It’s a Wednesday in 1966, and Burke Devlin has been hanging out in the drawing room at Collinwood since Monday. Fortunately, there’s plenty of brandy on hand to keep him hydrated while he chats with Liz and waits for Roger to show up, who’s been avoiding the drawing room since last Friday, ever since Carolyn brought Burke to Collinwood.
No, that isn’t it exactly. Thirteen episodes in, Dark Shadows is more or less moving in real time, having covered barely the first twenty-four hours since Burke Devlin arrived in Collinsport on the same train as Victoria Winters. There hasn’t even been enough time for Dark Shadows to have its first thunderstorm yet.
It has been known since episode 3 that Burke’s time in prison had something to do with the Collins family, and Roger Collins has been on edge since finding out that he is back in Collinsport. The long-awaited meeting between the two in the drawing room at Collinwood at last sheds some light on the background details. Burke was responsible for a man getting killed, and Roger’s testimony during the trial was the evidence that sent him to prison for five years.
Roger: Well, I’m waiting.
Burke: You’re so grim about this, Roger. I hardly know where to begin.
Roger: Well why don’t you begin with the fact that you think I’m responsible for your going to prison?
Burke: Now that was ten years ago. I want to try to forget about that.
Roger: Would you? Or would you like me to think you’ve forgotten it?
But what’s even more significant in these head to head drawing room scenes between Roger and Burke in this episode is that we discover just how great Louis Edmonds and Mitch Ryan are in their respective roles when these characters are facing off. Here are two of the more theatrically adept actors in the cast, their characters formerly good friends turned bitter adversaries, and the entertainment value in these confrontations is all the more richer for the performances of these master thespians in action.
Burke: Roger, ten years ago a man was killed and I went to prison.
Roger: Because you were guilty.
Roger’s line is delivered with such a matter-of-fact, smug disregard that before managing to shrug off the comment Burke reacts as though a foul gust of air has crept into the room, as if Roger had just farted in his face.
Roger, who’s been ducking away from Burke for what seems like weeks, like when he turns away from the hotel restaurant when he is told that Burke is having coffee with Vicki, suddenly musters a sturdy courage that didn’t seem apparent in previous episodes.
Roger: Now the truth, Burke. What brought you back here?
Burke: I’ve told you the truth.
Roger: You seem to be forgetting that I know you pretty well. I know you as a person who remembers every hurt and every insult. Now people change in ten years, but you haven’t changed that much.
Burke: What do you want me to say? That I came up this hill to cut your heart out?
Roger: Well, that would be more honest. Because it would make me more honest with you. Let me tell you something, Burke. If you try to do anything, to me, to my family, to any of us, those five years you spent in prison will seem like the best time you ever had.
The best part of these less than friendly encounters is that the two seem to be eternal rivals, and are forever sparring in a game of one-upmanship.
Burke: You’ve become a brave man, Roger, I congratulate you. But, you know, the funny thing is, you don’t need the bravery.
Roger: I just want you to know where I stand.
Burke: Okay, now I know. How’s your wife?
Roger: That’s not your affair.
Burke: How can you say that? Don’t forget. She and I were once very fond of each other.
Roger: Yes, I know.
Burke: If I remember correctly, you two were married the day after I was convicted. Am I right?
Roger: You know you are.
Burke: A kind of a victory celebration in a way, wasn’t it?
Roger: Alright, Burke!
Surely there has to be something more to Burke’s manslaughter conviction than Roger’s self-satisfied certainty and Burke’s bitter resentment. It may take a while to get to the bottom of it, but Louis Edmonds and Mitch Ryan are bound to be so engaging along the way that it may even make fountain pens seem like good fun.
Meanwhile, Vicki has set out for Matthew’s cottage on Carolyn’s advice that because the caretaker has been there all those years, he seems to know everything and might even have some of the answers to the questions Vicki has about her past. But as it happens, Matthew Morgan is about as friendly and accommodating as a rabid grizzly bear.
Vicki: Matthew, when Mrs. Stoddard offered me this job, I knew that Collinsport was only fifty miles from Bangor. I thought that while I was up here, I might be able to find something.
Matthew: You got somethin’ against Mrs. Stoddard, you ain’t gonna get nothin’ from me.
All that Vicki finds out from her visit to the caretaker’s cottage is that there are bus and train time tables for trips to Bangor in the station wagon glove compartment, and, aside from a blueberry muffin and cup of tea, that’s about all she’s welcome to.
But what the viewer finds out from this visit is that George Mitchell is one of those actors who can’t chew food and act at the same time.
In the beginnings of Dark Shadows just about everyone is always drinking something, whether it’s coffee, tea, brandy, or soda, and if a character happens to be eating their dinner while in conversation with another character, then the actor had better be able to eat and talk with their mouth full while a scene is going on. In the first episode, Alexandra Moltke really pulled this off well; you could hardly tell she’d just taken a bite out of a roast beef sandwich while Vicki gabs with Maggie. In episode 7, Mitch Ryan had just a moment of difficulty, spitting out a comet stream of donut as Burke chats with Vicki. But the eating mishaps suffered by George Mitchell in this episode are so severe, they practically qualify as bulimia.
The trouble begins after Matthew has a bite of food, presumably egg whites, then turns his head to cough… without even covering his mouth…
…then when resuming his discussion with Vicki, a chunk of the food he is still chewing falls from his mouth…
Things only get worse from there. He forks in another mouthful of egg whites as he gets up from the table to get a kettle for tea. Still chewing, he holds the kettle in the sink as the water runs. Then he starts coughing again, or is he gagging? Actually, it looks as though he might vomit into the sink at any second…
…what happens instead is another chunk of food falls from his mouth, hopefully not in the kettle from which he’ll soon be serving Vicki tea: “You like yer tea strong, Miss Winters?”
Then he wipes his mouth with the back of his hand…
…and wipes his nose with the top of his finger.
With director Lela Swift, who likes to run a neat and clean ship, complaining to Dan Curtis in the previous episode about Mark Allen’s trousers, you have to wonder how things like this could possibly escape her notice. As it turns out, they don’t.
When the scene shifts back to the Collinwood drawing room and Roger is closing the drawing room doors so that he and Burke can talk alone, you can hear some of the leaking audio from the control room where Lela is asking another crew member to put Dan on the phone because she wants to talk with him about George Mitchell.
Dan: You have a complaint about George Mitchell?
Lela: That George Mitchell. I can’t stand watching him.
Dan: Oh, Lela, what is it now?
Lela: That George Mitchell, he eats like a slob! He can’t keep food in his mouth.
George Mitchell doesn’t help his case any, because when the scene moves back to the cottage, he’s still doing things like this…
It looks as though The Perils of Mark Allen may soon be spawning a spinoff.
When Roger enters the drawing room, he refuses to shake Burke’s hand.
Burke says that he and Roger have a lot of catching up to do.
The trial that sent Burke to prison is discussed.
Roger confronts Burke about why he met with Vicki for coffee at the hotel restaurant.
Matthew is not pleased that Vicki has let herself into his cottage.
Vicki lies to Matthew about Mrs. Stoddard knowing about her being there at the cottage.
Roger schemes to get Elizabeth to leave the room so he can talk to Burke alone.
Roger insists for Burke to be truthful about his reasons for returning to Collinsport.
Burke suggests that he and Roger have one more drink for old time’s sake.
Burke asks Roger why he came back to Collinwood to live.
Burke asks Roger if his sister might be interested in selling the house or the business.
When Roger answers harshly in the negative, Burke abruptly excuses himself.
Matthew tells Vicki about the car accident he had due to bad brakes.
Matthew tells Mrs. Stoddard that Miss Winters is at the cottage…
…which gets Vicki caught in her lie…
…so Matthew angrily tells her to leave.
Burke explains that he was just admiring Roger’s car.
Elizabeth and Roger discuss what they think about Burke’s visit.
Vicki asks if Mr. Collins is using his car tonight.
Burke: We have a lot of catching up to do. Ten years worth.
Roger: Why have you come here, Burke?
Burke: You know, you and your sister, you both ask the same questions. Why don’t you tell him, Mrs. Stoddard?
Elizabeth: Burke said he came back to visit Collinsport. No other reason.
Roger: And do you believe that?
Burke: Oh, Roger, now come on.
Roger: I may have grown ten years older, Burke. But I haven’t quite become a fool.
Matthew: This is my house Miss, and I don’t like people prowlin’ around.
Vicki: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to barge in, but… I’ve got to talk to you.
Matthew: I’ve gotta fix my supper.
Vicki: Please? It won’t take long.
Matthew: Miss Winters, any minute the big house may call and want something. If I don’t get my supper now, I may never get it!
Vicki: Well, what if I help? I’m pretty handy around the kitchen.
Matthew: I don’t need your help. I don’t need anybody’s help. If you want to talk, you sit down there and talk. But be quick about it!
Matthew: Miss Winters, I don’t know much about you, but I don’t like people snoopin’ around here.
Vicki: Well I’m only trying to find out about my own life.
Matthew: What’s that got to do with the Devlin trial?
Vicki: Nothing, I suppose.
Matthew: Then stop asking questions about it.
Vicki: You’re a very versatile man, Matthew. You take care of the big house, chop wood, fix machinery, and bake muffins.
Matthew: I also make sure nothin’ happens to Mrs. Stoddard.
Burke: Oh, hello, Miss Winters.
Vicki: I couldn’t imagine who was in here.
Burke: Well, we certainly have a habit of meeting in the odd places, don’t we?
Burke: I was just admiring Roger’s car.
Vicki [notices the wrench he’s holding]: I see.
Burke: Oh, I, uh… I found this on the front seat. [throws the wrench onto a workbench] It’s a beautiful model, isn’t it? I’m thinking of buying one myself.
Vicki: Does Mr. Collins know you’re in here?
Burke: Well, I didn’t tell him I was here, no. You don’t think he’d mind, do you?
Vicki: Yes, I think he might!
Burke: Well, let’s keep it our little secret, shall we?
The location footage used as the model for the exterior of Matthew’s cottage as well as the garage area of Collinwood was filmed in the stable complex at the Lyndhurst estate in Tarrytown, New York.
Vicki on her way to Matthew’s cottage.
Vicki spots the entrance to Matthew’s cottage.
Vicki leaving Matthew’s cottage.
Vicki hears the sound of a car door closing in the garage.
Exterior footage of the garage at Collinwood.
As Vicki is shown in the location footage approaching the front door to Matthew’s cottage, director Lela Swift can be heard on a control room microphone cueing the camera crew for her entrance to the studio set for Matthew’s cottage: “Get camera two ready for Vicki’s entrance.” Then as Vicki in the location footage is pushing open the door to Matthew’s cottage: “We’re on, hit her on two!” Then after Vicki calls out for Matthew saying that she’d like to talk to him: “Cue Matthew! Cue for Matthew’s entrance!”
While the location footage is playing of Vicki moving from the station wagon to investigate the sound she heard coming from the garage, a crew member can be heard saying loudly in the studio, “Quiet, please.” This is followed by Lela Swift on the control room mic instructing for the change to the studio set for the garage: “Cue into set!”
Fun fact: Vicki, the presumably educated tutor to young David Collins, did not know that Augusta was the capital of Maine.
There is an amusing bit of scene connector dialogue in this episode. At the cottage, Matthew explains to Vicki that Roger and his wife moved to Augusta and that Roger had returned to live at Collinwood about a month ago. “Worst thing that ever happened to this house, him comin’ back.” Then the scene shifts to the drawing room, where Burke asks Roger, “Why did you leave Augusta and come back here?” Interesting that Burke should know these facts about Roger, since he was in prison when Roger and Laura moved to Augusta and still away when Roger had returned to Collinsport. Burke’s private investigator, Wilbur Strake, sure covered all the bases.
First appearance of The Cottage at Collinwood, which in these early episodes is variously referred to as “Matthew’s cottage” and “the caretaker’s cottage.”
In the teaser, as Roger asks Elizabeth how long Burke has been there, the camera shudders as if it’s run into something.
According to Roger, Burke and Vicki “met yesterday afternoon in the hotel restaurant”; but in episode 12 when questioning Vicki on Widow’s Hill about this meeting, the two had met for coffee earlier that day. It is still the day after Vicki’s arrival at Collinwood, and the next onscreen day won’t begin until episode 21.
While Roger and Burke chat alone in the drawing room, the sound of dishes clattering from the adjacent cottage set can be heard, in preparation for when Vicki helps Matthew to wash dishes.
As Burke is preparing to leave and suggests to Roger that they should try to forget the past, just as Roger says, “That’s up to you,” a crew member can be heard speaking.
When the phone at Matthew’s cottage rings while Vicki is helping Matthew wash dishes, as Matthew heads across the room to answer it, the camera angle shows the top of the set along with a studio light.
When Matthew Morgan is living in the cottage at Collinwood, it is equipped with a wood-burning stove.
There is also a sink area, a dining table, and two chairs, one a rocking chair and the other a leather cushioned type of easy chair with a side table in between. To the left of the stove is a counter with cabinets and cupboards. The easy chair and dining table will still be there when Laura Collins moves in, but are soon replaced by a full-length sofa and coffee table. When Laura arrives, the cupboards and cabinets have become instead a fireplace.
Food & Drink in Collinsport:
Roger prepares to pour himself a brandy after agreeing to listen to what Burke has to say.
While Vicki asks him questions about possible Collins connections with Bangor, Matthew has a plate of steak, potatoes, and fried eggs.
Matthew prepares a kettle of tea while Vicki tells of the money from Bangor that would arrive anonymously at the foundling home.
Roger agrees to pour a brandy for himself and Burke.
Vicki is offered one of the muffins that Matthew baked, which appear to have been made with blueberries, while Matthew drinks a cup of tea.
Elizabeth brings a tray of tea into the drawing room, but Burke has already left.
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 14: The Fifth Wheel
— Marc Masse
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