After three weeks on the air, Dark Shadows has created its first monster.
This Friday’s cliffhanger will close with a bang, or, more precisely, a crash. Roger will have an accident while driving down the hill from Collinwood to meet with Burke Devlin in town, and the location footage they filmed before the series began taping shows that, from the outset, the storyline where David attempts to kill his father was part of the initial plan.
If you own a copy of the 91-page series bible, Shadows on the Wall, written by story creator and developer Art Wallace, this part of the story outline is easy to miss if you just randomly skim rather than read through from start to finish. It only takes up scarcely more than two pages. Roger has the accident, and Burke Devlin is accused of having done it when it is revealed that a cap was missing from the hydraulic brake system causing the brakes to fail. Roger brings Vicki along to confront Burke with what they know, that she had seen him in the garage looking over Roger’s car the night of the accident.
Upon returning to her room at Collinwood, Vicki discovers a widow’s shawl that has been left on her bed. Suspecting David, she goes to his room. He is not there, but instead she finds the missing cap from the brake well of Roger’s car. David discovers her there and a furious struggle ensues, where he tries to get the cap away from Vicki. She manages to get to her room, locking David out as she places the cap in the back of one of her dresser drawers. When she brings Elizabeth there to show her what she found, the cap is gone. Roger confronts David, but he plays the part of the tearful innocent while accusing Vicki of just trying to get him in trouble. Unable to find the missing engine part, Roger comes to believe that David may have been right, and that it had to have been Burke who was to blame.
For the rest of the story outline, neither the missing cap nor the accident is mentioned again. But in the TV series, the accident, the missing brake part, and the question of guilt will be the major front burner storyline for the better part of five weeks. It will affect absolutely everyone in or connected with Collinwood and their relationships and, in some cases, potentially their freedom and future.
These early days of Dark Shadows are essentially a mashup of Jane Eyre and The Count of Monte Cristo. The Collins family is at the center of both stories. One is of a young woman in search of herself, the other is of a bitter, vengeful man seeking revenge against the family he felt has wronged him. But for the next few weeks, these main themes will take a backseat to, and may even be broken by, the story of a nine-year-old boy who will go to such lengths to prevent his father from sending him away like a piece of baggage no longer of use that he may even commit the most profane of crimes, that of patricide. There is no equivalent in the literary canon for what Dark Shadows plans to unleash on the daytime television viewing audience; this is an Art Wallace original.
In fact, you can see in this very episode how the switch is made, how the show transforms, however temporarily, from The Story of Victoria Winters to The Story of David Collins.
In the opening narration, Vicki tells of her endless search, etc., but assures the viewer “…yet I have accomplished something, I think. I’ve made friends with one small and terribly troubled boy.”
So this is how episode 15 starts out – it’s still about Victoria Winters, how she can use her determined powers of patience and empathy to reach out to a child with problems. She has mentioned to David that she will get his father to do some shopping for him while he’s in town, some magazines that David enjoys.
Vicki: Mr. Collins, I understand you’re going into town. I was wondering if you could do something for me. Actually for your son.
Vicki: I know you don’t approve of my being here. But I really think I can help David.
Roger: Oh do you?
Vicki: I think he’s beginning to trust me. To believe that I want to be his friend.
Roger: I see. And do you think you can trust him?
Vicki: If you’ll give me a chance.
Roger: Oh, you’re referring to the little discussion we had several hours ago.
Vicki: You said you wanted me to leave because of Burke Devlin.
Roger: Miss Winters, if Devlin creates trouble, it’s going to affect everyone in this house. You, David, my sister, all of us. And I just wanted to spare you the pain. That is the only reason I suggested you leave.
By now, it should be abundantly clear that Roger Collins doesn’t care to spare anyone anything. In fact, a clue begins to form involving the very first scene in Dark Shadows back in episode 1, when Roger tries to get Vicki to leave before she even arrives. You wonder why he would go so far as to smash a glass in his hand when simply unable to prevent the hiring of a governess for his son, if all he wants is to keep outsiders from gaining access to the inside of Collinwood. Recall from episode 10 how David reveals during a quarrel with his father how he remembers the way his father and mother used have big fights about Burke Devlin. This is what Roger fears most of all – that if someone like Vicki comes along and becomes a trusted ally to David, he might reveal something he remembers about those fights long ago, so that the ghosts in Roger’s past, whatever they may be, could once again become as real as the day is long.
So this is a defining moment to sum up the character of Roger Collins in the beginnings of Dark Shadows: Vicki asks him for help in doing something nice for his son, and Roger in turn tells her to leave her job and just go away. When it comes to self-serving ulterior motive, in this period of the show Roger takes the cake and the bakery along with it. In this dark and disturbing story of attempted patricide, don’t be surprised if along the way you may find yourself rooting for David after all.
There’s a reason, I think, that the makers of Dark Shadows were able to pull five solid weeks of episodes out of a few paragraphs that filled just two pages of a general story outline: David Henesy. This is the episode where the viewer discovers that Henesy is every bit as talented as any other actor in the cast, and that he brings to his portrayal of David Collins the most important thing: depth of character.
There’s the scene in Vicki’s room where David is not surprised to learn that his father couldn’t, or wouldn’t, pick up the magazines for him. Then he tells her that his father wants to send him away, which Vicki doubts. But David insists that his father lies about everything, that he’s a terrible man. So David says that he hates him, that he hopes he dies. But Vicki is not disturbed by this, since all kids go through emotions like that at one time or another. It’s a scene that any child actor could have pulled off.
It’s when the scene continues after a break, this time in David’s room, that the viewer recognizes the strengths of Henesy’s acting talent. Vicki in her role as tutor and companion to David will now in her visit to his room try and get him to recognize the positive qualities within himself, or at least the qualities she hopes are there. Don’t forget, the show may be fifteen episodes along, but in terms of real story time she’s only been interacting with David for less than twenty-four hours.
She gets him to listen to a story from the Foundling Home, about a lonely girl there who chased people away so that no one would like her, who in the end realized that the only one who ever really didn’t like her was herself. The Robert Cobert music for this scene is cue number 33, a solo clarinet piece which the track listing describes as “introspective, poignant.” Vicki is trying to get David to look within himself through an affecting tale of wisdom, but he manages to smash that “introspective, poignant” mood and infuse that music cue with a sense of irony instead, merely with facial expressions and inflections of voice.
Vicki says about the girl at the Foundling Home: “And pretty soon she was right. Nobody did like her. And then, you know what happened?” David replies: “I suppose a fairy godmother came along. And made her into a byoo-tiful princess and everybody loved her.”
David’s cynicism has the curious effect of making him seem wise beyond his years. But what is actually happening is that it has allowed him to bypass the innocence of childhood with the resultant dampening of natural youthful enthusiasm and wonder. He is simply unhappy.
Yet Vicki’s talk with David in this scene is successful, as she manages to convince him to give people another chance, like his father. But considering what he has done and what is about to happen, David now has something no character in the other two main storylines has: power; the power to take a human life or the power to spare a human life.
This is the moment where The Story of Victoria Winters and The Story of Burke Devlin will, for the time being, become secondary to The Story of David Collins.
This momentary shift in story focus will depend on what Roger Collins decides to do with the second, and possibly last, chance he has been given.
We live, or die, by our choices.
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David sitting alone in the drawing room, brooding in the dark.
Roger asks David why he was sitting there in the dark.
Roger asks David if he’s seen his car keys.
David asks his father if he still wants to send him away.
David after telling his father he won’t let him send him away.
Vicki tells Roger there is something she wants him to do for David.
Vicki tells Roger she really thinks she can help David.
Roger again tries to talk Vicki into leaving Collinwood.
Vicki tells Roger she thinks his car keys are in his car.
Elizabeth sternly contradicts Roger’s dour assessment of David.
Vicki is taken aback by Roger’s cynicism toward David.
Vicki tells Mrs. Stoddard that she saw Burke Devlin when she was in the garage.
Elizabeth is concerned about Roger’s meeting in town with Burke Devlin.
Elizabeth warns Roger to stay away from Burke.
David is not surprised by his father’s refusal to buy him the magazines Vicki told him about.
David tells Vicki that he hates his father and hopes he dies.
Vicki tries to reach out to David with a story about a lonely girl from the Foundling Home who made everyone dislike her…
…so David suggests what the girl from the Foundling Home should have done.
Vicki convinces David to give his father another chance.
Roger unknowingly blows a final chance he has been given, to confirm for David that he won’t send him away.
Roger drives down the hill from Collinwood toward town…
…but soon finds that his brakes have stopped working…
…so he meets with a tree by the side of the road instead of with Burke Devlin at the Blue Whale.
David reacts to the news that his father survived the accident.
Roger: David, why were you sitting here in the dark? [David doesn’t answer] I suppose I should know better than to you ask you to explain anything to me.
Vicki: Mr. Collins, will you do that shopping for me? Some magazines for David. I’d like to pay for them.
Roger: I’m afraid I don’t have the time.
Vicki: Please. It won’t take long.
Roger: Miss Winters, if you’re going to go on staying in this house, I think you’re very foolish. But take my advice. You can’t buy friendship from David. He has none to give. Not to you, or to any of us.
Elizabeth: That’s ridiculous.
Roger [to Elizabeth]: As you wish. [to Vicki] Just give him enough time. He’ll destroy you.
Roger: Well, you said you wanted to talk to me. What is it?
Elizabeth: Do you really think you ought to go?
Roger: Oh, Liz, we’ve gone over this already.
Elizabeth: And we’ll go over it again.
David: He wants to send me away. Did you know that?
Vicki: Now David, you know that isn’t true.
David: I suppose he told you he wouldn’t.
Vicki: He didn’t have to tell me. I know there’s no reason for you to be sent away. And now that I’m here to take care of you –
David: I’m not gonna let him do it!
Vicki: David, it’s ridiculous. I’m sure that your father has no intention of sending you anywhere.
David: Maybe that’s what he told you. But he lied. He lies about everything.
David: Yes, he does. He’s a very terrible man. And I hate him. And I hope he dies!
Vicki: I think you’re a pretty nice boy.
David: That’s a lie.
Vicki: Why do you say that?
David: Because I’m not nice, and you know it. I’m not nice at all.
Vicki: It’s just a story.
David: It’s a stupid story.
Vicki: David seems convinced that his father hates him and wants to send him away.
Elizabeth: Maybe he’s right.
Vicki: But surely Mr. Collins can’t hate his own son!
Elizabeth: Hate is a strong word, Miss Winters. Let’s say that… my brother isn’t terribly fond of David. The reasons don’t matter to you, and I’m not sure I understand all of them myself.
The location footage for Roger driving from Collinwood and then down the hill is from two separate locations. The garage area is from the stable complex at Lyndhurst Estate in Tarrytown, New York.
When Roger is next seen driving past the front of Collinwood, with David watching from a second floor window, this was filmed at Seaview Terrace in Newport, Rhode Island, which was used in an early ABC TV promo commercial when the proposed name for Collinwood was still Collins House.
David Henesy on location in Seaview Terrace as Roger drives away.
The hilly area where Roger is shown to have crashed by the side of the road was also filmed in Newport.
Location footage for hill down from Collinwood (Newport, Rhode Island).
In addition to using two separate locations for the footage shown in this sequence, there were also two different cars used. As Roger drives from the garage area, he is in a 1966 Ford Shelby Mustang G. But for the Newport footage, he seems to have traded it in for a 1966 Plymouth Fury.
The car driving down the hill looks more like a Plymouth Fury than a Ford Mustang.
When the Mustang was brought into the Dark Shadows ABC television studio for the set made for Burke Devlin’s visit to the Collinwood garage to have a look at Roger’s car, you’ll notice that there is no hood ornament and that the hood is not entirely black.
The Ford Mustang in the TV studio for episode 13.
But as you can see looking through the front windshield in the location footage from Newport, there is a hood ornament in the Plymouth style.
Roger’s car in the Newport location footage with a Plymouth style hood ornament.
Also, the dashboard resembles more that of the 1966 Plymouth Fury.
Dashboard design for the 1966 Plymouth Fury.
In later years Dan Curtis recalled the location shoot for Roger’s accident: “…we shot something with a car coming down a hill, it was almost going off the road. We almost killed ourselves doing that.”
In episode 11, a close-up of the dial pad on the telephone in the Collinwood foyer showed what appeared to be the same phone used in the set for Burke’s hotel room at Collinsport Inn for episode 10.
The dial pad for the phone in the Collinwood foyer as shown in episode 11.
In this episode, a close-up of the dial pad in the foyer shows the number for Collinwood as “Collinsport 4039.” In later episodes, the number will be permanently shown as “Collinsport 4099.”
The dial pad for the phone in the Collinwood foyer as shown in episode 15, with the number “Collinsport 4039”.
When Roger’s car crashes on the road, we hear the scream of a man and then the crunch of metal. This is a borrowed stock sound effect which can also be heard in a 1974 episode of The Odd Couple (The Insomniacs; season 4, episode 20; broadcast date: March 1, 1974), where Oscar plays a vinyl record intended to soothe Felix’s bout of insomnia but he accidentally plays the wrong side, featuring the same sound of the man screaming and the car crashing as heard in Dark Shadows episode 15.
In the opening scene as Roger enters a darkened drawing room, the view into the foyer shows the top of the foyer set as well as the edge of the foyer wall just inside the front doors.
Collinwood foyer set, top edge visible.
Collinwood foyer set, edge of wall visible (middle right of screen).
At the close of the teaser as David heads up the stairs of the foyer, the table is shown to be alongside the staircase, but when Vicki is seen walking down the stairs at the beginning of Act I, it has been moved back to its usual place toward the middle of the floor.
Foyer table alongside staircase in teaser.
Foyer table back in middle of floor for Act I.
While talking with Vicki in the drawing room, a camera close-up on Roger goes momentarily blurry.
In the drawing room while checking in with Liz before heading out for his meeting in town with Burke, Roger says “Well what do you want me to do, leave – stay here?”
In Act II, when David asks Vicki who his father is going to see when he goes into town, she answers “Someone I don’t think you know.” In episode 14, she and David had already discussed Burke Devlin by name.
The license plate number on the back of Roger’s Mustang, 9Z-8473, is for a New York state license plate.
Ohrbach’s appears as “Orhbach’s” for the extended scroll of end credits.
The electric green Victorian oil lamp, first seen in the Evans cottage in episode 7, is now in David’s room at Collinwood (as it was also in episode 14, but not in full view).
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 16: The Curse of Lela Swift
— Marc Masse
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