Wait Until Dark (film)

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For the 1966 play, see Wait Until Dark.
Wait Until Dark
Wait Until Dark 1967.jpg
theatrical release poster
Directed by Terence Young
Produced by Mel Ferrer
Screenplay by Robert Carrington
Jane-Howard Carrington
Story by Frederick Knott
Starring Audrey Hepburn
Alan Arkin
Richard Crenna
Music by Henry Mancini
Cinematography Charles Lang
Edited by Gene Milford
Distributed by Warner Bros.-Seven Arts
Release dates
  • October 26, 1967 (1967-10-26) (Limited release)
Running time
108 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4 million[1]
Box office $17,550,741[2]

Wait Until Dark is a 1967 psychological thriller film directed by Terence Young and produced by Mel Ferrer. It stars Audrey Hepburn as a young blind woman, Alan Arkin as a violent criminal searching for some drugs, and Richard Crenna as another criminal, supported by Jack Weston, Julie Herrod, and Efrem Zimbalist Jr.. The screenplay by Robert Carrington and Jane-Howard Carrington is based on the stage play of the same name by Frederick Knott.

Audrey Hepburn was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1968, losing to Katharine Hepburn in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Zimbalist was nominated for a Golden Globe in the supporting category. The film is ranked #55 on AFI's 2001 100 Years…100 Thrills list, and its climax is ranked tenth on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments.[3]


In a Montreal apartment, a woman named Lisa (Samantha Jones) waits for an old man to sew bags of heroin into the cloth body of an old-fashioned doll. As she leaves the apartment with the doll, we see the man watching her leave, then dialing someone on the phone. Lisa takes the doll with her on an airline flight to New York City, but when, on disembarking, she sees a man watching her, she becomes worried and gives the doll for safekeeping to a man she'd spoken with on the plane, professional photographer Sam Hendrix (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.). The man who'd been watching Lisa then roughly escorts her away. Later, when Lisa calls Sam about the doll, Sam and his wife, Susy (Audrey Hepburn), who is blind from an auto accident, are unable to find it.

Small-time con artist Mike Talman (Richard Crenna) and his partner Carlino (Jack Weston) arrive at a basement apartment where they expect to meet Lisa, their former partner in crime. No one is home, and unbeknownst to the two, the apartment is not Lisa's, but Sam and Susy's. Harry Roat, Jr. (Alan Arkin), the man who met Lisa at the airport, arrives at the apartment to persuade Talman and Carlino to help him find the doll. After discovering Lisa's body hanging in a garment bag, Talman and Carlino want to make a quick exit, but Roat points out that they have left their fingerprints all over the apartment, while he has made sure he has touched nothing but the arms of the rocker in which he was sitting, which he then wipes clean. Roat is then able to prevail upon the two to help him dispose of Lisa's body, explaining that he'd caught her going into business for herself. He also tells them about the heroin-stuffed doll and offers to cut them in if they help him find it. While the men are meeting, Susy comes home briefly and is observed by the men, who stay silent and undetected.

The next day, Susy's neighbor leaves for the weekend, and Sam leaves on a wild goose chase photography assignment (in reality set up by Roat) to Asbury Park, New Jersey. Once Susy is alone, the criminals begin an elaborate con game. In order to gain entry into the apartment, Mike poses as a friend of Sam's, Carlino poses as a policeman, and Roat poses first as an old man and then as the man's son. Using first an innocuous story about Sam and the doll, then a darker one implying that Lisa has been murdered and that Sam will be suspected, the men persuade Susy to help them find the doll. Mike gives her the number for the phone booth across the street as his own after falsely warning her of a police car stationed outside.

During this time, Susy has grown suspicious of Carlino and Roat, and Gloria (Julie Herrod), a girl who lives upstairs and helps Susy with errands, has been going in and out of the apartment, sometimes without Susy's noticing that she is there. After Mike leaves, Gloria sneaks into the apartment carrying the doll, which she had taken to play with. She tells Susy that there is no police car outside, and Susy discovers the doll. Wanting to confirm her suspicions about Carlino and Roat, Susy tells Gloria to go home and watch the phone booth. If a man goes into it, Gloria is to phone Susy, let the phone ring twice, and hang up. Gloria tells Susy that she can signal her by banging on the pipes.

On Carlino's next visit, after he calls Roat at the phone booth, Gloria sends Susy the telephone signal, and she sends the signal a second time after Susy calls Mike to tell him she has the doll. Finally realizing that Mike, too, is a criminal, Susy hides the doll. When he walks in with Carlino and Roat following quietly, she tells him that the doll is at Sam's studio. The three leave after Roat cuts the telephone cord.

Susy sends Gloria to the bus station to wait for Sam. When Susy discovers that the telephone cord has been cut, she prepares to defend herself by putting the criminals in the dark along with her, breaking all the bulbs in the apartment's light fixtures except for the one in Sam's photography 'safe light'. She also pours a chemical into a bowl. When Mike returns, he realizes that she knows the truth and demands the doll, but she refuses to cooperate. Mike has spent more time than the others with Susy, and he has come to admire her for her quiet strength and ability to stand up to the three of them, despite her disability. He admits to her that he and his confederates are part of a criminal plot and that Sam, as Susy suspected, is innocent of any involvement, while Roat is a particular danger. Mike assures Susy that she does not need to worry about Roat, as he has sent Carlino to kill him. However, having anticipated their plan, Roat has killed Carlino instead, and, as Mike prepares to leave, Roat stabs him in the back.

Intent on acquiring the doll, Roat chains the door shut in the dark apartment, pours gasoline on the floor, and sets a piece of newspaper on fire. Susy finally agrees to give him the doll, and he puts out the fire. Susy throws the chemical at Roat's face and desperately unplugs the 'safe light' while Roat throws his knife at her, which misses and embeds itself in the wall as the apartment is plunged into darkness. Roat lights a match but hastily puts it out when Susy, having found the gasoline, starts splashing it in his direction and onto him. But the battle ends when Roat obtains light by opening the refrigerator, whose door he props open with a rag in the hinge. Susy, hearing the refrigerator come on, and weeping as she realizes that she has lost the battle, pulls the doll out from its hiding place and hands it to him. While Roat cuts open the doll and gloats over the treasure inside, Susy is able, unnoticed by him, to arm herself with a large kitchen knife. Roat then pushes Susy towards the bedroom and pins her to the wall. Susy stabs Roat who collapses, seriously wounded. She flees but is unable to escape through the chained door. She stumbles across the floor toward the kitchen window to scream for help, but Roat unexpectedly leaps up from the floor and grabs her ankle. Screaming, Susy wrenches free, but the dying Roat doggedly pursues her, using the knife with which she stabbed him to drag himself across the floor. Susy conceals herself behind the refrigerator door, and Roat dies as the police arrive with Sam and Gloria.



The soundtrack of the film, composed by Henry Mancini, was adapted to the film's climax: dark, oppressive and terrifying. Mancini combined with the orchestra two pianos tuned a quarter tone apart, melodic instruments—sitar, electric harpsichord, electric guitar, and a whistler in the main title (a haunting, minor-mode melody in the style of Experiment in Terror).[citation needed] Mancini also composed an alternate main theme that was not used in the film and can be found as "Henry Mancini Alternate Main Title".


To immerse viewers in the suspense of the climactic scene, movie theater owners dimmed their lights to the legal limits, and then turned them off, one by one, as each light bulb was smashed on-screen, until the audiences were in complete darkness.[citation needed]


The film was one of the most popular of its year, earning North American rentals of $7,350,000.[5]

Bosley Crowther called it a "barefaced melodrama, without character revelation of any sort, outside of the demonstration of a person with the fortitude to overcome an infirmity"; he liked Hepburn's performance, saying "the sweetness with which Miss Hepburn plays the poignant role, the quickness with which she changes and the skill with which she manifests terror attract sympathy and anxiety to her and give her genuine solidity in the final scenes".[6]

Time magazine said the film had a "better scenario, set and cast" than the play's Broadway production that preceded it, and while "the story is as full of holes as a kitchen colander", "Hepburn's honest, posture-free performance helps to suspend the audience's disbelief" and she is "immensely aided by the heavies: Jack Weston, Richard Crenna, and Alan Arkin....With virtuosity, Hepburn and Arkin collaborate to revive an old theme—The-Helpless-Girl-Against-the-Odds—that has been out of fashion since Dorothy McGuire and Barbara Stanwyck screamed for help in The Spiral Staircase and Sorry, Wrong Number.[7]

Roger Ebert gave the movie three and a half stars and wrote "Miss Hepburn is perhaps too simple and trusting, and Alan Arkin (as a sadistic killer) is not particularly convincing in an exaggerated performance. But there are some nice, juicy passages of terror (including that famous moment when every adolescent girl in the theater screams), and after a slow start the plot does seduce you".[8]

The film ranked tenth on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments for its riveting climax.[9]

Awards and honors[edit]

American Film Institute recognition

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Wait Until Dark, Box Office Information". IMDb. Retrieved March 8, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Wait Until Dark, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved March 8, 2012. 
  3. ^ "The 100 Scariest Movie Moments: 100 Scariest Moments in Movie History - Official Bravo TV Site". Bravo. Archived from the original on 2007-10-30. 
  4. ^ "Wait Until Dark". Film Score Monthly. Retrieved October 20, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1968", Variety, 8 January 1969 p 15. Please note this figure is a rental accruing to distributors.
  6. ^ Bosley Crowther (October 27, 1967). "Audrey Hepburn Stars in Wait Until Dark". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  7. ^ "The Return of the Helpless Girl". Time. November 3, 1967. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  8. ^ Roger Ebert (February 26, 1968). "Wait Until Dark". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  9. ^ "Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments". Lists of Bests. Retrieved March 8, 2012. 

External links[edit]