Episode 24: Taking Risks

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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.

 

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Episode 23: Doing a Little Digging

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To many Dark Shadows fans, the notion of the Collinsport police in general and the sheriff in particular is something of a joke, given how in later years of the show the town seems to be run by the vampires and assorted monsters and ghosts who predominate at any given time.

 

But the beginnings of Dark Shadows are a different matter, with its leanings toward more of a sense of realism. Here in the early days, police are competent and thorough; any criminal in their midst would have cause to worry, especially if the perpetrator in question is a nine-year-old boy who’s guilty of attempted murder.

 

Episode 23 is our introduction to Constable Jonas Carter, the only sworn officer of the law in the history of Dark Shadows who ever solved a crime.

 

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Episode 22: Facts and Justice: The Perils of Mark Allen Concludes

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Not many realize it, but Dark Shadows very nearly imploded before it could even complete five weeks of its initial thirteen-week cycle.

 

Mark Allen, originator of the role of Sam Evans, a minor but essential character, has become a huge liability. He has made unwanted, inappropriate sexual advances during rehearsal toward two of the actresses. During the taping of episode 19, he assaulted child actor David Henesy in the dressing room area after catching the nine-year-old trying to write a nasty accusation on his dressing room door.

 

David Henesy has since walked off the show, and refuses to return until Mark Allen is off the show.

 

To the credit of Dan Curtis, series creator and executive producer, no one has complained directly to him about any of the actions said to have been perpetrated by Mark Allen. He has only heard of these allegations through an intermediary, his episode director Lela Swift. Technically it’s only hearsay, until one of the accusers makes a case to him directly and in person.

 

There are financial constraints to think of. Back in episode 16, Lela shamed George Mitchell (originator of the Matthew Morgan role) off the show and tried to do as much during the taping of episode 17 to Fred Stewart (who debuted as Collins family physician Dr. Reeves). Breaking contract with George Mitchell means that Dan has to pay Mitchell for an additional seven episodes guaranteed by his contract for the first thirteen weeks. If he breaks contract by firing Mark Allen, then he’ll have to pay for another ten episodes. Most likely, he would have to pay for these broken contracts out of his own pocket, since the limited weekly budget for daytime programming doesn’t cover such unforeseen expenses.

 

But David Henesy isn’t under contract. According to David Henesy from an interview given for the thirty-fifth anniversary of Dark Shadows, “…I had not even signed a contract at the time. After my reading, I was ‘booked’ [hired],…” (35th Anniversary Dark Shadows Memories, A Conversation with David Henesy, p. 84)

 

So Dan Curtis has to make a decision: fire Mark Allen to get David Henesy back, or keep Mark Allen on and risk losing Dark Shadows. You could always get another David Collins, but where on earth are you going to find another David Henesy?

 

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Episode 20: Out of His Mind: The Perils of Mark Allen Continues

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It is still only the second day since Victoria Winters arrived at Collinwood as the governess to nine-year-old David Collins, but a lot has happened in such a short span. Burke Devlin, who arrived in Collinsport on the same train as Vicki, has everyone at Collinwood on edge. Roger testified as a witness at Burke’s manslaughter trial ten years earlier and at the time Devlin made threats against the family, vowing to one day return and destroy them all. Just a short while after Burke is found by Vicki in the family garage standing by Roger’s car holding a wrench, Roger has a near fatal car accident driving down the hill from Collinwood into town. The viewer knows that it was David who tampered with the brakes on his father’s car, but Roger doesn’t know this and in fact no one suspects David, at least not yet. For the moment Roger thinks it was Burke, settling his old vendetta against the Collins family, and he is dragging Vicki into the middle of it, bringing her to Burke’s hotel room in the middle of the night as a witness who can back up that he was seen in the garage with just the sort of tool that could be used to remove the missing brake valve from his car. Roger is hell-bent on destroying Burke before Devlin gets another chance to destroy him. It’s an exciting episode with an explosive conflict erupting head to head.

 

There is also a volatile situation flaring up behind the scenes in the television studio, in a soap within a soap called The Perils of Mark Allen

 

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Episode 18: Can I Get a Witness?

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Episode 18 is an exercise in minimalism. The first year of Dark Shadows is known for episodes with a full cast, lots of extras, and exterior filming. But this episode has none of those things: apart from the usual glimpse from the back lawn of the “Collinwood” mansion at the beginning, no location footage, no extras, and only three actors. In fact, this is only one of a handful of episodes in the entire series to feature just three actors. And it’s all within the confines of Collinwood itself: Vicki’s room, the upstairs hallway, David’s room, and the downstairs foyer and drawing room are all we see in these twenty-two plus minutes.

 

It’s still the night of Roger’s car accident, but he can’t sleep at this late hour. After discovering that someone most definitely tampered with the brakes on his car, he figures it must have been Burke Devlin, who David’s governess Victoria Winters found standing in the garage by Roger’s car with a wrench in his hand, after having invited him into town for a meeting to discuss a business deal.

 

This is only Vicki’s second night at Collinwood, and for the second time in as many nights she is dragged out of bed to face yet another drawing room interrogation from Roger about Burke Devlin. Before heading out to Burke’s hotel room at the Collinsport Inn, Roger needs to get a witness who saw him there in the garage near the car and find out what Miss Winters knows and what it was exactly that she saw, so that he can then confront Devlin in person and throw the whole thing right in his face.

 

So that’s why other cast members wouldn’t be needed. This late at night, Elizabeth and Carolyn would be sleeping. It’s only the people directly involved with Roger’s accident, those who either experienced or witnessed something, who would be awake at this time of night.

 

Which leaves David. He can’t sleep either. In fact, in the previous episode he woke up several times in the night with bad dreams, screaming to his aunt Elizabeth that he didn’t mean to kill “him.” In this episode, he’s in his room, in pajamas and bathrobe, crushing one of his model cars with his foot and then tossing it out the window. Soon after, he confesses to his governess, “I wrecked a car.” That should be a tip-off, to Vicki at least, that there is a special reason for David being up this late. A nine-year-old boy doesn’t stay up until around midnight just to stomp on a toy car, and then hint that he just did something that might give his governess reason to call the police and have him arrested.

 

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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 16: The Curse of Lela Swift

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Long before Angelique made her debut on Dark Shadows, the summer of 1966 had its own witchy presence on the show in the first few weeks – in the form of director Lela Swift, who, with just a few spellbinding words spoken through a control room microphone, could make a supporting actor so nervous that he wouldn’t be able to perform his scenes effectively. He might even be forced to leave the show. It seems no one could escape the curse of Lela Swift.

 

Since the third week of taping, she has been on a verbal rampage leveled at supporting cast members that she can’t stand. In her war of attrition waged through her weapon of choice, the control room microphone, there will be collateral damage, where the innocent are made to be casualties, and in this episode it will be George Mitchell, the originator of the Matthew Morgan role.

 

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