Review: Experiment in Terror
Blu-ray & DVD: Experiment in Terror (1962)
Single bank teller Kelly Sherwood (Lee Remick) returns home late at night and is grabbed by a heavy-breathing asthmatic (Ross Martin) hiding in her garage. He threatens to kill her and her teenage sister Toby (Stefanie Powers) unless she steals $100,000 from her bank for him. He continues to torment her with threatening phone calls to her home and her work and somehow seems to know that she has contacted F.B.I. agent John Ripley (Glenn Ford) who is frantically trying to track him down.
A lot of critics were rather put out when Blake Edwards followed his breezy Breakfast at Tiffany’s with this darkish Thriller. I had never seen this before and I do like a good black and white thriller, however despite its cult status, I found this a good half an hour too long.
Having said that it is unusual as I can’t ever recall seeing a similar character to Remick’s Kelly before, a career girl who is confident and seemingly ‘in control’ of her life until she is grabbed in her own garage by an unknown assailant, who is faceless but recognisible from his wheezy breathing. The opening scene is quite sexualized, as he covers her mouth with his gloved hand, she struggles and he grips tighter, whispering in her ear, the light shines upon her terrified eyes, which are light even though this is a black and white film, one can assume Remick eyes are light blue.
Ford isn’t given anything solid to do and tends to crash around from one area/scene to another all the time being as macho as possible. One interesting scene occurs in a witness’s house. She makes mannequins and all around the apartment are various models in repose. Her death is surprisingly subversive as she is found hanging upside down from the ceiling by Ford (who blinks a bit).
Stephanie Powers ably plays Toby, the kidnapped and possibly raped (was she? She IS blinking a lot and is half naked in a locked room) sister of Kelly, with real American spunk.
Finally Ford realises the killer (yes he’s done this before and killed) is Red Lynch (Ross Martin) and he starts to follow his movements. Here’s where the film takes a somewhat strange twist, where Ford finds out that Lynch ‘likes’ Chinese people, and it becomes apparent that he may be trying to get money for his Chinese girlfriends disabled son.
This film did remind me a lot of another film made after it, Don Siegel’s Dirty Harry. Whether or not Siegel saw this film and, not so much copied it, but took some of the ‘vibe’ from it is possible, as the ending of Experiment in Terror is SO similar to Dirty Harry that I did raise an eyebrow (Dirty Harry is a far superior film in my opinion).
I should mention that this film looks wonderful. If it’s too long and not the classic I think it’s lauded to be, the price of the disc is worth it to see San Francisco in 1964.
- INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION SPECIAL FEATURES:
• 4K restoration from the original negative
• Original mono audio
• Alternative 5.1 surround sound track
• Audio commentary by film critic Kim Morgan
• All By Herself: Stefanie Powers on ‘Experiment in Terror’ (2017, 19 mins): new and exclusive filmed interview with the actress
• Isolated score: experience Henry Mancini’s original score
• Theatrical trailers
• TV spots
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive 32-page booklet with a new essay by film critic Kim Morgan, and a new examination of the secret FBI files dedicated to screenwriters The Gordons by Jeff Billington
• UK Blu-ray premiere
• Limited Dual Format Edition of 3,000 copies