I don’t want to be that guy, but to be that guy, there really is something different about the way films used to be made. There’s something about the classics that hits differently. I’m thinking primarily anything pre-1980s because the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and so on have such distinctive styles. Off the top of my head, one of those things is the lack of edits and cuts. The camera just hangs in there and lingers on shots. It lets the performers perform. It lets the scene sit. And coupled with that are the wide shots instead of a lot of tight ones.
But also, it helps in the case of 1967’s Wait Until Dark that you have one of the greatest actresses to ever grace a screen in Audrey Hepburn. I became curious about this film because Bravo ranked its climax as the 10th scariest movie moment ever, especially since I’ve already seen every other film in the top 10.
The film follows Hepburn’s character, Susy, who is blind and gets caught up (due to no fault of her own) in a drug deal gone wrong. Three men, Roat (played by Alan Arkin), Mike (played by Richard Crenna) and Carlino (played by Jack Weston) are attempting to get a doll back with bags of heroin tucked inside. A different woman, Lisa (played by Samantha Jones), transported the doll through the airport and gave it to Sam (played by Efrem Zimbalist Jr.), a random stranger at the airport who happened to be Susy’s boyfriend.
Roat tracks Lisa to Susy’s house and kills Lisa. Then he convinces (or threatens) Mike and Carlino to try to con Susy into giving up the location of the doll to them.
Much like the prior film I watched and reviewed, Hush, the rub here is that the men are underestimating someone because of a disability, in this case, because Susy’s blind. They think that they can fool her by having Mike pretend to be a friend of Sam’s, Carlino pretend to be a cop and Roat pretend to be Lisa’s husband. And much like Hush, the protagonist starts off timid and unsure of herself, but is taking note of various details that seem amiss.
Over time, Susy, with the help of a spunky, anarchistic girl, Gloria (played by Julie Herrod), is able to fully unravel the plot to deceive her and obtain the doll. It was really well-done, with Susy having Gloria ring the home phone twice when she saw the three men outside. When Susy realizes that Mike, who is supposed to be the trustworthy one, was also in on it, Hepburn plays the revelation to brutal perfection. That’s heart-wrenching! And crushing!
At this point, I’m thinking Susy is going to die. How is she going to get out of a situation where the three men know she’s wise to them and she’s blind and stuck in this house? And one of them, Roat, is a proven sociopathic killer? Well, it helps that Roat, the sociopathic killer, kills off Mike and Carlino, thinking (rightly) that they are going to turn on him and kill him first.
And at that point, I’m definitely thinking Roat will win. But don’t count out Susy! That was their mistake all along. She throws a chemical into his eyes and plunges the apartment into darkness (after having broken all the lightbulbs earlier) and then douses Roat in gasoline, which he had brought in to burn the house down. She’s able to stab Roat with his knife.
However, in what has become a horror trope, but was certainly original and fresh here, Roat lunges at Susy just when you think it’s over. And using the light of the refrigerator, he starts coming at Susy with the knife. She’s stuck in the corner. Bravo to Bravo because that was a thrilling, scary climax! I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.
Susy survives and with the help of Gloria, Sam arrives back in the house and with her.
It’s pretty incredible three criminals went to all this trouble for a few bags of heroin, to be honest.
Still, I thought this was a lovely, smart little thriller film, adapted from a 1966 play of the same name by Frederick Knott, it certainly had that stage performance vibe to it.
It’s Hepburn, so you sot of expect it, but it was neat she was nominated for Best Actress at the 1967 Academy Awards for this performance. You expect it, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t deserve it. She was 100 percent authentic and believable in her portrayal of Susy.
Interestingly, Hepburn lost to Katharine Hepburn, for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, one of my favorite films and certainly a great role. They are not related, which I didn’t realize. I figured they were! Katharine Hepburn is considered the greatest actress ever by the American Film Institute. The third greatest? Audrey.
Anyhow, if you’re in the mood for a classic thriller starring one of the greatest to ever do it, be sure to not wait to watch Wait Until Dark.