Movie Reviews 398 – Wait Until Dark (1967)

The idea of finding yourself suddenly blinded for life can be a pretty terrifying ordeal. But in Wait Until Dark that ordeal becomes orders of magnitude more horrifying when a group of people take advantage of that blindness in a coordinated, deceitful, psychological attack.

Susy Hendrix (Audrey Hepburn) is still coming to grips with her recent blindness after a car accident but seems to be making progress as she navigates her Manhattan ground floor apartment. To help her out she has her loving husband Sam (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) and Gloria the neighbor’s little girl for errands. Little does she know that that blindness will be more than a hindrance to overcome. It will lay the groundwork for a torturous ordeal.

The movie begins with a cache of heroin smuggled in a hand carried doll by Lisa (Samantha Jones) on a plane from Montreal to New York. As Lisa makes her way off the plane she suddenly thrusts the doll in Sam’s hand having just met him on the plane. She makes up some excuse, telling him she will contact him soon to retrieve it. Befuddled, Sam brings the doll home and just as soon forgets about it. Some time later when their apartment is empty two con men, Mike (Richard Crenna) and Carlino (Jack Weston) break into the apartment expecting to meet Lisa. Instead they find Lisa’s body and her gloating killer, one Harry Roat (Alan Arkin). Roat, in fact purposefully lured the two con men to the apartment. Roat makes no bones about killing Lisa, but with Mike and Carlino now having implicated themselves with fingerprints all over, they are forced to help Roat in his quest to find that doll. Mike and Carlino then learn that the apartment they are in is the home of the blind Suzy and she is the last link to that doll.

Roat has already hatched an elaborate plan in which Mike plays one of Sam’s old friends and Carlino plays a cop while Suzy is slowly terrorized by all three men. Roat assumes a few roles in the ruse, even playing a crazed father and son team. Suzy remembers Sam having brought the doll home but cannot find it as Roat gets more impatient and slowly ratchets up pressure. Making matters worse Suzy is led to believe that Sam is having an affair when therefore she relies on Mike to help her deal with the situation. It begins with pressure from Carlito’s supposed investigation of the murdered woman, while other strangers come into the act being played out. But none of the men counted on little Gloria who becomes Suzy eyes and ears.

This role was the antithesis of light romantic comedy fare we were accustomed to from Hepburn but one she more than convincingly delivers in an Oscar nominating performance. The more versatile Arkin as the heavy is oddly something between a beatnik and bully but the normally sedate Arkin is horrifically intense especially the final moments.

Watch this one in utterly dark room if you can (or dare). In a brilliant move the last few minutes has the screen go completely black allowing the audience to enter the world of the blind and understand Suzy’s dread and become as helpless as she is.

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