Director – Robert Fuest, Screenplay – Brian Clemens & Terry Nation, Producers – Brian Clemens & Albert Fennell, Photography – Ian Wilson, Music – Laurie Johnson, Makeup – Gerry Fletcher, Set Design – Phillip Harrison. Production Company – Associated British Productions Ltd.
Pamela Franklin (Jane), Sandor Eles (Detective Paul Salmon), Michele Dotrice (Cathy Mercer), John Nettleton (Gendarme), Clare Kelly (Schoolmistress), John Franklyn (Gendarme’s Father), Hana-Marie Pravda (Madame Lassal)
Cathy and Jane, two young student nurses from England, are on a cycling holiday through rural France. They argue – with the carefree Cathy wanting to dawdle, while Jane wants to keep to their schedule – and agree to split up and meet again later. However, when Jane returns to the same spot in the woods, she can find no trace of Cathy. Asking around, she learns that a few years ago another blonde woman was sexually assaulted and killed in the area. She is joined by Paul Salmon, who claims to be a detective for the Sûreté, but evidence leaves Jane unsure as to whether he might be the killer.
And Soon the Darkness was the second film from director Robert Fuest. Fuest had found acclaim on tv’s The Avengers (1962-9) and then made the Swinging 60s comedy Just Like a Woman (1967). Immediately after making And Soon the Darkness, Robert Fuest went onto make the highly regarded adaptation of Wuthering Heights (1970) starring a young Timothy Dalton and then the horror classic The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971) and its sequel Dr Phibes Rises Again (1972). On the basis of the Dr Phibes films, Fuest was hailed as a promising new genre talent. However, this was then frittered on Fuest’s subsequent genre films, The Final Programme (1974) and The Devil’s Rain (1975), and by the end of the decade, Fuest was working back in television again.
And Soon the Darkness was co-written by Brian Clemens, a principal writer/producer on The Avengers and a number of other classic British tv shows and films, and Terry Nation, best known for his creation of The Daleks on tv’s Doctor Who (1963-89) as well as several scripts for The Avengers. (Along with producer Albert Fennell, And Soon the Darkness seems to be a projected mounted by alumni from The Avengers). The two leads are Pamela Franklin, the great and underrated find from The Innocents (1961) and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969), as well as Michele Dotrice, a well-known face on British tv screens.
And Soon the Darkness was little seen when it originally came out and vanished from theatres almost immediately after it was released. Since then, it has slowly started to gather positive word of mouth. It is a shame that it did not receive a wider release when it came out as it is a very good film – certainly, one that Robert Fuest had no reason to be ashamed of, especially when compared to some of the spottier films in his later oeuvre.
Fuest and photographer Ian Wilson make the provincial French landscape into almost a character of its own. The bare openness of the fields and countryside constantly broods with sinister effect – the lurking threat that comes as vehicles pass by or turn down roads in the distance, of Sandor Eles on his bike sinisterly waiting by the roadside or in the foreground as the girls pass, the overfriendliness of the local boys, trucks that pass in the middle of conversations.
Even the very Frenchness of it is made to seem sinister – you very much get the sense of being in a foreign country and of the girls struggling to communicate with the locals. The French language notedly does not come subtitled so the viewer feels the same sense of alienation that the girls do. The script is no different from a dozen other psycho-thrillers but Brian Clemens and Terry Nation do a decent job of twisting and turning it, leaving us unsure who Pamela Franklin should be trusting.
In a great many ways, And Soon the Darkness prefigures the Backwoods Brutality cycle that would come along about a year later with the likes of Straw Dogs (1971), Deliverance (1972) and The Last House on the Left (1972). It shares many of the themes of these films and others that came along later such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1972) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977) – the city innocents who naively stray into dangerous back country roads and encounter psychopathic and unwelcoming locals; while there is also the sense, as in both Straw Dogs and Last House, that the desirability and the sexual freedom of the Love Generation has stirred up something animalistic in the less civilised people who inhabit these backwoods. The plot of British tourists being stalked in the French countryside also featured in Bon Voyage (2006) and Road Games (2015).
And Soon the Darkness (2010) was a disappointing remake featuring Amber Heard and Odette Yustman with the girls now being American tourists being abducted into white slavery in Argentina.
Robert Fuest’s other genre films are The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971) and Dr Phibes Rises Again (1972) featuring Vincent Price as a deformed madman; a dull adaptation of Michael Moorcock’s psychedelic futuristic spy novel The Final Programme/The Last Days of Man on Earth (1974); the Satanist drama The Devil’s Rain (1975); the tv movie Revenge of the Stepford Wives (1980); and an episode of the obscure horror anthology Three Dangerous Ladies (1988?).
Brian Clemens’s other scripts are:– The Tell-Tale Heart (1960), Curse of the Voodoo/Curse of Simba (1965), See No Evil/Blind Terror (1971), Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971), the Ray Harryhausen fantasy The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973), the Disney ghost story The Watcher in the Woods (1980) and Highlander II: The Quickening (1991). Clemens also wrote and directed Hammer’s Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter (1974). He has acted as script editor and producer on the tv series’ The Avengers (1962-9), The New Avengers (1976-8), The Professionals (1977-83) and Bugs (1995-8).
Terry Nation (1930-97) was mostly known as a writer in British television. He is commonly misidentified as the creator of tv’s Doctor Who (1963-89, 2005– ) but was only the creator of The Daleks, which he spun out through ten different stories and two non-Dalek stories of the classic series. Nation also created and wrote the bulk of the post-holocaust series Survivors (1975-7) and created the cult space opera tv series Blake’s 7 (1978-81). In other works, Terry Nation also wrote a tv adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel (1964) and the Old Dark House comedy The House in Nightmare Park (1973).