The 1967 in Film Blogathon: Wait Until Dark
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.
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.
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!)
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.
The film was based on a play by Frederick Knott, who also wrote the 1952 Broadway hit Dial M for Murder.
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!