Episode 51: The Mind Plays Tricks

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David had warned Vicki and Carolyn what they would find if they ventured back out to Widow’s Hill that night: death.

 

With David’s favorite new hobby being crystal ball gazing, his penchant as a misfortune teller is proving disturbingly accurate.

 

Running back to Collinwood in a fit of hysterics, Vicki and Carolyn are certain of what they saw: a dead man at the bottom of the cliff.

 

Accompanied by caretaker Matthew Morgan, Mrs. Stoddard eventually journeys out to the edge of Widow’s Hill and at first isn’t sure of what she sees along the rocks below.

 

Before long Vicki and Carolyn can no longer be certain of what they saw.

 

As the mystery surrounding Bill Malloy’s disappearance deepens, the only thing one can be certain of at this point on Dark Shadows is that there’s really nothing one can be certain of.

 

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Episode 50: What The Tide Brought In

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It almost feels like the supernatural era of Dark Shadows starts right here in episode 50.

 

Aside from the fact that a man Elizabeth Stoddard has known for twenty-five years is still missing, these late evening scenes in and around the Collinwood estate carry a decidedly ominous tone throughout.

 

There’s talk of ghosts and tragic family legends, the Wailing Widows, and premonitions of death courtesy of a nine-year-old boy with a crystal ball who seems to know for certain what grim and deathly portents this night will bring forth and for whom.

 

Lately daytime television’s first gothic serial drama has been branching into mystery and suspense, and here in this episode story creator and developer Art Wallace is reaching back for the supernatural and noirish mid-1940s inspirations of Dark Shadows to bring a kind of otherworldly atmosphere to the current story, enough so that the viewer would possibly be wondering whether Bill Malloy’s disappearance may be the result of darker, more paranormal forces at work.

 

Episode 50 is about as close to the supernatural as Dark Shadows has gotten thus far without actually crossing over; it will be in one of next week’s episodes when the lines between the physical and spirit worlds really begin to blur.

 

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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 48: The Case of the Vanishing Man: Part 1, Questions and Theories

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It was in episode 45 that Bill Malloy stormed into Roger’s office at the cannery to present an ultimatum: either go to the police and confess his guilt for wrongfully sending Burke Devlin to prison on a manslaughter conviction ten years ago, or let Sam Evans reveal that he’s the only thing standing between Roger Collins and a prison sentence.

This option was reiterated in episode 46 when Bill showed up at Collinwood at ten that night, during which time Roger practically admitted to Malloy that Burke was not guilty but that because it was a long time ago and Burke was now a rich man, Bill should just let the matter slide for the sake of the Collins family.

So when in episode 47 Malloy fails to show up at the meeting he arranged between himself, Roger, Burke, and Sam in Roger’s office for eleven on the dot, Roger begins to relax; just after midnight, he’s positively buoyant as he returns home and strolls into the drawing room for a late brandy before turning in. You have to wonder why in those moments he would seem so carefree. Despite that Bill didn’t show up for the meeting, surely the ultimatum regarding Roger and going to the police would still stand the following day.

So here it is episode 48 and the next day; Bill Malloy has evidently disappeared, and people are starting to ask questions. Now it looks like Roger will have to face a threat even more terrifying than the police – his sister Elizabeth.

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Episode 46: Destroy Me, Pt. 1

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The early days of Dark Shadows are becoming especially interesting; as of this episode, the influence of Alfred Hitchcock becomes apparent.

I’ve managed to pinpoint the exact source Dan Curtis drew upon for the Bill Malloy story, an episode from the anthology series The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, which will also reveal from where the idea was derived for the curious and sinister approach to Thayer David’s makeup job in his portrayal of Matthew Morgan.

In the post for episode 64, we’ll examine these points in depth, as well as how Hitchcock would later inspire Dan Curtis as a director.

For now, let’s begin with today’s opening narration:

My name is Victoria Winters…”

“Good evening… or, rather, good afternoon…”

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“I thought Monday would never come…”

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“Today’s story concerns that of a man with an agenda to be fulfilled; that is, one who likes to make appointments for others, so that he can meet with them after hours. The question is, for today, whether this man can indeed make it to the meeting he has arranged, even if the other principals involved, despite their not wanting to attend, nonetheless manage to arrive on time… ”

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“…Oh, dear. I fear that my time on this program may be cut short. I’ve just now, through the control room microphone, heard the lady director tell the executive producer that she doesn’t like me, because my trousers ride up and I look like Mr. Potato Head. Therefore, I shall endeavor to provide myself with a complete makeover before we arrive at the final scene. In the meantime, here is a word from our sponsor…”

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Episode 45: Ace in the Hole

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Over this past week of episodes, ever since Bill Malloy became the de facto star of Dark Shadows, there’s something you notice: He doesn’t have a set of his own.

Every main regular player has their own set created to define their base of operations, a place where they seem at home and appear to have the advantage when playing host to visitors: Burke Devlin has his grand three-room suite on the top floor of Collinsport Inn; Roger has his place beside the Collinwood drawing room liquor cabinet – matter of fact, in today’s episode a new set has been created for him, a luxurious office space at the cannery; even Joe Haskell had an office set created for him, which was shown in episode 41 during his phone call with Mrs. Stoddard.

Bill Malloy on the other hand makes most of his phone calls relating to the present storyline from the pay phone at the back wall of the Blue Whale; to meet with the principals involved in his plans, he uses a table right smack in the center of the room. In today’s episode he’s even calling Roger at Collinwood using the phone in Roger’s office, and arranges a meeting with Burke at the Blue Whale from the same location. He never has a phone or room to call his own; as a sudden main player, his character is really little more than a “floater.” The writing staff even addresses this point in today’s episode, just in case the viewer has been wondering about the same thing:

Burke: Are you making the Blue Whale your office now?

Bill: Sometimes you get the most privacy in the most public place.

Oh, alright; so long as you don’t mind the details of your private plans being randomly picked up by other Blue Whale customers and possibly the bartender as well.

Today Bill Malloy is talking card games. He tells Burke that he’s put most of his cards down, and now he’s ready to play his hole card. The term “ace in the hole” has the following definition: “A hidden advantage or resource kept in reserve until needed.” It’s derived from stud poker; while you place your bets, you hold a key potentially winning card face down, or “in the hole,” until you’re ready to play it.

Bill indicates to Burke that the hole card he’s ready to play could possibly be walking right into the Blue Whale at any moment, adding that he’ll know him when he sees him; that means the viewer will as well.

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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 41: The Day That Became Last Night

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Dark Shadows is known for its lack of overall continuity not only with regard to character and story arcs, but also inconsistencies with time references including even the age of a given character. As noted in the post for episode 39, Dark Shadows makes its first break with continuity when Dan Curtis decides on making a departure from the original series outline in bringing the Bill Malloy character front and center to force a resolution to the conflict between Burke Devlin and the Collins family, Roger in particular. The next break in continuity occurs here in episode 41 when allusions to time get convoluted; such minute detail can easily be overlooked when you make a change in the writing department, given that episode 41 is the first to not be written by original story creator and developer Art Wallace.

Perhaps the most fulfilling reward of following these early episodes is that you get to chart the evolution of Dark Shadows as it grows toward the iconic status of a cultural phenomenon. By the end of 1966, Dark Shadows would not only go from being described as a gothic romance to a horror soap, it would also rally from impending cancellation by achieving the heights of being number one in the ratings. Such a remarkable and relatively immediate transformation in identity also serves to highlight the brilliance of Dan Curtis, a man with a sudden dream vision for a TV show which would over its first few months come to thrive as a vehicle for spontaneous creative ingenuity, the likes of which had never before been presented in the context of daytime television drama.

Another joy of these early episodes is the performances of David Ford as Sam Evans. Though he didn’t originate the role, in just his first week on the show he manages to define it; therefore, one should recognize the hugely important contribution made to Dark Shadows by David Ford’s theatrical approach to acting as well as how rapidly and thoroughly he was able to grow into the role.

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