Do I Have To Be The World's Champion Blind Lady?: Wait Until Dark (1967)

I went into Wait Until Dark not realizing who Terence Young one, only to do a quick IMDB search and realize he is responsible for the earliest, and, and to some degree, best James Bond films.  Once again this creates a film that is not entirely a horror genre film, but instead a thriller in which one woman attempts to save her life, while also dealing with the troubles of blindness along the way, which appear to manifest themselves in both a physical and metaphorical way.  Wait Until Dark carries a level of suspense that is almost Hitchcockian in its composition and a couple of extremely wry moments of humor that hearken back to Audrey Hepburn's performance a few years earlier in Charade.  While one could definitely argue for this film being a bit on the slow side I would venture to say that the closing moments are so damned rewarding and well-executed that the wait is certainly justified and Wait Until Dark consists of some excellent characters, all with brilliant performances, non greater than Alan Arkin as a psychotic killer whose poise and planning are inconceivably precise.  The world of Wait Until Dark moves dangerously around being ruled by contingency and change, quite similar to a film noir movie and manages to set nearly all of its scenes within an apartment, quite similar, but not as technologically brilliant as Rope.  From the hip title cards, to the technicolor palette of the film and right down the the sleek fashions worn by the characters in the film, Wait Until Dark is a movie from Hollywood that simply is no longer made and certainly suffers from a lack of awareness.  Not to mention, considering that this is a month dedicated to horror movies, Wait Until Dark definitely has its share of tense moments, as well as one genuine scare jump.

The film begins in a drug heist manner with a woman named Lisa (Samantha Jones) waiting for an old man to fill a doll with heroin, prior to her smuggling it on a plane from Montreal to New York City, however, upon arrival she realizes she is being trailed and passes the doll off to a man she met on the plane named Sam (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) who is a photographer in New York.  Upon attempting to access the doll later, Sam is unable to find it, due a neighbor girl borrowing it without permission, and dismisses the entire event leaving his blind wife Susy (Audrey Hepburn) to deal with the aftermath, which involves a group of henchmen and a hired killer trailer her with the intent of finding the doll.  The henchmen Mike (Richard Crenna) and Carlino (Jack Weston) play a friend of Sam's and a cop respectively who try to play up on Suzy's blindness to scare her into returning the doll, while the assassin Harry Roat (Alan Arkin) plays a handful of different roles, which becomes immediately suspicious to Susy who has learned to listen to sound clues besides ones voice for identification, taking note of a particular limp of Roat's.  Once Susy metaphorically sees that she is being tricked she plans, along with the help of a neighbor girl named Gloria (Julia Herrod) a means to protect the doll as well as her self which includes employing a non-verbal communication system with Gloria as well as removing every light from the apartment to gain an advantage over her non-blind attackers.  Mike and Carlino forfeit when the realize they are no matter for the cunning woman, only to be killed by the maniacal Roat, who then takes it upon himself to attack Susy and attempt to rape her, something we are led to believe he also did to Lisa.  Ultimately, Susy wins out and is rewarded with the loving return of her husband Sam.

I could play up on blindness as metaphor in this film, but that is far to easy of a reading and is probably exhausted at this point in time, instead I would rather focus on what this film says about intersectionality and how we define and acknowledge able-bodied individuals in society.  Susy is certainly at a disadvantage in some ways, in that she is sequestered to a rather indoor life, because it is dangerous for her to walk across even at cross walks without loosing her sense of direction and becoming a point of frustration for everyone in her path, of course, this says a lot about a groups inability to help when they would rather honk at a blind woman than get out of their car and help her cross the street.  Furthermore, even in a house prepared for her to move about blindly, the slightest movement of a chair or relocation of a object can throw one's entire ability to navigate a space in the way an able-bodied person might, something that is emphasized multiple times throughout the film.  However, what is perhaps most interesting is that it reconsiders how we discuss a blind body.  In societal conceptions of blindness we either assume a person to be born blind or to acquire the unfortunate trait in their old age, yet in the case of Susy she is a fairly young woman who has gained the handicap while still able, causing distress for herself, as well as those who help her, as is realized in scenes of frustration with both Sam and Gloria, yet in times of adversity, it is shown that Susy can not only be self-sustaining, but excel in self-preservation as well, a complete reconsidering of how a blind person engages with the world.  Furthermore, this film also deals heavily with theories of gaze in horror films.

Key Scene:  The closing moments between Hepburn and Arkin are cinema gold.

I am glad to have made a blind (no pun intended) purchase of this brilliant film and cannot recommend it enough, should you find yourself a fan of any of the people involved I would suggest purchasing the DVD immediately, however renting might be the best initial option.

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