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  And Soon the Darkness Psychopath On The Cycle Path
Year: 1970
Director: Robert Fuest
Stars: Pamela Franklin, Michele Dotrice, Sandor Elès, John Nettleton, Claude Bertrand, Hana Maria Pravda, Jean Carmet, John Franklyn, Clare Kelly
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jane (Pamela Franklin) and Cathy (Michele Dotrice) are two young nurses from London taking a cycling holiday in rural France. Stopping at a busy cafe, Jane wants to plan their route, but Cathy is more interested in the handsome man she spies drinking alone at the next table. She takes his photograph but doesn't approach him because Jane is keen to get going on their journey, but the man, who rides a moped, overtakes them as they make their way along the quiet country road, and they pass him a few minutes later as he rests by a cemetery gate. Cathy is getting intrigued by him, but Jane is more the no-nonsense type, and is annoyed that her companion would rather stop to sunbathe than get on with the trip...

Created by much of the production team behind the successful television series The Avengers, And Soon the Darkness couldn't be more different in tone from that eccentric classic. Written by co-producer (with Albert Fennell) Brian Clemens and Terry Nation, it is a more subdued, considered and creepily low key affair, with a typical woman in peril storyline given distinction by attractive scenery and a slowly revealed twist. More of a thriller than a straight horror movie, it features Franklin in one of her appealing heroine roles who is all at sea in a country where she doesn't speak the language and is not sure what is really going on.

What happens is that while Cathy wants to lie by the roadside and soak up the sun's rays, Jane is reluctant to hang around if it means that they will be riding at night later on. Despite the title, every scene, bar those few taking place indoors, is filmed in broad daylight, and although the surroundings are pleasing, they take on a lonely, exposed feel as the story develops. Jane and Cathy have a falling out, with Jane thinking her friend lazy and irresponsible and Cathy complaining about being bossed around, so Jane leaves her behind and carries on alone, which we're well aware is a bad idea from the start.

The suspense is cautiously built up, and the people Jane encounters are all the more unsettling for their apparent indifference to her: at one point she finds herself in the middle of a shouting match between a cafe owner and a workman who carry on as if she weren't there, and of course she has no inkling of what they're arguing about. Only when the cafe owner tries to tell Jane that there's something sinister about her surroundings ("Bad road!") does she start to think she should make an effort to track down Cathy. However, she may be too late as we see in a notable scene of tension where Cathy realises she may not be as alone as she thought.

Probably the only film where a man putting a pair of knickers on his head could fill you with dread, And Soon the Darkness's suspects swiftly mount up as everyone seems shady. Jane learns that there was an unsolved murder of a young hitchhiker about three years ago, and we worry that the killer has struck again. The man on the moped turns out to be called Paul (Sandor Elès) and he claims to want to help Jane find her missing friend, but is he all he seems? Do we believe him when he says he's a detective with an interest in the unsolved murder? The film may feature too much running about and red herrings by the end, but its vivid location and insidious paranoia work in its favour, and Franklin, as ever, is someone you want to see win through in the end. Music by Laurie Johnson.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Robert Fuest  (1927 - 2012)

British director, writer and production designer who got his start designing The Avengers. He went on to direct episodes, which led to a run of cult movies in the early 70s: Wuthering Heights, And Soon The Darkness, The Abominable Dr Phibes, Dr Phibes Rises Again, The Final Programme and The Devil's Rain. After that, he returned to television aside from the soft porn effort Aphrodite.

 
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