Countdown to Halloween: Wait Until Dark (1967)
Updated: Apr 27, 2019
WHY I'VE NEVER SEEN IT
Actually, I may have seen Wait Until Dark; but, if so, it’s been a long, long time and it turns out I remember nothing about it except the basic plot, which can easily be obtained from a number of sources.
WHY I BOUGHT IT
Every time Wait Until Dark came on Turner Classic Movies, I made a note to watch it. I even recorded it once and it went away with my DVR when I cut the cord. Finally, while at my mother’s house, I recorded its most recent airing and it was a movie we could watch together.
WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT IT
Holy cow, Wait Until Dark is an effective movie! It has a great concept: Susy Hendrix (Audrey Hepburn) is a blind woman terrorized in her apartment by some bad guys who believe she has in her possession a doll stuffed with heroin. In the climax, she evens the playing field by breaking every lightbulb in the place so that it’s equally dark for everyone. When I am lying on the couch watching a movie in broad daylight and it makes me jump, you know it’s a well-crafted thriller. The frantic pace obliterates the idea that 108 minutes might be too long for a movie like this.
Wait Until Dark is based on the popular stage play that premiered on Broadway in 1966 and starred Lee Remick (as Susy), Robert Duvall, and Mitchell Ryan (Burke Devlin on Dark Shadows). You’d think the movie might feel like a filmed stage play, especially since the action takes place largely in Susy’s apartment; however, it most certainly does not. It helps that the prologue takes place in other locations, particularly the airport. More importantly, the movie demonstrates the power of a good script, in this case, the play by Frederick Knott and the screenplay by Robert Carrington & Jane-Howard Hammerstein.
Hepburn, near the beginning of the end of her career due to “semi-retirement,” was only 38-years old, but was starting to age; at least, the Vaseline on the lens would have us believe. (She earned an Academy Award nomination for this.) She, and everyone else is terrific in their roles. Alan Arkin is the criminal mastermind, donning various costumes during his charade to find the doll. Richard Crenna is the sympathetic thug hired to help enact Arkin’s plan, and Jack Weston is his dim-witted partner. Finally, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. is Sam Hendrix, Susy’s husband. (He earned a Golden Globe nomination for this.)
Director Terence Young works with the script and actors on a more intimate scale then he did with Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963) and Thunderball (1965), but produces equally thrilling results. For me, the physical threat of the bad guys toward Susy is not as horrifying as the psychological torture they inflict by taking advantage of a blind woman. Their plot to find the doll is intricate and withheld from us as it is from Susy. We might discover clues just as she does, and it’s clever the way it all finally comes together, but Wait Until Dark keeps you waiting for a light at the end of the tunnel.
Written by Robert Carrington & Jane-Howard Hammerstein From the play by Frederick Knott Directed by Terence Young Starring Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Jack Weston Released Oct. 26, 1967 RT 108 min. Home Video Warner Archive (Blu-ray)
ABOUT THE COUNTDOWN
We all have them... stacks of movies we've purchased, but never watched; or, movies on the DVR, filling them to capacity. This year for the annual Countdown to Halloween, I'm going to make a dent in my "stack," watching one movie a day for the month of October that I've never seen, then writing about it.