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Experiment in Terror (1962)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/8/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/22/2013
Regular visitors to this website know that I'm a straight-shooter and I always try to be honest (even painfully so) in my reviews. So, get ready for another truth bomb: I don't like older movies. What do I consider "older"? Typically, it's anything which isn't a part of my generation (or rather, anything made before I was born). Thus, I'm not a fan of many "classic" black & white films. Fans of that genre will say that I don't know what I'm missing, which is true -- I literally don't know what I'm missing, as I haven't seen very many of these movies. But, as a movie fan, I try to be open-minded and I'm occasionally willing to give one of these films a chance, and thus I decided to check out Experiment in Terror.
Experiment in Terror opens with Kelly Sherwood (Lee Remick) returning home from work. She is accosted in her garage by a man who keeps his face in the shadows. He informs her that he knows that she works in a bank and that she is going to steal $100,000 for him. He also states that he's killed before and that if she tells anyone, he'll do something to her little sister, Toby (Stefanie Powers). Terrified, Kelly calls the FBI and is put through to Agent John Ripley (Glenn Ford), who takes on the case. Despite being tailed by a surveillance team, the mysterious man is still able to get to Kelly, as he calls her, leaves her notes, and approaches her in disguise. He continues to insist that she is going to commit the crime for him. As Ripley and his team search for clues to the man's identity, his threats become more dangerous and he begins to do things to show Kelly that he's serious.
One of the reasons that I wanted to see Experiment in Terror was that it was directed by Blake Edwards, who is better known to me as the maker of goofy comedies like the Pink Panther films and 10. I had no idea that he had made thrillers in his career. And this movie certainly sticks to that genre, as there's no levity here and no indication that just a year later, Edwards would be making The Pink Panther. (Of course, he'd already made Breakfast at Tiffany's and Days of Wine and Roses at this point in his career.) But, not only does Experiment in Terror not show any humor, it doesn't show much style either. There are a few creative shots, but there are also some unmotivated zooms and many static scenes. The look of the film reminded me of someone who was aping Hitchcock.
I hate to stereotype, but I often think of older films as being slow. However, Experiment in Terror surprised me by having Kelly be attacked in her garage the second the opening credits finished. This gave me hope that the film may have a more brisk pace than other movies from this era. However, those hopes were quickly dashed as we are treated to many establishing shots and scenes of people walking or driving. There are also plenty of slowly paced dialogue scenes as well. This does nothing to help a story which, upon close inspection, doesn't have much going for it. Kelly is attacked by this man who tells her to not go to the police, which she does anyway. Ripley sort of does an investigation, while Kelly sort of goes about her normal life. The bulk of the movie is comprised of a lot of talk which is supposed to create suspense, but only seems to go in circles. It's not until the final 30 minutes that something actually happens and it all seems for naught. We learn that blackmailer's identity, but it means nothing to us and the movie suddenly ends.
For some films, one be able to cast oneself back in time and imagine what the film must have been when it was fresh. I tried to do this with Experiment in Terror. The movie was most likely an anomaly at the time with its portrayal of violence and a villain who is somewhere between a serial killer and the Unabomber. Also, the finale foreshadowed future films like Black Sunday. But, that doesn't change the fact that the film's 2-hour running time is stuffed with filler and there's little tension here. The acting is solid and, as in The Omen, Remick showed that no one does big-eyed fear like her. However, Experiment in Terror did nothing to change my opinion about older movies.
Experiment in Terror offers a close up of a cleat for some reason on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Twilight Time. The Blu-ray Disc is being released in a limited edition of 3000 units. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 36 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain and no defects from the source materials. The black and white photography looks very crisp here, even with the unavoidable mild grain. The image has a nice amount of depth and the actors are nicely separate from the backgrounds. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Despite this being labeled as a 5.1 track, I didn't detect any overt surround or subwoofer effects. This track would have to have been newly created from an old mono track, and it still sounds like an old mono track. There are some mild stereo effects, but most of the audio comes from the center channel. The dialogue is always audible and the music sounds fine.
The Experiment in Terror Blu-ray Disc contains only a handful of extras. We get an isolated audio track which features Henry Mancini's score. We also get two THEATRICAL TRAILERS and two TV SPOTS.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.