One of the best crime thrillers. The premise would seem to indicate a talky, claustrophobic hostage-with-hoods drama. Wait Until Dark covers that territory, but with a surprising amount of action and subtlety. Alan Arkin makes a great slimy creep as the lead crook Roat, in all his incarnations. Richard Crenna’s Mike and Jack Weston’s Carlino make suitably reluctant, though equally deceptive cohorts. At first it’s hard to ‘see’ the point of having Audrey Hepburn’s Susy be blind; that device turns out to be both a help and a hindrance for the criminals.
Instead of meekly submitting to the criminals, Susy slowly but steadily figures out that these guys aren’t her husband Sam’s (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s) old Marine buddy, a cop, and an eccentric father and son. That they try such elaborate deceptions complicates their chances to retrieve the missing doll, but cleverly make it more plausible that she’ll give it up. One thing they didn’t count on was the neighbor girl Gloria (Julie Herrod) interfering, and acting literally as Susy’s eyes. The fact that Gloria’s had the doll for part of the time is one of those apparently meaningless events that frustrates the criminals’ attempt to control everything.
Susy’s plan to turn the tables on these jokers is as good as their role-playing plan. Putting out all the lights in the apartment takes advantage of her blindness, plus she rigs up a nasty chemical in the potted plant. As many others have said, the long ending is chilling, incredibly tense, and visually stunning. The black-out sequences as Susy taunts the gasoline-soaked Roat with matches are eerie and wild. She’s again vulnerable, as Roat, stabbed and dying, is able to lunge at her like a crazed zombie.
It would seem that the criminals would’ve cut the phone sooner, but then they wouldn’t have been able to communicate and coordinate their actions. The fact that Roat double-crosses the other two isn’t surprising; they were planning the same fate for him. Since the doll could be anywhere, and in fact it’s constantly moved in the course of the movie, it more or less forces a degree of cooperation between the criminals and Susy. Their little ploy to convince her that Sam is somehow mixed up with the recently murdered Lusa (Samantha Jones) is not very convincing. On the other hand, we learn that Susy hasn’t known Sam long enough to know all possible skeletons in his closet, not to mention that their short romance and marriage gives Mike plausibility as Sam’s old friend. Sam is kind of a jerk–he condescending to Susy–in an odd way, Mike almost seems more appealing.
Some things do strain the suspension of disbelief. I see why Lisa hands the doll off to Sam; but how does Roat find out that she did? And how does he know that Sam lives in Lisa’s old place? I guess he doesn’t know until he goes there to find Lisa…I probably missed something. Anyway, although Gloria fits into the plot well, why doesn’t Susy have her go home and call the police? The three criminals can’t be everywhere in the apartment building. Despite some plot holes, Wait Until Dark is an excellent suspense thriller, unique, and well worth a bunch of viewings. 10/10.