THE FIVE SENSES: SIGHT
Being an imaginative kid, who’s naturally afraid of the dark, I could not doze off without a night light on. As I grew up however, I developed clear eyes and saw darkness for what is: a simple nothing. It’s not scary by itself. I bet I share this realization with the blind protagonist of “Wait Until Dark.” Played by Audrey Hepburn, Susy Hendrix recently lost her sight after a car accident. Although she feels vulnerable, the more she gets used to living in darkness, the better she can adapt. Encouraged by her husband Sam, Susy attempts to be self-sufficient or better yet, the “world’s champion blind lady.” Unbeknownst to her, three crooks set-up an elaborate obstacle course for her. You see, a valuable doll is missing in her apartment and the three men would “lie, cheat, and play-act” in order to retrieve it. Will the blind ever see right through their charade?
“Wait Until Dark” is one heck of a suspense experience. It really shames the thrillers we tend to get these days. Its boldest move is that, right off bat, the movie does not keep us in the dark. It is as if the movie rolls off its sleeves and assures you it’s not about to cheat. There are no screenwriter’s “Na-na-nah I blindsided you!” twists – those are for today’s amateurs. This movie works like an old-fashioned pro; it uses smarts, not gimmicks. It offers more lingering suspense, less wham-bam-and-it’s-over surprise.
In the case of “Wait Until Dark,” the suspense mostly derives from our knowledge of Susy being in danger. In simplest terms, we see what she doesn’t see. We’re fully aware that Mr. Roat (Oscar winner Alan Arkin, the expletive grandpa of “Little Miss Sunshine”) is a malevolent creep. We cringe when Susy trusts the polite Mr. Talman (Richard Crenna) and the police-pretender Sgt. Carlino. We see what she doesn’t see. And that’s just the first part of the movie. As it continues, the plot plants more “suspense bombs” along the way. What starts out as a simple setting evolves into a heightened and unstable danger zone. Characters must proceed with caution. One wrong word, one false move, one telling sound can detonate his or her demise.
I have heard of the film’s praises before. Stephen King actually considers the climax to be the scariest scene ever captured on film. I don’t know why I ever doubted the movie’s reputation. Perhaps I was a little biased since it’s not a Hitchcock movie. Thank goodness, I developed some sense and finally saw “Wait Until Dark” for what is: a simple masterpiece. Well, you don’t have to buy the hype. You can doubt me too. But remember, seeing is believing.
Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Jack Weston.
Based on the play by