Some Dark Shadows fans wonder why it is that when the actor recast for Sam Evans makes his debut in episode 35 there is a special announcement over the opening theme but there is none for when Thayer David takes over as Matthew Morgan as of episode 38. In retrospect, given Thayer David’s stature as an actor, and especially that he is beloved by Dark Shadows fans, it would seem like quite an oversight, a blooper even.
The reason has more to do with each given character’s place in the overall story. In Shadows on the Wall, Sam Evans is given space in the introductory character sketches – within the profile for Margaret Evans, but nonetheless there is ample length devoted to the complexities of Sam’s moods and character, not to mention his place as a peripheral but key figure in the Burke Devlin story, while on the other hand the occasional presence of the Collinwood caretaker as created for the TV series appears to fulfill more of a functional role. At least that was how the first incarnation was utilized: drama and menace for Vicki’s introduction to the basement; a source of background information on the Collins family and Devlin when Vicki was asking about any possible connections with Bangor the Collinses may have had; or a narrative function where Matthew would report to Mrs. Stoddard and describe the scene of Roger’s accident.
Yet for the second instance in the past two weeks, Thayer David’s Matthew Morgan is at the forefront while making things happen and also for the second time in two weeks is appearing in back-to-back episodes – something that did not occur with George Mitchell’s Matthew Morgan. With the big change between the two incarnations having been to sacrifice the Bill Malloy character for a murder mystery, it would be reasonable to assume that Matthew must in some way have been responsible for Malloy’s death, unless one is willing to consider what Matthew did with Malloy’s body when it had washed up that night at Widow’s Hill normal.
“What’s the matter, Miss Marsh? You ain’t afraid of me, are you?”
That’s Bib Hadley, as portrayed by actor Peter Whitney, in a 1963 episode from The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
In his intro to the episode, Hitchcock describes Terror at Northfield as “…a story of a small town terrorized by an unknown assailant.”
Dick York stars as Sheriff Will Pearce whose job of solving the murder of first one, and then another, member of the community is compounded by the deep sense of panic eroding the trust between the townspeople over the grim prospect that there may be a killer operating in their midst.
Jacqueline Scott co-stars as Will’s girlfriend Susan Marsh, one of the town’s librarians who during the murder spree and while on the job alone one night is confronted with an unwelcome visit from Bib Hadley.
Bib Hadley’s main function is to, in the mind of the viewer at least, widen the pool of possible suspects by further unnerving Miss Marsh with a startling confession.
Freelance butcher Bib Hadley frightening Susan Marsh in Terror at Northfield is somewhat similar to the way Collinwood caretaker Matthew Morgan serves as an occasional menacing presence around Victoria Winters on Dark Shadows. Incidentally, the original character name for Victoria Winters was supposed to have been Sheila March. So, Susan Marsh, Sheila March?
Perhaps you’ve wondered why it was that the makers of Dark Shadows figured that a murder mystery might have proven to be the quick fix for a sudden drop in ratings. The answer is Alfred Hitchcock, at the time every bit the iconic face of mystery/suspense as Rod Serling was for fantasy stories with a surreal twist – and because this had never been done on daytime television before. Sure, they had The Edge of Night on in the afternoons since the 1950s, but that was a Perry Mason derivative whose creator had also started the famous nighttime series; and besides, Perry Mason was the favorite of every grandmother from the Lawrence Welk generation whereas Hitchcock was a whole lot, if you’ll pardon the pun, edgier.
Further similarities between Hitchcock’s Terror at Northfield and the Dark Shadows detour down the uncertain back roads of the Bill Malloy story will be highlighted below; for now, let’s examine some of the ways in which Alfred Hitchcock may have influenced Dan Curtis as a director.
Whereas the earliest films directed by Dan Curtis appear more English overall in tone – first his Jekyll and Hyde remake, which was even made in England, then the Hammer Films Dracula homage that was House of Dark Shadows – it is finally with the prolific run of TV movies beginning in the early 1970s that the more stateside signature style of Dan Curtis the director becomes apparent, with all those Hitchcock-patterned long shots for emphasis and effect; the latter especially becoming notable in his final Dark Shadows–related theatrical release, Night of Dark Shadows…
…where Curtis is pulling a vertigo with such elaborately dizzying angles as this:
…and still again in Burnt Offerings, the proto-sequel to Night of Dark Shadows – or was Night of Dark Shadows really just a pre-make of Burnt Offerings? The truth is somewhere in between, and yet is somehow oddly both of the above.
Let’s take as an example Hitchcock’s 1959 masterpiece North by Northwest, where we see Roger Thornhill fleeing the UN building after realizing he has been framed for a murder that took place inside before a crowd of people.
Some fans complain about the way Dan Curtis does long shots while shooting within interior sets, but this is something picked up from the same movie. Part of North by Northwest takes place in a clifftop dwelling on Mount Rushmore, the home of Phillip Vandamm, but which was in fact a set constructed in Culver City, California.
The set featured a cantilevered living room, with generous helpings of limestone…
…so one shouldn’t criticize a director for wanting to show this off in full.
By the time Dan Curtis was winding down with his days as an executive producer for daytime television and getting ready to explore the life of a film director full time, mainstream television had already been incorporating the stylistic nuances of cinematography pioneered by Hitchcock in the previous decade.
Odds Against Donald Jordan is a 1969 episode of Mannix by a director who had a rather short career as a television director, some say mercifully so.
To say the least, Hagmann’s style could aptly be described as busy, as indicated by the opening scene which begins with a Charlotte’s Web ceiling cam…
…and then switches to floor level for a more conventional two-shot…
…followed by the obligatory tight close-ups…
…for dramatic emphasis…
..before leaping back up into Charlotte’s Web.
The scene builds into a fight sequence…
…which through Stuart Hagmann’s active lens quickly comes to resemble something akin to a bad acid trip…
…with the height of the angle constantly in flux…
…while as Jordan flees his assailants…
…Hagmann just flips the angle upside down…
…and then it’s time for the opening credits.
Anyone still in doubt over Stuart Hagmann’s likely influence on Dan Curtis as a director is referred to the following comparison of each director’s respective technique as it relates to actor close-ups utilizing for sweeping effect a dramatic zooming in…
…first with Stuart Hagmann in the above scene from Mannix, where the camera moves in so close on the actor’s face that the lens appears to “bend” with a somewhat nauseating distorted facial effect…
…then with Dan Curtis the following year in a scene from House of Dark Shadows, with a similarly woozy effect on the viewer.
Then there’s a 1975 episode of The Rockford Files called Charlie Harris at Large, where Jim Rockford is called upon to help an old associate who may have been framed for murder.
While Rockford is visiting Charlie Harris at his hideout…
…the viewer is treated to a bug’s eye view…
“This is a real nice hideout.”
…and then another…
“I should’ve known you’d go first class, even as a fugitive.”
…before finally getting back to sea level.
Yet the above Rockford Files episode was directed not by Stuart Hagmann, but by Russ Mayberry – a mainstream talent who over several prolific decades directed at least one episode of any show you could possibly name from the first thirty years or so of the era of television, a testament to how those directorial long shots innovated by the likes of Hitchcock had indeed become a “thing” over time, which a director like Dan Curtis should not be blamed for making use of.
It should therefore come as no surprise that Dan Curtis would embrace Hitchcock, at least in terms of story content, during his earliest days with Dark Shadows. Not everyone working on the show at the time was on board, however – most notably Thayer David.
Recall from episode 51 the questionable behavior of Roger Collins, who seemed to have more extensive prior knowledge of Bill Malloy’s fate than anyone – excepting of course Matthew Morgan. There’s the moment when Roger urges Elizabeth to go upstairs to bed, but she instead goes to Matthew’s cottage to have a word with the caretaker about what he saw or might have seen along the rocks beneath Widow’s Hill. After Elizabeth has stepped out of the drawing room, Roger goes to the phone to make a call.
“Hello, Evans? I wanted to know if you had had any word from our friend, Bill Malloy…”
The viewer is left to wonder what such a momentary diversion could possibly accomplish, and the answer is nothing at all because it was only created to give Joan Bennett time to get to the set for Matthew’s cottage, from which the remainder of Act II is allowed to resume.
It is during this interval where Thayer David can be heard grumbling in loud whispers from the nearby set about how displeased he was about his first job on Dark Shadows.
Dan Curtis had just learned from production colleagues that Thayer wasn’t enthusiastic about what he was expected to bring across in his portrayal of Matthew Morgan, because of who the character was now based on since he came on board to replace George Mitchell.
Below are clips termed “hidden audio” which require the use of headphones as well as significantly high speaker volume to be heard.
In the following, Dan gets on the control room microphone alerting episode director John Sedwick to remind Thayer what they are looking for.
Dan: Remind Thayer it’s important he’s got to play it with real chops.
John Sedwick: Thayer, we need you to play the role of Matthew with great menace.
Thayer: I know that!
Thayer: I hate Bib Hadley!
Nevertheless, a job is a job.
Episode 64 finds Matthew Morgan at the Blue Whale waiting for Burke Devlin to show up. One would think he might have a better chance of finding Devlin sooner by waiting in the lobby of the Collinsport Inn, or even going up to knock on his door. Matthew will explain to the sheriff during this episode that he wouldn’t want for Mrs. Stoddard to find out about what happened at the Blue Whale, so that’s why he causes a violent confrontation in a public place with a room full of witnesses.
If the viewer has wondered whether Matthew Morgan and Roger Collins may have been in cahoots as a dangerous double act in the disappearance and death of Bill Malloy, episode 64 throws a teaser into play.
“Who sent you here, Roger Collins?”
Matthew reiterates the threats he made back in episode 38.
“You’re out of your mind!”
Burke thus far has accused one other Collinwood resident of being out of his mind during a heated confrontation, Roger Collins back in episode 20.
“You’re out of your mind!”
The scene Matthew subsequently causes at the Blue Whale brings the sheriff in to break it up, and both Matthew and Burke get hauled down to the station.
“You gonna arrest me sheriff?”
So, the overriding question presented by this episode seems to center on whether Burke should be justified in believing that Matthew may have been put up to something by Roger Collins, the implication of which would make both Matthew and Roger prime suspects in the disappearance and death of Bill Malloy.
“Collinwood breeds murderers…”
Yet, as is the case so often in these early Dark Shadows episodes, there is room for the occasional levity brought with light comic relief.
“What did you do that for?”
Given that Matthew is beginning to look and act like a prime suspect along with Roger, it’s time for Sam Evans to be ruled out once and for all, which Burke does here for the viewer.
“If it wasn’t Evans, it has to be Roger Collins…”
Burke has half the puzzle solved, at least in terms of how the writers were approaching the story arc before Dan Curtis decided that Louis Edmonds was simply too good of an actor to let go by having his character killed off as originally planned.
The other half of the puzzle is “a half-crazy caretaker” as Burke in this episode refers to Matthew Morgan, Collinsport’s answer to Bib Hadley who tonight was out “having himself a time” at the Blue Whale, all in the sacred name of Collins.
Dark Shadows extras:
Ann Leeman and Allan Lindstrom are making their second of three consecutive episode appearances as Blue Whale customers.
Katherine Quint and Russ Karsen are the younger couple at the Blue Whale, each making their second and final episode appearance as Blue Whale customers.
The other two uncredited extras at the Blue Whale include new “regular” George McCoy (top), who made his Dark Shadows debut in episode 63, and the bartender played by Bob O’Connell.
The Blue Whale jukebox today is finally playing a different tune; that is, music not composed by Bob Cobert.
Unlike the trio of faux “surfing” instrumentals by the Dark Shadows composer, the instrumental featured today is right up-to-the-season contemporary, complete with vibraphones, whereas the oft-played Cobert guitar instrumentals seem more like leftovers from, say, 1961 – when such an approach would have been more fashionable (as pioneered by the British guitar group the Shadows in the 1950s).
In a word, this new instrumental is badass, and more appropriately sets the mood for the confrontation between Matthew and Burke than anything Cobert had previously supplied for the Blue Whale jukebox. Who knows, maybe Dan Curtis asked, but Cobert just couldn’t deliver; nobody’s perfect.
At first you think it might be something that Booker T and the MGs would have recorded, or some other artist from the famous Stax Records label, but the rhythm section on this is much heavier, the perfect setup for the tension that both begins and defines the scene.
“Hello, Matthew. What are you doing here?”
Most likely, this track was never intended for release to any of the commercial markets, but was instead more probably “library” music, the soundtrack equivalent of stock sound effects.
George Romero’s seminal zombie flick Night of the Living Dead is a prime example of the use of library music. It’s the reason you hear all these music cues that you could swear might have been played in those teen-oriented sci-fi movies of the 1950s – because they were.
Library music was also used for such well-known TV shows from the fifties as the Adventures of Superman, only then such commonly used cues were referred to as the MUTEL Library, otherwise known as Music for Television.
The 1950s also saw the creation of the Capitol Records Hi-Q library, which was the source used for Night of the Living Dead.
Into the 1960s, with many television shows constrained by low production budgets, library music was still a common staple. The Quinn Martin productions of that period used library music cues even for their most popular nighttime programs, including The Fugitive.
Episode from The Fugitive: Fun and Games and Party Favors (1965)
While the Ford Motor Company may have paid the bills for The FBI, it still obviously wasn’t enough to cover the cost of paying for a composer, recording sessions, and union fees for musicians.
Here’s one of those rock-oriented music cues as heard in a 1967 episode called Act of Violence.
That same type of generic, guitar-noodling rock music jam can be heard in The Invaders, right from the first episode where David Vincent is investigating strange goings-on at a hydroelectric plant in a small town. The town seems deserted save for a lone café with a working jukebox.
Those are the Ackerman girls…
…who would never let some alien invasion with the potential for human extinction spoil their fun.
With regard to stock sound effects used on Dark Shadows, the effect used for the impact of Roger’s car accident in episode 15 is a well-traveled sound clip. Previous to Dark Shadows, it could be heard in the 1963 motion picture The Pink Panther, and before that in a 1959 episode from The Untouchables called The Underground Railway. After Dark Shadows, it could be heard in two episodes of The Odd Couple (Security Arms from 1972 and The Insomniacs from 1974).
Sounds a bit like Roger crashed into a phone booth; they were all over the place in those days.
Now for the possible root inspiration Bob Cobert may have drawn on for those oft-used guitar instrumentals from the Blue Whale jukebox that a number of Dark Shadows fans seem to enjoy, while others wonder why the same three numbers are used over and over.
While the principal architects of the rock instrumental guitar groups were the musicians in England known as the Shadows (perhaps best known for backing Cliff Richard), America’s answer to this format was the Ventures, whose debut LP was released in December 1960 and went gold the following year on the strength of the title track, a top five single called Walk, Don’t Run.
If for the Blue Whale jukebox Bob Cobert wanted to research a style of guitar instrumental that would seem somewhat 1960s contemporary, he would naturally have given a listen to that first Ventures album.
There’s that up-tempo music cue Fast Blue Whale, also known as Back at the Blue Whale, which starts off like this:
Those very basic opening chords sound like a slight variation of how the guitars come in for Walk, Don’t Run by the Ventures:
Then there’s Slow Blue Whale, also known as #1 At The Blue Whale, which starts off like this:
Also on that first Ventures album was a cover of Sleep Walk, a hit for Santo and Johnny in 1959. Their later reworking of the track for a Ventures greatest hits compilation sounds even closer to the Blue Whale slow dancer so shrewdly retooled from the Ventures’ earlier rendition of Sleep Walk.
By way of guitar group the Ventures, Bob Cobert was always number one at the Blue Whale; and number two, and number three…
In the opening scene Carolyn is pressing her mother for an explanation as to why Maggie Evans came up to Collinwood to talk to her, while a boom mic shadow is fidgeting against the top of the nearby chair.
As the discussion between Elizabeth and Carolyn gets heated in Act I, a crew member can be seen through the drawing room window passing by just outside the set.
In Act I, Joan Bennett says: “…I believe Burke intends to use poor Bur – Bill’s death…”
While Elizabeth is on the phone with Sheriff Patterson in Act II, Joan Bennett says: “He hasn’t been there – here.”
As Sheriff Patterson admonishes Burke to leave the police work to him in Act III, Dana Elcar says: “…I don’t want you going around acting judge, jury, and ectocutioner”; this must refer to the slaying of ectoplasmic forms, which, especially around Collinwood, will eventually come in quite handy on Dark Shadows – a good ectocutioner is hard to find.
Dana Elcar has another memorable gaffe in Act IV while ordering Matthew to stay away from Devlin and just tend to his job up at Collinwood: “…you work their farm for them, carry their firewood…”; Matthew, of course, works on the Collins family estate – Bib Hadley, however, worked on farms.
Food & Drink in Collinsport:
Having seated himself in the Blue Whale during episode 63, Matthew Morgan here in episode 64 has been allowing his thoughts to marinate in draft beer for a half-hour by the time Burke Devlin shows up in Act II.
Burke joins Matthew for a drink in Act II before the scene erupts in chaos.
Joan Bennett’s 1970 autobiography (original front cover).
The Bennetts: An Acting Family, the 2004 biography.
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 65: Bull in a Collins Shop
— Marc Masse
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