Friday, December 27, 2019

Movie Review: Wait Until Dark

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Outstanding cast brings this thriller to life
Cons: A few moments that veer toward overacting
The Bottom Line:
Blind woman alone
In great thriller movie that
Will not let you go

Don’t Wait to Watch This Thriller

I have found that the success rate of plays turned into movies is about the same as books.  Some translate well, and some are changed so much it’s hard to recognize them.  Having seen the play version of Wait Until Dark a couple of times, I was curious to see the movie version starring Audrey Hepburn.  This is definitely a case where the film captures the play perfectly.

Susy Hendrix (Audrey Hepburn) is a newlywed living in a basement apartment in New York City.  She’s also newly blind, having lost her sight in an accident.  She is trying to adjust to her circumstances, pushed by her husband, Sam (Efren Zimbalist, Jr.), to be the best blind person she can be.  She does get some help from Gloria (Julie Herrod), a young teen who also lives in the building.

Sam has recently returned from a trip to Canada, and unbeknownst to him, he’s smuggled drugs into the country via a doll.  There are three men on the trail of that doll and the drugs, Roat (Alan Arkin), Mike (Richard Crenna), and Carlino (Jack Weston).  The three of them come up with a scheme to get Susy to give them the doll.  The catch is, Susy doesn’t know where it is and they’ve gotten Sam out of the apartment for the day.  Where is the doll?  Will a blind woman be easy to scam?

It’s been a couple of years since I watched the play, so I am rusty on the exact comparisons between the two.  However, I remember the basics of the play and the feeling of increased tension as the play goes on.  I wondered how that would translate to the screen without the immediacy of sitting in the audience with the action unfolding right in front of us, but it worked and it worked well.  I was drawn into the tale again, my eyes glued to the screen.

And that doesn’t even touch the climax.  No less than Stephen King has called it the most terrifying scene put to film, and it’s hard to argue.  I still would classify this as a thriller instead of horror, but watching how someone could treat someone else is truly terrifying.  My adrenaline was definitely working when I finished, and I already knew how the story ended.

One reason the movie works is that it rarely takes us outside Susy’s apartment.  Yes, the opening is outside that confined space, but once we get there, we spend most of the rest of the movie there.  That means we don’t get any breaks as the tension builds.  A few quick scenes across the street and in the apartment hallway really just help tell the story and don’t give us any relief from that tension.  This helps capture the feeling of the play for the movie audience.

The cast is fantastic.  With such a limited cast, everyone has to play their part well, and they do.  Alan Arkin deserves special praise for how well he does here.  Of course, the real standout is Audrey Hepburn.  She is phenomenal as the blind heroine.  It can’t be an easy part to play, but she is completely believable.  A few times, she does seem to go into hysterics bordering on overacting, which bothered me, but she pulls it back very quickly.  And I can’t say much.  If I found myself in Susy’s place, you’d find me curled up in a corner sobbing, so the character’s reactions are certainly believable.

While I highly recommend the play, I also highly recommend the movie version of Wait Until Dark.  You might want to watch it before dark, however.

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