Friday, December 24, 2010

Experiment in Terror (1962)

A masterpiece of black-and-white art from Blake Edwards and cinematographer Philip Lathrop. Lee Remick is blackmailed by a psychotic killer played by Ross Martin, who threatens to kill her and her younger sister (a teen-aged Stefanie Powers) if she doesn't steal a hundred grand from the San Francisco bank she works at. Glenn Ford is the FBI agent she secretly contacts. It really has some of the best-looking black-and-white I've ever seen, all scored by Henry Mancini. Lee Remick is gorgeous and Ross Martin is genuinely terrifying as the asthmatic killer. So why is it so slow moving? I think it's the characters--they never really rise above, or alter from, their archetypes. Lee Remick is an innocent bank-teller, Glenn Ford is a devoted G-man, and Ross Martin is a bad guy through and through. Some of the minor characters--Anita Loo as the Japanese girlfriend of the killer, and Ned Glass as a wily snitch--are the saving graces.

One note: This film is a must for David Lynch fans. It clearly influenced Lynch a lot, and there are multiple references. Lee Remick lives in Twin Peaks. The opening sequence directly influenced the scene with Willem Dafoe in Wild at Heart. Just the surreal kitschy flavor of the whole thing, plus deadpan FBI agents, innocent schoolgirls meeting deranged perverts, driving through cities at night. And the killer's name is Lynch. Coincidence, or kismet?

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