And Soon The Darkness 1970 REVIEW

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TITLE:  And Soon The Darkness
YEAR RELEASED:  1970
DIRECTOR: Robert Fuest
CAST:  Pamela Franklin, Michele Dotrice and Sandor Elès

REVIEW BY STEPHEN MOSLEY

When director Robert Fuest passed away on 21st March 2012, Britain lost one of its most individual and underrated talents.

His credits were surprisingly few: we all love the Dr Phibes movies which gave the great Vincent Price one of his most iconic roles, and Spooky Fans may be familiar with Fuest’s 1973 science fiction thriller The Final Programme, or the well-starred The Devil’s Rain (1975) – (the one where Ernest Borgnine plays a goat-headed demon) – but one little gem ripe for rediscovery is And Soon The Darkness, released in 1970.

And soon the darkness 1970

Fuest came to the film after a stint directing episodes of ‘The Avengers’ (where he began as a production designer). It was while working on this cult TV favourite that he made the acquaintance of Brian Clemens, co-writer and co-producer of And Soon The Darkness.

The film tells the story of two British girls cycling across France. There is a sex-killer on the loose. It might be Sandor Eles (familiar from his sterling work in Hammer’s The Evil of Frankenstein and Countess Dracula – and he’s just as good here.)

The girls are played by the always lovely Michele Dotrice and Pamela Franklin (known for her youthful appearances in The Innocents and The Nanny – and fresh from being ravaged by Robert Stephens in The Prime of Miss Jean Broadie).

‘Stylish’ is the word most often used when discussing Fuest’s output; And Soon The Darkness is no exception. Fuest captures both the desolation and beauty of the girls’ surroundings; the landscape becoming an important character to the drama, and, like the roads on which the girls travel, the film is not without its twists.

From the outset, Laurie Johnson’s music theme, with its twanging guitar and bursts of jazzy trumpet, immediately misleads us as it plays over the opening credits, giving no indication of the darkness that is to follow. The score then gives way to a suspenseful motif that recurs over sweeping shots of the girls cycling on lonely, sun-soaked roads amid verdant vistas.

My only criticism of the film (co-scripted by Dalek creator Terry Nation) is that its story is stretched a little too thin over its ninety-eight minute length, and I can’t help feeling that the plot would be better served as a fifty-minute TV thriller.

However, there is still much to savour, not least some fine cinematography (and beautiful tracking shots across the French countryside) from Ian Wilson.

Here, Fuest’s direction, stripped of the flamboyant Art Deco visuals of the Dr. Phibes films, can be seen to its full advantage; and this is why And Soon the Darkness 1970 was the film I reached for upon hearing of this great director’s passing.


3 COMMENTS

  1. I managed to see AND SOON THE DARKNESS during its brief, unpublicized engagement at a New York theater in 1971, mainly because I was a big fan of Pamela Franklyn ever since her terrific appearance in the terrifying Bette Davis thriller “The Nanny”. I found ASTD equally frightening, checked out its writer in the credits, and jotted down the name Brian Clemens as a talent to watch. One year later came another notable British thriller, SEE NO EVIL, with Mia Farrow as a blind girl visiting and staying with a kind family in their gorgeous estate, totally unaware that while she had been out visiting her handsome boyfriend (Norman Eshley), every single member of that family had been gruesomely slaughtered which she was unaware of when she returned to that inviting domicile. From then on, I watched every Brian Clemens project I was able to track down. I kept waiting for this genius to be acclaimed by the U.S. critics, but it never happened. (Such was not the case, apparently, in Great Britain). I felt like I had struck gold when Clemens penned the screenplays for many of the TV-movies shown on the ABC network as a late-night attempt to compete with NBC’s “Tonight Show”. If my memory serves correctly, Pamela Franklyn starred in at least one of these gems but she was not in my absolute favorite, FILE IT UNDER FEAR, which still haunts me some 50 years later. As a young teenager, I spent my summers in the tranquil suburb where my family lived working a full-time job at the local library, located in a fairly isolated area in the verdant village park. Twice a week, I worked the night shift and was often the last employee to leave when the library closed at 9 PM. Already an avid movie fan, especially of thrillers, those nights when I often worked alone struck me as rather creepy and I felt that a library at night-time would make a terrific setting for a motion picture thriller. I dreamed of one day making my first attempt at writing a screenplay by utilizing such a setting but Mr. Clemens beat me to it with his superb FILE IT UNDER FEAR. Apparently, thanks to this website, that mini-masterpiece of chilling suspense and unrelenting dread is available on a DVD which I am now going to try to track down and add to my video collection. FILE IT UNDER FEAR is truly a keeper!

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