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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Episode 31: Breaking Point

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After having run away from home, David Collins has been safely returned to Collinwood, accompanied by the man David had sought to frame for the crime of attempted murder.

 

Burke Devlin holds the key. The missing valve from Roger’s car that David had planted in Burke’s hotel room is in his pocket. With David under fierce interrogation from his father, Burke waits for the right moment to step in and present the evidence, concocting a story intended to absolve both he and David of any suspicion of guilt.

 

By this point everyone at Collinwood knows that it was David, and not Burke, who was responsible for the accident that nearly killed Roger.

 

To an already tense and uncomfortable situation the element of confusion has been added, where both Vicki and Roger are compelled to question what they thought they already knew for certain.

 

But this act of interference cannot forestall the inevitable. The simmering cauldron of anger, fear, and lingering resentment is set to boil up to a breaking point, an eruption that will push to the limit the father and son relationship between Roger and David Collins.

 

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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 10: Little Monster

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Months before becoming known as the vampire soap opera, Dark Shadows was a show about ghosts and goblins, or at least the frequent mention thereof. But on the Friday of the second week, the show produced a monster, one that proved especially unnerving because it was so real and true to life and therefore possible – a nine-year-old boy named David.

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