Ring a Ding Ding
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.