Robert Fuest (director)
14 October 2019 (released)
15 October 2019
An oddball of a movie and perhaps all the more intriguing for precisely that reason. When two young nurses, on a cycling holiday in rural France, encounter a handsome young man they have no idea that it will alter their holiday plans – and not for the better.
At least that’s what we are supposed to think until the film’s climax. All the male characters here are deliberately portrayed as vague, thus leaving us guessing whether they are what they pretend to be.
Cathy (Michele Dotrice) and Jane (Pamela Franklin) are two young English nurses on a cycling holiday in rural France – meaning endless country roads flanked by fields and the occasional forest. While Jane seems to enjoy herself Cathy complains about how boring their holiday is and that nothing exciting ever happens. When they stop at a busy café Jane immediately maps out the remaining route, much to the chagrin of Cathy who seems much more interested in a good-looking young man sitting at a nearby table. Throwing flirty looks at him, Cathy confesses that she considers the man (Sandor Elès) “a bit on the dishy side” – nonetheless the two girls continue with their journey and some local policeman standing outside a van greet them as they pass – one in particular seems pleased over the sight of two young female cyclists wearing tight hot pants. A short while later the man from the street cafe, sporting dark sunshades, overtakes the girls on his scooter. Later on they spot him resting by a cemetery gate. As the girls cycle on we see the man walk into the cemetery where he stops in front of the grave of a young girl. A photo on the tombstone shows the deceased girl had long blond hair, just like Cathy.
Resting by the roadside near a forest, the two girls enjoy a spot of sunbathing but then Jane wants to continue with the journey. Cathy replies that she’s fed up always being ordered around and if she wants to stay on and sunbathe that’s what she will do. Jane and Cathy then have a silly argument and Jane decides to continue with the journey alone. Resting at a remote café, the female owner, Madame Lassal (Hana Maria Pravda), tries to warn Jane of the road’s ‘bad reputation’ before her quarrelsome husband arrives and they bicker about something to do with the girl (it would be nice if we could have some subtitles here!). Not quite sure what the woman hints at, Jane suddenly has a bad feeling nonetheless and cycles back to the spot where she left Cathy though to her surprise her friend has seemingly vanished without a trace. As it so happens, minutes later the mysterious young man arrives on his scooter… introducing himself as Paul, a plain-clothes detective from the Parisian civil force. Somewhat baffled by this revelation, Jane observes that Paris is many miles away, to which Paul replies he is here on holiday but he also used to work (incognito) on the case of the murdered girl from three years ago. He continues that he drew his own conclusions but no one took notice, as he wasn’t involved in the case officially. When Jane asks him why he’s back in this region just when another girl (her friend Cathy) seems to have vanished he smilingly replies “Another holiday”. His reply alarms her and although Paul offeres his help in trying to find Cathy the stunned Jane has a sudden panic attack and does a runner, kicking Paul’s scooter in the process.
Worried, Jane now makes her way back to find the house of the local Gendarme officer (Paul Nettleton) and by chance comes across an English schoolteacher (Clare Kelly) who gives the girl a ride. The schoolteacher reveals that three years ago a terrible murder of a young girl took place precisely in the same area and that the murderer was never found – a story that coincides with the one Paul told her. The Gendarme assures Jane he is on the case, especially as she tells him about the mysterious man in the woods. When the Gendarme arrives in the woods a hide and seek game between the two men ensues and it’s not made clear as to why Paul doesn’t want to be discovered though what is clear is that the Gendarme has his own motives for wanting to find Paul. Unable to spot him, the Gendarme returns to his house which he shares with his deaf old father. But Paul also appears at the farm and secretly demands that Jane opens the door. Jane, now completely convinced that Paul is responsible for Cathy’s abduction and worse, barricades herself into the building, oblivious to the fact that earlier on Paul had discovered Cathy’s damaged bicycle hidden away under the Gendarme’s van. Will Jane finally realise that Paul is not the man she should be afraid of before it’s too late?
A lot of the outdoor shots take place on deserted country roads (well, it is rural France after all) just as the action focuses on the interplay between Jane and potential male suspect(s). Although the idea of ‘Is he good? Is he bad?’ is an interesting concept, this 1970 film does have its lengths – especially in the middle part which at times sees Pamela Franklin cycling to and fro in a seemingly endless manner. She must have been fitter than fit after the shooting schedule came to an end! Sandor Elès does a convincing enough job regarding his portrayal as the ambiguous Paul though it’s not entirely clear as to why writers Brian Clemens and Terry Nation made him such a character in their script, as Paul’s odd behaviour doesn’t always come across as plausible.
AND SOON THE DARKNESS FALLS is available fully restored in Blu-ray format for the first time, including bonus features such as audio commentary.