Ahhh Classic Movie Week.
When I found out Nerds and Nomsense was having a week-long series on classic movies for Oscars week, I was super psyched. I’ve been watching old movies since I was a teenager, unable to sleep at night. My family was lucky enough to have Turner Classic Movies and American Movie Classics and I ate that stuff up with a spoon! Between then and now, I’ve seen and loved many films that are older than me. Initially I thought I would write a post on my love of silent films, which, if you know me at all, you know is pretty epic. But once I started to write, it got out of control. I couldn’t focus on just one aspect, actor, director, or era. I was all over the place.
I had to write about something else. But what? I’m terrible at picking favorites, which you can tell if you’ve read my bio. What the H-E-DOUBLE-FREAKING-HOCKEY-STICKS was I going to write about this week?
Metropolis, one of my favorite silent films, was being covered by someone else, as were several lesser-known Hitchcock films. Maybe Charade, aka the best Hitchcock film Hitchcock never made? I do love Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. Then, the light bulb smashed over my head. I would write about Wait Until Dark! Yesssss! More people need to see this gem! It’s got what I consider to be Audrey Hepburn’s and Alan Arkin’s finest performances and a Henry Mancini score that helps keep you on the edge of your seat, all packed into a tension-filled 107 minutes. How much more “classic” can you get?!?!?!
The film begins with a close-up of a doll being cut open. As the camera pulls back, you see a man performing surgery on the doll, as well as an impatient woman waiting on him to finish his work. He stuffs the doll with packets of heroin, sews it up, and sends her on her way. The woman, whose name we learn is Lisa, arrives at the airport and gets through customs with the heroin-filled doll undisturbed. She meets Sam Hendrix while boarding the plane and the scene ends.
As they deplane in New York City, Lisa spots a menacing-looking man waiting for her. With some fast talk about a sick daughter and a surprise, she persuades Sam to take the doll and says she’ll make arrangements to pick it up from him within a few days, leaving him an unwitting drug mule. Lisa is then whisked away from the airport by the man, who we shortly find out is a criminal named Roat. Played with creepy perfection by Alan Arkin, Roat then strong arms a small crew of criminals into a complex scheme to try and retrieve the doll from Sam and his recently blinded wife Susy.
In spite of her momentary lapses into neediness and frailty, you’ll come to see that Susy is more than a match for Roat and his cohorts. As the tension mounts and things start to look more dire for her, you see what terror Roat is capable of inflicting. Susy uses coping mechanisms that she’s acquired due to her disability in interesting ways to try to outsmart Roat and save her own life. I don’t want to give away too much of the action, because I think the suspense is greater if you go into it not knowing much. I will say that my stomach still knots up at certain points even though I know how it turns out! Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin turn in superb performances, and the Henry Mancini score is an off-kilter gem that’s still effective decades later.
Watch this trailer and decide if you want to see it. (You do. Trust me.)
It’s not available streaming on Netflix, but they do have the DVD available. You can also stream it on Amazon for $3.99 or on Google Play for $1.99. Under-appreciated thriller, or just a boring old movie? Watch it and let me know what you think in the comments!