Episode 238: Unreal Estate

“You can’t just walk into a place!”

It’s shaping up to be a pretty dull evening at Collinwood. Liz is sitting at a desk fussing with business papers, and Carolyn is assembling a moody jigsaw puzzle. Things liven up a bit when Vicki gets the evening paper, with the headline “LOCAL GIRL MYSTEROUSLY DISAPPEARS”. It’s bad news, obviously, but at least it gives them something to talk about.

Liz tells Carolyn and Vicki that she doesn’t want them walking around alone at night, until they find out what happened to Maggie. Liz gets up and goes to another room, and literally fifteen seconds later, the girls decide to go out and get some fresh air. What can you do with people like that?

238 dark shadows goldilocks

Vicki and Carolyn walk over to the Old House, which is pretty much the only place to go. Nobody answers when they knock, but as they turn to walk away, the door swings open by itself.

We’re going to see a lot of these magic door tricks over the next few weeks, and it’s not really clear how they work. Presumably, this is either Josette’s spirit opening the door for them, or Barnabas, but there’s not a strong reason for either of them to want these girls in the house.

There are some examples where it’s definitely Barnabas slamming the doors — locking Vicki out of Maggie’s room, as he did last Thursday — but we never see him standing around saying, “Aha! And now I will magically cause that door to slam shut! Abracadabra!” It just kind of happens.

238 dark shadows visitors

But I seriously can not get enough shots of people standing at the Old House door and peering inside. I’m usually being sarcastic when I say things like that, but I honestly love it. It’s a house of mysteries and secrets, and I think it’s thrilling every time.

Vicki calls for Barnabas, but there’s no answer. She decides to go in and look around anyway. Carolyn says, “You can’t just walk into a place!” but apparently you can, if you’re Vicki and you’ve got your heart set on wandering around other people’s property. Vicki is an idiot.

238 dark shadows portrait

The girls walk around in the drawing room, admiring the chairs and the chandelier. This goes on approximately forever.

Vicki wants to go upstairs, and see if there are any other restored rooms. Carolyn scolds her: “Vicki, this place is not a museum! You can’t just walk in and out of here.”

Vicki replies, “Well, in a way, it is a museum,” because Vicki is an idiot. Get ahold of yourself, Goldilocks. You’re trespassing.

238 dark shadows josettes room

Upstairs, they find Josette’s room, which I thought was supposed to be Maggie’s special hypnotic brainwashing space, but Maggie isn’t here. Do they have a backup Josette storage room? Where the hell is everybody?

It feels like this episode is breaking some basic rules of suspense. The whole point of the storyline is that Maggie’s being hidden in this house, and specifically in this room. But if Vicki and Carolyn can walk in here, and Maggie isn’t in the room… then what exactly is supposed to be exciting about this situation?

238 dark shadows willie carolyn vicki

Thankfully, Willie shows up to inject a little bit of life into this scenario. He’s nervous that they’re here, and tells them to leave:

Willie:  You better get going now, it’s gettin’ dark.

Vicki:  Willie, there are far more polite ways of asking a person to leave.

Willie:  I haven’t got time to be polite, and neither do you.

Vicki:  What do you mean?

Have I mentioned that Vicki is an idiot? She’s acting like it’s completely unreasonable for Willie to suggest that she shouldn’t be prowling around in other people’s homes.

238 dark shadows barnabas

By the time they go downstairs, it’s dark and Barnabas has come out of his box. The girls tell him how much they admired Josette’s room.

Vicki:  I’ve never seen such a feminine room in my life.

Barnabas:  Yes, it’s brimming with femininity.

Which is just an amazing thing for a person to say. “Brimming with femininity!”

238 dark shadows josette

Vicki and Carolyn finally head home, and Barnabas tells Willie it’s time to greet their dinner guest. Maggie walks down the stairs, wearing her wedding dress and holding the music box that Barnabas gave her. Barnabas greets her as Josette, and kisses her hand.

So at least we’re going somewhere. That moment doesn’t really make sense, because where the hell was Maggie this whole time, but part of the Dark Shadows experience is filtering out the boring bits and just paying attention to the strange parts.

Relief is coming soon. A new writer’s on the way; he’ll be here next week!

Tomorrow: Local Girl Mysteriously Disappears.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

The newspaper is dated April 26, 1967; this episode was broadcast in late May.

In the location film insert of Vicki and Carolyn walking up to the Old House, the place is clearly a wreck — shutters hanging off the windows, and clutter in front of the door. This would have been perfect before Willie started working on the house a couple weeks ago, but now it looks strange. Also, they walk around the side of the house rather than going to the front door.

When Carolyn and Vicki admire the bed in Josette’s room, there’s clanking noises from offscreen. There’s also a big crash offstage when Barnabas closes the door after the girls leave. It’s a noisy studio today.

Behind the Scenes:

Before the show started, they filmed a collection of scenes at real locations in Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York. They’re mostly generic scenes of characters arriving or departing from major locations, including Collinwood, the Collinsport Inn and the Blue Whale. These were used as film inserts in various episodes. The clip in today’s episode was filmed at the Spratt Mansion in Tarrytown, New York, which doubles for the Old House in the establishing shots. They stop using these inserts when the show moves to color, so there’s only a few more examples after this one.

Dorrie Kavanaugh makes another appearance as Maggie’s stand-in, walking silently downstairs at the end of the final scene. Kavanaugh was doubling for Maggie when she had a nightmare a couple weeks ago. We’ll see her again in a couple days.

Tomorrow: Local Girl Mysteriously Disappears.

238 dark shadows approach

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

5 thoughts on “Episode 238: Unreal Estate

  1. you know what? i gotta say in this age where modern tv and movies move at breakneck speed, i kinda enjoy this slow, plodding pace. i’m not saying it doesn’t get annoying at times, but it’s quite relaxing.

  2. The fact that Vicky and Carolyn walk around the porch to the unseen side of the house is not a blooper. More video footage was used of the Old House in the first three months of the show. In one of them, Matthew Morgan is shown in a rather close up shot walking in the dark into the port cochiere on the south side of the house, walking up about 12 steps, and entering what actually is the front door, on the right side of one of the four bay windows on the house.. The side of the house shown in this episode is the east side of the house, which is the side usually shown in the still shots. When the two girls climbed up on the porch and walked around to the front of the house, they saved themselves quite a climb.

    The actual house appears to have outside doors on all four sides of the house. It originally had nine rooms — four on the first floor, and four on the second floor, with a maid’s room in the basement. Later specs say 14 rooms, but even that is not enough to house all the Collins family and wedding guests in 1795. It was originally built as a “guest house,” for another mansion on the south side of the property, near Sunnyside, so that explains the small interior size. Unlike the set, the real house had a stairwell that was directly in front of the front door, and not to the right hand side.

    The reason that only the east and west sides of the house are shown from a distance is that during the day, cars were usually parked on a driveway of the Lyndhurst estate next door, and would have been visible if the house had been photographed from the SW, S, or SE angle.

    It is debatable whether or not Willie could have restored that much of the exterior of the house that quickly, but that is a detail that I overlooked when I watched the episode. It didn’t even occur to me to think about it.

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