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  Wait Until Dark Now You See Her, Now You Don't
Year: 1967
Director: Terence Young
Stars: Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Efrem Zimbalist Jr, Jack Weston, Samantha Jones, Julie Herrod
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: In Montreal, a scheme is being brought into effect where a child's doll has been filled with heroin packets, to be sent on an Air Canada flight with the carrier Lisa (Samantha Jones). All goes to plan and she makes it to New York City whereupon she asks a photographer, Sam Hendrix (Efrem Zimbalist Jr) to help her out and take the doll for her; he is an innocent in this situation, however, and does indeed take it, all the way to his basement apartment where he lives with his recently blinded wife Susy (Audrey Hepburn). Lisa's three associates manage to track down the location fairly easily, and Mike Talman (Richard Crenna) and his partner in crime Carlino (Jack Weston) let themselves in to see if they can get the doll back...

Wait Until Dark was a major hit back in the late sixties, with audiences screaming in fright at the tricks director Terence Young (best known for his James Bond movies, including the first one) implemented to keep up the tension. Those tricks may come across as old hat now, but that was because they set a standard that is still used in horror movies to this day, especially in its use of jump scares, a cheap effect now more often than not, but back then it worked like gangbusters to keep the viewers on the edge of their seats, and leaping off them. Which meant that effectively Audrey Hepburn had made a horror film, one of the biggest stars least associated with the genre, albeit for three quarters of the running time it didn't seem like that at all.

In fact it was so cagey about explaining what was really going on that you may well have found yourself baffled why the three bad guys had to go through all this rigmarole to seize the doll when there must have been easier ways to do so. What you would also be aware of was that the plotline, hewing closely to the hit play by Frederick Knott (whose other huge success was Dial M for Murder), was being carefully contrived to place "the world’s champion blind lady" into a very drastic situation, and once that finale arrived you would have to agree it was all worth it. Though with that in mind, you had to observe they laid on Susy's vulnerability on rather thick, with Hepburn at her most fragile and whimpering her way through her lines, even the ones where she was not conveying any danger.

The ace up their sleeve was Alan Arkin, taking the role of the real villain at a time in his career where he didn't have anything to lose, this being early on when he was not as familiar as he is now. Not that he went on to play many evildoers as he found comedy was his forte and what audiences more often wished to see him in, but Wait Until Dark remained a valuable reminder of his range, which on this evidence was considerable. The notion of anyone acting horribly to Audrey Hepburn was unthinkable, such was her goody-two-shoes image, it's little wonder Julie Andrews was the second choice if she had turned it down, the part begged for an actress whose persona exhibited all the traits that represented purity and an essential decency. That was a strong element in the power of the film back in 1967.

Yet even if you thought Audrey was too good to be true here, you had to admit by that ending she had been an extremely effective item of casting. Before we reached that there was a lot of business about finding that bloody doll as each of the ne'erdowells visits Susy when her husband has been waylaid thanks to their machinations, though she does have a secret weapon in the initially bratty Gloria (Julie Herrod, a stage actress in her sole film) who suddenly becomes enthusiastic when she has a chance to do something more heroic than collect the woman's groceries. Crenna posed as a good guy when we knew he wasn't, bringing his smooth style the brittleness of ill intentions, and Weston pretended to be a cop, but Arkin was who you would remember, a true nasty piece of work who aims to burn Hepburn if he doesn't get what he wants, and might stick her with his fancy flick knife if he does. The ending was of such high quality that it lifted the whole production and you could forget how overburdened with contrivance it had been; it might not prompt the terror it did, but it was a damn good show once it got going. Off kilter music by Henry Mancini.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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