A door slams in the night, and newly arrived governess Victoria Winters, sitting up in bed reading a book, is understandably alarmed as she turns her head with wide-eyed concern to place the sound. She has journeyed hundreds of miles up the coast from the orphanage where she was raised, having accepted a job that she hoped might lead her to find out about herself, the true identity of her origins. But instead all she has found in the three hours or so since her arrival are the strange and unpredictable turns in temperament that come from those who hold within themselves hidden fears, deep despair, or desperation. Not to mention closed doors that seem to open by themselves.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that these first four episodes play out in virtual real time as Vicki meets the members of Collinwood one by one, episode by episode, along with a man who has returned to Collinsport and unbeknownst to her is the reason for some of the unrest that is awoken in the household. In order for the characters to come alive in all their complexity and turns of mood, it is necessary that they interact with her one on one, which for each requires the time and space of an episode: Burke Devlin in episode 1, Elizabeth in episode 2, Roger as well in episode 2, and Carolyn in episode 3, which means that we are due to meet young David Collins in episode 4.
But hints of David’s nearby presence have already been felt in episode 3. Upon returning upstairs to Vicki’s room after Carolyn’s guided tour downstairs, Vicki discovers the letter she had been writing earlier is now on her bed, having been moved from the drawer of the writing desk where she had put it when Carolyn dropped in to say hello by way of introduction. After joking about “more ghosts,” Carolyn says she has no idea why anyone would want to take her letter out of a desk drawer and leave it on the bed. Then she turns her head to look in the direction of the hallway saying “Unless…” before advising Vicki to lock her door and get a good night’s sleep “because come tomorrow you are going to need it.”
Earlier in the episode, when Carolyn was identifying for Vicki the portrait in the drawing room of Collinsport founder Isaac Collins, one of the drawing room doors had opened, as though by itself. Vicki notices this and is immediately disturbed by it. When Carolyn goes to check, there is no one there and she suggests the wind may have blown it open, but Vicki points out that there is no wind there and that she is sure she closed the door tightly when they came into the room. Carolyn seems distressed, but covers this by advising Vicki that she “had better get used to doors like that,” adding that such occurrences are to be expected in Collinwood.
The mystery of the open drawing room door is never explained to the viewer. Ghosts are spoken of in this episode, where the possibility is mentioned (by Burke Devlin in his conversation with Bill Malloy at the Blue Whale) that Collinwood may be haunted. But from the evidence regarding the moving of Vicki’s letter at the end of the episode, it is clear that something else is going on, something even more chilling than the idea of the house being haunted by ghosts. Someone was outside the closed drawing room doors eavesdropping while Carolyn and Vicki were talking and deliberately pushed open one of the doors to let them know they were there. This rules out Roger, because he was out at the diner getting a late-night cup of coffee as a pretense for finding Sam Evans. Elizabeth would never behave in this manner toward her new houseguest and employee, and, as we will discover early on in the fourth episode, will upbraid anyone who would treat her new guest with such disrespect. Which leaves only one other possible candidate, someone we are due to meet soon, the fourth inhabitant of Collinwood who will meet Vicki in the fourth episode. But in the third episode, he doesn’t meet her and doesn’t intend to. Instead he skulks about in secret, following her around the house and listening in on her private conversations, and even going into her room without permission and reading her personal correspondence. As we have seen so far, each member of Collinwood is troubled by inner demons, but the darkest and most disturbing may well haunt the mind of a nine-year-old boy named David. In the second episode, over tea in the drawing room, Elizabeth cautions Vicki that “David is likely to be different from any boy you’ve ever met.” Even before the viewer’s introduction to David, he is living up to Elizabeth’s words, having begun his association with his new governess in the most unsettling way possible, by stalking her!
As for menacing behavior, it would seem that from how the fourth episode starts out Roger may have more in common with his son “the little monster” than he would care to admit to. After the slamming of the front door in the opening scene, which gives Vicki a start, we see someone in the foyer making his way up the stairs to the second floor. But the camera angle shows only the lower length of the man’s pant legs from around knee level down to his shoes as he slinks along with deliberate hushed movement through the hallway toward the door of Vicki’s room. She is by this point up and moving around, brushing her hair as she prepares to turn in for the night, but becomes concerned by the sound of footsteps moving in the hall outside, so she hurries to her door to listen more closely. Then we see a hand reaching out for the doorknob, gripping it securely, the unidentified man obviously intent on entering, even though it’s nearly midnight and he is doing so without permission and without so much as knocking. From inside we see Vicki watching as the knob is being turned, her expression one of intense unrest. Then Mrs. Stoddard is heard approaching from down the hall to identify the mysterious intruder.
Elizabeth: Roger! Get away from that door.
Roger (loud whisper): Go back to bed!
Elizabeth: I want you to come downstairs with me now.
Roger: And I want you to go back to bed!
Elizabeth: Do as I say now!
Once Roger is made to retreat, Vicki turns the bolt on her door, but her expression is no less fearful than a moment before. Despite Roger having left Vicki with the impression that he was frightened of something during their initial encounter on Widow’s Hill, she was still able to say upon meeting Carolyn that she thought her uncle was very nice. But now he has behaved like a prowler in the night.
Downstairs in the drawing room Roger pours himself a brandy as Elizabeth closes the double doors to confront him. But it’s Roger who speaks first.
Roger: What do you think you’re doing?
Elizabeth: Suppose you tell me what you were doing!
Roger: Elizabeth you’re my sister, not my warden.
Elizabeth: Roger, that girl was brought here to care for your son. Your son, Roger, not you!
Roger: What’s coming now, the lesson on morals?
Elizabeth: No, not a lesson on morals! Just a simple statement. You repeat tonight’s episode, and I’ll have to ask you to pack your things and leave.
Roger: Elizabeth, all I wanted to do was talk to the girl.
Elizabeth: Then knock on her door. I want you to remember that Victoria Winters is not only an employee, she is a guest in my house and I want her treated with as much respect as — .
Roger: As much respect as you’d give Burke Devlin?
Suddenly the sharp reproval is gone from Elizabeth’s voice. With the dropping of one man’s name, she seems just as quickly to have forgotten all about Roger’s untoward behavior of moments ago, once he tells her that Miss Winters had a fellow passenger get off the train with her. Elizabeth turns away and in a somber, reflective tone says, “Somehow I knew he’d come back.” Then their discussion heats up once more, but this time over how Roger intends to deal with the matter of Burke’s return. Eventually, though, Elizabeth will relent and allow Miss Winters to be brought downstairs to be questioned about Burke Devlin.
Before this happens Carolyn walks in while Elizabeth and Roger are still going at it. Roger reassures her by calmly explaining, “Just a little family discussion, kitten. Nothing for you to worry about.” By the way, as revealed in the third episode, Carolyn has a huge crush on her uncle. And now, in the fourth episode, writer Art Wallace is willing to play up that aspect one step further – by showing that Roger has a similar, mutual affection for his niece, as exhibited by the way he openly flirts with her. His pet name for her is “kitten,” and before this scene is over, Roger will have referred to her as “kitten” four times and even kisses her goodnight while standing beside her with one arm around her shoulder.
During this drawing room scene a unique piece of theatrical choreography unfolds, another example of what sets Dark Shadows apart from other daytime soaps of the period. As Carolyn tries to find out who Burke Devlin is and what has made her uncle Roger so frightened, the actors line up for this visually striking bit of camera blocking.
From the beginning, Dark Shadows is a delight to behold.
Once Roger has gained complete control over the situation, and having as well convinced both Carolyn and Elizabeth to go upstairs to bed while he questions Miss Winters on his own, it is then that his more disagreeable nature comes out to play.
Roger: Well now. Let’s start with a nightcap.
Vicki: No thank you.
Roger: Well, I could do with a spot of brandy.
Having had Miss Winters dragged out of bed at this late hour, Roger then saunters over to the liquor cabinet to pour himself a drink, and you can hear Vicki click her tongue against the roof of her mouth in annoyance as she is forced to sit and watch him enjoy a leisurely drink, even applying a theatrical stretch to his posture and lifting his head back for effect.
More than content to take his time in getting to the heart of the matter, Roger then subjects Miss Winters to a round of mischievous innuendo.
Roger: Nothing quite so satisfying as a fine brandy. You should try some.
Vicki: I have. It burns.
Roger [laughs]: The directness of youth. Pain sometimes precedes pleasure, Miss Winters, or are you too young to have discovered that yet?
Vicki: I’d rather avoid the pain as long as possible.
But, of course. And could it be any other way? Not only is Victoria Winters a nice girl, but she is also Dan Curtis’ dream girl, the very embodiment of his vision while asleep one night in 1965 of a girl arriving on a train to work in a large house somewhere up the coast of New England. Her defining virtue is hope, the light that guides her on a quest of self-identity, which to be maintained would require a certain fundamental innocence, and her steadfast adherence to such innocence is so unflappable that not even the bite of a vampire could corrupt the spirit of her inherent purity.
But she can still lose her temper, which she does once Roger’s obsession with Burke Devlin drives him to level a series of rapid fire questions that appear to question her honesty and integrity, and finally she can stand no more.
Roger: A stranger enters this house for the first time in eighteen years, and she arrives on the same train as Burke Devlin. Are you trying to tell me that it’s only a coincidence?
Vicki [rising from the sofa]: I’m not trying to tell you anything! All I’m trying to tell you is I never heard of Burke Devlin until he was kind enough to give me a ride from the station to the hotel. I don’t know anything more than that, and now if you’ll excuse me! [turns to leave the room]
Roger: Miss Winters, wait.
Vicki: For what? So you can shout at me, question me, accuse me of dishonesty? I’ve told you all I know. And now I’d like to go to my room to get some sleep, because I may want to take that early train in the morning!
With that, Vicki opens one of the drawing room doors to make her exit, and for a moment she stands in the foyer leaning with her back against the double doors, heaving a visible sigh and closing her eyes, her face the very image of exasperation, before moving with determined strides toward the stairs for bed.
Yet, despite all she has been through in a mere three hours in Collinsport, she will not sleep soundly for long. At two in the morning she is awakened by the troubled sound of someone sobbing in the night, a sound that may emanate from anywhere and yet nowhere all at once. She slips on a nightgown and goes downstairs to investigate, then finds the drawing room doors closed. She knocks, and when no one answers she opens one of the doors to walk in and look around, but there is no one there. Back in the foyer she is startled when she spots a small form lurking in the shadows atop the stairs. The form begins its descent and stops beneath the pool of light from the hanging fixture. Vicki puts one hand to her head as she smiles with relief on finding out who it is.
Vicki: Fine thing! Frightening a new friend.
As her nocturnal fellow Collinwood resident resumes with descending the stairs, Vicki says, “What’s the matter David, cat got your tongue?” With all she has endured these last few hours – being called a jerk by a hotel waitress, left standing at the edge of a cliff by a frightened man, having seen her new employer break down and cry when she thought no one was looking, hearing everyone she meets, strangers and new friends alike, advising her to turn around and go back home – without doubt the biggest challenge to maintaining her positive outlook and disposition comes in the form of three simple words as spoken by a pint-sized fund of ill will: “I… Hate… YOU!”
Opening location footage, showing the proposed location of Vicki’s room on the second floor, overlooking the grounds at the back of the house.
The camera zooms in for a close-up of the window for Vicki’s room.
Merging shot to show Vicki in her room on the second floor.
Vicki securing the window against the widows’ wind.
A door is slammed in the night.
Footsteps in the hall outside Vicki’s room.
A hand reaching for Vicki’s door.
Vicki reacts as someone tries to get into her room.
Roger is caught trying to sneak into Vicki’s room.
Elizabeth confronts Roger about trying to get into Vicki’s room unannounced.
Elizabeth learns that Burke Devlin traveled to Collinsport on the same train as Miss Winters.
Elizabeth somehow knew Burke Devlin would come back.
Carolyn wonders if the drawing room doors should be soundproofed.
Carolyn walks in on a heated argument.
Roger reacts upon learning that Vicki knows Burke Devlin by name.
Elizabeth is also concerned about what Vicki knows about Devlin.
Carolyn interrupts to calm both Roger and Elizabeth.
Elizabeth reminds Roger of their proud lineage.
Carolyn explains to Vicki that Roger has been having a rough time.
Vicki explains how she met Burke Devlin.
Vicki reacts as Roger gets himself a leisurely brandy.
Vicki loses patience with Roger’s questioning about Burke Devlin.
Vicki tries to locate the source of the sobbing sound.
David says his first words to Vicki.
Carolyn: We really should have this door soundproofed, don’t you think?
Carolyn [as Roger and Elizabeth argue]: Whoah! Whoah, both of you.
Carolyn [to Vicki]: And then there’s David. A kid like that would make anybody’s nerves pop.
Episode 4 is the first to have scenes set only at Collinwood. This episode uses only three sets (Vicki’s room, upstairs hallway, and foyer/drawing room).
The voice of the sobbing woman is played by Florence Stanley (uncredited).
The slating segment for this episode, where the slate is held atop the bedside night table in Vicki’s room, shows the intricate patterns of the wallpaper in the background.
As Carolyn and Vicki are about to step out of Vicki’s room to meet with Roger downstairs, a crew member can be heard clearing his throat.
In act III, after the door to David’s room opens then closes, the camera swings wide to the right for a moment, revealing where the hallway wall ends with an empty space beyond.
One of the drawing room doors sticks when Elizabeth tries to open it to let Vicki in.
In the drawing room, as Roger prepares to sit down and begin questioning Vicki about Burke Devlin a teleprompter edges into frame at left of screen.
While Roger is telling Vicki that tomorrow she will have to begin coping with his son, a crew member is seen walking past outside the drawing room window.
While the voice of a woman sobbing is heard as Vicki leaves her room to investigate, a crew member can be heard coaching the actress doing the voice for the sobbing woman.
As Vicki leaves the drawing room after blowing up at Roger, and again when she returns at 2 a.m. to investigate the sobbing sound, a right angle of marking tape can be seen on the floor of the foyer between the table and console.
After Vicki spots a form at the top of the stairs, a teleprompter can be seen by the foyer doorway. In the lower right of the screen, the hand of a crew member can be seen moving right to left as a signal for David Henesy to begin descending the stairs.
The grand piano in the Collinwood drawing room is a Chickering, manufactured by Chickering & Sons (1823-1983) of Boston, Massachusetts.
Food & Drink in Collinsport:
Roger has two glasses of brandy in the drawing room, having long ago learned about pain preceding pleasure.
Crew Member Spotlight: Robert Cobert
If the signature music of Robert Cobert in Dark Shadows sounds like it might be more suited to one of those supernatural TV shows of the period, this is because five years before Dark Shadows that’s just what Cobert was doing, scoring the music for the fantasy and science fiction anthology series Way Out, hosted by Roald Dahl.
Over the years only five episodes of Way Out ever appeared on bootleg videocassettes, but in the last year ten of the fourteen episodes have been uploaded to YouTube, including I Heard You Calling Me (season 1, episode 5; broadcast May 5, 1961).
There is another Dark Shadows crew member connection to Way Out — Dick Smith did the makeup for the series.
Above video uploaded by Andy Horn
From the page I created for Dark Shadows Wiki:
Dark Passages is a novel written by Kathryn Leigh Scott and published in 2011 by Pomegranate Press, Ltd.
Set in the 1960s, Meg Harrison leaves her native Minnesota for New York to pursue a career in acting while working as a Playboy Bunny in New York’s Playboy Club. After changing her name to Morgana Harriott, she soon lands the role of Margie, a restaurant waitress and daughter of a local artist, in the new daytime TV serial Dark Passages. The show will eventually feature a vampire, but the catch is that Morgana is one in real life.
The characters described on the sets of Dark Passages resemble quite vividly those on Dark Shadows and the actors who played them. The diner set where Margie works is greatly similar to that of the Collinsport Inn restaurant on Dark Shadows.
For the back cover, Jonathan Frid wrote the following blurb: “Reading DARK PASSAGES was like being back on the sets of DARK SHADOWS, except with real vampires behind the scenes!”
In this eight-CD box set of composer Robert Cobert’s series soundtrack, every music cue used on Dark Shadows is available, including the full-length original recordings of the guitar instrumentals heard at the Blue Whale.
Since 2006, UK production company Big Finish has been extending the Dark Shadows legacy with audio dramas offering new stories featuring cast members from the original TV series. My favorite is the 2015 audio drama …And Red All Over, in which Mitchell Ryan reprises his role as Burke Devlin to the backdrop of an eerily compelling backstory on how he came to acquire his wealth in business. Also starring Kathryn Leigh Scott as Maggie Evans, with original series themes and music cues composed by Robert Cobert. A must listen for any fan of the first year of Dark Shadows.
Coming next: Episode 5: Hope Fades with the Light of Day
— Marc Masse
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