Episode 62: Destroy Me, Pt. 2

Destroy Me Pt 2_lead photo_ep62

 

Hard to believe that just six nights ago Victoria Winters was on board a train headed up the New England coast “to a strange and dark place, to the edge of the sea, high atop Widow’s Hill…” while here as Dark Shadows wades through its thirteenth week of episodes it feels more like it ought to be six months. Like back in episode 36 whereupon during their “first” meeting Sam Evans talks with Victoria Winters to ask about her employer Elizabeth Stoddard and he opens with, “Miss Winters, you’ve been in Collinwood some time now and you know Mrs. Stoddard pretty well…” as if it had already been months when in fact barely forty-eight hours of story time had yet elapsed.

 

Given the cyclic nature of storytelling on a daytime “soap” drama, it is to be expected that details relating to the story of Victoria Winters for instance would accumulate in a similar cyclic fashion, where at some point a new clue would arise that may shed some light on the mystery of her past. Yet take as an example episode 34, which led Vicki to Burke’s hotel room to read a report on her generated by Devlin’s private investigator Wilbur Strake. After weeks of having been sidelined by the missing brake valve caper, which took up only a page and a half or so in the series outline Shadows on the Wall, Victoria was ultimately left to realize that the report told her of “nothing I didn’t already know.” Sidelined yet again by the disappearance and subsequent death of Bill Malloy, Victoria has had to wait another twenty-six episodes to encounter the portrait of Betty Hanscom, while Dark Shadows continues to plod along in blocks of micro-time.

 

It’s one thing if the executive producer has never done a soap before, given how the “fish out of water” element can actually be an advantage at times, especially in the case of Dan Curtis who would simply think nothing of suddenly transforming his show from a “gothic romance” to a murder mystery not in the style of The Edge of Night, but rather more in line with what Alfred Hitchcock had brought to nighttime television over the previous decade with shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, but it’s something else altogether when your one-man writing staff has likewise never before had the experience of scripting for a daytime drama. The closest Art Wallace had yet come to grazing the realm of serialized narrative was one of the early prime-time medical dramas of the period, The Doctors and The Nurses, having penned eight episodes of that one-hour series over two years.

 

Perhaps Wallace approached Dark Shadows with the idea that story content for daytime television should simply be drawn out so as to keep audiences aligned with the day-to-day lives of the characters they were tuning in to see, given how there are five consecutive half-hour segments to be filled each week, whereas in a prime-time episodic drama stories can be told in full in around fifty minutes not counting commercial breaks. Indeed, whereas the arc of Jason McGuire and the blackmail/Paul Stoddard story on Dark Shadows runs for nearly eighty episodes, Wallace himself had already presented a complete version of that story as a one-hour drama in 1957, which had evolved from the original half-hour version first broadcast in 1954 (both productions titled “The House”).

 

You have to wonder what the Dark Shadows fan discussions were like in 1966. Imagine a couple of viewers comparing notes that September just as the thirteenth week of episodes are being aired; one has stayed with the show all summer long, while the other lost interest after the first few weeks. The one who no longer watches asks, “Did they ever get out of that first week?” The one who’s still a regular viewer answers, “No, not yet.” Bemused, the first one adds, “You should watch Secret Storm instead.”

 

In Collinsport, time moves so slowly that in the lobby of the Collinsport Inn they have an hourglass that’s filled with molasses. Day 6 began with episode 53, a day that won’t even see midnight by the time Dark Shadows is wrapping up its first thirteen-week cycle with episode 65. Three months of episodes, six days of story, almost. Maybe all those folks who are critical of the beginning episodes of Dark Shadows for being slow kind of have a point after all.

 

Another thing about this period of the show is that lately certain episodes seem almost to be sequels of those that came before, and today’s episode is a case in point. Episode 62 overall is like a reprise of episode 46, wherein both Sam and Roger are on the block once again, as if the destruction of their very way of life may be at stake, this time though relating to suspicion in the death of Bill Malloy, but with the testy reminder of Burke’s manslaughter conviction still at the heart of it. Whereas the hand of both Roger and Sam had been forced by Bill Malloy in the earlier episode through the action he was determined to take in the hope of resolving the matter of Devlin’s vendetta against the Collins family, here in today’s episode Roger and Sam are each playing their own hand by choice. Each will have a confessor they approach voluntarily; for Sam it will be Burke Devlin and for Roger it will be Victoria Winters, and through a deceptive and determined blend of lies and half-truths each will attempt to clear himself of all suspicion relating to matters both past and present.

 

However, as noted in the opening image above, such measures could just as easily bring about their complete undoing, especially for Sam Evans who is yet again driven to desperation.

 

Continue reading “Episode 62: Destroy Me, Pt. 2”

Episode 35: A Great Dramatic Reading

David Ford_opening GIF_ep35

 

“The character of Sam Evans will be played by David Ford.”

 

Dark Shadows is known mainly as a “vampire soap” to even those with only a passing knowledge or awareness of the original TV series that aired weekday afternoons between 1966 and 1971.

 

Before rocketing into the public lexicon as television’s first vampire series, there were five gradual transformations that took place without which the “Barnabas era” of Dark Shadows would not have been possible.

 

The most significant transformation is, of course, the arrival of Barnabas Collins in 1967. The precursor to Barnabas was the phoenix story, featuring a fiery goddess threatening to consume and destroy the lives of all those with whom she comes in contact. The phoenix was the first supernatural monster on Dark Shadows. Before this was the first appearance of a ghost in episode 70, which was preceded in episode 52 by a supernatural occurrence in the Collinwood drawing room where a book was opened as if by the hand of an invisible spirit. The first essential transformation occurs here in episode 35 with the acting department, as David Ford joins the cast in the role of Sam Evans, taking over for Mark Allen who last appeared in episode 22.

 

Continue reading “Episode 35: A Great Dramatic Reading”

Episode 34: A Ripple in the Whirlpool

Definitely champagne GIF_ep34

 

Today Victoria Winters is making her first visit to the Blue Whale, while enjoying her first alcoholic beverage since arriving in Collinsport – even though she’s underage.

 

The character of Victoria Winters, and the actress who plays her, is barely twenty. Burke Devlin, the man who bought her the drink, is over thirty.

 

Evidently, the bartender didn’t ask to see the young lady’s ID. In yesterday’s episode, he wouldn’t even shut down a drunk and hollering Joe Haskell.

 

This won’t be the last time on the show where older men will be plying drinks on young underage girls. In those days, you could get away with that kind of thing. Dark Shadows, during that unsupervised era of daytime television, manages to do just that.

 

Those were the days!

 

Continue reading “Episode 34: A Ripple in the Whirlpool”

Episode 30: The Rain in Maine Falls Plainly All in Vain

Burke David rain GIF_ep30

 

Nine-year-old David Collins is disrupting the lives of the adults around him in a way that could have far-reaching consequences for all those involved. Everyone has had to suffer to some extent for David’s act of desperation against his father.

 

Fearing exposure after his tutor Vicki Winters had found in his room the missing brake valve from Roger’s car, David has fled Collinwood to plant the evidence in the hotel room of the man who everyone except the governess suspects as having tampered with Roger’s brake system. Unable to gain access while the man is away, David is left with no choice but to meet with him face to face.

 

To David Collins thus far, Burke Devlin has represented only an image, a name his mother and father used to quarrel over so long ago, a symbol for what his father both hates and fears. But what David could not have foreseen was that in no time the image would become a man who would in turn become a trusted friend.

 

Unbeknown to David, Burke had seen the boy hiding the object under the sofa cushions. At the end of David’s visit, while calling downstairs to have his car brought around to the front of the hotel so that Burke could drive him back to Collinwood, David changes his mind about trying to pin the blame on Mr. Devlin, but is unable to retrieve the valve from where he hid it because Burke has already found it.

 

Alone with his guilt, shamed with regret, and paralyzed by fear, David’s outlook is as bleak as the drops of rain falling on the windshield as Burke Devlin guides the car onward through a storm which only seems to signal portents of the certain punishment awaiting his arrival home. But what he doesn’t realize is that he may soon receive the help he needs from an unexpected source, the very man he sought to frame for the crime of attempted murder.

 

Continue reading “Episode 30: The Rain in Maine Falls Plainly All in Vain”

Episode 29: Mechanics Made Easy, Pt. 2

David_doorstop GIF_ep29

 

“What are you supposed to be, a doorstop?”

 

If the ancient proverb about the truth setting one free is to be believed, then Collins family matriarch Elizabeth Stoddard has walled herself up in a fortress of mind so sheltered as to block out any and all illuminating rays of reason.

 

The very minute Vicki had come to her with the story that she’d found the missing brake valve from Roger’s car in a dresser drawer in David’s room while she’d been searching for a letter from the foundling home she thought he might have taken from her room, Mrs. Stoddard has continually turned her back on the probable truth – that her nephew may indeed be guilty of having committed an unspeakable act. Her first reaction was, “I… I don’t believe you.”

 

Carolyn, on the other hand, didn’t need much convincing, largely for two reasons. On an adventurous whim, she had gone into town that day to drop in and visit Burke Devlin in his hotel room. She had also insisted that at the end of the visit he drive her back to Collinwood, believing that if she could bring Burke and his mother and uncle Roger together they could work out their differences and the cloud of tension that had been hovering over Collinwood in recent days could be dispelled. Another motivation may have had something to with that despite her involvement and apparent engagement to Joe Haskell, Carolyn seems to be developing something of a crush on the mysterious Mr. Devlin. So, if it turns out that Burke may not be guilty of having tampered with the brakes on Roger’s car, then it means she will no longer have to be carrying the guilt of having made it possible in bringing him to Collinwood. That’s reason number one. Reason number two has to do with the fact that she thinks of her cousin David as a little monster anyway.

 

Continue reading “Episode 29: Mechanics Made Easy, Pt. 2”

Episode 24: Taking Risks

Taking risks_ep24 opening GIF

 

Burke Devlin is one of the more intriguing characters of Dark Shadows beginnings. You never really know if he’s a good guy or a bad guy. He gets on the right side of characters we like, especially Maggie and Sam Evans. On the other hand, despite appearances he seems insensitive with other characters we like, including Carolyn Stoddard, and derives amusement from antagonizing other characters we like, particularly Joe Haskell.

 

Still, you have to root for the underdog, and in terms of Burke Devlin that means Collinsport Inn vs. Collinwood mansion, Burke’s hotel room vs. the Collins family drawing room.

 

Episode 24 belongs to Burke Devlin, and is set exclusively on his “home” turf.

 

Continue reading “Episode 24: Taking Risks”

Episode 21: The Road Not Taken

Alexandra Moltke_lead photo for post on ep21 (2)

 

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.

 

Continue reading “Episode 21: The Road Not Taken”