Episode 23: Doing a Little Digging

David_ep23 GIF


To many Dark Shadows fans, the notion of the Collinsport police in general and the sheriff in particular is something of a joke, given how in later years of the show the town seems to be run by the vampires and assorted monsters and ghosts who predominate at any given time.


But the beginnings of Dark Shadows are a different matter, with its leanings toward more of a sense of realism. Here in the early days, police are competent and thorough; any criminal in their midst would have cause to worry, especially if the perpetrator in question is a nine-year-old boy who’s guilty of attempted murder.


Episode 23 is our introduction to Constable Jonas Carter, the only sworn officer of the law in the history of Dark Shadows who ever solved a crime.



At first you have to wonder why, in the missing brake valve storyline, the show lets the viewer know right off who’s responsible. Even before Roger Collins’ car runs off the road, there is David looking from his window as his father is driving off into the night and he steps away from the window to say into the middle distance, “He’s going to die, mother.” Then there are all those close-ups of David holding the valve in the palm of his hand, right after a close-up of a drawing to show precisely what the valve looks like.


It makes you consider that it might be more effective, from a suspense standpoint, if the viewer is left to speculate on who was trying to kill Roger and then be just as surprised as any of the characters when the truth is revealed.


But instead the missing brake valve story is more a character study in believing what you wish about someone you don’t like. For Roger, Burke Devlin was as good as convicted the very moment he was told by Bill Malloy that someone had most likely planned for his brakes to fail, and that his near-fatal accident was no accident, especially since Burke had been spotted by the governess in the garage that very night standing near Roger’s car holding a wrench – just the type of instrument that would be needed to remove the valve from the engine.


Roger’s niece Carolyn isn’t sure, especially without positive proof; besides, she feels guilty about having brought Burke up to Collinwood to begin with. If Burke is guilty, that means she must share the blame. Carolyn’s boyfriend Joe Haskell won’t even give it a second thought; since Burke Devlin has shown himself to be a romantic rival for Carolyn’s affection, he doesn’t particularly like the man. Joe doesn’t need proof – if someone from the Collins family says Burke is guilty of attempted murder, that’s good enough for him.


Elizabeth will go along with the idea that Burke is guilty, particularly if it means it will stop him from making inquiries as to why she reached out to New York to hire Victoria Winters as a governess, a girl she claims never to have heard of before. Aside from the fact that Devlin may well represent business and financial ruin to the Collins family, her apparent secret knowledge of the background of Miss Winters being uncovered seems to be her main concern.


That’s one of the things episode 23 touches upon. In episode 21, Vicki received a letter sent special delivery from the foundling home in New York telling of a visit from a private investigator asking questions as to why she was hired to work all the way up in Maine as a governess, who hired her, and all the rest of it. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Elizabeth is holding something back, and Vicki is trying to find out what that something is. In her point-blank questioning of Mrs. Stoddard in that episode, Vicki made the following deduction: “It’s logical that the only reason he’d hire someone to make these inquiries would be if the results would be harmful to you. Doesn’t that make sense?”


So now, in episode 23, as Constable Jonas Carter visits Roger Collins at Collinwood to question him about the accident and is on the phone to his deputy, Elizabeth walks into the drawing room to pull Roger aside, asking if he’d talked to Vicki about the letter: “She had a letter from the foundling home today. It might cause trouble for me. I want to talk to you about it before she sees you alone.”


So that’s confirmation that what Miss Winters suspects of her employer Mrs. Stoddard is true. It’s just an aside in today’s episode, but the subject will be raised again a couple of episodes later. The main thing we get here is an answer to one of the questions in the continuing story of Victoria Winters.


Once the constable gets off the phone, it’s back to the mystery of the missing brake valve. This is entertaining because here we get a candid glimpse of Roger Collins in action.


Roger is the least likeable character on the show at this point, largely because he’s played as a villain, but mainly because he’s played as a rich one. As we are getting to know the individual members of the Collins family, something strikes you. They don’t come off as stuffy rich snobs, only Roger does.


David seems like a normal, seemingly well-adjusted, albeit homicidal, nine-year-old boy, and it’s fun to watch him cut through the bull during lessons with his governess:


Vicki: That’s very good, David. You read well.

David: It’s a stupid story. They don’t even tell what happened to her.


Carolyn seems like any modern girl of the mid-1960s, dancing in bars with the locals and dating a fisherman. She dresses fashionably and treats others fairly, except of course her long-suffering boyfriend Joe Haskell. Her only rich-girl quirk is her decidedly shameless crush on her uncle Roger.


Elizabeth Stoddard is reserved and dignified, every bit the grand matriarch of the dark and gloomy mansion on the hill, but is also in her own way modest as well as considerate of others. When her cannery plant manager Bill Malloy ventures up the hill to tell her about new machinery that will increase canning speed by twenty percent, she is hesitant to sign off on it until she is assured that no one would be put out of work as a result.


The Collins family seem more middle to upper middle class: upper middle in terms of living, but essentially middle in terms of bearing. Even the cars they drive would suggest a more down-to-earth nature, with a Plymouth Fury in the garage to serve as a backup when the Ford Mustang gets totaled.


Only Roger Collins gives off the appearance of patrician arrogance, and it’s in full show when the constable begins questioning him about the accident:


Constable Carter: Well, faulty traffic lights and barroom brawls, that’s what I usually get. So you say somebody tried to kill ya.

Roger: The brakes on my car were tampered with.

Carter: Are you sure of that?

Roger: Yes, I’m positive. A valve had been removed from the car while it was still in the garage.

Carter: That’s not exactly like a faulty traffic light, is it?


Roger’s reaction is both typical and priceless:


Roger reacts to the constable_ep23 GIF


So in this psychological lesson of seeing what you want to see in people, which is building up as the moral of the missing brake valve story, that leaves the governess Vicki Winters. She has been getting to know these people in Collinwood as well as Burke Devlin and has no reason to think one way or the other about him; she doesn’t share the long-standing biases of Roger and to some extent Mrs. Stoddard. She is not smitten the way Carolyn is, not in awe of the man as David is. Like the constable, she is perceptive and keeps an open mind.


But unlike the constable, she sees and hears things others don’t, like a young boy who plies her with questions about murder and jail and who continually worries about the police. Victoria Winters is the audience identification character of Dark Shadows; she is the viewer projected into the story. Along with the audience, she is getting to know the people around her as she goes from day to day.


So when in this episode David does something unusual, like “accidentally” knocking a wrench off a table and then putting his hands on it, a wrench that the constable intends to bring in for evidence, she knows there is something more to David’s claim that he knocked it over by mistake – especially since, when no one else was looking, she had told him just a moment before not to touch it, just as David had been reaching for the wrench with his hand outstretched but hesitant.


As the audience identification character, Victoria Winters has already stated that she believed Burke Devlin was telling the truth when he said he had nothing to do with Roger’s car going off the road. But someone did, and with everyone else looking the other way when young David does something suspicious, the look she gives him as the final scene fades out says it all.


You can bet that she’s on to him already.


Vicki and David_ep23 GIF



Mark Allen may have left Dark Shadows and the bombastic soap within a soap The Perils of Mark Allen may have played out, but in the control room there is still The Dan and Lela Show, an audio soap within a soap which feeds through the control room microphone and which plays more often like a bickering married couple, as executive producer and director vie for control of the show. As the theme music plays over the opening waves intro, director Lela Swift informs her executive producer Dan Curtis that she has a problem with yet another supporting cast member:


Lela Swift: Dan, I don’t like Michael Currie.

Dan Curtis: Why the hell not?

Lela: Trousers, Dan. Trousers.

Dan: But Jesus Christ! You can’t even see his fucking trousers. Oh, Lela!…


Scenes for The Dan and Lela Show can mostly be heard when they can be spoken freely without distraction: the waves intro for the opening theme and the end credits. But today Lela Swift for one will take her opportunities wherever they can be found, even if it is stretching the truth a bit.


There is the moment where Constable Carter leaves the house with Vicki and Roger to go to the garage so that Vicki can point out the wrench she saw Burke Devlin holding the night of Roger’s car crash. After Elizabeth sees Roger out the front door, the following exchange is heard coming from the control room:


Lela: Dan, I don’t like the way Michael Currie touched his mouth like that. He could be spreading germs all over the studio.

Dan: Lela…

Lela: I was commenting on hygiene.

Dan: Lela, you gave me your word you would stop complaining about supporting actors.


As Constable Carter is seen walking out of the drawing room and into the foyer, Michael Currie does this:


Michael Currie_glasses_ep23


While Elizabeth and David exchange dialogue by the drawing room window, Michael Currie can be heard just off set reacting to Lela Swift’s comments:


Michael Currie: Was Lela Swift just complaining about me over the control room microphone? She was complaining I was touching my mouth? I was adjusting my glasses. She sure has some major issues. Alexandra, wasn’t she ogling you over the control room microphone during one episode taping? I heard about that.

Alexandra Moltke: Please, no, I don’t want to talk about it. She helped me out when I needed it, and I consider her a friend. That’s all I want to say about it.

Michael Currie: I’m sorry, Miss Moltke. I didn’t mean to pry.


Just as Vicki, Roger, and the constable are seen to be returning through the front door, a curious thing happens. Joan Bennett puts her hand to her mouth:


Joan Bennett touches mouth_ep23



Not only is she touching her mouth, but she’s rubbing her top lip with her forefinger. Seen from behind, she almost looks to be brushing her teeth. She did this earlier as well, just after Lela Swift made her hygiene remark about Michael Currie. It is perhaps a gesture of protest, and Alexandra can’t help but crack up grinning:


Alexandra Moltke cracking up (1)_ep23


In fact, it takes Alexandra a good long moment to suppress her amusement:


Alexandra Moltke cracking up (2)_ep23


From the control room, Dan Curtis comments on this gesture:


Dan: Hey, Lela, Joan Bennett just touched her mouth. How come you don’t complain about her? Because you only want to complain about supporting actors? [The phone rings and as Elizabeth steps away to answer it, she touches her mouth again] See? She just did it again.


After Elizabeth hands the phone over to the constable, Joan Bennett steps back toward the opposite end of the sofa, takes a glance in the direction of Vicki and David, then adjusts her position so that the camera can’t show her, after which she can be heard saying in a low voice:


Joan Bennett: That was for Fred Stewart.

Dan: Lela, did you hear that? She just said that was for Fred Stewart.

Joan Bennett: She’s annoying. I can’t stand her.

Dan: Joan Bennett just complained about you, Lela. It just proves that what you did to Fred Stewart wasn’t popular with certain members of the cast.


Over the end credits, Dan Curtis has a good many words to say to his director about her latest complaints against the supporting cast:


Dan: Hey, Lela, what are you doing complaining about Michael Currie like that? Are you trying to sabotage him off the show, too? Michael Currie is just a nice, decent guy who just wants to do a good day’s work, and that’s what he does. Do you know what you have cost me in complaining about supporting actors and getting them to leave the show? I have to pay George Mitchell for seven episodes, and I have to pay Mark Allen for ten episodes. And combined, that’s two thousand eight hundred and fifty dollars. And that’s going to have to come out of my pocket because the budget doesn’t cover things like this! I am not going to make my full year’s salary because of your complaining. You are destroying me, Lela. Do you realize that? You are fucking destroying me! Lela, I beg of you. Stop complaining about supporting actors.

Lela: Well why don’t you put my name back on the credits as director, Dan? That would go a long way toward getting me to stop complaining.

Dan: Well, you have to do something. You have to promise me you’ll stop complaining…


Until next time, this has been The Dan and Lela Show.


Photo Gallery:

“Do you think you could dig up a murderer?”

Do you think you could dig up a murderer_ep23


“Did you ever try and kill somebody?”

Did you ever try and kill somebody_ep23 (2)


“I wish I knew why my father never liked me.”

I wish I knew why my father never liked me_ep23


“It couldn’t have fallen off, Mr. Carter.”

It couldn't have fallen off Mr Carter_ep23


“Was my phone out of order?”

Was my phone out of order_ep23


“I didn’t ask you to come here to deliver a lecture, Mr. Carter…”

I didn't ask you here for a lecture Mr. Carter_23


“The police? They’re in the house?”

The police They're in the house_ep23


“I didn’t hear anything about an engine hood. I thought she said she heard a car door slam.”

I didn't hear anything about an engine hood I thought she said she heard a car door slam_ep23 (2)


“I’m no lawyer, but you have enough now to make an arrest, don’t you?”

I'm no lawyer but you have enough now to make an arrest don't you_ep23 (2)


“What’s corroborative evidence mean?”

What's corroborative evidence mean_ep23


“He’s probably just impressed with the dignity of my badge.”

He's probably just impressed with the dignity of my badge_ep23


“David, don’t touch it!”

David don't touch it_ep23


Favorite Lines/Exchanges:

Roger: How did you know about my arm?

Constable Carter: Police report. I stopped off at the doc’s. Figured if you wanted to see me about the accident, I’d better do some digging first.

Roger: Do you think you could dig up a murderer?

Constable Carter: Well, faulty traffic lights and barroom brawls, that’s what I usually get. So you say somebody tried to kill ya.

Roger: The brakes on my car were tampered with.

Carter: Are you sure of that?

Roger: Yes, I’m positive. A valve had been removed from the car while it was still in the garage.

Carter: That’s not exactly like a faulty traffic light, is it?

Vicki: That’s very good, David. You read well.

David: It’s a stupid story. They don’t even tell what happened to her.

David: When you were a kid, did you ever get punished?

Vicki: Who didn’t?

David: I mean really punished for something very bad. I mean what was the really worst thing you ever did?

Vicki: Well, let’s see. Once I got in a fight with a girl and I gave her a bloody nose.

David: Did you ever try and kill somebody?

David: I wish

Vicki: What, David?

David: I wish I knew why my father never liked me.

Vicki: Mr. Devlin was standing next to Mr. Collins’ car, and he had a wrench in his hand.

Roger: A wrench. That’s pretty conclusive, isn’t it?

Constable Carter: Did he give any explanation for the wrench?

Vicki: I’ve already told Mr. Collins.

Carter: Mr. Collins doesn’t wear this badge. I’d like you to tell me.

Roger: He said he had found it on the front seat of the car. Well I had driven the car earlier that day, and I hadn’t left any wrench on the front seat.

Carter: Mrs. Stoddard, you think you could tell your brother to allow Miss Winters to answer my questions?

Roger: I’m no lawyer, but you have enough now to make an arrest, don’t you?

Constable Carter: Maybe. But I can’t take any chances. I’ve got to do a little digging first, so I won’t arrest the wrong man.

Roger: Now let’s not start that again.

Carter: You have something against an open mind?


Background/Production Notes:

Episode 23 takes place only in Collinwood and uses only two sets: David’s room and the foyer/drawing room.


Constable Carter makes his debut, having been mentioned initially in episode 21. In this episode, his first name is given as Jonas.


There are two characters mentioned, but who never appear, and both in connection with Constable Carter: Harry, his deputy, and Lieutenant Frank Palmer, an old friend of Carter’s from the homicide division of the New York City police department, who will assist the constable by running a background check on Burke Devlin.


The usually reliable and authoritative Dark Shadows Wiki has John Sedwick erroneously listed as the director for this episode. Sedwick, who started out as an associate director on the show, directed numerous episodes of Dark Shadows between 1966 and 1968, but the first twenty-eight were directed by Lela Swift (Source: Dark Shadows: The First Year, 2006, Blue Whale Books, by Nina Johnson and O. Crock [summary writers], pp. 32-38). The Dark Shadows Wiki says that episode 24 “was mistakenly credited to Lela Swift.” The end credits for that episode indeed have it listed as directed by Lela Swift. So if there are mistakes made in the end credits for one episode, then there could indeed have been errors for a couple more, including episode 23. I’ll go with what’s listed in Dark Shadows: The First Year, since the people involved in that project had direct access to all the primary source materials including original scripts and other production documents, ABC network interdepartment correspondences, etc.

Dark Shadows_The First Year_front cover


Daily studio schedule for Dark Shadows in 1966

7:00-11:00 a.m.  Lighting

8:30-10:30           Morning Rehearsal

10:30-11:30         Break/Make-Up

11:00-12:00         Engineering Set-Up

11:30-2:00           Camera Blocking & Run Through

2:00-2:30             Dress Rehearsal

2:30-3:00             Test Pattern

3:00-3:30             Episode Taping

3:30-4:00             Knockdown

3:45-4:15             Technical Meeting

4:00-6:30             Dry Rehearsal for Next Episode

4:00-7:00             Reset Studio


Set Design:

The view looking out through the drawing room window is uncharacteristically sparse for this episode, consisting of a blank screen and a few branches of foliage suspended into the set, with the shadows from some in the bottom right corner visible against the screen.

Drawing room window_sparse design_ep23 (2)


Bloopers/Story Continuity:

During the opening narration, as the exterior footage of Collinwood dissolves to that of David seated on his bed reading a book of comics, a crew member can be seen reflected in the small mirror on the bureau across the room; once the crew member realizes he is reflected in the shot, he quickly sidesteps out of the way.

Crew member visible in bureau mirror_ep23


In Act II in the drawing room, Elizabeth tells Constable Carter about Roger’s brakes: “They’d been checked the week before. They were in perfect condition.” In episode 16, the night of Roger’s accident, Matthew Morgan told Mrs. Stoddard that the garage had checked the brakes on Roger’s car only two days before.


In Act III in the drawing room, while Vicki is being questioned by Constable Carter about having seen Burke Devlin in the garage the night of the accident, a boom mic pokes into frame along the top right edge of screen.

Boom mic_drawing room_ep23


In the drawing room scenes with Constable Carter, Roger, and Elizabeth, Michael Currie, Louis Edmonds, and Joan Bennett each at various times mess up lines or mix up words:


Michael Currie: “When did you find out about the mix – missing bleeder valve?”

Joan Bennett: “We told you, Jonas. Burke was here, he asked Roger to meet him in town, and he left. We thought he’d gone back to his hotel. Then Miss Winters staw him – saw him standing by Roger’s car.”

Louis Edmonds: “My sister has a whim of iron.”

Joan Bennett: “No one’s accusing of being of him of being insane.”

Michael Currie: “Well, that was said in temper, anger. A man sits on that anger for ten years and then come backt and tries to murder somebody, well that isn’t temper any longer…”


In Act III in the drawing room, Michael Currie begins his next line while Joan Bennett is still speaking hers:


Michael Currie: “Now, Mrs. Stoddard, he was in this house shortly before the accident. How did he act then?”

Joan Bennett: “He was friendly enough. Too –”

Michael Currie: “Did –?”

Joan Bennett: “– friendly I thought.”

Michael Currie: “Did he make any threats?”


In Act IV, as Vicki, Carter, and Roger are stepping out the front door to check the garage for the wrench, Roger asks Elizabeth, “Are you going to stay here?” Stepping forward to close the doors, Elizabeth replies, “No.”


In the end credits, Ohrbach’s is spelled as Orhbach’s.

Orhbach's credit blooper_ep23


During the end credits, two people, presumably crew members, can be seen walking right to left outside the left window of the set for David’s room (after the unit manager credit for Michael Brockman crosses the screen and just as the series created by Dan Curtis credit appears).



In the opening scene, David is reading a comic book called Night Crawlers

David with Night Crawlers comics_ep23 (1)


…and when Miss Winters walks in he holds the book behind his back and reveals part of one of the pages.

David with Night Crawlers comics_ep23 (2)


The Night Crawlers comics is an apparently fictional creation for the show, though there would eventually be a Marvel Comics superhero character Nightcrawler which debuted in 1975 (Giant-Size X-Men #1; May 1975) and later spawned the comic book series Nightcrawler beginning in 1985.


Recommended Reading:

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!”

Dark Passages_novel_front cover


Recommended Listening:

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.

Dark Shadows_Soundtrack Music Collection_Front cover


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.

And Red All Over_CD booklet front image


Coming next: Episode 24: Taking Risks


— Marc Masse

(aka PrisoneroftheNight)


© 2018 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.

4 thoughts on “Episode 23: Doing a Little Digging”

  1. Mark Allen definitely had to go, but I think Dan would have been justified in docking Lela’s paycheck for what it cost to buy out George Mitchell’s contract.

  2. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to hear that during taping. Even if the ire isn’t directed at them, it certainly cast a pall on everything. Good for Bennett! What a sport.

  3. Agreed, Roger’s ‘take’ as he turns away is a Top Tenner in Big Lou’s characterization! I seem to remember him using it later, as Joshua.

    What a task it must have been for the talent in front of the cameras to concentrate with all that chat from the booth going out on the speakers! Especially when it’s vitriol being ‘directed’ at them! Joan Bennett’s response is marvelous, couldn’t have done better myself. I often wondered about the rather odd smiles and ‘misses’ that went on in Dark Shadows; you’re helping make a lot of things clearer, PotN.
    Another wonderfully thorough – and thoroughly wonderful – read!

  4. Lela’s worried about hygiene – she only puts rat poison in clean coffee cups.
    Joan Bennett is annoying? Watch out Lela – Joan Bennett is the star, not you. Good point about how snobbishly arrogant Roger is compared to the rest of the family. He must have acquired that patrician manner from the truly rich kids at his boarding school. The scenes where Vicky is bonding with David are very touching – she’s becoming like a big sister to him. Or cousin.

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