DVD Review: Set 4 of Dark Shadows: The Beginning

Since the 3rd set of DVDs for the early episodes of Dark Shadows isn’t available from Netflix, I debated whether or not to wait for them or to go on to the 4th set.

Josette's ghostIt was the appearance of Josette Collins’s ghost at the very of the 2nd set that prompted me to skip ahead and hope I wouldn’t miss very much.

No, as it turned out, I didn’t miss much at all. The murder mystery is drawing toward a conclusion

To my delight, the first episode in the 4th set begins just after Roger Collins has been arrested for the murder of Bill Malloy. I gather that there was some business about a distinctive pen being found by Vicky in a suspicious place (I did see the beginning of this; Burke gave the pen to Carolyn, and Roger took it from her). Roger apparently dropped the pen, and then made an incriminating ass of himself. And now he’s being questioned by the police.

This joy could not last. I did so want Roger to be the murderer, but knew all along that that he was too obvious a suspect. I wasn’t the only one disappointed when he was finally cleared; Burke Devlin, the housekeeper Mrs. Johnson, and Roger’s son David also express surprise and disbelief at this turn of events.

Vicky, tied upThe real murderer (who I’m not going to name) came as a surprise to me. Vicky accidentally stumbles upon the truth and ends up being held captive in a secret room behind some bookshelves in the dust-laden old Collins house.

This goes on for 10 episodes–two full weeks if you were viewing the show it as it aired–but I believe it only takes place over two days in the show’s own time. It’s a harrowing experience for poor Vicky, who is under repeated threat of being killed, tied to a chair when her escape attempt fails. The murderer is assumed by this time to have fled from the state, so the police aren’t even searching for him around Collinwood anymore.

One tedious note in this otherwise suspenseful hostage story arises when it becomes another grim special lesson for young David Collins. He’s the only person who knows where the murderer is and aids him by bringing him food; at this point, David still believes that his father is guilty and that he’s helping an innocent man. But after he begins to suspect the truth, and even sees Vicky tied up in the secret room, he spends episodes wondering what to do about it!

Kids, if you see an escaped murderer in hiding and holding a woman hostage, and you’re the only one who knows where they are–tell someone.

In spite of David’s irksome behavior, the Vicky-held-hostage story ends satisfactorily with some ghostly intervention. The late Mr. Malloy makes two appearances, first to David, telling him in no uncertain terms to help Vicky, then to the murderer; Malloy foretells the death of someone at Collinwood that night. The silly murderer thinks that this means it’s time to get rid of Vicky and picks up an axe… but he’s wrong about who’s going to die.

Ghostly intervention by Malloy and the WidowsMalloy’s ghost appears one last time, along with Josette Collins and some other ghostly ladies–the Widows we’ve been hearing about since the very beginning, I presume–to dispense some other-worldly justice. I was hoping that they’d send him screaming over the cliff, but that sort of scene was probably out of the show’s budget.

Prompted by Malloy’s ghost, David has finally phoned Burke to tell him where Vicky is, although the kid drags it out as long as he can. Roger is also present to hear this information and two men load up shotguns and work together for once to go and rescue Vicky.

By the time they arrive at the old house, there’s little to do except untie her and take her home. Roger, I note, can’t help being a jerk even when he’s trying to be kind.

Vicky finds a portrait of Betty HanscombThere’s one noteworthy addition to the Dark Shadows cast; during the missing episodes, Vicky acquired a sort-of boyfriend, a young lawyer named Frank who can’t pronounce the word “cahoots.” He is helping her trace the model who resembled her in an old painting Sam Evan’s. She was on her way to visit him in Bangor when she was kidnapped.

While Vicky was tied up at the old house and the murder story was approaching its end, another new plotline was just beginning.

An elegant-looking blonde woman in her thirties arrived at the Collinsport Inn. During chats with Maggie Evans in the inn’s coffee shop, this woman asks enough pointed questions about the Collins family and drops enough hints about her identity that it’s no surprise when she is finally revealed to be Laura Collins, Roger’s wife and David’s mother. She had been in a sanitarium for awhile, but is now living in Phoenix, Arizona, and is putting her lifeLaura back together.

When she comes up to Collinwood to speak to Roger and Elizabeth, she explains that she wants a divorce and wants custody of her son.

Roger is happy to consent, as long as Laura doesn’t talk to Burke Devlin about that hit-and-run accident that they were all involved in ten years ago. Elizabeth, on the other hand, objects; while she admits that Laura seems more mentally stable than she used to be, she wants to keep David at Collinwood. I’m astonished to find myself taking Roger’s side. Better David lives with a mother who loves him than a father who doesn’t. Maybe the boy wouldn’t be so weird if he weren’t living in that spooky old house and had a chance to make some friends who weren’t dead for over a hundred years.

The Phoenix paintingBefore this difference of opinion can turn into a drawn-out custody battle, something more intriguing happens. David, who was behaving almost like a normal child at the prospect of seeing his mother, starts to have nightmares about Laura burning up in a fire. When he does finally meet her, he insists that she isn’t his mother.

Stranger yet, Sam Evans is also having visions. Almost involuntarily, he paints a picture of a woman engulfed by flames…


Author: Kathryn L Ramage

Kathryn L. Ramage has a B.A. and M.A. in English lit and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She lives in Maryland with three calico cats named after the Brontë sisters. In addition to being the author of numerous short stories, reviews, essays, and period mystery novellas, she is also the author of a series of fantasy novels set in a dukedom called the Northlands on an alternate Earth whose history has diverged from ours somewhere during the medieval period.