Audrey Hepburn was very, very good in two 1967 movies. She received an Oscar nomination for the more popular one, “Wait Until Dark.” As a frightened by resourceful blind woman, she was menaced by the seemingly trustworthy, soothing Richard Crenna (in a sort of Cary Grant turn, see “Charade,” a corrupt former cop (Jack Weston) and a psychopath in dark glasses (in one of his three disguises) played by Alan Arkin. Arkin also had a very good year, being nominated for the best actor Oscar as a Russian submarine commander run aground on Long Island in “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming.”
“Dark” is obviously based on a stage play (in marked contrast to the traveling around the south of France in “Two for the Road.” Initially, it seems to share having a mean, spoiled young girl, though Gloria (June Herrod) turns out to be useful rather than horrid.
There have been so many sadistic criminals on screens since 1967, that Arkin is less shocking that he was to 1967 audiences, with the exception of one scene.
There is little opening out from the apartment—really, only to a VW van across the street parked in front of a phone booth that gets a lot of use from the plotters. (As in “Charade,” Hepburn does not know what she has and what she has does not belong to her husband or the three conspirators to get the prize.) The play that was filmed was written by Frederick Knott, who also wrote the frightened woman “Dial M for Murder” that Alfred Hitchcock adapted to the screen.
Hepburn was often paired on screen with much older men (Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Fred Astaire). Her husband here was played by Efrem Zimbalist Jr., who was a mere eleven years her senior. And her ostensible romantic interest through much of the film, Crenna, was only two years her senior.
Nasty as her psychological (and, eventually, physical) assailants are, it is difficult to understand why Hepburn does not lock/bar the door while they are out. For that matter, I don’t understand why she is so determined to hold onto the doll, knowing that the woman for whom her husband held it is dead. Or why she does not remove their advantage of lighting sooner. But, if one can suppress such questions and go with the flow, the movie is frightening and perhaps inspiring.
If the Oscar went to a Hepburn that year (it did), it went to the wrong one (Katharine for “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”). Much as I adore Audrey Hepburn (a lot!) and knowing that she was going to stop making movies, if I had an Oscar ballot, I’d have to mark it for Edith Evans’s harrowing performance in “The Whisperer,” however. And I’d have nominated Arkin for a supporting actor award.
I wish that Arkin, Crenna, and Hepburn had more good roles in subsequent years (I was a fan of Crenna in the TV series“Slattery’s People” in the mid-1960s and in Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1972 “Un flic”, also the 1984 “Flamingo Kid”).
Alan Arkin is fairly interesting recalling feeling bad at having to torture the radiant Hepburn. Her then husband and producer of the movie, Mel Ferrer, had little of interest to say. It did not take this movie to establish that she could act (try “The Nun’s Story,” if not “Two for the Road”!).
©2019, Stephen O. Murray