Monday, January 31, 2011

Wait Until Dark (1967)

You'll have to wait until dark before things get really interesting in this thriller from James Bond director Terrence Young.

Wait Until Dark is based on Frederick Knott's play, hence the limited setting of a basement apartment in New York City. If you're a film fan with little patience for essentially one-location films, be warned. What a change of pace this must have been for the director of Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Thunderball.

This 1967 thriller has its strong points, especially a solid cast with Audrey Hepburn, Richard Crenna, Jack Weston and a very creepy Alan Arkin. His character is one ruthless killer.


But, prepare to have your patience tested by a plot that gives heroine Susy Hendrix (Hepburn) several opportunities to get help pronto. Instead, she repeatedly opts for Plan B. This woman lives in New York City? Yikes. Hey, why call police when you can send a child to wait for your husband at a bus station?

Roat (Alan Arkin) offs drug mule Lisa (Samantha Jones) when she tries to do business on her own. He needs to find a doll packed with heroin that Lisa handed off to Hendrix's photographer husband, Sam, at the end of a flight. Sam has no clue what the doll holds.

Roat recruits two former cops (Crenna and Weston) to help him find the doll in the couple's apartment. Susy, who recently lost her sight in a motor vehicle collision, begins to piece together bits and pieces in the stories of the three men that don't quite add up. Give them marks for trying to cook up a yarn involving Lisa's murder and suggesting Sam had a role in her demise.

Wait Until Dark has received some pretty high praise from some critics. I can't be as generous. Susy never should have been put in a life and death situation. She finds out where the doll is. Why doesn't she just give it to the men? Why doesn't she tell neighbouring girl Gloria (Julie Herrod) instructions to call police? Why doesn't she call police? Why doesn't she see a neighbour. She's not living in the bush.

While I'm busy asking questions, why does Roat dress up as two other characters? Did he forget Susy's blind?

Even with those frustrating questions in mind, the last 10 minutes do generate some solid suspense. Enjoy what Susy does to try and defend herself and be prepared for one very effective jolt.


Stay tuned for the theme song as the film's credits roll, courtesy of Henry Mancini. That's just how it was in the 1960s, I suppose.

Rating: 7/10

CAST: Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Jack Weston, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Samantha Jones.

FUN FACTS: What happened to Julie Herrod? Wait Until Dark was her only film. She appeared in two television shows, the last having aired in 1967. Wait Until Dark came out a year after Arkin appeared in The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! One of Richard Crenna's last roles was that of Ronald Reagan in The Day Reagan was Shot. He died in 2003. Wait Until Dark marked the film debut for fashion model Samantha Jones. Her last film was Get To Know Your Rabbit in 1972.

From Donald Spoto's The Life of Audrey Hepburn:
Director Terrence Young, wounded at Battle of Arnhem during the Second World War, was nursed by Audrey Hepburn and her mother. Young and Hepburn had a tea break at 4 p.m. daily during production.

From Charles Higham's Audrey: The Life of Audrey Hepburn
Young wanted George C. Scott to play the villain.
Richard Crenna and Jack Weston borrowed suits of armour from set of Camelot to have fun with Wait Until Dark cast and crew.


Pie CatLady said...

Nobody seems to know what happened to actress Julie Herrod. Wearing those glasses in the film, she looks a bit nerdy (on purpose), but I suspect she grew up to be quite pretty. With a dad directing for CBS TV and a Broadway credit, did she opt to stop? Married? A different career? Somebody must know her today when she'd be...hmmm, about my age.

ghostoflectricity said...

Has anybody noticed that the "Greenwich Village" of the film is deserted and uninhabited? Has anybody ever seen long stretches of empty parking spaces on streets in a lower Manhattan neighborhood? Or a parking lot where someone has room to start a car and drive it over another person? Or when Gloria (Julie Herrod) accosts Carlino (Jack Weston) to sell Girl Scout cookies, they're the only ones on the sidewalk? Have you ever walked down a sidewalk in Greenwich Village? Are they typically deserted in your experience? If you go by the exterior shots of this movie, you'd conclude that New York City has about 35 inhabitants, total.

kenoman said...

Excellent synopsis of Wait Until Dark. It gave me several new insights into a great movie I have loved for many years. And I also wonder why Susy doesn't get help early on in the film. And then I always remember. Oh yeah, then we don't have a great movie at all! So, Audrey Hepburn fans always view this flick assuming Suzy Hendrix is too confused to do the things we all assume. Thanks for this wonderful assessment of a classic film!

Matt Sutton said...

She didn't have Gloria call the police as she was going to call them once she knew Gloria was out if the house. When Susy tried calling the police she then discovered the line had been cut.

They established early on that Gloria was alone at home and the other tenants were leaving on a skiing trip

Roar dressed up as two other people so outside witnesses would not recognize him (remember he is a crafty and methodical criminal... Carefully plotted out plan and very cautious with fingerprints.

She could have given him the doll when she found it ( remember she was going to give it to Mike until she found out he was a baddie) but it then became her only bargaining chip. Once they has the doll she was a dead woman.