Episode 65: Bull in a Collins Shop

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Burke Devlin is on a rampage; at least that’s what the sheriff of Collinsport has been phoning various residents to warn them about. In episode 60 Sheriff Patterson reached out to Sam Evans informing him that Burke might be out his way, and that if he did show up he should just call in. The same advisory was issued in yesterday’s episode during a telephone conversation with Elizabeth Stoddard.

 

Thus far Devlin’s rampage has consisted of crashing a dinner party at the Evans cottage, which very nearly resulted in a sandwich, and now he has shown up at Collinwood demanding that he be allowed to speak with Roger Collins. It’s been a long day since morning broke way back in episode 53 and it isn’t over just yet, not even with today’s episode. If Devlin’s rampage is allowed to continue on unabated, it’s liable to erupt in drawing room tea.

 

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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 63: A Question of Murder

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Dark Shadows canon is a tricky concept, with consensus drawn mainly from whichever writer gets the last word in storywise. Take for instance the names of the Collins parents immediately preceding the generation of Roger Collins and Elizabeth Stoddard. While many Dark Shadows fans know the name of the father of Elizabeth and Roger to be Jamison Collins, this earlier patriarch as first outlined by Art Wallace in Shadows on the Wall was named Joseph Collins. Perhaps this is why Elizabeth is always so intent on having Carolyn marry Joe Haskell, because he has the same first name as her beloved father. And with Elizabeth’s mother Carolyn having died at the age of thirty-eight while having given birth to Roger, it’s no surprise that she should name her daughter Carolyn as a loving tribute. This is only speculation of course, but either way all these richly symbolic bits of possible backstory get eliminated from consideration when in later years some writer comes along who was never even involved with the beginnings of Dark Shadows, but who nonetheless gets to set the canon only by virtue of having gotten in the last word on a given subject.

 

Particularly in this run of episodes where it’s yet to be determined whether or not Bill Malloy had met with foul play, it’s worth noting how Roger Collins and Matthew Morgan could indeed have been working together to see that Malloy would never arrive at the meeting in Roger’s office that night to carry out his intentions of clearing Burke Devlin. When the present week of episodes were being scripted, there was still the plan for the story arc to be leading to Roger’s death from atop Widow’s Hill, his mind having been driven to a frenzied state while agonizing over whether Victoria Winters had been conspiring with Burke Devlin to expose him and bring about his downfall. Given how Roger thus far has generally been ice-cold to all those around him in terms of humanity and compassion, having regarded even members of his own family with generous projections of contempt, it wouldn’t be too significant a stretch to assume that he would resort to the ultimate crime if it meant saving his own patrician hide, with the topper being that true to form he wouldn’t actually want to get his hands dirty, but in an ironic twist would enlist the aid of the Collinwood caretaker – to take care of a matter that could bring scandal and disgrace to certain of those who live in the big house, but most especially would compromise the dignity and good standing of Mrs. Stoddard; Roger being Roger, this no doubt would have been his main selling point to the gruff and burly caretaker, whose loyalty toward his long-time employer rivals that of many dog breeds toward their given master. After all, what’s the sense investing story time to humanize a character like Roger Collins when there are only a few weeks at most left to go before he has outlived his usefulness?

 

Think of how suspiciously Matthew Mach II has already behaved and just in the past twenty-four hours. There’s a hidden yet fatal flaw in Matthew’s character that gets one to question the true nature of his fiercely determined loyalty toward all things Collins and Collinwood. It isn’t in the way he was menacing toward Vicki that time in the basement, when she was only checking on a strange sound she had heard in the night, while he was enforcing the wishes of Mrs. Stoddard by making sure people wouldn’t go snooping around down there; it isn’t even when he ventures down from the hill to intercept Burke over coffee at the Collinsport Inn restaurant warning that he’ll kill him if he doesn’t stop trying to bring trouble to Mrs. Stoddard up at Collinwood – it’s that in the past twenty-four hours, later claiming to have been acting in the best interests of the family by keeping sensational rumors from damaging the reputation and legacy of the Collins name, upon discovering Bill Malloy dead by the foot of Widow’s Hill, rather than notifying the folks in the great house right away, Matthew actually… eased the body back into the water and even watched it float away out of sight, keeping mum about it until finally Mrs. Stoddard confronted him for the truth relating to that alleged dead man both Vicki and Carolyn supposedly saw washed up on the rocks below the cliff the night after Bill Malloy had disappeared.

 

This is the one instance thus far on Dark Shadows where it’s hard for the viewer to suspend disbelief, to take Matthew’s claims of complete devotion for the Collins family at face value; given how we know that Bill and Elizabeth had been such good friends of long-standing and that we’re supposed to believe Matthew was acting purely out of sincere loyalty, it makes the caretaker’s actions all the more unthinkable. What Matthew did that night below Widow’s Hill would seem more the desperate act of someone attempting to cover up evidence that could possibly lead to the revelation of a dark deed, an action so inconceivable that it may well in fact be a question of murder.

 

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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 44: You Can Bank On It

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Today Elizabeth Stoddard’s banker John Harris drives down from Bangor to present her with financial documents for a trust fund she has set up for David. Cast for the role is Patrick McVey, who turns in what can only be described as the single least proficient performance of any actor ever to appear on Dark Shadows. An explanation for this is provided in the “background audio” section of the post on episode 43 as well as below in today’s post.

 

In the summer of 1966, there was a viral outbreak in the Dark Shadows studio, and Patrick McVey was among those infected. Lelarichia swifteria is a rare virus affecting mainly male middle-aged supporting actors on Dark Shadows. Symptoms of L. swifteria begin with confusion and unease followed by a sudden drop in confidence, soon progressing to reduced motor capacity affecting abilities for memory of lines as well as timing and steadiness of delivery.

 

In some cases, the afflicted sufferer may manage to sustain themselves for multiple appearances over several episode tapings, but in many cases L. swifteria proves fatal to an actor’s duration on Dark Shadows.

 

There is no known cure.

 

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Episode 43: The Man Who Learned Too Much

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Bill Malloy these days comes across as the man with all the answers; or at the very least appears to know the proper solutions, and the means of applying them, to save the Collins family from ruin in the face of Burke Devlin’s determined vendetta.

 

Knowledge can be a blessing; freeing you from short-sighted doubt as well as fear of the unknown. Knowledge can also be a curse; setting you apart from others while leaving you torn over sudden and unforeseen divided loyalties.

 

So what do you do when you’ve learned too much about the very people you rely on the most? If you’re Bill Malloy, you skip out on work for an afternoon and go to the Blue Whale where you can find a nice quiet table to drink things over for a while.

 

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Episode 42: The Pen Is Yours

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The pen is yours

The pen is mine

The pen belongs

To Dark Shadows fans

Down through time

 

The silver filigree fountain pen; a story point which many Dark Shadows fans can’t seem to agree on – is it really great, or just a red herring?

 

This reviewer however has never seen a Dark Shadows prop he doesn’t like, and will instead be enthusing on the many entertaining and memorable scenes generated solely from the existence of Burke Devlin’s one of a kind sterling silver fountain pen as it changes hands from episode to episode.

 

Would you believe a fountain pen worth killing over? All We Are Saying Is Give Pens A Chance; Devlin’s Silver Hammer; Here Comes The Pen…

 

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Episode 40: Coffee Time

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One of the best things about the first year of Dark Shadows is Nancy Barrett. Despite all of Carolyn Stoddard’s faults, not the least of which being her borderline incestuous crush on her uncle Roger, the emphatic range Nancy Barrett brings to her performances simply makes the character nothing short of enchanting. It’s here in episode 40 where such a quality is brought home to epitomize what makes Nancy Barrett so great in the role of Carolyn Stoddard.

 

There are a good many fans who only follow the show from episode 210 where the Barnabas era begins, and for this reason alone the first two hundred nine episodes remain one of the best kept secrets among Dark Shadows fandom. Yet for those who appreciate the fantastic performances of talented actors bringing characters to life with definitive depth, these early episodes contain some of the finest, most memorable moments in the entire series.

 

Here in episode 40, greatness abounds not only in scenes with Nancy Barrett as Carolyn Stoddard, but also in those with David Ford as Sam Evans. In the post for episode 41, we’ll recognize what David Ford achieves in one of his more magnificent moments on Dark Shadows; for now, let’s shine a light on what Nancy Barrett brings to define her portrayal of Carolyn Stoddard in the absolute.

 

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Episode 38: The Count of Monte Devlin

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The Wikipedia page for Dark Shadows links the nineteenth century novel The Count of Monte Cristo with the story of Burke Devlin:

 

Burke Devlin’s Revenge For His Manslaughter Conviction, episode 1 to 201.

 

The accompanying citation, with something one would typically expect from all things Wikipedia, provides erroneous information:

 

“In episode 28, Burke Devlin is seen reading this novel. It similarity to events is commented upon i.e. a man returning to his home town to wreak revenge.”

 

They’re only off by ten episodes; and “it” should be “its” and “home town” is one word.

 

Now that we’ve done the necessary proofreading, let’s examine the more probable origins of the story of Burke Devlin, one of the main driving forces behind the beginnings of Dark Shadows.

 

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Episode 36: The David Ford Effect

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The addition of David Ford as the new Sam Evans has had an immediate and energizing effect on fellow Dark Shadows cast members, most notably with Louis Edmonds’ performance as Roger Collins.

 

Fresh off the Hartford Stage in a year-long run as Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, David Ford’s distinctly dramatic infusion of Tennessee Williams into his portrayal of Sam Evans has awakened a theatrical spirit in those among the cast who already had a strong background on the live stage.

 

Louis Edmonds for one got his start as a New York stage actor, working in regional theater and Off-Broadway before finally breaking through with a Broadway production of Candide in 1956. To work alongside an actor like David Ford must have been like going home, because he’s absolutely on fire in this episode, giving one of his best ever performances as Roger Collins, scene after scene.

 

Hereafter, when auditioning actors for new roles or as replacements for existing characters, the casting department will more and more be looking to New York City and regional theater for talent.

 

The arrival of David Ford represents a watershed moment on Dark Shadows, where fairly tame and ordinary melodrama has the potential to achieve the heights of high drama. This initial transformation will eventually pave the way for the casting of a certain Shakespearean actor in the role of a vampire.

 

But that’s months off still and, as yet, something unforeseen. One thing follows another, but only by chance – that’s the magic that made the run of the series one of a kind, and why Dark Shadows could only happen once.

 

For now, “the David Ford effect” is getting the production crew of Dark Shadows to rethink the show’s approach to acting and where they should be looking for the talent to add that extra spark and make scenes more riveting, with the actors themselves pulling out all the stops to move things up a notch by adding a more theatrical sense of drama to their performances beginning with today’s episode, making the pages of dialogue seem more alive and bringing to the character portrayals that one extra layer of fullness and depth.

 

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