Episode 58: Dead Man’s Holiday

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With the death of Bill Malloy now an official fact, on this day in the town of Collinsport measures are being taken to observe his passing. The family-owned business for which Malloy devoted the greater share of his livelihood, first on the fishing boats and then as plant manager, has shuttered its operations for the remainder of the day. It was Roger Collins who made the suggestion to Elizabeth, but of course Roger would do anything to get out of work, if only for an afternoon.

 

It’s a dead man’s holiday, but the day really belongs to the sheriff of Collinsport. Dana Elcar appears on every set in use during today’s episode, and each appearance made by Sheriff Patterson will have a decisive effect on the actions of whomever he interacts with.

 

The opening narration by Victoria Winters tells of how “the long shadows of fear do reach out, touching others, darkening their hearts with growing tension.” Sam Evans for one, and Roger Collins for another, each have reason to be tense and fearful, especially with the sheriff making his rounds with hard questions that demand frank answers.

 

Still, there are others whose hopes and dreams cannot be shattered by the grim fact of Malloy’s demise. Joe Haskell has stopped in at the Blue Whale and is flagged down by Sam who gets Joe to join him at his table for a beer. Then when the sheriff happens in and joins them, he convinces Joe to take advantage of this nice afternoon off and go with Carolyn out for a drive in the country. Joe’s dream is of course to marry Carolyn, and a few hours just getting away from it all might find them talking of plans for the future.

 

Then there’s young David Collins, who in a morbid twist finds renewed hope through Mr. Malloy’s death. With the aid of a book devoted to local tide charts and currents, David will do his best to see if he can determine where exactly Mr. Malloy fell in the water. David believes that Mr. Malloy was murdered by his father, because his crystal ball told him so, and because having his father sent to prison would mean becoming free of the pervasive threat of being sent away himself. As David admits in this episode, he likes it there at Collinwood, with all his ghost friends, one of whom may even be Mr. Malloy.

 

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Episode 57: The Ripple Effect

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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.

 

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Episode 55: Two Shades of Guilty

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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.

 

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Episode 54: They Float Bodies, Don’t They?

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“Good eve – uh, good afternoon ladies and gentlemen… No, that isn’t it either. Good afternoon ladies and shut-ins.”

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“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.”

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“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.”

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“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.”

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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 32: What It Means to Be a Collins of Collinsport

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Everyone at Collinwood knows that it was nine-year-old David who deliberately caused his father’s car to run off the road. Even Collins family matriarch Elizabeth Stoddard, after initially grappling with a bout of extreme denial, has come to terms with the truth.

 

On this night, Sheriff Jonas Carter in his Collinsport office has also put the pieces together, and knows he must act to bring the matter to a proper conclusion.

 

But in a surprising twist, when the sheriff pays a visit to Collinwood to present the findings of his investigation, Elizabeth intervenes on David’s behalf, providing for those most closely involved, her brother Roger especially, a grim but resolute reminder of what it means to be a Collins of Collinsport.

 

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Episode 28: Everyone’s Just Curious, Not Worried

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“…when it comes to that family, nobody’s just curious.”

 

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