Archive for the ‘thrillers’ Tag

And Soon the Darkness (1970)   4 comments

When two friends on a biking tour of France are separated, one of them suspects the other is in trouble. Can she find her friend? How will she know who the good guys are when nobody wears a hat?


“Hey, is that Cary Grant up ahead?”

Two young British women, bicycling through the French countryside, have a row. Jane (Pamela Franklin) wants to stick to their schedule (pronounced shehjule), and Cathy (Michele Dotrice), fancies a bit of a lie down in the sun. Cathy falls asleep on the grass, but when she wakes up, she’s not alone. Meanwhile, Jane has cycled on to the next village to wait. When hours pass with no sign of her friend, Jane heads back to where Cathy was resting and finds no sign of her. She hitches back to town with the handsome, yet creepy, Paul (Sandor Elès), who claims to be an off-duty Sûreté officer.


“Have you ever seen a crawlspace?”

Paul vacations in this part of the country every year because he’s obsessed with an unsolved murder committed there a few years prior. Sure, buddy. Jane is understandably freaked out by Paul and his weird hobby, so she runs away from him to the home of the local gendarme, (John Nettleton) and his war-addled father, where she stays while the policeman searches for Cathy and Paul. Will the gendarme find Cathy safe? Will Paul get his motorbike started? Will Jane ever go to the bathroom? I mean, she’s been riding a bike all day and she’s had two orangeades without stopping. She’s like a camel.


“Just loading up for the desert crossing.”

Robert Fuest directed And Soon the Darkness as well as The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, The Devil’s Rain, and some of The Avengers series, so we know he’s a cool guy. The story, written by Brian Clemens and Terry Nation, is simple and Fuest keeps it taut and fast-moving. The tension comes from within the characters and it’s genuinely scary at times.


Quentin?

The music, by Laurie Johnson, who wrote the fab theme for The Avengers and a ton of other films and shows, contributes to the film’s urgent mood. The film looks great too. Cinematographer, Ian Wilson makes pretty pastoral shots and then moves in for a heart-pounding close-up. The final shot is chilling and beautiful.


“A little wax and she’ll be good as new.”

The oddball characters add to the atmosphere of confusion and fear, but Pamela Franklin carries the film. Her facial expressions convey what she’s feeling without exposition or a lot of dialogue. That works since one of the problems Franklin’s character, Jane faces is that she’s a British woman in a small rural town in France. She speaks very little French and the locals speak almost no English. It’s a subtle performance that could easily have descended to pantomime and shrillness, but doesn’t because Franklin keeps the character grounded. Sandor Elès as Paul is equal parts menacing and comforting in keeping with the whole ‘I’m not sure who to trust.’ theme.


“Get off my pelouse.”

And Soon the Darkness is a terrific little gem of a film. These smaller thrillers from the 1960s and 70s are my favorite things in the world and the British ones are the best. This was a great find.

 

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The Snorkel (1958)   1 comment

Clad in street clothes and a snorkel, Paul Decker (Peter van Eyck) seals the windows and doors of a fashionably furnished living room. Then, he blows out the gas lanterns and cranks them up, filling the room with gas. He and his snorkel hide under the floor boards, safe from the noxious fumes. The unconscious woman on the sofa is not so lucky.

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“I thought we were all wearing snorkels.”

Soon, police arrive at the Italian villa and rule the death a suicide. How else could a woman die in a locked room? Candy Brown (Mandy Miller), the woman’s daughter, disagrees and accuses Paul, Mom’s husband, of the deaths of her mother and of her father three years earlier in a diving accident. Diving-snorkel, get it? She can’t prove a thing and the local police don’t bother to investigate. No one believes her. She’s just a teenaged girl, after all.


Very subtle, Candy.

She’s also wealthy and Paul wants that cash. The death of his wife leaves Mom’s fortune to Paul, but this pesky kid keeps complicating matters by telling police and anyone who’ll listen that he’s a murderer.

murd
“He’s a murderer.”

Despite successfully convincing everyone else that Candy’s just a bratty, delusional kid, Paul finds her constant reminders of his recent murder off-putting. Candy’s accusations also interfere with his attempts to romance her caretaker, Jean (Betta St. John). In other words, the kid has to go. Can Paul pull off a third murder? Will the Italian police finally look more deeply into why a healthy, happily married mother would kill herself? Why, when renovating their lovely Italian villa in the late 1950s did Paul insist on keeping the gas lamps?


“Why not electricity?”

Directed by Guy Green and written for the screen by Jimmy Sangster and Peter Myers, The Snorkel boasts a creative plot and lovely black and white cinematography by Jack Asher. Anthony Dawson, the tall, long-faced criminal Ray Milland hires to kill Grace Kelly in Dial M for Murder, wrote the original story for The Snorkel. An atypical Hammer film, The Snorkel is one of the zippy thrillers like Maniac and Scream of Fear Hammer made alongside their usual Gothic horrors like Dracula and The Curse of Frankenstein.

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This is not Frankenstein.

The Snorkel is an entertaining, fast-paced thriller with an unusual plot and good acting. Peter van Eyck, who usually plays Nazis, does a terrific job as the homicidal stepfather and Mandy Miller convinces as the wronged daughter. Despite our knowing the identity of the killer from the beginning of the film, we’re still intrigued by Paul’s meticulous murder plot and we wonder to what lengths he’ll go to hide his crimes and get what he wants. The film doesn’t delve too deeply into background or motive, but who cares? We’re more interested in Paul’s sly machinations and Candy’s methods of stopping him to look for plot holes. Also, The Snorkel has a dynamite ending. What a fun way to spend ninety minutes!

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