Sunday, May 11, 2014

And Soon the Darkness (1970)

          Before he found his cinematic groove with the campy horror picture The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), which combined flamboyant storytelling with stylish production design, British director Robert Fuest made varied films including this atmospheric thriller about two young women who encounter a dangerous stranger while traveling through Europe. Although handsomely photographed and tastefully staged, And Soon the Darkness is a good 30 minutes too long considering the threadbare nature of the storyline. As a result, the picture is painfully dull for long stretches, even though it’s a respectable piece overall.
          And Soon the Darkness follows English nurses Cathy (Michele Dotrice) and Jane (Pamela Franklin), who spend their vacation making a bicycle tour of rural France. One afternoon, the girls stop for a rest in a roadside clearing, but the idyll leads to a quarrel—frisky Cathy wants to slow the trip down so she can seek romantic adventures, while prim Jane is determined to follow a rigid schedule. Jane leaves Cathy in the clearing and bikes to the next town, where she overhears locals talking about a murder that occurred in the area some time previous. Spooked, Jane returns to where she left Cathy, only to discover her friend is missing. Complicating matters is the recurring presence of Paul (Sandor Elés), a handsome stranger whom the girls have noticed several times in their travels; he conveniently appears at the location where Cathy was last seen and offers assistance to Jane, though his motives remain mysterious. Once all the pieces of the narrative puzzle are in place, Fuest and screenwriters Brian Clemens and Terry Nation play Hitchcockian suspense games, creating ambiguity about what might have happened to Cathy and what role Paul may or may not have played in nefarious events.
          Franklin has a appropriately mousy quality and Elés oozes smarminess, so all of this could have worked quite well had the pacing been stronger. Alas, And Soon the Darkness foreshadows problems that Fuest had in later films of sustaining interest all the way from beginning to end. Still, this isn’t a bad little thriller, especially since the movie feels credible and looks good. In fact, And Soon the Darkness has engendered enough goodwill over the years that a Hollywood remake emerged in 2010, starring Amber Heard in the role that Franklin originated.

And Soon the Darkness: FUNKY

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