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Experiment in Terror (Blu-ray)

4 Feb, 2013 By: Mike Clark

Available via
Twilight Time
$29.95 Blu-ray
Not rated.
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-plus 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 Martin-harm and harm to 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 (see also Broderick Crawford in a favored ‘B’ of my childhood: 1954’s Down 3 Dark Streets). The two used to bill themselves as “The Gordons,” which you have to admit beat “Gordon Gordon” (though my father always claimed to have been in school with a Bruce Bruce).

A good choice for Twilight Time’s typically crisp pro-job treatment, Terror would have been a perfect drive-in movie of the era — in fact, I think everyone I know who saw it at the time did see it at a drive-in — with a smooth widescreen feel from the by then standard ratio 1.85:1 cinematography. The camera work is by Peter Gunn’s 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? (which really needs a Blu-ray release, thank you). 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. The two teams eventually wrapped up the ’62 season tied, forcing an unforgettable three-game playoff that was then televised nationally on weekday afternoons. In a turn of events enough to turn you into a religious being, I ended up getting legitimately sick in 10th grade and didn’t even have to fake it to stay home from school to see all three contests. I’m tellin’ ya: People today have no clue of the hoop-jumping that was necessitated in the days before home recording.

About the Author: Mike Clark

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