Monday Morning Movie Review: Wait Until Dark (1967)

A quick note of apology to Audre Myers, one of my regular readers:  Audre mailed me a DVD of the film Bell, Book, and Candle (1958) at the beginning of October.  I have been waiting for opportunity to watch it with my girlfriend, then was going to review it.

Well, it turns out when you live four hours apart from each other, your weekends get filled up pretty quickly with fun activities and/or family obligations outside of the house—or catching up on a shared television series.  Poor BB&C has fallen by the wayside.

As such, I’ve yet to watch what appears to be a wonderful film, sent by a very wonderful friend.  I do apologize, Audrey, but I will make time this week to hook up the Blu-Ray player and watch the film solo.  Expect a detailed, lovingly handcrafted review in one week!

As I’ve noted many times before, Shudder has some of the best (and so-bad-it’s-the-best) content of any streaming service I’ve ever encountered.  Something I appreciate about the service is that they don’t just stick to slashers, but really take an expansive approach to “horror” as a genre.  They go out of their way to deliver some excellent classics that probably don’t show up anywhere else.

One such film—one that I would not strictly classify as a “horror” film, but which certainly deals with a horrific scenario—is 1967’s Wait Until Dark, starring Audrey Hepburn as a blind woman living with her photographer husband in a basement apartment in New York City.  Hepburn’s character, Susy Hendrix, has only been blind for a year or so, the result of a tragic accident, so she is still learning how to attend to everyday tasks without sight.

That said, she is fairly capable, and manages well enough, though the film clearly demonstrates that she is vulnerable due to her disability.  The stage is set for conflict when Susy and her husband come into the possession of an old-fashioned doll.  Unbeknownst to them, the doll is filled with heroine smuggled from Montreal, and a trio of crooks are intent on recovering the stash.

Two of the criminals are doltish allies, having been locked up together (I think because they were crooked cops).  The other, Harry Roat (played by Alan Arkin), is a streetwise and vicious character who dresses and styles his hair like a Beat poet.  I know looking like a Mod was probably intimidating in 1967 because it was daringly countercultural or the like, but to modern audiences he looks like a dime-store John Lennon.

Nevertheless, Roat’s ruthlessness is put on display early on, as he encounters the two dolts in Susy’s apartment, who are clumsily trying to recover the doll.  Roat is cool as a cucumber, sitting in a chair and challenging the pair to join a conspiracy to recover the doll, noting that their fingerprints are all over the apartment.  It is clear that Roat is playing the other two, and likely has plans to eliminate them to take the doll himself, but he first concocts an elaborate scheme to trick Susy into turning over the doll.

I’m not clear why there is such rigmarole put into recovering the doll, but it makes for a harrowing story.  Roat and his unwilling accomplices begin a series of cons to gain Susy’s trust, and to make her doubt her husband, who has been called away to a photography gig at the last minute.  One of the criminals poses as her husband’s old friend, and the other as a police detective.  Roat acts as a befuddled man looking for a doll given to his wife by an admirer, implied to be Susy’s husband.

Susy gradually gets wise to what is going on, before learning to her horror that the men not only want the doll, but likely will take her life in the process to tie up any loose ends.  She enlists the help of a bratty little girl in the apartment, Gloria, and the two communicate via tapping the pipes in the apartment.

This film is one of those wonderfully plotty, Hitchcockian thrillers that depends a great deal on the characters falling into inescapable logic traps, in which the stakes for making the wrong move are death and dismemberment.  I won’t reveal more of the plot, but suffice it to say that the villains get their comeuppance and Susy survives the encounter, using her blindness as an advantage in a darkened apartment.

Hepburn’s performance here is commendable.  She plays a blind woman very convincingly, not only with her movements, but with her gaze.  She looks at characters the way a blind woman would—not exactly focused in on the person she’s talking to, as she can’t see them.  Her training at the blind school has definitely helped her out, but it’s also clear she is still learning to get around.

It’s a very well-done film, and builds to a crescendo of tension as the story reaches its climax.  Home invasion stories are often the most effective thrillers, as they play upon one of our deepest fears:  the violation of our home, our sanctuary, to marauding hooligans intent on doing us harm.

Wait Until Dark is definitely one worth checking out.

19 thoughts on “Monday Morning Movie Review: Wait Until Dark (1967)

  1. Wait Until Dark is a very good movie. It’s almost claustrophobic in the sense that you feel the Hepburn character being reduced to having just the sense of hearing to protect her. It’s a very effective movie. I suspect it can qualify as horror in that it presents a horror that is more apt to happen than the ‘bump in the night’ kind.

    Along those same lines, Cape Fear is creepy … tremendously unsettling. Only watch the version with Robert Mitchem and Gregory Peck DiNero was in the 1991 remake and he’s such a disgusting D and human, I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of recommending any of his movies. But I digress. Again, not a horror movie but a modern horror of a possibility.

    (psst) (come over here) (there’s no ‘y’ at the end; that was my mother) (shhh!) (just between us)

    Liked by 2 people

    • While I still enjoy the Cape Fear remake, it’s not a patch on the original and one of Martin Scorcese’s worst films in terms of direction. He uses a silhouetted photo lens for some of his shots which is absolutely pointless in the storytelling and he sexualised the characters, most notably of the daughter. It just really wasn’t necessary.

      There are the odd few remakes, though, which I’d definitely recommend. The Fly (1986, I think) and The Thing (I think, 1984) are excellent remakes as is, surprising to me anyway, the remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. One of Ben Stiller’s best performances.

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      • I agree whole-heartedly with your suggestions of The Thing and The Fly – really good movies. I think they stand alongside their originals and have nothing to be ashamed of.

        Liked by 2 people

      • John Carpenter’s remake of _The Thing_ is legendary. With it turning cold here and the time change this weekend meaning it’s dark even earlier, I was thinking last night that it would be a good time to watch it again.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Gregory Peck is my all time favourite Hollywood actor and the handsomest man who ever lived – in my opinion. (Swoon.). That is all I can add to this conversation I am afraid.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks, Port.

    If it’s a Hepburn film, we’ll probably watch it. Tina’s a fan and has probably already seen it. She’s educating me on older films so I’ll ask her about this and give it a viewing in the future.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Of all the remakes, though, I will never watch the remake of Point Break. Never. Point Break is flat out the greatest action film ever made and didn’t need redoing. It’s sacrilege that someone remade it and I’m glad it tanked.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Wash your mouth out!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

        The original was the one with Keanu. God knows who is in the remake but if you’ve watched the first, there’s no need to sully oneself with a remake.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I actually had my mouth washed out with soap when I was six – I lied about eating some ‘forbidden’ cookies placed high up where, they thought, I couldn’t get them. Mom knew who it was. She hauled me into the bathroom, made me stick my tongue out, and rubbed the soap on my tongue. I’m standing there crying and when she left the room, my brother and sister, my ‘elders’, kept giving me (whispered) suggestions on how to get rid of the soap on my tongue. So, if it’s all the same to you, I’ll skip the wash out – been there, done that. LOL! I just couldn’t remember – have a little pity on an old lady; forgetting is going to happen to you, too, some day.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m 43, Audre, and I forget things all the time so I forgive you. 🙂

    Sometimes, I wander into the kitchen, stand there for a minute and then shout through to Tina, ‘what the Dickens did I come in here for?’ 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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