While taking a cycling holiday in France, two young British nurses, Jane (Pamela Franklin) and Cathy (Michele Dotrice), catch the eye of Paul (Sandor Elès), a mysterious stranger on a motorbike. He follows them for a while as they tour the countryside, but he never speaks to them or even acts particularly interested in them. After he disappears, Cathy decides to take a rest in a woodland clearing by the road. Jane, not wanting to waste too much time, is ready to leave after a little while, but Cathy decides that she wants to stay longer. After an argument, Jane decides to go ahead, with Cathy promising to catch up to her later.
After waiting for a while, Jane decides to go back and get Cathy, but when she arrives at the spot where Cathy had been, there’s no sign of her. As she’s looking around, Paul shows up and offers his help in finding Cathy. But can Jane trust him?
Even though director Robert Fuest (The Abominable Dr. Phibes) had directed a previous film and had worked on the Avengers television show as both a production designer and a director, he said that he really feels like this was his first film, as it was the first in which he felt like he knew what he was doing. Speaking of The Avengers, practically all of the key creative people on And Soon the Darkness had come from that television program. When production on The Avengers wrapped up, director Fuest, writer/producer Brian Clemens, writer Terry Nation, producer Albert Fennell, and composer Laurie Johnson all segued into working on this film.
The film is sort of odd in that it’s both very much of its time while seeming rather ageless. Laurie Johnson’s theme music is brassy and upbeat and, at first, doesn’t seem to fit well with the tone of the picture at all, but it’s a memorable piece of music that stuck in my mind long afterwards and helped cement the film in my memory. The rest of the score is quite good, with some very Bernard Hermann-esque passages popping up every once in a while. Even though it’s not a giallo, the tone of the film seems to me to be very much akin to that of Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, which was made at about the same time.
What I really love about the film is its first thirty or so minutes. The scenes with the two nurses riding their bicycles down deserted country roads seem to perfectly capture the dreamy, lazy mood of hot, still afternoons in the country. I also really appreciate Fuest’s decision to keep all of the French spoken in the film unsubtitled, so that the audience is just as much in the dark as to what’s being discussed around Jane when she’s looking for her friend as Jane herself is. (I have to point out that, if you do indeed speak even a little French, there’s an enormous clue given by one of the characters as to who the film’s bad guy is.) Another aspect of the film that sets it apart from other thrillers is that the events of the film take place over only six or seven hours and, even more rare, the whole film takes place during daylight hours. Think long and hard–when was the last time you saw a thriller that took place entirely during the day? I’m coming up blank.
And Soon the Darkness was remade in 2010, with two American girls cycling their way through Argentina. I’ve avoided the film, especially since it a) had a very limited theatrical release only two weeks before it came out on DVD and Blu-ray, and b) was only able to muster a 17% fresh rating on RottenTomatoes.com. Those are two pretty strong reasons for skipping it, as far as most people are concerned. But check out the original And Soon the Darkness if you get a chance–it’s a nice change of pace from the usual cookie-cutter thriller.
Someone’s posted a video to YouTube that features the film’s theme song set to still images. It starts out moodily enough, but you’ll soon hear what I meant when I described it as brassy and upbeat. (It also reminds me, for a reason I can’t really fathom, of the theme from Roger Corman’s The Trip. Maybe it’s the brass instrumentation.) The audio sounds like it was ripped directly from the DVD, which must be the case, as I haven’t ever heard of an official soundtrack album being released. Also, try not to watch the stills that accompany the music, as at least one of them gives a bit too much away about the fate of poor, missing Cathy.
And, as is most often the case, YouTube comes through with a trailer. This time, it’s the British theatrical trailer. Enjoy!
Up next: Ten Little Indian boys go out to dine!