944) and The Unseen (1945), both co-starring Gail Russell, serving as the main influences for the gothic romance that came to television in 1966 as Dark Shadows. Following the post for episode 37, there will be a special edition post of Dark Shadows from the Beginning which will examine these earlier motion pictures in depth and point out how they can be described as the origins of Dark Shadows.

 

For now, let’s visit with the ghosts and goblins of Collinwood as faced by Victoria Winters on this, her third night as governess in the big house on the hill…

 

Continue reading “Episode 37: One of Our Ghosts”

Episode 36: The David Ford Effect

Roger_drawing room GIF_ep36

 

The addition of David Ford as the new Sam Evans has had an immediate and energizing effect on fellow Dark Shadows cast members, most notably with Louis Edmonds’ performance as Roger Collins.

 

Fresh off the Hartford Stage in a year-long run as Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, David Ford’s distinctly dramatic infusion of Tennessee Williams into his portrayal of Sam Evans has awakened a theatrical spirit in those among the cast who already had a strong background on the live stage.

 

Louis Edmonds for one got his start as a New York stage actor, working in regional theater and Off-Broadway before finally breaking through with a Broadway production of Candide in 1956. To work alongside an actor like David Ford must have been like going home, because he’s absolutely on fire in this episode, giving one of his best ever performances as Roger Collins, scene after scene.

 

Hereafter, when auditioning actors for new roles or as replacements for existing characters, the casting department will more and more be looking to New York City and regional theater for talent.

 

The arrival of David Ford represents a watershed moment on Dark Shadows, where fairly tame and ordinary melodrama has the potential to achieve the heights of high drama. This initial transformation will eventually pave the way for the casting of a certain Shakespearean actor in the role of a vampire.

 

But that’s months off still and, as yet, something unforeseen. One thing follows another, but only by chance – that’s the magic that made the run of the series one of a kind, and why Dark Shadows could only happen once.

 

For now, “the David Ford effect” is getting the production crew of Dark Shadows to rethink the show’s approach to acting and where they should be looking for the talent to add that extra spark and make scenes more riveting, with the actors themselves pulling out all the stops to move things up a notch by adding a more theatrical sense of drama to their performances beginning with today’s episode, making the pages of dialogue seem more alive and bringing to the character portrayals that one extra layer of fullness and depth.

 

Continue reading “Episode 36: The David Ford Effect”

Episode 35: A Great Dramatic Reading

David Ford_opening GIF_ep35

 

“The character of Sam Evans will be played by David Ford.”

 

Dark Shadows is known mainly as a “vampire soap” to even those with only a passing knowledge or awareness of the original TV series that aired weekday afternoons between 1966 and 1971.

 

Before rocketing into the public lexicon as television’s first vampire series, there were five gradual transformations that took place without which the “Barnabas era” of Dark Shadows would not have been possible.

 

The most significant transformation is, of course, the arrival of Barnabas Collins in 1967. The precursor to Barnabas was the phoenix story, featuring a fiery goddess threatening to consume and destroy the lives of all those with whom she comes in contact. The phoenix was the first supernatural monster on Dark Shadows. Before this was the first appearance of a ghost in episode 70, which was preceded in episode 52 by a supernatural occurrence in the Collinwood drawing room where a book was opened as if by the hand of an invisible spirit. The first essential transformation occurs here in episode 35 with the acting department, as David Ford joins the cast in the role of Sam Evans, taking over for Mark Allen who last appeared in episode 22.

 

Continue reading “Episode 35: A Great Dramatic Reading”