Episode 53: Our Caretaker’s a Real Gem

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“Oh, good eve – or rather, good afternoon.”

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“My sense of time has been somewhat confused of late, what with an apparent influence from my nighttime program having taken hold here in this particular half-hour of daytime television. Naturally I find this little known fact most flattering.”

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“I was about to select a wine for today’s story.”

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“As you can see, I’m selecting from three varieties, as I’m quite unaccustomed to partaking in the late afternoon. After all, my brand of subject matter is so much better suited to the later part of the evening.”

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“Today’s teleplay presents a rather compelling story built on the themes of trust and loyalty put to the test in the face of suspicion. The more entertaining scenes are centered around a mischievous young boy, and an even more mischievous grown-up caretaker.”

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“To help this fledgling daytime program along in its evolution of adopting the style of story content seen much later on most of those other stations, I’ve even brought along one of my sponsors. After the opening theme, you will as always be subjected to that inevitable minute with the sponsor, but fortunately the one I’ve brought you this afternoon goes considerably well with whatever it is you happen to be drinking. Which reminds me, I have now selected a wine…”

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“…and I shall just leave you to your allotted minute with the sponsor, so that you may select whichever type of drink you find is best suited for this next half-hour.”

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“Julie London sings, The Marlboro Song.”

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“Why don’t you settle back (settle back)”

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“And have a full-flavored smoke”

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“Settle back (settle back), with a Marlboro”

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“Make yourself comfortable whenever you smoke”

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“Have a Marlboro cigarette”

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“You get a lot to like with a Marlboro”

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“Filter (filter), flavor (flavor)”

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“Pack or box”

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“Try Marlboro, the filter cigarette with the unfiltered taste.”

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David Henesy is a Dark Shadows treasure.

It is here in these early months of Dark Shadows where he really shines as the mischievous and troubled David Collins; in some ways disturbing, in other moments even sympathetic when seen in contrast with the coldness and contempt he is faced with by many of those around him including his father and cousin Carolyn, but by all means compelling as daytime television’s original little monster.

This reviewer is surely not alone in citing episode 53 for one of the definitive David Collins moments in his tempestuous relationship with the long-suffering governess Victoria Winters.

It’s the morning after the bad fright out on Widow’s Hill, where late the previous evening Vicki and Carolyn had seen what they thought was a dead man lying face down in the water along the rocks below. David is somehow aware of this; no one need have told him, given how what he knows he learns from his crystal ball, through which his predictions serve a decidedly narrative function in signaling plot points to come, almost like the chorus in Classical Greek drama, as he does in the opening scene of this episode.

David: I was looking out the window. I saw you and Carolyn come running up from Widow’s Hill. It looked like something was chasing you.

Vicki [abruptly gets up from table and walks to the window]: Eat your breakfast, David.

David: Was something chasing you, Miss Winters?

Vicki: Certainly not!

David: Then why were you running?

Vicki: Because… because it was damp outside and we wanted to get back into the house.

David: That isn’t why you screamed. Did you see a ghost?

Vicki: David, I have told you, there are no such things as ghosts.

David: Yes there are, I’ve seen them.

Vicki: Where?

David: Here at Collinwood. They like it best at night. Is that why you and Carolyn were screaming?

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Vicki: David, I said we did not see a ghost!

David: It’s stupid to scream if you didn’t see one.

Vicki: Go on, eat your breakfast, we’re late already. I wish I could sleep the way you do.

David: Why can’t you sleep? Afraid you’ll have nightmares?

Vicki: No, I… guess I just have too much on my mind.

David: Like whatever it was that made you scream last night?

Vicki: You only have one thing on your mind. If you’re so curious, David, why don’t you go up and look in your crystal ball that Burke Devlin gave you and see if you can find the answers?

David: I did look in it.

Vicki: And what did you find?

David: If I told you, you’d scream even louder.

Vicki: Oh, I don’t think I would.

David: Someone in Collinsport is going to try and kill you.

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Vicki [sharply]: David, why do you say things like that?

David: ‘Cause that’s what I see in my crystal ball.

Vicki: Well that’s enough of that. Finish your breakfast.

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Having disturbed his governess as he intended, David then puts the finishing touch on the scene with this crowning zinger:

David: You know what, Miss Winters?

Vicki [curtly]: What?

David: When you’re dead, I won’t even come to your funeral.

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The reaction close-up on Alexandra Moltke is perfect: Here Victoria Winters thought she would come to coastal Maine to live and work and maybe find out about herself and her past, doing the kind of tutoring work she is well suited for, but instead has to put up with a little monster who casually rattles off predictions of her death and tops it off by saying he wouldn’t even come to her funeral. For the governess of Collinwood, satisfaction for a job well done is apparently not among the perks to be found.

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Also entertaining in this episode as well as others in these early months of Dark Shadows is how Vicki is shown working in her capacity as governess with her difficult charge, which provides the opportunity to balance out the darker shades of the developing mystery themes with a touch of light comedy. Note the prominent positioning of the crystal ball in the foreground of the frame as the governess is shown governessing and the problem child is soon problem childing.

Vicki: David, do you remember what we studied yesterday? The development of transportation.

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Vicki: What were the first highways of the world?

David: Rivers.

Vicki: Right. And in the United States, rivers generally flow in two directions.

David: To the Atlantic, the Pacific… Miss Winters, who do you suppose it was you and Carolyn saw last night?

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Vicki: Last night?

David: In the water, dead.

Vicki: Where you listening downstairs?

David: Is that what you and Carolyn were screaming about?

Vicki: David, you were listening when I was talking to Joe!

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Indeed he was.

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As a result, his mind is not so much on his lessons…

Vicki: Now, what do we call the line that divides the rivers?

David: I don’t know.

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…as it is on the morbid subject of last night’s events.

Vicki: Rivers have played a great part in the development of the United States. Can you tell me how?

David: I guess they had all the water they wanted.

Vicki: Well that’s true. But more important than that, they provided a means of transportation, for people and for commerce. You can move almost anything by water.

David: Even a dead man?

Vicki: David I thought we were through with that kind of talk! I’ve already told you. It was just a figment of our imagination. There was no dead man.

David: I imagine there was. I told you. It was probably Mr. Malloy.

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The predictions from David’s crystal ball tend to be true more often than not, as subsequent episodes will show.

With David Collins once again at the forefront, this time as a narrative chorus in the classical dramatic sense, let’s examine once more the probable origins of the character which the makers of Dark Shadows most likely drew upon.

In a previous post, it was opined that the main inspiration for the David Collins character came from a 1945 mystery film noir called The Unseen, which also provided the prototypes for the Victoria Winters and Roger Collins characters, starring Gail Russell as a young governess named Elizabeth Howard who travels to a provincial New England village to live and work as a tutor for two small children, a boy and a girl, under the employ of David Fielding. The boy that Elizabeth tutors bears somewhat of a resemblance to how David Collins on Dark Shadows would appear more than twenty years later.

(Richard Lyon as Barnaby “Barney” Fielding in The Unseen)

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Just like David on Dark Shadows, Barney Fielding has a lingering attachment with a now absent maternal figure in his life, and feels threatened in believing that Miss Howard is attempting to replace that woman, the former governess named Maxine.

Barney Fielding: You’re my enemy, I hate you!

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However, unlike Barney Fielding, David Collins on Dark Shadows has already displayed homicidal tendencies in tampering with the brake valve on his father’s car to prevent him from acting out on his intentions of sending David away to an institution of some kind.

Just as the brake valve story itself had its origins in a nighttime anthology series presented by Alfred Hitchcock (The Alfred Hitchcock Hour; Murder Case, season 2, episode 19, aired March 4, 1964), so too it would appear that the inspiration for the darker, more disturbing traits of the David Collins character can be found.

To Catch a Butterfly is another, earlier episode from the The Alfred Hitchcock Hour which most likely is from where the “little monster” aspect of the David Collins character originates.

To Catch a Butterfly opens with little Eddie Stander getting caught taunting the new neighbors’ dog, with cruelty toward animals among a boy so young never a good sign for psychological development.

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The problem with Eddie seems to originate in the lack of understanding on the part of his well-intentioned but misguided father Jack Stander, as played by Lou Grant when Lou Grant had hair.

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Even before the new neighbors have unpacked their station wagon to finish moving in, Eddie is peering in through the car windows looking for whatever he can steal, which turns out to be five dollars from Mrs. Nelson’s purse.

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The Nelsons are especially concerned when they discover Eddie’s bizarre drawings, exhibiting the fantasy world of a disturbed child, after Bill Nelson catches Eddie one day rooting through the glove compartment of his car trying to steal their parking meter money.

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It won’t be long before Eddie, in a contentious moment with new neighbor Bill Nelson, threatens to kill his dog. I’m much happier not thinking any further about the poor dog.

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Eddie is forever skulking about and spying on others from well-concealed vantage points.

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Eventually Eddie’s tendency for spying is seen to take on a voyeuristic element, particularly with regard to Mrs. Nelson…

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…accompanied by associations of violence.

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This hour-long episode of early 1960s network television gets one to thinking about those notorious serial killers of the 1970s, with To Catch a Butterfly providing a trait-by-trait synopsis of how such types must have gotten started along their wayward path.

Naturally, it doesn’t take long for Eddie to act out against Mrs. Nelson; one day while Bill is away and Janet is alone in the house, Eddie sneaks in…

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…and sets a trap for Mrs. Nelson by securing a wire across one of the basement steps…

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…then switches on a power drill that Bill had left on the work bench to sound a noisy diversion and bring her along to investigate.

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With an urgent but measured sense of purpose, Eddie hurries up the steps to begin removing the wire after causing Mrs. Nelson to fall.

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Mrs. Nelson comes to and cries out in anguish, giving Eddie a start after he has finished removing the wire trap.

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The camera shows what Eddie sees from his vantage point, Mrs. Nelson confused and in great distress and possibly injured.

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The camera then pulls in close on Eddie as he reacts further, perhaps inviting the viewer to examine the boy’s facial expression for even the vaguest telltale signs of remorse.

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A close-up on Mrs. Nelson’s predicament shows that her right hand is trapped in between the woodwork near the bottom step.

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Eddie’s face then deadens to a cold blankness as he turns his attention to the work bench…

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…and the power drill there, which he had switched on earlier and which now gives him…

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Still, this being 1963, the episode lives up to its title by offering a positive message of hope in pointing toward a possible road to redemption…

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…as parents and neighbors alike finally begin getting through to Eddie.

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As is well known to viewers familiar with the early Dark Shadows episodes, David is often referred to as a “little monster” by those who know and loathe him, particularly Carolyn. In To Catch a Butterfly, Eddie Stander is described as a “little monster” exactly four times, all instances during twenty-one minutes of the second half-hour.

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Thayer David’s Matthew Morgan also shines here in episode 53. Despite George Mitchell’s believable portrayal of a hard worker dedicated to Mrs. Stoddard through a bond of loyalty and trust, recasting the role with Thayer David has provided an opportunity for adding to the character a deeper, more sinister layer of complexity as revealed when Matthew reports back to Mrs. Stoddard for an update on what was discovered below Widow’s Hill.

Matthew: Excuse me, Mrs. Stoddard, I got the note you left for me. Mr. Collins wanted me early, that’s why I wasn’t at home.

Mrs. Stoddard: Mr. Collins? What for?

Matthew: He asked me to walk along the rocks with him.

Mrs. Stoddard: Why?

Matthew: He wanted to make sure what the young ladies claimed they saw wasn’t there.

Mrs. Stoddard: Yes?

Matthew: It wasn’t.

Mrs. Stoddard [sighs]: Well, that’s a relief. I was beginning to wonder about that myself.

Matthew: I told you that last night.

Mrs. Stoddard: I know but it was dark, you could have missed it.

Matthew: Uh, no.

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At first, Matthew is calmly reassuring, like gentle but invigorating sea breezes as he describes the natural elements found along the shore beneath Widow’s Hill…

Matthew: I pointed out all that seaweed to Mr. Collins. There’s always a lot of it torn loose after a storm.

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…but then his tone takes on an uneasy air of foreboding as he warns Mrs. Stoddard about the dangers of Widow’s Hill.

Matthew: If I was you, Mrs. Stoddard, I’d ask your daughter to stay away from that ledge on Widow’s Hill.

Mrs. Stoddard: But why? It’s always been a favorite place of hers ever since she was a little girl.

Matthew: ‘Tain’t healthy. They say it was from that very spot the first Mrs. Collins jumped so long ago.

Mrs. Stoddard: That’s just a story, Matthew.

Matthew: Maybe. There’s another way of telling it. It could be she didn’t jump of her own free will. She might have been drawn there by… by unnatural forces.

Mrs. Stoddard: That’s nonsense.

Matthew: Is it?

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That’s Elizabeth Stoddard for you, always able to see through nonsense when she hears it, in this case Matthew’s tall tales of superstition while presuming to know more about the legends of Collinwood than a Collins herself. Perhaps this is what leads her to call Matthew on his bluff. Recall also from the night before, as depicted in episode 51, how Elizabeth initially had been doubtful toward Matthew’s initial report of there being nothing unusual in the water below Widow’s Hill.

Mrs. Stoddard: Matthew, how long have you worked for me here at Collinwood?

Matthew: ‘Bout eighteen years. ‘For that, I worked for your father on the boats.

Mrs. Stoddard: And in those eighteen years I don’t think you’ve ever told me a deliberate lie.

Matthew [solemnly]: I never will.

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Mrs. Stoddard: When you were telling us what you saw last night, you chose your words very carefully. You said you walked from one end of the property to the other and back, and there was nothing there.

Matthew: That’s right.

Mrs. Stoddard: On your return trip there was nothing there. Was there something there when you first went down?

Matthew: There was.

Mrs. Stoddard: Was it what Carolyn and Miss Winters said it was?

Matthew: There was a… a drowned man there.

Mrs. Stoddard [upset]: Why didn’t you tell me the truth?

Matthew: I did, I pushed the body back into the water and watched the waves carry it back out to sea.

Mrs. Stoddard: Did you recognize him?

Matthew [nods]: It was Bill Malloy.

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Mrs. Stoddard: How could you do such a thing?!

Matthew: I thought it was for the best.

Mrs. Stoddard [turns and rushes to the telephone]: Did you think it was for the best to take the law into your own hands? You can’t do it! [dials the “0”] Hello, operator. Give me the sheriff’s office… Hello, George? This is Mrs. Stoddard. You can stop your search for Bill Malloy. I… I know where he is.

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“And so concludes our story for today with a rather shocking revelation – and it isn’t even Friday. I shall return next wee – uh, tomorrow afternoon so that we may hopefully find out more about this caretaker; a real gem indeed, with his willingness to take on extra groundskeeping chores not previously outlined in his job description. More value for the money, and certainly a great deal more than one bargained for.”

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“While in the television studio for the taping of today’s episode, I realized how useful a device like this tape recorder might be, having heard all the non-scripted discussions taking place on the soundstage as well as from the control room. It appears that in this particular television production, there is just as much, if not more, drama taking place behind the scenes.”

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“Fortunately, a tape recorder is not required, given how the boom microphone fulfills that function adequately enough. Following is a short footnote, and some scenes of what was said.”

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Alexandra Moltke on location near Seaview Terrace in the spring of sixty-six as exterior footage for Widow’s Hill is filmed. Dan Curtis can be seen on the beach below, closest to the water at far right.

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Footage taken from this shoot was inserted into the middle of Act IV of episode 2, as Vicki takes her first stroll out to the edge of Widow’s Hill…

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…where Roger makes a surprise introduction.

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(Alexandra Moltke and Louis Edmonds on the studio set for Widow’s Hill, episode 2)

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From the control room:

During the taping of episode 53, Dan Curtis and Lela Swift in a discussion from the control room will be recalling the incident involving Mark Allen which took place in Alexandra Moltke’s dressing room during the taping of episode 20.

As a prelude to the control room discussion for today’s episode, below are excerpts from discussion transcribed from the control room and soundstage during the taping of episode 46, when Miss Moltke first talks about wanting to leave Dark Shadows because of the above-mentioned incident.

[During opening scene of episode 46]

Dan [after chewing Lela out over the second take she called for]: Alex, what’s the matter?

Alexandra Moltke [sounding distressed]: Dan, I have to tell you, I can’t keep working here. I keep seeing Mark Allen in my dressing room, jerking off at me.

Lela: Alex, Mark Allen can never hurt you. He will never come back here.

Alexandra: But what about my career? What if I work in another job, and run into him? I can’t stand the thought of seeing him again. Even the chance of it frightens me to death.

Dan: Alex, come on. Pull yourself together. Mark Allen is gone…

During Act I, after the scene has shifted from the Collinwood drawing room to Evans cottage as Bill Malloy pays a visit to Sam, Alexandra is talking on the soundstage with Louis Edmonds:

Louis Edmonds: Alex, you’re not really thinking of leaving us, are you?

Alexandra: I don’t know, Louis. I’m just feeling really traumatized by what Mark Allen did to me.

Louis: But, Alex. That fiend is gone for good. He’ll never bother you again.

Alexandra: I know he’s gone, but I just can’t keep coming back to the same place where it happened.

Louis: Well, Alex, I do hope you manage to find peace and move on from this.

Alexandra: Thank you, Louis. But I think the only peace I’ll find is by leaving the show.

[Very end of Act III, just before Bill Malloy knocks on the front door of Collinwood]

Lela: Dan, what are we going to do about Alexandra?

Dan: I don’t know. But if she leaves, there goes Dark Shadows.

[During Act IV, following her drawing room scene with Louis Edmonds]

Alexandra [from the soundstage]: Oh, my god!  I can’t believe how funny Louis Edmonds was in that scene. I can’t believe I got through the whole scene without cracking up laughing…

[After Dan has called Alexandra up to the control room to explain about Louis Edmonds going off script and ad libbing during the scene she just had with him]

Alexandra: What happened was, I was telling Louis about how I wanted to leave the show because of what Mark Allen did to me… I guess he was just trying to cheer me up…

[Then following the transition to the final scene of the episode in Roger’s office]

Dan: But Alex, you’re not really thinking of leaving Dark Shadows, are you? I heard what you were telling Louis down on the soundstage.

Lela: Alex, you can’t leave Dark Shadows. You’re the protagonist.

Alexandra: I don’t know, I’m still feeling really traumatized, because I keep returning to the same place where something shocking and terrible happened to me.

Dan: Alex, Mark Allen is gone, and he’s never coming back. He’ll never do anything to you again.

Alexandra: Well, I want to believe that. But what about my career?

[closing theme]

The closing theme is short and has no end credits, and there is just enough time for ABC announcer Bob Lloyd to say “Dark Shadows is a Dan Curtis production.” During this time, the following is said from the control room:

Alexandra: You have to release me, Dan.

Dan: Alex, come on…

[Taping of episode 53]

The series: The Dan and Lela Show; the main players: director Lela Swift, executive producer Dan Curtis, with special guest Thayer David; the setting: television studio control room; main prop: the control room microphone; opening scene: teaser…

Lela [during opening narration, the moment it begins]: Dan, I have to talk to you about what Alexandra’s been saying. She’s having trouble returning to that dressing room every day. Dan, Alexandra is still saying that she wants to leave Dark Shadows.

Dan: Goddamn that fucking Mark Allen for ruining my show like that!

Lela: Dan, what are we going to do? We can’t let Alexandra leave.

Dan: Well if it’s only the dressing room that’s the issue, we can just have her switch with someone.

Lela: Dan, no one else wants that dressing room, because of what happened.

Dan: Alright then. We’ll just have to change studios. There’s one in the area that ABC is renovating. It’s only a few blocks from here.

Lela: But Dan, how can we just change studios? This is where we contracted to work.

Dan: Well, it’s either we change studios, or we lose the show. Because if Alexandra leaves, there goes Dark Shadows.

Lela: But Dan, I don’t want to change studios. I like this control room.

Dan: There’s no choice, Lela. We won’t have a show if we don’t have a protagonist. My whole dream of starting Dark Shadows was based on a governess traveling by train to this small town. If we lose the governess, we lose everything.

Lela: But Dan, I want to keep this control room.

Dan: And I want to keep Alexandra on Dark Shadows. Understand?

Lela: But Dan! There has to be another way…


Lela: Dan, I don’t even remember when Mark Allen went into Alex’s dressing room to jerk off at her.

Dan: That’s because you were too busy complaining. But we’ve examined the audio and we know what he said to her, and it wasn’t very nice.

Simultaneously with the opening theme discussion between Lela and Dan from the control room, from the soundstage Alexandra Moltke can be heard reacting to their control room discussion:

Alexandra: Why do Dan and Lela have to keep talking about that? I am so sick and tired of thinking about Mark Allen. I’ve got a good mind to just leave the show right this minute, just to spite those two!

[closing theme]

Thayer David: Jesus Christ, why the hell do you two have to keep reminding Alexandra about what that terrible Mark Allen did to her?! I swear, if I ever get my hands on that fiend, I’ll kill him with my bare hands!

Dan: Now, Thayer, calm down, it’s okay. We’re not trying to upset Alexandra.

Lela: Thayer, we’re trying to keep Alexandra from leaving Dark Shadows…

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

Background/Production Notes:

In one scene, when talking with Vicki about his mother, David mentions that he had a picture of her but believes that someone stole it; if so, then the only likely suspect would be his father. In episode 31, while waiting with Burke in the foyer as Roger conferred behind closed drawing room doors with Vicki on the subject of David and the missing brake valve, David brought downstairs from his room a picture of his mother to show Burke. In story time, this was only three days ago.

David shows Burke a photograph of his mother_ep31

In this episode, when Elizabeth asks Matthew how long he had been working for her and what he did before, he answered that before Collinwood he’d worked for her father on the boats. Back in episode 6, the first Matthew Morgan, as played by George Mitchell, told Vicki that before being hired by Mrs. Stoddard he’d been sweeping out the floors of the cannery.

Despite the lapse in continuity, this apparent blooper is more likely intentional; they were probably writing for the change in actors, with Thayer David being more convincing in having a rugged background of seafaring than the more pedestrian task of floor sweeping.

With the arrival of Mrs. Johnson as a housekeeper at Collinwood, Thayer David’s Matthew Morgan would once again be written with a sailor’s background, where Matthew mentions to Mrs. Johnson that he and her husband Timothy had been at sea together. This part of the script would be cut from the final draft.

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

Bloopers/Story Continuity:

In the opening scene, the Collinsport Fly can be seen buzzing around David’s head during breakfast in the Collinwood kitchen.

Dark Shadows fans all seem to be in agreement over the blooper-generating potential of the well-traveled Collinsport Fly, but lately this reviewer has been having second thoughts. Think about it: It’s summer in Maine, so wouldn’t a fly in the house be a natural and regular occurrence? After all, that’s how the housefly got its name, by entering houses in the warmer months and flying about. One could just as easily think of it as more of a touch of realism; the only blooper is when the actor(s) pretend to not notice it.

Even Hitchcock’s television programming had the occasional fly. There’s an episode from The Alfred Hitchcock Hour called Thou Still Unravished Bride, with a scene where the boys from Scotland Yard are in a pub questioning David Carradine on the whereabouts of the Sally Kellerman character, who has recently disappeared. In the screen image below, you can see it against the upper coat arm of the gentleman on the left. For a couple of seconds, the fly is buzzing about with a distinctly light-colored comet type streak, during which you could swear the actor it flies nearest to is reacting to its presence.

Alfred Hitchcock Hour_Thou Still Unravished Bride_fly against the coat arm of man on left_ep53

From now on, I think I’ll begin referring to the Collinsport Fly for what it truly is: an unpaid Dark Shadows extra.

Collinsport Fly_FreeArt image_housefly insect cartoon illustration_ep53

There are a couple boom mic shadows, both during the first act:

one settling against the top half of the painting on the wall of the Collinsport kitchen as Vicki calls after David to see who is knocking at the front door…

Boom mic shadow_against wall of Collinwood kitchen (2)_ep53

…and the other in the foyer cozying up along the rug of the stair step immediately above where David sits as he defends the validity of his crystal ball in the face of Joe Haskell’s cynical remarks.

Boom mic shadow_against rug of step just above where David sits_ep53

Once again, I’m beginning to question the wisdom of pointing out all these instances of boom mic shadows, which are such a part of the viewing experience that Dark Shadows could just as easily have been called Boom Shadows.

But hey, guess what? Hitchcock had boom mic shadows as well. The screen image below is from an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour called The Photographer and the Undertaker:

Alfred Hitchcock Hour_The Photographer and the Undertaker_boom mic shadow_ep53

This was only one of several Hitchcock episodes to reveal an occasional boom mic shadow; one episode even had a boom mic bobbing prominently into the top of frame, just like on Dark Shadows. But unlike Dark Shadows, these Hitchcock anthology series, with their more relaxed production schedule, had the luxury of retakes, yet obviously they opted not to in these instances.

I must admit, I’ve only taken to noticing such things in other television shows since I started examining individual Dark Shadows episodes with x-ray eyes; most of this stuff people probably either don’t even notice or care about, suspension of disbelief and all that.

The only real blooper occurs during Act I when David opens the door for Joe Haskell, and because of the camera angle you can see an undressed portion of the studio beyond.

Edge of set_outside Collinwood front doors (2)_ep53

Otherwise, apart from the minor “so what?” moments of the fly and boom mic shadows noted above, episode 53 is very nearly perfect, with all the actors delivering their lines with letter-perfect precision.

Episode 43 is like that also, just narrowly missing that rarest of Dark Shadows occurrences, a blooper-free episode.

Food & Drink in Collinsport:

All the food and drink in this episode centers around breakfast in the Collinwood kitchen, a set used only during the first year of Dark Shadows (between episodes 5 and 208).

As the exterior footage dissolves into the opening scene, David is drinking milk…

Food & Drink in Collinsport_David drinks milk with breakfast_ep53

…and eating what looks like peanut butter (or jellied) toast…

Food & Drink in Collinsport_David with buttered or jellied toast_ep53

…while Vicki has coffee with cream.

Food & Drink in Collinsport_Vicki has coffee with cream_ep53

After Vicki takes David’s plate away, with half the toast left uneaten, she pours herself another cup of coffee.

Food & Drink in Collinsport_Vicki pours herself another cup of coffee_ep53

On the Flipside:

Over the closing credits, ABC announcer Bob Lloyd provides the following message: “Peyton Place now comes your way Mondays and Wednesdays. Be sure to watch tonight, here on ABC.”

Dark Shadows episode 53 was broadcast on Wednesday September 7, 1966, the final week of network television’s 1965-66 season. That night at 9:30 pm Eastern, ABC aired episode 267 of Peyton Place.

The 1964 debut episode of Peyton Place is similar to how Dark Shadows would start off two years later, with a locomotive train chugging through the hazy stillness of a New England summer night.

Peyton Place_train at beginning of episode 1_ep37A

Conductor: Peyton Place, be there in five minutes.

Michael Rossi: Thanks.

Peyton Place_Dr. Michael Rossi on the train from New York_ep37A

Conductor: First visit?

Rossi: More than a visit.

Conductor: Gonna live there?

Rossi: Why not?

Conductor: Well, most people go away from small towns like this. Don’t know why they wanna go back.

Peyton Place_train conductor comments on Dr. Rossi's decision to live in Peyton Place_ep37A

Rossi: I’m not going back.

Peyton Place_Dr. Rossi explains to conductor that this is not a return trip to Peyton Place_ep37A

Michael Rossi’s character on Peyton Place fulfills a similar function to that of Victoria Winters on Dark Shadows, by introducing the town and its inhabitants to the viewer through the eyes of someone coming in from the outside, gradually becoming entwined in the mystery and intrigue of various long-held secrets as they come to be revealed, much like the character of governess Elizabeth Howard in the 1945 motion picture The Unseen.

(Gail Russell in the role of governess Elizabeth Howard, arriving in a small town to live and work as a governess in the Fielding house)

The Unseen_the governess arrives by train (2)_ep37A

It’s likely that when Dan Curtis one night in 1965 had a dream about a governess traveling by train to a small town, rather than Jane Eyre his subconscious mind was instead melding together the arrival in a small town of governess Elizabeth Howard in The Unseen with that of Michael Rossi on Peyton Place.

Peyton Place was initially scheduled for two prime time half-hour airings per week, but, because of its huge popularity, was soon scheduled for three nights per week as shown in the 1965 TV promo below.

“Every Tuesday night on ABC…”

Peyton Place_1965 TV promo for Tuesday nights (1)_ep53

[Dorothy Malone as Constance Mackenzie]: “It has to be faced…”

Peyton Place_1965 TV promo for Tuesday nights (2)_ep53

[Patricia Morrow as Rita Jacks]: “You and my mother, and this stupid town. You’re all tearing me to pieces!”

Peyton Place_1965 TV promo for Tuesday nights (4)_ep53

“Every Tuesday night. The panic, the fear, the desperation of… The Fugitive.”

Peyton Place_1965 TV promo for Tuesday nights (5)_ep53

“Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights…”

Peyton Place_1965 TV promo for Tuesday nights (6)_ep53

“…the turbulent emotion of… Peyton Place.”

Peyton Place_1965 TV promo for Tuesday nights (8)_ep53

The Fugitive, Peyton Place, on…”

Peyton Place_1965 TV promo for Tuesday nights (9)_ep53

As indicated in the voiceover by Bob Lloyd for the closing theme of Dark Shadows episode 53, by September 1966 Peyton Place has returned to a twice-weekly schedule.

The actress who played Allison Mackenzie has just recently left the show; never comfortable with being on such a hugely popular hit TV show, the actress had wanted to be let out of her contract from the start, and by the summer of sixty-six her request was finally granted and the character written out.

Because the writers know the actress who played the character of Allison will not be returning to the role, they have various options on how to portray the situation. Having written Allison’s character off as a disappearance, other characters begin recounting the moments leading up to when she disappeared, with Rodney Harrington recalling for her parents Constance and Elliott Carson how he had stopped by to see her the night before and asked her to marry him, but she had turned him down. Then Rodney says, “That’s the last thing Allison ever said to me.”

Peyton Place_Constance and Elliott react to Rodney's account of Allison's final words to him_episode 265_ep53

I know, huh? The last thing she ever said to him? Allison has only been missing for a couple of episodes, which is just an hour or two in real story time, and already the people closest to her are talking about her in the past tense as if she’s gone for good.

It seems at this point the writing team is wavering between disappearance and possible demise. They’ve got a character on the show now named Lee Webber, played by Stephen Oliver, who has been charged with the murder of Ann Howard (played by Susan Oliver, no relation to Stephen).

(Susan Oliver with Ed Nelson in Peyton Place episode 227)

Peyton Place_Susan Oliver and Ed Nelson in episode 227 (3)_ep53

Lee Webber is also suspected of having been involved in the disappearance of Allison Mackenzie. It was Allison’s testimony that had linked him with the death of Ann Howard to begin with, having placed him at the scene the day Ann had fallen from Sailor’s Bluff.

(Stephen Oliver as Lee Webber in Peyton Place episode 267)

Peyton Place_Stephen Oliver as Lee Webber_episode 267_ep53

The character of Lee Webber is among the most menacing ever to have appeared on Peyton Place, and the actor who played him brought a seemingly natural roughness to his portrayal, a genuine roughneck whose lines of work before turning to acting included, among other things, that of a bounty hunter.

Such a background seemed perfect for what was needed in playing Lee Webber; the sort of toughness that could give the town’s leading brawler Rodney Harrington a real run for his money. Lee would always antagonize Rodney by calling him such derogatory names as “Golden Boy”; it made sense that Lee would be implicated in Allison’s disappearance, having violated the terms of his parole by approaching her on the wharf to warn her that he would be watching her and having been the last to have seen her on the night of her disappearance.

(Stephen Oliver and Ryan O’Neal in their respective roles in Peyton Place episode 263)

Peyton Place_Stephen Oliver and Ryan and O'Neal in episode 263_ep53

Of note, Lee Webber was married to Sandy, played by Lana Wood, who is so voluptuous during her time on Peyton Place that she doesn’t even need to do anything; just that smoldering look will suffice, which seems to emanate from the eyes…

(Sandy Webber sits in court as husband Lee is bound over for trial in the death of Ann Howard in Peyton Place episode 260)

Peyton Place_Lana Wood_episode 260_reaction to husband Lee being bound over for trial (2)_ep53

…and when she is doing something, it often winds up being the definitive moment of any given episode, as when below in episode 227 she lights up the dance floor at the Shoreline by inciting a girl to girl exhibition with Betty Anderson (played by Barbara Parkins).

Peyton Place_Lana Wood dancing at the Shoreline_episode 227_GIF_ep53

But then again I happily digress.

Here in episode 267, which aired on the date Dark Shadows episode 53 was originally shown, Allison’s mother Constance must come to terms with her daughter’s disappearance while her husband Elliott travels to New York City to search.

In the meantime, Norman Harrington and Betty Anderson stop by the bookstore to ask if they can do something to take her mind off things for a while.

Peyton Place_Norman and Betty at the bookstore to visit Constance_episode 267_ep53

Elliot’s father Eli tries to help out as well, keeping Constance company while Elliott is away.

Peyton Place_Eli keeps Constance company while Elliott is away_episode 267_ep53

But Constance can only dwell on the fact that Allison is no longer around, her first-born gone as another is on the way.

Peyton Place_Dorothy Malone as Constance Mackenzie_episode 267_ep53

There are a couple of interesting Dark Shadows parallels with Peyton Place. Malcolm Marmorstein, one of the writers of Dark Shadows, would go on to write several episodes of Peyton Place.

(Opening credits for Peyton Place episode 435, aired May 1968)

Peyton Place_Malcolm Marmorstein writing credit_episode 435_ep53

In the 1970s, Dan Curtis would be working with Christopher Connelly in the TV movie The Invasion of Carol Enders, about the soul of a recently deceased woman who inhabits the body of a living woman to find out who killed her.

(Christopher Connelly with Meredith Baxter)

(The) Invasion of Carol Enders_Christopher Connelly and Meredith Baxter_ep53

This movie also has in the cast two actors who worked on Dark Shadows:

James Storm…

(The) Invasion of Carol Enders_James Storm_ep53

…and John Karlen.

(The) Invasion of Carol Enders_John Karlen_ep53

Recorded with videotape on a television soundstage, there is also background control room audio where Dan Curtis can be heard speaking into the microphone throughout. At one point following a scene featuring Christopher Connelly, during a lapse in dialogue as the next scene begins, Dan can be heard to comment: “Chris Connelly is such a great actor. He would’ve been great on Dark Shadows! I only wish I’d worked with him sooner.”

But, of course, Dan Curtis would most likely have been aware of Connelly’s work even before Peyton Place, having appeared in an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1963.

(Christopher Connelly taking the stand in Starring the Defense; aired November 15, 1963)

Alfred Hitchcock Hour_Starring the Defense_Christopher Connelly as Rudy Trask (1)_ep53

These days on Dark Shadows it somehow all goes back to Hitchcock, doesn’t it?

Incidentally, in Starring the Defense, Richard Basehart plays a character named Miles Crawford, a veteran film actor who acts as his son’s defense attorney in court on a murder charge, with Basehart’s character Miles Crawford having early in his film career played a similar role, a character by the name of Mr. Collins. In this Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode, Christopher Connelly’s character is named… Rudy Trask.

Alfred Hitchcock Hour_Starring the Defense_Christopher Connelly as Rudy Trask (2)_ep53

Christopher Connelly during his days on Peyton Place, 1968.

Peyton Place_Christopher Connelly_opening credits_episode 435_ep53

Parallel Collinsport, 1966:

A song for Alexandra Moltke, Wildflower by the Canadian band Skylark, from 1973:


(Song for) Alexandra Moltke_Forget-Me-Not_image for Wildflower_ep53

Recommended Reading:

Joan Bennett’s 1970 autobiography (original front and back covers).

Joan Bennett cast member spotlight_The Bennett Playbill_front cover_ep25

Joan Bennett cast member spotlight_The Bennett Playbill_back cover_ep25

The Bennetts: An Acting Family, the 2004 biography (front cover).

Joan Bennett cast member spotlight_The Bennetts An Acting Family_front cover_ep25

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 54: They Float Bodies, Don’t They?

— Marc Masse

(aka PrisoneroftheNight)

© 2019 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.

6 thoughts on “Episode 53: Our Caretaker’s a Real Gem”

  1. Roger’s hookah must be broken cause he’s way too wrought up over this whole Burke Devlin thing – and a glass of sherry before bedtime just ain’t gettin’ it done.
    I can totally imagine him rockin’ that Fez though!

  2. David really did seem to have a psychic gift. Begs the question, did he get it from his mother’s or his father’s side of the family? Could have been either.
    Too bad Dan didn’t take it a step further and have David insist on wearing a Carnac the Magnificent turban while crystal ball gazing. It would have been worth it just to see Roger’s reaction.

  3. May David’s crystal gazing be considered to be the first ‘supernatural’ inclusion in DS? When he’s not simply making predictions out of spite, he’s fairly accurate…

  4. David to Vicky: “If I told you, you’d scream even louder…Someone in Collinsport is going to try and kill you…You know what, Miss Winters? When you’re dead, I won’t even come to your funeral.”
    What a great little actor – David Henesy deserved a Daytime Emmy Award for these “little Monster” episodes. He’s acting circles around the adults.

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