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New on Disc: 'Experiment in Terror' and more …

4 Feb, 2013 By: Mike Clark

Experiment in Terror (Blu-ray)

Available via www.ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Mystery, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Glenn Ford, Lee Remick, Stefanie Powers, Ross Martin.
Over the years, I’ve heard one or two of the more waggish women in my life refer to one or another unsolicited amorous pursuer as “The Breather” — a designation almost certainly emanating from Ross Martin’s singular (to my knowledge) portrayal here of the demonstrably asthmatic creep who abducts a comely kid sister played by Stefanie Powers in her first major role. This first of Blake Edwards’ only two black-and-whiters, it immediately preceded the other (Days of Wine and Roses), which also starred Lee Remick; both projects proved notably atypical in the director’s predominantly comic canon. Remick plays a bank teller faced with stealing a hundred grand in relatively non-inflated dollars from her employer over fears of personal harm and harm to her sis — eventually forcing her to break the assailant’s ground rules to engage the services of FBI agent Glenn Ford (wearing one of J. Edgar Hoover’s standard-issue 1962 haircuts, a kind of anti-matinee-idol trim). The source novel of this somewhat feminist thriller with (no kidding) future “Twin Peaks” references was from the writing team of Gordon and Mildred Gordon.

A good choice for Twilight Time’s typically crisp pro-job treatment, Terror would have been a perfect drive-in movie of the era, with a smooth widescreen feel from the by then standard ratio 1.85:1 cinematography. The camera work is by Philip Lathrop, who also shot lots of Edwards features, including Breakfast and Tiffany’s — as well as Sydney Pollack’s forever resonant take on They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? And the score, a memorable creep-out, is by even more of an Edwards regular: Henry Mancini, who would continue his stellar 1962 with Hatari!’s baby elephants and then Wine/Roses.

The finale of this most efficient early-year release was also inspired, though it couldn’t have been planned for its now full nostalgic effect. The shoot-out’s setting is San Francisco’s old Candlestick Park during a game between the Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, complete with close-ups of the latter’s Wally Moon (pretty sure; he was a handsome dude) and the pitcher-catcher battery of Don Drysdale and John Roseboro.
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Death in Small Doses

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $18.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Peter Graves, Mala Powers, Chuck Connors.
Inspired by one of those Saturday Evening Post exposés that captured my imagination as a kid, this obscure-to-me undercover sleuth melodrama opens with a Fed investigator (Peter Graves during his TV “Fury” days) flopping in a trucker’s rooming house to ascertain just who supplied amphetamines to the driver we’ve seen drive his rig off the road amid a seeing-double frenzy in the movie’s opening scene. The hottie who runs the place is played by Mala Powers, who was good-looking enough in those days to have played Roxanne in the screen version of Cyrano de Bergerac that won José Ferrer the 1950 Oscar for best actor. There’s also a truck stop waitress (Merry Anders) who lives out back; she knows something of what’s going on but not enough (for a while) to give Graves much help, despite the insistence of his questioning, not just with her but also with all of his work colleagues. The oddest of these latter balls is a be-bop-ster played by Chuck Connors just a year before TV’s “The Rifleman.” Connors may have played only one game for the Brooklyn Dodgers (albeit a few more for the Cubs) in his MLB career — but he got further in acting than Experiment in Terror’s Don Drysdale, whose own brief acting career included an appearance on … “The Rifleman.” This is an incestuous week, isn’t it?
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