And Soon The Darkness (1971)

If there is one two letter phrase that comes to mind when thinking about And Soon The Darkness, it's "hot pants". Whatever your view of these fashion items before watching this film, by the time you've finished staring at Pamela Franklin and Michele Dotrice in theirs for 90 minutes, you'll either finally understand what your dad was going on about during Top Of The Pops in the 70s or want a pair yourself, depending on your sexuality and/or build.

If there was an Oscar for "services to legs", And Soon The Darkness would have had it nailed back in '72. It may well have cinematography which revels in gloriously long tracking shots of the French countryside, be a beautifully put-together thriller that keeps you guessing right to the end, and chock-full of believable performances, but it's those pins that stick in the memory. Girls on pushbikes, eh? Phwoooar. Makes you realise what we're missing now that everyone insists on wearing high visibility jackets and crash helmets when setting out on two wheels. A pair of skimpy shorts and a tied-up blouse seems to do these two just fine, until one of them disappears in mysterious… ah.

"If there was an Oscar for 'services to legs', And Soon The Darkness would have had it nailed back in '72"

Dotrice and Franklin are a pair of English student nurses en vacances in northern France. It quickly becomes apparent that one of them (Dotrice) is less than enamoured with the endless cycling that such a cycle holiday entails (someone should have told her) and goes on strike, lying down on a not-particularly savoury-looking patch of scrubland by the side of the road and refusing to move. After a brief argument her friend cycles off, but on losing her resolve to go it alone returns… to find a busted bike and a pair of discarded panties. Oh oh.

The rest of the film revolves around her increasingly more desperate attempts to track down her errant mate. And for a quiet bit of the French countryside, there's un bon queue of suspicious types on hand to help/hinder/help then hinder/hinder then help/hang around in fields looking suspicious.

Could the hulking simpleton in the straw hat have had something to do with it? What about the smooth bloke on the moped who took an interest in the girls earlier on? Or the police officer with the dodgy moustache and Inspector Clouseau accent?

It's a tangled web that writer Brian Clemens weaves around the missing girl - but one that's well worth taking a look at (and not just for the hot pants, pervert). The simple plot means that the makers can go full tilt with the meaningful glances and lingering landscape shots, and the lack of much of a soundtrack means that there's an air of menace from the start, despite the sunshine pouring out of the screen (by the end of it, you almost feel like you've developed a tan). Clemens (the man who brought us The Avengers, The Professionals etc) had a love affair with Hitchcock and tried again and again to match the master with his high concept Brit thrillers (See No Evil, Fright) but And Soon The Darkness is really the only one that comes close.

Directed by: Robert Fuest
Written by: Brian Clemens, Terry Nation
Cast: Pamela Franklin - Jane; Michele Dotrice - Cathy; Sandor Elès - Paul; John Nettleton - Gendarme; Clare Kelly - Schoolmistress; Hana Maria Pravda - Madame Lassal (as Hana-Maria Pravda); John Franklyn - Old Man; Claude Bertrand - Lassal; Jean Carmet - Renier

Updated: July 8, 2010

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