Windows of Dark Shadows

Windows play an important role on Dark Shadows. The series’ opening scene, the scene literally first dreamt by producer Dan Curtis, shows new governess Victoria Winters sitting by a train window. When she looks out, we see only her phantom reflection floating in the darkness, and then the moon’s mysterious half-light. Together, the two images suggest the mystery of her past and her immediate future.

A dissolve shows us that same light illuminating Collinwood, the mysterious mansion that is her destination. Elizabeth Collins Stoddard stands at one of those windows and opens it wide, only to be chastised by her brother, Roger. He calls her a fool, “looking out in the night, waiting for someone who should have never been asked to come here in the first place.” As he grows angry, he asks, “Why don’t you just open the doors and let the whole town come trooping through the house?” We, the viewers, become voyeurs, peering through the window into a secret world where this wealthy family has long concealed its terrible secrets.

We rarely know what, if anything, Mrs. Stoddard sees through that window. We only hear the sound of wind and crashing waves. But the window light casts the shadows of moving leaves and ivy that stir clouds around her brow and breast, illustrating her desire for second chances in her tomb of a home. When Victoria stands alone at the Collinsport station, the leaving train flashes dark shadows across her face, illustrating that, just as they allow for light, windows create shadows of their own.

As this first episode ends, Victoria is ushered into the home, and Mrs. Stoddard closes the doors on the camera, sealing her in. Victoria Winters looks up at the stained glass at the top of the staircase, but we the viewers see her through Mrs. Stoddard’s shadowy window, now a part of the Collins’ family prison.

Throughout the series, from inside, the windows of Dark Shadows generally reveal only leaves in fog, reinforcing the sense of mystery and isolation. But from time to time, characters return to windows to look out of their haunted houses. When the Collins’ plant manager, Bill Malloy, disappears, before we learn of his death, Mrs. Stoddard returns to the window time and again, with her daughter Carolyn, with Victoria and with Roger, sensing that the worst has happened. The window is the place Mrs. Stoddard confronts a mysterious world she can’t control. When Sarah Collins disappears in the 18th Century episodes, Mrs. Stoddard’s historical counterpart, Naomi Collins, desperately worries over the fate of this little girl through this same window.

When the undead Barnabas Collins returns to the family fold, he takes up residence in the old house. He now looks out of his own window, holding a candle and peering out into the night. The sound of howling wolves answer his gaze. When he begins to take control of the girl who works at the diner, Maggie Evans, he does so from the vantage point of the window, staring straight into the camera. Like his literary ancestor, Count Dracula, Barnabas Collins has sight that reaches through the darkness. He has a frightening power the shows’ mere mortals (including its fans) lack when they look out into the world and contemplate its mystery. By this time, we too live in Collinwood, and like Mrs. Stoddard, we are trapped by a vantage point that offers no resistance to the supernatural.

Comments

  1. Tammy says:

    Very good way of describing it. It’s been a long time since I watched the series, but with some good recalled scenes, this really adds to the connection we all felt when we first started watching the soap opera. These were well trained actors working on a small stage, that wasn’t big enough for their personalities. Always the window and the ‘dark shadows’ were their connection. Even if some stories were never fully developed to find our answers, that’s what made us tune in every week. I don’t know why it was cancelled, could have been the ratings? But I think it had plenty of viewers. So glad I was among them. :)

  2. MaryMRevis says:

    Oh my such PERFECT analogy of the typical Dark Shadow viewer. One DOES feel like a voyeur peering into their world..and loving every minute of it!. Nicely done article!

  3. Hidoll22 says:

    This picture is when he would look out the window when he was luring Maggie into his cold, damp creepy house. I always thought he looked scary doing this. Maybe it was the combo of the moon and the candle behind him

  4. Thank you for these comments. I really appreciate it!

  5. Robert Sharp says:

    Nice analogy. Don’t forget the scene (actually shot on location on film) of Roger driving his car away from Collinwood and young David staring out the window, knowing that he had tampered with his father’s car’s brakes.

  6. Terri Cabral says:

    I am currently going through the series again on DVD. I’m at the 8197 sequence. That was a very nice analogy. Good article.

  7. Paula Kate Prince-Meserole says:

    Excellent. I loved the sheer poetry of this piece. Bravo!

  8. Scarlette says:

    You nailed it!!
    We are currently watching ALL the re-runs at Retro-Cafe.com and you are SO right. They play a HUGE role in the mysteriousness of the entire show! Excellent analogy!

  9. D.W. says:

    Yes indeed… having to see Barnabas forlornly send out hypnosis vibes through that lattice frame, we dubbed it his “staring window”. ^_^

    http://xoiscythe.podomatic.com/

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