In 1967, Audrey Hepburn made “Wait Until Dark” with the interesting supporting cast of Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Jack Weston and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. She plays a blind woman named Suzy Hendrix who comes into possession of a doll filled with heroin — and some very bad guys want their doll back. The director, Terrence Young, adapted a Frederick Knott play that completed a successful run on Broadway with Lee Remick as the blind woman and Robert Duvall as the villain. Honor Blackman played Suzy in the successful London stage version, which ran an incredible 2 years.
Under normal circumstances, Alan Arkin’s would absolutely steal this picture playing a character named Roat, but Hepburn’s curiously unstiff performance as Suzy keeps the movie in balance. Roat and his two cronies, Mike (Crenna) and Carlino (Weston), spend a lot of time creeping around Suzy, who feels their presence but thinks it’s her snoopy little girl neighbor Gloria (Julie Herrod). Almost the entire movie plays in Suzy’s tiny south Greenwich Village apartment, with several shots outside the window of St. Luke’s Place. Everything is claustrophobic inside and out, although the street lacks foot traffic. The low level of energy makes it seem like the story takes place in a small town rather than New York City. However, the camera moves quite a bit during the action in the apartment, which makes up for the stagy composition.
Alan Arkin, who plays eccentric but likable characters in several recent movies including “Argo (2012),” plays three versions of Roat in Wait Until Dark, including an older man who storms into Suzy’s apartment to steal a seemingly worthless picture. His portrayal of Roat is a study in arrogance, and of a man who’s thought of every detail except for anticipating the courage and ingenuity of a blind woman in peril. Although Hepburn’s Suzy tells her husband and Gloria about the frustrations of being a blind person, she gets around quite easily considering the chaotic situations the story forces upon her.
I think of Jack Weston as a comic actor, but the casting works in this film because he’s an obvious stooge of the evil Roat. Crenna, who is sort of a poor man’s James Garner as an actor, simply wants to get the job done. His frustration slowly builds when her realizes Suzy won’t give up the doll easily. When it comes time for him to commit true evil against Suzy, he makes a curious decision that puts himself in danger. In the end, we realize that if Suzy can survive this chaos, she can survive anything.