And Soon the Darkness (1970)
A sunny day, a quiet road, rural France: three things not normally associated with suspense...but the basis for terror in Robert Fuest's And Soon the Darkness. Released in 1970 to critical praise but little audience response, it went on to become a cult classic. Directed by Fuest (The Abominable Doctor Phibes) and written and produced by other veterans of "The Avengers," And Soon the Darkness is finally available on DVD, uncut, and restored, courtesy of Anchor Bay.
Two young, pretty English nurses (Jane, played by Pamela Franklin, and Cathy, played by Michele Dotrice) are on a bicycling holiday, pedaling through the quaint villages of French farm country. When the long stretches of lonely roads and endless cycling begins to wear on them, they have a spat. Jane rides off to leave her friend sunbathing on the side of the road. When she returns a little while later, Cathy has disappeared.
And Soon the Darkness' simple set-up and narrative belie its sophistication. Instead of relying on the old suspense stand-byes like dark, rainy nights, creepy houses, and sinister villains, the film builds terror in broad, sunny daylight. While open roads in rural backwaters my night sound like a frightening place, anyone who has driven along such long, endless, and lonely stretches will well now the feeling of isolation and vulnerability they engender. Director Fuest and screenwriters Brian Clemens (Captain Kronos) and Terry Nation (Doctor Who) use that curious form of fear to its utmost. Much of the dialog is in untranslated French, which heroine Jane can barely understand. This adds further to her, and the audience's feeling of isolation.
Critics in its time compared And Soon the Darkness favorably with the work of Alfred Hitchcock. While it may not be up to the standards of the Master's best work, it certainly is a film he would have been proud of. Understated, quite, and unbearably tense, And Soon the Darkness is a wonderful piece of suspense from cult director Fuest.