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Wednesday, June 17, 2015


This prankish fright pic (a long talky set up for one good scare*) somehow sticks with moviegoers of a certain age, mostly ‘boomers.’ Perhaps because it effectively ended Audrey Hepburn’s charmed career. (She returned for a few films a decade later, but after all the MY FAIR LADY/’64 to-do, getting an Oscar nom on this supplied a classy out. Pity she didn’t get it for TWO FOR THE ROAD, her other ‘67 release.) Playing a lovely blind lady, she holds down the fort (a NYC ground-floor apartment) while a trio of urban blackguards (Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Jack Weston) run a charade around her as they search for a missing doll loaded with dope. (Who knew henchmen were into amateur theatrics?) Helmed in a straightforward fashion by James Bond specialist Terence Young, he’s tied to the sloppy construction of Frederick Knott’s not-so well-made play. (Unlike Hitchcock with Knott’s DIAL ‘M’ FOR MURDER/’54 which really is a well-made play.) Hepburn’s very good, very lovely, and doesn’t overdo the blind act , but the real standout is the perverse perf from Alan Arkin. Playing a thuggish creep, as well as two fake-out characters wearing elaborate makeups (to fool a blind lady?!), he charts new levels of self-absorbed combustible menace that would prove wildly influential, think Scorsese, Keitel, De Niro. (It’s why Quentin Tarantino wanted to do the role on B’way in a flop revival.) We’re still trying to figure out why the villains didn’t simply burgle the joint while Audrey was out at her School for the Blind.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *At one early screening, a teenage girl got so scared at the big moment, she jumped up high enough to land in the lap of a stranger two seats over! I know, I was the lap.

DOUBLE-BILL: Filling dolls with little packets of dope is popular in the movies. See Don Siegel’s low-budget gem THE LINEUP/’58 with its great perfs from Eli Wallach & Robert Keith. While you’re at it, tack on a missing First Act (say, with the boys hiding the stuff on unsuspecting tourists for later collection after it zips thru customs) and you’ve got a smash remake.

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