The blinds moving up and down…
Susy (Audrey Hepburn), recently blinded and still adjusting to her new life in the dark, is about to come face to face with evil incarnate: Roat (Alan Arkin, The In-Laws), a vicious killer who will do anything to get back a heroin-stuffed teddy bear he thinks Susy has. Susy lives in an almost cavernous apartment with her husband Sam Hendrix (Efem Zimbalist, Jr.). While at the airport, Sam is passed the drugged teddy bear by a girl he doesn't know, inadvertently endangering his family when he brings it home. Now Roat wants that bear back, and he'll do anything to retrieve it. This includes hiring a few henchmen (Richard Crenna and Jack Weston) to help him get into Susy's apartment. Using multiple disguises and lying through their teeth (Roat convinces Susy that Sam is involved with a local murder), Roat is able to get into Susy's life and under her skin. But Susy won't go down without a fight—in the end it will come down to the deadly Roat and the sightless Susy…and only one will be left standing!
Wait Until Dark is a fine little thriller that features Audrey Hepburn in a performance that would garner her a final Oscar nod (she lost to that other Hepburn, Katharine) and Alan Arkin in a great turn as a vile master of disguise. I wasn't sure what to expect from Wait Until Dark since most thrillers from the 1960s often don't age well. I'm happy to report that Wait Until Dark is a taut, tense flick that entertains all the way through. The reason for the its success is that the performances are all top notch—while Hepburn is good as the victimized Susy, Alan Arkin shines as Roat in a tour-de-force performance that will chill your blood. Arkin is mostly known for his dryly comedic roles and almost steals the show in one of his rare dramatic performances—he's allowed to chew up the scenery without coming off as hammy. Roat goes to any lengths for his supposed property—even if it means killing is associates. This makes for a memorable and thoroughly despicable screen villain. The supporting cast also helps raise the film to higher levels. Hepburn plays Susy with wide-eyed terror, no small feat for a character that is blind. While her performance sometimes borders on too cutesy (Hepburn sometimes sounds like she's doing a parody of herself), the character is nonetheless engaging. The late Richard Crenna offers both a comforting and menacing presence as one of Roat's thugs. The film is based on the theater show by Fredrick Knot. While I don't know how successful it was on stage, Wait Until Dark's screen adaptation unfolds with nerve-jangling intensity. The claustrophobic size of Susy's apartment helps convey a sense of dread throughout the film's tightly knit run time. The good news is that Wait Until Dark is a bit more family friendly than something like The Silence of the Lambs—teenagers will have a jolly good time with the film's scares. Recommended.
Wait Until Dark is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with an anamorphic enhancement for 16x9 TV sets. Sadly, this transfer isn't as good as I was hoping—the colors are a bit off due to the film's creaky age. Reds seem to be slightly off, as well as the black levels (which aren't as defined during darker scenes). The shadow detail is lacking, though overall the print is free of most major imperfections (dirt and grain are present but not in large doses). I guess we should be happy that we got this film in a widescreen format—fans will certainly swoon over how much better this DVD transfer looks than previous VHS incarnations. The soundtrack is presented in the original Dolby 1.0 Mono mix in English and French. There's not a lot to report about this mix—it has little in the way of fidelity or dynamic range. All aspects of the dialogue, music, and effects are clear, making for a decent listening experience. Also included on this disc are English and French subtitles.
The extra features on Wait Until Dark are fairly skimpy, although fans may be thrilled to see a retrospective featurette ("A Look in the Dark") with Alan Arkin and producer Mel Ferrer discussing the film's production history, the character of Roat (Arkin is especially chatty about this), and what it was like bringing the play to the screen. "Stage Frantics" is a written piece on the history of the play and how it came to become a big screen thriller. Finally, there is a funny teaser trailer for the film, as well as a theatrical trailer (both presented in Dolby Mono and anamorphic widescreen).
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• "A Look in the Dark" Featurette
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