Wait Until Dark is an older movie that I am genuinely surprised isn’t more famous. It has a lot going for it.
Summary: A recently blinded woman is terrorized by a trio of thugs while they search for a heroin-stuffed doll they believe is in her apartment.
Acting: 4/5: It’s hard to go wrong with Audrey Hepburn. While I did talk to my mom and we both agreed it would’ve been nice if they had cast a blind actress for the role, you have to keep in mind this was the 60s, which would’ve made things kind of difficult in that department. However, I think I did hear she did work with actual blind people to see how they act and move and the like, which I find believable; she did a great job, and didn’t feel contrived. She felt, for the most part, realistic.
Alan Arkin played the main villain…boy, was he creepy. He was conniving, cruel, and just disturbing in general. The other performances were good too, but those were the ones that stood out.
Story: 4.5/5: This was a good idea. It involves drug dealers who stuff a doll filled with heroin. One of the dealers, a woman, gives an unknowing man (Sam Hendrix) the doll, so they can sneak it into America. Sam goes back to his home, and she follows him. However, Sam loses the doll, and while he and his wife are both out of the house, another one of the dealers attacks the woman and kills her, but he doesn’t know where the doll is. The man basically blackmails two men to search the house, but then Susy, Sam’s recently blinded wife, arrives home, complicating everything. When she leaves briefly once more, the three concoct a complicated plan to get the doll back, using Susy’s blindness to manipulate her. They try to convince her that her husband is an adulterer and murderer, psychologically torturing her into being too afraid to leave her own home and to find the doll. But Susy begins to realize what is going on, and with the help of a young girl named Gloria, begins to use her blindness as an advantage to outsmart them.
It’s a surprisingly complex plot, but it works. It’s clever, and I always enjoy stories where a character with a handicap proves that they are capable, and can even use their problems as strengths in ways ‘normal’ people can’t.
Design: 4/5: This takes place (with the exception of a few scenes) in Susy’s apartment, which gives it an appropriately claustrophobic feeling at times. A few short scenes in other areas, like a few outside, or in a car, or in Gloria’s apartment, help make it feel a little better, but for the most part, it takes place inside, which helped build a good sense of suspense. There really are no special effects for the whole movie, due to it being a “realistic” movie. However, there is a great reason theaters wouldn’t allow people to come inside the theater where this played during the last eight minutes; while it doesn’t have “effects”, Per se, it still uses darkness to the best effect possible.
First, we have Susy, the protagonist. Susy is a character I’m stunned isn’t iconic. She is likely one of the first female characters in a movie who is shown as capable and able to hold her own. While in the beginning, she appears overly fearful and dependent on her husband, this can be justified in two ways: A. She is recently blinded, and B. It’s the 60s. But she develops well; she’s able to hold off three thugs who are trying to psychologically manipulate and break her, and is able to use the handicap they are trying to use to hurt her to her advantage. I just love that what they perceive as her greatest weakness turns out to be her greatest strength. In a way, she is more progressive than most female characters nowadays; it’s hard to think of one with a handicap who isn’t shown as a victim or weak. I’m just stunned she isn’t as beloved as someone like Ellen Ripley; while I love Ripley and her influence on female characters, I think we can learn something from people like Susy; someone who cries, is scared, but pushes past that, all while using her weakness and her opponents perception of her to her advantage. I think it’s more inspiring.
I can’t talk much about Roat, the main villain, without spoiling much of the plot…but let’s just say he’s a great villain. We absolutely hate him for the pain he inflicts on Susy, both physical and emotional. He’s smart, creepy, and ruthless. Heck, even Talman and Carlino, his two “partners” are scared of him, and want to turn on him.
I also like Gloria. Unlike many child characters, she’s useful. While she appears bratty and petty at first, she changes and helps Susy a lot, and is helpful. While she does cause some problems, she more than makes up for them.
Talman is one of the thugs who is hired by Roat to get the doll. He’s the one one who meets Susy first. Unlike Carlino, the other thug, he seems to try not to hurt or scare Susy as much. It’s shown that both he and Carlino are both blackmailed into this pot, and don’t want to help Roat, though especially Talman.
World Building: 3.5/5: This isn’t a prevalent part of the plot, so I don’t have much to say. It’s from the 60s, and captures how people, perceives the handicapped.
- Awesome main character: Susy is amazing. While she seems weak in the beginning, she proves to be absolutely amazing. She uses the villains’ expectations of her handicap to her advantage, and is shown to be capable, resilient, and smart, not allowing herself to be manipulated.
- Atmosphere: You know you have an amazing thriller when even Stephen King claims the last fifteen minutes as one of the scariest things he’s seen on film.
- The last fifteen minutes: This goes with what I said above. I mean, Stephen King, one of the best horror writers ever, said that. Let me just say those last few minutes are ingenious.
- Kind of dated: Nowadays, Sam seems really insensitive and unkind towards Susy’s blindness. And Gloria’s first scene where she throws a temper tantrum can’t be justified anymore.
- Slower: Like most older thrillers, this is a bit on the slow side. But this helps increase suspense, and makes the last few, faster paced scenes all the more thrilling.
- One of the reasons this may not be that iconic is because of Susy’s first appearances; she seems overly fearful and subservient. But think of it like Wendy Torrance from The Shining; she starts as overly subservient, but proves to be resilient and just amazing. They both have fantastic development, becoming capable and emotionally strong, which is truly inspiring.
Grade: 4/5: This movie is kind of dated at times with how people treat Susy as a blind woman. But this matches the era (the 60s) and is progressive despite that, showing Susy as being just as capable, if not more so, than someone who can see. This is a great thriller that deserves to be more well known than it is.