Double Exposure: “Wait Until Dark” (1967)


Nova Clark

Think of Audrey Hepburn, and images of 1950s glamour and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” may come to mind.

But in 1967, she was dropped into an unexpected world of hurt as Susy Hendrix in Terence Young’s “Wait Until Dark,” a frightening thriller about a doll containing heroin that finds itself in the wrong hands.

It all starts when a woman hastily plants the doll on Susy’s unsuspecting husband (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) at an airport, following which it ends up in her basement apartment in New York as an innocent gift.

Not much more is seen of Susy’s husband throughout the film as viewers get to focus on her instead, soon to be terrorized by a scheming man named Roat (Alan Arkin), the intended recipient of the narcotics-filled doll who is determined to get it back.

But there’s one catch: Susy is blind.

With only her young neighbor, Gloria, to act as her eyes, Susy must rely on a blend of logic, instinct and intuition to make it through the night at the mercy of Roat — along with two corrupted lawmen who agree to assist him in exchange for $2,000 — however deadly the results.

As Hepburn carries the story with scenes of isolation in the single room of her home, viewers begin to feel a unique sense of fear as her vulnerability grows contagious.

Not only is it a torturous experience to witness Susy’s initial trust in those plotting against her, but her blindness creates a uniquely horrific dilemma for viewers: instead of merely knowing something that she doesn’t, you know *everything* that she doesn’t — but you’re forced to watch anyway.

Ahead of its time in its characters, pacing and simple premise, this thriller evokes films of decades later. Arkin’s clothing style and demeanor as Roat, for instance, seems like it would find its perfect place in the criminal lineup of Bryan Singer’s contemporary whodunit, “The Usual Suspects” (1995).

For a tension-packed experience that just so happens to be from the late ‘60s, consider selecting “Wait Until Dark” for your next movie night.