Episode 66: A Killer Alibi

Alibi_lead photo (2)_ep66

 

Set only in Collinwood, Monday’s episode, number sixty-six in the series, is a study in minimalism with four actors in the cast and only two sets in use. It’s just as well that they save a little in the budget to start the week, given how Dan Curtis is planning something big for Friday.

 

You’d figure David and Carolyn would be downstairs with all the raising of voices this evening in both the Collinwood foyer and drawing room over Burke’s unwanted presence there, but as noted above the week’s budget also calls for a slight cutback in realism. We’ll check in with the little monster and the belle of the ball as the week moves on. Today is for voicing suspicions in the death and disappearance, and subsequent washing ashore and pushing away, of Bill Malloy – specifically, on whether it’s reasonable to consider whether both Roger Collins and Matthew Morgan have been working as a team.

 

There is also ample room in today’s episode to explore the lonely plight of Victoria Winters’ upbringing in the foundling home in New York, with Mrs. Stoddard’s obvious pangs of guilt on full display but who is nonetheless unable to reveal the maternal truth the viewer by now is certain she has been keeping from the young governess. Sadly, today’s episode thus represents yet another lost opportunity in the story of Victoria Winters.

 

 

There is more to the Burke Devlin story on Dark Shadows than just Edmund Dantès in The Count of Monte Cristo. The significance of the English surname of Collins and the Irish name of Devlin would not have been lost on television viewers in the 1960s, a time when Northern Ireland was still under the subjugation of English rule dating back to the Anglo-Norman invasion. The related carryover of religious rivalry from the old world to the United States would also have resonated with viewers given how it had only been in that decade that the Irish were finally becoming socially fashionable what with the rise of the U.S. presidential administration of 1961-1965.

 

By the middle of that decade, you had drama series premiering on television where the main characters had Irish surnames; shows like Slattery’s People and The Trials of O’Brien, both of which though short-lived would air during the 1964-1965 season.

 

In a 1964 special television half-hour dedicated to previewing the CBS prime time lineup for that fall, host Buddy Ebsen describes the debut of the political drama Slattery’s People.

“The Monday schedule will feature a striking new hour-long drama series…”

CBS Fall Preview 1964_Buddy Ebsen describes Slattery's People (2)_ep66

 

As mentioned in Buddy Ebsen’s description, Richard Crenna stars as [James] Slattery, a minority leader in the state legislature fighting government injustice to give those of lesser means a voice in the system.

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When not voting on the floor of the legislature, Slattery is offering his services as a lawyer to the people who need it most, the constituents in the district he represents.

Slattery's People_Children of Calamity_Slattery makes a case for Angus Rosebury_ep66

 

In this way Slattery’s People is patterned after The Defenders, with the opening theme a similarly bold, anthemic salute to the ideals of honor and justice along with an emphasis on courtroom drama.

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(The) Defenders_Death Across the Counter_EG Marshall and Robert Reed_ep66

 

Already notable as being one of the only shows on the air to focus on local politicians along with all their issues and causes, [Jim] Slattery also has a home life outside of work to indicate that, yes, even politicians are people too.

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Elizabeth Allen co-stars as Pat Russell in the debut episode “Question: What Is Truth?” which aired at 10 pm Eastern on September 21, 1964.

Slattery's People_Question What Is Truth_Elizabeth Allen costars as Pat Russell_ep66

 

Slattery on the job has an assistant whose principal character function is to build his ego by offering an occasional line or two of encouragement whenever there’s a tall order in store – but mostly it’s to go places and get stuff that Slattery will need for a given task, thereby freeing up the lion’s share of episode air time to series star Richard Crenna.

 

“Oh, John, hustle back to the office…”

Slattery's People_CBS Promos_Slattery's assistant John Ramos (2)_ep66

 

That’s Paul Geary as Slattery’s assistant, the one actual Irish-American actor in the cast, playing John “Johnny” Ramos, a name of Spanish descent. As noted above from the opening credit, the title character of Slattery’s People is being played by an Italian-American actor. In an episode called “Question: Where Vanished the Tragic Piper?” (aka, Children of Calamity), we are introduced to another Irish character Slattery must work with professionally, a social welfare worker named Vera Donlon played by Jewish-American actress Lee Grant.

 

“I come from a long line of obstinate Irishmen…”

Slattery's People_Children of Calamity_Vera Donlon visiting Slattery's office_ep66

 

The fighting Irish, being represented for the first time on American prime time television. It was quite a new thing, as presented this way in an episode of a show like Slattery’s People, for characters to be discussing their respective ethnic background as something distinct in relation to the overall American experience.

 

“I’m Irish, too…”

Slattery's People_Children of Calamity_Vera and Slattery discuss being Irish_ep66

 

In 1964, it was okay to discuss being Irish just so long as you didn’t have an actual Irish-American actor or actress voicing the lines. Beyond the obvious ethnic stereotypes (i.e., the “dukes up and chin out” from the above audio clip), the Anglo-Saxon script writer for this episode doesn’t help the cause by inserting wild inaccuracies relating to the Irish-American experience.

 

“Have you ever been to a real Irish wake?”

Slattery's People_Children of Calamity_Slattery and Vera on the dance floor (1)_ep66

 

Leave it to a born in Hollywood screenwriter like Anthony Lawrence to make an Irish wake sound like a Polish wedding.

 

Should the modern reader still be retaining any lingering doubt as to the status of the Irish (Catholics) among Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-colonial populations even as late as the mid-1960s, witness the recollections of blue-eyed soul singer Van Morrison who was emerging as the leader of Belfast R&B music group Them during that time:

 

“I can remember in the ‘60s, to be from Ireland was a disadvantage. Now it’s not, fortunately. I was in London in the ‘60s and we were ostracised. Even if you were a rock star! You were just Paddy” (Q Magazine, August 1993; interview by Victoria Clarke).

 

Van Morrison, 1965.

Them_Van Morrison live in Paris_1965_ep43

 

Dark Shadows perhaps then scores yet another first in casting for the role of Burke Devlin an actual honest to god Irish-American actor to play the part. Despite that Burke will be quoting from the Bible in tomorrow’s episode, his religious denomination is never disclosed, so we can’t say with certainty whether Burke Devlin is Irish Catholic. One thing’s for sure, though; Mitch Ryan’s prominent jaw had to have come straight out of Celtic Briton.

Alibi_Mitch Ryan as Burke Devlin_opening scene_ep66

 

That’s the real reason there is only one true Burke Devlin on Dark Shadows and why the recasting of Mitch Ryan never worked; one can hardly improve on what they got perfect the first time.

 

And in this corner, weighing up in the millions despite having recklessly spent his inheritance, undefeated with a record of one betrayal and no convictions, Roger “the Manslaughterer” Collins!

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Welcome, fight fans, to the Drawing Room Palace for the rematch of the season! The moneyed English versus the fighting Irish.

Alibi_Roger prepares to face Burke_opening scene (2)_ep66

 

We’ll just allow the ladies to make their exit from the room, so that the games may get underway. Roger Collins has to be your odds-on favorite given his status as a Collins, but with the means acquired since his early release from prison five years ago, there’s always a chance the young upstart Devlin could pull off an upset.

 

Here now is the bell for the start of Round One.

 

Following the commercial break, Devlin wastes no time getting into position, hitting Collins right on the chin with the Big Question:

 

“Did you kill Bill Malloy?”

Alibi_Burke asks Roger if he killed Bill Malloy_Act I_ep66

 

With Devlin relying on his instincts as noted in the above audio clip, he can more easily measure his opponent given how the two men were once good friends. There is, however, no defense in the face of that famous Collins indignation, done with such fiery sincerity here by Louis Edmonds:

 

“Burke, you make me sick!”

Alibi_Roger tells Burke he makes him sick_Act II_ep66

 

Burke rebounds with cold, deductive logic – but Roger fades back, dances deftly around a tone of mild amusement, then moves in with a gaslighting right cross:

 

“It’s driven you insane!”

Alibi_Roger says that Burke has gone crazy_Act II_ep66

 

Score extra points for Louis Edmonds in that move, with that particularly marked elocution on the word “insane”; just letting it sing with a lilt that almost lends the word a double syllable. Nevertheless, the match has played out pretty even-handed thus far for both sides.

 

Now back to the action in the ring. Each man settles back, circling, on their toes, waiting for an opening that will allow them to move in with a glancing blow – but look out, Devlin seizes Collins by the arms as the match threatens to turn ugly!

 

“You’re judge and jury, aren’t you?”

Alibi_lead photo (1)_ep66

 

They’ll have to pull the fighters apart, and as Round One ends, let’s check in with Mrs. Stoddard and Miss Winters at ringside.

 

Mrs. Stoddard is understandably ill at ease this evening what with the controversial nature of Burke’s uninvited visit, especially with the above scene ending with the slamming of the drawing room doors as Burke intercepts Roger, who tried fleeing from the room once Burke began resorting to physical force. So to hopefully take her mind off the situation downstairs, she goes to Vicki’s room for a visit. The young governess is writing a letter, to herself as it turns out, with Vicki explaining that writing herself letters was one means of coping with the loneliness of the foundling home. Yet even this pales in comparison to her six days as governess to the Collins family.

 

Vicki: Not much ever happened to me, until I came to Collinwood.

Alibi_Vicki reflects on writing letters to herself_ep66

 

For that matter, not much has happened to Vicki since her arrival on the great estate; at least nothing that would help to further the plot points of her story. Just an occasional offhand speculation or a dead-end lead, but mostly an endless reserve of hope; the portrait of Betty Hanscom, however, at the Evans cottage in episode 60 offered something to indicate that Victoria Winters almost certainly had a flesh and blood origin connected with Collinsport. That was two Fridays ago now; they should be getting back to that portrait, and soon.

 

But with Act III getting underway, we now have the bell for the start of Round Two.

 

This is the episode where the timeline of events from the night Bill Malloy died becomes significant, getting reviewed thoroughly over the second half of the episode, as each of the fighters takes their position in the ring. These early Dark Shadows episodes with their theatrical drawing room scenes between Burke Devlin and Roger Collins are almost akin to courtroom drama, with Devlin the bullish prosecuting attorney and Roger only reluctantly agreeing to play the part of the beleaguered defense witness to placate Burke, thus getting him out the front door all the more sooner.

 

“You do want to get rid of me tonight, don’t you?”

Alibi_Roger is questioned by Burke_Act III (1)_ep66

 

It’s the repartee between the two characters, but most importantly that of the two actors bringing all their seasoned theater chops to infuse every phrase with color and movement, resulting in a certain cleverly eloquent vibrance.

 

“My dear fellow, I could produce reams of papers if I had to.”

Alibi_Roger talks of reams of papers_Act III_ep66

 

Roger’s mention of being on the phone in the drawing room and then interrupted by Miss Winters will turn out to be the knockout punch that ultimately disarms Burke’s determination, as Roger explains how she can help corroborate his movements that night between the time Bill Malloy left Collinwood and the time he stepped out to head for the meeting at his office that Malloy had set up for him, Sam, and Burke.

 

Burke: Vicki? She’s mixed up in this?

Alibi_Burke reacts to Vicki's part as Roger's possible alibi_ep66

 

Vicki’s just mainly mixed up in general, and in the scene that follows you have to wonder about the extent of Mrs. Stoddard’s responsibility in that; was she covering up for someone, like Paul Stoddard, or is it just her own innate sense of maternal guilt? Striking about this episode is how it moves like a symphony; explosive in the drawing room scenes between Burke and Roger, and then reflective, melancholy for the scenes in between – allegro-andante, allegro-andante, with that mournful flute hanging about in the background like a funerary black ribbon.

 

“I know what loneliness can be like…”

Alibi_Mrs. Stoddard asks Vicki if it's enough to know she's there now_ep66

 

For Victoria Winters, it all comes down to a sense of belonging, or the lack thereof.

 

“Isn’t it enough that you’re here now?”

Alibi_Vicki reflects on writing letters to herself (2)_ep66

 

Interesting how Mrs. Stoddard asks Vicki, “Isn’t it enough that you’re here now?” As if that were supposed to make up for a lifetime of loneliness over wondering who she is; perhaps in Mrs. Stoddard’s mind, it should.

 

If this moment plays out like a subtle hint that there may in fact exist a maternal connection between Elizabeth and Vicki, it would also be interesting to know whether Vicki herself has ever suspected the same connection. Fortunately, Art Wallace does cover this in the series bible. After finding an old letter written to Elizabeth from her husband Paul, Vicki realizes the handwriting is the same as the note that was left with her for the foundling home. She then assumes she must be an illegitimate child of Elizabeth and Paul; for when Elizabeth finally reveals the truth to Vicki, it seems natural that she would have thought so all along:

 

“It is a deeply moving, highly emotional sequence as Elizabeth tells Vicki that she is not Vicki’s mother, as Vicki had obviously suspected” (Shadows on the Wall, p. 81).

 

Unfortunately, not much of this background will be explored either today or any day. The portrait of Betty Hanscom won’t even be touched upon again until episode 97, another month and a half of episodes away. Even if you regularly binge watch these early Dark Shadows episodes, it’s often impossible to keep a mental record of where exactly in the series these story points are first touched upon and then revisited. That’s the eternal problem with the story of Victoria Winters, and that’s the trouble with the murder mystery made out of Bill Malloy’s disappearance and death, as epitomized here in the remaining scenes of today’s episode with Roger blindly but resolutely walking Vicki through the events of the ten o’clock hour the night Malloy disappeared.

 

We know there was a phone call Roger was making from the drawing room at ten-fifteen.

 

Roger: …Be sure you’re there. I’ll meet you. Yes, I – I’m sorry I can’t talk anymore.

Roger on the phone at ten fifteen_Act IV episode 46_ep47

 

That took place in Act IV of episode 46. Given caretaker Matthew Morgan’s suspiciously overzealous behavior since then, you can’t help but wonder if maybe Roger had been phoning down to Matthew’s cottage to meet up with him and perhaps enlist Matthew’s aid in intercepting Bill Malloy on his way to the meeting.

 

Then there’s the issue of Roger’s alibi, which during today’s episode he is attempting to secure. You can see the foyer clock as Roger steps out that night.

Roger prepares to step out_Act IV episode 46_ep47

 

For emphasis, the camera moves in slowly so the viewer will know this detail for future reference: twenty-five minutes past the hour.

Alibi_foyer clock in Act IV of episode 46_ep66

 

Thus for Roger’s alibi to make sense for the viewer, you had to have been there in front of the TV set and paying attention at around 4:25 pm Eastern on Monday August 29, 1966. If you stepped out of the room to see how the potatoes were boiling for that evening’s dinner, if you went to the front door to look in the mailbox to see if the latest unemployment check had arrived, or if you just happened to look down at the TV Guide to find out which music and singing stars were listed for Where the Action Is at 4:30, then you might have missed it. Again, even while binge watching Dark Shadows it’s easy to lose track of so seemingly insignificant a moment especially when it’s buried at the back end of a Monday episode.

 

That’s why the Bill Malloy story had no hope of saving Dark Shadows. It’s a story that could be told in ninety minutes or even a sixty-minute anthology show. At least that way, the viewer can keep track of all the minor but intriguing details and thereby feel more of a participation in the mystery as it unfolds, with all the inherent unforeseen surprises adding to the overall effect as the story resolves.

 

Mostly, though, Dan Curtis and company neglected to consider one significant question as it would have related to their afternoon viewing audience: Did anyone really care about Bill Malloy to begin with, enough so that you could invest months of speculating on what ultimately happened to the man?

 

Regardless, despite her uncertainty in the matter Roger is able to coax Miss Winters to come downstairs and unwittingly deliver the knockout punch that will declare Roger Collins the winner in this territorial grudge match between these two former friends.

 

Vicki: I have every reason to believe that he left the house when he said he did. At ten minutes of eleven.

Alibi_Vicki confirms Roger's story (2)_ep66

 

Left with no other choice but to make his exit, Burke leaves the folks at Collinwood with a not so subtle reminder that his vendetta against the Collins family is far from over.

 

“I’ll be back in Collinwood. Possibly to stay!”

Alibi_Burke swears he'll be back in Collinwood_Act IV (2)_ep66

 

There is no doubt that Burke Devlin will be back in Collinwood, but most probably for more of these frequent and unwelcome visits; so why should tomorrow or the next day be any different? Thunder and lightning couldn’t keep Burke away from Collinwood, all of which over time kind of get to be like a fixture among the great estate. If there’s trouble, or even the vaguest hint of an underlying suspicion, Burke will be up the hill to Collinwood like a shot. They could put a lock on the front door, or a peephole to see who’s there when someone knocks, or they could finally just refuse to open the door for him; but that wouldn’t be right…

 

For this is Collinsport –

Where the Devlins

Talk to the Collinses,

And the Collinses

Talk only to ghosts.

 

Alibi_Burke has drawing room tea_Act I (1)_ep66

 

Alfred Hitchcock serving tea to Leo the Lion in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio, 1967.

Alfred Hitchcock_serving tea to Leo the Lion in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio_1967

 

Note: The lines of verse that close the main body of today’s post are actually a variation of “The Boston Toast” as given by John Collins Bossidy for a 1910 alumni dinner at the New England Catholic college, Holy Cross. Transcribed versions tend to vary in wording; one of the more widely available reads as:

 

And this is good old Boston,

The home of the bean and the cod,

Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots,

And the Cabots talk only to God.

 

Background/Production Notes:

Today’s episode is the ninth overall to be set only in Collinwood, with the previous instances episodes 59, 48, 31, 25, 23, 18, 6, and 4.

 

In the opening scene, Roger Collins refers to the diner at the Collinwood Inn as the “hotel café”; he will make the same reference in episode 71. Eventually, everyone will just refer to the place as a coffee shop, but not for quite a while yet. To this point, it has always been referred to as a restaurant, and it was only once in episode 29 when Carolyn calls it “the Collinsport Restaurant” that the set is referenced exactly as it was originally scripted.

 

(Page 3 of the script for episode 1)

Page 3 of original script for episode 1

 

Above image taken from the book Dark Shadows: The First Year, by Nina Johnson and O. Crock (summary writers), Blue Whale Books, 2006.

 

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:

As Roger in Act I outlines the possibilities of bringing a slander suit against Burke, the shadow of the boom mic can be seen moving over Louis Edmonds’ jacket and face.

 

During the scene between Mrs. Stoddard and Miss Winters in Act II, a crew member in the production area can be heard coughing on two separate occasions.

 

Early in Act III, a huge boom mic shadow intersects with that of Mitch Ryan against the drawing room doors.

Alibi_blooper_boom mic shadow_Act III_ep66

 

As Roger recounts the night Vicki came downstairs to talk with him in the drawing room, Louis Edmonds says the line as: “Well if you must know, she was going to tell me about a dinner party she had with Sam Evans.” Vicki telling Roger about the dinner party occurred in episode 62, but only because Roger dragged it out of her. As of episode 46, Vicki had only told Roger of Maggie inviting her to a dinner party at the Evans cottage.

 

With the episode in its final moments, camera angles go haywire as the operator loses control, with one of these images in evidence below.

Alibi_blooper_camera gaffe_Act IV (1)_ep66

 

Food & Drink in Collinsport:

Having seen what awaits him in the drawing room, Roger has poured himself a drink almost immediately upon having entered. He is seen taking the glass to his lips, but then drinks it down off camera as the angle switches to pick up Victoria’s angry reaction following Roger’s caustic remarks about her alleged “eternal prying”.

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During Act I while out in the foyer with Vicki and worrying about how things are going between Burke and Roger behind closed drawing room doors, Elizabeth finally decides to go to the kitchen for some tea…

Alibi_Mrs. Stoddard talks with Vicki about Burke Devlin_Act I_ep66

 

…while in the drawing room Burke pours himself some tea from the tray Mrs. Stoddard had brought into the drawing room toward the end of yesterday’s episode.

Alibi_Burke pours himself tea_Act I_ep66

 

This Week in TV Guide:

Following Dark Shadows episode 66 in the 4:30 Eastern time slot, Dick Clark’s youth-oriented music program Where the Action Is began its third season on ABC with episode number 323 overall.

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In his episode intro outlining what would be in store for the new season, WTAI creator and host Dick Clark made a special point on what the show had to offer specifically for younger viewers.

 

“You know, the amazing thing about a television schedule, when you look at it, there’s very little on there that’s specifically designed for young people…”

WTAI_Dick Clark intro for third season_26 Sep 1966_ep66

 

“When it comes to Where the Action Is, you never know what’s gonna happen next.”

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What Dick Clark neglected to mention in his program intro was that he was about to unleash that very afternoon on ABC’s young viewing audience the potentially corrosive influence of psychedelic rock in having as a guest performer the 13th Floor Elevators, a group of musicians from Austin, Texas who were fond of drenching their combined jug band and R&B styled music in a deeply potent acid sparkle; so much so that all four band members often rehearsed, recorded, and performed live all their music while under the influence of LSD. You can bet they were tripping that day as well for their mimed performance on WTAI of You’re Gonna Miss Me, their debut single which had hovered for a while around the top 50 regions of both the U.S. and Canadian national singles charts earlier that year after having emerged as a local hit in Austin.

 

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Neither Dick Clark nor anyone else involved in the production of WTAI could hardly have been blamed if their impressionable viewing audience got converted from Fizzies to trippies, given how as of September 1966 the word “psychedelic” had not yet entered the cultural lexicon. Besides, what could possibly go wrong? The 13th Floor Elevators after all had innocent little ditties about fire engines and roller coasters and, you know, these funny things called reverberations, which you can even see when you’re on, well…

 

The 13th Floor Elevators performing in one of their earliest gigs around Austin, at a venue called the Jade Room, December 1965.

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The 13th Floor Elevators themselves are often credited with first use of the term in popular music, with the release that fall of their debut album The Psychedelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators. The Blues Magoos, from The Bronx, New York, were also among the earliest to publicly coin the term, having crafted their brand of pop-oriented R&B into the top five hit (We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet along with the release of their debut album Psychedelic Lollipop in November. Philadelphia music group The Deep also deserve an honorable mention, with their concept album Psychedelic Moods, released around the same time as the above two seminal albums, designed to replicate the mental landscape through the full duration of an acid trip.

 

The opening track on the album, however, sounds more like an homage to the notorious avant-garde act from New York known as the Velvet Underground, sponsored by the controversial pop-art icon Andy Warhol. With the song Color Dreams, The Deep seem to be reaching for the song Run, Run, Run, which would appear on the Velvets’ first album, with the famous banana design on the cover.

 

(The) Deep_Psychedelic Moods_CD cover_front_ep66

 

It has often been said about the Velvet Underground that only two hundred or so people may have bought their first album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, but they all formed bands as a result. It says even more about their legendary influence how a group of musicians in a city almost a hundred miles away could be so profoundly influenced to the point of creative imitation almost a year before the release of the Velvets’ iconic debut album in March 1967.

 

Here is an early soundboard recording of the Velvet Underground performing Sister Ray, which would appear on their second album White Light, White Heat, here done live at The Gymnasium in New York during April 1967.

 

Velvet Underground_April Sounds_pperformance photo from back of CD_ep66

 

Whereas both the Elevators and Blues Magoos had the psychedelic term in the titles of their respective debut albums, The Deep went a step further in titling one of their songs Psychedelic Moods.

 

(The) Deep_Psychedelic Moods_CD cover_back_ep66

 

By the light of the psychedelic moon

I saw your face collapsing

Into something grotesque

And even golem-like;

 

I may well lose my mind

Here tonight

By the light of the psychedelic moon

 

[Amazonian mushrooms will do that to you, by the way, rather effectively.]

 

In August 1966, the term psychedelic was so new and still so uncommon that it got frequently misspelled by recording studio staff during the sessions for Psychedelic Moods, as shown by the master tape boxes given in the image above and the studio log sheets in the image below. They even had a song called… Shadows on the Wall!

 

(The) Deep_the word psychedelic misspelled_studio log sheet_ep66

 

While it cannot be determined with certainty whether any of the kids tuning in to see the 13th Floor Elevators on WTAI that day were subsequently inspired to Turn on, Drop Out, I like to think of the eventual outcome as something like…

 

WTAI kids 1966: “M&Ms; melts in your mouth, not in your hands.”

WTAI kids 1973: “LSD; melts in your mind, not in your hands.”

 

Splash I (aka, I’ve Seen Your Face Before), from the album The Psychedelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators.

13th Floor Elevators_Psychedelic Sounds_CD cover (back)_ep66

 

For prime time viewing that Monday, viewers in the Fresno, California area could tune in at 8 pm to KICU-TV independent channel 43 for syndicated episodes of One Step Beyond, the anthology series exploring psychic phenomena and supernatural events which ran from 1959 to 1961.

TV Guide_Monday evening_26 Sep 1966 (1)_ep66

 

Hosted by John Newland, One Step Beyond is often referenced in association with the “paranormal craze” of the 1950s. Indeed, there seems to have been widespread interest in the topic well in advance of One Step Beyond, as evidenced by the British Pathé “ghost hunter” newsreels from earlier that decade.

 

“…the average ghost is quite reasonable…”

British Pathe_ghost hunters 1950s news reels_1950s (2)

 

Besides being groundbreaking and memorable in the area of its subject matter, One Step Beyond is also notorious for one particular episode, removed from the long-running syndication package for the series including even modern DVD compilations, which explored and promoted the mind-altering effects of the hallucinatory drug known as psilocybin or “magic mushrooms” but which at that time had yet to be scientifically classified.

 

“This member of the mushroom family, this fungus, is for the moment known only as ‘X’…”

One Step Beyond_Sacred Mushroom_opening_ep66

 

“…it stimulates extrasensory perception.”

One Step Beyond_Sacred Mushroom_John Newland opening monologue_ep66

 

Says the man who was tripping his lapels off right on prime time network television – in 1961!

 

When interviewed about this episode in 1999 by author and journalist John Kenneth Muir, Newland described the effects of the “sacred” mushroom as experienced firsthand:

 

Muir: Did you feel anything strange when you sampled the mushroom?

Newland: I felt light-headed…and a sense of well being…the stuff was distilled. It was very powerful, but not poisonous, so I didn’t have any trepidations.

Muir: Were there after-effects?

Newland: I had flashbacks and hallucinatory moments for about a month.

Muir: But nothing psychic or paranormal happened?

Newland: No. Not a grain.

 

So, nothing life altering or monumentally earth shattering, but pleasant and reassuring; sounds about right.

 

The most fascinating question remaining is how on earth did network television allow a virtual infomercial for magic mushrooms to even air?

 

Newland: Alcoa told us that the show was so bizarre, that we don’t dare put it on the air.

Muir: So how did you salvage the episode?

Newland: Well, [Dr.] Puharich asked me to take the mushroom, and I was game, so we took a camera crew and drove to Palo Alto and Puharich’s laboratory. Once there, I had three cameras rolling the whole time, and I told the cameramen to just keep shooting until we ran out of film. We decided to shoot and shoot and shoot and see what happened.

Muir: Going back to “The Sacred Mushroom,” your involvement with Puharich in the lab saved the show for broadcast.

Newland: Alcoa saw it and considered my testimony “proof enough,” to air the show. As I said, it became our most popular episode.

 

“Alcoa presents a new and unusual kind of television program…”

One Step Beyond_Brainwave_Alcoa ad (1)_ep66

 

John Newland eating from a selection of magic mushrooms in the laboratory of Dr. Andrija Puharch during the “Sacred Mushroom” episode.

One Step Beyond_Sacred Mushroom_John Newland eating mushrooms (2)_ep66

One Step Beyond_Sacred Mushroom_John Newland describes effects of mushrooms (3)_ep66

One Step Beyond_Sacred Mushroom_John Newland describes effects of mushrooms (2)_ep66

One Step Beyond_Sacred Mushroom_John Newland describes effects of mushrooms (1)_ep66

One Step Beyond_Sacred Mushroom_John Newland describes effects of mushrooms (4)_ep66

 

That Monday night in syndication in September 1966, Fresno’s KICU-TV channel 43 was airing the episode “The Captain’s Guests” from the first season of One Step Beyond. Written by Charles Beaumont, whose work many will associate with Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone, The Captain’s Guests is a tale of possession done in such a manner that it seems this episode in several ways would influence Dark Shadows.

 

See that portrait in the background? That’s a long-dead sea captain named Michael Clausen, who lived and thrived during the nineteenth century and who used to own that coastal New England house that this young married couple have just rented.

One Step Beyond_Captain's Guests_Andrew and Ellen looking over the house_ep66

 

Doesn’t he remind you a bit of Gerard Stiles from the 1840 storyline of Dark Shadows?

One Step Beyond_Captain's Guests_portrait of Michael Clausen_ep66

 

Andrew Courtney becomes preoccupied with the portrait of Clausen, whose supernatural powers begin controlling him through the portrait, a bit like how Willie Loomis on Dark Shadows first comes under the thrall of Barnabas in 1967.

One Step Beyond_Captain's Guests_Andrew Courtney becomes absorbed by Clausen's portrait_ep66

 

Some viewers have said this episode of One Step Beyond is really a “loose” adaptation of H P Lovecraft’s short novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Based on the above, however, it seems to be derived more from a combination of Donovan’s Brain, the edgy 1953 sci-fi movie about a scientist who becomes possessed through the brainwaves of the dying but sadistic tycoon he attempts to save, and The Uninvited, the seminal haunted house on a hill by the sea movie from 1944.

 

Andrew Courtney seized by an inexplicable and debilitating condition with his right leg as the possession starts taking hold in The Captain’s Guests.

One Step Beyond_Captain's Guests_the possession of Andrew Courtney begins taking hold_ep66

 

Finally, the idea for the signature “fang bangs” of Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows may well have come from having seen John Lormer as the realtor (Mr. Leach) who rents the Clausen house to the Courtney’s in The Captain’s Guest.

One Step Beyond_Captain's Guests_John Lormer as the realtor Mr. Leach_ep66

 

Whether or not the latter point is true, this episode of One Step Beyond will come up in this blog for study again and again, especially as during this very week of episodes for the final week of September 1966 Dark Shadows prepares to make its very own, unique one step beyond.

 

Further along, as the phoenix story develops on Dark Shadows, we will also be examining another 1959 episode, Dead Ringer, about a young married woman named Esther Quentin who is frequently plagued by fevers and subsequent dream visions of fires being set, which later turn out to have occurred just as she had seen them in her mind. She blames these incidents on her sister, whom no one is ever able to locate. The story revolves around the concept of what host John Newland describes as an “ethereal double” with the resulting phenomenon of bilocation, the ability to be in two locations at once. It turns out that her sister had in fact died many years previous… by fire.

 

Norma Crane as Esther Quentin/Emily Harkness in Dead Ringer.

One Step Beyond_Dead Ringer_Norma Crane as Esther Quentin_opening scene_ep66

 

Theme music for One Step Beyond by Harry Lubin.

One Step Beyond_John Newland presents_ep66

 

Recommended Reading:

Joan Bennett’s 1970 autobiography (original front cover).

Joan Bennett cast member spotlight_The Bennett Playbill_front cover_ep25

 

The Bennetts: An Acting Family, the 2004 biography.

Joan Bennett cast member spotlight_The Bennetts An Acting Family_front cover_ep25

 

The Louis Edmonds biography, Big Lou.

Louis Edmonds_Big Lou (front cover)_image 3A

 

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

 

Coming next: Episode 67: Mourning Has Broken

 

— Marc Masse

(aka PrisoneroftheNight)

 

© 2020 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.

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