Monday, May 6, 2013

Dark Shadows Diary, Episode 83

Episode 83, "Sounds of Terror"
Oct. 19, 1966

Way back in Episode 70, we were treated to our first genuine confirmation that the ghosts wandering around Collinwood weren't the products of David's warped imagination. It was a landmark episode in the series, but those ghosts were immediately benched in favor of having the characters spend the next few weeks chasing a fountain pen.

If I had to guess, I'd say Halloween was the reason Dan Curtis let the spooks come out and play as October loomed. I'd also speculate that Halloween was the reason those same spooks were put back into the closets for a few more weeks. Episode 70 aired on Friday, Sept. 30, 1966, and not only served as the weekend cliffhanger but also set the stage for more creepy goings as Halloween approached. It was a magnificent tease, but perhaps it was too much, too soon. At this point in the series a ghost sighting in every episode might have been overkill, and anything short of seeing Josette flitting about the grounds of Collinwood like a supernatural Billie Burke would have been a let down.

Right now, though, it feels as though the mystery is winding down as we approach the Oct. 31 episode, which might finally reveal Matthew Morgan as the man responsible for Bill Malloy's death. I'm sure the DVD booklet would tell me if my Halloween Theory holds water, but having already seen these episodes (more than 20 years ago) I'm trying to maintain a modest level of suspense. Knowing how this story eventually plays out, though, it seems right to give Matthew Morgan a ghostly send-off on Halloween.
If I'm correct, it's interesting that a (presumed) ratings bump for a Halloween Special eventually informed everything the show would later become. Ghosts allowed DARK SHADOWS to introduce a more sinister antagonist in Laura Collins, who set the stage for Barnabas Collins. While these early episodes might be a little slow, they're packed full of great character moments, and the entire series owes a debt to the groundwork laid here.

While we don't seen any ghosts in this episode, there's certainly a lot of talk about them. David blames the disappearance of the fountain pen on ghosts, while Joe and Maggie chat a bit about the specters lurking around Collinwood. The episode even climaxes during a thunderstorm that sounds like something from Wade Denning's SOUNDS OF TERROR. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

When last we left Collinwood, Roger had stolen Victoria's fountain pen, a potential clue in the death of Bill Malloy. Interested mostly in challenging David's on-going struggle with honesty, Victoria launches a search for the pen before eventually accusing the boy of stealing it. It's not the worst assumption she could have leaped to. Even though we clearly see Roger digging a hole and burying the pen at the start of the episode, it's still easy to believe the lying little monster had something to do with it. When Roger intervenes in the argument, though, both Victoria and David are stunned when he takes the boy's claims of innocence at face value.

Naturally, Roger takes advantage of the moment to manipulate Victoria into keeping quiet about the pen. He makes a sales pitch that asks her to forget the incident as a means toward winning David's trust. He also speaks with David alone in a bod to win his silence. Both David and Victoria promise to keep their traps shut about the incident, which will be no small feat for either of them.

Also, David vows revenge on Victoria. Again.

This episode's B Plot involves the dying relationship between Joe and Carolyn ... though Carolyn is conspicuously absent. Joe pours his stoic heart out to Maggie at the diner about the impending end of his romantic interests in his bi-polar girlfriend, and Maggie wastes no time casting her hooks for him. She first suggests he "gets another girl," then later invites him over to "pot luck" with her and her pop that night.

Joe stops off at Collinwood to check on Carolyn, but decides to move on with his life when he finds she's not home (Victoria gives him a slight push by suggesting he's a fool for putting up with Carolyn's bullshit.) Joe's cameo is a brief interruption in David's revenge plot. Once confirming that he and Victoria are alone in the house, David darts off, sure the governess will follow him. When she finds him, he claims he stole the pen, then leads her into the deserted wing of the house "to find it."

I'm sure nothing bad will happen.

* This is first Kinescope episode of the series. The Kinescope was used to record 16mm film from a TV screen, and was used by ABC as a back-up copy for the smaller-market stations that didn't yet own videotape recorders. Even though DARK SHADOWS was never designed to air in re-runs, the original tapes to almost every episode of the series still exist. A handful were lost, though, and MPI has replaced these episodes with the Kinescope copies, which lack the detail of their video counterparts. Honestly, I love the look of the Kinsescope episodes.

 * I'm pretty sure you can see the box that will later be used to hold the hand of Count Petofi (among other things) in the hallway leading to the West Wing.


BT said...

I'm positive that Petofi's box was right outside Vicki's room for the longest! I love seeing it, long before "THE HAND" shows up.

Unknown said...

I started watching Dark Shadows in 1968 when I was 11 years old. I don't remember ever seeing it in black & white. As a matter of fact, I used to ride my bike over to my best friend's house after school just so I could see the show on her color TV! Anyway, I purchased the entire DVD series in the coffin box last year, and rewatched all the episodes beginning with the introduction of Barnabas. What a marvelous trip down memory lane! I didn't start at #1 because I had always heard these early episodes weren't worth watching, they were slow, boring, etc. But after I finished the last disc of my set, I wanted more! So I began at the beginning. I am pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable these old black and white episodes are! They have a certain charm to them, and as you say, they are full of great character moments and hints of things to come. I especially enjoy Mitch Ryan's performance as Burke Devlin. I don't even remember him from when I watched the show back in the 60's. I like spotting props or sets that I know will be used in later episodes. As soon as I saw the set for the Collinsport Inn and Diner, I recognized it as the future Nicholas Blair's house! Also, when I watched the show as an 11-year old, I identified with David and Sarah, and everyone else was "old" to me. But now, rewatching the show as a 56-year-old adult, I'm enjoying the "adult" themes and relationships, and now everyone on the show is younger than me! Thank you for having this wonderful place for us old DS fans to share memories of an important part of our childhood!

Anonymous said...

The Kinescope episodes have an old horror movie quality about them, which makes them fun to watch.

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