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Wait Until Dark (1967)
Reviewed on 2011 November 13
When I was a kid, I remember my parents talking about a couple of older movies that spooked them. A lot of people in their crowd thought Experiment in Terror was disturbing. Meh. It was nothing compared to Wait Until Dark. Even Henry Mancini, who scored both films, bumped up the creepiness of his music here. (This one also has more points for awesomeness in ’60s era ladies’ clothes, but I digress.)
The film starts with the Warner Brothers logo flashing very briefly before getting down to business, creepy discordant piano music plunking away as a guy slits open a doll. The guy looks innocuous and even that’s deceptive: He’s clearly a pro. Despite the fact it’s not a large toy he manages to stuff the thing full of enough heroin (in ’60s dollars, anyway) to buy the sort of house one sees on MTV’s Cribs. Once he’s satisfied with his work, he hands the doll to a mysterious woman (Samantha Jones), who based on her impatience and expensive wardrobe is a pro at this too. Her mission is to unload the doll to some poor slob and retrieve it later.
Through a series of events that are convoluted enough to pull us in without straining credibility, the doll winds up in the hands of Sam Hendrix (Efram Zimbalist Jr.), a photographer and proud husband to the world’s champion blind lady, Susy (Audrey Hepburn). Susy is an amazing woman, but even she may not be a match for the goons who come to retrieve the doll.
This is an adaptation of the Frederick Knott play. There are people that say the play is even more brilliant than the movie; if that’s true, the play must be incredible, because this was very good. Alan Arkin’s portrayal of baddie Harry Roat is the stuff of legends. This guy is just plain evil, and once you’ve seen the movie for yourself, read about the audience reactions when it debuted. Besides a clever plot and Roat just being a world-class scumbag, Hepburn’s portrayal of Susy is brilliant. She is a perfect heroine for this sort of thing; neither helpless nor a Wonder Woman wannabe. She freaks out, then deals with the situations as they arise.
Three chocolate morsels.