Judge Patrick Naugle only experiments with deadly household chemicals, which explains a lot.
Our review of Experiment In Terror, published February 17th, 2004, is also available.
It plunges you into a new dimension of fear!
When young Kelly Sherwood (Lee Remick, The Omen) arrives home one night, she is abruptly accosted in her garage by a crazed maniac (Ross Martin, The Great Race) who tells her that he knows all about her, including about her teenage sister (Stefanie Powers, Hart to Hart). The man's plan is to use Kelly to rob a bank and he threatens her and her sister with death if she goes to the police. After he lets her go, Kelly immediately goes to the police (doh!) and works with concerned Detective Ripley (Glenn Ford, The Blackboard Jungle) who is bent on capturing the madman. Ripley helps Kelly to play a game of cat and mouse with the killer—known as "Red" to authorities—in the hopes of sparing both of the young girls' lives.
Director Blake Edwards is best remembered for his catalog of comedies, many of which are considered classics: Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Pink Panther (and its many sequels), and The Party (the latter two with legend Peter Sellers). Although Edwards is mostly known for his funnier films, he was also a director who dabbled in other genres. Edwards had a hand in everything from drama (Days of Wine and Roses) to thrillers like 1962's nail biter Experiment in Terror.
Experiment in Terror doesn't waste a lot of time jumping into the plot of the film. We are introduced to Kelly Sherwood as she walks into her garage, and within moments a mysterious man grabs her and begins making threats against her wellbeing and the safety of her loves ones. The film gets bonus points for dispensing with any story filler just to pad time; the movie grabbed me within minutes of the jazzy opening credits. It's an interesting way to start, even if the rest of the film can't keep up that same pace.
Experiment in Terror does a good job of working in shadows and darkness, giving the film a very eerie feel. One scene in particular showcases a room full of department store mannequins that eventually reveal a terrifying discovery: a corpse hiding within the dummies. A few scenes later we see the villain's handiwork, which is equally as disturbing. (I wouldn't be very surprised to find Ted Demme's The Silence of the Lambs influenced by this film.) It's moments like these that make Experiment in Terror an above average thriller. If the movie has any major failings it's that as the conclusion creeps forward, the screenplay loses some momentum. In fact, it feels like Edwards and company weren't exactly sure how to wrap everything up satisfyingly.
The performances are far better than anticipated. Glenn Ford is a solid leading man as the detective attempting to help Kelly unravel the riddle behind the killer. Ford based his career on characters that were ordinary men in extraordinary situations; here the rock solid Ford gets to play the hero who is as straight as an arrow. The late Lee Remick is vulnerable and stunningly beautiful as the damsel in distress whose character ends up being stronger than most women from the era. Finally there's Ross Martin, who plays "Red" with snarling viciousness. Ross's introduction in the beginning of the film nicely sets up a bad guy that ends up being just as memorable as the lead heroes. Best known for his role as cowboy inventor Artemus Gordon in the cult TV series The Wild, Wild West, Martin shows that he was able to play the heavy just as well as the hero.
Experiment in Terror is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen in 1080p high definition. Twilight Time has given this film (with a limited issue of 3,000 copies) a very attractive looking transfer. The black and white photography is evocative and makes the film feel film noir-like. There are moments when it looks a bit soft, but overall the image is clear with a light layer of grain (which feels appropriate). The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround in English. Although this is a 5.1 surround mix, don't expect the audio track to leap out of your speakers; Twilight Time's audio mix, while very well done, sounds like a fifty year old audio mix. Dialogue, music, and effects are all clearly distinguishable. Also included are English and Spanish subtitles, as well as a DTS-HD 2.0 mix in English.
The only bonus features on this disc include two theatrical trailers, two TV spots, and an isolated score by composer Henry Mancini (Victor Victoria).
Experiment in Terror isn't a classic thriller, nor does it do anything to revolutionize cinema as we know it. What it does do is tell a tight, taut little story with interesting characters and a plot that keeps us mostly interested until the very last frame.
A fine way to waste two hours.
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Studio: Twilight Time
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