And Soon The Darkness (1969)
By: Drexl on May 6, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Anchor Bay (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.77:1 (16:9 enhanced). English 1.0. 99 minutes
The Movie
Director: Robert Fuest
Starring:Pamela Franklin, Michele Dotrice, Sandor Eles
Screenplay: Brian Clemens and Terry Nation
Country: UK
AKA: Someone Waiting
Anyone who took my advice offered elsewhere on this site to grab a copy of The Vanishing and were glad they did may be equally pleased to pick up a copy of this similar, and equally entertaining, thriller presented by Anchor Bay USA.

Franklin and Dotrice play two young, attractive British nurses exploring the French countryside on bicycle - the 'real France' - away from major towns and cities, passing through small villages populated with strange locals and travelling along virtually deserted roads. Cathy (Dotrice) longs for more excitement in their journey and catches the eye of Paul (Eles), a man travelling the same roads by motorcycle. Jane (Franklin) becomes increasingly miffed at her friend's behaviour and the two women argue while taking a break from their journey. Jane hops back on her bike to continue exploring, leaving Cathy to soak up the sun by the side of the road.

Waiting in a nearby village for her friend, Jane is increasingly concerned that she has left Cathy alone, in the middle of nowhere. Returning to the roadside where she left her, Jane is shocked to discover that her friend, and most of her possessions, have vanished without trace. Warnings from the locals, in broken English, that the road is a 'bad road' only increase her concern. Paul returns to the scene and offers to help Jane find her friend. Shifty looking blokes hanging about in the middle of nowhere are often up to no good in films like this and, sure enough, Jane soon discovers that Paul has his own reasons to be interested in the whereabouts of the missing girl - he 'unofficially investigated' the murder of a similar looking young woman in the area some time ago. The exact same area.

Beautifully directed by Fuest (The Avengers, The Abominable Dr. Phibes), And Soon The Darkness admirably creates an atmosphere of genuine fear and dread without resorting to the simple tricks usually employed in a film of this type. The movie is set completely in broad daylight, (no sneaking around in the shadows here), but the stunning, sun-drenched countryside seems oddly creepy. He uses extreme close-ups during some of the more nail-biting scenes to force the viewer to imagine what may be lurking just off the edge of the frame. A couple of 'jump' scenes are worked into the movie but are not in any way predictable or corny and are, therefore, extremely effective. When Jane begins looking for her companion she has no way of communicating effectively with the locals, the people she desperately needs help from, because she doesn't speak French. There are no subtitles for the French dialogue and therefore the (non French speaking) viewer is planted firmly in Jane's shoes, stranded in a foreign country without any easy way of asking for help. All of the above clever ploys only serve to provide this movie with an extremely edgy atmosphere and a decidedly un-cliched style.

The performances from the three leads are all excellent and carry the film through it's slower moments. Eles is wonderfully shifty as the 'is he to be trusted?' Paul, while the two ladies play off each other superbly for the time they are together (and look great in hot-pants, it must be said - the future Mrs Spencer especially.) The supporting characters are equally excellent - a dodgy looking teacher, a café owner and a very strange farmer. All of these characters are lined up in a 'whodunit' scenario for the viewer to take a stab at guessing the guilty party. The whole thing is topped off by an excellent, appropriately ominous and creepy music score (excluding the dismal theme song which, for want of a better word, sucks.)
Anchor Bay's DVD of And Soon The Darkness carries a 1.77:1 anamorphic transfer that is simply gorgeous. The open landscape shots are stunning and detail levels are top-drawer. The whole thing is coded to the highest standard with not a glitch to be seen. Beautiful.
The mono track is of an equally good standard - free of hiss and other unwanted noise and carrying clean dialogue and music. One moment where a scream is subtly mixed with the squeal of a car tyre is superbly reproduced. Excellent stuff.
Extra Features
A little bundle of bonus materials to accompany the main feature.

A commentary track is the first extra feature on offer. Director Robert Fuest and writer Brian Clemens are joined by journalist Jonathan Sothcott to discuss the various aspects of the creation of this film. Sothcott actually does a pretty good job of moderating the track. He questions the two fellas about their aims and opinions of the movie and keeps the track from drying up and manages to extract some interesting snippets of information. Pretty good.

A selection of promo materials provides us with our next few bonuses. A trailer running for just short of four minutes is included. Happily it avoids any spoilers so first time viewers won't ruin the film for themselves if they decide to check out the trailer first. The trailer carries a 'whispery' voice-over to provide potential viewers with the basics of the film's plot. This voice-over could either be considered very spooky or very funny, depending on the viewer's mood I guess but, in my opinion at least, it's a decent trailer - it would certainly convince me to check out the movie, that's for sure.

In addition to the trailer we have a couple of radio spots running for 60 seconds and 30 seconds. Not really much to be said about them as they sound pretty much identical to the thousands of other radio spots that have found their way into the 'bonus materials' of other DVD releases.

The last on-disc features are talent bios for Fuest and Clemens. Both are fairly extensive and text only. The menus are static but scored and the package carries a card reproduction of the film's poster which also has the chapter listing on the reverse.
The Verdict
A wonderful, creepy and entertaining chiller that finds all concerned on top form, both in front of and behind the camera. Under the right conditions (late at night, lights off, alone) this film will drag you to the edge of your seat and set your nerves a-jangling. I'm happy to say that repeat viewings are also great fun, even when the ending of the film is known. Add to this a package from Anchor Bay that is bang-on with regards to the audio and video presentation and rounded off with a decent selection of bonus goodies and you have a classy release of a subtle shocker that will please anyone who doesn't judge a film solely on the amount of blood and gore thrown around on screen. (This film has zero splatter. Don't say I didn't warn you, gorehounds.)

If you need any further encouragement, this release is now a few years old and, therefore, available very cheaply online.
Movie Score
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