David had warned Vicki and Carolyn what they would find if they ventured back out to Widow’s Hill that night: death.
With David’s favorite new hobby being crystal ball gazing, his penchant as a misfortune teller is proving disturbingly accurate.
Running back to Collinwood in a fit of hysterics, Vicki and Carolyn are certain of what they saw: a dead man at the bottom of the cliff.
Accompanied by caretaker Matthew Morgan, Mrs. Stoddard eventually journeys out to the edge of Widow’s Hill and at first isn’t sure of what she sees along the rocks below.
Before long Vicki and Carolyn can no longer be certain of what they saw.
As the mystery surrounding Bill Malloy’s disappearance deepens, the only thing one can be certain of at this point on Dark Shadows is that there’s really nothing one can be certain of.
You know you’re living in a spooky house when a nine-year-old boy would have good reason to blame a startling act of mischief on the family legends of ghosts that are said to haunt the grounds; except that Vicki doesn’t know it yet, how uncanny Collinwood is for the numerous otherworldly secrets it holds. All she knows on this night is that someone has written the word death in capital letters on her bedroom bureau mirror, and so she goes across the hall to drag the culprit out of bed and make him erase it.
David: What did you have to go and wake me up for?
Vicki: I don’t think you were asleep, but if you were, I’m not at all sorry that I woke you up.
David: It wasn’t me. It was the widows. It must have been the widows! They were in my room all night. I went down to tell Aunt Elizabeth, and they must have come in here.
This of course was in episode 50, which provided the first genuine Friday cliffhanger on Dark Shadows. The week had begun with a man failing to show up for a meeting he had so intently arranged, and then all through the week everyone wondering where he’d disappeared to when he doesn’t show up for work or anyplace else. Friday’s episode closes out by showing the body of a man face down in the water at the foot of Widow’s Hill, the scene set up with the terrified screaming of Vicki as she and Carolyn make a gruesome discovery in the night.
Episode 51 opens this week with a reprise of what Friday left off with: the piercing screams in reaction to the grisly sight of the dead man at the bottom of the cliff.
At just eighteen seconds, this is the shortest opening scene on Dark Shadows thus far; but in no other episode to date does the scene description of “teaser” seem more apt as it does here.
This week’s episodes will be dedicated to resolving the identity of the dead man beneath Widow’s Hill, if in fact this is what Vicki and Carolyn saw, as well as the fate of Bill Malloy. This new format of mystery and suspense is bringing a definite structure to Dark Shadows in how weekly blocks of episodes are presented. A given week begins with something that doesn’t add up, like a man not showing up for a meeting he arranged. All week long suspicions are aroused as possibilities are examined and additional clues provided, all leading up to the next big disclosure to round out the Friday episode, and then the following week builds on what the previous Friday presented. It’s this Bill Malloy story which provided Dan Curtis and the Dark Shadows writing team with a crash course on storytelling momentum for their own brand of daytime serial drama. The Bill Malloy story is an important foundation for what Dark Shadows would later become.
All through the previous week of episodes it was Sam Evans looking rather guilty for the disappearance of Bill Malloy, and both Roger Collins and Burke Devlin had voiced their suspicions to Sam directly. Here in episode 51, with the body of a dead man having apparently washed ashore at Collinwood, it’s Roger’s turn.
During last week’s episodes Roger had already made himself appear somewhat culpable in Malloy’s disappearance by the way he has been concealing information of what he knows about the night of the disappearance, giving away only as little as he can get away with while being repeatedly grilled by Elizabeth whenever she catches him in a lie.
This all begins in episode 47, the night of the meeting, when Roger returns home lighter than air and whistling his way to a nightcap of brandy in the drawing room, when Elizabeth surprises him with questions about what Bill Malloy had told her that afternoon about how he intended to stop Burke Devlin from maneuvering against the Collins family’s business interests, strongly hinting that Roger would be made a casualty in the process. It didn’t help that Roger had subsequently let slip to Carolyn that he wasn’t going to allow Malloy to make him out to be a sacrificial lamb.
Elizabeth: Where were you tonight?
Roger: Well, I… I was at a business meeting. Nothing that need concern you… rather personal, as a matter of fact.
Elizabeth: Did it have anything to do with Bill Malloy?
Roger: What makes you ask that?
Roger wasn’t about to mention Malloy or reveal why there was a meeting at such a late hour, so when Elizabeth presses him on whether what she had been told by Bill earlier had anything to do with Burke Devlin and the manslaughter case of ten years ago, Roger manages to fib his way around it.
Roger: The last time I saw him was earlier this afternoon. No, he didn’t say anything about it.
The next day, Roger found himself in hot water with Elizabeth once again when she learns from Vicki that Bill Malloy had been to Collinwood to see Roger the night before, thereby negating Roger’s claim of having last seen Malloy hours earlier.
The moment Elizabeth is informed of this she gets on the telephone to Roger’s office demanding that he come home immediately to explain. That was in episode 48. Roger being Roger takes the long way home and doesn’t get in until episode 50, by which time it’s way past dinner and late in the evening. He even makes his sister wait in the drawing room while he strolls to the kitchen to get a sandwich.
Roger behaves as before when she grilled him about Bill Malloy, dismissive and evasive and answering questions with questions.
Elizabeth: Where have you been all evening?
Roger: Obviously I don’t have to ask you that question. I know where you’ve been, for the past eighteen years. Right here in this lovely old house.
Elizabeth: When I called, I asked you to come right home.
Roger: I know.
Elizabeth: I meant at that moment, not hours later.
Roger: Did it ever occur to you that I might have something more pressing to do?
Elizabeth: More important than Bill Malloy’s disappearance?
Roger: I’ve been just as concerned about it as you have.
Except that his recently buoyant disposition conveys absolutely zero such concern. The only occasions on which Roger shows concern is for himself in those moments when his sister exposes another of his lies or half-truths, as in the present interrogation when Roger says that he forgot to telephone while he had been out looking into a possible lead by checking in with a cousin of Malloy’s.
Elizabeth: Did you also forget to tell me that you saw Bill here last night?
Roger: How did you know that?
Elizabeth: It doesn’t matter. I want to know why he was here. Roger, you told me you hadn’t seen Bill since late yesterday afternoon. But he was here last night arguing with you shortly before he disappeared.
Roger: Are you suggesting that?… Who told you that I was arguing with Bill? Miss Winters?
Roger: Did she tell you what I was arguing about?
Elizabeth: No. There was some mention of a meeting.
Roger: And that’s all she heard.
This is noteworthy because there’s something else Roger is concealing. On that evening in question, Vicki had also walked into the drawing room while Roger was on the phone soon after Malloy had left, and he abruptly disconnected the call.
Roger [in a lowered voice]: …Be sure you’re there. I’ll meet you. Yes, I – I’m sorry, I can’t talk anymore.
That was one of those seemingly insignificant moments from episode 46 which will be enlarged upon several times, the phone call that Roger made from the drawing room to someone; perhaps to Bill Malloy, perhaps to someone else. Roger’s words above are all that Vicki would have heard, if indeed she had taken note at all. So when Roger seeks to confirm this through Elizabeth by surmising, “And that’s all she heard,” he’s ensuring that this phone call for someone to meet him somewhere can be kept secret. Seemingly incriminating in itself, it will only add to the mystery.
In one sense you can understand Roger’s deception in trying to keep his sister from finding out what Bill Malloy discovered about his guilt in connection with Burke’s manslaughter case. Yet while weighing this against the backdrop of Malloy’s disappearance, it only makes him seem doubly suspicious in that he could be responsible for this as well.
To reinforce that possibility, Roger flags himself as a suspect multiple times during this episode, mostly for the benefit of the viewer so as to keep the guessing game of mystery going.
The first instance is when the girls run shrieking into the drawing room from the frightful scene out on Widow’s Hill. After Vicki exclaims that there’s a dead man washed up on the shore below the cliff, one of the cameras holds Roger in the following extended close angle shot:
Roger does this again later in the episode, stepping off to the side for a long theatrical moment when Matthew the caretaker comes back from Widow’s Hill to say that there was no body at the foot of the cliff:
This reaction above is an extended close-up lasting several seconds, highly expressive and revealing and solely for the viewer to wonder about as Roger identifies himself as someone with a probable knowledge about what Carolyn and Vicki saw earlier.
The viewer also has to wonder what it was that Matthew saw when he stood at the ledge on Widow’s Hill. Shining a flash down on the rocks below, he gives the following reaction, which was also significant enough to be shown in close-up, before descending to the bottom of the cliff:
Maybe Matthew is helping to hide the body, the one that Roger disposed of; maybe it was Matthew that Roger was telephoning to meet him somewhere that night in episode 46 when Vicki walked into the drawing room.
With all these new questions the viewer has in mind, the later scenes in this episode are played out so as to provide further food for thought.
Mrs. Stoddard goes out to Matthew’s cottage to ask him some additional questions about the events that transpired that evening.
Matthew: Is there something wrong?
Mrs. Stoddard: I don’t know, Matthew. Is there?
Matthew: Not that I know of.
Mrs. Stoddard: It seems odd. Carolyn and Miss Winters were so positive.
Matthew will then voice what the viewer is no doubt considering.
Matthew: It’s a tricky light. At first glance I thought I saw what they were talking about. Even with the flashlight, I couldn’t tell from on top of the hill. That’s why I went all the way down. ‘Twasn’t easy not knowing what I’d find there.
Mrs. Stoddard: What did you expect to find?
Matthew: To tell you the truth, I expected to find… Mr. Malloy.
So then Matthew takes Mrs. Stoddard up to Widow’s Hill, and from the ledge where Carolyn and Vicki stood points the flashlight down below on what turns out to be a bunched-up clump of seaweed that had initially given her a frightful start.
Back at Collinwood she assures the girls that it was nothing after all, and even Carolyn and Vicki begin to doubt that what they thought they saw was what they thought they saw.
Instead, the viewer is left with one further lingering suspicion to hang on Roger, as Vicki recounts how David had written the word death on her mirror and Roger refers to him as “the crystal ball gazer,” which provides Vicki with an opportunity to recount a prediction made by David with his crystal ball back in episode 48.
Vicki [to Roger]: When we were doing his lessons, he stopped and he looked in his crystal ball, and he could see Bill Malloy was dead, and that you had killed him.
Then the cameras close in for reaction shots all around.
All this as Bob Cobert’s music cue is building to a crescendo to close out the episode.
And that’s the start of this week’s block of episodes in The Bill Malloy Story.
David and his crystal ball were right about what Carolyn and Vicki would find that night out on Widow’s Hill. Could his original prediction from earlier that day also be true?
Bib Hadley was a character in an episode from The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. This will be mentioned below in the section for transcribed control room discussion in the Dark Shadows television studio which took place during the taping of episode 51.
(Bib Hadley as portrayed by Peter Whitney)
From the control room:
The series: The Dan and Lela Show; the main players: director Lela Swift, executive producer Dan Curtis, with special guest players John Sedwick and Thayer David; the setting: television studio control room; main prop: the control room microphone; opening scene: main introductory theme…
Lela: Dan, Frank Schofield isn’t at all happy about being shown face down in the water like that.
Dan: Lela, there isn’t anything I can do. I’ll keep Frank in the cast, and he’ll keep working.
Lela: Now you’ve got a new problem with Thayer David. He isn’t on board…
[Act I begins]
Dan: Is this true, John? Is that what you’ve heard?
John Sedwick: Dan, Thayer has been saying all kinds of negative things about the story and his character portrayal.
Dan: Oh, no! We’ve got to get Thayer on board. He’s really important to the story.
John: Dan, his performance is still competent, regardless of what he thinks of the story.
Dan: Competence is one thing, but I want him on board with the story. I want him to believe in it. We’re going for realism. I’ve got to make sure to get Thayer on board somehow. I want his enthusiasm. This is building up to something, and it’s important for him to be enthusiastic…
[Middle of Act II, drawing room, Roger telephones Sam Evans]
Thayer David [from the soundstage, disdainfully]: Bib Hadley!
Dan [from the control room]: John, remind Thayer what we’re going for.
John Sedwick [down on the soundstage with Thayer]: Thayer, this is what Dan wants you to go for in your portrayal of Matthew Morgan. He wants you to be as menacing as possible.
Thayer [loud whisper]: I know that! Why do we have to do a Hitchcock story on a daytime soap opera for? I remember that episode. Bib Hadley is beneath me!
Thayer: Dan, why the hell do I have to play that Bib Hadley character from that damned Hitchcock episode? I signed up for a soap opera, not a goddamn Hitchcock series.
Dan: Thayer, we’re going for mystery and suspense now.
Bob Lloyd [ABC announcer]: It’s like nothing else, except funny. And it’s Love on a Rooftop, advance premiere tomorrow night, in color, on ABC.
Thayer: But why Bib Hadley, for Christ sakes? It’s beneath me to play a character like that.
Dan: Thayer, we need for you to be really menacing. It’s going to be building up to something really shocking.
Thayer: Oh? Really shocking, is it? Well I’ll tell you something, Dan…
Bob Lloyd [ABC announcer]: Dark Shadows is a Dan Curtis production.
Thayer: I hate Bib Hadley! What do you think of that?…
Until next time, this has been The Dan and Lela Show.
Episode 51 is the first time on Dark Shadows where an opening scene consists of footage reused from the taping of the previous episode’s closing scene, a practice which will become commonplace in later periods of the series.
The print bible for the first 210 episodes, Dark Shadows: The First Year (Blue Whale Books; 2006), officially recognizes episode 51 as the start of a new chapter in the series under the heading of “The Death of Bill Malloy.”
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
In the opening scene, Joan Bennett stammers twice with one of her lines:
Mrs. Stoddard: I – I… I know he would have notified me if he could’a – could have.
In Act I, while Mrs. Stoddard is on the phone with Matthew, Joan Bennett misses a word in one line and then comes in too soon on another:
Mrs. Stoddard: It doesn’t matter what they – why they were there, but they looked down at the rocks and thought they saw… a dead man.
Matthew: A dead man…
Mrs. Stoddard: They’re so –
Matthew: …at Collinwood?
Mrs. Stoddard: They’re both terribly upset…
When Elizabeth has finished with her phone call to Matthew, the shadow of a boom mic can be seen moving against the cabinet along the back wall.
In Act III at Matthew’s cottage, Thayer David mumbles one of his lines under his breath and while Joan Bennett is speaking a line of dialogue:
Mrs. Stoddard: Well where do you imagine he might have gone?
Matthew: I couldn’t say…
Mrs. Stoddard: It just doesn’t make sense…
Matthew [mumbles while Joan Bennett is saying the line above]: …I don’t know.
In Act IV, while Matthew is showing Mrs. Stoddard the spot where Carolyn and Vicki were standing when they thought they saw something in the water below, Thayer David starts a line too soon:
Mrs. Stoddard: No wonder they were frightened.
Matthew: Tell you the truth I was startled myself. There was a little more light then, and it was plainer to see. I couldn’t be sure till I got all the way down.
Mrs. Stoddard: Well, that’s settled, and I can tell Carolyn and Miss Winters they needn’t worry anymore.
Matthew: You –
Mrs. Stoddard: It’s just a clump of seaweed.
Matthew: You can tell ‘em they needn’t talk anymore, too.
In Act IV, when trying to reassure Vicki and Carolyn, Louis Edmonds adds one syllable too many to his third use of the word “sure”:
Vicki: Do you want us to have this doubt in our minds, not being sure?
Roger: Well I’m sure, my sister’s sure, Matthew’s assure, isn’t that enough?
In Act IV, when Mrs. Stoddard returns to Collinwood to tell Vicki and Carolyn that she and Matthew found nothing beneath the cliff but a clump of seaweed, Joan Bennett initially omits a bit of dialogue and has to backtrack:
Mrs. Stoddard: There’s no need to go to Widow’s Hill and look, I’ve just been there.
Carolyn: By yourself?
Mrs. Stoddard: No, with Matthew. He took me to the same spot on the ledge where you stood. There was nothing – I looked down on the rocks and there was nothing to see, I can assure you.
Food & Drink in Collinsport:
As Act I gets underway, Roger pours himself a brandy in the drawing room.
To calm the girls after their fright out on Widow’s Hill, Elizabeth suggests to Carolyn and Vicki that they go out to the kitchen and make some cocoa to help make them sleepy, which they eventually resolve to do.
In Act II, in his cottage as he prepares to turn in just as Mrs. Stoddard is on her way over to question him about what he saw from Widow’s Hill, Matthew is at the sink drinking from a cup, probably tea or water.
Carolyn and Vicki have had a bad fright and Mrs. Stoddard suggests that cocoa might make them sleepy. What they really need is a strong sedative, and perhaps a good belt from Roger’s whiskey supply.
It will be a long time yet before Dr. Julia Hoffman is around to dole out sedatives like they were breath mints.
Use of sedatives on Dark Shadows will begin long before Dr. Hoffman’s arrival, though for this episode they would have been appropriate.
To that end, below are some vintage ads featuring products that might have helped…
This 1965 Calvert whiskey ad might have been in any one of the magazines found in the drawing room.
And of course, nothing goes better with a short drink than a smooth smoke. Light up a Red Apple and say, “How do you like them apples?”
While the above blend is taking effect, try a second cocktail for added relaxation.
Make your nightcap count, with Wilson whiskey: “A nightcap of Wilson – that’s all.”
Camels make your nightcap smoother, because “You like them fresh.”
Still can’t relax for a night of restful sleep? Try Bufferin, to relieve any lingering pain. Bufferin, just for the heck of it.
Float away to an exotic dream state, with bourbon by Belle of Nelson.
Fight off the most stubborn of nerves, with Tareyton.
For fast effective relief: Lather, rinse, repeat…
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 52: Something Uninvited
— Marc Masse
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