Seventies British cinema can be a mixed bag. What do I mean by this? Well in the UK and US, they have a reputation. They can be a mix of the sublime and unexpected. They can be simply ridiculous and awful or frankly they could be over rated. AND SOON THE DARKNESS is more the third but with sprinkles of the first. Sometimes other critics will try to convince me otherwise but I cant accept it. A Hitchcockian infused, mystery soaked film, which fits into a vast series of genre films but also is almost unique to its range as well. It also has a lot of baggage. Package holidays, European acceptance on the horizon, the war, British fears and of course, sexual liberation. Starring Betty Spencer, wife of Frank from SOME MOTHERS DO HAVE EM or Michele Dotrice to everyone else that didnt live through the seventies. Also starring Pamela Franklin from THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE.
Jane (Pamela Franklin) and Cathy (Michele Dotrice) are two young nurses on holiday in sunny rural France. Cycling across the region, they want to have a free wheeling holiday in a France. This will be a place that is far away from the hustle bustle of England but also a little exotic. Stopping at a busy cafe, Jane wants to plan their route. Cathy wants to talk to a man (Sandor Elès), whom she spies drinking alone at the next table. Making their way along a quiet country road, the bikes and the sun is tiring. The man passes on a Lambretta scooter. He overtakes them, and they pass him a few minutes later, as he rests by a cemetery gate. When they stop for a rest, Cathy is interested in finding out what it is the man was doing. Jane is less interested and an arguement ensues. Cathy goes off and Jane stays. She then snoozes at the spot. When Jane does not return after some time, she begins to worry…
Ok, AND SOON THE DARKNESS as I said is not a great film. It lacks a lot of the cinematic skill of other works of the period. Its heavy and over written in places, performed with wishy washy acting and direction. Kim Newman disagrees with all of this but then he would. He has more taste and better knowledge then I do. However I think there is something there. What makes the film at least a step up is the rewarding use of a single commudity. Editing. This is solid and hangs some of the film together. The attachement to tension and genre is delightful and teh editor deserves respect. It might lack the skill of Hitchcock in his scenes that develop narrative but it does capture tension in a wonderful, uncomfortable way. The trees. The green. The evil that permits the murder. This is forceful and potent. I felt that when it really played to this and the direction of actors was removed, it came into its own. Bar that, its a sun soaked nightmare of woman on holiday in hell.
Interview with Kim Newman