Category: Movie Reviews
Written by SuperNova
Published on Monday, 02 February 2009 00:16
Wait Until Dark DVD Review
Written by SuperNova
108 minutes, Color
Director by Terence Young
Produced by Mel Ferrer
Screenplay by Robert and Jane Carrington
Based on a play by Frederick Knott
Audrey Hepburn as Susy Hendrix
Alan Arkin as Roat/Harry Roat Jr./Roat Sr
Richard Crenna as Mike Talman
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Sam Hendrix
Jack Weston as Carlino
Samantha Jones as Lisa
Julie Herrod as Gloria
Wait Until Dark begins with a backbone to the story of which we are about to forge upon. As the film opens we see an old man splicing a doll with a knife; in many ways resembling how you would butcher and than carve out the organs of an animal, the organs being cotton in this case. Lacing the inside with heroin, the old man sows the doll back up and hands it to a gorgeous but antsy young lady by the name of Lisa (Samantha Jones). With the doll under her arm, Lisa quickly exits the building and takes a taxi to the nearest airport. Once there a strange man confronts her, but not before she was able to hand the doll off to Sam Hendrix (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) to watch over.
As the story progresses we come upon a young and very beautiful Susy Hendrix (Audrey Hepburn). Susy tragically lost her ability to see during an accident that graced her life in a prior time. Coping with the darkness of the world around her, Susy is lucky enough to have a loving husband guiding her a long the way, and even a rambunctious neighbor to assist with the grocery list. As time would turn out, the strange character Lisa ran into at the airport was actually a thief by the name of Roat (Alan Arkin) looking to get his chubby paws on the doll and the drugs. As it becomes clear who posses the doll, Roat turns up at the Hendrix’s home with two other crooks Carlino (Jack Weston) and Mike Talman (Richard Crenna), only to begin plotting a terrible scheme to retrieve the belongings.
Once night falls the crooks enter the house disguised as several cunning characters and begin to take advantage of poor Susy. Fearing for her life and the sake of her husbands she hides the doll and refuses to tell anyone where it is. As the crooks become more voracious and forceful, Susie’s only contention for survival is to fend for herself. Locked inside her own home, surrounded by the pitch black darkness, and inhaling the fumes from the gasoline splashed across the floor, she makes one last attempt to plea for her life, will she survive? Wait until dark to find out!
Directors were really breaking out and finding their voices in the mid sixties. This period of cinema was a robust time where people could begin distinguishing good cinematography and great actors. It was a decade that contrived on moving towards the future, trying new things and broadening out. This would be hailed true as the seventies brought many legendary directors to the big screen followed by the wide spread mass of sequels that no one could seem to get enough of in the eighties. When people think about specific genres, they try to point out who the godfather of that particular genus was, many will remember names like Alfred Hitchcock, William Castle, and Akira Kurosawa for years to come, but to other’s who familiarize themselves with the not so pop culture, names like Mario Bava, Terence Fischer, and even Stanley Kurbick will surely be remembered for their contribution as well.
Originally written as a play by Frederick Knott before being adapted into a movie by Robert and Jane Carrington. (For those of you who don’t know Frederick Knott wrote the play "Dial M for Murder" which would later go on to be adapted into a motion picture by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock.) With a stunning but ever so talented cast behind it, Mel Ferrer in the producers chair, and Terence Young at the helm as the director, Wait Until Dark was a surefire hit. The film grossed eleven million dollars in its theatrical run, sweeping the United States with the breathtaking climatic sequence shot almost entirely in the dark. The theaters darkened all their lights "to the legal limit" during the last twelve minutes of the film, each light would go out coinciding with what was taking place on screen as Audrey Hepburn smashed the bulbs in her apartment. The one remaining light in the theaters would be switched off as the last light source in the film went out. A scene so terrifying it will surely be remembered for all time.
A reviewer cannot talk about a film no matter how wonderful it is without mentioning its faults. Wait Until Dark is a great movie that’s only real major set back is the one constant set piece that the story always seems to revolve around. Susie’s home is a great place to build the story from the ground up, especially seeing as the lead female character played by Audrey Hepburn is blind. It’s understandable as one would think it’s the most accustomed place for Susy, the compact apartment with everything cluttered about your feet makes the viewer feel claustrophobic at times. If you think about it, it only fits right, most of the film the actors are inside this small secluded apartment, and once the lights go out and the final minutes tick away, you almost begin to understand what it most be like to live the life of Susy, and the troubles you occur all while searching throughout the darkness that never seems to recede. As a film it has all the elements needed to craft something masterful and it does. While not straight out horror, this suspense thriller has enough jolts and scares to make any viewer think twice before accepting a certain something from an individual.
Audrey Hepburn is such a talented actress and it sure isn’t bad that she’s quite attractive as well. She assumes the role of Susy in this film, and what a terrific job she does. So many times we’ve seen people portray blind victims that didn’t appear to be convincing, and more often than not their approach to the character usually consisted of milky white contacts for added effects. Audrey is able to perform with such grace and almost effortlessly that if one should ever accept a role in a film to play a blind character, they should study Mrs. Hepburn here. She doesn’t need the contacts, she didn’t even need the cane to be perceived as believable, because as far as I’m concerned she did a fantastic job. The way she was able to have that distant look in her eyes and face, the way she maneuvered her hands to feel for things, it was almost too genuine. Sadly Audrey Hepburn left us all a decade ago due to a battle she had with colon cancer, she will be missed, but most importantly, she will forever be remembered.
Alan Arkin is a terrific villain, he’s so cunning and devious, but in many ways so delicate in his approach. At first he appears to be a crook who only seemed to associate his life with crime because he was traumatically ill in his head, but it was all apart of Alan’s tremendous acting that suckered myself and even the people behind making this film into believing that. As almost as quick as pulling the light switch for the lamp to come on, Mr. Arkin’s character Roat changes from a mellow cool thief to a vicious if not entertaining at times killer. It’s this unexpected change that leaves the viewer bewildered as to what the outcome of the whole scenario may be. Richard Crenna gives a solid performance as Mike Talman. It was a tragedy watching him toy with Susie’s emotions, believing that this man was her friend and a dear friend of her husbands. I got the feeling that Richard’s character had a fond respect for Susy, even though he was lying to her, his intentions weren’t to harm her what so ever. Mr. Crenna has a great onscreen presence that seemed to motivate the rest of the cast to do better, and with this film everyone seemed to be giving it their all.
The film is presented here in a matted widescreen 1.85:1 format preserving the aspect ratio of its original theatrical exhibition. While the print seems to have been taken great care of for over the years, it hasn’t been given the overhaul it so rightfully deserves. Warner Brothers took time into restoring the film to adequate viewing pleasure, but didn’t invest their best effort. Most scenes have been improved dynamically, while other scenes on occasion become subjected to various blotches. Even though the color pallet for the movie is somewhat mute and dull, the overall experience comes across as authentic. Daytime scenes are well lit, but often appear soft in color and tone. Some close-up interior shots are well polished in the foreground, but everything in the background is excluded as fuzziness is quite common in this print. Flesh tones are genuine and very consistent, and the darker nighttime shots are well kept. This is a great film that really would have benefited from a little more TLC, a solid transfer despite the minor flaws.
The films presented here in two tracks, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono and a French 2.0 Mono track as well as English, Spanish, and French subtitles. Most companies have been taking advantage of the ever so powerful 5.1 and DTS tracks that some people forget to appreciate what true mono sounds like. For a film of this quality I thought the audio for Wait Until Dark was set at a fairly comfortable level. You subwoofer won’t be given a workout tonight, but what you’ll experience is crisp pure audio. Warner really took the time to clean up the sound here, while not at its peak performance, the dialogue is understandable and any hisses or pops that may have graced previous version are either gone or greatly reduced. Henry Mancini did the ever so wonderful score for the movie. It’s almost fairly generic in terms of today’s standards, but back in 1967 this had to be innovated. Henry’s commanding score adds immense depth to the films overall atmosphere. The viewer can’t help but feel the stirring emotions that seem to sweep from character to character before pouring out of the front speakers with soothing melodies and captivating pieces of music. The only audio peeve I have is I would have wished for and most thoroughly enjoyed an isolated soundtrack featuring Henry’s masterful score.
Not that the movie alone wasn’t great enough Warner brothers has decided to include a couple extras special features that should settle well with all who found the movie to be enjoyable. "Take a Look in the Dark" is a great little making of’ documentary that features a collection of scenes and some great insight on the history of the film by producer Mel Ferrer and actor Alan Arkin. Mel Ferrer use to be married to the beautiful Audrey Hepburn, and he was the one who convinced her to assume the role as Susy. It was a challenge, but Mrs. Hepburn did a great job. Alan Arkin had me amused once he began telling of a time when the people on the set were questioning his antics, and didn’t think he had the right motives to play the villain, until his break-out scene, which left everyone gasping with gusto. It runs about nine minutes long, quite short but definitely enjoyable nonetheless.
"Stage Frantics" is a brief essay explaining the evolution of the film progressing from stage to screen. It hints at the box office success the film had with its release just in time for Halloween. It also comments on the ad campaign that surrounds the last few minutes of the film, which has become synonymous with the movie. An ad that stated the lights would be lowered to their legal maximum limit and that all those permitted to smoke in the theater to please distinguish their butts. It’s amazing to think that clever campaigns like this would follow in the years to come, becoming more creative and even more eye catching. The disc is rounded out with a great cast and crew overview and one theatrical and one teaser trailer. The teaser trail features the above ad, which is thoroughly enticing.
If you’ve never seen this film, it has my highest recommendation, so much that I’m curious enough to seek out other films by Audrey Hepburn and the wonderful Alan Arkin. Although the transfer could have benefited from a little more care, this is without a doubt the best the movies ever looked and sound. The cast is filled with talented individuals, and the story has been crafted masterfully. Know that this film is impressive and shouldn’t be passed up at any attempt, I have a new fond respect for thrillers and this one is certainly at the top of my list. Put your regrets to rest, this film will surpass your expectations.
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