Laughter in the Dark (1969)

laughter in the dark

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Man obsesses over teen.

This film is based on an early novel by Vladimir Nabokov, who is more famous for writing Lolita and the story here has a similar theme to that one. The plot revolves around Edward (Nicol Williamson) who is a successful middle-aged art curator, but bored with his marriage and looking for an escape. While watching a film inside a theater one day he spots the beautiful Margot (Anna Karina). While she is only 18 he becomes madly obsessed with her and tries to start-up a relationship. She initially resists, but then realizes that he has a lot of money and decides to play-him. On the side she has a passionate relationship with Herve (Jean-Claude Drouot) who begins to work for Edward as his assistant. Initially Edward has no clue that Herve and Margot are cavorting around behind his back, but eventually he catches on and plots a dark revenge only to find himself as the victim.

While the story has its share of intriguing moments it suffers from featuring a main character that is not relatable.  Fantasizing about having sex with a beautiful, younger woman is fine, but he shouldn’t expect her to automatically reciprocate those same feelings and even if she does he should be concerned that it is only because of his money, which are thoughts that he never once seems to consider. He also spouts out right from the beginning of how much he ‘loves’ her like a lovesick 14-year-old, but a man his age would normally be wise enough to realize that there is a big difference between that and sexual attraction, which is all that this really is.

It also takes way too long for Edward to catch on to the affair occurring between Herve and Margot even though anyone else would’ve seen the red flags a mile-away. It is for these reasons and the way he gets taken advantage of time and again that makes the character come off as suffering from some serious mental defect that is not in any way a normal for even a halfway intelligent person.

It all would’ve worked much better had Richard Burton remained on as the film’s star. He was the original choice for the part and even filmed a few scenes before being kicked off the project due to repeatedly showing up drunk. Williamson is a fine actor and has an impressive resume, but he’s rather benign here while Burton would’ve been able to bring in an extra dimension and because he was older would’ve made the contrasting age difference between him and Margot even stronger.

Karina on the other hand is stunning and an absolute beauty to behold. She was much older than what the part called for, but her wicked, conniving performance more than makes up for it as she eats up every scene that she is in and everyone else in it.

It was filmed on the island of Majorca, which allows from some exotic Mediterranean scenery and Raymond Leppard’s harpsicord soundtrack is pleasing. I also, for the most part, enjoyed the story, which manages to remain intriguing all the way up until its unsatisfying conclusion. The drama though, particularly at the beginning, is clumsy and the whole thing ultimately comes off as a good director’s weakest work.

laughter in the dark 2

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: May 11, 1969

Runtime: 1Hour 44Minutes

Rated X

Director: Tony Richardson

Studio: Lopert Pictures Corporation

Available: None at this time.

2 responses to “Laughter in the Dark (1969)

  1. Joseph Kearny

    Seductive film based on Nabokov’s brilliant novel seems to have dropped off the face of the earth.

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