Sunday, 6 January 2013

And Soon The Darkness: "A Little Ride In Sunny France"

  As a fan of classic horror (including that of the 70s part of the genre) as well as a fan of Pamela Franklin, I had been wanting to see this film for several years and finally got a DVD copy. Robert Fuest, who directed another favorite of mine, "Wuthering Heights" (1970), did a masterful job at conveying the quiet menace and isolated feeling of dread. Two young British nurses, Jane (Franklin), and Cathy (Michele Dotrice, daughter of Roy, sister of Karen), are on a bicycling holiday in rural France, where, unbeknownst to them, a murder of young woman tourist took place a few years before. The assailant was never caught. They are blissfully ignorant of this fact, and a mysterious young man, Paul (Hungarian actor Sandor Eles) catches Cathy's eye when the girls make a stop at a small cafe. Of course, it becomes apparent to the viewers that Paul knows more about the murder than he lets on. He shadows the girls for a while, even visits the cemetery where the unfortunate victim is buried. As to whether or not this is a deliberate red herring or not is revealed as the story progresses.
Jane and Cathy make another stop on the side of the road several miles down from the cafe and rest for a while on the edge of some pretty thick woods. They get into an argument and Jane leaves in a huff, while Cathy finds herself vulnerable to possibly the perpetrator of the aforementioned crime, in a frightening scene that lets one imagine the terror. After a little time has passed, Jane begins to grow concerned for her friend and regrets leaving Cathy alone. However, she is nowhere to be found. The locals seem to know something but as they don't seem to speak English and Jane knows very little French, her confusion and apprehension becomes that of the audience as well. The local British schoolteacher (Clare Kelly) believes that the killer was also a tourist. Paul claims to have worked on the case and offers to help Jane, but her suspicions and his sketchy behavior cause our young heroine to flee from him and try to get assistance elsewhere. The title of the movie is actually very appropriate, despite the fact that the story takes place in broad daylight. The fact that the later the day grows, the darker it will eventually get, signalling doom and possible death. There is also no violence or blood until the climax. Who is the murderer? Paul? One of the townspeople? The local police officer (John Nettleton)? Or has Cathy simply decided to play a joke on her friend? This movie will keep you guessing. Very nice cinematography as well, and the music is quite good, with the exception of the opening and ending credit tune, a bit bizarre considering the tone of the film.

Pamela Franklin never really got the credit she deserved as an actress: she was so convincing in everything I saw her in. Here she is believable as a young nurse caught in a terrifying trap in an unfamiliar country. Dressed simply but nicely throughout, she has a doe-like quality here which makes her seem all the more vulnerable. Michele Dotrice is lovely as well (wish she could have been seen more in films). The late Sandor Eles was unknown to me at the time, but quite good. While not overly menacing or devastatingly handsome, he did possess an interesting charisma. All of the actors cast helped add to the aura of atmospheric suspense. 
"And Soon The Darkness" was recently remade, and no doubt, the Hollywood version will most likely make everything more graphic and obvious. It seems they are running out of ideas. I probably don't have to tell you that I don't think much of remakes in general.

The DVD: The film's theatrical trailer, radio spots and talent bios are included, as well as commentary by director Fuest, screenwriter Brian Clemens and Christopher Lee biographer Jonathan Sothcott. I rate the commentary as okay but I don't know why they bemoan the fact that they did not cast a different actor to play Paul. Did they have someone else in mind? I would like to have heard more about Pamela Franklin as well. Some commentaries I like to listen to more than once; this isn't one of them. It could have been better, but it's not the worst commentary I've ever heard.

In conclusion, this is one suspense film you can watch during the day and still get a good scare. Recommended. 

1 comment:

  1. This sounds so creepy. I love Hitchcock so maybe I'll give this one a go. Thanks for the tip! Old movies are where it's at ^^