Episode 37: One of Our Ghosts

Vicki_basement GIF_ep37

 

In the previous episode while encountering local artist Sam Evans at the Collinsport Inn, Victoria Winters was told by Mr. Evans, “Go back to your house on the hill, Miss Winters, go back to your ghosts and your goblins…”

 

In this episode, it seems that ghosts and goblins are precisely what she is returning to. In the great house of Collinwood during the post-midnight hours, the young governess will be drawn from her room on the second floor by the ghostly sound of a woman sobbing somewhere down below. Following the sound in the hope of tracing its origin, she will be led down to the basement and before a musty old wooden door sealed with a padlock. A moment later, she will come face to face with a real-life goblin.

 

In a subsequent post, we’ll explore the origins of what made Dark Shadows what it was; the deep shades of atmospheric gloom that lend Collinwood its haunting mystique, the family legends of ghosts that seemingly cannot rest, the disturbing disembodied sound of a woman sobbing in the night – even the way people close the double doors of a drawing room when they wish to speak with others in private.

 

As envisioned by Dan Curtis in a dream that woke him one night in 1965 with the spark of an idea for a TV show, the story of Victoria Winters recalls more the age of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, with the sidebar story of Burke Devlin echoing shades of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo; however, the full backstory that fills out Dark Shadows as realized by story creator Art Wallace is more reminiscent of the rise of the haunted house genre from American motion pictures in the mid-1940s, with two in particular, The Uninvited (1944) and The Unseen (1945), both co-starring Gail Russell, serving as the main influences for the gothic romance that came to television in 1966 as Dark Shadows. Following the post for episode 37, there will be a special edition post of Dark Shadows from the Beginning which will examine these earlier motion pictures in depth and point out how they can be described as the origins of Dark Shadows.

 

For now, let’s visit with the ghosts and goblins of Collinwood as faced by Victoria Winters on this, her third night as governess in the big house on the hill…

 

Continue reading “Episode 37: One of Our Ghosts”

Episode 36: The David Ford Effect

Roger_drawing room GIF_ep36

 

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.

 

Continue reading “Episode 36: The David Ford Effect”

Episode 34: A Ripple in the Whirlpool

Definitely champagne GIF_ep34

 

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!

 

Continue reading “Episode 34: A Ripple in the Whirlpool”

Episode 33: She Loves Me, She Loves Me Drunk

She Loves Me Drunk opening GIF_ep33

 

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.

 

Continue reading “Episode 33: She Loves Me, She Loves Me Drunk”

Episode 27: A Lesson in Finance

Drinking GIF_ep27

 

“You nervous about something?”

 

One of the noteworthy things about Dark Shadows – a soap created by a man who had never before done a soap, a series just starting out on the lesser of the three television networks – was the top-notch level of supporting actor talent the show was able to attract early on, despite having been a ratings liability from its initial thirteen-week episode cycle. There are those with previous television experience but who became known for their work on Dark Shadows, like Louis Edmonds and Nancy Barrett. There are those with no earlier television experience but who defined the roles they originated on Dark Shadows, like Alexandra Moltke and Kathryn Leigh Scott. Then there are those actors already known to television audiences but who became better known in later years for work done subsequent to Dark Shadows, like Conrad Bain. Barnard Hughes would fall into this latter category. That’s right! Barnard Hughes, one of the great and memorable character actors of twentieth century stage and screen and tube, is part of the long roster of acting talent to have graced the studio soundstage of Dark Shadows.

 

Continue reading “Episode 27: A Lesson in Finance”

Episode 3: Information

Burke_Information_ep3 Opening GIF (2)

One of the charms of these early episodes of Dark Shadows is something I call “scene connectors.” Someone will close out a scene with a phrase or word, like when Joe Haskell asks Burke Devlin what he wants in exchange for what Devlin has offered him, and Devlin answers, “Information.” Then they cut away to the next scene, which begins by someone else taking up that key phrase or word but in a completely different context: “But I can’t give you any information,” Maggie Evans tells Roger Collins. “Pop’s a free soul, you know that. He wanders.” Just minutes ago, Roger, who is not such a free soul, wandered into the coffee shop just before closing time under the pretext of seeing if there’s “any coffee left in the hopper.” But what he really wants to know is where Sam Evans is. You’ll recall that in the previous episode Roger exploded when he realized that Burke Devlin is back in town – and what he needs this late hour is to pin down the whereabouts of a local artist who paints seascapes and sunsets. At this point Roger has something the viewer lacks: information.

Continue reading “Episode 3: Information”