Episode 64: Terror at Collinsport

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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.

 

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Episode 60: Portrait of Her Possible Past

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Victoria Winters hasn’t had a lot to do lately what with the scramble to restore the show’s ratings having made Dark Shadows the “What Happened to Bill Malloy?” show. Most recently she’s had lunch at the Collinsport Inn restaurant consisting of a two-week-old lobster roll and year-old clam chowder and in that one episode also evaded yet another of Burke Devlin’s equally stale but persistent dinner invites. One has to wonder whether she would have accepted Burke’s offer even if she were free, but as it happens tonight she’s having dinner as Maggie’s guest at the Evans cottage.

 

First mentioned back in episode 46, Victoria’s visit at the Evans cottage is a key story element in the original series outline written by Art Wallace, Shadows on the Wall. Ostensibly for David’s benefit so that she could perhaps reach out to her young charge and encourage his creative talents by getting him to meet a real artist like Sam Evans, this occasion would instead become a decisive turning point in the Burke Devlin story arc where Roger, increasingly fearful that Sam would likely reveal to her his guilt in the accident of ten years ago that sent Burke to prison on a manslaughter conviction, brings about his own sudden downfall after dragging Victoria out to the edge of Widow’s Hill to voice an explanation, but who instead when startled by the presence of David observing them from a hidden vantage point nearby goes over the edge of the cliff himself.

 

That was the original story vision slated for the first half or so of that initial thirteen-week episode cycle, as outlined during the preproduction stage in the series bible. Dark Shadows: The First Year, the long out-of-print yet authoritative source guide for these first 210 episodes, has the following rather telling bit of trivia for when the casting decisions had become finalized: “…During Alexandra Moltke’s screen test, her resemblance to a younger Joan Bennett became apparent, furthering the story idea that Vicki was the long-lost daughter of Elizabeth” (Dark Shadows: The First Year, by Nina Johnson and O. Crock [summary writers], Blue Whale Books, 2006; p. 14).

 

Today’s episode thus presents a striking bit of information to deepen the mystery surrounding the identity of Victoria’s parentage; whereas the series outline was written with Paul Stoddard as the father and the identity of the mother unknown, perhaps one of the many summer tourists who would account for a seasonal influx to boost the Collinsport population figures by upwards of fifty percent, here in episode 60 a maternal link is strongly implied, more in keeping with the casting impressions acquired postproduction. Further along through the fall of 1966, this new direction toward revealing the truth of Victoria’s background as connected maternally with Collinwood will be reinforced when she finds an old ledger sheet in the closed-off wing from the days when many servants were employed to run the great estate; yes, the mystery of Victoria Winters’ origins was to have been solved by that old reliable standby of the big house/mystery story twist: the butler did it!

 

Episode 60 is therefore a milestone, in that it gets to the heart of the very mystery as first presented that night on the train, the quest of a young woman in search of herself and the lives that become intertwined with her own along the way. In so doing, this episode becomes one of just a handful of the most significant moments in the story of Victoria Winters, one to which this blog will consistently return as a clear and revealing reference toward solving the mystery even as we look back from the far-off space year of 1968, when Alexandra Moltke at last leaves the show and the character is finally written out, with the central element to her story, the truth of her family background, left forever dangling even after attempting two cast replacements in quick succession.

 

Despite this, there are still enough details presented in today’s episode, as well as a couple more episodes to come in 1966, to piece together the likely answers from what is first implied here so profoundly, the maternal link that connects the life of Victoria Winters to those up at Collinwood, a trail of clues that begins at the Evans cottage when she happens on a portrait of her possible past.

 

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Episode 59: Oh, Brother

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“Liz, before you go in there I want you to remember one thing… I’m your brother.”

 

Welcome to part 2 of What It Means to Be a Collins of Collinsport, in which the matriarch of the great house on the hill sets about once again diverting the sheriff from bringing suspicion in through the front door, this time if not so much to save the neck of her brother Roger, then at least to keep the threat of scandal from making another visitation upon the Collins family name.

 

For Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, it’s actually rather busy work, stepping forward to quash the sheriff’s line of questioning to keep the good name of Collins off the bad news of local headlines. Imagine all the sedatives it must take, just to go on being the matriarch of Collinwood.

 

“In my busy workaday life as a notorious recluse, there are those times when I just can’t function as smoothly as I’d like to, when all the ghosts of Collinwood get to be just too great a burden to bear. That’s why I take NerveAyd. Puts those pesky ghosts back in the closets and corners where they belong. NerveAyd; it’s the next best thing to a frontal lobotomy.”

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First the sheriff comes up to Collinwood because Liz’s nephew is suspected of causing a near-fatal accident after loosening the brake valve on his father’s car, then just three days later the sheriff is back to question her brother, for the second time that day, because of another fatal car accident from ten years ago that someone else in town thinks Roger may have been responsible for.

 

What is it with this family and vehicular homicide? Things are so crazy around here that it would make for quite a soap opera, if it weren’t one already.

 

Like sludge through the sewer pipes, so are the Ways of Our Wives.

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Episode 54: They Float Bodies, Don’t They?

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“Good eve – uh, good afternoon ladies and gentlemen… No, that isn’t it either. Good afternoon ladies and shut-ins.”

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“From yesterday afternoon’s half-hour, we found out something rather shocking about the Collins family’s gem of a caretaker. Personally, from what I’ve been able to observe thus far, being the caretaker of Collinwood is more akin to being a zookeeper. Half the people living there think of the big house as a sort of cage anyway, and with certain members of the household there is the greatest difficulty in keeping their behavior and drives in check. As with wild animals, tensions exist which are liable to flare up at any moment.”

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“However, today’s television playlet concerns itself with the motivations of the caretaker himself, who, when a friend of the family has drowned and washes ashore on the great estate, sees nothing wrong in giving him a push back into the water so that said friend may wash ashore somewhere else, or perhaps not at all.”

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“Given Matthew the caretaker’s casual admission of such an act, even when questioned by the police, today’s play is called “They Float Bodies, Don’t They?”. Because that’s what a caretaker at Collinwood does; trim the hedges, carry the firewood, and float bodies that have washed ashore back out to sea where they can hopefully never be found. Now, if only someone could do that with my dreaded sponsors, I would never again have to suffer through another commercial break. In the meantime, I shall consult with the production crew and see if Matthew the caretaker is available for immediate employment. Until then, another sponsor with yet another commercial message is just about to wash ashore.”

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Episode 53: Our Caretaker’s a Real Gem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Episode 52: Something Uninvited

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Today Dark Shadows crosses over to the supernatural. In so doing, a new chapter in the story of Victoria Winters is presented; more about this below, in the main body of the post.

 

Dark Shadows fans have wondered why the original story of Victoria Winters, as outlined in the series bible Shadows on the Wall by story creator and developer Art Wallace, was dropped. It wasn’t; rather, it was revised.

 

Episode 60, also written by Wallace, strongly hints for the family background of Victoria Winters a maternal rather than paternal link to Collinwood, which is implied further in episode 127.

 

For now, today’s episode provides the first ever Dark Shadows mashup:

 

Alfred Hitchcock Presents + The Uninvited = Dark Shadows episode 52

 

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Episode 51: The Mind Plays Tricks

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David had warned Vicki and Carolyn what they would find if they ventured back out to Widow’s Hill that night: death.

 

With David’s favorite new hobby being crystal ball gazing, his penchant as a misfortune teller is proving disturbingly accurate.

 

Running back to Collinwood in a fit of hysterics, Vicki and Carolyn are certain of what they saw: a dead man at the bottom of the cliff.

 

Accompanied by caretaker Matthew Morgan, Mrs. Stoddard eventually journeys out to the edge of Widow’s Hill and at first isn’t sure of what she sees along the rocks below.

 

Before long Vicki and Carolyn can no longer be certain of what they saw.

 

As the mystery surrounding Bill Malloy’s disappearance deepens, the only thing one can be certain of at this point on Dark Shadows is that there’s really nothing one can be certain of.

 

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Episode 50: What The Tide Brought In

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It almost feels like the supernatural era of Dark Shadows starts right here in episode 50.

 

Aside from the fact that a man Elizabeth Stoddard has known for twenty-five years is still missing, these late evening scenes in and around the Collinwood estate carry a decidedly ominous tone throughout.

 

There’s talk of ghosts and tragic family legends, the Wailing Widows, and premonitions of death courtesy of a nine-year-old boy with a crystal ball who seems to know for certain what grim and deathly portents this night will bring forth and for whom.

 

Lately daytime television’s first gothic serial drama has been branching into mystery and suspense, and here in this episode story creator and developer Art Wallace is reaching back for the supernatural and noirish mid-1940s inspirations of Dark Shadows to bring a kind of otherworldly atmosphere to the current story, enough so that the viewer would possibly be wondering whether Bill Malloy’s disappearance may be the result of darker, more paranormal forces at work.

 

Episode 50 is about as close to the supernatural as Dark Shadows has gotten thus far without actually crossing over; it will be in one of next week’s episodes when the lines between the physical and spirit worlds really begin to blur.

 

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Episode 49: The Case of the Vanishing Man: Part 2, Questions and Concerns

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Today the talk of Collinsport is Bill Malloy.

 

Not that he was particularly popular; matter of fact, most folks just seemed to take him for granted, that is, when he was around.

 

It’s a seeming disappearance that has everyone talking about a man many around town wouldn’t have otherwise given a second thought to.

 

Even more than this, there exists in the minds of some the possibility of foul play, causing even friends of long-standing to begin turning against one another.

 

That’s what happens when you bring Alfred Hitchcock to a town like Collinsport; the smaller the populace, the larger the mystery, the more persistent the questions, the greater the concerns.

 

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Episode 48: The Case of the Vanishing Man: Part 1, Questions and Theories

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It was in episode 45 that Bill Malloy stormed into Roger’s office at the cannery to present an ultimatum: either go to the police and confess his guilt for wrongfully sending Burke Devlin to prison on a manslaughter conviction ten years ago, or let Sam Evans reveal that he’s the only thing standing between Roger Collins and a prison sentence.

 

This option was reiterated in episode 46 when Bill showed up at Collinwood at ten that night, during which time Roger practically admitted to Malloy that Burke was not guilty but that because it was a long time ago and Burke was now a rich man, Bill should just let the matter slide for the sake of the Collins family.

 

So when in episode 47 Malloy fails to show up at the meeting he arranged between himself, Roger, Burke, and Sam in Roger’s office for eleven on the dot, Roger begins to relax; just after midnight, he’s positively buoyant as he returns home and strolls into the drawing room for a late brandy before turning in. You have to wonder why in those moments he would seem so carefree. Despite that Bill didn’t show up for the meeting, surely the ultimatum regarding Roger and going to the police would still stand the following day.

 

So here it is episode 48 and the next day; Bill Malloy has evidently disappeared, and people are starting to ask questions. Now it looks like Roger will have to face a threat even more terrifying than the police – his sister Elizabeth.

 

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