Friday, 24 August 2012

And Soon The Darkness (1970)

Directed by Robert Fuest, and written by Brian Clemens and Terry Nation (familiar to fans of some classic UK TV shows), And Soon The Darkness stars Pamela Franklin and Michele Dotrice as, respectively, Jane and Cathy. The two young girls are enjoying a cycling holiday in France and taking in the sights around them, with Jane enjoying the countryside while Cathy eyes up the men. The two girls argue, however, and Jane heads off to spend some time on her own. When she returns it seems that Cathy is missing. But where is she, who is she with and is she safe? Perhaps Paul (Sandor Eles) can be of help, though he is acting slightly suspicious. Maybe the gendarme (John Nettleton) would be the better option.

Far from a perfect thriller, And Soon The Darkness will be viewed by fans of the genre more as a curio piece than a wholly satisfying piece of work. It certainly starts off feeling like many of the groovy Britflicks that came from the preceding decade but then quickly starts to build up some nice tension and a great evocation of being a stranger in a strange land.

In fact, I'd argue that few films have really nailed that feeling of utter helplessness in a foreign country as this one has. A holiday is about taking in the sights, having fun and using what little language you may know to get by. When an emergency occurs it's made ten times worse by realising just how out of your depth you may be.

The script by Clemens and Nation is okay, the performances aren't bad (Franklin does better than Dotrice while Eles and Nettleton are both very good) and the direction is solid but everything comes together somehow to lift the film from average to pretty damn good. As Pamela Franklin grows more and more panicked and vulnerable, the film really takes hold and it becomes easier and easier to empathise with someone in such a horrible situation.

Of course, the movie is quite dated nowadays (though it was given a decent update with a 2010 remake) and has lost some power but when watching it do try to remember that, even in 1970, travelling abroad was a much bigger deal and a much riskier venture than it is these days. Journeys took a lot longer, there weren't any translation or map apps to help and even just hopping over to France was a big deal and an adventure. The film captures all of that perfectly, and that makes it well worth checking out.


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