One of the charms of these early episodes of Dark Shadows is something I call “scene connectors.” Someone will close out a scene with a phrase or word, like when Joe Haskell asks Burke Devlin what he wants in exchange for what Devlin has offered him, and Devlin answers, “Information.” Then they cut away to the next scene, which begins by someone else taking up that key phrase or word but in a completely different context: “But I can’t give you any information,” Maggie Evans tells Roger Collins. “Pop’s a free soul, you know that. He wanders.” Just minutes ago, Roger, who is not such a free soul, wandered into the coffee shop just before closing time under the pretext of seeing if there’s “any coffee left in the hopper.” But what he really wants to know is where Sam Evans is. You’ll recall that in the previous episode Roger exploded when he realized that Burke Devlin is back in town – and what he needs this late hour is to pin down the whereabouts of a local artist who paints seascapes and sunsets. At this point Roger has something the viewer lacks: information.
In the restaurant Roger tells Maggie that he might have a buyer for one of her father’s paintings. After finishing his coffee and slice of pie, Roger insists on waiting around a while longer, knowing that Sam sometimes drops by to take his daughter home from work, even though Maggie is anxious to close for the evening. His presence there introduces us to another character, Bill Malloy, who hurries in and brushes Maggie off when she tells him the place is closed. “Door was open,” he insists, then ignoring Maggie’s protest cuts her off and says to Roger in a tone that is tense with concern, “Saw your car parked down the street Roger, I have to talk to you.” Bill Malloy, face like a refrigerator full of clam chowder, with a down home regional brogue just as thick, and a temperament as salty as the waters from which the little fish are pulled to maintain the Collins family fortune. He’s also the protector of the Collins family interests. And he, too, has information. Played to the hilt by Frank Schofield, he is one of the few actors on the show to affect an authentic-sounding Down East accent.
Roger: It’s after business hours, Malloy.
Bill: It has nothin’ to do with the fleet. Least I hope not.
Roger: Oh, of course. The manager of our fishing fleet talks business only with my sister.
Bill: Roger, this is important.
Roger: I see. And the extent of my participation in family business affairs is of no importance at all. Delicately put, Malloy.
[They sit down at a nearby table]
Bill: I just heard Burke Devlin’s come back.
Roger [nonchalant]: And?
Bill: Is that all you have to say?
Roger: Burke was born and raised in Collinsport. Why shouldn’t he be permitted to return if he wants to?
Bill: And you’re not worried?
We learn from this scene that Roger and Burke used to be good friends, but that something happened ten years ago, and, most significant, that Burke Devlin has been in prison. When Roger continues to brush off Malloy’s concern with a show of casual indifference, Malloy leaves him with these words: “Roger, you’re either a much braver man than I thought you were, or a much bigger fool.”
Meanwhile at the Blue Whale, Burke Devlin is working on young Joe Haskell. He’s already offered Joe, in 1966 dollars, the tidy sum of $2375 for the down payment on the boat he knows Joe wants to buy, in exchange for “information” on the Collins family. Burke doesn’t pull any punches, he just tells Joe all the things he knows about his life, his ambitions, the fact that he wants to marry Carolyn Stoddard. Naturally, Joe finds all this disarming and asks, “What do you do, hire private detectives?” Instead of answering that obvious question, Burke just keeps working on him by feigning compliments and a sense of understanding. “You’re an ambitious kid, Joe. You want to get ahead. Work for yourself. I like that. But you’re a dead duck as far as Carolyn Stoddard is concerned, and you know it.” Burke must have seen in Joe what the viewer first saw in him in the previous episode: that he is such a nice guy, he could be manipulated.
In the midst of this discussion, Burke gets a phone call from his private investigator Wilbur Strake, who informs him that Bill Malloy is heading over to the Blue Whale. This doesn’t concern him in the least. In fact, he seems amused. Devlin, calculating and determined, is one who welcomes confrontation. Burke Devlin is an agitator, one who gets things moving. Burke then returns to his table to resume his talk with Joe, just waiting for Bill Malloy to show up and see him in the midst of grooming young Haskell, which is exactly what happens. When Malloy enters the Blue Whale moments later, he walks right up to their table and after saying hello to Burke he keeps his eyes fixed on Devlin as he speaks to Haskell: “Go on home, Joe.” Burke cajoles, “He’s your boss, Joe. You better do what he says.” Malloy advises: “Get some sleep, son. I’ll see you in the mornin’.”
But how is Joe supposed to sleep? He’s just had a cup of coffee, and it’s after 11 pm. For that matter, how does anyone in Collinsport sleep nights with all these late-night caffeine infusions?
Malloy: What do you want with the boy?
Devlin: Oh, just a friendly little chat, that’s all.
Malloy: What about?
Devlin: Oh, I think you’ll learn that soon enough. As a matter of fact, I’m counting on it. You see, Joe will tell little Carolyn, and she’ll tell uncle Roger. And, who knows, pretty soon those ghosts’ll start moving around again.
Malloy: Burke, that family has had nothin’ but trouble for a long time. Now let them live in peace.
Devlin: The way they did me?
Malloy: That was ten years ago. Let it rest!
Devlin: Mr. Malloy, when I was a kid, I used to go up to Collinwood and look for ghosts. We all used to think it was haunted. Well, I didn’t find any then. But they’re there. You know it, and I know it. They creep out of every corner. And hide under every bed. Well I didn’t put them there, Mr. Malloy, but I’m sure gonna do everything I can to dig them out.
Malloy: What good it’ll do yah?
Devlin: It might give me back a lotta time I’ve lost.
At Collinwood, as Carolyn and Vicki meet for the first time, we are given a particularly revealing additional bit of information: Dark Shadows has a sense of humor. As Carolyn visits Vicki’s room to make an introduction, during which she references Collinwood as the “House of Usher” and alternatingly refers to her home as a “mausoleum” and “prison,” she invites Vicki to ask any questions she might have.
Vicki: Well I do have a question.
Carolyn: Good, good.
Vicki: Who’s Burke Devlin?
Carolyn: Never heard of him.
Vicki: Your uncle has.
Carolyn [beaming]: Ohhhhh! So you met Uncle Roger. What did you think of him? He’s a real doll, isn’t he?
Vicki: Well, he seems very nice.
Carolyn: Nice? Vicki, Roger Collins has more charm in his right earlobe than all the characters in this icky-sticky town. Oh, he sends me, he really does! And you know who my mother wants me to be hung up on? Joe Haskell. A fisherman yet! Oh, sure, Joe’s a nice guy, but… Well, let’s face it, Vicki. If you had your choice between a charmer like uncle Roger and the homegrown variety, which would it be?
Vicki [tight smile]: I didn’t know you had the choice.
Carolyn [deflated]: I guess I don’t. I guess I’ll never have any real choices until I can…
…Leave Collinwood, perhaps? Story creator and developer and episode writer Art Wallace is having a bit of fun here with a sendup of wealthy families and their supposedly inbred nature, made even more amusing the way Carolyn refers to her boyfriend Joe Haskell as “the homegrown variety” because, obviously, what could be more “homegrown” than her own uncle? In presenting this bit of satire, Wallace is also taking quite a risk. A soap opera is designed for the audience to make some emotional connection with a character or several people like a family in general, and playing up such a clichéd class-oriented stereotype is likely to defeat that purpose. What Carolyn has so matter-of-factly revealed in her initial conversation with Vicki will either repel or amuse the viewer, but either way such a move is bound to keep the viewer more at a distance and may even make it easier to be more harshly judgmental toward Carolyn’s character. But that’s Dark Shadows for you, always taking risks, right from the beginning a show like no other on television.
With all that the show has to offer, it’s surprising that Dark Shadows wasn’t more popular at the outset. Writer Art Wallace provides a sophisticated, off-beat sense of humor as well as characterizations of profound complexity. It’s marvelous to look at, with innovative, detailed set designs that have never before been presented on daytime television, and the way it’s filmed, it has the atmosphere of film noir. As a Gothic novel come to life, the first of its kind on television, it’s unlike anything else on the gilded screen, with a uniquely original soundtrack that’s part horror film and part rock and roll.
So it’s surprising that Dark Shadows didn’t attract more, especially younger, viewers in the beginning. After all, it was the time slot replacement for a recently cancelled serialized teen drama called Never Too Young, making it the lead-in for another youth oriented program, the music show Where The Action Is, hosted by Dick Clark. Kids wouldn’t have to run home to watch a show at four o’clock; they could walk, and maybe even stop in at the drug store for a fountain Coke or strawberry milkshake (except for the kids in the Central time zone, where Dark Shadows aired at 3 pm). Perhaps the term “soap opera” meant that it would only appeal to housewives and shut-ins. But it has an attractive, mostly young cast, featuring young people in search of their identity, some of whom hang out in a bar whose jukebox plays surf-style guitar instrumentals that, if they had been released outside the context of Dark Shadows and given to teen guitar groups to play, would have been major national hit singles, easily cracking the Billboard top ten or at the very least the top twenty.
So why didn’t Dark Shadows catch on in those early days? Part of the reason had to do with the ABC network itself. A fledgling endeavor, ABC daytime programming could only manage one fifth the audience share of the other two major networks. Even more problematic, because of the low ratings of ABC daytime programming, affiliated stations around the country were no longer interested in carrying their programming. In 1965, when Leonard Goldberg, the man Dan Curtis convinced to put Dark Shadows on the air, was hired as president of ABC daytime, the affiliates asked ABC to provide programming for only the next 18 months, a time period the affiliated stations would use to develop their own local programming as a replacement. As a result, most affiliates would delay the broadcast of Dark Shadows rather than show it in its live broadcast time slot, which meant that in many areas the show wouldn’t be played until eleven at night. It’s impossible to generate a following of young viewers let alone housewives for a daytime show so late at night, when most households at that hour would be tuning into a news program to segue into The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
Even in retrospect, the first 209 episodes tend to suffer within the realm of Dark Shadows fandom. Pop culture consciousness remembers Dark Shadows as the “vampire soap opera,” and Dark Shadows fans curious enough to rewind to the beginning to see what the show was like before it evolved into what we are all more familiar with might be disappointed on many levels, with the mundane elements of the story, the slower pacing, the more frequent story recap dialogue among characters – in other words, a more or less ordinary soap opera. In anticipation of the thrill of a ride on the roller coaster, they might feel let down when they find themselves on a merry-go-round instead.
But the beginning of Dark Shadows still has plenty going for it, and it’s always fun to watch how the show evolves into something other than originally intended. It has a talented cast capable of delivering compellingly dramatic theatrical performances, written by a story creator who understands the tension between personal values and inner demons. Part gothic romance, part murder mystery, part ghost story, it’s got revenge and retribution, fear and longing; it’s the story of characters trying to find themselves, while other characters do their best to hide from themselves.
Yet, alas, the beginning of Dark Shadows remains the best kept secret among the general public and Dark Shadows fandom alike. And that’s all the information I can give at this time.
Roger Collins at the Evans cottage.
Exterior footage of Seaview Terrace (aka the Carey Mansion, Newport, Rhode Island) is merged with image of Vicki to show the location of her room at Collinwood.
Vicki at her writing desk.
Carolyn welcomes Vicki to Collinwood.
Burke has a proposition for Joe at the Blue Whale.
Location footage for the Collinsport Inn (Essex, Connecticut, the Griswold Inn).
Roger learns from Maggie that Burke Devlin has really hit it big.
Carolyn tells Vicki about Isaac Collins, the founder of Collinsport.
One of the drawing room doors has opened seemingly by itself.
Vicki reacts when she sees that one of the drawing room doors has been opened.
Carolyn opens the drawing room doors to check the foyer and ease Vicki’s mind about the mysteriously opened door.
Carolyn tells Vicki that she will have to get used to things like doors that appear to open by themselves.
Bill Malloy insists on speaking with Roger.
Bill Malloy has heard that Burke Devlin is back in town.
Roger secretly worries over the return of Burke Devlin.
Burke takes a phone call at the Blue Whale from Strake.
Bill Malloy arrives at the Blue Whale to confront Burke.
Bill tells Burke to let the Collins family live in peace.
Vicki realizes that the letter from her desk drawer has been moved.
Carolyn advises Vicki to lock her bedroom door for the night.
Vicki is unnerved by what Carolyn has just told her.
Roger [at the Evans cottage]: Answer yer doah ya drunken bum!
Carolyn: Saw the light under the door and thought I might borrow a cup of sugar.
Victoria: You’re Carolyn.
Carolyn: Mm hm. And you’re Victoria. Or is it Vicki?
Vicki: Either one, doesn’t make any difference. Whichever you like.
Carolyn: Well, Vicki, on behalf of myself and my kooky family, I bid you welcome – to the House of Usher.
Roger: Say, Maggie, how’s your father these days?
Maggie: Same as always. Full of sound and fury.
Roger: He picks you up sometimes, doesn’t he, when you’re closing?
Maggie: If he’s in the mood. Why?
Roger: I might have a buyer for one of his paintings.
Maggie: Well that would be nice. Why don’t you try the house?
Roger: Oh I did. I rang the bell a couple of times but nobody answered.
Maggie: You should have banged on the door. You know my father. Little celebration and he sleeps like there’s no tomorrow.
Roger: Banging on doors isn’t exactly in my repertoire.
Carolyn [to Vicki]: Isaac Collins, the big shot who started the whole mess. You might say he’s the man who put us into the fish business. I wonder what he’d say if he could see the town now. Artist colony, summer people, and this big, fat ugly house on top of the hill.
More of the location footage filmed on Saturday, June 11, is used in this episode, where we see for the first time the exterior model for the Evans cottage, a house in Essex, Connecticut. This footage would seem to be a blooper in the making each time the interior set design for the Evans cottage is featured in an episode, because the exterior footage and stills show a house with a second floor as can be seen from the row of dormer windows projecting from the slanting roof. But the interior set design of the Evans cottage will imply a house with no second floor, for practical reasons related to the ABC-TV studio.
Location footage of Louis Edmonds in Essex, Connecticut.
A glimpse of a second floor window at Seaview Terrace (aka the Carey Mansion) in Newport, Rhode Island, the exterior model for Collinwood, is used in this episode to imply the location for the window of Vicki’s room.
Location footage for Vicki’s room.
At the Blue Whale, Burke takes a phone call from Wilbur Strake in a phone booth. After this episode, the phone booth will be used for the lobby of Collinsport Inn as well as for the Collinsport Inn restaurant, and the phone at the Blue Whale will simply hang on the back wall.
Burke at the Blue Whale on the phone with Strake.
When Vicki is seen in her room writing a letter, she appears in this episode to be left-handed. In future episodes, she will be shown to be right-handed.
Dark Shadows extras:
In The Blue Whale, there’s a couple at a table beyond the one where Burke and Joe are seated. These extras are Maryann Merrick and Judd Laurence.
They were previously seen in episode 2 at The Blue Whale, paired as part of different couples. Judd is the cool guy with sunglasses dancing up front, and Maryann is the sexy brunette on the left.
During the scene where Carolyn is making her introduction to Vicki, a boom mic shadow can be seen on the wall.
A teleprompter is reflected in the picture glass on the far wall (behind Carolyn).
The car Roger parks in front of the Evans cottage is a Ford Mustang (a 1966 Ford Shelby Mustang G).
The writing desk and chair in Vicki’s room will eventually be downstairs in the drawing room from episode 98, as the desk Elizabeth uses to conduct business and open mail. The chair is denoted by the illustration on the backrest of a woman seated among arrangements of flowers.
Food & Drink in Collinsport:
Burke has a beer at his table at the Blue Whale while talking to Joe.
Roger has a slice of pie with his coffee at Collinsport Inn restaurant.
Joe is served coffee at the Blue Whale with a twelve-ounce sugar pourer.
Burke also has a cup of coffee at the Blue Whale during his meeting with Joe.
Cast Member Spotlight: Mitchell Ryan
Mitch Ryan has had a long and distinguished career in television as well as film. As he will be on the show for a while, there will be ample opportunity to highlight a good deal of it. Five years before Dark Shadows, among Ryan’s earlier television appearances was an episode of The Defenders, which is a treasure trove of actors well known for other roles later on.
Mitch Ryan with Robert Reed and William Shatner in Killer Instinct, an episode from season one of The Defenders (broadcast September 23, 1961).
Mitch Ryan as Harry Cook in The Defenders episode Killer Instinct.
Burke Devlin attacks Captain Kirk in The Defenders.
From the page I created for Dark Shadows Wiki:
Dark Passages is a novel written by Kathryn Leigh Scott and published in 2011 by Pomegranate Press, Ltd.
Set in the 1960s, Meg Harrison leaves her native Minnesota for New York to pursue a career in acting while working as a Playboy Bunny in New York’s Playboy Club. After changing her name to Morgana Harriott, she soon lands the role of Margie, a restaurant waitress and daughter of a local artist, in the new daytime TV serial Dark Passages. The show will eventually feature a vampire, but the catch is that Morgana is one in real life.
The characters described on the sets of Dark Passages resemble quite vividly those on Dark Shadows and the actors who played them. The diner set where Margie works is greatly similar to that of the Collinsport Inn restaurant on Dark Shadows.
For the back cover, Jonathan Frid wrote the following blurb: “Reading DARK PASSAGES was like being back on the sets of DARK SHADOWS, except with real vampires behind the scenes!”
In this eight-CD box set of composer Robert Cobert’s series soundtrack, every music cue used on Dark Shadows is available, including the full-length original recordings of the guitar instrumentals heard at the Blue Whale.
Since 2006, UK production company Big Finish has been extending the Dark Shadows legacy with audio dramas offering new stories featuring cast members from the original TV series. My favorite is the 2015 audio drama …And Red All Over, in which Mitchell Ryan reprises his role as Burke Devlin to the backdrop of an eerily compelling backstory on how he came to acquire his wealth in business. Also starring Kathryn Leigh Scott as Maggie Evans, with original series themes and music cues composed by Robert Cobert. A must listen for any fan of the first year of Dark Shadows.
Coming next: Episode 4: Avoiding the Pain
— Marc Masse
© 2017 Marc Masse and Dark Shadows
from the Beginning. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of
the content herein is a violation of the
terms and standards as set forth under
U.S. copyright law.