Director: Robert Fuest
Script: Brian Clemens & Terry Nation
Cast: Pamela Franklin, Michelle Dotrice, Sandor Ellis, John Nettleton, Clare Kelly, Hana-Maria Prauda, John Franklyn, Claude Bertrand, Jean Carmet
Running time: 99 minutes
Following quite a funky title sequence, (featuring some cool music by composer Laurie Johnson), And Soon the Darkness airs its wares spending a good fifteen or so minutes following two attractive and skimpily-clad ladies cycling through France on an exploratory holiday together, away from their demanding jobs, as nurses, back home in the UK.
Cathy (Michelle Dotrice) is getting bored with the endless and repetitive cycling through the mostly flat French countryside and wants to stop from time-to-time to soak up the sights, and maybe even meet some nice French men. Jane (Pamela Franklin), however, wants to explore as much as possible and is keen to keep up with the itinerary she has planned for them. This stark difference in opinion leads to the two women falling out with each other, resulting in Jane storming off in a huff. Cathy, meanwhile, is left behind to enjoy some impromptu ‘me-time’ sunbathing by the side of the quiet rural road, near a small copse of woodland.
When Cathy doesn’t catch up with Jane sometime later, Jane starts to get worried about her rebellious friend and goes back to the place she left her, but fails to find her. A mysterious young man, Paul (Sandor Ellis), who had initially followed them for a while at the beginning of the film, turns up and offers to help, but Jane feels that he knows more than he’s letting on and makes a break from his unnerving clutches, which is a decision she later regrets.
And Soon the Darkness is a suspenseful British thriller, which has more than a hint of Italian giallo about it, with all its red herrings and damsels in distress. The film plays on the universal fear of being a stranger in a strange land, not knowing the language or customs, and not really being able to fully trust anyone. While not to everyone’s tastes (it’s quite slow and steady in its pacing), And soon the darkness is extremely well acted by the leads and the supporting cast, and maintains a level of tense suspense that is highly commendable.
Director Robert Fuest, while not the most flashy of helmsmen, does a nice job here of keeping the audience guessing and also delivers some great shots – check out the closing shot that comes to an end resting on a rain-splattered caravan roof, for example. While the storyline might not have done the French tourist board any favours, Fuest certainly makes the most of the picturesque settings and even manages to give some areas quite a mysterious and creepy vibe; difficult to do in the blazing summer sun.
Perhaps Robert Fuest’s greatest accomplishment here is during the scene where Cathy realises she’s in trouble and the director nicely cranks up the suspense just by focussing on the noise of a bike’s wheel going round, and also on a close up of Dotrice’s eyes; we see the panic forming in her face, which is very powerful. Fuest also wisely increases tension by not pandering to the audience by providing subtitles; by not having them, those of us with a limited knowledge of French (most of the planet) are forced to join in with Jane’s on-going confusion and growing feeling of alienation.
Like Michelle Dotrice, Pamela Franklin is also very good at acting with her eyes, a skill she needs to draw on, as much of the last act sees her having to convey so much with very little dialogue. Plus I couldn’t help but feel, as I was watching Franklin, that she had great eyes for live action anime!
And Soon the Darkness cleverly keeps the audience guessing what might happen next, and, just when you think you know who the serial sex-killer is, it’s time to guess again as the storyline pulls the rug from under the viewer’s metaphorical feet. Truly excellent stuff…
Studiocanal is distributing And Soon the Darkness on Blu-Ray as part of its on-going Vintage Classics label. As per usual Studiocanal provide some decent special features including:
- Audio commentary with writer Brian Clemens and director Robert Fuest;
- Audio commentary with film historian Troy Howarth;
- Interview with Kim Newman (30 mins) – Film critic and author Kim Newman shares his appreciation for the film and discusses its influences (Les Diaboliques 1956), and the writer’s and director’s subsequent career paths. He also gives some background to the actors involved in the project, and talks about the story’s origins, namely the Victorian classical story: ‘So long at the fair’.