I will never go to France. Well, I suppose that is I will never go back to France. Yes, I’ve been there before, smelled the odor of Paris, walked on the damnable rocks lined beaches of Nice, and avoided anything that had a legend attached to it that would bring me back there someday. Then top that off with the new wave of French horror, High Tension, Frontiers, and Martyrs, et al., and I’m pretty sure I’m better off staying put. Seeing as I’m not going anywhere, I thought I might put on a little film suggested by one of your Lair-ers out there. It’s a film full of mystery, thrills, ……
And Soon the Darkness (1970) starring Pamela Franklin, Sandor Elès, John Nettleton, and Michele Dotrice. Directed by Robert Fuest.
Two young nurses on holiday, Cathy and Jane (Dotrice and Franklin) are on a cycling trip along the back roads of France. Jane is focused and determined, full of plans and destinations, but Cathy wants to meet people and have a more leisurely trip. After having an argument about how to spend their time, the girls split up, but when Jane gets to feeling guilty about ditching her friend, she goes back to find her. When she arrives back at the woods where they split up, Cathy is nowhere to be found. With her friend missing, with no one to turn too, Jane accepts help from the mysterious Paul. He claims to be an agent of the French secret service, but Jane is unsure of that and what he might know about Cathy’s disappearance.
The Bugg Picture
This film came to my attention though a comment from one of my longtime regular readers who I affectionately refer to as the Snob. Now the Snob, who is a Brit, vehemently despises British films, so I was a bit surprised when he recommended this film helmed by Robert Frust, the former Director and Writer for the British spy series The Avengers. However, it does take place in France rather than the UK, and it does feature a couple of foxy ladies which I know the Snob appreciates. Before I get into talking about the film, I want to send my thanks out to the Snob for bringing this one to my attention.
Without further ado, let’s get to the heart of the matter. And Soon the Darkness is a picture perfect example of how effective camera work, acting, and musical cues can all come together to make for a thrilling ride. In spite of the title, none of this film occurs under the cover of night. Instead, the events unfold in the wide open spaces of the bright, sunny French countryside. Unlike most thrillers that rely on claustrophobia and shadow as shorthand to prove the danger lurking around every corner, And Soon the Darkness make the daytime and wide open spaces scary. Ian Wilson, the cinematographer who would later work on The Crying Game and Count Kronos- Vampire Hunter, gives the film an eerie feeling with long shots of deserted roads and intimate, well captured close-ups.
Thankfully, the main feature of those close ups is often Pamela Franklin. Ms. Franklin delivers a stirring performance as Jane. Many quiet scenes are played out with Pamela being the only performer in the scene, and she perfectly conveys Jane’s decent into paranoia as she digs deeper into the mystery. As an added bonus, she is quite fetching, and the red corduroy short shorts she wears throughout the film deserved to be framed and preserved for future generations. I would never have guesses that Franklin would have become such a fox when I saw her play the wild eyed Flora in The Innocents.