Hard to believe that just six nights ago Victoria Winters was on board a train headed up the New England coast “to a strange and dark place, to the edge of the sea, high atop Widow’s Hill…” while here as Dark Shadows wades through its thirteenth week of episodes it feels more like it ought to be six months. Like back in episode 36 whereupon during their “first” meeting Sam Evans talks with Victoria Winters to ask about her employer Elizabeth Stoddard and he opens with, “Miss Winters, you’ve been in Collinwood some time now and you know Mrs. Stoddard pretty well…” as if it had already been months when in fact barely forty-eight hours of story time had yet elapsed.
Given the cyclic nature of storytelling on a daytime “soap” drama, it is to be expected that details relating to the story of Victoria Winters for instance would accumulate in a similar cyclic fashion, where at some point a new clue would arise that may shed some light on the mystery of her past. Yet take as an example episode 34, which led Vicki to Burke’s hotel room to read a report on her generated by Devlin’s private investigator Wilbur Strake. After weeks of having been sidelined by the missing brake valve caper, which took up only a page and a half or so in the series outline Shadows on the Wall, Victoria was ultimately left to realize that the report told her of “nothing I didn’t already know.” Sidelined yet again by the disappearance and subsequent death of Bill Malloy, Victoria has had to wait another twenty-six episodes to encounter the portrait of Betty Hanscom, while Dark Shadows continues to plod along in blocks of micro-time.
It’s one thing if the executive producer has never done a soap before, given how the “fish out of water” element can actually be an advantage at times, especially in the case of Dan Curtis who would simply think nothing of suddenly transforming his show from a “gothic romance” to a murder mystery not in the style of The Edge of Night, but rather more in line with what Alfred Hitchcock had brought to nighttime television over the previous decade with shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, but it’s something else altogether when your one-man writing staff has likewise never before had the experience of scripting for a daytime drama. The closest Art Wallace had yet come to grazing the realm of serialized narrative was one of the early prime-time medical dramas of the period, The Doctors and The Nurses, having penned eight episodes of that one-hour series over two years.
Perhaps Wallace approached Dark Shadows with the idea that story content for daytime television should simply be drawn out so as to keep audiences aligned with the day-to-day lives of the characters they were tuning in to see, given how there are five consecutive half-hour segments to be filled each week, whereas in a prime-time episodic drama stories can be told in full in around fifty minutes not counting commercial breaks. Indeed, whereas the arc of Jason McGuire and the blackmail/Paul Stoddard story on Dark Shadows runs for nearly eighty episodes, Wallace himself had already presented a complete version of that story as a one-hour drama in 1957, which had evolved from the original half-hour version first broadcast in 1954 (both productions titled “The House”).
You have to wonder what the Dark Shadows fan discussions were like in 1966. Imagine a couple of viewers comparing notes that September just as the thirteenth week of episodes are being aired; one has stayed with the show all summer long, while the other lost interest after the first few weeks. The one who no longer watches asks, “Did they ever get out of that first week?” The one who’s still a regular viewer answers, “No, not yet.” Bemused, the first one adds, “You should watch Secret Storm instead.”
In Collinsport, time moves so slowly that in the lobby of the Collinsport Inn they have an hourglass that’s filled with molasses. Day 6 began with episode 53, a day that won’t even see midnight by the time Dark Shadows is wrapping up its first thirteen-week cycle with episode 65. Three months of episodes, six days of story, almost. Maybe all those folks who are critical of the beginning episodes of Dark Shadows for being slow kind of have a point after all.
Another thing about this period of the show is that lately certain episodes seem almost to be sequels of those that came before, and today’s episode is a case in point. Episode 62 overall is like a reprise of episode 46, wherein both Sam and Roger are on the block once again, as if the destruction of their very way of life may be at stake, this time though relating to suspicion in the death of Bill Malloy, but with the testy reminder of Burke’s manslaughter conviction still at the heart of it. Whereas the hand of both Roger and Sam had been forced by Bill Malloy in the earlier episode through the action he was determined to take in the hope of resolving the matter of Devlin’s vendetta against the Collins family, here in today’s episode Roger and Sam are each playing their own hand by choice. Each will have a confessor they approach voluntarily; for Sam it will be Burke Devlin and for Roger it will be Victoria Winters, and through a deceptive and determined blend of lies and half-truths each will attempt to clear himself of all suspicion relating to matters both past and present.
However, as noted in the opening image above, such measures could just as easily bring about their complete undoing, especially for Sam Evans who is yet again driven to desperation.
Episode 37 is also reprised here in episode 62, with Vicki a bundle of nerves as she returns to Collinwood following the dinner party that wasn’t, earlier this evening at the Evans cottage, only to be flagged down yet again by Roger and coerced into yet another interrogation about the words and possible intentions of people whose lives don’t really concern her, at least not in the way they concern Roger Collins.
Vicki: I don’t want to talk about it.
Roger: Oh, but I do…
Louis Edmonds seems to be approaching his work on Dark Shadows as something of a swan song, turning in one remarkable performance after another in this week of episodes and the next, as if intending to go out on a high note as he prepares for the end to his acting career.
According to the Louis Edmonds biography Big Lou, by the time he had landed the role of Roger Collins on Dark Shadows he felt that he’d already gone as far as he could go with an acting career whose professional status had spanned nearly twenty years:
“Although Louis had been successful on and off Broadway, and had even starred in a movie, good roles were hard to come by.
“In 1966 he hit a dry spell.
“‘No one wanted to hire me,’ he said. ‘I had enough experience that it was embarrassing to go around and say, “Hey, give me a job,” or even to audition, because what if I didn’t get the job? That’s even worse rejection.’
“Feeling his frustration, Louis made a dramatic decision: He gave up the lease on his Manhattan apartment and abandoned acting.
“‘I planned to move to the Rookery full time and really start my life,’ Louis said. ‘My Long Island home would be the center of my life. I would sing in the choir every Sunday. I would shop in the local shops and have nothing to do with New York City. Of course, the moment I made that great, grand statement, I got a call from a producer named Dan Curtis, and my life would never be the same’” (Big Lou, p. 59).
Surely the life-changing aspect of this new job on daytime television was an observation made retrospectively. Looking ahead from the spring and summer of 1966, there would have been nothing to suggest that this job would be anything but temporary. Here is how Art Wallace had drawn up the fate of Roger Collins in the original series outline, with Vicki having returned to Collinwood from an evening at the Evans cottage:
“It is a frightening return to the house on the hill. Roger’s mood is at its blackest…Vicki feels the presence of Roger’s hatred rolling over her.
“And…once she and Roger are alone…he explodes.
“…It is a desperate tormented man who wants, at any cost, to prevent Vicki from providing what he feels will be the devastating blow of destruction to an already shattered life. There is a glint of madness in his eyes as he insist she walk with him to the edge of Widow’s Hill.
“…And, as he grabs her arm, and she sees the madness….she struggles. But they are not alone. David is in the darkness, too. He comes forward, crying out. Roger turns sharply at the sight of his son. He loses his balance, slips, falls down…down…down. David screams…and rushes off into the night.
“Roger is dead…his lifeless body sprawled on the rocks far below Collins House. For Elizabeth and Carolyn, the sadness of death. For Vicki, the momentary release from terror” (Shadows on the Wall, pp. 65-67).
This was to have followed a subsequent visit at the Evans cottage, where Vicki takes David to meet Sam Evans and Roger storms the gathering and drags David away, his fevered mind peppered with various delusions that Vicki may be plotting with Burke to bring about his downfall, not to mention the persistent suspicion of what Sam Evans might have said to Vicki about the events of ten years ago, knowing as Roger does how easily Sam’s tongue could be loosened with enough of the right spirited lubricant. So, sometime after Vicki has met and begun seeing Frank Garner, early on in the story arc representing the custody battle that would ensue when Roger’s wife Laura returns to claim David, which of course became instead the story of the phoenix.
The return of Laura Collins was initially envisioned by Art Wallace as a footnote, presented as a possible way forward once the story of Victoria Winters and the truth of her family background was resolved, wherein:
“She will be involved in the story of the rehabilitation of David Collins, and the frightening events brought about by the unexpected appearance of his tragic mother, Laura Robin Collins. Neurotic, alcoholic, almost paranoid…wracked by guilt…Laura intrudes herself upon the household” (Shadows on the Wall, p. 80).
The death of Roger Collins was to have been the first time the viewer was to have witnessed someone dying on Dark Shadows. Thus far, though Bill Malloy’s body washing up at the foot of Widow’s Hill in episode 50 was the first time a dead person had been shown on Dark Shadows, the instance of death itself had occurred off screen.
Just think what a ratings booster it would have been, at least for the short term, seeing someone die on afternoon television. Imagine a Friday afternoon sometime in the fall of sixty-six, when the kids would be walking home from school to catch Where the Action Is at four-thirty Eastern; they’re huddled on the living room floor right in front of the set, where they tune in for the last few minutes of that weird soap opera with all the cobwebs and gloomy alcoholic people, then they see this crazy rich guy go over a cliff in a hail of shouting and screaming… surely the following Monday they’d be running home from school to make the four Eastern showing of Dark Shadows? Nah, probably not; as Louis Edmonds himself once proclaimed: Nobody Cares About Langley.
So it’s been just six days since Victoria Winters first arrived in Collinwood, and already it’s easy to lose track of how many times Roger has imposed himself on her good will by seeking to obtain information from her, about people with whom she has recently interacted, at all hours or when she is least receptive toward conversation. No matter how pleasant Roger pretends to be at the outset, what follows is hardly the makings of a “friendly chat” as Roger refers to this latest drawing room exercise.
Roger: Why don’t you sit down, Miss Winters? Been quite a while since we had a friendly chat, and I think it’s long overdue, don’t you?
Vicki: I’m a bit tired.
Roger: Oh yes, you did say you had a trying evening. That’s too bad, you were looking forward to this dinner invitation. Did Mr. Evans say anything that upset you?
Vicki: I told you, I don’t want to talk about it!
Roger: Well how did you spend your evening? Did you look at his paintings? He’s a talented artist, isn’t he?
Vicki: Yes, very.
Roger: And his daughter, she’s very charming. A bit caustic sometimes, but nice.
Vicki is about as fluent with her answers as David might be under similar duress. Unable to take a hint or more likely just not caring, Roger comments on her lack of expressiveness as he chips away at what remains of her good-natured composure.
Roger: I’ve always thought of Evans as quite a witty conversationalist. Did you find him so?
Vicki: I really didn’t notice.
Roger: Well… In any event, he’s certainly a good deal more articulate than you’re being this evening.
In a reprise of her reaction to Roger having berated her during their post-midnight encounter back in episode 37, Vicki suddenly perks up and calls him out on the possible reason for his questions and concerns.
Vicki: What is it? Are you trying to find out whether or not we discussed Burke Devlin’s manslaughter trial?
Roger [chuckles nervously]: Well, that came up in the conversation, did it?
The precision of Louis Edmonds’ verbal intonations in this scene is just remarkable. You don’t even need to watch him perform; just listening to the skilled elocution is enough to bring Roger Collins to life with all the smug contemptibility one would expect to be emanating from a figure born of such lofty lineage. This quality is epitomized by Louis Edmonds in the following as Roger presses for further details on what transpired this evening at the Evans cottage, the way he draws out the word “amused” and casually tosses off the phrase “fascinating dinner party” as if making a derogatory joke whose meaning is known only to himself, while trying not to outwardly laugh through his utter disdain for all things Victoria Winters, Sam and Maggie Evans, and especially the Burke of Devlin.
Roger: Tell me, what other little items did Burke amuse you with at this fascinating dinner party?
Of the ill-fated dinner party, after having run out on Burke by slipping out the back door of his own home, Sam Evans went to the Collinsport Inn to wait for Burke to return by hanging around near the lobby, so he could address Devlin’s heated, intrusive questioning more privately…
…but not before stopping by the front desk to ask Mr. Wells if he could have back the letter that Maggie had the clerk lock away in the hotel safe.
Remember the letter? Herein is yet another reprise of episode 37. That was when Sam Evans had been fearing the worst, from Roger Collins mostly, and wanted to have a record of all he knew about the accident of ten years ago should anything happen to him.
Despite having made friendly small talk with the hotel clerk, Sam’s mood catapults to near panic as Mr. Wells explains that he can’t hand over the letter without an okay from Maggie, given how it’s addressed to her and if Sam doesn’t believe it, he can go ask the mailman.
“The devil with the mailman, I want that letter!”
As if to reinforce that Roger was indeed the reason Sam wrote the letter, Sam tells him about its existence when Roger makes an unannounced and unwelcome visit the morning after he wrote the letter in a bid to get him to cancel his portrait commission with Burke.
Roger: “You’re lying! You wouldn’t dare write a letter like that!” Sam: “I’ve got nothing to lose, nothing at all… Why don’t you ask around? Why don’t you ask your sister, or Bill Malloy, or that new woman up on the hill?”
Soon after Bill Malloy disappeared, the topic of the letter came up again, with Sam concerned over whether Maggie had put the letter away in a safe place.
That was in episode 55, earlier that day in story time. Then he asks Maggie to return the letter for him. He never really says why; of course, since he can’t actually tell her about its contents, he sort of has to dance around the topic, just like in episode 61 when asking the hotel clerk if he can get the letter back.
This may be the last we see or hear of the letter, which was more of an occasional plot device to generate tension during scenes between characters with Sam fidgeting away a surge of nervous energy red-lined by the desperate fear that goes with being put in survival mode.
Here in episode 62 up in Burke’s room, Sam’s mood is redolent of the world-weariness that goes with knowing there’s nowhere to run from his troubles even though he’d like to more than anything.
“It goes on and on, Burke. The sun rises, the sun sets…”
Yet even after the sun sets, days in Collinsport can end up lasting for weeks – just like the one we’re in now, Dark Shadows Day 6.
Sam is here so as to keep Maggie from associating him with all this unsavory subject matter, and becomes upset when he finds out that Burke had already run his many suspicions past Maggie after he had ducked out earlier from the dinner party. In a further link to episode 46, where having been confronted by Bill Malloy the night the meeting was to have taken place in Roger’s office Sam wondered whether the Collins fleet plant manager was out to destroy him, here he wonders the same of Burke.
“What are you trying to do, Burke? [Are] You trying to destroy me in [the eyes of] my own daughter?”
Burke, however, has other concerns, as the shadow of Sam’s tortured thoughts paints a grim picture across the lower regions of Burke’s fiercely determined expression, like an eight o’clock shadow.
For the sake of the viewer, Burke is going to approach the Bill Malloy investigation from a murder angle, given the apparent unwillingness of the sheriff of Collinsport to proceed accordingly, by walking Sam through a point-by-point interrogation as he recreates the events of that fateful night.
The tip-off that Sam couldn’t be responsible for Malloy’s death, which Burke initially overlooks, is given below when he mentions the telephone call received by Malloy that night. While every denial uttered by Sam in these scenes comes across as less than convincing particularly when touching upon Burke’s manslaughter trial and conviction, the sudden shift in Sam’s tone indicates that he most certainly had no prior knowledge of the call and therefore couldn’t have been the one to have made it.
Burke: So you made a phone call from your house that night.
Sam: I what?
Burke: Yes, his housekeeper said he got a call, at ten-thirty.
Ultimately, Burke is finally convinced that Sam couldn’t have killed Bill Malloy.
Yet, for the sake of maintaining the mystery of whodunit, even this monumental recognition is beside the point; the real purpose of these scenes is to flag for the viewer that crucial clue about the phone call to Bill Malloy’s house the night he died, just fifteen minutes before he disappeared according to what the sheriff discovered from when Malloy’s pocket watch had stopped. Again, this all harkens back to episode 46, when Vicki walked into the drawing room while Roger was on the phone, startling him enough to abruptly discontinue the call.
Roger: …Be sure you’re there. I’ll meet you. Yes, I – I’m sorry I can’t talk anymore. [to Vicki] You seem to be making a habit of walking in on telephone conversations.
Vicki: I’m sorry, but I have to talk to you about something.
This is the reason for these drawing room scenes today between Roger and Vicki, to remind the viewer of previous clues dropped along the way. Such minute and momentary details are fine in an episodic drama presentation of thirty minutes to an hour or in a movie that runs ninety minutes to two hours, where the mind can log these accumulating details as they are made available; but to just drop a subtle clue, like the face of the foyer clock, toward the end of a Monday episode and expect the viewer, all however many millions of them, to recall such a seemingly random instance more than three weeks later is just one of the limitations inherent in serialized drama that the producers have to work around. Recalling the events of the night in question, as done here in this episode in these drawing room scenes, is the most logical approach.
Roger wants Vicki to confirm for him that he left the house at ten to eleven, but that moment in episode 46 when Vicki walked in on Roger’s phone call presents a point of contention and ultimately disagreement between the two.
Roger: Ten thirty? You knew I was on the telephone at ten thirty?
It turns out that Vicki is just slightly off in each of her estimations, as any even regular viewer would be. It was ten fifteen when Vicki came downstairs while Roger was on the phone that night.
Then as Roger prepares to step out…
…a close-up on the foyer clock has the time as ten twenty-five.
Within the next five minutes, Roger could well have walked down to Matthew’s cottage and made the call to Malloy from there. The tone of Roger’s telephone call when Vicki walked in at ten fifteen was hardly contentious, which the call that Malloy received at ten thirty was said to have been. It’s likely then that at ten fifteen Roger was on the phone arranging to meet Matthew Morgan – who, not coincidentally, will be back in the center of things over the next two episodes.
When this episode and the rest of the episodes for this week were being scripted, there was still the overall plan of having Roger killed off; so early on here it looks as though Roger may indeed have had something to do with Malloy’s murder, seen on the phone back in episode 46 making arrangements to meet up with Matthew in a last ditch effort to keep the Collins fleet plant manager from acting on his plans.
As we shall see in these next couple of episodes, Matthew would do anything to protect the good name and standing of Mrs. Stoddard, even if in the process he has to make an unsavory pact with her brother Roger. One man’s loyalty is another man’s downfall.
Today’s episode, at least the taping thereof, represents the point where executive producer Dan Curtis decides that Louis Edmonds is simply too good of an actor to let go.
At the end of Act I, as Roger gestures for Victoria to join him in the drawing room for a chat, there is a short break where the sound fades out momentarily. As the scene closes you can hear a few seconds of “hidden audio”; that is, a man’s voice is speaking, layered well beneath the main audio range. In the below image, the red cursor shows where in the following audio clip the voice can first be heard.
In the seconds leading up to the fadeout, there is a scene-closing music cue, a “sting” cue to conclude the scene on a dramatic note; following the heavy “sting” portion as the music cue peters out toward the break, with only minimal amplification and slight noise reduction, one can make out the voice of Dan Curtis from the control room, commenting to a fellow crew member after having just observed Louis Edmonds’ performance in a scene with Alexandra Moltke.
Note: Headphones are required to hear the “hidden audio” portion of the following audio clip:
Dan: Know what? I don’t think we should get rid of Louis Edmonds…
It is around this time during the series run where the viewer will begin to notice a slight modification in the approach taken by Louis Edmonds in his portrayal of Roger Collins. Almost overnight it seems the generally ice-cold, prickly demeanor, which thus far has been something of a hallmark of Roger’s generally callous attitude toward everyone around him even including his long-suffering benefactor in sister Elizabeth, will become more playful in terms of character interaction, taking on that more familiar sardonic tone of patronizing cocktail charm so typical of Roger Collins in the Dark Shadows of later years.
All because one day, in a sudden moment of illumination, the executive producer recognized in Louis Edmonds just how essential such a smooth and theatrical talent would be to the success of Dark Shadows.
“Believe it, …or not.”
As the scene change for the middle of Act II approaches, a boom mic is moving forward with the resulting shadow obscuring Alexandra Moltke’s face.
As the scene for the middle of Act II gets underway, Mitch Ryan says: “I wasn’t driving the car at the time of the accident – Collin knows it.”
There must be something about the set for Burke’s hotel room that results in scenes there between Sam Evans and Burke Devlin where the two actors on occasion will step on each other’s lines. It happened in episode 35, and here in episode 62 Mitch Ryan jumps in early so that as David Ford finishes his line they are both speaking at the same time.
Sam: …It can’t help you now, you’ve served your time.
Burke/Sam: Is that what/It’s over/you came here to say?
Also during the above scene from Act II, David Ford says the line: “You trying to destroy me in my own daughter?”; as given in the main post, it probably should have read: “[Are] You trying to destroy me in [the eyes of] my own daughter?”
In Act III, Mitch Ryan momentarily gets the middle of a line tangled: “You knew the only way Malloy could get… could make sure that Collins was driving that car was by incriminating you.” It sounds like “get” or “make sure” should have been said as “prove.”
During the second half of Act III, despite that the drawing room discussion between Roger and Victoria gets momentarily heated, Alexandra Moltke can be seen apparently trying to contain an urge to laugh, following Roger’s colorful line “…You had no right to report an argument that you didn’t know anything about, it’s only gossip for Burke to chew on!”; an indication that Louis Edmonds has gone off script and is ad-libbing away.
Also during this scene, when Victoria is asked by Roger to confirm whether she knew that he was on the phone at ten thirty, Alexandra Moltke says: “Yes, we talked about Sam Evases – Evans dinner invitation…” Kind of a double blooper there, given that the invitation came from Maggie.
Early on during Act IV, as Roger proceeds to pitch to Vicki a scheme to send her off to “friends” in Florida, as Louis Edmonds descends the stairs a boom mic shadow steals across the foyer wall alongside the electric candles, like the shadow of a huge mutant bumble bee.
Food & Drink in Collinsport:
At the middle of Act II, Roger is pouring a brandy when Victoria tells him that the version of the accident from ten years ago that she heard being told earlier that evening at the Evans cottage was different from Roger’s account.
A moment later, as the scene switches back to Burke’s room at the Collinsport Inn, Burke having denied Sam’s initial request for a drink brings him a glass only when certain that Sam is being sincere about wanting to get everything out in the open.
Joan Bennett’s 1970 autobiography (original front cover).
The Bennetts: An Acting Family, the 2004 biography (front cover).
The Louis Edmonds biography, Big Lou.
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.
Coming next: Episode 63: A Question of Murder
— Marc Masse
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