My name is Jason Lockard and I love Classic Cinema…. It’s been my desire to try to capture golden moments much like those I’ve thrilled about on film for years. Well, I'm back this month with another classic gem for you to discover! A great film from the days of yesteryear for you the readers to enjoy!
Cinema royalty Audrey Hepburn who starred in memorable films such as Roman Holiday (1953) for which she won her only Oscar for Best Actress.. Sabrina (1954), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Charade (1963) and My Fair Lady (1964) graces the screen in the film we are recommending this month 1967’s suspenseful “Wait Until Dark”. Based on the stage play by Fredrick Knott and directed by Terence Young best known for directing James Bond films, Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), and Thunderball (1965). Wait Until Dark will have you on the edge of your seat till the thrilling climax!
“The blinds moving up and down... the squeaking shoes... and then the knife whistling past her ear…” is the tag line for the film Wait Until Dark that let’s you know that your not in for a slapstick comedy! The film starts off with a haunting score by acclaimed and award winning composer Henry Mancini. This score is used throughout the film and is worth the price of renting the film alone! Mancini's score is a masterpiece, playing a haunting, minor-mode melody over a brilliant device: two pianos, tuned a quarter-tone apart, with the "wrong" notes eerily echoing the "right" ones.
After an airplane trip, a young woman named Lisa asks Sam Hendrix (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) a photographer, to keep a doll for her to avoid spoiling the surprise of her daughter's gift, but the real reason is to avoid her partner, Harry Roat (Alan Arkin), whom she hopes to cheat out of the drugs hidden in the doll. Harry discovers her treachery, murders her and leaves the body in Sam's apartment, where he has tracked Sam and the doll. Sam’s wife Susy (Audrey Hepburn) who was recently blinded as a result of the fire from a car crash and is still adjusting to her new life in the dark, is now being terrorized by three hoods (Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna and Jack Weston) trying to retrieve a heroin-filled doll from her apartment, by impersonating police officers and friends of her husband in order to win Susy's confidence.
Alan Arkin mostly known for his dryly comedic roles shines brightly in one of his rare dramatic performances. Arkin as Roat in a tour-de-force performance will chill your blood. The cool, calm, collected but psychopathic killer Roat is a great vile master of disguise. The late Richard Crenna offers both a comforting and menacing presence as Mike Talsman and Jack Weston as Corlino is along for the ride but you can easily see the film not being what it is without him! The three men work seamlessly together, you get lost in the fact that this is a film your watching!
The film features an engaging battle of wits between Hepburn and the thugs, and a truly terrifying climax confrontation as the nighttime falls just as foretold by the title. A great psychological thriller with a twist: you know exactly what's happening but get to watch the heroine try to figure it out on her own. It is the music in the film's climax—dark, oppressive and terrifying—that will thrill fans of Mancini's dramatic scores. As Henry Roat makes his assault on the blind but not entirely helpless Susy, Mancini's throbbing strings and eerie sounds leave the viewer in a state of panic that one of the world's most famous leading ladies is about to have her throat slit. How does a blind Susy defend herself against the relentless thug? You’ll have to rent it to find out!
The idea of hiding heroine in a doll was not a unique one. The Mafia Don Charles “Lucky” Luciano when he was banished from America to Italy, still wanting to make the money from drugs decided he would smuggle heroine in China dolls from Naples Italy to America!
The stage production was so intense that they wanted to bring the same feel to the movie so in an effort to duplicate the suspense on screen, movie theaters dimmed their lights to their legal limits, then turned off one by one until each light on-screen was shattered, resulting in the theater being plunged into complete darkness.
Wait Until Dark actors garnered award nominations; for Hepburn nominations for both the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress, and Zimbalist was nominated for a Globe in the supporting category.
In 1992 Hepburn began to feel abdominal pains. She went to specialists and received inconclusive results, so she decided to have it examined while on a trip to Los Angeles in October. On the 1st of November, doctors performed a laparoscopy and discovered abdominal cancer that had spread from her appendix. It had grown slowly over several years, and metastasized not as a tumor, but as a thin coating encasing over her small intestine. The doctors performed surgery and then put Hepburn through 5-fluorouracil Leucovorin chemotherapy. A few days later, she had an obstruction. Medication was not enough to dull the pain, so on 1 December, she had a second surgery. After one hour, the surgeon decided that the cancer had spread too far and could not be removed.
Later in 1992, President George Bush presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of her work with UNICEF, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded her The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her contribution to humanity. Audrey Hepburn died on January 20th 1993.
Audrey Hepburn lives on in her work as she scored the #3 spot in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Stars for the women’s category. In 2001 Wait Until Dark was also ranked #55 on AFI's 100 Years 100 Thrills. The film ranked #10 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments for its riveting climax.
In 1982 HBO decided to retell the classic in a television movie this time starring Katharine Ross and Stacy Keach. While good it couldn’t live up to the suspenseful classic! Katherine Ross is a good actress, but it’s a daunting task for the greatest of actresses to step in the iconic shoes of the great Audrey Hepburn!
So if you love heart pounding suspenseful films or if you are in the mood for a movie that keeps you guessing, take a trip to your local video store or by netflix and order this classic! You won’t be disappointed! So until next month this is Jason saying if your looking for a good film, Check out a classic!
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Moral Rating: Drugs, murder and violence
Audience: Teens and Adults [Not be suitable for children]
Length: 108 min.
Year of Release: 1967
Our Rating: A-