This review is for a murderous thriller with the over-dramatic title of Experiment In Terror (1962)
What’s going down?
A bank teller returns home from work. Once happy and carefree. Kelly Sherwood’s life was about to thrown against the floor, literally. Wheezing in the shadows an asthmatic psychotic killer has devised the perfect plan. To use pure terror as a drive for his means. To convince his beautiful victim to steal a hundred thousand dollars in pure daylight. If she didn’t comply? He’d not only kill her but first he will murder her beloved teenage sister. Under no circumstances can she phone the police. Otherwise his watchers will know. Kelly’s scared but also a strong, steadfast lady. The FBI are called. Agent John Ripley and his men are straight on the case. However this stalking homicidal maniac has it all planned out. What this murderous bank robber lacks in breath, he makes up in intelligence.
Tagline – Terror … Tension … Almost More Than The Heart Can Bear
The main players
Lee Remick is Kelly Sherwood
Glenn Ford is John Ripley
Stefanie Powers is Toby Sherwood
Roy Poole is Brad
Ned Glass is Popcorn
Anita Loo is Lisa Soong
Patricia Huston is Nancy Ashton
Gilbert Green is Special agent
Clifton James is Capt. Moreno
Sure I’ve seen them in something?
Glenn Ford was a super legend. Yep he even played Superman’s human Dad. Shockingly this is the first of his films to make it on my movie blog. I’ve seen a fair few of his films but still have tons to get through. He excelled in film noir, war films and westerns. The Big Heat (1953) Human Desire (1954) Jubal (1956) 3:10 To Yuma (1957) and that classic drama with the awesome Sidney Poitier in Blackboard Jungle (1955). Please of course always feel free to tell me your favorites of actors that are in the featured film.
I do so love Lee Remick. She was so cool as the feisty CIA agent Barbara alongside Charles Bronson in Telefon (1977). She was also great in Hennessy (1975) with Rod Steiger. She’d star in two big 70’s horrors in The Omen (1976) with Gregory Peck and that freaky kid Damien and The Medusa Touch (1978) with telekinetic Richard Burton. So very sad she died so young but she left a fantastic body of work including Anatomy of a Murder (1959) and the one I hear could be her best performance, which I haven’t seen yet, Days of Wine and Roses (1962).
There’s so many familiar faces popping up. Here’s two. Lookout out for everyone’s favourite James Bond Sheriff aka Clifton James playing a captain on the police force. Plus the lovely Stefanie Powers plays Lee Remick sister Toby and gets to hang around the pool in her swim suit. She’s most known for playing the married detective double act with Robert Wagner in the long running TV show, Hart To Hart.
Tagline – The absolute ultimate in sensual shuddering suspense!
Notes on production?
Well they say you learn something new everyday! I should of known Blake Edwards! Besides this is the whole reason I do this blog is to learn. So here goes! Oh he only directed that little film from 1961 with some young actress called Audrey Hepburn! Yep Breakfast at Tiffany’s. And to rub salt into the wounds, he only wrote and directed pretty much every Pink Panther film with Peter Sellers. One thing I can’t be accused of is not being honest. Yep I’ll get my hat, walks off in shame.
Ok I’ll finish this review first. I’ll do my walk of atonement after. No I’m not going to do it naked like Cersei from Game Of Thrones you’ll maybe pleased to know.
Experiment in Terror was written as an novel called Operation Terror in 1961. Written by a husband and wife team going under the name The Gordons. Mildred Gordon and her husband, who really should of had words with his parents, as they named him Gordon Gordon! They would also do the screenplay for the film. Their character FBI agent John Ripley had made the screens before in Down Three Dark Streets (1954) this time starring Broderick Crawford. I haven’t seen it.
Hits like a sledge hammer
The opening sequence lives up to the that odious title. With Henry Mancini ramping up the terror with his soundtrack score. There’s a reverberating resonance coming from the orchestra that just adds to the tension. The darkness, the shadows the paranoia and then petrifying fear as the wheezing sinister asthmatic breathe comes from the cold empty space inside the garage. Lee Remick’s eye’s show everything, as we only see glimpses. A close-up camera shot of this poor scared, innocent lady with a black gloved hand wrapped around her neck. Daring her to let him squeeze. His identity always hidden. Dark hair? Dark eyes? He’s certainly got a dark heart!
John Ripley – “Now, he may institute a reign of terror that will make you agree to do almost anything!“
One set piece
Special treat for any baseball fans. The climax of the film is played out during a real baseball game at the Candlestick Park stadium in San Francisco. We are dropped right into the buzz of the crowd with closeup shots of game play between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Oh one last thing.
The dead end road this film is set is in a town called Twin Peaks. There is said to be many David Lynch influences within the film. To be honest if I hadn’t of seen the sign post at the start I wouldn’t of thought twice about it. I guess you could add some very small inspirations for the Twin Peaks killer Bob dug out in-between the lines? Well without the inter-dimensional entity demon crazy! Yeah I don’t think so either! But still very cool to see that sign.
The sublimely shot cinematography really impacts the psychological suspense dished out within this movie. Three key scares from the opening sequence, to a room filled with mannequins and a claustrophobic dingy abandoned room are all ripped full of tension. Mancini’s score amps it all to the max. Experiment In Terror is clever in the way it reveals it psychopath. The little glimpses of his face, his movements twisting and turning, just out of focus. Like the films opening credits I’ve also left the actors name from this review. You join Kelly’s reaction every time another figure of an expecting man comes out of the shadows into view. Is this him? Kept in constant terror. Not only for her life but her sister too.
Experiment In Terror is an extremely well written and made thriller. Lee Remick is outstanding. Big props go to smaller parts from Patricia Huston and Stefanie Powers who both have moments to show their acting skills. The unknown killer is sinister and odd enough to be different from the stereotype. Everything is perfect about the film but just something stops it from being a bonafide classic. And I really can’t put my finger on it. Still, it’s a superior thriller.
Wolfman’s rating 8.5/10 IMDB 7.2/10
Feel free to recommend me related movies and any other trivia if you wish. Keep having fun at the movies…. Mikey Wolf