Friday, January 13, 2017

WAIT UNTIL DARK (1967) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Warner Archive
Region Code: PG
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 108 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Director: Terence Young
Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Jack Weston, Samantha Jones, Julie Herrod

Blind woman Susy Hendrix (Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast At Tiffany's) lives in a tiny basement apartment in New York City with her photographer husband Sam (Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Beyond Witch Mountain), whom at the start of the movie has just left on a business trip out of town. What neither can know or suspects is that a doll recently given to Sam at the airport by an attractive young woman named Lisa (Samantha Jones, The Way We Live Now)is loaded with heroin, and the sinister hood Harry Roat, Jr. (Alan Arkin, Argo) wants it in the worst sort of way. 

To that end Roat enlists, through nefarious blackmail, natch, a pair of small time crooks, we have nice guy Mike Talman (Richard Crenna, First Blood), and the chubby Carlino (Jack Weston, Short Circuit 2), who aid Mr. Roat in running a con on the seemingly vulnerable blind woman in hopes of obtaining the doll without resorting to violence, though Roat seems perfectly fine with the prospect of murder, just ask the recently deceased drug mule Lisa about that. The con involves them men portraying a military friend of Susy's husband from the past, a cop, and casting aspersion on the marital fidelity of her husband. 

The film is an adaptation of a stage play by Frederick Knott (Dial "M" For Murder), and it does feel like it, too, the scope is close-quarters and claustrophobic, with most of the film taking place in the tiny basement flat, with our trio of hoods trying to run their con on the blind woman, which seems unfair and awful, but it turns out that Susy, as played by Hepburn, proves to be more resourceful and intuitive that anticipated. As the con unfolds she begins to notice small things that cast aspersion on the scenario as performed by the trio of men, possible giveaways like the fact that one of the men seems to be dusting the her furnishings, characters presented as two separate men seem to be wearing the same squeaky shoes, and they keep opening and closing her blinds for some reason. Aside from her heightened senses and wit she also has a secret weapon, a young girl named Gloria (Julie Herrod) who lives upstairs and frequents her apartment to assist Susy from time to time, but the girl turns out to be quite a brat, prone to lashing out at Susy from time to time, knocking over stuff onto the floor in a fit of anger, and borrowing things without permission. 

As stated, the movie is a bit stagey, confined to mostly this one space, and the cinematography isn't the most inspired, this is not David Fincher's Panic Room (2002) with loads of elaborate camera movement, but the movie is well-directed by Terence Young (From Russia with Love), but you have to wonder what a master of suspense and technical know-how like Alfred Hitchcock would have brought to it. The suspense is perhaps a bit slow to build for a modern young audience, which I am not, I have always loved this movie. The suspense builds as the con gets deeper, and as Susy becomes more aware of certain irregularities and violence seems forthcoming, the tension builds, and the final eight-minutes are nail-bitingly good, with an iconic jump scare that is probably why this one is so fondly remembered, and not without excellent reason. 

Audrey Hepburn is just wonderful as the blind woman, she's not helpless, not too naive, and she's not a superhuman heroine either, but she is a clever woman in a bad situation. Both Weston and Crenna as the con men are crooked but don't come of as too menacing, Alan Arkin is a true menace, a super weird cat in a black leather jacket and dark shades, so deeply sinister in a role where he becomes three different persons, he makes it a memorable turn as a twisted baddie. 

This movie is a suspense classic with a good reason, the performances are top-notch and the close-quarters tension slowly steeps, building to almost unbearable levels, and they just don't make them like this anymore, but you can see it's influence on modern thriller movies like this years Don't Breathe (2016) and Hush (2016).   

Audio/Video: Wait Until Dark (1967) arrives on Blu-ray from the the Warner Archive looking very nice, a step-up in crispness and clarity from the 2003 DVD, the grain is nicely managed and the textures and details are improved all the way around - this presentation is a real treat for fans of this classic suspense-thriller. Audio is handled nicely with an English DTS-HD MA Mono 1.0 track that renders the dialogue and the cool Henry Mancini score with good fidelity and without issue, optional English subtitles are included. The Blu-ray box erroneously lists the aspect ratio as scope 2.35:1, but the true aspect ratio is 1.85:1.  

Extras on the disc are a bit slim, we have the interview with actor Alan Arkin and producer Mel Ferrer  which is ported over from the previous release alongside the original theatrical trailer and a cool teaser trailer stating that during the final eight-minutes the theater will be darkened to the legal limit! Unfortunately we don't get a new commentary or extras, the Warner Archive are not known for creating new supplemental material for their releases but this is certainly a suspense classic deserving of a new examination.  

Special Features: 
- Featurette: Take a Look in the Dark-Alan Arkin and Producer Mel Ferrer Reminisce About the Making of the Film (9 min) SD 
- Original Theatrical Trailer (3 min) HD 
- "Warning" Teaser Trailer (1 min) SD 

Wait Until Dark (1967) arrives on Blu-ray with a fine A/V presentation from the Warner Archive, who are doing some good work down there in the basement at Warners getting these classics into the hands of fans. I wish we had some new extras for this one but it's hard to be too disappointed when we have a classic suspense-thriller like this one on Blu-ray which looks and sounds top-notch. 4/5