Innocents Abroad – Rediscovering ‘And Soon the Darkness’ (UK 1970 – 94 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - May 19, 2014
Innocents Abroad – Rediscovering ‘And Soon the Darkness’ (UK 1970 – 94 mins)

Movies set in broad daylight where somebody goes missing, is usually a good hook, and often guaranteed to hold your attention (1988’s ‘The Vanishing’, being one of the best). An earlier example of this is the late-night cult favourite; ‘And Soon the Darkness’, which is a simple yet effective tale of carefree holidaymakers facing unseen danger. This is not a blood and guts thriller, but a well made suspense film, and a tale of isolation and helplessness in a foreign land.

Jane and Cathy, two attractive English nurses, are on a cycling vacation in France, unaware that a serial killer is murdering young women in the area. When the girls are separated following an argument, anger soon turns to panic as Jane frantically searches for Cathy, who has gone missing, unaware that the killer is close by.

20 year old Pamela Franklin and 22 year old Michelle Dotrice play the two young women, and give convincing, solid performances. Franklin is particularly strong as the frightened Jane, conducting her own investigation while struggling to communicate with locals and the police. A gifted actress, Pamela worked largely in this genre, although probably gave her best performance in ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ (’69). Dotrice is best remembered as the long-suffering wife of Frank Spencer in ‘Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em’, and as the widow of the great Edward Woodward. Good support comes from Hungarian-born Sandor Elès, who scores as the mysterious Paul, an all too helpful plain-clothes detective, and the prolific John Nettleton as an imposing local Gendarme.

Director Robert Fuest’s direction is first-rate, employing unnerving camera angles and stark close-ups. Fuest would later find greater success with the pair of cult ‘Dr Phibes’ movies. The screenplay was written by ‘The Avengers’ scripter Brian Clemens, and the man who created the Daleks; Terry Nation. The movie has a lovely, picturesque look, with its country scenery of winding roads and quaint little cafés. It also has an eerily effective music score, courtesy of ‘Dr. Strangelove’ composer Laurie Johnson, accompanying scenes of creepy locals and sinister farmers.

What helps makes the movie work is that the French characters actually speak French and not the French sounding English which you often get in these low budget films. This helps create the feeling of uncertainty and alienation in Franklin’s character. The movie is slow moving at times, but the finale is fairly gripping as the killer closes in on Jane. The revelation of who the murderer is worked for me when I first saw the movie, as I was genuinely surprised at who the culprit was.

With its sun-drenched dread, ‘And Soon the Darkness’ is a creepy, often tense thriller with two likable leads and enough red-herrings to hold your attention. Ignore the 2010 American remake and seek out this far superior original instead.

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