Wait Until Dark
R4 - Australia - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Stevie McCleary and Noor Razzak (29th May 2008).
The Film

In lieu of a witty opening line, I’ll just say that Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin are really good at what they do. Succinct and to the point, that is just the way it is.

"Wait Until Dark" (1967) features Hepburn as Susy, who is recently blind due to an accident. She is still attending ‘blind classes’ and attempting to fit into a world that is not designed for her. Alan Arkin is Roat, a brutal, psychopathic killer who is after a doll that has been filled with heroin. In a different situation, these two people (and plots) wouldn’t cross paths but Roat believes Susy has possession of the doll. And that’s bad news for someone who can’t even sense yet that there are people coming and going from her apartment who aren’t supposed to be…

To be blunt, most thrillers (and horrors as well) from this particular era tend to not age well. In fact, that is a generous statement as most of them end up plain sucking. And even the good ones come across as quite dated merely from all the films that have come to life after it. What was once terrifying or chilling becomes tame by comparison.

"Wait Until Dark" cannot shake these issues entirely but does hold up quite well considering. The thing that works best for it is that it’s not some schlock slasher film. It is a psychological thriller, set in an everyday urban situation, making a normal scenario sinister. This is where the best ideas come from, even if this one is a little preoccupied with its gimmick of blind woman under siege. She even lives in a basement apartment which further adds to the tension. Coupled with being left on her own most of the day by her husband Sam (Efrem Zimbalist Jr., the voice of Alfred on the "Batman Animated Series" (1992-1995)!) we have a sad, isolated girl adrift from the world she can no longer see. It’s a world where Roat and his conmen keep moving things in their desperate search for the drugs, confusing Susy at every turn. Desolation is the target for the film here and it grows in our minds nicely. We’ve got a Henry Mancini score to guide us too, which is always a treat.

Hepburn also earns her Academy Award nomination here, playing her role to perfection. It is really the performances that distract from the occasional plot holes. And, of course, the last 15 minutes…

The drawn out conclusion to Susy’s nightmare is fairly tense and one might suspect a certain John Carpenter may have been influenced by it somewhat. It also features a shock lunge that is probably one of the first of its kind in thriller cinema. I would have watched this film just for that. If you’re a fan of suspense thrillers I’d suggest doing the same.

Sure, it has its age working against it…some young people today don’t understand the finer points of film made before they were born. But "Wait Until Dark", while not perfect by any means, is a wholly worthwhile film endeavor and one I recommend rather easily if you’re into classic thrillers. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 this anamorphic transfer, like many films from this era, suffers from a lot of grain (this is common with film stocks of this age, and film in general) but older stocks display much more grain especially in dimly lit scenes, where it can get a bit distracting. Once you get past this it's a good transfer, with decent detail, skin tones appear natural and the overall print is clean with few instances of specks and dirt. Colours are a little flat at times but in the grand scheme of things this is a fairly good image.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included all of which are in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono, they are in English, French and Italian. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its English track. This is the film's original soundtrack and it holds up well. A lot of the film's audio is dialogue and music, although there are a few quiet moments that build tension, slight his can be heard if turned up but it's not too distracting. The dialogue and music comes across well without any distortion and that's all we can really ask for in this case.
Optional subtitles are included in Arabic, English, English for the hearing imapaired, French, Italian and Italian for the hearing impaired.

Extras

Warner Brothers has released this film with a few extras that include a featurette, a teaser trailer, theatrical trailer and a bonus trailer. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is "A Look in the Dark" featurette that runs for 8 minutes 38 seconds and is a retrospective look back at the film with co-star Alan Arkin and producer Mel Ferrer as they comment on the film, working with each other especially Hepburn. Arkin comments on his character and how he played the role among other things.

The disc also features the original "Warning" teaser trailer that runs for 1 minute 2 seconds. As well as the film's original theatrical trailer that runs for 2 minutes 29 seconds.

Rounding out the extras is a bonus trailer for:

- "The James Dean Collection" which runs for 1 minute 48 seconds.

Overall

The Film: B Video: B- Audio: B- Extras: B- Overall: B-