Victoria Winters: What’s the “Old House”?
Matthew Morgan: Nothing. It’s a dangerous place, maybe more dangerous than the top of Widow’s Hill.
Victoria Winters: What’s the “Old House”?
Matthew Morgan: Nothing. It’s a dangerous place, maybe more dangerous than the top of Widow’s Hill.
“Clarice Blackburn was first utilized as a sobbing woman in episode #37, more than a month before her first appearance as Mrs. Johnson. The vengeful, conniving Mrs. Johnson, first seen in episode #67, is a far cry from the loyal family servant of later years. But she was intended to be even worse initially. The original idea was to make her a sinister, insane character who would menace Vicki” (Dark Shadows: The First Year, by Nina Johnson and O. Crock [summary writers], Blue Whale Books, 2006, p. 13).
As the news of Bill Malloy’s death ripples across Collinsport, it seems a cruel hand of fate that Burke Devlin is the last to find out, the one who had been counting on him the most and therefore whose lingering hope had held out the longest.
Different people have been affected by Malloy’s death in different ways, and this week of episodes presents a series of character defining moments for those most centrally involved. For Elizabeth Stoddard, after the initial shock of caretaker Matthew Morgan’s questionable deed in trying to cover up that Malloy’s body had washed ashore near Collinwood by pushing the body back out to sea, there is in keeping with a matriarch of her stature the necessity of maintaining the dignity of not only herself, but also of Collinwood by seeing to it that all members of the household are allowed to function normally while still maintaining a certain tone of mourning, especially with Carolyn having felt the loss more profoundly than most in having lost a key paternal figure which she has previously cited as the closest thing she has ever known to a real father.
Burke Devlin’s reaction is the most curious, in the way that he seems to view Malloy’s death as a fundamental flaw in human nature, as if fate had intervened specifically to prevent him from clearing his name. Unlike those who mourn the passing of Bill Malloy for the life he lived, Burke takes this grim occasion to eulogize on the death of honesty, in mourning for himself.
It’s a soap opera after all, a show about people and the troubled unsatisfied lives they lead, and no one is perfect, not even the man who seemingly has everything in the palm of his hand.
One thing is now clear about the disappearance and death of Bill Malloy: Sam Evans couldn’t have been responsible. This doesn’t necessarily mean that other folks around Collinsport wouldn’t look upon him with suspicion, like the sheriff, were it determined that Malloy had indeed met his end as a result of foul play. In a poetic twist, he could even be framed, tried, and convicted just as Burke Devlin had been for manslaughter ten years before. Even worse, what happened to Bill could just as easily happen to him.
Sam Evans thus has reason to be running scared. If Malloy had made it to the meeting that night, Sam would be faced with charges for withholding evidence relating to the Devlin trial along with the possibility of prison time. Now with Malloy dead and the question of murder and motive not outside the realm of possibility, the penalty looming ahead could mean a life sentence.
Based on Sam’s words and actions in the previous episode and this one however, it seems the grim balance of fate is weighing most heavily on his mind today. In a drunk and desperate moment, he’s already admitted to Bill what he knows about Roger Collins, and now Malloy has turned up dead.
Whatever the outcome, for Sam Evans especially Bill Malloy represents more problems dead than alive.
Roger Collins is living on lies. To everyone he knows, he must remain a stranger. Yet with every passing day his veneer is being chipped away little by little, largely through the perceptive and watchful gaze of his sister Elizabeth, who but for the good of David would have little if any use for the thoughtless extravagance of her brother’s ways. If you think about it, since his return to the ancestral mansion around a month ago, Roger has brought nothing but trouble not only for the family name, but also to those even loosely associated with Collinwood and all it represents.
If only Roger had stayed away in Augusta, Burke Devlin would never have returned to Collinsport to set in motion a plot to ruin the Collins family, given how despite that he blames Collins money and prestige for railroading him into prison, his principal nemesis had been mainly Roger, with his testimony on the witness stand having sealed Devlin’s fate.
So Roger schemed his way back into Collinwood, using as his bargaining chip the welfare of David’s future: “Roger made an unexpected visit to his sister at Collins House, pleaded the cause of his son….the ‘poor nine-year old child, with no mother to care for him’. He appealed to Elizabeth’s family pride, skillfully reminded her that David was the heir to the Collins name, faithfully promised a renewal of responsibility and sobriety” (Shadows on the Wall, pp. 25-26).
Yet since Roger’s return there has been nothing but trouble. Burke Devlin is back in town, leaving Elizabeth Stoddard apprehensive over the future of the Collins family business holdings and even of Collinwood itself. Her plant manager Bill Malloy is dead, after having vowed to stop Burke from carrying out his vendetta against the Collins family. Even Carolyn is affected, what with the worldly sophistication of Burke’s attention setting up a speed bump in her relationship with Joe Haskell, which at any time could sprout up into a full roadblock. All because Roger couldn’t accept the permanence, not to mention the more modest living arrangement, of his paid exile away from Collinwood and Collinsport in general.
People elsewhere in Collinsport are affected, even those with no apparent relationship with the Collins family, like Sam Evans. Although Sam’s involvement in the events of ten years earlier that sent Burke Devlin to prison on a manslaughter charge and conviction hasn’t yet been made explicitly clear, he shares the guilt that Roger holds but suffers greatly as a result whether or not the threat of exposure is looming close by. Sam represents a different shade of guilty largely because his character is more complex; for one thing, unlike Roger, he has a conscience, while Roger on the other hand, after nearly five dozen episodes of daily half-hour soap opera, has yet to display in his character so much as a single redeeming human quality.
So what do you do with this walking collection of red check marks down a list of boxes outlining the more questionable traits of human nature? If you’re the creator of the character, like Art Wallace who authored the above-mentioned series bible that serves as the show’s guiding outline of probable events, or the executive producer Dan Curtis, who is struggling to pull the sagging ratings back up to a level that would safeguard the show from an almost certain cancellation later that year, you simply provide your viewing audience with a much needed wave of satisfaction by having the character killed off.
That’s what the original plan called for; with Roger burdened by his desperate need to suppress the truth of his guilt in sending Burke Devlin away to prison, he will begin to suspect that Collinwood’s recently installed governess is conspiring against him when she is invited over to dinner at the Evans cottage, suspicious of what she may have been told about the events of ten years ago especially with the way Sam’s penchant for excessive drinking tends to loosen his tongue. Roger will then lure Vicki out to Widow’s Hill and standing by the edge he will in a fevered moment of rage grab hold of her, reminding her of the legend of Collinwood, how two young women of Collins House had hurled themselves over the edge and that at some future time there would be a third, and Vicki unnerved by the crazed look in Roger’s eyes begins to struggle against his grip; but David having followed them out to the cliff rushes forward and cries out, and Roger in that split second of surprise loses his footing and goes over the edge himself… and who among the viewing audience that afternoon in the summer or fall of sixty-six would have missed him?
Somewhere, in an alternate universe perhaps accessible through some warp of parallel time as yet undiscovered in one of Collinwood’s closed off wings, there was an end to Roger Collins after however many weeks of the series; in the series bible it happens the day Vicki takes David over to the Evans cottage so he can meet Sam the artist, so roughly early on in the phoenix story. In that parallel present time, Louis Edmonds decides once again to give up on acting, just as he had earlier that year when a steady stream of acting roles in the theater had at last dried up; his swan song as an actor would have been a bit part in a movie that filmed just before he started working on Dark Shadows called Come Spy with Me, a typical spy drama of the time released the following January that met with critical hostility and tepid box office attendance. Instead, he would have simply retired to his Long Island residence known as the Rookery, resigned to the humble but satisfying life of being a regular in the local shops and singing in the choir every Sunday, and some other actor would have landed the part of Langley Wallingford on All My Children in 1979.
To think what might have been were the makers of Dark Shadows not the type of people who could appreciate the talent of actors who would distinguish themselves in their roles so much so that they would actually be willing to dispense with a key moment in a given story outline. But that turning point is still weeks ahead; for now, Roger the rogue is doing what he can between brandies to keep the truth of his deeds both past and present from spilling into view and exposing him for all to see.
“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.”
Today Dark Shadows crosses over to the supernatural. In so doing, a new chapter in the story of Victoria Winters is presented; more about this below, in the main body of the post.
Dark Shadows fans have wondered why the original story of Victoria Winters, as outlined in the series bible Shadows on the Wall by story creator and developer Art Wallace, was dropped. It wasn’t; rather, it was revised.
Episode 60, also written by Wallace, strongly hints for the family background of Victoria Winters a maternal rather than paternal link to Collinwood, which is implied further in episode 127.
For now, today’s episode provides the first ever Dark Shadows mashup:
Alfred Hitchcock Presents + The Uninvited = Dark Shadows episode 52
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.
The genius of the pen.
Not many Dark Shadows fans would subscribe to such a notion, but it becomes easier to accept when seen in the context of the show’s present transformation; a tale of mystery and suspense fashioned after the sort of nighttime drama anthology shows presented by Alfred Hitchcock.
The story of Bill Malloy, along with its aftermath and consequences, could have been neatly sewn up in just one hour of nighttime television, as Art Wallace did initially with the Jason McGuire/blackmail story prototype The House in 1957, or even a single half-hour as Wallace also did with the initial version of the above story three years earlier. Instead, the Jason McGuire story played out on Dark Shadows for more than eighty episodes, with the blackmail story itself running for a full seventy-nine.
Likewise, the Bill Malloy story promises to generate plenty of episode mileage. In the format of daytime serial drama, the story can unfold a little at a time with the opportunity of providing numerous additional details while various characters are scrutinized for their suspicions and motives. In the process, everyday props like fountain pens and clocks take on a greater significance by serving to shed an occasional spotlight on the inconsistencies of a character’s alibi, should the need arise to account for one’s whereabouts at a given time, thereby building on the overall mystery by adding to the speculation.
Today’s episode is a case in point; the meeting arranged by Bill Malloy between himself, Burke Devlin, Roger Collins, and Sam Evans, instead of resolving the conflict between Devlin and the Collins family, has resulted in the apparent disappearance of Malloy, and a missing fountain pen may hold the key…
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…”
“I thought Monday would never come…”
“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… ”
“…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…”