Wait Until Dark

Audrey-Hepburn-Wait-Until-Dark-1967

WAIT UNTIL DARK  had to wait a slap-myself fifty-one years before I finally watched it, in the dark, natch, and long last caught up with what its many fans knew from the time it came out in 1967—it’s a neatly crafted thriller, well-performed and delivering some good jolts. “Of course!” says everyone who already knew that. The 14th most-popular hit of ’67, grossing $19,800,000, it brought Audrey Hepburn her fifth and final Oscar nomination as Best Actress, and put a solid credit on the résumés of her co-stars and director Terence Young. Along with From Russia With Love, it’s Young’s best-directed picture: he keeps the mostly apartment-set suspense on a steady simmer. It has the claustrophobia and immediacy of a play because it was one; the script by Robert Carrington was adapted from the Broadway success written by Frederick Knott, also known for another lady-in-distress hit, Dial M For Murder.

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Hepburn excels as ‘Susy’, blinded as an adult from car accident trauma, who naturally depends on her husband (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) a good deal, but shows tremendous resourcefulness when his innocent possession of a doll, stashed somewhere in their apartment, draws a group of ruthless crooks. The play-pretty is stuffed with heroin, the dope & dough-hungry bad guys are filled with menace. The husband gone, the quick-thinking criminals (Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna and Jack Weston) impersonate other people to fool Susy as they contrive searches for the toy. All three are game on, but the showboat role goes to Arkin’s reptilian ‘Harry Roat’, who oozes a demented hipness that conceals his core, that of a sadistic killer. He also gets to play three parts.

He related: “It was the only heavy I’d ever played up until then, and I had a miserable time; I was crazy about Audrey Hepburn. I was just in awe of her. She was an extraordinary person in every way, and I just hated terrorizing her. It just wasn’t fun for me.”

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It was not a tremendous amount of fun for Hepburn either. Her husband Mel Ferrer produced it for a trim $3,000,000, while their 14-year marriage was in the process of foundering, and some of her impressive battery of emotions no doubt were transposed into her other 1967 outing, the bittersweet relationship dissection Two For The Road. She’s very good in Wait Until Dark, but she’s even better in the other film, and should have been nominated for that one instead. She didn’t make another screen appearance until Robin and Marian, nine years later.    108 minutes. With Julie Harrod and Samantha Jones.

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