“ Genre: Crime & Thriller / Theatrical Release: 1967 / Suitable for 12 years and over / Director: Terence Young / Actors: Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Jack Weston ... / DVD released 2006-03-13 at Warner Home Video / Features of the DVD: PAL, Widescreen „
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RELEASED: 1967, Cert. X
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 108 mins
DIRECTOR: Terence Young
PRODUCER: Mel Ferrer
SCREENPLAY: Robert Carrington & Jane-Howard Carrington
MUSIC: Henry Mancini
Audrey Hepburn as Susy
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Sam
Julie Herrod as Gloria
Jack Weston as Carlino
Alan Arkin as Roat
Richard Crenna as Mike
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Based on Frederick Knott's play, which presumably bears the same title, Wait Until Dark begins when Sam, Susy's husband, is handed a doll at an airport by a strange woman. Unaware that there are several packets of heroin sewn into the body of the doll, he takes it, only to learn later that the woman has been found dead at the apartment he shares with his blind wife, Susy.
A situation then unfolds whereby after the body has been discovered and disposed of in Susy and Mike's absence, Roat, the dead woman's crime partner (who had murdered her after discovering she was using his stash to deal for her own profit), wants the doll back to retrieve the drug which has been hidden inside.
Roat and his henchmen pay a visit to Susy whilst Sam is away for a few days, with the idea that because of Susy's blindness and using some well-thought-out strategy, they could search her apartment for the doll in her presence, but without her knowledge.
Initially trusting, yet gradually becoming suspicious of Roat and his cronies, blind Susy has to rely on her other senses in an attempt at keeping herself out of danger, having to constantly stay one step ahead of the criminal trio.
Wait Until Dark is one of those sleek, slick, late 1960s crime/thriller films which has a slight 'Hitchcock-ian' feel to it.
I did find the first part of the film a little confusing, as I initially wasn't sure how the relevance of the retrieval of the doll fitted in with Susy and her husband Sam, but it soon became clear.
Just going by styles and standards which are typical of films from this era, the acting by all concerned is very good, particularly that of Alan Arkin as the smooth-talking but callous Roat, and a splendid performance was given by Audrey Hepburn. This is a role where Hepburn managed to shed her image of charming sweetness, and dive into something with a little more grit. For the most part, Hepburn managed to carry off playing the role of a blind person with a certain finesse, but there were just a couple of tiny points during the film where I felt that a real blind person would have coped and dealt with things - just tiny, everyday things - differently, but that is a minor issue and I feel down to the direction/production rather than any faults in her acting.
The atmosphere which builds up during Wait Until Dark is quite suspenseful, and although I wasn't exactly sitting on the edge of my seat, I was gripped to the point where I couldn't wait for the next thing to happen, interested as to how the storyline was evolving. I also found one or two very slightly amusing moments in the film, but I'm not sure if they were planted intentionally, or whether my sense of humour runs along a different track to most other people's.
Once the initial scene has been set, most of Wait Until Dark is filmed inside of Susy and Sam's living-room, with Susy at the mercy of the three crooks who quite cleverly confidence-trick her into allowing them access to her apartment. Considering the scene/environment rarely changes, I felt this to be an extremely well-directed film in that the rising levels of suspense centre on a blind woman's fear and her attempts, once she realises Roat & Co aren't as nice as they initially seemed, to secure her own safety inside of her own home. A lot of focus is put upon how a blind person has to think outside of the box, and rely heavily on their other senses in order to work out what is going on, and how to cope with a dangerously mutating situation....senses that sighted people mostly don't turn to as their number one source of assimilating information and working out strategy techniques. This is put across very well in the film, and congratulations to all who were involved.
Although the tension levels gradually run high in Wait Until Dark, it is, compared to modern-day offerings in the same genre, a more laid-back and gentler film which concentrates on subtleties rather than rampant violence. It relies on environment, characterisation, acting ability and dialogue rather than high-action car chases, gratuitous violence, blood and gore.
Overall, Wait Until Dark is one of those gems from the late 1960s which until yesterday, I'd never even heard of, let alone seen (how on earth did I miss it first time around?). It is a skilfully presented and acted little crime/thriller which I feel is more than capable of knocking some modern-day productions from their pedestals. It must be said that to watch and enjoy Wait Until Dark, the acting style from its era has to be accepted for what it is, and an ability to immerse yourself into a gem from another era without prejudice is required....but, I feel be well worth it, as this is a great little film which deserves to be brought down from the shelf, dusted, and appreciated for what it is....an all-time and perhaps underrated classic.
Once it got going, I loved it!
At the time of writing, Wait Until Dark can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £6.48 to £39.99
Used: from £5.48 to £29.98
Some items on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Sam Hendrix meets a pretty blonde, Lisa, on a flight home to the US who asks him to look after a doll for her which unknown to him has something hidden inside. Sam brings the doll home, leaves it lying around and forgets about it, and then has to go away on business leaving his wife Susy home alone. Susy was blinded in an accident about a year ago and is still getting accustomed to life as a blind woman.
Roat, a merciless criminal, wants the doll back except he has searched the Hendrix's flat and hasn't been able to find the doll. He enlists the help of two henchmen, Mike and Carlino, after killing Lisa in the Hendrix home (whilst they are out of course). He tells Mike and Carlino that he'll pin the blame on them as she was a known associate of theirs if they don't help him out. As Sam is away on business when Mike appears at the door claiming to be an old friend of Sam's, Susy, knowing no differently lets him into their home. From here on in it's a cat and mouse game as to who Susy can trust whether it be her young teenage neighbour Gloria, Mike or Carlino or Roat and also trying to find the doll and then trying to hide it again as it is evident Susy's life will be worth nothing if the doll is handed over.
Wait Until Dark was released in 1968 and starred Audrey Hepburn as Susy, Alan Arkin as Roat, Richard Crenna as Mike, with support from Jack Weston as Carlino, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Sam and Julie Herrod as Gloria. It was originally a play by writer Frederick Knott which opened on Broadway in February 1966. Julie Herrod played Gloria in the theatre version as well as in the film and Lee Remick was the original Susy in the play.
Audrey Hepburn is one of my all time favourite actresses. I have always found her perfectly delightful to watch on screen, and I thought she was fabulous in this film. She plays the role of the delicate blind woman who has to fight with all her senses apart from her sight to stay alive with such realism that one could believe this role was written specifically for her. Her character is not long married and you can tell that she is madly in love with her husband and he is constantly encouraging her to be more independent and she says is adamant that she will be a "champion" blind person. Her facial expressions when faced with threat so convincing that one could believe she is really blind and really under threat. There is a scene where she has an argument with Gloria, the upstairs neighbour which is quite violent and Gloria starts throwing things around in fury and Susy calmly bends down to pick up the items on the floor feeling around for them and there is a very emotional scene between them when they both apologise to each other and reach a real understanding as prior to this there was no real bond between them. Susy's trusting nature is betrayed when she realises that "Mike" is not who he claims to be and her distress in this scene is amazing to watch as well as the calm way in which she confronts him with her discovery. The final scenes of the film are really terrifying and Hepburn's acting is especially impeccable in these scenes. Not surprising that Hepburn was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her leading role in 1968, sadly she did not win. I was interested to learn that she even learnt Braille for her role in this film.
Alan Arkin is a truly despicable criminal as Roat. He is so cold and evil that you can only believe that he is somewhat insane and don't realise until you see the last few scenes on the film the real reason for erratic behaviour. He seems so normal at times and at others he seems just riddled with insanity. He is supposed to be a master of disguise but he doesn't allow for the fact that he's trying to con a blind woman who relies more on her other senses because of her blindness so even though he disguises his voice she notices other things like footsteps or people fiddling with the blinds in the kitchen to give signals to the others outside as well as smells. The way Roat calmly asks Mike and Carlino to help him with a job initially, offering them $2,000 for the job before they realise that he has killed Lisa and is going to frame them if he doesn't follow his instructions is quite genius; even down to him showing off the fact that he's wearing gloves and has no criminal record whilst they have records and have just signed their own arrest warrants by leaving their fingerprints everywhere in the Hendrix's home. Roat comes across as so detestable that you're willing from quite early on in the film for someone to finish him off, be it Susy, Gloria, Mike or Carlino or just hope that he gets run over by a car. Superb piece of villainy from Arkin!
Richard Crenna is at his most charming as the affable Mike Talman, pretending for the most part to be on Susy's side - he is so credible with his pretence of being a "Mr Nice Guy" that it makes it the film even more intense as you wait for him to show his true colours but when he does, it's not in quite the way I imagined. I've never been a big fan of Crenna in the past, but I really liked him in this role. Then again, I don't recall seeing him in many films from the 60s - he does look rather dashing in this film so I guess he was a very good choice - his good looks and charisma - made for an all round believable suave small-time crook. It was really clever the way they made Crenna's character so smarmy and credible that Susy begins to actually believe that her husband was actually having an affair with this previously unknown woman Lisa who was murdered.
The supporting cast of Julie Herrod, Jack Weston and Efrem Zimbalist Jr must also be applauded for their roles. Herrod probably had the most on screen time and it seemed as if she really got into character and enjoyed the scenes where she throws a tantrum and then reconciles with Susy as well as the scenes where she has to be brave to help Susy in her real time of need. It seems that this was the only ever film Herrod appeared in. I was surprised that Efrem Zimbalist Jr was also nominated for an award for his supporting role as good as he was, his on screen time was fairly limited.
I have to admit that I was on the edge of my seat in the final scenes and at several points I was very glad I watched this DVD during the day as I would have jumped out of my skin had I watched this alone at night-time alone! The trailer for the film is quite scary alone and from what is said in the DVD extras I understand they used to ask people not to light cigarettes in the cinema hall as the screen goes completely black at key moments in the climax of the film to build the suspense so you feel the fear as much as our blind heroine!
The DVD had a few extras including the trailer for the film, which I've already mentioned above really will get you curious about the film if you enjoy thrillers. There was a documentary called "A Look in the Dark" with Alan Arkin who played Roat and Mel Ferrer who produced the film (and incidentally was married to Hepburn at the time). It's quite short a short documentary but quite entertaining and both Arkin and Ferrer sing the praises of Hepburn for her professionalism during shooting with Arkin saying how he relished playing the character of the evil Roat and how he put his own slant on the role, which I have to admit he did fabulously well. It really amused me to read that it was very difficult to fill the role of Roat as there were not many people willing to be cast in a villainous role against a blind woman, let alone everyone's beloved Audrey Hepburn!
The DVD was released in 2005 by Warner Bros. The film runs for 103 minutes and is (quite rightly in my opinion) rated 12 in the UK. On my version of the DVD there are subtitles available in English, Arabic, French and Italian with special English and Italian subtitles for the hearing impaired and you can choose between English, French and Italian for the language you want to watch the film in. There is no bad language in the film but there is moderate violence and enough threat to make it too scary for viewers under 12.
You can pick up the DVD of the film from Amazon for £3.48 or from Play.com for £4.99 or try your usual DVD rental source if you don't want to buy it outright.
Wait Until Dark was produced by Mel Ferrer (as previously mentioned) and directed by Terence Young. The screenplay was by Robert & Jane-Howard Carrington with cinematography by Charles Lang. The powerful and atmospheric musical score was by Henry Mancini who must be given credit for the scary music which really did add to the scary effects of making you want to jump out of your seat at key moments!
A review in The New York Times in October 1967 said of this film: "The climax of the film, a violent physical confrontation between Susie and Roat in her dark kitchen, is one of the most memorable and frightening scenes in screen history." That is probably still valid today considering Stephen King chose it as the top of his list for scariest scenes in movie history and it came 10th in Bravo's "The 100 Scariest Movie Moments"
All in all, I would rate Wait Until Dark a very strong 9 out of 10. I can't fault the film apart from wondering a couple of times why Hepburn's character couldn't just LOCK THE DOOR AND CALL THE POLICE. Well, if she HAD done that, we wouldn't have had such a fabulous thriller to watch!