Susy Hendrix is recent­ly mar­ried and was recent­ly blind­ed in an acci­dent.  She is striv­ing to adjust to the changes in her life as she adapts to her New York City base­ment apart­ment.  Meanwhile, her hus­band is fly­ing back from Europe and, after arriv­ing at the air­port in New York, is approached by a woman who asks him to hold a doll for her.  He agrees, unaware that she has brought the doll into the coun­try filled with pack­ets of hero­in.  She is met by her part­ner, Harry Roat, at the air­port, and he is very dis­ap­point­ed that she does­n’t have the hero­in with her.  VERY DISAPPOINTED! 

He even­tu­al­ly learns that the doll is now locat­ed in the base­ment apart­ment of Sam and Susy Hendrix and engages two oth­er crim­i­nals to help him find and obtain the doll and hero­in. They work to try to con, bul­ly and even­tu­al­ly fright­en Susy into giv­ing them the doll. 

Today’s Reel Classic is Wait Until Dark, released in 1967. It is a sus­pense-filled movie that pro­vides that sus­pense right up until the last moments of the film. Audrey Hepburn is Susy and does a mar­velous job at por­tray­ing a blind woman.  This role is a bit dif­fer­ent from many that we think of when we think of her—the glam­orous, styl­ish char­ac­ters in Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Roman Holiday, Charade, etc.  Oh, she is still glam­orous and styl­ish, but in a dif­fer­ent way.

Audrey Hepburn took on this role in an effort to play against the type for which she was well known.  Stephen King, in his book “Danse Macabre”, stat­ed that he believed the film to be the scari­est of all time.  That state­ment might well spur a great deal of debate, but there is no doubt the sus­pense will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Playing the crim­i­nal Harry Roat (as well as Roat Jr. and Roat Sr.) is Alan Arkin.  His char­ac­ter is described as a psy­chopath — and I think you would agree that he is very creepy.  His cohorts in crime are Richard Crenna (Mike Talman) and Jack Weston (Carlino).  The doll-tot­ing lady (Lisa) on the air­plane is Samantha Jones.  Susy’s hus­band, Sam Hendrix, is played by Efrem Zimbalist Jr.  The oth­er pri­ma­ry char­ac­ter in the film is Susy’s teenage neigh­bor, Gloria, who assists her in var­i­ous tasks (played by Julie Herrod). 

Though there are a few scenes that take place in Europe and lat­er the air­port, most of the action takes place in the base­ment apart­ment and the street in front of it.  The sto­ry was adapt­ed from a play of the same name writ­ten by Frederick Knott.  It ran in New York and starred Lee Remick in the role of Susy (who received a nom­i­na­tion for a Tony Award for Best Actress).  Julie Herrod was also in the play as Gloria.  The film was pro­duced by Mel Ferrer, who at the time was mar­ried to Audrey Hepburn. Their mar­riage end­ed not long after.  An inter­est­ing side note–the direc­tor was Terence Young.  As a six­teen-year-old vol­un­teer nurse dur­ing World War II, Audrey Hepburn worked in a Dutch hos­pi­tal car­ing for wound­ed Allied troops.  One of those she assist­ed at that time was a young British paratrooper–Terence Young.

To pre­pare for the role of a blind woman Audrey Hepburn and direc­tor Terence Young vis­it­ed a school for the blind to obtain a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the visu­al­ly impaired.  She stud­ied the use of Braille and oth­er behav­iors to pro­vide a more authen­tic por­tray­al.  It was deter­mined that Audrey Hepburn’s eyes were “too expres­sive” for a blind per­son, so she was fit­ted with spe­cial con­tact lens­es to lessen the “expres­sive­ness.” 

Audrey Hepburn was the ini­tial choice for the role of Susy.  George C. Scott was con­sid­ered for the role of Harry Roat, and Robert Redford was con­sid­ered for the role of Mike Talman.

Upon release of the film, there was a notice pro­vid­ed to the pub­lic regard­ing the expe­ri­ence in the the­atre.  “During the last eight min­utes of this pic­ture, the the­atre will be dark­ened to the legal lim­it to height­en the ter­ror of the breath­tak­ing cli­max which takes place in near­ly total dark­ness on the screen.”  As Susy broke each light bulb in her apart­ment, lights in the the­atre were extin­guished.  Needless to say, this effect was suc­cess­ful in its effort to “height­en the ter­ror” among the viewers.

Scene from the movie Wait Until Dark

Wait Until Dark was very pop­u­lar the year of its release.  It earned over $7 mil­lion in North America alone.  Audrey Hepburn received an Oscar nom­i­na­tion for Best Actress.  In an inter­view, Alan Arkin was asked if he was sur­prised he did­n’t get an Oscar nom­i­na­tion for his role of Harry Roat. He replied, “You don’t get nom­i­nat­ed for being mean to Audrey Hepburn.”

After film­ing Wait Until Dark, Audrey Hepburn decid­ed to take a break from act­ing to focus on rais­ing her chil­dren.  As men­tioned above, her mar­riage was also dete­ri­o­rat­ing.  She did not appear in a film again until the release of Robin and Marian in 1976. 

The Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB) scores Wait Until Dark at 7.7 out of 10.  Rotten Tomatoes gives it a crit­ics score of 96% and an audi­ence score of 91%. 

In check­ing what stream­ing ser­vices offered,  I found only one site that offered it for free.  That was Movieland TV (offered on Roku).  The Clark County Public Library also has it avail­able on DVD. 

I love Audrey Hepburn, and I love sus­pense-filled thrillers.  If either of those loves describe you, then check out Wait Until Dark.  You might even con­sid­er watch­ing it with the lights out.  One review I read stat­ed that this was the best Alfred Hitchcock movie that Alfred Hitchcock did­n’t make. 

Below you will find the trail­er for the film.  Be watch­ing for the next Reel Classic.

  • Ron grew up in Southeast Baltimore, spent three and a half years liv­ing in the High Desert in California, and came to Winchester when his VW Beetle broke down here on a cross-coun­try dri­ve to Vermont. He has lived here and worked as a social work­er since 1973. Though he retired in 2013, he remains active as a com­mu­ni­ty vol­un­teer on var­i­ous boards, coali­tions, and com­mit­tees. His pas­sions include the woods and nature, music, books, and clas­sic movies (espe­cial­ly Laurel & Hardy).