Saturday, May 28, 2011

FI: Wait Until Dark

Wait Until Dark
US, 1967
Directed by Terence Young

Wait Until Dark is based on a play, which is pretty obvious when you're watching the movie. One can easily intuit the act breaks in its script. Its dialog is mannered and theatrical, providing expository details in that unforced, conversational way that plays often do. The film even feels like a chamber piece, with most of the action confined to a single apartment. That said, Terence Young's film is quite cinematic in its own way. Young is not shy about using the tools of the cinema—particularly lighting and the lack thereof—in somewhat unconventional ways to achieve the level of tension he desires.

The film is about Susy Hendrix (an Oscar-nominated Audrey Hepburn), a blind woman whose photographer husband has come into possession of a doll which, unbeknownst to him, is filled with smuggled heroin. The doll serves as the MacGuffin that sets the plot in motion, as the psychopathic Harry Roat (Alan Arkin) forces two con men (Richard Crenna and Jack Weston) to bluff their way into Susy's apartment and recover the apparently-lost doll. The cruel con they attempt involves convincing Susy that her husband has cheated on her and stands to be accused of murdering his paramour—Roat's wife, Crenna and Weston's old partner, and the person responsible for the bungled smuggling job, who was actually killed by Roat. Sadly, this is just the beginning of the psychological torment Roat and his unwilling accomplices inflict on poor Susy.

The plot may not entirely hang together—would anyone really go this far in pursuit of such a small amount of heroin? The risk of the conspiracy hardly seems worth the reward—but the film is well-acted and grows pleasantly tense as the climax nears. Wait Until Dark doesn't exactly rewrite the book on thrillers, but if you're in the mood for a taut piece of classic, well-conceived suspense, this will more than fit the bill.


  1. I have not seen this movie and it sounds like it might be to my liking.

    That being said, why would you bother with some complicated con when you could just break in and steal the doll?

  2. @spurge -
    They justify it by pointing out that the doll had gone missing. The thieves don't believe that it's actually lost, and so they try to con their way into getting it.

  3. That Makes sense. Thanks.

    I will add this movie to my ever growing Netflix cue.