Episode 29: Mechanics Made Easy, Pt. 2

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“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.

 

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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 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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