Audrey Hepburn: Breakfast at Tiffany’s. You’d swear that’s the only movie she’d ever done, considering you can’t even walk past a cell phone case kiosk at the mall without seeing that one image of her (you know which one I mean) printed in 10 different colours. But believe it or not, the woman actually had close to 30 films under her when all was said and done, and though I’m as huge a Breakfast fan as the next girl (Ok, maybe a little more than the next girl), I’m just as big a fan of her other work as well. My horror fandom and Audrey adoration don’t often collide, but they do in the 1967 thriller Wait Until Dark.
Audrey Hepburn plays the recently blinded Suzy Hendrix, loving and doting wife of Sam Hendrix (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.). Sam is given a heroin-containing (unbeknownst to him) doll by a woman at the airport while on a business trip, and when the woman disappears, he takes the doll home with him. But as often is the case with missing heroin, someone comes looking for it. That someone is a man named Roat, played ultra creepily by a very young Alan Arkin. Roat has murdered the woman who gave Sam the doll at the airport, Lisa (Samantha Jones), and has now framed two small-time crooks, Mike and Carlino (Richard Crenna and Jack Weston), for the murder in order to blackmail them into helping him find the missing doll.
The three criminals decide to manipulate blind Suzy and have a relatively easy time of it too: one pretending to be an old friend of her husband Sam’s, one a policeman, and one the husband of the woman with whom Sam has (not actually) been having an affair. They convince her well enough that she becomes just as desperate to find the doll as they are. Trouble is, she has no idea where it’s gone and explains that her husband was unable to locate it when Lisa had originally called him looking for it. As the search and manipulation carry on, inevitable holes in the crooks’ stories become evident and Suzy starts to realize the gentlemen are not as they seem. With the help of the Hendrixes’ neighbour, young Gloria (Julie Herrod), Suzy manages to give the three men quite a run for their [drug] money.
So what makes Wait Until Dark a horror film? Well there are two strains of fear in this one. Suzy was blinded in a car accident, she knows what she’s lost in losing her sense of sight, so she relies on and trusts in those around her (even strangers) to help her build an accurate idea of reality. She has no choice. That’s all scary enough, but to have that trust violated so severely, to be harmed by someone she trusted to protect her, is terrifying. These are the psychologically disturbing elements of Wait Until Dark, but there are also some standard fear tactics in this one, including all-out “HOLY SH*T!” jump-scare that no matter how many times you watch this movie, will get you. Every time.
If you’re looking to see Audrey Hepburn in a new light: Wait Until Dark.