Episode 64: Terror at Collinsport

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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.

 

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Episode 63: A Question of Murder

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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.

 

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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 56: More Problems Dead Than Alive

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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.

 

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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 34: A Ripple in the Whirlpool

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Today Victoria Winters is making her first visit to the Blue Whale, while enjoying her first alcoholic beverage since arriving in Collinsport – even though she’s underage.

 

The character of Victoria Winters, and the actress who plays her, is barely twenty. Burke Devlin, the man who bought her the drink, is over thirty.

 

Evidently, the bartender didn’t ask to see the young lady’s ID. In yesterday’s episode, he wouldn’t even shut down a drunk and hollering Joe Haskell.

 

This won’t be the last time on the show where older men will be plying drinks on young underage girls. In those days, you could get away with that kind of thing. Dark Shadows, during that unsupervised era of daytime television, manages to do just that.

 

Those were the days!

 

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Episode 33: She Loves Me, She Loves Me Drunk

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In the previous episode we found out, through Elizabeth’s decision to protect David despite his having nearly gotten his father killed, what it means to be a Collins of Collinsport.

 

In this episode we find out, through the ravings of a drunken fisherman, precisely what is wrong with what it means to be a Collins of Collinsport.

 

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