Theatre / Wait Until Dark

Wait Until Dark is a mystery/thriller play by Frederick Knott. The heroine is recently blind Susy Hendrix, a Greenwich Village housewife who becomes the target of three thugs searching for the heroin hidden in a doll, which her husband transported from Canada as a favor to a woman who since has been murdered. The trio tries to convince Susy her spouse has been implicated in the crime and the only way to protect him is to surrender the doll. More murder and mayhem ensue when she refuses. It was originally produced on Broadway in 1966, and made into a film the next year starring Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin.

It was revived on Broadway in 1998 with a cast that included Marisa Tomei as Susy, Quentin Tarantino as Roat, and Stephen Lang of Avatar fame as Mike Talman.

Another revival in October of 2013 at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles moved the setting back to 1944, giving it a distinctly Film Noir flavor among other changes.

A film adaptation called "Penthouse North" was released in 2014, starring Michael Keaton.


This work provides examples of:

  • Action Survivor: Susy at the end. She's a nice, unassuming lady who gets dragged into a situation with her life at risk by three conmen against her will. She manages to beat her opponent, killing him before he can kill her, but it's a close, close thing.
  • Affably Evil: Talman and Carlino.
  • Alone with the Psycho: The climax, in which Susy is left alone in her apartment with the murderous Roat.
  • Ankle Drag: Happens when the psychotic Roat leaps and grabs Susy's ankle as she tries to signal for help through the window.
  • Anti-Villain: Talman. He's just trying to pay off his debt to a loan shark, and does everything he can to avoid actually hurting Susy. He ends up leaving of his own accord after he decides Susy is a Worthy Opponent, and promises he and Carlino will never bother her again, assuring her that Roat is dead, having previously agreed that Carlino would kill him. Unfortunately, he's wrong — Roat killed Carlino before Carlino got the chance, and promptly kills Mike, too.
  • Ax-Crazy: Roat.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Gloria. She gets better.
  • Building of Adventure: The action is almost entirely set in one apartment.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The icebox. Not to mention "Geraldine" the switchblade.
    • In the film, Gloria makes sure to mention that a knife is among the objects that she flung to the floor during a temper tantrum. That's the knife that Susy eventually uses on Roat.
  • The Con: Talman makes himself out to be a friend of Susy's husband. Carlino pretends that he's a cop investigating the murder of the lady who gave Mr. Hendrix the doll. Then Roat pretends to be two different people in order to trick Susy into thinking that her husband has been implicated in the murder, and that she has to find the doll to clear him.
  • Con Man: Roat, Talman, and Carlino
  • Conveniently Empty Building: The film takes place in what appears to be the most desolate apartment building in New York City. Lampshaded early on when it was explained that of the six tenants living in the building, only Susy and Gloria were actually home - Shatner left for Vermont, Gloria's mother was uptown "for a weekend of fun and games" and her father had left as well, and Sam was off to work.
  • Cut Phone Lines: The baddies cut the phone line so that Susy could not call the police.
  • Darkness Equals Death: Beautifully subverted. Susy knocks out all the lights to give herself the advantage over her attacker.
    • Too bad she forgot one. You probably would, too. In the refrigerator. She thankfully does manage to unplug it at the last second, and darkness equals her attacker's death instead of her own.
  • Disability Superpower: Lampshaded, really. Roat wears two elaborate disguises to pretend he is two different people, for no apparent reason, other than that's what he does when he pulls the con on other people, or maybe just for the benefit of the girl who also lives in the building. Since Susy can't see the disguises, there's really no point in wearing them, and in fact, she recognizes that he is the same person, because she isn't distracted by them.
    • Susy's ears are also sharp enough for her to pick up that Carlino is "dusting" her apartment for no particular reason (he's really wiping prints), and to notice that her visitors keep fidding with the blinds even though it's nighttime (they're signaling to each other).
  • Even Evil Has Standards: It's hard to call Talman and Carlino "evil", but they're still criminals — and they're both disgusted by Mr. Roat.
  • Famous Last Words:
    • "Hey... no see, no tell." (Mike Talman)
    • "I'll help you, Susy!" (Mr. Roat)
  • Faux Affably Evil: Roat.
  • Foreshadowing: There are many: the icebox, which plays an unusually important role for an icebox, and is mentioned in several different contexts, early in the movie, and Susy's lines "I don't want Gloria today, I don't need her"; "What if I get [killed] as a poor, defenseless blind lady whose husband is off in Asbury Park?" "Do I have to be the world's champion blind lady? [her husband says "Yes!"] then I will"; and "I wish I could do...important things," followed by a list of things she wishes she could do, that are not very important compared to saving her own life, and ridding the world of an evil criminal at the same time.
  • Freak Out: Susy has a brief one after she discovers that her phone line got cut. She breaks a lamp in frustration, which gives her the idea to do the same to all the lights.
  • The Ghost: Lisa in the play. The closest we ever get is an offstage but frequently discussed dead body, hidden in Susy and Sam's closet. Averted in the film, where she appears onscreen.
  • Handicapped Badass: Susy, a blind woman who managed to take advantage of the fact that she is used to not being able to see, while Roat is not, and smash out all the lights and cover the floor in gasoline, guaranteeing he can't see a thing. The only thing she didn't think of was the light in the refrigerator, and while it comes close, she still manages to kill Roat in the end.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Talman. He stops the con on Susy, promising to leave her and Sam alone and that she's safe... and is promptly killed.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Susy has one when she learns that Talman played her. She has another one when noticing the Cut Phone Lines.
  • The Hunter Becomes the Hunted: This happens around the time that Susy manages to splash Roat with the gasoline and then grabs matches.
  • I Lied: Roat promises not to hurt Susy if she gives up the doll. After she does, he marches her into the bedroom for murder or worse. She says he promised not to hurt her, and he parries with "Did I? I must have had my fingers crossed."
  • In Love with the Mark: Subtle. When Susy touched Mike's face to "read" him there was something in the way that he was looking at her that seemed like he had fallen for her. Leads to a Heel–Face Door-Slam for Mike.
  • Jump Scare: Roat comes out of nowhere to grab Susy by the ankle.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Talman, by Roat, just as he's bidding a Worthy Opponent goodbye to Susy.
  • Let's Get Dangerous: Susy turning out the lights to turn the tables on Roat.
  • Little Miss Snarker: Gloria, who's quite sarcastic.
  • MacGuffin: The doll, which is stuffed full of heroine.
  • The Mark: Susy.
  • Meganekko: Gloria, much to her displeasure.
  • No Name Given: Roat, Mike Talman, and Carlino are all made-up aliases assigned by Roat. The script simply calls them by those names because they have to call them something.
  • Not Quite Dead: Roat comes jumping at Susy after being stabbed down by her in the previous scene.
  • Oh Crap!: After Susy's able to kill off most of the light sources in her apartment, Roat figures out that refrigerator has a working light...
  • Only in It for the Money: Mike and Carlino don't have anything against Susy and honestly seem to want to avoid hurting her—they're just in it for a quick buck.
  • Parental Substitute: Sam for Gloria. Eventually, Susy is, too.
  • Peek-A-Boo Corpse: When they are first searching the apartment, Roat tells Talman to check the closet. He opens it and is startled to find the corpse of the sexy woman who was carrying the doll, in a plastic bag hanging from a hook.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: The climax of the film involves Susy breaking all the lamps in the apartment so that the thugs can't find her. Her plan is thwarted when Roat finds the refrigerator.
  • The Power of Trust: A lot of the con rides on Susy not trusting Sam. While her faith does waver, she does trust him. She also trusts Gloria, and Mike (and is devastated when she realizes Mike is in on it, too). Mike and Carlino seem to trust each other, but they don't trust Roat at all. With good reason, seeing as how he kills them both. Roat doesn't appear to trust them very much either.
  • Pretty in Mink: When Lisa takes the doll on the plane she is wearing a lynx coat, showing the drug dealing paid well (though also ended up getting her killed).
  • Protect This House: A group of burglars resort to increasingly desperate means to get a poor blind housewife to give up a heroin-laden doll that was mistakenly delivered to her house.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Talman and Carlino.
  • Red Herring: The safe. For all it's brought up, it has very little importance later.
  • Roadside Wave: Sam gets wet when the taxi cab outside the apartment gives him a puddle shower.
  • Scare Chord: Oh boy!
    • The film's music score, incidentally, was written by Henry Mancini.
  • Setting Update: Inverted with the 2013 revival, which moved the time period back a couple decades to 1944. Among the several changes to fit the new setting, the doll is now stuffed with diamonds rather than heroin.
  • A Simple Plan: The con men try to scam Susy into revealing where the doll went, by posing as cops and trying to hint that Susy's husband was having an affair with a murdered woman. For a blind woman, Susy quickly senses things are amiss - she can tell one "cop" is wiping away evidence - and it drives the sociopathic Roat into an even simpler plan...
  • Sinister Shades: Donned by Roat for much of the film.
  • Skeleton Keycard: In the film version, Carlino seems to be slipped a piece of plastic between door and lock to open the apartment door from the outside.
  • The Spook: Roat (which is not his real name).
  • Step into the Blinding Fight: In the climax a blind woman battles against a killer in her apartment; she destroys all the lamps so he is disoriented but she can react just fine.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The three cons aren't entirely trusting each other. Roat has to trick them into helping him scam Susy to find out where the doll filled with heroin got to.
  • Video Credits: At the end of the film for the principal players, including three different shots of "Roat" as he regularly looks and in his disguises as Roat Sr. and Roat Jr.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Heavily implied. The script makes a note of Gloria and Roat staring at each other at one point — Gloria, because she's seen Roat before in a different disguise and is realizing it, while Roat looks at her like a bug he wants to crush. It's almost certain that he would've killed her, had he gotten the chance.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Roat, and he does much more than hit her in the climax.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: When Roat figures the other two con men are no longer needed, and convinced (rightly) that his "partners" are turning on him...

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