Cinematic Shorts: Wait Until Dark

Ring a Ding Ding

Wait Until Dark (1967)

     I realize for someone who professes to hold Audrey Hepburn as her favorite actress, I have failed to review many of her films here. The trouble is, I have seem them all, at least those that are in print and obtainable, and I am not huge on watching stuff I have already seen when there is such a wide expanse of new-to-me flicks to be consumed.

     Nevertheless, Wait Until Dark crossed my mind this week and I thought it essential to blog about. This “horror” flick –although it is not THAT scary– came late in Audrey’s career when she was no longer sporting her signature clothing or hair-do looks. In fact, she is deliberately plain in this movie because she plays blind woman Susy Hendrix. Audrey really was a master at playing the vision-impaired married lady, who attends “blind school” and adeptly makes here way through a basement apartment in New York.

     The story is an additional gem on top of Audrey’s work. By some sort of mix up at an airport, Susy’s husband Sam (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) brings home a doll some woman forced on him. The husband pretty much exits the picture for the remainder of the action as he’s off being a photographer somewhere. The first shocker moment comes when Susy opens a closet and a woman’s body hangs in a garment bag from the door, but Susy is totally unaware. Next, Susy begins to get a number of visitors. Three men, played by Richard Crenna, Jack Weston and a masterful Alan Arkin, upon finding the place is occupied by a blind woman, begin to put on an act to get what they want: a doll filled with heroin. Susy mistakenly trusts one of the men, but is able to detect inconsistencies with the others and suspicious activities she cannot see but can hear.

     Susy solicits the help of an obnoxious neighbor girl to hide the doll and track down her husband, but ultimately Susy must defend herself. The result is a high-stress survival scene in which Susy breaks all the light bulbs in the house, dumps flammable photo-producing fluids on the villain and holds matches before him.

     The trailer for Wait Until Dark warned that the theater would go completely black at one point and that it would be highly frightening. They were not lying. There is one instance in the film that will make anyone jump the first time they see this (watching the movie with friends last summer I got quite a bit of amusement from this). Alan Arkin might outshine Audrey here as the criminal we begin to realize might just be out of his mind.

     Wait Until Dark was produced by Audrey’s first husband Mel Ferrer but at the end of that union when they were already facing marital troubles. The couple had appeared together first on Broadway in “Ondine” and later in the dreadfully long War and Peace. Ferrer, who was not a great actor, would go on to do more directing work. They had a son, Sean, who goes with the last name Hepburn Ferrer.

     The music for Wait Until Dark was done by Henri Mancini would also did Audrey’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s  and Charade.

I can't see you, but I lit this match so you could see how crazy my face is right now.

3 Responses

  1. Rachel, I enjoyed your WAIT UNTIL DARK review, including that nice touch of cheekiness near the end. :-) Since it’s adapted from a hit Broadway play by Frederick Knott of DIAL M FOR MURDER fame, it’s chock full of theatrics, in a good way! Audrey Hepburn is superb and sympathetic, as always, and Alan Arkin has a field day as, you might say, a multiple personality. :-)

    I couldn’t help being curious about the realism or possible lack thereof. I happen to have a dear longtime friend, Ann Chiappetta, who, sadly, is now legally blind from macular degeneration, though it hasn’t slowed her down a bit (she’s an advocate for people with such issues)! Annie was happy to give me the straight dope since, in her own words, “I could go on for pages about how the cinema portrays the blind; most of it makes me want to throw my popcorn at the screen. (That said,) for the cinema, we do suspend reason, and perhaps (WAIT UNTIL DARK) falls into that category.”

    Annie went on to say: “I suppose I could get along quite well in the dark, but the total lack of light still makes me a bit dizzy, as if my eyes can’t get the signal to my brain that there really is no light; it is similar to vertigo. I also tear-up when bright lights shine into my eyes through the dark, like at concerts or on the street at night. It’s very disorienting, and then people think I’m an emotional wreck because I’m crying, which I’m not. Still, if I were caught in a dark building, I could make it out with the skills I’ve acquired over the years. If I was blinded only months before being terrorized, as you say (about WAIT UNTIL DARK), that would be a bit farfetched if it was in a strange place. In my own home, I’d know every nook and cranny.”

    Didn’t mean to prattle on so, Rachel, but I hope you found it of interest! :-)

    • That’s some great insight. I have never heard about blind individuals having trouble in darkness or bright light, but then again, I’ve never asked. Wait Until Dark makes unclear for how long Susy has been blind, although we know it was somewhat recently she had whatever accident. So I’m not sure how realistic it is for her to be able to recognize that two “characters’” shoes are the same. Thanks for the great comment!

  2. Hello,

    I saw four screenings of “Wait After Dark” on Wednesday and Thursday. I would like to take a stab at addressing your concerns:

    >Wait Until Dark makes unclear for how long Susy has been blind, >although we know it was somewhat recently she had whatever >accident.

    Actually, an approximate timeframe -is- given in the movie: when Suzie talks about her accident with another character (“Mike” -Richard Crenna) she says, “No, we [Sam and her] only met a year ago, not long after my accident.” She also tells Gloria shortly afterward that she gets “cranky and impatient” sometimes because she is “still not used to all this” (being blind). So Suzie has been blind for about a year (give or take).

    >So I’m not sure how realistic it is for her to be able to recognize that >two “characters’” shoes are the same.

    The explanation Suzie gives makes sense: both Roat Jr. and Roat Senior (“The Old Man”) have a squeaky shoe.

    When Roat Jr. shows up, and starts walking down the steps inside the apartment, Suzie thinks, at first, that the old man has returned (and later tells Mike this). However, the supposedly “new” visitor has the same squeaky shoe the old man had when he came tearing into the apartment. It’s too much of a conincidence that two supposedly different visitors have the same problem with a squeaky shoe: they’re the same man.

    I hope this helps,

    Bertie

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