Episode 37: One of Our Ghosts

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In the previous episode while encountering local artist Sam Evans at the Collinsport Inn, Victoria Winters was told by Mr. Evans, “Go back to your house on the hill, Miss Winters, go back to your ghosts and your goblins…”

 

In this episode, it seems that ghosts and goblins are precisely what she is returning to. In the great house of Collinwood during the post-midnight hours, the young governess will be drawn from her room on the second floor by the ghostly sound of a woman sobbing somewhere down below. Following the sound in the hope of tracing its origin, she will be led down to the basement and before a musty old wooden door sealed with a padlock. A moment later, she will come face to face with a real-life goblin.

 

In a subsequent post, we’ll explore the origins of what made Dark Shadows what it was; the deep shades of atmospheric gloom that lend Collinwood its haunting mystique, the family legends of ghosts that seemingly cannot rest, the disturbing disembodied sound of a woman sobbing in the night – even the way people close the double doors of a drawing room when they wish to speak with others in private.

 

As envisioned by Dan Curtis in a dream that woke him one night in 1965 with the spark of an idea for a TV show, the story of Victoria Winters recalls more the age of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, with the sidebar story of Burke Devlin echoing shades of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo; however, the full backstory that fills out Dark Shadows as realized by story creator Art Wallace is more reminiscent of the rise of the haunted house genre from American motion pictures in the mid-1940s, with two in particular, The Uninvited (1944) and The Unseen (1945), both co-starring Gail Russell, serving as the main influences for the gothic romance that came to television in 1966 as Dark Shadows. Following the post for episode 37, there will be a special edition post of Dark Shadows from the Beginning which will examine these earlier motion pictures in depth and point out how they can be described as the origins of Dark Shadows.

 

For now, let’s visit with the ghosts and goblins of Collinwood as faced by Victoria Winters on this, her third night as governess in the big house on the hill…

 

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Episode 21: The Road Not Taken

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Dark Shadows was originally about the story of Victoria Winters, an orphan governess from New York City who accepts a job in a small town Down East where she will live in a large dark house by the sea and tutor a nine-year-old boy. She accepts the job because she hopes it may lead to information about her undiscovered past, in particular the anonymous monthly payments from Bangor that started arriving at the foundling home when she was just two years old.

 

As envisioned by story creator Art Wallace, who wrote the outline Shadows on the Wall that became the show’s series bible early on, the story of Victoria Winters was fully realized from the start, with a beginning, middle, and complete story resolution. But unforeseen circumstances along the way prevented the story from being told in full as originally planned. Other things got in the way; the murder of a Collins family friend and business associate, a couple of ghosts, a fire goddess from a spirit netherworld, a vampire, time travel, witchcraft, and on and on, until finally the actress playing the role said enough was enough.

 

Perhaps the biggest factor was the frequent turnover in the episode writing staff. Enough time went by and enough writers came and went that the original framework laid out for the story of Victoria Winters was simply forgotten, a beginning left dangling somewhere in the middle for more than two years of episodes. Below is an examination of the original story resolution, as outlined before Dark Shadows first went on the air.

 

The story of Victoria Winters is the road not taken.

 

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Episode 19: An Interest in Human Nature: More of The Perils of Mark Allen

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In a Manhattan television studio, a soap within a soap is playing out behind the scenes of a Gothic daytime drama. With tension rising, a troubled actor in a desperate moment lashes out with a burst of violence that may signal his downfall…

 

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Episode 17: Swiftenstein Must Be Destroyed!

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With Dark Shadows starting out on a fledgling network whose daytime lineup struggled to achieve competitive ratings even in the best of circumstances, one has to wonder what good it does for a show that’s only been on the air a few days to have the director actively sabotaging the entire supporting cast.

 

Dark Shadows director Lela Swift has had Mark Allen, who plays Sam Evans, in her sights since the third week of taping kicked off. That same week George Mitchell, who played Collins estate caretaker Matthew Morgan, had several mishaps during a scene while eating egg whites that came from a nearby greasy spoon. So the next time he was on, Lela took to complaining about him over the control room microphone and in the process cursing him with such an attack of nerves that he couldn’t perform. He was gone by the end of that day’s taping. Now Lela is gunning for lovable Fred Stewart, who makes his Dark Shadows debut as Dr. Reeves, but if she has her way it will be his swan song as well. Her complaints during the taping of this episode become so mean-spirited that she practically turns into a monster.

 

There can be only one solution to keep Dark Shadows from imploding even before it can complete its first thirteen-week cycle: Swiftenstein must be destroyed!

 

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Episode 9: Mischievous Spirits

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In less than twenty-four hours, the return to Collinsport of a driven and vengeful man has had its intended provocative effect on those tied in with the Collins estate and business interests. Fishing fleet and cannery plant manager Bill Malloy is actively concerned, Collins family matriarch Elizabeth Stoddard is stoically unfazed, while restless and venturesome daughter Carolyn Stoddard is recklessly intrigued. It’s a combination that can only hold potentially life-altering consequences for all those involved.

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Episode 3: Information

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One of the charms of these early episodes of Dark Shadows is something I call “scene connectors.” Someone will close out a scene with a phrase or word, like when Joe Haskell asks Burke Devlin what he wants in exchange for what Devlin has offered him, and Devlin answers, “Information.” Then they cut away to the next scene, which begins by someone else taking up that key phrase or word but in a completely different context: “But I can’t give you any information,” Maggie Evans tells Roger Collins. “Pop’s a free soul, you know that. He wanders.” Just minutes ago, Roger, who is not such a free soul, wandered into the coffee shop just before closing time under the pretext of seeing if there’s “any coffee left in the hopper.” But what he really wants to know is where Sam Evans is. You’ll recall that in the previous episode Roger exploded when he realized that Burke Devlin is back in town – and what he needs this late hour is to pin down the whereabouts of a local artist who paints seascapes and sunsets. At this point Roger has something the viewer lacks: information.

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