Jan 31, 2014

[Movies] Wait Until Dark (1967)

Hot on the heels of watching the Repertory Philippines staging of the play that this movie was based on, I wanted to satisfy my curiosity with regard to this particular adaptation. Admittedly I had never heard about the movie prior to watching the play, but knowing that Audrey Hepburn was involved was enough to get me racing to find a copy.

Audrey Hepburn was an amazing actress and one who certainly had a degree of class and regality that few other actresses (past and present alike) are able to match. And to find her playing the lead in a suspense thriller was admittedly a bit of a surprise. Let's face it, there are those who sort of dismiss such movies as not being serious enough or something like that. And thus you tend to get newer talent involved in such productions. And by this time Audrey Hepburn had already starred in movies like Breakfast at Tiffany's and My Fair Lady.

This movie was quite brilliantly done and I have to admit that I enjoyed it a lot. I know I usually talk about how I don't typically like scary movies. But this one was scary in a smart way, and in the end came out to be quite enjoyable indeed.

Synopsis: Wait Until Dark is a 1967 suspense-thriller movie directed by Terence Young. It was based on the stage play of the same name by Frederick Knott with a screenplay by Robert Carrington and Jane-Howard Carrington.

The movie starts with a prologue of sorts where we watch an old man sew up a doll after inserting bags of heroin into it. Watching this process is Lisa (Samantha Jones), who then takes the doll with her. We then see her disembarking from a plane and then offering the doll to photographer Sam Hendrix (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) and shortly after she's escorted away. In time Sam receives a call from Lisa, who is looking for the doll that she had left in his care.

We eventually cut to two con-artists, Mike Talman (Richard Crenna) and his partner Carlino (Jack Weston) arriving at a basement apartment. They expect to meet Lisa there given they had received word that she had a job for them but are surprised to find the apartment is empty. Then enters Harry Roat (Alan Arkin), who calls Mike and Carlino by different names. He claims to have been sent by Lisa with the details of the job, but we eventually find out that's not the whole truth. The goal is to con Susy (Audrey Hepburn), Sam's blind wife, into revealing the location of the missing doll, which they believe to be somewhere in the apartment.

Given its roots as a play, you'll notice how most of the action takes place in the apartment for the most part, which is reflective of the original set. Sure, there are periodic cutaways to various external shots here and there, but you can't really escape how the bulk of the action takes place in such a confined place. Plus there's the fact that he primary cast is rather limited, something that helps make the characters seem all the more real since so much screen time is devoted to these individuals.

Audrey Hepburn is in impeccable form in this movie and I can totally appreciate why she was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance here. Susy is a rather strong female character and the fact that she's blind isn't allowed to be a full hindrance to her. Despite the odds being against her with these band of crooks out to get what they want, she manages to figure out what's really going on and hatch a plan of her own to survive. And while I can't definitely say that her depiction of a blind person was 100% accurate, I think it's more than fair to say that she was pretty believable in how she handled things.

The direction behind the movie was pretty brilliant. Given how the movie could have been pretty much "limited' by the fact that most of the story takes place in one small apartment, things still came out to be very dynamic. And the escalation of events leading to the movie's eventual climax was pretty stellar with the ending leaving you as a viewer on the edge of your seat. And it wasn't outright campy horror or anything like that. There was still a certain style to how things were carried out that really helped you feel the tension build.

And let's face it, the story was pretty solid to begin with. The movie just made sure to bring the words to life in a manner that still did it justice. And while there were a few things that were lost in translation perhaps, it's still an entertaining movie.

Wait Until Dark is a timeless thriller that still holds up to modern movie standards. Plus Audrey is just amazing in her performance and is reason enough to see this. Thus the movie rates a great 4 flashes of light from a match out of a possible 5.

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