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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » And Soon the Darkness (Blu-ray)
And Soon the Darkness (Blu-ray)
Kl Studio Classics // PG // October 15, 2019 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted October 11, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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And Soon the Darkness (1970) is a solidly good yet shockingly unacknowledged British thriller. Even Jonathan Rigby's exhaustive book on British horror films of the period, English Gothic, barely mentions it. Quite different from most genre films of the early 1970s, it's more Hitchcockian than Hammer-esque, but then again, movies like Peeping Tom and Psycho (1960) are definitely horror films, so the neglect levied against And Soon the Darkness does seem odd.

Filmed mostly on location in France, the modestly-budgeted picture wisely limits its scope to just six major characters, and a remote, flat stretch of road between small French villages. Further, the entire plot covers a single, if long, afternoon. Directed by Robert Fuest, it unfolds at a leisurely pace, and is a model of visual storytelling. Although its outcome is somewhat predictable, the filmmakers do a fine job keeping the audience guessing, and a growing sense of dread pervades it.

Two young nurses from Nottingham, England, are on a cycling holiday in rural France. Jane (Pamela Franklin) wants to cover as much ground as possible for the first few days, while Cathy (Michele Dotrice) prefers that they take their time. Stopping at a small café, Cathy spots a handsome young man (Sandor Elès) drinking alone. Further down the flat, farmland country roads, the man follows the girls on his Lambretta scooter, and Cathy enjoys flirting with him.

She soon tires of the relentless schedule imposed on her by Jane, adamantly refusing to go any further. She begins sunbathing in some grass just off the road, adjacent to a small forest. They argue, and Jane decides to continue on, alone. In the next village, a café owner, Madame Lassal (Hana Maria Pravda), is distressed to see Jane traveling by herself: there's been some trouble here, she explains, a young foreign tourist was murdered, she says. Jane immediately begins to have second thoughts about abandoning her friend. She backtracks to the place where they parted, but Cathy has already vanished.

She again encounters the man on the scooter, who identifies himself as Paul, a plainclothes detective from the Sûreté, unofficially investigating the earlier murder, at least so he says. Suspicious, Jane also speaks to an expatriate English schoolmistress (Clare Kelly) who's lived in the area for years, and the local gendarme (John Nettleton), the only ones in the area who can speak English.

On the heels of the frenetic but mostly bland Sudden Terror, made that same year by the same company, And Soon the Darkness proves far more involving and suspenseful. The movie takes its time establishing the characters of the two, contrasting young co-workers on holiday. They speak almost no French (neither seems to be carrying an English-French dictionary, an oversight), so that when Cathy disappears, Jane has trouble communicating with the locals, whose French goes untranslated, unsubtitled in the movie.

The film's advertising likened the picture to those of Alfred Hitchcock, a ballsy but accurate comparison. Fuest's direction shows the movie audience mostly only what they see, and often cuts to their reactions to the mysterious events and characters around them. Hungarian-born Elès, who at that point in his career resembled a young Jeremy Brett, is especially good at conveying assurance and an underlying threat simultaneously. Is he really from the Sûreté, Jane wonders? Whom can she trust?

The movie has a few plot holes that go unanswered, like how one body could have been moved from one location to another, given what we know about how the local people get around. The script also asks the audience to suspend disbelief about how it's discovered, which involves a coincidence so outrageous that it damages the movie's overall impact.

Mostly, though, the film is very well done. Genre star Pamela Franklin and Michele Dotrice (the daughter of actor Roy and older sister of Karen, of Mary Poppins fame) are both fetching and capable actors. The other parts are played by non-French actors for the most part, yet they're entirely convincing, as is the seamless blending of location and British studio shots. Screenwriters Brian Clemens and Terry Nation (of Doctor Who fame) weren't happy with Fuest's direction, but it's hard to imagine it being much better than it is. Cinematographer Ian Wilson, whose eclectic career ranges from Queen Kong to The Crying Game, does a fine job conveying the growing sense of dread across a sunny, flat landscape - no easy task. Laurie Johnson's occasionally Bernard Herrmann-esque score is also fine. The film was ripe to be remade, and was, in 2010, though this reviewer hasn't seen it.

Video & Audio

  Licensed from Studio Canal, Kino's Blu-ray of And Soon the Darkness great after the grainy opening titles, the new 4K, widescreen transfer doing justice to the cinematography. The DTS-HD mono audio is fine, and optional English subtitles are provided. Region "A" encoded.

Extra Features

Supplements include an older audio commentary track featuring director Robert Fuest (who died in 2012) and co-writer/co-producer Brian Clemens (who died in 2015), and a new one recorded for Kino featuring film historian Troy Howarth. Also included are a spooky trailer and radio spot featuring narration by Franklin, and reversible cover art.

Parting Thoughts

A pleasant surprise, And Soon the Darkness is a very well made thriller with much to recommend it.






Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-based film historian currently restoring a 200-year-old Japanese farmhouse.

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