The genius of the pen.
Not many Dark Shadows fans would subscribe to such a notion, but it becomes easier to accept when seen in the context of the show’s present transformation; a tale of mystery and suspense fashioned after the sort of nighttime drama anthology shows presented by Alfred Hitchcock.
The story of Bill Malloy, along with its aftermath and consequences, could have been neatly sewn up in just one hour of nighttime television, as Art Wallace did initially with the Jason McGuire/blackmail story prototype The House in 1957, or even a single half-hour as Wallace also did with the initial version of the above story three years earlier. Instead, the Jason McGuire story played out on Dark Shadows for more than eighty episodes, with the blackmail story itself running for a full seventy-nine.
Likewise, the Bill Malloy story promises to generate plenty of episode mileage. In the format of daytime serial drama, the story can unfold a little at a time with the opportunity of providing numerous additional details while various characters are scrutinized for their suspicions and motives. In the process, everyday props like fountain pens and clocks take on a greater significance by serving to shed an occasional spotlight on the inconsistencies of a character’s alibi, should the need arise to account for one’s whereabouts at a given time, thereby building on the overall mystery by adding to the speculation.
Today’s episode is a case in point; the meeting arranged by Bill Malloy between himself, Burke Devlin, Roger Collins, and Sam Evans, instead of resolving the conflict between Devlin and the Collins family, has resulted in the apparent disappearance of Malloy, and a missing fountain pen may hold the key…
Both Roger Collins and Sam Evans are looking quite guilty lately. It’s long been understood that the two have been in cahoots and concealing vital information from Burke Devlin relating to his manslaughter conviction and subsequent imprisonment ten years ago. Beginning with today’s episode, the implication of whether either Roger, Sam, or both are capable of murder will be presented as a credible possibility.
Recall how in episode 45 the filigree silver fountain pen gifted to Carolyn from Burke in episode 42 came to change hands to Roger. Carolyn reveals to Roger how she had lunch that afternoon with Burke in Bangor, and when Roger doubts the sincerity of Burke’s actions and intentions toward her, she produces the pen as proof of Burke’s friendship.
Carolyn: He said it was expensive. See?
Roger: You accepted this?
Carolyn: Yes. Isn’t it pretty?
Roger: Have you the vaguest idea of what a gift like that costs? You can’t possibly keep it.
Carolyn: Why not? Burke insisted.
Roger: I told you he wanted something from you. He’s paying in advance.
Carolyn: That’s not true.
Roger: Why else would he give you a thing like this? Look at the workmanship on it.
Roger: Carolyn, it’s bad enough for you to accept a gift like this from any man. But it’s unthinkable that you would accept it from Burke Devlin!
Carolyn: Oh, for heaven’s sake, uncle Roger, it’s only a fountain pen!
Roger: I don’t care if it’s a lead pencil! I will not have you accepting gifts like this from the man who is hell-bent on trying to destroy me.
As the scene moves along, several shots are done to build for the viewer a new association between Roger and the fountain pen. First he holds it in his right hand during a volatile phone exchange with Bill Malloy.
After hanging up on Malloy, Roger is seen in close-up to grip the pen like a dagger…
…which earlier that episode he had done with a dart following an equally fraught exchange with Malloy in his office.
Then a final establishing shot for the scene is given, with both the pen and Roger’s desperate yet determined expression in tight close-up.
So it’s a curious thing when as their meeting later that night is winding down to a close, Roger fails to produce the fountain pen he told Carolyn that afternoon he would be returning to Burke. Somehow, without his awareness, the pen has been misplaced.
Roger: I seem to have left it at home, but I’ll return it to you.
This may or may not have something to do with where Roger was during the latter half of the ten o’clock hour. In episode 46, clocks are used to drop several possible clues that may be enlarged upon at a later time.
Act IV of that episode begins with a close-up of the foyer clock showing ten fifteen.
Then Roger is seen on the phone telling someone to meet him somewhere; he intends to meet with someone before the scheduled meeting in his office at eleven.
A short while later he is shown preparing to step out.
The camera moves in slowly on the face of the foyer clock as it shows ten twenty-five…
…as there begins a dissolve to the clock in Roger’s office…
…showing the time as eleven.
Today’s episode is all about why Bill Malloy didn’t show up for the meeting he set up. With Burke stepping out of the office to go over to Malloy’s house in an attempt to track him down, Roger and Sam have the following exchange which only adds to the mystery.
Roger: Then where do you think he is?
Sam: How should I know? All I know is he was supposed to be here at eleven o’clock… What are you driving at Collins?
Roger: You’d feel a lot safer, Evans, wouldn’t you, if Malloy never showed up.
Sam: You think I’d?… Collins, I could kill you!
This is Dark Shadows as it transitions into serial mystery and suspense. Today’s episode of Dan Curtis Presents offers up the possibility that one or more individuals in the present storyline may be capable of murder, neither of whom can any longer trust the other.
From here on the viewer will be left to wonder whodunit, and what precisely did they dundo?
For the opening scene, the piano piece Elizabeth plays in the drawing room is by Frédéric Chopin, “Etude no. 3 in E major, Op. 10 no. 3,” composed in 1832 and published the following year; a full-length interpretation is presented here:
One of only two existing photographs of Frédéric Chopin, taken in 1849 by Louis-Auguste Bisson.
[SPOILER ALERT!]: This section contains control room discussion during the taping of episode 47 mainly between Dark Shadows line producer Robert Costello and executive producer Dan Curtis about Dan planning for changes in story direction as well as the cast of characters. You may wish to skip this section if you haven’t gotten as far as episode 53, or better still episode 108.
The series: The Dan and Lela Show; the main players: director Lela Swift, executive producer Dan Curtis, with special guest Robert Costello; the setting: television studio control room; main prop: the control room microphone; opening scene: teaser…
[Opening narration, Carolyn moving downstairs in foyer]
Robert Costello [line producer]: Dan, I don’t think you understand what you did to Frank with this Hitchcock kick you’re on.
Dan: Jesus Christ, Bob. I’m trying to tell you why I’m doing what I’m doing. We need to save the show from cancellation.
[Carolyn opens drawing room double doors and enters]
Robert: Stop! I want to know, from you, why you had to ruin Frank Schofield’s career.
Dan: I didn’t ruin Frank’s career. He’s still on the show.
Robert: But Dan, how can that be? You had his character killed off. He has nothing left to do on Dark Shadows.
Dan: Bob, why not just leave it alone for now? I told you I’d take care of it.
Robert: Frank is a good friend of mine, and he’s worried that his career might be over.
Dan: We’ll have him back from time to time.
Robert: From time to time?!
[Final seconds of opening scene; sound effect for foyer clock chime starts out with a noticeable warp]
Dan: Oh, Sybil! You warped the sound effect for the clock…
Robert: Dan, don’t pick on Sybil, just because she made a little blooper. I want to know why you had to ruin Frank Schofield’s career.
Dan: Bob, I told you, Frank Schofield’s career is not ruined. He’s still on Dark Shadows…
[Act I begins, Collinwood drawing room]
Robert: Jesus Christ, Dan! I am so pissed off at you! Here you have Frank Schofield on your show, a great friggin’ actor, and you’re just letting him go because you think you need to bring Alfred Hitchcock to daytime television.
Dan: Jesus, Bob, I told you, I’m trying to save the show from cancellation. My old friend from my sales days suggested we go the way of mystery and suspense. It’ll get viewers interested.
Robert: You mean to tell me, you’re taking advice on the direction of the show from someone who isn’t even on Dark Shadows?
Dan: That’s exactly what I’m doing. He knows what he’s talking about. He’s sold a lot of successful shows to the networks.
Robert: Dan, I can’t believe you’re doing this!
Dan: That’s what I’m doing, and my mind’s made up. Now why don’t you save any further complaints until the closing theme, so that Lela can direct…
[closing theme, showing view of the foyer set]
Dan: Jesus Christ, there’s still marking tape on the floor!
Robert: Dan, I am so pissed off at you! Why do you have to always piss and moan about every little thing?
Dan: I want Dark Shadows to be perfect!
Robert: And I want my friend Frank Schofield to be working.
Dan: Bob, I told you, I am taking care of it. Frank is still on Dark Shadows.
Robert: But how can he still be on Dark Shadows? You just had his character killed off.
Dan: Bob, I am keeping him in the cast. He’ll still be used from time to time.
Robert: Dan, why do you have to bring Alfred Hitchcock to daytime television?
Dan: I’m trying to save the ratings. Terror At Northfield, that’s what I’m going for…
Until next time, this has been The Dan and Lela Bob Show.
After checking Bill Malloy’s house, Burke returns to Roger’s office to report to Sam and Roger that he “rang his bell a couple a dozen times.” This is the second scripted mention of the ringing of doorbells. The first was made by Roger Collins in episode 3, and the sound of a doorbell is heard in only three episodes during the first year of the show (episodes 7, 22, and 49).
You know that an episode has been written by Art Wallace when the viewer is treated to a “scene connector”; a scene connector is an operative word or phrase dropped at the end of one scene that is taken up by another character to start the subsequent scene, but using the word or phrase in a different context. In this case, for the scene transition from Roger’s office to the Collinwood drawing room in the middle of Act III, the key word is “answer” and in the process there is made one of the few mentions on Dark Shadows of a calendar observance day:
Burke: Come on, Bill, answer. Answer!…
Carolyn: …and you never answered! I remember the telephone rang and rang, and you absolutely refused to pick it up.
Elizabeth: Well, could you blame me? Halloween, midnight, three calls for the ghost of Collinwood, but none for me.
Daily studio schedule for Dark Shadows in 1966
7:00-11:00 a.m. Lighting
8:30-10:30 Morning Rehearsal
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
3:45-4:15 Technical Meeting
4:00-6:30 Dry Rehearsal for Next Episode
4:00-7:00 Reset Studio
The set design for the fireplace in the Collinwood drawing room has intrigued me for… years actually. It’s a fully functional fireplace, and yet it isn’t exactly. If it were, there would need to be a chimney system built into the studio specifically to funnel out the smoke; but there isn’t really any smoke, because there isn’t actually any wood burning. Instead, there appears to be some sort of perhaps gas-powered grill at the bottom of the hearth. You can see in the above image from today’s episode how there’s a log or two of wood (or plastic or something) propped up in front…
…but notice how in this image from episode 45 the fire burns behind the logs…
…and how at times it seems to burn only at the bottom…
…while the flame appears to “separate” in the middle…
…sending up random jets of fire…
…but which at one point burns mostly to one side…
…before settling mainly at the bottom…
…and once more sending up random jets of fire which separate from the main flame…
…and again the flame separates at the bottom…
…and again the flame joins at the bottom.
Here in the opening scene for episode 46, the flames appear to be shaped by the arms of a grill-type mechanism.
Here are images from an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (Wet Saturday; season 2, episode 1, aired September 30, 1956), with scenes in the front room of a country estate, to show what a fire would look like in an actual wood-burning fireplace…
…with the logs of wood being consumed within the flames…
…and the flames themselves consistent in the way they rise.
At the close of the teaser, the sound effect for the chime of the foyer clock, evidently cued by the music supervisor with a vinyl record from a turntable in the control room, has a warped sound for the first second, as if the turntable is being sped up a second too late.
In Act I, a portion of the teleprompter is visible outside the drawing room window.
On a couple of occasions during Act I, the shadow of the camera can be seen against Elizabeth’s nightdress.
In the middle of Act I, as Elizabeth crosses the foyer to go upstairs and talk to Roger, marking tape is on the foyer floor (to the right of Elizabeth’s feet).
A moment later, as the camera moves in on the foyer clock to show the time as eleven thirty, studio lights are visible over the drawing room set (top left corner and middle right edge).
In Roger’s office toward the end of Act II, while Burke is speculating on the whereabouts of Bill Malloy, Louis Edmonds says: “Bill likes to walk. He often works – walks here from his… house.”
In the middle of Act III, when laughing over phone calls made to Collinwood at midnight on Halloween for the ghost of Collinwood, Joan Bennett says, “…ghost of Collinswood…”
The end credits roll has “Ohrbach’s” listed as “Orhbach’s.”
A shot of Sam in Roger’s office provides a close view of the Smith Brothers portrait.
A 1942 advertisement for Smith Brothers Cough Drops.
Food & Drink in Collinsport:
While Elizabeth was upstairs looking for Roger, Carolyn went to the kitchen to make tea; here she pours from the tray of tea service she brought to the drawing room.
Having returned home from the meeting at his office, Roger has a midnight brandy while fending off Elizabeth’s questions about Bill Malloy.
Joan Bennett’s 1970 autobiography (original front and back covers).
The Bennetts: An Acting Family, the 2004 biography (front cover).
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 48: The Case of the Vanishing Man: Part 1, Questions and Theories
— Marc Masse
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