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.
Continue reading “Episode 64: Terror at Collinsport”
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.
Continue reading “Episode 63: A Question of Murder”
“Good eve – uh, good afternoon ladies and gentlemen… No, that isn’t it either. Good afternoon ladies and shut-ins.”
“From yesterday afternoon’s half-hour, we found out something rather shocking about the Collins family’s gem of a caretaker. Personally, from what I’ve been able to observe thus far, being the caretaker of Collinwood is more akin to being a zookeeper. Half the people living there think of the big house as a sort of cage anyway, and with certain members of the household there is the greatest difficulty in keeping their behavior and drives in check. As with wild animals, tensions exist which are liable to flare up at any moment.”
“However, today’s television playlet concerns itself with the motivations of the caretaker himself, who, when a friend of the family has drowned and washes ashore on the great estate, sees nothing wrong in giving him a push back into the water so that said friend may wash ashore somewhere else, or perhaps not at all.”
“Given Matthew the caretaker’s casual admission of such an act, even when questioned by the police, today’s play is called “They Float Bodies, Don’t They?”. Because that’s what a caretaker at Collinwood does; trim the hedges, carry the firewood, and float bodies that have washed ashore back out to sea where they can hopefully never be found. Now, if only someone could do that with my dreaded sponsors, I would never again have to suffer through another commercial break. In the meantime, I shall consult with the production crew and see if Matthew the caretaker is available for immediate employment. Until then, another sponsor with yet another commercial message is just about to wash ashore.”
Continue reading “Episode 54: They Float Bodies, Don’t They?”
“Oh, good eve – or rather, good afternoon.”
“My sense of time has been somewhat confused of late, what with an apparent influence from my nighttime program having taken hold here in this particular half-hour of daytime television. Naturally I find this little known fact most flattering.”
“I was about to select a wine for today’s story.”
“As you can see, I’m selecting from three varieties, as I’m quite unaccustomed to partaking in the late afternoon. After all, my brand of subject matter is so much better suited to the later part of the evening.”
“Today’s teleplay presents a rather compelling story built on the themes of trust and loyalty put to the test in the face of suspicion. The more entertaining scenes are centered around a mischievous young boy, and an even more mischievous grown-up caretaker.”
“To help this fledgling daytime program along in its evolution of adopting the style of story content seen much later on most of those other stations, I’ve even brought along one of my sponsors. After the opening theme, you will as always be subjected to that inevitable minute with the sponsor, but fortunately the one I’ve brought you this afternoon goes considerably well with whatever it is you happen to be drinking. Which reminds me, I have now selected a wine…”
“…and I shall just leave you to your allotted minute with the sponsor, so that you may select whichever type of drink you find is best suited for this next half-hour.”
Continue reading “Episode 53: Our Caretaker’s a Real Gem”
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.
Continue reading “Episode 51: The Mind Plays Tricks”
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.
Continue reading “Episode 38: The Count of Monte Devlin”
“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”