Wait Until Dark (1967)
Wait Until Dark (1967)

Genre: Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 48 min.

Release Date: October 26th, 1967 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Terence Young Actors: Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Jack Weston, Samantha Jones, Julie Herrod

 


 

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ld Man Louis cuts open a doll, removes its stuffing, partially refills it with heroin, then sews it back up. His accomplice Lisa (Samantha Jones) then takes the toy with her to the airport. She travels from Canada to New York, where she meets a mysterious man – but not before handing the doll off to a stranger. Meanwhile, former convicts Mike Talman (Richard Crenna) and Sergeant Carlino (Jack Weston) stop by Lisa’s apartment, only to discover that they’ve been set up. Harry Roat Jr. (Alan Arkin), clad in a black leather jacket, slick black hair, and black sunglasses, propositions (or rather extorts) the men to help retrieve the doll, which has fallen into the hands of a photographer named Sam Hendrix (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.).

“They’re strange people; they lose dolls.” For a tidy sum of money, Roat assigns his newfound partners to come back the next day to con their way into the Hendrix home to get to the bottom of the missing toy. It shouldn’t be too difficult, considering that Sam’s wife Susy (Audrey Hepburn) also lives there, and she’ll be alone (save for angsty, cruel young assistant Gloria [Julie Herrod]) in the afternoon … and she’s blind.

Right from the start, the villains outnumber the heroes, even down to Gloria (initially), whose preteen hormones cause her to act out against Susy. The stage is set (the film is actually based on a play) for an elaborate deception, which at times becomes almost as humorously complex as “Sleuth.” It would make for a fascinating mystery if it wasn’t all a concocted scheme to manipulate Suzy into unearthing the doll. Plus, there are countless contrivances at play that only work because of Susy’s specific affliction.

Along with a few touching notes on the tragedy of blindness (building up her character), Susy makes for a sympathetic victim of continual tormenting. Of course, she also has a few tricks up her sleeve – such as a heightened sense of sound – once again designed around her unique handicap. What doesn’t quite work is the somewhat silly barrage of people who keep barging into her home, along with the front door that is always unlocked and the phone that rings incessantly.

Interestingly, Susy isn’t oblivious to the abundance of unlikely coincidences, allowing her to plot a way out of the conspirators’ schemes. The location of the doll isn’t unguessable, and the antagonists are detailed from the beginning, so the primary concern is how Susy will survive the night (especially since the crooks go to great lengths to acquire the toy without simply resorting to torture or other violence). Her helplessness is startling, but it also lends to impressive ideas for perseverance. Aided by Henry Mancini’s unnerving score and a couple of surprises, the finale is thoroughly thrilling. While the conclusion is shocking (fulfilling the title as well as Susy’s attempts to level the playing field), it’s Arkin’s performance that really leaves an impression. His brand of monster is nuanced, unique, and highly cinematic.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10