Episode 75: On a Clear Day, You Can See Murder

Clear Day_Roger and Vicki_top of Widow's Hill_Act II (2)_ep75

“Roger’s tension is increased. Learning about Burke’s meetings with Vicki, he…once again…probes, endlessly wanting to know every word that was spoken between them…feeling, more and more, that Vicki and Burke are united to harm him” (Shadows on the Wall, p. 50)

That was supposed to have been the aftermath of the brake valve caper which led to Roger’s accident back at the end of the third week.

It is now Friday October 7, 1966, and Dark Shadows is airing an episode that concludes its fifteenth week on the air. Roger spends the first half of today’s episode admiring the view from atop Widow’s Hill, when Vicki, herself out for a walk with a view, happens upon Roger there: “Not planning to jump, are you?” She reiterates the line Roger startled her with back in episode 2, and here today Roger offers a belated but good-natured apology.

That’s Art Wallace for you, always reprising an earlier situation but with none of the story resolve such repetition might bring about. In yesterday’s episode, David was sneaking into Burke’s hotel room just like in episode 29. In episode 73, David stole away from Collinwood into town and Collinsport Inn to visit Burke but stopped in at the restaurant downstairs for a sundae, just like in episode 28.

Two weeks from now will have the run of episodes 81 to 85 where David locks Vicki away in a secret room in the closed off wing of the house, on the pretext of having something important to show her – not a filigreed fountain pen, which is a prop and product of the TV series itself along with the indeterminate side avenue into mystery and suspense with the death of Bill Malloy. These will be the final week of episodes written by Art Wallace. What should be happening right around now with today’s episode between Roger and Vicki according to the series bible is more tension:

“Roger’s pressure on Vicki is heightened. Playing on her unsureness, on her growing tension, he tries to get her to leave. Roger and David….almost seem to be working as a unit in their constant harassment of Vicki. They make the legends of the old house seem alive as they surround her with constant reference to the horrors that live with them” (Shadows on the Wall, p. 55).

Instead we have a dead plant manager, a silver filigreed fountain pen found on a beach, and up until this afternoon a prime murder suspect who on this fine day tosses pebbles instead of governesses over the edge of Widow’s Hill, all because too many ABC affiliates across the country thought it would be a great idea to fit Dark Shadows in at 10:30 am instead of 4 pm where it belongs.

TV Guide_Dark Shadows listing Monday 3 October 1966_10.30 am_page A24_ep71

Today is a day so clear off the top of Widow’s Hill, you can actually see that in the death of Bill Malloy, Roger and Matthew have probably been working as a team, even if they agree to see things differently, right down to the most ordinary of everyday things.

“Oh you have no soul Matthew. Can’t you see the play of sunlight on the water… those low clouds dipping over the horizon?”

Clear Day_Roger and Matthew_top of Widow's Hill_opening scene (1)_ep75

The tipoff was provided in episode 51 (Roger) and then again in episode 53 (Matthew).

It was early on in episode 51 when Vicki and Carolyn in a fit of hysterics alerted the house to the presence of a dead man washed up along the rocks beneath Widow’s Hill, with the camera holding steady on Roger’s initial reaction for a prolonged interval…

Roger's first reaction to news of a body washed ashore at Collinwood_ep51

…followed by another extended reaction shot later that episode when Matthew returns to the house after checking along the cliff, to report that there had in fact not been a body that had washed ashore nearby.

Roger's reaction when Matthew reveals that no body washed ashore (2)_ep51

We know that Matthew was lying that time because the next day he finally admits the truth when pressed by Mrs. Stoddard over what he may or may not have seen.

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Roger’s reaction above is unmistakable as conveyed in the prior knowledge revealed, that he’s fully aware that a man resembling Bill Malloy had been dead for some time and that death may have resulted from falling in the water. Then there’s Matthew, who at first tries to get rid of the evidence by not only lying about what he’d seen, but also by pushing the body back into the water, hoping the current would drag it out to sea. That’s hardly looking faithfully after one’s employer, particularly since Bill Malloy and Mrs. Stoddard had been such good friends for so long. It seems more like Matthew was looking after the best interests of whoever it was who put an end to Bill Malloy.

Roger's reaction when Matthew reveals that no body washed ashore_ep51

Who else could that have been but Roger, who would lie even to his own sister to protect his way of life, whether ten years earlier after having sent Burke Devlin to prison unjustly for a crime Roger himself had committed or here where he must act decisively toward someone who may well expose him for that past crime. It’s the old “I have to do it, you know too much” type of thing, where a past crime may require a further reinforcement to keep a foul deed secret.

In this way the likely teamwork of Roger and Matthew and the nagging situation presented by Bill Malloy recalls the classic setup of the mastermind and the slow and lumbering but ruthlessly efficient brute, of the sort you might find in an episode of Thriller like Well of Doom.

Thriller was a short-lived anthology series from the early 1960s hosted by Boris Karloff and patterned after Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Like Dark Shadows, Thriller underwent a transformation partway through its run, going from mystery and suspense to gothic horror with a dark atmosphere inspired by the Universal monsters films of the 1930s, and the Well of Doom episode captures Thriller in mid-transformation, with the story having been adapted from a short fiction work of the same name published in May 1936 in a pulp fiction magazine called Thrilling Mystery.

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Like Bill Malloy that night on his way to Roger’s office at the cannery…

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…people have someplace to go, to meet with other people…

Thriller_Well of Doom_Penrose et al en route to bachelor party (3)_ep75


…except that something gets in their way…

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…this wall of doom…

Thriller_Well of Doom_Penrose et al en route to bachelor party (5)_ep75

…who’s rather insistent about redirecting traffic along this atmospherically foggy roadway…

Thriller_Well of Doom_Penrose et al en route to bachelor party (6)_ep75

…but it’s all at the behest of someone else…

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…a Mr. Moloch…

Thriller_Well of Doom_Moloch (1)_ep75

…who has captured this fellow, a Mr. Penrose…

Thriller_Well of Doom_Moloch has captured Penrose (2)_ep75

…because Moloch wants for Penrose to sign something of his over to him…

Thriller_Well of Doom_Moloch wants for Penrose to sign something (2)_ep75

…and will use his burly helper Styx to employ force if necessary.

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A Moloch is like a demon and describes: “…any person or thing that demands costly sacrifices…”

Sam Evans: I never thought I could hate a man as much as I do you.

Sam lets Roger know how much he hates him_ep41

That would be a somewhat suitable description of Roger, at least insofar as it concerns Sam, given how as a Collins Roger would typically be the one wielding all the necessary force.

Thriller_Well of Doom_Moloch holds the flintlock pistols on Penrose (1)_ep75

Here’s the slugline from Thrilling Mystery magazine setting the reader up for a description of Styx in the story The Well of Doom: “…a brute of gigantic proportions, a face absolutely devoid of human expression, small eyes half closed without any vestige of primal intelligence, a coarse seamed face with a stout square jaw and immense ears, sandy unkempt hair that seemed to meet at the bushy eyebrows with no an inch between, hardly any neck at all, just a great misshapen head set on shoulders that it would have taken a tent maker to fit properly…”

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Styx has other parallels with Matthew, like the time in [spoiler!] episode 103 when he tries to enter Victoria’s room at Collinwood while she sleeps, and you see Styx doing that in the Well of Doom episode from Thriller as he enters the room of Laura Dunning…

Thriller_Well of Doom_Styx enters the room of Laura Denning (2)_ep75

…and [another spoiler!] as with Vicki in Dark Shadows episode 104…

Thriller_Well of Doom_Styx drives like a maniac (1)_ep75

…just like Matthew this fellow Styx drives like a maniac.

Thriller_Well of Doom_Styx drives like a maniac (2)_ep75

Just put Styx from Thriller’s Well of Doom episode together with Bib Hadley from the Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode Terror at Northfield…

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…and you’ve got Terror at Collinsport.

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Should the reader still hold any doubt as to the potential influence on Dark Shadows of this earlier anthology show Thriller, let’s take the case of Addison Powell’s portrayal of Dr. Lang in the 1968 “Dream Curse” period of Dark Shadows, which some have labeled as excessive…

Thriller_Dr. Eric Lang_Addison Powell_episode 467_Act IV_ep75

…when it’s more likely he was only being directed to play it like Robert Vaughn in the Thriller episode The Ordeal of Dr. Cordell…

Thriller_Dr. Cordell_Dr. Cordell has a trigger moment (1)_ep75

…where a chemical mishap one day in the doctor’s research lab results in a brain malady where he gets transformed into a homicidal maniac if triggered by the sound of ringing bells…

Thriller_Dr. Cordell_Dr. Cordell has a trigger moment (2)_ep75

…an altered state that takes him over with such intensity…

Thriller_Dr. Cordell_Dr. Cordell has a trigger moment (3)_ep75

…that if the episode director (Laslo Benedek)…

Thriller_Dr. Cordell_Dr. Cordell has a trigger moment (4)_ep75

…could have jumped into a time machine and fast-forwarded to 1968 daytime television…

Thriller_Dr. Cordell_Dr. Cordell has a trigger moment (5)_ep75

…he’d have told Vaughn to play it like Addison Powell’s Dr. Lang on Dark Shadows.

Thriller_Dr. Cordell_Dr. Cordell has a trigger moment (6)_ep75

Thriller like Dark Shadows has a semi-disconnect with its most ardent fans, in that each became famous for the genre of horror/supernatural but neither started out that way. It can be frustrating for the novice Thriller fan hearing about the dark and atmospheric horror aspects of the show to start watching from the beginning while expecting something like Oscar Homolka using black magic…

Thriller_Waxworks_Oscar Homolka describes the black magic he uses (1)_ep75

…to awaken the wax figures of murderers so that they may kill again…

Thriller_Waxworks_Oscar Homolka describes the black magic he uses (2)_ep75

…but because it’s early on in season one might instead be tuning into Worse Than Murder with John Baragrey and Constance Ford in an episode all about inheritance and wills and lawyers and mothers-in-law and blackmail.

John Baragrey with Constance Ford in the third episode from the Thriller series, Worse Than Murder.

Thriller_Worse Than Murder_John Baragrey and Constance Ford_ep75

John Baragrey was introduced in Dark Shadows episode 42 as Burke’s business associate James Blair, which given that Mitch Ryan is listed at six feet makes Mr. Baragrey one of the tallest actors ever cast on Dark Shadows.

Burke making introductions_ep42

Episode 42 was the Dark Shadows introduction to the filigreed silver fountain pen…

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…which today Vicki just happens to find on the beach at Lookout Point…

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…the place where Bill Malloy is thought to have died…

Clear Day_Location footage for Lookout Point_Act IV_Vicki finds a pen on the beach (1A)_ep75

…which likely places Roger at the scene right around the time it happened.

Location footage for Lookout Point_Vicki finds a filigreed fountain pen_Act IV of ep75_ep60

After seventy-five episodes laid out over fifteen weeks of daytime television, let’s take a moment to examine what Dark Shadows may have been going for at this point in its evolution. Already established is that Dark Shadows has become something of a murder mystery with the sudden death of Bill Malloy at a crucial moment that could profoundly affect the lives of several people around Collinsport… but is it really a story of mystery, even if there may after all be a murder involved? Perhaps the fine line has more to do with suspense, as in the anthology show Thriller.

With both the Bill Malloy Story on Dark Shadows and the Thriller series derived from Alfred Hitchcock, let’s hear a few words from the man himself to get a more in-depth understanding of the fine line between mystery and suspense. First, the general overall question: “Mr. Hitchcock, why do you always make mystery films?”

“Drama is life, with the dull bits cut out…”

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It turns out that according to Alfred Hitchcock, he hardly ever made mystery, but rather instead found the prospect of suspense more rewarding.

“I’ve only made one whodunit, many, many years ago… The mystery has no particular appeal to me…”

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More important for Hitchcock was getting visual cues across to viewers…

“…to convey, visually, certain elements in storytelling that transfers itself to the mind of the audience… ”

“Someone seems to have left this interesting object at my doorstep…”

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…who could then begin to figure things out.

“…The element of suspense is giving an audience information…”

“What a unique gift…”

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Finally, the thing that nags at many Dark Shadows fans – the silver filigreed fountain pen. Hitchcock explains the meaning of the “MacGuffin”:

“…the thing that the characters on the screen worry about, but the audience don’t care…”

Alfred Hitchcock_AHH_Sign of Satan_outro_ep75

So, mystery is withholding information from the audience, because the characters know more than the viewer, whereas the element of suspense involves giving information to the audience, who as it builds knows more than the characters in the story.

This week Dark Shadows is leaning toward suspense. If the sheriff’s visit to Collinwood in episode 73 accomplished anything…

Celebration_Sheriff Patterson visits Collinwood to tell Mrs. Stoddard news of the coroner'sdecision_ep74

…it’s to let the viewer know in episode 74 that Elizabeth actually suspected her brother Roger of murdering Bill Malloy…

Celebration_Roger thinks Liz had suspicions about him and Bill Malloy's death_ep74

…a point which could achieve great significance at any time as the story continues to unfold…

Celebration_Roger thinks Liz had suspicions about him and Bill Malloy's death (3)_ep74 (ep75)

…but which Roger tosses off with a shrug as casual as pouring a drink.

Celebration_Roger pours a drink to celebrate the coroner's decision_Act II_ep74

Twice during Act IV of today’s episode, Roger is looking for that fountain pen he swears he could have misplaced in the drawing room…

Clear Day_Roger searches for the pen (2)_Act IV_ep75

…with Carolyn walking in to provide a recap of when they both remember having seen the pen last, the night Bill Malloy called the meeting in Roger’s office…

Clear Day_Carolyn reminds Roger of when he last had the fountain pen_Act IV_ep75

…followed by a dissolve to the beach at Lookout Point where Vicki finds the missing pen…

Clear Day_Location footage for Lookout Point_Act IV_Vicki walks along the beach (1)_ep75

…because suspense is giving the audience information to figure out, information which could lead to the undoing of at least one character in the story.

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Today’s episode is bookended with images of Roger and Matthew working together, either hypothetically as Roger jokes in the opening scene and Act I about how Matthew could just get rid of Burke Devlin if his prying around Collinwood should prove too great a nuisance…

“Well okay, don’t twist his neck. Simply invite him out here to admire the view, and give him a push. Problem solved either way.”

Clear Day_Roger jokes to Matthew about pushing Devlin off Widow's Hill (2)_Act I_ep75

…or in the practical sense, as Matthew confides with Roger on what action should be taken what with Burke Devlin’s car just pulling up the driveway…

Roger and Matthew at the end of Act IV as Devlin comes knocking at the front doors.

Clear Day_Roger and Matthew_end of Act IV as Devlin knocks on front doors_ep75

…something like a tag team, in the classical sense of mystery and suspense, working things through together in times of crisis, when the very survival of the Collins name would matter the most.

Moloch and Styx out of costume as respectively the Squire and his assistant Joe, in Thriller’s Well of Doom.

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“Stay tuned for Where the Action Is next, here on ABC.”

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Dick Clark: …Ah yes, pretty music… Barbara Mason!…

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Background/Production Notes:

Some more of the newly filmed location footage is inserted into Act IV of today’s episode, showing the coastline along Newport near the Carey Mansion (aka Seaview Terrace).

Location footage for Lookout Point_Vicki finds the pen on the beach GIF_ep75

As rightly pointed out by some sources, Vicki’s attire and style of hair in this new footage don’t match the earlier clip shown in this episode where she is setting out from Collinwood, which was probably filmed back in June (in which here in a less-clear still image she bears a passing resemblance to Joan Bennett)…

Clear Day_Location footage for Collinwood_insert for Act II_Vicki leaves the house (1)_ep75

…but rather looks closer to the still here with Louis Edmonds from the more recent footage used as the Collinsport insert for episode 71.

Location footage_Alexandra Moltke and Louis Edmonds in Essex Connecticut (3)_ep71

Just prior to Vicki’s walk along the beach, footage to indicate the rocks and surf below Widow’s Hill is inserted at the end of Act II, also likely filmed in the area of Newport. Don’t expect to find the famous breakers though which begin the opening theme for each Dark Shadows episode…

Location footage for Widow's Hill_rocks and surf below_end of Act II_ep75

…as the opening theme consisted merely of reused stock footage.

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Part of the new location footage inserted for today’s episode shows Vicki looking back along the beach, with the view panning upward at the area meant to represent Lookout Point…

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…but which was also used in episode 5 as Widow’s Hill.

Location_Widow's Hill_ep5 GIF

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, Louis Edmonds flubs “clouds”: “…those low cow – clouds dipping over the horizon?”

Proof that even the wardrobe people didn’t watch Dark Shadows – after fifteen weeks, the same misspelling of Ohrbach’s shows up as the credits roll.

Ohrbach's blooper_end credits_ep75

Food & Drink in Collinsport:

The top of Act III finds Roger at the liquor cabinet, running through in his mind, or rather initially dismissing, Carolyn’s assertion that he was responsible for the fountain pen that Burke had gifted to her back in episode 42 but which according to Burke Roger had never returned: “And you were furious at me…”

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This Week in TV Guide:

The Twilight Zone was in syndication this week, and in the fall of ’66 the ABC affiliate WLW-D in Dayton, Ohio was featuring season one during prime time, Friday nights at 8:30.

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Forget about watching Time Tunnel that night, because as the previous page indicates, you can get the new episode the following Friday at 6:30 on the same affiliate, especially since that time slot otherwise has only boring westerns, news, and kids’ shows…

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…but just be sure to hide the remote so your folks and grandfolks can’t keep up with Milton Berle’s latest comeback at nine.

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Tonight’s Twilight Zone episode is The Last Flight.

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Rod Serling, Narrator: [Opening Narration, written by Richard Matheson] “Witness Flight Lieutenant William Terrance Decker, Royal Flying Corps, returning from a patrol somewhere over France. The year is 1917. The problem is that the Lieutenant is hopelessly lost. Lieutenant Decker will soon discover that a man can be lost not only in terms of maps and miles, but also in time – and time in this case can be measured in eternities.”

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Decker had, just prior to his detour through the twilight zone, escaped into a cloud out of cowardice to avoid the hopeless odds of combat wherein Decker and his flying partner Alexander Mackaye out on a routine patrol suddenly found themselves outnumbered by seven German aircraft. The mysterious cloud carries Decker to an American airbase forty-two years in the future where he discovers that Mackaye, who he believed had been shot down in the encounter with the German aircraft in 1917, is actually alive and well and had even gone on to save lives in the second World War; so Decker realizes that it must have been he who had risen above his fear of combat to save his friend – if only he can get back to 1917 and at last rise to the occasion, while there is still time.

The first Twilight Zone episode to be scripted by Richard Matheson and also based on an earlier story he had written, The Last Flight is about second chances and using time travel as a means of righting the wrongs that can haunt the past – a theme that Dan Curtis would find useful for those tales of time travel that would eventually become one of the hallmarks of Dark Shadows.

Flight would remain a continuing theme with Matheson, whose 1961 short story “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” would be adapted in 1963 as one of the most famous episodes of the entire Twilight Zone series.

Time of Flight, in this context about being on the run from syndicate figures, was a season 4 script Matheson wrote as a one-hour episode for Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theatre, which aired on September 21, 1966.

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Yet it’s those earlier Twilight Zone stories of flight and flying that continue to capture one’s imagination, perhaps because just the very notion of things going horribly wrong or merely out of the ordinary are enough to bring one’s existential anxieties boiling up to a crisis point, as in Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.

Though already a part of everyday travel for generations by the time these Twilight Zone episodes aired, even the very notion of air travel was a tricky concept to grasp for some, particularly those who had been around long enough to remember when trains and ships were still the primary modes of long-distance travel.

Take for instance this 1957 episode of the game show You Bet Your Life, hosted by Groucho Marx, in which the basic mechanics of air travel are explained by one of the guest contestants, Jan Dietrich, a commercial airline pilot who at the time of her YBYL appearance was head of the Flight Department for the Air Oasis Company at Long Beach Airport.

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Groucho Marx: What makes a plane stay up in the air? I never could figure it out…

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Who knows what Rod Serling was getting at with this Twilight Zone show idea… Maybe we should just have him come out on stage and… Tell It To Groucho

“Heard of it? I’ve spent half my life in the twilight zone…”

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Opening theme for You Bet Your Life, 1959.

Groucho poses with Mrs. Housing Development, a contestant during the latter days of You Bet Your Life’s 14-season run. To Keep America Beautiful, it takes a beauty contest.

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Coming next: Episode 76: Twisting the Lion’s Tail, or Burke’s Law and How to Enforce It

— Marc Masse

(aka PrisoneroftheNight)

© 2021 Marc Masse and Dark Shadows

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