Horror Movie A Day: Quint on EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (1962)
You dirty little double-crossing bitch!
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[The regular A Movie A Day list has been frozen in order for me to do an all-horror line-up for October. I’ve pulled many horror titles from my regular “to see” stack and have ordered many more horror and thriller titles to make sure we have some good stuff. Like the regular AMAD column all the movies I’m covering are films I have never seen, but unlike the regular AMAD column I will not connect each film to the one before it. Instead I will pull a title at random every day and watch whatever the movie Gods determine for me.]
It was bound to happen… I finally slipped on this column. Thanks to post-Fantastic Fest craziness I’m on a horrible sleep schedule that had me awake at 1am yesterday morning. I had a busy day so I figured I’d use that as an excuse to stay up and swing myself off of the horrible schedule a little.
Due to the VP debates and some side work I ended up not getting to today’s movie EXPERIMENT IN TERROR until nearly 2am this morning, meaning on my 25th hour of consciousness. I couldn’t make it. I got an hour in and just couldn’t stop myself from falling asleep.
So, I slept a good long while, woke up and watched the movie from beginning to end, but now I’m officially a day behind. I’m watching my next movie, which I haven’t pulled yet, as soon as I finish writing, editing, uploading and posting this one, so I will be all caught up.
Sorry about that… at least I waited until my 4 month anniversary to slip 15 hours... Happy 4 month Anniversary, AMAD! I promise not to be late to the Five Month Anniversary!
EXPERIMENT IN TERROR is a title I had never even heard of until I stumbled across the DVD while scouring Half-Price Books. I don’t know how many of you guys have been to a Half-Price Books (I think it’s a Texas thing, not nation-wide), but it’s a sort of used all-media place. Books, magazines, CDs, video tapes, DVDs, etc.
Most of their DVDs are used, but sometimes they have specials on new DVDs, usually the cheaper stuff put out by no-name labels or public domain titles, but sometimes they have some real deal things at super cheap prices. This was one of those titles, still in shrinkwrap. I think I paid something like $4 for it because of Lee Remick and Glenn Ford’s names on the cover and the fact that it was widescreen.
I’m really glad I grabbed this one when I could. For one, it’s a great little obscure movie and secondly it’s out of print now. If you want to buy this title used on Amazon you’re going to pay between $40 and $70. How crazy is that?
EXPERIMENT IN TERROR exists in a kind of middle ground between crime thriller and horror. There’s a lot of noir in this film, but I couldn’t classify it as such because Lee Remick (who most will remember as the mommy in THE OMEN) is about the furthest thing from femme fatale as you can get.
The movie opens with Remick driving through the streets of San Francisco, then through the suburbs, until she arrives home. She parks in her garage and is suddenly grabbed from behind by a wheezing man in black, features obscured by shadow. His voice is rough, coming in asthmatic bursts. He knows an awful lot about her, who her sister is, where she hangs out, where Remick herself works, who they both spend time with, etc. He says he will kill her and her sister if she doesn’t steal $100,000 from the bank she works in.
It’s a very shocking scene to kick off with. There is no safe getting-to-know-you buffer for the audience. The movie starts and immediately we get this 10 minute disturbingly intimate scene.
THE PINK PANTHER’s Blake Edwards directs and he chooses to present this scene in mostly one shot, focused on Remick’s terrified eyes, the man’s hand over her mouth as he whispers in her ear. We don’t get a good look at him, but he’s also not exactly completely hidden.
Edwards doesn’t make the point of the movie trying to figure out who this guy is. There is no big twist involving his character, but Edwards does want you to be afraid of him. The shadows are there for menace, not to conceal a surprise “Gotcha!” moment later in the movie.
When the man leaves Remick alone the very first thing she does is call the FBI. She gets ahold of Glenn Ford, FBI Agent Ripley, before the Man pops up behind her and cuts off their conversation. He tells her that’s her one mistake and if she makes one more he’ll kill her and her 16 year old sister.
From here on out it’s a paranoid thriller as Remick tries to reach out for help without getting caught and putting herself or her sister in danger.
Glenn Ford might make a little bit of a leap of logic in knowing shit has gone wrong and he goes out of his way to be discreet when getting back in touch with her. On the whole, they treat the FBI as completely organized and wholly good and just, always on the ball.
It’s a little refreshing actually, even if not all that realistic, to just have the good guys be good guys. Each agent is smart, kind and good through and through. It’d get really boring really quickly if that was in every movie, but it works here. I kept expecting one of them to be helping the killer or at least one of them to fumble real bad and put Remick in jeopardy, but that never comes, which suddenly made the story fresh, taking it out of a familiar formula.
The point of view switches between Remick and Ford throughout the flick. In fact, I’d say it is completely Ford’s movie from the halfway point until the big finale at Candlestick Park. We follow him as he investigates a different killing, which he suspects is related, trying to find the identity of the man threatening Remick, which takes him all over San Francisco.
Like most people of my generation my first exposure to Glenn Ford was as Pa Kent in Richard Donner’s SUPERMAN and I haven’t been able to shake that impression of him no matter what movie I see him in. I love his work in the original 3:10 TO YUMA and THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE and he’s great in this movie, instantly likable, but I will always see Pa Kent in him. Always.
The killer is played by Ross Martin, who really does make a memorable baddie. He plays this guy, named Red Lynch (nice villain name, isn’t it?), as a guy who justifies what he does, like any true to life villain would. During Ford’s investigation he finds a girlfriend whose son is in the hospital. Red has paid off all their debt and she refuses to help the investigation, even if it might save Remick’s life.
Ford tells her that whether or not Red was nice to her kid doesn’t change the fact that he’s killed 3 people so far and is threatening to do it again.
So you get a little grey area, which you know by now I love. I love little complexities and in this movie Red’s really the only one with that complexity. Ford is good through and through and Remick plays the role of wide-eyed frightened victim from beginning to end. She’s smart, don’t get me wrong. She takes risks, outsmarting her tormentor, in dealing with the FBI, but her performance is pretty one note. Thankfully that note is the right note she has to hit, so that doesn’t detract from the whole.
Final Thoughts: EXPERIMENT IN TERROR is a great little crime thriller high on suspense with three very engaging central characters. Ross Martin shines here and is the main reason to catch this flick. The other star is Edwards’ direction. I love seeing directors use the camera to tell a story and the way he forces your attention to certain things and hides different details from view really does add to a growing suspense. Top notch work from him. There’s another great score from his PINK PANTHER composer Henry Mancini to boot. If you can track down a copy that doesn’t break the bank definitely give it a view.
The titles up for grabs during the randomly picked Horror Movie A Day October:
Wednesday, October 1st – Friday, October 31st: H-MAD! Horror Movie A Day! Check out the list here!
I’ve added 5 more titles to the drawing pool and one of the five were drawn for the next one up, which I will watch as soon as this is posted and write that up tonight.
The movie will be the ‘70s cult flick THE DEVIL’S RAIN starring Ernest Borgnine, Tom Skerritt, Keenan Wynn, William Forkin’ Shatner (!), Eddie Albert and… John Travolta?!?
Yeah, that's going to be awesome… See you folks later tonight for that one.
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Oct. 3, 2008, 9:23 p.m. CST
Oct. 3, 2008, 9:43 p.m. CST
from Devils Rain to sculpt/ make vacant eye effect for that movie- was later used by Bill Malone while working at Don Post Studio's to Make the 1975 Capt Kirk mask. That mask was used by Carpenter to make Micahel Myers in Halloween. Wish I could find that lifemask. The one haunted studios sells on ebay is close but not exactly the same.
Oct. 3, 2008, 9:54 p.m. CST
I've seen the trailer for that movie about 100 times at the Drafthouse, and I am really looking forward to tomorrow's review.
Oct. 3, 2008, 10:06 p.m. CST
Obviously the upcoming movie has captured our attention more than the current one...
Oct. 3, 2008, 10:08 p.m. CST
j/k. you should have just reviewed that debate. It totally fits the "horror" theme this month.
Oct. 3, 2008, 11:13 p.m. CST
DEVIL'S RAIN! CORBIN!!!!!!!!!!!
Oct. 3, 2008, 11:16 p.m. CST
Ross Martin receives no screen credit until the end of the film...a clever ploy to further un-nerve the audience (as in "who IS this guy?")and he's photographed in shadows for almost 90% of his screen time. One chilling exception to that...when he disguises himself as a little old lady so he can terrorize Lee Remick in the ladies room. After he scares the crap out of her, as he turns to leave, he resumes his doddering, trembling old lady persona. It's one of the most creatively weird, repulsive moments in a film that's chock full of 'em. Superb movie.
Oct. 3, 2008, 11:38 p.m. CST
the ending is...unexpected. Dead and Buried is freakin' unbelievable too.
Oct. 4, 2008, 2:10 a.m. CST
by Napoleon Park
In comparison to a few of those running on fumes jobs during Fantastic Fest that ran a half dozen paragraphs of so. See, it helps to get a good nights sleep.<p>And yeah, it happens to all of us. I was watching some TV the other night, nodded off in the living room chair and woke up about six the next morning with a pain in my back.
Oct. 4, 2008, 2:13 a.m. CST
by Napoleon Park
Awesome. And Ross Martin from Wild Wild West? Sounds great.
Oct. 4, 2008, 11:08 a.m. CST
Hmm, not sure if I'd consider this a horror movie, but sounds like a good lil' thriller. Another add to my list.<br><Br> Oh and thanks for posting the next pick up a day ahead, I appreciate!
Oct. 4, 2008, 6:33 p.m. CST
It was a different time. When you at how government agents were portrayed in media of this period, with few exceptions they were alswys organized and compentend. The good guys. It's not until the early 70's(after Vetnam, Watergate and relaxing of the production code) that anyone connected with the government was suspect of being part of a an evil conspiracy.
Oct. 4, 2008, 9:20 p.m. CST
by dr sauch
Oct. 5, 2008, 3:49 p.m. CST
by Big Bad Clone
Say it with no without the usual TCM preamble and was caught off guard as to how damn tense it would get. The scene with the sister near the end had me asking myself, "Damn, how far will this movie go?"
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