“Do you really think that I indulge in witchcraft?”
“Good evening,” says Inspector Hamilton, “I’m Inspector Hamilton.” And then it goes downhill from there.
You see, nine months ago — everybody keeps saying “six months ago”, but it was six months ago three months ago — Angelique Collins was temporarily rendered deceased under the most suspicious possible circumstances. The crime occurred during a seance in a pitch-dark room, as she sat around a table, touching fingers with her husband, her lover, her doctor and miscellaneous.
You know how it is with seances. You kill the lights, put your hands on the table, throw back the curtains between this world and the next, and touch the infinite, or as close as you can get on a couple stiff brandies. The seanceers were just starting to get into it when some spirit came along, and seized the opportunity to drop a couple home truths on the company. I forget if we ever identified which spirit that was, exactly, but they were extremely well-informed, for a spectre. You don’t usually get a dear departed with a keen interest in local news.
So the gossip ghost blabbed about Angelique’s dalliances with the odious Bruno, and before you knew it, her husband Quentin leaped to his feet and clutched at her throat, in a fit of mindless bloodthirsty rage. And then she died, somehow. It was the darnedest thing.
Well, it was never solved, of course; the trail went cold, and it was probably just a coincidence anyway. The autopsy said that she died of a broken heart, or a brain aneurysm, or heat exhaustion. Quentin went out and got a new wife, and everyone moved on with their lives.
But here comes the po-po, inviting himself over for some light interrogation. He’s got new evidence which could bust this case wide open, if he can only figure out how to deploy it. Step one is to not hand exhibit A to the suspect as soon as you walk into the room. I forget what step two is.
“Perhaps you’d care to read it,” the Inspector says gravely. “It’s a photostat of a page from Dr. Longworth’s journal.” And then the suspect just kind of wanders off with it.
Inspector Hamilton eyes Quentin keenly as he processes the document.
“Cyrus says that he falsified the death certificate,” Quentin says, as he and his wife gather around the Ralston-Purina lamp to discuss how the investigation is going so far. “Angelique, in fact, was murdered.”
“Murdered?” cries a passerby, swept up in the drama.
“Mr. Roger Collins!” the Inspector announces, like this is an Agatha Christie stage play and he has to name all the suspects as they enter the room.
Roger flings Hamilton an eyebrow, and then turns back to Quentin. “What kind of nonsense is this?” he demands.
“He even gives the method of murder,” Quentin explains. “A hatpin stuck at the base of the skull, causing instant death.” This is relatively uncommon, as methods of murder go, and it’s quite tricky to pull off, especially if you do it in the dark on the spur of the moment. Hatpins are dangerous. You could put an eye out.
Maggie asks who the journal entry named as the murderer, and her husband turns and smiles. “Me, of course,” he shrugs, which is pretty baller, for Parallel Quentin.
“If you’ll all excuse me,” says Hamilton, “I’d like to ask a few questions about the seance during which the death took place.”
“This is absurd!” Roger sputters, so Hamilton turns his attention to this random relative.
“You were at the seance, weren’t you, Mr. Collins?” the detective asks, so I guess now we’re investigating Roger.
That’s basically how this entire episode goes. Hamilton struts around cocking his eye at people like a pre-Columbian Perry Mason on the Orient Express, while the suspects wander in and out of the room, doing exactly as they please.
Maggie asks the Inspector if she can have a few moments alone with Quentin, so they can rehearse their alibis, destroy some evidence and then flee through the French windows out into the night, headed for Mexico with a suitcase full of krugerrands, and the Inspector says sure, and he goes and waits in the hall.
Maggie wants Quentin to call a lawyer, which is the first sensible thing that anyone’s said all day, so obviously he just pouts, and accuses her of accusing him of murder, like a sulky teenager.
Then he walks over and throws open the doors, declaring, “Inspector, I should be happy to answer any questions that you might have.” As the fuzz re-enters the room, Quentin throws Maggie a dismissive look, like who died and made you Miranda.
Rejoining the discussion, Inspector Hamilton says, “Now, Mister Co–” and then another random houseguest drops by.
“Oh, we have a visitor!” says Angelique, who happens to be the murder victim they’re all discussing. Hamilton came by to talk to one person, and look what’s happened; the place is filling up like it’s the stateroom scene in A Night at the Opera. Any minute now Chico’s going to start ordering hard-boiled eggs.
Quentin introduces the newcomer as “Alexis”, the twin sister she’s pretending to be until all this murder business blows over, and Roger explains that she couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the case, because she wasn’t in the country when the seance took place. At this point, Hamilton is apparently sub-leasing the investigation to anyone who wants to take a whack at it.
Hamilton says that there are a few things that he’d like to talk to her about, and Quentin objects that she doesn’t know anything.
“That’s not quite true, is it, Miss Stokes?” Hamilton counters, and directs her attention to the photostat he’s been waving around all evening. It turns out she’s the one who has Cyrus’ journal, so now the investigation is about her. I wonder who owns the photostat machine.
“Where did you get that?” Angelique demands, and Hamilton says, “Where I got it isn’t important,” which is the first time he’s held back a piece of information all night. It won’t last. Like any soap opera cop, he’s bursting with the need to describe every single clue he knows about to anyone who happens by.
Angelique strikes a backacting pose, and admits she has Cyrus’ journal.
“Why didn’t you tell anyone?” asks Quentin, seizing control of the discussion.
And look at this shot! Detective bros.
Hamilton asks, “Do you consider yourself to be the best judge of that, Miss Stokes,” and “On what do you base this assumption,” and then it’s Quentin’s turn again.
“I’m more interested at this point,” Quentin says, “in knowing how you got ahold of this journal! Certainly, Cyrus didn’t give it to you.” Angelique tries to stonewall, and Quentin barks, “I want to know very much where you got it, and how!” He was the suspect, a few minutes ago.
Angelique turns away, so Hamilton decides to open up the case files and divulge more information, just to see what happens. “The photostat of the page was given to me by Bruno Hess,” he says to Quentin. And now this is a scene about how angry Quentin is at Bruno.
“Cyrus left the journal with him,” Angelique explains. “I bought it, hoping to keep it secret.” So that’s at least one charge of obstruction of justice, right there. Let’s see how many more we can rack up, before the evening’s over.
“He’s only out to cause trouble!” Quentin shouts. “But he won’t be causing trouble much longer!” This is more or less an admission from the prime suspect that he plans to murder someone else. Hamilton hardly notices.
“Mr. Collins,” he murmurs, “I don’t think there’s that much cause for excitement.” He is zero percent in charge of what’s going on right now.
Quentin turns on the detective. “Inspector, I’m sorry,” he says, “but I won’t answer questions of anyone sent to this house by Mr. Hess!”
Maggie points out that it’s better to get this over with. “I’d like to get it over with, all right,” cries Quentin, “with Bruno, and with my bare hands!” I hope someone’s hidden the hatpins.
Seizing control of the situation, Angelique says, “Inspector, would you mind if I spoke to Quentin alone?” Without waiting for an answer, she grabs Quentin, propels him out into the foyer, and closes the doors behind them, so they can dig a hole and bury some more evidence. This is the second time during this interrogation that Hamilton has allowed Quentin out of his sight. These people need to focus.
Angelique gives Quentin a pep talk, saying that he has nothing to fear from the Inspector’s questions; this is all Bruno’s fault anyway. Enraged, Quentin storms out of the house, never to be seen again, and Angelique smiles and trots up the stairs.
In the drawing room, Hamilton asks, “Your husband’s a very volatile man, isn’t he, Mrs. Collins?” Roger makes some smart remarks, and Maggie decides that she’s sick of standing around all night incriminating everyone.
Throwing open the doors, they discover that Quentin and Angelique have disappeared. Now it’s a missing persons case.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Roger asks Quentin who Cyrus wrote was the murderer. Quentin says, “Well, he admits that it’s his own opinion, but, uh, he feels that it is, uh, nevertheless, a very good one.” Then Quentin coughs before his next line.
While Quentin is walking around with the photostat in his hand, he absent-mindedly rolls it up into a tight cylinder, and then squashes it flat, which creases the paper in a dozen places. Then Hamilton has to unfold it and hand it to people. The funny moment comes when he shows it to Angelique, saying, “You recognize this, don’t you?” It takes a couple tries before he can successfully get it in front of her face.
There’s an edit in the middle of the credits; apparently they had to shoot it twice and splice them together.
Behind the Scenes:
This is Michael Stroka’s last episode as Bruno Hess; he’ll be back in October as Lazlo Ferrari.
Inspector Hamilton is played by Colin Hamilton, which is adorable. Before Dark Shadows, Hamilton appeared in the 1958 anthology TV series Encounter, which was cancelled after five episodes. He also appeared in a Canadian movie called The Naked Flame in 1964, and on Broadway in Hadrian VII in 1969. Hamilton appears in four episodes as the Inspector, and also plays a doctor in episode 1219, Dark Shadows’ only missing episode.
The first act starts with a close-up on the back of Hamilton’s jacket, and then pulls back as he enters the scene. This is probably a reference to a technique that Alfred Hitchcock used in his 1948 murder mystery Rope, which takes place in real time and is edited to look like it was shot in one continuous take. The illusion of a single take is created by ending shots on a dark item like the back of someone’s jacket.
— Danny Horn