The 1967 in Film Blogathon: Wait Until Dark

If Wait Until Dark (1967) had been filmed 15 years earlier, and in black and white, it would likely have been considered to be film noir. Wait until dark, indeed.

Starring Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin and Richard Crenna, this thriller shows a few short hours in the life of a blind woman whose life is turned upside down by three hoods who are searching for a heroin-stuffed doll they believe she has hidden in her apartment. The film starts out at a leisurely pace as it slowly – and somewhat cryptically – introduces the main characters and sets the stage for the action to come. But once it gets rolling, it doesn’t let up.

Who are the players?

Susy Hendrix (Audrey Hepburn): Blind for about a year, and newly married, she is struggling to acclimate herself to her new world – she takes classes at “blind school” but she relies on a teenage neighbor for help, and seems determined, most of all, to become the “world’s champion blind lady” that her husband expects her to be.

Sam Hendrix (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.): Although he’s absent through most of the film, Sam is the linchpin that sets the entire film in motion, as the coveted doll is given to him by a stranger at the airport.

Alan Arkin is AWESOME in this film.

Alan Arkin is AWESOME in this film.

Roat (Alan Arkin): The sadistic, sardonic, and thoroughly evil ringleader of the quest for the missing doll. He blackmails a couple of con men – Mike Talman (Richard Crenna) and Sgt. Carlino (Jack Weston) – into helping him in his nefarious effort.

Gloria (Julie Herrod): Susy’s neighbor and helper, she turns out to be more assistance than Susy could have dreamed.

Things I Love:

When we first meet Gloria, she is bratty and sullen; we’ve already been told that she resents Susy and has a crush on Susy’s husband. Early on, in fact, she throws a complete tantrum, dashing pots and pans and utensils to the floor after a confrontation with Susy. But Gloria later shows herself to be a steadfast source of strength as Susy’s life becomes a nightmare and her apartment a prison. The relationship between the two is quite touching and is a highlight of the film.

Jack Weston, a bad guy? You bet.

Jack Weston, a bad guy? You bet.

It’s fascinating to see Jack Weston in a bad guy role – I’m far more accustomed to seeing him in such lightweight fare as Please Don’t Eat the Daisies and The Incredible Mr. Limpet. He does a bang-up job as a conscienceless hood – so much so that you’re almost glad when he gets his – shall we say – comeuppance.

Alan Arkin was a revelation in this film – I believe that this is my favorite Arkin performance. His Roat not only dons a couple of unique and masterful disguises in his effort to spin a web that will attract the sought-after doll, but he also tosses off some of the picture’s best lines.  In one scene, when he’s telling his co-conspirators about the woman who’d betrayed him, he grouses, “She was trespassing, Mike, poaching. Going into business for herself. Bad news. Things like that go on, what d’ya have? Anarchy. No discipline, no sense of order. Bad news.” And late in the film, he shares with Susy that Talman and Carlino were out to get him: “Did you know they wanted to kill me? I did. I knew it even before they did. They were awful amateurs, and that’s why you saw through them.”

In the film, Arkin’s character mentions Hammacher Schlemmer, that fun store with all of the awesome gadgets. There used to be one in downtown Chicago near my job, but it disappeared several years ago. And I confess that I never knew how to pronounce the store’s name until I heard Alan Arkin refer to it. (Thanks, Alan!)

That's one of Arkin's characters on the left.

That’s one of Arkin’s characters on the left.

Alan Arkin played three different roles in the film – Roat, Roat Jr., and Roat Sr. All three received mention in the credits. Real telephone numbers were used in the movie – not those generic 555 exchanges. It’s a small thing, to be sure, but yet another reason why I love this movie.

One of my favorite scenes shows Susy’s breakdown when she realizes that her telephone line has been cut. She starts to completely lose it, but then she suddenly gives herself a figurative slap in the face, pulls herself together, and instead of allowing herself to wallow in victimhood, she starts taking steps to fight back. It’s an awesome thing to see – you’ll want to cheer.

I’m no fan of scary movies, but I have to hand it to Wait Until Dark for serving up one of the scariest movie moments I’ve ever seen – you know, one of those unexpected, jump-two-feet-out-of-your-seat moments. Trust me – it’s a good one.

Other Stuff:
The film was based on a play by Frederick Knott, who also wrote the 1952 Broadway hit Dial M for Murder.

Hepburn and her producer/husband, Mel Ferrer.

Hepburn and her producer/husband, Mel Ferrer.

The movie was produced by actor Mel Ferrer, who was married at the time to Audrey Hepburn. The two were divorced the year after the film’s release. Audrey Hepburn was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her performance. She lost to Katharine Hepburn in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

In my memory, I always associate this movie with See No Evil, a 1971 release that starred Mia Farrow as another blind woman in peril. It was pretty good, but I always felt that Wait Until Dark was the far superior film.

Henri Mancini wrote the music for the film’s title song; the lyrics were penned by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, who also wrote the words to Buttons and Bows, Que Sera Sera, Silver Bells, and Mona Lisa (and the theme song for the TV show Mr. Ed!).

If you’ve never seen this film, or if it’s been a while since you gave it a watch, do yourself a favor and check it out – until I started on this post, I hadn’t seen it in more than 30 years, and believe me, it still packs the same punch! You won’t be sorry.

This post is part of the 1967 in Film Blogathon, hosted by The Rosebud Cinema and Silver Screenings. Visit either of these sites to check out the many great posts being presented as part of this event!

~ by shadowsandsatin on June 20, 2014.

18 Responses to “The 1967 in Film Blogathon: Wait Until Dark”

  1. My wife is a huge Audrey Hepburn fan and the fact that she loved this movie really won me over. Good movie, great post. 🙂

  2. Thanks for this fun review! I too remembered this film from seeing it many years ago. It was on TCM earlier this year. I watched it again and recommended it on my blog. The edge-of-your-seat suspense in the climactic scene is still awesome.

  3. Alan Arkin is the best thing about Wait Until Dark, but having Audrey Hepburn play a blind woman harassed by hoods was an inspired idea, too.

  4. […] Shadows & Satin – Wait Until Dark Destroy All Fanboys – The War Wagon Twenty Four Frames – Who’s That Knocking At My Door? […]

  5. Great choice: I love this movie too, SO much suspense and some moments you will never forget no matter how long it’s been. I love scary movies anyway but you’re right that it has a noir feel and certainly should appeal to any thriller fan.

  6. It’s been too long since I’ve seen this. I love how you’ve described this film, especially the character of Gloria.

    This film is sooo good, and sooo tense, and the performances are pitch-perfect.

    Thanks for covering this film for the blogathon! 🙂

  7. I first saw this film when I decided to take a film class back during my senior year in high school. It was the first year such a class was offered at our school, and as a still-budding cinephile, I just had to take the class. One of the films we watched and studied in the class was Wait Until Dark. I remember feeling scared for poor Audrey in the film. It was a quite thrilling film, indeed. It was also one of the first films where I began to think there was more to this cinema thing than just mere entertainment. Nice write-up on this fun film. See ya ’round the web.

  8. The “gotcha” moment always, always works. Even when you are prepared for it – boom! So much to appreciate in this movie, especially the performances which, I think, take multiple viewings to really enjoy.

  9. I have been able to get my teens to watch a classic film with me and this one I’m pretty sure they’d agree to viewing. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it too…time for a revisit. Thanks for a great post!

  10. One of my favorite suspense films. Love this line: “when he gets his – shall we say – comeuppance.”:) I’m with you on Gloria. She was so annoying at the start, but believably so. I like that we get such a multidimensional minor character. And Hepburn and Arkin are both amazing in it. Leah

  11. Though this is in a huge casting black hole for me (the three principals are amongst my least fave actors, especially Hepburn), the story sounds very interesting, and based on your review, I may take the risk and check it out. Thanks!

  12. Another great entry Karen! I was fortunate enough to see the original Broadway production with Lee Remick an Robert Duvall in the lead roles played by Hepburn and Arkin. I always wished Remick would have been able to recreate her role in the film and from what I read she wanted too. This takes nothing away from Hepburn and Arkin who are both very good. This film is a heart stopper but you do have to wonder why all the disguises when Hepburn’s character was blind?

  13. Wow! This is one of the few of Audrey’s films that I haven’t seen but I’ll have to change that – the story sounds really captivating and, of course, if Mancini is involved, it must be wonderful! Thanks for writing this!

  14. Wonderful review. Really enjoyed reading this.
    Hepburn truly was superb, as was Alan Arkin.
    I watched this movie over a decade ago. I’d love to re-watch it now.

  15. Even though I am not a fan of scary movies, I love this one. It is amazing how scary it is, yet not bloody or gory, at least compared to the movies of today. What struck me so much the first time I saw it was how coldly Audrey’s husband treats her at the end of the movie. And, then I realized, the way he treats her is why she survived. I have thought of this so often over the years for some reason. I loved your post and all of the points you brought out about the different characters. Your line about her virtually slapping herself in the face was great! Thanks for bringing attention to a wonderful movie!

    • Hi, Shari — thanks so much for your comment. When I rewatched the movie for my post, I was struck at the end by Efrem Zimabalist making Audrey come to him, after all that she’d just been through. I appreciate that his prodding helped foster her independence (much like what I heard author Roald Dahl did for his then-wife Patricia Neal after her massive stroke) — but DANG, he could have walked across the room to give her a hug. LOL.

  16. This was a very tense film, all about the building suspense. Audrey Hepburn was very good as the vulnerable but resourceful woman, outsmarting the criminals with burgeoning strength.

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